The following is a chapter of Frithjof, the Viking of Norway, by Zénaïde Alexeïevna Ragozin.
Old Hilding, King Bele’s tried and trusted counselor, resided at his handsome homestead with its rich and well-kept farm. Here the aged sage gladdened the restful idleness of his waning years watching the growth of two tender plants entrusted to his care — fairer the North had never seen: the one, a lordly oak, straight of trunk, stately of crown, strong to defy the storm; the other, a lovely rose scarce open, half dreaming in the bud. Frithjof was the youthful oak, but the rose was known to the sons of the North as Ingeborg the Fair. Not often was one seen without the other.
A proud lad was Frithjof the day that he learned to read his first rune, for did he not hasten to teach it forthwith to willing Ingeborg? What boy happier than he when he took her in his light skiff out on the blue waters, and she clapped her little hands in the blitheness of her heart as he set the snowy sail? No nest too high for him to fetch down for her — the kingly eagle himself would hardly keep from him his eggs and young. No brook so wide and angry that he does not carry Ingeborg across, so her little white arm nestles at his neck. The first blossom which rewards his gardening, the first strawberry he espies in the woods, the first golden ear that ripens — he carries them all to his little queen.
But childhood’s days are brief and fleet, and ere the elders look for the change, behold! the lad stands before them a wellgrown youth.
And now young Frithjof began to go out a-hunting, but not as others go. Indeed not many would have cared to face their first bear unarmed, as he did, trusting not in sword or spear, but only in his own mighty sinews and dauntless spirit. Breast to breast he wrestled with the beast and choked the breath out of him, safe himself, though not quite scatheless; and forthwith, unheeding the bleeding scratches, he loaded the shaggy monster on his shoulders and took it home straightway, where he laid it, triumphant, at Ingeborg’s feet — his manhood’s first achievement.
Then winter came, with the long home evenings, when all the housemates sat at ease, talking or resting, around the hearth — perchance listening to young Frithjof, as, by the light of the great logs blazing in the vast fireplace, he read aloud ancient lays of Odin the Allfather’s heavenly halls, where gods and goddesses disport themselves, ever youthful, fair, and vigorous. And there was not a goddess with whom Frithjof did not, as he read, secretly compare his own sweet playmate, with her hair falling in golden ringlets, her tender eyes, blue as the sky in spring, her delicate snow-white skin. But of all those old stones none moved him as that which tells how young Balder, the darling of the gods, done to death through the malice of one of them, is mourned by his faithful wife Nanna. He thought how gladly he would die, how gladly reside in the dark realm of Hel, the cruel queen of the dead, to be mourned as lovingly by one true maiden’s heart.
Ingeborg, meanwhile, King Bele’s blooming daughter, sat at her loom day by day, singing the deeds of heroes at her work, as she wove them into the cunning tapestry, wherein, as she deftly handled the wool of many dyes, woods, and cornfields started into life, and amidst them knights and foot soldiers, in silver mail, with golden shields and lifted lances, waging fierce battles. And day by day the hero grew more like Frithjof in features and in bearing. She marked the likeness and took the greater pleasure in her work. And she would have begged of Mother Earth her fairest flowers, to wind them into wreaths for Frithjof’s locks, and would have taken down the sun from the heavens to give it him for his shield; while he would have robbed the sea of its choicest pearls to grace Ingeborg’s slender neck, and would have woven the pale moonbeams into a garment for her.
Old Hilding saw — and his heart misgave him, for the maiden was of royal blood, King Bele’s only daughter, while Frithjof came of humble bonder stock — even though his father, Thorsten, once King Bele’s trusty squire, was now by him loved and honored as his nearest comrade and friend.
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“Beware, my son,” the old man said to his ward; “let not this love of thine master thee; no good can come of it. Only where like mates with like are happiness and peace.”
But Frithjof laughed the warning to scorn:
“The free-born man is second to no one. The world is the freeman’s. What chance divided, chance may bring together. A mighty wooer is the sword. For her I will do battle with Thor himself, the fierce Thunderer. Bloom on, my white lily, and fear not: woe to them that would part us.”