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Early Plays by Henrik Ibsen

Part 3 out of 5

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* * * * *

SETTING

The action takes place on a small island off the coast of Sicily
shortly before the introduction of Christianity into Norway.

An open place surrounded by trees near the shore. To the left
in the background the ruins of an old temple. In the center of
the scene a huge barrow upon which is a monument decked with
flower wreaths.

* * * * *

SCENE I

[At the right of the stage sits RODERIK writing. To
the left BLANKA in a half reclining position.]

BLANKA. Lo! the sky in dying glory
Surges like a sea ablaze,--
It is all so still before me,
Still as in a sylvan maze.
Summer evening's mellow power
Settles round us like a dove,
Hovers like a swan above
Ocean wave and forest flower.
In the orange thicket slumber
Gods and goddesses of yore,
Stone reminders in great number
Of a world that is no more.
Virtue, valor, trust are gone,
Rich in memory alone;
Could there be a more complete
Picture of the South effete?

[Rises.]

BLANKA. But my father has related
Stories of a distant land,
Of a life, fresh, unabated,
Neither carved nor wrought by hand!
Here the spirit has forever
Vanished into stone and wave,--
There it breathes as free as ever,
Like a warrior strong and brave!
When the evening's crystallizing
Vapors settle on my breast,
Lo! I see before me rising
Norway's snow-illumined crest!
Here is life decayed and dying,
Sunk in torpor, still, forlorn,--
There go avalanches flying,
Life anew in death is born!
If I had the white swan's coat--

RODERIK. [After a pause writing.]
"Then, it is said, will Ragnark have stilled
The wilder powers, brought forth a chastened life;
All-Father, Balder, and the gentle Freya
Will rule again the race of man in peace!"--

[After having watched her for a moment.]

RODERIK. But, Blanka, now you dream away again;
You stare through space completely lost in thought,--
What is it that you seek?

BLANKA. [Draws near.] Forgive me, father!
I merely followed for a space the swan,
That sailed on snowy wings across the sea.

RODERIK. And if I had not stopped you in your flight,
My young and pretty little swan! who knows
How far you might have flown away from me,--
Perchance to Thule?

BLANKA. And indeed why not?
To Thule flies the swan in early spring,
If only to return again each fall.

[Seats herself at his feet.]

BLANKA. Yet I--I am no swan,--no, call me rather
A captured falcon, sitting tame and true,
A golden ring about his foot.

RODERIK. Well,--and the ring?

BLANKA. The ring? That is my love for you, dear father!
With that you have your youthful falcon bound,
I cannot fly,--not even though I wished to.

[Rises.]

BLANKA. But when I see the swan sail o'er the wave,
Light as a cloud before the summer wind,
Then I remember all that you have told
Of the heroic life in distant Thule;
Then, as it seems, the bird is like a bark
With dragon head and wings of burnished gold;
I see the youthful hero in the prow,
A copper helmet on his yellow locks,
With eyes of blue, a manly, heaving breast,
His sword held firmly in his mighty hand.
I follow him upon his rapid course,
And all my dreams run riot round his bark,
And frolic sportively like merry dolphins
In fancy's deep and cooling sea!

RODERIK. O you,--
You are an ardent dreamer, my good child,--
I almost fear your thoughts too often dwell
Upon the people in the rugged North.

BLANKA. And, father, whose the fault, if it were so?

RODERIK. You mean that I--?

BLANKA. Yes, what else could I mean;
You live yourself but in the memory
Of early days among these mighty Norsemen;
Do not deny that often as you speak
Of warlike forays, combats, fights,
Your cheek begins to flush, your eye to glow;
It seems to me that you grow young again.

RODERIK. Yes, yes, but I have reason so to do;
For I have lived among them in the North,
And every bit that memory calls to mind
Is like a page to me from my own saga.
But you, however, fostered in the South,
Who never saw the silver-tinted mountains,
Who never heard the trumpet's echoing song,--
Ah, how could you be moved by what I tell?

BLANKA. Oh, must a human being see and hear
All things but with his outer senses then?
Has not the inner soul, too, eye and ear,
With which it can both see and hearken well?
'Tis true it is with eyes of flesh I see
The richly glowing color of the rose;
But with the spirit's eye I see within
A lovely elf, a fairy butterfly,
Who archly hides behind the crimson leaves,
And singeth of a secret power from heaven
That gave the flower brightness and perfume.

RODERIK. True, true, my child!

BLANKA. I almost do believe
That just because I do not really see,
The whole looms up more beautiful in thought;
That, father, is the way with you at least!
The ancient sagas and heroic lays,--
These you remember, speak of with delight,
And scratch in runic script upon your parchment;
But if I ask about your youthful life
In Norway's distant realm, your eyes grow dark,
Your lips are silent, and it seems at times
Your bosom houses gloomy memories.

RODERIK. [Rises.]
Come, speak no more, good child, about the past.
Who is there then whose youthful memories
Are altogether free from self-reproach;
You know, the Norsemen are a savage lot.

BLANKA. But are the warriors of the South less fierce?
Have you forgot that night, now ten years past,
The time the strangers landed on the coast,
And plundered--?

RODERIK. [Visibly ill at ease.] Say no more now,--let us hence;
The sundown soon will be upon us;--come!

BLANKA. [As they go.] Give me your hand!

[Stops.]

BLANKA. No, wait!

RODERIK. What is the matter?

BLANKA. I have today for the first time forgot--

RODERIK. And what have you forgot?

BLANKA. [Points to the barrow.] Behold the wreath!

RODERIK. It is--

BLANKA. The withered one of yesterday;
I have forgot today to make the change;
Yet, let me take you to the cabin first,
Then shall I venture out in search of flowers;
The violet never is so sweet and rare
As when the dew has bathed its silver lining;
The budding rose is never quite so fair
As when 'tis plucked in child-like sleep reclining!

[They go out at the back to the right.]

* * * * *

SCENE II

[GANDALF and the VIKINGS enter from the right.]

ASGAUT. Now we shall soon be there.

GANDALF. Point out the place!

ASGAUT. No, wait till we have gone beyond the wood.
There was still standing on the rocky cliff
Against the sea a remnant of the wall,--
I dare say it is standing there to-day.

JOSTEJN. But tell us, king, what can it profit us
To tramp about here on the isle like fools?

HROLLOUG. Yes, tell us what shall--

GANDALF. You shall hold your tongues!
And blindly follow where your king commands!

GANDALF. [To ASGAUT.]
It seems to me, however, you cleaned house
Too well when you were last here on the isle;
You might have left a little, I should think,
For me and my revenge!

HROLLOUG. You are the king,
And loyalty we pledged you at the thing,
But when we followed you upon the war path,
It was to win our share of fame and glory.

JOSTEJN. And golden treasures, Hrolloug, golden treasures.

SEVERAL. That, Gandalf, is the law, and heed it well!

GANDALF. I know the law perhaps as well as you;
But is there not since days of old a law
And covenant with us that when a kinsman
Falls slain before the enemy and his corpse
Unburied lies a prey unto the raven,
Blood vengeance must be had?

SOME. Yes, so it is!

GANDALF. Then stand you ready with your sword and shield,--
You have a king to avenge and I a father!

[Commotion among the VIKINGS.]

JOSTEJN. A king?

HROLLOUG. A father?

GANDALF. Wait,--I shall relate
How all this stands. You know, my father was
A mighty viking. Twelve years gone it is
Since he the last time sallied forth one spring
With Asgaut there and all his old time warriors.
Two years he roamed about from strand to strand,
Visiting Bratland, Valland, even Blaaland;
At length he went and harried Sicily,
And there heard stories of a wealthy chief,
Who lived upon this island in a castle
With sturdy walls built on a rocky base,
And in it there were costly treasures hid.
At night he took his men and went ashore,
And razed the castle walls with fire and sword.
Himself went foremost like an angry bear,
And in the fury of the fight saw not
How all his warriors fell about him dead;
And when the morning sun rose in the east,
There lay the castle smouldering in ruin.
Asgaut alone survived with one or two,--
My father and the hundred others there
Had ridden to Valhalla through the flames.

ASGAUT. I hoisted every sail upon the bark,
And turned the prow straight homeward to the North;
There sought I all in vain for Gandalf king;
The youthful eagle, I was told, had flown
Across the sea to Iceland or the Faroes.
I hastened after him but found no trace,-
Yet everywhere I went his name was known;
For though his bark sped cloud-like in the storm,
Yet flew his fame on even swifter wings.
At last this spring I found him, as you know;
It was in Italy; I told him then
What things had happened, how his father died,
And Gandalf swore by all Valhalla's gods
Blood-vengeance he would take with fire and sword.

JOSTEJN. It is an ancient law and should be honored!
But had I been in your place, Gandalf king,
I should have lingered on in Italy,--
For there was gold to win.

HROLLOUG. And honor too.

GANDALF. That is your loyalty to your dead king.

JOSTEJN. Come, come now; no offence; I merely meant
The dead could wait perhaps.

ASGAUT. [With suppressed rage.] You paltry race!

JOSTEJN. But now that we are here--

HROLLOUG. Yes; let us raise
Unto the king a worthy monument!

SOME. Yes, yes!

OTHERS. With bloodshed and with fire!

ASGAUT. Now that I like!

GANDALF. And now away to spy around the island;
For even tonight blood-vengeance shall be mine;
If not, I must myself fall.

ASGAUT. So he swore.

GANDALF. I swore it solemnly by all the gods!
And once again I swear it--

HEMMING. [With a harp on his shoulder has during the
preceding emerged from among the WARRIORS and cries
out imploringly.] Swear not, Gandalf!

GANDALF. What troubles you?

HEMMING. Swear not here in this wood!
Here in the South our gods can never hear;
Out on your bark, up North among the hills,
There they still hearken to you, but not here!

ASGAUT. Have you too breathed the poison of the South?

HEMMING. In Italy I heard the pious monks
Tell lovely stories of the holy Christ,
And what they told still lingers in my mind
Through night and day and will no more be gone.

GANDALF. I had you brought with me because in youth
You showed great promise of poetic gifts.
You were to see my bold and warlike deeds,
So that when I, King Gandalf, old and gray,
Sat with my warriors round the oaken table,
The king's young scald might while away
Long winter evenings with heroic lays,
And sing at last a saga of my deeds;
The hero's fame voiced in the poet's song
Outlives the monument upon his grave.
But now, be off, and if you choose go cast
Your harp aside and don the monkish cowl.
Aha! King Gandalf has a mighty scald!

[The VIKINGS go into the forest to the left; HEMMING follows
them.]

ASGAUT. It is a mouldy time we live in now;
Our faith and customs from the olden days
Are everywhere upon the downward path.
Lucky it is that I am growing old;
My eyes shall never see the North decay.
But you, King Gandalf, you are young and strong;
And wheresoe'er you roam in distant lands,
Remember that it is a royal task
To guard the people and defend the gods!

[He follows the rest.]

GANDALF. [After a pause.] Hm, he has no great confidence in me.
'Tis well he went! Whenever he is near,
It is as if a burden weighed me down.
The grim old viking with his rugged face,--
He looks like Asathor, who with his belt
Of strength and Mjlnir stood within the grove,
Carved out in marble, near my father's home.
My father's home! Who knows, alas! how things
Around the ancient landmarks now may look!--
Mountains and fields are doubtless still the same;
The people--? Have they still the same old heart?
No, there is fallen mildew o'er the age,
And it is that which saps the Northern life
And eats away like poison what is best.
Well, I will homeward,--save what still is left
To save before it falls to utter ruin.

GANDALF. [After a pause during which he looks around.]
How lovely in these Southern groves it is;
My pine groves can not boast such sweet perfume.

[He perceives the mound.]

GANDALF. What now? A warrior's grave? No doubt it hides
A countryman from those more stirring days.
A warrior's barrow in the South!--'Tis only just;
It was the South gave us our mortal wound.
How lovely it is here! It brings to mind
One winter night when as a lad I sat
Upon my father's knee before the hearth,
The while he told me stories of the gods,
Of Odin, Balder, and the mighty Thor;
And when I mentioned Freya's grove to him,
He pictured it exactly like this grove,--
But when I asked him something more of Freya,
What she herself was like, the old man laughed
And answered as he placed me on my feet,
"A woman will in due time tell you that!"

GANDALF. [Listening.]
Hush! Footsteps in the forest! Quiet, Gandalf,-
They bring the first fruits of your blood-revenge!

[He steps aside so that he is half concealed among the bushes to
the right.]

* * * * *

SCENE III

[GANDALF. BLANKA with oak leaves in her hair and a
basket of flowers enters from the left.]

BLANKA. [Seated at the left busily weaving a flower wreath.]
Fountains may murmur in the sunny vales,
Resplendent billows roll beneath the shore;
Nor fountain's murmur, nor the billow's song
Has half the magic of those flowers there,
That stand in clusters round the barrow's edge
And nod at one another lovingly;
They draw me hither during night and day,--
And it is here I long to come and dream.
The wreath is done. The hero's monument,
So hard and cold, shall under it be hid.
Yes, it is beautiful!

[Pointing to the mound.]

BLANKA. A vanished life,
Of giant strength, lies mouldering in the ground,--
And the memorial which should speak to men,--
A cold unyielding stone like yonder one!
But then comes art, and with a friendly hand
She gathers flowers from the breast of nature
And hides the ugly, unresponsive stone
With snow-white lilies, sweet forget-me-nots.

[She ascends the barrow, hangs the wreath over the monument, and
speaks after a pause.]

BLANKA. Again my dreams go sailing to the North
Like birds of passage o'er the ocean waves;
I feel an urging where I long to go,
And willingly I heed the secret power,
Which has its royal seat within the soul.
I stand in Norway, am a hero's bride,
And from the mountain peak watch eagle-like.
O'er shining waves the vessel heaves in sight.--
Oh, like the gull fly to your fatherland!
I am a Southern child, I cannot wait;
I tear the oaken wreath out of my hair,--
Take this, my hero! 'Tis the second message
I greet you with,--my yearning was the first.

[She throws the wreath. GANDALF steps forth and seizes it.]

BLANKA. What's this? There stands a--

[She rubs her eyes and stares amazed at him.]

No, it is no dream.
Who are you, stranger? What is it you seek
Here on the shore?

GANDALF. Step first from off the mound,--
Then we can talk at ease.

BLANKA. [Comes down.] Well, here I am!

BLANKA. [Aside as she looks him over.]
The chain mail o'er his breast, the copper helmet,--
Exactly as my father has related.

BLANKA. [Aloud.] Take off your helmet!

GANDALF. Why?

BLANKA. Well, take it off!

BLANKA. [Aside.]
Two sparkling eyes, locks like a field of grain,--
Exactly as I saw him in my dream.

GANDALF. Who are you, woman?

BLANKA. I? A poor, poor child!

GANDALF. Yet certainly the fairest on the isle.

BLANKA. The fairest? That indeed is possible,
For here there's no one else.

GANDALF. What,--no one else?

BLANKA. Unless my father be,--but he is old
And has a silver beard, as long as this;
No, after all I think I win the prize.

GANDALF. You have a merry spirit.

BLANKA. Not always now!

GANDALF. But tell me, pray, how this is possible;
You say you live alone here with your father,
Yet I have heard men say most certainly
The island here is thickly populated?

BLANKA. It was so once, three years ago or more;
But,--well, it is a sad and mournful tale--
Yet you shall hear it if you wish.

GANDALF. Yes, certainly!

BLANKA. You see, three years ago--

[Seats herself.]

BLANKA. Come, seat yourself!

GANDALF. [Steps back a pace.] No, sit you down, I'll stand.

BLANKA. Three years ago there came, God knows from whence,
A warlike band of robbers to the isle;
They plundered madly as they went about,
And murdered everything they found alive.
A few escaped as best they could by flight
And sought protection in my father's castle,
Which stood upon the cliff right near the sea.

GANDALF. Your father's, did you say?

BLANKA. My father's, yes.--
It was a cloudy evening when they burst
Upon the castle gate, tore through the wall,
Rushed in the court, and murdered right and left.
I fled into the darkness terrified,
And sought a place of refuge in the forest.
I saw our home go whirling up in flames,
I heard the clang of shields, the cries of death.--
Then everything grew still; for all were dead.--
The savage band proceeded to the shore
And sailed away.--I sat upon the cliff
The morning after, near the smouldering ruins.
I was the only one whom they had spared.

GANDALF. But you just told me that your father lives.

BLANKA. My foster-father; wait, and you shall hear!
I sat upon the cliff oppressed and sad,
And listened to the awful stillness round;
There issued forth a faint and feeble cry,
As from beneath the rocky cleft beneath my feet;
I listened full of fear, then went below,
And found a stranger, pale with loss of blood.
I ventured nearer, frightened as I was,
Bound up his wounds and tended him,--

GANDALF. And he?

BLANKA. Told me as he recovered from his wounds,
That he had come aboard a merchantman,
Had reached the island on the very day
The castle was destroyed,--took refuge there
And fought the robber band with all his might
Until he fell, faint with the loss of blood,
Into the rocky cleft wherein I found him.
And ever since we two have lived together;
He built for us a cabin in the wood,
I grew to love him more than any one.
But you must see him,--come!

GANDALF. No, wait,--not now!
We meet in ample time, I have no doubt.

BLANKA. Well, all right, as you please; but rest assured
He would be glad to greet you 'neath his roof;
For you must know that hospitality
Is found not only in the North.

GANDALF. The North?
You know then--

BLANKA. Whence you come, you mean? Oh, yes!
My father has so often told of you
That I the moment that I saw you--

GANDALF. Yet you
Were not afraid!

BLANKA. Afraid? And why afraid?

GANDALF. Has he not told you then,--of course if not--

BLANKA. Told me that you were fearless heroes? Yes!
But pray, why should that frighten me?
I know you seek your fame on distant shores,
In manly combat with all doughty warriors;
But I have neither sword nor coat of mail,
Then why should I fear--

GANDALF. No, of course, of course!
But still, those strangers who destroyed the castle?

BLANKA. And what of them?

GANDALF. Only,--has not your father
Told you from whence they came?

BLANKA. Never! How could he!
Strangers they were alike to him and us.
But if you wish I'll ask him right away.

GANDALF. [Quickly.] No, let it be.

BLANKA. Ah, now I understand!
You wish to know where you can seek them now,
And take blood-vengeance, as you call it.

GANDALF. Ah,
Blood-vengeance! Thanks! The word I had forgot;
You bring me back--

BLANKA. But do you know, it is
An ugly practice.

GANDALF. [Going toward the background.] Farewell!

BLANKA. O, you are going?

GANDALF. We meet in time.

[Stops.]

GANDALF. Tell me this one thing more:
What warrior is it rests beneath the mound?

BLANKA. I do not know.

GANDALF. You do not know, and still
You scatter flowers on the hero's grave.

BLANKA. My father led me here one morning early
And pointed out to me the fresh-made mound,
Which I had never seen upon the strand.
He bade me say my morning prayers out here,
And in my supplications to remember
Those who had harried us with sword and fire.

GANDALF. And you?

BLANKA. Each morning from that day to this
I sent a prayer to heaven for their salvation;
And every evening flowers afresh I wove
Into a garland for the grave.

GANDALF. Yes, strange!
How can you pray thus for your enemy?

BLANKA. My faith commands me.

GANDALF. [Vehemently.] Such a faith is craven;
It is the faith which saps the hero's strength;
'Twas therefore that the great, heroic life
Died feebly in the South!

BLANKA. But now suppose
My craven faith, as you see fit to call it,
Could be transplanted to your virgin soil,--
I know full well, there would spring forth a mass
Of flowers so luxuriant as to hide
The naked mountain.

GANDALF. Let the mountain stand
In nakedness until the end of time!

BLANKA. O! Take me with you!

GANDALF. What do you mean?
I sail for home--

BLANKA. Well, I shall sail with you;
For I have often traveled in my dreams
To far-off Norway, where you live mid snow
And ice and sombre woods of towering pines.
There should come mirth and laughter in the hall,
If I could have my say, I promise you;
For I am merry;--have you any scald?

GANDALF. I had one, but the sultry Southern air
Has loosened all the strings upon his harp,--
They sing no longer--

BLANKA. Good! Then shall I be
Your scald.

GANDALF. And you?--You could go with us there,
And leave your father and your home?

BLANKA. [Laughing.] Aha!
You think I meant it seriously?

GANDALF. Was it
Only a jest?

BLANKA. Alas! a foolish dream
I often used to dream before we met,--
Which often I no doubt shall dream again,
When you--

[Suddenly breaking off.]

BLANKA. You stare so fixedly.

GANDALF. Do I?

BLANKA. Why, yes! What are you thinking of?

GANDALF. I? Nothing!

BLANKA. Nothing?

GANDALF. That is, I scarcely know myself;
And yet I do--and you shall hear it now:
I thought of you and how you would transplant
Your flowers in the North, when suddenly
My own faith came as if by chance to mind.
One word therein I never understood
Before; now have you taught me what it means.

BLANKA. And that is what?

GANDALF. Valfader, it is said,
Receives but half the warriors slain in battle;
The other half to Freya goes by right.
That I could never fully comprehend;
But--now I understand,--I am myself
A fallen warrior, and to Freya goes
The better part of me.

BLANKA. [Amazed.] What does this mean?

GANDALF. Well, in a word, then know--

BLANKA. [Quickly.] No, say it not!
I dare not tarry longer here to-night,--
My father waits, and I must go; farewell!

GANDALF. O, you are going?

BLANKA. [Takes the wreath of oak leaves which he has
let fall and throws it around his helmet.] You can keep it now.
Lo, what I hitherto bestowed on you
In dreams, I grant you now awake.

GANDALF. Farewell!

[He goes quickly out to the right.]

* * * * *

SCENE IV

BLANKA. [Alone.]
He is gone! Ah, perfect stillness
Rules upon the barren strand.
Perfect stillness, grave-like stillness
Rules my heart with heavy hand.
Came he then to vanish only
Through the mist, a ray of light?
Soon he flies, a sea-gull lonely,
Far away into the night!
What is left me of this lover?
But a flower in the dark:
In my loneliness to hover
Like a petrel round his bark!

[The war trumpet of the Vikings is heard from the left.]

BLANKA. Ah! What was that! A trumpet from the wood!

* * * * *

SCENE V

[BLANKA, GANDALF from the right.]

GANDALF. [Aside.] It is too late!

BLANKA. O, there he is again!
What do you want?

GANDALF. Quick,--quick, away from here!

BLANKA. What do you mean?

GANDALF. Away! There's danger here!

BLANKA. What danger?

GANDALF. Death!

BLANKA. I do not understand you.

GANDALF. I thought to hide it from you,--hence I went
To call my people to the ship again
And sail away; you never should have known,--
The trumpet warns me that it is too late,--
That they are coming.

BLANKA. Who are coming?

GANDALF. Then know,--
The strangers who once harried on the isle
Were vikings like myself.

BLANKA. From Norway?

GANDALF. Yes.
My father, who was chief among them, fell,--
Hence must he be avenged.

BLANKA. Avenged?

GANDALF. Such is
The custom.

BLANKA. Ah, I see now!

GANDALF. Here they come!
Stand close behind me!

BLANKA. Man of blood,--away!

* * * * *

SCENE VI

[The Preceding.]

[ASGAUT, HEMMING and the VIKINGS, who lead RODERIK
between them.]

ASGAUT. [To GANDALF.] A meagre find, yet something, to be sure.

BLANKA. My father!

[She throws herself in his arms.]

RODERIK. Blanka! O, my child!

JOSTEJN. A woman!
He will have company.

ASGAUT. Yes, straight to Hell!

BLANKA. O father, wherefore have you never told me--

RODERIK. Hush! Hush! my child!

[Points to GANDALF.]

RODERIK. Is this your chieftain?

ASGAUT. Yes.

ASGAUT. [To GANDALF.]
This man can tell you how your father died;
For he was in the thick of it, he says,
The only one to get away alive.

GANDALF. Hush! I will nothing hear.

ASGAUT. Good; let us then
Begin the task.

BLANKA. O God! what will they do?

GANDALF. [In an undertone.] I cannot, Asgaut!

ASGAUT. [Likewise.] Is our king afraid?
Has woman's flattering tongue beguiled his mind?

GANDALF. No matter,--I have said--

ASGAUT. Bethink yourself,--
Your standing with your warriors is at stake.
Your word you pledged Valhalla's mighty gods,
And if you fail a dastard you'll be judged.
Do not forget our faith is insecure--
And wavering; one blow can strike its root,
And if the blow comes from the king above,
It will have had a mortal wound.

GANDALF. Ah me!
That was a most unhappy oath I swore.

ASGAUT. [To the VIKINGS.] Now ready, warriors!

BLANKA. Will you murder him,
An old, defenseless man?

ASGAUT. Down with them both!

BLANKA. O God!

HROLLOUG. The woman is too fair! Let her
Return with us.

JOSTEJN. [Laughing.] Yes, as a warrior maid.

GANDALF. Stand back!

RODERIK. O spare,--O spare at least my child!
The slayer of your chieftain I will bring you,
If you will only spare her!

GANDALF. [Quickly.] Bring him here,
And she is free. What say you?

THE VIKINGS. She is free!

BLANKA. [To RODERIK.] You promise that?

ASGAUT. Then fetch him!

RODERIK. Here he stands!

SOME. Ha, that old man!

GANDALF. O woe!

BLANKA. No, no, you shall not--

RODERIK. Struck by this hand the viking found his death,
Now rests he peacefully in yonder mound!

GANDALF. My father's barrow!

RODERIK. He was strong and brave;
Wherefore I laid him here in viking style.

GANDALF. Since he is buried, then,--

ASGAUT. Though he be buried,
The fallen king cries for revenge,--strike, strike!

BLANKA. He is deceiving you!

BLANKA. [To GANDALF.] Do you not see
It is alone his daughter he would save?
Yet, how should your kind understand a soul
That sacrifices all--

GANDALF. I do not understand?
You do not think I can?

GANDALF. [To the VIKINGS.] He shall not die!

ASGAUT. How so?

BLANKA. O father! He is good like you.

ASGAUT. You mean to break your oath?

GANDALF. No, I shall keep it!

JOSTEJN. Then what have you in mind?

HROLLOUG. Explain!

GANDALF. I swore
To take revenge or else to die myself.
Well, he is free,--I to Valhalla go.

BLANKA. [To RODERIK.] What does he mean?

ASGAUT. Your honor you would save?--

GANDALF. Go,--hold a ship in readiness for me,
With hoisted sail, the pyre light in the prow;
In ancient fashion I shall go aboard!
Behold, the evening breeze blows from the strand,--
On crimson wings I sail into Valhalla!

[JOSTEJN goes out to the right.]

ASGAUT. Ah, 'tis the woman who has cast her spell on you!

BLANKA. No, you must live!

GANDALF. I live? No, to the gods
I must be true, I cannot break with them.

BLANKA. Your oath is bloody, Balder hates it.

GANDALF. Yes,
But Balder lives no longer with us now!

BLANKA. For you he lives; your soul is gentleness.

GANDALF. Yes, to my ruin! It became my task
As king to keep intact our great ideal,--
But I lack strength enough! Come, Asgaut, you
Shall take the kingly sceptre from my hand;
You are a warrior of the truest steel;
On me the Southern plague has been at work.
But if I cannot for my people live,
I now can die for them.

ASGAUT. Well said, King Gandalf!

BLANKA. Then need no more be said! Die like a hero,
Faithful and true unto the very end!
But now that we must part forever,--know,
That when you die yourself to keep your oath
You are then likewise marking me for death!

GANDALF. What! You for death?

BLANKA. My life was like a flower,
Transplanted in an unfamiliar soil,
Which therefore slumbered in its prison folds:
Then came a sunbeam from the distant home,--
O, that was you, my Gandalf! Opened then
The flower its calyx. In another hour,
Alas! the sunbeam paled,--the flower died!

GANDALF. O, have I understood you right? You could?
Then is my promise thrice unfortunate!

BLANKA. But we shall meet again!

GANDALF. O, nevermore!
You go to heaven and the holy Christ,
I to Valhalla; silent I shall take
My place among the rest,--but near the door;
Valhalla's merriment is not for me.

JOSTEJN. [Returns with a banner in his hand.]
See, now the bark is ready, as you bade.

ASGAUT. O, what a glorious end! Many a man
Will envy you, indeed.

GANDALF. [To BLANKA.] Farewell!

BLANKA. Farewell!
Farewell for life and for eternity!

RODERIK. [Struggling with himself.] Wait! Wait!

[Prostrates himself before BLANKA.]

RODERIK. Mercy, I cry! Forgive, forgive me!

BLANKA. O God!

GANDALF. What means he?

RODERIK. All will I confess:
My whole life here with you has been deceit!

BLANKA. Ah, terror has unhinged his mind!

RODERIK. No, no!

RODERIK. [To GANDALF, after he has risen.]
You are released forever from your vow;
Your father's shadow needs no blood revenge!

GANDALF. Ah, then explain!

BLANKA. Oh, speak!

RODERIK. Here stands King Rorek!

SOME. The fallen king?

BLANKA. O heavens!

GANDALF. [In doubt.] You,--my father?

RODERIK. See, Asgaut! Do you still recall the scratch
You gave me on our earliest viking trip,
The time we fought about the booty?

[He uncovers his arm and shows it to ASGAUT.]

ASGAUT. Yes,
By Thor, it is King Rorek!

GANDALF. [Throws himself in his arms.] Father! Father!
A second time now have you given me life.
My humble thanks!

RODERIK. [Downcast; to BLANKA.] And you now--what will you
Grant the old robber?

BLANKA. Love as hitherto!
I am your daughter! Has not three years' care
Wiped off each spot of blood upon your shield?

ASGAUT. Yet now explain,--how comes it that you live!

GANDALF. She saved his life.

RODERIK. Yes, like a friendly elf
She healed my wounds and cared for me,
And all the while she told me of the faith
These quiet people in the South believe,
Until my rugged heart itself was moved.
And day by day I kept the truth from her;
I did not dare to tell her--

GANDALF. But the mound there?

RODERIK. I laid therein my armor and my sword,
It seemed to me the grim old savage viking
Was buried then and there. Each day my child
Sent up a prayer for him beside the mound.

ASGAUT. Farewell!

GANDALF. Where do you go?

ASGAUT. Northward again!
I now see clearly that my time is past--
So likewise is the viking life. I go
To Iceland; there the plague has not yet come.

ASGAUT. [To BLANKA.] You, woman, take my place beside the king!
For Thor is gone--and Mjlnir out of gear;
Through you now Balder rules.--Farewell!

[He goes.]

GANDALF. Yes, Balder ruleth now, through you, my Blanka!
I see the meaning of my viking life!
'Twas not alone desire for fame and wealth
That drove me hence from my forefathers' home;
No, that which called me was a secret longing,
A quiet yearning after Balder. See,
Now is the longing stilled, now go we home;
There will I live in peace among my people.

GANDALF. [To the VIKINGS.] And will you follow?

ALL. We will follow you!

GANDALF. And you, my Blanka?

BLANKA. I? I too am born
A Northern child; for on your mountain sides
The choicest flowers of my heart took root.
To you it was I journeyed in my dreams,
From you it was that I received my love.

RODERIK. And now away!

GANDALF. But you?

BLANKA. He comes with us!

RODERIK. I shall remain.

[He points to the mound.]

RODERIK. My barrow waits for me.

BLANKA. And should I leave you here alone?

HEMMING. No, no!
Be not afraid! For I shall close his eyes
And sing to him a saga from the mound;
My last song it will be.

HEMMING. [Moved as he seizes GANDALF's hand.]
Farewell, my king!
Now have you found a better scald than I.

RODERIK. [With firmness.]
It must be so, my Gandalf; you are king,
And you have sacred duties to discharge.

[He puts their hands together.]

RODERIK. You are the children of the coming dawn,--
Go yonder where the royal throne awaits you;
I am the last one of the by-gone age,
My throne--it is the barrow--grant me that!

[GANDALF and BLANKA throw themselves silently into his arms.
RODERIK ascends the burial mound.--HEMMING with his harp seats
himself at his feet.]

GANDALF. [With resolution.] And now to Norway!

HROLLOUG. Home!

ALL. To Norway! Home!

BLANKA. [Fired as she seizes the banner from JOSTEJN's hand.]
Yes, now away! Our course shall northward run
O'er ocean billow on through storm and sun.
Soon fades the daylight o'er the glacier's peak,
Soon is the viking life a memory bleak!
Already sits the hero on his mound;
The time is past when he could sail around
With sword and battle cry from strand to strand.
Thor's hammer will no longer rule the land,
The North will be itself a giant grave.
But bear in mind the pledge All-Fader gave:
When moss and flowers shall the barrow hide,
To Idavold the hero's ghost shall ride,--
Then Norway too shall from the grave be brought
To chastened deeds within the realm of thought!

* * * * *

OLAF LILJEKRANS

A Play in Three Acts

1857

* * * * *

DRAMATIS PERSON

LADY KIRSTEN LILJEKRANS.

OLAF LILJEKRANS Her son.

ARNE OF GULDVIK.

INGEBORG His daughter.

HEMMING His page.

THORGJERD An old fiddler.

ALFHILD.

Wedding GUESTS.

RELATIVES of Arne of Guldvik.

MAIDS and SERVANTS of Lady Kirsten.

* * * * *

SETTING

The action takes place in the middle ages, in a mountain,
district.

* * * * *

FIRST ACT

[A thickly wooded hillside which leads up to higher
mountain regions; in a deep ravine a swift river runs
from the background out to the right; over the river
lie some old logs and other remnants of a dilapidated
bridge. Huge rocks lie scattered in the foreground;
far away can be seen the summits of snow-capped
mountain peaks. Evening twilight rests over the
landscape; later on the moon appears.]

SCENE I

[THORGJERD stands on a rocky projection near the river
and listens to the various choruses which are heard
off the stage.]

CHORUS OF LADY KIRSTEN'S RETINUE. [Deep in the wood to the
right.]
With ringing of bells we hurry along,
We wander in field and in dell;
O Christian, come, give heed to our song,
Awake from your magic spell.

RELATIVES OF ARNE OF GULDVIK. [Far away to the right.]
Now hasten we all
To the wedding hall;
The foal runneth light and gay!
The hoofs resound
On the grassy ground
As the merry swains gallop away!

LADY KIRSTEN'S RETINUE. [A little nearer than before.]
We conjure you forth from mountain and hill,
From the places which hold you bound.
Awake to our call, come, free your will
From elves that hover around!

[THORGJERD disappears in the ravine where the river runs; after
a rapid interplay the choruses are heard much nearer.]

ARNE'S RELATIVES. Our way we shorten with jest and with song,
And all of the bridal night.

LADY KIRSTEN'S RETINUE. With tears we wander the whole day long,
We search to the left and the right.

ARNE'S RELATIVES. [In close proximity, yet still outside the
scene.] To wedding and banquet, to song and dance,
Both servants and hand-maidens throng.

LADY KIRSTEN'S RETINUE. [Nearer than before.]
Olaf Liljekrans! Olaf Liljekrans!
Why sleep you so deep and so long?

* * * * *

SCENE II

[ARNE of Guldvik appears with his relatives, men and
women, minstrels, etc., in the background to the right
on the other side of the river; they are all in
festive attire. Shortly afterwards HEMMING from the
same side.]

ONE OF THE RETINUE. See, here goes the way.

ANOTHER. No, here!

A THIRD. Not at all, it must be here.

ARNE OF GULDVIK. Well, well, are we now astray again!

ARNE OF GULDVIK. [Calls.] Hemming! Where is Hemming?

HEMMING. [Enters.] Here!

ARNE. Have I not told you to keep yourself close so as to be of
some service to me?

HEMMING. It was Mistress Ingeborg--she wanted,--and so--

ARNE. [Annoyed.] Mistress Ingeborg! Mistress Ingeborg! Are
you Mistress Ingeborg's maid? You are my page; it is me you
shall serve. Do you not get your keep and wage therefor? Come,
tell us where the way goes,--we are stuck.

HEMMING. [Uncertain.] The way? Well now, I am little
acquainted up here, but--

ARNE. I might have known it,--that is always the service you
give me! Well, we shall have to spend the night in the
wilderness, as sure as I am Arne of Guldvik.

HEMMING. [Who has in the meantime spied the remnants of the
bridge.] Aha, no need of that; here we can get across.

ARNE. Why didn't you tell us so in the first place?

[All cross the river and come forward on the stage.]

ARNE. [Looks about.] Yes, now I have my bearings again. The
river there is the boundary between Lady Kirsten's dominions and
mine.

ARNE. [Points to the left.] Down there lies her estate; in
another hour or two we can sit cozily in the bridal house, but
then we must hurry along.

ARNE. [Calls.] Ingeborg!--Hemming! Now where's Ingeborg?

HEMMING. In the rear, up on the hillside.

HEMMING. [Points to the right.] She is playing with her
bridesmaids; they gather green twigs from the cherry trees and
run about with joy and laughter.

ARNE. [Bitterly but in subdued voice.] Hemming! this wedding
makes me sick; there are so many vexations about it.

ARNE. [Gazes out to the right.] There they run,--just look at
them! It was she who hit upon the idea of going over the
mountain instead of following the highway; we should reach our
goal the sooner, she thought;--and yet notwithstanding--hm! I
could go mad over it; tomorrow is she to go to the altar. Are
these the decorous customs she ought to observe! What will Lady
Kirsten say when she finds my daughter so ill disciplined?

ARNE. [As HEMMING starts to speak.] Yes, for that she is; she
is ill disciplined, I say.

HEMMING. Master! You should never have married your daughter
into Lady Kirsten's family; Lady Kirsten and her kinsmen are
high-born people--

ARNE. You art stupid, Hemming! High-born, high-born! Much good
that will do,--it neither feeds nor enriches a man. If Lady
Kirsten is high-born, then I am rich; I have gold in my chests
and silver in my coffers.

HEMMING. Yes, but your neighbors make merry over the agreement
you have concluded with her.

ARNE. Ah, let them, let them; it is all because they wish me
ill.

HEMMING. They say that you have surrendered your legal right in
order to have Ingeborg married to Olaf Liljekrans; I shouldn't
mention it, I suppose,--but a lampoon about you is going the
rounds, master!

ARNE. You lie in your throat; there is no one dares make a
lampoon about Arne of Guldvik. I have power; I can oust him from
house and home whenever I please. Lampoon! And what do you know
about lampoons!--If they have composed any songs, it is to the
honor of the bride and her father!

ARNE. [Flaring up.] But it is a wretched bit of verse
nevertheless, really a wretched bit of verse, I tell you. It is
no man skilled in the art of poetry who has put it together, and
if I once get hold of him, then--

HEMMING. Aha, master! then you know it too? Is there some one
who has dared sing it to you?

ARNE. Sing, sing! Now don't stand there and delay me with your
twaddle.

ARNE. [To the others.] Away, my kinsmen; little must we delay
if we are to reach the bridal house before midnight. You should
have heard what Hemming is telling. He says there is a rumor
around that Lady Kirsten has baked and brewed for five whole days
in honor of our coming. Is it not so, Hemming?

HEMMING. Aye, master!

ARNE. He says she owns not the beaker of silver so costly but
she places it on the table shining and polished; so splendid a
feast she has not prepared since the king came to visit her
blessed lord twenty years ago. Is it not true, Hemming?

HEMMING. Aye, master!

HEMMING. [Whispering.] But, master, it is ill-thought to say
such things; Lady Kirsten is proud of her birth; she thinks this
marriage is somewhat of an honor to you; little you know how she
intends to show herself to her guests.

ARNE. [Softly.] Ah, what nonsense!

ARNE. [To the others.] He says Lady Kirsten gives herself no
rest; both day and night she is busy in pantry and cellar. Is it
not--?

ARNE. [Startled as he looks out to the right.] Hemming! what is
that? See here, who is that coming?

HEMMING. [With a cry.] Lady Kirsten Liljekrans!

ALL. [Astonished.] Lady Kirsten!

* * * * *

SCENE III

[The Preceding. LADY KIRSTEN comes with her HOUSE
CARLS from the left.]

LADY KIRSTEN. [To her followers, without noticing the others.]
Now just a little farther and I am sure we shall find him.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Taken aback, aside.] Arne of Guldvik! Heaven
help me!

ARNE. [As he goes to meet her.] The peace of God, Lady Kirsten
Liljekrans!

LADY KIRSTEN. [Composes herself and gives him her hand.] The
peace of God to you!

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside.] Does he then know nothing?

ARNE. [Contentedly.] And well met at the boundary! Indeed,
this pleases me; yet almost too great is the honor you show me.

LADY KIRSTEN. What mean you?

ARNE. I mean too great is the honor you show me, when you travel
miles over fields and wildernesses in order to bid me welcome on
your land.

LADY KIRSTEN. Ah, Lord Arne--

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside.] He knows nothing as yet!

ARNE. And that on a day like this, when you have enough things
to attend to; 'tis at your house we celebrate the wedding of our
children, since my estate lies too far from the church, and yet
you come here to meet me with all your servants.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Embarrassed.] I beg you, say no more about that.

ARNE. Aye, I will speak of it loudly; the village people have
said that you pride yourself on your noble birth, that you look
down upon me and mine, and that you entered into the agreement
only in order to put an end to the long-standing disputes which
grew troublesome now that you have become a widow and begin to
grow old; and if that had not been the case, you would never--

LADY KIRSTEN. How can you listen to what evil tongues invent?
No more will we think of our differences which have lasted since
the days of your ancestors. I think our families have suffered
enough these years, yours as well as mine. Look around you, Lord
Arne! Is not the hillside here like the wildest of upland
pastures? And yet in our fathers' days it was a region much
frequented and rich. A bridge there was across the river, and a
highway from Guldvik to my father's house. But with fire and
sword they sallied forth from both sides; they laid everything
waste that they came upon, for it seemed to them that they were
too near neighbors. Now all sorts of weeds grow in the highway,
the bridge is broken, and it is only the bear and the wolf that
make their homes here.

ARNE. Yes, they ran the road around the mountain below; it is a
good deal longer and they could thus better keep an eye on one
another; but there is little need of that now,--which is well and
good for both of us.

LADY KIRSTEN. To be sure, to be sure! But Ingeborg, the bride,
where is she? I do not see her, and the bridesmaids likewise are
lacking; surely she is not--

ARNE. She follows in the rear; she must shortly be here.
But--listen, Lady Kirsten! One thing I will tell you, as well
first as last, although, I should think, you know it. Ingeborg
has at times whims and moods,--I swear to you she has them,
however well disciplined she may be.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Expectant.] Well, what then?

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside.] Is she too--

ARNE. Such things you must tame; I, as her father, will never
succeed, but you will no doubt find ways and means.

LADY KIRSTEN. Aye, rest you assured.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside.] And Olaf, who is nowhere to be seen!

HEMMING. [Who has looked out to the right.] There comes
Mistress Ingeborg.

HEMMING. [Aside.] How fair she is advancing foremost in the
group!

LADY KIRSTEN. [Slowly to her servants.] You will keep silent
about your errand up here.

A SERVANT. You may be sure of that.

HEMMING. [Aside, sighing, as he continues to look out
to the right.] Ah, happy is Olaf, who will have her!

* * * * *

SCENE IV

[The Preceding. INGEBORG and the Bridesmaids come over
the bridge.]

INGEBORG. [Still in the background.] Why do you run away from
me? What good will that do? There can be no wedding anyway
before I come.

INGEBORG. [Notices LADY KIRSTEN and her retinue.] Lady Kirsten!
you here? Well, I am glad of that.

[Casually to the retinue.]

[To LADY KIRSTEN as she looks about.]

LADY KIRSTEN. Olaf!

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside.] Woe is me! now it will out.

ARNE. Yes, Olaf, indeed! Ha, ha, ha! I must have been blind;
'tis well the bride sees better than I; for I have not noticed
that the bridegroom is lacking; but now I understand very well
how it comes that we meet here,--it is he who is causing--

LADY KIRSTEN. He--you mean--you know, that--

ARNE. I mean it has grown tedious for him down there in the
festive hall. Aye, aye, I remember now my own wedding day; at
that time I also was young. He has had a great desire to meet
the bride, and accordingly he prevailed upon you to go with him.

LADY KIRSTEN. He greatly desired, to be sure, to meet the bride,
but--

INGEBORG. But what?

LADY KIRSTEN. Olaf is not here with us.

HEMMING. [Approaches.] Not with you!

ARNE. And why not?

INGEBORG. Speak, I beg you!

LADY KIRSTEN. [Embarrassed and jestingly.] Truly, it appears
the bride also is anxious! Come along, come along with me down
to the bridal hall; there, I imagine he will be found.

HEMMING. [Whispering to ARNE.] Master! remember I gave you
warning.

ARNE. [Suspiciously to LADY KIRSTEN.] First answer me; then
shall we follow.

LADY KIRSTEN. Well then,--he is ridden out to the hunt.

LADY KIRSTEN. [As she is about to go.] Come, 'tis fast growing
dark.

INGEBORG. To the hunt?

LADY KIRSTEN. Aye! Does that surprise you? You know the song
of course:
"The knight likes to ride in the forest around,
To test his horse and his hound!"

INGEBORG. Does he think so little of his young bride that he
uses the wedding days to go hunting wild animals?

LADY KIRSTEN. Now you are jesting. Come along, come along!

ARNE. [Who has in the meantime kept his eye on LADY KIRSTEN and
her retinue.] No, wait, Lady Kirsten! I hardly dare measure
myself in wisdom with you, but one thing clearly I see, and that
is that you are concealing your real errand up here.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Confused.] I? How can you think that?

ARNE. From one thing and another I can see you are concealing
something. You are strangely downcast, and yet you pretend to be
playful in spirit; but it won't do--

LADY KIRSTEN. 'Tis nothing new for you to think ill of me and
mine.

ARNE. Perhaps; but never did I do so without just cause.

ARNE. [Bursting out.] As sure as I live, there is something you
are hiding from me.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside.] What will be the end of this?

ARNE. I let myself be fooled by you, but now I see clearly
enough. You said you came to greet me at the boundary. How did
you know we took the way over the mountain? It was Ingeborg who
suggested this way just as we left Guldvik, and no one could have
informed you about it.

ARNE. [When LADY KIRSTEN does not answer.] You are silent, as I
might have known.

HEMMING. [In an undertone.] You see, master! Will you now
believe what I said?

ARNE. [Likewise.] Hush!

LADY KIRSTEN. [Who has in the meantime composed herself.] Well
and good, Lord Arne! I will be honest with you; let chance take
care of the rest.

ARNE. Then tell us--

INGEBORG. What mean you?

LADY KIRSTEN. The agreement between us is sealed with word and
with hand,--many honorable men whom I see here can bear witness
to that: Olaf, my son, was to wed your daughter; tomorrow at my
house the wedding was to be held--

ARNE. [Impatiently.] Yes, yes!

LADY KIRSTEN. Dishonor to him who breaks his word, but--

ARNE AND THE GUESTS.. What then! Speak out!

LADY KIRSTEN. There can be no wedding tomorrow as we had agreed.

ARNE. No wedding?

LADY KIRSTEN. It must be postponed.

HEMMING. Ah, shame and disgrace!

INGEBORG. No wedding!

ARNE. Cursed be you that you play me false!

THE GUESTS. [Threatening, as several of them draw their knives
and rush in on Lady Kirsten's people.] Revenge! Revenge on the
house of Liljekrans!

LADY KIRSTEN'S MEN. [Raise their axes and prepare to defend
themselves.] Strike too! Down with the men of Guldvik!

LADY KIRSTEN. [Throws herself between the contending parties.]
Stop, stop; I pray you, stop! Lord Arne! hear me to the end ere
you judge my conduct.

ARNE. [Who has tried to quiet his kinsmen, approaches LADY
KIRSTEN and speaks in a low tone as he tries to overcome his
inner agitation, which is nevertheless apparent.] Forgive me,
Lady Kirsten! I was too quick in my wrath. Had I stopped to
think I might surely have known the whole was a jest on your
part; I beg you, do not contradict me, it must be so! No wedding
tomorrow,--how could such a thing happen! If it is ale and mead
you lack, or if you need silver or embroidered linens, then come
you to me.

LADY KIRSTEN. It is no poor man's house that your daughter is
marrying into, Lord Arne! Do you but come to the wedding with
all your kinsmen and friends, aye, come with three times as many
if you wish,--in my home you shall find plenty of room and
banquet fare, as much as you may desire. Think not for a moment
that such an inglorious reason could stand in my way.

ARNE. You have changed your mind, perchance?

LADY KIRSTEN. Nor that either! If I have given my word, then am
I likewise ready to keep it, today just as well as tomorrow; for
such was ever the custom and rule in my family. But in this
instance it is not in my power; one there is lacking--

INGEBORG. One! Whom? Surely I should think that when the bride
is ready,--

LADY KIRSTEN. For a wedding two people are needed, the groom as
well as the bride--

ARNE AND THE GUESTS. Olaf!

INGEBORG. My betrothed!

LADY KIRSTEN. Yes, he, my son--this night he is fled from his
home and his bride.

GUESTS. Fled!

ARNE. Fled! He!

LADY KIRSTEN. As I hope for the grace of heaven, I have no hand
therein.

ARNE. [With suppressed exasperation.] And the wedding was to be
tomorrow! My daughter has put on her golden attire; invitations
I have sent around in the district; my kinsmen and friends come
from far away to attend the festive day.

ARNE. [Flaring up.] Ah, take you good care, if Arne of Guldvik
is held up to scorn before his neighbors; it shall profit you
little,--that I solemnly swear!

LADY KIRSTEN. You reason unjustly, if you think--

ARNE. 'Tis not, Lady Kirsten, for you to say so! We two have an
old account to settle; it is not the first time that you set your
cunning traps for me and mine. The race of Guldvik has long had
to suffer, when you and your kinsmen plotted deception and guile.
Power we had,--we had wealth and property too; but you were too
crafty for us. You knew how to lure us with wily words and ready
speech,--those are wares I am little able to reckon as I should.

LADY KIRSTEN. Lord Arne! Hear me, I pray!

ARNE. [Continuing.] Now I see clearly that I have behaved like
the man who built his house on the ice-floe: a thaw came on and
down he went to the bottom. But you shall have little joy of
this. I shall hold you to account, Lady Kirsten! You must
answer for your son; you it was who made love for him, and your
affair it will be to keep the word you have given me! A fool I
was, aye, tenfold a fool, that I put my faith in your glib
tongue. Those who wished me well gave me warning; my enemies
made me an object of scorn; but little heed gave I to either. I
put on my gala attire; kinsmen and friends I gathered together;
with song and laughter we set out for the festive hall, and
then,--the bridegroom has fled.

INGEBORG. Never will I marry one who holds me so lightly.

ARNE. Be still!

HEMMING. [Softly to ARNE.] Mistress Ingeborg is right; best it
is you break the agreement.

ARNE. Be still, I say!

LADY KIRSTEN. [To ARNE.] You may well be rilled with wrath and
resentment; but if you think I meant to deceive you, you do me
the greatest injustice. You think we are playing a game of
deception with you. But tell me,--what would tempt me and my son
to such a thing? Does he not love Ingeborg? Where could he
choose him a better bride? Is she not fair and lithe? Is her
father not rich and mighty? Is not her family mentioned with
honor as far as it is known?

ARNE. But how then could Olaf--

LADY KIRSTEN. The lot I have suffered is worse than you think.
You will pity me instead of growing angry when you have
heard.--Since the sun rose this morning I have wandered up here
to find him again.

ARNE. Up here?

LADY KIRSTEN. Yes, up here; I must tell you--you'll be
frightened--but nevertheless,--Olaf is bewitched in the mountain!

GUESTS. Bewitched in the mountain!

INGEBORG. [At the same time.] Deliver me, God!

ARNE. What say you, Lady Kirsten?

LADY KIRSTEN. He is bewitched in the mountain! Nothing else can
it be.--Three weeks ago, after the betrothal feast at Guldvik, he
did not come home till far into the next day. Pale he was and
moody and quiet as I had never seen him before. And thus the
days went by; he spoke but little; he lay in his bed most of the
time and turned his face to the wall; but when evening came on,
it seemed a strange uneasiness seized him; he saddled his horse
and rode away, far up the mountain side; but no one dared follow
him, and no one knew where he went beyond that. Believe me, 'tis
evil spirits that have charmed his mind; great is the power they
wield in here; from the time the terrible plague overran the
country it has never been quite safe in the mountain here; there
is scarcely a day goes by but the chalet girls hear strange
playing and music, although there is no living soul in the place
whence it comes.

ARNE. Bewitched in the mountain! Could such a thing be
possible?

LADY KIRSTEN. Would to God it were not; but I can no longer
doubt it. Three days is it now since he last was at home.

ARNE. And you have seen none who knows where he is?

LADY KIRSTEN. Alas, no, it is not so easy. Up here a hunter
yesterday saw him; but he was wild and shy as the deer; he had
picked all sorts of flowers, and these he scattered before him
wherever he went, and all the while he whispered strange words.
As soon as I heard of this, I set out with my people, but we have
found nothing.

INGEBORG. You met none who could tell you--

LADY KIRSTEN. You know of course the mountain-side is desolate.

ARNE. [As he spies THORGJERD, who rises from the river.] Here
comes one will I ask.

HEMMING. [Apprehensively.] Master! Master!

ARNE. What now?

HEMMING. Let him go! Do you not see who it is?

THE GUESTS AND LADY KIRSTEN'S PEOPLE. [Whispering among
themselves.] Thorgjerd the fiddler! The crazy Thorgjerd!

INGEBORG. He has learned the nixie's songs.

HEMMING. Let him go, let him go!

ARNE. No,--not even were he the nixie himself--

* * * * *

SCENE V

[The Preceding.]

[THORGJERD has in the meantime gone to the edge of the
stage to the left; at ARNE's last words he turns about
suddenly as if he had been addressed.]

THORGJERD. [As he draws a step or two nearer.] What do you want
of me?

ARNE. [Startled.] What's that?

HEMMING. Now see!

ARNE. Let me manage this.

ARNE. [To THORGJERD.] We seek Olaf Liljekrans. Have you met
him about here today?

THORGJERD. Olaf Liljekrans?

LADY KIRSTEN. Why, yes,--you know him well.

THORGJERD. Is he not one of the evil men from the villages?

LADY KIRSTEN. Evil?

THORGJERD. They are all evil there! Olaf Liljekrans curses the
little bird when it sings on his mother's roof.

LADY KIRSTEN. You lie, you fiddler!

THORGJERD. [With an artful smile.] So much the better for him.

ARNE. How so?

THORGJERD. You ask about Olaf Liljekrans? Has he gone astray in
here? You seek him and cannot find him?

LADY KIRSTEN. Yes, yes!

THORGJERD. So much the better for him;--if it were a lie that I
told, he will suffer no want.

INGEBORG. Speak out what you know!

THORGJERD. Then I should never be done!

THORGJERD. [Mischievously.] Elves and sprites hold sway here.
Be you of good cheer! If you find him not he is at play with the
elves; they are fond of all who love little birds, and Olaf, you
said.... Go home,--go home again. Olaf is up in the mountain;
he suffers no want.

LADY KIRSTEN. Curse you for saying such things!

ARNE. [To LADY KIRSTEN.] Do not heed what he says.

THORGJERD. [Approaches again.] I go hence now to tune my harp;
Olaf Liljekrans is up in the mountain,--there shall his wedding
be held.--Mad Thorgjerd must also be there; he can make tables
and benches dance, so stirring is the music he plays. But you,
take you heed; go you home again; it is not safe for you here.
Have you not heard the old saying:
Beware of the elves when they frolic around,
They may draw you into their play;
And all that you see and all that you hear
Will stay with your mind alway.

THORGJERD. [Suddenly breaking out with wild joy.] But here
there are wedding guests,--ah! Each lady has on her very best
gown, each man his very best coat,--now I see. Olaf Liljekrans
is likewise a groom in the village,--there also he has a
betrothed! Well, you have heard of such things before! I know
that at any rate once, --it is years ago--but well I remember....

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