"Why so slow, Skarphedinn?" quoth Grim.
"I am tying my shoe," he says.
"Let us get on ahead," says Kari; "methinks he will not be slower than we."
So they turn off to the tongue, and run as fast as they can. Skarphedinn sprang up as soon as he was ready, and had lifted his axe, "the ogress of war," aloft, and runs right down to the Fleet. But the Fleet was so deep that there was no fording it for a long way up or down.
A great sheet of ice had been thrown up by the flood on the other side of the Fleet as smooth and slippery as glass, and there Thrain and his men stood in the midst of the sheet.
Skarphedinn takes a spring into the air, and leaps over the stream between the icebanks, and does not check his course, but rushes still onwards with a slide. The sheet of ice was very slippery, and so he went as fast as a bird flies. Thrain was just about to put his helm on his head; and now Skarphedinn bore down on them, and hews at Thrain with his axe, "the ogress of war," and smote him on the head, and clove him down to the teeth, so that his jaw-teeth fell out on the ice. This feat was done with such a quick sleight that no one could get a blow at him; he glided away from them at once at full speed. Tjorvi, indeed, threw his shield before him on the ice, but he leapt over it, and still kept his feet, and slid quite to the end of the sheet of ice.
There Kari and his brothers came to meet him.
"This was done like a man," says Kari.
"Your share is still left," says Skarphedinn, and sang a song:
"To the strife of swords not slower, After all, I came than you, For with ready stroke the sturdy Squanderer of wealth I felled; But since Grim's and Helgi's sea-stag (1) Norway's Earl erst took and stripped, Now 'tis time for sea-fire bearers (2) Such dishonour to avenge."
And this other song he sang:
"Swiftly down I dashed my weapon, Gashing giant, byrnie-breacher (3), She, the noisy ogre's namesake (4), Soon with flesh the ravens glutted; Now your words to Hrapp remember, On broad ice now rouse the storm, With dull crash war's eager ogress Battle's earliest note hath sung."
"That befits us well, and we will do it well," says Helgi.
Then they turn up towards them. Both Grim and Helgi see where Hrapp is, and they turned on him at once. Hrapp hews at Grim there and then with his axe; Helgi sees this and cuts at Hrapp's arm, and cut it off, and down fell the axe.
"In this," says Hrapp, "thou hast done a most needful work, for this hand hath wrought harm and death to many a man."
"And so here an end shall be put to it," says Grim; and with that he ran him through with a spear, and then Hrapp fell down dead.
Tjorvi turns against Kari and hurls a spear at him. Kari leapt up in the air, and the spear flew below his feet. Then Kari rushes at him, and hews at him on the breast with his sword, and the blow passed at once into his chest, and he got his death there and then.
Then Skarphedinn seizes both Gunnar Lambi's son, and Grani Gunnar's son, and said, "Here have I caught two whelps! but what shall we do with them?
"It is in thy power," says Helgi, "to slay both or either of them, if you wish them dead."
"I cannot find it in my heart to do both — help Hogni and slay his brother," says Skarphedinn.
"Then the day will once come," says Helgi, "when thou wilt wish that thou hadst slain him, for never will he be true to thee, nor will any one of the others who are now here."
"I shall not fear them," answers Skarphedinn.
After that they gave peace to Grani Gunnar's son, and Gunnar Lambi's son, and Lambi Sigurd's son, and Lodinn.
After that they went down to the Fleet where Skarphedinn had leapt over it, and Kari and the others measured the length of the leap with their spear-shafts, and it was twelve ells (5).
Then they turned homewards, and Njal asked what tidings. They told him all just as it had happened, and Njal said, "These are great tidings, and it is more likely that hence will come the death of one of my sons, if not more evil."
Gunnar Lambi's son bore the body of Thrain with him to Gritwater, and he was laid in a cairn there.
(1) "Sea-stag," periphrasis for ship. (2) "Sea-fire bearers," the bearers of gold, men, that is, Helgi and Grim. (3) "Byrnie-breacher," piercer of coats of mail. (4) "Noisy ogre's namesake," an allusion to the name of Skarp hedinn's axe, "the ogress of war." (5) Twelve ells, about twenty-four feet (the Norse ell being something more than two feet), a good jump, but not beyond the power of man. Comp. "Orkn. Saga", ch. 113, new ed., vol. i., 457, where Earl Harold leaps nine ells over a dike.
92. KETTLE TAKES HAUSKULD AS HIS FOSTER-SON
Kettle of the Mark had to wife Thorgerda Njal's daughter, but he was Thrain's brother, and he thought he was come into a strait, so he rode to Njal's house, and asked whether he were willing to atone in any way for Thrain's slaying?
"I will atone for it handsomely," answered Njal; "and my wish is that thou shouldst look after the matter with thy brothers who have to take the price of the atonement, that they may be ready to join in it."
Kettle said he would do so with all his heart, and Kettle rode home first; a little after, he summoned all his brothers to Lithend, and then he had a talk with them; and Hogni was on his side all through the talk; and so it came about that men were chosen to utter the award; and a meeting was agreed on, and the fair price of a man was awarded for Thrain's slaying, and they all had a share in the blood-money who had a lawful right to it. After that pledges of peace and good faith were agreed to, and they were settled in the most sure and binding way.
Njal paid down all the money out of hand well and bravely; and so things were quiet for a while.
One day Njal rode up into the Mark, and he and Kettle talked together the whole day; Njal rode home at even, and no man knew of what they had taken counsel.
A little after Kettle fares to Gritwater, and he said to Thorgerda, "Long have I loved my brother Thrain much, and now I will shew it, for I will ask Hauskuld Thrain's son to be my foster-child."
"Thou shalt have thy choice of this," she says; "and thou shalt give this lad all the help in thy power when he is grown up, and avenge him if he is slain with weapons, and bestow money on him for his wife's dower; and besides, thou shalt swear to do all this."
Now Hauskuld fares home with Kettle, and is with him some time.
93. NJAL TAKES HAUSKULD TO FOSTER
Once on a time Njal rides up into the Mark, and he had a hearty welcome. He was there that night, and in the evening Njal called out to the lad Hauskuld, and he went up to him at once.
Njal had a ring of gold on his hand, and showed it to the lad. He took hold of the gold, and looked at it, and put it on his finger.
"Wilt thou take the gold as a gift?" said Njal.
"That I will," said the lad.
"Knowest thou," says Njal, "what brought thy father to his death?"
"I know," answers the lad, "that Skarphedinn slew him; but we need not keep that in mind, when an atonement has been made for it, and a full price paid for him."
"Better answered than asked," said Njal; "and thou wilt live to be a good man and true," he adds.
"Methinks thy forecasting," says Hauskuld, "is worth having, for I know that thou art foresighted and unlying."
"Now will I offer to foster thee," said Njal, "if thou wilt take the offer."
He said he would be willing to take both that honour and any other good offer which he might make. So the end of the matter was, that Hauskuld fared home with Njal as his foster-son.
He suffered no harm to come nigh the lad, and loved him much. Njal's sons took him about with them, and did him honour in every way. And so things go on till Hauskuld is full grown. He was both tall and strong; the fairest of men to look on, and well haired; blithe of speech, bountiful, well behaved; as well trained to arms as the best; fairspoken to all men, and much beloved.
Njal's sons and Hauskuld were never apart, either in word or deed.
94. OF FLOSI THORD'S SON
There was a man named Flosi, he was the son of Thord Freyspriest (1). Flosi had to wife Steinvora, daughter of Hall of the Side. She was base born, and her mother's name was Solvora, daughter of Herjolf the White. Flosi dwelt at Swinefell, and was a mighty chief. He was tall of stature, and strong, withal, the most forward and boldest of men. His brother's name was Starkad (2); he was not by the same mother as Flosi.
The other brothers of Flosi were Thorgeir and Stein, Kolbein and Egil. Hildigunna was the name of the daughter of Starkad Flosi's brother. She was a proud, high-spirited maiden, and one of the fairest of women. She was so skilful with her hands, that few women were equally skilful. She was the grimmest and hardest- hearted of all women; but still a woman of open hand and heart when any fitting call was made upon her.
(1) Thord was the son of Auzur, the son of Asbjorn Eyjangr the son of Bjorn, the son of Helgi, the son of Bjorn the Roughfooted, the son of Grim, the Lord of Sogn. The mother of Flosi was Ingunna, daughter of Thorir of Espihole, the son of Hamond Hellskin, the son of Hjor, the son of Half, who ruled over the men of Half, the son of Hjorfeif, the lover of women. The mother of Thorir was Ingunna, daughter of Helgi the Lean, who took the land round Eyjafirth, as the first settler. (2) The mother of Starkad was Thraslauga, daughter of Thorstein titling the son of Gerleif; but the mother of Thraslauga was Aud; she was a daughter of Eyvind Karf, one of the first settlers, and sister of Modolf the Wise.
95. OF HALL OF THE SIDE
Hall was the name of a man who was called Hall of the Side. He was the son of Thorstein Baudvar's son (1). Hall had to wife Joreida, daughter of Thidrandi (2) the Wise. Thorstein was the name of Hall's brother, and he was nick-named Broad-paunch. His son was Kol, whom Kari slays in Wales. The sons of Hall of the Side were Thorstein and Egil, Thorwald and Ljot, and Thidrandi, whom, it is said, the goddesses slew.
There was a man named Thorir, whose surname was Holt-Thorir; his sons were these: — Thorgeir Craggeir, and Thorleif Crow, from whom the Wood-dwellers are come, and Thorgrim the Big.
(1) Hall's mother's name was Thordisa, and she was a daughter of Auzur, the son of Hrodlaug, the son of Earl Rognvald of Maeren, the son of Eystein the Noisy. (2) Thidrandi was the son of Kettle Rumble, the son of Thorir, the son of Thidrandi of Verudale. The brothers of Thidrandi were Kettle Rumble, in Njordwick, and Thorwald, the father of Helgi Droplaug's son. Hallkatla was the sister of Joreida. She was the mother of Thorkel Geiti's son, and Thidrandi.
96. OF THE CHANGE OF FAITH
There had been a change of rulers in Norway, Earl Hacon was dead and gone, but in his stead was come Olaf Tryggvi's son. That was the end of Earl Hacon, that Kark the thrall cut his throat at Rimul in Gaulardale.
Along with that was heard that there had been a change of faith in Norway; they had cast off the old faith, but King Olaf had christened the western lands, Shetland, and the Orkneys, and the Faroe Isles.
Then many men spoke so that Njal heard it, that it was a strange and wicked thing to throw off the old faith.
Then Njal spoke and said, "It seems to me as though this new faith must be much better, and he will be happy who follows this rather than the other; and if those men come out hither who preach this faith, then I will back them well."
He went often alone away from other men and muttered to himself.
That same harvest a ship came out into the firths east to Berufirth, at a spot called Gautawick. The captain's name was Thangbrand. He was a son of Willibald, a count of Saxony. Thangbrand was sent out hither by King Olaf Tryggvi's son, to preach the faith. Along with him came that man of Iceland whose name was Gudleif (1). Gudleif was a great man-slayer, and one of the strongest of men, and hardy and forward in everything.
Two brothers dwelt at Beruness; the name of the one was Thorleif, but the other was Kettle. They were sons of Holmstein, the son of Auzur of Broaddale. These brothers held a meeting and forbade men to have any dealings with them. This Hall of the Side heard. He dwelt at Thvattwater in Alftafirth; he rode to the ship with twenty-nine men, and he fares at once to find Thangbrand, and spoke to him and asked him, "Trade is rather dull, is it not?"
He answered that so it was.
"Now will I say my errand," says Hall; "it is, that I wish to ask you all to my house, and run the risk of my being able to get rid of your wares for you."
Thangbrand thanked him, and fared to Thvattwater that harvest.
It so happened one morning that Thangbrand was out early and made them pitch a tent on land, and sang mass in it, and took much pains with it, for it was a great high day.
Hall spoke to Thangbrand and asked, "In memory of whom keepest thou this day?"
"In memory of Michael the archangel," says Thangbrand.
"What follows that angel?" asks Hall.
"Much good," says Thangbrand. "He will weigh all the good that thou doest, and he is so merciful, that whenever any one pleases him, he makes his good deeds weigh more."
"I would like to have him for my friend," says Hall.
"That thou mayest well have," says Thangbrand, "only give thyself over to him by God's help this very day."
"I only make this condition," says Hall, "that thou givest thy word for him that he will then become my guardian angel."
"That I will promise," says Thangbrand.
Then Hall was baptized, and all his household.
(1) He was the son of Ari, the son of Mar, the son of Atli, the son of Wolf Squinteye, the son of Hogni the White, the son of Otryg, the son of Oblaud, the son of Hjorleif the lover of women, King of Hordaland.
97. OF THANGBRAND'S JOURNEYS
The spring after Thangbrand set out to preach Christianity, and Hall went with him. But when they came west across Lonsheath to Staffell, there they found a man dwelling named Thorkell. He spoke most against the faith, and challenged Thangbrand to single combat. Then Thangbrand bore a rood-cross (1) before his shield, and the end of their combat was that Thangbrand won the day and slew Thorkell.
Thence they fared to Hornfirth and turned in as guests at Borgarhaven, west of Heinabergs sand. There Hilldir the Old dwelt (2), and then Hilldir and all his household took upon them the new faith.
Thence they fared to Fellcombe, and went in as guests to Calffell. There dwelt Kol Thorstein's son, Hall's kinsman, and he took upon him the faith and all his house.
Thence they fared to Swinefell, and Flosi only took the sign of the cross, but gave his word to back them at the Thing.
Thence they fared west to Woodcombe, and went in as guests at Kirkby. There dwelt Surt Asbjorn's son, the son of Thorstein, the son of Kettle the Foolish. These had all of them been Christians from father to son.
After that they fared out of Woodcombe on to Headbrink. By that time the story of their journey was spread far and wide. There was a man named Sorcerer-Hedinn who dwelt in Carlinedale. There heathen men made a bargain with him that he should put Thangbrand to death with all his company. He fared upon Arnstacksheath, and there made a great sacrifice when Thangbrand was riding from the east. Then the earth burst asunder under his horse, but he sprang off his horse and saved himself on the brink of the gulf, but the earth swallowed up the horse and all his harness, and they never saw him more.
Then Thangbrand praised God.
(1) Rood-cross, a crucifix. (2) His son was Glum who fared to the burning with Flosi.
98. OF THANGBRAND AND GUDLEIF
Gudleif now searches for Sorcerer-Hedinn and finds him on the heath, and chases him down into Carlinedale, and got within spearshot of him, and shoots a spear at him and through him.
Thence they fared to Dyrholms and held a meeting there, and preached the faith there, and there Ingialld, the son of Thorsteinn Highbankawk, became a Christian.
Thence they fared to the Fleetlithe and preached the faith there. There Weatherlid the Skald, and Ari his son, spoke most against the faith, and for that they slew Weatherlid, and then this song was sung about it —
"He who proved his blade on bucklers, South went through the land to whet Brand that oft hath felled his foeman, 'Gainst the forge which foams with song (1); Mighty wielder of war's sickle Made his sword's avenging edge Hard on hero's helm-prop rattle (2), Skull of Weatherlid the Skald."
Thence Thangbrand fared to Bergthorsknoll, and Njal took the faith and all his house, but Mord and Valgard went much against it, and thence they fared out across the rivers; so they went on into Hawkdale and there they baptized Hall (3), and he was then three winters old.
Thence Thangbrand fared to Grimsness, there Thorwald the Scurvy gathered a band against him, and sent word to Wolf Uggi's son that he must fare against Thangbrand and slay him, and made this song on him —
"To the wolf in Woden's harness, Uggi's worthy warlike son, I, steel's swinger dearly loving, This my dimple bidding send; That the wolf of Gods (4) he chaseth — Man who snaps at chink of gold — Wolf who base our Gods blasphemeth, I the other wolf (5) will crush."
Wolf sang another song in return:
"Swarthy skarf from mouth that skimmeth Of the man who speaks in song Never will I catch, though surely Wealthy warrior it hath sent; Tender of the sea-horse snorting, E'en though ill deeds are on foot, Still to risk mine eyes are open; Harmful 'tis to snap at flies (6)."
"And," says he, "I don't mean to be made a catspaw by him, but let him take heed lest his tongue twists a noose for his own neck."
And after that the messenger fared back to Thorwald the Scurvy and told him Wolf's words. Thorwald had many men about him, and gave it out that he would lie in wait for them on Bluewood-heath.
Now those two, Thangbrand and Gudleif, ride out of Hawkdale, and there they came upon a man who rode to meet them. That man asked for Gudleif, and when he found him he said, "Thou shalt gain by being the brother of Thorgil of Reykiahole, for I will let thee know that they have set many ambushes, and this too, that Thorwald the Scurvy is now with his band at Hestbeck on Grimsness."
"We shall not the less for all that ride to meet him," says Gudleif, and then they turned down to Hestbeck. Thorwald was then come across the brook, and Gudleif said to Thangbrand, "Here is now Thorwald; let us rush on him now."
Thangbrand shot a spear through Thorwald, but Gudleif smote him on the shoulder and hewed his arm off, and that was his death.
After that they ride up to the Thing, and it was a near thing that the kinsmen of Thorwald had fallen on Thangbrand, but Njal and the eastfirthers stood by Thangbrand.
Then Hjallti Skeggi's son sang this rhyme at the Hill of Laws:
"Ever will I Gods blaspheme Freyja methinks a dog does seem, Freyja a dog? Aye! let them be Both dogs together Odin and she (7)."
Hjallti fared abroad that summer and Gizur the White with him, but Thangbrand's ship was wrecked away east at Bulandsness, and the ship's name was Bison.
Thangbrand and his messmate fared right through the west country, and Steinvora, the mother of Ref the Skald, came against him; she preached the heathen faith to Thangbrand and made him a long speech. Thangbrand held his peace while she spoke, but made a long speech after her, and turned all that she had said the wrong way against her.
"Hast thou heard," she said, "how Thor challenged Christ to single combat, and how he did not dare to fight with Thor?"
"I have heard tell," says Thangbrand, "that Thor was naught but dust and ashes, if God had not willed that he should live."
"Knowest thou," she says, "who it was that shattered thy ship?"
"What hast thou to say about that?" he asks.
"That I will tell thee," she says:
"He that giant's offspring (8) slayeth Broke the mew-field's bison stout (9), Thus the Gods, bell's warder (10) grieving, Crushed the falcon of the strand (11); To the courser of the causeway (12) Little good was Christ I ween, When Thor shattered ships to pieces Gylfi's hart (13) no God could help."
And again she sung another song:
"Thangbrand's vessel from her moorings, Sea-king's steed, Thor wrathful tore, Shook and shattered all her timbers, Hurled her broadside on the beach; Ne'er again shall Viking's snow-shoe (14), On the briny billows glide, For a storm by Thor awakened, Dashed the bark to splinters small."
After that Thangbrand and Steinvora parted, and they fared west to Bardastrand.
(1) "Forge which foams with song," the poet's head, in which songs are forged, and gush forth like foaming mead. (2) "Hero's helm-prop," the hero's, man's, head which supports his helm. (3) It is needless to say that this Hall was not Hall of the Side. (4) "Wolf of Gods," the "caput lupinum," the outlaw of heaven, the outcast from Valhalla, Thangbrand. (5) "The other wolf," Gudleif. (6) "Swarthy skarf," the skarf, or "pelecanus carbo", the cormorant. He compares the message of Thorwald to the cormorant skimming over the waves, and says he will never take it. "Snap at flies," a very common Icelandic metaphor from fish rising to a fly. (7) Maurer thinks the allusion is here to some mythological legend on Odin's adventures which has not come down to us. (8) "He that giant's," etc., Thor. (9) "Mew-field's bison," the sea-going ship, which sails over the plain of the sea-mew. (10) "Bell's warder," the Christian priest whose bell-ringing formed part of the rites of the new faith. (11) "Falcon of the strand," ship. (12) "Courser of the causeway," ship. (13) "Gylfi's hart," ship. (14) "Viking's snow-shoe," sea-king's ship.
99. OF GEST ODDLEIF'S SON
Gest Oddleif's son dwelt at Hagi on Bardastrand. He was one of the wisest of men, so that he foresaw the fates and fortunes of men. He made a feast for Thangbrand and his men. They fared to Hagi with sixty men. Then it was said that there were two hundred heathen men to meet them, and that a Baresark was looked for to come thither, whose name was Otrygg, and all were afraid of him. Of him such great things as these were said, that he feared neither fire nor sword, and the heathen men were sore afraid at his coming. Then Thangbrand asked if men were willing to take the faith, but all the heathen men spoke against it.
"Well," says Thangbrand, "I will give you the means whereby ye shall prove whether my faith is better. We will hallow two fires. The heathen men shall hallow one and I the other, but a third shall be unhallowed; and if the Baresark is afraid of the one that I hallow, but treads both the others, then ye shall take the faith."
"That is well spoken," says Gest, "and I will agree to this for myself and my household."
And when Gest had so spoken, then many more agreed to it.
Then it was said that the Baresark was coming up to the homestead, and then the fires were made and burnt strong. Then men took their arms and sprang up on the benches, and so waited.
The Baresark rushed in with his weapons. He comes into the room, and treads at once the fire which the heathen men had hallowed, and so comes to the fire that Thangbrand had hallowed, and dares not to tread it, but said that he was on fire all over. He hews with his sword at the bench, but strikes a crossbeam as he brandished the weapon aloft. Thangbrand smote the arm of the Baresark with his crucifix, and so mighty a token followed that the sword fell from the Baresark's hand.
Then Thangbrand thrusts a sword into his breast, and Gudleif smote him on the arm and hewed it off. Then many went up and slew the Baresark.
After that Thangbrand asked if they would take the faith now?
Gest said he had only spoken what he meant to keep to.
Then Thangbrand baptized Gest and all his house and many others. Then Thangbrand took counsel with Gest whether he should go any further west among the firths, but Gest set his face against that, and said they were a hard race of men there, and ill to deal with, "but if it be foredoomed that this faith shall make its way, then it will be taken as law at the Althing, and then all the chiefs out of the districts will be there."
"I did all that I could at the Thing," says Thangbrand, "and it was very uphill work."
"Still thou hast done most of the work," says Gest, "though it may be fated that others shall make Christianity law; but it is here as the saying runs, 'No tree falls at the first stroke.'"
After that Gest gave Thangbrand good gifts, and he fared back south. Thangbrand fared to the Southlander's Quarter, and so to the Eastfirths. He turned in as a guest at Bergthorsknoll, and Njal gave him good gifts. Thence he rode east to Alftafirth to meet Hall of the Side. He caused his ship to be mended, and heathen men called it "Iron-basket." On board that ship Thangbrand fared abroad, and Gudleif with him.
100. OF GIZUR THE WHITE AND HJALLTI
That same summer Hjallti Skeggi's son was outlawed at the Thing for blasphemy against the Gods.
Thangbrand told King Olaf of all the mischief that the Icelanders had done to him, and said that they were such sorcerers there that the earth burst asunder under his horse and swallowed up the horse.
Then King Olaf was so wroth that he made them seize all the men from Iceland and set them in dungeons, and meant to slay them.
Then they, Gizur the White and Hjallti, came up and offered to lay themselves in pledge for those men, and fare out to Iceland and preach the faith. The king took this well, and they got them all set free again.
Then Gizur and Hjallti busked their ship for Iceland, and were soon "boun." They made the land at Eyrar when ten weeks of summer had passed; they got them horses at once, but left other men to strip their ship. Then they ride with thirty men to the Thing, and sent word to the Christian men that they must be ready to stand by them.
Hjallti stayed behind at Reydarmull, for he had heard that he had been made an outlaw for blasphemy, but when they came to the "Boiling Kettle" (1) down below the brink of the Rift (2), there came Hjallti after them, and said he would not let the heathen men see that he was afraid of them.
Then many Christian men rode to meet them, and they ride in battle array to the Thing. The heathen men had drawn up their men in array to meet them, and it was a near thing that the whole body of the Thing had come to blows, but still it did not go so far.
(1) "Boiling kettle." This was a hyer, or hot spring. (2) This was the "Raven's Rift," opposite to the "Great Rift" on the other side of Thingfield.
101. OF THORGEIR OF LIGHTWATER
There was a man named Thorgeir who dwelt at Lightwater; he was the son of Tjorfi, the son of Thorkel the Long, the son of Kettle Longneck. His mother's name was Thoruna, and she was the daughter of Thorstein, the son of Sigmund, the son of Bard of the Nip. Gudrida was the name of his wife; she was a daughter of Thorkel the Black of Hleidrargarth. His brother was Worm Wallet- back, the father of Hlenni the Old of Saurby (1).
The Christian men set up their booths, and Gizur the White and Hjallti were in the booths of the men from Mossfell. The day after both sides went to the Hill of Laws, and each, the Christian men as well as the heathen, took witness, and declared themselves out of the other's laws, and then there was such an uproar on the Hill of Laws that no man could hear the other's voice.
After that men went away, and all thought things looked like the greatest entanglement. The Christian men chose as their Speaker Hall of the Side, but Hall went to Thorgeir, the priest of Lightwater, who was the old Speaker of the law, and gave him three marks of silver (2) to utter what the law should be, but still that was most hazardous counsel, since he was an heathen.
Thorgeir lay all that day on the ground, and spread a cloak over his head, so that no man spoke with him; but the day after men went to the Hill of Laws, and then Thorgeir bade them be silent and listen, and spoke thus: "It seems to me as though our matters were come to a dead lock, if we are not all to have one and the same law; for if there be a sundering of the laws, then there will be a sundering of the peace, and we shall never be able to live in the land. Now, I will ask both Christian men and heathen whether they will hold to those laws which I utter?"
They all said they would.
He said he wished to take an oath of them, and pledges that they would hold to them, and they all said "yea" to that, and so he took pledges from them.
"This is the beginning of our laws," he said, "that all men shall be Christian here in the land, and believe in one God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but leave off all idol- worship, not expose children to perish, and not eat horseflesh. It shall be outlawry if such things are proved openly against any man; but if these things are done by stealth, then it shall be blameless."
But all this heathendom was all done away with within a few years' space, so that those things were not allowed to be done either by stealth or openly.
Thorgeir then uttered the law as to keeping the Lord's day and fast days, Yuletide and Easter, and all the greatest highdays and holidays.
The heathen men thought they had been greatly cheated; but still the true faith was brought into the law, and so all men became Christian here in the land.
After that men fare home from the Thing.
(1) Kettle and Thorkel were both sons of Thorir Tag, the son of Kettle the Seal, the son of Ornolf, the son of Bjornolf, the son of Grim Hairycheek, the son of Kettle Haeing, the son of Hallbjorn Halftroll of Ravensfood. (2) This was no bribe, but his lawful fee.
102. THE WEDDING OF HAUSKULD, THE PRIEST OF WHITENESS
Now we must take up the story, and say that Njal spoke thus to Hauskuld, his foster-son, and said, "I would seek thee a match."
Hauskuld bade him settle the matter as he pleased, and asked whether he was most likely to turn his eyes.
"There is a woman called Hildigunna," answers Njal, "and she is the daughter of Starkad, the son of Thord Freyspriest. She is the best match I know of."
"See thou to it, foster-father," said Hauskuld; "that shall be my choice which thou choosest."
"Then we will look thitherward," says Njal.
A little while after, Njal called on men to go along with him. Then the sons of Sigfus, and Njal's sons, and Kari Solmund's son, all of them fared with him and they rode east to Swinefell.
There they got a hearty welcome.
The day after, Njal and Flosi went to talk alone, and the speech of Njal ended thus, that he said, "This is my errand here, that we have set out on a wooing-journey, to ask for thy kinswoman Hildigunna."
"At whose hand?" says Flosi.
"At the hand of Hauskuld, my foster-son," says Njal.
"Such things are well meant," says Flosi, "but still ye run each of you great risk, the one from the other; but what hast thou to say of Hauskuld?"
"Good I am able to say of him," says Njal; "and besides, I will lay down as much money as will seem fitting to thy niece and thyself, if thou wilt think of making this match."
"We will call her hither," says Flosi, "and know how she looks on the man."
Then Hildigunna was called, and she came thither.
Flosi told her of the wooing, but she said she was a proudhearted woman.
"And I know not how things will turn out between me and men of like spirit; but this, too, is not the least of my dislike, that this man has no priesthood or leadership over men, but thou hast always said that thou wouldest not wed me to a man who had not the priesthood."
"This is quite enough," says Flosi, "if thou wilt not be wedded to Hauskuld, to make me take no more pains about the match."
"Nay!" she says, "I do not say that I will not be wedded to Hauskuld if they can get him a priesthood or a leadership over men; but otherwise I will have nothing to say to the match."
"Then," said Njal, "I will beg thee to let this match stand over for three winters, that I may see what I can do."
Flosi said that so it should be.
"I will only bargain for this one thing," says Hildigunna, "if this match comes to pass, that we shall stay here away east."
Njal said he would rather leave that to Hauskuld, but Hauskuld said that he put faith in many men, but in none so much as his foster-father.
Now they ride from the east.
Njal sought to get a priesthood and leadership for Hauskuld, but no one was willing to sell his priesthood, and now the summer passes away till the Althing.
There were great quarrels at the Thing that summer, and many a man then did as was their wont, in faring to see Njal; but he gave such counsel in men's lawsuits as was not thought at all likely, so that both the pleadings and the defence came to naught, and out of that great strife arose, when the lawsuits could not be brought to an end, and men rode home from the Thing unatoned.
Now things go on till another Thing comes. Njal rode to the Thing, and at first all is quiet until Njal says that it is high time for men to give notice of their suits.
Then many said that they thought that came to little, when no man could get his suit settled, even though the witnesses were summoned to the Althing, "and so," say they, "we would rather seek our rights with point and edge."
"So it must not be," says Njal, "for it will never do to have no law in the land. But yet ye have much to say on your side in this matter, and it behoves us who know the law, and who are bound to guide the law, to set men at one again, and to ensue peace. 'Twere good counsel, then, methinks, that we call together all the chiefs and talk the matter over."
Then they go to the Court of Laws, and Njal spoke and said, "Thee, Skapti Thorod's son and you other chiefs, I call on, and say, that methinks our lawsuits have come into a dead lock, if we have to follow up our suits in the Quarter Courts, and they get so entangled that they can neither be pleaded nor ended. Methinks, it were wiser if we had a Fifth Court, and there pleaded those suits which cannot be brought to an end in the Quarter Courts."
"How," said Skapti, "wilt thou name a Fifth Court, when the Quarter Court is named for the old priesthoods, three twelves in each quarter?"
"I can see help for that," says Njal, "by setting up new priesthoods, and filling them with the men who are best fitted in each Quarter, and then let those men who are willing to agree to it, declare themselves ready to join the new priest's Thing."
"Well," says Skapti, "we will take this choice; but what weighty suits shall come before the court?"
"These matters shall come before it," says Njal, — "all matters of contempt of the Thing, such as if men bear false witness, or utter a false finding; hither, too, shall come all those suits in which the judges are divided in opinion in the Quarter Court; then they shall be summoned to the Fifth Court; so, too, if men offer bribes, or take them, for their help in suits. In this court all the oaths shall be of the strongest kind, and two men shall follow every oath, who shall support on their words of honour what the others swear. So it shall be also, if the pleadings on one side are right in form, and the other wrong, that the judgment shall be given for those that are right in form. Every suit in this court shall be pleaded just as is now done in the Quarter Court, save and except that when four twelves are named in the Fifth Court, then the plaintiff shall name and set aside six men out of the court, and the defendant other six; but if he will not set them aside, then the plaintiff shall name them and set them aside as he has done with his own six; but if the plaintiff does not set them aside, then the suit comes to naught, for three twelves shall utter judgment on all suits. We shall also have this arrangement in the Court of Laws, that those only shall have the right to make or change laws who sit on the middle bench, and to this bench those only shall be chosen who are wisest and best. There, too, shall the Fifth Court sit; but if those who sit in the Court of Laws are not agreed as to what they shall allow or bring in as law, then they shall clear the court for a division, and the majority shall bind the rest; but if any man who has a seat in the Court be outside the Court of Laws and cannot get inside it, or thinks himself overborne in the suit, then he shall forbid them by a protest, so that they can hear it in the Court, and then he has made all their grants and all their decisions void and of none effect, and stopped them by his protest."
After that, Skapti Thorod's son brought the Fifth Court into the law, and all that was spoken of before. Then men went to the Hill of Laws, and men set up new priesthoods: In the Northlanders' Quarter were these new priesthoods. The priesthood of the Melmen in Midfirth, and the Laufesingers' priesthood in the Eyjafirth.
Then Njal begged for a hearing, and spoke thus: "It is known to many men what passed between my sons and the men of Gritwater when they slew Thrain Sigfus' son. But for all that we settled the matter; and now I have taken Hauskuld into my house, and planned a marriage for him if he can get a priesthood anywhere; but no man will sell his priesthood, and so I will beg you to give me leave to set up a new priesthood at Whiteness for Hauskuld."
He got this leave from all, and after that he set up the new priesthood for Hauskuld; and he was afterwards called Hauskuld, the Priest of Whiteness.
After that, men ride home from the Thing, and Njal stayed but a short time at home ere he rides east to Swinefell, and his sons with him, and again stirs in the matter of the marriage with Flosi; but Flosi said he was ready to keep faith with them in everything.
Then Hildigunna was betrothed to Hauskuld, and the day for the wedding feast was fixed, and so the matter ended. They then ride home, but they rode again shortly to the bridal, and Flosi paid down all her goods and money after the wedding, and all went off well.
They fared home to Bergthorsknoll, and were there the next year, and all went well between Hildigunna and Bergthora. But the next spring Njal bought land in Ossaby, and hands it over to Hauskuld, and thither he fares to his own abode. Njal got him all his household, and there was such love between them all, that none of them thought anything that he said or did any worth unless the others had a share in it.
Hauskuld dwelt long at Ossaby, and each backed the other's honour, and Njal's sons were always in Hauskuld's company. Their friendship was so warm, that each house bade the other to a feast every harvest, and gave each other great gifts; and so it goes on for a long while.
103. THE SLAYING OF HAUSKULD NJAL'S SON
There was a man named Lyting; he dwelt at Samstede, and he had to wife a woman named Steinvora; she was a daughter of Sigfus, and Thrain's sister. Lyting was tall of growth and a strong man, wealthy in goods and ill to deal with.
It happened once that Lyting had a feast in his house at Samstede, and he had bidden thither Hauskuld and the sons of Sigfus, and they all came. There, too, was Grani Gunnar's son, and Gunnar Lambi's son, and Lambi Sigurd's son.
Hauskuld Njal's son and his mother had a farm at Holt, and he was always riding to his farm from Bergthorsknoll, and his path lay by the homestead at Samstede. Hauskuld had a son called Amund; he had been born blind, but for all that he was tall and strong. Lyting had two brothers — the one's name was Hallstein, and the other's Hallgrim. They were the most unruly of men, and they were ever with their brother, for other men could not bear their temper.
Lyting was out of doors most of that day, but every now and then he went inside his house. At last he had gone to his seat, when in came a woman who had been out of doors, and she said, "You were too far off to see outside how that proud fellow rode by the farm-yard!"
"What proud fellow was that," says Lyting "of whom thou speakest?"
"Hauskuld Njal's son rode here by the yard," she says.
"He rides often here by the farm-yard," said Lyting, "and I can't say that it does not try my temper; and now I will make thee an offer, Hauskuld, to go along with thee if thou wilt avenge thy father and slay Hauskuld Njal's son."
"That I will not do," says Hauskuld, "for then I should repay Njal, my foster-father, evil for good, and mayst thou and thy feasts never thrive henceforth."
With that he sprang up away from the board, and made them catch his horses, and rode home.
Then Lyting said to Grani Gunnar's son, "Thou wert by when Thrain was slain, and that will still be in thy mind; and thou, too, Gunnar Lambi's son, and thou, Lambi Sigurd's son. Now, my will is that we ride to meet him this evening, and slay him."
"No," says Grani, "I will not fall on Njal's son, and so break the atonement which good men and true have made."
With like words spoke each man of them, and so, too, spoke all the sons of Sigfus; and they took that counsel to ride away.
Then Lyting said, when they had gone away, "All men know that I have taken no atonement for my brother-in-law Thrain, and I shall never be content that no vengeance — man for man — shall be taken for him."
After that he called on his two brothers to go with him, and three house-carles as well. They went on the way to meet Hauskuld as he came back, and lay in wait for him north of the farm-yard in a pit; and there they bided till it was about mideven (1). Then Hauskuld rode up to them. They jump up all of them with their arms, and fall on him. Hauskuld guarded himself well, so that for a long while they could not get the better of him; but the end of it was at last that he wounded Lyting on the arm, and slew two of his serving-men, and then fell himself. They gave Hauskuld sixteen wounds, but they hewed not off the head from his body. They fared away into the wood east of Rangriver, and hid themselves there.
That same evening, Rodny's shepherd found Hauskuld dead, and went home and told Rodny of her son's slaying.
"Was he surely dead?" she asks; "was his head off?"
"It was not," he says.
"I shall know if I see," she says; "so take thou my horse and driving gear."
He did so, and got all things ready, and then they went thither where Hauskuld lay.
She looked at the wounds, and said, "'Tis even as I thought, that he could not be quite dead, and Njal no doubt can cure greater wounds."
After that they took the body and laid it on the sledge and drove to Bergthorsknoll, and drew it into the sheepcote, and made him sit upright against the wall.
Then they went both of them and knocked at the door, and a house- carle went to the door. She steals in by him at once, and goes till she comes to Njal's bed.
She asked whether Njal were awake? He said he had slept up to that time, but was then awake.
"But why art thou come hither so early?"
"Rise thou up," said Rodny, "from thy bed by my rival's side, and come out, and she too, and thy sons, to see thy son Hauskuld."
They rose and went out.
"Let us take our weapons," said Skarphedinn, "and have them with us."
Njal said naught at that, and they ran in and came out again armed.
She goes first till they come to the sheepcote; she goes in and bade them follow her. Then she lit a torch, and held it up and said, "Here, Njal, is thy son Hauskuld, and he hath gotten many wounds upon him, and now he will need leechcraft."
"I see death marks on him," said Njal, "but no signs of life; but why hast thou not closed his eyes and nostrils? see, his nostrils are still open!"
"That duty I meant for Skarphedinn," she says.
Then Skarphedinn went to close his eyes and nostrils, and said to his father, "Who, sayest thou, hath slain him?"
"Lyting of Samstede and his brothers must have slain him," says Njal.
Then Rodny said, "Into thy hands, Skarphedinn, I leave it to take vengeance for thy brother, and I ween that thou wilt take it well, though he be not lawfully begotten, and that thou wilt not be slow to take it."
"Wonderfully do ye men behave," said Bergthora, "when ye slay men for small cause, but talk and tarry over such as this until no vengeance at all is taken; and now of this will soon come to Hauskuld, the Priest of Whiteness, and he will be offering you atonement, and you will grant him that, but now is the time to set about it, if ye seek for vengeance."
"Our mother eggs us on now with a just goading," said Skarphedinn, and sang a song.
"Well we know the warrior's temper (2), One and all, well, father thine, But atonement to the mother, Snake-land's stem (3) and thee were base; He that hoardeth ocean's fire (4) Hearing this will leave his home; Wound of weapon us hath smitten, Worse the lot of those that wait!"
After that they all ran out of the sheepcote, but Rodny went indoors with Njal, and was there the rest of the night.
(1) Mideven, six o'clock p.m. (2) "Warrior's temper," the temper of Hauskuld of Whiteness. (3) "Snake-land's stem," a periphrasis for woman, Rodny. (4) "He that hoardeth ocean's fire," a periphrasis for man, Hauskuld of Whiteness.
104. THE SLAYING OF LYTING'S BROTHERS
Now we must speak of Skarphedinn and his brothers, how they bend their course up to Rangriver. Then Skarphedinn said, "Stand we here and listen, and let us go stilly, for I hear the voices of men up along the river's bank. But will ye, Helgi and Grim, deal with Lyting single-handed, or with both his brothers?"
They said they would sooner deal with Lyting alone.
"Still," says Skarphedinn, "there is more game in him, and methinks it were ill if he gets away, but I trust myself best for not letting him escape."
"We will take such steps," says Helgi, "if we get a chance at him, that he shall not slip through our fingers."
Then they went thitherward, where they heard the voices of men, and see where Lyting and his brothers are by a stream.
Skarphedinn leaps over the stream at once, and alights on the sandy brink on the other side. There upon it stands Hallgrim and his brother. Skarphedinn smites at Hallgrim's thigh, so that he cut the leg clean off, but he grasps Hallstein with his left hand. Lyting thrust at Skarphedinn, but Helgi came up then and threw his shield before the spear, and caught the blow on it. Lyting took up a stone and hurled it at Skarphedinn, and he lost his hold on Hallstein. Hallstein sprang up the sandy bank, but could get up it in no other way than by crawling on his hands and knees. Skarphedinn made a side blow at him with his axe, "the ogress of war," and hews asunder his backbone. Now Lyting turns and flies, but Helgi and Grim both went after him, and each gave him a wound, but still Lyting got across the river away from them, and so to the horses, and gallops till he comes to Ossaby.
Hauskuld was at home, and meets him at once. Lyting told him of these deeds.
"Such things were to be looked for by thee," says Hauskuld. "Thou hast behaved like a madman, and here the truth of the old saw will be proved; 'but a short while is hand fain of blow.' Methinks what thou hast got to look to now is whether thou wilt be able to save thy life or not."
"Sure enough," says Lyting, "I had hard work to get away, but still I wish now that thou wouldest get me atoned with Njal and his sons, so that I might keep my farm."
"So it shall be," says Hauskuld.
After that Hauskuld made them saddle his horse, and rode to Bergthorsknoll with five men. Njal's sons were then come home and had laid them down to sleep.
Hauskuld went at once to see Njal, and they began to talk.
"Hither am I come," said Hauskuld to Njal, "to beg a boon on behalf of Lyting, my uncle. He has done great wickedness against you and yours, broken his atonement and slain thy son."
"Lyting will perhaps think," said Njal, "that he has already paid a heavy fine in the loss of his brothers, but if I grant him any terms, I shall let him reap the good of my love for thee, and I will tell thee before I utter the award of atonement, that Lyting's brothers shall fall as outlaws. Nor shall Lyting have any atonement for his wounds, but on the other hand, he shall pay the full blood-fine for Hauskuld."
"My wish," said Hauskuld, "is, that thou shouldest make thine own terms."
"Well," says Njal, "then I will utter the award at once if thou wilt."
"Wilt thou," says Hauskuld, "that thy sons should be by?"
"Then we should be no nearer an atonement than we were before," says Njal, "but they will keep to the atonement which I utter."
Then Hauskuld said, "Let us close the matter then, and handsel him peace on behalf of thy sons."
"So it shall be," says Njal. "My will then is, that he pays two hundred in silver for the slaying of Hauskuld, but he may still dwell at Samstede; and yet I think it were wiser if he sold his land and changed his abode; but not for this quarrel; neither I nor my sons will break our pledges of peace to him; but methinks it may be that some one may rise up in this country against whom he may have to be on his guard. Yet, lest it should seem that I make a man an outcast from his native place, I allow him to be here in this neighbourhood, but in that case he alone is answerable for what may happen."
After that Hauskuld fared home, and Njal's sons woke up as he went and asked their father who had come, but he told them that his foster-son Hauskuld had been there.
"He must have come to ask a boon for Lyting then," said Skarphedinn.
"So it was," says Njal.
"Ill was it then," says Grim.
"Hauskuld could not have thrown his shield before him," says Njal, "if thou hadst slain him, as it was meant thou shouldst."
"Let us throw no blame on our father," says Skarphedinn.
Now it is to be said that this atonement was kept between them afterwards.
105. OF AMUND THE BLIND
That event happened three winters after at the Thingskala-Thing that Amund the Blind was at the Thing; he was the son of Hauskuld Njal's son. He made men lead him about among the booths, and so he came to the booth inside which was Lyting of Samstede. He made them lead him into the booth till he came before Lyting.
"Is Lyting of Samstede here?" he asked.
"What dost thou want?" says Lyting.
"I want to know," says Amund, "what atonement thou wilt pay me for my father. I am base-born, and I have touched no fine."
"I have atoned for the slaying of thy father," says Lyting, "with a full price, and thy father's father and thy father's brothers took the money; but my brothers fell without a price as outlaws; and so it was that I had both done an ill deed, and paid dear for it."
"I ask not," says Amund, "as to thy having paid an atonement to them. I know that ye two are now friends, but I ask this, what atonement thou wilt pay to me?"
"None at all," says Lyting.
"I cannot see," says Amund, "how thou canst have right before God, when thou hast stricken me so near the heart; but all I can say is, that if I were blessed with the sight of both my eyes, I would have either a money fine for my father, or revenge man for man, and so may God judge between us."
After that he went out; but when he came to the door of the booth, he turned short round towards the inside. Then his eyes were opened, and he said, "Praised be the Lord! Now I see what his will is."
With that he ran straight into the booth until he comes before Lyting, and smites him with an axe on the head, so that it sunk in up to the hammer, and gives the axe a pull towards him.
Lyting fell forwards and was dead at once.
Amund goes out to the door of the booth, and when he got to the very same spot on which he had stood when his eyes were opened, lo! they were shut again, and he was blind all his life after.
Then he made them lead him to Njal and his sons, and he told them of Lyting's slaying.
"Thou mayest not be blamed for this," says Njal, "for such things are settled by a higher power; but it is worth while to take warning from such events, lest we cut any short who have such near claims as Amund had."
After that Njal offered an atonement to Lyting's kinsmen. Hauskuld the Priest of Whiteness had a share in bringing Lyting's kinsmen to take the fine, and then the matter was put to an award, and half the fines fell away for the sake of the claim which he seemed to have on Lyting.
After that men came forward with pledges of peace and good faith, and Lyting's kinsmen granted pledges to Amund. Men rode home from the Thing; and now all is quiet for a long while.
106. OF VALGARD THE GUILEFUL
Valgard the Guileful came back to Iceland that summer; he was then still heathen. He fared to Hof to his son Mord's house, and was there the winter over. He said to Mord, "Here I have ridden far and wide all over the neighbourhood, and methinks I do not know it for the same. I came to Whiteness, and there I saw many tofts of booths and much ground levelled for building. I came to Thingskala-Thing, and there I saw all our booths broken down. What is the meaning of such strange things?"
"New priesthoods," answers Mord, "have been set up here, and a law for a Fifth Court, and men have declared themselves out of my Thing, and have gone over to Hauskuld's Thing."
"Ill hast thou repaid me," said Valgard, "for giving up to thee my priesthood, when thou hast handled it so little like a man, and now my wish is that thou shouldst pay them off by something that will drag them all down to death; and this thou canst do by setting them by the ears by talebearing, so that Njal's sons may slay Hauskuld; but there are many who will have the blood-feud after him, and so Njal's sons will be slain in that quarrel."
"I shall never be able to get that done," says Mord.
"I will give thee a plan," says Valgard; "thou shalt ask Njal's sons to thy house, and send them away with gifts, but thou shalt keep thy tale-bearing in the background until great friendship has sprung up between you, and they trust thee no worse than their own selves. So wilt thou be able to avenge thyself on Skarphedinn for that he took thy money from thee after Gunnar's death; and in this wise, further on, thou wilt be able to seize the leadership when they are all dead and gone."
This plan they settled between them should be brought to pass; and Mord said, "I would, father, that thou wouldst take on thee the new faith. Thou art an old man."
"I will not do that," says Valgard. "I would rather that thou shouldst cast off the faith, and see what follows then."
Mord said he would not do that. Valgard broke crosses before Mord's face, and all holy tokens. A little after Valgard took a sickness and breathed his last, and he was laid in a cairn by Hof.
107. OF MORD AND NJAL'S SONS
Some while after Mord rode to Bergthorsknoll and saw Skarphedinn there; he fell into very fair words with them, and so he talked the whole day, and said he wished to be good friends with them, and to see much of them.
Skarphedinn took it all well, but said he had never sought for anything of the kind before. So it came about that he got himself into such great friendship with them, that neither side thought they had taken any good counsel unless the other had a share in it.
Njal always disliked his coming thither, and it often happened that he was angry with him.
It happened one day that Mord came to Bergthorsknoll, and Mord said to Njal's sons, "I have made up my mind to give a feast yonder, and I mean to drink in my heirship after my father, but to that feast I wish to bid you, Njal's sons, and Kari; and at the same time I give you my word that ye shall not fare away giftless."
They promised to go, and now he fares home and makes ready the feast. He bade to it many householders, and that feast was very crowded.
Thither came Njal's sons and Kari. Mord gave Skarphedinn a brooch of gold, and a silver belt to Kari, and good gifts to Grim and Helgi.
They come home and boast of these gifts, and show them to Njal. He said they would be bought full dear, "and take heed that ye do not repay the giver in the coin which he no doubt wishes to get."
108. OF THE SLANDER OF MORD VALGARD'S SON.
A little after Njal's sons and Hauskuld were to have their yearly feasts, and they were the first to bid Hauskuld to come to them.
Skarphedinn had a brown horse four winters old, both tall and sightly. He was a stallion, and had never yet been matched in fight. That horse Skarphedinn gave to Hauskuld, and along with him two mares. They all gave Hauskuld gifts, and assured him of their friendship.
After that Hauskuld bade them to his house at Ossaby, and had many guests to meet them, and a great crowd.
It happened that he had just then taken down his hall, but he had built three outhouses, and there the beds were made.
So all that were bidden came, and the feast went off very well. But when men were to go home Hauskuld picked out good gifts for them, and went a part of the way with Njal's sons.
The sons of Sigfus followed him and all the crowd, and both sides said that nothing should ever come between them to spoil their friendship.
A little while after Mord came to Ossaby and called Hauskuld out to talk with him, and they went aside and spoke.
"What a difference in manliness there is," said Mord, "between thee and Njal's sons! Thou gavest them good gifts, but they gave thee gifts with great mockery."
"How makest thou that out?" says Hauskuld.
"They gave thee a horse which they called a 'dark horse,' and that they did out of mockery to thee, because they thought thee too untried. I can tell thee also that they envy thee the priesthood. Skarphedinn took it up as his own at the Thing when thou camest not to the Thing at the summoning of the Fifth Court, and Skarphedinn never means to let it go."
"That is not true," says Hauskuld, "for I got it back at the Folkmote last harvest."
"Then that was Njal's doing," says Mord. "They broke, too, the atonement about Lyting."
"I do not mean to lay that at their door," says Hauskuld.
"Well," says Mord, "thou canst not deny that when ye two, Skarphedinn and thou, were going east towards Markfleet, an axe fell out from under his belt, and he meant to have slain thee then and there."
"It was his woodman's axe," says Hauskuld, "and I saw how he put it under his belt; and now, Mord, I will just tell thee this right out, that thou canst never say so much ill of Njal's sons as to make me believe it; but though there were aught in it, and it were true as thou sayest, that either I must slay them or they me, then would I far rather suffer death at their hands than work them any harm. But as for thee, thou art all the worse a man for having spoken this."
After that Mord fares home. A little after Mord goes to see Njal's sons, and he talks much with those brothers and Kari.
"I have been told," says Mord, "that Hauskuld has said that thou, Skarphedinn, hast broken the atonement made with Lyting; but I was made aware also that he thought that thou hadst meant some treachery against him when ye two fared to Markfleet. But still, methinks that was no less treachery when he bade you to a feast at his house, and stowed you away in an outhouse that was farthest from the house, and wood was then heaped round the outhouse all night, and he meant to burn you all inside; but it so happened that Hogni Gunnar's son came that night, and naught came of their onslaught, for they were afraid of him. After that he followed you on your way and great band of men with him, then he meant to make another onslaught on you, and set Grani Gunnar's son, and Gunnar Lambi's son to kill thee; but their hearts failed them, and they dared not to fall on thee."
But when he had spoken thus, first of all they spoke against it, but the end of it was that they believed him, and from that day forth a coldness sprung up on their part towards Hauskuld, and they scarcely ever spoke to him when they met; but Hauskuld showed them little deference, and so things went on for a while.
Next harvest Hauskuld fared east to Swinefell to a feast, and Flosi gave him a hearty welcome. Hildigunna was there too. Then Flosi spoke to Hauskuld and said, "Hildigunna tells me that there is great coldness with you and Njal's sons, and methinks that is ill, and I will beg thee not to ride west, but I will get thee a homestead in Skaptarfell, and I will send my brother, Thorgeir, to dwell at Ossaby."
"Then some will say," says Hauskuld, "that I am flying thence for fear's sake, and that I will not have said."
"Then it is more likely that great trouble will arise," says Flosi.
"Ill is that then," says Hauskuld, "for I would rather fall unatoned, than that many should reap ill for my sake."
Hauskuld busked him to ride home a few nights after, but Flosi gave him a scarlet cloak, and it was embroidered with needlework down to the waist.
Hauskuld rode home to Ossaby, and now all is quiet for a while.
Hauskuld was so much beloved that few men were his foes, but the same ill-will went on between him and Njal's sons the whole winter through.
Njal had taken as his foster-child, Thord, the son of Kari. He had also fostered Thorhall, the son of Asgrim Ellidagrim's son. Thorhall was a strong man, and hardy both in body and mind, he had learnt so much law that he was the third greatest lawyer in Iceland.
Next spring was an early spring, and men are busy sowing their corn.
109. OF MORD AND NJAL'S SONS
It happened one day that Mord came to Bergthorsknoll. He and Kari and Njal's sons fell a-talking at once, and Mord slanders Hauskuld after his wont, and has now many new tales to tell, and does naught but egg Skarphedinn and them on to slay Hauskuld, and said he would be beforehand with them if they did not fall on him at once.
"I will let thee have thy way in this," says Skarphedinn, "if thou wilt fare with us, and have some hand in it."
"That I am ready to do," says Mord, and so they bound that fast with promises, and he was to come there that evening.
Bergthora asked Njal, "What are they talking about out of doors?"
"I am not in their counsels," says Njal, "but I was seldom left out of them when their plans were good."
Skarphedinn did not lie down to rest that evening, nor his brothers, nor Kari.
That same night, when it was well-nigh spent, came Mord Valgard's son, and Njal's sons and Kari took their weapons and rode away. They fared till they came to Ossaby, and bided there by a fence. The weather was good, and the sun just risen.
110. THE SLAYING OF HAUSKULD, THE PRIEST OF WHITENESS
About that time Hauskuld, the Priest of Whiteness, awoke; he put on his clothes, and threw over him his cloak, Flosi's gift. He took his corn-sieve, and had his sword in his other hand, and walks towards the fence, and sows the corn as he goes.
Skarphedinn and his band had agreed that they would all give him a wound. Skarphedinn sprang up from behind the fence, but when Hauskuld saw him he wanted to turn away, then Skarphedinn ran up to him and said, "Don't try to turn on thy heel, Whiteness priest," and hews at him, and the blow came on his head, and he fell on his knees. Hauskuld said these words when he fell, "God help me, and forgive you!"
Then they all ran up to him and gave him wounds.
After that Mord said, "A plan comes into my mind."
"What is that?" says Skarphedinn.
"That I shall fare home as soon as I can, but after that I will fare up to Gritwater, and tell them the tidings, and say 'tis an ill deed; but I know surely that Thorgerda will ask me to give notice of the slaying, and I will do that, for that will be the surest way to spoil their suit. I will also send a man to Ossaby and know how soon they take any counsel in the matter, and that man will learn all these tidings thence, and I will make believe that I have heard them from him."
"Do so by all means," says Skarphedinn.
Those brothers fared home, and Kari with them, and when they came home they told Njal the tidings.
"Sorrowful tidings are these," says Njal, "and such are ill to hear, for sooth to say this grief touches me so nearly, that methinks it were better to have lost two of my sons and that Hauskuld lived."
"It is some excuse for thee," says Skarphedinn, "that thou art an old man, and it is to be looked for that this touches thee nearly."
"But this," says Njal, "no less than old age, is why I grieve, that I know better than thou what will come after."
"What will come after?" says Skarphedinn.
"My death," says Njal, "and the death of my wife and of all my sons."
"What dost thou foretell for me?" says Kari.
"They will have hard work to go against thy good fortune, for thou wilt be more than a match for all of them."
This one thing touched Njal so nearly that he could never speak of it without shedding tears.
111. OF HILDIGUNNA AND MORD VALGARD'S SON
Hildigunna woke up and found that Hauskuld was away out of his bed.
"Hard have been my dreams," she said, "and not good; but go and search for him, Hauskuld."
So they searched for him about the homestead and found him not.
By that time she had dressed herself; then she goes and two men with her, to the fence, and there they find Hauskuld slain.
Just then, too, came up Mord Valgard's son's shepherd, and told her that Njal's sons had gone down thence, "and," he said, "Skarphedinn called out to me and gave notice of the slaying as done by him."
"It were a manly deed," she says, "if one man had been at it."
She took the cloak and wiped off all the blood with it, and wrapped the gouts of gore up in it, and so folded it together and laid it up in her chest.
Now she sent a man up to Gritwater to tell the tidings thither, but Mord was there before him, and had already told the tidings. There, too, was come Kettle of the Mark.
Thorgerda said to Kettle, "Now is Hauskuld dead as we know, and now bear in mind what thou promisedst to do when thou tookest him for thy fosterchild."
"It may well be," says Kettle, "that I promised very many things then, for I thought not that these days would ever befall us that have now come to pass; but yet I am come into a strait, for 'nose is next of kin to eyes,' since I have Njal's daughter to wife."
"Art thou willing, then," says Thorgerda, "that Mord should give notice of the suit for the slaying?"
"I know not that," says Kettle, "for me ill comes from him more often than good."
But as soon as ever Mord began to speak to Kettle he fared the same as others, in that he thought as though Mord would be true to him, and so the end of their counsel was that Mord should give notice of the slaying, and get ready the suit in every way before the Thing.
Then Mord fared down to Ossaby, and thither came nine neighbours who dwelt nearest the spot.
Mord had ten men with him. He shows the neighbours Hauskuld's wounds, and takes witness to the hurts, and names a man as the dealer of every wound save one; that he made as though he knew not who had dealt it, but that wound he had dealt himself. But the slaying he gave notice of at Skarphedinn's hand, and the wounds at his brothers' and Kari's.
After that he called on nine neighbours who dwelt nearest the spot to ride away from home to the Althing on the inquest.
After that he rode home. He scarce ever met Njal's sons, and when he did meet them, he was cross, and that was part of their plan.
The slaying of Hauskuld was heard over all the land, and was ill-spoken of. Njal's sons went to see Asgrim Ellidagrim's son, and asked him for aid.
"Ye very well know that ye may look that I shall help you in all great suits, but still my heart is heavy about this suit, for there are many who have the blood feud, and this slaying is ill- spoken of over all the land."
Now Njal's sons fare home.
112. THE PEDIGREE OF GUDMUND THE POWERFUL
There was a man named Gudmund the Powerful, who dwelt at Modruvale in Eyjafirth. He was the son of Eyjolf the son of Einar (1). Gudmund was a mighty chief, wealthy in goods; he had in his house a hundred hired servants. He overbore in rank and weight all the chiefs in the north country, so that some left their homesteads, but some he put to death, and some gave up their priesthoods for his sake, and from him are come the greatest part of all the picked and famous families in the land, such as "the Pointdwellers" and the "Sturlungs" and the "Hvamdwellers," and the "Fleetmen," and Kettle the Bishop, and many of the greatest men.
Gudmund was a friend of Asgrim Ellidagrim's son, and so he hoped to get his help.
(1) Einar was the son of Audun the Bald, the son of Thorolf Butter, the son of Thorstein the Unstable, the son of Grim with the Tuft. The mother of Gudmund was Hallberg, the daughter of Thorodd Helm, but the mother of Hallbera was Reginleifa, daughter of Saemund the South-islander; after him is named Saemundslithe in Skagafirth. The mother of Eyjolf, Gudmund's father, was Valgerda Runolf's daughter; the mother of Valgerda was Valbjorg, her mother was Joruna the Disowned, a daughter of King Oswald the Saint. The mother of Einar, the father of Eyjolf, was Helga, a daughter of Helgi the Lean, who took Eyjafirth as the first settler. Helgi was the son of Eyvind the Easterling. The mother of Helgi was Raforta, the daughter of Kjarval, the Erse King. The mother of Helga Helgi's daughter, was Thoruna the Horned, daughter of Kettle Flatnose, the son of Bjorn the Rough-footed, the son of Grim, Lord of Sogn. The mother of Grim was Hervora, but the mother of Hervora was Thorgerda, daughter of King Haleyg of Helgeland. Thorlauga was the name of Gudmund the Powerful's wife, she was a daughter of Atli the Strong, the son of Eilif the Eagle, the son of Bard, the son of Jalkettle, the son of Ref, the son of Skidi the Old. Herdisa was the name of Thorlauga's mother, a daughter of Thord of the Head, the son of Bjorn Butter- carrier, the son of Hroald the son of Hrodlaug the Sad, the son of Bjorn Ironside, the son of Ragnar Hairybreeks, the son of Sigurd Ring, the son of Randver, the son of Radbard. The mother of Herdisa Thord's daughter was Thorgerda Skidi's daughter, her mother was Fridgerda, a daughter of Kjarval, the Erse King.
113. OF SNORRI THE PRIEST, AND HIS STOCK
There was a man named Snorri, who was surnamed the Priest. He dwelt at Helgafell before Gudruna Oswif's daughter bought the land of him, and dwelt there till she died of old age; but Snorri then went and dwelt at Hvamsfirth on Saelingdale's tongue. Thorgrim was the name of Snorri's father, and he was a son of Thorstein codcatcher (1). Snorri was a great friend of Asgrim Ellidagrim's son, and he looked for help there also. Snorri was the wisest and shrewdest of all these men in Iceland who had not the gift of foresight. He was good to his friends, but grim to his foes.
At that time there was a great riding to the Thing out of all the Quarters, and men had many suits set on foot.
(1) Thorstein Codcatcher was the son of Thorolf Mostrarskegg, the son of Ornolf Fish-driver, but Ari the Wise says he was the son of Thorgil Reydarside. Thorolf Mostrarskegg had to wife Oska, the daughter of Thorstein the Red. The mother of Thorgrim was named Thora, a daughter of Oleif the Shy, the son of Thorstein the Red, the son of Oleif the White, the son of Ingialld, the son of Helgi; but the mother of Ingialld was Thora, a daughter of Sigurd Snake-eye, son of Ragnar Hairybreeks; but the mother of Snorri the Priest was Thordisa, the daughter of Sur, and the sister of Gisli.
114. OF FLOSI THORD'S SON
Flosi hears of Hauskuld's slaying, and that brings him much grief and wrath, but still he kept his feelings well in hand. He was told how the suit had been set on foot, as has been said, for Hauskuld's slaying, and he said little about it. He sent word to Hall of the Side, his father-in-law, and to Ljot his son, that they must gather in a great company at the Thing. Ljot was thought the most hopeful man for a chief away there east. It had been foretold that if he could ride three summers running to the Thing, and come safe and sound home, that then he would be the greatest chief in all his family, and the oldest man. He had then ridden one summer to the Thing, and now he meant to ride the second time.
Flosi sent word to Kol Thorstein's son, and Glum the son of Hilldir the Old, the son of Gerleif, the son of Aunund Wallet- back, and to Modolf Kettle's son, and they all rode to meet Flosi.
Hall gave his word, too, to gather a great company, and Flosi rode till he came to Kirkby, to Surt Asbjorn's son. Then Flosi sent after Kolbein Egil's son, his brother's son, and he came to him there. Thence he rode to Headbrink. There dwelt Thorgrim the Showy, the son of Thorkel the Fair. Flosi begged him to ride to the Althing with him, and he said yea to the journey, and spoke thus to Flosi, "Often hast thou been more glad, master, than thou art now, but thou hast some right to be so."
"Of a truth," said Flosi, "that hath now come on my hands, which I would give all my goods that it had never happened. Ill seed has been sown, and so an ill crop will spring from it."
Thence he rode over Amstacksheath, and so to Solheim that evening. There dwelt Lodmund Wolf's son, but he was a great friend of Flosi, and there he stayed that night, and next morning Lodmund rode with him into the Dale.
There dwelt Runolf, the son of Wolf Aurpriest.
Flosi said to Runolf, "Here we shall have true stories as to the slaying of Hauskuld, the Priest of Whiteness. Thou art a truthful man, and hast got at the truth by asking, and I will trust to all that thou tellest me as to what was the cause of quarrel between them."
"There is no good in mincing the matter," said Runolf, "but we must say outright that he has been slain for less than no cause; and his death is a great grief to all men. No one thinks it so much a loss as Njal, his foster-father."
"Then they will be ill off for help from men," says Flosi; "and they will find no one to speak up for them."
"So it will be," says Runolf, "unless it be otherwise foredoomed."
"What has been done in the suit?" says Flosi.
"Now the neighbours have been summoned on the inquest," says Runolf, "and due notice given of the suit for manslaughter."
"Who took that step?" asks Flosi.
"Mord Valgard's son," says Runolf.
"How far is that to be trusted?" says Flosi.
"He is of my kin," says Runolf; "but still if I tell the truth of him, I must say that more men reap ill than good from him. But this one thing I will ask of thee, Flosi, that thou givest rest to thy wrath, and takest the matter up in such a way as may lead to the least trouble. For Njal will make a good offer, and so will others of the best men."
"Ride thou then to the Thing, Runolf," said Flosi, "and thy words shall have much weight with me, unless things turn out worse than they should."
After that they cease speaking about it, and Runolf promised to go to the Thing.
Runolf sent word to Hafr the Wise, his kinsman, and he rode thither at once.
Thence Flosi rode to Ossaby.
115. OF FLOSI AND HILDIGUNNA
Hildigunna was out of doors, and said, "Now shall all the men of my household be out of doors when Flosi rides into the yard; but the women shall sweep the house and deck it with hangings, and make ready the high seat for Flosi."
Then Flosi rode into the town, and Hildigunna turned to him and said, "Come in safe and sound and happy kinsman, and my heart is fain at thy coming hither."
"Here," says Flosi, "we will break our fast, and then we will ride on."
Then their horses were tethered, and Flosi went into the sitting- room and sat him down, and spurned the high seat away from him on the dais, and said, "I am neither king nor earl, and there is no need to make a high seat for me to sit on, nor is there any need to make a mock of me."
Hildigunna was standing close by, and said, "It is ill if it mislikes thee, for this we did with a whole heart."
"If thy heart is whole towards me, then what I do will praise itself if it be well done, but it will blame itself if it be ill done."
Hildigunna laughed a cold laugh, and said, "There is nothing new in that, we will go nearer yet ere we have done."
She sat her down by Flosi, and they talked long and low.
After that the board was laid, and Flosi and his band washed their hands. Flosi looked hard at the towel and saw that it was all in rags, and had one end torn off. He threw it down on the bench and would not wipe himself with it, but tore off a piece of the tablecloth, and wiped himself with that, and then threw it to his men.
After that Flosi sat down to the board and bade men eat.
Then Hildigunna came into the room and went before Flosi, and threw her hair off her eyes and wept.
"Heavy-hearted art thou now, kinswoman," said Flosi, "when thou weepest, but still it is well that thou shouldst weep for a good husband."
"What vengeance or help shall I have of thee?" she says.
"I will follow up thy suit," said Flosi, "to the utmost limit of the law, or strive for that atonement which good men and true shall say that we ought to have as full amends."
"Hauskuld would avenge thee," she said, "if he had the blood-feud after thee."
"Thou lackest not grimness," answered Flosi, "and what thou wantest is plain."
"Arnor Ornolf's son, of Forswaterwood," said Hildigunna, "had done less wrong towards Thord Frey's priest thy father; and yet thy brothers Kolbein and Egil slew him at Skaptarfells-Thing."
Then Hildigunna went back into the hall and unlocked her chest, and then she took out the cloak, Flosi's gift, and in it Hauskuld had been slain, and there she had kept it, blood and all. Then she went back into the sitting-room with the cloak; she went up silently to Flosi. Flosi had just then eaten his full, and the board was cleared. Hildigunna threw the cloak over Flosi, and the gore rattled down all over him.
Then she spoke and said, "This cloak, Flosi, thou gavest to Hauskuld, and now I will give it back to thee; he was slain in it, and I call God and all good men to witness, that I abjure thee, by all the might of thy Christ, and by thy manhood and bravery, to take vengeance for all those wounds which he had on his dead body, or else to be called every man's dastard."
Flosi threw the cloak off him and hurled it into her lap, and said, "Thou art the greatest hell-hag, and thou wishest that we should take that course which will be the worst for all of us. But 'women's counsel is ever cruel.'"
Flosi was so stirred at this, that sometimes he was bloodred in the face, and sometimes ashy pale as withered grass, and sometimes blue as death.
Flosi and his men rode away; he rode to Holtford, and there waits for the sons of Sigfus and other of his men.
Ingialld dwelt at the Springs; he was the brother of Rodny, Hauskuld Njal's son's mother (1). Ingialld had to wife Thraslauga, the daughter of Egil, the son of Thord Frey's priest (2). Flosi sent word to Ingialld to come to him, and Ingialld went at once, with fourteen men. They were all of his household. Ingialld was a tall man and a strong, and slow to meddle with other men's business, one of the bravest of men, and very bountiful to his friends.
Flosi greeted him well, and said to him, "Great trouble hath now come on me and my brothers-in-law, and it is hard to see our way out of it; I beseech thee not to part from my suit until this trouble is past and gone."
"I am come into a strait myself," said Ingialld, "for the sake of the ties that there are between me and Njal and his sons, and other great matters which stand in the way."
"I thought," said Flosi, "when I gave away my brother's daughter to thee, that thou gavest me thy word to stand by me in every suit."
"It is most likely," says Ingialld, "that I shall do so, but still I will now, first of all, ride home, and thence to the Thing."
(1) They were children of Hauskuld the White, the son of Ingialld the Strong, the son of Gerfinn the Red, the son of Solvi, the son of Thorstein Baresarks-bane. (2) The mother of Egil was Thraslauga, the daughter of Thorstein Titling; the mother of Thraslauga was Unna, the daughter of Eyvind Karf.
116. OF FLOSI AND MORD AND THE SONS OF SIGFUS
The sons of Sigfus heard how Flosi was at Holtford, and they rode thither to meet him, and there were Kettle of the Mark, and Lambi his brother, Thorkell and Mord, the sons of Sigfus, Sigmund their brother, and Lambi Sigurd's son, and Gunnar Lambi's son, and Grani Gunnar's son, and Vebrand Hamond's son.
Flosi stood up to meet them, and greeted them gladly. So they went down the river. Flosi had the whole story from them about the slaying, and there was no difference between them and Kettle of the Mark's story.
Flosi spoke to Kettle of the Mark, and said, "This now I ask of thee; how tightly are your hearts knit as to this suit, thou and the other sons of Sigfus?"
"My wish is," said Kettle, "that there should be peace between us, but yet I have sworn an oath not to part from this suit till it has been brought somehow to an end; and to lay my life on it."
"Thou art a good man and true," said Flosi, "and it is well to have such men with one."
Then Grani Gunnar's son and Lambi Sigurd's son both spoke together, and said, "We wish for outlawry and death."
"It is not given us," said Flosi, "both to share and choose, we must take what we can get."
"I have had it in my heart," says Grani, "ever since they slew Thrain by Markfleet, and after that his son Hauskuld, never to be atoned with them by a lasting peace, for I would willingly stand by when they were all slain, every man of them."
"Thou hast stood so near to them," said Flosi, "that thou mightest have avenged these things hadst thou had the heart and manhood. Methinks thou and many others now ask for what ye would give much money hereafter never to have had a share in. I see this clearly, that though we slay Njal or his sons, still they are men of so great worth, and of such good family, that there will be such a blood feud and hue and cry after them, that we shall have to fall on our knees before many a man, and beg for help, ere we get an atonement and find our way out of this strait. Ye may make up your minds, then, that many will become poor who before had great goods, but some of you will lose both goods and life."
Mord Valgard's son rode to meet Flosi, and said he would ride to the Thing with him with all his men. Flosi took that well, and raised a matter of a wedding with him, that he should give away Rannveiga his daughter to Starkad Flosi's brother's son, who dwelt at Staffell. Flosi did this because he thought he would so make sure both of his faithfulness and force.
Mord took the wedding kindly, but handed the matter over to Gizur the White, and bade him talk about it at the Thing.
Mord had to wife Thorkatla, Gizur the White's daughter.
They two, Mord and Flosi, rode both together to the Thing, and talked the whole day, and no man knew aught of their counsel.
117. NJAL AND SKARPHEDINN TALK TOGETHER
Now, we must say how Njal said to Skarphedinn.
"What plan have ye laid down for yourselves, thou and thy brothers and Kari?"
"Little reck we of dreams in most matters," said Skarphedinn; "but if thou must know, we shall ride to Tongue to Asgrim Ellidagrim's son, and thence to the Thing; but, what meanest thou to do about thine own journey, father?"
"I shall ride to the Thing," says Njal, "for it belongs to my honour not to be severed from your suit so long as I live. I ween that many men will have good words to say of me, and so I shall stand you in good stead, and do you no harm."
There, too, was Thorhall Asgrim's son, and Njal's fosterson. The sons of Njal laughed at him because he was clad in a coat of russet, and asked how long he meant to wear that?
"I shall have thrown it off," he said, "when I have to follow up the blood-feud for my foster-father."
"There will ever be most good in thee," said Njal, "when there is most need of it."
So they all busked them to ride away from home, and were nigh thirty men in all, and rode till they came to Thursowater. Then came after them Njal's kinsmen, Thorleif Crow, and Thorgrim the Big; they were Holt-Thorir's sons, and offered their help and following to Njal's sons, and they took that gladly.
So they rode altogether across Thursowater, until they came on Laxwater bank, and took a rest and baited their horses there, and there Hjallti Skeggi's son came to meet them, and Njal's sons fell to talking with him, and they talked long and low.
"Now, I will show," said Hjallti, "that I am not blackhearted; Njal has asked me for help, and I have agreed to it, and given my word to aid him; he has often given me and many others the worth of it in cunning counsel."
Hjallti tells Njal all about Flosi's doings. They sent Thorhall on to Tongue to tell Asgrim that they would be there that evening; and Asgrim made ready at once, and was out of doors to meet them when Njal rode into the "town."
Njal was clad in a blue cape, and had a felt hat on his head, and a small axe in his hand. Asgrim helped Njal off his horse, and led him and sate him down in his own seat. After that they all went in, Njal's sons and Kari. Then Asgrim went out.
Hjallti wished to turn away, and thought there were too many there; but Asgrim caught hold of his reins, and said he should never have his way in riding off, and made men unsaddle their horses, and led Hjallti in and sate him down by Njal's side; but Thorleif and his brother sat on the other bench and their men with them.
Asgrim sate him down on a stool before Njal, and asked, "What says thy heart about our matter?"
"It speaks rather heavily," says Njal, "for I am afraid that we shall have no lucky men with us in the suit; but I would, friend, that thou shouldest send after all the men who belong to thy Thing, and ride to the Althing with me."
"I have always meant to do that," says Asgrim; "and this I will promise thee at the same time, that I will never leave thy cause while I can get any men to follow me."
But all those who were in the house thanked him, and said that was bravely spoken. They were there that night, but the day after all Asgrim's band came thither.
And after that they all rode together till they come up on the Thing-field, and fit up their booths.
118. ASGRIM AND NJAL'S SONS PRAY MEN FOR HELP
By that time Flosi had come to the Thing, and filled all his booths. Runolf filled the Dale-dwellers' booths, and Mord the booths of the men from Rangriver. Hall of the Side had long since come from the east, but scarce any of the other men; but still Hall of the Side had come with a great band, and joined this at once to Flosi's company, and begged him to take an atonement and to make peace.
Hall was a wise man and good-hearted. Flosi answered him well in everything, but gave way in nothing.
Hall asked what men had promised him help? Flosi named Mord Valgard's son, and said he had asked for his daughter at the hand of his kinsman Starkad.
Hall said she was a good match, but it was ill dealing with Mord, "And that thou wilt put to the proof ere this Thing be over."
After that they ceased talking.
One day Njal and Asgrim had a long talk in secret.
Then all at once Asgrim sprang up and said to Njal's sons, "We must set about seeking friends, that we may not be overborne by force; for this suit will be followed up boldly."
Then Asgrim went out, and Helgi Njal's son next; then Kari Solmund's son; then Grim Njal's son; then Skarphedinn; then Thorhall; then Thorgrim the Big; then Thorleif Crow.
They went to the booth of Gizur the White and inside it. Gizur stood up to meet them, and bade them sit down and drink.
"Not thitherward," says Asgrim, "tends our way, and we will speak our errand out loud, and not mutter and mouth about it. What help shall I have from thee, as thou art my kinsman?"
"Jorunn, my sister," said Gizur, "would wish that I should not shrink from standing by thee; and so it shall be now and hereafter, that we will both of us have the same fate."
Asgrim thanked him, and went away afterwards.
Then Skarphedinn asked, "Whither shall we go now?"
"To the booths of the men of Olfus," says Asgrim.
So they went thither, and Asgrim asked whether Skapti Thorod's son were in the booth? He was told that he was. Then they went inside the booth.
Skapti sate on the cross-bench, and greeted Asgrim, and he took the greeting well.
Skapti offered Asgrim a seat by his side, but Asgrim said he should only stay there a little while, "But still we have an errand to thee."
"Let me hear it?" says Skapti.
"I wish to beg thee for thy help, that thou wilt stand by us in our suit."
"One thing I had hoped," says Skapti, "and that is, that neither you nor your troubles would ever come into my dwelling."
"Such things are ill-spoken," says Asgrim, "when a man is the last to help others, when most lies on his aid."
"Who is yon man," says Skapti, "before whom four men walk, a big burly man, and pale-faced, unlucky-looking, well-knit, and troll-like?"
"My name is Skarphedinn," he answers, "and thou hast often seen me at the Thing; but in this I am wiser than you, that I have no need to ask what thy name is. Thy name is Skapti Thorod's son, but before thou calledst thyself 'Bristlepoll,' after thou hadst slain Kettle of Elda; then thou shavedst thy poll, and puttedst pitch on thy head, and then thou hiredst thralls to cut up a sod of turf, and thou creptest underneath it to spend the night. After that thou wentest to Thorolf Lopt's son of Eyrar, and he took thee on board, and bore thee out here in his meal sacks."
After that Asgrim and his band went out, and Skarphedinn asked, "Whither shall we go now?"
"To Snorri the Priest's booth," says Asgrim.
Then they went to Snorri's booth. There was a man outside before the booth, and Asgrim asked whether Snorri were in the booth.
The man said he was.
Asgrim went into the booth, and all the others. Snorri was sitting on the cross-bench, and Asgrim went and stood before him, and hailed him well.
Snorri took his greeting blithely, and bade him sit down.
Asgrim said he should be only a short time there, "But we have an errand with thee."
Snorri bade him tell it.
"I would," said Asgrim, "that thou wouldst come with me to the court, and stand by me with thy help, for thou art a wise man, and a great man of business."
"Suits fall heavy on us now," says Snorri the Priest, "and now many men push forward against us, and so we are slow to take up the troublesome suits of other men from other quarters."
"Thou mayest stand excused," says Asgrim "for thou art not in our debt for any service."
"I know," says Snorri, "that thou art a good man and true, and I will promise thee this, that I will not be against thee, and not yield help to thy foes."
Asgrim thanked him, and Snorri the Priest asked, "Who is that man before whom four go, pale-faced, and sharp-featured, and who shows his front teeth, and has his axe aloft on his shoulder."
"My name is Hedinn," he says, "but some men call me Skarphedinn by my full name; but what more hast thou to say to me."
"This," said Snorri the Priest, "that methinks thou art a well- knit, ready-handed man, but yet I guess that the best part of thy good fortune is past, and I ween thou hast now not long to live."
"That is well," says Skarphedinn, "for that is a debt we all have to pay, but still it were more needful to avenge thy father than to foretell my fate in this way."
"Many have said that before," says Snorri, "and I will not be angry at such words."
After that they went out, and got no help there. Then they fared to the booths of the men of Skagafirth. There Hafr (1) the Wealthy had his booth. The mother of Hafr was named Thoruna, she was a daughter of Asbjorn Baldpate of Myrka, the son of Hrosbjorn.
Asgrim and his band went into the booth, and Hafr sate in the midst of it, and was talking to a man.
Asgrim went up to him, and bailed him well; he took it kindly, and bade him sit down.
"This I would ask of thee," said Asgrim, "that thou wouldst grant me and my sons-in-law help."
Hafr answered sharp and quick, and said he would have nothing to do with their troubles.
"But still I must ask who that pale-faced man is before whom four men go, so ill-looking, as though he had come out of the sea-crags."
"Never mind, milksop that thou art!" said Skarphedinn, "who I am, for I will dare to go forward wherever thou standest before me, and little would I fear though such striplings were in my path. 'Twere rather thy duty, too, to get back thy sister Swanlauga, whom Eydis Ironsword and his messmate Stediakoll took away out of thy house, but thou didst not dare to do aught against them."
"Let us go out," said Asgrim, "there is no hope of help here."
Then they went out to the booths of men of Modruvale, and asked whether Gudmund the Powerful were in the booth, but they were told he was.
Then they went into the booth. There was a high seat in the midst of it, and there sate Gudmund the Powerful.
Asgrim went and stood before him, and hailed him.
Gudmund took his greeting well, and asked him to sit down.
"I will not sit," said Asgrim, "but I wish to pray thee for help, for thou art a bold man and a mighty chief."
"I will not be against thee," said Gudmund, "but if I see fit to yield thee help, we may well talk of that afterwards," and so he treated them well and kindly in every way.
Asgrim thanked him for his words, and Gudmund said, "There is one man in your band at whom I have gazed for a while, and he seems to me more terrible than most men that I have seen."
"Which is he?" says Asgrim.
"Four go before him," says Gudmund; "dark brown is his hair, and pale is his face; tall of growth and sturdy. So quick and shifty in his manliness that I would rather have his following than that of ten other men; but yet the man is unlucky-looking."
"I know," said Skarphedinn, "that thou speakest at me, but it does not go in the same way as to luck with me and thee. I have blame, indeed, from the slaying of Hauskuld, the Whiteness Priest, as is fair and right; but both Thorkel Foulmouth and Thorir Helgi's son spread abroad bad stories about thee, and that has tried thy temper very much."
Then they went out, and Skarphedinn said, "Whither shall we go now?"
"To the booths of the men of Lightwater," said Asgrim.
There Thorkel Foulmouth (2) had set up his booth.
Thorkel Foulmouth had been abroad and worked his way to fame in other lands. He had slain a robber east in Jemtland's wood, and then he fared on east into Sweden, and was a messmate of Saurkvir the Churl, and they harried eastward ho; but to the east of Baltic side (3) Thorkel had to fetch water for them one evening; then he met a wild man of the woods (4), and struggled against him long; but the end of it was that he slew the wild man. Thence he fared east into Adalsyssla, and there he slew a flying fire-drake. After that he fared back to Sweden, and thence to Norway, and so out to Iceland, and let these deeds of derring do be carved over his shut bed, and on the stool before his high seat. He fought, too, on Lightwater way with his brothers against Gudmund the Powerful, and the men of Lightwater won the day. He and Thorir Helgi's son spread abroad bad stories about Gudmund. Thorkel said there was no man in Iceland with whom he would not fight in single combat, or yield an inch to, if need were. He was called Thorkel Foulmouth, because he spared no one with whom he had to do either in word or deed.
(1) Hafr was the son of Thorkel, the son of Eric of Gooddale, the son of Geirmund, the son of Hroald, the son of Eric Frizzlebeard who felled Gritgarth in Soknardale in Norway. (2) Thorkel was the son of Thorgeir the Priest, the son of Tjorfi, the son of Thorkel the Long; but the mother of Thorgeir was Thoruna, the daughter of Thorstein, the son of Sigmund, son of Bard of the Nip. The mother of Thorkel Foulmouth was named Gudrida; she was a daughter of Thorkel the Black of Hleidrargarth, the son of Thorir Tag, the son of Kettle the Seal, the son of Ornolf, the son of Bjornolf, the son of Grim Hairy-cheek, the son of Kettle Haeing, the son of Hallbjorn Halftroll. (3) "Baltic side." This probably means a part of the Finnish coast in the Gulf of Bothnia. See "Fornm. Sogur", xii. 264-5. (4) "Wild man of the woods." In the original Finngalkn, a fabulous monster, half man and half beast.
119. OF SKARPHEDINN AND THORKEL FOULMOUTH
Asgrim and his fellows went to Thorkel Foulmouth's booth, and Asgrim said then to his companions, "This booth Thorkel Foulmouth owns, a great champion, and it were worth much to us to get his help. We must here take heed in everything, for he is self- willed and bad tempered; and now I will beg thee, Skarphedinn, not to let thyself be led into our talk."
Skarphedinn smiled at that. He was so clad, he had on a blue kirtle and grey breeks, and black shoes on his feet, coming high up his leg; he had a silver belt about him, and that same axe in his hand with which he slew Thrain, and which he called the "ogress of war," a round buckler, and a silken band round his brow, and his hair brushed back behind his ears. He was the most soldier-like of men, and by that all men knew him. He went in his appointed place, and neither before nor behind.
Now they went into the booth and into its inner chamber. Thorkel sate in the middle of the cross-bench, and his men away from him on all sides. Asgrim hailed him, and Thorkel took the greeting well, and Asgrim said to him, "For this have we come hither, to ask help of thee, and that thou wouldst come to the Court with us."
"What need can ye have of my help," said Thorkel, "when ye have already gone to Gudmund; he must surely have promised thee his help?"
"We could not get his help," says Asgrim.
"Then Gudmund thought the suit likely to make him foes," said Thorkel; "and so no doubt it will be, for such deeds are the worst that have ever been done; nor do I know what can have driven you to come hither to me, and to think that I should be easier to undertake your suit than Gudmund, or that I would back a wrongful quarrel."