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in its mouth, and with glittering green stones for eyes.
The poor little dwarf who had wagered his head began to be somewhat scared—the gifts were beautiful but he saw nothing very wonderful about them.
However, he kept still, and presently, when Sindri had gone, he began to blow the fire, into which had been thrown a lump of iron. No sooner had he begun than the gadfly came buzzing in again and settled just above his eye. Brock would never have stopped for the pain, but when a stream of blood began to run down into his eye, it blinded him and he just had to put up his hand and wipe it away. Then Loki, in his gadfly shape, flew away, thinking that he had surely spoiled the dwarf's chances.
And indeed, when Sindri came back, he was very angry.
"You may have spoiled everything and lost your head by stopping," he cried. "I'm half afraid to take this last thing out of the fire."
However, when it was taken out it proved to be a heavy hammer, perfect except for its handle, which was an inch too short.
"And now," Sindri said to Brock, "let me whisper to you the secret of these gifts."
When he had heard what his brother had to tell him about the gifts that had seemed to him so ordinary, the little dwarf capered about for joy. He had begun to fear that his head was no longer his own, but once more it felt safe.
Away he hastened, with his sack on his shoulder, to the kingdom of the gods, and at the great gateway Loki met him. Together they went to the palace and took their stand before the throne.
There sat Odin, the king of the gods, and beside him were Frey, the sun-god, and Thor, who had been watching anxiously for Loki's return. There, too, was Sif, looking very much ashamed of her cropped head, and there were all the other gods and goddesses, looking on.
"Hurry!" exclaimed Thor. "Have you brought that hair for Sif?"
First Loki stepped forward and handed the spear to Odin, explaining that it was a magic spear which could never miss its aim; and mightily pleased was the king of the gods. Then, to Thor, Loki gave the golden hair; and every one present watched while he held it against Sif's head. Everything happened as the dwarfs had promised—the hair grew to her head, and she was more beautiful than she'd ever been before, so that Thor forgave Loki on the spot. Finally, Loki drew out Skidbladnir, the ship, and gave it to Frey. The sun-god laughed with joy when its use was explained to him, and instantly invited everybody to take a sail with him.
"Wait," commanded Odin. "We have not seen the gifts of Brock. They'll have to be very wonderful to please us more than do these."
Unafraid, the dwarf stepped forward.
"From this ring," he said, handing the ring to Odin, "will drop, every ninth night, eight other rings as round and as heavy and as precious as itself."
"Good!" replied Odin. "I can scarce wait until the ninth night comes round that I may see this wonder. I like it even better than Loki's spear."
Then Brock shook his sack and out came Goldbristle, the boar.
"This is for Frey," he said. "On it he can ride through air and water more swiftly than ever horse galloped or ship sailed. And no matter how dark it is, Frey will always ride in the light, for the bristles of this magic steed give out light like the sun."
"I vote for Brock, too; I like Gullin-bursti better than Skidbladnir," cried Frey, who could pronounce those hard names quite easily.
"And for Thor," went on Brock, "I have this." And he presented the stub-handled hammer.
Thor did not seem very well pleased as he looked from the heavy, ugly hammer to Sif's golden hair; it was plain which he liked better.
"Wait, wait," cried Brock. "Don't speak until you know all about the hammer. No mountain is so hard that this hammer will not split it; no giant is so big or so strong that this hammer will not kill him. Yet it will never hurt you, and no matter how far you throw it, it will always fly back to your hand of its own accord."
Then indeed all the gods set up a great shout, for the giants were their worst enemies, and they wanted nothing else quite so much as protection against these enemies.
"We can overcome the giants," they cried; "Brock has won! Brock has won! Let him have his reward!"
"And now for your head," said the delighted Brock, turning to where Loki had stood but a moment before. But behold! he had disappeared utterly, and in vain Brock hunted for him. Finally he asked Thor to help him in his search.
"Remember who gave you your wonderful hammer," he reminded Thor, and Thor soon found Loki and brought him back squirming, but not abashed.
"All right," said Loki. "Take my head if they all say you've won it. But if you take one-sixteenth of an inch of my neck, you shall die, yourself."
Brock saw that he had been fooled, for of course it wasn't possible to cut off Loki's head without touching his neck. He Mas bound to punish the boaster in some way, however, so he borrowed his brother's awl and sewed Loki's lips together with a leather thong, all the gods looking on with laughter.
"That will keep you quiet for a while," he said.
All the gods admitted that it might be a good thing to have Loki forced to keep still, for he made a great deal of trouble by his tale-bearing and bragging and quarreling. But before long Loki managed to cut the string, and then he talked the more and the faster because he had had to keep still for a time.
THE FOX, THE WOLF, AND THE
A FOX, seeing a Horse for the first time, at once . ran to a Wolf, and described the animal.
"It is, perhaps," said the Fox, "some delicious prey that fortune has put in our path. Come with me, and judge for }Tourself."
Off they ran, and soon came to the Horse.
"Sir," said the Fox, "we would learn the name by which you are known to your friends."
The Horse said it was written on his hoofs.
"Gladly would I read it," replied the sly Fox, "but I never learned to read. My companion here, on the contrary, can both read and write."
The Wolf at once went up to examine one of the hoofs which the Horse raised for his convenience; and when he had come near enough, the Horse gave a sudden kick, and back to earth fell the Wolf, his jaw broken and bleeding.
"Well, cousin," cried the Fox. "you need never ask for the Horse's name again."