Page images

Away they scampered, and reached home, panting, just as supper was served. Ingimund asked why they were in such a flurry, and they replied by telling him how Hrolleifr had driven them from the river with blows and insults.

"Indeed!" exclaimed Jokull, the second son, a testy and hot-headed fellow. "The man wants to lord it over all Vatnsdalr; but it shall never be said that a troll like that has made us knuckle under."

Thorstein, the eldest, said, "This is too bad; however, I dare say we may make some compromise with Hrolleifr."

"Something of the kind is certainly necessary," said Ingimund; "do your best, my son, to allay the quarrel; if you come to blows you will find it hard to defend yourselves, for he is a cursed fellow, and ill befalls those who have to deal with him."

Jokull burst forth with, "I shall soon see whether he will leave the river or not!" and he started up from table.

Ingimund held his eldest son, and said, "Thorstein, my eon! I rely on you; go with your brother."

Thorstein answered that he hardly knew how to restrain Jokull when his blood was up, and besides he doubted whether he could himself stand back if Jokull attacked Hrolleifr.

Well! they came to the river and found Hrolleifr fishing in it. Then Jukull shouted out, "Fiend! Away with you from the river; venture not to squabble with us!"

Hrolleifr answered contemptuously, "You are only two over there, and were you four I should not budge an inch; storm your utmost!"

"You trust through your mother's witchcraft to get all the fishing out of our hands!" cried Jokull, and then he rushed into the river and waded towards him, but Hrolleifr did not stir.

Then Thorstein called out, "Do lay this waywardness aside, Hrolleifr! you must see that you will get the worst of it if you meddle with our rights, and we are not the people to be borne down by violence, however well you may find that answer with others."

Jokull burst in with "Kill that devil there!"

Then Hrolleifr quietly stepped up on land, for there were stones there, and he pelted the brothers; they retaliated, but Hrolliefr remained unhurt.

Jokull wanted much to cross the river and punish the rascal, but Thorstein advised a retreat, for " It is all very well having to do with respectable people, but I do not fancy getting into the clutches of this fellow's mother, who is a downright witch, and her son is no better."

Jokull replied that he cared nothing for that, and begged his brother to keep up an incessant shower of stones whilst he was wading across.

In the meantime an eyewitness of this scene rushed off to Hof, and told Ingimund what was going on. The old man called out, " Saddle my horse! I must ride to the river." He was old and nearly blind, so that he had made over the management of his property into the hands of his sons. He had got a little country lad for his guide, and the boy led the horse. They came then to the river bank, and the whitehaired chief was dressed in an ample blue cloak.

Thorstein exclaimed, " Here comes our father, Jokull! let us desist, and then he will be pleased to think that we are falling in with his wishes. I am anxious about the old man, and do not like his being here. Jokull, do draw off!"

Ingimund rode down into the river, and called out, " Go away from the river, Hrolleifr; think of what becomes you!"

Now directly Hrolleifr saw him, he flung his spear, and struck him in the middle. It was dusk, so that neither his sons nor the boy noticed the blow; but, directly he received it, Ingimund snapped the haft, folded his blue mantle round him, and rode up the bank.

"My little lad," said he, " lead me home."

So the boy guided him back, and the evening had quite closed in when they arrived. As Ingimund tried to get off his horse, he said, " I am getting rather stiff; you see we old folk are rather shaky."

Then it was, as the lad helped him down, that the boy saw the spear thrust through him.

Ingimund said softly, " You have long been true to me, child! Now go, as I bid you, to Hrolleifr, and tell him that my sons will certainly be on his track by morning, so he must fly before dawn. I do not wish my blood to be revenged on him; it becomes me rather to screen the man whom I have taken under my protection as long as I am able." Then, leaning on the boy, he went into the hall, sat himself down in the seat of honour, and bade the servants not light the fire or kindle a lamp before the return of his sons.

The boy ran to the river, and saw Hrolleifr draw out a fine salmon, which he had just caught.

"Dog of a fellow!" shouted the exasperated boy. "You have done a deed for which no mulct will be asked. Now, reluctantly, I bring you a message from the dying lips of him whom you have slain. Fly at once, before the brothers are after you; yet, on my honour, I long to see their axes rattling about your skull."

"Were it not for the news you bring me," answered Hrolleifr, " you should not slip away with a sound skin."

Now I must tell you that Ingimund's sons came home in the gloaming, and talked thus to each other on their way—

"The like of Hrolleifr is not to be found far and near!" And Thorstein added, " My mind sadly misgives me about my father's ride to the river. There is no knowing what mischief that Hrolleifr might do!"

They came in; Thorstein walked to the end of the hall, and, whilst feeling along the ground with his hands, he asked, "How comes there any wet here?"

The housewife answered that it ran in all probability from the old man's clothes; but Thorstein said, " It is gluey, like blood! Quick! kindle a light!"

When this was done, they found Ingimund enthroned in his high seat, dead, and the spear was thrust through him.

Jokull was like a madman. Thorstein could hardly restrain him from rushing off to revenge himself on the murderer. "You do not know the kind-heartedness of our father. The boy is not here. Undoubtedly our father sent him to warn the miscreant to escape. It is then useless our hastening to As; we must rather take counsel in the matter, and not act precipitately. Truly! there is a great disparity between our father and his murderer, and this will avail him before Him who created the sun and all the heavens, and who assuredly is Great, whoever He may be."

Jokull was quite frantic, and there was no pacifying him.

Just then the lad returned, and Jokull was wroth with him for having warned the murderer. But Thorstein observed that the boy was not to blame, as he had acted in accordance with the father's wishes.

After the burial the brothers agreed not to occupy their father's seat, nor to frequent public gatherings, till he was avenged.

"And this," said Mr. Briggs, as we plunged into the river, " is probably the very spot where the brave old man received the blow. Look! yonder, on the opposite side, is the bed of rolled stones from which the scoundrel—I can't remember his name, much less pronounce it—picked up the boulders wherewith to defend himself. Now go on with the story, and don't add anything of your own, or you will spoil it."

"Instead of adding to the narrative, I am going to curtail it; and I shall pass over the meeting of Hrolleifr with his ugly mother, and the advice she gave him to flit at once, as the first nights after a murder are the bloodiest, and I shall land Hrolleifr in Skaga-fjord, whither he fled, at the house of his kinsman Geirmund, of Soamundarhlith."

"Well, what news?" was Geirmund's exclamation, as Hrolleifr cantered up to his door.

"Ingimund, the bonder, has been slain!"

"Alas! there fell a right worthy man."

"He was rather shilly-shally though!" broke in the murderer.

"But how was he killed?"

Hrolleifr told his kinsman the story. Geirmund waxed wroth, and said, "I see clearly that of all ill-disposed fellows you are the worst, a low, luckless blackguard. Be off, I'll not have you here."

"I am not going to budge from this spot," replied the other. "Here I remain, here I shall be taken, and here slain; then you shall bear the disgrace. Remember, my father fell in your service."

"Stay if you choose," quoth Geirmund; "but directly Ingimund's sons come here, I shall give you up."

There was a hay-barn close by, and Hrolleifr said that he should hide in it.

"As you please," from Geirmund.

Ingimund's sons remained quiet during the winter, and sat on the nether bench, and did not show at any pleasure parties, or at the Things; but as summer drew nigh, Thorstein collected his brothers and proposed that the conduct of the revenge should be entrusted to one of them. The brothers unanimously agreed that Thorstein, as being the coolest and most sensible of them all, should be their leader.

One morning he woke them early, and said: "Busk you for a ride!" The brothers rose and mounted their horses: no one accompanied them. Thorstein led them to Geirmund's house, and he received them cordially. They spent the night with him and were most hospitably treated. Next morning Thorstein told his brothers to have a game of draughts whilst he went out to take a quiet chat with their host. They did so: then Thorstein drew Geirmund aside, and said, "We have come hither in quest of Hrolleifr, whom we expect to find skulking hereabouts. You are the man to help us, as it was through your father that the scoundrel came to my father. Now I know that the deed done was far from your wish."

"It was so, truly," answered Geirmund; "you are quite right to hunt the murderer down. However, he is not in my house."

"No," said Thorstein,' "but we are convinced that he is in your shed. Look here! I make over a hundred pieces of silver to you; dismiss Hrolleifr, and I shah1 take precautions that his blood be not shed on your lands, so that no stain

« PreviousContinue »