THORKEL the Soursop was very fond of dress and very lazy; he did not do a stroke of work in the housekeeping of those brothers; but Gisli worked night and day. It fell on a good drying day that Gisli set all the men at work hay-making, save his brother Thorkel. He alone of all the men was at home, and he had laid him down after breakfast in the hall, where the fire was, and gone to sleep. The hall was thirty fathoms long and ten broad. Away from it, and to the south, stood the bower of Auda and Asgerda, and there the two sat sewing. But when Thorkel wakes he goes toward the bower for he heard voices, and, lays him down outside close by the bower. Then Asgerda began to speak, and said:
“Help me, Auda dear; and cut me out a shirt for my husband Thorkel.”
“I can’t do that any better than thou,” says Auda; “nor wouldst thou ask me to do it if thou wert making aught for my brother Vestein.”
“All that touches Vestein is a thing by itself,” says Asgerda; “and so it will be with me for many a day; for I love him more than my husband Thorkel, though we may never fulfil our love.”
“I have long known,” said Auda, “how Thorkel fared in this matter, and how things stood; but let us speak no more of it:’
“I think it no harm,” says Asgerda; “though I think Vestein a good fellow. Besides I have heard it said that ye two–thou and Thorgrim–often had meetings before thou wert given away in marriage.”
“No wrong came of it to any man,” said Auda, “nor has any man found favour in my eyes since I was given to Gisli. There has been no disgrace. Do pray stop this idle talk.”
And so they did; but Thorkel had heard every word they spoke, and now he raised his voice and said:
“Hear a great wonder,
Hear words of doom;
Hear matters mighty,
Murders of men!”
After that he goes away indoors. Then Auda went on to say:
“Oft comes ill from women’s gossip, and it may be so, and much worse, from this thing. Let us take counsel against it.”
“Oh,” says Asgerda, “I have bethought me of a plan which will stand me in good stead.”
“What is it, pray?” says Auda.
“I will throw my arms round Thorkel’s neck when we go to bed this evening, and be as kind to him as I can; and his heart will turn at that, and be will forgive me. I will tell him too that this was all stories, and that there is not a word of truth in what we chattered. But if he will be cross and hold me to it, then tell me some other plan; or hast thou any plan?”
“I will tell thee my plan in the twinkling of an eye,” says Auda. “I will tell my husband Gisli all that gives me any trouble, whether it be good or ill. He will know how to help me out of it, for that will be best for me in the end.”
At even Gisli came home from the hay-field. It was Thorkel’s wont to thank his brother Gisli every day for the work he had done, but now he did not, and never a word said he to Gisli.
Then Gisli went up to Thorkel and said: “Does aught ail thee, brother, that thou art so silent?”
“I have no sickness,” says Thorkel; “but this is worse than sickness.”
“Have I done aught, brother,” says Gisli, “that displeases thee?”
“Thou hast done nothing of the sort.”
“That makes me glad at once; for the last thing that I wish is that anything should come between our love. But still I would so like to know what is at the root of thy sadness.”
“Thou wilt know it soon enough,” says Thorkel, “though thou dost not know it now.”
Then Gisli goes away and says no more, and men go to bed when night came. Thorkel ate little that night, and was the first to go to bed. But when Asgerda came to his bedside and lifted the bed-clothes, then Thorkel said to her:
“I do not mean to let thee sleep here to-night.”
“Why, what is more fitting,” she said, “than that I should sleep by my husband? Why hast thy heart so soon changed, and what is the matter?”
“Thou knowest very well, and I know it. It has been long hidden from me, but thy good name will not be greater if I speak it out.”
“What’s the good of talking like that?” she said. “Thou oughtest to know better than to believe the silly talk of us women, for we are ever chattering when we are alone about things without a word of truth in them; and so it was here.”
Then Asgerda threw both her arms round his neck, and was soft and kind, and bade him never believe a word of it.
But Thorkel was cross, and bade her be off. –
“Then,” says Asgerda, “I will not strive with thee any longer for what thou wilt not grant. But I will give thee two choices: the first is, to treat all this as if it had been unspoken–I mean all that we have joked about, and to lay no faith on what is not true; the other is, that I take witness at once and be parted from thee. Then I shall do as I please, and maybe thou wilt then have something to tell of true hatred; and as for me, I will make my father claim at thy hand my dower and portion, and then surely thou wilt no longer be troubled with me as thy bed-fellow.”
Thorkel was tongue-tied for a while. At last he said:
“My counsel to thee is to creep in on the side of the bed that belongs to thee. I can’t waste all the night in keeping thee out.”
So she goes to bed at once, and they make up their quarrel as though it had never happened. As for Auda, when she went to bed with her husband Gisli, she tells him all that she and Asgerda had said just as it happened, and begged him not to be wroth with her, but to give her good counsel if he saw any.
“For I know,” she said, “that Thorkel will wish to see my brother Vestein dead, if he may have his way.”
“I do not see,” says Gisli, “any counsel that is good; but I will throw no blame on thee for this, because when things are once doomed, someone must utter the words that seem to bring them about.”
Now that half-year passes away, and the flitting-days come. Thorkel tells his brother Gisli that he wishes to share all their goods between them, for he is going to join housekeeping with his brother-in-law Thorgrim.
“Brothers’ goods are fairest to look on when they lie together, brother. Many things I see which whisper, ‘Do not part.’ It gladdens my heart to let things bide as they are. Do not let us part.”
“Things cannot go on as they are,” says Thorkel. “We cannot keep house together any longer, for there is great harm in this, that thou shouldest have all the toil and trouble about the farm, while I turn my hand to nothing which brings in any gain.
“Do not thou talk about that,” says Gisli, “so long as I say never a word. I am well pleased with things as they are. Besides, we have gone through much together. We have been good friends and bad friends. We have borne bad luck and good luck as brothers. But we were always best off when we stood shoulder to shoulder, Do not let us change now.”
“Well,” says Thorkel, “there’s no use in talking. I have made up my mind to share our goods, and they shall be shared. As I ask for them to be shared, thou shalt have the house and heritage, and I the goods and chattels.’
“As for that,” says Gisli, “if it must come to that, and we are to part, do as thou likest–share or choose. I care not what I do.”
The end of it was that Gisli shared; and Thorkel chose the goods and chattels, and Gisli kept the land. In their household were two poor children whom they had taken in, the offspring of their kinsman Ingialld, and these two they parted: the boy’s name was Geirmund, and the girls Gudrida. She stayed with Gisli, but Geirmund went with Thorkel. So Thorkel went away to his brother-in-law Thorgrim, and took up his abode with him; but Gisli had the farm at Hol to himself, and the household lacked nothing, but went on as well as before. And now the summer slips away, and the first winter night was nigh at hand.
From: The Story/Saga of Gisli the Outlaw
Translated From The Icelandic Sir George Webbe Dasent D.C.L. With Illustrations By C. E. St. John-Mildmay