"Nay, then, if ye prefer a warrior's work there is plenty of that at the disposal of the King." "I have no particular love for war," said Erling. Jarl Rongvold looked at his kinsman in undisguised amazement.
His grey hair was dishevelled and his face bloodstained, for, although he had offered no resistance, some of the men who seized him were so much out of humour in consequence of the burning of the stede and the escape of its inmates, that they were glad to vent their anger on anyone. "Good-looking girls, both of them," remarked the King to Jarl Rongvold, as they were being led forward.
When King Harald heard the news of the defeat of Hake and the slaughter of his men by Erling and Glumm, great was his wrath at first, and Jarl Rongvold had much ado to appease him and prevent him from going at once to Horlingdal to ravage it with fire and sword.
I doubt not thy courage nor thy regard for me, but I had a fancy to know what amount of odds thou wouldst deem serious, for I may tell thee that our powers are likely to be put to the proof to-day. My kinsman, Jarl Rongvold, told me at parting that twenty men and among them Hake the berserk are to be sent after us, and are doubtless even now upon our track."
Erling tried to get Rolf to desert the King's cause and join his opponents, but the latter shook his head, and said that they had no chance of success; and that it was of no use joining a hopeless cause, even although he had strong sympathy with it. While they were conversing, Jarl Rongvold came out and summoned Erling to the presence of the King.
The fireplace of the hall was in the centre, and the smoke from it curled up among the rafters, which it blackened before escaping through a hole in the roof. As all the revellers were armed, and many of them were moving about the hall, no notice was taken of the entrance of the strangers, except that one or two near whom they passed remarked that Jarl Rongvold owned some stout men-at-arms.
Jarl Rongvold was burnt by King Harald's sons, but his stout son, Rolf Ganger, left his native land, and conquered Normandy, whence his celebrated descendant, William the Conqueror, came across the Channel and conquered England.
Rongvold, who entertained the King at this time, was one of those Jarls or Earls rulers over districts under himself of whom he had recently created many throughout the land, to supersede those small independent kings who refused to become subject to him. He was a stout warrior, an able courtier, and a very dear friend of the King.
They are to go by the forest road. There, thou canst not doubt my friendship for thee, for now my life is in thy hands! Haste, thou hast no chance against such odds. Farewell, Glumm," he added aloud; "give my respects to Ulf, when next ye see him." Jarl Rongvold waved his hand as he turned round and left his friends to pursue their way.
But Jarl Rongvold knew that this free-and-easy spirit was affected, and that the King's mind was much troubled by the state of things in several parts of the kingdom.