"Men who wield the blade of battle Hoarded wealth may well enjoy, Guileless gotten this at least, Golden meed I fearless take; But if we for woman's quarrel, Warriors born to brandish sword, Glut the wolf with manly gore, Worse the lot of both would be."
Hrut answered, "Ill will be thy meed for this."
"Be that as it may," says Gunnar.
Then Hauskuld and his brother went home to their booth, and he had much upon his mind, and said to Hrut, "Will this unfairness of Gunnar's never be avenged?"
"Not so," says Hrut; "'twill be avenged on him sure enough, but we shall have no share nor profit in that vengeance. And after all it is most likely that he will turn to our stock to seek for friends."
After that they left off speaking of the matter. Gunnar showed Njal the money, and he said, "The suit has gone off well."
"Ay," says Gunnar, "but it was all thy doing."
Now men rode home from the Thing, and Gunnar got very great honour from the suit. Gunnar handed over all the money to Unna, and would have none of it, but said he thought he ought to look more for help from her and her kin hereafter than from other men. She said, so it should be.
25. UNNA'S SECOND WEDDING
There was a man named Valgard, he kept house at Hof by Rangriver, he was the son of Jorund the Priest, and his brother was Wolf Aurpriest (1). Those brothers, Wolf Aurpriest, and Valgard the Guileful, set off to woo Unna, and she gave herself away to Valgard without the advice of any of her kinsfolk. But Gunnar and Njal, and many others thought ill of that, for he was a cross-grained man and had few friends. They begot between them a son, whose name was Mord, and he is long in this story. When he was grown to man's estate, he worked ill to his kinsfolk but worst of all to Gunnar. He was a crafty man in his temper, but spiteful in his counsels.
Now we will name Njal's sons. Skarphedinn was the eldest of them. He was a tall man in growth, and strong withal; a good swordsman; he could swim like a seal, the swiftest-looted of men, and bold and dauntless; he had a great flow of words and quick utterance; a good skald too; but still for the most part he kept himself well in hand; his hair was dark brown, with crisp curly locks; he had good eyes; his features were sharp, and his face ashen pale, his nose turned up and his front teeth stuck out, and his mouth was very ugly. Still he was the most soldierlike of men.
Grim was the name of Njal's second son. He was fair of face and wore his hair long. His hair was dark, and he was comelier to look on than Skarphedinn. A tall strong man.
Helgi was the name of Njal's third son. He too was fair of face and had fine hair. He was a strong man and well-skilled in arms. He was a man of sense and knew well how to behave. They were all unwedded at that time, Njal's sons.
Hauskuld was the fourth of Njal's sons. He was baseborn. His mother was Rodny, and she was Hauskuld's daughter, the sister of Ingialld of the Springs.
Njal asked Skarphedinn one day if he would take to himself a wife. He bade his father settle the matter. Then Njal asked for his hand Thorhilda, the daughter of Ranvir of Thorolfsfell, and that was why they had another homestead there after that. Skarphedinn got Thorhilda, but he stayed still with his father to the end. Grim wooed Astrid of Deepback; she was a widow and very wealthy. Grim got her to wife, and yet lived on with Njal.
(1) The son of Ranveig the Silly, the son of Valgard, the son of Aefar, the son of Vemund Wordstopper, the son of Thorolf Hooknose, the son of Thrand the Old, the son of Harold Hilditann, the son of Hraereck Ringscatterer. The mother of Harold Hilditann, was Aud the daughter of Ivar Widefathom, the son of Halfdan the Clever. The brother of Valgard the Guileful was Wolf Aurpriest — from whom the Pointdwellers sprung — Wolf Aurpriest was the father of Swart, the father of Lodmund, the father of Sigfus, the father of Saemund the Wise. But from Valgard is sprung Kolbein the Young.
26. OF ASGRIM AND HIS CHILDREN
There was a man named Asgrim (1). He was Ellidagrim's son. The brother of Asgrim Ellidagrim's son was Sigfus (2). Gauk Trandil's son was Asgrim's foster-brother, who is said to have been the fairest man of his day, and best skilled in all things; but matters went ill with them, for Asgrim slew Gauk.
Asgrim had two sons, and each of them was named Thorhall. They were both hopeful men. Grim was the name of another of Asgrim's sons, and Thorhalla was his daughter's name. She was the fairest of women, and well behaved.
Njal came to talk with his son Helgi, and said, "I have thought of a match for thee, if thou wilt follow my advice."
"That I will surely," says he, "for I know that thou both meanest me well, and canst do well for me; but whither hast thou turned thine eyes."
"We will go and woo Asgrim Ellidagrim's son's daughter, for that is the best choice we can make."
(1) Ellidagrim was Asgrim's son, Aundot the Crow's son. His mother's name was Jorunn, and she was the daughter of Teit, the son of Kettlebjorn the Old of Mossfell. The mother of Teit was Helga, daughter of Thord Skeggi's son, Hrapp's son, Bjorn's son the Roughfooted, Grim's son, the Lord of Sogn in Norway. The mother of Jorunn was Olof Harvest-heal, daughter of Bodvar, Viking-Kari's son. (2) His daughter was Thorgerda, mother of Sigfus, the father of Saemund the Learned.
27. HELGI NJAL'S SON'S WOOING
A little after they rode out across Thurso water, and fared till they came into Tongue. Asgrim was at home, and gave them a hearty welcome; and they were there that night. Next morning they began to talk, and then Njal raised the question of the wooing, and asked for Thorhalla for his son Helgi's hand. Asgrim answered that well, and said there were no men with whom he would be more willing to make this bargain than with them. They fell a-talking then about terms, and the end of it was that Asgrim betrothed his daughter to Helgi, and the bridal day was named. Gunnar was at that feast, and many other of the bestmen. After the feast Njal offered to foster in his house Thorhall, Asgrim's son, and he was with Njal long after. He loved Njal more than his own father. Njal taught him law, so that he became the greatest lawyer in Iceland in those days.
28. HALLVARD COMES OUT TO ICELAND
There came a ship out from Norway, and ran into Arnbael's Oyce (1), and the master of the ship was Hallvard the White, a man from the Bay (2). He went to stay at Lithend, and was with Gunnar that winter, and was always asking him to fare abroad with him. Gunnar spoke little about it, but yet said more unlikely things might happen; and about spring he went over to Bergthorsknoll to find out from Njal whether he thought it a wise step in him to go abroad.
"I think it is wise," says Njal; "they will think thee there an honourable man, as thou art."
"Wilt thou perhaps take my goods into thy keeping while I am away, for I wish my brother Kolskegg to fare with me; but I would that thou shouldst see after my household along with my mother."
"I will not throw anything in the way of that," says Njal; "lean on me in this thing as much as thou likest."
"Good go with thee for thy words," says Gunnar, and he rides then home.
The Easterling (3) fell again to talk with Gunnar that he should fare abroad. Gunnar asked if he had ever sailed to other lands? He said he had sailed to every one of them that lay between Norway and Russia, and so, too, I have sailed to Biarmaland (4).
"Wilt thou sail with me eastward ho?" says Gunnar.
"That I will of a surety," says he.
Then Gunnar made up his mind to sail abroad with him. Njal took all Gunnar's goods into his keeping.
(1) "Oyce," a north country word for the mouth of a river, from the Icelandic. (2) "The Bay" (comp. ch. ii., and other passages), the name given to the great bay in the east of Norway, the entrance of which from the North Sea is the Cattegat, and at the end of which is the Christiania Firth. The name also applies to the land round the Bay, which thus formed a district, the boundary of which, on the one side, was the promontory called Lindesnaes, or the Naze, and on the other, the Gota-Elf, the river on which the Swedish town of Gottenburg stands, and off the mouth of which lies the island of Hisingen, mentioned shortly after. (3) Easterling, i.e., the Norseman Hallvard. (4) Permia, the country one comes to after doubling the North Cape.
29. GUNNAR GOES ABROAD
So Gunnar fared abroad, and Kolskegg with him. They sailed first to Tonsberg (1), and were there that winter. There had then been a shift of rulers in Norway. Harold Grayfell was then dead, and so was Gunnhillda. Earl Hacon the Bad, Sigurd's son, Hacon's son, Gritgarth's son, then ruled the realm. The mother of Hacon was Bergliot, the daughter of Earl Thorir. Her mother was Olof Harvest-heal. She was Harold Fair-hair's daughter.
Hallvard asks Gunnar if he would make up his mind to go to Earl Hacon?
"No; I will not do that," says Gunnar. "Hast thou ever a long- ship?"
"I have two," he says.
"Then I would that we two went on warfare; and let us get men to go with us."
"I will do that," says Hallvard.
After that they went to the Bay, and took with them two ships, and fitted them out thence. They had good choice of men, for much praise was said of Gunnar.
"Whither wilt thou first fare?" says Gunnar.
"I wish to go south-east to Hisingen, to see my kinsman Oliver," says Hallvard.
"What dost thou want of him?" says Gunnar.
He answered, "He is a fine brave fellow, and he will be sure to get us some more strength for our voyage."
"Then let us go thither," says Gunnar.
So, as soon as they were "boun," they held on east to Hisingen, and had there a hearty welcome. Gunnar had only been there a short time ere Oliver made much of him. Oliver asks about his voyage, and Hallvard says that Gunnar wishes to go a-warfaring to gather goods for himself.
"There's no use thinking of that," says Oliver, "when ye have no force."
"Well," says Hallvard, "then you may add to it."
"So I do mean to strengthen Gunnar somewhat," says Oliver; "and though thou reckonest thyself my kith and kin, I think there is more good in him."
"What force, now, wilt thou add to ours?" he asks.
"Two long-ships, one with twenty, and the other with thirty seats for rowers."
"Who shall man them?" asks Hallvard.
"I will man one of them with my own house-carles, and the freemen around shall man the other. But still I have found out that strife has come into the river, and I know not whether ye two will be able to get away; for they are in the river."
"Who?" says Hallvard.
"Brothers twain," says Oliver; "one's name is Vandil, and the other's Karli, sons of Sjolf the Old, east away out of Gothland."
Hallvard told Gunnar that Oliver had added some ships to theirs, and Gunnar was glad at that. They busked them for their voyage thence, till they were "allboun." Then Gunnar and Hallvard went before Oliver, and thanked him; he bade them fare warily for the sake of those brothers.
(1) A town at the mouth of the Christiania Firth. It was a great place for traffic in early times, and was long the only mart in the south-east of Norway.
30. GUNNAR GOES A-SEA-ROVING
So Gunnar held on out of the river, and he and Kolskegg were both on board one ship. But Hallvard was on board another. Now, they see the ships before them, and then Gunnar spoke, and said, "Let us be ready for anything if they turn towards us! but else let us have nothing to do with them."
So they did that, and made all ready on board their ships. The others parted their ships asunder, and made a fareway between the ships. Gunnar fared straight on between the ships, but Vandil caught up a grappling-iron, and cast it between their ships and Gunnar's ship, and began at once to drag it towards him.
Oliver had given Gunnar a good sword; Gunnar now drew it, and had not yet put on his helm. He leapt at once on the forecastle of Vandil's ship, and gave one man his death-blow. Karli ran his ship alongside the other side of Gunnar's ship, and hurled a spear athwart the deck, and aimed at him about the waist. Gunnar sees this, and turned him about so quickly that no eye could follow him, and caught the spear with his left hand, and hurled it back at Karli's ship, and that man got his death who stood before it. Kolskegg snatched up a grapnel and cast it at Karli's ship, and the fluke fell inside the hold, and went out through one of the planks and in rushed the coal-blue sea, and all the men sprang on board other ships.
Now Gunnar leapt back to his own ship, and then Hallvard came up, and now a great battle arose. They saw now that their leader was unflinching, and every man did as well as he could. Sometimes Gunnar smote with the sword, and sometimes he hurled the spear, and many a man had his bane at his hand. Kolskegg backed him well. As for Karli, he hastened in a ship to his brother Vandil, and thence they fought that day. During the day Kolskegg took a rest on Gunnar's ship, and Gunnar sees that. Then he sung a song —
"For the eagle ravine-eager, Raven of my race, to-day Better surely hast thou catered, Lord of gold, than for thyself; Here the morn come greedy ravens Many any a rill of wolf (1) to sup, But thee burning thirst down-beareth, Prince of battle's Parliament!"
After that Kolskegg took a beaker full of mead, and drank it off, and went on fighting afterwards; and so it came about that those brothers sprang up on the ship of Vandil and his brother, and Kolskegg went on one side, and Gunnar on the other. Against Gunnar came Vandil, and smote at once at him with his sword, and the blow fell on his shield. Gunnar gave the shield a twist as the sword pierced it, and broke it short off at the hilt. Then Gunnar smote back at Vandil, and three swords seemed to be aloft, and Vandil could not see how to shun the blow. Then Gunnar cut both his legs from under him, and at the same time Kolskegg ran Karli through with a spear. After that they took great war spoil.
Thence they held on south to Denmark, and thence east to Smoland, (2) and had victory wherever they went. They did not come back in autumn. The next summer they held on to Reval, and fell in there with sea-rovers, and fought at once, and won the fight. After that they steered east to Osel,(3) and lay there somewhile under a ness. There they saw a man coming down from the ness above them; Gunnar went on shore to meet the man, and they had a talk. Gunnar asked him his name, and he said it was Tofi. Gunnar asked again what he wanted.
"Thee I want to see," says the man. "Two warships lie on the other side under the ness, and I will tell thee who command them: two brothers are the captains — one's name is Hallgrim, and the other's Kolskegg. I know them to be mighty men of war; and I know too that they have such good weapons that the like are not to be had. Hallgrim has a bill which he had made by seething- spells; and this is what the spells say, that no weapon shall give him his death-blow save that bill. That thing follows it too that it is known at once when a man is to be slain with that bill, for something sings in it so loudly that it may be heard along way off — such a strong nature has that bill in it."
Then Gunnar sang a song —
"Soon shall I that spearhead seize, And the bold sea-rover slay, Him whose blows on headpiece ring, Heaper up of piles of dead. Then on Endil's courser (4) bounding, O'er the sea-depths I will ride, While the wretch who spells abuseth, Life shall lose in Sigar's storm." (5)
"Kolskegg has a short sword; that is also the best of weapons. Force, too, they have — a third more than ye. They have also much goods, and have stowed them away on land, and I know clearly where they are. But they have sent a spy-ship off the ness, and they know all about you. Now they are getting themselves ready as fast as they can; and as soon as they are 'boun,' they mean to run out against you. Now you have either to row away at once, or to busk yourselves as quickly as ye can; but if ye win the day then I will lead you to all their store of goods."
Gunnar gave him a golden finger-ring, and went afterwards to his men and told them that war-ships lay on the other side of the ness, "and they know all about us; so let us take to our arms and busk us well, for now there is gain to be got."
Then they busked them; and just when they were 'boun' they see ships coming up to them. And now a fight sprung up between them, and they fought long, and many men fell. Gunnar slew many a man. Hallgrim and his men leapt on board Gunnar's ship. Gunnar turns to meet him, and Hallgrim thrust at him with his bill. There was a boom athwart the ship, and Gunnar leapt nimbly back over it. Gunnar's shield was just before the boom, and Hallgrim thrust his bill into it, and through it, and so on into the boom. Gunnar cut at Hallgrim's arm hard, and lamed the forearm, but the sword would not bite. Then down fell the bill, and Gunnar seized the bill, and thrust Hallgrim through, and then sang a song —
"Slain is he who spoiled the people, Lashing them with flashing steel; Heard have I how Hallgrim's magic Helm-rod forged in foreign land; All men know, of heart-strings doughty, How this bill hath come to me, Deft in fight, the wolf's dear feeder, Death alone us two shall part."
And that vow Gunnar kept, in that he bore the bill while he lived. Those namesakes the two Kolskeggs fought together, and it was a near thing which would get the better of it. Then Gunnar came up, and gave the other Kolskegg his death-blow. After that the sea-rovers begged for mercy. Gunnar let them have that choice, and he let them also count the slain, and take the goods which the dead men owned, but he gave the others whom he spared their arms and their clothing, and bade them be off to the lands that fostered them. So they went off, and Gunnar took all the goods that were left behind.
Tofi came to Gunner after the battle, and offered to lead him to that store of goods which the sea-rovers had stowed away, and said that it was both better and larger than that which they had already got.
Gunnar said he was willing to go, and so he went ashore, and Tofi before him, to a wood, and Gunnar behind him. They came to a place where a great heap of wood was piled together. Tofi says the goods were under there, then they tossed off the wood, and found under it both gold and silver, clothes, and good weapons. They bore those goods to the ships, and Gunnar asks Tofi in what way he wished him to repay him.
Tofi answered, "I am a Dansk man by race, and I wish thou wouldst bring me to my kinsfolk."
Gunnar asks why he was there away east?
"I was taken by sea-rovers," says Tofi, "and they put me on land here in Osel, and here I have been ever since."
(1) Rill of wolf — stream of blood. (2) A province of Sweden. (3) An island in the Baltic, off the coast of Esthonia. (4) "Endil's courser" — periphrasis for a ship. (5) "Sigar's storm" — periphrasis for a sea-fight.
31. GUNNAR GOES TO KING HAROLD GORM'S SON AND EARL HACON
Gunnar took Tofi on board, and said to Kolskegg and Hallvard, "Now we will hold our course for the north lands."
They were well pleased at that, and bade him have his way. So Gunnar sailed from the east with much goods. He had ten ships, and ran in with them to Heidarby in Denmark. King Harold Gorm's son was there up the country, and he was told about Gunnar, and how too that there was no man his match in all Iceland. He sent men to him to ask him to come to him, and Gunnar went at once to see the king, and the king made him a hearty welcome, and sat him down next to himself. Gunnar was there half a month. The king made himself sport by letting Gunnar prove himself in divers feats of strength against his men, and there were none that were his match even in one feat.
Then the king said to Gunnar, "It seems to me as though thy peer is not to be found far or near," and the king offered to get Gunnar a wife, and to raise him to great power if he would settle down there.
Gunnar thanked the king for his offer and said, "I will first of all sail back to Iceland to see my friends and kinsfolk."
"Then thou wilt never come back to us," says the king.
"Fate will settle that, lord," says Gunnar.
Gunnar gave the king a good long-ship, and much goods besides, and the king gave him a robe of honour, and golden-seamed gloves, and a fillet with a knot of gold on it, and a Russian hat.
Then Gunnar fared north to Hisingen. Oliver welcomed him with both hands, and he gave back to Oliver his ships, with their lading, and said that was his share of the spoil. Oliver took the goods, and said Gunnar was a good man and true, and bade him stay with him some while. Hallvard asked Gunnar if he had a mind to go to see Earl Hacon. Gunnar said that was near his heart, "for now I am somewhat proved, but then I was not tried at all when thou badest me do this before."
After that they fared north to Drontheim to see Earl Hacon, and he gave Gunnar a hearty welcome, and bade him stay with him that winter, and Gunnar took that offer, and every man thought him a man of great worth. At Yule the Earl gave him a gold ring.
Gunnar set his heart on Bergliota, the Earl's kinswoman, and it was often to be seen from the Earl's way, that he would have given her to him to wife if Gunnar had said anything about that.
32. GUNNAR COMES OUT TO ICELAND
When the spring came, the Earl asks Gunnar what course he meant to take. He said he would go to Iceland. The Earl said that had been a bad year for grain, "and there will be little sailing out to Iceland, but still thou shalt have meal and timber both in thy ship."
Gunnar fitted out his ship as early as he could, and Hallvard fared out with him and Kolskegg. They came out early in the summer, and made Arnbael's Oyce before the Thing met.
Gunnar rode home from the ship, but got men to strip her and lay her up. But when they came home all men were glad to see them. They were blithe and merry to their household, nor had their haughtiness grown while they were away.
Gunnar asks if Njal were at home; and he was told that he was at home; then he let them saddle his horse, and those brothers rode over to Bergthorsknoll.
Njal was glad at their coming, and begged them to stay there that night, and Gunnar told him of his voyages.
Njal said he was a man of the greatest mark, "and thou hast been much proved; but still thou wilt be more tried hereafter; for many will envy thee."
"With all men I would wish to stand well," says Gunnar.
"Much bad will happen," said Njal, "and thou wilt always have some quarrel to ward off."
"So be it, then," says Gunnar, "so that I have a good ground on my side."
"So will it be too," says Njal, "if thou hast not to smart for others."
Njal asked Gunnar if he would ride to the Thing. Gunnar said he was going to ride thither, and asks Njal whether he were going to ride; but he said he would not ride thither, "and if I had my will thou wouldst do the like."
Gunnar rode home, and gave Njal good gifts, and thanked him for the care he had taken of his goods. Kolskegg urged him on much to ride to the Thing, saying, "There thy honour will grow, for many will flock to see thee there."
"That has been little to my mind," says Gunnar, "to make a show of myself; but I think it good and right to meet good and worthy men."
Hallvard by this time was also come thither, and offered to ride to the Thing with them.
33. GUNNAR'S WOOING
So Gunnar rode, and they all rode. But when they came to the Thing they were so well arrayed that none could match them in bravery; and men came out of every booth to wonder at them. Gunnar rode to the booths of the men of Rangriver, and was there with his kinsmen. Many men came to see Gunnar, and ask tidings of him; and he was easy and merry to all men, and told them all they wished to hear.
It happened one day that Gunnar went away from the Hill of Laws, and passed by the booths of the men from Mossfell; then he saw a woman coming to meet him, and she was in goodly attire; but when they met she spoke to Gunnar at once. He took her greeting well, and asks what woman she might be. She told him her name was Hallgerda, and said she was Hauskuld's daughter, Dalakoll's son. She spoke up boldly to him, and bade him tell her of his voyages; but he said he would not gainsay her a talk. Then they sat them down and talked. She was so clad that she had on a red kirtle, and had thrown over her a scarlet cloak trimmed with needlework down to the waist. Her hair came down to her bosom, and was both fair and full. Gunnar was clad in the scarlet clothes which King Harold Gorm's son had given him; he had also the gold ring on his arm which Earl Hacon had given him.
So they talked long out loud, and at last it came about that he asked whether she were unmarried. She said, so it was, "and there are not many who would run the risk of that."
"Thinkest thou none good enough for thee?"
"Not that," she says, "but I am said to be hard to please in husbands."
"How wouldst thou answer, were I to ask for thee?"
"That cannot be in thy mind," she says.
"It is though," says he.
"If thou hast any mind that way, go and see my father."
After that they broke off their talk.
Gunnar went straightway to the Dalesmen's booths, and met a man outside the doorway, and asks whether Hauskuld were inside the booth?
The man says that he was. Then Gunnar went in, and Hauskuld and Hrut made him welcome. He sat down between them, and no one could find out from their talk that there had ever been any misunderstanding between them. At last Gunnar's speech turned thither; how these brothers would answer if he asked for Hallgerda?
"Well," says Hauskuld, "if that is indeed thy mind."
Gunnar says that he is in earnest, "but we so parted last time, that many would think it unlikely that we should ever be bound together."
"How thinkest thou, kinsman Hrut?" says Hauskuld.
Hrut answered, "Methinks this is no even match."
"How dost thou make that out?" says Gunnar.
Hrut spoke, "In this wise will I answer thee about this matter, as is the very truth. Thou art a brisk brave man well to do, and unblemished; but she is much mixed up with ill report, and I will not cheat thee in anything."
"Good go with thee for thy words," says Gunnar, "but still I shall hold that for true, that the old feud weighs with ye, if ye will not let me make this match."
"Not so," says Hrut, "'t is more because I see that thou art unable to help thyself; but though we make no bargain, we would still be thy friends."
"I have talked to her about it," says Gunnar, "and it is not far from her mind."
Hrut says, "I know that you have both set your hearts on this match; and, besides, ye two are those who run the most risk as to how it turns out."
Hrut told Gunnar unasked all about Hallgerda's temper, and Gunnar at first thought that there was more than enough that was wanting; but at last it came about that they struck a bargain.
Then Hallgerda was sent for, and they talked over the business when she was by, and now, as before, they made her betroth herself. The bridal feast was to be at Lithend, and at first they were to set about it secretly; but the end after all was that every one knew of it.
Gunnar rode home from the Thing, and came to Bergthorsknoll, and told Njal of the bargain he had made. He took it heavily.
Gunnar asks Njal why he thought this so unwise?
"Because from her," says Njal, "will arise all kind of ill if she comes hither east."
"Never shall she spoil our friendship," says Gunnar.
"Ah! but yet that may come very near," says Njal; "and, besides, thou wilt have always to make atonement for her."
Gunnar asked Njal to the wedding, and all those as well whom he wished should be at it from Njal's house.
Njal promised to go; and after that Gunnar rode home, and then rode about the district to bid men to his wedding.
34. OF THRAIN SIGFUS' SON
There was a man named Thrain, he was the son of Sigfus, the son of Sighvat the Red. He kept house at Gritwater on Fleetlithe. He was Gunnar's kinsman, and a man of great mark. He had to wife Thorhillda Skaldwife; she had a sharp tongue of her own, and was given to jeering. Thrain loved her little. He and his wife were bidden to the wedding, and she and Bergthora, Skarphedinn's daughter, Njal's wife, waited on the guests with meat and drink.
Kettle was the name of the second son of Sigfus; he kept house in the Mark, east of Markfleet. He had to wife Thorgerda, Njal's daughter. Thorkell was the name of the third son of Sigfus; the fourth's name was Mord; the fifth's Lambi; the sixth's Sigmund; the seventh's Sigurd. These were all Gunnar's kinsmen, and great champions. Gunnar bade them all to the wedding.
Gunnar had also bidden Valgard the Guileful, and Wolf Aurpriest, and their sons Runolf and Mord.
Hauskuld and Hrut came to the wedding with a very great company, and the sons of Hauskuld, Thorleik, and Olof, were there; the bride, too, came along with them, and her daughter Thorgerda came also, and she was one of the fairest of women; she was then fourteen winters old. Many other women were with her, and besides there were Thorkatla Asgrim Ellidagrim's son's daughter, and Njal's two daughters, Thorgerda and Helga.
Gunnar had already many guests to meet them, and he thus arranged his men. He sat on the middle of the bench, and on the inside, away from him, Thrain Sigfus' son, then Wolf Aurpriest, then Valgard the Guileful, then Mord and Runolf, then the other sons of Sigfus, Lambi sat outermost of them.
Next to Gunnar on the outside, away from him, sat Njal, then Skarphedinn, then Helgi, then Grim, then Hauskuld Njal's son, then Hafr the Wise, then Ingialld from the Springs, then the sons of Thorir from Holt away east. Thorir would sit outermost of the men of mark, for every one was pleased with the seat he got.
Hauskuld, the bride's father, sat on the middle of the bench over against Gunnar, but his sons sat on the inside away from him; Hrut sat on the outside away from Hauskuld, but it is not said how the others were placed. The bride sat in the middle of the cross bench on the dais; but on one hand of her sat her daughter Thorgerda, and on the other Thorkatla Asgrim Ellidagrim's son's daughter.
Thorhillda went about waiting on the guests, and Bergthora bore the meat on the board.
Now Thrain Sigfus' son kept staring at Thorgerda Glum's daughter; his wife Thorhillda saw this, and she got wroth, and made a couplet upon him.
"Thrain," she says,
"Gaping mouths are no wise good, Goggle eyne are in thy head."
He rose at once up from the board, and said he would put Thorhillda away. "I will not bear her jibes and jeers any longer;" and he was so quarrelsome about this, that he would not be at the feast unless she were driven away. And so it was, that she went away; and now each man sat in his place, and they drank and were glad.
Then Thrain began to speak, "I will not whisper about that which is in my mind. This I will ask thee, Hauskuld Dalakoll's son, wilt thou give me to wife Thorgerda, thy kinswoman?"
"I do not know that," says Hauskuld; "methinks thou art ill parted from the one thou hadst before. But what kind of man is he, Gunnar?"
Gunnar answers, "I will not say aught about the man, because he is near of kin; but say thou about him, Njal," says Gunnar, "for all men will believe it."
Njal spoke, and said, "That is to be said of this man, that the man is well to do for wealth, and a proper man in all things. A man, too, of the greatest mark; so that ye may well make this match with him."
Then Hauskuld spoke, "What thinkest thou we ought to do, kinsman Hrut?"
"Thou mayst make the match, because it is an even one for her," says Hrut.
Then they talk about the terms of the bargain, and are soon of one mind on all points.
Then Gunnar stands up, and Thrain too, and they go to the cross bench. Gunnar asked that mother and daughter whether they would say yes to this bargain. They said they would find no fault with it, and Hallgerda betrothed her daughter. Then the places of the women were shifted again, and now Thorhalla sate between the brides. And now the feast sped on well, and when it was over, Hauskuld and his company ride west, but the men of Rangriver rode to their own abode. Gunnar gave many men gifts, and that made him much liked.
Hallgerda took the housekeeping under her, and stood up for her rights in word and deed. Thorgerda took to housekeeping at Gritwater, and was a good housewife.
35. THE VISIT TO BERGTHORSKNOLL
Now it was the custom between Gunnar and Njal, that each made the other a feast, winter and winter about, for friendship's sake; and it was Gunnar's turn to go to feast at Njal's. So Gunnar and Hallgerda set off for Bergthorsknoll, and when they got there Helgi and his wife were not at home. Njal gave Gunnar and his wife a hearty welcome, and when they had been there a little while, Helgi came home with Thorhalla his wife. Then Bergthora went up to the crossbench, and Thorhalla with her, and Bergthora said to Hallgerda, "Thou shalt give place to this woman."
She answered, "To no one will I give place, for I will not be driven into the corner for any one."
"I shall rule here," said Bergthora. After that Thorhalla sat down, and Bergthora went round the table with water to wash the guests' hands. Then Hallgerda took hold of Bergthora's hand, and said, "There's not much to choose, though, between you two. Thou hast hangnails on every finger, and Njal is beardless."
"That's true," says Bergthora, "yet neither of us finds fault with the other for it; but Thorwald, thy husband, was not beardless, and yet thou plottedst his death."
Then Hallgerda said, "It stands me in little stead to have the bravest man in Iceland if thou dost not avenge this, Gunnar!"
He sprang up and strode across away from the board, and said, "Home I will go, and it were more seemly that thou shouldest wrangle with those of thine own household, and not under other men's roofs; but as for Njal, I am his debtor for much honour, and never will I be egged on by thee like a fool."
After that they set off home.
"Mind this Bergthora," said Hallgerda, "that we shall meet again."
Bergthora said she should not be better off for that. Gunnar said nothing at all, but went home to Lithend, and was there at home all the winter. And now the summer was running on towards the Great Thing.
36. KOL SLEW SWART
Gunnar rode away to the Thing, but before he rode from home he said to Hallgerda, "Be good now while I am away, and show none of thine ill temper in anything with which my friends have to do."
"The trolls take thy friends," says Hallgerda.
So Gunnar rode to the Thing, and saw it was not good to come to words with her. Njal rode to the Thing too, and all his sons with him.
Now it must be told of what tidings happened at home. Njal and Gunnar owned a wood in common at Redslip; they had not shared the wood, but each was wont to hew in it as he needed, and neither said a word to the other about that. Hallgerda's grieve's (1) name was Kol; he had been with her long, and was one of the worst of men. There was a man named Swart; he was Njal's and Bergthora's housecarle; they were very fond of him. Now Bergthora told him that he must go up into Redslip and hew wood; but she said, "I will get men to draw home the wood."
He said he would do the work she set him to win; and so he went up into Redslip, and was to be there a week.
Some gangrel men came to Lithend from the east across Markfleet, and said that Swart had been in Redslip, and hewn wood, and done a deal of work.
"So," says Hallgerda, "Bergthora must mean to rob me in many things, but I'll take care that he does not hew again."
Rannveig, Gunnar's mother, heard that, and said, "There have been good housewives before now, though they never set their hearts on manslaughter."
Now the night wore away, and early next morning Hallgerda came to speak to Kol, and said, "I have thought of some work for thee;" and with that she put weapons into his hands, and went on to say — "Fare thou to Redslip; there wilt thou find Swart."
"What shall I do to him?" he says.
"Askest thou that, when thou art the worst of men?" she says. "Thou shalt kill him."
"I can get that done," he says, "but 'tis more likely that I shall lose my own life for it."
"Everything grows big in thy eyes," she says, "and thou behavest ill to say this after I have spoken up for thee in everything. I must get another man to do this if thou darest not."
He took the axe, and was very wroth, and takes a horse that Gunnar owned, and rides now till he comes east of Markfleet. There he got off and bided in the wood, till they had carried down the firewood, and Swart was left alone behind. Then Kol sprang on him, and said, "More folk can hew great strokes than thou alone;" and so he laid the axe on his head, and smote him his death-blow, and rides home afterwards, and tells Hallgerda of the slaying.
She said, "I shall take such good care of thee, that no harm shall come to thee."
"May be so," says he, "but I dreamt all the other way as I slept ere I did the deed."
Now they come up into the wood, and find Swart slain, and bear him home. Hallgerda sent a man to Gunnar at the Thing to tell him of the slaying. Gunnar said no hard words at first of Hallgerda to the messenger, and men knew not at first whether he thought well or ill of it. A little after he stood up, and bade his men go with him: they did so, and fared to Njal's booth. Gunnar sent a man to fetch Njal, and begged him to come out. Njal went out at once, and he and Gunnar fell a-talking, and Gunnar said, "I have to tell thee of the slaying of a man, and my wife and my grieve Kol were those who did it; but Swart, thy housecarle, fell before them."
Njal held his peace while he told him the whole story. Then Njal spoke, "Thou must take heed not to let her have her way in everything."
Gunnar said, "Thou thyself shalt settle the terms."
Njal spoke again, "'Twill be hard work for thee to atone for all Hallgerda's mischief; and somewhere else there will be a broader trail to follow than this which we two now have a share in, and yet, even here there will be much awanting before all be well; and herein we shall need to bear in mind the friendly words that passed between us of old; and something tells me that thou wilt come well out of it, but still thou wilt be sore tried."
Then Njal took the award into his own hands from Gunnar, and said, "I will not push this matter to the uttermost; thou shalt pay twelve ounces of silver; but I will add this to my award, that if anything happens from our homestead about which thou hast to utter an award, thou wilt not be less easy in thy terms."
Gunnar paid up the money out of hand, and rode home afterwards. Njal, too, came home from the Thing, and his sons. Bergthora saw the money, and said, "This is very justly settled; but even as much money shall be paid for Kol as time goes on."
Gunnar came home from the Thing and blamed Hallgerda. She said, better men lay unatoned in many places. Gunnar said, she might have her way in beginning a quarrel, "but how the matter is to be settled rests with me."
Hallgerda was for ever chattering of Swart's slaying, but Bergthora liked that ill. Once Njal and her sons went up to Thorolfsfell to see about the house-keeping there, but that selfsame day this thing happened when Bergthora was out of doors: she sees a man ride up to the house on a black horse. She stayed there and did not go in, for she did not know the man. That man had a spear in his hand, and was girded with a short sword. She asked this man his name.
"Atli is my name," says he.
She asked whence he came.
"I am an Eastfirther," he says.
"Whither shalt thou go?" she says.
"I am a homeless man," says he, "and I thought to see Njal and Skarphedinn, and know if they would take me in."
"What work is handiest to thee?" says she.
"I am a man used to field-work," he says, "and many things else come very handy to me; but I will not hide from thee that I am a man of hard temper, and it has been many a man's lot before now to bind up wounds at my hand."
"I do not blame thee," she says, "though thou art no milksop."
Atli said, "Hast thou any voice in things here?"
"I am Njal's wife," she says, "and I have as much to say to our housefolk as he."
"Wilt thou take me in then?" says he.
"I will give thee thy choice of that," says she. "If thou wilt do all the work that I set before thee, and that, though I wish to send thee where a man's life is at stake."
"Thou must have so many men at thy beck," says he, "that thou wilt not need me for such work."
"That I will settle as I please," she says.
"We will strike a bargain on these terms," says he.
Then she took him into the household. Njal and his sons came home and asked Bergthora what man that might be?
"He is thy house-carle," she says, "and I took him in." Then she went on to say he was no sluggard at work.
"He will be a great worker enough, I daresay," says Njal, "but I do not know whether he will be such a good worker."
Skarphedinn was good to Atli.
Njal and his sons ride to the Thing in the course of the summer; Gunnar was also at the Thing.
Njal took out a purse of money.
"What money is that, father?"
"Here is the money that Gunnar paid me for our housecarle last summer."
"That will come to stand thee in some stead," says Skarphedinn, and smiled as he spoke.
(1) Grieve, i.e., bailiff, head workman.
37. THE SLAYING OF KOL, WHOM ATLI SLEW
Now we must take up the story and say, that Atli asked Bergthora what work he should do that day?
"I have thought of some work for thee," she says; "thou shalt go and look for Kol until thou find him; for now shalt thou slay him this very day, if thou wilt do my will."
"This work is well fitted," says Atli, "for each of us two are bad fellows; but still I will so lay myself out for him that one or other of us shall die."
"Well mayst thou fare," she says, "and thou shalt not do this deed for nothing."
He took his weapons and his horse, and rode up to Fleetlithe, and there met men who were coming down from Lithend. They were at home east in the Mark. They asked Atli whither he meant to go? He said he was riding to look for an old jade. They said that was a small errand for such a workman, "but still 'twould be better to ask those who have been about last night."
"Who are they?" says he.
"Killing-Kol," say they, "Hallgerda's house-carle, fared from the fold just now, and has been awake all night."
"I do not know whether I dare to meet him," says Atli, "he is bad-tempered, and may be that I shall let another's wound be my warning."
"Thou bearest that look beneath the brows as though thou wert no coward," they said, and showed him where Kol was.
Then he spurred his horse and rides fast, and when he meets Kol, Atli said to him, "Go the pack-saddle bands well," says Atli.
"That's no business of thine, worthless fellow, nor of any one else whence thou comest."
Atli said, "Thou hast something behind that is earnest work, but that is to die."
After that Atli thrust at him with his spear, and struck him about his middle. Kol swept at him with his axe, but missed him, and fell off his horse, and died at once.
Atli rode till he met some of Hallgerda's workmen, and said, "Go ye up to the horse yonder, and look to Kol, for he has fallen off, and is dead."
"Hast thou slain him?" say they.
"Well, 'twill seem to Hallgerda as though he has not fallen by his own hand."
After that Atli rode home and told Bergthora; she thanked him for this deed, and for the words which he had spoken about it.
"I do not know," says he, "what Njal will think of this."
"He will take it well upon his hands," she says, "and I will tell thee one thing as a token of it, that he has carried away with him to the Thing the price of that thrall which we took last spring, and that money will now serve for Kol; but though peace be made thou must still be ware of thyself, for Hallgerda will keep no peace."
"Wilt thou send at all a man to Njal to tell him of the slaying?"
"I will not," she says, "I should like it better that Kol were unatoned."
Then they stopped talking about it.
Hallgerda was told of Kol's slaying, and of the words that Atli had said. She said Atli should be paid off for them. She sent a man to the Thing to tell Gunnar of Kol's slaying; he answered little or nothing, and sent a man to tell Njal. He too made no answer, but Skarphedinn said, "Thralls are men of more mettle than of yore; they used to fly at each other and fight, and no one thought much harm of that; but now they will do naught but kill," and as he said this he smiled.
Njal pulled down the purse of money which hung up in the booth, and went out: his sons went with him to Gunnar's booth.
Skarphedinn said to a man who was in the doorway of the booth, "Say thou to Gunnar that my father wants to see him."
He did so, and Gunnar went out at once and gave Njal a hearty welcome. After that they began to talk.
"'Tis ill done," says Njal, "that my housewife should have broken the peace, and let thy house-carle be slain."
"She shall not have blame for that," says Gunnar.
"Settle the award thyself," says Njal.
"So I will do," says Gunnar, "and I value those two men at an even price, Swart and Kol. Thou shalt pay me twelve ounces in silver."
Njal took the purse of money and handed it to Gunnar. Gunnar knew the money, and saw it was the same that he had paid Njal. Njal went away to his booth, and they were just as good friends as before. When Njal came home, he blamed Bergthora; but she said she would never give way to Hallgerda. Hallgerda was very cross with Gunnar, because he had made peace for Kol's slaying. Gunnar told her he would never break with Njal or his sons, and she flew into a great rage; but Gunnar took no heed of that, and so they sat for that year, and nothing noteworthy happened.
38. THE KILLING OF ATLI THE THRALL
Next spring Njal said to Atli, "I wish that thou wouldst change thy abode to the east firths, so that Hallgerda may not put an end to thy life?"
"I am not afraid of that," says Atli, "and I will willingly stay at home if I have the choice."
"Still that is less wise," says Njal.
"I think it better to lose my life in thy house than to change my master; but this I will beg of thee, if I am slain, that a thrall's price shall not be paid for me."
"Thou shalt be atoned for as a free man; but perhaps Bergthora will make thee a promise which she will fulfil, that revenge, man for man, shall be taken for thee."
Then he made up his mind to be a hired servant there.
Now it must be told of Hallgerda that she sent a man west to Bearfirth, to fetch Brynjolf the Unruly, her kinsman. He was a base son of Swan, and he was one of the worst of men. Gunnar knew nothing about it. Hallgerda said he was well fitted to be a grieve. So Brynjolf came from the west, and Gunnar asked what he was to do there? He said he was going to stay there.
"Thou wilt not better our household," says Gunnar, "after what has been told me of thee, but I will not turn away any of Hallgerda's kinsmen, whom she wishes to be with her."
Gunnar said little, but was not unkind to him, and so things went on till the Thing. Gunnar rides to the Thing and Kolskegg rides too, and when they came to the Thing they and Njal met, for he and his sons were at the Thing, and all went well with Gunnar and them.
Bergthora said to Atli, "Go thou up into Thorolfsfell and work there a week."
So he went up thither, and was there on the sly, and burnt charcoal in the wood.
Hallgerda said to Brynjolf, "I have been told Atli is not at home, and he must be winning work on Thorolfsfell."
"What thinkest thou likeliest that he is working at," says he.
"At something in the wood," she says.
"What shall I do to him?" he asks.
"Thou shalt kill him," says she.
He was rather slow in answering her, and Hallgerda said, "'Twould grow less in Thiostolf's eyes to kill Atli if he were alive."
"Thou shalt have no need to goad me on much more," he says, and then he seized his weapons, and takes his horse and mounts, and rides to Thorolfsfell. There he saw a great reek of coalsmoke east of the homestead, so he rides thither, and gets off his horse and ties him up, but he goes where the smoke was thickest. Then he sees where the charcoal pit is, and a man stands by it. He saw that he had thrust his spear in the ground by him. Brynjolf goes along with the smoke right up to him, but he was eager at his work, and saw him not. Brynjolf gave him a stroke on the head with his axe, and he turned so quick round that Brynjolf loosed his hold of the axe, and Atli grasped the spear, and hurled it after him. Then Brynjolf cast himself down on the ground, but the spear flew away over him.
"Lucky for thee that I was not ready for thee," says Atli, "but now Hallgerda will be well pleased, for thou wilt tell her of my death; but it is a comfort to know that thou wilt have the same fate soon; but come now take thy axe which has been here."
He answered him never a word, nor did he take the axe before he was dead. Then he rode up to the house on Thorolfsfell, and told of the slaying, and after that rode home and told Hallgerda. She sent men to Bergthorsknoll, and let them tell Bergthora that now Kol's slaying was paid for.
After that Hallgerda sent a man to the Thing to tell Gunnar of Atli's killing.
Gunnar stood up, and Kolskegg with him, and Kolskegg said, "Unthrifty will Hallgerda's kinsmen be to thee."
Then they go to see Njal, and Gunnar said, "I have to tell thee of Atli's killing." He told him also who slew him, and went on, "And now I will bid thee atonement for the deed, and thou shalt make the award thyself."
Njal said, "We two have always meant never to come to strife about anything; but still I cannot make him out a thrall."
Gunnar said that was all right, and stretched out his hand.
Njal named his witnesses, and they made peace on those terms.
Skarphedinn said, "Hallgerda does not let our housecarles die of old age."
Gunnar said, "Thy mother will take care that blow goes for blow between the houses."
"Ay, ay," says Njal, "there will be enough of that work."
After that Njal fixed the price at a hundred in silver, but Gunnar paid it down at once. Many who stood by said that the award was high; Gunnar got wroth, and said that a full atonement was often paid for those who were no brisker men than Atli.
With that they rode home from the Thing.
Bergthora said to Njal when she saw the money, "Thou thinkest thou hast fulfilled thy promise, but now my promise is still behind."
"There is no need that thou shouldst fulfil it," says Njal.
"Nay," says she, "thou hast guessed it would be so; and so it shall be."
Hallgerda said to Gunnar, "Hast thou paid a hundred in silver for Atli's slaying, and made him a free man?"
"He was free before," says Gunnar, "and besides, I will not make Njal's household outlaws who have forfeited their rights."
"There's not a pin to choose between you," she said, "for both of you are so blate?"
"That's as things prove," says he.
Then Gunnar was for a long time very short with her, till she gave way to him; and now all was still for the rest of that year; in the spring Njal did not increase his household, and now men ride to the Thing about summer.
39. THE SLAYING OF BRYNJOLF THE UNRULY
There was a man named Thord, he was surnamed Freedmanson. Sigtrygg was his father's name, and he had been the freedman of Asgerd, and he was drowned in Markfleet. That was why Thord was with Njal afterwards. He was a tall man and a strong, and he had fostered all Njal's sons. He had set his heart on Gudfinna Thorolf's daughter, Njal's kinswoman; she was housekeeper at home there, and was then with child.
Now Bergthora came to talk with Thord Freedmanson; she said, "Thou shalt go to kill Brynjolf, Hallgerda's kinsman."
"I am no man-slayer," he says, "but still I will do whatever thou wilt."
"This is my will," she says.
After that he went up to Lithend, and made them call Hallgerda out, and asked where Brynjolf might be.
"What's thy will with him," she says.
"I want him to tell me where he has hidden Atli's body; I have heard say that he has buried it badly."
She pointed to him and said he was down yonder in Acretongue.
"Take heed," says Thord, "that the same thing does not befall him as befell Atli."
"Thou art no man-slayer," she says, "and so naught will come of it even if ye two do meet."
"Never have I seen man's blood, nor do I know how I should feel if I did," he says, and gallops out of the "town" and down to Acretongue.
Rannveig, Gunnar's mother, had heard their talk.
"Thou goadest his mind much, Hallgerda," she says, "but I think him a dauntless man, and that thy kinsman will find."
They met on the beaten way, Thord and Brynjolf; and Thord said, "Guard thee, Brynjolf, for I will do no dastard's deed by thee."
Brynjolf rode at Thord, and smote at him with his axe. He smote at him at the same time with his axe, and hewed in sunder the haft just above Brynjolf's hands, and then hewed at him at once a second time, and struck him on the collar-bone, and the blow went straight into his trunk. Then he fell from horseback, and was dead on the spot.
Thord met Hallgerda's herdsman, and gave out the slaying as done by his hand, and said where he lay, and bade him tell Hallgerda of the slaying. After that he rode home to Bergthorsknoll, and told Bergthora of the slaying, and other people too.
"Good luck go with thy hands," she said.
The herdsman told Hallgerda of the slaying; she was snappish at it, and said much ill would come of it, if she might have her way.
40. GUNNAR AND NJAL MAKE PEACE ABOUT BRYNJOLF'S SLAYING
Now these tidings come to the Thing, and Njal made them tell him the tale thrice, and then he said, "More men now become man- slayers than I weened."
Skarphedinn spoke, "That man, though, must have been twice fey," he says, "who lost his life by our foster-father's hand, who has never seen man's blood. And many would think that we brothers would sooner have done this deed with the turn of temper that we have."
"Scant space wilt thou have," says Njal, "ere the like befalls thee; but need will drive thee to it."
Then they went to meet Gunnar, and told him of the slaying. Gunnar spoke and said that was little man-scathe, "but yet he was a free man."
Njal offered to make peace at once, and Gunnar said yes, and he was to settle the terms himself. He made his award there and then, and laid it at one hundred in silver. Njal paid down the money on the spot, and they were at peace after that.
41. SIGMUND COMES OUT TO ICELAND
There was a man whose name was Sigmund. He was the son of Lambi, the son of Sighvat the Red. He was a great voyager, and a comely and a courteous man; tall too, and strong. He was a man of proud spirit, and a good skald, and well trained in most feats of strength. He was noisy and boisterous, and given to jibes and mocking. He made the land east in Homfirth. Skiolld was the name of his fellow-traveller; he was a Swedish man, and ill to do with. They took horse and rode from the east out of Hornfirth, and did not draw bridle before they came to Lithend, in the Fleetlithe. Gunnar gave them a hearty welcome, for the bonds of kinship were close between them. Gunnar begged Sigmund to stay there that winter, and Sigmund said he would take the offer if Skiolld his fellow might be there too.
"Well, I have been so told about him," said Gunnar, "that he is no betterer of thy temper; but as it is, thou rather needest to have it bettered. This, too, is a bad house to stay at, and I would just give both of you a bit of advice, my kinsman, not to fire up at the egging on of my wife Hallgerda; for she takes much in hand that is far from my will."
"His hands are clean who warns another," says Sigmund.
"Then mind the advice given thee," says Gunnar, "for thou art sure to be sore tried; and go along always with me, and lean upon my counsel."
After that they were in Gunnar's company. Hallgerda was good to Sigmund; and it soon came about that things grew so warm that she loaded him with money, and tended him no worse than her own husband; and many talked about that, and did not know what lay under it.
One day Hallgerda said to Gunnar, "It is not good to be content with that hundred in silver which thou tookest for my kinsman Brynjolf. I shall avenge him if I may," she says.
Gunnar said he had no mind to bandy words with her, and went away. He met Kolskegg, and said to him, "Go and see Njal; and tell him that Thord must be ware of himself though peace has been made for, methinks, there is faithlessness somewhere."
He rode off and told Njal, but Njal told Thord, and Kolskegg rode home, and Njal thanked them for their faithfulness.
Once on a time they two were out in the "town," Njal and Thord; a he-goat was wont to go up and down in the "town," and no one was allowed to drive him away. Then Thord spoke and said, "Well, this is a wondrous thing!"
"What is it that thou see'st that seems after a wondrous fashion?" says Njal.
"Methinks the goat lies here in the hollow, and he is all one gore of blood."
Njal said that there was no goat there, nor anything else.
"What is it then?" says Thord.
"Thou must be a 'fey' man," says Njal, "and thou must have seen the fetch that follows thee, and now be ware of thyself."
"That will stand me in no stead," says Thord, "if death is doomed for me."
Then Hallgerda came to talk with Thrain Sigfus' son, and said, "I would think thee my son-in-law indeed," she says, "if thou slayest Thord Freedmanson."
"I will not do that," he says, "for then I shall have the wrath of my kinsman Gunnar; and besides, great things hang on this deed, for this slaying would soon be avenged."
"Who will avenge it?" she asks; "is it the beardless carle?"
"Not so," says he, "his sons will avenge it."
After that they talked long and low, and no man knew what counsel they took together.
Once it happened that Gunnar was not at home, but those companions were. Thrain had come in from Gritwater, and then he and they and Hallgerda sat out of doors and talked. Then Hallgerda said, "This have ye two brothers in arms, Sigmund and Skiolld, promised to slay Thord Freedmanson; but Thrain thou hast promised me that thou wouldst stand by them when they did the deed."
They all acknowledged that they had given her this promise.
"Now I will counsel you how to do it," she says: "Ye shall ride east into Homfirth after your goods, and come home about the beginning of the Thing, but if ye are at home before it begins, Gunnar will wish that ye should ride to the Thing with him. Njal will be at the Thing and his sons and Gunnar, but then ye two shall slay Thord."
They all agreed that this plan should be carried out. After that they busked them east to the Firth, and Gunnar was not aware of what they were about, and Gunnar rode to the Thing. Njal sent Thord Freedmanson away east under Eyjafell, and bade him be away there one night. So he went east, but he could not get back from the east, for the Fleet had risen so high that it could not be crossed on horseback ever so far up. Njal waited for him one night, for he had meant him to have ridden with him; and Njal said to Bergthora that she must send Thord to the Thing as soon as ever he came home. Two nights after, Thord came from the east, and Bergthora told him that he must ride to the Thing, "But first thou shalt ride up into Thorolfsfell and see about the farm there, and do not be there longer than one or two nights."
42. THE SLAYING OF THORD FREEDMANSON
Then Sigmund came from the east and those companions. Hallgerda told them that Thord was at home, but that he was to ride straightway to the Thing after a few nights' space. "Now ye will have a fair chance at him," she says, "but if this goes off, ye will never get nigh him." Men came to Lithend from Thorolfsfell, and told Hallgerda that Thord was there. Hallgerda went to Thrain Sigfus' son, and his companions, and said to him, "Now is Thord on Thorolfsfell, and now your best plan is to fall on him and kill him as he goes home."
"That we will do," says Sigmund. So they went out, and took their weapons and horses and rode on the way to meet him. Sigmund said to Thrain, "Now thou shalt have nothing to do with it; for we shall not need all of us."
"Very well, so I will," says he.
Then Thord rode up to them a little while after, and Sigmund said to him, "Give thyself up," he says, "for now shalt thou die."
"That shall not be," says Thord, "come thou to single combat with me."
"That shall not be either," says Sigmund; "we will make the most of our numbers; but it is not strange that Skarphedinn is strong, for it is said that a fourth of a foster-child's strength comes from the foster-father."
"Thou wilt feel the force of that," says Thord, "for Skarphedinn will avenge me."
After that they fall on him, and he breaks a spear of each of them, so well did he guard himself. Then Skiolld cut off his hand, and he still kept them off with his other hand for some time, till Sigmund thrust him through. Then he fell dead to earth. They drew over him turf and stones; and Thrain said, "We have won an ill work, and Njal's sons will take this slaying ill when they hear of it."
They ride home and tell Hallgerda. She was glad to hear of the slaying, but Rannveig, Gunnar's mother, said, "It is said 'but a short while is hand fain of blow,' and so it will be here; but still Gunnar will set thee free from this matter. But if Hallgerda makes thee take another fly in thy mouth, then that will be thy bane."
Hallgerda sent a man to Bergthorsknoll, to tell the slaying, and another man to the Thing, to tell it to Gunnar. Bergthora said she would not fight against Hallgerda with ill words about such a matter; "That," quoth she, "would be no revenge for so great a quarrel."
43. NJAL AND GUNNAR MAKE PEACE FOR THE SLAYING OF THORD
But when the messenger came to the Thing to tell Gunnar of the slaying, then Gunnar said, "This has happened ill, and no tidings could come to my ears which I should think worse; but yet we will now go at once and see Njal. I still hope he may take it well, though he be sorely tried."
So they went to see Njal, and called him to come out and talk to them. He went out at once to meet Gunnar, and they talked, nor were there any more men by at first than Kolskegg.
"Hard tidings have I to tell thee," says Gunnar; "the slaying of Thord Freedmanson, and I wish to offer thee selfdoom for the slaying."
Njal held his peace some while, and then said, "That is well offered, and I will take it; but yet it is to be looked for that I shall have blame from my wife or from my sons for that, for it will mislike them much; but still I will run the risk, for I know that I have to deal with a good man and true; nor do I wish that any breach should arise in our friendship on my part."
"Wilt thou let thy sons be by, pray?" says Gunnar.
"I will not," says Njal, "for they will not break the peace which I make, but if they stand by while we make it they will not pull well together with us."
"So it shall be," says Gunnar. "See thou to it alone."
Then they shook one another by the hand, and made peace well and quickly.
Then Njal said, "The award that I make is two hundred in silver, and that thou wilt think much."
"I do not think it too much," says Gunnar, and went home to his booth.
Njal's sons came home, and Skarphedinn asked whence that great sum of money came, which his father held in his hand.
Njal said, "I tell you of your foster-father's Thord's slaying, and we two, Gunnar and I, have now made peace in the matter, and he has paid an atonement for him as for two men."
"Who slew him?" says Skarphedinn.
"Sigmund and Skiolld, but Thrain was standing near too," says Njal.
"They thought they had need of much strength," says Skarphedinn, and sang a song —
"Bold in deeds of derring-do, Burdeners of ocean's steeds, Strength enough it seems they needed All to slay a single man; When shall we our hands uplift? We who brandish burnished steel — Famous men erst reddened weapons, When? if now we quiet sit?"
"Yes! when shall the day come when we shall lift our hands?"
"That will not be long off," says Njal, "and then thou shalt not be baulked; but still, methinks, I set great store on your not breaking this peace that I have made."
"Then we will not break it," says Skarphedinn, "but if anything arises between us, then we will bear in mind the old feud."
"Then I will ask you to spare no one," says Njal.
44. SIGMUND MOCKS NJAL AND HIS SONS
Now men ride home from the Thing; and when Gunnar came home, he said to Sigmund, "Thou art a more unlucky man than I thought, and turnest thy good gifts to thine own ill. But still I have made peace for thee with Njal and his sons; and now, take care that thou dost not let another fly come into thy mouth. Thou art not at all after my mind, thou goest about with jibes and jeers, with scorn and mocking; but that is not my turn of mind. That is why thou gettest on so well with Hallgerda, because ye two have your minds more alike."
Gunnar scolded him a long time, and he answered him well, and said he would follow his counsel more for the time to come than he had followed it hitherto. Gunnar told him then they might get on together. Gunnar and Njal kept up their friendship though the rest of their people saw little of one another. It happened once that some gangrel women came to Lithend from Bergthorsknoll; they were great gossips and rather spiteful tongued. Hallgerda had a bower, and sate often in it, and there sate with her her daughter Thorgerda, and there too were Thrain and Sigmund, and a crowd of women. Gunnar was not there, nor Kolskegg. These gangrel women went into the bower, and Hallgerda greeted them, and made room for them; then she asked them for news, but they had none to tell. Hallgerda asked where they had been overnight; they said at Bergthorsknoll.
"What was Njal doing?" she says.
"He was hard at work sitting still," they said.
"What were Njal's sons doing?" she says; "they think themselves men at any rate."
"Tall men they are in growth," they say, "but as yet they are all untried; Skarphedinn whetted an axe, Grim fitted a spearhead to the shaft, Helgi riveted a hilt on a sword, Hauskuld strengthened the handle of a shield."
"They must be bent on some great deed," says Hallgerda.
"We do not know that," they say.
"What were Njal's house-carles doing?" she asks.
"We don't know what some of them were doing, but one was carting dung up the hill-side."
"What good was there in doing that?" she asks.
"He said it made the swathe better there than anywhere else," they reply. "Witless now is Njal," says Hallgerda, "though he knows how to give counsel on everything."
"How so?" they ask.
"I will only bring forward what is true to prove it," says she; "why doesn't he make them cart dung over his beard that he may be like other men? Let us call him 'the Beardless Carle': but his sons we will call 'Dung-beardlings'; and now do pray give some stave about them, Sigmund, and let us get some good by thy gift of song."
"I am quite ready to do that," says he, and sang these verses:
"Lady proud with hawk in hand, Prithee why should dungbeard boys, Reft of reason, dare to hammer Handle fast on battle shield? For these lads of loathly feature — Lady scattering swanbath's beams (1) — Shalt not shun this ditty shameful Which I shape upon them now.
"He the beardless carle shall listen While I lash him with abuse, Loon at whom our stomachs sicken, Soon shall bear these words of scorn; Far too nice for such base fellows Is the name my bounty gives, Een my muse her help refuses, Making mirth of dungbeard boys.
"Here I find a nickname fitting For those noisome dungbeard boys, — Loath am I to break my bargain Linked with such a noble man — Knit we all our taunts together — Known to me is mind of man — Call we now with outburst common, Him, that churl, the beardless carle."
"Thou art a jewel indeed," says Hallgerda; "how yielding thou art to what I ask!"
Just then Gunnar came in. He had been standing outside the door of the bower, and heard all the words that had passed. They were in a great fright when they saw him come in, and then all held their peace, but before there had been bursts of laughter.
Gunnar was very wroth, and said to Sigmund, "Thou art a foolish man, and one that cannot keep to good advice, and thou revilest Njal's sons, and Njal himself who is most worth of all; and this thou doest in spite of what thou hast already done. Mind, this will be thy death. But if any man repeats these words that thou hast spoken, or these verses that thou hast made, that man shall be sent away at once, and have my wrath beside."
But they were all so sore afraid of him, that no one dared to repeat those words. After that he went away, but the gangrel women talked among themselves, and said that they would get a reward from Bergthora if they told her all this.
They went then away afterwards down thither, and took Bergthora aside and told her the whole story of their own free will.
Bergthora spoke and said, when men sate down to the board, "Gifts have been given to all of you, father and sons, and ye will be no true men unless ye repay them somehow."
"What gifts are these?" asks Skarphedinn.
"You, my sons," says Bergthora, "have got one gift between you all. Ye are nicknamed 'Dungbeardlings,' but my husband 'the Beardless Carle.'"
"Ours is no woman's nature," says Skarphedinn, "that we should fly into a rage at every little thing."
"And yet Gunnar was wroth for your sakes," says she, "and he is thought to be good-tempered. But if ye do not take vengeance for this wrong, ye will avenge no shame."
"The carline, our mother, thinks this fine sport," says Skarphedinn, and smiled scornfully as he spoke, but still the sweat burst out upon his brow, and red flecks came over his checks, but that was not his wont. Grim was silent and bit his lip. Helgi made no sign, and he said never a word. Hauskuld went off with Bergthora; she came into the room again, and fretted and foamed much.
Njal spoke and said, "'Slow and sure,' says the proverb, mistress! and so it is with many things, though they try men's tempers, that there are always two sides to a story, even when vengeance is taken."
But at even when Njal was come into his bed, he heard that an axe came against the panel and rang loudly, but there was another shut bed, and there the shields were hung up, and he sees that they are away. He said, "Who have taken down our shields?"
"Thy sons went out with them," says Bergthora.
Njal pulled his shoes on his feet, and went out at once, and round to the other side of the house, and sees that they were taking their course right up the slope; he said, "Whither away, Skarphedinn?"
"To look after thy sheep," he answers.
"You would not then be armed," said Njal, "if you meant that, and your errand must be something else."
Then Skarphedinn sang a song,
"Squanderer of hoarded wealth, Some there are that own rich treasure, Ore of sea that clasps the earth, And yet care to count their sheep; Those who forge sharp songs of mocking, Death songs, scarcely can possess Sense of sheep that crop the grass; Such as these I seek in fight;"
and said afterwards, "We shall fish for salmon, father."
"'Twould be well then if it turned out so that the prey does not get away from you."
They went their way, but Njal went to his bed, and he said to Bergthora, "Thy sons were out of doors all of them, with arms, and now thou must have egged them on to something."
"I will give them my heartfelt thanks," said Bergthora, "if they tell me the slaying of Sigmund."
(1) "Swanbath's beams" — periphrasis for gold.
45. THE SLAYING OF SIGMUND AND SKIOLLD
Now they, Njal's sons, fare up to Fleetlithe, and were that night under the Lithe, and when the day began to break, they came near to Lithend. That same morning both Sigmund and Skiolld rose up and meant to go to the studhorses; they had bits with them, and caught the horses that were in the "town" and rode away on them. They found the stud-horses between two brooks. Skarphedinn caught sight of them, for Sigmund was in bright clothing. Skarphedinn said, "See you now the red elf yonder, lads?" They looked that way, and said they saw him.
Skarphedinn spoke again: "Thou, Hauskuld, shalt have nothing to do with it, for thou wilt often be sent about alone without due heed; but I mean Sigmund for myself; methinks that is like a man; but Grim and Helgi, they shall try to slay Skiolld."
Hauskuld sat him down, but they went until they came up to them. Skarphedinn said to Sigmund, "Take thy weapons and defend thyself; that is more needful now than to make mocking songs on me and my brothers."
Sigmund took up his weapons, but Skarphedinn waited the while. Skiolld turned against Grim and Helgi, and they fell hotly to fight. Sigmund had a helm on his head, and a shield at his side, and was girt with a sword, his spear was in his hand; now he turns against Skarphedinn, and thrusts at once at him with his spear, and the thrust came on his shield. Skarphedinn dashes the spearhaft in two, and lifts up his axe and hews at Sigmund, and cleaves his shield down to below the handle. Sigmund drew his sword and cut at Skarphedinn, and the sword cuts into his shield, so that it stuck fast. Skarphedinn gave the shield such a quick twist, that Sigmund let go his sword. Then Skarphedinn hews at Sigmund with his axe; the "Ogress of war." Sigmund had on a corselet, the axe came on his shoulder. Skarphedinn cleft the shoulder-blade right through, and at the same time pulled the axe towards him. Sigmund fell down on both knees, but sprang up again at once.
"Thou hast lilted low to me already," says Skarphedinn, "but still thou shalt fall upon thy mother's bosom ere we two part."
"Ill is that then," says Sigmund.
Skarphedinn gave him a blow on his helm, and after that dealt Sigmund his death-blow.
Grim cut off Skiolld's foot at the ankle-joint, but Helgi thrust him through with his spear, and he got his death there and then.
Skarphedinn saw Hallgerda's shepherd, just as he had hewn off Sigmund's head; he handed the head to the shepherd, and bade him bear it to Hallgerda, and said she would know whether that head had made jeering songs about them, and with that he sang a song —
"Here! this head shalt thou, that heapest Hoards from ocean-caverns won, (1) Bear to Hallgerd with my greeting, Her that hurries men to fight; Sure am I, O firewood splitter! That yon spendthrift knows it well, And will answer if it ever Uttered mocking songs on us."
The shepherd casts the head down as soon as ever they parted, for he dared not do so while their eyes were on him. They fared along till they met some men down by Markfleet, and told them the tidings. Skarphedinn gave himself out as the slayer of Sigmund and Grim and Helgi as the slayers of Skiolld; then they fared home and told Njal the tidings. He answers them, "Good luck to your hands! Here no self-doom will come to pass as things stand."
Now we must take up the story, and say that the shepherd came home to Lithend. He told Hallgerda the tidings.
"Skarphedinn put Sigmund's head into my hands," he says, "and bade me bring it thee; but I dared not do it, for I knew not how thou wouldst like that."
"'Twas ill that thou didst not do that," she says; "I would have brought it to Gunnar, and then he would have avenged his kinsman, or have to bear every man's blame."
After that she went to Gunnar and said, "I tell thee of thy kinsman Sigmund's slaying: Skarphedinn slew him, and wanted them to bring me the head."
"Just what might be looked for to befall him," says Gunnar, "for ill redes bring ill luck, and both you and Skarphedinn have often done one another spiteful turns."
Then Gunnar went away; he let no steps be taken towards a suit for manslaughter, and did nothing about it. Hallgerda often put him in mind of it, and kept saying that Sigmund had fallen unatoned. Gunnar gave no heed to that.
Now three Things passed away, at each of which men thought that he would follow up the suit; then a knotty point came on Gunnar's hands, which he knew not how to set about, and then he rode to find Njal. He gave Gunnar a hearty welcome. Gunnar said to Njal, "I am come to seek a bit of good counsel at thy hands about a knotty point."
"Thou art worthy of it," says Njal, and gave him counsel what to do. Then Gunnar stood up and thanked him. Njal then spoke, and said, and took Gunnar by the hand, "Over long hath thy kinsman Sigmund been unatoned."
"He has been long ago atoned," says Gunnar, "but still I will not fling back the honour offered me."
Gunnar had never spoken an ill word of Njal's sons. Njal would have nothing else than that Gunnar should make his own award in the matter. He awarded two hundred in silver, but let Skiolld fall without a price. They paid down all the money at once.
Gunnar declared this their atonement at the Thingskala Thing, when most men were at it, and laid great weight on the way in which they (Njal and his sons) had behaved; he told too those bad words which cost Sigmund his life, and no man was to repeat them or sing the verses, but if any sung them, the man who uttered them was to fall without atonement.
Both Gunnar and Njal gave each other their words that no such matters should ever happen that they would not settle among themselves; and this pledge was well kept ever after, and they were always friends.
(1) "Thou, that heapest boards," etc. — merely a periphrasis for man, and scarcely fitting, except in irony, to a splitter of firewood.
46. OF GIZUR THE WHITE AND GEIR THE PRIEST
There was a man named Gizur the White; he was Teit's son; Kettlebjorn the Old's son, of Mossfell. (1) Bishop Isleif was Gizur's son. Gizur the White kept house at Mossfell, and was a great chief. That man is also named in this story whose name was Geir the Priest; his mother was Thorkatla, another daughter of Kettlebjorn the Old of Mossfell. Geir kept house at Lithe. He and Gizur backed one another in every matter. At that time Mord Valgard's son kept house at Hof on the Rangrivervales; he was crafty and spiteful. Valgard his father was then abroad, but his mother was dead. He was very envious of Gunnar of Lithend. He was wealthy, so far as goods went, but had not many friends.
(1) Teit's mother's name was Helga. She was a daughter of Thord Longbeard, who was the son of Hrapp, who was the son of Bjorn the Rough-footed, who was the son of Grim, the Lord of Sogn in Norway. Gizur's mother's name was Olof. She was a daughter of Lord Baudvar, Viking-Kari's son.
47. OF OTKELL IN KIRKBY
There was a man named Otkell; he was the son of Skarf, the son of Hallkell, who fought with Grim of Grimsness, and felled him on the holm. (1) This Hallkell and Kettlebjorn the Old were brothers.
Otkell kept house at Kirkby; his wife's name was Thorgerda; she was a daughter of Mar, the son of Runolf, the son of Naddad of the Faroe Isles. Otkell was wealthy in goods. His son's name was Thorgeir; he was young in years, and a bold dashing man.
Skamkell was the name of another man; he kept house at another farm called Hof (2); he was well off for money, but he was a spiteful man and a liar; quarrelsome too, and ill to deal with. He was Otkell's friend. Hallkell was the name of Otkell's brother; he was a tall strong man, and lived there with Otkell; their brother's name was Hallbjorn the White; he brought out to Iceland a thrall, whose name was Malcolm; he was Irish, and had not many friends.
Hallbjorn went to stay with Otkell, and so did his thrall Malcolm. The thrall was always saying that he should think himself happy if Otkell owned him. Otkell was kind to him, and gave him a knife and belt, and a full suit of clothes, but the thrall turned his hand to any work that Otkell wished.
Otkell wanted to make a bargain with his brother for the thrall; he said he would give him the thrall, but said, too, that he was a worse treasure than he thought. But as soon as Otkell owned the thrall, then he did less and less work. Otkell often said outright to Hallbjorn, that he thought the thrall did little work; and he told Otkell that there was worse in him yet to come.
At that time came a great scarcity, so that men fell short both of meat and hay, and that spread over all parts of Iceland. Gunnar shared his hay and meat with many men; and all got them who came thither, so long as his stores lasted. At last it came about that Gunnar himself fell short both of hay and meat. Then Gunnar called on Kolskegg to go along with him; he called too on Thrain Sigfus' son, and Lambi Sigurd's son. They fared to Kirkby, and called Otkell out. He greeted them, and Gunnar said, "It so happens that I am come to deal with thee for hay and meat, if there be any left."
Otkell answers, "There is store of both, but I will sell thee neither."
"Wilt thou give me them then," says Gunnar, "and run the risk of my paying thee back somehow?"
"I will not do that either," says Otkell.
Skamkell all the while was giving him bad counsel.
Then Thrain Sigfus' son, said, "It would serve him right if we take both hay and meat and lay down the worth of them instead."
Skamkell answered, "All the men of Mossfell must be dead and gone then, if ye, sons of Sigfus, are to come and rob them."
"I will have no hand in any robbery," says Gunnar.
"Wilt thou buy a thrall of me?" says Otkell.
"I'll not spare to do that," says Gunnar. After that Gunnar bought the thrall, and fared away as things stood.
Njal hears of this, and said, "Such things are ill done, to refuse to let Gunnar buy; and it is not a good outlook for others if such men as he cannot get what they want."
"What's the good of thy talking so much about such a little matter," says Bergthora; "far more like a man would it be to let him have both meat and hay, when thou lackest neither of them."