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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


Thorodd and his fellows went right along the hall where the folk sat, and passed into the one where the fires were, answering no man's greeting. Those of the household who were in the hall ran out, and Thorodd and his men sat down beside the fires, where they remained till they had fallen into ashes; then they went away again. This befel every evening while the banquet lasted, and there was much talk about it among those who were present. Some thought that it would stop when the feast was ended. When the banquet was over the guests went home, leaving the place very dull and dismal.

On the evening after they had gone, the fires were kindled as usual, and after they had burned up, there came in Thorodd with his company, all of them wet. They sat down by the fire and began to wring their clothes; and after they had sat down there came in Thorir Wooden-leg and his five companions, all covered with earth. They shook their clothes and scattered the earth on Thorodd and his fellows. The folk of the household rushed out of the hall, as might be expected, and all that evening they had no light nor any warmth from the fire.

Next evening the fires were made in the other hall, as the dead men would be less likely to come there; but this was not so, for everything happened just as it had done on the previous evening, and both parties came to sit by the fires.

On the third evening Kjartan advised that a large fire should be made in the hall, and a little fire in another and smaller room. This was done, and things then went on in this fashion, that Thorodd and the others sat beside the big fire, while the household contented themselves with the little one, and this lasted right through Christmas-tide.

By this time there was more and more noise in the pile of fish, and the sound of them being torn was heard both by night and day. Some time after this it was necessary to take down some of the fish, and the man who went up on the pile saw this strange thing, that up out of the pile there came a tail, in appearance like a singed ox-tail. It was black and covered with hair like a seal. The man laid hold of it and pulled, and called on the others to come and help him. Others then got up on the heap, both men and women, and pulled at the tail, but all to no purpose. It seemed to them that the tail was dead, but while they tugged at it, it flew out of their hands taking the skin off the palms of those who had been holding it hardest, and no more was ever seen of the tail. The fish were then taken up and every one was found to be torn out of the skin, yet no living thing was to be found in the pile.

Following upon this, Thorgrima Charm-cheek, the wife of Thorir Wooden- leg, fell ill, and lay only a little while before she died, and the same evening that she was buried she was seen in company with her husband Thorir. The sickness then began a second time after the tail had been seen, and now the women died more than the men. Another six persons died in this attack, and some fled away on account of the ghosts and the hauntings. In the autumn there had been thirty in the household, of whom eighteen were dead, and five had run away, leaving only seven behind in the spring.