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Medieval and Classical Library

The Story of Burnt Njal
(Njal's Saga)

Part 3: Sections 38 - 53

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #11


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

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

"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.


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

"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

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


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

"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.


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

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."


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

"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


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

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

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

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

"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.


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,

"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."


(1)  "Swanbath's beams" -- periphrasis for gold.


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

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.


(1)  "Thou, that heapest boards," etc. -- merely a periphrasis
     for man, and scarcely fitting, except in irony, to a
     splitter of firewood.


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.


(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.


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

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

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

"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

"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.


(1)  That is, slew him in a duel.
(2)  Mord Valgard's son lived at the other farm called Hof.


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

"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

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

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

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.


(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.


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

"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

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

"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

"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

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

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.


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

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

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


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

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.


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.


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.