The Story of Burnt Njal
Part 3: Sections 38 - 53
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #11
38. THE KILLING OF ATLI THE THRALL Next spring Njal said to Atli, "I wish that thou wouldst change thy abode to the east firths, so that Hallgerda may not put an end to thy life?" "I am not afraid of that," says Atli, "and I will willingly stay at home if I have the choice." "Still that is less wise," says Njal. "I think it better to lose my life in thy house than to change my master; but this I will beg of thee, if I am slain, that a thrall's price shall not be paid for me." "Thou shalt be atoned for as a free man; but perhaps Bergthora will make thee a promise which she will fulfil, that revenge, man for man, shall be taken for thee." Then he made up his mind to be a hired servant there. Now it must be told of Hallgerda that she sent a man west to Bearfirth, to fetch Brynjolf the Unruly, her kinsman. He was a base son of Swan, and he was one of the worst of men. Gunnar knew nothing about it. Hallgerda said he was well fitted to be a grieve. So Brynjolf came from the west, and Gunnar asked what he was to do there? He said he was going to stay there. "Thou wilt not better our household," says Gunnar, "after what has been told me of thee, but I will not turn away any of Hallgerda's kinsmen, whom she wishes to be with her." Gunnar said little, but was not unkind to him, and so things went on till the Thing. Gunnar rides to the Thing and Kolskegg rides too, and when they came to the Thing they and Njal met, for he and his sons were at the Thing, and all went well with Gunnar and them. Bergthora said to Atli, "Go thou up into Thorolfsfell and work there a week." So he went up thither, and was there on the sly, and burnt charcoal in the wood. Hallgerda said to Brynjolf, "I have been told Atli is not at home, and he must be winning work on Thorolfsfell." "What thinkest thou likeliest that he is working at," says he. "At something in the wood," she says. "What shall I do to him?" he asks. "Thou shalt kill him," says she. He was rather slow in answering her, and Hallgerda said, "'Twould grow less in Thiostolf's eyes to kill Atli if he were alive." "Thou shalt have no need to goad me on much more," he says, and then he seized his weapons, and takes his horse and mounts, and rides to Thorolfsfell. There he saw a great reek of coalsmoke east of the homestead, so he rides thither, and gets off his horse and ties him up, but he goes where the smoke was thickest. Then he sees where the charcoal pit is, and a man stands by it. He saw that he had thrust his spear in the ground by him. Brynjolf goes along with the smoke right up to him, but he was eager at his work, and saw him not. Brynjolf gave him a stroke on the head with his axe, and he turned so quick round that Brynjolf loosed his hold of the axe, and Atli grasped the spear, and hurled it after him. Then Brynjolf cast himself down on the ground, but the spear flew away over him. "Lucky for thee that I was not ready for thee," says Atli, "but now Hallgerda will be well pleased, for thou wilt tell her of my death; but it is a comfort to know that thou wilt have the same fate soon; but come now take thy axe which has been here." He answered him never a word, nor did he take the axe before he was dead. Then he rode up to the house on Thorolfsfell, and told of the slaying, and after that rode home and told Hallgerda. She sent men to Bergthorsknoll, and let them tell Bergthora that now Kol's slaying was paid for. After that Hallgerda sent a man to the Thing to tell Gunnar of Atli's killing. Gunnar stood up, and Kolskegg with him, and Kolskegg said, "Unthrifty will Hallgerda's kinsmen be to thee." Then they go to see Njal, and Gunnar said, "I have to tell thee of Atli's killing." He told him also who slew him, and went on, "And now I will bid thee atonement for the deed, and thou shalt make the award thyself." Njal said, "We two have always meant never to come to strife about anything; but still I cannot make him out a thrall." Gunnar said that was all right, and stretched out his hand. Njal named his witnesses, and they made peace on those terms. Skarphedinn said, "Hallgerda does not let our housecarles die of old age." Gunnar said, "Thy mother will take care that blow goes for blow between the houses." "Ay, ay," says Njal, "there will be enough of that work." After that Njal fixed the price at a hundred in silver, but Gunnar paid it down at once. Many who stood by said that the award was high; Gunnar got wroth, and said that a full atonement was often paid for those who were no brisker men than Atli. With that they rode home from the Thing. Bergthora said to Njal when she saw the money, "Thou thinkest thou hast fulfilled thy promise, but now my promise is still behind." "There is no need that thou shouldst fulfil it," says Njal. "Nay," says she, "thou hast guessed it would be so; and so it shall be." Hallgerda said to Gunnar, "Hast thou paid a hundred in silver for Atli's slaying, and made him a free man?" "He was free before," says Gunnar, "and besides, I will not make Njal's household outlaws who have forfeited their rights." "There's not a pin to choose between you," she said, "for both of you are so blate?" "That's as things prove," says he. Then Gunnar was for a long time very short with her, till she gave way to him; and now all was still for the rest of that year; in the spring Njal did not increase his household, and now men ride to the Thing about summer. 39. THE SLAYING OF BRYNJOLF THE UNRULY There was a man named Thord, he was surnamed Freedmanson. Sigtrygg was his father's name, and he had been the freedman of Asgerd, and he was drowned in Markfleet. That was why Thord was with Njal afterwards. He was a tall man and a strong, and he had fostered all Njal's sons. He had set his heart on Gudfinna Thorolf's daughter, Njal's kinswoman; she was housekeeper at home there, and was then with child. Now Bergthora came to talk with Thord Freedmanson; she said, "Thou shalt go to kill Brynjolf, Hallgerda's kinsman." "I am no man-slayer," he says, "but still I will do whatever thou wilt." "This is my will," she says. After that he went up to Lithend, and made them call Hallgerda out, and asked where Brynjolf might be. "What's thy will with him," she says. "I want him to tell me where he has hidden Atli's body; I have heard say that he has buried it badly." She pointed to him and said he was down yonder in Acretongue. "Take heed," says Thord, "that the same thing does not befall him as befell Atli." "Thou art no man-slayer," she says, "and so naught will come of it even if ye two do meet." "Never have I seen man's blood, nor do I know how I should feel if I did," he says, and gallops out of the "town" and down to Acretongue. Rannveig, Gunnar's mother, had heard their talk. "Thou goadest his mind much, Hallgerda," she says, "but I think him a dauntless man, and that thy kinsman will find." They met on the beaten way, Thord and Brynjolf; and Thord said, "Guard thee, Brynjolf, for I will do no dastard's deed by thee." Brynjolf rode at Thord, and smote at him with his axe. He smote at him at the same time with his axe, and hewed in sunder the haft just above Brynjolf's hands, and then hewed at him at once a second time, and struck him on the collar-bone, and the blow went straight into his trunk. Then he fell from horseback, and was dead on the spot. Thord met Hallgerda's herdsman, and gave out the slaying as done by his hand, and said where he lay, and bade him tell Hallgerda of the slaying. After that he rode home to Bergthorsknoll, and told Bergthora of the slaying, and other people too. "Good luck go with thy hands," she said. The herdsman told Hallgerda of the slaying; she was snappish at it, and said much ill would come of it, if she might have her way. 40. GUNNAR AND NJAL MAKE PEACE ABOUT BRYNJOLF'S SLAYING Now these tidings come to the Thing, and Njal made them tell him the tale thrice, and then he said, "More men now become man- slayers than I weened." Skarphedinn spoke, "That man, though, must have been twice fey," he says, "who lost his life by our foster-father's hand, who has never seen man's blood. And many would think that we brothers would sooner have done this deed with the turn of temper that we have." "Scant space wilt thou have," says Njal, "ere the like befalls thee; but need will drive thee to it." Then they went to meet Gunnar, and told him of the slaying. Gunnar spoke and said that was little man-scathe, "but yet he was a free man." Njal offered to make peace at once, and Gunnar said yes, and he was to settle the terms himself. He made his award there and then, and laid it at one hundred in silver. Njal paid down the money on the spot, and they were at peace after that. 41. SIGMUND COMES OUT TO ICELAND There was a man whose name was Sigmund. He was the son of Lambi, the son of Sighvat the Red. He was a great voyager, and a comely and a courteous man; tall too, and strong. He was a man of proud spirit, and a good skald, and well trained in most feats of strength. He was noisy and boisterous, and given to jibes and mocking. He made the land east in Homfirth. Skiolld was the name of his fellow-traveller; he was a Swedish man, and ill to do with. They took horse and rode from the east out of Hornfirth, and did not draw bridle before they came to Lithend, in the Fleetlithe. Gunnar gave them a hearty welcome, for the bonds of kinship were close between them. Gunnar begged Sigmund to stay there that winter, and Sigmund said he would take the offer if Skiolld his fellow might be there too. "Well, I have been so told about him," said Gunnar, "that he is no betterer of thy temper; but as it is, thou rather needest to have it bettered. This, too, is a bad house to stay at, and I would just give both of you a bit of advice, my kinsman, not to fire up at the egging on of my wife Hallgerda; for she takes much in hand that is far from my will." "His hands are clean who warns another," says Sigmund. "Then mind the advice given thee," says Gunnar, "for thou art sure to be sore tried; and go along always with me, and lean upon my counsel." After that they were in Gunnar's company. Hallgerda was good to Sigmund; and it soon came about that things grew so warm that she loaded him with money, and tended him no worse than her own husband; and many talked about that, and did not know what lay under it. One day Hallgerda said to Gunnar, "It is not good to be content with that hundred in silver which thou tookest for my kinsman Brynjolf. I shall avenue him if I may," she says. Gunnar said he had no mind to bandy words with her, and went away. He met Kolskegg, and said to him, "Go and see Njal; and tell him that Thord must be ware of himself though peace has been made for, methinks, there is faithlessness somewhere." He rode off and told Njal, but Njal told Thord, and Kolskegg rode home, and Njal thanked them for their faithfulness. Once on a time they two were out in the "town," Njal and Thord; a he-goat was wont to go up and down in the "town," and no one was allowed to drive him away. Then Thord spoke and said, "Well, this is a wondrous thing!" "What is it that thou see'st that seems after a wondrous fashion?" says Njal. "Methinks the goat lies here in the hollow, and he is all one gore of blood." Njal said that there was no goat there, nor anything else. "What is it then?" says Thord. "Thou must be a `fey' man," says Njal, "and thou must have seen the fetch that follows thee, and now be ware of thyself." "That will stand me in no stead," says Thord, "if death is doomed for me." Then Hallgerda came to talk with Thrain Sigfus' son, and said, "I would think thee my son-in-law indeed," she says, "if thou slayest Thord Freedmanson." "I will not do that," he says, "for then I shall have the wrath of my kinsman Gunnar; and besides, great things hang on this deed, for this slaying would soon be avenged." "Who will avenge it?" she asks; "is it the beardless carle?" "Not so," says he, "his sons will avenge it." After that they talked long and low, and no man knew what counsel they took together. Once it happened that Gunnar was not at home, but those companions were. Thrain had come in from Gritwater, and then he and they and Hallgerda sat out of doors and talked. Then Hallgerda said, "This have ye two brothers in arms, Sigmund and Skiolld, promised to slay Thord Freedmanson; but Thrain thou hast promised me that thou wouldst stand by them when they did the deed." They all acknowledged that they had given her this promise. "Now I will counsel you how to do it," she says: "Ye shall ride east into Homfirth after your goods, and come home about the beginning of the Thing, but if ye are at home before it begins, Gunnar will wish that ye should ride to the Thing with him. Njal will be at the Thing and his sons and Gunnar, but then ye two shall slay Thord." They all agreed that this plan should be carried out. After that they busked them east to the Firth, and Gunnar was not aware of what they were about, and Gunnar rode to the Thing. Njal sent Thord Freedmanson away east under Eyjafell, and bade him be away there one night. So he went east, but he could not get back from the east, for the Fleet had risen so high that it could not be crossed on horseback ever so far up. Njal waited for him one night, for he had meant him to have ridden with him; and Njal said to Bregthora that she must send Thord to the Thing as soon as ever he came home. Two nights after, Thord came from the east, and Bergthora told him that he must ride to the Thing, "But first thou shalt ride up into Thorolfsfell and see about the farm there, and do not be there longer than one or two nights." 42. THE SLAYING OF THORD FREEDMANSON Then Sigmund came from the east and those companions. Hallgerda told them that Thord was at home, but that he was to ride straightway to the Thing after a few nights' space. "Now ye will have a fair chance at him," she says, "but if this goes off, ye will never get nigh him." Men came to Lithend from Thorolfsfell, and told Hallgerda that Thord was there. Hallgerda went to Thrain Sigfus' son, and his companions, and said to him, "Now is Thord on Thorolfsfell, and now your best plan is to fall on him and kill him as he goes home." "That we will do," says Sigmund. So they went out, and took their weapons and horses and rode on the way to meet him. Sigmund said to Thrain, "Now thou shalt have nothing to do with it; for we shall not need all of us." "Very well, so I will," says he. Then Thord rode up to them a little while after, and Sigmund said to him, "Give thyself up," he says, "for now shalt thou die." "That shall not be," says Thord, "come thou to single combat with me." "That shall not be either," says Sigmund; "we will make the most of our numbers; but it is not strange that Skarphedinn is strong, for it is said that a fourth of a foster-child's strength comes from the foster-father. "Thou wilt feel the force of that," says Thord, "for Skarphedinn will avenge me." After that they fall on him, and he breaks a spear of each of them, so well did he guard himself. Then Skiolld cut off his hand, and he still kept them off with his other hand for some time, till Sigmund thrust him through. Then he fell dead to earth. They drew over him turf and stones; and Thrain said, "We have won an ill work, and Njal's sons will take this slaying ill when they hear of it." They ride home and tell Hallgerda. She was glad to hear of the slaying, but Rannveig, Gunnar's mother, said, "It is said `but a short while is hand fain of blow,' and so it will be here; but still Gunnar will set thee free from this matter. But if Hallgerda makes thee take another fly in thy mouth, then that will be thy bane." Hallgerda sent a man to Bergthorsknoll, to tell the slaying, and another man to the Thing, to tell it to Gunnar. Bergthora said she would not fight against Hallgerda with ill words about such a matter; "That," quoth she, "would be no revenge for so great a quarrel." 43. NJAL AND GUNNAR MAKE PEACE FOR THE SLAYING OF THORD But when the messenger came to the Thing to tell Gunnar of the slaying, then Gunnar said, "This has happened ill, and no tidings could come to my ears which I should think worse; but yet we will now go at once and see Njal. I still hope he may take it well, though he be sorely tried." So they went to see Njal, and called him to come out and talk to them. He went out at once to meet Gunnar, and they talked, nor were there any more men by at first than Kolskegg. "Hard tidings have I to tell thee," says Gunnar; "the slaying of Thord Freedmanson, and I wish to offer thee selfdoom for the slaying." Njal held his peace some while, and then said, "That is well offered, and I will take it; but yet it is to be looked for that I shall have blame from my wife or from my sons for that, for it will mislike them much; but still I will run the risk, for I know that I have to deal with a good man and true; nor do I wish that any breach should arise in our friendship on my part. "Wilt thou let thy sons be by, pray?" says Gunnar. "I will not," says Njal, "for they will not break the peace which I make, but if they stand by while we make it they will not pull well together with us." "So it shall be," says Gunnar. "See thou to it alone." Then they shook one another by the hand, and made peace well and quickly. Then Njal said, "The award that I make is two hundred in silver, and that thou wilt think much." "I do not think it too much," says Gunnar, and went home to his booth. Njal's sons came home, and Skarphedinn asked whence that great sum of money came, which his father held in his hand. Njal said, "I tell you of your foster-father's Thord's slaying, and we two, Gunnar and I, have now made peace in the matter, and he has paid an atonement for him as for two men." "Who slew him?" says Skarphedinn. "Sigmund and Skiolld, but Thrain was standing near too," says Njal. "They thought they had need of much strength," says Skarphedinn, and sang a song -- "Bold in deeds of derring-do, Burdeners of ocean's steeds, Strength enough it seems they needed A11 to slay a single man; When shall we our hands uplift? We who brandish burnished steel -- Famous men erst reddened weapons, When? if now we quiet sit?" "Yes! when shall the day come when we shall lift our hands?" "That will not be long off," says Njal, "and then thou shalt not be baulked; but still, methinks, I set great store on your not breaking this peace that I have made." "Then we will not break it," says Skarphedinn, "but if anything arises between us, then we will bear in mind the old feud." "Then I will ask you to spare no one," says Njal. 44. SIGMUND MOCKS NJAL AND HIS SONS Now men ride home from the Thing; and when Gunnar came home, he said to Sigmund, "Thou art a more unlucky man than I thought, and turnest thy good gifts to thine own ill. But still I have made peace for thee with Njal and his sons; and now, take care that thou dost not let another fly come into thy mouth. Thou art not at all after my mind, thou goest about with jibes and jeers, with scorn and mocking; but that is not my turn of mind. That is why thou gettest on so well with Hallgerda, because ye two have your minds more alike." Gunnar scolded him a long time, and he answered him well, and said he would follow his counsel more for the time to come than he had followed it hitherto. Gunnar told him then they might get on together. Gunnar and Njal kept up their friendship though the rest of their people saw little of one another. It happened once that some gangrel women came to Lithend from Bergthorsknoll; they were great gossips and rather spiteful tongued. Hallgerda had a bower, and sate often in it, and there sate with her her daughter Thorgerda, and there too were Thrain and Sigmund, and a crowd of women. Gunnar was not there, nor Kolskegg. These gangrel women went into the bower, and Hallgerda greeted them, and made room for them; then she asked them for news, but they had none to tell. Hallgerda asked where they had been overnight; they said at Bergthorsknoll. "What was Njal doing?" she says. "He was hard at work sitting still," they said. "What were Njal's sons doing?" she says; "they think themselves men at any rate." "Tall men they are in growth," they say, "but as yet they are all untried; Skarphedinn whetted an axe, Gim fitted a spearhead to the shaft, Helgi riveted a hilt on a sword, Hauskuld strengthened the handle of a shield." "They must be bent on some great deed," says Hallgerda. "We do not know that," they say. "What were Njal's house-carles doing?" she asks. "We don't know what some of them were doing, but one was carting dung up the hill-side." "What good was there in doing that?" she asks. "He said it made the swathe better there than anywhere else," they reply. "Witless now is Njal," says Hallgerda, "though he knows how to give counsel on everything." "How so?" they ask. "I will only bring forward what is true to prove it," says she; "why doesn't he make them cart dung over his beard that he may be like other men? Let us call him `the Beardless Carle': but his sons we will call `Dung-beardlings'; and now do pray give some stave about them, Sigmund, and let us get some good by thy gift of song." "I am quite ready to do that," says he, and sang these verses: "Lady proud with hawk in hand, Prithee why should dungbeard boys, Reft of reason, dare to hammer Handle fast on battle shield? For these lads of loathly feature -- Lady scattering swanbath's beams (1) -- Shaft not shun this ditty shameful Which I shape upon them now. He the beardless carle shall listen While I lash him with abuse, Loon at whom our stomachs sicken, Soon shall bear these words of scorn; Far too nice for such base fellows Is the name my bounty gives, Een my muse her help refuses, Making mirth of dungbeard boys. Here I find a nickname fitting For those noisome dungbeard boys, -- Loath am I to break my bargain Linked with such a noble man -- Knit we all our taunts together -- Known to me is mind of man -- Call we now with outburst common, Him, that churl, the beardless carle." Thou art a jewel indeed," says Hallgerda; " how yielding thou art to what I ask!" Just then Gunnar came in. He had been standing outside the door of the bower, and heard all the words that had passed. They were in a great fright when they saw him come in, and then all held their peace, but before there had been bursts of laughter. Gunnar was very wroth, and said to Sigmund, "Thou art a foolish man, and one that cannot keep to good advice, and thou revilest Njal's sons, and Njal himself who is most worth of all; and this thou doest in spite of what thou hast already done. Mind, this will be thy death. But if any man repeats these words that thou hast spoken, or these verses that thou hast made, that man shall be sent away at once, and have my wrath beside." But they were all so sore afraid of him, that no one dared to repeat those words. After that he went away, but the gangrel women talked among themselves, and said that they would get a reward from Bergthora if they told her all this. They went then away afterwards down thither, and took Bergthora aside and told her the whole story of their own free will. Bergthora spoke and said, when men sate down to the board, "Gifts have been given to all of you, father and sons, and ye will be no true men unless ye repay them somehow." "What gifts are these? " asks Skarphedinn. "You, my sons," says Bergthora, "have got one gift between you all. Ye are nicknamed `Dungbeardlings,' but my husband `the Beardless Carle.'" "Ours is no woman's nature," says Skarphedinn, "that we should fly into a rage at every little thing." "And yet Gunnar was wroth for your sakes," says she, "and he is thought to be good-tempered. But if ye do not take vengeance for this wrong, ye will avenge no shame." "The carline, our mother, thinks this fine sport," says Skarphedinn, and smiled scornfully as he spoke, but still the sweat burst out upon his brow, and red flecks came over his checks, but that was not his wont. Grim was silent and bit his lip. Helgi made no sign, and he said never a word. Hauskuld went off with Bergthora; she came into the room again, and fretted and foamed much. Njal spoke and said, "`Slow and sure,' says the proverb, mistress! and so it is with many things, though they try men's tempers, that there are always two sides to a story, even when vengeance is taken." But at even when Njal was come into his bed, he heard that an axe came against the panel and rang loudly, but there was another shut bed, and there the shields were hung up, and he sees that they are away. He said, "Who have taken down our shields?" "Thy sons went out with them," says Bergthora. Njal pulled his shoes on his feet, and went out at once, and round to the other side of the house, and sees that they were taking their course right up the slope; he said, "Whither away, Skarphedinn?" "To look after thy sheep," he answers. "You would not then be armed," said Njal, "if you meant that, and your errand must be something else." Then Skarphedinn sang a song, "Squanderer of hoarded wealth, Some there are that own rich treasure, Ore of sea that clasps the earth, And yet care to count their sheep; Those who forge sharp songs of mocking, Death songs, scarcely can possess Sense of sheep that crop the grass; Such as these I seek in fight;" and said afterwards, "We shall fish for salmon, father." "'Twould be well then if it turned out so that the prey does not get away from you." They went their way, but Njal went to his bed, and he said to Bergthora, "Thy sons were out of doors all of them, with arms, and now thou must have egged them on to something." "I will give them my heartfelt thanks," said Bergthora, "if they tell me the slaying of Sigmund." ENDNOTES: (1) "Swanbath's beams" -- periphrasis for gold. 45. THE SLAYING OF SIGMUND AND SKIOLLD Now they, Njal's sons, fare up to Fleetlithe, and were that night under the Lithe, and when the day began to break, they came near to Lithend. That same morning both Sigmund and Skiolld rose up and meant to go to the studhorses; they had bits with them, and caught the horses that were in the "town" and rode away on them. They found the stud-horses between two brooks. Skarphedinn caught sight of them, for Sigmund was in bright clothing. Skarphedinn said, "See you now the red elf yonder, lads?" They looked that way, and said they saw him. Skarphedinn spoke again: "Thou, Hauskuld, shalt have nothing to do with it, for thou wilt often be sent about alone without due heed; but I mean Sigmund for myself; methinks that is like a man; but Grim and Helgi, they shall try to slay Skiolld." Hauskuld sat him down, but they went until they came up to them. Skarphedinn said to Sigmund, "Take thy weapons and defend thyself; that is more needful now than to make mocking songs on me and my brothers." Sigmund took up his weapons, but Skarphedinn waited the while. Skiolld turned against Grim and Helgi, and they fell hotly to fight. Sigmund had a helm on his head, and a shield at his side, and was girt with a sword, his spear was in his hand; now he turns against Skarphedinn, and thrusts at once at him with his spear, and the thrust came on his shield. Skarphedinn dashes the spearhaft in two, and lifts up his axe and hews at Sigmund, and cleaves his shield down to below the handle. Sigmund drew his sword and cut at Skarphedinn, and the sword cuts into his shield, so that it stuck fast. Skarphedinn gave the shield such a quick twist, that Sigmund let go his sword. Then Skarphedinn hews at Sigmund with his axe; the "Ogress of war." Sigmund had on a corselet, the axe came on his shoulder. Skarphedinn cleft the shoulder-blade right through, and at the same time pulled the axe towards him. Sigmund fell down on both knees, but sprang up again at once. "Thou hast lilted low to me already," says Skarphedinn, "but still thou shalt fall upon thy mother's bosom ere we two part." "III is that then," says Sigmund. Skarphedinn gave him a blow on his helm, and after that dealt Sigmund his death-blow. Grim cut off Skiolld's foot at the ankle-joint, but Helgi thrust him through with his spear, and he got his death there and then. Skarphedinn saw Hallgerda's shepherd, just as he had hewn off Sigmund's head; he handed the head to the shepherd, and bade him bear it to Hallgerda, and said she would know whether that head had made jeering songs about them, and with that he sang a song -- "Here! this head shalt thou, that heapest Hoards from ocean-caverns won, (1) Bear to Hallgerd with my greeting, Her that hurries men to fight; Sure am I, O firewood splitter! That yon spendthrift knows it well, And will answer if it ever Uttered mocking songs on us." The shepherd casts the head down as soon as ever they parted, for he dared not do so while their eyes were on him. They fared along till they met some men down by Markfleet, and told them the tidings. Skarphedinn gave himself out as the slayer of Sigmund and Grim and Helgi as the slayers of Skiolld; then they fared home and told Njal the tidings. He answers them, "Good luck to your hands I Here no self-doom will come to pass as things stand." Now we must take up the story, and say that the shepherd came home to Lithend. He told Hallgerda the tidings. "Skarphedinn put Sigmund's head into my hands," he says, "and bade me bring it thee; but I dared not do it, for I knew not how thou wouldst like that." "'Twas ill that thou didst not do that," she says; "I would have brought it to Gunnar, and then he would have avenged his kinsman, or have to bear every man's blame." After that she went to Gunnar and said, "I tell thee of thy kinsman Sigmund's slaying: Skarphedinn slew him, and wanted them to bring me the head." "Just what might be looked for to befall him," says Gunnar, "for ill redes bring ill luck, and both you and Skarphedinn have often done one another spiteful turns." Then Gunnar went away; he let no steps be taken towards a suit for manslaughter, and did nothing about it. Hallgerda often put him in mind of it, and kept saying that Sigmund had fallen unatoned. Gunnar gave no heed to that. Now three Things passed away, at each of which men thought that he would follow up the suit; then a knotty point came on Gunnar's hands, which he knew not how to set about, and then he rode to find Njal. He gave Gunnar a hearty welcome. Gunnar said to Njal, "I am come to seek a bit of good counsel at thy hands about a knotty point." "Thou art worthy of it," says Njal, and gave him counsel what to do. Then Gunnar stood up and thanked him. Njal then spoke, and said, and took Gunnar by the hand, "Over long hath thy kinsman Sigmund been unatoned." "He has been long ago atoned," says Gunnar, "but still I will not fling back the honour offered me." Gunnar had never spoken an ill word of Njal's sons. Njal would have nothing else than that Gunnar should make his own award in the matter. He awarded two hundred in silver, but let Skiolld fall without a price. They paid down all the money at once. Gunnar declared this their atonement at the Thingskala Thing, when most men were at it, and laid great weight on the way in which they (Njal and his sons) had behaved; he told too those bad words which cost Sigmund his life, and no man was to repeat them or sing the verses, but if any sung them, the man who uttered them was to fall without atonement. Both Gunnar and Njal gave each other their words that no such matters should ever happen that they would not settle among themselves; and this pledge was well kept ever after, and they were always friends. ENDNOTES: (1) "Thou, that heapest boards," etc. -- merely a periphrasis for man, and scarcely fitting, except in irony, to a splitter of firewood. 46. OF GIZUR THE WHITE AND GEIR THE PRIEST There was a man named Gizur the White; he was Teit's son; Kettlebjorn the Old's son, of Mossfell. (1) Bishop Isleif was Gizur's son. Gizur the White kept house at Mossfell, and was a great chief. That man is also named in this story whose name was Geir the Priest; his mother was Thorkatla, another daughter of Kettlebjorn the Old of Mossfell. Geir kept house at Lithe. He and Gizur backed one another in every matter. At that time Mord Valgard's son kept house at Hof on the Rangrivervales; he was crafty and spiteful. Valgard his father was then abroad, but his mother was dead. He was very envious of Gunnar of Lithend. He was wealthy, so far as goods went, but had not many friends. ENDNOTES: (1) Teit's mother's name was Helga. She was a daughter of Thord Longbeard, who was the son of Hrapp, who was the son of Bjorn the Rough-footed, who was the son of Grim, the Lord of Sogn in Norway. Gizur's mother's name was Olof. She was a daughter of Lord Baudvar, Viking-Kari's son. 47. OF OTKELL IN KIRKBY There was a man named Otkell; he was the son of Skarf, the son of Hallkell, who fought with Grim of Grimsness, and felled him on the holm. (1) This Hallkell and Kettlebjorn the Old were brothers. Otkell kept house at Kirkby; his wife's name was Thorgerda; she was a daughter of Mar, the son of Runolf, the son of Naddad of the Faroe Isles. Otkell was wealthy in goods. His son's name was Thorgeir; he was young in years, and a bold dashing man. Skamkell was the name of another man; he kept house at another farm called Hof (2); he was well off for money, but he was a spiteful man and a liar; quarrelsome too, and ill to deal with. He was Otkell's friend. Hallkell was the name of Otkell's brother; he was a tall strong man, and lived there with Otkell; their brother's name was Hallbjorn the White; he brought out to Iceland a thrall, whose name was Malcolm; he was Irish, and had not many friends. Hallbjorn went to stay with Otkell, and so did his thrall Malcolm. The thrall was always saying that he should think himself happy if Otkell owned him. Otkell was kind to him, and gave him a knife and belt, and a full suit of clothes, but the thrall turned his hand to any work that Otkell wished. Otkell wanted to make a bargain with his brother for the thrall; he said he would give him the thrall, but said, too, that he was a worse treasure than he thought. But as soon as Otkell owned the thrall, then he did less and less work. Otkell often said outright to Hallbjorn, that he thought the thrall did little work; and he told Otkell that there was worse in him yet to come. At that time came a great scarcity, so that men fell short both of meat and hay, and that spread over all parts of Iceland. Gunnar shared his hay and meat with many men; and all got them who came thither, so long as his stores lasted. At last it came about that Gunnar himself fell short both of hay and meat. Then Gunnar called on Kolskegg to go along with him; he called too on Thrain Sigfus' son, and Lambi Sigurd's son. They fared to Kirkby, and called Otkell out. He greeted them, and Gunnar said, "It so happens that I am come to deal with thee for hay and meat, if there be any left." Otkell answers, "There is store of both, but I will sell thee neither." "Wilt thou give me them then," says Gunnar, "and run the risk of my paying thee back somehow?" "I will not do that either," says Otkell. Skamkell all the while was giving him bad counsel. Then Thrain Sigfus' son, said, "It would serve him right if we take both hay and meat and lay down the worth of them instead." Skamkell answered, "All the men of Mossfell must be dead and gone then, if ye, sons of Sigfus, are to come and rob them." "I will have no hand in any robbery," says Gunnar. "Wilt thou buy a thrall of me?" says Otkell. "I'll not spare to do that," says Gunnar. After that Gunnar bought the thrall, and fared away as things stood. Njal hears of this, and said, "Such things are ill done, to refuse to let Gunnar buy; and it is not a good outlook for others if such men as he cannot get what they want." "What's the good of thy talking so much about such a little matter," says Bergthora; "far more like a man would it be to let him have both meat and hay, when thou lackest neither of them." "That is clear as day," says Njal, "and I will of a surety supply his need somewhat." Then he fared up to Thorolfsfell, and his sons with him, and they bound hay on fifteen horses; but on five horses they had meat. Njal came to Lithend, and called Gunnar out. He greeted them kindly. "Here is hay and meat," said Njal, "which I will give thee; and my wish is, that thou shouldst never look to any one else than to me if thou standest in need of anything." "Good are thy gifts," says Gunnar, "but methinks thy friendship is still more worth, and that of thy sons." After that Njal fared home, and now the spring passes away. ENDNOTES: (1) That is, slew him in a duel. (2) Mord Valgard's son lived at the other farm called Hof. 48. HOW HALLGERDA MAKES MALCOLM STEAL FROM KIRKBY Now Gunnar is about to ride to the Thing, but a great crowd of men from the Side (1) east turned in as guests at his house. Gunnar bade them come and be his guests again, as they rode back from the Thing; and they said they would do so. Now they ride to the Thing, and Njal and his sons were there. That Thing was still and quiet. Now we must take up the story, and say that Hallgerda comes to talk with Malcolm the thrall. "I have thought of an errand to send thee on," she says; "thou shalt go to Kirkby." "And what shall I do there?" he says. "Thou shalt steal from thence food enough to load two horses, and mind and have butter and cheese; but thou shalt lay fire in the storehouse, and all will think that it has arisen out of heedlessness, but no one will think that there has been theft." "Bad have I been," said the thrall, "but never have I been a thief." "Hear a wonder!" says Hallgerda, "thou makest thyself good, thou that hast been both thief and murderer; but thou shalt not dare to do aught else than go, else will I let thee be slain." He thought he knew enough of her to be sure that she would so do if he went not; so he took at night two horses and laid packsaddles on them, and went his way to Kirkby. The house-dog knew him and did not bark at him, and ran and fawned on him. After that he went to the storehouse and loaded the two horses with food out of it, but the storehouse he burnt, and the dog he slew. He went up along by Rangriver, and his shoe-thong snapped; so he takes his knife and makes the shoe right, but he leaves the knife and belt lying there behind him. He fares till he comes to Lithend; then he misses the knife, but dares not to go back. Now he brings Hallgerda the food, and she showed herself well pleased at it. Next morning when men came out of doors at Kirkby there they saw great scathe. Then a man was sent to the Thing to tell Otkell; he bore the loss well, and said it must have happened because the kitchen was next to the storehouse; and all thought that that was how it happened. Now men ride home from the Thing, and many rode to Lithend. Hallgerda set food on the board, and in came cheese and butter. Gunnar knew that such food was not to be looked for in his house, and asked Hallgerda whence it came? "Thence," she says; "whence thou mightest well eat of it; besides, it is no man's business to trouble himself with housekeeping." Gunner got wroth and said, "Ill indeed is it if I am a partaker with thieves;" and with that he gave her a slap on the cheek. She said she would bear that slap in mind and repay it if she could. So she went off and he went with her, and then all that was on the board was cleared away, but flesh-meat was brought in instead, and all thought that was because the flesh was thought to have been got in a better way. Now the men who had been at the Thing fare away. ENDNOTES: (1) That is, from the sea-side or shore, the long narrow strip of habitable land between the mountains and the sea in the south-east of Iceland. 49. OF SKAMKELL'S EVIL COUNSEL Now we must tell of Skamkell. He rides after some sheep up along Rangriver, and he sees something shining in the path. He finds a knife and belt, and thinks he knows both of them. He fares with them to Kirkby; Otkell was out of doors when Skamkell came. He spoke to him and said, "Knowest thou aught of these pretty things?" "Of a surety," says Otkell, "I know them." "Who owns them?" asks Skamkell. "Malcolm the thrall," says Otkell. "Then more shall see and know them than we two," says Skamkell, "for true will I be to thee in counsel." They showed them to many men, and all knew them. Then Skamkell said, "What counsel wilt thou now take?" "We shall go and see Mord Valgard's son," answers Otkell, "and seek counsel of him." So they went to Hof, and showed the pretty things to Mord, and asked him if he knew them? He said he knew them well enough, but what was there in that? "Do you think you have a right to look for anything at Lithend?" "We think it hard for us," says Skamkell, "to know what to do, when such mighty men have a hand in it." "That is so, sure enough," says Mord, "but yet I will get to know those things, out of Gunnar's household, which none of you will every know." "We would give thee money," they say, "if thou wouldst search out this thing." "That money I shall buy full dear," answered Mord, "but still, perhaps, it may be that I will look at the matter." They gave him three marks of silver for lending them his help. Then he gave them this counsel, that women should go about from house to house with small ware, and give them to the housewives, and mark what was given them in return. "For," he says, "'tis the turn of mind of all men first to give away what has been stolen, if they have it in their keeping, and so it will be here also, if this hath-happened by the hand of man. Ye shall then come and show me what has been given to each in each house, and I shall then be free from farther share in this matter, if the truth comes to light." To this they agreed, and went home afterwards. Mord sends women about the country, and they were away half a month. Then they came back, and had big bundles. Mord asked where they had most given them? They said that at Lithend most was given them, and Hallgerda had been most bountiful to them. He asked what was given them there. "Cheese," say they. He begged to see it, and they showed it to him, and it was in great slices. These he took and kept. A little after, Mord fared to see Otkell, and bade that he would bring Thorgerda's cheese-mould; and when that was done, he laid the slices down in it, and lo! they fitted the mould in every way. Then they saw, too, that a whole cheese had been given to them. Then Mord said, "Now may ye see that Hallgerda must have stolen the cheese;" and they all passed the same judgment; and then Mord said, that now he thought he was free of this matter. After that they parted. Shortly after Kolskegg fell to talking with Gunnar and said, "III is it to tell, but the story is in every man's mouth, that Hallgerda must have stolen, and that she was at the bottom of all that great scathe that befell at Kirkby." Gunner said that he too thought that must be so. "But what is to be done now?" Kolskegg answered, "Thou wilt think it thy most bounden duty to make atonement for thy wife's wrong, and methinks it were best that tbou farest to see Otkell, and makest him a handsome offer." "This is well spoken," says Gunnar, "and so it shall be." A little after Gunnar sent after Thrain Sigfus' son and Lambi Sigurd's son, and they came at once. Gunnar told them whither he meant to go, and they were well pleased. Gunnar rode with eleven men to Kirkby, and called Otkell out. Skamkell was there too, and said, "I will go out with thee, and it will be best now to have the balance of wit on thy side. And I would wish to stand closest by thee when thou needest it most, and now this will be put to the proof. Methinks it were best that thou puttest on an air of great weight." Then they, Otkell and Skamkell, and Hallkell, and Hallbjorn, went out all of them. They greeted Gunnar, and he took their greeting well. Otkell asks whither he meant to go? "No farther than here," says Gunnar, "and my errand hither is to tell thee about that bad mishap, how it arose from the plotting of my wife and that thrall whom I bought from thee." "'Tis only what was to be looked for," says Hallbjorn. "Now I will make thee a good offer," says Gunnar, "and the offer is this, that the best men here in the country round settle the matter." "This is a fair-sounding offer," said Skamkell, "but an unfair and uneven one. Thou art a man who has many friends among the householders, but Otkell has not many friends." "Well," says Gunnar, "then I will offer thee that I shall make an award, and utter it here on this spot, and so we will settle the matter, and my good-will shall follow the settlement. But I will make thee an atonement by paying twice the worth of what was lost." "This choice shalt thou not take," said Skamkell; "and it is unworthy to give up to him the right to make his own award, when thou oughtest to have kept it for thyself." So Otkell said, "I will not give up to thee, Gunnar, the right to make thine own award." "I see plainly," said Gunnar, "the help of men who will be paid off for it one day, I daresay; but come now, utter an award for thyself." Otkell leant toward Skamkell and said, "What shall I answer now?" "This thou shalt call a good offer, but still put thy suit into the hands of Gizur the White, and Geir the Priest, and then many will say this, that thou behavest like Hallkell, thy grandfather, who was the greatest of champions." "Well offered is this, Gunnar," said Otkell, "but still my will is thou wouldst give me time to see Gizur the White." "Do now whatever thou likest in the matter," said Gunnar; "but men will say this, that thou couldst not see thine own honour when thou wouldst have none of the choices I offer thee." Then Gunnar rode home, and when he had gone away, Hallbjorn said, "Here I see how much man differs from man. Gunnar made thee good offers, but thou wouldst take none of them; or how dost thou think to strive with Gunnar in a quarrel, when no one is his match in fight. But now he is still so kind-hearted a man that it may be he will let these offers stand, though thou art only ready to take them afterwards. Methinks it were best that thou farest to see Gizur the White and Geir the Priest now this very hour." Otkell let them catch his horse, and made ready in every way. Otkell was not sharpsighted, and Skamkell walked on the way along with him, and said to Otkell, "Methought it strange that thy brother would not take this toil from thee, and now I will make thee an offer to fare instead of thee, for I know that the journey is irksome to thee." "I will take that offer," says Otkell, "but mind and be as truthful as ever thou canst." "So it shall be," says Skamkell. Then Skamkell took his horse and cloak, but Otkell walks home. Hallbjorn was out of doors, and said to Otkell, "Ill is it to have a thrall for one's bosom friend, and we shall rue this for ever that thou hast turned back, and it is an unwise step to send the greatest liar on an errand, of which one may so speak that men's lives hang on it." "Thou wouldst be sore afraid," says Otkell, "if Gunnar had his bill aloft, when thou art so scared now." "No one knows who will be most afraid then," said Hallbjorn; "but this thou wilt have to own, that Gunnar does not lose much time in brandishing his bill when he is wroth." "Ah!" said Otkell, "ye are all of you for yielding but Skamkell." And then they were both wroth. 50. OF SKAMKELL'S LYING Skamkell came to Mossfell, and repeated all the offers to Gizur. "It so seems to me," says Gizur, "as though these have been bravely offered; but why took he not these offers?" "The chief cause was," answers Skamkell, "that all wished to show thee honour, and that was why he waited for thy utterance; besides, that is best for all." So Skamkell stayed there the night over, but Gizur sent a man to fetch Geir the Priest; and he came there early. Then Gizur told him the story and said, "What course is to be taken now?" "As thou no doubt hast already made up thy mind -- to make the best of the business for both sides." "Now we will let Skamkell tell his tale a second time, and see how he repeats it." So they did that, and Gizur said, "Thou must have told this story right; but still I have seen thee to be the wickedest of men, and there is no faith in faces if thou turnest out well." Skamkell fared home, and rides first to Kirkby and calls Otkell out. He greets Skamkell well, and Skamkell brought him the greeting of Gizur and Geir. "But about this matter of the suit," be says, "there is no need to speak softly, how that it is the will of both Gizur and Geir that this suit should not be settled in a friendly way. They gave that counsel that a summons should be set on foot, and that Gunnar should be summoned for having partaken of the goods, but Hallgerda for stealing them." "It shall be done," said Otkell, "in everything as they have given counsel." "They thought most of this," says Skamkell, "that thou hadst behaved so proudly; but as for me, I made as great a man of thee in everything as I could." Now Otkell tells all this to his brothers, and Hallbjorn said, "This must be the biggest lie." Now the time goes on until the last of the summoning days before the Althing came. Then Otkell called on his brothers and Skamkell to ride on the business of the summons to Lithend. Hallbjorn said he would go, but said also that they would rue this summoning as time went on. Now they rode twelve of them together to Lithend, but when they came into the "town," there was Gunnar out of doors, and knew naught of their coming till they had ridden right up to the house. He did not go in-doors then, and Otkell thundered out the summons there and then; but when they had made an end of the summoning Skamkell said, "Is it all right, master?" "Ye know that best;" says Gunnar, "but I will put thee in mind of this journey one of these days, and of thy good help." "That will not harm us," says Skamkell, "if thy bill be not aloft." Gunnar was very wroth and went in-doors, and told Kolskegg, and Kolskegg said, "Ill was it that we were not out of doors; they should have come here on the most shameful journey, if we had been by." "Everything bides its time," says Gunnar; "but this journey will not turn out to their honour." A little after Gunnar went and told Njal. "Let it not worry thee a jot," said Njal, "for this will be the greatest honour to thee, ere this Thing comes to an end. As for us, we will all back thee with counsel and force." Gunnar thanked him and rode home. Otkell rides to the Thing, and his brothers with him and Skamkell. 51. OF GUNNAR Gunnar rode to the Thing and all the sons of Sigfus; Njal and his sons too, they all went with Gunnar; and it was said that no band was so well knit and hardy as theirs. Gunnar went one day to the booth of the Dalemen; Hrut was by the booth and Hauskuld, and they greeted Gunnar well. Now Gunnar tells them the whole story of the suit up to that time. "What counsel gives Njal?" asks Hrut. "He bade me seek you brothers," says Gunnar, "and said he was sure that he and you would look at the matter in the same light." "He wishes then," says Hrut, "that I should say what I think for kinship's sake; and so it shall be. Thou shalt challenge Gizur the White to combat on the island, if they do not leave the whole award to thee; but Kolskegg shall challenge Geir the Priest. As for Otkell and his crew, men must be got ready to fall on them; and now we have such great strength all of us together, that thou mayst carry out whatever thou wilt." Gunnar went home to his booth and told Njal. "Just what I looked for," said Njal. Wolf Aurpriest got wind of this plan, and told Gizur, and Gizur said to Otkell, "Who gave thee that counsel that thou shouldst summon Gunnar?" "Skamkell told me that was the counsel of both Geir the Priest and thyself." "But where is that scoundrel?" says Gizur, "who has thus lied." "He lies sick up at our booth," says Otkell. "May he never rise from his bed," says Gizur. "Now we must all go to see Gunnar, and offer him the right to make his own award; but I know not whether he will take that now." Many men spoke ill of Skamkell, and he lay sick all through the Thing. Gizur and his friends went to Gunnar's booth; their coming was known, and Gunnar was told as he sat in his booth, and then they all went out and stood in array. Gizur the White came first, and after a while he spoke and said, "This is our offer -- that thou, Gunnar, makest thine own award in this suit." "Then," says Gunnar, "it was no doubt far from thy counsel that I was summoned." "I gave no such counsel," says Gizur, "neither I nor Geir." "Then thou must clear thyself of this charge by fitting proof." "What proof dost thou ask?" says Gizur. "That thou takest an oath," says Gunnar. "That I will do," says Gizur, "if thou wilt take the award into thine own hands." "That was the offer I made a while ago," says Gunnar; "but now, methinks, I have a greater matter to pass judgment on." "It will not be right to refuse to make thine own award," said Njal; "for the greater the matter, the greater the honour in making it." "Well," said Gunnar, "I will do this to please my friends, and utter my award; but I give Otkell this bit of advice, never to give me cause for quarrel hereafter." Then Hrut and Hauskuld were sent for, and they came thither, and then Gizur the White and Gier the Priest took their oaths; but Gunnar made his award, and spoke with no man about it, and afterwards he uttered it as follows: "This is my award," he says; "first, I lay it down that the storehouse must be paid for, and the food that was therein; but for the thrall, I will pay thee no fine, for that thou hiddest his faults; but I award him back to thee; for as the saying is, `Birds of a feather flock most together.' Then, on the other hand, I see that thou hast summoned me in scorn and mockery, and for that I award to myself no less a sum than what the house that was burnt and the stores in it were worth; but if ye think it better that we be not set at one again, then I will let you have your choice of that, but if so I have already made up my mind what I shall do, and then I will fulfil my purpose." "What we ask," said Gizur, "is that thou shouldst not be hard on Otkell, but we beg this of thee, on the other hand, that thou wouldst be his friend." "That shall never be," said Gunnar, "so long as I live; but he shall have Skamkell's friendship; on that he has long leant." "Well," answers Gizur, "we will close with thee in this matter, though thou alone layest down the terms." Then all this atonement was made and hands were shaken on it, and Gunnar said to Otkell, "It were wiser to go away to thy kinsfolk; but if thou wilt be here in this country, mind that thou givest me no cause of quarrel." "That is wholesome counsel," said Gizur; "and so he shall do." So Gunnar had the greatest honour from that suit, and afterwards men rode home from the Thing. Now Gunnar sits in his house at home, and so things are quiet for a while. 52. OF RUNOLF, THE SON OF WOLF AURPRIEST There was a man named Runolf, the son of Wolf Aurpriest, he kept house at the Dale, east of Markfleet. He was Otkell's guest once when he rode from the Thing. Otkell gave him an ox, all black, without a spot of white, nine winters old. Runolf thanked him for the gift, and bade him come and see him at home whenever he chose to go; and this bidding stood over for some while, so that he had not paid the visit. Runolf often sent men to him and put him in mind that he ought to come; and he always said he would come, but never went. Now Otkell had two horses, dun coloured, with a black stripe down the back; they were the best steeds to ride in all the country round, and so fond of each other that whenever one went before the other ran after him. There was an Easterling staying with Otkell, whose name was Audulf; he had set his heart on Signy, Otkell's daughter. Audulf was a tall man in growth, and strong. 53. HOW OTKELL RODE OVER GUNNAR It happened next spring that Otkell said that they would ride east to the Dale, to pay Runolf a visit, and all showed themselves well pleased at that. Skamkell and his two brothers, and Audulf and three men more, went along with Otkell. Otkell rode one of the dun horses, but the other ran loose by his side. They shaped their course east towards Markfleet; and now Otkell gallops ahead, and now the horses race against each other, and they break away from the path up towards the Fleetlithe. Now, Otkell goes faster than he wished, and it happened that Gunnar had gone away from home out of his house all alone; and he had a corn-sieve in one hand, but in the other a hand-axe. He goes down to his seed field and sows his corn there, and had laid his cloak of fine stuff and his axe down by his side, and so he sows the corn a while. Now, it must be told how Otkell rides faster than he would. He had spurs on his feet, and so he gallops down over the ploughed field, and neither of them sees the other; and just as Gunnar stands upright, Otkell rides down upon him and drives one of the spurs into Gunnar's ear, and gives him a great gash, and it bleeds at once much. Just then Otkell's companions rode up. "Ye may see, all of you," says Gunnar, "that thou hast drawn my blood, and it is unworthy to go on so. First thou hast summoned me, but now thou treadest me under foot, and ridest over me." Skamkell said, "Well it was no worse, master, but thou wast not one whit less wroth at the Thing, when thou tookest the selfdoom and clutchedst thy bill." Gunnar said, "When we two next meet thou shalt see the bill." After that they part thus, and Skamkell shouted out and said, "Ye ride hard, lads!" Gunnar went home, and said never a word to any one about what had happened, and no one thought that this wound could have come by man's doing. It happened, though, one day, that he told it to his brother Kolskegg, and Kolskegg said, "This thou shalt tell to more men, so that it may not be said that thou layest blame on dead men; for it will be gainsaid if witnesses do not know beforehand what has passed between you." Then Gunnar told it to his neighbours, and there was little talk about it at first. Otkell comes east to the Dale, and they get a hearty welcome there, and sit there a week. Skamkell told Runolf all about their meeting with Gunnar, and how it had gone off; and one man happened to ask how Gunnar behaved. "Why," said Skamkell, "if it were a low-born man it would have been said that he had wept." "Such things are ill spoken," says Runolf, "and when ye two next meet, thou wilt have to own that there is no voice of weeping in his frame of mind; and it will be well if better men have not to pay for thy spite. Now it seems to me best when ye wish to go home that I should go with you, for Gunnar will do me no harm." "I will not have that," says Otkell; "but I will ride across the Fleet lower down." Runolf gave Otkell good gifts, and said they should not see one another again. Otkell bade him then to bear his sons in mind if things turned out so.