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GISLI SLIPS THROUGH BORK'S FINGERS.
So they parted; and Bork and his men row to the isle, and land, and see the men on the Vadsteinberg, and make thither, and think they have done a good stroke of business. But all the while it was only Ingialld and his thrall who were up there.
Bork was the first to know the men, and said to Ingialld: "The best way is to give up Gisli, or tell where he is. Thou art a hound, and nothing else, when thou hast hidden away my brother's murderer, and all the while art my tenant. 'Twere well if thou gottest some harm, and it were best that thou wert slain."
"Well," says Ingialld, "I wear work-a-day clothes, and I don't care a button if they are torn to bits. I will sooner lose my life than not do Gisli all the good in my power, and keep him out of harm's way."
Men say that Ingialld gave most help to Gisli, and was the greatest gain to him; and it is also said that when Thorgrim Bottlenose worked his spells he used the words that "naught should help Gisli, though men tried to shelter him here on land;" but he forgot to add the out isles, and so his charm was only partly fulfilled, though it was fated to be fulfilled at last.
Bork thinks it not seemly to fall on his tenant Ingialld; so he turns away to the homestead and there seeks for Gisli, and cannot find him, as was likely. Then they roam over the isle, and come at last to a spot where the idiot lay and grazed in a hollow, with the stone tied round his neck.
Then Bork says: "Well, I always heard strange stories about Ingialld's idiot, but I never thought he could be in two places at once. There's no use hunting here, and we have been so heedless, I never knew the like, nor do I know how we shall ever set it right. Why! that must have been Gisli in the boat alongside us, and be must have passed himself off as the idiot, for he is ready at everything, and is the biggest mockbird. 'Tis a shame to so many men if he slip through our fingers this time. Let us hasten after him, and let him not escape our clutches."
Then they jump into their boat and row after them, and ply the oars fast. They soon see that Gisli and the maid with a fair tide have got a good way across the sound, and each boat rowed smartly. But that boat goes faster through the water which has most men to pull, and they overhauled them so much that Bork and his men were just a spear's throw behind them when they got to land.
Then Gisli spoke to the maid, and said: "Now we must part, and here is a ring which thou shalt carry to Ingialld, and another to his wife, and tell them I say thou must have thy freedom, and send them these as tokens. My wish also is that Swart should be set free. Thou mayest well be called my deliverer, and I wish thee to profit by it,"
Now they part. Gisli leaps on shore and into some crags. It was at Hjardarness that he landed. The maid rowed off all dripping and reeking with her hard pull. Bork and his men had no time to waste on her alone in her boat, but rowed straight to shore, and Quarrelsome Stein was first out of the boat, and runs off to seek for Gisli. But as he clomb the crags Gisli stood in his path with his sword drawn, and smote him on the head, and cleft him to the chine, and down he toppled a dead man. Bork and his men land on the isle also for it was an island just off the mainland; but Gisli plunges into the strait and tries to swim to the main. Just then Bork hurled a spear at him, and smote him on the calf, and cut a piece out of it, and that was a great wound. Gisli gets rid of the spear, but loses his sword; for be was so weary he could not hold it. It was then dark and night. As soon as he came to land he runs into the wood, for then the land thereabouts was overgrown with trees. Now Bork and his men row to land and hunt for Gisli, and pen him up in the wood; for the wood was not deep, and he is so weary and stiff he can scarce walk a step, and is now ware of men on all sides of him. Now he takes a plan and goes down to the shore, and so comes along the water's edge in the dark to a farm called "the Howe" and there seeks a farmer named Ref (the Fox), who was the craftiest of men. Ref greets him, and asks the news. Gisli told him the whole truth, and all that had happened between him and Bork. Now Ref had a wife whose name was Elfdisa, fair of face, but the greatest shrew, and
altogether a downright scold. That was her wont with others, but she and Ref hit it off very well together.
So when he had told Ref how things stood Gisli asks him for help.
"They will be here in the twinkling of an eye," said Gisli. "Now I am hard pressed, and there are few to stand by me."
"I will only help thee," says Ref, "if I may settle how thou art to be helped. Thou shalt have no share in it."
"With all my heart," says Gisli, "for I can't stir a step farther."
"Go indoors, then," says Ref; and so they did.
Then Ref said to Elfdisa:
"I must be so free as to send a man into thy bed."
And with that he takes all the clothes off the box-bed, and says that Gisli must crouch down in the straw at the bottom. Then he heaps the clothes and bedding on him, and last of all Elfdisa lies down atop of him.
"Stay where thou art, whatever happens," says Ref. At the same time he bids Elfdisa be as cross and snappish as ever she could be.
"Don't spare, but pour out all the bad words thou knowest--curses and oaths. But I will take the lead in talking with them, and turn my words as I think best."
Next time he goes out of doors he sees men coming. They were eight of Bork's band; but Bork himself stayed at Forcewater. But these were to come and seek for Gisli, and seize him if he had come thither.
So Ref stays out of doors and asks, "What tidings?"
"None but what thou must already know. Knowest thou aught of Gisli, or if he has passed this way."
"He hasn't passed by here," says Ref. "If he had tried it he would not have lived long. I don't know now why ye should think me less ready to slay Gisli than any other man; but I have just wit enough to see that the favour and friendship of such a man as Bork would be well worth winning."
"Well," they answered, "will it be against thy will if we search the house?"
"With all my heart! why not?" says Ref; "for I know ye will hunt all the more steadily in other places if ye know of a truth that he is not here. Pray, step in, and search for him as narrowly as ye can."
So they go indoors, but when Elfdisa heard their stamping, she bawled out what band of blackguards that might be, and what pack of fools it could be that knocked men up at night. Ref begged her to keep a smooth tongue in her mouth, but she did not spare them one of her foul words, and she yelled and hooted at them, so that they might be less able to hunt. Still they searched and searched, but still less than they would otherwise have done if the Goody had not pelted them with so much slang.
After that they go away and find nothing, and bid the farmer farewell, and he wished them a safe journey home. So they go back to Bork, and are sore grieved at their journey, and think they have got both harm and shame, and after all done nothing. Now all this was noised about the countryside, and men
thought it was still the same story, and that Bork had still the same ill-luck at Gisli's hand.
Now Bork goes home and tells Eyjolf what ought to be done. Gisli stays with Ref half a month, and after that he goes away. They parted good friends, and Gisli gives him a knife and belt, and they were great treasures, though he had nothing else with him. After this Gisli goes to his wife in Geirthiofsfirth, and his fame waxed much after these deeds; and truth to say there never has been a man of readier hand or more daring heart than Gisli, but he was not a lucky man, as was proved from the very first.