REFLECTIONS IN THE WATER
 OF all the groves and gardens round the city of Asgard—and
they were many and beautiful—there was none so
beautiful as the one where Idūna, the wife of Bragi,
lived. It stood on the south side of the hill, not far
from Gladsheim, and it was called "Always Young,"
because nothing that grew there could ever decay, or
become the least bit older than it was on the day when
Idūna entered it. The trees wore always a tender,
light green colour, as the hedges do in spring. The
 were mostly half-opened, and every blade of grass bore
always a trembling, glittering drop of early dew.
Brisk little winds wandered about the grove, making the
leaves dance from morning till night and swaying
backwards and forwards the heads of the flowers.
"Blow away!" said the leaves to the wind, "for we shall
never be tired."
"And you will never be old," said the winds in answer.
And then the birds took up the chorus and sang,—
"Never tired and never old."
Idūna, the mistress of the grove, was fit to live among
young birds, and tender leaves, and spring flowers.
She was so fair that when she bent over the river to
entice her swans to come to her, even the stupid fish
stood still in the water, afraid to destroy so
beautiful an image by swimming over it; and when she
held out her hand with bread for the swans to eat, you
would not have known it from a water-lily—it was so
Idūna never left her grove even to pay a visit to her
nearest neighbour, and yet she did not
 lead by any means a dull life; for, besides having the
company of her husband, Bragi, who must have been an
entertaining person to live with; for he is said to
have known a story which never came to an end, and yet
which never grew wearisome. All the heroes of Asgard
made a point of coming to call upon her every day. It
was natural enough that they should like to visit so
beautiful a grove and so fair a lady; and yet, to
confess the truth, it was not quite to see either the
grove or Idūna that they came.
Idūna herself was well aware of this, and when her
visitors had chatted a short time with her, she never
failed to bring out from the innermost recess of her
bower a certain golden casket, and to request, as a
favour, that her guests would not think of going away
till they had tasted her apples, which, she flattered
herself, had a better flavour than any other fruit in
It would have been quite unlike a hero of Asgard to
have refused such courtesy; and, besides, Idūna was not
as far wrong about her
 apples as hostesses generally are, when they boast of
the good things on their tables.
There is no doubt her apples had a peculiar
flavour; and if any one of the heroes happened to be a
little tired, or a little out of spirits, or a little
cross, when he came into the bower, it always followed
that, as soon as he had eaten one apple, he found
himself as fresh, and vigorous, and happy as he had
ever been in his life.
So fond were the heroes of these apples, and so
necessary did they think them to their daily comfort,
that they never went on a journey without requesting
Idūna to give them one or two, to fortify them against
the fatigues of the way.
Idūna had no difficulty in complying with this request;
she had no fear of her store ever failing, for as
surely as she took an apple from her casket another
fell in; but where it came from Idūna could never
discover. She never saw it till it was close to the
bottom of the casket; but she always heard the sweet
tinkling sound it made when it touched the golden rim.
 as good as play to Idūna to stand by her casket, taking
the apples out, and watching the fresh rosy ones come
tumbling in, without knowing who threw them.
One spring morning Idūna was very busy taking apples
out of her casket; for several of the heroes were
taking advantage of the fine weather to journey out
into the world. Bragi was going from home for a time;
perhaps he was tired of telling his story only to
Idūna, and perhaps she was beginning to know it by
heart; and Odin, Loki, and Hœnir had agreed to take a
little tour in the direction of Jötunheim, just to see
if any entertaining adventure would befall them. When
they had all received their apples, and taken a tender
farewell of Idūna, the grove—green and fair as it
was—looked, perhaps, a little solitary.
IDUNA GIVING THE MAGIC APPLES.
Idūna stood by her fountain, watching the bright water
as it danced up into the air and quivered, and turned,
and fell back, making a hundred little flashing circles
in the river; and then she grew tired, for once, of the
light and the noise, and wandered down to a still
place, where the
 river was shaded by low bushes on each side, and
reflected clearly the blue sky overhead.
Idūna sat down and looked into the deep water. Besides
her own fair face there were little, wandering, white
clouds to be seen reflected there. She counted them as
they sailed past. At length a strange form was
reflected up to her from the water—large, dark,
lowering wings, pointed claws, a head with fierce
eyes—looking at her.
Idūna started and raised her head. It was above as
well as below; the same wings—the same eyes—the same
head—looking down from the blue sky, as well as up from
the water. Such a sight had never been seen near
Asgard before; and, while Idūna looked, the thing waved
its wings, and went up, up, up, till it lessened to a
dark spot in the clouds and on the river.
It was no longer terrible to look at; but, as it shook
its wings a number of little black feathers fell from
them, and flew down towards the grove. As they neared
the trees, they no longer looked like feathers—each had
two independent wings and a head of its own; they were,
in fact, a swarm of
 Nervous Apprehensions; troublesome little insects
enough, and well-known elsewhere, but which now, for
the first time, found their way into the grove.
Idūna ran away from them; she shook them off; she
fought quite bravely against them; but they are by no
means easy to get rid of; and when, at last, one crept
within the folds of her dress, and twisted itself down
to her heart, a new, strange feeling thrilled there—a
feeling never yet known to any dweller in Asgard.
Idūna did not know what to make of it.
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