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farm, quite satisfied when they saw the robbers take to their heels, and no entreaties of the house-wife could induce them to follow Grettir ; the four churls had had quite enough of fighting; true, they had killed no one, but then they had seen some men killed. Grettir sprang into the boat, and stepped from bench to bench driving aft the terrified víkings. As the boathouse was open to the air on the side which faced the sea, whilst the farther end was closed with a door, Grettir was in shadow, whilst the black figures of the rowers cut sharply against the moonlight, so that he could see where to strike, whilst his own body was undistinguishable.
One stroke from an oar reached him on the shoulder, and for the moment paralyzed his left arm; he killed two more víkings, and then the remaining four burst forth, and, separating into pairs, fled in different directions. Grettir followed the couple which was nearest, and tracked them to a neighbouring farm, where they dashed into a granary and hid among the straw. Unfortunately for them, most of the wheat had been threshed out, so that only a few bundles remained. Grettir shut and bolted the door behind him, then chased the poor wretches like rats from corner to corner, till he had cut them both down. Then he pulled the corpses to the door and cast them outside.
In the meanwhile the sky had become overcast with a thick snow fog which rolled up from the sea, so that Grettir, on coming out, saw that it would be hopeless attempting to pursue the two remaining Berserkirs. Besides, his arm pained him, his strength was failing him, and there stole over him an overpowering sense of weariness after his protracted exertions. The housewife had placed a lamp in the window of a loft, so that Grettir, seeing the light, was able to find his way back through the snow-storm without difficulty. When he came to the door she met him, and, extending both her hands, gave him a cordial welcome. “ You have, indeed, shown great valour!” quoth she; "you have saved me and my household from insult and ruin. To you, and you alone, are we indebted.” “I am not much altered from what I was last evening, yet
now you sing quite a different strain ; then you abused me most grossly,” grumbled the young man.
“Ah! but we little knew your metal then. Come, be a welcome guest within, and tarry till my husband returns. Thanks are all that I can render you, but, be assured, Thorfin will not rest content till he has rewarded this deed of yours munificently.”
Grettir replied that he cared little for a reward, but that he gladly availed himself of her invitation : “And now I hope you may sleep without much fear of Berserkirs." Grettir drank little, but lay down fully armed for a sound and well-earned sleep.
On the following morning, as soon as day broke, a party was formed to search for the two remaining vikings who had escaped from Grettir in the darkness. The snow had fallen so thickly during the night that the ground was covered, and all traces were obliterated, so that the search proved ineffectual till dusk, when the men were discovered under a rock, dead from cold and loss of blood. The bodies were removed to the shore and buried under a cairn between tides.* Then all returned to the farm in high glee, and Grettir chanted the following verse :
“ Twelve war-flame branches are buried
Burial between tides was looked upon as disgrace; hence the Gula Thing's law commands: “Every dead man is to be taken to church and buried in consecrated ground ; except vile evildoers, betrayers of their masters, inveterate murderers, breakers of promised peace, thieves and suicides. Those men, who have been guilty of the aforesaid crimes, shall be buried within reach of the tides, where the water licks the green turf.”
+ I give this verse nearly literally, as a specimen of the curious style of Icelandic poetry of the period. War-flame is a periphrasis for a sword ; branch, or grove, for man; consequently, war-flame branch is a swordsman. Goldsallow is similarly a periphrasis for woman. Loud-resounding, for sea.
“There are not many men like you, certainly,” answered the lady. “At all events in this generation.”
Then she seated him on the high stool of honour, and treated him with every distinction.
So passed the time, till the return of the bonder.
It was not till the Yule festivities were well over, that Thorfin busked him for return; then, after having dismissed his guests with presents, he and his freedmen started for home, before news had reached him of what had taken place during his absence. The first startling circumstance was the appearance of his great punt, stranded. Thorfin bade his men row to land with all speed, as he suspected that this could not be the result of accident. The bonder was the first, in his anxiety, to leap ashore, and run to the boat-house. There he saw a ship hauled up, on the rollers, and, at the second glance, he knew it to be that of the víkings. His cry of dismay brought the rest around him: he pointed to the vessel and said, “ The Red-rovers have made an attack on my farm. I would give house and lands that they had never come.'
“ What cause is there for fearing that a hostile visit has been paid ?” asked some of his men.
"I know whose boat this is,” answered the former. " It belongs to Thorir o'the Paunch, and Bad Ögmund, the two wickedest and most brutal of all the Norwegian pirates. No effectual resistance can have been offered, I fear, as the farm was deserted by all fighting men, except, perhaps, that Icelander, but I put no trust in him whatsoever.”
The freedmen now consulted with the farmer as to what steps should be taken, supposing that the house were occupied by pirates.
All this while, Grettir was at home, and he was to blame for leaving Thorfin in uncertainty and alarm. He had seen the master's boat round the headland and enter the bay, but he would neither go himself to meet him on the strand, nor suffer the thralls to do so.
“I do not care even though the bonder be a little distracted at what he sees," said the young man.
“Have you any objection to my going to the shore ?" asked the wife.
“ None in the least; you are mistress of your own actions."
Then she with her daughter ran to meet her husband, and greeted him with a bright smile on her face. He was delighted at seeing her, and said, kissing her forehead, “God be praised, sweetheart, that you and my child are safe and sound! but tell me how matters have stood during my absence, for, from the look of affairs, I do not think that you can have been left quite undisturbed.”
“No more have we,” she replied. “We have been in grievous danger of loss and dishonour; but the shipwrecked man, whom you have sheltered, has been our helper and guardian."
Thorfin said: “Sit by me on this rock, and tell me of what has taken place."
Then they took each other's hands and sat together on a stone; the freedmen gathered round, and she told plainly and truthfully the story of the Rovers and Grettir's gallant conduct. When she spoke of the manner in which the young Icelander had decoyed them into the storehouse and fastened them in, all the freedmen raised a shout of joy, and when her tale was ended, their exultant cries rang so loud that Grettir heard them in the farmhouse.
Thorfin spoke no word to interrupt the thread of his wife's recital, but the workings of his heart were clearly legible on his countenance. After she had ceased, he sat still and rapt in thought; no one ventured to disturb him. Presently he looked up, and said, “The old saying proves to be true Despair of no man!' Where is Grettir ?"
“At home," answered the wife. " He is a strange man, and would not come to meet you.
“ Then let me go to him," said the farmer, rising and walking towards the house, followed by his men.
When he saw Grettir, he sprang to him, and thanked him in the fairest words for the heroism he had displayed.
“ This I say to you," spoke Thorfin, “which few would say to their dearest friends,—that I hope one day you may need support, so as to prove how earnestly and joyfully I will strain every nerve to assist you; for, assuredly, I never can repay you for what you have done in my behalf, till you are brought into great straits yourself. Abide with me as long as you list, and you shall be held in highest esteem by me and my followers.”
Grettir thanked him heartily, and spent the rest of the winter at his house. The story of his exploit was noised throughout Norway, and it was especially praised on the spots where the Berserkirs had given any trouble.
“Now, Padre,” said my friend Mr. Briggs; “tell me whether Thorfin ever had the opportunity he so coveted.”
“He had indeed, and right nobly did he fulfil his promise. I cannot tell you that part of the story, as it is too long; moreover, if I be not mistaken, yon wild fringe of coast ahead of us is Cape Reykjanes.'
I was right; the ragged line of bristling lava spikes, on which not a trace of herbage was visible, was the “Smoking Cape," as its name signifies : rightly is it so termed, for not far out to sea—just where some columns and spits of black stone project from the waves—volcanic eruptions have taken place, eleven times since the colonization of the island.
One jagged prong of rock rising from the waves at the farthest seaward point of Reykjanes is called the Kerl, pronounced Kedtle, and means “ Old man.”
Whilst I had been telling my saga, the wind had risen to a gale, so that now the waves rolled against the headland with fury, and shivered into drifts of spray, which filled the air with a haze of flying brine, called by the sailors “Spoon
drift." The battle of the surge around the Kerl was mag· nificent; columns of foam shot high above him and fell in a
fierce shower on his ragged cap. Certainly the old man stood up gallantly before the repeated shocks of the billows, hurled