NOW the games ceased, and the summer comes on, and there was rather a coldness between Thorgrim and Gisli. Thorgrim meant to have a harvest feast on the first night of winter, and to sacrifice to Frey. He bids to it his brother Bork, and Eyjolf the son of Thord, and many other great men. Gisli too made ready a feast, and bids to it his brothers-in-law from Arnafirth, and the two Thorkels; so that there were full sixty men at his house. There was to be a drinking-bout at each house, and the floor at Sæbol was covered with sedge won from Sedgetarn. Now when Thorgrim and his men were busy putting up the hangings in the hall, Thorgrim all at once said to Thorkel Those hangings would come in well–those fine ones I mean–that Vestein wished to give thee; methinks there is great difference between your having them for a day or having them altogether. I wish thou wouldst send for them now.”
“The man,” said Thorkel, “who knows how to forbear is master of all knowledge. I will not send for them.”
“Then I wilt” said Thorgrim; and with that he bade Geirmund go and fetch them.
“I have work to do,” said Geirmund, “and I have no mind to go.”
Then Thorgrim. goes up to him, and gave him a great buck-horse on the ear, and said:
“Be off with thee now, if thou likest it better.”
“So I will,” he said; “though I have less mind than ever but be sure I’ll do my best to give thee the gray mare instead of thy horse. Then we shall be quits.”
So he went away; but when he gets to Gisli’s house, Gisli and Auda were hard at work putting up the hangings. Geirmund told his errand, and the whole story.
“Well, Auda,” said Gisli, “wilt thou lend them the hangings?”
“Why ask me at all,” says Auda, “when thou knowest that I would neither grant them this nor aught else that would do them any honour?”
“Did my brother Thorkel wish it?” asks Gisli.
“He was well pleased that I came for them.”
“That alone is quite enough,” said Gisli; and with that he gives him the rich hangings, and went back with him on the way. Gisli goes with him right up to the farm-yard, and then said:
“Things now stand in this wise: I think I have made thy errand turn out well, and now I wish thou wouldst be yielding to me in what I want. for gift answers to gift, you know, and one hand washes the other. My wish is, that thou wouldst push back the bolts of the three doors to-night. Think how thou wast bidden to set out.”
“Will there be any risk to thy brother Thorkel?” said Geirmund.
“None at all,” said Gisli.
“Then that shall come to pass,” said Geirmund.
And now when he comes home he casts down the costly hangings, and Thorkel said:
“Unlike is Gisli to other men in long-suffering. He is far better than we.”
“For all that,” said Thorgrim. “we need these pretty things so let us e’en put them up.”
After that the guests who were bidden came at even. Now the weather thickens, and a snow-drift falls that night and covers all paths.
Bork and Eyjolf came to the feast with a hundred and twenty men, and there were half as many at Gisli’s house. Men took to drinking in the evening, and after that they go to bed and sleep.
Then Gisli said to Auda his wife:
“I have not given fodder to Thorkel the Wealthy’s horse. Come now with me and undo the locks at the gate, and watch while I am away, and undo the locks again when I come back.”
He takes the spear “Graysteel” out of the chest, and is clad in a blue cape, and in his kirtle and linen breeks and shoes. So he goes to the brook which runs between the farms, whence each drew water for its cattle. He goes down to the brook by the path, and then wades along it to the other path that led up to the other farm. Gisli knew all the ins and outs of the house at Sæbol, for he had built it himself. There was a way from the water into the byre. That was where he got in. There in the byre stood thirty cows, back to back; he knots together the tails of the kine, and locks up the byre, and makes it so fast that it cannot be opened if any one came from the inside. After that he goes to the dwelling-house, and Geirmund had done his work well, for there was not a bolt to any of the doors. Now he goes in and shuts the door again, just as it had been locked the evening before. Now he takes his time, and stands and spies about if any were awake, and he is soon aware that all men are asleep. There were three lamps in the hall. Then he takes some of the sedge from the floor, and makes a wisp of it, and throws it on one of the lights, and quenches it. Again he stands awhile, and spies if any man had awoke, and cannot find that any are awake. Then he takes another wisp and throws it at that light which stood next, and quenches that. Then he became aware that all men cannot be asleep; for he sees now a young man’s arm comes toward the third light, and pulls down the lamp; and puts out the light.
Now he goes farther in along the house till he comes to the shut bed where Thorgrim and his sister Thordisa slept. The lattice was ajar, and there they are both in bed. Then he goes thither, and puts out his hand to feel, and touches her breast; for she slept on the outside.
Then Thordisa said: “Why is thy hand so cold, Thorgrim?” and wakes him up.
“Wilt thou that I turn to thee?” asked Thorgrim.
She thought he had laid his hand on her.
Then Gisli bides awhile, and warms his hand in his shirt but they two fell asleep again.
Now he takes hold of Thorgrim gently, so that he woke and turned towards Thordisa, for he thought she had roused him.
Then Gisli lifts the clothes off them with one hand, while with the other he thrusts Thorgrim through the body with “Graysteel,” and pins him to the bed.
Now Thordisa, cries out: “Wake up men in the hall; my husband Thorgrim is slain!”
Gisli turns short away to the byre. He goes out where he had meant, and locks it up strongly behind him. Then he goes home by the same way, and his footsteps cannot be seen. Auda pushes back the bolts when he came home, and he gets into bed, and makes as though nothing had happened, or as though he had naught to do but sleep.
But down at Sæbol all the men were mad with drink, and knew not what to do. The deed came on them unawares, and so no course was taken that was of any good.
At last Eyjolf of Otterdale said: “Here have happened ill tidings, and great tidings, and all the folk have been bereft of their wits. It seems to me the best thing were to light the lamps, and run to the doors, that the manslayer may not get out.”
And so it was done, and men thought when they could not lay hands on the manslayer, that it must have been some one in the house who had done the deed.
So time runs on till day came. Then they took Thorgrim’s body and plucked out the spear, and he was laid out for burial, and sixty men followed him. So they fare to Gisli’s house at Hol. Thord the Hareheart was out of doors early, and when he sees the band, he runs in and says that a host of men were marching on the house, and was quite out of breath.
“That is well,” said Gisli, and chaunted a stave
“Mighty man! my mind is easy;
Too many have I done to death
To be scared by tidings queasy,
Uttered by idiots out of breath.
No! I lie and take my slumber;
Though this lord is stretched on earth
Idle rumours without number
Vex the folk and mar their mirth.”
Now they come to the farm, Thorkel and Eyjolf, and go up to the shut-bed where Gisli and his wife slept; but Thorkel, Gisli’s brother, stepped up first on to the floor, and stands at the side of the bed, and sees Gisli’s shoes lying all frozen and snowy. He kicked them under the footboard, so that no other man should see them.
Now Gisli greets them and asks the news. Thorkel said there were both great and bad news, and asks what it might mean, and what counsel was best to take.
“Then there has been scant space between two great and ill deeds,” said Gisli: “but we shall be ready enough to lay Thorgrim in his howe, and you have a right to ask that of us, for it is our bounden duty to do it with all honour.”
They took that offer gladly, and all together went to Sæbol to throw up the howe, and lay Thorgrim in his ship.
Now they heap up the howe after the fashion of the olden time, and when they were just about to close the howe Gisli goes to the mouth of the stream, and takes up a stone so big that it looked like a rock, and dashes it down on the ship, so that every timber cracked again, and the whole ship creaked and groaned. As he did that he said:
“I know nothing of making a ship fast if any weather stirs this!’
Some now said that this looked very like what Thorgrim had done to Vestein when he spoke about the hellshoon.
Now they made them ready to go home from the howe, and Gisli said to his brother:
“Methinks I have a right to call on thee, brother, that our friendship should now be as good as when it was best. Now let us set some sports afoot.”
Thorkel took that well enough, and they parted and went home. Gisli’s house was now quite full, and the feast came to an end, and Gisli gives good gifts to his guests.
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