Chapter 6

Odd sets on foot a Case against Uspak.

Here tells the tale that Odd set on foot this case at the Thing, and summoned the neighbours from home; but as it happed, one of those summoned died, whereon Odd summoned another in his place. Men fare to the Thing, and all is quiet till the courts are set: and when the courts were opened Odd put forth the case for the slaying, and all went smoothly till the defence was called.

Now hard by the courts sat two chieftains, Styr-mir and Thorarin, with their companies; and Styr-mir spake to Thorarin, and said : "Now are they crying on the defence in the blood-suit; wilt thou answer aught in the case?"

"Nay," said Thorarin, "I will not meddle herein, for meseems need enough drives Odd to take up the case and follow the blood-suit after such a man as Vali, when the man accused is belike the very worst of men."

"Yea," said Styrmir, "the man is not a good man verily, but thou art somewhat bound to him."

"I heed that nought" said Thorarin.

Styrmir said: "It is to be looked at in this wise also, that thou wilt have trouble with him after he is made guilty; only so much the more, and the harder to deal with : and it seemeth to me a thing to be seen to: so let us seek some rede, for we both of us see a flaw in the case."

"I have seen that for this long while," says Thorarin, " but it seemed to me unmeet to hamper the case."

Styrmir answers: "It toucheth thee the closest though, and folk will call it unmanly in thee if the case goeth forward now, when a defence from thee is urgent; and, sooth to say, it were well if Odd knew that there are others of account besides himself; he treadeth us all under foot, us and our thingmen so that he alone is told of: and it would be no harm if he found out what a wizard at law he is."

"Thou shalt have thy way," said Thorarin, "and I will help thee herein ; but I like not the look of it, and evil will come of it moreover."

"I will not turn from it for that cause," said Styrmir; and he springs up and goes to the court, and asks what is doing about the cases of men. So they told him, and he said: "So is it, Odd, that there is a flaw found in thy case, and thou hast set it afoot wrongly, whereas thou hast summoned thy ten witnesses from the country-side at home, which is against the law, for thou shouldst have done it at the Thing; now do thou one of two things: either go from the court with matters as they are, or stay, and we will put forth the defence."

Odd held his peace, and turned the matter over, and saw that it was but sooth ; so he goes from the court with his company, and home to his booth.

But as he came into the booth-lane there came a man to meet him : a man well-stricken in years, and clad in a black sleeve-cloak ready to drop to pieces, with but one sleeve on, and that cast aback behind: he had a pike-staff in his hand, and a slouched hat upon his head; he peered about from under it, and walked somewhat bent, smiting the staff down upon the ground; and lo! there was come old Ufeig, Odd's father.

Now Ufeig spake: "Early away from the courts then," says he. "It is not in one thing only that thou art happy; for everything thou dealest with runs swift and smooth off the reel. Well, so Uspak is found guilty then?" "Nay," said Odd, "he is not."

Ufeig said: "It is unmeet for a great man to mock an old carle like me ! Why is he not found guilty then? was he wrongfully accused?" "Nay, he did the deed sure enough," said Odd. "How then?" said Ufeig, "I thought the charge would stick to him: was he not Vali's banesman?"

"No one had a word to say against it," said Odd.

"Then why is he not found guilty?" said Ufeig.

"There was a flaw found in the case, and it came to nought," said Odd.

Says Ufeig : "How might there be a flaw in the case of a rich man like thee?"

"They said it was wrongly set on foot at home," says Odd.

"Nay, it could not be with thee in the case," said Ufeig; "yet it may be thou art better at getting money, and wandering about, than at pushing a law-suit. After all, though, I scarce think thou art telling me the truth."

Odd answers: "I care not whether thou believest me or not."

"Well, it may be," said Ufeig; "sooth to say, however, I knew when thou wentest from home that the case was wrongly set on foot; but thou deemedst thyself enough by thyself, and wouldst ask of no man: and now thou must be enough for thyself in this matter also ; but thou wilt get out of it well enough ; as it behoveth thee specially to do, who deemest all men dirt beside thee."

Odd answers : "One thing is sure, that I shall get no help of thee."

Said Ufeig: "If thou gettest any help in thy case it will be mine: how much wouldst thou spare thy money if any were to set thy case right for thee?"

Odd answers: "I would not spare money to him who would take up the case."

Said Ufeig: "Then let a heavyish purse drop . into the hand of this old carle; for folk's eyes are apt at squinting toward money." So Odd gave him a great purse, and Ufeig asked: "Was the defence put into court or not?" "No," said Odd, "we went away from the court first."

Ufeig answers : "The only good thing which thou hast done is that which thou hast done unwittingly." So they parted, and Odd went home to his booth.