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

How Rolf and Einar Summoned Each Other

B ECAUSE of the state of matters at Cragness, Frodi the Smith journeyed there frequently to see his relatives. Here it must be told what kind of man he was. He was tall and heavy-jointed, with a long neck and a long face, and somewhat comic to look upon. Frodi the Slow was he by-named, for his movements were cumbersome and his mind worked slowly. But since that affair at the sheep-fold, many called him Whittle-Frodi.

Now Rolf sends for him one day, and tells him all that had happened, and how he was sure of making Einar an outlaw. And he asks Frodi to go with him to the house of Einar, to be witness to the summons.

Then said Frodi: "Let me say what I think of this affair. First thou shouldst ask a peaceful atonement. For in the beginning it seems that there is danger to thee, so great is the strength against thee. And in the second place such continual blood-feuds as daily go on are unchristian, and evil for the land."

Then Rolf was thoughtful. "Shall I have done all my seeking for nothing?" he asked. "More than that, shall I take money for my father's slaying?"

"It is the custom of the land," said Frodi, "and many men do it for the sake of peace."

"I heard Flosi say at Tongue," said Rolf, "how strife between neighbors was the greatest bane of this land. And I am half minded to do as thou sayest. But why has not Einar offered me atonement, if any is to be paid? I tell thee, hard is his heart, and he is glad!"

"At least," begged Frodi, "let me ask Einar what he will do."

"So I will," answered Rolf, "and a great sacrifice I make, to lay aside my grief and vengeance. Nay, I even break my vow which I made before thee. But I think only scorn will be thy portion, and matters will be made worse."

Then they went together to the house of Einar, and were seen from the hall as they entered the yard, and men came and stood in the porch as they approached. There were Einar and Ondott, and other men of the household. All bore weapons. But no one spoke when the cousins stood before them.

"Will no one here give us welcome?" asked Frodi.

Ondott mimicked Frodi's slow voice, and said: "Be welcome." The men of Einar laughed.

"Laugh not," said Frodi mildly. "Now, Einar, it is known how Hiarandi came by his death, and men say thou art responsible therefor."

"I was not by at his slaying," answered Einar.

Said Rolf: "What is done by a man's servants, with his knowledge, is as his deed."

And Frodi said: "Were it not better to atone Rolf for the death of his father, rather than have bad blood between neighbors? For thou knowest this, that some day a man may be found to shoot an arrow beyond that little oak."

Now Einar was plainly smitten by the answer of Frodi, and the scorn went from his face, and he thought. And here may be seen how the evil which a bad man does is not half so much in quantity as the good which he mars. For Ondott Crafty saw what was in Einar's mind, and he spoke quickly.

"An award may be given, Einar," said he, "which will honor you both. Shall I utter it?"

Now Einar was accustomed to the bitter jokes of Ondott, and when he thought he saw one coming, he forgot his design of peace, and said: "Utter the award."

"But does Rolf agree to it?" asked Ondott.

"I will hear it," answered Rolf. "But if thou meanest to scoff, think twice, lest in the end it be bad for thee."

Meanwhile some of the women of the household had come out of the hall at its other end, by the women's door, and now stood near to hear what was said. Helga the daughter of Einar was there, but she hung back; nearest of all stood Thurid the crone, listening closely.

"Now this I would award," said Ondott, "if I were in thy place, Einar. Thy son Grani is abroad, in the fostering of the Orkney earl; but some day he will come home, and then will need men to serve him. Let Rolf give up his holding and become thy man; so canst thou protect him from all harm. Then when thy son returns Rolf shall be his bow-bearer, and shall be atoned by the honor for the death of his father."

Some laughed, but not for long, and so far was this from a jest that the most were silent. Then Thurid chanted:

"For Einar's son shall Rolf bear bow.

Which in the end shall bear most woe?"

But none paid attention, for Rolf was gathering himself to speak. And he cried: "Ill jesting is thine, Ondott! Now hear what I am come hither to say: Outlaw shall Einar be made, for that man is found who can make the shot beyond the little oak. And thus I summon Einar."

So he recited the summons. He named the deed and the place, and the wounds of which Hiarandi had died. He named witnesses, those householders who had already been summoned. And he called Einar to answer for the deed before the Westfirther's Court at the Althing.

Ondott alone laughed when the summons was spoken in full. "So here are come a boy and a peaceling," quoth he, "to pick a quarrel with men."

"Heed him not," said Frodi to Rolf, "for he seeks cause to draw sword on thee."

Then Rolf made no answer to Ondott, but he and Frodi turned away and started to go home. Ondott whispered to Einar: "A spear between the shoulders will settle this matter for good." And he signed to Hallvard that he should have his spear ready to throw. Einar stood irresolute.

But the maid Helga went forward quickly and walked by Rolf's side. "May I go with thee to the gate?" she asked.

Great anger possessed him against all of Einar's house, but the sight of her astonished him, and he said she might come. In silence they went to the gate of the yard; then Helga stood there in the way while those two from Cragness went homeward. And Einar had already bidden that no violence be done, for fear of harming his daughter. He went into the hall and sat down in his seat, brooding over the outcome.

Ondott said: "Too squeamish art thou."

Einar said: "If thou findest me not a way out of this, it will go ill with thee."

Now a way out of that would have been hard to find, had not one day Ondott met that man who had set Rolf on the right road as he pursued Grettir. Said the man: "So thy neighbor Rolf won his sheep again from Grettir the Strong. That was a great deed!"

Then Ondott learned of the stealing of the sheep, and how Rolf had been seen driving it home again. He thought, and knew who must be that man who would shoot for Rolf. Then he went homeward with a light heart.

"Now," said he to Einar, "thy defence is sure. But come with me, and we will summon Rolf for those wounds he dealt, and that man he slew, when Hiarandi was slain."

"No court," answered Einar, "will punish Rolf for that." And he would not go, though he gave Ondott permission to go in his stead. Ondott took a witness and went to Cragness, where Rolf and Frodi were at work in the yard. Ondott recited the summons; Rolf and Frodi went on with the work, and answered naught.

And now all is quiet until men ride to the Althing.

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