The snake now glided down into the high grass; but the sleeper lay bound in a magic sleep and did not move. Then Reor wrapped her in the coarse bear-skin, so that only her head showed above the shaggy fur. Although she certainly was a daughter of the old giant of the mountain, she was slender and delicately made, and the strong hunter lifted her on his arm and carried her away through the forest.
After a while he felt that some one lifted his broad-brimmed hat. He looked up and found that the giant’s daughter was awake. She sat quiet on his arm, but she wished to see what the man looked like who was carrying her. He let her do as she pleased. He went on with longer strides, but said nothing.
Then she must have noticed how hot the sun burned on his head, since she had taken off his hat. She held it out over his head like a parasol, but she did not put it back, rather held it so, that she could still look down into his face. Then it seemed to him that he did not need to ask or to speak. He carried her silently down to his mother’s hut. But his whole being was filled with happiness, and when he stood on the threshold of his home, he saw the white snake, which gives good fortune, glide in under its foundation.
The spring that Hellqvist’s great picture “Valdemar Atterdag levies a Contribution on Visby” was exhibited at the Art League, I went in there one quiet morning not knowing that that work of art was there. The big, richly colored canvas with its many figures made at the first glance an extraordinary impression. I could not look at any other picture, but went straight to that one, took a chair and sank into silent contemplation. For half an hour I lived in the Middle Ages.
Soon I was within the scene that was passing in the Visby market-place. I saw the beer vats which began to be filled with the golden brew that King Valdemar had ordered, and the groups which gathered around them. I saw the rich merchant with his page bending under his gold and silver dishes; the young burgher who shakes his fist at the king; the monk with the sharp face who closely watches His Majesty; the ragged beggar who offers his copper; the woman who has sunk down beside one of the vats; the king on his throne; the soldiers who some swarming out of the narrow streets; the high gables, and the scattered groups of insolent guards and refractory people.
But suddenly I noticed that the chief figure of the picture is not the king, nor any of the burghers, but one of the king’s steel-clad shield-bearers, the one with the closed vizor.
Into that figure the artist has put a strange force. There is not a hair of him to be seen; he is steel and iron, the whole man, and yet he gives the impression of being the rightful master of the situation.
“I am Violence; I am Rapacity,” he says. “It is I who am levying contribution on Visby. I am not a human being; I am merely steel and iron. My pleasure is in suffering and evil. Let them go on and torture one another. To-day it is I who am lord of Visby.”