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p. 197


Of the Dweller in the Cave under the Force.

NOW it is to be told of Grettir that he set a stone in a bight of the rope and let it sink down into the water.

"In what wise hast thou mind to go?" said the priest.

"I will not go bound into the force," said Grettir; "such things doth my heart forebode."

With that he got ready for his journey, and was lightly clad, and girt with the short-sword, and had no weapon more. Then he leapt off the cliff into the force; the priest saw the soles of his feet, and knew not afterwards what was become of him. But Grettir dived under the force, and hard work it was, because the whirlpool was strong, and he had to dive down to the bottom, before he might come up under the force. But thereby was a rock jutting out, and thereon he gat; a great cave was under the force, and the river fell over it from the sheer rocks. He went up into the cave, and there was a great fire flaming from amidst of brands; and there he saw a giant sitting withal, marvellously great and dreadful to look on. But when Grettir came anigh, the giant leapt up and caught up a glaive and smote at the newcomer, for with that glaive might a man both cut and thrust; a wooden shaft it had, and that fashion of weapon men called then, heft-sax. Grettir hewed back against him with the short-sword, and smote the shaft so that he struck it asunder; then was the giant fain to stretch aback for a sword that hung up there in the cave; but therewithal. Grettir smote him afore into the breast, and smote off well-nigh all the breast-bone

p. 198

and the belly, so that the bowels tumbled out of him and fell into the river, and were driven down along the stream; and as the priest sat by the rope, he saw certain fibres all covered with blood swept down the swirls of the stream; then he grew unsteady in his place, and thought for sure that Grettir was dead, so he ran from the holding of the rope and gat him home. Thither he came in the evening and said, as one who knew it well, that Grettir was dead, and that great scathe was it of such a man.

Now of Grettir must it be told that he let little space go betwixt his blows or ever the giant was dead; then he went up the cave, and kindled a light and espied the cave. The story tells not how much he got therein, but men deem that it must have been something great. But there he abode on into the night; and he found there the bones of two men, and bore them together in a bag; then he made off from the cave and swain to the rope and shook it, and thought that the priest would be there yet; but when he knew that the priest had gone home, then must be draw himself up by strength of hand, and thus he came up out on to the cliff.

Then he fared home to Isledale-river, and brought into the church-porch the bag with the bones, and therewithal a rune-staff whereon this song was marvellous well cut--

"There into gloomy gulf I passed,
O'er which from the rock's threat it cast
The swirling rush of waters wan,
To meet the sword-player feared of man,
By giant's hall the strong stream pressed
Cold hands against the singer's breast;
Huge weight upon him there did hurl
The swallower of the changing whirl."

And this other one withal--

p. 199

"The dreadful dweller of the cave
Great strokes and many 'gainst me drave
Full hard he had to strive for it,
But toiling long he wan no whit
For from its mighty shaft of tree
The heft-sax smote I speedily;
And dulled the flashing war-flame fair
In the black breast that met me there."

Herein was it said how that Grettir had brought those bones from the cave; but when the priest came to the church in the morning he found the staff and that which went with it, but Grettir was gone home to Sand-heaps.

Next: Chapter LXVII: Grettir driven from Sand-heaps to the West