44 BEOWULF AND THE FIRE DRAKE
was hard to find, so the man who had been the cause of all the mischief went with the little band as a guide : indeed, he was the only one who knew where the dragon's hoard was to be found; besides, he was very much ashamed of himself, and was anxious to do all in his power to atone for the disasters which his theft had brought about.
When they arrived at the Fire Drake's lair, which was near the sea, they saw an arch of stone, and a stream issuing out of it from the mound. The water was so hot, by reason of the dragon's flame continually beating upon it, that a man could not bear his hand in it for any length of time. Beowulf told his companions to wait outside, whilst he himself went into the cave. The Fire Drake, hearing his footfall and his voice, knew at once that an enemy was near, so it coiled itself up ready to spring to the attack. Blazing like a live coal, it advanced with a rush, Beowulf defending himself as best he could with his shield. He dealt the monster a terrible blow with his sword, which, however, failed to hurt it, indeed, it only roused it to greater fury. Breathing flames the Fire Drake pressed the valiant King to the utmost extremity, and it seemed as if it was to go ill with him that day. His companions, too cowardly to help him, watched the combat in terror, crouching down in the wood near by to save their lives. Yet there was one among them, Wiglaf by name, who plucked up courage to try to help the King, for he remembered how kind Beowulf had been to him in former days, in granting him a wealthy manor, and other favours, and besides, he was in a way related to him. So this brave young warrior grasped his shield of yellow linden wood, and drew his sword, rushing through the smoke to help his liege lord. ' Dear Beowulf,' cried he, ' have courage ; remember how thou did'st say aforetime that glory should never depart from thee ; now must thou defend thy life to the uttermost—see, I come to help thee.' On rushed the serpent against its new