The Waif Woman


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Your house shall rue it else. The speech of Thorgunna is ended. From that day to this no mian has learned her story or her people's name; but be sure the one was stormy and the other great. She had com. In the micrning the house womien streaked and dressed the corpse. Then camie Finnward, and carried the sheets and curtains from the house, and caused build a fire upon the sands. But Aud had an eye en her man's doings. So he told her. So much the more am I bound. Let me be doing as I must, goodwife. You may know well about fishing and be good at shearing sheep for what I know; but you are little of a judge of damask sheets.

And 25 when that is ended, we can consult upon the rest. The next day they set forth early for Skalaholt across the heaths.

The Waif Woman by Robert L Stevenson - Fairy Tale - Full AudioBook

Only Aud talked by the way, like a silly sea-gull piping on a cliff, and the rest held their peace. At Netherness they beat upon the door. The goodman was not abed nor any of his folk, but sat in the hall talking; and to them Finnward made clear his business.

So there they sat about the lights, and there was little said, for they were none so well pleased with their recep- tion. Presently, in the place where the food was kept, began a clattering of dishes; and it fell to a bondman of the house to go and see what made the clatter. Finnward grew pale as the dawn; he got to his feet, and the rest rose with him, and all the party of the funeral came to the buttery- door. And the dead Thorgunna took no heed of their coming, but went on setting forth meats, and seemed to talk with herself as she did so; and she was naked to the buff.

Great fear fell upon them; the marrow of their back grew cold. Not one word they sooke, neither 27 good nor bad; but back into the hall, and down upon their bended knees, and to their prayers.

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And when they had told him, shame fell upon him for his churlishness. This was the first walking of Thorgunna, and it is thought by good judges it would have been the last as well, if men had been more wise. Finnward's heart was heavy, and his mind divided. He feared the dead wife and the living; he feared dishonour and he feared dis- peace; and his Vy'ill was like a sea-gull 28 in the wind. Now he cleared his throat and made as if to speak; and at that Aud cocked her eye and looked at the goodman mocking, and his voice died unborn.

At the last, shame gave him courage.

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I think, wife, we must even do as she com- manded. Worse will come of it! Vainly she tried to frighten me when she was living; shall she frighten me now when she is dead and rotten? I trow not.

Think shame to your beard, goodman! Are these a man's shoes I see you shaking in, when your wife rides by your bridle-hand, as bold as nails? If I have not wit enough, I can rid you of my company.

The Waif Woman|Robert Louis Stevenson|Free download|PDF EPUB|Freeditorial

Wit is it he seeks? Poor Finnward followed on his horse, but the light of the day was gone out, for his wife was like his life to him. Finnward looked on, and trouble darkened his mind. Only the cloak she sometimes wore, for that was hers by the will of the dead wife; but the others she let lie, 32 because she knew she had tliem foully, and she feared Finnward somewhat and Thorgunna much.

Presently his wife csme beside him, and they lay still, but neither slept.

My soul is sick with it. And he arose and walked in the hall in the dark till it came morning. Early in the morning he went forth to the sea-fishing with four lads. The sun was half-way down, when a shepherd went by on the cliffs about his business, and spied a man in the midst of the breach of the loud seas, upon a pinnacle of reef. He hailed him, and the man turned and hailed again.

There was in that cove so great a clashing of the seas and so shrill a cry of sea-fowl that the herd might hear the voice and not the words. But the name Thorgunna came to him, and he saw the face of Finnward Keelfarer like the face of an old man.

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THE WAIF WOMAN

Lively ran the herd to Finnward's house; and when his tale was told there, Eyolf the boy was lively to out a boat and hasten to his father's aid. By the strength of hands they drove the keel against the seas, and with skill and courage Eyolf won upon the skerry and climbed up. There sat his father dead; and this was the first vengeance of Thorgunna against broken faith.

It was a sore job to get the corpse on board, and a sorer yet to bring it 35 home before the rolling seas. But the lad Eyolf was a lad of promise, and the lads that pulled for him were sturdy men. So the break-faith's body was got home, and waked, and buried on the hill. Aud was a good widow and wept mmch, for she liked Finnward well enough.

Little fear that she might have her choice of them, she thought, with all Thorgunna's fine things; and her heart was cheered. Now, when the corpse was laid in the hill, Asdis came where Aud sat solitary in hall, and stood by her awhile without speech. You begin early, brat! And 36 who has been poisoning your mind?

Your fool of a father, I suppose. And, O mother, I doubt they have brought ill luck.

The Waif Woman

Then the girl put her hand upon her mother's. The blood sprang in Aud's face. Where did you see me? Then she heaved up her hand to strike the child. Then she covered her face, and wept, and rocked herself. He could — your father could, the dear good man, dead and gone! Asdis," she cried, " have you no nature in your bleed? You do not know what I have done and suffered for them. I have done 3S — oh, and I could have done any- thing! And there is your father dead.

And after all, you ask me not to use them? No woman in Iceland has the like. And you wish me to destroy them? Not if the dead should rise! But for all Aud spoke with so much passion, it was noticed that for long she left the things unused. Only she would be locked somewhile daily in her bed-place, where she pored on them and secretly wore them for her pleasure. Now winter was at hand; the days grew short and the nights long; and under the golden face of morning the isle would stand silver with frost.

Word came from Holyfell to Frodis Water of a company of young men upona journey; thatnighttheysupped at Holyfell, the next it would be at Frodis Water;and Alf of the Fells was there, and Thongbrand Ketilson, and Hall the Fair. Aud went early to her bed-place, and there she pored upon these fineries till her heart was melted with self-love. There was a kirtle of a mingled colour, and the blue shot into the green, and the green lightened from the blue, as the colours play in the ocean between deeps and shallows: she thought she could endure to live no longer and not wear it.

There was a bracelet of an ell long, wrought like a serpent and with fiery jewels for the eyes; she saw it shine on her white arm and her head grew dizzy with desire. With that she considered that she must soon marry one of thsm and wondered which; and she thought Alf was perhaps the best, or Hall the Fair, but was not certain, and then 40 she remembered Finnward Keelfarer in his cairn upon the hill, and was concerned. But that is an old song now.


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At last she got to bed in the smooth sheets, and lay, and fancied how she V70uld look, and admired herself, and saw others admire her, and told herself stories, till her heart grew warm and she chuckled to herself between the sheets. So she shook awhile with laughter; and then the mirth abated but not the shaking; and a grue took hold upon her flesh, and the cold of the grave upon her belly, and the terror of death upon her soul. With that a voice was in her ear: " It was so Thorgunna sickened. She saw the house folk and her 41 children gaze upon her; well she knew why!

She knew her day was come, and the last of her days, and her last hour was at her back; and it was so in her soul that she scarce minded. All was lost, all was past mending, she would carry on until she fell. At times, too, the chill took her and the fear along with it; and she must sit down, and the teeth beat together in her head, and the stool tottered on the floor.

At these times, she thought she was passing, and the voice of Thor- gunna sounded in her ear: " The things are for no use but to be shown," it said. No, not once! Was never woman in Iceland robed as she was.

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