Sagas & Legends
Death of Egil Skallagrim's son.
Egil Skallagrim's son now grew old, and in his old age became heavy in movement, and dull both in hearing and sight; he became also stiff in the legs. Egil was at Moss-fell with Grim and Thordis. It happened one day that as Egil went out along the house-wall he stumbled and fell. Some women saw this, and laughed, saying: 'You are now quite gone, Egil, if you fall when alone.' Then said the master Grim, 'Women jeered at us less when we were younger.' Egil then sang:
'Old haltered horse I waver,
Bald-head I weakly fall:
Hollow my failing leg-bones,
The fount of hearing dry.'
Egil became quite blind. And it was so that one day, when the weather was cold, Egil went to the fire to warm himself. Whereupon the cook said that it was a great wonder, so mighty a man as Egil had been, that he should lie in their way so that they could not do their work. 'Be you civil,' said Egil, 'though I bask by the fire, and let us bear and forbear about place.' 'Stand you up,' said she, 'and go to your seat, and let us do our work.' Egil stood up, and went to his place and sang:
'Blind near the blaze I wander,
Beg of the fire-maid pardon,
Crave for a seat. Such sorrow
From sightless eyes I bear.
Yet England's mighty monarch
Me whilom greatly honoured:
And princes once with pleasure
The poet's accents heard.'
Again, once when Egil went to the fire to warm himself, a man asked him whether his feet were cold, and warned him not to put them too near the fire. 'That shall be so,' said Egil; 'but 'tis not easy steering my feet now that I cannot see; a very dismal thing is blindness.' Then Egil sang:
'Lonely I lie,
And think it long,
Carle worn with eld
From kings' courts exiled.
Feet twain have I,
Frosty and cold,
Blaze of fire.'
In the later days of Hacon the Great Egil Skallagrim's son was in his ninth decade of years, and save for his blindness was a hale and hearty man. One summer, when men made ready to go to the Thing, Egil asked Grim that he might ride with him to the Thing. Grim was slow to grant this. And when Grim and Thordis talked together, Grim told her what Egil had asked. 'I would like you,' said he, 'to find out what lies under this request.' Thordis then went to talk with Egil her uncle: it was Egil's chief pleasure to talk to her. And when she met him she asked: 'Is it true, uncle, that you wish to ride to the Thing? I want you to tell me what plan you have in this?' 'I will tell you,' said he, 'what I have thought of. I mean to take with me to the Thing two chests that king Athelstan gave me, each of which is full of English silver. I mean to have these chests carried to the Hill of Laws just when it is most crowded. Then I mean to sow broadcast the silver, and I shall be surprized if all share it fairly between them. Kicks, I fancy, there will be and blows; nay, it may end in a general fight of all the assembled Thing.' Thordis said: 'A famous plan, methinks, is this, and it will be remembered so long as Iceland is inhabited.'
After this Thordis went to speak with Grim and told him Egil's plan. 'That shall never be,' said he, 'that he carry this out, such monstrous folly.' And when Egil came to speak with Grim of their going to the Thing, Grim talked him out of it all; and Egil sat at home during the Thing. But he did not like it, and he wore a frowning look.
At Moss-fell were the summer-sheds of the milch kine, and during the Thing-time Thordis was at the sheds. It chanced one evening, when the household at Moss-fell were preparing to go to bed, that Egil called to him two thralls of Grim's. He bade them bring him a horse. 'I will go to the warm bath, and you shall go with me,' said he. And when Egil was ready, he went out, and he had with him his chests of silver. He mounted the horse. They then went down through the home paddock and under the slope there, as men saw afterwards. But in the morning, when men rose, they saw Egil wandering about in the holt east of the farm, and leading the horse after him. They went to him, and brought him home. But neither thralls nor chests ever came back again, and many are the guesses as to where Egil hid his money. East of the farm at Moss-fell is a gill coming down from the fell: and it is noteworthy that in rapid thaws there was a great rush of water there, but after the water has fallen there have been found in the gill English pennies. Some guess that Egil must have hidden his money there. Below the farm enclosure at Moss-fell are bogs wide and very deep. Many feel sure that 'tis there Egil hid his money. And south of the river are hot springs, and hard by there large earthholes, and some men guess that Egil must have hidden his money there, because out that way cairn-fires were often seen to hover. Egil said that he had slain Grim's thralls, also that he had hidden the chests, but where he had hidden them he told no man.
In the autumn following Egil fell sick of the sickness whereof he died. When he was dead, then Grim had Egil dressed in goodly raiment, and carried down to Tjalda-ness; there a sepulchral mound was made, and in it was Egil laid with his weapons and his raiment.
Next: CHAPTER XCI. Grim takes the Christian faith.