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254
A BOOK OF MYTHS

devour. But in the darkness two hands, hke hands of iron, gripped the outstretched arm, and the Grendel knew that he had met his match at last. The warriors of Beowulf awoke to find a struggle going on such as their eyes never before beheld, for it was a fight to the death between man and monster. Vainly they tried to aid their leader, but their weapons only glanced harmlessly off the Grendel's scaly hide. Up and down the hall the combatants wrestled, until the walls shook and the great building itself rocked to its foundations. Ever and again it seemed as though no human power could prevail against teeth and claws and demonic fury, and as tables and benches crashed to the ground and broke under the tramping feet of the Grendel, it appeared an impossible thing that Beowulf should overcome. Yet ever tighter and more tight grew the iron grip of Beowulf. His fingers seemed turned to iron. His hatred and loathing made his grasp crash through scales, into flesh, and crush the marrow out of the bone it found there. And when at length the Grendel could no more, and with a terrible cry wrenched himself free, and fled, wailing, back to the fenland, still in his grasp Beowulf held the limb. The Grendel had freed himself by tearing the whole arm out of its socket, and, for once, the trail of blood across the moors was that of the monster and not of its victims.

Great indeed was the rejoicing of Hrothgar and of his people when, in the morning, instead of crimson-stained rushes and the track of vermin claws imbrued in human blood, they found all but one of the men from Gothland