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BIFRÖST, URDA, AND THE NORNS.
ODIN departed from Heimdall, and went on his way, Fenrir obediently following, though not now much noticed by his captor, who pondered over the new wonders of which he had heard.
“Bifröst, Urda, and the Norns—what can they mean?"
Thus pondering and wondering he went, ascended Asgard's Hill, walked through the golden gates of the City into the palace of Gladsheim, and into the hall Valhalla, where, just then, the Æsir and Asyniur* were assembled at their evening meal. Odin sat down to the table without speaking, and, still absent and meditative, proceeded to carve the great boar, Sæhrimnir, which every evening eaten, was every morning whole again. No one thought of disturbing him by asking any questions, for they saw that something was on his mind, and the Æsir were well-bred.
It is probable, therefore, that the supper would have been concluded in perfect silence if Fenrir had not poked his nose in at the doorway, just opposite to the seat of the lovely Freyja. She, genius of beauty as she was, and who had never in her whole life seen
even the shadow of a wolf, covered her face with her hands, and screamed a little, which caused all the Æsir to start and turn round, in order to see what was the matter. But Odin directed a reproving glance at the ill-mannered Fenrir, and then gave orders that the wolf should be fed; "after which,” concluded he, “I will relate my adventures to the assembled Æsir.”
“That is all very well, Asa Odin," answered Frey; "but who, let me ask, is to undertake the office of feeding yon hideous and unmannerly animal ?"
“That will I, joyfully," cried Tyr, who liked
nothing better than an adventure; and then, seizing a plate of meat from the table, he ran out of the hall, followed by Fenrir, who howled, and sniffed, and jumped up at him in a most impatient, unÆsir-like manner.
After the wolf was gone Freyja looked up again, and when Tyr was seated once more, Odin began. He told them of everything that he had seen, and done, and suffered; and, at last, of Heimdall, that strange white Van, who sat upon the heavenly hills, and spoke of Bifröst, and Urda, and the Norns. The Æsir were very silent whilst Odin spoke to them, and were deeply and strangely moved by this conclusion to his discourse.
“The Norns," repeated Frigga, “the Fountain of Urd, the golden threads of time! my children," she said, rising from the table, “let us go and look at these things."
But Odin advised that they should wait until the next day, as the journey to Bifrost and back again could easily be accomplished in a single morning
Accordingly, the next day the Æsir and Asyniur all
Let us go,
rose with the sun, and prepared to set forth. Niörd came from Noatun, the mild sea-coast, which he had made his home, and with continual gentle puffings out of his wide, breezy mouth, he made their journey to Bifröst so easy and pleasant, that they all felt a little sorry when they caught the first glitter of Heimdall's golden teeth. But Heimdall was glad to see them; glad, at least, for their sakes. He thought it would be so good for them to go and see the Norns. As far as he himself was concerned he never felt dull alone. On the top of those bright hills how many meditations he had ! Looking far and wide over the earth how much he saw and heard!
“Come already!” said Heimdall to the Æsir, stretching out his long, white hands to welcome them; "come already! Ah! this is Niörd's doing. How do you do, cousin,” said he; for Niörd and Heimdall were related.
“ How sweet and fresh it is up here!” remarked Frigga, looking all round, and feeling that it would be polite to say something. “You are very happy, Sir,” continued she, “in having always such fine
scenery about you, and in being the guardian of such a bridge."
And in truth Frigga might well say “such a bridge;" for the like of it was never seen
on the ground. Trembling and glittering it swung across the sky, up from the top of the mountain to the clouds, and down again into the distant sea.
“Bifrost! Bifrost!" exclaimed the Æsir, wonderingly; and Heimdall was pleased at their surprise.
“At the arch's highest point," said he, pointing upward, “rises that fountain of which I spoke. Do you wish to see it to-day?"
“That do we, indeed,” cried all the Æsir in a breath. “Quick, Heimdall, and unlock the bridge's golden gate."
Then Heimdall took all his keys out, and fitted them into the diamond lock till he found the right one, and the gate flew open with a sound at the same time sad and cheerful, like the dripping of leaves after a thunder-shower.
The Æsir pressed in; but, as they passed him, Heimdall laid his hand upon Thor's shoulder, and said “I am
very sorry, Thor; but it cannot be