But he drew his two-handed sword and laid about him in such wise that twelve of the Sheriff's men lay dead before him. Then Robin found himself face to face with the Sheriff, and gave him a fierce blow; but his sword broke on the Sheriff's head, and he had shot away all his arrows. So the men closed round him, and bound his arms.
Ill news travels fast, and not many hours had passed before the foresters heard that their master was in prison. They wept and moaned and wrung their hands, and seemed to have gone suddenly mad, till Little John bade them pluck up their hearts and help him to deal with the monk.
The next morning he hid himself, and waited with a comrade, Much by name, till he saw the monk riding along the road, with a page behind him, carrying letters from the Sheriff to the King telling of Robin's capture.
'Whence come you?' asked Little John, going up to the monk, 'and can you give us tidings of a false outlaw named Robin Hood, who was taken prisoner yesterday? He robbed both me and my fellow of twenty marks, and glad should we be to hear of his undoing.'
'He robbed me, too,' said the monk, 'of a hundred pounds and more, but I have laid hands on him, and for that you may thank me.'
'I thank you so much that, with your leave, I and my friend will bear you company,' answered Little John; 'for in this forest are many wild men who own Robin Hood for leader, and you ride along this road at the peril of your life.'
They went on together, talking the while, when suddenly Little John seized the horse by the head and pulled down the monk by his hood.
'He was my master,' said Little John, 'That you have brought to bale, 'Never shall you come at the King 'For to tell him that tale.'
At these words the monk uttered loud cries, but Little John took no heed of him, and smote off his head, as Much had already smitten off that of the page, lest he should carry the news of what had happened back to the Sheriff. After this they buried the bodies, and, taking the letters, carried them themselves to the King.
When they arrived at the Palace, in the presence of the King, Little John fell on his knees and held the letter out. 'God save you, my liege lord,' he said; and the King unfolded the letters and read them.
'There never was yeoman in Merry England I longed so sore to see,' he said. 'But where is the monk that should have brought these letters?'
'He died by the way,' answered Little John; and the King asked no more questions.
Twenty pounds each he ordered his treasurer to give to Much and to Little John, and made them yeomen of the crown. After which he handed his own seal to Little John and ordered him to bear it to the Sheriff, and bid him without delay bring Robin Hood unhurt into his presence.
Little John did as the King bade him, and the Sheriff, at sight of the seal, gave him and Much welcome, and set a feast before them, at which John led him to drink heavily. Soon he fell asleep, and then the two outlaws stole softly to the prison. Here John ran the porter through the body for trying to stop his entrance, and, taking the keys, hunted through the cells until he had found Robin. Thrusting a sword into his hand Little John whispered to his master to follow him, and they crept along till they reached the lowest part of the city wall, from which they jumped and were safe and free.
'Now, farewell,' said Little John, 'I have done you a good turn for an ill.' 'Not so,' answered Robin Hood, 'I make you master of my men and me,' but Little John would hear nothing of it. 'I only wish to be your comrade, and thus it shall be,' he replied.
* * * * *
'Little John has beguiled us both,' said the King, when he heard of the adventure.
HOW THE KING VISITED ROBIN HOOD
Now the King had no mind that Robin Hood should do as he willed, and called his Knights to follow him to Nottingham, where they would lay plans how best to take captive the felon. Here they heard sad tales of Robin's misdoings, and how of the many herds of wild deer that had been wont to roam the forest in some places scarce one remained. This was the work of Robin Hood and his merry men, on whom the King swore vengeance with a great oath.
'I would I had this Robin Hood in my hands,' cried he, 'and an end should soon be put to his doings.' So spake the King; but an old Knight, full of days and wisdom, answered him and warned him that the task of taking Robin Hood would be a sore one, and best let alone. The King, who had seen the vanity of his hot words the moment that he had uttered them, listened to the old man, and resolved to bide his time, if perchance some day Robin should fall into his power.
All this time and for six weeks later that he dwelt in Nottingham the King could hear nothing of Robin, who seemed to have vanished into the earth with his merry men, though one by one the deer were vanishing too!
At last one day a forester came to the King, and told him that if he would see Robin he must come with him and take five of his best Knights. The King eagerly sprang up to do his bidding, and the six men clad in monks' clothes mounted their palfreys and rode down to the Abbey, the King wearing an Abbot's broad hat over his crown and singing as he passed through the greenwood.
Suddenly at the turn of a path Robin and his archers appeared before them.
'By your leave, Sir Abbot,' said Robin, seizing the King's bridle, 'you will stay a while with us. Know that we are yeomen, who live upon the King's deer, and other food have we none. Now you have abbeys and churches, and gold in plenty; therefore give us some of it, in the name of holy charity.'
'I have no more than forty pounds with me,' answered the King, 'but sorry I am it is not a hundred, for you should have had it all.'
So Robin took the forty pounds, and gave half to his men, and then told the King he might go on his way. 'I thank you,' said the King, 'but I would have you know that our liege lord has bid me bear you his seal, and pray you to come to Nottingham.'
At this message Robin bent his knee.
'I love no man in all the world So well as I do my King';
he cried, 'and Sir Abbot, for thy tidings, which fill my heart with joy, to-day thou shalt dine with me, for love of my King.' Then he led the King into an open place, and Robin took a horn and blew it loud, and at its blast seven score of young men came speedily to do his will.
'They are quicker to do his bidding than my men are to do mine,' said the King to himself.
* * * * *
Speedily the foresters set out the dinner, venison, and white bread, and the good red wine, and Robin and Little John served the King. 'Make good cheer,' said Robin, 'Abbot, for charity, and then you shall see what sort of life we lead, that so you may tell our King.'
When he had finished eating the archers took their bows, and hung rose-garlands up with a string, and every man was to shoot through the garland. If he failed, he should have a buffet on the head from Robin.
Good bowmen as they were, few managed to stand the test. Little John and Will Scarlett, and Much, all shot wide of the mark, and at length no one was left in but Robin himself and Gilbert of the White Hand. Then Robin fired his last bolt, and it fell three fingers from the garland. 'Master,' said Gilbert, 'you have lost, stand forth and take your punishment.'
'I will take it,' answered Robin, 'but, Sir Abbot, I pray you that I may suffer it at your hands.'
The King hesitated. 'It did not become him,' he said, 'to smite such a stout yeoman,' but Robin bade him smite on; so he turned up his sleeve, and gave Robin such a buffet on the head that he rolled upon the ground.
'There is pith in your arm,' said Robin. 'Come, shoot a main with me.' And the King took up a bow, and in so doing his hat fell back and Robin saw his face.
'My lord the King of England, now I know you well,' cried he, and he fell on his knees and all the outlaws with him. 'Mercy I ask, my lord the King, for my men and me.'
'Mercy I grant,' then said the King, 'and therefore I came hither, to bid you and your men leave the greenwood and dwell in my Court with me.'
'So shall it be,' answered Robin, 'I and my men will come to your Court, and see how your service liketh us.'
ROBIN AT COURT
'Have you any green cloth,' asked the King, 'that you could sell to me?' and Robin brought out thirty yards and more, and clad the King and his men in coats of Lincoln green. 'Now we will all ride to Nottingham,' said he, and they went merrily, shooting by the way.
The people of Nottingham saw them coming, and trembled as they watched the dark mass of Lincoln green drawing near over the fields. 'I fear lest our King be slain,' whispered one to another, 'and if Robin Hood gets into the town there is not one of us whose life is safe'; and every man, woman, and child made ready to fly.
The King laughed out when he saw their fright, and called them back. Right glad were they to hear his voice, and they feasted and made merry. A few days later the King returned to London, and Robin dwelt in his Court for twelve months. By that time he had spent a hundred pounds, for he gave largely to the Knights and Squires he met, and great renown he had for his open-handedness.
But his men, who had been born under the shadow of the forest, could not live amid streets and houses. One by one they slipped away, till only Little John and Will Scarlett were left. Then Robin himself grew home-sick, and at the sight of some young men shooting thought upon the time when he was accounted the best archer in all England, and went straightway to the King and begged for leave to go on a pilgrimage to Bernisdale.
'I may not say you nay,' answered the King, 'seven nights you may be gone and no more.' And Robin thanked him, and that evening set out for the greenwood.
It was early morning when he reached it at last, and listened thirstily to the notes of singing birds, great and small.
'It seems long since I was here,' he said to himself; 'it would give me great joy if I could bring down a deer once more'; and he shot a great hart, and blew his horn, and all the outlaws of the forest came flocking round him. 'Welcome,' they said, 'our dear master, back to the greenwood tree,' and they threw off their caps and fell on their knees before him in delight at his return.
THE DEATH OF ROBIN HOOD
For two and twenty years Robin Hood dwelt in Sherwood Forest after he had run away from Court, and naught that the King could say would tempt him back again. At the end of that time he fell ill; he neither ate nor drank, and had no care for the things he loved. 'I must go to merry Kirkley,' said he, 'and have my blood let.'
But Will Scarlett, who heard his words, spoke roundly to him. 'Not by my leave, nor without a hundred bowmen at your back. For there abides an evil man, who is sure to quarrel with you, and you will need us badly.'
'If you are afraid, Will Scarlett, you may stay at home, for me,' said Robin, 'and in truth no man will I take with me, save Little John only, to carry my bow.'
'Bear your bow yourself, master, and I will bear mine, and we will shoot for a penny as we ride.'
'Very well, let it be so,' said Robin, and they went on merrily enough till they came to some women weeping sorely near a stream.
'What is the matter, good wives?' said Robin Hood.
'We weep for Robin Hood and his dear body, which to-day must let blood,' was their answer.
'Pray why do you weep for me?' asked Robin; 'the Prioress is the daughter of my aunt, and my cousin, and well I know she would not do me harm for all the world.' And he passed on, with Little John at his side.
Soon they reached the Priory, where they were let in by the Prioress herself, who bade them welcome heartily, and not the less because Robin handed her twenty pounds in gold as payment for his stay, and told her if he cost her more she was to let him know of it. Then she began to bleed him, and for long Robin said nothing, giving her credit for kindness and for knowing her art, but at length so much blood came from him that he suspected treason. He tried to open the door, for she had left him alone in the room, but it was locked fast, and while the blood was still flowing he could not escape from the casement. So he lay down for many hours, and none came near him, and at length the blood stopped. Slowly Robin uprose and staggered to the lattice-window, and blew thrice on his horn; but the blast was so low, and so little like what Robin was wont to give, that Little John, who was watching for some sound, felt that his master must be nigh to death.
At this thought he started to his feet, and ran swiftly to the Priory. He broke the locks of all the doors that stood between him and Robin Hood, and soon entered the chamber where his master lay, white, with nigh all his blood gone from him.
'I crave a boon of you, dear master,' cried Little John.
'And what is that boon,' said Robin Hood, 'which Little John begs of me?' And Little John answered, 'It is to burn fair Kirkley Hall, and all the nunnery.'
But Robin Hood, in spite of the wrong that had been done him, would not listen to Little John's cry for revenge. 'I never hurt a woman in all my life,' he said, 'nor a man that was in her company. But now my time is done, that know I well; so give me my bow and a broad arrow, and wheresoever it falls there shall my grave be digged. Lay a green sod under my head and another at my feet, and put beside me my bow, which ever made sweetest music to my ears, and see that green and gravel make my grave. And, Little John, take care that I have length enough and breadth enough to lie in.' So he loosened his last arrow from the string and then died, and where the arrow fell Robin was buried.
THE STORY OF GRETTIR THE STRONG
THE STORY OF GRETTIR THE STRONG
About nine hundred years ago, more or less, there lived in Iceland, at a homestead called Biarg, two old folks named Asmund the Greyhaired and his wife Asdis. At the time our story begins they had two sons, Atli the eldest, and Grettir, besides daughters; sixteen years later another son was born to them, named Illugi. Atli was a general favourite, in disposition good-natured and yielding, in this the very opposite of Grettir, who held to his own way, and was, besides, silent, reserved, and rough in manner. But he is described as fair to look on, broad-faced, short-faced, red-haired and much freckled, not of quick growth in his childhood. There was little love lost between him and his father, but his mother loved the boy right well. So matters sped till Grettir was ten years old, when, one day, his father told him to go and watch the geese on the farm, fifty of them, besides many goslings. The boy went, but with an ill grace, and shortly afterwards the geese were found all dead or dying, with many of their necks wrung, at which Asmund was mightily vexed. Again, one evening, being cold, he asked the boy to warm him by rubbing his back, but Grettir, taking up a wool-carder's comb, dropped it down his father's back. The old man was furiously angry, and would have beaten Grettir, had he not run away, while Asdis, though vexed, tried her best to make peace between them.
Next, Grettir was sent to tend the horses, amongst which was a favourite mare called Keingala, who always preferred the coldest and windiest spots to graze in; the boy was ill-clad and half-starved with cold, so, by way of paying Keingala out for her uncomfortable choice of pasture, he drew a sharp knife right across her shoulder and along both sides of her back. When Asmund next saw the mare and stroked her back, the hide came off beneath his hand. He taxed Grettir with the deed, but the boy sneered mockingly and said nothing. Keingala had to be killed. Such and many other scurvy tricks did Grettir play in his childhood, but meanwhile he grew in body and strength, though none as yet knew him to be strong beyond his years.
This first came to be known shortly afterwards at Midfirth Water, where some ball games were being held on the ice. Grettir was now fourteen; and was matched to play with one Audun, several years older than himself. Audun struck the ball over Grettir's head, so that he could not catch it, and it bounded far away along the ice; Grettir brought it back, and in a rage threw it at Audun's forehead; Audun struck at him with his bat, but Grettir closed with him and wrestled, for a long time holding his own; but Audun was a man of full strength, and at last prevailed. Grettir's next performance brought him into more trouble. Asmund had a bosom friend named Thorkel Krafla, who paid him a visit at Biarg on his way to the Thing, or Icelandic parliament, with a retinue of sixty followers, for Thorkel was a great chief, and a man of substance. Each traveller had to carry his own provisions for the journey, including Grettir, who joined Thorkel's company. Grettir's saddle turned over, however, and his meal bag was lost, nor could he find it, notwithstanding a long search. Just then he saw a man who was in like plight with himself, having also lost his meal sack: his name was Skeggi, one of Thorkel's followers. All of a sudden Skeggi darted off, and Grettir saw him stoop and pick up a mealsack, which Skeggi claimed as his own. Grettir was not satisfied, and they fought for it; Skeggi cut at Grettir with his axe, but he wrenched it out of his hand, and clove his head in twain. Thorkel then allowed Grettir his choice: whether to go on to the Thing, or return home. He chose the first alternative; but a lawsuit was set on foot by the heirs of the dead man. Thorkel paid the necessary fines, but Grettir was outlawed, banished from the country, and had to stay abroad three years.
Asmund entrusted his son to the keeping of a man called Haflidi, the captain of a ship that was sailing for Norway; father and son parted with but little sorrow between them, but Asdis accompanied the boy part of the way, and gave him a sword which had been owned by Jokul, her grandfather; for which Grettir thanked her well, saying he deemed it better than things of more worth, so he came to the ship. With the sailors he was no more popular than he had been elsewhere, for he would work only by fits and starts, as he pleased; besides, he had a gift of making very biting rhymes, which he indulged in at the expense of all on board. But when he did condescend to work he was a match for any four, or, as some say, for any eight men by reason of his strength. After they had sailed some way east over the sea, and had much thick weather, one night they ran aground on a rock near an island which turned out to be Haramsey, off Norway. The lord of that island was called Thorfinn, son of Karr the Old. When day dawned he sent down a boat to rescue the shipwrecked sailors, who were saved, with their merchandise, but their vessel broke up. Grettir remained with Thorfinn some time; and was fond of rambling about the island, going from house to house; and he made friends with one Audun, not, of course, the one who has already been mentioned.
One night the two noticed a great blaze on a ness or headland, and Grettir asked the reason of it, adding, that in his country such a fire would only burn above hidden treasure. Audun told him he had better not inquire too closely into the matter, which, however, as one might expect, only whetted his curiosity the more. He was told accordingly that on that headland Karr the Old was buried; that at first father and son had but one farm on the island, but since Karr died he had so haunted the place that all the farmers who owned land were driven away. Thorfinn, therefore, now held the whole island, and to such good purpose, that whosoever enjoyed his protection was not worried by the ghost. Grettir determined to investigate, and providing himself with spades and tools, set off with Audun to dig into the 'barrow,' as these mounds of earth are called, which northern races and others used to raise over their dead. Leaving Audun to guard the rope by which he descended, Grettir found the interior of the cavern very dark, and a smell therein none of the sweetest. First he saw horse-bones, then he stumbled against the arm of a high chair wherein was a man sitting; great treasures of gold and silver lay heaped together, and under the man's feet a small chest full of silver. All this Grettir carried towards the rope, but while doing so he was suddenly seized in a strong grip; whereupon he let go the treasure and rushed at the Thing which lived in the barrow; and now they set on one another unsparingly enough. There was a battle, first one, then the other gaining a slight advantage, but at last the barrow-wight fell over on his back with a huge din; whereupon Grettir drew his sword, 'Jokul's gift,' and cut off Karr's head, laying it beside the thigh, for, in this way only, men said, could a ghost be laid. Grettir took the treasure and brought it to Thorfinn, who was not ill-pleased that his father's tomb had been rifled, for he held that wealth hidden in the ground was wealth wrongly placed, in which we shall probably agree with him.
After the events just described, Thorfinn went away with thirty of his men to one of his farms on the mainland, in order to keep the Yule-tide feast (Christmas). His wife and daughter, the latter of whom was ill in bed, remained at home. Now Thorfinn, some time previously, had taken a leading part in passing a law, the object of which was that all berserkers should be outlawed. These berserkers were roving bands of pirates, brave fighters, but respecting no man's property; on the contrary, their chief object was to lay violent hands on women and goods to which they had no title. It is easily to be understood that Thorfinn, in consequence of his action, had incurred their bitterest enmity. One day Grettir observed a ship approaching, rowed by twelve men; it landed near Thorfinn's boat-stand, wherein was his boat which was never launched by less than thirty men; nevertheless these twelve pushed it down to the water's edge, laid their own boat upon it, and bore it into the boat-stand.
Grettir's suspicions being aroused, he went down, and after giving them a hearty welcome, asked who they were. The leader told him he was known as Thorir Paunch; that his brother was Ogmund, and the rest fellows of theirs. Grettir told them they could not have come at a better time, if, as he thought, they had some grudge against Thorfinn, for he was away from home, and would not be back till Yule was past, but his wife and daughter were in the house. 'Now am I well enough minded to take revenge on Thorfinn,' said Thorir, 'and this man is ready enough of tidings, and no need have we to drag the words out of him.' So they all went up to the farm, but the women were distracted with fear, thinking that Grettir had played false. He, however, induced the berserkers to lay aside their arms, and when evening was come, brought them beer in abundance, and entertained them with tales and merry jests. After a while he proposed to lead them to Thorfinn's treasure house: nothing loth they followed readily; when they were all inside he managed to slip out and lock them in. He then ran back for weapons: a broad-headed barbed spear, his sword and helmet. Now the berserkers knew they had been entrapped; breaking down the panelling of a wall they rushed out into the passage, where in the nick of time arrived Grettir, who thrust Thorir through with his spear; Ogmund the Evil was pressing close behind, so that the same thrust which pierced the one transfixed the other also. The remainder defended themselves with logs and whatever lay ready to hand, or tried to escape; but Grettir slew all of them save two, who for the moment escaped, but were found next day under a rock, dead from cold and wounds.
Shortly afterwards Thorfinn returned, and when he was told of the wondrous deeds of Grettir, who had thus saved the honour of his house, he bade him come to him whenever he needed aid; and the two were now close friends; moreover, Grettir's fame began to spread abroad, and he became renowned all over Norway. Leaving his friend Thorfinn, he took passage in a ship belonging to one Thorkel, who lived in Heligoland. He welcomed Grettir heartily to his house, but with a man called Biorn, who lived there with him, the Icelander could by no means agree, nor indeed did others find it easy, for Biorn's temper was hasty and difficult.
It happened that a savage bear wrought havoc at that time, being so grim that it spared neither man nor beast, so one night Biorn set out to slay it. The bear was in its cave, in the track leading to which Biorn lay down, with his shield over him, to wait for the beast to stir abroad as its manner was. But the beast suspected the presence of the man, and was slow to move; delayed so long indeed that Biorn fell asleep. Now the bear became brisk enough, sallied forth, hooked its claws in Biorn's shield, and threw it over the cliff. Biorn woke suddenly and ran, just escaping its clutch; but the whole proceedings had been watched, and he had to endure many taunts and jeers. Grettir went afterwards and killed the beast, though not without a terrible struggle, in which they both fell over the rocks, but the bear was underneath, and Grettir was able to stab it to the heart. More than ever then on account of this did ill-will against Grettir rankle in Biorn's breast. He sailed west to England, as master of Thorkel's ship; when he returned he met Grettir at a place called Drontheim-firth. The two took up their old quarrel again, fought on the strand, and Biorn was killed.
At that time Earl Svein was ruling over Norway as regent, the rightful king being but a boy. At the court in the Earl's service was Biorn's brother, Hiarandi, who was exceedingly wroth when he heard of Biorn's death, and begged the Earl's assistance in the matter. Svein therefore sent for Thorfinn and Grettir, but Hiarandi would not agree to any terms proposed, and lay in wait to take Grettir's life. With five others he sprang out from a certain court gate, dealt a blow at him with an axe, and wounded him; but Grettir and a companion turned on them and slew them all save one, who escaped and told the Earl. There remained yet another brother of Biorn and Hiarandi to take up the feud, but he fared no better, and was also slain. Earl Svein was now 'wondrous wroth' at this tale, for said he, 'Grettir has now slain three brothers, one at the heels of the other, and I will not thus bring wrongs into the land so as to take compensation for such unmeasured misdeeds'; so he would not listen to any proposals by Thorfinn to pay blood-money. However, many more added their words to Thorfinn's, and prayed the Earl to spare Grettir's life, for, after all, he had acted in self-defence, and if his life were to be forfeit, there would be slayings throughout the whole land. These arguments at length prevailed, Grettir was allowed to go in peace, and went back to Iceland, the term of his outlawry being expired.
Being now grown to man's estate, and having waxed greatly in bodily strength, he roamed about the country to see if there were any with whom he might match himself, and took it very ill that he found none. About this time, strange rumours were flying about to the effect that a farm belonging to one Thorhall was haunted. Thorhall was an honest man and very rich in cattle and livestock, but could hardly get a shepherd to stay in his service; whereat, being sore perplexed, he went for advice to Skapti the Lawman. Skapti promised to get him a shepherd called Glam, a Swede, for which Thorhall thanked him. On his return he missed two dun cows, went to look for them, and on the way met a man carrying faggots, who said his name was Glam. He was great of stature, uncouth in appearance, his eyes grey and glaring, and his hair wolf-grey. Thorhall told him Skapti had recommended him, adding that the place was haunted, but Glam made light of this: 'Such bugs will not scare me,' quoth he. There was a church at Thorhall-stead, but Glam loathed church-song, being godless, foul-tempered and surly, and no man could abide him, Thorhall's wife least of all. So time wore on till Christmas-eve, when Glam called for his meat, but was told that no Christian man would eat meat on that day. He insisted; and the housewife gave it, though prophesying evil would come of it. Glam took the food and went out growling and grumbling.
He was heard in the early morning on the hills, but not as the day wore on; then a snowstorm came, and Glam returned not that night nor yet the day following, so search parties were sent out, who found the sheep scattered wide about in fens, beaten down by the storm, or strayed up into the mountains. Then they came to a great beaten place high up in a valley, where it seemed as though there had been wrestling, stones and earth torn up, and signs of a severe struggle; looking closer, they found Glam dead, his body blue and swollen to the size of an ox. They tried to bring the body down to the church, but could only move it a very little way; they returned, therefore, and told how they had tracked steps as great as if a cask bottom had been stamped down, leading from the beaten place up to beneath sheer rocks high up the valley, and along the track great stains of blood. From this men thought that the evil wight which had killed Glam had got such wounds as had sufficed for him, but none ever could say for certain.
The second day after Christmas men were sent again to bring Glam's body to the church, but though horses were put to drag it, they could not move the corpse except down hill, so Glam was buried where he lay. Now within a little time men became aware that Glam lay not quiet; he walked well-nigh night and day, and took to riding the house roofs at night, so much so that he nearly broke them in. The folk were exceedingly afraid thereat; many fainted or went mad, while others incontinently fled there and then. Another shepherd, big and strong, came to take Glam's place; he was nowise dismayed by the hauntings, but deemed it good sport rather than not when Glam rode the house-roofs. But when another Christmas came the shepherd was missed; search was made, and he was found on the hill-side by Glam's cairn, his neck broken, and every bone in his body smashed. Then Glam waxed more mighty than ever; the cattle bellowed and roared, and gored each other; the byre cracked, and a cattle-man who had been long in Thorhall's service was found dead, his head in one stall and feet in another. None could go up the dale with horse or hound, because it was straightway slain, and it was no easy task to get servants to remain at the steading.
Things had come to this pass when Grettir rode over to Thorhall-stead, where the owner gave him good welcome, though warning him that few cared to stay long under his roof. Grettir's horse was locked up in the stable, and the first night nothing happened; but on the second the stable was broken into, the horse dragged out to the door, and every bone of him broken. Next night Grettir sat up to watch; and when a third of the night was past, he heard a terrible din as of one riding the roof, and driving his heels against the thatch so that every rafter cracked again. He went to the door, and saw Glam, whose head, as it appeared to him, was monstrously big. Glam came slowly in and took hold of a bundle lying on the seat, but Grettir planted his foot against a beam, seized the bundle also, and pulled against Glam with such strength that the wrapper was rent between them. Glam wondered who might this be that pulled with such strength against him, when Grettir rushed in, seized him round the waist, and tried to force him down backwards; but he shrank all aback by reason of Glam's strength, which, indeed, seemed to be almost greater than his own. A wondrous hard wrestling bout was that; but at last Grettir, gathering up his strength for a sudden effort, drove against Glam's breast, at the same moment pushing with both feet against the half-sunken stone that stood in the threshold of the door. For this Glam was not ready, therefore he reeled backwards and spun against the door, so that his shoulders caught against the upper part of it; the roof burst—both rafters and frozen thatch—and he fell open-armed backwards out of the house with Grettir over him.
It was bright moonlight without, with drift scudding over the moon; at that instant the moon's face cleared, and Glam glared up against her. By that sight only Grettir confessed himself dismayed beyond all that he had ever seen; nor, for weariness and fear together, could he draw his sword to strike off Glam's head withal. But Glam was crafty beyond other ghosts, so that now he spoke: 'Exceeding eager hast thou been to meet me, Grettir, but it will be deemed no wonder if this meeting work thee harm. This must I tell thee, that thou now hast but half the strength and manhood which was thy lot if thou hadst not met me; I may not take from thee the strength that was thine before, but this may I rule—that thou shalt never be mightier than thou now art. Hitherto thou hast earned fame by thy deeds, but henceforth will wrongs and manslayings fall on thee, and the most part of thy doings will turn to thy woe and ill-hap, an outlaw shalt thou be made, and ever shall it be thy lot to dwell abroad. Therefore this fate I lay upon thee, ever in those days to see these eyes of mine with thine eyes, and thou wilt find it hard to be alone, and that shall drag thee unto death.' Grettir's wits came back to him, and therewith he drew his short sword, cut off Glam's head, and laid it at his thigh. Glam's body was burnt, the ashes put into a beast's skin and buried. Thorhall, overjoyed at the deliverance, treated Grettir handsomely, giving him a good horse and decent clothes, for his own had been torn to pieces in the struggle. Grettir's fame spread far abroad for this deed, and none was deemed his equal for boldness and prowess. Yet Glam's curse began already to work, for Grettir dared not go out after nightfall, for then he seemed to see all kinds of horrors. It became a proverb in the land that Glam gives Glam-sight to those who see things otherwise than as they are, which we now express by the word 'glamour.'
Now Grettir had a strong wish to go to Norway, for Earl Svein had fled the country after being beaten in a battle, and Olaf the Saint held sole rule as king. There was also a man named Thorir of Garth who had been in Norway, and was a friend of the king; this man was anxious to send out his sons to become the king's men. The sons accordingly sailed, and came to a haven at Stead, where they remained some days, during stormy weather. Grettir also had sailed after them, and the crew bore down on Stead, being hard put to it by reason of foul weather, snow and frost; and they were all worn, weary and wet. To save expense they did not put into the harbour, but lay to beside a dyke, where, though perished with cold, they could not light a fire. As the night wore on they saw that a great fire was burning on the opposite side of the sound up which they had sailed, and fell to talking and wondering whether by possibility any man might fetch that fire. Grettir said little, but made ready for swimming; he had on but a cape and sail-cloth breeches. He girt up the cape and tied a rope strongly round his middle, and had with him a cask; then he leaped overboard and swam across. There he saw a house, and heard much talking and noise, so he turned towards it, and found it to be a house of refuge for coasting sailors; twelve men were inside sitting round a great fire on the floor, drinking, and these were the sons of Thorir. When Grettir burst in he knew not who was there, he himself seemed huge of bulk, for his cape was frozen all over into ice; therefore the men took him to be some evil troll, and smote at him with anything that lay to hand; but Grettir put all blows aside, snatched up some firebrands, and swam therewith back to the ship. Grettir's comrades were mightily pleased, and bepraised him and his journey and his prowess.
Next morning they crossed the sound, but found no house, only a great heap of ashes, and therein many bones of men. They asked if Grettir had done this misdeed; but he said it had happened even as he had expected. The men said wherever they came that Grettir had burnt those people; and the news soon spread that the victims were the sons of Thorir of Garth. Grettir therefore now grew into such bad repute that he was driven from the ship, and scarcely anyone would say a good word for him. As matters were so hopeless he determined to explain all to the king, and offer to free himself from the slander by handling hot iron without being burned. His ill-luck still pursued him, for when all was ready in the church where the ceremony was about to take place, a wild-looking lad, or, as some said, an unclean spirit, started up from no one knew where, and spoke such impertinent words to Grettir that he felled him with a blow of his fist. After this the king would not allow the ceremony to go on: 'Thou art far too luckless a man to abide with us, and if ever man has been cursed, of all men must thou have been,' said he; and advised him to go back to Iceland in the summer. Meanwhile Asmund the Greyhaired died, and was buried at Biarg, and Atli succeeded to his goods, but was soon afterwards basely murdered by a neighbouring chief who bore him ill-will for his many friendships, and grudged him his possessions. Thorir of Garth brought a suit at the Thing to have Grettir outlawed for the burning of his sons; but Skapti the Lawman thought it scarcely fair to condemn a man unheard, and spoke these wise words: 'A tale is half told if one man tells it, for most folk are readiest to bring their stories to the worser side when there are two ways of telling them.' Thorir, however, was a man of might, and had powerful friends; these between them pushed on the suit, and with a high hand rather than according to law obtained their decree. Thus was Grettir outlawed for a deed of which he was innocent. These three pieces of bad news greeted him all at once on his return to Iceland: his father's death, his brother's murder, and his own outlawry.
One of the first things he did was to avenge his brother's murder, but there was a price on his head, and he wandered about from place to place in the wilderness. On one occasion, as he lay asleep, some men of Icefirth came upon him, and though they were ten in number they had much ado to take him; but at last they bound him, and put up a gallows, for they intended to hang him. Fortunately for Grettir, at that moment there rode along the wife of the ruling chief of that district, who interposed and set him free, on his promise not to stir up strife in that neighbourhood. His next adventure was at a place called Ernewaterheath where he had built himself a hut, and lived by fishing in the river. There were other outlaws, who, on hearing that Grettir was in the neighbourhood, made a bargain with one Grim that he should slay him. Grim begged Grettir to take him into his hut, which he agreed to do, as he was so frightened when alone in the dark; nevertheless, having his suspicions of the man, he kept his short sword always within reach. One day Grim came back from fishing, and thought Grettir was asleep, for he made no movement when Grim suddenly stamped his foot; thinking he now had his chance, he stole on tip-toe to the bedside, took Grettir's short sword and unsheathed it. But at the very moment when Grim had it raised aloft to stab Grettir, the supposed sleeping man sprang up, knocked Grim down, wrenched the sword out of his hand and killed him. Next, Grettir's enemy Thorir of Garth heard of his whereabouts, and prevailed upon one Thorir Redbeard to attempt to slay him. So Redbeard laid his plans, with the object, as it is quaintly phrased, of 'winning' Grettir. He, however, declined to be 'won,' for Redbeard fared no better than Grim. He tried to slay the outlaw while he was swimming back from his nets, but Grettir sank like a stone and swam along the bottom till he reached a place where he could land unseen by Redbeard. He then came on him from behind, while Redbeard was still looking for his appearance out of the water; heaved him over his head, and caused him to fall so heavily that his weapon fell out of his hand. Grettir seized it and smote off his head.
Thorir of Garth was anything but satisfied with the result of his endeavour to have Grettir killed, and gathered together a force of nearly eighty men to take him; but this time Grettir was forewarned by a friend, and took up a position in a very narrow pass. When Thorir's men came up and attacked him he slew them one by one till he had killed eighteen and wounded many more, so that Thorir said, 'Lo, now we have to do with trolls and not men,' and bade the rest retire. Shortly afterwards he collected some twenty men and rode off again to search for Grettir. This time he was within an ace of coming upon the outlaw unawares; but Grettir and a friend had just time to conceal themselves when Thorir rode by. After the party had passed, an idea occurred to Grettir. 'They will not deem their journey good if we be not found,' he said; so, though much against the advice of his friend, he disguised himself in a slouch hat and other clothes, took a staff and intercepted Thorir's band at a point where he knew they must pass. They asked him whether he had seen any men riding over the heath. 'Yes,' he said, 'the men you seek I have seen, and you have missed them only by a very little; they are there on the south side of these bogs to the left.' On hearing this, off galloped Thorir and his men, but the bogs were a sort of quagmire, wherein the horses stuck fast; and remained wallowing and struggling for the greater part of the day, while the riders 'gave to the devil withal the wandering churl who had so befooled them.'
Grettir now deemed it advisable to go about the country in disguise, and, under the name of Guest, came to a place called Sandheaps, much haunted by trolls. Two winters before he arrived the husband of the good-wife had mysteriously disappeared during her absence, none knew whither; her name was Steinvor. A loud crashing had been heard in the night about the man's bed, but the folk were too frightened to rise and find out the cause; in the morning Steinvor came back, but her husband was gone. Again, the next year, while she was away at church, a house-servant remained behind; but he too vanished, and bloodstains were found about the outer door. Grettir was told of this when he came to Sandheaps on Christmas-eve, staying there under the name of Guest. Steinvor, as usual, went away to worship, and remained absent that night, leaving Grettir at home. He sat up to watch, and about midnight he heard a great noise outside, shortly after which there came into the hall a huge troll-wife, with a trough in one hand and a monstrous chopper in the other. Seeing Grettir she rushed at him, but he closed with her, and there was a terrible wrestling match. She was the stronger, and dragged him from the house, breaking down all the fittings of the door; down she dragged him to the river which flowed through the farm, and Grettir, exhausted with the struggle, was well-nigh at the limit of his endurance. Making one last great effort, he managed to draw his short sword and strike off the hag's arm at the shoulder; then was he free, and she fell into the gulf and was carried down the rapids. This, at least, was Grettir's story; but the men of the neighbourhood say that day dawned on them while they were still wrestling, and that therefore the troll burst; for this trolls do, according to Norse tradition, if they happen to be caught above ground by the rising sun.
Steinvor came back with the priest, who asked Grettir where he thought the two men were who had disappeared. He replied they were, he thought, in the gulf; but if the priest would help him he would find out. The priest agreed. Accordingly, taking a rope with them, they followed the stream down to a waterfall where they saw a cave up under the cliff—a sheer rock the cliff was, nearly fifty fathoms down to the water. The priest's heart misgave him, but Grettir determined to make the attempt; so, driving a peg into the ground, he made the rope fast to it and bade the priest watch it; then he tied a stone to the end and let it sink into the water. When all was ready, he took his short sword and leapt into the water. Disappearing from the priest's view, he dived under the waterfall—and hard work it was, for the whirlpool was strong; but he reached a projecting rock on which he rested awhile. A great cave was under the waterfall, and the river fell over it from the sheer rocks. Grettir climbed into the cave, where he found a great fire flaming, and a giant sitting beside it, huge and horrible to look upon. He smote at the new-comer with a broadsword, but Grettir avoided the blow, and returned such a mighty stroke with his own sword that the giant fell dead at once. The priest on the bank, seeing blood washed down by the swirling waters, and thinking Grettir was killed, fled in alarm and spread the report of his death. Grettir meanwhile stayed in the cave till far on into the night; he found there the bones of two men, which he put in a bag; swimming with them to the rope, he shook it, but as the priest had gone he had to draw himself up by strength of hands. He took the bones to the church, where he left them, returning himself to Sandheaps. When the priest saw Grettir, the latter taxed him with breach of faith in quitting the rope, which charge the priest must needs admit; however, no great harm had resulted, the bones were buried, and the district was freed from hauntings. Grettir received much credit, in so far as he had cleansed the land from these evil wights who had wrought the loss of the men there in the dale.
Our hero remained in hiding at Sandheaps, but Thorir of Garth heard of him and sent men to take him. Grettir accordingly left the place and went to Maddervales, to Gudmund the Rich, of whom he begged shelter. Gudmund, however, dared not harbour him, but advised him to seek shelter in an isle called Drangey in Skagafirth. The place, he said, was excellent for defence, for without ladders no one could land. Grettir agreed to go, and went home to Biarg to bid his mother farewell. His brother, Illugi, was now fifteen years old, a handsome boy, and he overheard Grettir's conversation with his mother about his proposed departure to Drangey. 'I will go with thee, brother,' said he, 'though I know not that I shall be of any help to thee, unless that I shall be ever true to thee, nor run from thee whiles thou standest up.' Asdis bade them farewell, warning Grettir against sorcery; yet well she knew that she would never see either of her sons again. They left Biarg, going north towards Drangey; and on the way met with a big ill-clad loon called Thorbiorn Noise, a man too lazy to work, and a great swaggerer; but they allowed him to join them.
Now Drangey was an island whose cliffs rose sheer up from the sea; there was good pasturage on it, and many sheep and cattle, owned by about twenty men, who amongst them held the island in shares. Two men called Hialti and Thorbiorn Angle, being the richest men, had the largest shares. When the men got ready to fetch their beasts from the island for slaughter, they found it occupied, which they thought strange; but supposing the men in possession to be shipwrecked sailors, they rowed to the place where the ladders were, but found these drawn up. Persuasion was of no avail, so the baffled owners retired, and in one way or another made over their respective shares to Angle, on the understanding that he would free the island from these unwelcome intruders. The months wore on, and brought no change; but now Grettir said he would go to the mainland and get victuals. Disguising himself, he carried out his plan, leaving Illugi and Noise to guard the ladders. Sports were being held at a place called Heron-ness, and the stranger was asked if he would wrestle. 'Time was,' he said, 'when he had been fond of it, but he had now given it up; yet, upon condition of peace and safe conduct being assured to him until such time as he returned home, he was willing to try a bout.' This was agreed to, whereupon he cast aside his disguise, and stood revealed as Grettir the outlaw. All saw that they had been beguiled, yet, for their oath's sake, they could do nothing. First Hialti alone tried to throw Grettir, but met with nothing but a mighty fall; then he and his brother Angle tried together, but though each of them had the strength of two men they were no match for their antagonist, and had to retire discomfited.
Then Grettir went back to Drangey. Two winters had now been spent on the island, but firewood was hard to come by; Noise was sent down to gather drifted logs from the sea, but he grew lazier and grumbled more and more every day, letting the fire out on one occasion, whereas his duty was to keep it burning. Grettir determined to swim to the mainland and bring back wood; in this he was successful, though the distance was a sea mile, whereat all said his prowess both on land and sea was marvellous. Meanwhile Angle, having been baffled in a second attempt to land and drive out Grettir, induced a young man called Hoering, an expert climber, to try to scale the cliffs, promising him if successful a very large reward. Angle rowed him over, and Hoering did, indeed, scale the precipice, but young Illugi was on the watch, chased him round the island, and Hoering, sore pressed, leapt over the cliff and was killed.
About this time, Grettir having been so many years in outlawry, many thought that the sentence should be annulled; and it was deemed certain that he would be pardoned in the next ensuing summer; but they who had owned the island were exceedingly discontented at the prospect of his acquittal, and urged Angle either to give back the island or slay Grettir. Now Angle had a foster-mother, Thurid; she was old and cunning in witchcraft, which she had learnt in her youth; for though Christianity had now been established in the island, yet there remained still many traces of heathendom. Angle and she put out in a ten-oared boat to pick a quarrel with Grettir, of which the upshot was that the outlaw threw a huge stone into the boat, where the witch lay covered up with wrappings, and broke her leg. Angle had to endure many taunts at the failure of all his attempts to outplay Grettir. One day, Thurid was limping along by the sea, when she found a large log, part of the trunk of a tree. She cut a flat space on it, carved magic characters, or runes, on the root, reddened them with her blood, and sang witch-words over them; then she walked backwards round it, and widdershins—which means in a direction against the sun—and thrust the log out to sea under many strong spells, in such wise that it should drive out to Drangey. In the teeth of the wind it went, till it came to the island, where Illugi and Grettir saw it, but knowing it boded them ill, they thrust it out from shore; yet next morning was it there again, nearer the ladders than before; but again they drove it out to sea. The days wore on to summer, and a gale sprang up with wet; the brothers being short of firewood, Noise was sent down to the shore to look for drift, grumbling at being ordered out in bad weather, when, lo! the log was there again, and he fetched it up.
Grettir was angry with Noise, and not noticing what the log was, hewed at it with his axe, which glanced from the wood and cut into his leg, right down to the bone. Illugi bound it up, and at first it seemed as though the wound was healed. But after a time his leg took to paining Grettir, and became blue and swollen, so that he could not sleep, and Illugi watched by him night and day. At this time Thurid advised Angle to make another attempt on the island; he therefore gathered a force of a dozen men together, and set sail in very foul weather, but no sooner had they reached open sea than the wind lulled, so they came to Drangey at dusk. Noise had been told to guard the ladders, and had gone out as usual with very ill grace; he thought to himself he would not draw them up, so he lay down there and fell asleep, remaining all day long in slumber till Angle came to the island. Mounting the ladders, he and his men found Noise snoring at the top; arousing him roughly, they learned from him what had happened, and how Grettir lay sick in the hut with Illugi tending him. Angle thrashed Noise soundly for betraying his master, and the men made for the hut. Illugi guarded the door with the greatest valour, and when they thrust at him with spears he struck off all the spear heads from the shafts. But some of the men leapt up on to the roof, tore away the thatch, and broke one of the rafters. Grettir thrust up with a spear and killed one man, but he could not rise from his knee by reason of his wound; the others leapt down and attacked him; young Illugi threw his shield over him and made defence for both in most manly wise. Grettir killed another man, whose body fell upon him, so that he could not use his sword; wherefore Angle at that moment was able to stab him between the shoulders, and many another wound they gave him till they thought he was dead. Angle took Grettir's short sword and struck at the head of the body with such force that a piece of the sword-blade was nicked out. So died Grettir, the bravest man of all who ever dwelt in Iceland.
The gallant young Illugi was offered his life by Angle if he would promise not to try to avenge Grettir; but he scorned the offer, and was slain next day; the brothers were buried in a cairn on the island. Noise was taken aboard the boat, but bore himself so ill that he too was killed. Now Angle thought to claim from Thorir of Garth the reward set upon Grettir's head; but the murderer was very ill spoken of in the land: first, because he had used sorcery, which was against the law; next, that he had acted a cowardly part in bearing arms against a half-dead man. A suit of outlawry was brought against him in the Thing; but seeing that it would go against him he escaped to Norway. In that country lived an elder half-brother of Grettir, who had heard of his fate and determined to avenge him; neither knew the other by sight. Angle, however, becoming uneasy, went to Micklegarth (Constantinople), whither he was followed by Thorstein Dromond. One day, at a weapon-showing, or exhibition of arms, Angle drew the short sword which had belonged to Grettir; it was praised by all as a good weapon, but the notch in the edge was a blemish. Angle related how he had slain Grettir, and how the notch came to be there. Thereupon Thorstein, who was present, knew his man, and asked to be allowed, like the rest, to see the short sword; Angle gave it to him, whereupon Thorstein clove his head in two with it, and Angle fell to earth dead and dishonoured.
Thus Grettir was avenged.
* * * * *
EDITED BY ANDREW LANG.
* * * * *
THE BLUE FAIRY BOOK. With 138 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. gilt edges, 6s.
THE RED FAIRY BOOK. With 100 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. gilt edges, 6s.
THE GREEN FAIRY BOOK. With 99 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. gilt edges, 6s.
THE YELLOW FAIRY BOOK. With 104 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. gilt edges, 6s.
THE PINK FAIRY BOOK. With 67 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. gilt edges, 6s.
THE GREY FAIRY BOOK. With 65 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. gilt edges, 6s.
THE VIOLET FAIRY BOOK. With 8 Coloured Plates and 54 other Illustrations. Crown 8vo. gilt edges, 6s.
THE BLUE POETRY BOOK. With 100 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. gilt edges, 6s.
THE BLUE POETRY BOOK. School Edition, without Illustrations. Fcp. 8vo. 2s. 6d.
THE TRUE STORY BOOK. With 66 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. gilt edges, 6s.
THE RED TRUE STORY BOOK. With 100 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. gilt edges, 6s.
THE ANIMAL STORY BOOK. With 67 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. gilt edges, 6s.
THE RED BOOK OF ANIMAL STORIES. With 65 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. gilt edges, 6s.
THE ARABIAN NIGHTS ENTERTAINMENTS. With 66 Illustrations. Crown 8vo. gilt edges, 6s.
* * * * *
LONGMANS, GREEN, & CO., 39 Paternoster Row, London New York and Bombay.
* * * * *