Gateway to the Classics: The Story of Rolf and the Viking's Bow by Allen French
The Story of Rolf and the Viking's Bow by  Allen French

Of Schemings

U NTIL the time when the Althing must rise, Hiarandi set his affairs in order, and was busy thereat. He arranged who should buy his hay, and who should supply him with this matter and that, although it was clear that many things must be done by the hands of Rolf. Also Frodi the Smith, kinsman of the Cragness-dwellers, was to come to Cragness whenever he might. Thus it was all settled; and when the Althing rose, then Hiarandi withdrew upon his farm for the space of one year.

But Rolf had to see to the sheep-shearing, since the washing was best done beyond the farm, upon common land. Also the selling of the wool came to Rolf's lot, and he travelled to the market therewith. Through the autumn he was much busied with his father's matters; and it rejoiced his parents that the lad, who had come now into his fifteenth year, was wise and foreseeing, and looked well to all that was trusted to his hand. Then the winter drew nigh; and the hay was stored, and the time came when the sheep must be gathered from their summer pastures, when the frosts drove them down from the uplands. All men met at the great sheep-fold which the father of Hiarandi had built; but Hiarandi might not be there, because the fold was now on Einar's land, full five bowshots from the boundaries of Cragness. Rolf went with the thralls to the separating of the sheep by means of their marks; but Hiarandi sat at home, looking out at the gathering of people, and might not be at any of the doings.

Now Ondott Crafty had oversight of Einar's sheep, and he examined the sheep's ear-marks, and said whose they were. Rolf gave to the thralls the sheep to drive home; but Frodi the Smith, who was the mildest of men, took the sheep from the hands of Ondott. This task Rolf gave to Frodi, because he would not himself have speech with Ondott, who was now well of his broken arm, but whose temper was not improved by his hurt. Now Ondott came to a sheep which had torn its ear, so that the mark was scarred. Then said Ondott:

"This sheep is Einar's."

"Nay," said Frodi, "I remember the wether, and he is Hiarandi's."

"Looks not the mark," asked Ondott, "like the mark of Einar?"

"Yes," said Frodi, "but the mark is scarred, and is changed."

"Now," quoth Ondott, "call Hiarandi hither, and let him decide."

This he said with a sneer; but Frodi answered gravely: "My cousin shall not break his outlawry for a sheep. But call Rolf hither."

"I call no boys to my counsel," answered Ondott. "The matter is between thee and me."

Then Frodi was perplexed, for in disputes and bargains he mixed little. "But," said he, "meseems this is best. Drive the sheep to Cragness, and let Hiarandi see it."

"Now," said Ondott, "I have no time for that. But draw thy whittle, and we can settle the matter here."

Then Frodi looked upon his long knife, and said nothing.

"Why carriest thou the whittle, then," asked Ondott, "if thou art not ready to use it?"

"My whittle," answered Frodi, "is to cut my bread and cheese, and to mend my shoes on a journey."

Then all the men who stood about hooted at the simple answer. Ondott said: "Betake thyself then to bread and cheese, but the sheep is ours." And he sent the sheep away to join Einar's flock.

Now Frodi was puzzled, and he said: "I will not follow up the matter, but will pay for the sheep out of mine own savings." But when he offered to pay, Rolf and Hiarandi were angered, for the wether was a good one. Yet they could get no satisfaction from Einar, although they might not blame Frodi, knowing his peaceful nature.

Now, as the winter approached, came chapmen, traders, into the neighborhood, and laid up their ship near Cragness; and all men went to chaffer with them. But Hiarandi must stay at home. Then for company's sake he sent and bade the shipmaster dwell with him for the winter; but Ondott Crafty, learning of it, won the shipmaster, by gifts, to stay with Einar. And that pleased Hiarandi not at all. Then the winter came, and men had little to do, so they held ball-play on the ponds; yet Hiarandi could not go thither. And the life began to irk him much. When spring drew near, Frodi went back to his smithy, and the household was small.

One day Ondott said to Einar: "Still we sit here, and gaze at the house where we should live."

"What is there to do?" asked Einar. "Nothing brings Hiarandi from his farm, not even the loss of his wether. I have set spies to watch him, but he never comes beyond the brook which marks his boundary."

"Yet there is something to be done," answered Ondott. "Wait awhile."

And the winter passed, and the chapmen began to dight their ship for the outward voyage. Now Malcolm the Scot, the thrall of Hiarandi, stood often on the crag when his day's work was done, and gazed at the ship of the chapmen. One evening Ondott went thither to him, seeing that he was out of sight of the hall.

"Why gazest thou," asked Ondott, "so much at the ship? Wouldst thou go in her?"

"Aye," answered the thrall, "for she goes to my home. But I have not the money to purchase my freedom, though Hiarandi has promised in another year to set me free."

"Wilt thou wait another year when thou mightest slip away now?" cried Ondott. "But perhaps thou fearest that the shipmaster would give thee up."

"That also," said the thrall, "was in my mind."

Then Ondott said: "The shipmaster has dwelt with us the winter through, and I know well what sort of man he is. Now I promise that if thou comest to him three nights hence, he will keep thee hidden, and no one shall see thee when they sail in the morning."

The thrall hesitated, but in the end he did as Ondott desired, and he gained his freedom by the trick. Thus was the work at Cragness rendered harder for those who remained, and Frodi could not come to help.

"Hiarandi," said Ondott to Einar, "is at last coming into those straits where I wished him. Now be thou guided by me, and I promise that in the end thy wishes will be fulfilled. Come, we will go to Cragness as before, and make offer to Hiarandi to buy his land." And he persuaded Einar to go. They went as before, with Hallvard and Hallmund.

"Shall we go armed?" asked the men.

"Nay," answered Ondott, "only witnesses do I desire."

Now when Hiarandi was called forth by Einar, Rolf also was by, but he saw that they of Fellstead bore no arms. Again Ondott spoke in the place of Einar.

"Hiarandi," said he, "all men can see what fortune is thine, since thy thrall has left thee and thy work is harder. Truly thou art called unlucky. But Einar pities thy condition, and he offers thus: Take from him a smaller farm, and the difference in silver. And since this outlawry is from us, from the time ye two handsel the bargain thou art free to go where thou wilt, without fear of thy life."

But Hiarandi spoke to Einar, and not to Ondott. "Why comest thou hither," he said, "like a small man to chaffer over little things? This outlawry irks me not, and in two months I am free to go where I wish. Go home; and when thou comest again, find thy tongue and speak for thyself!"

Then he went indoors and left them.

So Einar and those others rode homeward, and he thought his journey shameful. "See," said he to Ondott, "where thy counsels have brought me. I am mocked and sent away."

"Now," Ondott replied, "that has happened which I desired, and I brought men to hear. For thou hast made a fair offer to Hiarandi, and hast shown a good heart. Now what happens to him is his own fault, and no man can blame us." Then he commanded the two men that they should tell everyone what had been said, showing how Einar had been generous, but Hiarandi insulting. And when they reached the house, Ondott said to Einar in private:

"Thou shalt see that Hiarandi hath sown the seeds of his own destruction. Leave all to me."

Not many evenings thereafter, Ondott put himself in the way of the second thrall of Hiarandi, and spoke with him. "How goes all at Cragness?" asked Ondott.

"Hard," said the thrall, "for we are at the spring work; and Hiarandi spares not himself, nor me either, and the work is heavy since my fellow is gone."

"Now, why not make thy lot lighter," asked Ondott, "by taking service elsewhere?"

"I am a slave," said the man, "and not a servant." He did not tell that his freedom had been promised him, for he thought that time far away, since it was three years. For Hiarandi had the custom that a thrall should serve with him not for life, but for only seven years, and this man had been with him a less time than Malcolm.

"The life of a thrall," said Ondott, "is very hard."

"Aye," said the man.

"Yet thy fellow went away," quoth Ondott.

"Aye," answered the thrall, "but he fled over the sea. No ship is now outward bound, nor is there anyone to hide me. Else might I also flee."

"Come to Einar," said Ondott. "There shalt thou be safe."

"If thou sayest true," answered the thrall, "then it shall be done."

"But thou must come," said Ondott, "in the way I shall name. Thus only shalt thou be of service to Einar; but thou shalt be well rewarded if thou showest thyself a man of courage."

"Who will not dare much for his freedom?" replied the thrall. "But is harm meant to Hiarandi?"

"That is not thine affair," quoth Ondott. Then for a time they spoke together, and certain matters were agreed upon between them.

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