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staggered back, holding half in its hands, and gazing wonderingly at it. Before it had done examining the shred, Grettir started to his feet, bowed his body, flung his arms about the carcase, and, driving his head into the chest, strove to bend it backward and snap the spine. A vain attempt! The cold hands came down on Grettir's arms with diabolical force, riving them from their hold. Grettir clasped them about the body again; then the arms closed round him, and began dragging him along. The brave man clung by his feet to benches and posts, but the strength of the vampire was greatest; posts gave way, benches were heaved from their places, and the wrestlers at each moment neared the door. Sharply writhing loose, Grettir flung his hands round a roof beam. He was dragged from his feet; the numbing arms clenched him about the waist, and tore at him; every tendon in his breast was strained, the strain under his shoulders became excruciating, the muscles stood out in knots. Still he held on; his fingers were bloodless; the pulses of his temples throbbed in jerks; the breath came in a whistle through his rigid nostrils. All the while, too, the long nails of the dead man cut into his side, and Grettir could feel them piercing like knives between his ribs. Ah! his hands gave way, and the monster bore him reeling towards the porch, crashing over the broken fragments of the door. Hard as the battle had gone with him indoors, Grettir knew that it would go worse outside, so he gathered up all his remaining strength for one final desperate struggle.
I told you that the door had shut with a swivel into a groove, this groove was in a stone which formed the doorjamb on one side, and there was a similar block on the other, into which the hinges had been driven. As the wrestlers neared the opening, Grettir planted both his feet against the stone posts, holding Glamr by the middle. He had the advantage now. The dead man writhed in his arms, drove his talons into Grettir's back and tore up great ribands of flesh, but the stone-jambs held firm.
'' Now,'' thought Grettir,«i, I can break his back," and thrusting hishead under chin, so that the grizzly beard covered his eyes, he forced the face from him, and the back was bent as a hazel-rod. "If I can but hold on," thought Grettir, and he tried to shout for Thorhall; but his voice was muffled in the hair of the corpse.
Crack! One or both of the door-posts gave way. Down crashed the gable trees, ripping beams and rafters from their beds; frozen clods of turf rattled from the roof and thumped into the snow. Glamr fell on his back, and Grettir staggered down on top of him. The moon was, as I said before, at her full; large white clouds chased each other across the sky, and as they swept before her disk, she looked through them like a pale saint in tribulation,—(I forget whose simile that is)— with a brown halo round her. The snow-cap of Jorundarfell, however, glowed like a planet, then her white mountain ridge was kindled, the light ran down the hill-side, the bright disk starred out of the veil and flashed at this moment full on the vampire's face. Grettir's strength was failing him, his hands quivered in the snow, and he knew that he could not support himself from dropping flat on the dead man's face, eye to eye, lip to lip, nose to where the nose had been. The eyes of the corpse were fixed on him, lit with the cold glare of the moon. His head swam, as his heart sent a hot stream through his brain. Then a voice from the grey lips said—
"Thou hast acted madly in seeking to match thyself with me. Now learn, that henceforth ill-luck shall constantly attend thee; that thy strength shall never exceed what it now is, and that by night these eyes of mine shall stare at thee through the darkness till thy dying day, so that for very horror thou shalt not endure to be alone."
Grettir at this moment noticed that his dirk had slipped from its sheath during the fall, and that it now lay conveniently near his hand. The giddiness which had oppressed him passed away: he clutched at the sword-haft and with a blow severed the vampire's throat. Then, kneeling on the breast, he hacked, till the head came off.
Thorhall came out now, his face blanched with terror, but, when he saw how the fray had terminated, he assisted Grettir, gleefully, to roll the corpse on top of a pile of faggots which had been collected for winter fuel. Fire was applied, and soon, far down Vatnsdalr, the flames of the pyre startled people, and made them wonder what new horror was being enacted in the Vale of Shadows.
Next day the charred bones were conveyed to the spot we have so lately passed, and there buried.
"Now then," said Mr. Briggs; "let us have a drop of whisky." Of course I assented.
"By the way," quoth my portly friend, "did the vampire's prophecy come true?"
"Yes, as you shall see when I send you my translation of the Grettis Saga."
"I shan't read it," said Mr. Briggs; "I like hearing a story, but I don't read much."
By this time our road lay among some small lakes which abound in trout and char. A couple of swans were sailing majestically on one of them. Crossing a river some dozen times at least, we descended from the heithi into a pretty glen down which the river rolled. The bottom reached, we changed horses, crossed the stream once more, scrambled up the opposite scarp, and keeping along the ravine edge, felt cheered by the reappearance of the pink lamba grass (Silene acaulis) and the white tassels of the cotton rush. The river too began to brawl over rocks in an excited way, making straight for a chasm of black crag, out of which I could hear the rumble of a considerable fall. After having climbed one of the cliffs we came on a view of the ravine which was particularly striking.
The mountains had been rent by an earthquake, and into the abyss, several hundred feet deep, the eye glanced from crag to crag, till it rested on a green pool into which the cascade plunged. Time was pressing and I was obliged to gallop on without making a sketch. I overtook the packhorses and Grimr, as they crossed two kvislar or brooks parted from each other by a narrow shred of rock. These streams rose far apart, but here they flowed side by side and bounding down the gorge met in foam at the bottom.
Clouds gathered now thicker around us, and a nasty drizzle shut out all the prospect.
In an hour we came out above the broad green valley of Vatnsdalr, and my guide could not refrain from a burst of admiration at the verdure of the many tunes scattered along it. After the desolation of Kaldidalr and the bleakness and baldness of Arnarvatns heithi, it was a welcome sight to us. Close at our feet lay the little church and farm of Grimstunga. Our horses brisked up wonderfully, the grey forgot that he was bearing so fat a man as Mr. Briggs, the chestnut was oblivious of his packs, and all at a swinging canter came up to the farm door,