The prize which had thus fallen into the hands of the Norsemen was of grea_mportance, because it furnished a large supply of food, which thus enable_hem to go leisurely to work in establishing themselves, instead of, as woul_therwise have been the case, spending much of their time and energy i_rocuring that necessity of life by hunting and fishing.
It was also exceedingly fortunate that the whale had been killed a littl_efore the time of high water, because that enabled them to fasten rope_hrough its nose and row with it still farther in to the shore. Thi_ccomplished, the boats made several trips back to the ship and landed all th_en, and these, with a number of ropes, hauled up the carcase foot by foot a_he tide rose. After reaching a certain point at high water they could get i_p no farther, and when the tide turned all the men twice doubled could no_ave budged it an inch. The ropes were therefore tied together and lengthene_ntil they reached a strong tree near the beach, to which they were fastened.
Leaving their prize thus secured they hastened back to the ship, hauled up th_nchor, and made for the mouth of the river, but they had lost so much of th_lood-tide, in consequence of their battle with the whale, and the evening wa_o far advanced, that they resolved to delay further proceedings until th_ollowing day.
The ship was therefore hauled close in to the land at the river’s mouth an_llowed to take the ground on a spit of sand. Here the men landed and soo_uilt up a pile of stones, between which and the ship a gangway was made. Th_omen were thus enabled to walk comfortably ashore. And here, on a grass_pot, they pitched their tents for the first time in Vinland.
Provisions were now brought on shore and large fires were kindled which blaze_p and glared magnificently as the night drew on, rendering the spit of san_ith the grassy knoll in the centre of it quite a cheerful and ruddy spot. _ew trees were cut down and stretched across the spit at its neck on the lan_ide, and there several sentinels were placed as a precaution—for which ther_eemed little occasion.
Karlsefin then set up a pole with a flag on it and took formal possession o_his new land, after which the whole colony sat down on the grass—some unde_he tents, others under the starry sky—to supper. The cattle, it may here b_oted, were not landed at this place, as they were to be taken up the rive_ext day, but their spirits were refreshed with a good supply of new-mow_rass, so that it is to be hoped, and presumed, they rejoiced not less tha_heir human companions in the satisfactory state of things.
In the largest tent, Karlsefin, Biarne, Thorward, Gudrid, Freydissa, Astrid,
and Olaf, sat down to a sumptuous repast of dried Greenland-fish and fres_inland-whale, besides which they had soup and beer. Being healthy and hungry,
they did full justice to the good things. Bertha and Thora served and the_oined in the repast.
“This is pleasant, isn’t it, Freydissa?” asked Biarne, with his mouth full.
Freydissa, with her mouth not quite so full, admitted that it was, for sh_appened to be in an amiable humour—as well she might!
“Come, let us pledge the new land in a can of beer,” cried Biarne, pouring th_everage out of an earthenware jar into a squat old Norse flagon of embosse_ilver. “Thorward, fill up!”
“I will join you heartily in that,” cried Thorward, suiting the action to th_ord.
“And I,” said Karlsefin, raising an empty flagon to his lips, “will pledge i_n a wish. I wish—prosperity to Vinland!”
“Come, Karlsefin,” remonstrated Biarne, “forego austerity for once, an_rink.”
“Not I,” returned the skipper, with a laugh.
“First, because a wish is quite as potent as a drink in that respect; second,
because our beer is nearly finished, and we have not yet the means to concoc_ore, so that it were ill-advised to rob _you_ , Biarne, by helping to consum_hat which I do not like; and, last of all, I think it a happy occasion thi_n which to forswear beer altogether!”
“Have thy way,” said Biarne, helping himself to another whale-steak of larg_imensions. “You are too good a fellow to quarrel with on such triflin_round. Here, pass the jar, Thorward; I will drink his portion as well as m_wn.”
“And I will join you both,” cried little Olaf with a comical turn of hi_yebrows. “Here, I wish prosperity to Vinland, and drink it, too, in water.”
“We can all join thee in that, Olaf,” said Gudrid I with an approving nod an_augh. “Come, girls, fill up your cups and pledge to Vinland.”
“Stop!” shouted Biarne in sudden anxiety.
They all paused with the cups half-way to their lips.
“ _You_ must not drink, Freydissa,” he continued seriously. “Gudrid did cal_pon the _girls_ to join her: surely ye don’t—”
He was cut short by Freydissa throwing her cup of water in his face.
With a burst of laughter Biarne fell backwards, and, partly to avoid th_eluge, partly for fun, rolled out of the tent, when he got up and dried hi_ripping beard.
“No more of that, fair girl, I beseech thee,” he said, resuming his place an_ccupation. “I will not again offend—if thou wilt not again misunderstand!”
Freydissa made no reply to this, silence being her usual method of showin_hat she condescended to be in good humour—and they were all very merry ove_heir evening meal. From the noise and laughter and songs around them, it wa_vident that the rest of the company were enjoying their first night on shor_o the full, insomuch that Olaf was led, in the height of his glee, to expres_ wish that they could live in that free-and-easy fashion for ever.
“’Tis of no use wishing it,” observed Karlsefin; “if you would insure succes_ou must, according to Biarne, drink it in beer.”
“I cry you mercy, skipper,” said Biarne; “if you persecute me thus I shall no_e able to drink any more to-night. Hand me the jar, Thorward, and let m_rink again before I come to that pass.”
“Hark!” exclaimed Gudrid, “there must be something going to happen, for al_he men have become suddenly quiet.”
They listened intently for a moment or two, when Krake’s voice broke the dee_ilence:— “Come, now, don’t think so long about it, as if ye were composin_omething new. Every one knows, sure, that it’s about sweet Scotland you’r_oing to sing.”
“Right, Krake, right,” replied a rich deep voice, which it required no sigh_o tell belonged to Hake, the young Scot; “but there are many songs abou_weet Scotland, and I am uncertain which to choose.”
“Let it be lively,” said Krake.
“No, no, no,” chorussed some of the men; “let it be slow and sad.”
“Well well,” laughed the half-Irishman—as he was fond of styling himself—“hav_t your own way. If ye won’t be glad, by all means be sad.”
A moment after, Hake’s manly tones rose on the still air like the sound of a_rgan, while he sang one of the ancient airs of his native land, wherein, lik_he same airs of modern days, were sounded the praises of Scotland’s heathe_ills and brawling burns—her bonny daughters and her stalwart sons.
To those in the large tent who had listened, with breathless attention an_eads half averted, it was evident that song, sentiments, and singer wer_ighly appreciated, from the burst of hearty applause at the conclusion, an_he eager demand for another ditty. But Hake protested that his ruling mott_as “fair play,” and that the songs must circle round.
“So let it be,” cried Swend.—“Krake, it is your turn next.”
“I won’t keep ye waiting,” said that worthy, “though I might do it, too, if _as to put off time selecting from the songs of old Ireland, for it’s endles_hey are—and in great variety. Sure, I could give ye songs about hills an_treams that are superior to Scotland’s burns and braes any day—almost up t_hose of Gamle Norge if they were a bit higher—the hills I mean, not th_ongs, which are too high already for a man with a low voice—and I could sin_e a lament that would make ye shed tears enough to wash us all off the spi_f land here into the sea; but that’s not in my way. I’m fond of a livel_itty, so here you are.”
With that Krake struck up an air in which it was roundly asserted that Irelan_as the finest country in the world (except Iceland, as he stopped in his son_o remark); that Irish boys and girls lived in a state of perpetual hilarit_nd good-will, and that the boys displayed this amiable and pleasant conditio_hiefly in the way of kissing the girls and cracking each other’s crowns.
After that, Swend was called on to sing, which he did of Norway wit_remendous enthusiasm and noise but little melody. Then another man sang _ove-ditty in a very gruff voice and much out of tune, which, nevertheless, t_he man’s evident satisfaction, was laughingly applauded. After him _entimental youth sang, in a sweet tenor voice, an Icelandic air, and the_yrker was called on to do his part, but flatly refused to sing. He offered t_ell a saga instead, however, which he did in such a manner that he made th_ides of the Norsemen ache with laughter—though, to say truth, they laughe_ore at the teller than the tale.
Thus with song and saga they passed the first hours of the night, while th_amp-fires blazed ruddily on their weather-beaten faces, and the heavenl_onstellations shone, not only on the surrounding landscape, but appeared t_ight up another world of cloudland beneath the surface of the sleeping sea.
At last Karlsefin went out to them.
“Now, lads,” said he, “it is high time that you laid your heads on you_illows. Men who do not sleep well cannot labour well. To-morrow we have har_ork before us in taking possession and settling our new home. God ha_rospered us thus far. We have made a good beginning in Vinland. May it be th_oretaste of a happy ending. Away, then, and get you to rest before the nigh_s older, and let your sleep be sound, for I will see to it that the sentinel_osted round the camp are vigilant.”
The men received this brief speech with a murmur of willing acquiescence, an_t once obeyed the order; though Krake observed that he fell in with th_ustom merely out of respect to the opinions of his comrades, having himsel_ong ago learned to do without sleep in Ireland, where the lads were in th_abit of working—or fighting—all day, dancing all night, and going home wit_he girls in the morning! Each Norseman then sought a spot upon the grass_noll suited to his taste; used his arm, or a hillock, or stone, for a pillow,
or anything else that came conveniently to hand, and with his sword or ax_eside him, and his shield above him as a coverlet, courted repose, while th_right stars twinkled him to sleep, and the rippling wavelets on the shor_iscoursed his lullaby.