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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


Thorgunna worked at cloth-making every day when there was no hay- making, but when the weather was dry she worked among the dry hay in the home field, and had a rake made for herself which she alone was to use. Thorgunna was a big woman, both broad and tall, and very stout; she had dark eyebrows, and her eyes were close set; her hair brown and in great abundance. She was well-mannered in her daily life, and went to church every day before beginning her work, but she was not of a light disposition nor of many words. Most people thought that Thorgunna must be in the sixties, yet she was a very active woman.

At this time one Thorir "wooden-leg" and his wife Thorgrima "charm- cheek" were being maintained at Froda, and there was little love between them and Thorgunna. The person that she had most ado with was Kjartan, the son of the house; him she loved much, but he was rather cold towards her, and this often vexed her. Kjartan was then fifteen years old, and was both big of body and manly in appearance.

The summer that year was very wet, but in the autumn there came dry days. By this time the hay-work at Froda was so far advanced that all the home field was mown, and nearly the half of it was quite dry. There came then a fine dry day, clear and bright, with not a cloud to be seen in all the sky. Thorodd, the yeoman, rose early in the morning and arranged the work of each one; some began to cart off the hay, and some to put it into stalks, while the women were set to toss and dry it. Thorgunna also had her share assigned to her, and the work went on well during the day. When it drew near to three in the afternoon, a mass of dark clouds was seen rising in the north which came rapidly across the sky and took its course right above the farm. They thought it certain that there was rain in the cloud and Thorodd bade his people rake the hay together; but Thorgunna continued to scatter hers, in spite of the orders that were given. The clouds came on quickly, and when they were above the homestead at Froda there came such darkness with them that the people could see nothing beyond the home field; indeed, they could scarcely distinguish their own hands. Out of the cloud came so much rain that all the hay which was lying flat was quite soaked. When the cloud had passed over and the sky cleared again, it was seen that blood had fallen amid the rain. In the evening there was a good draught, and the blood soon dried off all the hay except that which Thorgunna had been working at; it did not dry, nor did the rake that she had been using.

Thurid asked Thorgunna what she supposed this marvel might portend. She said that she did not know, "but it seems to me most likely that it is an evil omen for some person who is present here". In the evening Thorgunna went home and took off her clothes, which had been stained with the blood; then she lay down in her bed and breathed heavily, and it was found that she was taken with sickness. The shower had not fallen anywhere else than at Froda.

All that evening Thorgunna would taste no food. In the morning Thorodd came to her and asked about her sickness, and what end she thought it would have. She answered that she did not expect to have any more illnesses. Then she said: "I consider you the wisest person in the homestead here, and so I shall tell you what arrangements I wish to make about the property that I leave behind me, and about myself, for things will go as I tell you, though you think there is nothing very remarkable about me. It will do you little good to depart from my instructions, for this affair has so begun that it will not pass smoothly off, unless strong measures are taken in dealing with it."