The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. xv.

Of the ball-play on Midfirth Water.

At this time there were many growing up to be men in Midfirth; Skald-Torfa dwelt at Torfa's-stead in those days; her son was called Bessi, he was the shapeliest of men and a good skald.

At Meal lived two brothers, Kormak and Thorgils, with them a man called Odd was fostered, and was called the Foundling-skald.

One called Audun was growing up at Audunstead in Willowdale, he was a kind and good man to deal with, and the strongest in those north parts, of all who were of an age with him. Kalf Asgeirson dwelt at Asgeir's-river, and his brother Thorvald with him. Atli also, Grettir's brother, was growing into a ripe man at that time; the gentlest of men he was, and well beloved of all. Now these men settled to have ball-play together on Midfirth Water; thither came the Midfirthers, and Willowdale men, and men from Westhope, and Waterness, and Ramfirth, but those who came from far abode at the play-stead.

Now those who were most even in strength were paired together, and thereat was always the greatest sport in autumn-tide. But when he was fourteen years old Grettir went to the plays, because he was prayed thereto by his brother Atli.

Now were all paired off for the plays, and Grettir was allotted to play against Audun, the aforenamed, who was some winters the eldest of the two; Audun struck the ball over Grettir's head, so that he could not catch it, and it bounded far away along the ice; Grettir got angry thereat, deeming that Audun would outplay him; but he fetches the ball and brings it back, and, when he was within reach of Audun, hurls it right against his forehead, and smites him so that the skin was broken; then Audun struck at Grettir with the bat he held in his hand, but smote him no hard blow, for Grettir ran in under the stroke; and thereat they seized one another with arms clasped, and wrestled. Then all saw that Grettir was stronger than he had been taken to be, for Audun was a man full of strength.

A long tug they had of it, but the end was that Grettir fell, and Audun thrust his knees against his belly and breast, and dealt hardly with him.

Then Atli and Bessi and many others ran up and parted them; but Grettir said there was no need to hold him like a mad dog, "For," said he, "thralls wreak themselves at once, dastards never."

This men suffered not to grow into open strife, for the brothers, Kalf and Thorvald, were fain that all should be at one again, and Audun and Grettir were somewhat akin withal; so the play went on as before, nor did anything else befall to bring about strife.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07