The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. lxxvii.

Grettir at the home-stead of Reeks.

Now Grettir got all ready for swimming, and had on a cowl of market-wadmal, and his breeches girt about him, and he got his fingers webbed together, and the weather was fair. So he went from the island late in the day, and desperate Illugi deemed his journey. Grettir made out into the bay, and the stream was with him, and a calm was over all. He swam on fast, and came aland at Reekness by then the sun had set: he went up to the homestead at Reeks, and into a bath that night, and then went into the chamber; it was very warm there, for there had been a fire therein that evening, and the heat was not yet out of the place; but he was exceeding weary, and there fell into a deep sleep, and so lay till far on into the next day.

Now as the morning wore the home folk arose, and two women came into the chamber, a handmaid and the goodman's daughter. Grettir was asleep, and the bed-clothes had been cast off him on to the floor; so they saw that a man lay there, and knew him.

Then said the handmaiden: "So may I thrive, sister! here is Grettir Asmundson lying bare, and I call him right well ribbed about the chest, but few might think he would be so small of growth below; and so then that does not go along with other kinds of bigness."

The goodman's daughter answered: "Why wilt thou have everything on thy tongue's end? Thou art a measure-less fool; be still."

"Dear sister, how can I be still about it?" says the handmaid. "I would not have believed it, though one had told me."

And now she would whiles run up to him and look, and whiles run back again to the goodman's daughter, screaming and laughing; but Grettir heard what she said, and as she ran in over the floor by him he caught hold of her, and sang this stave —

"Stay a little, foolish one!

When the shield-shower is all done,

With the conquered carles and lords,

Men bide not to measure swords:

Many a man had there been glad,

Lesser war-gear to have had.

With a heart more void of fear;

Such I am not, sweet and dear."

Therewithal he swept her up into the bed, but the bonder's daughter ran out of the place; then sang Grettir this other stave —

"Sweet amender of the seam,

Weak and worn thou dost me deem:

O light-handed dear delight,

Certes thou must say aright.

Weak I am, and certainly

Long in white arms must I lie:

Hast thou heart to leave me then,

Fair-limbed gladdener of great men?"

The handmaid shrieked out, but in such wise did they part that she laid no blame on Grettir when all was over.

A little after, Grettir arose, and went to Thorvald the goodman, and told him of his trouble, and prayed bring him out; so did he, and lent him a boat, and brought him out, and Grettir thanked him well for his manliness.

But when it was heard that Grettir had swam a sea-mile, all deemed his prowess both on sea and land to be marvellous.

Those of Skagafirth had many words to say against Thorbiorn Angle, in that he drave not Grettir away from Drangey, and said they would take back each his own share; but he said he found the task no easy one, and prayed them be good to him, and abide awhile.

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