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 What Hiarandi Should Do

H IARANDI spoke not at all of the suits against him, yet he was continually gloomy. And one day he said:

"Much better were it now, had I never lighted the beacon that night."

"Thou knowest," responded Asdis, "that thou didst right."

"Still," said Hiarandi, "summer gales oft bring wrecks, and one ship might pay the blood-fine for me."

"For all that," Asdis answered, "thou hast not now the heart to stop lighting the beacon."

Then on the second night thereafter came a storm; but nothing was said, except that Hiarandi bade the beacon be lighted. Yet he was gloomier than ever.

One night Rolf asked him: "Why is it that thou art to answer for that deed which my uncle has done?"

"One must answer for a kinsman's deed," answered his father, "when that kinsman is dead."

"And what is the punishment," asked Rolf, "for slaying?"

"A fine or outlawry," replied Hiarandi.

"Tell me of outlawry," begged Rolf. "For I hear of outlaws who live and work among men, and of those who flee into hiding, and of those who go overseas."

"There are outlaws of many kinds," answered Hiarandi. "Some outlaws are condemned not to leave a district, or even a farm; but some must leave Iceland or else defend their lives. But most outlawries are like this, that a man must go abroad three winters, and then he is free to return. If he stays, his enemies may slay him if they can, and no man may ask atonement. Thus they who burned Njal in his house did fare abroad; but on the other hand Gisli our ancestor lived in hiding, and would not go. And Grettir the Strong, as all men know, lives to-day an outlaw, in one district or another; and no man has taken him, though there is a great price set upon his head."

"If thou art made outlaw," asked Rolf, "what wilt thou do?"

"Ask me not," said Hiarandi. "For the matter troubles me. If I go abroad, how will ye all live? And it will profit you nothing if I stay and am slain. Yet if I am made outlaw, and go not, my goods and the farm are forfeit."

As greatly as Hiarandi feared the outcome of these suits, so were those at Fellstead pleased by their hopes. And no one heard the carline Thurid, who sang to herself when she heard Ondott boast:

"He laughs too soon

Who doth forget,

Soursop blood

Binds kinsmen yet."

But Asdis thought rightly in the matter. For she said to Hiarandi: "What wilt thou do for thy defence at law? Is there no lawyer to help thee?"

"Help is offered," answered her husband, "to those who have money. And I have none."

"Then wilt thou ask help of Snorri the Priest? There is no other to give thee counsel."

"Not close," replied Hiarandi, "is the tie of blood between us, and small is the friendship. Moreover, Snorri draws ever to those who wax in fortune, and such is Einar; and he helps little those whose fortunes wane, and such am I."

"Now," cried Asdis, "be not as a man who sees his own doom, and stirs not to help himself. Where is thy manhood? Bestir thyself for my sake and Rolf's, and do what thou canst for our good! Now promise me that thou wilt ask help of Snorri."

Thus she stirred Hiarandi to shake off his gloom, so that he promised. And when the time came for him to ride to the Althing, he went with a better heart.

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