The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. xlv.

Of the Slaying of Atli Asmundson.

There was a man with Thorbiorn Oxmain who was called Ali; he was a house-carle, a somewhat lazy and unruly man.

Thorbiorn bade him work better, or he would beat him. Ali said he had no list thereto, and was beyond measure worrying. Thorbiorn would not abide it, and drave him under him, and handled him hardly. Then Ali went off from his service, and fared over the Neck to Midfirth, and made no stay till he came to Biarg. Atli was at home, and asked whither he went. He said that he sought service.

"Art thou not Thorbiorn's workman?" said Atli.

"That did not go off so pleasantly," said Ali; "I was not there long, and evil I deemed it while I was there, and we parted, so that I deemed his song about my throat nowise sweet; and I will go to dwell there no more, whatso else may hap to me; and true it is that much unlike ye are in the luck ye have with servants, and now I would fain work with thee if I might have the choice."

Atli answered, "Enough I have of workmen, though I reach not out to Thorbiorn's hands for such men as he has hired, and methinks there is no gain in thee, so go back to him."

Ali said, "Thither I go not of my own free-will."

And now he dwells there awhile; but one morning he went out to work with Atli's house-carles, and worked so that his hands were everywhere, and thus he went on till far into summer. Atli said nought to him, but bade give him meat, for he liked his working well.

Now Thorbiorn hears that Ali is at Biarg; then he rode to Biarg with two men, and called out Atli to talk with him. Atli went out and welcomed him.

Thorbiorn said, "Still wilt thou take up afresh ill-will against me, and trouble me, Atli. Why hast thou taken my workman? Wrongfully is this done."

Atli answered, "It is not proven to me that he is thy workman, nor will I withhold him from thee, if thou showest proofs thereof, yet am I loth to drag him out of my house."

"Thou must have thy will now," said Thorbiorn; "but I claim the man, and forbid him to work here; and I will come again another time, and I know not if we shall then part better friends than now."

Atli said, "I shall abide at home, and take what may come to hand."

Then Thorbiorn rode home; but when the workmen come home in the evening, Atli tells all the talk betwixt him and Thorbiorn, and bids Ali go his way, and said he should not abide there longer.

Ali answered, "True is the old saw, over-praised and first to fail. I deemed not that thou wouldst drive me away after I had toiled here all the summer enough to break my heart, and I hoped that thou wouldst stand up for me somehow; but this is the way of you, though ye look as if good might be hoped from you. I shall be beaten here before thine eyes if thou givest me not some defence or help."

Atli altered his mind at this talk of his, and had no heart now to drive him away from him.

Now the time wore, till men began hay-harvest, and one day, somewhat before midsummer, Thorbiorn Oxmain rode to Biarg, he was so attired that he had a helm on his head, and was girt with a sword, and had a spear in his hand. A barbed spear it was, and the barbs were broad.

It was wet abroad that day. Atli had sent his house-carles to the mowing, but some of them were north at Horn a-fishing. Atli was at home, and few other men.

Thorbiorn came there about high-noon; alone he was, and rode up to the outer door; the door was locked, and no men were abroad. Thorbiorn smote on the door, and then drew aback behind the houses, so that none might see him from the door. The home-folk heard that the door was knocked at, and a woman went out. Thorbiorn had an inkling of the woman, and would not let himself be seen, for he had a mind to do something else.

Now the woman went into the chamber, and Atli asked who was come there. She said, "I have seen nought stirring abroad." And even as they spake Thorbiorn let drive a great stroke on the door.

Then said Atli, "This one would see me, and he must have some errand with me, whatever may be the gain thereof to me."

Then he went forth and out of the door, and saw no one without. Exceeding wet it was, therefore he went not out, but laid a hand on either door-post, and so peered about him.

In that point of time Thorbiorn swung round before the door, and thrust the spear with both hands amidst of Atli, so that it pierced him through.

Then said Atli, when he got the thrust, "Broad spears are about now," says he, and fell forward over the threshold.

Then came out women who had been in the chamber, and saw that Atli was dead. By then was Thorbiorn on horseback, and he gave out the slaying as having been done by his hand, and thereafter rode home.

The goodwife Asdis sent for her men, and Atli's corpse was laid out, and he was buried beside his father. Great mourning folk made for his death, for he had been a wise man, and of many friends.

No weregild came for the slaying of Atli, nor did any claim atonement for him, because Grettir had the blood-suit to take up if he should come out; so these matters stood still for that summer. Thorbiorn was little thanked for that deed of his; but he sat at peace in his homestead.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/morris/william/grettir-the-strong/chapter45.html

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