THE next three years Gisli was sometimes in his house at Geirthiofsfirth, and sometimes with Thorkel the Wealthy, harboured by stealth. Other three years he spent in roaming over the land, and going from house to house asking help and countenance from great chiefs; but something always tripped him up everywhere, so that naught came of it. So mighty was that spell that Thorgrim’s witchcraft had thrown on him that it was fated no chief should shelter him, and no one ever went heartily into his cause. After those six years were over he spent his time for the most part in Geirthiofsfirth, sometimes in his house, over which Auda ruled, and sometimes in the hiding-place which he had hollowed out for himself. That was on the north bank of the river. But he had another lair on the south bank among the crags, and there he lurked for the most part.
Now when Bork hears this, he set off from home, and seeks Eyjolf the Gray, who then dwelt in Arnarfirth in Otterdale, and begs him to hunt for Gisli, and slay him as an outlaw, and if he slew him, he said he would give him three hundreds in silver of the very best, and bade him leave no stone unturned to find him out. He takes the money, and gives his word to do his best. There was a man with Eyjolf named Helgi–Spy-Helgi by nickname; he was both swift of foot and sharp of eye, and he knew every inch of the firths. This man is sent to Geirthiofsfirth to find out if Gisli be there. He soon is aware of a man in hiding, but he knows not whether it be Gisli or another. So he goes back and tells Eyjolf how things stand. Eyjolf says at once it must be Gisli, and loses no time, but sets off with six men for Geirthiofsfirth; but he cannot find Gisli, and goes bootless back.
Gisli was a foresighted man and a great dreamer, and dreamt true. All wise men are of one mind that Gisli lived an outlaw longest of all men, save Grettir, the son of Osmund. Eighteen years was Grettir an outlaw. It is told that one autumn night Gisli was very restless as he slept, while he was in Auda’s house, and when he wakes she asks him what he had dreamt?
“I have two women who are with me in my dreams,” he answers; “one is good to me, but the other tells me naught but evil, and her tale is every day worse and worse, and she spaes me downright ruin. But what I just dreamed was this: Methought I came to a house or hall, and into that hall I went, and there I saw many of my friends and kinsfolk: they sat by fires and drank. There were. seven fires; some had burnt very low, but some still burned as bright as bright could be. Then in came my better dream-wife, and said these were tokens of my life, how much of it was still to come; and she counselled me so long as I lived to leave all old unbeliefs and witchcraft, and to be good to the deaf and the halt, and the poor and the weak. “Bear in mind,” she said, “thou hast so many years yet to live as thou sawest fires alight.” My dream was no longer than that. Then Gisli chaunted several staves:
“Fires seven, the bard remembers,
Lady, blazed within that hall;
Men around those glowing embers
Sate and drank like brothers all.
One and all those inmates gladly
Greeted Gisli as their guest;
Gisli hailed them soft and sadly,
Fitting words his thanks expressed.
“Thus that weird wife, wise and witty,
Spoke, and said to Norway’s friend–
Soft her voice and full of pity,–
‘Man! behold thy journey’s end;
Mark those seven fires burning,
Seven years to thee remain;
Then, to this abode returning,
Make thee merry, free from pain.’
“‘Noble man!’ the voice continues,
‘Shun the wizard’s hateful lore;
Hero bold, of strongest sinews,
Seek the muse’s golden store.
Bear in mind this precept hoary–
Naught so much defileth hearts
As wicked wit, as idle story;
Vile is witchcraft, black her arts.
“‘Stay thy hand, be slow to slaughter;
Rouse not men to seek thy life:
Come! thy word to wisdom’s daughter
Be not first in stirring strife.
Man of noble nature, ever
Help the weak, the halt, the blind;
Hard the hand that opens never,
Bright and blest the generous mind.'”
Now Bork presses Eyjolf hard, and thinks he has not done so much as he said he would, and that there had been small return for the silver he had given him. He said he was quite sure Gisli was in Geirthiofsfirth, and if Eyjolf did not send some one to take Gisli’s life, Bork said he must come and hunt him down himself: “For ’tis a shame that two such champions and chiefs as we think ourselves cannot get Gisli put out of the way.”
Eyjolf was all alive again, and sends Spy-Helgi again round Geirthiofsfirth; and now he takes food with him, and is away a week, and lies in wait to catch sight of Gisli. At last one day he sees a man come out of a hiding-place, and knows Gisli at once. As soon as he sees him he goes back and tells Eyjolf what he had seen.
Now Eyjolf sets off with eight men, and makes for Auda’s house in Geirthiofsfirth; but they do not find Gisli there, and now they beat all the thickets thereabouts, and still cannot find Gisli. Then they go back to Auda’s house, and Eyjolf offers her a great sum of money if she will betray Gisli; but she would do nothing of the kind. Then they threatened to maim her, but it was all no good, and they had to go back as wise as they came. This was thought a most shameful journey for them; and Eyjolf stays at home all that autumn.
But though Gisli had not been hunted down, he sees plain enough that he must be taken, and that very soon, if he stays there. So he breaks up from home, and goes along the coast to Strand, and rides to see his brother Thorkel at “the Combe.” He knocks at the door of the sleeping-house in which Thorkel is abed, and he gets up, goes out, and greets Gisli.
“I want to know, now,” said Gisli, “if thou wilt yield me any help? I look to thee for comfort and countenance, for now I am hard pressed, and I have forborne to do this for a long time.”
But Thorkel gave him the old answer, and said outright he would give him no help that might get himself into trouble. Silver and horses he would give him, if he needed them, or anything else, as he said before, but nothing besides.
“Now I see,” said Gisli, “that thou wilt not help me. Give me now three hundred in wadmel, and make up your mind that henceforth I shall not often ask thy aid.”
Thorkel does as he wishes, and gives him the woollen and some silver. Gisli said he would take what was given him, but added he would not behave so meanly were he in Thorkel’s place. At their parting Gisli was very down-hearted.
Now he goes out to Vadil, to the mother of Gest, the son of Oddleif, and reaches her house before dawn, and knocks at the door. The housewife goes to the door. She was often wont to harbour outlaws, and she had an underground room. One end of it opened on the river-bank and the other below her hall. One way see the ruins of it still. Thorgerda–for that was heir name–made Gisli welcome. “I am willing enough thou shouldest stay here awhile, but I am sure I can’t tell whether this is not mere old wife’s talk.”
Old wife’s talk or not, Gisli was willing to take it as it was meant, and said he had not been so well treated by men that better things were not to be hoped for from women.
So Gisli stays there that winter, and he was never better cared for in all his outlawry than there.
As soon as ever the spring came Gisli fares back to Geirthiofsfirth, for he could not bear to be any longer away from Auda his wife, so much they loved each other. He is there that summer by stealth, and up to autumn. And now as the nights lengthen the dreams lengthen with them, and that worse dream-wife comes oftener and oftener to him, and he has hard nights. Once he says to Auda, when she asks him what he had dreamt, and his answer was in verse:
“A weary wife now haunts my slumber;
If dreams be true, as oft they be,
Not many winters shall I number,
No tongue shall ‘Graybeard!’ shout to me:
This dream-wife bids me peak and pine,
Vain ’tis to try to break her spell
But little care I, darling mine!
I dream, but slumber soft and well.”
And now he tells her that that worse dream-wife was ever coming to him, and wishing to sprinkle blood over him, and to smear and bathe him in it; and that she looked spitefully on him. Then he chaunted:
“Still my dreams are heavy-hearted,
Still my evil genius lowers;
All my mirth hath clean departed,
Mine no more are blithesome hours:
Sleep no sooner seals my eyelids
Than a loathly wife appears,
Bathed in blood and gore-bedabbled,
Drenching me with dew of spears.” 1
And again he chaunted:
“Darling wife, I now have uttered
All my mind about my dreams
Nothing hidden, nothing muttered,
Words of truth welled out in streams:
Wrath now riseth hour by hour,
Worse my foes shall feel my hand–
High-born chiefs, whose haughty power,
Marked me with an outlaw’s brand.”
1 Periphrasis for blood.
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