298 WAYLAND THE SMITH
had come. Then one day they noticed that the sky was blue and the earth covered with flowers.
By-and-by they noticed something more, and that was that three maidens were sitting on the grass, spinning flax on the bank of a stream. Their eyes were blue, and their skins were white as the snow on the mountains, while instead of the mantles of swansdown they generally wore, golden hair covered their shoulders.
The hearts of the brothers beat as they looked on the maidens, who were such as they had often dreamed of, but had never seen ; and as they drew near they found to their surprise that the maidens were dressed each in red, green, and blue garments, and the meadow was so thickly dotted with yellow flowers that it seemed as if it were a mass of solid gold.
' Hail, noble princes ! Hail, Slagfid, Eigil, and Way-land,' sang the maidens.
Swanvite, Alvilda, and Alruna are sent by the Norns, To bring joy to the princes of Finland.
Then the tongues of the young men were unloosed, and Slagfid married Swanvite, Eigil Alruna, and Wayland Alvilda.
For nine years they all lived on the shores of the lake, and no people in the world were as happy as these six: till one morning the three wives stood before their husbands and said with weeping eyes :
' Dear lords, the time has now come when we must bid you farewell, for we are not allowed to stay with you any longer. We are Norns — or, as some call us, Valkyrie. Nine years of joy are granted to us, but these are paid for by nine years during which we hover round the combatants on every field of battle. But bear your souls in patience, for on earth all things have an end, and in nine years we will return to be your wives as before.'
' But we shall be getting old then,' answered the