NOW the story goes on that next spring Bork fares to Thorskafirth Thing with a great company, and means to meet his friends there. Gest sails from the west from his house at Redsand on Bardastrand, and Thorkel Soursop comes too, each in his own ship. But just as Gest was ready to start two lads came to him ill-clad, with beggars staves in their hands. Men know this, that these two lads had a talk aside with Gest, that they beg a passage over the firth, and that he grants it. So they sail with him, and he takes them as far as Hallsteinsness. They landed just beyond the farm where Hallstein offered up his son, that a tree of sixty feet might be thrown up by the sea, and there are still to be seen the pillars of his high seat which he had made out of that tree. Thence the lads go up into Teigwood, and so go through the wood till they come to Thorskafirth Thing.
There was a man named Hallbjorn: he was a vagabond who roamed over the country, and not fewer men with him than ten or twelve. But when he came to the Thing be built himself a booth. Thither to the Beggar’s Booth the lads go and ask for a lodging, and say they are beggars and runagates. He said he will find room for every one who asks him prettily.
“Here have I been,” he said, “every year for many a spring, and I know all the chiefs and priests.”
The lads said they would be very glad if he would take them under his wing and teach them wisdom.
“We are very curious to see mighty folk about whom great tales are told.”
So Hallbjorn says if they will go down with him to the seastrand, that then he would know every ship as it ran in, and tell them all about it. They thanked him much for his gentleness.
Now they go down to the strand and look out at sea, and they soon see ships sailing up to the land. Then the elder lad began to ask:
“Who owns yon ship which now sails up nearest to us?”
“Gest the Wise,” he answers, “of Hagi on Bardastrand.”
“But who sail next, and run their ship up at the horn of the firth?”
“That is Thorkel Soursop.”
They see now that Thorkel lands and sits him down while his men bore the lading from the ship as the tide rose. But Bork was busy setting up their booth; for the two brothers-in-law had one booth between them, and they were always good friends.
Thorkel had on a Greek hat and a gray cloak. He had a gold brooch on his shoulder, and a sword in his hand. In a little while Hallbjorn and the lads went up to where Thorkel was sitting. Now one of the lads, the elder, began to speak, and said:
“Pray who is this mighty man who sits here? Never have I seen a fairer or a nobler man.”
He answered: “Thy words fall fair. My name is Thorkel.”
The lad went on: “That sword which thou bearest in thy hand must be a treasure. Wilt thou let me look at it?”
“A strange fellow thou art,” answers Thorkel; “but still I will let thee see it.” And with that he handed him the sword.
The lad grasped the sword, drew off a step or two, snaps the peace-strings, and draws the sword.
But when Thorkel saw that he said:
“That I never gave thee leave to do. Why hast thou drawn the sword?”
“Neither did I ask thy leave,” said the lad; and brandishes the sword, and smites Thorkel on the neck, and takes off his head at a stroke.
Now as soon as this happens up jumps Hallbjorn the Runagate; but the lad threw down the sword all bloody as it was, seizes his staff, and so they all ran with Hallbjorn, and all the beggars ran too, for they were almost mad with fright. So they ran by the booth which Bork was setting up.
Now men flocked round Thorkel, and no man could tell who had done the deed. Bork just then asked what was all that stir or fuss down where Thorkel sate. He said this just as the fifteen beggars tore along by his booth; and then the youngest lad, whose name was Helgi–Berg was he that did the deed–said.
“I don’t know what they are mooting but methinks they are striving whether Vestein left only daughters behind him, or whether he had ever a son.”
So Hallbjorn runs to his booth, but the lads take to the wood which was nigh to the spot, and no one can find them.
Now men run to Hallbjorn’s booth, and ask what it all meant; but all the beggars could say was, that two young lads had joined their band, and that they were as much taken unawares as anyone else, and hardly thought they should know them again. Yet they say something of their form and feature, and of their speech and discourse, what like it had been. And now Bork thinks he knows from the words which Helgi had uttered that it must have been Vestein’s sons. After that he goes to Gest and takes counsel with him as what was best to do.
“I am most bound of all men,” says Bork, “to take up the feud for my brother-in-law Thorkel. Methinks ’tis not unlikely that the sons of Vestein must have done this deed, for we know no other men than they who had any quarrel with Thorkel. Now it may well be they have got clear off for this time, but I will give much to have them outlawed at this very Thing; so give us counsel how the suit is to be followed up.”
“I think,” says Gest, “it is no easy matter to take this suit in hand, for methinks had I done the deed I could so hamper the suit, if it were about to be brought against me, by naming another man instead of myself, that the suit would come to naught. Maybe, methinks, he that did the deed had the same thought running in his head, and so he has thrown the blame on the boys.”
And Gest was against bringing the suit against them, and threw cold water on it in every way.
Men thought it sooth that Gest had been in league with the lads all along, for he was their near kinsman. Then they cease talking, and the suit falls to the ground; but Thorkel is laid in his howe, after the fashion of the olden time, and men go away home from the Thing, and nothing else happened at it.
Now Bork is very ill-pleased with his doings, and though he ought to have been used to it, still he got great dishonour and disgrace from this matter of Thorkel.
As for the lads, they fare till they get to Geirthiofsfirth and lie out ten days. They reach Auda’s house, and Gisli is at that time there. It was night when they came, and they knock at the door. Auda goes to the door and greets them, and asks what news. But Gisli lay all the while in his earth-house in his bed, and she raised her voice at once if he had need to be warned. They tell her of Thorkel’s slaying, and how things stood. They also say how long they had been without food.
“I will send you on,” says Auda, “over the ridge into Mossdale to the sons of Bjartmar, and I will give you food and tokens that they may take you under their wing, and I do this because I dare not ask Gisli to take you in.”
So the lads go away into the wood, where they cannot be found, and eat their food, for it was long since they tasted any, and then they lay them down and sleep when they are full, for they were much worn with hunger and travel.
As for Auda she goes into Gisli and says
“Now I set great store upon knowing how thou wilt take something, and whether thou wilt honour me more than I am worth.”
He caught her up at once and said: “I know thou art about to tell me the slaying of my brother Thorkel.”
“So it is as thou guessest,” said Auda; “the lads have come hither and wished thee to harbour them here for good and all, for they thought they could find shelter nowhere else.”
“No!” he answers, “I cannot bear the sight of my brother’s slayers and live under the same roof with them;” and up he jumps, and wants to draw his sword, and burst out into song
“Why should not Gisli draw the sword?
Ha! soon shall vengeance be the word.
What! Thorkel slain, and Gisli cool?
Auda, thou tak’st me for a fool!
All o’er the Thing, with ‘bated breath,
Men mourn for Thorkel done to death.
One stalwart blow before I die,
A brother’s blood aloud doth cry.”
But now Auda told him they had gone away; “for I had wit enough not to let them run this risk.”
And Gisli said it was the best way that they never met, and then he soon softened down; and now all is quiet again.
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