Chapter 9

Of Ufeig and the Banded Men.

Now ride the chieftains to the Thing, and many are with them: goodman Ufeig was of Styrmir's company. The Banded Men bespoke a meeting of them on Bluewood-heath, and these met there, Egfl, Styrmir, Hermund, and Thorarin ; and now they ride all in a company down to the Thing-mead. But these ride from the east, Skeggbroddi and Thorgeir Haldorason of Bathdale; and from the north Jarnskeggi; and they meet by Reydarmuli, and all the companies of them together ride down into the Meads, and so to the Thing.

There turns all the talk on Odd's case, and alt men deem there will be none to answer it, thinking that few dare it, and none may carry it through in the teeth of such great men as there are against him; but their own case they deemed fair enough, and more than enough they bragged about it; and no man had a word to say against them.

Odd charged no man about his case: he dight his ship for sea in Ramfirth so soon as men were gone to the Thing.

On a day went master Ufeig from his booth : he was full of trouble, seeing no man to help him, and thinking his case heavy to push : scarce could he see any way for him alone to deal with such great men ; and in the case was no defence; he went all bent at the knees, and wandered stumbling among the booths. Thus fared he a long while, but came at the last to the booth of Egil Skulison ; and men were come thither to talk with Egil, so Ufeig hung about the booth doors, and waited till the men were gone away. Egil followed them out, and when he was going in again, Ufeig turned and met him, and greeted him, Egil looked on him, and asked him who he was: "Ufeig am I called," said he.

Egil said : "Art thou the father of Odd?"

He said that so it was. "Then wilt thou be a-talking of his case; but it will be waste of words, for the matter is too much done with for me to help thee aught; and other men than I have more to do with the case, Styrmir and Thorarin to wit; they take the more part of the ruling thereof, though we follow them forsooth."

Ufeig answered, and there came a word into his mouth:

Seemly was it
Of my son to think once;
Never fared I
Odd to further:
But little the fool looked
Into law-learning,
Though full enow
Of fee he gathered.

And again he sang :

Sport I hold it,
The old home-abider,
To speak a little
With the sage of men-folk;
Gainsay me not
A little speech now,
For worthy indeed
And wise thou art holden.

"Nay, I shall find other sport than talking of Odd's affairs; time was they were hopefuller than now, and thou wilt not gainsay me speech, for it now is the old carle's chiefest joy to talk with such men as thee, and so wear away a little time."

Egil answers : "I will not forbid thee speech." And they go in together, and sit down.

Then Ufeig takes up the word: "Art thou a householder, Egil?" Egil said that so it was.

"Ah, and thou dwellest at Burg?"

"So is it," said Egil.

Ufeig said: "What I hear told of thee is good, and much to my mind: for they say that thou grudgest meat to no man, and keepest good house, so that it fares not unlike with us twain ; either of us being men of good kin and good conditions, but not handy at money-getting; yea, and they say withal that thou art good at need to thy friends."

Egil answered: "It likes me well to be accounted of even as thou art; for I wot that thou art a wise man and of great kin."

Ufeig said: "Herein though are we unlike: thou art a great chieftain, and fearest nought for anything that may be in thy way, and wilt never shrink from holding thine own with whomsoever thou hast to do; whereas I am but a nobody: nevertheless my mind is as thy mind, and great pity it is of men who hold themselves so high, that they should lack money."

Egil answered : "Maybe that shall be changed shortly, and my fortune amended."

"How comes that?" said Ufeig.

"Why thus, meseems," said Egil, "that if we get hold of Odd's money, little shall we lack, for great things are told us of his wealth."

Ufeig answers: "Overmuch would not be said of it though he were called the richest man of Iceland. But thou wilt be wishful to know what thy share thereof will be; and indeed thou art in most sore need of the money."

"True," said Egil, "and thou art a good carle, and a wise, and wilt know clearly about Odd's money." He answered : "It is to be looked for that others should not know more thereof than I; and I can tell thee that it is more than the most that can be said of it; but I have been thinking what thy share thereof will be."

And therewith came a song into his mouth:

Eight great ones surely gripeth Gold greed and wrongful doing, Though words be not well fitting To us who once were wealthy. Yet, lords of loud shields clashing, I rede you leave your laughter O'er the deed ye deem a great one, Nor drag to light your shaming.

"Scarcely will that speedily be," says Egil, "yet art thou a good scald."

Said Ufeig: "I will not delay the showing thee what thy share of the good fortune will be : neither more nor less than the sixteenth part of the lands of Mel."

"Hearken to the fool," said Egil; "what? is not the money as much as is said, then? or how may that be?"

Ufeig answers: "Nay, there is money enough, yet meseemeth that is just what thou wilt get: have ye not determined that ye are to have half of Odd's wealth between you, and the men of the Quarter the other half? Wherefore I am reckoning that there will be the half of the lands of Mel to be shared between the eight Banded Men of you : for so will your intent have been, and so will ye have settled it, with whatsoever unexampled rashness ye have taken up the case. Or were ye perchance deeming that Odd my son would sit quietly at home awaiting your onset, when ye should be going north-away? Nay," said Ufeig, "ye shall not come upon Odd unready; and as good as he is at money-making, yet lacketh he not for cunning and shiftiness at need. And no less belike shall the keel beneath him drive through the Iceland main because ye call him guilty, as guilty he is not; for the case against him has been wrongfully taken up, and it shall fall on their heads who have meddled in it. Well, I deem he will be on the sea by now with all that he hath, saving the land at Mel, which he hath left behind for you ; and he had heard tell that it is no great way up from the sea to Burg if he should happen into Burgfirth.

"Well, the case will end as it began, and ye will have shame and dishonour of it, and most meetly too, for every man will blame you."

Said Egil: "I see it as clear as day, and how that there are two in the game. Verily, it was not to be looked for that we should catch Odd shiftless; and no great matter I deem it; for there are some in the case, the most pushing in it, whom I would be well content to see shamed,. Styrmir to wit, or Thorarin, or Hermund."

"Yea," said Ufeig, " it shall come to pass as is meet and right, that they shall have blame hereof of every man; but it misliketh me that thou shouldst come off ill, who art so much to my mind, and the very best of you Banded Men." Therewith he let a big purse of money sink down from under his cloak, and Egil's eyes turned towards it; Ufeig noted that, and drew it up again under his cloak at his swiftest, and spake: "In such wise go matters, Egil, that I look for the thing to go just as I have told thee: but now will I doadeed in thine honour." And with that he unwinds the purse and pours out the silver into Egil's cloak-skirt, two hundreds of silver, the best that might be. "This shalt thou have of me if thou wilt be not against our case, and this is somewhat of an honour to thee."

Egil answers: "Meseemeth thou art no little rascal: it is not to be thought of, that I will break my oath."

Ufeig answers: "O, ye are not what ye deem yourselves : ye would be called chieftains, but have no shift to turn to when things are gotten crooked. Thou shalt do none of this; for I will hit upon a rede whereby thou shalt keep to thine oath."

"What is it?"said Egil.

Ufeig said: "Have ye not determined that ye will have either outlawry or self-doom in the case?"

Egil said that so it was.

"Well, it may be," said Ufeig, "that we, Odd's kindred, shall be allowed to choose which it shall be, and then it might be brought about that the giving of the award shall come to thee; and then would I have thee make it easy."

Egil answers: "Thou sayest sooth, and art a cunning carle, and a wise ; yet am I not quite ready hereto, having neither might nor men to withstand all these chieftains alone : for their enmity for this will fall on whomsoever riseth up against them."

Ufeig said: "How would it be were another in the matter with thee?"

"Things would go better then," said Egil.

Said Ufeig: "Whom wouldst thou choose of the Banded Men? think of them as if the whole company of them were in my hand."

"Two there are," said Egil; "Hermund is my nearest neighbour, but we are not of good accord; the other is Gellir, and him would I choose."

"That is a hard piece of work," said Ufeig, "for I wish all of them ill-luck from this case except thee alone: but he will be wise enough to see which is best to choose, to gain money and honour there with, or to lose the wealth, and win, the shame. So now wilt thou be in this matter, so as to lessen the award if it come to thee?"

"Well, I have a mind to it," said Egil.

"Then shall it be a settled matter between us", said Ufeig, "for I will come back hither to thee in an hour's space."