The Young Midwife Disappears
Kolfinna's work was almost done. After cleaning up Hildigunnr, and giving her another drink of the elixir, Kolfinna went outside to get a breath of fresh air. The elderly midwife was not surprised to see the sun setting behind the distant mountains for it had been a long day and the births were difficult to say the least. Kolfinna was, however, a little concerned to see Mabil on her knees piling rocks on top of a small mound of dirt.
" You have buried the child already ? " Kolfinna asked.
Mabil slowly turned, and looked the old midwife square in the eyes.
" That is what everyone will think ! " Mabil replied sternly.
Kolfinna frowned and then slowly allowed her eyes to gaze down at what the young woman was holding in her arms. With a look of disbelief and shock on her face the old woman stumbled back a step before asking :
" The child lived ? ! "
Mabil smiled as she gently rocked the child from side to side.
" Yes ! I asked Frigga to spare the child, and she granted my wish ! " Mabil told her joyfully.
Kolfinna's eyes widened.
" You cannot keep this child ! " she responded harshly when the shock had passed.
Mabil's friendly smile quickly turned into a mean scowl.
" I can,.... and I will !! " she shot back.
Then she added abruptly :
" And you are going to help me Kolfinna. " she explained.
Kolfinna took another step away from Mabil as she pointed to the child.
" I will not help you to steal another woman's child ! " she informed Mabil.
Mabil's eyes narrowed angrily.
" Why ! What do we owe these people,.... these Danes who ripped us away from our homeland, and our loved ones. They raped us, and then, when they were tired of us, they sold us into servitude ! " she asked, her face red with fury.
Kolfinna stood silently remembering the horrors she had been put through all those years ago. The nightmares from the past came flooding back into her mind, and they filled her with anger and pain.
" We owe them nothing. " Kolfinna finally admitted to Mabil.
" Then you will help me ? " she asked with a hopeful hint in her voice.
" I have already informed Hildigunnr that her second child did not live. " she told Mabil.
Then after a moment of deep thought Kolfinna added :
" How will you hide a child from your mistress ? " she asked.
Mabil grinned from ear to ear.
" I will not have to. You will care for my child until I am ready to leave. You are trusted and allowed to live in your own hut. You can easily hide the child until the time is right. " she told the older woman.
" Where are you going ? " she asked.
Mabil kissed her baby before answering.
" I am in love with the field hand Otkell, and he knows a way for us to escape to the coast where we can steal a small ship to sail back to Norway. "
" There is only one small problem. I will need a wet nurse. Do you know of someone who would be willing to help,.... and who would keep quiet ? " Mabil asked.
Kolfinna scratched her wrinkled chin and thought for a moment.
" Yes, there is a servant down the road who had the bastard son of her master. The master's wife took the child to raise as her own. I am sure she will be more than willing to help. " Kolfinna replied.
Mabil grinned and handed the child to Kolfinna.
" Then it appears that everything is agreed upon. " she told the old midwife.
Kolfinna held the child away from herself as though she were giving it back to her.
" Not quite ! What do I gain for all of my trouble ? " she asked.
Mabil's grin turned into a suspicious frown.
" What is it that you want ? " she asked.
Kolfinna looked into Mabil's eyes with a cold stare.
" Freedom ! " she blurted out.
Mabil breathed a sigh of relief.
" Of course you can come with us ! " she replied happily.
Kolfinna brought the child close to her chest and turned around. As she walked away she uttered in a low tone :
" Then the bargain has been struck ! "
Hildigunnr's emotions were greatly confused after she gave birth. She was so happy that her first child, which she had named Arnulf, was such a beautiful baby. At the same time, however, she grieved deeply for the child that was buried not far from the front door of her home. She was especially sad that she had never been given the opportunity to see or hold her second child, but she understood why Mabil and Kolfinna buried the child so quickly. She had been sick for days after the births, and they feared that the sight of her dead child might be too much for her to take.
While Mabil labored Hildigunnr often sat over the grave of her son, who she named Vargr, singing songs of lament to her lost child. Mabil could not help but see the irony of a mother constantly mourning over a child that was still living. Mabil was not sure whether it was out of anger, or pity, that she decided to name the child she had stolen Vargr as well,.... or maybe she simply liked the name.
Hildigunnr grew to depend more and more on Mabil, and less and less on her own household skills. Then one morning she awoke to find herself alone. At first she thought that Mabil had gone out to fetch more wood because the fire had almost gone out. When she dressed and went outside, however, her servant was nowhere to be found. A short time later, Tindr, one of her field hands, ran up to the house in a nervous state and informed her that Otkell was missing as well. Judging by the slave's terrified demeanor Hildigunnr deemed that he and the other field hands knew nothing about the disappearances. It was obvious to Hildigunnr, however, that they had run off together.
Later that morning Hildigunnr went to see the local Chieftain, Patrekr, to report her runaway slaves. It was then that she learned of the old midwife Kolfinna who was also missing. The chieftain immediately sent out warriors to search for them. As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, without word of there whereabouts it became apparent that they had either fled Jutland, or died in the attempt. In the meantime she was left with the burden of raising her child alone, doing housework, and running the farm. This was a dark and lonely time for Hildigunnr.
- End Chapter 3
- Next : Chapter 4 : The Boy Grows To Be A Man
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.