THE next morning, when the little elves awoke up with
the dawn, and came thronging round their king to
receive his commands, they were surprised to see that
he had changed since they last saw him.
"He has grown up in the night," they whispered one to
And in truth he was no longer so fit a teacher and
playfellow for the merry little people as he had been a
few hours before.
It was to no purpose that the sweet winds blew, and the
flowers opened, when Frey came forth from his chamber.
A bright white light still
 danced before him, and nothing now seemed to him worth
looking at. That evening when the sun had set, and
work was over, there were no stories for the light
"Be still," Frey said, when they pressed round. 'If
you will be still and listen, there are stories enough
to be heard better than mine."
I do not know whether the elves heard anything; but to
Frey it seemed that flowers, and birds, and winds, and
the whispering rivers, united that day in singing one
song, which he never wearied of hearing.
"We are fair," they said; "but there is nothing in the
whole world so fair as Gerda, the giant-maiden whom you
saw last night in Jötunheim."
"Frey has dew-drops in his eyes," the little elves said
to each other in whispers as they sat round looking up
at him, and they felt very much surprised; for only to
men and the Æsir is it permitted to be sorrowful and
Soon, however, wiser people noticed the change that had
come over the summer-king, and his good-natured father,
Niörd, sent Skirnir one day
 into Alfheim to inquire into the cause of Frey's
He found him walking alone in a shady place, and Frey
was glad enough to tell his trouble to his wise friend.
When he had related the whole story, he said,—
"And now you will see that there is no use in asking me
to be merry as I used to be; for how can I ever be
happy in Alfheim, and enjoy the summer and sunshine,
while my dear Gerd, whom I love, is living in a dark,
cold land, among cruel giants?"
"If she be really as beautiful and beloved as you say,"
answered Skirnir, "she must be sadly out of place in
Jötunheim. Why do not you ask her to be your wife, and
live with you in Alfheim?"
"That would I only too gladly do," answered Frey; "but
if I were to leave Alfheim only for a few hours, the
cruel giant, Ryme,
would rush in to take my place; all
the labours of the year would be undone in a night, and
the poor, toiling men, who are watching for the
 wake some morning to find their corn-fields and
orchards buried in snow."
"Well," said Skirnir, thoughtfully, "I am neither so
strong nor so beautiful as you, Frey; but, if you will
give me the sword that hangs by your side, I will
undertake the journey to Jötunheim; and I will speak in
such a way of you, and of Alfheim, to the lovely Gerd,
that she will gladly leave her land and the house of
her giant-father to come to you."
Now, Frey's sword was a gift, and he knew well enough
that he ought not to part with it, or trust it in any
hands but his own; and yet how could he expect Skirnir
to risk all the dangers of Jötunheim for any less
recompense than an enchanted sword? and what other hope
had he of ever seeing his dear Gerda again?
He did not allow himself a moment to think of the
choice he was making. He unbuckled his sword from his
side and put it into Skirnir's hands; and then he
turned rather pettishly away, and threw himself down on
a mossy bank under a tree.
"You will be many days in travelling to
Jötun-  heim," he said, "and all that time I shall be
Skirnir was too sensible to think this speech worth
answering. He took a hasty farewell of Frey, and
prepared to set off on his journey; but, before he left
the hill, he chanced to see the reflection of Frey's
face in a little pool of water that lay near. In spite
of its sorrowful expression, it was as beautiful as the
woods are in full summer, and a clever thought came
into Skirnir's mind. He stooped down, without Frey's
seeing him, and, with cunning touch, stole the picture
out of the water; then he fastened it up carefully in
his silver drinking-horn, and, hiding it in his mantle,
he mounted his horse and rode towards Jötunheim, secure
of succeeding in his mission, since he carried a
matchless sword to conquer the giant, and a matchless
picture to win the maiden.