Of the birth and fostering of Helga The Fair
This summer Thorstein got ready to ride to the Thing, and spake to Jofrid his wife before he went from home. So is it, he says, that thou art with child now, but thy child shall be cast forth if thou bear a woman; but nourished if it be a man.
Now, at this time when all the land was heathen, it was somewhat the wont of such men as had little wealth, and were like to have many young children on their hands, to have them cast forth, but an evil deed it was always deemed to be.
And now, when Thorstein had said this, Jofrid answers, This is a word all unlike thee, such a man as thou art, and surely to a wealthy man like thee it will not seem good that this should be done.
Thorstein answered: Thou knowest my mind, and that no good will hap if my will be thwarted.
So he rode to the Thing; but while he was gone Jofrid gave birth to a woman-child wondrous fair. The woman would fain show her to the mother; she said there was little need thereof, but had her shepherd Thorvard called to her, and spake to him:
Thou shalt take my horse and saddle it, and bring this child west to Herdholt, to Thorgerd, Egil's daughter, and pray her to nourish it secretly, so that Thorstein may not know thereof. For with such looks of love do I behold this child, that surely I cannot bear to have it cast forth. Here are three marks of silver, have them in reward of thy work; but west there Thorgerd will get thee fare and food over the sea.
Then Thorvard did her bidding; he rode with the child to Herdholt, and gave it into Thorgerd's hands, and she had it nourished at a tenant's of hers who dwelt at Freedmans-stead up in Hvamfirth; but she got fare for Thorvard north in Steingrims-firth, in Shell-creek, and gave him meet outfit for his sea-faring: he went thence abroad, and is now out of the story.
Now when Thorstein came home from the Thing, Jofrid told him that the child had been cast forth according to his word, but that the herdsman had fled away and stolen her horse. Thorstein said she had done well, and got himself another herdsman. So six winters passed and this matter was nowise wotted of.
Now in those days Thorstein rode to Herdholt, being bidden there as guest of his brother-in-law, Olaf Peacock, the son of Hoskuld, who was then deemed to be the chief highest of worth among all men west there. Good cheer was made Thorstein, as was like to be; and one day at the feast it is said that Thorgerd sat in the high seat talking with her brother Thorstein, while Olaf was talking to other men; but on the bench right over against them sat three little maidens. Then said Thorgerd,---
How dost thou, brother, like the look of these three little maidens sitting straight before us?
Right well,he answers, but one is by far the fairest; she has all the goodliness of Olaf, but the whiteness and the countenance of us, the Mere-men.
Thorgerd answered: Surely this is true, brother, wherein thou sayest that she has the fairness and countenance of us Mere-folk, but the goodliness of Olaf Peacock she has not got, for she is not his daughter.
How can that be, says Thorstein, being thy daughter none the less?
She answered: To say sooth, kinsman, quoth she, this fair maiden is not my daughter, but thine.
And therewith she told him all as it had befallen, and prayed him to forgive her and his own wife that trespass.
Thorstein said: I cannot blame you two for having done this; most things will fall as they are fated, and well have ye covered over my folly: so look I on this maiden that I deem it great good luck to have so fair a child. But now, what is her name?
Helga she is called, says Thorgerd.
Helga the Fair, says Thorstein. But now shalt thou make her ready to come home with me.
She did go, and Thorstein was led out with good gifts, and Helga rode with him to his home, and was brought up there with much honour and great love from father and mother and all her kin.