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SPORTS were held later as if nothing had happened. The brothers-in-law, Gisli and Thorgrim, had oftenest made trial of each other in games, and folk were not entirely agreed as to which one was the stronger. Men were wont to play ball by the sedge-tarn. Always a great many people stood by, watching, and one day when there was gathered the greatest crowd, Gisli proposed the choosing of equal sides for the play.
"That we will certainly do," said Thorkel, "and this, too, I wish, that thou spare not thy strength against Thorgrim, for the word goes around that thou dost not use all thy strength. And I should very much like for thy sake that thou shouldst receive as much honor as possible, if thou really art the stronger."
"As yet we have not made trial of that," said Gisli, "though it may be that we shall."
Then they played, and Thorgrim was no match for Gisli. Sour's son felled him, and the ball went outside the bounds. Gisli wanted to get it, but Thorgrim held him back and would not let him. Then Gisli threw him down again so hard that he took all the life out of him. Skin was barked from his knuckles and blood flowed from his nose.
Thorgrim got up slowly and, looking at the mound of Vestan, made this verse:
The spear sounded loud in the wound of the man.
Of that I cannot complain.
Gisli took the ball on the run and drove it between Thorgrim's
shoulders, so that he fell down from the blow. Gisli said therewith:
Rebounded the ball where is carried the burden.
Of that I cannot complain.
Thorkel jumped up and said: "Now clear it is to see who is the stronger and has the greater physical prowess. Let us therefore make an end of the playing." So they did, and the games ended.
The summer ran along, and relations cooled between Thorgrim and Gisli. Thorgrim planned to hold an autumn feast during the first three nights of winter that he might make merry at the coming of the season and hold sacrifice to Frey. And he bade thither Bork, his brother, and Eyjolf, Thord's son, from Otradale, and many other men of rank.
Gisli, too, made ready for a feast and invited to it his kinsmen, Bjartmar and his sons from Arnarfirth, and the two Thorkels. There were at his home no fewer than sixty men.
There was to be drinking at both Gisli's and Thorgrim's, and the floor at Sabol was covered with sedge and rushes from the edge of the lake.
While Thorgrim and his household were getting ready and felt that they should adorn the house with hangings for the guests were expected there that evening then Thorgrim said to Thorkel: "Very well would come to us now those hangings, the good ones which Vestan wished to give thee. It would seem to me that there is a vast difference between whether thou hast them in full ownership or never hast them at all. I should think and wish that thou wouldst have them sought out and brought here."
Thorkel answered: "Everything knows he who knows moderation, and I shall never send after them."
"I shall do it then," said Thorgrim, and he ordered Geirmund to go for them.
Geirmund made answer: "Get something I shall." I have no stomach for the errand."
Then Thorgrim went up to him and struck him a hefty box on the ear, saying, "Go now, then, if it now seems somewhat better to thee."
"I shall go," said he, "though now is it worse than before. Know this of a certainty, that I shall have it for a wish to get thee a mare there. If thou shouldst beget for me a foal in return, then will my trouble not be badly rewarded."19
With that he left and came to Hol. Gisli and Aud were ready to have the hangings put up. He told them his errand and all that had happened.
"What is thy wish, Aud? To lend the hangings?" asked Gisli.
"Thou dost not ask this for the reason that thou dost not know how little I wish this friendly thing to be done, or anything else that to them might bring increase of honor."
"What were the wishes of Thorkel, my brother?" asked Gisli.
"All right it seemed to him, that I come for them."
"Enough it is," said Gisli, and he went with him and got him the costly treasure.
Gisli went with him all the way to the fence and said, "Thus it is, that I think thy journey has fared well and with good will, and it is my wish that thou in turn be journey-ready in such as is of importance to me. Gift ever looks to gift, and it is my wish that thou leave the locks from the three doors this evening. Thou mightest remember how thou wast bidden to this journey."
Geirmund asked, "Will there be danger at all to Thorkel, thy brother?"
"None at all," said Gisli. "Then shall it be done."
And now when Geirmund came home, he threw down the hangings.
Then spoke Thorkel: "Unlike is Gisli to other men in patience; much better he acts than we." "This is what we need now," said Thorgrim, and they hung up the tapestry.
The guests came in the evening. The weather thickened, and there came a drift of snow with little wind, and it covered all the paths.
Bork and Eyjolf came during the evening with sixty men. There were then a hundred and twenty men at Thorgrim and Thorkel's and half the number at Gisli's.
At Hol men sat at drink throughout the evening, and thereafter, when they had all gone to bed and to sleep, Gisli said to Aud, his wife, "I have not as yet given feed to the horse of Thorkel Wealthy. Go with me to bolt the door when I go out, and stay awake to unfasten it when I come back."
He took the spear, Graysides, from the chest. He was dressed in a black, hooded cloak, and a kirtle and linen breeches. Then he went down to the brook which flowed between the two houses and from which water was taken for the use of both of the farmsteads. He followed his own path to the brook and waded in the stream to the path which led up to the house of Thorkel and Thorgrim.
Gisli knew well the layout of the buildings at Sabol because he had built the place. The cowhouse was accessible from within the house itself. Thither went he. There stood thirty cows on each side. He tied the tails of the opposite animals together, thirty on each side and shut the cowhouse door and fixed it so that it could not be opened if people came to it on the inside.
Then he went to the dwelling houses. Geirmund had minded his work, for the bolt was not on the door. Gisli went in and closed the door behind as it had been fixed in the evening. He worked very slowly. After that he stood and listened to learn whether anyone was awake, and he became aware of this, that all the men were asleep. There were three lights in the sleeping hall. He took rushes from the floor and twisted them together and threw them then on one light, so that it went out. After that he stood still and looked to see whether anyone stirred, and he saw nothing. Then he took another sedge wisp and threw it upon the next light, and that, too, went out. At this moment he perceived that not all the men might be asleep, for he saw where a young man's hand reached for the innermost light and, passing quickly over the small open lamp, smothered the flame.
Gisli then went farther in along the side of the house toward the locked bed-closet where his sister and Thorgrim were resting. The door was down, and they were both in bed. He went thither, groping along, and touched her breast. She was lying near the outside board along the front of the bed.
Thordis stirred and spoke, "Why is thy hand so cold, Thorgrim?"
And with that he awoke and answered, "Dost thou wish that I turn to thee?"
She thought he had laid his hand over her. Gisli waited there awhile and warmed his hand under his shirt, and both of them went to sleep again. Then he touched Thorgrim gently, and he awoke. He thought that Thordis had waked him, and he turned toward her.
Gisli then took off the covers with one hand, and with the other he drove Graysides through Thorgrim so that it was halted only by the bedding. Thordis called out aloud, "Wake men in the room. Thorgrim, my husband, is killed."
Gisli turned away quickly to the cowhouse, and went out there as he had planned, and slammed the door behind him. He then went home the same way as he had come, and no one might see his tracks. Aud unbolted the door when he came back. He went forthwith to bed and acted as if there were nothing wrong and as if he had not been about anything unusual.
Back at Sabol, all the men were ale-mad and knew not what counsel to take. It had all come upon them unawares, and therefore no plan was taken that might have done any good.
Eyjolf spoke up: "Great things have happened here, and ill; and all the folk seem witless. This seems to me the thing to do, to light the lights and leap to the doors so that the murderer might not get away."
So it was done. It seemed to the men, who knew nothing of the slayer, as if it might be someone within who had done the work.
Time went on till daylight came. Then they took the body of Thorgrim and pulled out the spear. This Bork, his brother, did. Thorgrim was made ready for burial. There were sixty men there.
Another six tens fared over to Gisli at Hol. Thord Faint-hearted was outside, and when he saw the great force, he leaped inside and said that a great crowd of men was advancing on the house. He rushed around very excited.
"That is well," said Gisli, and he made a strophe:
Nor fall I, nor quake at every word;
A warrior, a tree of battle, I've brought
Full many a man his death by the sword,
Whose mouth knows the taste of food in the strife.
Now let us all seem as calm as can be
Though dead lies this man (this tree of the ship,
The horse of the waves) struck down with the spear.
What noise and uproar there comes with this mob!
Now Thorkel and Eyjolf came to the house and went to the locked bed-closet wherein Gisli was resting with his wife. Thorkel, the brother of Gisli, had gone first into the sleeping room and saw where Gisli's shoes lay all frozen and covered with snow. He poked them under the footboard, lest the other men should see them.
Gisli gave him welcome and asked tidings. Thorkel said they were both great and ill, to wit, the death of Thorgrim, and asked what might be the meaning of it all and what counsel was to be taken.
"Short was the time between these ill and mighty deeds," said Gisli. "This offer we will make, namely, to help bury Thorgrim. That ye expect of us, and our duty it is to do that with honor to him."
This the men with Thorkel agreed to, and they fared all together to Sabol. A short while thereafter they set about the cairn-making and laid Thorgrim in a ship. Then they piled up a mound after the ancient custom, and as they were ready to close the howe, Gisli went down to the mouth of the brook and took up a stone as big as a rock and dropped it upon the ship so that it seemed as if a tree had fallen upon it, and the ship creaked heavily. Then said he,
"Not at all can I make fast a ship if the wind ever move this one from its moorings."
It was the talk of some men that all this was not unlike that which Thorbrim had done to Vestan when he spoke about the hell-shoes.
18. I.e., something besides the hangings.
19. 'A box on the ear' is in Icelandic a 'skin-horse,' or 'stallion.' Geirmund means by his pun that, since he now has a stallion (box on the ear), he will try to bring back a mare so that he will be assured of at least a foal as a fair return for his blow and the journey. The gift of a mare, too, implies an insult to Thorgrim.