Need we attempt to describe the joy of our friends in Vinland, when, on_fternoon towards the end of autumn, they saw their old ship sweep into th_ake under oars and sail, and cast anchor in the bay? We think not.
The reader must possess but a small power of fancy who cannot, without the ai_f description, call up vividly the gladsome faces of men and women when the_aw the familiar vessel appear, and beheld the bulwarks crowded with well- known faces. Besides, words cannot paint Olaf’s sparkling eyes, and the screa_f delight when he recognised his father standing in sedate gravity on th_oop.
Suffice it to say that the joy culminated at night, as human joys no_nfrequently do, in a feast, at which, as a matter of course, the whole stor_f the arrival and settlement in Vinland was told over again to the newcomers, as if it had never been told before. But there was this advantage in th_elling, that instead of all being told by Thorward, each man gave his ow_ersion of his own doings, or, at all events, delegated the telling to _riend who was likely to do him justice. Sometimes one or another undertoo_hat friendly act, without having it laid upon him. Thus, Krake undertook t_elate the discovery of the grapes by Tyrker, and Tyrker retaliated by givin_n account of the accident in connexion with a mud-hole that had happened t_rake. This brought out Biarne, who went into a still more minute account o_hat event with reference to its bearing on Freydissa, and that gentle woma_evenged herself by giving an account of the manner in which Hake had robbe_iarne of the honour of killing a brown bear, the mention of which ferociou_nimal naturally suggested to Olaf the brave deed of his dear pet the blac_ull, to a narrative of which he craved and obtained attention. From the blac_ull to the baby was an easy and natural transition—more so perhaps than ma_ppear at first sight—for the bull suggested the cows, and the cows the milk, which last naturally led to thoughts of the great consumer thereof.
It is right to say here, however, that the baby was among the first object_resented to Leif and his friends after their arrival; and great was th_nterest with which they viewed this first-born of the American land. Th_rinkles, by the way, were gone by that time. They had been filled up s_ompletely that the place where they once were resembled a fair and smoot_ound ball of fresh butter, with two bright blue holes in it, a knob belo_hem, and a ripe cherry underneath that.
Snorro happened to be particularly amiable when first presented to his ne_riends. Of course he had not at that time reached the crowing or smiling age.
His goodness as yet was negative. He did not squall; he did not screw up hi_ace into inconceivable formations; he did not grow alarmingly red in th_ace; he did not insist on having milk, seeing that he had already had as muc_s he could possibly hold—no, he did none of these things, but lay in Gudrid’_rms, the very embodiment of stolid and expressionless indifference to al_arthly things—those who loved him best included.
But this state of “goodness” did not last long. He soon began to display wha_ay be styled the old-Adamic part of his nature, and induced Leif, after muc_ong-suffering, to suggest that “that would do,” and that “he had better b_aken away!”
The effervescence of the colony caused by this infusion of new elements er_ong settled down. The immigrants took part in the general labour and duties.
Timber-cutting, grape-gathering, hay-making, fishing, hunting, exploring, eating, drinking, and sleeping, went on with unabated vigour, and thus, gradually, autumn merged into winter.
But winter did not bring in its train the total change that these Norsemen ha_een accustomed to in their more northern homes. The season was to the_omparatively mild. True, there was a good deal of snow, and it frequentl_ave to the branches of the trees that silvery coating which, in sunshine, converts the winter forest into the very realms of fairyland; but the snow di_ot lie deep on the ground, or prevent the cattle from remaining out an_inding food all the winter. There was ice, also, on the lake, thick enough t_dmit of walking on it, and sledging with ponies, but not thick enough t_revent them cutting easily through it, and fishing with lines and hooks, mad_f bone and baited with bits of fat, with which they caught enormous trout, little short of salmon in size, and quite as good for food.
Daring the winter there was plenty of occupation for every one in the colony.
For one thing, it cost a large number of the best men constant and hard labou_erely to supply the colonists with firewood and food. Then the felling o_imber for export was carried on during winter as easily as in summer, and th_rapping of wild animals for their furs was a prolific branch of industry.
Sometimes the men changed their work for the sake of variety. The hunter_ccasionally took to fishing, the fishers to timber felling and squaring, th_imber-cutters to trapping; the trappers undertook the work of the firewood- cutters, and these latter relieved the men who performed the duties o_urniture-making, repairing, general home-work and guarding the settlement.
Thus the work went on, and circled round.
Of course all this implied a vast deal of tear and wear. Buttons had not a_hat time been invented, but tags could burst off as well as buttons, an_oops were not warranted to last for ever, any more than button-holes. Sock_ere unknown to those hardy pioneers, but soft leather shoes, not unlik_ocassins, and boots resembling those of the Esquimaux of the present day, were constantly wearing out, and needed to be replaced or repaired; hence th_omen of the colony had their hands full, for, besides these renovating dutie_hich devolved on them, they had also the housekeeping—a duty in itsel_alling for an amount of constant labour, anxiety, and attention which tha_idiculous creature _man_ never can or will understand or appreciate—at leas_o the women say, but, being a man, we incline to differ from them as to that!
Then, when each day’s work was over, the men returned to their several abode_ired and hungry. Arrangements had been made that so many men should dwell an_ess together, and the women were so appointed that each mess was properl_ooked after. Thus the men found cheerful fires, clean hearths, spread tables, smoking viands, and a pleasant welcome on their return home; and, afte_upper, were wont to spend the evenings in recounting their day’s experiences, telling sagas, singing songs, or discussing general principles—a species o_iscussion, by the way, which must certainly have originated in Eden after th_all!
In Karlsefin’s large hall the largest number of men and women were nightl_ssembled, and there the time was spent much in the same way, but with thi_ifference, that the heads of the settlement were naturally appealed to i_isputed matters, and conversation frequently merged into something lik_rations from Leif and Biarne Karlsefin and Thorward, all of whom were far- travelled, well-informed, and capable of sustaining the interest of thei_udiences for a prolonged period.
In those days the art of writing was unknown among the Norsemen, and it wa_heir custom to fix the history of their great achievements, as well as muc_f their more domestic doings, in their memories by means of song and story.
Men gifted with powers of composition in prose and verse undertook to enshrin_eeds and incidents in appropriate language at the time of their occurrence, and these scalds or poets, and saga-men or chroniclers, although they migh_erhaps have _coloured_ their narratives and poems slightly, were not likel_o have falsified them, because they were at first related and sung in th_resence of actors and eye-witnesses, to attempt imposition on whom would hav_een useless as well as ridiculous. Hence those old songs and sagas had thei_oundation in truth. After they were once launched into the memories of men, the form of words, doubtless, tended to protect them to some extent fro_dulteration, and even when all allowance is made for man’s well-know_endency to invent and exaggerate, it still remains likely that _all_ th_ruth would be retained, although surrounded more or less with fiction. T_istinguish the true from the false in such cases is not so difficult _rocess as one at first sight might suppose. Men with penetrating minds an_etentive memories, who are trained to such work, are swift to detect th_haff amongst the wheat, and although in their winnowing operations they ma_requently blow away a few grains of wheat, they seldom or never accept any o_he chaff as good grain.
We urge all this upon the reader, because the narratives and poems which wer_omposed and related by Karlsefin and his friends that winter, doubtles_ontained those truths which were not taken out of the traditionary state, collected and committed to writing by the Icelandic saga-writers, until abou_ne hundred years afterwards, at the end of the eleventh or beginning of th_welfth century.
On these winter evenings, too, Karlsefin sometimes broached the subject of th_ew religion, which had been so recently introduced into Greenland. He tol_hem that he had not received much instruction in it, so that he could no_resume to explain it all to them, but added that he had become acquainte_ith the name and some of the precepts of Jesus Christ, and these last, h_aid, seemed to him so good and so true that he now believed in Him who taugh_hem, and would not exchange that belief for all the riches of this world, “for,” said he, “the world we dwell in is passing away—that to which we g_hall never pass away.” His chief delight in the new religion was that Jesu_hrist was described as a Saviour from sin, and he thought that to b_elivered from wicked thoughts in the heart and wicked deeds of the body wa_he surest road to perfect happiness.
The Norsemen listened to all this with profound interest, for none of the_ere so much wedded to their old religion as to feel any jealousy of the new; but although they thought much about it, they spoke little, for all were awar_hat the two religions could not go together—the acceptance of the one implie_he rejection of the other.
Frequently during the winter Karlsefin and Leif had earnest conversation_bout the prospects of the infant colony.
“Leif,” said Karlsefin, one day, “my mind is troubled.”
“That is bad,” replied Leif; “what troubles it?”
“The thoughts that crowd upon me in regard to this settlement.”
“I marvel not at that,” returned Leif, stopping and looking across the lake, on the margin of which they were walking; “your charge is a heavy one, callin_or earnest thought and careful management. But what is the particular vie_hat gives you uneasiness?”
“Why, the fact that it does not stand on a foundation which is likely to b_ermanent. A house may not be very large, but if its foundation be good i_ill stand. If, however, its foundation be bad, then the bigger and grander i_s, so much the worse for the house.”
“That is true. Go on.”
“Well, it seems to me that the foundation of our settlement is not good. It i_rue that some of us have our wives here, and there is, besides, a sprinklin_f young girls, who are being courted by some of the men; nevertheless i_emains a stubborn truth that far the greater part of the men are those wh_ame out with Thorward and me, and have left either wives or sweethearts i_orway and in Iceland. Now these may be pleased to remain here for a time, bu_t cannot be expected that they will sit down contentedly and make it thei_ome.”
“There is truth in what you say, Karlsefin. Have any of your men spoken o_hat subject?”
“No, none as yet; but I have not failed to note that some of them are not s_heerful and hearty as they used to be.”
“What is to prevent you making a voyage to Iceland and Norway next spring,” said Leif, “and bringing out the wives and families, and, if you can, th_weethearts of these men?”
Karlsefin laughed heartily at this suggestion. “Why, Leif,” he said, “has you_ojourn on the barren coast of Greenland so wrought on your good sense, o_our feelings, that you should suppose thirty or forty families will agree a_nce to leave home and kindred to sail for and settle in a new land of th_est that they have barely,—perhaps never—heard of; and think you tha_weethearts have so few lovers at home that they will jump at those who ar_arthest away from them? It is one thing to take time and trouble to collec_en and households that are willing to emigrate; it is another thin_ltogether to induce households to follow men who have already emigrated.”
“Nay, but I would counsel you to take the men home along with you, so tha_hey might use their persuasions,” returned Leif; “but, as you say, it is no_ likely course to take, even in that way. What, then, do you think, is wises_o be done?”
“I cannot yet reply to that, Leif. I see no course open.”
“Tell me, Karlsefin, how is it with yourself?” asked Leif, looking earnestl_t his friend. “Are you content to dwell here?”
Karlsefin did not reply for a few seconds.
“Well, to tell you the truth,” he said at length, “I do not relish the notio_f calling Vinland _home_. The sea is my home. I have dwelt on it the greate_art of my life. I love its free breezes and surging waves. The very smell o_ts salt spray brings pleasant memories to my soul. I cannot brook the soli_arth. While I walk I feel as if I were glued to it, and when I lie down I a_oo still. It is like death. On the sea, whether I stand, or walk, or lie, _m ever bounding on. Yes; the sea is my native home, and when old ag_onstrains me to forsake it, and take to the land, my home must be i_celand.”
“Truly if that be your state of mind,” said Leif, laughing, “there is littl_ope of your finally coming to an anchor here.”
“But,” continued Karlsefin, less energetically, “it would not be right in m_o forsake those whom I have led hither. I am bound to remain by and aid the_s long as they are willing to stay—at least until they do not require m_ervices.”
“That is well spoken, friend,” said Leif. “Thou art indeed so bound. Now, wha_ would counsel is this, that you should spend another year, or perhaps tw_ore years, in Vinland, and at the end of that time it will be pretty plai_ither that the colony is going to flourish and can do without you, or that i_s advisable to forsake it and return home. Meanwhile I would advise that yo_ive the land a fair trial. Put a good face on it; keep the men busy—for tha_s the way to keep them cheerful and contented, always being careful not t_verwork them—provide amusements for their leisure hours if possible, and kee_hem from thinking too much of absent wives and sweethearts—if you can.”
“ _If I can_ ,” repeated Karlsefin, with a smile; “ay, but I don’t think _an. However, your advice seems good, so I will adopt it; and as I shall b_ble to follow it out all the better with your aid, I hope that you will spen_ext winter with us.”
“I agree to that,” said Leif; “but I must first visit Greenland in spring, an_hen return to you. And now, tell me what you think of the two thralls Kin_laf sent me.”
Karlsefin’s brow clouded a little as he replied that they were excellent me_n all respects—cheerful, willing, and brave.
“So should I have expected of men sent to me by the King,” said Leif, “but _ave noticed that the elder is very sad. Does he pine for his native land, think ye?”
“Doubtless he does,” answered Karlsefin; “but I am tempted to think that he, like some others among us, pines for an absent sweetheart.”
“Not unlikely, not unlikely,” observed Leif, looking gravely at the ground.
“And the younger lad, Hake, what of him? He, I think, seems well enoug_leased to remain, if one may judge from his manner and countenance.”
“There is reason for that,” returned Karlsefin, with a recurrence of th_roubled expression. “The truth is that Hake is in love with Bertha.”
“The thrall?” exclaimed Leif.
“Ay, and he has gone the length of speaking to her of love; I know it, for _eard him.”
“What! does Karlsefin condescend to turn eavesdropper?” said Leif, looking a_is friend in surprise.
“Not so, but I chanced to come within earshot at the close of an intervie_hey had, and heard a few words in spite of myself. It was in summer. I wa_alking through the woods, and suddenly heard voices near me in the heart of _opse through which I must needs pass. Thinking nothing about it I advance_nd saw Hake and Bertha partially concealed by the bushes. Suddenly Hake crie_assionately, ‘I cannot help it, Bertha. I _must_ tell you that I love you i_ should die for it;’ to which Bertha replied, ‘It is useless, Hake; neithe_eif nor Karlsefin will consent, and I shall never oppose their will.’ The_ake said, ‘You are right, Bertha, right—forgive me—.’ At this point I fel_shamed of standing still, and turned back lest I should overhear more.”
“He is a thrall—a thrall,” murmured Leif sternly, as if musing.
“And yet he is a Scottish earl’s son,” said Karlsefin. “It does seem a har_ase to be a thrall. I wonder if the new religion teaches anything regardin_hraldom.”
Leif looked up quickly into his friend’s face, but Karlsefin had turned hi_ead aside as if in meditation, and no further allusion was made to tha_ubject by either of them.
“Do you think that Bertha returns Hake’s love?” asked Leif, after a fe_inutes.
“There can be no doubt of that,” said Karlsefin, laughing; “the colour of he_heek, the glance of her eye, and the tones of her voice, are all tell-tale.
But since the day I have mentioned they have evidently held more aloof fro_ach other.”
“That is well,” said Leif, somewhat sternly. “Bertha is free-born. She shal_ot wed a thrall if he were the son of fifty Scottish earls.”
This speech was altogether so unlike what might have been expected from one o_eif’s kind and gentle nature that Karlsefin looked at him in som_stonishment and seemed about to speak, but Leif kept his frowning eye_teadily on the ground, and the two friends walked the remainder of the roa_o the hamlet in perfect silence.