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Master Olof: A Drama in Five Acts. by August Strindberg

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pieces)--and from the ban of the Church, too! So help me God!

Crowd (howling). Anathema!

Marten. Down with him! At him! He is banned!

Olof (placing himself in front of the Harlot). Do you hear the
devils yelling for their victim?--Dare not to touch me!

Marten. At him! Down with him!

[Just as one of the mercenaries raises his weapon to strike, the
iron door in the rear is flung open, and the Anabaptists, headed
by Knipperdollink, come rushing in, uttering wild cries. They
carry broken crucifixes and images of saints as well as torn vestments.
All those in the room before are forced toward the street door.]

Knipperdollink (as he pushes back the iron door and enters ahead
of the rest). Come here, folk--here's another sanctum!--What's
this? A drinkshop in the temple!--Look ye! Look ye--the
abomination has gone so far that the tabernacle itself is being
polluted. But I will cleanse it with fire. Set fire to the church
and prepare a stake for the saints!

Olof (stepping forward). Consider what you propose to do!

Knipperdollink. Are you afraid that the beer kegs will burst from
the heat, you Belial? Are you the popish tapster who thought it
not robbery to build vice a chapel in the very wall of the

Olof. I am the Secretary of the Court-House, and I command you
in the name of the King to keep order!

Knipperdollink. So you are the man whom the King has sent here to
make war on our sacred cause? Onward, onward, ye men of God,
and seize him first of all! Afterwards we'll cleanse the temple
of the Lord from idolatry.

Marten. Go at him, good folk, for he's a heretic and under the

Knipperdollink. A heretic? You are not one of the papists, then?

Olof. Since they have banned me, I can no longer be of the

Knipperdollink. Then you are on our side? (Olof remains silent.)
Answer: are you with us or against us?

Marten. He's Olof Pedersson, the man that was sent here by the

Knipperdollink. Are you Olof Pedersson?

Olof. I am.

Knipperdollink. But a heretic?

Olof. I pride myself on being one.

Knipperdollink. And yet take service with the King?

Olof. Yes!

(The Anabaptists raise an outcry and surround Olof.)

[Enter Gert quickly through the door in the rear.]

Gert. Hold! What are you doing?

Knipperdollink. Gert!--Who is this man?

Gert. One of our own. Let him go, friends! Over there you see the
emissaries of the Devil!

(He points to Marten and Nils, who flee through the street door,
closely pursued by the Anabaptists. At the door Gert stops and
turns toward Olof. The Harlot is crouching in a corner of the
room. Windrank is still sleeping under one of the tables. Olof is
standing in the middle of the floor, sunk in deep thought.)

Gert (exhausted, throws himself on a bench). It's heavy work,

Olof. What have you been doing?

Gert. Oh, a little house-cleaning, to begin with.

Olof. For which you will pay dearly.

Gert. So far we have the upper hand. The whole city has been
roused. Rink is at work in St. George's Chapel. Tell me, has the
King sent you to oppose us?

Olof. He has.

Gert. That was a most sensible thing to do!

Olof. To-morrow I am to preach from the new pulpit.

Gert. Do you call this fulfilling your royal mission? Here you
are, still standing with your arms folded.

Olof. Come to church to-morrow with your brethren.

Gert. Is it going to be an archipapal sermon?

Olof. I have been put under the ban to-day.

Gert (jumps up and puts his arms around Olof). God bless you,
Olof! That is indeed the baptism of new birth!

Olof. I don't understand you yet. Why do you carry on like wild
beasts? You seem to be outraging all that is held sacred.

Gert (picking up the broken image of a saint). Do you call this
fellow holy? A St. Nicolaus, I think. Can it be possible, then,
that Jesus Christ has come down and lived among us to no purpose,
as we are still worshipping logs of wood? Can this be a god,
which I can break to pieces? See!

Olof. But he is sacred to the people.

Gert. So was the golden calf, and so was Zeus; so were Thor and
Odin, too. And yet they were struck down. (Catches sight of the
Harlot.) Who's that woman? Oh, the one I tried to save by sending
her in here. Tell me one thing, Olof. Have you been bought by the

Olof. Leave me, Gert! I hate you!

Gert. Who's that pig asleep over there?

Olof. When I face you, I seem to shrink. Leave me! I want to do
my own work, and not yours.

Gert. Listen!

Olof. You are trying to confuse my fate with your own.

Gert. Listen!

Olof. You have surrounded me with an invisible net. You have
proclaimed me an Anabaptist. How am I going to face the King?

Gert. Which king?

Olof. King Gustaf!

Gert. Oh, that one!--Well, good-bye, then, Olof.--So
you're going to preach to-morrow?--Why doesn't that
woman go her way?--Good-bye! [Exit.]

0lof. Is that man running errands for God or for Satan?

Harlot (approaches Olof and kneels before him). Let me thank you!

Olof. Give thanks for God alone for having saved your soul, and
don't think that all your sins have been expiated to-day. Try to
find strength to live a life that will always be cursed. God has
forgiven you--your fellow-men will never do so! (He takes her by
the hand and leads her to the street door.)

[Enter Marten through the doorway in the rear, followed by Olof's
Mother and Christine, the daughter of Gert.]

Marten. We're in the wrong place, I fear.

Mother (outraged at seeing Olof and the Harlot together). Olof,

Christine. Who is that woman? She looks so unhappy.

Marten. Let us get away from this den of iniquity!

Olof (turning and running toward the iron door, which is closed
in his face by Marten). Mother! Mother!
[He runs out through the other door.]

(The stage is darkened.)


(The Same Room. The door to the church is opened cautiously, and
The Sexton, who is also the organ-blower, enters warily. He
carries a lantern and is followed by his Wife.)

Sexton. Catherine dear, will you hold the lantern a moment while
I put on the padlock?

Wife. First we must have a look at all this wretchedness, Bengt
dear. Never could I have believed that the public-house was so
near to us. It's perfectly dreadful! Look--whole barrels full of

Sexton. And gin, too. Don't you smell it? It will give me a
headache if I stay much longer.

Wife. Lord have mercy, what a sinful life they must have lived in

Sexton. Catherine dear!

Wife. Yes, dear.

Sexton. Do you know I am not feeling quite well. This place is so
damp and cold.

Wife. Perhaps we had better go home?

Sexton. Oh, I think I must sit down and rest on the bench here.

Wife. You shouldn't sit down in all this dampness and cold. Let
us get back into the church.

Sexton. No, I think it was still colder out there.

Wife. You haven't a fever, have you?

Sexton. I almost think I have--I'm so hot.

Wife. Maybe you want something to drink?

Sexton. That wouldn't be a bad thing, perhaps.

Wife. I'll see if there is any water around.

Sexton. Don't think you'll find any in this kind of a hole.

Wife. But you can't drink beer if you have a fever.

Sexton. Do you know, I think the fever has passed away. Now I'm
feeling cold.

Wife. I'll see if I can't find some small beer.

Sexton. It has to be pretty strong, I think, if it's to do any
good. There's a keg of Rostock No. 4 over there--marked A. W.,
don't you see?

Wife (searching). I can't find it. Here's an Amsterdam No. 3.

Sexton. Can't you see--up there on the fourth shelf at the right?
(His wife continues to look.) The tap is lying to the left of it,
right by the funnel.

Wife. I don't think it's there.

Sexton. Just as if I didn't know!

Wife. Yes, here it is.

(The Sexton gets up to help his wile and accidentally steps on

Windrank (waking up). Mercy! Jesu Christ! St. Peter and St. Paul!
Ferdinand and Isabella, and St. George and the Dragon, and all
the rest! And ires dire glories in excellence, and deuces tecum
vademecum Christ Jesu, and birds of a feather, and now I lay me
down to sleep, and a child is born for you to keep--Amen! Amen!--
Who's stepping on my windbag?

Sexton (frightened). Will you please tell me whether you are a
man or a ghost?

Windrank. Man most of the time, but just now I'm a beast.

Sexton. What kind of a man, if I may ask?

Windrank. A shipman--which is nor reason why you should blow all
the wind out of me.

Sexton. But that's my business, you know--I blow the bellows of
the big organ.

Windrank. So it was the organ-blower who honored me--

Sexton. The sexton, to put it right; but I also keep an old-clothes
shop in the church wall.

Windrank. So you're organ-blower, sexton, and shopkeeper--

Sexton. In one person--without confusion or transformation--

Windrank. That's a most respectable trinity.

Sexton. Such things should not be made fun of!

Windrank. Oh, my, my! I'm drowning! Help!

Sexton. Lord, what is it?

Windrank. There's a whole river coming--Ugh!

Sexton. Catherine dear! Where are you, my angel? (He runs to look
for her.) Jesu, but you must have scared my wife out of her wits.
She has run away from the keg--and taken the tap along! Get up--
up with you, and let us leave this godless hole!

Windrank. No, my dear fellow, I'm in my element now, so I think
I'll stay.

Sexton. Goodness, the clock is striking twelve, and the ghosts
will be coming!

Windrank (jumping to his feet). That's a different story! (The
Sexton guides Windrank toward the door.) Listen, sexton--I'm
beginning to have strong doubts about the trinity.

Sexton. Well, I declare!

Windrank. It's your trinity I'm thinking of.

Sexton. What do you mean, master skipper?

Windrank. I think there must be four of you, after all.

Sexton. Four--of whom?

Windrank. How about the tapster? Shouldn't he be counted, too?

Sexton. Hush, man! That's only nights.

(Both stumble over the broken image of St. Nicolaus and fall

Windrank. Mercy! Ghosts! Jesu Maria, help!

Sexton (rising and picking up the image). Well, if that isn't
enough to make your hair stand on end! Here's St. Nicolaus broken
all to pieces and swimming in the beer. It has come to a fine
pass when divine things are defiled like that--I don't think the
world will last much longer--when such things can be done in the
dry tree--

Windrank (having recovered). In the wet one, you mean.

Sexton. Keep still, blasphemer! St. Nicolaus is my patron saint.
I was born on his day.

Windrank. That's probably why both of you like beer.

Sexton. Yes, it's in the fashion now to be heretical!

Windrank. It's in the air, I think, for otherwise I'm a most
God-fearing man. But never mind, I'll have St. Nicolaus glued
together for you.

Sexton (calling into the church). Catherine!

Windrank. Hush, hush, man! You'll make the ghosts appear!

Sexton. A plague on your tongue! [Exeunt.]


(The Sacristy of the Church of St. Nicolaus. There is a door
leading to the church, and another, smaller one, leading to the
pulpit. The walls are hung with chasubles and surplices.
Priedieus and a few small chests are standing about. The sunlight
is pouring in through a window. The church bells are heard
ringing. Through the wall at the left can be heard a constant
murmuring. The Sexton and his Wife enter, stop near the door, and
pray silently.)

Sexton. That's enough! Now, Catherine dear, you'd better hurry up
and do some dusting.

Wife. Oh, there's no special occasion. It's nobody but that
Master Olof who's going to preach to-day. Really, I can't see why
the Chapter allows it.

Sexton. Because he's got permission from the King, you see.

Wife. Well, well!

Sexton. And then he has had a sort of basket built out from the
wall--nothing but new-fangled tricks! It's all on account of that
man Luther.

Wife. I suppose we'll have the same kind of trouble that we had
yesterday. I thought they were going to pull the whole church

Sexton (carrying a glass of water up to the pulpit). I'm sure
the poor fellow will need something to wet his whistle to-day.

Wife. Well, I shouldn't bother, if I were you.

Sexton (speaking from the pulpit). Catherine--here he comes!

Wife. Goodness gracious, and the sermon bell hasn't rung yet!
Well, I suppose they won't ring it for a fellow like him.

[Enter Olof, looking serious and solemn. He crosses to one of the
prie-dieus and kneels on it. The Sexton comes down from the pulpit
and takes from the wall a surplice which he holds out to Olof.]

Olof (rising). The peace of the Lord be with you!

[The Wife curtseys and leaves the room. The Sexton holds out the
vestment again.]

Olof. Leave it hanging!

Sexton. Don't you want any robe?

Olof. No.

Sexton. But it's always used. And the handkerchief?

Olof. Never mind.

Sexton. Well, I declare!

Olof. Will you please leave me alone, my friend?

Sexton. You want me to get out? But as a rule, I--

Olof. Do me the favor, please!

Sexton. Oh, well! Of course! But first I want to tell you that
you'll find the missal to the right of you as you get up, and I
have put in a stick so you'll know where to open it, and there is
a glass of water beside the book. And you mustn't forget to turn
the hour-glass, or it may chance you'll keep it up a little too

Olof. Don't worry! There will be plenty of people to tell me when
to quit.

Sexton. Mercy, yes--beg your pardon! But you see, we've got our
own customs here.

Olof. Tell me, what is that depressing murmur we hear?

Sexton. It's some pious brother saying prayers for a poor
soul. [Exit.]

Olof. "Thou therefore gird up thy loins and arise, and speak unto
them all that I command thee."--God help me! (He drops on his
knees at a prie-dieu; there he finds a note, which he reads.)
"Don't preach to-day; your life is in danger."--The Tempter
himself wrote that! (He tears the note to pieces.)

[Enter Olof's Mother.]

Mother. You are straying from the right path, my son.

Olof. Who knows?

Mother. I know! But as your mother I reach out my hand to you.
Turn back!

Olof. Where would you lead me?

Mother. To godliness and virtue.

Olof. If godliness and virtue are vested in papal decrees, then I
fear it is too late.

Mother. It isn't only a question of what you teach, but of how
you live.

Olof. I know you are thinking of my company last night, but I am
too proud to answer you. Nor do I think it would do any good.

Mother. Oh, that I should be thus rewarded for the sacrifice I
made when I let you go out into the world and study!

Olof. By heaven, your sacrifice shall not be wasted! It is you,
mother, I have to thank for this day when at last I can stand
forth with a free countenance and speak the words of truth.

Mother. How can _you_ talk of truth, you who have made yourself a
prophet of lies?

Olof. Those are hard words, mother!

Mother. Or perhaps I and my forbears have lived and worshipped
and died in a lie?

Olof. It wasn't a lie, but it has become one. When you were
young, mother, you were right, and when I grow old--well, perhaps
I may find myself in the wrong. One cannot keep apace with the

Mother. I don't understand!

Olof. This is my one sorrow--the greatest one of my life: that
all I do and say with the purest purpose must appear to you a
crime and sacrilege.

Mother. I know what you mean to do, Olof--I know what error you
have fallen into--and I cannot hope to persuade you out of it,
for you know so much more than I do, and I am sure that the Lord
will put you on the right path again--but I ask you to take care
of your own life, so that you won't plunge headlong into
perdition! Don't risk your life!

Olof. What do you mean? They won't kill me in the pulpit, will

Mother. Haven't you heard that Bishop Brask wants the Pope to
introduce the law that sends all heretics to the stake?

Olof. The inquisition?

Mother. Yes, that's what they call it.

Olof. Leave me, mother! To-day I must stand up and preach.

Mother. You shall not do it.

Olof. Nothing can prevent me.

Mother. I have prayed to God that He would touch your heart--I'll
tell you, but you mustn't speak of it to anybody. I am weak with
age, and I couldn't trust my own knees, so I went to see a
servant of the Lord and asked him, who is nearer to God, to say
some prayers for your soul. He refused because you are under the
ban. Oh, it's dreadful! May the Lord forgive me my sin! I bribed
the pure conscience of that man with gold--with the Devil's own
gold--just to save you!

Olof. Mother, what do I hear? It can't be possible!

Mother (takes Olof by the hand and leads him over to the left,
close to the wall). Listen! Do you hear? He is praying for you
now in the chapel next to this room.

Olof. So that was the murmur I heard! Who is he?

Mother. You know him--Brother Marten, of the Dominicans--

Olof. You get Satan to say prayers for me!--Forgive me, mother--
I thank you for your good intention, but--

Mother (on her knees, weeping). Olof! Olof!

Olof. Don't ask me! A mother's plea might tempt the angels of
heaven to recant!--Now the hymn is ended: I must go! The people
are waiting.

Mother. You'll send me into my grave, Olof!

Olof (passionately). The Lord will resurrect you! (Kissing her
hand.) Don't talk to me any more--I don't know what I am saying!

Mother. Listen! Listen! The people are muttering!

Olof. I'm coming! I'm coming! He who protected Daniel in the
lions' den will also protect me!

(Olof ascends the stairs leading to the pulpit. Throughout the
ensuing scenes a man's voice can be heard speaking with great
power, but no words can be distinguished. After a while
mutterings are heard, which change into loud cries.)

[Enter Christine.]

Christine. Mother, did you see him?

Mother. Are you here, child? I asked you to stay at home!

Christine. Why shouldn't I visit the house of the Lord? There is
something you hide from me!

Mother. Go home, Christine!

Christine. May I not hear Olof preach? It's the word of God,
isn't it, mother? (The Mother remains silent.) You don't answer?
What does it mean? Hasn't Olof permission to preach? Why do the
people out there look so mysterious? They were muttering when I

Mother. Don't ask me! Go home and thank God for your ignorance!

Christine. Am I a child, then, since nobody dares to tell me--

Mother. Your soul is still pure, and nobody must defile it. What
place is there for you in the battle?

Christine. Battle? I thought so!

Mother. Yes, here the battle rages, and so you must get out of
the way. You know our lot when the men go to war.

Christine. But let me first know what it is all about. Not to
know anything at all makes me so unhappy. I see nothing but a
dreadful darkness, and shadows that are moving about--Give me
light, so that I may see clearly! Perhaps I know these ghostly

Mother. You will shudder when you see who they are.

Christine. It is better to shudder than to be tormented by this
horrible calm.

Mother. Don't pray for the cloud to flash forth lightning: it
may destroy you!

Christine. You frighten me! But tell me the truth--I must know--
or I shall ask some one else.

Mother. Are you firm in your decision to withdraw within the
sacred walls of the convent?

Christine. My father wishes it.

Mother. You hesitate? (Christine does not answer.) There is some
tie that holds you back.

Christine. You know?

Mother. I know, and tell you to break it!

Christine. It will soon be impossible.

Mother. I will save you, child, for you can still be saved. I
will offer the Lord the greatest sacrifice of all if a single
soul can be saved from perdition--my son!

Christine. Olof?

Mother. He's lost, I tell you, and I, his mother, have to tell
you so!

Christine. Lost?

Mother. He is a prophet of lies. The Devil has taken possession of
his soul.

Christine (passionately). It isn't true!

Mother. God grant that you are right!

Christine. Why--why haven't you told me this before?--But, of
course, it's a lie! (She goes to the door leading into the church
and pushes it ajar.) Look at him, mother--there he is! Can that
be an evil spirit speaking out of his mouth? Can that be a
hellish flame burning in his eyes? Can lies be told with
trembling lips? Does darkness shed light--can't you see the halo
about his head? You are wrong! I feel it within me! I don't know
what he preaches--I don't know what he denies--but he is right!
He is right, and the Lord is with him!

Mother. You don't know the world, my child. You don't know the
tricks of the Devil. Beware! (She pulls Christine away from the
door.) You mustn't listen to him. There is no strength in your
soul, and he's the apostle of Antichrist!

Christine. Who is Antichrist?

Mother. He is a Luther!

Christine. You have never told me who Luther is, but if Olof is
his apostle, then Luther must be a great man.

Mother. Luther is possessed of the Devil!

Christine. Why didn't you tell me before? Now I can't believe

Mother. I am telling you now--Alas, I wanted to save you from the
world's wickedness, and so I kept you in ignorance--

Christine. I don't believe you! Let me go! I must see him--I must
listen to him--for he doesn't talk like the rest.

Mother. Jesus, my Saviour! Are you, too, possessed by the unclean

Christine (at the door). "Bind not the souls," he said--did you
hear? "You are free, for the Lord has set you free." See how the
people shudder at his words--now they rise up--they mutter. "You
want no freedom--woe unto you! For that is the sin against the
Holy Ghost!"

[Enter Sexton.]

Sexton. I don't think it's well for you to stay here any longer,
my good ladies. The people are getting restless. This will never
end well for Master Olof.

Mother. Jesu Maria! What are you saying?

Christine. Fear not! The spirit of the Lord is with him!

Sexton. Well, I don't know about that, but he's a wonder at
preaching. Old sinner that I am, I couldn't keep from crying
where I was sitting in the organ-loft. I don't understand how it
can be possible for a heretic and an Antichrist to talk like
that. That man Luther, I must say, I--(Cries are heard from the
church.) There, there! Now something dreadful is going to happen
again! And to think that the King should be gone just now!

Mother. Let us get away from here. If the Lord is with
him, they can do him no harm. If it he the Devil--then Thy will
be done, O Lord--but forgive him!

(Cries are heard outside. Exeunt the Mother, Christine, and the
Sexton. For a few moments the stage stands empty and Olof's
voice is heard more clearly than before. It is interrupted by
cries and the rattling of stones thrown at the pulpit. Christine
returns alone, locks the door on the inside, and falls on her
knees at a prie-dieu. A number of violent blows are directed
against the door from without, while the tumult in the church
continues to increase. Then silence is restored, as Olof descends
from the pulpit. His forehead is bleeding and he wears a haggard

Olof (dropping into a chair without perceiving Christine).
In vain! They will not! I take the fetters from the prisoner, and
he hits me. I tell him he is free, and he doesn't believe me. Is
that word "free" so big, then, that it can't be contained in a
human brain? Oh, that I had one at least who believed--but to be
alone--a fool whom no one understands--

Christine (coming forward). I believe in you, Olof!

Olof. Christine!

Christine. _You_ are right!

Olof. How do you know?

Christine. I can't tell, but I believe it. I have been listening
to you.

Olof. And you do not curse me?

Christine. You are preaching the word of God, are you not?

Olof. I am!

Christine. Why have we not been told these things before? Or why
have they been told us in a language that we do not understand?

Olof. Who has put those words into your mouth, girl?

Christine. Who? I haven't thought of asking.

Olof. Your father?

Christine. He wants me to enter a convent.

Olof. Has it come to that? And what is your own wish?

Christine (catching sight of Olof's bleeding forehead). They have
hurt you, Olof! For heaven's sake, let me help you!

Olof (sitting down again). Have I unsettled your faith,

Christine (takes the handkerchief, tears it into strips, and
begins to dress Olof's wounds while speaking). My faith? I don't
understand you.--Tell me, who is Luther?

Olof. I mustn't tell you.

Christine. Always the same answer! From my father, from your
mother, and from yourself. Are you timid about telling me the
truth, or is the truth really dangerous?

Olof. Truth is dangerous. Can't you see? (He points to his

Christine. So you want me to be shut up in a convent cell to live
a lifeless life in ignorance? (Olof does not reply.) You want me
to weep away my life and my youth, and to keep on saying those
endlessly long prayers until my soul is put to sleep? No--I won't
do it, for now I am awake. All around me they are fighting, and
suffering, and despairing. I have seen it, but I was to have no
share in it. I was not even to look on, or to know the purpose of
the fighting. You wanted me to be sunk in bestial slumber. But
don't you believe me possessed of a soul, then--a soul that
cannot be satisfied by bread or by dry prayers put into my mouth
by others? "Bind not the spirits," you said. Oh, if you could
only know how that word pierced me! Daylight came, and those wild
cries out there sounded like the singing of birds in the morning--

Olof. You are a woman, Christine, and not born to fight!

Christine. But in the name of God, let me suffer, then! Only not
be asleep! Don't you see that the Lord has awakened me in spite
of all? You have never dared to tell me who Antichrist was. You
have never dared to tell me who Luther was, and when your mother
called you a Luther, I blessed Luther. If he be a heretic or a
believer, I don't know, and I don't care; for no one--whether it
be Luther, or the Pope, or Antichrist-can satisfy my immortal
soul when I have no faith in the eternal God.

Olof. Will you follow me into the battle, Christine? For you can
sustain me, and you only!

Christine. Now I am able to answer you with a frank "yes," for I
know my own will--and I can do so without asking father first,
for I am free. Oh, I am free!

Olof. And do you know what is in store for you?

Christine. I know! You will not have to shatter my mocking dreams
--they are already gone. But you may be sure that I, too,
have been dreaming of a knight who was to lay a kingdom at my
feet and talk to me of flowers and love--Olof, I want to be your
wife! Here is my hand! But this much I must tell you: that you
never have been the knight of my dreams, and that I thank God he
never came. For then he had also gone--as a dream.

Olof. Christine, you want to be mine--and I will make you happy.
For when I suffered sorrow and temptation, you were always in my
mind--and now you shall be at my side! You were the maiden of my
dreams, kept captive in a tower by the stern castellan--and now
you are mine!

Christine. Beware of dreams, Olof!

(Blows are heard on the door from outside.)

Olof. Who is that?

Voice (outside). Gert.

Olof. What will he say? My promise--

Christine. Are you afraid? Shall I open?

(Olof opens the door.)

[Enter Gert.]

Gert (starting at the sight of his daughter and Olof).
Christine?--You have broken your promise, Olof!

Olof. I have not.

Gert. You lie! You have stolen my child, my one solace.

Christine. Olof is not lying.

Gert. You have been to church, Christine?

Christine. I have heard what you didn't want me to hear.

Gert. O Lord, this only joy Thou hast begrudged me!

Olof. The stream that you wanted to set free takes its
victims where it can.

Gert. You have robbed me of her, of my child!

Olof. Give her to me, Father Gert!

Gert. Never!

Olof. Is she not free?

Gert. She is my child.

Olof. Are you not preaching freedom? She is mine! The
Lord has given her to me, and you cannot take her away.

Gert. You are--thank God--a priest.

Olof and Christine. A priest!

Gert. And as such you cannot marry.

Olof. And if I do?

Gert. You would dare?

Olof. I would.

Gert. Do you want a man who is under the ban, Christine?

Christine. I don't know what that means.

Olof. There you see, Gert, there you see!

Gert. Thy punishment is harsh, O Lord!

Olof. The truth is for all.

Gert. Your love is greater than mine, which was nothing but
selfishness. God bless you! Now I stand alone! (He embraces
them.) There, now! Go home, Christine, and set their minds at
rest. I want to speak to Olof. (Exit Christine.) Now you belong
to me.

Olof. What do you mean?

Gert. Kinsman!--You got my letter?

Olof. It was you who advised me not to preach?

Gert. Quite the contrary, although I expressed myself somewhat

Olof. I don't understand.

Gert. No--no! You are still too young, and so you need a
providence. To a man like you one says "Let be" when one wants
him to do something.

Olof. Why were you and your followers not in church?

Gert. None but the sick need doctors. We were busy elsewhere. You
have done a good piece of work to-day, and I see that you have
got your reward for it. I have set you free to-day, Olof.

Olof. _You_ have?

Gert. The King commanded you to quiet the rebellious, and what
have you been doing?

Olof. Now I begin to understand you, Father Gert.

Gert. I am delighted! Yes, you have aroused even the calmest.

Olof. So I have.

Gert. What do you think the King will say to that?

Olof. I shall have to face it.

Gert. Good!

Olof. The King will approve my actions, for he wants a
reformation, although he does not yet dare to start one himself.

Gert. You idiot!

Olof. I see that you want to set me against my lawful sovereign.

Gert. Tell me, how many masters do you think you can serve? (Olof
makes no reply.) The King is here.

Olof. What do you say?

Gert. The King has just returned.

Olof. And the Anabaptists?

Gert. Locked up, of course.

Olof. And you stand here so calmly?

Gert. I am old now. Once I used to rage like you, but it only
tired me out. Rink and Knipperdollink have served as my outposts.
They had to fall, that's plain; now my work begins.

(Drum-beats are heard from the street.)

Olof. What is that?

Gert. The royal drums that keep the captives company to prison.
Come here and see!

Olof (mounting one of the benches and looking out of the window).
What do I see? Women and children are dragged along by the

Gert. Well, they have been throwing stones at the King's guard.
Do you think such things can be allowed?

Olof. But are madmen and sick people to be put into prison?

Gert. There are two kinds of madmen. One kind is sent to the
hospital and treated with pills and cold baths. Those of the
other kind have their heads cut off. It is a radical treatment,
but then, for a fact, they are rather dangerous.

Olof. I'll go to the King. He cannot wish such dreadful things to

Gert. Take care of your head, Olof!

Olof. Take care of your own, Father Gert!

Gert. No danger in my case, for I have a warrant for the asylum.

Olof. I cannot bear to see these things. I am going to the King,
even if it cost my life. (He goes toward the door.)

Gert. This is a matter not to be settled by the King. You should
appeal to the law.

Olof. The King is the law!

Gert. Unfortunately!--If the horse knew his own strength, he
would never be mad enough, as he is now, to bear the yoke. But
when once in a while he gets his reason back and runs away from
his oppressors, then they call him mad--Let us pray the Lord to
give these poor creatures their reason back!



(A Hall in the Royal Palace at Stockholm. In the background is
a gallery which can be partitioned off by curtains. In elderly
servant of the palace is pacing back and forth in the gallery.)

Enter Olof.

Olof. Is the King receiving to-day?

Servant. Yes.

Olof. Can you tell me why I have been kept waiting here in vain
four days at a stretch?

Servant. No, heavens, I know nothing at all.

Olof. It seems strange that I have not been admitted.

Servant. What is it about?

Olof. That's none of your concern!

Servant. Of course not! I understand that, but I thought I might
be able to give some information, perhaps.

Olof. Have you charge of the King's audiences?

Servant. Oh, heavens, no! But you see, when a man hears as much
as I do, he knows a little of everything. (Pause.)

Olof. Do you think I shall have to wait long? (The servant
pretends not to hear.) Do you know if the King is coming soon?

Servant (with his back turned to Olof). What?

Olof. Do you know to whom you are talking?

Servant. No, I don't.

Olof. I am the King's Secretary.

Servant. Oh, mercy, are you Master Olof? I knew your father,
Peter the Smith, for I am also from Orebro.

Olof. Well, can't you be civil in spite of that?

Servant. Well, well! That's what happens when one gets on a
little in this world--then one's humble parents are forgotten.

Olof. It is possible that my father actually honored you with his
acquaintance, but I doubt that he put you in a parent's place to
me when he died.

Servant. Well, well! I declare! It must be hard on Dame
Christine! [Exit to the left.]

[Olof is left alone for a while. Then Lars Siggesson, the Lord
High Constable, enters from the right.]

Constable (throwing his cloak to Olof without looking at him).
Will the King be here soon?

Olof (catching the cloak and throwing it on the floor). I do not

Constable. Bring me a chair.

Olof. That's not my office.

Constable. I am not familiar with the instructions of the

Olof. I am no doorkeeper!

Constable. I don't care what you are, and I don't carry with me a
list of the menials, but you will have to be civil! (Olof remains
silent.) Well, what about it? I think the Devil has got into you!

Olof. Pardon me, but it is no part of my duty as secretary to
wait on anybody.

Constable. What? Oh, Master Olof! Why, first you sit at the door
playing lackey, and then you drop the mask and step forth as the
Lord Himself! And I took you to be a proud man. (He picks up his
cloak and places it on a bench.)

Olof. My Lord Constable!

Constable. But, no, you are only a vain upstart! Please step
forward and be seated, Mr. Secretary.

[He points Olof to a seat and goes out into one of the

[Olof sits down. A young Courtier enters through the gallery and
salutes Olof.]

Courtier. Good morning, Secretary! Is nobody here yet? Well, how
is everything in Stockholm? I have just arrived from Malmo.

Olof. Oh, everything is going wrong here.

Courtier. So I have heard. The mob has been muttering as usual
whenever the King's back is turned. And then there are those fool
priests!--I beg your pardon, Secretary, but, of course, you are
a freethinker?

Olof. I don't quite understand.

Courtier. Don't mind me, please. You see, I have been educated in
Paris. Francis the First--O Saint-Sauveur!--that's a man who has
extreme views. Do you know what he told me at a bal masque
during the last carnival? (Olof remains silent.) "Monsieur," he
said, "la religion est morte, est morte," he said. Which didn't
keep him from attending mass.

Olof. Is that so?

Courtier. Do you know what he replied when I asked him why he did
so?--"Poetry! Poetry!" he said. Oh, he is divine!

Olof. What did you answer?

Courtier. "Your Majesty," I said--in French, of course--
"fortunate the land that has a king who can look so far beyond
the narrow horizon of his own time that he perceives what the
spirit of the age demands, without trying to urge the masses to
embrace that higher view of life for which they will not be ready
for many centuries to come!" Wasn't that pretty clever?

Olof. Oh, yes, but I think it must have lost a great deal in
being translated. Things of that kind should be spoken in French.

Courtier (preoccupied). You are quite right.--Tell me--your
_fortune_ ought to be assured--you are so far in advance of your

Olof. I fear I shall not get very far. My education was
neglected, unfortunately--I studied in Germany, as you may know--
and the Germans are not beyond religion yet.

Courtier. Indeed, indeed! Can you tell me why they are making
such a hubbub about that Reformation down there in Germany?
Luther is a man of enlightenment--I know it--I believe it--but
why shouldn't he keep it to himself, or at least not waste any
sparks of light on the brutish herd to which they can be nothing
but so many pearls thrown to the swine. If you let your eye
survey the time we are living in--if you make some effort to
follow the great currents of thought--then you will easily
perceive the cause of that disturbed equilibrium which is now
making itself felt in all the great civilized countries; I am not
talking of Sweden, of course, which is not a civilized country.
Can you name the centre of gravity--that centre which cannot be
disturbed without everything going to pieces--the instability of
which tends to upset everything? The name of it is--the nobility.
The nobility is the thinking principle. The feudal system is
falling--and that means the world. Erudition is in decay.
Civilization is dying. Yes, indeed--You don't believe that? But
if you have any historical outlook at all, you can see that it is
so. The nobility started the Crusades. The nobility has done this
and that and everything. Why is Germany being torn to pieces?
Because the peasantry has risen against the nobility, thus
cutting off its own head. Why is France safe--la France? Because
France is one with the nobility, and the nobility is one with
France--because those two ideas are identical, inseparable. And
why, I ask again, is Sweden at present shaken to its nethermost
foundations? Because the nobility has been crushed. Christian the
Second was a man of genius. He knew how to conquer a country. He
didn't cut off a leg or an arm--nay, he cut off the head. Well,
then! Sweden must be saved, and the King knows how. The nobility
is to be restored, and the Church is to be crushed. What do you
say to that?

Olof (rising). Nothing! (Pause.) You are a freethinker?

Courtier. Of course!

Olof. You don't believe, then, that Balaam's ass could talk?

Courtier. Gracious, no!

Olof. But I do.

Courtier. Really?

[Enter Lars Andersson.]

Lars Andersson. The peace of the Lord be with you, Olof.

Olof (embracing him). Well met, Lars!

Courtier. Populace! [Exit.]

Lars. Well, how do you like living here?

Olof. It's so close!

Lars. Somewhat!

Olof. And no room overhead.

Lars. That's why they find it so hard to keep their backs

Olof. In ten minutes I have become so much of a courtier that I
know how to be silent when an ass is talking.

Lars. There is no harm in that.

Olof. What does the King think?

Lars. He doesn't tell.

(A number of people have begun to gather in the hall.)

Olof. How does he look?

Lars. Like an interrogation point followed by several exclamation

[Enter Bishop Brask. All give way before him. The Lord High
Constable, who has returned in the meantime, goes to meet him and
exchanges greetings with him. Olof salutes the Bishop, who looks

Brask (to the Constable). Is this a place for the clerks?

Constable. It ought not to be, but our King is so very gracious.

Brask. Condescending, you mean?

Constable. Exactly.

Brask. The audience is well attended to-day.

Constable. Mostly formal calls occasioned by the happy return of
His Highness.

Brask. It is a pleasure, my Lord Constable, to offer His Highness
our sincere felicitations on the happy solution of this question.

Constable. It is indeed courteous in Your Grace to incur the
trouble of such a long journey--especially at Your Grace's
advanced age.

Brask. Unfortunately, my health is not always to be depended

Constable. Is Your Grace not enjoying good health? It is hard to
feel one's strength failing, particularly for one who occupies
such an exalted and responsible position.

Brask. You look very well, my Lord Constable.

Constable. Yes, thank God! (Pause.)

Brask (seating himself). Don't you think there is a draught here,
my Lord?

Constable. It seems so. Perhaps we might order the doors to be

Brask. No, thank you, that will not be necessary. (Pause.)

Constable. The King is long in coming.

Brask. Yes.

Constable. Perhaps you won't find it worth your while to wait for

Brask. Perhaps not!

Constable. With your permission, I will send word to Your Grace's

Brask. As I have waited so long, I think I shall wait a little
longer. (Pause.)

Servant. His Highness!

[Enter Gustaf.]

Gustaf. I bid you welcome, gentlemen. (He takes a seat at a
table.) If you will please step out into the antechamber, I will
receive you one at a time. (All retire except Bishop Brask.) Our
Lord Constable will stay.

Brask. Your Highness!

Gustaf (raising his voice). Sir Lars! (Brask goes out, the
Constable remaining; pause.) Speak! What am I to do?

Constable. Your Highness, the State has lost its prop, and
therefore it is toppling over; the State has an enemy that has
grown too strong for it. Restore the prop, which is the nobility,
and crush the enemy, which is the Church!

Gustaf. I dare not!

Constable. You must, Your Highness!

Gustaf. What's that?

Constable. First of all: Brask is in correspondence with the Pope
to have the inquisition established here. Lubeck is insisting on
her shameless demands and threatens war. The treasury is empty.
There is rebellion in every nook and corner of the country--

Gustaf. That's enough! But I have the people with me.

Constable. I beg your pardon--you have not. There are the
Dalecarlians, for instance--a spoiled lot, always disputing with
those of Lubeck about the honor of having bestowed a king on
Sweden. They are ready to rebel on the slightest occasion, and
they are coming forward with demands like these: "There shall he
no outlandish customs used, with slittered and motley colored
clothes, such as have of late been brought into the King's

Gustaf. 'Sdeath!

Constable. "Whosoever eats meat on Fridays or Saturdays shall be
burned at the stake or otherwise made away with." And furthermore,
"There shall be no new faith or Lutheran teachings foisted
upon us." What a treacherous, impudent people!

Gustaf. And yet there was a time when they showed themselves to
be men.

Constable. Well, what wonder if they carried water when their
house was afire? How many times have they broken troth and faith?
But they have so often heard themselves lauded that they have
come to give the name of "old Swedish honesty" to their own brute

Gustaf. You belong to the nobility!

Constable. Yes, and it is my conviction that the peasant has
played out his part--the part of a crude force needed to drive
away the enemy by sheer strength of arm. Crush the Church, Your
Highness, for it is keeping the people in fetters. Seize the gold
of the Church and pay the country's debt--and give back to the
reduced nobility what the Church has obtained from it by dupery.

Gustaf. Call in Brask.

Constable. Your Highness!

Gustaf. Call Bishop Brask! [Exit the Constable.]

[Enter Bishop Brask.]

Gustaf. Speak, Your Grace!

Brask. I wish to offer our congratulations on--

Gustaf. I thank Your Grace! And what more?

Brask. There have been complaints from several districts, I am
sorry to say, about unpaid loans of silver exacted from the
churches by Your Highness.

Gustaf. Which you now are trying to recover. Are all the chalices
actually needed for communion?

Brask. They are.

Gustaf Let them use pewter mugs, then.

Brask. Your Highness!

Gustaf. Anything more?

Brask. What is worse than anything else--all this heresy!

Gustaf. No concern of mine! I am not the Pope.

Brask. I have to warn Your Highness that the Church must look out
for her own rights, even if doing so should bring her into

Gustaf. With whom?

Brask. With the State.

Gustaf. Your Church can go to the devil! There, I have said it!

Brask. I knew it.

Gustaf. And you were only waiting for me to say so?

Brask. Exactly.

Gustaf. Take care! You travel with a following of two hundred
men, and you eat from silver, when the people are living on bark.

Brask. Your Highness takes too narrow a view of the matter.

Gustaf. Have you heard of Luther? You are a well-informed man.
What kind of a phenomenon is he? What have you to say of the
movements that are now spreading throughout Europe?

Brask. Progress backward! Luther is merely destined to serve as a
purging fire for what is ancient, descended from untold ages and
well tried, so that it may be cleansed and by the struggle urged
on to greater victories.

Gustaf. I care nothing for your learned arguments.

Brask. But Your Highness is extending protection to criminals and
interfering with the privileges of the Church; for the Church has
been grievously wronged by Master Olof.

Gustaf. Well, put him under the ban.

Brask. It has been done, and yet he remains in the service of
Your Highness.

Gustaf. What more do you want done to him? Tell me? (Pause.)

Brask. Furthermore, he has gone so far as to marry secretly in
violation of the Canon Law.

Gustaf. Is that so? That's quick action.

Brask. It doesn't concern Your Highness? Good and well! But if he
stirs up the people?

Gustaf. Then I'll step in. Anything more?

Brask (after a pause). I ask you for heaven's sake not to plunge
the country into disaster again. It is not yet ripe for a new
faith. We are but reeds in the wind and can be bent--but when it
comes to the faith, or the Church--never!

Gustaf (holding out his hand to the Bishop). Maybe you are right!
But let us be enemies rather than false friends, Bishop Hans!

Brask. Be it so! But do not do what you will regret. Every stone
you tear out of the Church will be thrown at you by the people.

Gustaf. Don't force me to extremes, Your Grace, for then we shall
have the same horrible spectacle here as in Germany. For the last
time: are you willing to make concessions if the welfare of the
country is at stake?

Brask. The Church--

Gustaf. The Church comes first--very well! Good-bye!

[Exit Brask. Reenter the Constable.]

Gustaf. The Bishop has confirmed your statement, and that was
what I wanted him to do. Now we shall need stone-masons who
know how to tear down. The walls will be left, the cross may stay
on the roof and the bell in the tower, but I will clear out the
vaults. One must begin at the bottom!

Constable. The people will think you are taking away their faith.
They will have to be educated.

Gustaf. We'll send Master Olof to preach to them.

Constable. Master Olof is a dangerous man.

Gustaf. But needed just now.

Constable. He has carried on like the Anabaptists instead of
opposing them.

Gustaf. I know. We'll get to that later on. Send him in.

Constable. Lars the Chancellor would be a better man.

Gustaf. Bring them both in.

Constable. Or Olof's brother, Lars Pedersson.

Gustaf. No good yet. He is too soft for fighting, but
his time will come, too. [Exit Constable.]

The Constable returns with Master Olof and Lars Andersson.

Gustaf (to the Chancellor). Do you want to help me, Lars?

Lars. You are thinking of the Church?

Gustaf. Yes, it will have to be torn down.

Lars. I am not the man for that. Your Majesty had better ask
Master Olof.

Gustaf. You won't, then?

Lars. I can't! But I have a weapon for you. (He hands the new
translation of the Bible to the King.)

Gustaf. Holy Writ! A good weapon, indeed! Will you wield it,

Olof. With the help of God--yes!

Gustaf (to Olof, after having signalled to Lars to leave). Have
you calmed down yet, Olof? (Olof does not answer). I gave you
four days to think it over. How have you been carrying out your

Olof (impetuously). I have spoken to the people--

Gustaf. Still in a fever! And you mean to defend those madmen
named Anabaptists?

Olof (bravely). I do!

Gustaf. Steady!--You have married in a hurry?

Olof. I have.

Gustaf. You are under the ban?

Olof. I am.

Gustaf. And still as brave as ever! If you were sent to the
gallows as a rebel with the rest, what would you say then?

Olof. I should regret not being permitted to finish my task, but
I should thank the Lord for having been allowed to do what I have

Gustaf. That's good! Would you dare to go up to that old owl's-nest
Upsala and tell its learned men that the Pope is not God and that
he has nothing to do with Sweden?

Olof. Only that?

Gustaf. Will you tell them that the only word of God is the

Olof. Must that be all?

Gustaf. You are not to mention the name of Luther!

Olof (after some hesitation). Then I will not go.

Gustaf. Would you rather go to your death?

Olof. No, but I know that my sovereign needs me.

Gustaf. It isn't noble to take advantage of my misfortune, Olof.
Well, say anything; you please, but you will have to pardon me if
I take back a part of it afterwards.

Olof. Truth isn't sold by the yard.

Gustaf. 'Sdeath! (Changing tone.) Well, suit yourself!

Olof (kneeling). Then I may say all that is in my mind?

Gustaf. You may.

Olof. Then, if I can only throw a single spark of doubt into the
soul of this sleeping people, my life will not have been wasted.
--It is to be a reformation, then?

Gustaf (after a pause). Yes. (Pause.)

Olof (timidly). And what is to become of the Anabaptists?

Gustaf. Need you ask? They must die.

Olof. Will Your Highness permit me one more question?

Gustaf. Tell me: what do those madmen want?

Olof. The sad thing is that they do not know it themselves, and
if I were to tell you--

Gustaf. Speak out!

[Gert enters quickly, pretending to be insane.]

Gustaf. Who are you to dare intrude here?

Gert. I want most humbly to beseech Your Highness to attest the
correctness of this document.

Gustaf. Wait till you are called.

Gert. Of course, I should like to, but the guards won't wait for
me. I escaped from prison, you see, because my place wasn't

Gustaf. Are you one of those Anabaptists?

Gert. Yes, I happened to get mixed up with them, but here I have
a certificate proving that I belong to the asylum, the third
department for incurables, cell number seven.

Gustaf (to Olof). Send word to the guard.

Gert. That isn't necessary, for I want nothing but justice, and
it's something the guard doesn't handle.

Gustaf (looking hard at Gert). I suppose you have had a share in
those outrages in the city churches?

Gert. Of course, I have! No sane person could behave so madly. We
wanted only to make a few minor alterations in the style. They
seemed too low in the ceiling.

Gustaf. What do you really want?

Gert. Oh, we want a great deal, although we haven't got through
with one-half of it yet. Yes, we want so many things and we want
them so quickly, that our reason cannot keep pace with them, and
that's why it has been lagging behind a little. Yes, we wish
among other things to change the furnishings a little in the
churches, and to remove the windows because the air seems so
musty. Yes, and there is a lot more we want, but that will have
to wait for a while.

Gustaf (to Olof). That's a perilous disease--for anything
else it cannot be.

Olof. Who knows?

Gustaf. Now I am tired. You'll have a fortnight in which to get
ready. Your hand that you will help me!

Olof. I will do my part.

Gustaf. Give orders to have Rink and Knipperdollink sent to

Olof. And then?

Gustaf. They'll have a chance to escape. That fool over there you
can send back to the asylum. Farewell! [Exit.]

Gert (shaking his clenched fist after Gustaf). Well, are we

Olof. Where?

Gert. Home. (Olof remains silent.) You don't wish to send your
father-in-law to the madhouse, do you, Olof?

Olof. You ask me what I wish--How about my duty?

Gert. Is there no duty above the royal command?

Olof. Are you beginning again?

Gert. What will Christine say if you put her father among madmen?

Olof. Tempt me not!

Gert. Do you see how difficult it is to serve the King? (Olof
does not answer.) I won't make you unhappy, my poor boy. Here's
balm for your conscience. (He takes out a document.)

Olof. What is it?

Gert. A certificate of health. You see, it is necessary to be a
madman among sane people, and sane among mad men.

Olof. How did you get it?

Gert. Don't you think I deserve it?

Olof. I can't tell.

Gert. True enough: you don't yet dare.

[Enter Servant.]

Servant. Will you please go your way. They 're about to sweep.

Gert. Perhaps the place has to be aired, too?

Servant. Yes, indeed!

Gert. Don't forget to open the windows.

Servant. No, you may be sure, and it's needed, too, for we are
not accustomed to this kind of company.

Gert. Look here, old man--I carry a greeting from your father.

Servant. Oh, you do?

Gert. Perhaps you never knew him?

Servant. Why, certainly!

Gert. Do you know what he said?

Servant. No.

Gert. Wet the broom, he said, or you'll get the dust all over

Servant. I don't understand.

Gert. Well, that's your only excuse.

[Exeunt Gert and Olof.]

Servant. Rabble!


(Olof's Study. There are windows in the background, through
which the sun is shining into the room. Trees are visible
outside. Christine is standing at one of the windows, watering
her flowers. While doing so she is prattling to some birds in a
cage. Olof is seated at a table, writing. With an impatient
mien he looks up and across the room to Christine as if he wished
her to keep quiet. This happens several times, until at last
Christine knocks down one of the flower pots, when Olof taps the
floor lightly with his foot.)

Christine. Oh, my poor little flower! Look, Olof, four buds were
broken off.

Olof. Yes, I see.

Christine. No, you don't. You must come over here.

Olof. My dear, I haven't time.

Christine. You haven't looked at the starlings which I bought for
you this morning. Don't you think they sing sweetly?

Olof. Rather.

Christine. Rather?

Olof. It's hard for me to work when they are screaming like that.

Christine. They are not screaming, Olof, but you seem to be more
fond of a night bird that does scream. Tell me, what is the
meaning of the owl that appears on your signet ring?

Olof. The owl is an ancient symbol of wisdom.

Christine. I think that's stupid! Wise people don't love the

Olof. The wise man hates the darkness and the night, but his keen
eye turns night into day.

Christine. Why are you always right, Olof? Can you tell me?

Olof. Because I know it pleases you, my dear, to let me be in the

Christine. Now, you are right again.--What is that you are

Olof. I am translating.

Christine. Read a little of it to me.

Olof. I don't think you could understand it.

Christine. Why shouldn't I? Is it not in Swedish?

Olof. Yes, but it is too abstract for you.

Christine. Abstract? What does that mean?

Olof. You wouldn't understand if I told you, but if you don't
understand what I read to you, then you understand what is meant
by "abstract."

Christine (picking up a piece of half-finished embroidery).
Go on and read while I work at this.

Olof. Listen carefully, then, and forgive me if you find it

Christine. I shall understand because I want to.

Olof (reading). "Matter when considered separate from form is
something wholly without predictability, indeterminable and
indistinguishable. For nothing can originate out of pure
non-being, but only out of the non-being of reality, which is
synonymous with being as a possibility. Being in its possibility
is no more non-being than is reality. For that reason every
existence is a realized possibility. Thus matter is to Aristotle
a much more positive substratum than to Plato, who declares it to
be pure non-being. And thereby it becomes plain how Aristotle
could conceive of matter in its opposition to form as a positive

Christine (throwing aside her work). Stop! Why is it that I
cannot understand that? Have I not the same mental faculties as
you? I am ashamed, Olof, because you have such a poor creature of
a wife that she cannot understand what you say. No, I will stick
to my embroidery, I will clean and dust your study, I will at
least learn to read your wishes in your eyes. I may become your
slave, but never, never shall I be able to understand you. Oh,
Olof, I am not worthy of you! Why did you make me your wife? You
must have over-valued me in a moment of intoxication. Now you
will regret it, and we shall both be unhappy.

Olof. Christine! Don't take it like that, dear! Come and sit here
by me. (He picks up the embroidery.) Will you believe me if I
tell you that I couldn't possibly do a thing like this? Never in
my life could I do it. Are you not then cleverer than I, and am I
not the lesser of us two?

Christine. But why can't you do it?

Olof. For the same reason that you couldn't understand me a
moment ago: I haven't learned how. And perhaps you will feel
happy once more if I tell you that you can learn to understand
this book--which, by the by, is not identical with me--while on
the other hand, I could never learn to do your work.

Christine. Why couldn't you?

Olof. Because I am not built that way and don't want to do it.

Christine. But if you wanted to?

Olof. Well, there, my dear, you have my weak point. I could never
want to do it. Believe me, you are stronger than I, for you have
power over your own will, but I have not.

Christine. Do you think I could learn to understand that book of

Olof. I am convinced of it. But you must not.

Christine. Am I still to be kept in ignorance?

Olof. No, no--understand me right! The moment you understood
what I understand, you would cease to think of me as--

Christine. A god--

Olof. Let it go at that! But believe me, you would lose what now
puts you above me--the power to control your own will--and then
you would be less than I, and I could not respect you. Do you
see? It stakes us happy to overvalue each other; let us keep that

Christine. Now I don't understand you at all, but I must trust
you, Olof. You are right!

Olof. Please leave me alone, Christine--I beg you!

Christine. Do I disturb you?

Olof. There are some very serious thoughts that occupy me. You
know, I expect something decisive to happen today. The King has
abdicated because the people would not do what he desired. To-day
I shall either reach my goal or have to start the fight all over

Christine. May I not be happy to-day, Olof--on Midsummer Eve?

Olof. Why should you be so very happy to-day?

Christine. Why should I not--since I have been set free from
slavery and have become your wife?

Olof. Can you forgive me that my happiness is a little more sober
because it has cost me--a mother?

Christine. I know, and I feel it very deeply. But when your
mother learns of our marriage, she will forgive you and put her
curse on me. Whose burden will then be the heavier? However, it
doesn't matter, because it's borne for your sake. And this much
I know: that terrible struggles are awaiting you; that daring
thoughts are growing in your mind; and that I can never share
your struggle, never help you with advice, never defend you
against those that vilify you--but still I must look on, and
through it all I must go on living in my own little world,
employing myself with petty things which you do not appreciate,
but would miss if they were not attended to. Olof, I cannot
weep with you, so you must help me to make you smile with me.
Come down from those heights which I cannot attain. Leave your
battles on the hilltops and return some time to our home. As I
cannot ascend to you, you must descend to me for a moment.
Forgive me, Olof, if I talk childishly! I know that you are a man
sent by the Lord, and I have felt the blessing with which your
words are fraught. But you are more than that--you are a man, and
you are my husband--or at least ought to be. You won't fall from
your exalted place if you put aside your solemn speech now and
then and let the clouds pass from your forehead. You are not too
great, are you, to look at a flower or listen to a bird? I put
the flowers on your table, Olof, in order that they might rest
your eyes--and you ordered the maid to take them out because they
gave you a headache. I tried to cheer the lonely silence of your
work by bringing the birds--whose song you call screaming. I
asked you to come to dinner a while ago--you hadn't time. I
wanted to talk to you--you hadn't time. You despise this little
corner of reality--and yet that is what you have set aside for
me. You don't want to lift me up to you--but try at least not to
push me further down. I will take away everything that might
disturb your thoughts. You shall have peace from me--and from my
rubbish! (She throws the flowers out of the window, picks up the
birdcage, and starts to leave.)

Olof. Christine, dear child, forgive me! You don't understand me!

Christine. Always the same: "You don't understand me!" Oh, I know
now what it means. In that moment in the sacristy I matured so
completely that I reached my second childhood at once!

Olof. I'll look at your birds and prattle with your flowers, dear

Christine (putting aside the bird-cage). No, the time for prattle
is gone by--from now on we shall be serious. You need not fear my
boisterous happiness. It was only put on for your sake, and as it
doesn't suit your sombre calling, I'll--(She bursts into tears.)

Olof (putting his arms around her and kissing her.)
Christine! Christine! You are right! Please pardon me!

Christine. You gave me an unlucky gift, Olof, when you gave me
freedom, for I don't know what to do with it. I must have some
one to obey!

Olof. And so you shall, but don't let us talk of it any more. Let
us eat now--in fact, I feel quite hungry.

Christine (pleased). Do you really know how to be hungry? (At
that moment she looks out of the window and makes a gesture of
dismay.) Go on, Olof, and I'll be with you in a moment. I only
want to get things in a little better order in here.

Olof (as he goes out). Don't let me wait so long for you as you
have had to wait for me.

(Christine folds her hands as if praying and takes up a position
indicating that she is waiting far somebody about to enter from
the street. Pause.)

[Enter Olof's Mother. She passes Christine without looking at her.]

Mother. Is Master Olof at home?

Christine (who has started to meet her in a friendly way, is
taken aback for a moment; then she answers in the same tone). No,
but if you care to be seated, he will be here soon.

Mother. Thank you! (She seats herself. Pause.) Bring me a glass
of water. (Christine waits on her.) Now you can leave me.

Christine. It is my housewifely duty to bear you company.

Mother. I didn't know that the housekeeper of a priest could call
herself a housewife.

Christine. I am the wife of Olof with the sanction of the Lord.
Don't you know that we are married?

Mother. You are a harlot--that's what I know!

Christine. That word I do not understand.

Mother. You are the same kind of woman as she with whom Master
Olof was talking that evening in the beer-shop.

Christine. The one that looked so unhappy? Yes, I don't feel very

Mother. Of course not! Take yourself out of my sight! Your
presence shames me!

Christine (on her knees). For the sake of your son, don't heap
abuse on me!

Mother. With a mother's authority I command you to leave my son's
house, the threshold of which you have defiled.

Christine. As a housewife I open my door to whom I may choose to
receive. I should have closed it to you, had I been able to guess
what language you would use.

Mother. Big words, indeed! I command you to leave!

Christine. With what right do you force yourself into this house
in order to drive me out of my own home? You have borne a son,
and raised him--that was your duty, your mission, and you may
thank your God for being permitted to fill that mission so well,
which is a good fortune not granted to everybody. Now you have
reached the edge of the grave. Why not resign yourself before the

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