Story of Rolf and the Viking's Bow - Allen French

Odd Doings at Cragness

Now time wears toward harvest, and in the dales all is quiet and busy, so that men when they meet have little gossip, save only of the doings of Thurid the crone. For she travelled far and wide in the night, and men saw her so distant from home that it was said she rode the wind; she was seen near the farm of Burning-Flosi, far to the east, and near the hall of Snorri the Priest, to the west. Ever when seen in the dark she strode furiously; by day she was always bent and slow. Old men spoke of her youth, when she was brisk and handy; it seemed as if her youth came again in these fits, foretelling her death.

Moreover by Asdis's work nothing now lagged, and the field was plowed, sowed, and harrowed, so that never had such a crop stood on those poor acres, and that by the work of two women. Some questioned whether indeed Rolf were not about; but there was no place in the hut for hiding a man, howbeit busybodies pried about there much. Now all that they found was what looked to be a grave, not far from the home-mead. So then the tale ran that Rolf was dead, and there buried ; but when questioned Asdis would only laugh and say:

"Whether it is a grave, or the place where stood a little tree that I uprooted for fuel, that ye may guess."

But she was always so blithe that it was sure her son still lived.

Now on a day word came to Ondott from Thorstein Angle his cousin, that three men for sure dwelt on the island of Drangey; they were Grettir the Strong and Illugi his brother and some man unknown; but whether more men dwelt there no one could say, for so high were the cliffs that nothing could be seen from the mainland, and another three might for a twelvemonth lie there hidden. Many believed that others were there. So Ondott was satisfied that Rolf lay in hiding there afar off, and would not trouble the Cragness-dwellers for a long time to come.

Now came harvest rich and full, a bountiful year; men worked hard in the fields, the women too, and at night sleep was sound. There came a morning when it was found that Cragness had been entered at night and the whole hall ransacked, its passages, lofts, and store-rooms. Goods were taken from their places and laid aside; chests had been moved, opened, and emptied; and there was scarce a corner of the place but had been searched. Yet gold and silver, whether in money, rings, or vessels, were left behind, nor were they even gathered together for booty. So it was seen that no common thief had been there, and men wondered wherefore that had been done.

But Grani sent all his men to work in the field, and the women to righting the house; then he took the bow from under the settle where it was hid with its arrows, and he thrust it within the dais whereon were the seats of honor.

Now a night passed again, and no one heard the dogs bark; but in the morning it was seen that the thief had come again, and all the settles were out of their places, as if one had searched beneath them. No other places were searched, and nothing had been taken; all thought it strange that the dogs had not barked. Then another day passed, and men came home to sleep as tired as before; so then Grani took the bow and hid it up under the thatch, when all had gone to their beds.

In the morning nothing had happened save that the seats on the dais had all been moved, and the dais was found set up against the wall. Now the dais was heavy, and that work had been done with much strength. While men were marvelling the neatherd came in, and said he had been awake early in the byre, with a sick calf. Before sunrise he looked out of the window; the light was not strong, but he could see a little way. There he saw the crone Thurid standing, near the house; but when he ran out to speak with her, she had moved toward the cliffs. Whether she saw or heard him he could not say, but suddenly she began to go with long strides. A little mist hung above the crags; into that mist she went, seeming to walk upon the air; and while he stood astonished the mist wreathed around her, and she was lost from sight. He said to himself that was the end of the old woman; but in an hour, looking toward the upland, he saw her walking to the hut of Asdis, and that matter he could not explain.

Grani sent all men about their work again; he took the bow from the hall, with its quiver, and carried them to the great store-house, and hid them beneath sacks of grain. Then a night passed, and nothing happened; but on the second night noises were heard; men took lights and searched in the hall, finding nothing. Yet in the morning it was seen that someone had been at work under the thatch of the hall, by every rafter; and it was a bold deed to do that ransacking in the dark, for a fall might mean death. No one had seen Thurid nor any living soul; yet a tatter of cloth was found, like as it had been torn from the old woman's gray cloak.

Now Grani takes the bow from the store-house, and thinks much by himself, and at last hides it in a haystack, an old one; and there the bow lies deep within. That night he sets men to watch in the store-house, and fetches dogs from a tenant's farm, and hopes now to catch the thief.

But one comes by night, and enters the store-house by the thatch, and takes the watchmen asleep, binding them with their heads in the bags that lay there. And all the store-house was searched and everything moved, and the thief away before day, but nothing taken. Those dogs which had been brought and tied by the door had had their leashes cut, and were off to their master; but the dogs of the place had given no sign. Those were the best watch-dogs in the dales, and had belonged to Hiarandi. No footprints were found about the place, and the watchmen said but one person had been there, marvellous silent and strong.

Grani took much thought where now to hide the bow, and bespoke the matter with Einar and Ondott; but they found no better place than where it lay, so there they let it bide. And Ondott went with men to the hut of Asdis, and called for the woman Thurid. Asdis said she slept within, and would not come out. So Ondott spoke to her from the doorway, as the crone lay within by the hearth; a bundle of rags she was.

"Is it thou that comest to our house," asked Ondott, "making this mischief there?"

"She speaks to no one save me," said Asdis, "and never when questioned."

"Tell her," said Ondott, "that if more searchings go on at Cragness, we will hale the old woman before the bishop and exorcise her for sorcery, since there must be witchcraft in these doings. So take heed to her, goodwife, and thyself as well."

"Thou art brave," said Asdis, "to threaten two women."

So Ondott rides away again, and that was the end of those happenings at Cragness. Some said the thief could not find what he sought; but some that Thurid was the thief, and Ondott had frighted her.

Time now fell for the harvest feast, and all preparations were made for receiving guests; great store of good things was made ready, and food and fodder for man and beast.

Comes at last Helga to Grani, and begs him not to hold the feast at all, for her mind misgives her because of it. He says that the guests must be on the way, and bids her work at the cooking, and forget those thoughts. She goes away sorrowful, and says no more of this to anyone.

Then on the morrow the guests are seen riding, both Snorri the Priest, that old man, and Kolbein Flosi's son, each with a large company.