THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER 605
And with that they beat upon their shields, and hammered the table with bones and knives. •*
The Viking's wife sat upon the crossbench in the open hall. She wore a silken dress and golden armlets, and great amber beads : she was in her costliest garb. And the bard mentioned her in his song, and sang of the rich treasure she had brought her rich husband. The latter was delighted with the beautiful child, which he had seen in the daytime in all its loveliness ; and the savage ways of the little creature pleased him especially. He declared that the girl might grow up to be a stately heroine, strong and determined as a man. She would not wink her eyes when a practised hand cut off her eyebrows with a swrord by way of a jest.
The full mead-barrel was emptied, and a fresh one brought in, for these were people who liked to enjoy all things plentifully. The old proverb was indeed well known, which says, ' The cattle know when they should quit the pasture, but a foolish man knoweth not the measure of his own appetite.' Yes, they knew it well enough ; but one knows one thing, and one does another. They also knew that ' even the welcome guest becomes wearisome when he sitteth long in the house ' ; but for all that they sat still, for pork and mead are good things ; and there was high carousing, and at night the bondmen slept among the warm ashes, and dipped their fingers in the fat grease and licked them. Those were glorious times !
Once more in the year the Viking sallied forth, though the storms of autumn already began to roar : he went with his warriors to the shores of Britain, for he declared that was but an excursion across the water ; and his wife stayed at home with the little girl. And thus much is certain, that the foster-mother soon got to love the frog with its gentle eyes and its sorrowful sighs, almost better than the pretty child that bit and beat all around her.
The rough damp mist of autumn, which devours the leaves of the forest, had already descended upon thicket and heath. ' Birds featherless,' as they called the snow, flew in thick masses, and the winter was coming on fast. The sparrows took possession of the storks' nests, and talked about the absent proprietors according to their