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Heroes Every Child Should Know by  H. W. Mabie


 

 

CHAPTER VIII

SIEGFRIED

[89]

N
OW there dwelt in a castle in the Netherland a certain King, Siegmund by name, who had to wife a fair lady Sieglind. These two had a son whom they called Siegfried, a very gallant prince. Very carefully did they train and teach him, but the root of the matter was in the lad himself, for he had an honest and good heart, and was in all things a very perfect knight. This Siegfried being come to man's estate, and being well practised in arms, and having also as much of wealth as he needed, turned his thoughts to marriage, desiring to win a fair bride for himself.

It came to Prince Siegfried's ears that there was a very fair maiden in the Rhineland, and that many noble knights had come from far and wide to make their suits to her, but that she would have none of them. Never yet had she seen the man whom she would take for her husband. All this the Prince heard, and he said, "This Kriemhild will I have for my wife." But King Siegmund, when he heard of his son's purpose, was not a little troubled thereat; and Queen Sieglind wept, for she knew the brother of Kriemhild, and she was aware of the strength and valour of his warriors. So they said to the Prince, "Son, this is not a wise wooing." But Siegfried made answer, "My father, I will have none of wedlock, if I may not marry where I love." Thereupon the King said: "If thou canst not forego this maiden, then thou shalt have all the help that I can give."

[90] Queen Sieglind said: "If you are still minded to go, then I will prepare for you and your companions the best raiment that ever warrior wore."

Siegfried bowed low to his mother, saying: "So be it; only remember that twelve comrades only will I take with me."

So the Queen and her ladies sat stitching night and day, taking no rest till the raiment was ready. King Siegmund the while commanded that the men should polish their war-gear, coats of mail, and helmets, and shields.

The thirteen comrades departed and, on the seventh day, they rode into the town of Worms in Rhineland, a gallant company, bravely arrayed, for their garments flashed with gold, and their war-gear, over their coats of mail and their helmets, were newly polished. Their long swords hung down by their sides, even to their spurs, and sharp were the javelins which they held in their hands. The javelin of Siegfried was two spans broad in the blade, and had a double edge. Terrible were the wounds that it made. Their bridles were gilded, and their horse-girths of silk. A comely sight they were to see, and the people came from all round to gaze upon them.

Tidings had been brought to King Gunther that certain warriors were come, very gallant to look upon and richly clad, but that no one knew who they were, and whence they came. "Now," said the King, "this troubles me much that no one can tell whence these warriors come." To him Ortwein, the High Server, made answer, "Seeing, sire, that no man knows aught about these strangers, let some one fetch Hagen, my uncle; he knows all the kingdoms of the world, and the dwellers therein."

[91] So Hagen went to the window and looked at the men. Well pleased was he with their clothing and their gear of war; but he had never seen their like in the Rhineland. So he said: "Whencesoever these men have come, my lord, that they are princes or of a prince's company is clear. But stay; Siegfried, the famous hero, I have never seen with my eyes, but I verily believe that is he. If it indeed be, there is no warrior in this land, that is his match for strength and valour.

"Once upon a time riding alone, with none to help him, he came upon the treasure of the Nibelungs. It had been newly taken out of the hollow of a mountain, and the Nibelungs were making ready to share it. And when they saw him, one cried aloud, 'Here comes Siegfried, the great champion from the Netherland!' So the two princes of the Nibelungs bade him welcome, and would have him divide the treasure among them. A mighty store it was, of jewels such plenty that scarce five-score wagons could carry them away, and of red gold yet more. All this they would have Siegfried divide among them. And for his wages they gave him the Nibelungs' sword. But little did they know what should befall at his hand. For lo! ere he had ended his dividing, they stirred up strife against him. Twelve stout comrades had the princes, and with these the princes thought to have slain Siegfried. But they availed nought; with the very sword which they had given him for his reward—Balmung was its name—he slew them all. The giants he slew, and the Kings also, and when Albrich the dwarf would have avenged his lords—for he was the keeper of the treasure—Siegfried overcame him also, and wrested from him the Hood of Darkness, which whoso dons, straightway he vanishes from the sight of all men.

[92] "But the treasure he would not take for himself. 'Carry it back,' said he to Albrich the dwarf, 'to the hole whence it was taken, and keep it for me. And you shall swear a great oath to do me any service that I shall ask of you, whensoever and wheresoever may seem good to me.'

"Another story have I heard tell of Siegfried, how he slew a dragon with his own hand and sword, and how he bathed him in the dragon's blood, and made his skin so hard and horny that no sword may pierce it. Let us therefore receive him with all courtesy; for verily he is a right strong and valiant knight, and 'tis better, I ween, to be his friend than his enemy."

"Methinks thou art right," said King Gunther. "Let us go down and greet him courteously."

Never were guests more honoured as, of a surety, never guests had bolder mien. And as the days went by the Kings and their guests gave themselves to sport and pastime; but whatever they did, Siegfried was ever the first; none could put the stone so far, or cast the spear with so sure an aim. Sometimes the fair ladies of the court looked on, and not a few looked on the young Prince from the Netherland with favour. But he had ever one only in his heart, ever the fair Kriemhild.

King Gunther purposed in his heart to marry a wife. No daughter of his own land would he woo, though there were many fair maidens in the Rhineland. But there came to him tidings of a Queen that dwelt beyond the sea; not to be matched was she for beauty, nor had she any peer for strength. Her love she proffered to any warrior who could vanquish her at three games, hurling of the spear, and putting the stone, and leaping. But if the suitor himself should be vanquished, then must he lose [93] his head. Such were the conditions of her wooing, and many brave warriors had died for her.

On a certain day King Gunther and his chiefs sat in council, and the matter was this—where shall the King seek a wife who shall both be for a comfort to him and for a glory to the land? Then spake the King, "I will seek Queen Brunhild and no other. For her will I hazard my life; nor do I care to live if I may not win her for my wife." To him spake Siegfried, "I would have you give up this purpose. He who woos Brunhild plays for too high a stake. Take my counsel, sire, and go not on such a journey." "I should think it scorn," said he, "to fear a woman, were she ever so bold and strong." "Ah, sire," Siegfried made answer, "you know not how strong she is. Were you four men and not one only, you could not prevail over her."

But King Gunther would not yield. "How strong soever she be, and whatever the chances that befall me, I will woo this fair Brunhild," he said. Then said Hagen, the King's uncle, "Since you are resolved to take in hand this enterprise, ask Prince Siegfried to help you." Then said King Gunther to Siegfried, "Will you help me to win this Brunhild for my wife? Do this, and ask of me what you will." Siegfried made answer, "Give me your sister: I ask no other reward but that I may have the fair Kriemhild to wife." "That I promise," said the King. "Of a surety, so soon as I shall have brought the fair Brunhild to this realm, then will I give you my sister to wife; and I pray from my heart that you may live long and happily together." Then the two sware to each other.

"Tell me now," said Gunther, "how shall we travel to this land where Brunhild dwells? Shall we go in [94] such state as befits a King? If you think fit, I could well bring together thirty thousand warriors." "Thirty thousand would avail nothing," answered Siegfried, "so strong she is and savage. We will take no army, but go as simple knights, taking two companions with us, and the two shall be Sir Hagen and Sir Dankwart." "And wherewithal shall we be clothed?" said King Gunther. "As richly as maybe," answered Siegfried. "My mother has a great store of goodly raiment," said the King. Then spake Hagen, "Nay, sire, go not to the Queen, but rather to your sister. She will provide all things that you need."

So they went to the Lady Kriemhild and told her all their purpose, and how they should need goodly raiment, three changes for the day, and that for four days. With good will did the fair Kriemhild receive them, and promised that she would give them what they needed. As she promised, so she did; for she and her ladies, thirty maids skilful in the work of the needle, laboured night and day to furnish a rich store of apparel. The fair Kriemhild planned them and cut them to just measure with her own hand and her ladies sewed them. Silks there were, some from Arabia, white as snow, and from the Lesser Asia others, green as grass, and strange skins of fishes from distant seas, and fur of the ermine, with black spots on snowy white, and precious stones and gold of Arabia. In seven weeks all was prepared, both apparel and also arms and armour; and there was nothing that was either over-long or over-short, or that could be surpassed for comeliness. Great thanks did the warriors give to each fair seamstress, and to Kriemhild the beautiful the greatest thanks of all.

So the four companions embarked on their ship, [95] with Siegfried for their helmsman, for he knew all the tides and currents of Rhine. Well furnished were they with food and wine and all things that they needed; and prosperous was their voyage, both while they sailed down the river and while they crossed the sea.

On the twelfth morning they came to the land of Queen Brunhild. And when King Gunther saw how the coast stretched far away, and how on every height there stood a fair castle, he said to Siegfried, "Tell me, Siegfried, if you can, whose are those castles, and this fair land. Never in all my life, I assure you, have I seen castles so fairly planned and built so well." Siegfried made answer, "These castles and this fair land are Queen Brunhild's and this strong fortress that you see is Isenstein. And now, my comrades, I have a counsel for your ears. To-day we shall stand in Queen Brunhild's court, and we must be wise and wary when we stand before her. Let therefore one and the same story be found in the mouth of all—that Gunther is my master, and that I am Gunther's man. If we would win our purpose there is no surer plan than this." So spake Siegfried to his comrades. And to the King he said, "Mark, I pray you, what I do for the love of your fair sister."

While they talked one to the other the bark drifted so near to the shore that they could see the maidens standing at the castle windows. "Who are these?" said King Gunther to Siegfried. Said Siegfried, "Look with all your eyes at these fair ladies, and tell me which of them pleases you best, and which, could you win her, you would choose for your wife." Gunther made answer, "One that I see at yonder window in a snow-white vest is surely the loveliest of all. She, if I can win her, shall [96] surely be my wife." "You have chosen well," said Siegfried; "that maiden in the snow-white vest is Brunhild, the fairest and fiercest of women."

Meanwhile the Queen had bidden her maidens depart from the windows.  " 'Tis a shame," said she, "that you should make yourselves a sight for strangers."

And now came the four comrades from their bark to the castle. Siegfried led a noble charger by the bridle, and stood by the stirrup till King Gunther had mounted, serving him as a vassal serves his lord. This Brunhild marked from where she stood. "A noble lord," thought she in her heart, "whom such a vassal serves." Then Siegfried mounted his own steed, and Hagen and Dankwart did the like. A fairer company never was seen. The King and Siegfried were clothed in white, and white were their horses, and their shields flashed far as they moved. So, in lordly fashion, they rode to the hall of Queen Brunhild, and the bells of gold that hung from their saddles tinkled as they went. Hagen and Dankwart, on the other hand, wore black apparel, and their chargers were black.

Meanwhile the fair Brunhild inquired of her nobles who these strangers might be that had come across the sea, and on what errand they had come. One of them answered, "Fair lady, I have never seen these stout warriors, save one only, who is greatly like to the noble Siegfried. If this be he, I would have you give him a hearty welcome. Next to him is a man of right royal mien, a King, I trow, who rules with his sceptre mighty lands and herd. The third has a lowering brow, but is a stout warrior withal; the fourth is young and modest of look, but for all his gentle bearing, we should all rue it, I trow, if wrong were done to him."

[97] Then spake Queen Brunhild, "Bring me now my royal vesture; if Siegfried seeks to woo me for his wife, he must risk his life on the cast; I fear him not so much as to yield to him without a struggle." So the Queen arrayed her in her royal robes, and went to the hall of audience, and a hundred maidens and more followed her, fair of face and in fair array. And after the maidens came five hundred warriors and more, each bearing his sword in his hand, the very flower of Isenland.

Said Queen Brunhild to Siegfried, "You are welcome, good Sir Siegfried. Show me, if you will, for what cause you have come hither." "I thank you a thousand times," answered Siegfried, "that you have greeted me so courteously, but know that I must give place to this noble hero. He is my lord and master; I am his vassal. Let your favour be for him. His kingdom is by the Rhine side, and we have sailed all this way from thence that he may woo you for his bride. That is his fixed intent, nor will he yield whatever may befall. Gunther is his name; a great King is he, and nothing will content him but to carry you back with him to the Rhine."

Queen Brunhild answered, "If he is the master and you the man, then let him know that he must match me in my games and conquer me. If he prevail, then will I be his wedded wife; but if I prevail, then must he die, he and you and all his comrades." Then spake Sir Hagen, "Lady, tell us now the games at which my master must contend; and know that you must strive full hard, if you would conquer him, for he has a full trust that he will win you for his bride." The Queen answered, "He must cast the stone further than I, and also leap behind it further than I leap; and also he must cast the spear with me. It seems to me that you are over-hasty; let [98] him count the cost, ere he lose both fame and life." Then Siegfried whispered to the King, "Have no fear for what shall be, and cast away all your care. Let the fair Brunhild do what she will, I will bear you harmless." So the King spake aloud, "Fairest of the fair, tell me your pleasure; were it a greater task willingly would I undertake it, for if I win you not for my bride, willingly will I lose my head."

Then the fair Brunhild called for her battle gear, her arms, and her breastplate of gold and her mighty shield; and over all she drew a surcoat of silk, marvellously made. Fierce and angry was her countenance as she looked at the strangers, and Hagen and Dankwart were troubled to see her, for they doubted how it might go with their master.  " 'Tis a fatal journey," said they, "and will bring us to trouble."

Meanwhile Siegfried hied him with nimble foot to the bark, and there he took, from the secret corner where he kept it, the Hood of Darkness, by which, at his will, he could make himself invisible. Quickly did he go, and quickly returned, and now no one could see him, for he wore the hood. Through the crowd he went at his pleasure, seeing all but seen of none.

Meanwhile men had marked out the ring for the fray, and chiefs had been chosen as umpires, seven hundred men in armour who should judge betwixt the combatants. First of the two came the fair Brunhild. So mighty was her presence, a man had thought her ready to match herself in battle with all the Kings in the world. And there was carried before her a mighty shield of ruddy gold, very thick and broad and heavy, overlaid with studs of steel. Four chamberlains could scarce bear the weight. Sir Hagen, when he saw it, said, "How now, [99] my lord King? this fair one whom you would woo must surely be the devil's wife. "Next came three men who scarce could carry the Queen's javelin, with its mighty spear-head, heavy and great as though three had been melted into one. And when King Gunther saw it, he said to himself, "This is a danger from which the devil himself can scarce escape. I would that I were once more by the banks of Rhine; he that would might woo and win this fair maiden for me." After this there was brought the mighty stone which Brunhild was to hurl. Twelve knights could scarce support it, so big it was.

And now the Queen addressed her to the contest, rolling her sleeves about her arms, and fitting her buckler, and poising her mighty spear in her hand. And the strangers, when they saw it, were sore afraid for all their courage.

But now came Siegfried to King Gunther's side and touched his hand. Greatly amazed was the King for he did not understand his champion's device. "Who was it that touched me?" he said, and looked round, but saw no one.  " 'Tis I," answered the Prince, "your trusty friend, Siegfried. Have no fear of the maiden. Let me carry the buckler; you shall seem to do each deed, but I will do it in truth. But be careful to hide the device. Should the maiden discover it, she will not spare to bring it to nought." Right glad was Gunther to know that his strong ally was at hand.

And now the Queen threw the spear with all her might against the shield Siegfried bore upon his arm. New was the shield and stout of make, but the spear-head passed clean through it, and rang on the hero's coat of mail, dealing him so sore a blow that the blood gushed forth from his mouth. Of a truth, but for the [100] Hood of Darkness, that hour both the champions had died. Then Siegfried caught the great spear in his hand, and tore it from the shield, and hurled it back. "She is too fair to slay," said he to himself, and he turned the spear point behind him, and smote the maiden with the shaft on the silken vest that she wore. Loud rang the blow, and the fire-sparks leapt from her armour. Never could Gunther, for all his strength, have dealt such a blow, for it felled the strong Brunhild to the ground. Lightly did she leap up again, crying, "King Gunther, I thank you for the blow; 'twas shrewdly given," for she thought that the King had dealt it.

But great was the wrath in her heart to find that her spear had sped in vain. And now she turned to the great stone where it lay, and poised it in her hand, and hurled it with all her might. And having hurled it, she herself leapt after it. Twelve full arms' length hurtled the great stone through the air, so mighty was the maiden, and she herself overpassed it by a pace. Then came Gunther to the place, with Siegfried unseen by his side. And Siegfried caught the stone and poised it—but it seemed to all as if Gunther did it—and threw it yet another arm's length beyond the cast of the maid, and passed the stone himself, aye, and carried King Gunther along with him, so mighty was he!

But when the Queen saw that she was vanquished, she flushed with shame and wrath, and turning to her lords, she spake aloud, "Come hither, my kinsmen and lieges. You must now be thralls of King Gunther of Burgundy."

So the chiefs of Isenland laid their swords at Gunther's feet and did him homage, for they thought that he had vanquished by his own strength; and he, for he was a [101] very gentle, courteous knight, greeted the maid right pleasantly, and she, for her part, took him by the hand and said, "Henceforth, Sir King, all the rule and power that I have held is yours."

There is no need to tell how Gunther and Brunhild and all their company travelled to Rhineland with great joy, and how Queen Uté and her sons and the fair Kriemhild, and all the people of the land, gave them a hearty welcome and how in due time King Gunther was married to the fair Brunhild. Nor is there need of many words to relate how Siegfried also took to wife the beautiful Kriemhild, as it had been promised him. Nor were there any to gainsay save Brunhild only, for she grudged that her husband's sister should be given to a vassal, for such in truth she deemed him to be. Very ill content she was, though the King would fain have satisfied her, saying that he was a very noble knight, and was lord of many woodlands, and had great store of gold and treasure.

So Siegfried wedded the fair Kriemhild and took her with him to his own land. A goodly welcome did the Netherlands give her. And Siegmund gave up his kingdom to his son, and the two lived in much peace and love together; and when in the tenth year a son was born to them, they called him by the name of his uncle Gunther.

Also Gunther and Brunhild lived together in much happiness. They also had a son, and they called him by the name of Siegfried.

But Brunhild was ill content that Siegfried being, for so she deemed, her husband's vassal, should pay no homage to his lord and do no service for his fee. And she was very urgent with her husband that he should suffer this no longer. But the King was fain to put her off. "Nay," said he, "the journey is too long. Their [102] land is far from ours; why should we trouble him to come? Also he is a great prince and a powerful." "Be he as great as he will," she answered,  " 'tis a vassal's duty to pay homage to his lord." But Gunther laughed to himself. Little thought had he of homage from Siegfried. Then the Queen changed her voice. "Dear lord," she said, "how gladly would I see Siegfried and your dear sister once more. Well do I remember how fair she was and how kind, how gracious of speech when we sat together, brides both of us." With such words she persuaded her husband. "There are no guests that would be more welcome," said he; "I will find messengers who shall bid them come to the Rhineland."

Great was the joy in Rhineland when the messengers returned and told how they had been welcomed and royally entertained and loaded with gifts, and how that Siegfried and his Queen Kriemhild and a company of gallant knights were coming to the festival. Great was the joy and manifold the preparations.

No sooner did the King hear the news than he sought out Queen Brunhild where she sat in her chamber. "Bear you in mind," said he, "how Kriemhild my sister welcomed you when you came hither from your own land. Do you, therefore, dear wife, welcome her with the like affection." "So shall it be," answered the Queen.

And indeed, when the guests came, right royal was the welcome that they had. For Gunther and Brunhild rode forth from the city to meet them, and greeted them most heartily. All was mirth and jollity. By the day there were tilts and tournaments and sports of every kind, and at night there was feasting in the hall. And so they did for twelve days.

But Brunhild ever cherished a thought of mischief in [103] her heart. "Why," she said to herself, "why has Siegfried stayed so long to do homage for that which he holds of us in fee? I shall not be content till Kriemhild answer me in this."

It fell out on a certain day, while sundry knights were in the castle court, that the two Queens sat together. The fair Kriemhild then began, "My husband is so mighty a man that he should rule these kingdoms of right." "Nay," answered Brunhild, "that might be were you and your husband only alive, and all others dead, but so long as Gunther lives he must needs be King." Then said fair Kriemhild, "See how he shines among the knights, a very moon among the stars." Brunhild answered, "However brave and strong he may be, and stately to look upon, Gunther, your brother, is better than he." "Nay," said Kriemhild, "better he is not, nay, nor even his peer." "How say you?" answered Brunhild in wrath; "I spake not without cause. When I saw the two for the first time, then I heard with my own ears how Siegfried confessed that he was Gunther's man. Yea, I heard him say it, and I hold him to be such." "This is folly," said Kriemhild; "think you that my brothers could have given me to be bride to a vassal? Away, Brunhild, with such idle talk, if we would still be friends." "I will not away with it," Brunhild made answer. "Shall I renounce the service which he and all the vassals are bound to render to their lord?" "Renounce it you must," cried Kriemhild in great wrath. "The service of a vassal he will never do; he is of higher degree than Gunther my brother, though Gunther is a noble King." "You bear yourself far too proudly," answered Brunhild.

But the deadliest cause of quarrel was yet to come. [104] Said Queen Kriemhild to Queen Brunhild when next she saw her: "Think you that when you were vanquished in your own land it was Gunther, my brother, that vanquished you?" "Yea," answered the Queen, "did I not see it with my own eyes?" "Nay," said Kriemhild, "it was not so. See you this ring?" And she took a ring that she had upon her finger and held it forth. "Do you know it?" And Brunhild looked and knew it for her own. "That," said Kriemhild, "Siegfried, my husband, took from you when you were smitten by his spear and knew not what had befallen you, so sore was the blow. You saw him not, for he had the Hood of Darkness on him and was invisible. But it was he that smote you with the spear, and put the stone further than you, and passed you in the leap. And this ring he gave me for a token, if ever you should boast yourself against me. Talk, therefore, no more of lords and vassals. My husband feigned this vassalage that he might deceive you the more readily."

But Brunhild held her peace, for the ring was a proof which she could not gainsay. She held her peace, but she cherished her rage, keeping it in the depths of her heart, and sware that she would be avenged on the man that had so deceived her.

When Hagen saw that Queen Brunhild was in continual trouble and sadness he would fain know the cause.  " 'Tis of Siegfried's doing," she answered. "He has wronged me beyond pardon." And she besought him that he would avenge her and King Gunther upon him.

So Hagan plotted evil, saying enemies were coming against Gunther, and Siegfried and his knights made them ready to go forth to the King's defence. And of the [105] chiefs of Rhineland not a few offered themselves as comrades, knowing nothing of the treachery that Hagen and his fellows were preparing against him.

But before they departed Hagen went to bid farewell to Queen Kriemhild. Said she, "I have good comfort in my heart to think how valiant a husband I have, and how zealous he is to help his friends, for I have loved my kinsmen always, nor ever wished them ill." "Tell me, dear lady," said Hagen, "what service I can do to your husband, for there is no one whom I love better than him." The Queen made answer, "I have no fear that my lord will fall in battle by any man's sword, save only that he is too ready to follow even to rashness his own warlike spirit." "Dear lady," said Hagen, "if there is any danger which you hold in special fear, tell me that I may defend him against it." Then Kriemhild, in the simpleness of her heart, told him the secret. "In years gone by," said she, "my husband slew a dragon among the mountains, and when he had slain the monster, he bathed himself in its blood. So mighty was the charm, that thenceforth no steel had power to wound him. And yet, for all this, I am ever in fear lest by some mischance a weapon should pierce him. Hearken now, my cousin, for you are of my kindred, hearken, and see how I put my trust in your honour. While Siegfried washed his limbs in the blood of the dragon, there fell a leaf from a linden tree between his shoulders. There and there only can steel harm him."  " 'Tis easy," said the false Hagen, "for me to defend so small a spot. Only do you sew a little token on his cloak, that I may the better know the spot that most needs protection when we stand together in the fight." "I will do so," said the Queen; "I will sew a little cross with threads of silk on his cloak, and you will [106] guard him when he fights in the throng of his foes." "That will I do, dear lady," said the traitor.

Hagen went straightway to King Gunther and said, "I have learnt that which I needed to know; put off this march; let us go on a hunt. So that which we would do will be easier done." "I will order that," answered the King.

Siegfried, before he set out for the hunting, bade farewell to his wife: "God grant," said he, "that we may soon meet happily again; meanwhile be merry among your kinsfolk here." But Kriemhild thought of how she had discovered the secret to Hagen, and was sore afraid, yet dared not tell the truth. Only she said to her husband, "I pray you to leave this hunting. Only this night past I had an evil dream. I saw two wild boars pursuing you over the heath, and the flowers were red as with blood. Greatly I fear some treason, my Siegfried." "Nay," said he, "there is not one in Rhineland here that bears me ill-will. Whom have I wronged?" "I know not," answered the Queen, "but yet my heart bodes evil. For I had yet another dream. I seemed to see two mountains fall with a terrible noise on your head. If you go, you will break my heart." But he laughed at her fears, and kissed her, and so departed.

Then Siegfried went on the hunting, and Gunther and Hagen went with him, and a company of hunters and hounds. When they came to the forest Siegfried said, "Now who shall begin the hunting?" Hagen made answer, "Let us divide into two companies ere we begin, and each shall beat the coverts as he will; so shall we see who is the more skilful in the chase." "I need no pack," said Siegfried; "give me one well-trained hound that can track the game through the coverts. That will suffice for [107] me." So a lime-hound was given to him. All that the good hound started did Siegfried slay; no beast could outrun him or escape him. A wild boar first he slew, and next to the boar a lion; he shot an arrow through the beast from side to side. After the lion he slew a buffalo and four elks, and a great store of game besides, so that the huntsmen said, "Leave us something in our woods, Sir Siegfried."

King Gunther bade blow the horn for breakfast. When Siegfried's huntsman heard the blast he said: "Our hunting-time is over; we must back to our comrades." So they went with all speed to the trysting-place.

The whole company sat down to their meal. There was plenty of every kind, but wine was wanting. "How is this?" said Siegfried: "the kitchen is plentiful; but where is the wine?" Said Gunther the King,  " 'Tis Hagen's fault, who makes us all go dry." "True, Sir King," said Hagen, "my fault it is. But I know of a runnel, cold and clear, that is hard by. Let us go thither and quench our thirst." Then Siegfried rose from his place, for his thirst was sore, and would have sought the place. Said Hagen, when he saw him rise, "I have heard say that there is no man in all the land so fleet of foot as Siegfried. Will he deign to let us see his speed?" "With all my heart," cried the hero. "Let us race from hence to the runnel."  " 'Tis agreed," said Hagen the traitor. "Furthermore," said Siegfried, "I will carry all the equipment that I bare in the chase." So Gunther and Hagen stripped them to their shirts, but Siegfried carried sword and spear, all his hunting-gear, and yet was far before the two at the runnel.

Yet, such was his courtesy, that he would not drink before the King had quenched his thirst. He was ill [108] repaid, I trow, for his grace. For when the King had drunk, as Siegfried knelt plunging his head into the stream, Sir Hagen took his spear and smote him on the little crosslet mark that was worked on his cloak between his shoulders. And when he had struck the blow he fled in mortal fear. When Siegfried felt that he was wounded, he rose with a great bound from his knees and sought for his weapons. But these the false Hagen had taken and laid far away. Only the shield was left. This he took in his hand and hurled at Hagen with such might that it felled the traitor to the ground, and was itself broken to pieces. If the hero had but had his good sword Balmung in his hand, the murderer had not escaped with his life that day.

Then all the Rhineland warriors gathered about him. Among them was King Gunther, making pretence to lament. To him said Siegfried, "Little it profits to bewail the man whose murder you have plotted. Did I not save you from shame and defeat? Is this the recompense that you pay? And yet even of you I would ask one favour. Have some kindness for my wife. She is your sister; if you have any knightly faith and honour remaining, guard her well." Then there came upon him the anguish of death. Yet one more word he spake, "Be sure that in slaying me you have slain yourselves." And when he had so spoken he died.

Then they laid his body on a shield and carried it back, having agreed among themselves to tell this tale, that Sir Siegfried having chosen to hunt by himself was slain by robbers in the wood.


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