But as he looked upon the sleeping King, there came a whisper from a better voice, “It is cowardly to strike a sleeping foe.”
And Frithiof shuddered, for he was too brave a man to commit murder.
“Sleep on, old man,” he muttered gently to himself.
But Ring’s sleep was over. He started up. “O Frithiof why hast thou come hither to steal an old man’s bride?”
“I came not hither for so dark a purpose,” answered Frithiof; “I came but to look on the face of my loved Ingebjorg once more.”
“I know it,” replied the King; “I have tried thee, I have proved thee, and true as tried steel hast thou passed through the furnace. Stay with us yet a little longer, the old man soon will be gathered to his fathers, then shall his kingdom and his wife be thine.”
But Frithiof replied that he had already remained too long, and that on the morrow he must depart.
Yet he went not; for death had visited the palace, and old King Ring was stretched upon his bier, while the bards around sang of his wisdom.
Then arose a cry among the people, “We must choose a king!”
And Frithiof raised aloft upon his shield the little son of Ring.
“Here is your king,” he said, “the son of wise old Ring.”
The blue-eyed child laughed and clapped his hands as he beheld the glittering helmets and glancing spears of the warriors. Then tired of his high place, he sprang down into the midst of them.
Loud uprose the shout, “The child shall be our king, and the Jarl Frithiof regent. Hail to the young King of the Northmen!”
But Frithiof in the hour of his good fortune did not forget that he had offended the gods. He must make atonement to Baldur for having caused the ruin of his temple. He must turn his steps once more homeward.
Home! Home! And on his father’s grave he sank down with a softened heart, and grieved over the passion and revenge that had swayed his deeds. And as he mourned, the voices of unseen spirits answered him, and whispered that he was forgiven.
And to his wondering eyes a vision was vouchsafed, and the temple of Baldur appeared before him, rebuilt in more than its ancient splendor, and deep peace sank into the soul of Frithiof.
“Rise up, rise up, Frithiof, and journey onward.”
The words came clear as a command to Frithiof, and he obeyed them. He rose up, and journeyed to the place where he had left the temple a heap of blackened ruins.
And, lo! the vision that had appeared to him was accomplished, for there stood the beautiful building, stately and fair to look upon. So beautiful, that, as he gazed, his thoughts were of Valhalla.
He entered, and the white-robed, silver-bearded priest welcomed the long-absent viking, and told him that Helgi was dead, and Halfdan reigned alone.