'Is he sleeping?'

“Is he sleeping?” Eirik asked as Sigrid came into the bedroom.

“Of course. He’s exhausted after that journey.”

“He never have so much fun,” Eirik chuckled.

“Daeg was awake. He only sat and stared at me.”

'He only sat and stared at me.'

“He don’t say ‘no’ to you?”

“He didn’t say anything. Only stared.” She went to the mirror.

“He must like you if he don’t say it. He say ‘no’ every time he see his Uncle Eirik. ‘No, no, no!’” Eirik laughed.

“That’s because you scare him.”

“Only because he never see so tall a man before.” So reminded, he swung his legs out of the bed and stood to his great height.

His wife stood before the mirror.

His wife stood before the mirror, but she touched neither her hair nor gown, and he wondered whether she were waiting for him to come loosen her laces. This was something he could do for her.

But when he went to her he found he could not. “Your laces is already done!”

'Your laces is already done!'

“I asked Synne to do it for me,” she said. Now that he stood behind her, she busied herself with her hairbrush.

Eirik watched her in the mirror. She did not have the delicate prettiness of her sister, but her hair had a richer, handsomer color that appealed to him, who had grown up among blonds. It had a weight and a resilience that made him think of heavy ropes when he held it, as he liked to do.

“So, you let me do that for you,” he said.

'So, you let me do that for you.'


“Brush your hairs.”

“I’m already done.”

'I'm already done.'

She had the eyebrows that suited her hair: dark and thick and heavy, like a man’s. They were usually scowling when he spoke to her, as they were now, and as were her full lips. It was her mouth that he loved best about her. Such lips were made to be kissed, he thought, but they were also well-​​formed for pouting. It was certainly the use to which they were more often put.

Eirik could see nearly his entire face over the top of her head in the mirror.

Eirik could see nearly his entire face over the top of her head in the mirror, so much taller he was than she. Then he realized that she too could see his face, and he wondered what she saw in it. She seemed to be staring at it now.

Finally she turned to him. “You’re in my way,” she said.

'You're in my way.'


He went to sit on the edge of the bed and watched her as she began to undress. She kept her back to him.

“You see, Siri? It’s like when you left. A few new people. Only no Matilda. And you see? Everybody love you still. You think everybody is angry at you, but no one is.”

'You think everybody is angry at you, but no one is.'

“Why should they be angry at me? They should be angry at you, if anyone.”

“I mean, they don’t think you are bad.”

She did not reply to this.

“Do you like to see your brothers and sister again?”

“Of course.”

'Of course.'

“And your niece and nephew? And cousins and friends?”

“Of course.”

“You like to come to your old home for a while?”

“Yes, Eirik,” she sighed.

“So, are you happy now?” He had not meant to be quite so sarcastic, but it was said. He waited a while for her to answer and finally ran out of patience. “Damn! What must I do? Die?”

'What must I do?  Die?'

He waited again for her reply. This time it came, though grudgingly: “No.”

“No. No. Because it is a fine thing to be the wife of Eirik son of Olaf son of Tryggve! Finer than his widow, that is all.”

“Let’s simply go to bed, Eirik,” she sighed. “I traveled just as far as Olaf today, and then I had to go sit up late and eat and talk and dance.”

“Dance with Eirik son of Olaf son of Tryggve – a dreadful fate!”

She rolled her eyes and walked past him.

She rolled her eyes and walked past him.

“Damn! Why can’t I marry my sister? She is kind with her husband even when he is grouchy all the time like a bear.”

“Your sister…” she muttered and laid down on the bed.

'Your sister...'

He crawled up to lie beside her. “Why don’t you like my sister, Siri?” he asked softly. He thought he had an idea. “Is it because she have a baby coming and it make you sad?”

'Is it because she have a baby coming and it make you sad?'

He did not know how to speak gently to the girl. Still, sometimes he tried. Twice she had announced to him that she was expecting a baby, and she had lost them both. He even suspected there had been at least one other time when she had simply not told him.

“What do you know about that?” she asked wearily.

“I don’t know. I only think. Because it make me sad a little too.”

With her heavy, masculine eyebrows, her thick hair, her scowl, and her body that was strong though small, he thought she was made to be a mother of sons. And Eirik wanted sons. He did not expect to live long.

'But, Siri, I think it will be better here.'

“But, Siri, I think it will be better here. Because Brede’s house is warmer and nicer than ours, and here is good food, and less storms, and your family and all your friends are here and you can be happy. And some baby, he will say: I think I like to come live here. I think I will stay.”

He hadn’t dared look at her during this monologue, and suddenly he heard her sob. He was startled – it seemed he had guessed correctly. She was sad, and he had thought of the thing she needed to make her happy. It was something he could give her. It was something only he could give her, he thought, and the thought pleased him.

It was something only he could give her, he thought, and the thought pleased him.