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248
A BOOK OF MYTHS

to sleep were all gone, and on the floor was the spoor of something foul and noisome, and on the walls and on the trampled rushes were great and terrible smears of human blood.

They tracked the Grendel back to the marsh from whence he had come, and shuddered at the sight of bestial footprints that left blood-stains behind.

Terrible indeed was the grief of Hrothgar, but still more terrible was his anger. He offered a royal reward to any man who would slay the Grendel, and full gladly ten of his warriors pledged themselves to sleep that night in the great hall and to slay the Grendel ere morning came.

But dawn showed once more a piteous sight. Again there were only trampled and blood-stained rushes, with the loathsome smell of unclean flesh. Again the foul tracks of the monster were found where it had padded softly back to its noisome fens.

There were many brave men in the kingdom of Hrothgar the Dane, and yet again did they strive to maintain the dignity of the great hall, Heorot, and to uphold the honour of their king. But through twelve dismal years the Grendel took its toll of the bravest in the realm, and to sleep in the place that Hrothgar had built as monument to his magnificent supremacy, ever meant, for the sleeper, shameful death. Well content was the Grendel, that grew fat and lusty amongst the grey mists of the black marshes, unknowing that in the land of the Goths there was growing to manhood one whose feet already should be echoing along that path from which Death was to come.

In the realm of the Goths, Hygelac was king, and