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Treasure-trove in Norway.
for thee and for all of us, if I had had the first chance of getting these goods before the king laid his hand on them ; for now it is no easy thing to strive with him about it; but we should have had Thorfinn utterly in our power, and yet he would have been better off than he now is. And as for thee, Icelander, thou canst be not at all a lucky man, so fair as thy lot seemed at first. But still thou shalt have some silver of me, and then fare away out to Iceland, and never come back to Norway while Harold is king over the land.” So they parted there and then. A little while after, Einar came down to the town with a great company of his kinsmen and friends, and he made his way to where the king was in church; but when the king came out of church, Einar turned to meet him, and greeted him, and asked if he had laid his hands on those goods and money which Thorfinn the Chapman had found. He said, “So it was; for that,” he went on, “is the law of the land, that the king shall own all that money and treasure which is found in the earth.” “Very true," said Einar, “if men do not know who has owned it; but now, I trow, that Eindridi, my son, and Bergliot his mother, own all heritage after Earl Hacon, and that is why I think I have a right to take these goods which he owned of yore.” Then Einar told the signs and tokens, both as to the runes and precious things themselves, how Earl Hacon had owned this treasure; “ And,” says he, “ if thou wilt not give it up, then we will not spare to seek for it by main force, and do ye guard it if ye will." "Mighty art thou, indeed, Einar,” said the king, “ for now art thou king over the land rather than I, though I bear the king's name.” Then wellmeaning men took part in the quarrel, and so took care that no harm came of it, and then all the treasure was handed over to Einar; and so they parted, and they were still called friends by the good dealing of both their friends.
After this quarrel, in which the law of treasure-trove as belonging to the Crown is laid down as precisely as though it were uttered by some high prerogative lawyer of the present day, and which strongly illustrates the recent cases which have happened in England, Harold and Einar remained friends in name, but with the feud still rankling in their hearts. Against such a subject and others of his stamp Harold might well employ a little Machiavellian kingcraft. It happened that Harold had fast bound in prison some Danes, whom the fortune of war had thrown into his hands. It was known to few that they were even alive— like Joseph in the Egyptian dungeon, they had gone clean out of mind, and been forgotten. To them Harold promised life and liberty if they would do his bidding. That was to go round the country with forged letters in Sweyn's name
and seal, and with a large sum of money which Harold gave them, and as they went from house to house to offer the chiefs and vassals money in Sweyn's name, as a bribe, to help him when he fell upon Norway, as he often threatened to do. The Danes, for liberty, agreed to Harold's terms, and set out on their treacherous journey. It was a perilous proof to stand, and yet Einar stood it. Whatever might be his hatred to Harold he was true to Norway. His pride too was beyond a bribe. When the tempters came to him, told their errand, and showed him the money and letters, Einar said, “'Tis known to all men that King Harold is nó friend of mine, while King Sweyn often speaks of me in a friendly way, and willingly would I be his friend. But if he comes hither into this land of Norway with a host to fall on King Harold, and harries his lands, I will withstand him with all my might, and stand by King Harold with all the strength I can get together and keep his land with him.” With that noble answer the bribers went away to StepThorir in Gudbrandsdale and showed him the letter.
· King Sweyn,” said the fickle chief, “ever treats me in a kind and friendly way, and maybe that the spring of his bounty is not yet dry.” With those words he took the money and kept it. After trying other great chiefs and vassals, some of whom stood the test well and some ill, the Danes came to the house of Högni Longbjörn's son, a simple freeman, but well-to-do, and a man of many friends. He was worth winning, but when he saw the letters and the money, he said, “Methinks 'tis likely that King Sweyn will set small store by me, in that I am but a boor of low degree; but still there is but one answer to give in this matter. If King Sweyn comes with war and strife into this land of Norway, no boor's son will be a worse foe to him than I." On the whole, King Harold should have been well content with the report of his messengers. When he heard how well Einar had behaved, he said, “ It was to be looked for that he would talk like a good man and true, but still it was out of little love
How fared ye with Step-Thorir ?” The messenger said Thorir took the money and spoke fair words of both kings. “Ah,” answered the king, “he is the last man out of whom one can get his mind as to anything." But when they told him how Högni Longbjörn's son had answered, the King cried oąt, " There ye may see the making of a vassal.” And now, says the Saga, King Harold knew where his friends lay. Against Harold tempts Einar--They make Friends. 103 Einar he could neither say nor do anything. Thorir he tried to seize and punish, and even went unbidden to his house; but the wily chief met him on the way, having had a hint that he was coming. Before the King could speak a word, he bade him to a feast that night, and thrusting a great bag of money into his hands, said, “ This was brought by some Danish men who brought money and letters from King Sweyn. I only took it to keep it and hand it over to you, and here it is. Now I must go to settle a quarrel which has sprung up between my people, but I shall be back by evening.” With that he rode off
1 Munch, by an oversight, says the Danes had Sweyn's signet in their possession. That is at least unlikely, but the Saga says nothing of the kind. It says, “pau (brèf) voru innsiglut undir nafni Sveins Danakonúngs," which merely means that they were signed and sealed in Sweyn's name. In fact, they were a forgery of Harold's.
. To the feast he never came, and Harold had to confess that he had been entirely outwitted, and went away prophesying that Thorir's fickle temper would bring him sooner or later to a bad end. When he went to Högni's house and offered to make him a vassal and give him a fief, the proud but modest freeman answered, “I thank you, lord, for your friendship, and all that I can do for you I will; but a vassal's name I will not have, for that I know that when the great vassals meet together it will be said, as is the truth, Högni must sit last, he is least of vassals, because he is of boorish race, and then my vassal's name will bring no honour with it, for I shall be their laughing-stock. So I will rather be called a freeman, as is my right, and then I shall have honour in the speech of men, for then it will be said, though it is not much to say, when freemen meet together Högni is the first of them. But all honour, goodwill, and friendship I will take with all my heart from you, and give back the same, though I be but a freeman, henceforth as hitherto." The King said that was a wise and noble answer, and so they parted with great love.
But Harold, much as he feared Einar, could not help being touched at the way in which he had withstood temptation. He sent (1049-50) and begged him to come to the town of Niđarós, and made him a great feast. Einar came, and the king made him good cheer, and bade him sit next himself. At even, after they had eaten and the tables were taken away, the king and his court sat down in a ring on the straw round the fire, and they drank and were merry. Down pillows were brought, and laid behind Einar and the king; and so they began to talk and jest, and Harold, a sure sign that he was in a good humour, fell to telling of his doughty deeds in foreign lands. Perhaps Einar had often heard them before, perhaps he only believed half of what he heard; but he was old and fat, full of meat and drink; it was not strange then that he began to nod and doze. The king went on, but he was not over-pleased. At last Einar was fast asleep. Then the fickle turn of Harold's heart showed itself, and he changed from mirth to anger, like an April day. It was all done to show how little Einar cared for him or his exploits, and that at the very time when he had softened his heart and lowered himself to try to be friends with him. All this rushed through Harold's mind; and besides, they had all drunk deep. So there old Einar sat, propped up by his pillow, sound asleep. Harold bent towards a near kinsman of his, named Griótgard, and whispered, " Take a wisp of grass, and twist it tight, and stick it in Einar's hand, and give him a good poke in the ribs, and call out in his ear, · Wilt thou to bed, Einar ?'” Griótgard did the king's bidding, and Einar started up at the poke in the ribs and shout in his ear, and what he did at the same time we cannot say, but it was something which, after all he had eaten and drunken, was not wonderful. Up jumped the king and left the hall, we may be sure with a laugh, and there Einar was left the laughing-stock of the court, with the wisp of grass clenched in his hand. In those days such mockery was a deadly insult, for it made a great chief a niddering, and such shame could only be washed out by blood. But Einar went first to bed. As soon as day dawned, he broke into the loft where Griótgard slept, took him out and slew him. Thus the meeting which was to make them friends only ended in making them still worse foes, and the king's wrath was hot against the slayer of his kinsman, though even he might have granted that the man had fallen in his own wrongdoing. Common friends tried to patch this fresh quarrel up, and Harold seemed to listen to their advice; but in his heart he had resolved to put an end to their strife by Einar's death, and though he bade him come and settle the terms of atonement, it was only to be sure of getting Einar into his hands. So Einar, followed by Eindridi, his son, and a great company of his followers, went down to the king's council or parliament chamber, on the banks of the river Nid. Before he came, the king had settled his plan. In the chainber he was to be with a few trusty men, the rest of his Hird were close by in the courtyard. A black deed is best done in darkness, and the shutters which closed the louvre in the roof from the rain were drawn over it. What little light was left struggled through the narrow slits in the side wall. When Einar came into the yard, he said to Eindridi, “Stay thou here outside the hall with our force, so we shall be in no danger;" for what the wary old chief most feared was that they should all be caught inside in a trap, and smoked or burnt to death. Such things had often happened, and might happen again. But Harold's plans were deeper laid. Einar went in without fear, trusting in the king's peace, and sure of retreat in case of danger. He stepped into the hall, with his eyes full of light, and, blinded by the sudden change from daylight to darkness, he cried out,
" How dark it is in the king's council-chamber!" Before the words were out of his mouth, Harold's followers fell on him cut and thrust. The old man strove to die hard. He made for the seat where Harold awaited him, and hewed at him with his axe, but here the king's wiliness foiled him. He had armed himself in two byrnies or shirts of mail, one no doubt being his darling “ Emma," and the blow fell harmless. By that time Einar was sorely wounded. His last words were, "Now the king's hounds bite sharp.” They were so loud that Eindridi heard them outside. Drawing his sword he rushed into the chamber only to fall by his father's side. Then the king's men outside rose up and held the door of the hall, and the freemen having lost both of their leaders at once scarcely lifted a hand. Yet they were egging each other on, saying it was a shame not to avenge their chief, but naught came of their attack. The king was not slow, he came out, put himself at the head of his men, his banner, and drew up his host in battle array. When he found that the freemen would not make an onslaught he made for his ships and his men with him, and they rowed as fast as they could out of the narrow stream into the broad firth.
It was a bloody deed and a shameful deed, and well it was that the king got clear off before the freemen came to themselves. He had not counted the cost of such a treacherous murder. Bergliot, Einar's wife, hastened up to the hall as soon as she heard the ill-tidings, her heart bent on revenge more than grief, but as she reached it the king's ship was running out of the river. Now," she cried, “we miss our kinsman Hacon Ivar's son, Einar's banemen would never run out of the river were Hacon here.” Then they took up both bodies and laid them by the side of King Magnus. Spite of all Einar's unruliness he was a man of noble patriotic mind. His claims as the freer of his country from foreign rule outweigh all that can be said against him, and though his fall was needful that Norway might be brought to obey her king, the base way in which he was done to death brought at once a host of enemies on Harold's hands.
Now Hacon Ivar's son, the gallant and the fair, was Einar's next of kin, and with him lay the feud of blood. Bergliot sent straight to him, and laid the claim for vengeance in his hands. Harold did not dare to show his face up the country, but made for Yrjar, at the mouth of the Drontheim Firth, where his kinsman by marriage, Finn Arni's son, the Arnmodling lived, and who had hitherto been his fast friend. Him he tried to persuade to play the part of a mediator, and to soothe the feelings of Hacon and his friends, and Finn was well fitted for the task. He was the bosom-friend of Hacon, with whom he