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They were all seated in
the great hall of the house and near the fire Hauskuld's little
daughter, Hallgerda, was playing with some other children. Fair and blue
eyed were they all, but Hallgerda was taller and more beautiful than
any, and her hair fell in long bright curls far below her waist. 'Come
hither,' said Hauskuld, holding out his hand, and, taking her by the
chin, he kissed her and bade her go back to her companions. Then,
turning to his brother he asked:

'Well, is she not fair to look upon?' but Hrut held his peace. Again
Hauskuld would know what was in the thoughts of Hrut concerning the
maiden, and this time Hrut made answer:

'Of a truth fair is the maid, and great will be the havoc wrought by her
among men. But one thing I would know, which of our race has given her
those thief's eyes?'

At that Hauskuld waxed wroth, and bade Hrut begone to his own house.

* * * * *

After this some years went by. Hrut left Iceland and spent some time at
the Court of Norway, and then he came back and married, and had much
trouble with his wife, Unna. But after they had parted and she had gone
back to her father, Hrut was a free man again, and he went to visit his
brother Hauskuld, whose daughter Hallgerda had now become a woman. Tall
and stately she was, and fair, but sly and greedy of gain, as in the
days of her childhood, and more she loved Thiostolf, whose wife had
brought her up, than Hauskuld her father, or Hrut her uncle.

When Hallgerda went back to Hauskuld her father, he saw that he must be
looking out for a husband for her, as the fame of her beauty would go
far. It was indeed not long before one came to her, Thorwald, son of
Oswif, who, besides the broad lands which he possessed on the island,
owned the Bear Isles out in the sea, where fish were to be had in
abundance.

Oswif, Thorwald's father, knew more about the maiden than did Thorwald,
who had been on a journey, and he tried to turn his son's thought to
some other damsel, but Thorwald only answered, 'Whatever you may say,
she is the only woman I will marry;' and Oswif made reply, 'Well, after
all, the risk is yours and not mine.'

So they two set out for Hauskuld's house and he bade them welcome
heartily. They wasted no time before telling him their business, and
Hauskuld answered that for his part he could desire no more honourable
match for his daughter, but he would not hide from them that her temper
was hard and cruel.

'That shall not stand between us,' said Thorwald, 'so tell me what I
shall pay for her.'

And the bargain was made, and Thorwald rode home with his father, but
Hallgerda was never asked if she wished to wed Thorwald or not.

When Hauskuld told his daughter that she was to be married to Thorwald,
she was not pleased, and said that if her father had loved her as much
as he pretended to do he would have consulted her in such a matter.
Besides, she did not think that the match was in any way worthy of her.

But, grumble as she might, there was no getting out of it, and, as
Hauskuld would listen to nothing, she sought for her foster-father,
Thiostolf, who never had been known to say her nay. When she had told
her story, he bade her be of good cheer, prophesying that Thorwald
should not be her only husband, and that if she was not happy she had
only to come to him and he would do her bidding, be it what it might,
save as regarded Hauskuld and Hrut.

Then Hallgerda was comforted, and went home to prepare the bridal feast,
to which all their friends and kinsfolk were bidden. And when the
marriage was over, she rode home with her husband Thorwald, and
Thiostolf her foster-father was ever at her side, and she talked more to
him than to Thorwald. And there he stayed all the winter.

Now, as time went on, Thorwald began to repent that he had not hearkened
to the words of his father. His wife paid him scant attention, and she
wasted his goods, and was noted among all the women of the dales for her
skill in driving a hard bargain. And, beyond all that, folk whispered
that she was not careful to ask whether the things she took were her own
or someone else's. This irked Thorwald sore; but worse was to follow.
The spring came late that year, and Hallgerda told Thorwald that the
storehouse was empty of meat and fish, and he must go out to the Bear
Isles and fetch some more. At this Thorwald reproached her, saying that
it was her fault if garners were not yet full, and on Hallgerda's
taunting him with being a miser, struck her such a blow in the face that
blood spouted, and when he left her to row with his men to the islands,
Hallgerda sat still, vowing vengeance.

It was not long in coming. Soon after, Thiostolf chanced to pass that
way, and, seeing the blood on her face, asked whence it sprang.

'From the hand of my husband Thorwald,' answered she, and reproached
Thiostolf for suffering such dealings.

[Illustration: HOW THORWALD WAS SLAIN BY THIOSTOLF]

'I knew not of it,' said Thiostolf, 'but I will avenge it speedily;' and
he went to the shore, and put off in a boat, taking nothing but a great
axe with him. He found Thorwald and his men on the beach of the biggest
island, loading his vessel with meat and fish from the storehouses. Then
he began to pick a quarrel with Thorwald and spoke words that vexed
him more and more, till Thorwald bent forward to seize a knife which lay
near him. This was the moment for which the other had been waiting. He
lifted his axe and gave a blow at Hallgerda's husband, and, though
Thorwald tried to defend himself, a second stroke clove his skull.

* * * * *

'Your axe is bloody,' said Hallgerda, who was standing outside the door.

'Yes; and _this_ time you can choose your own husband,' answered
Thiostolf; but Hallgerda only asked calmly:

'So Thorwald is dead?' and as Thiostolf nodded she went on: 'You must go
northward, to Swan my kinsman; he will hide you from your enemies.'

After that she unlocked her chests and dismissed her maidens with gifts;
then she mounted her horse and rode home to her father.

'Where is Thorwald?' asked Hrut, who had heard nothing.

'He is dead,' answered Hallgerda.

'By the hand of Thiostolf?' said her father.

'By his hand, and by that of no other;' and Hallgerda passed by them and
entered the house.

As soon as Oswif, Thorwald's father, had heard the tidings, he guessed
that Thiostolf must have gone northward to Swan, and calling his men
round him they all rode to the Bearfirth. But before they were in sight
Swan cried to Thiostolf, 'Oswif is coming, but we need fear nothing,
they will never see us,' and he took a goatskin and wrapped it round his
head, and said to it: 'Be thou darkness and fog, and fright and wonder,
to those who seek us.' And immediately a thick fog and black darkness
fell over all things, and Oswif and his men lost their way, and tumbled
off their horses and tripped over large stones, till Oswif resolved to
give up seeking Thiostolf and Swan, and to go himself to Hauskuld.

Now Hauskuld was abiding at home, and with him was Hrut his brother.
Oswif got off his horse, and, throwing its bridle over a stake driven
into the ground, he said to Hauskuld: 'I have come to ask atonement for
my son's life.'

'It was not I who slew your son,' answered Hauskuld; 'but as he is
slain, it is just that you should seek atonement from somebody.'

'You have much need to give him what he asks,' said Hrut, 'for it is not
well that evil tongues should be busy with your daughter's name.'

'Then give the judgment yourself,' replied Hauskuld.

'That will I do, in truth,' said Hrut; 'and be sure that I will not
spare you, as I know it was Hallgerda wrought his death;' so he offered
his hand to Oswif, as a token that his award would be accepted, and that
at the Great Council of the nation he would not summon Hauskuld for
Thorwald's murder. And Oswif took his hand, and Hauskuld's, and Hrut
bade his brother pay down two hundred pounds in silver to Oswif, while
he himself gave him a stout cloak. And Oswif went away well pleased with
the award.

For some time Hallgerda dwelt in her father's house, and she brought
with her a share of Thorwald's goods, and was very rich. But men kept
away from her, having heard tales of her evil ways. At length Glum, the
youngest son of Olaf the Lame, told his brother that he would go no more
trading in strange lands, but would remain at home, and meant to take to
himself a wife, if the one on whom he had set his heart would come to
him.

So one day a company of the men, with Glum and Thorarin his brother at
their head, rode into the Dales to the door of Hauskuld's dwelling.
Hauskuld greeted them heartily and begged them to stay all night,
sending secretly for Hrut, whose counsel he always asked when any matter
of importance was talked over.

'Do you know what they want?' said Hrut next morning, when his brother
met him on the road.

'No,' replied Hauskuld, 'they have not spoken to me of any business.'

'Then I will tell you,' answered Hrut. 'They have come to ask Hallgerda
in marriage.'

'And what shall I do?' said Hauskuld.

'Tell them you would like the match,' replied Hrut, 'but hide nothing.
Let them know all there is of good and evil concerning her.'

They reached the house as he spoke, and the guests came out, and
Thorarin opened his business by entreating Hauskuld to give his daughter
Hallgerda to Glum his brother. 'You know,' he added, 'that he is rich
and strong, and thought well of by all men.'

'Yes, I know that,' answered Hauskuld; 'but once before I chose a
husband for my daughter, and matters turned out ill for all of us.'

'That will be no hindrance,' replied Thorarin, 'for the lot of one man
is not the lot of all men. And things might have fared better had it not
been for the meddling of Thiostolf.'

'You speak truth,' said Hrut, who had listened to their talk in silence;
'and the marriage may yet turn out well if you will do as I tell you.
See that you suffer not Thiostolf to ride with her to Glum's house, and
that he never sleeps in the house for more than three nights running,
without Glum's leave, on pain of outlawry and death by Glum himself.



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