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"That is likely enough," said the king; "but it is quite impossible now for you to go through the ordeal."
After this Grettir hung about the town for some while, but Olaf paid no further attention to him, so at last he went off to stay the rest of the winter with a kinsman.
On the return of spring, the news of what Grettir had done reached Iceland; and, when they came to the ears of Thorir of Garth, he rode with all his friends and clients to Thing, and brought an action against Grettir for the burning of his sons. Some men thought that the action was illegal, as the defendant was not present to take exception; however, the end of the action was, that Grettir was outlawed through the length and breadth of Iceland. Thorir set a price on his head, and proved the bitterest of Grettir's foes.
Towards the close of the summer, Grettir arrived in a vessel off the mouth of the White River, in Borgar-fjord.
It was a still summer night when the ship dropped anchor. The Skarths-heithi chain was purple, but Baula's sharp cone was steeped in gold, and the distant silver cap of Ok shone in the sun's rays, like a rising moon. The steam rising from the numerous springs in Reykholts-dale was rounded and white in the cool still air. Flights of swans sailed overhead with their harp-like melody. As the gulls dipped in the calm water, every feather of their white wings was reflected. A boat came from shore and was rowed to the ship.
Grettir stood watching it from the bows, leaning on his sword. As the smack touched the side of the ship, "What news?" he called.
"Are you Grettir Asmund's son?" asked a man rising in the boat.
"I am," replied Grettir.
"Then we bear you ill news: your father is dead!"
Another man stood up in the boat, and said, "Grettir, your brother has been murdered!"
"And you," called a third boatman, "have been outlawed through the length and breadth of Iceland I"
It is said that Grettir did not change colour, nor did a muscle in his whole body quiver; but he lifted up his voice and sang, L “All at once are showered Round me, Rhyme-collector,” Tidings sad—my exile, Father's loss, and brother's, Branching boughs of battle f Many blue-blade breakerst Shall bewail my sorrow.”S
One night Grettir swam ashore, obtained a horse, and reached the Middle-frith in two days. He arrived at home by night when all were asleep; so, instead of disturbing the household, he went round to the back of the house, opened a private door, stepped into the hall, stole up to his mother's bed and threw his arms round her neck.
She started up and asked who was there. When he told her, she clasped him to her heart, and laid her head, sobbing, on his breast, saying, “Oh, my boy! I am bereaved of my children; Atli, my eldest, is murdered, and you are outlawed; only my baby Illugi remains!”
Grettir remained at home for some days, till Thorir of Garth learned where he was, and then he was compelled to fly; he was hunted from place to place, and to the last Thorir remained his implacable enemy.
“Thank you, Padre,” said Mr. Briggs; “I should be glad to know what was the end of Grettir.”
“I will tell you more of my hero when we are on the scenes of his exploits, and visit the place where he died.”
* Periphrasis for poet. f Periphrasis for warriors. f Periphrasis for men. § Shall suffer for my misfortune.
'CHAPTER V. AMONG THE JOKULLS.
Leave Thingvellir—Meyjar-skarth—A lovely View—The Big Bed breaks loose—Grettis-tak—A mysterious Vale—Attempts to re-discover it— Ascent of Geitland's Jb'knll—Brunnir—Dearth of Fuel—Kaldidalr— The Old Woman of Bones—A Vale of Desolation—A Tract of Ash— Ealmanstiinga—Robbers.
I Do not remember a more beautiful morning than that on which we left Thingvellir; not a cloud was in the sky, and the air was fresh and elastic as that of an English spring morning.
Armannsfell had put on a cloak of snow during the night, and a thin sprinkling capped the dark crags of Hrafna-bjorg.
Our course lay along the foot of the Troll-haunted Armannsfell, through a "skog," or forest of stunted birch and willow, reaching to the saddle. As we pushed among the clumps, we dislodged myriads of grey moths.
The track leads up a long wide valley, bounded on the left by Armannsfell, and on the right by a quaint, jagged cinderridge, with teeth and spikes cutting crisply against the sky. (Plate III.) The vale itself is filled with lava poured from the calm, symmetrical Skjaldbreith, or Broad Shield, a jokull wondrously like a knight's maiden shield, as it rises above the black corrugated stone-torrents which gird its base.
The lava is very old, and is consequently much disintegrated, so that the shrubs find snuggeries for their roots in its rifts and shattered vents.