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246
A BOOK OF MYTHS

hearts of the watchers were heavy as they saw the sails of the vessel that bore him vanish into the grey, and knew that their king had gone back to the place from whence he came, and that they should look on his face no more.

Behind him Scyld left descendants, and one after the other reigned over Denmark. It was in the reign of his great-grandson, Hrothgar, that there took place those things that are told in the story of Beowulf.

A mighty king and warrior was Hrothgar, and far across the northern seas his fame spread wide, so that all the warriors of the land that he ruled were proud to serve under him in peace, and in war to die for him. During his long life he and his men never went forth in their black-prowed ships without returning with the joyous shouts of the victor, with for cargo the rich spoil they had won from their enemies. As he grew old, Hrothgar determined to raise for himself a mighty monument to the magnificence of his reign, and so there was builded for him a vast hall with majestic towers and lofty pinnacles—the finest banqueting-hall that his skilled artificers could dream of. And when at length the hall was completed, Hrothgar gave a feast to all his thanes, and for days and for nights on end the great rafters of Heorot—as his palace was named—echoed the shouts and laughter of the mighty warriors, and the music of the minstrels and the songs that they sang. A proud man was Hrothgar on the night that the banquet was ended amidst the acclamations of his people, and a proud and happy man he lay down to rest, while his bodyguard of mighty warriors stretched themselves on the rush-strewn floor of the great room where they had feasted, and deeply slumbered there.