BEOWULF, GBENDEL AND HIS MOTHER 41
yet failed anyone who had used it in battle. Then the expedition started: over a steep and stony rise through narrow roads, past precipitous headlands they went, till they came to a bare rock and a cheerless wood, below which lay the water, dreary and troubled. They were maddened with rage when they saw the head of iEschere lying on the ground ; he was the noble taken by Grendel's mother.
The water of the lake was bubbling with blood ; many strange creatures of the serpent kind glided over the surface, and the men could also see Nixes lying on the headland slopes. Beowulf shot at one of the horrid water creatures with an arrow, wounding it only ; but the King's men pursued it with poles and battle-axes, and killed it. Then Beowulf asked Hrothgar to send back all his presents to Hygelac, if it should happen that he, Beowulf, perished in the water. Hastening away, he plunged into the lake, and it was not very long before Grendel's mother found out that some man from above had invaded her dwelling. She grappled with him in her dreadful grasp, endeavouring to crush him to death, but his chain-mail protected him. Then she dragged him down to her den at the bottom ; but meanwhile many strange beasts with terrible tusks pressed him hard in those depths, one of them even rent his war-shirt with its talons. Beowulf found himself in some kind of dreadful hall, where no water seemed to touch him ; the light of a fire, a glittering ray, lit up the cavern. He could now clearly distinguish the mighty iake-witch, and thrust strongly at her with his war sword, which rang out shrilly on her head. But, alas! its edge would not bite; she had probably bewitched it with spells, as often happened in old days. So Beowulf threw away his sword, and came to close grips with her, trusting in his mighty strength. He seized her by the shoulder, but unluckily tripped and fell. In a moment she was upon him, and seized her broad dagger with deadly intent. Then, indeed, had it gone hard with Beowulf but for his coat of chain-mail, which protected