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

Of the Trial of Grani's Pride

Gay was that harvest feast, and all men learned how Thurid had died in the snow on the night of the wreck. In her cloak had Rolf lived, serving his mother, and he had travelled to Tongue and Swinefell in order to make the plan for gaining his own; but because Flosi could not come he had sent Kolbein his son. Rolf gave great thanks to Snorri and Kolbein, and gifts beside; with all good wishes they parted on the morrow. Then Asdis took over the care of the household of her son, and Frodi was bidden to live there with them. They began again the custom of Hiarandi, to light beacons against shipwreck.

So now Rolf dwells at Cragness in his honor, but at the hut on the upland those others live with little ease.

Rolf looks out sometimes at the little farm, and sees Grani and his father working in the field to get in the small harvest, hay for the ewe and grain for themselves. Now for Asdis alone that store had been enough, but for three the outlook was not so good.

Once Frodi saw Rolf as he watched them working, and the smith said, "Thou takest pleasure in the sight?"

Rolf asked, "Rememberest thou what jewels Grani wore, or his father, or Helga, that time when they went away?"

"Grani and Einar," said Frodi, "had rings on their arms and brooches on their breasts, but Helga wore none at all."

"Silver pennies also they had in their purses," said Rolf.

"What is their wealth to thee?" asks Frodi.

"Much," answers Rolf.

Now the time draws toward winter. The tale tells next how Rolf kept many people by him in the hall, to do the field work and to tend the cattle and horses (but the sheep were in the fold, save twenty which had not come in). Now some of those folk of Einar still dwelt at Cragness, having deserted their master, and none at the hall bade them either go or stay. Yet both Asdis and Frodi showed them little favor, and one by one they slipped away to seek livings elsewhere, save only those two, Hallvard and Hallmund, men of local talk, strong of growth but not given to work. Evenings in the hall they spoke much, and Frodi scowled thereat; but Rolf sat in his seat and seemed neither to see nor to hear them.

Frodi said to him one day: "This one thing I mislike in thee, that thou keepest here those two who deserted their master."

Rolf asked: "Was their master worth devotion?"

"Maybe not," says Frodi, "yet ingrates are they both."

"They are free," said Rolf, "either to stay or go."

Frodi grumbled to himself, but said no more to Rolf.

Now October comes in very cold, but no snow as yet; and all harvests are in. Grani had stacked his neatly in ricks against the weather, for there was no room in the hut. There was a pen outside for the ewe; she was a good beast and never wandered, coming home at night.

On a day Rolf called Hallvard and Hallmund to him, and said: "It were not strange if Grani's ewe were to break out of its pen and eat at my ricks, which stand not far away." And he looked hard at Hallvard, who was the slyer of those two.

Said Hallvard with a grin: "That is likely to happen."

Rolf gave them each a piece of money, and said: "Beware of that ewe."

On a morning not long after came those two, leading the ewe. "Master, here have we found this ewe eating at thy ricks, nor know we whose it may be."

Said Rolf: "The ewe is Einar's. Take it to him, and ask payment for the hay which has been eaten."

So they take the ewe to Einar, and bring back silver. "Keep that for yourselves," Rolf said, "but will the ewe stay now at home?"

"Her pen is not strong," Hallvard said.

So on the morrow those two came again, bringing the ewe a second time; Rolf sent them for money as before. This time they brought back a gold arm-ring; so Rolf knew that Einar and Grani had taken with them nigh empty purses, and he was glad. He took the ring, giving the men silver, and said to them as before: "Will the ewe stay now at home?"

Hallvard answered, "We left Grani strengthening the pen, but still it is not high."

And on the morrow they brought the ewe, saying, "See how fat she hath gorged herself, master."

Then said Rolf, "Go now and say to Einar: 'A third time hath thine ewe trespassed; now must thou pay not only damages, but the trespass fine, or else bring this to the courts.' "

They went and brought back jewels, one arm-ring and two brooches; and Hallvard said, "All that he had Einar gave, rather than trust himself to the law."

Rolf gave them money, saying: "If the ewe wanders a fourth time, she will become mine. Is her pen strong?"

"Grani has no more wood to make the pen higher," answered Hallvard, "but he was tying her with a rope."

"Belike the rope is not strong," said Rolf.

And that seemed true; for on the morrow those two brought the ewe for the fourth time; they said she had again been eating at Rolf's ricks.

"Go now," said Rolf. "Say to Einar 'Pay me damages and another fine, or yield thine ewe.' "

They went and returned, and said to Rolf: "The ewe is thine."

Then Rolf gave them silver rings, and they were well content. But Frodi came to Rolf, and Said: "What is this thou hast suffered those two to do to thy neighbor? Now Einar will have no milk for the winter."

Rolf answered shortly: "He can use the pen of the ewe for firewood, and sell the hay for money." And he would speak no more of that.

Now October passed, and November came, and still there was no snow; the land was colder for that. One day when Rolf stood and looked at the hut on the upland, Hallvard came to him and said, "Small cheer is there over yonder, master; yet I have heard that Grani has sold his hay, and it is soon to be fetched from his farm."

Rolf answered: "See now how all their ricks stand in a line, and the wind is in that line, so that a fire which took the weathermost rick would burn them all. It was careless of Grani to set them so."

"For fire might come by chance," said Hallvard, and he went and spoke with Hallmund.

Now that night people were stirring in the hall, for a servingman was sick there; and in the early morning one came knocking at the door of Rolf's locked bed, crying, "There is fire across the valley." So Rolf threw on a cloak and went out; there was a great fire at the little farm, where the ricks were burning. In their light Grani was seen, saving what he might; but Einar stood by wringing his hands, and Helga weeping. So while those of Cragness stood and watched, Hallvard and Hallmund came up the hill and joined them.

"Where have ye been?" asks Frodi.

They had no good answer to give.

When it was day Rolf sent to inquire of Einar if he had had great loss; Hallvard was sent. "And ask if they will have any help of me; and mark how much they have saved and where it is bestowed."

So Hallvard went and returned again, and said that Grani needed no help. "But," said he, "the old man would have taken help, yet the young man would not allow it. And they have saved no hay, and but little grain; it is there in the pen of the ewe."

"Now," Rolf said privately to Hallvard, "thou and Hallmund shall take my shepherd and go into the hills, a day's journey; he shall show thee where are folded those twenty of my sheep which came not with the others, and which men call lost. Send him then home before thee, and do ye twain drive the sheep.— And see to it," quoth Rolf, "that those sheep do no damage to the fodder which Grani saved."

So that day those two took their staves, and went with the shepherd to do as Rolf had bidden. On the second day the shepherd came again; but on the fourth came Hallvard and Hallmund, driving the sheep. Now one of them was all bloody.

"What hath happened to the ram?" asked Rolf.

"We came home," answered Hallvard, "over the fell which is above Einar's farm; we pastured the sheep as we came, yet there is now no good grazing, and the beasts were terribly thin. So when we came late at night near to Grani's stead, and could not make Cragness in the dark, we rested and let the sheep stray. In the morning, behold, the sheep had found the grain which Grani had saved from the fire, and were eating the last of it when he came out by the first light. He saw the sheep, and drove them thence with fury; but the ram was obstinate, and would not leave the food, so Grani wounded him. And he gave us hard words before we gathered the flock to come away."

"Take the sheep to the fold," said Rolf, and he gave each of the men a piece of money.

Then he went in and sat down to meat; but Frodi followed him and seemed much discontented. "What ails thee?" asked Rolf.

"This ails me," said Frodi, "that thou hast no mercy upon them whose lot is hard enough. I cannot bear that thou shouldst use those base men to do such work against Grani, whom once thou lovedst. For I perceive clearly that all this has been done with intention, both the trespassing of the ewe and the burning of the ricks; likewise this last happening is not by chance. What change is on thee, that thou doest so?"

Also Asdis came and said: "Thou art hard on those unfortunate ones, my son. Leave this persecution and do what is worthy of thee."

But Rolf said to Frodi: "Hast thou forgotten that Grani made thee thrall?" And of Asdis he asked: "Who slew Hiarandi my father?" The law of vengeance came to their minds, and they were silent, yet not satisfied.

Then Hallvard and Hallmund came in and helped themselves to meat, and began talking loudly. Said Hallvard, "Thou art called now, master, to avenge thy honor. Einar spoke shame on thee while we were gathering the sheep to drive from his house, for he said thou hadst the hope to starve him and his children."

"A great slander is that," quoth Hallmund, wagging his head. "Many a man hath died for such; and at least a money-fine should Einar pay."

"Hold your tongues!" cried Frodi in anger.

But Rolf rebuked Frodi, and said to those twain: "I give thanks for your thought of mine honor. But I do not desire blood, only money-atonement for the slander. Einar hath no money; but Grani hath yet his sword, a fine weapon. Now you who have my honor in your care, go to-morrow to Grani. Tell him I demand atonement; but if he sends me his sword his father's slander will be forgotten."

Those two looked at each other in doubt, for that would be a hard thing, to get from Grani his sword.

But Frodi sprang from his seat, and cried: "What dost thou now, to insult Grani so? Never will an Icelander yield his sword! Call now to mind when ye two were comrades, and slept together, and fought the Scots together, and crossed the Pentland Firth together in a little boat, and swam the last mile side by side. Put all this in thy mind, and unsay what thou hast said."

Rolf answered: "All this I remember, and that is why I send for Grani's sword."

"Then," Frodi cried, "I leave thy roof now, nor ever are we friends again!"

"Frodi," answered Rolf, "sleep one night more under my roof; then if thou art minded thou shalt leave me forever."

Then Frodi called to mind his great love for his cousin, and yielded, and sat down.

In the morning Hallmund and Hallvard sat late at meat. Rolf said to them:

"Why linger ye here? Do as I bade!"

Then they took swords, axes, and shields, and went to the hut across the valley, but had no heart in their going. Now Rolf watched from the hillside, and he saw them go into the farmyard, very slowly; and he waited a while, and saw them come out, very slowly. And they came back to Cragness, and climbed the hill to him; and behold, they had not their arms any more, but were wounded, and complained as they came.

"Grani," said they, "has done this to us. Now, master, avenge us on him!"

"Now," said Rolf, "all is come about as I wished." And he bade bring his sword and his shield.

"Wilt thou then," asked Frodi, "take up the quarrel of these wretched carles?"

Rolf put on his sword and took his shield; he made no answer to Frodi, but he beckoned his housecarles and pointed to Hallvard and Hallmund.

"Whip me," said Rolf to his servants, "these wretches from this place; if they wait till my return they shall feel the weight of my hand. But as for all the rest of you, bide ye here till I come again."

Hallvard and Hallmund ran with all haste away along the cliffs, but Rolf set out across the valley to the little farm.