« PreviousContinue »
Illugi, his brother, now fifteen years old, a fine, noble boy, was present during the conversation, and at these words of Grettir he started up, caught his hand, and said—
"Brother! I will go with you if I may, though I fear you will look on me as but a feeble helpmate; yet I will be faithful to you, and stand by you to the last."
Grettir answered, "Of all men, my brother! I would rather have you with me, and willingly will I consent to your joining your lot with mine, if our mother has no objection."
"Sorrows never come singly," replied the aged woman; "I can hardly bear to part with Illugi, yet I know how dire is your necessity of a comrade, son Grettir! therefore, I will not be selfish and keep him. It costs me a bitter pang to part with both my sons in one day."
Illugi was delighted at having thus easily obtained that on which he had set his heart, and he thanked his mother cordially.
The mother provided her sons with money and such chattels as they would require on the island, and then she accompanied them outside the farmyard, and, before parting with them, said, "Farewell, my two brave boys! I know that I shall never see you again, but what will befall you in Drangey I know not. Only of this I am certain, that there you will die, for many will resent your occupation of that island; my dreams have long forewarned me, that you will not be divided in your deaths. Beware of treachery, shun any dealings with sorcery, for nothing is more powerful than witchcraft. My blessing be upon you both!" She could speak no more, for her voice was choked with sobs; so, sitting down on a stone, she covered her eyes with her hands and the tears trickled between her fingers, falling in bright drops on her lap.
"Do not weep, mother!" said Grettir; "what though we both die! It shall ever be said of you, that you bore sons and not daughters. Long life and health attend you."
Then they parted, and the brothers went north and visited their kinsmen. So passed autumn, and with the approach of cold they went towards Skagafjord, crossed the Vatns-skarth and Reykjaskarth to Langholl, and reached Glaumbcer at the close of day. Grettir had flung his hood over his shoulders, though the wind was piercingly cold, for it was not his wont, fair or foul, warm or cold, to wear anything on his head.
Near the little farm just mentioned, the brothers stumbled upon a tall, thin man, dressed in rags, and with a very big head. They asked each other's names, and the fellow called himself Glaum; he was a bachelor out of work, and with all, a gad-about, fond of strolling through the country picking up and retailing news. He was a terrible boaster, but most people thought him both a coward and a fool. He amused the brothers by his continual chatter, and by the fund of gossip which he possessed. Grettir was especially pleased with him, and when Glaum offered to be his servant, Grettir accepted him gladly, and the man became thenceforth his constant attendant.
Says Glaum, "It is a wonder to all the people hereabouts, that you wear nothing on your head in such weather as this, and, i' faith! it is no marvel that you are the man they take you for, if you do not mind the cold. Why, there were two of the bonder's sons down yonder going after the sheep, and they could not get clothes enough to put on them, so benumbed were they; and yet they are plucky fellows too!"
After this they went to Eeynines; thence they proceeded to the strand, where there is a little byre, Reykir, with a hot spring in the tun, belonging to a man named Thorwaldr. Grettir offered him a bag of silver if he would flit him across to Drangey by moonlight, and to this the man agreed.
On arriving at his destination, Grettir was well pleased with the spot, for it was covered with a profusion of grass, and was so precipitous, that it seemed impossible for any one to ascend it without the aid of the rope-ladder, which hung from strong staples at the summit. In summer the place would swarm with sea-birds, and at that time there were eighty sheep left on the island for fattening.
One of the principal chiefs in the Skagafjord was Thorbjorn, nicknamed "The Hook," a hard-hearted, ill-disposed fellow. His father had married a second time, and there was no love lost between the step-mother and Thorbjorn. It is said that one day as The Book was sitting at draughts, she passed, and looking over his shoulder, noticed that he had made a foolish move, so she laughed; whereupon Thorbjorn retorted angrily. She instantly snatched up a draught-man, and, laying it against his cheek-bone, pressed it into his eye, so that the ball started out of its socket. He sprang up, with a curse, and dealt her such a blow, that she took to her bed and died of the injury. Thorbjorn went from bad to worse, and leaving home, he settled at Vithvik, the little farm which appears in the right of my sketch of Skagafjord.
As many as twenty farmers had rights of pasturage on Drangey, but The Hook and his brother had the greatest share.
About the time of the winter Solstice, the bonders busked them to visit the island and bring home their sheep. They rowed out in a large boat, and on nearing the island, were surprised to see figures moving on the top of the cliffs. How any one had reached the islet without their knowledge was a puzzle to them, and they had not the slightest suspicion who these occupants could be. They pulled hard for the landingplace where hung the ladder, but Grettir drew it up before the boat stranded.
The bonders shouted to know who those were on the crags, and Grettir, looking over, told his name and those of his companions.
The bonders asked who had flitted him across to the island; Grettir answered, "If you wish particularly to know, I will tell you, it was a man with a good boat and strong arms, and one who was rather my friend than yours."
"Let us get our sheep," cried the bonders, "and you come to land with us, we will charge you nothing for those of our sheep which you have eaten, and we will let you go from us in peace."
"Well offered," answered Grettir; "but he who takes keeps hold, and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Believe me, I never leave the island till I am carried from it dead."
The bonders were silenced; it seemed to them that they had got an ugly customer on Drangey, to get rid of whom would be no easy matter; so they rowed home, very ill-pleased at the result of their expedition.
The news spread like wildfire, and was talked about all through the neighbourhood, but no one could devise a plan for getting rid of the outlaw.
Winter passed, and at the beginning of spring the whole district met at the " Thing," or Council of Hegraness, an extensive island at the mouth of the Heradsvatn river, just showing on the left of my sketch. The gathering was thronged, and the litigations and merry-making made the Thing last over many days. Grettir guessed what was going on by seeing a number of boats pass the head of the fjord. He became very restless, and at last announced to his brother that he intended being present at the Council. Illugi thought this sheer madness, but Grettir was resolute ; he begged Illugi and Glaum to watch the ladder and await his return.
Then he crossed to the mainland and hastened in disguise to the Council, where he found that sports of all kinds were going on among the able-bodied young men. Grettir was dressed in an old-fashioned suit, very dirty, and falling to tatters. He had on a fur cap, which was drawn closely over his eyes and concealed his face, so that no one recognized him. He sauntered among the booths till he reached the spot where the games were taking place.
Among the wrestlers no man surpassed Thorbjorn Hook in skill and prowess. He threw all the strongest men of the neighbourhood, and when he had cleared the ground of antagonists, and found that there was no one to oppose him, he stood still and cast his eyes round him. Suddenly, they rested on a tall fellow in the shabbiest and quaintest of suits, but who looked so strongly built that Thorbjorn walked up to him and caught him by the shoulders. But the man sat still, and he could not move him from his seat. "Well!" exclaimed The Hook; "you are the first fellow I have seen for many a day whom I couldn't pull off his stool. Come now and wrestle with me—yet, tell me first, what is your name."
"Guest!" answered the stranger.
"A welcome guest too!" quoth the bully; "if you will wrestle with me."
The man replied that they would not be fairly matched, as he was little skilled in athletic sports.
Several men now chimed in, begging the stranger to try what he could do with Thorbjorn, or, at all events, with one of the others.
"Long, long ago," quoth he, "I was able to throw my man, as well as the best of you, but those days are gone by, and now I am out of practice."
As he only half refused, the bystanders urged him all the more.
"Now mark you!" said he; "I yield on one condition, and that is, that you take your oath to let me go free to my home, without one of you lifting a hand against me."
There was a general shout of acquiescence, and Hafr, one of the number, recited the peace-oath in the following legal form:—
"Here set I peace among all men towards the man Guest, who sits before us, and in this peace I include all the priesthood-holders, and well-to-do bonders, and all the young weapon-bearing men, and all the men of the Hegraness district, whether present or absent, named or unnamed. These are to leave in peace, and give passage without let or hindrance to the afore-named stranger, that he may sport, wrestle, make merry, abide with us and depart from us, without stay, whether he may need to go by land or flood. He shall have peace in all places, named or unnamed, as long as is necessary for him to reach home with ease; so long only shall peace last.
"I set this reconciliation between him and us, our relations, our friends, and kinsmen, male or female, free or thrall, child or full-grown. May the breaker of this peace, and breaker of