WHEN at last the ship Ringhorn had floated out so far
to sea that it looked like a dull, red lamp on the
horizon, Frigga turned round and said, "Does any one of
you, my children, wish to perform a noble action, and
win my love for ever?"
"I do," cried Hermod, before any one else had time to
open his lips.
"Go, then, Hermod," answered Frigg, "saddle Sleipnir
with all speed, and ride down to Helheim; there seek
out Hela, the stern mistress of the dead, and entreat
her to send our beloved back to us once more."
Hermod was gone in the twinkling of an eye,
 not in at the mouth of the earth and through the steep
cavern down which Odin went to the dead Vala's grave;
he chose another way, though not a better one; for, go
to Helheim how you will, the best is but a downward
road, and so Hermod found it—downward, slanting,
slippery, dark and very cold. At last he came to the
Giallar Bru—that sounding river which flows between the
living and the dead, and the bridge over which is paved
with stones of glittering gold. Hermod was surprised
to see gold in such a place; but as he rode over the
bridge, and looked down carefully at the stones, he saw
that they were only tears which had been shed round the
beds of the dying—only tears, and yet they made the way
seem brighter. But when Hermod reached the other end
of the bridge, he found the courageous woman who, for
ages and ages, had been sitting there to watch the dead
go by, and she stopped him saying,—
"What a noise you make. Who are you? Yesterday five
troops of dead men went over the Giallar Bridge, and
did not shake it so much as
 you have done. Besides," she added, looking more
closely at Hermod, "you are not a dead man at all.
Your lips are neither cold nor blue. Why, then, do you
ride on the way to Helheim?"
"I seek Baldur," answered Hermod. "Tell me, have you
seen him pass?"
"Baldur," she said, "has ridden over the bridge; but
there below, towards the north, lies the way to the
Abodes of Death."
So Hermod went on the way until he came to the barred
gates of Helheim itself. There he alighted, tightened
his saddle-girths, remounted, clapped both spurs to his
horse, and cleared the gate by one tremendous leap.
Then Hermod found himself in a place where no living
man had ever been before—the City of the Dead. Perhaps
you think there is a great silence there, but you are
mistaken. Hermod thought he had never in his life
heard so much noise; for the echoes of all words were
speaking together—words, some newly uttered and some
ages old; but the dead men did not hear who flitted up
and down the dark streets, for their ears had been
stunned and become cold
 long since. Hermod rode on through the city until he
came to the palace of Hela, which stood in the midst.
Precipice was its threshold, the entrance-hall, Wide
Storm, and yet Hermod was not too much afraid to seek
the innermost rooms; so he went on to the
banqueting-hall, where Hela sat at the head of her
table, and served her newest guests. Baldur, alas! sat
at her right-hand, and on her left his pale young wife.
When Hela saw Hermod coming up the hall she smiled
grimly, but beckoned to him at the same time to sit
down, and told him that he might sup that night with
her. It was a strange supper for a living man to sit
down to. Hunger was the table; Starvation, Hela's
knife; Delay her man; Slowness, her maid; and Burning
Thirst, her wine. After supper Hela led the way to the
sleeping apartments. "You see," she said, turning to
Hermod, "I am very anxious about the comfort of my
guests. Here are beds of unrest provided for all, hung
with curtains of weariness, and look how all the walls
are furnished with despair."
So saying she strode away, leaving Hermod and
 Baldur together. The whole night they sat on those
unquiet couches and talked. Hermod could speak of
nothing but the past, and as he looked anxiously round
the room his eyes became dim with tears. But Baldur
seemed to see a light far off, and he spoke of what was
The next morning Hermod went to Hela, and entreated her
to let Baldur return to Asgard. He even offered to
take his place in Helheim if she pleased; but Hela only
laughed at this, and said, "You talk a great deal about
Baldur, and boast how much every one loves him; I will
prove now if what you have told me be true. Let
everything on earth, living or dead, weep for Baldur
and he shall go home again; but if one thing
only refuse to weep, then let Helheim hold its own; he
shall not go."
"Every one will weep willingly," said Hermod, as he
mounted Sleipnir, and rode towards the entrance of the
city. Baldur went with him as far as the gate, and
began to send messages to all his friends in Asgard,
but Hermod would not listen to many of them.
 "You will so soon come back to us," he said, "there is
no use in sending messages."
So Hermod darted homewards, and Baldur watched him
through the bars of Helheim's gateway as he flew along.
"Not soon, not soon," said the dead Asa; but still he
saw the light far off, and thought of what was to come.
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