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A Wet Day. The Church of Reykjalith; its Curiosities. "A Hot Old Relic" An Impromptu Priest. The Farmer and his Sagas. The Beloved "Gretla" A Roundabout Mode of Translation. The Old Icelander reads, and the Young Dane interprets, "Grettir the Strong."
FOR breakfast we had boiled mutton in the place of soup; otherwise the programme was unvaried The rain still continued. It was a dark, drizzling morning. We were glad to be in so comfortable quarters, and decided to let the Namarfjal severely alone till the weather faired. During the forenoon we visited the church, which is near the farm. It is quite an interesting edifice for the place. It contains a font-basin for baptisms; and in the chancel there is a curiously-colored lantern. There were three chasubles, or robes for the priest, one of white silk, and very old; one of red damask; and the third of crimson velvet. We saw also a curious wrought-iron candle-rack; but a far more interesting object to us was a bronze ring at the door, said to have been taken from the ancient heathen temple which stood here in the days when the Icelanders worshipped Thor and Odin. This was the ring which they used to dip in the blood of the victims, and make their vows on. We could but wonder at so sanguinary a memento ever getting a place, even at the door of a Catholic church;1 for, in consideration of the purpose it had served, it could but be regarded as "a pretty hot old relic" (I quote from the words of the scandalous Wash).
There being nobody about who would be likely to be shocked, Kit put on the red-velvet chasuble, and read a Long Latin service, prayer, or oration, none of us knew exactly which, from a very dilapidated volume, which lay in close company with the pulpit Scriptures. This was merely to try the effect of the red velvet and the ritualism; not out of any rowdyish contempt for the church or its belongings.
After much urging, we persuaded the old farmer to take dinner at our table. When we were well seated, and comfortably disposing of our soup, Raed said, "Ask him, Jan, whether be has got any sagas."
Jan did so in Icelandic.
"Ja," he had; and a light broke over his broad honest face, and shone in his gray-blue eyes, that we had not before seen.
"What sagas has he got?"
"He says," replied Jan, "that he has the Saga of Asmundr, Viking, and the Gretla Saga, and the Saga of Ambrosia ok Rosamanda."
"Ask him, Jan," said I, "if he will read some from the sagas to us."
"But you couldn't understand a word of it," Jan objected.
"Couldn't you tell us what it was about, pretty nearly, after he had read a paragraph?" queried Raed.
Jan reflected a moment.
"Ja, I think I could, the most of it."
Will you do it?" Kit asked.
"Oh, ja!" if we said so. And he immediately asked the old Icelander if he would read from the sagas to the young Americans. At first, the man looked rather wonderingly at us; but, on the young Dane explaining to him how we had planned to understand it, he seemed pleased, and at once assented.
But which saga should he read to us, so Jan interpreted for him.
Of course we had very little choice, for a very good reason.
"Tell him to read us the one he likes best," said Raed.
"He says," Jan informed us, "that he likes the Gretla best; and he thinks we shall like it best too; for it is about as brave a lad as ever left his native shores."
We bowed our acknowledgments to the old man for the implied compliment thus happily expressed, and bade Jan tell him we knew we should like the Gretla Saga.
As soon as we had finished dinner, the old farmer went out after his beloved Gretla. Young Havisteen followed him, to ask his wife and the young folks to come in; and, when they found it was a saga-reading, they smilingly accepted our invitation, and edged pleasantly in behind the venerable reader. It was truly a "quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore" which the old Icelander brought forward. The leather cover was black with age; not a word in it printed; all written with a pen on coarse yellowed paper. As fast as a saga wears out, the good people recopy it with great care and patience.
The farmer seated himself at the table, which had, meanwhile, been cleared of its platters and plates; and carefully adjusting a pair of spectacles with round silver bows, very heavy and quaint, he opened the time-worn book, remarking to Jan, which Jan remarked to us, that, as we might not perhaps be able to hear it all if he were to read in course, he would read parts such as he deemed most interesting. To this we of course assented with respectful bows. Never shall I forget the kind of affectionate reverence with which the old man began to read. Insensibly we all felt a sort of sabbath sensation stealing over us, Wash only evincing a sacrilegious propensity to hitch his chair along a few inches farther toward the cherry-cheeked lass of the black bodice. We all frowned at him industriously, particularly Kit. The good-wife had brought her knitting; the shaggy house-dog walked in, and sat down demurely; the pup followed shortly after, and didn't even so much as chase his tail round once, but, with a glance at the old dog, sat down likewise. After a number of ahems, each of which I kept confidently presuming to be the final one, the Icelander began to read. His tone was of that worshipful modulation which we so often hear very pious persons make use of when reading the Scriptures. He read for three or four minutes. Then paused for young Havisteen to translate, to us. From the first, it had occurred to me to secure the translation, if possible, to go with my narrative of our Iceland tour. Accordingly, after Jan had repeated in substance what the farmer had read, and while he was reading a second paragraph, I caught down in my diary (writing recklessly over dates and days) the main part of the story as Jan had translated it. Afterwards, during our homeward voyage, I wrote it out more in full, and now submit it to the reader not as a literal translation, but as a liberal paraphrase in parts as the old man read them to us.
[As young Additon's translation was, from the nature of the case, but a "liberal paraphrase," we have deemed it better, on the whole, to substitute for it a more careful rendering of this beautiful story, which we take from a well-known English translation of the Gretla. ED.]
GRETTIR THE STRONG.
One morning, after a night of storm on the coast of Norway, the servants ran into the hall of a wealthy bonder named Thorfin, to inform him that during the night a ship had been wrecked off the coast, and that the crew and passengers were congregated on a neighboring sandy holm, signalling for help. Up started the bonder, and hastened to the strand: he ran out a large punt from his boat-house, and, jumping in with his thralls, rowed lustily to the rescue. The shipwrecked people belonged to a merchant-vessel from Iceland, which had been driven among the breakers during the darkness, and had gone to pieces; yet not before a portion of the lading had been brought ashore.
Among the shivering beings gathered on the sand-strip was Grettir, the son of an Icelandic chief who lived at Bjarg, in the middle frith. He was then a young man, tall and muscular, with large blue eyes, bushy hair, and a freckled face.
Thorfin received the half-frozen wretches on board his boat, and rowed them to the mainland; after which he returned to the holm, and brought off the wares. In the mean time, the good housewife had been lighting fires, preparing beds, routing out dry suits, and making hot ale ready for the sufferers; and right gladly they were treated, you may be sure.
Well, the chapmen staid a week at the farm whilst their goods were being dried, and till the women of the party were sufficiently recovered from cold and exposure to continue their journey to Drontheim, whither the whole party were bound; after which they left Thorfin, with many thanks for his courtesy and kindness. Grettir, however, remained; not at the request of the bonder, who did not much like him, but to suit his own convenience. Indeed, he staid somewhat longer than Thorfin cared to keep him, considering what a fellow Grettir was, never joining in conversation, unwilling to lend a helping hand in any work, a great stay-at-home, crouching over the fire all day, and, within, eating voraciously. Thorfin was much out of doors: and, as he was a sociable man, he often requested Grettir to accompany him, either into the forest or about his farm; but could get no further answer than an impatient shake of the head and a grant.
Now, the bonder was a fellow with a right merry heart and a kind one, and one, too, that loved seeing all around cheerful. With such a disposition, it is no wonder that the morose and indolent Grettir found no favor.
Yule drew nigh; and Thorfin busked him to depart, with a number of his freedmen, to keep high festival at one of his farms, distant a good day's journey. His wife was unable to accompany him, as the eldest daughter was ill, and wanted careful nursing; and Grettir was not invited, as his sullenness would have acted as a damper to the joviality of the banquet.
The farmer started for his farm in Slystord some days before Yule, accompanied by his thirty freedmen, expecting to meet a goodly throng of guests whom he had invited from all quarters.
Norway had for some time been in a disordered condition, from the mischief caused by numerous berserkirs and corsairs who roved over the country, challenging bonders to mortal combat for their homes, their wives and families. If a bonder declined to fight, as the law stood, his all was forfeited to the challenger; and if he fought, and was worsted, he lost his life as well. With the advice of Thorfin, Earl Erik Hakon's son put down these holm bouts, and outlawed those whose custom it had been to make a business of them, going round the country and riding rough-shod over the peaceful bonders.
Among the worst of these were two brothers, well known for their wickedness, Thorir wi' the Paunch, and Bad Ogmund. They were said to be stronger built that most, and to care for no man under the sun. They robbed wherever they went, burned farms over the head of the sleeping inmates, and with the points of their spears drove the shrieking wretches back into the flames. When these pirates wrought themselves up into their berserkir rages, they howled like wolves, foamed at the mouth, their strength was increased to that of trolls,2 and they rushed about, demon-possessed, murdering and destroying every living being that came in their way. Thorfin had been the prime instigator of their outlawry through the length and breadth of Norway; and, as may well be conjectured, the brothers bore him no good will, and only waited for an opportunity of wreaking their vengeance upon him.
The eve of Yule was bright and sunny; and the sick girl was so far recovered as to walk out and take the air, leaning on her mother's arm.
Grettir spent the whole day out of doors, in none of the sweetest of tempers at being excluded from the festivities of the season, and left to keep house with the women and eight dunder-headed churls. He fed his discontent by sitting on a headland, watching the boats glide past, as parties went to convivial gatherings at the houses of their friends. The deep-blue sea was speckled with white sails, as though countless gulls were playing on the waters. Now a stately dragon-ship rolled past, her fearful carved head glittering with gold and color, her sails spread like wings before the breeze, and her banks of oars flashing in the sun, then dipping into the sea. Now a wherry rowed by, laden with cakes and ale; and the boatmen's song rang merrily through the crisp air. The day began to draw in; but still the red sparks from little vessels fleeting by in the dusk showed that all guests had not yet reached their destination.
Grettir was on the point of returning to the farm, when the strange proceedings of a craft at no great distance attracted his attention. He noticed that she stole along in the shadows of the islets, and darted with velocity across the open-water straits between them: she hugged the shore wherever she could, moved in a zig-zag course, and suddenly came flying with quick oar-sweeps towards the bay which Grettir was overlooking. In the twilight he could make out thus much of her, that she floated low in the water, that she was built for speed, and that her sides were hung with shields. As she stranded, the rowers jumped on the beach. Grettir counted them, and found that they were twelve; armed men too! They broke into Thorfin's boat-house, and dragged forth his great punt, in which thirty men were wont to sit, pushed it out into deep water, and drew their own boat under cover, and pulled her up on the rollers.
Mischief was a-brewing: that was plain as a pikestaff! So Grettir descended the hill, and sauntered up to the band, with his hands in his pockets, kicking the pebbles before him, and humming a tune with the utmost nonchalance. "May I ask who is the leader of this party?" quoth he.
"Ah, ah! I'm the man," responded as ill-looking a fellow as Nature could well turn out of her Iaboratory. "Why, I am Thorir wi' the Paunch; and here's my brother Φgmund with all his rascals. I reckon the Bonder Thorfin knows our names; don't you think so, brother? And we have a little account to settle with him. Pray, is he at home?"
"Upon my word, you are lucky fellows," spoke Grettir, "coming here in the very nick of time, if you are the men I take you for. The bonder is from home with all his freedmen, and won't be back till after Yule: his wife and daughter, however, are at the farm. Now's your time, if you have old scores to wipe off; for there is every thing you can possibly want at the house, silver, good clothes, ale, and provisions in the greatest profusion."
Thorir held his tongue whilst Grettir talked: afterwards he turned to his brother Φgmund, and said, "This is just what I expected; is it not? Now we can serve Thorfin out in thorough earnest for having made us outlaws. What a chatterbox this fellow is! There's no need of pumping to get any thing one wants to know out of him."
"Every man is master of his own tongue," retorted Grettir. "Now come along with me, and I will do the best I can for you."
The rovers thanked him, and accepted the invitation: so Grettir, taking Thorir by the hand, led him towards the farm, talking the whole way as hard as his tongue could wag. The housewife happened at the moment to be in the hall, putting up the hangings, and preparing for the Yule banquet; and, hearing Grettir speaking with such volubility, she stood still in astonishment, and asked whom he was greeting so cordially.
"It is quite the correct thing to receive guests well, is it not, mother?" asked Grettir: "and here are Thorir o' the Paunch, Bad Φgmund, and ten others, who have kindly come to join us in our Yule carousal; which is delightful; for, without them, our party would have been wofully scant."
"O Grettir! what have you done?" cried the poor woman. "You have brought hither the greatest ruffians in Norway. I would have given any thing that they had never come. This is the way in which you return the good Thorfin has done you in rescuing you from shipwreck, in taking you into his house, and caring for you through the winter as though you were one of his freedmen, and when you had not a farthing in your pocket to bless yourself withal!"
"Stop this abuse!" growled the young man. "There's time enough for that sort of thing another day. Now come and take off the wet clothes from the guests."
"You need not scream before you are hurt, my good woman," quoth Thorir: "you will want all your words for to-morrow, when I shall carry you and your daughter away with me, and you will have to say good-by to home for many a day. What think you of that?"
"Capital!" roared Grettir. "That is capital!"
On hearing this the housewife and her daughter fled to the women's apartment, crying, and wringing their hands with despair.
"Well," said Grettir, "as the women won't attend on you, I suppose that I must: so be good enough to hand me over any thing you want to have dried, such as your wet clothes and weapons."
"You're different from every one else in the house," spoke Thorir. "I almost think that you would mate a boon companion."
"As you please," answered the young man. "Only, I tell you, I don't behave like this to all folk."
Then the freebooters gave him up their weapons: he wiped the salt water from them, and laid them aside in a warm, dry spot. Next he removed their wet garments, and brought them dry suits, which he routed out of the clothes-chests belonging to Thorfin and his freedmen.
By this time it was quite night. Grettir brought in logs, raked up the fire, and made a noble blaze.
"Now, my men," quoth he, "sit at table, and drink; for, i' faith, you must be thirsty after all the rowing you have done in the day."
"We are ready," said they: "only we don't know where to find the cellars."
"Will you let me fetch ale for you? or will you help yourselves?"
"Oh, go after it yourself, by all means!" answered they.
So Grettir brought the strongest ale, and poured out for them. The fellows were very tired, and drank copiously. Grettir stinted them neither in meat nor in drink; and at last he sat down at the end of the table and recited merry sagas, which riveted their attention, and delighted them amazingly. First he told the history of Hromund Greipsson, how he broke open the tomb of the old Viking Thrain, and descended into it; how he wrestled with the demon-possessed corpse in its vault, and bore off its sword like a sunbeam; and how, in after-years, Hromund fought on the ice, and received fourteen wounds, lost his eight brothers, and, worst of all, saw his bright-flashing sword sink through an ice floe. After that Grettir told the tale of An the Bowbrandisher, who would not turn his bow to enter the king's hall, but walked forward with it, though the horns stuck in the doorposts, and the bow bent nearly double, but did not break.
Not one of the house-churls showed his face in the hall that evening: they slunk about the farm, frightened and trembling.
Quoth Thorir, "I'll tell you what, comrades! this lad is one of the best fellows I've clapped eyes on. I don't think we could meet in a hurry with another who would wait on us so well. What shall we give him? Come, man, ask a boon of us!" Grettir answered, "I demand only one thing, that, if we are as great allies in the morning as we seem to be to-night, I may become one of your gang. Even if I be weaker than the rest of you, be assured I will not hang back in the day of trial."
The pirates were delighted with this proposal, and wanted to clinch brotherhood at once; but Grettir objected. "No, no!" said he. "When liquor is in, wits leak out: you may come to a different mind in the morning, when you are sober, and regret what you have done. There is no need of hurry; and, as we are none of us famous for our discretion, a little thinking the matter over first is advisable."
They all protested that they would not change their opinion of him in the morning. Grettir, however, remained firm in his decision.
The young man saw now that they were getting rather tipsy: so he suggested that it was time for bed. "Yet first," said he, "you will, I know, like to run your eyes over Thorfin's storehouse."
"That we shall!" exclaimed Thorir, jumping up. "Come along, my lads! follow me!"
Grettir took a lamp, and led the way.
The storehouse was separate from the house, and stood at right angles to it. It was a strongly-built place, made of large logs mortised firmly together: the door was also remarkably massive, and was furnished with a strong fastening. Adjoining this building was a lean-to office, divided off from the storehouse by a partition of planks: a flight of steps led to the office-door; for the house stood on a breast-high stone foundation.
The sharp, frosty air of night, striking on the faces of the revellers, increased their intoxication; and they became very disorderly, running against each other, uttering discordant whoops, and jolting Grettir's arm, so that he could with difficulty prevent the lamp from being knocked from his hand and extinguished.
Drawing back the bolt, he flung the door open, and showed the twelve men into the house. Then, slinging the lamp to a hook in one of the rafters, he let the rovers scramble for the prizes. The store was filled with various household goods, piles of costly garments, enamelled baldrics, carved and silver-mounted drinking. horns, some choice bracelets, and several bags, each containing a hundred ounces of pure silver. The drunken men were soon engaged in violent altercation over the spoil, as several coveted the same articles. In the midst of the hubbub Grettir stepped outside, closed the door, and bolted it. The freebooters did not notice his escape, as he had left the lamp burning; and they supposed that the door had swung to in the wind: they were, moreover, too intent on selecting their shares of the booty to think of any thing else.
Grettir flew across the homestead to the farm-door, and cried loudly for the housewife; but she was silent, as she very naturally mistrusted his intentions, and had, besides, secreted herself, from fear of the pirates.
"Come, answer!" shouted Grettir. "I have captured the whole twelve; and all that is wanting is a supply of weapons! Call up the thralls, and arm them! Quick! there is not a moment to be lost!"
"There are weapons enough here," answered the poor woman, emerging from her hiding-place. "But, Grettir, I have no faith in you."
"Faith or no faith," exclaimed Grettir, "I must have weapons at once! Where are the churls? Here, Kolbein, Svein, Gamli, Krolf! Confound the rascals! where have they skulked to?"
"It will be a mercy of God if any thing can be done," said the housewife; "for we are in a sorry plight, to be sure! Now look here. Over Thorfin's bed hangs an enormous barbed spear: you will find there also helmet and cuirass, also a beautiful cutlass. No lack of weapons, if you have only the pluck to use them."
Grettir seized the casque and spear, girded on the sword, and dashed into the yard, begging the woman to send the churls after him. She called the eight men, and bade them arm at once, and follow. Four of them obeyed, rushing to the weapons, and scrambling for them; but the other four ran clean away.
I must tell you, that, in the mean time, the berserkirs had rather wondered at Grettir's disappearance; and, from wondering, had fallen to suspecting that all was not right. Then they sprang to the door, tried it, and found it locked from without. It was too massive for them to break open; so they tore down the partition of boards between the store and the office. The berserkir rage came on them, and they ground their teeth, frothed at the mouth, and burst forth with the howl of demonises through the office-door, upon the landing at the head of the steps, just as Grettir came to the foot.
Thorir and Ogmund were together. In the fitful gleams of the moon they seemed like fiends, as they scrambled forth armed with splinters of deal, their eyes glaring with frenzy, and great foam-flakes bespattering their breasts, and dropping on the stones at their feet. The brothers plunged down the narrow stair with a yell which rang through the still, snow-clad forest for miles. Grettir planted the spear in the ground, and caught Thorir on its point. The sharp, double-edged blade, three feet in length, sliced into him, and came out beneath his shoulders, then tore into Ogmund's breast a span-deep. The yew-shaft bent like a bow, and flipped from the ground the stone, against which the butt had been planted. The wretched men crashed to the bottom of the stair, tried to rise, staggered, and fell again. Grettir planted his foot on them, and wrenched the blade from their wounds, drew the cutlass, and smote down another rover as he broke through the door. Other berserkirs poured out; and Grettir drove at them with spear, or hewed at them with sword: he slew another as the churls came up. They were late; for they had been squabbling over the weapons: and, now that they were come, they were nearly useless, as they only made onslaughts when the backs of the robbers were towards them; but, the moment that the vikings turned on them, they bounded away, and skulked behind the walls.
The pirates showed desperate fight, armed with chips of plank or sticks pulled from some pine-fagots which lay in the homestead. They warded off Grettir's blows, and fled from corner to corner, pursued by their indefatigable foe. In the wildness and agony of despair they could not find the gate, but bounded over the wall of the yard, and ran toward the boat-house, with Grettir at their heels. They plunged in, and possessed themselves of the oars: Grettir followed into the gloom, and smote right and left. The bewildered wretches climbed into the boat: some strove to push her into the water, whilst others battled in the darkness with their unseen enemy; but some pulled one way, some another, and the blows from the oars fell on friend as well as foe, so that the panic became more complete.
In the mean time the thralls had quietly returned to the farm, quite satisfied when they saw the robbers take to their heels; and no entreaties of the housewife 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 vikings. As the boat-house was open to the air on the side which fared 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 vikings; 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 neighboring farm, where they dashed into a granary, and hid among the straw. Unfortunately for them, most of the wheat bad 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 mean while 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 valor," 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 mettle 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.3 Then all re turned to the farm in high glee; and Grettir chanted tho following verse:
"Twelve war-flame branches are buried
Low by the lond-resounding:
Unasked sent I them singly
To speedy death. O ye gold-sallows,
Well born, bear me all witness I
What is wrought mightier? Tell me
If ye wot, this being little." 4
"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 honor, 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 ran 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 vikings. 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 the men.
"I know whose boat this is," answered the farmer. "It belongs to Thorir o' the Paunch and Bad Φgmund, 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 Tborfin in uncertainty and alarm. He bad 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 looks of affairs, l 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 dishonor; 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 toward 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.
1 Now Lutheran.
3 Burial between tides was looked upon as disgrace: hence the Oak 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. These men who have been guilty of the aforesaid crimes shall be buried within reach of the tides, where the water licks the green turf."
4 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 sword-man. Gold-sallow is similarly a periphrasis for woman; loud-resounding for sea.