Page:A book of myths.djvu/314

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260
A BOOK OF MYTHS

told his kinsman the tale of the slaying of the Grendel and of the Wolf-Woman, he gave the finest of his steeds to the King, and to the Queen the jewelled collar, Brisingamen, that the Queen of the Goths had bestowed on him. And the heart of his uncle was glad and proud indeed, and there was much royal banqueting in the hero's honour. Of him, too, the scalds made up songs, and there was no hero in all that northern land whose fame was as great as was the fame of Beowulf.

"The Must Be often helps an undoomed man when he is brave" was the precept on which he ruled his life, and he never failed the King whose chief champion and warrior he was. When, in an expedition against the Frieslanders, King Hygelac fell a victim to the cunning of his foes, the sword of Beowulf fought nobly for him to the end, and the hero was a grievously wounded man when he brought back to Gothland the body of the dead King. The Goths would fain have made him their King, in Hygelac's stead, but Beowulf was too loyal a soul to supplant his uncle's own son. On his shield he laid the infant prince, Hardred, and held him up for the people to see. And when he had proclaimed the child King and vowed to serve him faithfully all the days of his life, there was no man there who did not loyally echo the promise of their hero, Beowulf.

When Hardred, a grown man, was treacherously slain by a son of Othere, he who discovered the North Cape, Beowulf once again was chosen King, and for forty years he reigned wisely and well. The fame of his arms kept war away from the land, and his wisdom as a statesman