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Early Plays by Henrik Ibsen

Part 4 out of 5

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THORGJERD. [He continues after a moment's pause, more and more
wildly.]
Sir Alvar and Ingrid had plighted their troth,
She was a sprightly maiden;
Three blessed long days they feasted and sang,
With jolly good wine they were laden.
The bride was fair and the bride was gay,
The dance of the guests she led,
When in came the nixie, the evil wight,
And sat on the edge of the bed.
Like a fiddler he sat on the edge of the bed,
And music bewitchingly played.
Around danced the benches and tables and all,
As lightly as servant and maid!--
The nixie he went through the open door,--
The truth it boots not to hide!--
And while he played on the harpstrings sweet,
There followed him ever--the bride!

THORGJERD. [Wildly, triumphantly.]
Fast in a spell lay knight and page,
The groom knew not whither to go,
The nixie made ready the bridal bed,
Little Ingrid's bed in the river below.

THORGJERD. [Suddenly becomes quiet and says softly.] That song
I shall never forget!--But go you home, night is coming on, and
when the sun is down the forest belongs to the others. Farewell!
I shall take greetings to Olaf where he sits--in the mountain!

[Goes out to the left.]

* * * * *

SCENE VI

[The Preceding except THORGJERD.]

ARNE. [To LADY KIRSTEN.] He lies! Do not believe him!

HEMMING. But it is nevertheless true,--the tale of the bride who
disappeared on the eve of her wedding.

ARNE. Aye, that was many years ago; nowadays such things never
happen. But we'll all help to find him.

INGEBORG. It was not sung at my cradle that I should run about
in forest and field to find my bridegroom.

ARNE. Be still!

INGEBORG. If he is enthralled in the mountain, then let her take
him who has done it; I don't propose to share my betrothed's
heart and soul.

HEMMING. [Softly and feelingly.] The Lord bless you for those
words!

INGEBORG. [With a haughty look of dismissal.] What?

ARNE. Will you be silent, I say!

ARNE. [To the Guests.] Now quick, my good men! Spread out and
search for him on every ridge and in every hillock! Away! Quite
so! Tomorrow we drink to the wedding!

[The Guests and LADY KIRSTEN's People go out in different groups
to the right and the left.]

ARNE. [Softly, to LADY KIRSTEN.] We must find him! It would
cause me eternal shame if the wedding--

LADY KIRSTEN. Come, then, come!

INGEBORG. [Softly, to HEMMING, who stands downcast.] Why do you
not go with the rest? Better it were that you brought me again
my betrothed than stand here thus and bless me for words I really
don't mean.

ARNE. [At the exit.] Come, come!

INGEBORG. [To HEMMING, who starts to go.] Wait, Hemming!
Fasten my shoe buckle!

[LADY KIRSTEN and ARNE go out to the left.]

* * * * *

SCENE VII

[INGEBORG. HEMMING.]

INGEBORG. [Puts her foot forward.] See there,--fasten it tight!

[HEMMING kneels and does her bidding.]

INGEBORG. [As she puts the other foot forward.] There,--buckle
this one too! Well, why do you bow your head? Has something
gone wrong?

HEMMING. Do you demand that I shall speak honestly?

INGEBORG. Certainly I do.

HEMMING. Well, then you must know--

INGEBORG. [Quickly.] O no, it isn't necessary.

[She moves away a few steps; HEMMING rises.]

HEMMING. Alas, Lady Ingeborg! Once you were so kind to me; but
now since you have become a real grown-up lady--and especially, I
imagine, since you gave your betrothal vow--

INGEBORG. What then?

HEMMING. O nothing!--

[A pause.]

HEMMING. Can you remember,--we have been up here once before?

INGEBORG. [Curtly.] I don't remember!

HEMMING. You had run after your spotted goat, and I followed
you, as was always my custom,--yes, that was a long time ago, but
I remember it as if it happened today; right down there lies the
swamp, which--

INGEBORG. [Comes nearer.] Was it the time we heard the bear?

HEMMING. Yes, the very time.

INGEBORG. [Constantly becoming more animated.] I found the goat
again.

HEMMING. No, it was I who first discovered it.

INGEBORG. Yes, yes, you are right; up there on the slope--

HEMMING. And then you took your garter.

INGEBORG. And bound it.

HEMMING. Yes, for we had come to pick strawberries.

INGEBORG. Over there on the hill, yes! And you had made me a
birch-bark scrip.

HEMMING. But then it was we heard--

INGEBORG. The bear, ha, ha, ha! We had to cross the swamp just
where it was the wettest,--

HEMMING. And then I took you in my arms.

INGEBORG. And jumped with me from tuft to tuft.

INGEBORG. [Laughing.] How frightened we were, the two of us!

HEMMING. Of course I was most frightened for your sake.

INGEBORG. And I for yours--

[Stops suddenly and as she continues to look at him her face
assumes an imperious and wounded expression.]

INGEBORG. What is it you stand here and say? Why don't you go?
Is it fitting to speak thus to your master's daughter? Go, go;
you were to find my betrothed!

HEMMING. Alas, I forgot your betrothed; I forgot that you are my
master's daughter.

INGEBORG. If you find him, I promise you an embroidered jacket
for Christmas,--so pleased shall I be.

HEMMING. I don't want any jacket; I serve you neither for gold
nor silver, neither for keep nor for knightly dress. But now I
am off; what lies in my power I shall do, if I know it pleases
you.

INGEBORG. [Who has climbed up on a stone and is picking some
blossoming cherry twigs.] Hemming! how rich is my betrothed?

HEMMING. How rich he is I really can't say; but it is said of
his grandsire in the song:
With golden attire he can provide
A hundred maids or more for his bride!
So mighty perhaps is not Olaf Liljekrans, but still he owns
both forest and field.

INGEBORG. [Still occupied.] And you, what do you possess?

HEMMING. [Sighing.] My poverty--is all I have.

INGEBORG. That isn't very much, Hemming!

HEMMING. No, it isn't very much, Mistress Ingeborg!

INGEBORG. [Hums, turned away from him, without changing her
position, and still occupied as before.]
'Tis little my heart is attracted indeed
To him who has all the wealth he may need!
Much more I fancy the humble swain,
The friend of my heart he will ever remain!

HEMMING. [In the greatest joy.] Ingeborg! O, if what you say
is true, I must tenfold bless my poverty.

INGEBORG. [Turns her head and speaks coldly.] I don't
understand you; the song was only an ancient ballad.

[Comes down from the rock with the cherry twigs in her hand, and
approaches him as she looks at him fixedly.]

INGEBORG. But I know another song too, and that I will sing for
you:
The king's court within stand the steeds so fair;
The suitor who lacks not the courage to dare,--
He shoes the yellow, he shoes the gray,
The swiftest he saddles before it is day!
He places his bride on the steed behind,
She follows him safe, she follows him blind.
He rides with her off, to the sea they hie,
With him she would willingly live and die!

HEMMING. [As though beside himself.] Ingeborg! Ingeborg! then
nothing shall henceforth terrify me! Not that you have a
betrothed, not that you are my master's daughter;--yea, as sure
as I live, I shall steal you tonight!

INGEBORG. [Vehemently, as she constantly struggles to suppress a
smile.] Help me, God! what is amiss with you? What is it you
are thinking of? Will you steal your master's daughter? You
must be sick or mad to conceive such a thing! Yet, it shall be
forgotten--for this once. Go, now! and thank heaven you escape
so lightly; for you have certainly earned a blow--

INGEBORG. [Raises the twigs, but lets them fall, and says in a
changed tone.] --and my red golden ring--see there, take it!

[Throws him a ring, which she has removed from her arm, and
rushes out quickly to the left.]

* * * * *

SCENE VIII

[HEMMING. Shortly afterwards OLAF Liljekrans from the,
background. The moon rises.]

HEMMING. The golden ring unto me she has granted,
Then still is she true, I am not deceived!
'Twas only in jest that she scolded and ranted
As though she were bitterly grieved.
All will I venture, no more will I dread!

HEMMING. [Despondent.] And yet, I am only a penniless swain,
And early tomorrow is she to be wed!

HEMMING. [Quickly.] But into the forest the bridegroom is fled;
O, if he should never come home again!

HEMMING. [Starts to rush out, but stops with a cry.]
Olaf! there is he!

[OLAF comes slowly forward between the rocks in the background.
He walks dreaming, his head uncovered, and his hands full of
flowers which he tears to pieces and scatters on the way; his
whole behavior during the following indicates an unsettled
mind.]

OLAF. [Without noticing HEMMING.]
If only I knew What she meant, could somehow the riddle unravel!

[Starts to go out to the left.]

HEMMING. Lord Olaf! Lord Olaf! O where do you travel?
O hear me, Lord Olaf!

OLAF. [Half awakening.]
Hemming! Is it you? Stand not in my way!

HEMMING. What is it that weighs
On your mind, that you wander in here for three days?

[Observes him more closely.]

HEMMING. And what is the game that here you do play,--
Your cheek is white, and your forehead is gray!

OLAF. Be not so amazed that my cheek is white,
Three nights have I fought so strange a fight;
Be not so amazed that my forehead is gray,
Three nights have I been in the elfen play.

HEMMING. Heaven protect us!

OLAF. I am ill, I am faint!
I remember neither devil nor saint!

HEMMING. [Apprehensively.]
Come, Olaf, with me to your mother's estate!

OLAF. My mother's estate! Where stood it of late?
'Tis here, as it seems, that I have my home!
The wood has become my ancestral hall,
The river's roaring, the pine-trees' moan,
Is sweeter to me than my mother's call.

OLAF. [With increasing rapture.]
Aye, here it is quiet! Aye, here it is fair!
Behold, my hall for the feast I prepare.

HEMMING. [Aside.] O what has come o'er him?

OLAF. Soon comes my bride!

HEMMING. Your bride! Then you know--?

OLAF. [Continuing.] When the day has died,
When slumber the birds, when fades the cloud,
Then here will she come so young and so proud!

HEMMING. [Crosses himself.]
All heavenly saints! I fear the worst!

OLAF. Know you when it was that I saw her here first?
I rode late one evening from Guldvik hall,
Some kind of feast I seem to recall.
My spirit was heavy, my heart full of woe!
That something had grieved me is all that I know.
I rode all alone up the mountain side,
At midnight I passed by the river so wide;
Then heard I beyond a melodious wail,
That rang like a song over mountain and dale.
It seemed a plaintive, bewitching lay;
I folded my hands, I tried to pray,
But tied was my tongue and my thoughts went astray;
The strains did beguile and lure me away.
'Twas now like weeping and now like laughter,
'Twas now full of mirth, and now ever after
As were it the cry of a perishing man,
As were it a soul in the anguish of death,
That I heard in the song so beguiling, that ran
Like a stream around me!--I scarce got my breath!
So sorely bewildered was I in my soul;
It was as if powers both gentle and strong
Enticed me and lured me away from my goal,
I needs must come up, I was carried along.
And ever rang out the mysterious call;
How far I rode on I no longer recall.

HEMMING. [Aside.] And the bride, of whom the minstrel
sang,--she too had to follow--

OLAF. My foal stopped short, I awoke in a maze,
I looked around with a wondering gaze;
'Twas all so pleasant and fair! But what land
I was in I could not understand!
I stood in a valley;--a deep peace lay
Over all like dew in the night!
The moon on the edge of the tarn did play;
It seemed to laugh as it vanished away
In the rolling billows so bright!
My head was heavy, my spirit oppressed,
I yearned for nothing but sleep;
I laid me down 'neath a linden to rest
In the whispering forest so sweet!

HEMMING. Lord Olaf! Lord Olaf! How dared you do it?

OLAF. [Continuing.]
I ventured then into the elf-maidens' play;
The fairest of maidens gave me a bouquet
Of snow-drops blue and of lilies white;
She pierced my soul with her glances so bright,
And whispered to me what nobody knows,--
A word I'll keep ever in mind:
"Olaf Liljekrans! know you where happiness grows,
Know you the hour when peace you will find?
Of all the flowers on the hill over yonder
Must you the fairest one find,
And bit by bit you must tear it asunder
And scatter it far to the wind,
Then--only then will you happiness find!"

HEMMING. You have slumbered and dreamed!

OLAF. That very same day
My mother's estate grew cramped and narrow!
Through thicket, o'er highway, I hastened away
To the grove so pleasant with bow and with arrow!
There met I again the elf-maiden fair.

HEMMING. [Steps back amazed.] When then,--have you wakened and
found--?

OLAF. I took my betrothal ring, shot with it there
Right over her head, far into the air;
Now is she evermore bound!

HEMMING. And it is the bride you are waiting for here?

OLAF. Yes, yes, the bride; soon will she be near!

HEMMING. [Aside.] His soul is enthralled, his mind is ill;
All this Lady Kirsten shall know!

HEMMING. [Aloud.] And dare you go wandering fearless up here
In the hills?

OLAF. It is here so still,
'Tis sweetly I dream as I go!

[Goes slowly in between the huge rocks in front on the right.]

HEMMING. His wedding tomorrow his people prepare;
Yet for his betrothed he seems little to care;
'Tis little he knows that she is so near,
And less that she holds another one dear!--
He wanders around in the forest astray,
And Ingeborg gave me the golden ring!
His mother I'll seek without further delay;
The saints only know what the morrow will bring!

[Goes out to the left.]

* * * * *

SCENE IX

[OLAF LILJEKRANS enters again from the right.]

OLAF. [As he tears to pieces some flowers he has gathered off
the stage.] "Of all the flowers on the hill over yonder
Must you the fairest one find;
And bit by bit you must tear it asunder,
And scatter it far to the wind,--
Then--only then will you happiness find!"
These mysterious words give my spirit no rest.
The fairest of flowers? And what is the test?
Where will it be found? Is its beauty revealed
In the fragrance or deep in the blossom concealed?
Or hid in some magic power that I never
Can possibly find if I search forever?
So may there be virtue in many a spear
Whose steel is rusty and out of gear;
So too may a harp that no longer sings
But hangs forgotten in the halls of mirth,
Hide in its forsaken and dusty strings
The strangest magic on earth.

* * * * *

SCENE X

[OLAF LILJEKRANS. ALFHILD from the back of the stage.
She is fantastically dressed and adorned with flowers
and garlands of leaves; she looks about anxiously
until she discovers OLAF and runs joyfully to meet
him.]

ALFHILD. O, stay, stay! Do not go away from me!

OLAF. [As if suddenly awakened to life.] Alfhild! my young and
beautiful bride!

ALFHILD. Olaf! my handsome knight! I grew tired of waiting; I
had to come here to meet you!

OLAF. But tell me, why are you always afraid to come here?

ALFHILD. I have so often told you that I never went beyond this
valley until you visited me. My father has said that evil powers
hold sway out there; only here among the mountains could I fare
safely and without harm! O, let whatever power will hold sway;
you are here, and that is enough for me! Come, let me look into
your eyes! Truly, I have you again!

OLAF. Have me! Alas, Alfhild! You artful, you beautiful woman,
indeed you have me again! My soul you have charmed so deeply, so
deeply. Lead me whither and as far as you will, into the
mountain, under the hill, to the grassy meadow, where song and
refrain echo sweetly in the evening, on the bottom of the river,
down under the rapids, where there are harps for powerful
plaintive lays; wherever your home is, there I am ready to
wander!

ALFHILD. Why speak you thus? You must surely know better than
what you are saying.--Spirits and elves hold sway in mountain and
hillock, and on the bottom of the river lives the nixie,--so
father has said. Think you that I am an elf or--

OLAF. You are the fairest in the world; be you what you please,
so long as you are mine!

ALFHILD. Were I an elfen maid, then truly, say I, it would fare
with you ill!

OLAF. Me!

ALFHILD. Yes, you! When you rode on your lonely path, I should
go out to meet you and give you the drink of forgetfulness from
the golden horn. I should mix therein my magic and charm so that
you would forget both heaven and earth, forget where you were
born and reared, what name you answered to, and where your
kinsmen fared,--one thing alone should you remember, one thing
alone should fill your mind and soul.

OLAF. Forsooth, then are you the elfen maid! For from the first
hour you have practiced your magic on me.

ALFHILD. Have I?

OLAF. Through the meadow I rode, below where the river runs,--it
was night and the songs and the plaintive lays echoed strangely
around me....

OLAF. Bewildered I grew and lost my path; I wandered far, far in
among the mountains; I discovered the beautiful valley, where no
foot has trod, where no eye has feasted ere mine....

OLAF. A heavy slumber fell upon me in there; the elf maidens
played in the meantime, and they drew me into their play....

OLAF. But when I awoke, there was affliction in my soul;
homeward I rode, but down there I could no more be content; it
seemed as if I had left behind me the richest and best in life,
as if a wonderful treasure were held in store for me, if only I
sought and found it....

OLAF. Up to the valley I had to go before I could find peace....

OLAF. You came to meet me, fair and glowing as in this hour; I
seized your hand, I looked you in the eye--heaven and earth, the
beauty of all creation, was in your eye!....

OLAF. Then I forgot both kinsmen and friends!....

OLAF. I came there the next night, I embraced you, I pressed you
to my bosom,--the glory of heaven was in your embrace....

OLAF. --Then I forgot my Christian name and my forefathers'
home....

OLAF. And I came the third night; I had to come; I kissed your
red lips; my eyes burned their way into your soul.--More than the
glory of creation was therein! I forgot more than God and home,
more than heaven and earth. I forgot myself.

[Prostrates himself before her.]

OLAF. Alfhild! Alfhild!

ALFHILD. If it be a drink of forgetfulness which you speak of,
then have I also charmed myself with it. I have fared as the
minstrel who learned the nixie's songs in order to charm his
sweetheart;--he charmed and charmed so long that at length the
magic wove itself round his own soul too, and he could never win
himself free therefrom.

[Stops and continues standing thoughtfully.]

OLAF. [As he rises.] What are you brooding over?

ALFHILD. High in the mountain there is a rocky ledge so steep
that not even the eagle can fasten his claws thereon; there
stands a lonely birch,--ill does it thrive, it is poor in leaves;
but downward it bends its branches to the valley which lies far
away; it is as though it longed for its sisters in the fresh and
luxuriant grove, as though it yearned to be transplanted in the
warm sunny life down below....

ALFHILD. Like the birch in the mountain was also my life; I
longed to get away; I longed for you through the long, long
years, even before I knew you existed. The valley became too
cramped for me, but I did not know that beyond the mountains
there was another valley like this one in here. The knights and
the ladies that visited me every evening were not enough for me,
and they told me nothing of the life beyond!

OLAF. Knights and ladies? You told me you never met any one
there.

ALFHILD. No one like you! But every evening my father
sang songs to me, and when the night came and my eyes
were closed, they came to visit me, all those that live
in my father's songs. Merry knights and beautiful ladies
there were among them; they came with falcons on their
hands, riding on stately steeds. They danced in the field,
and laughter and merriment reechoed wherever they fared;
the elves listened silently from behind each flower and the
birds from the trees where they had fallen asleep. But
with the coming of dawn they again disappeared; lonely
I wandered; I decked myself with flowers and with green
leaves, for I knew the next night they would come again.
Alas, that life was after all not sufficient for me; a mighty
longing rilled my bosom; it would never have been stilled
if you had not come!

OLAF. You speak of your father; at no time did I see him in
there!

ALFHILD. But seldom he comes now; he has never been there since
the night we first met.

OLAF. But tell me, where is he?

ALFHILD. You have told me you rode late one summer night in the
meadow where the river flows; there you heard strange songs which
you only half understood, but which haunt and haunt you so that
you will never forget them.

OLAF. Yes, yes!

ALFHILD. You once heard my father's songs! It is on them that I
have been nourished. In truth, neither have I fully understood
them; they seemed to me to be the most precious treasure, to be
life itself; now they mean little to me; they are to me but a
token of all the glory that was to come. In all of them was
there a handsome knight; I imagined him to be the best and most
glorious thing in all the valleys, the best and most glorious as
far as bird can fly, as far as clouds can sail. Olaf! it was
you,--I know you again! Oh, you must tell me of your home, of
the distant valley whence you come; life out there must be rich
and glorious; there it must be that my birds all fly with the
falling of the leaves; for when they again come to visit me, they
have so much to tell that is strange, so many a marvel to sing
about, that all the flowers begin to bud and to blossom, the
trees to grow green, and the big and glorious sun to rise early
and go tardily to rest, in order to listen to all the stories and
songs. But little grasp I of all that they tell; you must
interpret it for me, you must make everything clear that inwardly
craves an answer.

OLAF. Little am I able to answer what you ask of my home. My
home? If I have had a home other than this, then I remember but
little about it. It is all to me like a misty dream which is
forgotten in the hour we waken. Yet, come! far below us there
lies a village; there it seems I remember I wandered before I saw
you; there it seems to me that my kinsmen live. Do you hear how
the river conjures and rushes; let us follow it; out on the ledge
near the waterfall we can overlook the village where I--once had
my home. Come, come!

ALFHILD. But dare I--

OLAF. Follow and trust me, I shall protect you!

ALFHILD. I am ready; I know it well enough; whether I wished to
or not, I must follow you wherever you go.

[They go out to the right.]

CHORUS OF WEDDING GUESTS AND LADY. KIRSTEN'S PEOPLE
(From the forest to the left.)
Awake to our call, come free your will
From elves that hover around!

* * * * *

SCENE XI

[LADY KIRSTEN and HEMMING enter from the left.]

HEMMING. Here he was;--why--now he is gone!

LADY KIRSTEN. And he said he was waiting for the bride who was
to come?

HEMMING. Yes, but whom he had in mind I could not quite make
out; for his speech was strangely incoherent. Ingeborg he did
not mean,--that is certain.

LADY KIRSTEN. Say nothing, good Hemming! say nothing of what he
just said! You did well to let me alone know he was here. You
shall be richly rewarded for this, but first we must find him
again--

HEMMING. [As he looks out to the right.] See,--see there, in
the moonlight, on the hill near the river,--yes, surely I think--

LADY KIRSTEN. Hush, hush, it is Olaf!

HEMMING. There are two; a woman is with him--

LADY KIRSTEN. Heavenly saints!

HEMMING. He is pointing out the village as if--there they go!

LADY KIRSTEN. Call Lord Arne and our people! We will meet again
here; I bring Olaf with me!

HEMMING. But dare you then--?

LADY KIRSTEN. Do as I say; but say nothing of what you have
heard and seen. You can say that Olaf came up here to hunt deer
and bear, and that he went astray in the mountain.

HEMMING. You can rely on me, Lady Kirsten!

[Goes out to the left.]

LADY KIRSTEN. Is it true, then? Have evil sprites gained
control over him? Yes, so I can pretend to Arne of Guldvik, but
little I believe it myself;--and yet it is said it happened often
enough in the days gone by. But it is elfen maids no doubt of
flesh and blood that--. There he goes down to the river,--I must
hasten!

[Goes out to the right in the background.]

CHORUS. [From the forest to the left.]
With ringing of bells we hurry along,
We wander in field and in dell!
O Christian, come, give heed to our song,
Wake up from your magic spell!

* * * * *

SCENE XII

[OLAF and ALFHILD come in from the right in the
background. Later LADY KIRSTEN.]

ALFHILD. O, you must tell me still more of the world!
Your words to my soul are refreshing indeed;
It seems as if here in the wonders you tell
My innermost longings you read!....

Did you ne'er on a summer night sit by a tarn,
So deep that no one could fathom it quite,
And see in the water the stars so bright,
Those knowing eyes that express with their flickering light
Much more than a thousand tongues could possibly say?

* * * * *

I often sat thus; I sought with my hands to capture
The sparkling riddles below in the deep--
I snatched after them, I would see them close,
Then they grew blurred like eyes that weep,--
It is idle to search and to seek--

* * * * *

So too in my soul there was many a riddle
I yearned to solve in the days that are gone!
They tricked me as did all the stars in the deep,
Grew stranger and stranger the more I brooded thereon!

OLAF. Am I not to myself a mysterious riddle?
Am I Olaf Liljekrans, the nobly born,
The knight so proud, who vaunted his race,
Who laughed the singing of birds to scorn!
And yet, from my heart I tear what I was!
Happy I am,--and that can I understand--
Your prophecy failed,--I should happiness find,
When the fairest of flowers I had found in the land.
Ah! happiness here I have found!

ALFHILD. I prophesied nothing.
But--tell me more of the life that is yonder!

OLAF. The life that is yonder may go its own way;
Here is my home; with you will I wander,
My lovely wife! Alfhild, behold!
Is it not as if here in the mountainous fold
Were built for us two a bower so fair!
The snowdrops in splendor stand garbed everywhere;
In here there is feasting, there is joy, there is mirth,
More real than any I have found on this earth!
The song rings out from the river so deep;
It is that which makes me both laugh and weep!
The song of magic, the mysterious lay,
Has made me so free, so happy and gay!

[Seizes her passionately in his arms.]

OLAF. Farewell to the village below I say!
'Tis here that my bridal-bed I shall prepare;
Farewell to the world forever and ay,--
For here I shall hold my beautiful bride!

ALFHILD. [Moves away apprehensively.] Olaf!

OLAF. [Stops suddenly, as if seized with a vague and painful
remembrance.] My bride! What is it I say!
Tell me--when first--I happened this way--
Can you still remember the very first night?
What was it I sought?--No longer I know!
Did I come to fetch you--to--the village below?
Did I come the wedding guests to invite?

ALFHILD. What mean you? Wedding? I can't understand--?

OLAF. Our betrothal at Guldvik was held, you remember!
For three weeks thereafter our wedding was planned--
But it seems to me that,--no, my brow like an ember
Burns hot! I will try no more to remember!

CHORUS. [Softly and far in the forest.]
Olaf Liljekrans! Olaf Liljekrans!
Why sleep you so deep and so long?

ALFHILD. Hush, Olaf! do you hear?

OLAF. Did you hear it too?

ALFHILD. What was it?

OLAF. A memory of long ago,
Which often comes back when I wander with you!
'Tis evil,--it calls from the village below.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside, as she enters from the rear of the stage
unobserved by the others.]
Ah, there! He speaks; could I understand--!

[Approaches listening.]

OLAF. [With increasing vehemence.]
Yes, yes, I come; not alone will I ride!
For ladies and knights shall heed my command,
And come hither with song to greet my bride!
For you shall be saddled my swiftest steed,
The poet and minstrel shall ride in the lead,
Thereafter shall follow the steward and priest,
The people shall all be bid to the feast!
Pages so courtly shall guide your steed,
And beautiful flowers be strewn at your feet,
The peasant shall bow to the ground like a weed,
His wife shall curtsy to you as is meet!
The church bell shall ring to the countryside:
Now rides Olaf Liljekrans home with his bride!

CHORUS OF WEDDING GUESTS. [Animated, yet softly, in the forest
to the left.]
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. [Aside during the chorus.]
Heaven he praised then! Hemming has told--!

ALFHILD. [Jubilant.]
They come, they come, their voices I hear!
How sweetly it sounds! O Olaf, behold!

LADY KIRSTEN. Olaf, my son!

[Rushes to him unobserved by ALFHILD, who continues to look out
to the left.]

OLAF. God help me! What's here!
My mother!

LADY KIRSTEN. My poor unfortunate son!
Now are you saved from the evil one!
There comes Lord Arne with Ingeborg, your wife!

OLAF. [With a cry and as if suddenly awakening.]
Ingeborg!--With that have you shattered my life!
My happiness then was not what it seemed!
Alas, that you had to inform me of this!

OLAF. [In despair.]
Dear mother! a beautiful dream I have dreamed;
You waken me now,--there's an end to my bliss!

* * * * *

SCENE XIII

[The Preceding. ARNE, INGEBORG, HEMMING, WEDDING
GUESTS, and LADY KIRSTEN from the left.]

ARNE. Good luck, Lady Kirsten, to you! You have found him
again, I am told.

LADY KIRSTEN. Of course I have found him.--And now for home!

ARNE. [To OLAF.] And no harm has been done you?

OLAF. [Absent-minded.] Me! What do you mean?

LADY KIRSTEN. [Interrupting.] Of course not, Lord Arne! He
went astray on the hunt and--

INGEBORG. [Pointing to ALFHILD.] But this young woman--?

LADY KIRSTEN. A poor child! She has given him lodging and
shelter.

ARNE. But there is no one who lives up here.

LADY KIRSTEN. Yet a stray one here and there! There is many a
solitary family still dwells among the mountains since the time
of the plague.

ARNE. Then come, come! The horses are waiting below on the
hill.

OLAF. [Painfully, as he glances at ALFHILD.] O mother! I
cannot!

LADY KIRSTEN. [Softly and resolute.] You must! It will be your
eternal shame if you--

ARNE. What does he mean?

LADY KIRSTEN. He is sick and tired as yet, but it will pass off.
Come!

LADY KIRSTEN. [With a significant look at OLAF.] The young
woman comes too!

INGEBORG. You mean that she--!

LADY KIRSTEN. Faithfully has she nursed him; it is only fitting
that she be rewarded.

ARNE. And tomorrow the wedding is held!

LADY KIRSTEN. Tomorrow,--that I solemnly swear!

ARNE. I have your word!

HEMMING. [Softly and triumphant, as he brings forth the ring.]
And I have Ingeborg's golden ring!

INGEBORG. [Takes the ring from him and says carelessly.]
My ring! Aha,--so you have my ring, Hemming! Thanks, I shall
now take care of it myself!

[HEMMING stands a moment dumfounded and then follows very slowly
the rest, who all except ALFHILD go out to the left.]

* * * * *

SCENE XIV

[ALFHILD. Shortly afterwards THORGJERD from the
background.]

ALFHILD. (Has observed in silent and childlike amazement
the preceding scene without however heeding the
action; when they are gone she suddenly comes to
herself as from a dream.)

They are gone! Can I trust my eyes;--is it true?
Yes, here in the moonlight they stood in full view!
There I see them again down the mountain side,
And I must go with them, for I am the bride!

[Starts as if to rush out to the left.]

THORGJERD. [In the background.]
Alfhild! my child! And how come you here?
I have told you before--

ALFHILD. O my father dear!
Now must I be free--as free as the wind,
No longer can I in the hills be confined!

THORGJERD. [Comes nearer.] What has befallen you?

ALFHILD. [In ecstasy.] Now is he come!

THORGJERD. But who?

ALFHILD. The fair knight! He will carry me home!
Now first do I grasp all the restless desire,
That long has been smouldering in me like fire!
We often have sat, as the river rushed by,
While you sang of the princess enthralled in the hill!
The princess, my father! the princess am I;
But he, the fair knight, bent the troll to his will!--
And now I am free to do what I may;
I will hence into life and its motley affray!
His words were like song! I am free as the wind;
No power can stay me or hold me behind!

THORGJERD. Poor child! You would down to the village below;
It will cost you your happiness; stay, do not go!

ALFHILD. But, father, I must! Your sweetest lays
Will seem to me now like a misty haze!

THORGJERD. Then go, my Alfhild! and dream while you may,
Your father will guard you alway!
But look you take care of the crafty young swains
With words so cunning and free!

ALFHILD. Away in the distant and sunny domains,--
Where Olaf is, there must I be!
There stands his castle with golden hall!
From the ballads you sang his face I recall;
The king's son is he, the knight who can ride,
And I, the poor Alfhild,--I am his bride!
Poor, did I say,--no, the princess on high,
O, more than the princess,--his sweetheart am I!

[The wedding chorus is heard far down the mountain side.]

ALFHILD. Listen, he calls with his trumpet and horn!
Farewell now, forest and flower and thorn!
Farewell, my valley; you have cramped me too long,
The whole world is calling with laughter and song!
Tomorrow attired in gold I shall ride
Away to the church as Olaf's bride!
We shall sit on the throne of honor within--
Ah, now shall my life in its fulness begin!

[She rushes out to the left. THORGJERD gazes after her
thoughtfully. The chorus dies away in the distance as the
curtain falls.]

* * * * *

SECOND ACT

[The enclosure on Lady Kirsten's estate. To the right
is seen the main building with an opening in the
gable; neither windows nor doors are visible. Further
towards the back of the stage on the same side a small
log church and a churchyard. On the left side a
storehouse and other out-buildings. On both sides in
the foreground simple benches of stone. It is
afternoon.]

SCENE I

[LADY KIRSTEN. Servants and Maids occupied with preparations for
the wedding.]

LADY KIRSTEN. Let there be no lack of food or drink.

LADY KIRSTEN. [To herself.] Hard have I labored and struggled
to bring things to this point; but now I shall give a feast that
shall be heralded far and wide.

LADY KIRSTEN. [To the servants.] Be sure to see that on the
banquet table--yet no, I shall attend to that myself. The wine
shall be poured into the silver flagons; the large drinking horns
shall be filled with the Italian cider; the ale is for the
servants only, and likewise the homebrewed mead;--and listen, be
sure to see that there are enough yellow candles in the church;
the bridal party are not to go to the altar until late in the
evening, and with red lights shall they be escorted on their way
from the banquet hall to the church. Go now, all of you, and see
that you remember, every one of you, the things I have told you.

[The people go.]

LADY KIRSTEN. God knows this wedding is costing me more than I
well can bear; but Ingeborg brings with her a good dowry and
besides--Oh, well, Arne I shall no doubt be able to manage and
rule as I see fit, if he is first--

[Looks out to the right.]

LADY KIRSTEN. There comes Olaf! If only I knew that he--

* * * * *

SCENE II

[LADY KIRSTEN. OLAF comes from the house in festive
garb; he is pale and thoughtful.]

OLAF. [To himself.] Yesterday and today! There is but a
midsummer night between the two, and yet it seems to me that both
autumn and winter have overtaken my soul since the time I
wandered up there on the mountain side--with her, with Alfhild!

OLAF. [Notices Lady Kirsten.] Alas, my dear mother, are you
there?

LADY KIRSTEN. Quite so, my son! I like to see you dressed in
gold and in silk. Now one can see by your dress who it is that
is bridegroom tonight. I see you have rested.

OLAF. I have slept, but little have I rested; for all the while
I was dreaming.

LADY KIRSTEN. A bridegroom must dream,--that is an ancient
custom.

OLAF. My fairest dream is ended; let us not think any longer
about that.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Changing the subject.] We shall have a merry
time today, I think.

OLAF. It does not appear that heaven is pleased with my wedding
day.

LADY KIRSTEN. How so?

OLAF. There are indications of a storm. Do you see how heavily
the clouds are gathering in the west?

LADY KIRSTEN. The brighter the festive candles will shine when
you go to the church tonight.

OLAF. [Paces back and forth a few times; at length he stops
before his mother and says.] If I had married a poor man's
daughter, without family or wealth,--tell me, mother, what would
you have done?

LADY KIRSTEN. [Looks at him sharply.] Why do you ask?

OLAF. Answer me first. What would you have done?

LADY KIRSTEN. Cursed you and gone to my grave in sorrow!--But
tell me, why do you ask?

OLAF. Ah, it was only a jest; I little thought of doing so.

LADY KIRSTEN. That I can believe; for you have always held your
family in high honor. But be merry and gay; tomorrow Ingeborg
will sit in there as your wife, and then you will find both peace
and happiness.

OLAF. Peace and happiness. One thing there is lacking.

LADY KIRSTEN. What do you mean?

OLAF. The fairest of flowers which I was to pick asunder and
scatter far to the winds.

LADY KIRSTEN. The silly dream;--think no longer about it.

OLAF. Perhaps it would be best for me if I could forget.

LADY KIRSTEN. In the ladies' room your betrothed sits with all
her maids; little have you talked with her today. Do you not
want to go in?

OLAF. [In thought.] Yes, yes! Where is she?

LADY KIRSTEN. In the ladies' room, as I said.

OLAF. [Lively.] Nothing shall be lacking to her from this day.
Shoes with silver buckles I shall give her; she shall wear
brooches and rings. The withered twigs shall be put away; I
shall give her a golden necklace to wear.

LADY KIRSTEN. Of whom do you speak?

OLAF. Of Alfhild!

LADY KIRSTEN. I was speaking of Ingeborg, your betrothed. Olaf!
Olaf! You make me anxious and worried,--so strange are you. I
could really almost believe that she had bewitched you.

OLAF. That she has! Yes, forsooth, mother, I have been
bewitched. I have been in the elf maidens' play; happy and gay I
was as long as it lasted, but now--. Through long, long years I
shall be weighed down with woe as often as I call it to mind.

LADY KIRSTEN. If she were a witch, the stake would surely be
hers; but she is a crafty and wily woman who has lured you on
with her fair speech.

OLAF. She is pure as the mother of God herself!

LADY KIRSTEN. Yes, yes, but beware! Remember, whatever she is,
tomorrow you are wed; it would be both sin and shame to you if
you longer took notice of her.

OLAF. I realize it, mother, full well!

LADY KIRSTEN. And Ingeborg, whom you have betrothed and who
loves you, yes, Olaf! loves you with all her heart--the
punishment of heaven would be visited on you, in case you--

OLAF. True, true!

LADY KIRSTEN. I will not speak of our own circumstances; but you
can easily see that Arne's daughter can help us greatly in one
thing or another; our affairs have been going from bad to worse,
and if the harvest should fail this year I should not in the
least be surprised if we had to take up the beggar's staff.

OLAF. Yes, I know it.

LADY KIRSTEN. With Arne's money we can mend everything; an
honorable place you will win for yourself among the king's men.
Think this carefully over; if you have promised Alfhild more than
you can fulfil--and I seem to notice in her something like that
in spite of her quiet demeanor--why, speak with her about it.
Tell her,--well, tell her anything you please; empty-handed she
shall not go away from here,--that you can freely promise. See,
here she comes! Olaf, my son! think of your betrothed and your
noble race, think of your old mother who would have to go to her
grave in shame, in case--be a man, Olaf! Now I go in to look
after the banqueting table.

[Goes into the house.]

* * * * *

SCENE III

[OLAF alone.]

OLAF. [Gazes out to the right.]
As merry she is as the youthful roe,
As it plays with no thought of the morrow;
But soon will she wring her small hands in woe,
And suffer in anguish and sorrow!
Soon must I destroy the faith in her heart,
And waken her out of her dreams.
And then--yes, then we forever must part.
Poor Alfhild! So bitter your fate to me seems!

OLAF. [Brooding.]
What cared I for honor, what cared I for power,
What mattered my race when I wandered with you!
It seemed in your eyes was reflected a flower,
More precious than any the world ever knew!
Forgotten I had both struggle and strife,
But since I again came home to this life,
Since at table I sat in my father's hall,
Since I went to answer my mother's call--

OLAF. [Abruptly.] 'Tis true from a noble race I am born,
And Alfhild lives up in the mountains forlorn.
In her I should find but a constant sorrow.
I must tell her--yet, no, I can't let her know!
Yet truly--I must--I must ere the morrow,
She must hear what to me is the bitterest woe!

* * * * *

SCENE IV

[OLAF. ALFHILD from the church.]

ALFHILD. [Runs eagerly to meet him.]
Olaf! Olaf! You have led me to the land
Where I walk amid flowers, where before I trod on sand.
In truth you have here so pleasant an isle,
O here I can live without worry or guile!
So much I would question, so little I know,
The riddles must you explain as we go.--
Is it green here always in summer and spring?

OLAF. Alfhild!

ALFHILD. Your answer delay!
You see yon house with its spire and wing?
There went I this morning to play;
Without there was joy, there was laughter and mirth;
Within it was still as nowhere on earth.
I stepped through the door, I saw a great hall,
Within was a peace that was fair;
A dawn softly breaking pervaded it all,
And people were kneeling in prayer.
But high from above them a virgin looked down,
She sailed upon clouds of white,
Her head shone forth like a crimson crown,
Like heaven when dawns the light.
Calm was her face, a blue dress she wore,
A beautiful elf in her arms she bore,
And round about her played angels of love,
That laughed when they saw me below in the door
From their place in the heavens above!

OLAF. [Aside.] Alas! I have wrought so woeful a play,
Soon will her sorrow begin!

ALFHILD. O, tell me, Olaf! what people are they
Who live in the house I was in?

OLAF. Each one who like you is good and kind,
Each one who is child-like in spirit and mind.
'Tis the church, God's house,--it belongs to him.

ALFHILD. The mighty father! 'Tis only your whim!
His house is high over the stars in the sky,
Where the white swan sails undefiled,
So high 'tis beyond any mortal eye
Save that of the dreaming child!--
The church that you spoke of! So then it is there
We shall ride in festal procession,
As bridegroom and bride!

OLAF. [Aside.] No longer I dare
Delay my wretched confession!

ALFHILD. Ah, each of your words has burned like a coal,
And deep its mark it has left on my soul!
My bosom is filled with joy and with song;
Wherever I wander in field or at home,
They shine on my path, they light me along,--
Like stars at night in the heavenly dome!
You said the whole world would be asked to the feast,
And foremost should ride the minstrel and priest,
Knights should go forward and guide my steed,
And roses should blossom on every side,
Each lily we met should bow like a weed,
The flowers should curtsy before the bride!

OLAF. Have I said--

ALFHILD. Olaf, you surely recall!
All things have followed your every desire;
The lindens stand yonder so green and so tall;
The roses are decked in their festive attire
And dance like elves at an elfen ball.
Never did heaven's illumining eye
So radiantly shine as here from the sky;
Never before sang the birds so sweet!
They sing the bride and the bridegroom to greet!--
O, you--you make me so happy and blessed,
Both heaven and earth could I hold to my breast!
Nowhere can so humble a weed be found
Which under my feet I could crush and destroy,
Nowhere a creature so deep in the ground,
But I would share in its sorrow and joy!
My bosom is filled with the glory of spring;
It surges and roars like a wood in a storm!

OLAF. [Aside.] And soon this youthful and lovely form
Shall writhe beneath sorrow's tormenting sting!

ALFHILD. O, glorious life!

[She kneels with upstretched arms.]

ALFHILD. O father of love,
In the distant heaven! Had I but the power,
The tongues of the angels above,
Thy praise I should sing every hour;
I cannot, for I am of little worth,
I can only bow down before you to the earth--
O thanks, thou unspeakable! Glory and praise
For all I can here understand of thy ways!

[She rises.]

ALFHILD. Yes, lovely is life in its every breath,
As lovely almost as the journey to death!

OLAF. In the grave you think it is pleasant to lie?

ALFHILD. I know not your meaning, but I brooded long.
And asked of my father "What means it to die?"
In answer thereto he sang me a song:

"When the child of man is weighted with grief
And longs to be rocked to rest,
Then comes there an elf with wings of white
And frees its spirit oppressed.

"The little elf with his wings of white
Makes ready a downy bed,
Of lilies he weaves the linen sheets
And pillows of roses red.

"Away on the pillows he carries the child,
He carries it safe on his arm,
He takes it to heaven aloft on a cloud
Away from all earthly harm.

"And cherubs there are in the heaven above
(I tell what is true to you);
They strew the pillows of rosy red
With pearls of white and of blue.

"Then wakens the little earthly child,
It wakens to heavenly mirth,--
But all that happiness, all that joy
There's no one that knows here on earth."

OLAF. 'Twere better, alas! had you never come here,
Had you lived in the mountain your peaceful life.
Your joy like a weed will wither and sear,
Your faith will be killed--

ALFHILD. But as Olaf's wife
I am strong as the torrent and have no fear!
With you by my side let happen what may,
With you I will laugh and suffer and languish.

ALFHILD. [Listening.] Hush, Olaf! You hear that mournful lay,
It sounds like a song of the bitterest anguish!

CHORUS OF PALLBEARERS. [Softly outside to the right.]
The little child we carry
With sorrow to the grave,
Beneath the mould we bury
What soon the worms will crave.

Hard is this lot and dreary:
With mournful dirge and sigh
To carry sad and weary
The child where it shall lie!

ALFHILD. [Uncertain and anxious.]
What is it, Olaf? What is it, I say?

OLAF. A child that death is bearing away,
A mother and children weep on the way.

ALFHILD. Death! Then where are the pillows of red,
The lily-white linen, and where is the dead?

OLAF. I see no pillows of red or of gray,
But only the dark black boards of the bier;
And thereon the dead sleeps on shavings and hay.

ALFHILD. On shavings and hay?

OLAF. That is all there is here!

ALFHILD. And where is the elf who bears on his arm
The child far away from all earthly harm?

OLAF. I see but a mother whose heart will break,
And little children who follow the wake.

ALFHILD. And where are the pearls of blue and of white,
That the angels strew in the heaven of light?

OLAF. I see only this,--they weep many a tear
As they stand at the side of the bier.

ALFHILD. And where is the home, the house of God,
Where the dead dream only of mirth?

OLAF. Behold! Now they place him beneath the sod
And cover him over with earth.

ALFHILD. [Quiet and thoughtful, after a pause.]
Not so was death in the song--not so.

OLAF. 'Tis true; but no such joy and pleasure
Has any one felt here below.--
Have you never heard of the mountain king's treasure,
Which night after night like gold would glow;
But if you would seize the gold in your hand,
You nothing would find save gravel and sand;
And listen, Alfhild! it often is true
That life turns out in the selfsame way;
Approach not too near, it may happen to you,
That you burn your fingers some day.
'Tis true it may shine like a heavenly star,
But only when seen from afar.

[He becomes aware of Lady Kirsten off the stage to the right.]

OLAF. My mother--she'll tell you--I shall depart.
The angels above send their peace to your heart!

[He goes towards the house but is stopped by LADY KIRSTEN.--The
sky becomes overcast with dark clouds; the wind begins to howl
in the tree-tops.--ALFHILD stands absorbed in deep thought.]

* * * * *

SCENE V

[The Preceding. LADY KIRSTEN.]

LADY KIRSTEN. [Softly.] Not so, my son, you have told her--?

OLAF. All I was able to say I have said. Now you tell her the
rest, and then, mother, let me never, never see her again.

[He casts a glance at ALFHILD and goes out past the house.]

LADY KIRSTEN. That folly will soon be burned out of his
soul, if--

LADY KIRSTEN. [As if she suddenly has an idea.] But in case
I--Ah, if that could succeed, then would he be cured,--that I can
promise. But Alfhild--? Well, nevertheless, it must be
attempted.

ALFHILD. [To herself.]
So then there is here too anguish and woe;
Well, so let it be; I shall never despair.
The sorrow of earth I never need know,
Still Olaf is good and fair!

LADY KIRSTEN. [Approaches.] It seems to me that gloomy thoughts
are weighing upon your mind.

ALFHILD. Yes, yes, the result of things I have recently heard.

LADY KIRSTEN. From Olaf?

ALFHILD. Certainly from Olaf; he has told me--

LADY KIRSTEN. I know, Alfhild. I know what he has said.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside.] He has mentioned to her his wedding, I
see.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aloud.] This very night it is to be held.

ALFHILD. What is to be held?

LADY KIRSTEN. The wedding!

ALFHILD. [Eagerly.] Oh, yes, that I know!

LADY KIRSTEN. You know it and do not take it more to your heart
than this?

ALFHILD. No. Why should I take it to heart?

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside.] There is something she is meditating,--I
see that clearly.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aloud.] Well, so much the better for all of us.
But tell me, when the wedding is over, what then will you do?

ALFHILD. I? I have little thought of that.

LADY KIRSTEN. I mean, have you in mind to remain here or to go
home?

ALFHILD. [Looks at her, surprised.] I have in mind to remain!

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside.] There we have it; she thinks to hold him
in her wiles even after he is wed. Well, we shall see about
that.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aloud.] Alfhild! I wish you every possible
good, and if you dared rely on my--

ALFHILD. Yes, that I certainly dare!

LADY KIRSTEN. Well and good; then you will let me take upon
myself your happiness. I shall take charge of you as best I know
how, and if you but give me your word you shall this very night
go to the church as a bride.

ALFHILD. Yes, I know that.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Surprised.] You know that! Who has told you?

ALFHILD. Olaf himself said so.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside.] Has Olaf--? Yes, forsooth, he has had
the same idea that I had, to marry her off in order to be rid of
her. Or perhaps in order to--well, no matter,--when she is
finally married, when Olaf on his side is a married man, then--

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aloud.] Well and good, Alfhild! If Olaf has
told you our intention for you, then it is not necessary for me
to--But do you now hasten, go in there in the store house; there
you will find my own wedding gown; that you shall wear!

ALFHILD. [With childlike joy.] Shall I! Your own wedding gown!

LADY KIRSTEN. Do as I say. Go in there and dress yourself as
splendidly as you please.

ALFHILD. And do I also get a bridal crown?

LADY KIRSTEN. Certainly! A bridal crown and silver rings and
golden bracelet. You will find plenty of them in the coffers and
chests.

ALFHILD. Silver rings and golden bracelets!

LADY KIRSTEN. Go, go, and hurry as fast as you can.

ALFHILD. O, I shall not be long about it.

[Claps her hands.]

ALFHILD. I shall have silver rings and golden bracelets!

[She runs out to the left.]

* * * * *

SCENE VI

[LADY KIRSTEN alone.]

LADY KIRSTEN. The evil and cursed woman! Happy and gay she is
though she knows that Olaf is to wed another. But that very fact
will serve me well; it will go easier than I had thought. She
looks as innocent as a child, and yet she can agree to take him
as a husband whom I first pick out for her. And I who thought
that she truly loved Olaf! If he is still ignorant of her real
spirit, he shall soon learn. He shall know her to the core, he
shall know how she has bewitched and lured him, and then, well,
then she is no longer dangerous.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Smiling.] Well, well! Olaf thought of the same
way of saving himself that I did; so good-natured I had never
imagined him.--But where shall we find the man who is willing
to--well, she is pretty, and I shall not mind a little silver and
even a bit of land. Has Olaf already spoken to some one? That
is hardly thinkable!--Well, then I shall see to that. I have
servants enough on the estate and--

[Looks out to the right.]

LADY KIRSTEN. Hemming! what if I should try him! But he saw
them together in the mountain yesterday; he must surely know
there is something between the two. But none the less--he is a
humble serving-man, and poor besides, and weak of mind--we shall
see, we shall see!

* * * * *

SCENE VII

[LADY KIRSTEN. HEMMING from the right.]

HEMMING. [To himself.] Nowhere is Ingeborg to be found; she
will bring me to my grave,--that is certain. Yesterday she was
gracious to me; she gave me her ring; but then she took it away
from me again; and today she will not so much as look at me as I
pass.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Slowly, as she approaches.] A little cautious I
must be.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aloud.] Ah, Hemming, is it you? You prefer to
wander alone, I see; you keep yourself away from the servants and
maids; when I see such things I realize very well that you do so
not without reason.

HEMMING. Why, my noble lady! what should--

LADY KIRSTEN. Yes, Hemming! there is something that you keep all
to yourself as you go about; you are not very cheerful!

HEMMING. [Disconcerted.] Not cheerful? I?

LADY KIRSTEN. [Smiling.] There is here today a young and
beautiful girl whom you fancy very much.

HEMMING. All saints!

LADY KIRSTEN. And she in turn has a fancy for you.

HEMMING. Me--Whom? I do not know whom you mean.

LADY KIRSTEN. Come, Hemming, do not speak so; before me you need
not feel ashamed. Yes, yes, I see clearly, I tell you.

HEMMING. [Aside.] Heaven! she must have noticed by Ingeborg's
manner that--

LADY KIRSTEN. I have seen that the wedding is but little joy to
you. The trip to the church you care little about, since you
would yourself like to go as a groom, yet cannot see your way
clear.

HEMMING. [In the greatest agitation.] Alas, Lady Kirsten! my
noble, august lady! be not offended!

LADY KIRSTEN. [Surprised.] I? And why should I be offended?

HEMMING. [Continuing.] I have struggled and fought against this
unhappy love as long as I have been able, and I honestly believe
she has done the same.

LADY KIRSTEN. She? Has she then told you that she cares for
you?

HEMMING. Yes, almost!

LADY KIRSTEN. Well and good; then you talked about it together?

HEMMING. Yes,--but only once, only one single time, I swear.

LADY KIRSTEN. Once or ten times, it is all the same to me.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside.] Then they are already agreed; it was
certainly a stroke of luck that I came upon Hemming; now I am not
at all surprised that Alfhild was so willing to go to the altar.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Aloud.] Hemming! I am much indebted to you for
finding my son again and for otherwise being of help to me; now I
shall make requital,--I shall to the limit of my power stand by
you in the matter we just spoke of.

HEMMING. [Overcome with joy.] You! You will! Lady Kirsten!
Alas, great God and holy saints! I hardly dare believe it.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Stops.] But Lord Olaf, your son! What do you
think he will say?

LADY KIRSTEN. He will not interpose any objection,--I shall see
to that.

HEMMING. [Unsuspecting.] Yes, truly, it would be best for him
too, for I know she cares little for him.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Smiling.] That I have noticed, Hemming!

HEMMING. Have you! Well, you are so clever, Lady Kirsten! And
I who thought that I was the only one who had noticed it.

HEMMING. [Doubtfully.] Do you think that Lord Arne will give
his consent?

LADY KIRSTEN. Your master? I shall know how to talk him into
it,--that will not be so difficult.

HEMMING. You think so? Alas, but I am so poor a man.

LADY KIRSTEN. I shall remedy that all right, in case Lord Arne
is not prepared to do so.

HEMMING. Thanks, thanks, Lady Kirsten! Heaven reward you for
your kindness!

LADY KIRSTEN. But you will keep this that we have been speaking
of to yourself.

HEMMING. That I promise.

LADY KIRSTEN. Then hold yourself in readiness; the guests will
assemble out here in a little while now, and do you be on hand.

[She goes over to the door of the store house and looks for
ALFHILD.]

HEMMING. [To himself.] No, this is to me like a strange
illusive dream. Ingeborg and I,--we are to belong to
each other! Ah, can it be true? So high I never dared let
my thoughts ascend;--it seemed to me in the morning that
I had been guilty of the greatest presumption if during
the night I had dreamed about it.--Hm! I know very
well of course that it is not for my sake that Lady Kirsten
goes to all this trouble. She has something up her sleeve;
she thinks it necessary to break the agreement with Lord
Arne, and now that she has noticed that Ingeborg cares for
me she will use that as an excuse. Well, I have so often
given my master warning, but he will never believe me.

ARNE. [Calls outside to the left.] Hemming! Hemming!

LADY KIRSTEN. [Comes forward.] Your master calls! Go now!
After a while I shall speak to him; he will agree. Believe me,
he shall follow his page to the church in the same hour that he
leads his daughter thither.

HEMMING. Thanks, thanks, Lady Kirsten! Truly, you confer a
blessing on us all.

[He goes out to the left.]

LADY KIRSTEN. [To herself.] So young she is and yet so cunning;
she has been coquetting with Hemming all the while she made my
son believe that--Well and good, he shall soon learn to know her
arts. But first I must see Lord Arne; he thinks highly of
Hemming and would reluctantly part with him; it seemed too that
Hemming feared that something like that might stand in the way;
but they can easily remain as they are even if Hemming
marries.--Hemming sees more clearly in the affair than I had
expected. What will Olaf say, he asked; he has evidently noticed
that my son still thinks of Alfhild. Well, let him; if he takes
her he will say nothing, and when Alfhild is married,--I know
Olaf; he has always wanted to stand in high honor among the men
of the village, and for that reason he will certainly--yes, yes,
it must, it shall succeed.

[She goes out to the right.]

* * * * *

SCENE VIII

[HEMMING comes from the left with a bowl of ale hidden
under his coat. ARNE follows him cautiously, looking
about.]

ARNE. Is there anyone?

HEMMING. No, come along, master.

ARNE. But it seemed to me I heard Lady Kirsten.

HEMMING. She is gone now, come along!

ARNE. [Sits down on the bench to the left.] Hemming! it is
well that the wedding is to be held tonight. Tomorrow I go home;
yes, that I will. Not a day longer will I remain in Lady
Kirsten's house.

HEMMING. Why, master! is there enmity again between you?

ARNE. Is it not enough, do you think, that she and all her
superior relatives look down on me; at supper they laughed and
jested among themselves because I could not bring myself to eat
of all those ungodly, outlandish dishes. And what was it that we
got to drink? Sweet wine and cider that will stay in my stomach
for eight days. No, the good old homebrewed ale for me.

[Drinks and adds softly and bitterly.]

ARNE. Of this I had sent the wretched woman three full barrels.
And what has she done? Thrown it to her servants, and here I
must steal myself a drink,--yes, Hemming! steal myself a drink of
my own ale, that they may not revile me as a coarse peasant, who
doesn't understand the more refined drinks.

HEMMING. Well, master! I gave you warning.

ARNE. Ah--gave me warning! You are stupid, Hemming! You think
I haven't noticed it myself; but wait, just wait!

ARNE. [Flaring up.] To place my good nourishing ale before the
house servants, as though it were not worthy to be put on the
table of a lord.--

HEMMING. Yes, Lady Kirsten treats you ill, that is certain.

ARNE. [Hands him the bowl.] Come, sit down and drink!

ARNE. [HEMMING sits down.] Listen, Hemming! I could wish we
were home again.

HEMMING. Well, I have no fancy for this festive home.

ARNE. No, my old room at Guldvik for me;--when we sat there of
an evening and played chess with the ale jug between us--

HEMMING. The while Mistress Ingeborg sat at the loom and
embroidered roses and all sorts of flowers in the linen--

ARNE. And sang all the time so merrily that it seemed to me that
I became young and active again. Yes, Hemming! when the wedding
is over, we shall go back and live our old ways again.

HEMMING. But then there will be no one who works the loom and
sings merry lays the while.

ARNE. No, that is true enough; Ingeborg will then be gone. It
will be a little hard on me; she is wild and self-willed, but I
shall miss her nevertheless,--miss her greatly.

ARNE. [Considers.] Now and then I suppose I could visit her
here--But no, that I will not! Here they laugh at me, they
whisper behind my back,--I see it well enough.

HEMMING. But in case you wished, it could still be changed.

ARNE. Changed! You are stupid, Hemming! Always you talk about
changing.

ARNE. [Hands him the bowl.] Come, drink, it will do you good.
Changed; no, no, it shall never be changed! It was evil spirits
who put into my head the idea of marrying into Lady Kirsten's
family. But now it is done; the superior kinsmen will have to
behave as they please, but my own relatives and friends shall not
laugh at me,--if I have given my word, I shall keep it too.

ARNE. [Disheartened.] If I only knew that Olaf would be kind to
her; I shall ask him to--.

ARNE. [Vehemently.] He _shall_ be kind, else I shall come
and beat him with my old fists.

HEMMING. Yes, it is well that you keep your eye on her, for Olaf
cares little for her, I do believe.

ARNE. So, you think so?

HEMMING. Do you remember Alfhild, the poor girl, who yesterday
followed us down from the mountain?

ARNE. Indeed I do. She is pretty!

HEMMING. [Rises.] So thinks Olaf, too.

ARNE. What does that mean?

HEMMING. Olaf loves her! 'Tis many a time he visited her up
there;--what Lady Kirsten has told you, you must never believe.

ARNE. And what you blab about I believe still less. You are
provoked with Ingeborg because at times she makes fun of you, and
therefore you begrudge her this attractive marriage; yes, yes, I
know you too well.

HEMMING. Why, master! you could believe that--

ARNE. Make me believe that Olaf Liljekrans loves that beggar
woman! A noble, high-born lord such as he! It is almost as if
one were to say that Ingeborg, my daughter, had a fancy for you.

HEMMING. [Embarrassed.] For me--how could you ever imagine--

ARNE. No, I don't imagine! But the one is as unreasonable as
the other. Come, drink! and don't talk any more such nonsense.

ARNE. [Rises.] There is Lady Kirsten with the guests. What's
going to happen now?

HEMMING. They are all to assemble out here; they will then
follow the bride and bridegroom to the banquet-table and thence
to the church.

ARNE. Aye, what a cursed custom! To the church at night! Is
then marriage a work of darkness?

* * * * *

SCENE IX

[The Preceding. LADY KIRSTEN, OLAF, INGEBORG,
GUESTS, and SERVANTS and MAIDS enter gradually
from the several sides.]

LADY KIRSTEN. [To herself.] I have not seen Olaf alone; but
when I think it over, it is probably best that he know nothing
about it until it is all over.

LADY KIRSTEN. [Softly, to HEMMING, who has been whispering with
INGEBORG.] Well, Hemming! How do you think your master is
disposed?

HEMMING. Alas, Lady Kirsten! I have but little hope unless you
lend your aid.

LADY KIRSTEN. Aye, we'll manage it all right.

[She mingles with the GUESTS.]

INGEBORG. [Softly, to HEMMING.] What do you mean? What blessed
hope is it you are speaking of?

HEMMING. Alas, I hardly dare believe it myself; but Lady Kirsten
means well by us. She will soon show you that--

INGEBORG. Hush! they are approaching.

OLAF. [In an undertone.] Tell me, mother! how goes it with her?

LADY KIRSTEN. Well enough, as I knew before.

OLAF. Then she knows how to comfort herself?

LADY KIRSTEN. [Smiling.] It seems so. Only wait! This very
evening you shall know for certain.

OLAF. What do you mean?

LADY KIRSTEN. I mean that she is a sly witch. All her fair
words have been deceitful wiles.

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