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- The Story of Siegfried - 20/48 -
are dark, and he is cunning. I fear that evil will yet come to our house through him."
Meanwhile the three kings and their chiefs had gone into the courtyard to greet their unknown guests. Very kindly did Gunther welcome the strangers to his home; and then he courteously asked them whence they came, and what the favors they wished.
"I have heard," answered Siegfried, "that many knights and heroes live in this land, and that they are the bravest and the proudest in the world. I, too, am a knight; and some time, if I am worthy, I shall be a king. But first I would make good my right to rule over land and folk; and for this reason I have come hither. If, indeed, you are as brave as all the world says you are, ride now to the meadows with us, and let us fight man to man; and he who wins shall rule over the lands of both. We will wager our kingdom and our heads against yours."
King Gunther and his brothers were amazed at this unlooked-for speech.
"Such is not the way to try where true worth lies!" they cried. "We have no cause of quarrel with you, neither have you any cause of quarrel with us. Why, then, should we spill each other's blood?"
Again Siegfried urged them to fight with him; but they flatly refused. And Gernot said,--
"The Burgundian kings have never wished to rule over folk that are not their own. Much less would they gain new lands at the cost of their best heroes' blood. And they have never taken part in needless quarrels. Good men in Burgundy are worth more than the broadest lands, and we will not hazard the one for the sake of gaining the other. No, we will not fight. But we greet you most heartily as our friends and guests."
All the others joined in urging Siegfried and his comrades to dismount from their steeds, and partake of the cheer with which it was their use to entertain strangers. And at last he yielded to their kind wishes, and alighted from Greyfell, and, grasping King Gunther's hand, he made himself known. And there was great rejoicing in the castle and throughout all the land; and the most sumptuous rooms were set apart for the use of Siegfried and his Nibelungen knights; and a banquet was at once made ready; and no pains were spared in giving the strangers a right hearty welcome to the kingly halls of Burgundy. But Hagen, dark-browed and evil-eyed, stood silent and alone in his chamber and waited his time.
Adventure X Kriemhild's Dream.
Early on the morrow morning, ere the sun had risen high, the peerless Kriemhild walked alone amid the sweet-scented bowers of her rose-garden. The dewdrops still hung thick on flower and thorn, and the wild birds carolled their songs of merry welcome to the new-born day. Every thing seemed to have put on its handsomest colors, and to be using its sweetest voice, on purpose to gladden the heart of the maiden. But Kriemhild was not happy. There was a shadow on her face and a sadness in her eye that the beauty and the music of that morning could not drive away.
"What ails thee, my child?" asked her mother, Queen Ute, who met her. "Why so sad, as if thy heart were heavy with care? Has any one spoken unkindly, or has aught grievous happened to thee?"
"Oh, no, dearest mother!" said Kriemhild. "It is nothing that saddens me,--nothing but a foolish dream. I cannot forget it."
"Tell me the dream," said her mother: "mayhap it betokens something that the Norns have written for thee."
Then Kriemhild answered, "I dreamed that I sat at my window, high up in the eastern tower; and the sun shone bright in the heavens, and the air was mild and warm, and I thought of nought but the beauty and the gladness of the hour. Then in the far north I saw a falcon flying. At first he seemed but a black speck in the sky; but swiftly he drew nearer and nearer, until at last he flew in at the open window, and I caught him in my arms. Oh, how strong and beautiful he was! His wings were purple and gold, and his eyes were as bright as the sun. Oh, a glorious prize I thought him! and I held him on my wrist, and spoke kind words to him. Then suddenly, from out of the sky above, two eagles dashed in at the window, and snatched my darling from me, and they tore him in pieces before my eyes, and laughed at my distress."
"Thy dream," said Queen Ute, "is easy to explain. A king shall come from the north-land, and a mighty king shall he be. And he shall seek thee, and love thee, and wed thee, and thy heart shall overflow with bliss. The two eagles are the foes who shall slay him; but who they may be, or whence they may come, is known only to the Norns."
"But I slept, and I dreamed again," said Kriemhild. "This time I sat in the meadow, and three women came to me. And they span, and they wove a woof more fair than any I have ever seen. And methought that another woof was woven, which crossed the first, and yet it was no whit less beautiful. Then the women who wove the woofs cried out, 'Enough!' And a fair white arm reached out and seized the rare fabrics, and tore them into shreds. And then the sky was overcast, and the thunder began to roll and the lightning to flash, and red fires gleamed, and fierce wolves howled around me, and I awoke."
"This dream," said Queen Ute, "is more than I can understand. Only this I can see and explain, that in the dim future the woof of another's fate shall cross thy own. But trouble not thyself because of that which shall be. While yet the sun shines for thee, and the birds sing, and the flowers shed their sweet perfume, it is for thee to rejoice and be light-hearted. What the Norns have woven is woven, and it cannot be undone."[EN#21]
Adventure XI How the Spring-time Came.
Siegfried, when he came to Gunther's castle, thought of staying there but a few days only. But the king and his brothers made every thing so pleasant for their honored guest, that weeks slipped by unnoticed, and still the hero remained in Burgundy.
Spring had fairly come, and the weeping April clouds had given place to the balmy skies of May. The young men and maidens, as was their wont, made ready for the May-day games; and Siegfried and his knights were asked to take part in the sport.
On the smooth greensward, which they called Nanna's carpet, beneath the shade of ash-trees and elms, he who played Old Winter's part lingered with his few attendants. These were clad in the dull gray garb which becomes the sober season of the year, and were decked with yellow straw, and dead, brown leaves. Out of the wood came the May-king and his followers, clad in the gayest raiment, and decked with evergreens and flowers. With staves and willow-withes they fell upon Old Winter's champions, and tried to drive them from the sward. In friendly fray they fought, and many mishaps fell to both parties. But at length the May-king won; and grave Winter, battered and bruised, was made prisoner, and his followers were driven from the field. Then, in merry sport, sentence was passed on the luckless wight, for he was found guilty of killing the flowers, and of covering the earth with hoar-frost; and he was doomed to a long banishment from music and the sunlight. The laughing party then set up a wooden likeness of the worsted winter-king, and pelted it with stones and turf; and when they were tired they threw it down, and put out its eyes, and cast it into the river. And then a pole, decked with wild-flowers and fresh green leaves, was planted in the midst of the sward, and all joined in merry dance around it. And they chose the most beautiful of all the maidens to be the Queen of May, and they crowned her with a wreath of violets and yellow buttercups; and for a whole day all yielded fealty to her, and did her bidding.
It was thus that May Day came in Burgundy. And in the evening, when the party were seated in King Gunther's hall, Siegfried, at the command of the May-queen,--who was none other than Kriemhild the peerless,--amused them by telling the story of
Idun and Her Apples.
It is a story that Bragi told while at the feast in AEgir's hall. Idun is Bragi's wife. Very handsome is she; but the beauty of her face is by no means greater than the goodness of her heart. Right attentive is she to every duty, and her words and thoughts are always worthy and wise. A long time ago the good Asa-folk who dwell in heaven-towering Asgard, knowing how trustworthy Idun was, gave into her keeping a treasure which they would not have placed in the hands of any other person. This treasure was a box of apples, and Idun kept the golden key safely fastened to her girdle. You ask me why the gods should prize a box of apples so highly?
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