Page:A book of myths.djvu/304

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the deep who would fain have devoured him. Their bodies, deep-gashed and dead, floated down to the coast of Gothland, and the king and all those who looked for the corpse of Beowulf saw them, amazed. Then at length came Beowulf himself, and with great gladness was he welcomed, and the king, his uncle, gave him his treasured sword, Nägeling, in token of his valour.

In the court of Hrothgar, the number of brave warriors ever grew smaller. One man only had witnessed the terrible slaughter of one of those black nights and yet had kept his life. He was a bard—a scald—and from the land where he had seen such grim horror, he fled to the land of the Goths, and there, in the court of the king, he sang the gloomy tale of the never-ending slaughter of noble warriors by the foul Grendel of the fens and moors.

Beowulf listened, enthralled, to his song. But those who knew him saw his eyes gleam as the good steel blade of a sword gleams when it is drawn for battle, and when he asked his uncle to allow him to go to the land of the Danes and slay this filthy thing, his uncle smiled, with no surprise, and was very well content.

So it came to pass that Beowulf, in his black-prowed ship, with fourteen trusty followers, set sail from Gothland for the kingdom of Hrothgar.

The warden of the Danish coast was riding his rounds one morning when he beheld from the white cliffs a strange war-vessel making for the shore. Skilfully the men on board her ran her through the surf, and beached her in a little creek between the cliffs, and made her fast to a rock by stout cables. Only for a