THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER Gil
gloomy times. It was a pleasure to her to splash about with her white hands in the blood of tha horse that had been slain in sacrifice. In her wild mood she bit off the neck of the black cock the priest was about to offer up ; and to her foster-father she said in perfect seriousness,
' If thy enemy should pull down the roof of thy house, while thou wert sleeping, I would not wake thee even if I had the power. I should never hear it, for my ears still tingle with the blow that thou gavest me years agoŚ thou ! I have never forgotten it.'
But the Viking took her words in jest; for, like all others, he was bewitched with her beauty, and he knew not how temper and form changed in Helga. Without a saddle she sat upon a horse, as if she were part of it, while it rushed along in full career ; nor would she spring from the horse when it quarrelled and fought with other horses. Often she would throw herself, in her clothes, from the high shore into the sea, and swim to meet the Viking when his boat steered near home ; and she cut her longest lock of hair, and twisted it into a string for her bow.
' Self-made is well-made,' she said.
The Viking's wife was strong of character and of will, according to the custom of the times ; but, compared to her daughter, she appeared as a feeble, timid woman ; moreover, she knew that an evil charm weighed heavily upon the unfortunate child.
It seemed as if, out of mere malice, when her mother stood on the threshold or came out into the yard, Helga would often seat herself on the margin of the well, and wave her arms in the air ; then suddenly she would dive into the deep well, where her frog nature enabled her to dive and rise, down and up, until she climbed forth again like a cat, and came back into the hall dripping with water, so that the green leaves strewn upon the ground turned about in the stream.
But there was one thing that imposed a check upon Helga, and that was the evening twilight. When that came she was quiet and thoughtful, and would listen to reproof and advice ; and then a secret feeling seemed to draw her towards her mother. And when the sun sank, and the usual transformation of body and spirit took place