Chapter X

THEN HROTHGAR, SHIELD of the Scyldings, went forth from the hall with his retinue of men; the warlord desired to lie with Wealhtheow his queen. The glorious king had set a guard against Grendel—so the men told one another—a defender of the hall who protected the monarch and watched for the monster. In truth, the prince of the Geats gladly trusted in his valorous might and the mercy of God!

He then cast off his iron corselet and the helmet on his head, and gave to his esquire the richly-gilt sword, the best of weapons, giving him command to guard the battle-gear. He then spoke vaunted words to the valiant men before he sought the bed: “I reckon myself to be in the ready for grim deeds of war, and in no way weaker than Grendel. For this reason will I not give his life to the sleep of death with a sword, although I could. He has no skill to strike me with sword or hew through shield, mighty though he may be in his horrific feats. We shall both spurn the sword this night if he dares to seek me here and make war without weapons. Let the wise God, the holy Lord, decree success on whichever side seems right to Him!”

Then the warrior reclined, and the pillow received the face of the prince, while all about him many stout sea-warriors sank into their beds in the hall. None thought their steps would ever go thence back to the people and the fortresses that fostered them, to the lands they loved. They knew full well that death in battle had seized many warriors of the Danish clan in the banquet hall. But the Lord granted them comfort and help, weaving a good web of war for the Geatish folk that, by the might of one, the strength of a single man, they might prevail against their enemy. It is said truly by all that God has ever governed over mankind!

He came striding in the dim night, the shadow-walker. The defenders, whose charge it was to guard the gabled hall, all slept—save one.

It was widely known that the marauder could not hurl him into darkness against God's will, yet even so he, vigilant against the foe, awaited, bold and full of warrior's wrath, for the battle's outcome.