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Stories of Beowulf Told to the Children by  H. E. Marshall

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CHAPTER VII

HOW BEOWULF RETURNED TO HIS OWN LAND

[63] Proudly the Goths marched along with Beowulf in their midst, until they reached Hart Hall. And there, still carrying the hideous head of Grendel, they entered in and greeted Hrothgar.

Great was the astonishment of the king and his nobles at the sight of Beowulf. Never again had they thought to see the daring warrior. So now they welcomed him with much rejoicing, and their rejoicing was mingled with wonder and awe as they gazed upon the awful head. The queen, too, who sat beside the king, turned from it with a shudder.

[64] Then when the noise of joyful greeting was stilled a little, Beowulf spoke.

"Behold, O king!" he said, "we bring thee these offerings in token of victory. From the conflict under the water have I hardly escaped with my life. Had not the All-wise shielded me, I had nevermore seen the sun and the joyful light of day. For although Hrunting be a mighty and good sword, in this fight it availed me nothing. So I cast it from me and fought with mine hands only.

"But the Water Witch was strong and evil, and I had but little hope of life, when it chanced that I saw on the walls there of that grim cave an old and powerful sword.

"Quickly then I drew that weapon and therewith slew I the dreadful foe. After that I espied the body of Grendel which lay there and cut off his head, which now I bring to thee. But even as I had done [65] that, lo! a marvel happened, and the blade did melt even as ice under the summer sun. Such was the venom of that Ogre's blood, that the hilt only of the sword have I borne away with me.

"But now, I promise thee, henceforth mayest thou and thy company of warriors sleep safe in Hart Hall. No longer will the Demon folk trouble it."

Then Beowulf gave the golden hilt to the king, and he, taking it, gazed on it in wonder. It was exceeding ancient and of marvellous workmanship, a very treasure. Upon the gold of it in curious letters was written for whom that sword had been first wrought. The writing told, too, how it had been made in days long past, when giants stalked the earth in pride.

In the Hall there was silence as Hrothgar gazed upon the relic. Then in the silence he spoke.

[66] "Thy glory is exalted through wide ways, O friend Beowulf," he said. "Over every nation thy fame doth spread. Yet thou bearest it modestly, true warrior-like. Again I renew my plighted love to thee, and to thine own people mayest thou long be a joy.

"I for half a hundred years had ruled my folk, and under all the wide heaven there was no foe who stood against me. Within my borders there was peace and joy. Then lo, after joy came sadness, and Grendel became my foe, my invader. But thanks be to the Eternal Lord I am yet in life to see that fearful head besprent with gore.

"And now, O Great-in-war, go thou to thy seat, enjoy the feast, and when it shall be morning, thou and I shall deal together in many treasures."

Then at these words Beowulf was glad at heart, and went straightway to his seat [67] as the king commanded. And once again the Dane folk and the Goths feasted together in merry mood.

At length the day grew dim and darkness fell upon the land. All the courtiers then rose, and the grey-bearded king sought his couch. Beowulf, too, rejoiced greatly at the thought of rest, for he was weary with his long contest. So the king's servants, with every honour and reverence, guided him to the room prepared for him.

Silence and peace descended upon the Hall and palace. Hour after hour the night passed, and no demon foe disturbed the sleep of Goth or Dane.

And when the morning sun shone again the Goths arose, eager to see their own land once more.

Beowulf then called one of his thanes and bade him bear the famous sword, Hrunting, back again to Hunferth. Great [68] thanks he gave for it, nor spoke he word of blame against the good blade. "Nay, 'twas a good war friend," said the high-souled warrior.

Then, impatient to depart, with arms all ready, the Goths came to bid King Hrothgar farewell.

"Now to thee we sea-farers would bid farewell," said Beowulf, "for we would seek again our own king, Hygelac. Here have we been kindly served. Thou hast entreated us well. If I can now do aught more of warlike works on thy behalf, O Hrothgar, I am straightway ready. If from far over the sea I hear that to thy dwelling foes come again, I will bring thousands of warriors to thine aid.

"For well I know that Hygelac, King of the Goths, young though he be, will help me to fight for thee, and will not refuse his thanes."

[69] With gracious words the old king thanked the young warrior. Rich presents, too, he gave to him, of gold and gems, and splendidly wrought armour. Then he bade him seek his own people, but come again right speedily.

As Hrothgar said farewell he put his arms round Beowulf's neck and kissed him. Then as he watched the hero march away across the fields of summer green, his eyes filled with tears. It was to the king as if he parted from a beloved son.

Proudly and gladly the Goths marched on until they came to the shore where the warden watched who had met them at their first landing. Now as he saw them come he rode towards them with words of welcome. For already the tale of Beowulf's great deeds had been told to him.

And thus at length the Goths reached their ship where it lay by the shore awaiting [70] their coming. Into it was piled all the treasure with which Hrothgar had loaded the heroes. The horses were led on board, the glittering shields were hung along the sides, the sails were spread.

Then from out his treasure hoard Beowulf chose a splendid sword and gave it to the thane who had watched by the ship, and kept it safe. And he, greatly rejoicing, departed to his fellows, and was by them ever after held in honour by reason of the sword that Beowulf had given to him.

Now at length all was ready. The last man leaped on board, the sails shook themselves to the wind, and out upon the waves floated the foam-necked vessel.

Bounding over the sea went the Goths, listening to the song of the wind and the waves, until they came to the shore of their beloved land.

[71] The ship touched the shore. Right joyously the warriors sprang to earth, greeting their kinsmen who welcomed them from the far land.

Beowulf then bade his servants bring the great load of treasure, while he and his comrades set out along the sandy shore to Hygelac's palace.

Quickly before them ran messengers bearing to the king the joyous news that Beowulf, his loved comrade, had returned alive and unhurt. Unwounded from the game of war he had returned, and was even now marching towards the palace.

Gladly the king greeted the hero; joyful words he spake. Then he made Beowulf to sit beside him while Hygd, his fair queen, bare the mead-cup through the hall.

Hygelac was eager to hear all that had befallen his friend. "Tell it unto me," he [72] cried, "how befell it with thee on the way, dear Beowulf? How hath it fared with thee since thou didst on a sudden resolve to seek conflict afar? Sorrow and care have possessed my mind. I have grieved for thee, my friend, lest evil should come to thee. Therefore this day I thank the All-wise that I see thee safe and whole."

"It is no secret, my Lord Hygelac," answered Beowulf, "how I met and overcame the Ogre. None of Grendel's kinsmen who may yet dwell upon earth have any cause to boast of that twilight meeting."

And then from the beginning of the adventure to the end of it Beowulf told. Sitting beside the king he told of all that had befallen him and his comrades since first they set sail from Gothland. He told of the friendly greeting of the king, of the fight with Grendel, and with Grendel's mother, the foul Water Witch. And at [73] last he told of all the rewards and thanks that had been heaped upon him.

To all the tale Hygelac listened with wonder and delight, for he joyed to hear of the great deeds of his loved comrade.

When Beowulf had finished telling the tale, he bade his servants bring in the treasure. Then turning to the king he spoke again.

"To thee, O warrior-king," he said, "I gladly give these riches. For all my joy in life cometh from thee. Save thee, O Hygelac, few kinsmen have I."

Then to the king he gave a splendid suit of armour, helmet and sword, four steeds all with their rich harness, and much treasure beside.

To Hygd, the queen, Beowulf gave the collar which Wealtheow had bestowed upon him. Also he gave to her three [74] black steeds saddled and harnessed with gold and silver work.

And the king, on his part, gave Beowulf a sword of honour, a palace, and much land. Thus was the mighty warrior brought to great honour.

Then for many years Beowulf lived happy and beloved. For although he was strong and mighty in battle, he was gentle and courteous in peace. His was no savage soul delighting in slaughter; he held himself ever in battle but as a good soldier should.

Indeed Beowulf was so gentle in peace that in his youth the great warriors of the Goths had thought little of him. But now that he had proved that though in peace his words were smooth, in battle his arm was strong, all men honoured him.

And thus it befell that when Hygelac died in battle, and afterward his son also, [75] the broad realm of Gothland was given unto Beowulf to rule. And there for fifty years he reigned a well-loved king, and all the land had peace.


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