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258
A BOOK OF MYTHS

To him it seemed as if the space of a day had passed ere he reached the bottom, and in his passing he encountered many dread dangers from tusk and horn of a myriad evil creatures of the water who sought to destroy him. Then at length he reached the bottom of that sinister mere, and there was clasped in the murderous grip of the Wolf-Woman who strove to crush his life out against her loathsome breast. Again and again, when her hideous embrace failed to slay him, she stabbed him with her knife. Yet ever did he escape. His good armour resisted the power of her arm, and his own great muscles thrust her from him. Yet his own sword failed him when he would have smitten her, and the hero would have been in evil case had he not spied, hanging on the wall of that most foul den,

"A glorious sword,
An old brand gigantic, trusty in point and edge,
An heirloom of heroes."

Swiftly he seized it, and with it he dealt the Wolf-Woman a blow that shore her head from her body. Through the foul blood that flowed from her and that mingled with the black water of the mere, Beowulf saw a very terrible horror—the body of the Grendel, lying moaning out the last of his life. Again his strong arm descended, and, his left hand gripping the coiled locks of the Evil Thing, he sprang upwards through the water, that lost its blackness and its clouded crimson as he went ever higher and more high. In his hand he still bore the sword that had saved him, but the poisonous blood of the dying monsters had made the