28 GEIRLAUG THE KING'S DAUGHTER
jumped up and dealt him such a blow with his golden staff that the dragon not only started back, but in his pain let fall the boy, as he spread his wings and soared into the air away from all danger.
' That was a narrow escape,' said the king, turning to his wife, who sat pale with fright, and clasping her baby tightly in her arms. ' Frightful,' murmured the queen ; ' but look, what is that glittering object that is lying out there ? ' The king walked in the direction of her finger, and to his astonishment beheld another cradle and another baby.
' Ah ! the monster must have stolen this as he sought to steal Geirlaug,' cried he. And stooping lower, he read some words that were written on the fine linen that was wound round the boy. 'This is Grethari, son of Grethari the king!' Unfortunately it happened that the two neighbouring monarchs had had a serious quarrel, and for some years had ceased holding communication with each other. So, instead of sending a messenger at once to Grethari to tell him of the safety of his son, the king contented himself with adopting the baby, which was brought up with Geirlaug the princess.
For a while things went well with the children, who were as happy as the day was long, but at last there came a time when the queen could no more run races or play at hide-and-seek with them in the garden as she was so fond of doing, but lay and watched them from a pile of soft cushions. By-and-by she gave up doing even that, and people in the palace spoke with low voices, and even Geirlaug and Grethari. trod gently and moved quietly when they drew near her room. At length, one morning, they were sent for by the king himself, who, his eyes red with weeping, told them that the queen was dead.
Great was the sorrow of the two children, for they had loved the queen very dearly, and life seemed dull without her. But the lady-in-waiting who took care of them in the tower which had been built for them while they were