614 THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER
strangely moved by the stories and tales which were told in the South about the one only true Word.
On their return from their last voyage, the men told of the splendid temples built of hewn stones, raised for the worship of Him whose message is love. Some massive vessels of gold, made with cunning art, had been brought home among the booty, and each one had a peculiar fragrance ; for they were incense vessels, which had been swung by Christian priests before the altar.
In the deep cellars of the Viking's house the young priest had been immured, his hands and feet bound with strips of bark. The Viking's wife declared that he was beautiful as Balder to behold, and his misfortune touched her heart; but Helga declared that it would be right to tie ropes to his heels and fasten him to the tails of wild oxen. And she exclaimed,
' Then I would let loose the dogs—hurrah ! over the moor and across the swamp ! That would be a spectacle ! And yet finer would it be to follow him in his career.'
But the Viking would not suffer him to die such a death : he purposed to sacrifice the priest on the morrow, on the death-stone in the grove, as a despiser and foe of the high gods.
For the first time a man was to be sacrificed here.
Helga begged, as a boon, that she might sprinkle the image of the god and the assembled multitude with the blood of the victim. She sharpened her glittering knife, and when one of the great savage dogs, of whom a number were running about near the Viking's abode, ran by her, she thrust the knife into his side, ' merely to try its sharpness,' as she said. And the Viking's wife looked mournfully at the wild, evil-disposed girl; and when night came on and the maiden exchanged beauty of form for gentleness of soul, she spoke in eloquent words to Helga of the sorrow that was deep in her heart.
The ugly frog, in its monstrous form, stood before her, and fixed its brown eyes upon her face, listening to her words, and seeming to comprehend them with human intelligence.
' Never, not even to my husband, have I allowed my lips to utter a word concerning the sufferings I have to