Part 3 out of 3
end comes? Or have you raised your son so poorly that he is still
a child and needs your guidance? If you want gratitude, come and
look for it, but not in this way. Or do you think it is the
destiny of a child to sacrifice its own life merely to show you
gratitude? His mission is calling: "Go!" And you cry to him:
"Come to me, you ingrate!" Is he to go astray--is he to waste his
powers, that belong to his country, to mankind--merely for the
satisfaction of your private little selfishness? Or do you
imagine that the fact of having borne and raised him does even
entitle you to gratitude? Did not your life's mission and destiny
lie in that? Should you not thank the Lord for being given such a
high mission? Or did you do it only that you might spend the rest
of your life clamoring for gratitude? Don't you see that by using
that word "gratitude" you tear down all that you have built up
before? And what makes you presume that you have rights over me?
Is marriage to mean a mortgaging of my free will to anybody whom
nature has made the mother or father of my husband--who
unfortunately could not exist without either? You are not _my_
mother. My troth was not pledged to you when I took Olof as my
husband. And I have sufficient respect for my husband not to
permit anybody to insult him, even if it be his own mother.
That's why I have spoken as I have!
Mother. Alas, such are the fruits borne by the teachings of my
Christine. If you choose to revile your son, it had better be in
his presence. (She goes to the door and calls.) Olof!
Mother. Such guile already!
Christine. Already? It's nothing new, I think, although I didn't
know I had it until it was needed.
Olof. Mother! I am right glad to see you!
Mother. Thanks, my son--and good-bye!
Olof. Are you going? What does that mean? I wish to talk to you.
Mother. No need! She has said all there is to say. You will not
have to show me the door.
Olof. In God's name, mother, what are you saying? Christine, what
does this mean?
Mother (about to leave). Good-bye, Olof! This is more than I can
ever forgive you!
Olof (trying to hold her back). Stay and explain, at least!
Mother. It was not worthy of you! To send her to tell me that you
owe me nothing and need me no more! Oh, that was cruel! [Exit.]
Olof. What did you say, Christine?
Christine. I don't remember, because there were so many things
which I had never dared to think, but which I must have dreamt
while father kept me still enslaved.
Olof. I don't know you any more, Christine.
Christine. No, I begin to feel a little lost myself.
Olof. Were you unkind to mother?
Christine. I suppose I was. Does it seem to you that I have grown
Olof. Did you show her the door?
Christine. Forgive me, Olof! I was not kind to her.
Olof. For my sake you might have made your words a little milder.
Why didn't you call me at once?
Christine. I wished to see if I had the strength to take care of
myself. Olof, would you sacrifice me to your mother, if she
Olof. I cannot answer such a question offhand.
Christine. I'll do it in your place. It pleases you to submit
willingly to your mother's will and wish because you are strong--
and I, on the other hand, feel hurt by doing so, for I am weak. I
will never do it!
Olof. Not if I ask you?
Christine. That's more than you can ask. Or would you have me
hate her?--Tell me, Olof, what is meant by a "harlot"?
Olof. You ask such strange questions.
Christine. Will you please answer me?
Olof. Will you forgive me if I don't?
Christine. Always this unending silence! Do you not yet dare to
tell me all? Am I to be a child forever? Then you had better put
me in a nursery and talk baby-talk to me.
Olof. It means an unfortunate woman.
Christine. No, it means something more than that.
Olof. Has anybody dared to use that word to you?
Christine (after a pause). No.
Olof. Now you are not telling the truth, Christine.
Christine. I know I lie! Oh, since yesterday I have grown very
Olof. You are hiding something that happened yesterday!
Christine. I am--I thought that I could keep it to myself, but it
has grown too much for me.
Olof. Speak--I beg you!
Christine. But you mustn't call me silly! A crowd of people
pursued me all the way to our door and called after me that
horrible word which I don't understand. People do not laugh at an
Olof. Yes, dear, that's just what they do.
Christine. I didn't understand their words, but their actions
were plain enough to make me wicked!
Olof. And yet you were so kind to me! Forgive me if I have been
hard to you!--It is a name given by brute force to its own
victims. Sooner or later, you'll learn more about it, but never
dare to defend an "unfortunate woman"--for then they will throw
mud at you! (A messenger enters and hands him a letter.) At last!
(After a glance at the letter.) You read it to me, Christine! It
is from your lips I want to hear the glad tidings.
Christine (reading). "Young man, you have conquered! I, your
enemy, desire to be the first to tell you so, and I address
myself to you without any sense of humiliation because, in
speaking for the new faith, you have wielded no weapons but those
of the spirit. Whether you be right, I cannot tell, but I think
you have deserved a piece of advice from an older man: stop here,
for your enemies are gone! Do not wage war on creatures made of
air, for that will lame your arm and you will die of dry rot. Do
not put your trust in princes--is another piece of advice given
you by a once powerful man who has now to step aside and leave to
the Lord to settle what is to become of his prostrated Church.
Johannes Brask." (Speaking.) You have conquered!
Olof (joyfully). I thank Thee, Lord, for this hour. (Pause.) No,
it scares me, Christine! This fortune is too great. I am too
young to have reached the goal already. To have no more to do--
oh, what a frightful thought! No further fighting--that would be
Christine. Oh, rest a moment, and be happy that it is over.
Olof. Can there be an end to anything? An end to such a
beginning? No, no!--Oh, that I could begin it all anew! It wasn't
the victory I wanted, but the fight!
Christine. Olof, do not tempt the Lord! I have a feeling that
much remains undone--very much, indeed!
Courtier. Good-day to you, Secretary! And pleasant
news! [Exit Christine.]
Olof. Be welcome! Some of it I have heard already.
Courtier. Thanks for your splendid answering of that stupid
Galle. You went after him like a man. A little too fiercely,
perhaps--not quite so much fire, you know! And a little venom
Olof. You have news from the King?
Courtier. Yes, and you shall have a brief summary of the
conditions agreed on: First, mutual support for the resistance
and punishment of all rebellions.
Olof. Go on, if you please.
Courtier. Second, the King shall have the right to take
possession of the palaces and fortified places of the bishops, as
well as to fix their incomes--
Courtier. Now comes the best of all--the principal point of the
whole undertaking: Third, the nobility shall have the right to
claim whatever of its properties and inheritances have fallen to
churches and cloisters since the revision by King Carl Knutsson
Olof. And fourth?
Courtier. Provided the heir can get twelve men under oath to
attest his right of inheritance at the assizes. (He folds the
document from which he has been reading.)
Olof. Have you finished?
Courtier. Yes. Isn't that pretty good?
Olof. Nothing more?
Courtier. Oh, there are a few minor points of no special
Olof. Let me hear them.
Courtier (reading again). There is a fifth point about the right
of preachers to preach the word of God, but, of course, they have
had that all the time.
Olof. Nothing more?
Courtier. Yes, then comes the ordinance: a register is to be
established showing the amount of tithes collected by all
bishops, chapters, and canons, and the King shall have the right
Olof. Oh, that's neither here nor there!
Courtier. --how much of those may be retained, and how much shall
be surrendered to him for the use of the Crown; furthermore, all
Appointments to spiritual offices--and this ought to interest
you--to spiritual offices, minor as well as major, can hereafter
be made only with the sanction of the King, so that--
Olof. Will you please read me the point dealing with the faith--
Courtier. The faith--there is nothing about it. Oh, yes,
let me see--from this day the Gospel is to be read in all
Olof. Is that all?
Courtier. All? Oh, no, I remember! I have a special order from
the King to you--and a most sensible one--that, as the people
are stirred up over all these innovations, you must by no means
disturb the old forms; must not abolish masses, holy water, nor
any other usage, nor furthermore indulge in any reckless acts,
for hereafter the King will not close his eyes to your escapades
as he has had to do in the past, when he lacked power to do
Olof. I see! And the new faith which he has permitted me to
preach so far?
Courtier. It is to ripen slowly.--It will come! It will
Olof. Is there anything more?
Courtier (rising). No. If you will only keep calm now, you may go
very far. Oh, yes--I came near forgetting the best part of all.
My dear Pastor, permit me to congratulate you! Here is your
appointment. Pastor of the city church, with an income of three
thousand, at your age--indeed, you could now settle down in peace
and enjoy life, even if you were never to get any further.
It is splendid to have reached one's goal while still so young. I
congratulate you! [Exit.]
Olof (flinging the appointment on the floor). So this is all
that I have fought and suffered for! An appointment! A royal
appointment! I have been serving Belial instead of God! Woe be to
you, false King, who have sold your Lord and God! Alas for me,
who have sold my life and my labors to mammon! O God in Heaven,
forgive me! (He throws himself, weeping, on a bench.)
[Enter Christine and Gert. Christine comes forward, while Gert
remains in the background.]
Christine (picks up the appointment and reads it; then she runs
to Olof, her face beaming). Now, Olof, I can wish you joy with a
happy heart! (She starts to caress him, but he leaps to his feet
and pushes her away.)
Olof. Leave me alone! You, too!
Gert (coming forward). Well, Olof, the faith--
Olof. The lack of faith, you mean!
Gert. The Pope is beaten, isn't he? Hadn't we better begin with
the Emperor soon?
Olof. We began at the wrong end.
Gert. At last!
Olof. You were right, Gert! I am with you now! It's war, but it
must be open and honest.
Gert. Until to-day you have been dreaming childish dreams.
Olof. I know it. Now the flood is coming! Let it come! Alas for
them and for us!
Christine. Olof, for Heaven's sake, stop!
Olof. Leave me, child! Here you will be drowned, or you will drag
Gert. What made you venture out in the storm, my child?
(The ringing of bells, the joyful shouting of crowds, and the
sounding of drums and trumpets become audible.)
Olof (going to the window). What has set the people shouting?
Gert. The King is providing them with a maypole and music outside
Olof. And are they not aware that he will chasten them with
swords instead of rods?
Gert. Aware? If they were!
Olof. Poor children! They dance to his piping and follow his
drums to their death! Must all die, then, in order that one may
Gert. No, one shall die that all may live!
(Olof makes a gesture dismay and repugnance.)
(A Room in the House of Olof's Mother. At the right stands
a bedstead with four posts, in which the Mother is lying sick.
Christine is asleep on a chair. Lars Pedersson is renewing the
oil of the night-lamp and turning the hour glass.)
Lars (speaking to himself). Midnight--Now comes the critical
time. (He goes to the bed and listens. At that moment Christine
moans in her sleep. He crosses the room and wakens her.)
Christine! (She wakes with a start.) Go to bed, child; I will
Christine. No, I will wait. I must speak to her before she dies--
I think Olof should be here soon.
Lars. It is for his sake you are watching!
Christine. Yes, and you mustn't say that I have slept. Do you
Lars. Poor girl!--You're not happy!
Christine. Who says one should be happy?
Lars. Does Olof know that you are here?
Christine. No, he would never permit it. He wants to keep me like
the carved image of some saint standing on a shelf. The smaller
and weaker he can make me, the greater is his pleasure in placing
his strength at my feet--
Mother (waking). Lars! (Christine holds back Lars and steps
forward.) Who is that?
Christine. The nurse.
Christine. Do you want anything?
Mother. Nothing from you.
Christine. Dame Christine!
Mother. Don't make my last moments more bitter. Go away from
Lars (coming forward). What do you want, mother?
Mother. Take away that woman! And bring the father confessor--I
shall soon die.
Lars. Is not your own son worthy of receiving your last
Mother. No, he has done nothing to deserve them. Has Marten come
Lars. Marten is a bad man.
Mother. O Lord, how terrible Thy punishment! My children
standing between myself and Thee! Am I then to be denied the
consolations of religion in my last moments? You have taken my
life--do you want to destroy my soul, too--the soul of your
mother? (She falls into a faint.)
Lars. Do you hear that, Christine! What are we to do? Shall we
let her die in the deception practised on her by a miserable
wretch like Marten--and perhaps get her thanks for it--or shall
we turn her final prayer into a curse? No, let them come, rather!
Or what do you think, Christine?
Christine. I dare not think at all.
Lars (goes out for a moment, but returns quickly). Oh, it is
horrible! They have fallen asleep over their dice and their
tumblers. And by such as those my mother is to be prepared for
Christine. But why not tell her the truth?
Lars. She won't believe it, and it is cast back on us as a lie.
Mother. My son, won't you listen to your mother's last request?
Lars (going out). May God forgive me!
Christine. Olof would never have done that!
(Lars returns with Marten and Nils, whereupon he leads Christine
out of the room.)
Marten (going up to the bed). She's sleeping.
Nils (places a box on the floor, opens it, and begins to take out
aspersorium, censer, chrismatory, palms, and candles). That means
we can't go to work yet.
Marten. If we have waited all this time, we can afford to wait a
little longer--provided that damned priest doesn't show up.
Nils. Master Olof, you mean?--Do you think that fellow out there
Marten. What do I care? As soon as the old woman gives up the
coin, I am free.
Nils. You 're a pretty thorough-paced rascal, you are!
Marten. Yes, but I am getting tired of it. I am beginning to long
for peace. Do you know what life is?
Marten. Pleasure! "The flesh was God!" Isn't that the way it's
Nils. "The Word became flesh," you mean?
Marten. Oh, yes--of course!
Nils. You might have been it pretty big man, with your head!
Marten. Yes, indeed! That's what they feared, and that's why they
whipped the soul out of my body in the convent--for after all I
had a soul once! But now there's nothing but body left, and now
the body is going to have its turn.
Nils. And I suppose they whipped all conscience out of you at the
Marten. Well, practically.--But now I want that recipe for spiced
Rochelle which you were talking of when we fell asleep out there.
Nils. Did I say Rochelle? I meant claret. That is, it can be
either the one or the other. Well, you take a gallon of wine and
half a pound of cardamom that has been well cleaned--
Marten. Hush--damn you! She is moving. Out with the book!
Nils (keeps on reading in an undertone during the following
Aufer immensam, Deus aufer iram;
Et cruentatum cohibe flagellum
Nec scelus nostrum proferes ad aequam
Mother. Is that you, Marten?
Marten. It's Brother Nils praying to the Holy Virgin. (Nils
lights the censer without interrupting his reading.)
Mother. What a precious boon to hear the word of the Lord in the
Marten. No sweeter sacrifice is known to God than the prayers of
Mother. Like the incense, my heart is set on fire with holy
Marten (sprinkling her with holy watter). The stains of sin are
by your God washed off!
Mother. Amen!--Marten, I am passing away--The godlessness of the
King makes it impossible for me by earthly gifts to strengthen
the Holy Church in her power of saving souls. You are a pious
man--take my property and pray for me and for my children. Pray
that the Almighty may turn their hearts away from all lies, so
that some time we may meet again in heaven.
Marten (taking the bag of money she hands him). Goodwife, your
sacrifice is acceptable to the Lord, and for your sake my prayers
will be heard by God.
Mother. I want to sleep awhile in order to be strong enough to
receive the last sacrament.
Marten. No one shall disturb your final moments--not even those
who were your children once.
Mother. It seems cruel, Father Marten, but it's the will of God.
(She falls asleep; Marten and Nils withdraw from the bed.)
Marten (opening the bag and kissing the gold coins). What stores
of pleasure lie hidden beneath the hardness of this gold--Ah!
Nils. Are we going now?
Marten. Oh, we might, as our errand here is done, but I think it
would be a pity to let the old woman die unsaved.
Nils. Do you believe in that?
Marten. It's hard to know what one is to believe nowadays. One
dies happily in this faith, and another in that. All assert that
they have found the truth.
Nils. And if you were to die now, Marten?
Marten. That's out of the question!
Nils. But if?
Marten. Then I suppose I should go to heaven like the rest. But I
should prefer to settle a small account with Master Olof first.
You see, there is one pleasure that surpasses all the rest, and
that's the pleasure of revenge.
Nils. What has he done to you?
Marten. He has dared to see through me; he has exposed me; he can
read what I am thinking--Oh!
Nils. And that's why you hate him?
Marten. Isn't that enough? (Somebody is heard knocking on the
door leading to the street.) Somebody is coming! Read, damn you!
(Nils begins to drone out the same verse as before. The sound of
a key being inserted in the lock is heard. The door is opened
from the outside.)
[Enter Olof, looking greatly agitated.]
Mother (waking up). Father Marten!
Olof (goes to the bed). Here is your son, mother! Why didn't you
let me know that you were sick?
Mother. Farewell, Olof! I forgive you all the evil you have done
to me, if you will not disturb the few moments I need to prepare
myself for heaven. Father Marten! Bring here the sacred ointment,
so that I may die in peace.
Olof. So that's why you didn't call me! (He catches sight of the
money bag which Marten has forgotten to hide, and snatches it
away from the monk.) Oh, souls are being bartered here! And this
was to be the price! Leave this room and this death-bed! Here is
my place, not yours!
Marten. You mean to prevent us from fulfilling our office?
Olof. I am showing you the door!
Marten. As long as we are not suspended, we are doing our duty
here by the King's authority, and not by the Pope's.
Olof. I shall cleanse the Church of the lord without regard to
the will of King or Pope.
Mother. Will you plunge my soul into perdition, Olof? Will you
let me die with a curse?
Olof. Calm yourself, mother! You are not going to die in a lie.
Seek your God in prayer, He is not so far away as you believe.
Marten. A man who won't save his own mother from the pangs of
purgatory must be the Devil's prophet indeed.
Mother. Christ Jesu, help my soul!
Olof. Will you leave this room, or must I use force? Take away
that rubbish! (He kicks the ritual accessories across the floor.)
Marten. I'll go if you'll let me have the money your mother has
given to the Church.
Mother. So that's why you came, Olof? You wanted my gold! Let him
have it, Marten. I'll let you have all of it, Olof, if you will
only leave me in peace! I'll give you more than that! I'll let
you have everything!
Olof (driven to despair). In God's name, take the money and go! I
Marten (grabbing the bag and going out with Nils). Where the
Devil is abroad, there our power ends, Dame Christine! (To Olof.)
As a heretic you are lost for all eternity! As a law-breaker you
will get your punishment right here! Beware of the King! [Exeunt.]
Olof (kneeling beside his mother's bed). Mother, listen to me
before you die! (The Mother has lost consciousness.) Mother,
mother, if you are alive, speak to your son! Forgive me, but I
could not act except as I have done. I know you have been
suffering all your life for my sake. You have been praying to God
that I should keep His paths. The Lord has heard your prayer. Do
you want me now to render your whole life futile? Do you want me
now, by obeying you, to destroy that structure which has cost
you so much in toil and tears? Forgive me!
Mother. Olof, my soul is no longer of this world--it's out of
another life I speak to you: turn back! Break that unclean bond
which ties your body only. Take back the faith you got from me,
and I will forgive you!
Olof (weeping bitterly). Mother! Mother!
Mother. Swear that you will do it!
Olof (after long silence). No!
Mother. The curse of God is upon you--I see Him--I see His angry
look--Help me, Holy Virgin!
Olof. That is not the God of love!
Mother. It is the God of retribution!--It is you who have
provoked His ire--and it is you who now cast me into the flames
of His wrath!--Cursed be the hour when I bore you! (She dies.)
Olof. Mother! Mother! (He takes her hand.) She's dead! And she
has not forgiven me!--Oh, if your soul be still within this room,
behold your son: I will do your will, and what was sacred to you
shall be sacred to me! (He lights the tall wax candles left
behind by the friars and places them around the bed.) You shall
have the consecrated candles that are to light your road. (He
puts a palm leaf in her hand.) And with this palm of peace shall
come forgetfulness of that last struggle with what was earthly.
Oh, mother, if you see me now, then you must forgive me! (In the
meantime the sun has risen, and the red glow of its first rays
lights up the curtains; at the sight of it, Olof leaps to his
feet.) You make my candles fade, O morning sun! You have more
love than I! (He goes to the window and opens it.)
Lars (entering softly and looking around surprised). Olof!
Olof (putting his arms around him). Brother, all is over!
Lars (goes to the bed and kneels for a moment; then he rises
again). She is dead! (He prays silently.) You were here alone?
Olof. It was you who let in the monks.
Lars. And you who drove them out.
Olof. That should have been your task.
Lars. She forgave you?
Olof. She died with a curse on her lips. (Pause.)
Lars (pointing to the candles). Who arranged these ceremonies?
Olof (irritated and humiliated). I weakened for a moment.
Lars. So you are human, after all? I thank you for it!
Olof. Are you mocking my weakness?
Lars. I am praising it.
Olof. And I am cursing it!--God in heaven, am I not right?
Lars. No, you are wrong.
[Enter Christine while Lars is still speaking.]
Christine. You are too much in the right!
Olof. Christine, what are you doing here?
Christine. It was so silent and lonesome at home.
Olof. I asked you not to come here.
Christine. I thought I might be of some use, but I see now--
Another time I shall stay at home.
Olof. You have been awake all night?
Christine. That is nothing! I will go now if you tell me to!
Olof. Go in there and rest a little while we talk. (Christine
begins absentmindedly to extinguish the candles.)
Olof. What are you doing, dear?
Christine. Why, it is full daylight.
(Lars gives Olof a significant glance.)
0lof. My mother is dead, Christine.
Christine (as she goes to Olof to let him kiss her on the forehead,
the look on her face is compassionate but cold). I am sorry for
your loss. [Exit Christine.]
(Pause. The brothers look for a moment in the direction where
she disappeared, then at each other.)
Lars. I beg you, Olof, as your friend and brother, don't go on as
you have been doing.
Olof. The old story! But he who has put his axe to the tree
cannot draw back until the tree is down. The King has betrayed
our cause. Now I will see what I can do for it.
Lars. The King is wise.
Olof. He is a miser, a traitor, and a protector of the nobility.
First he uses me to hunt his game, and then he wants to kick me
Lars. He sees farther than you do. If you were to go to three million
people, telling them: "Your faith is false; believe my words instead"
--do you think it possible that they would at once cast aside their
most intimate and most keenly experienced conviction, which until
then had been a support to them in sorrow as well as in joy? No,
the life of the soul would be in a bad condition, indeed, if all
the old things could be disposed of so quickly.
Olof. But it is not so. The whole people is full of doubt. Among
the priests there is hardly one who knows what to believe--if he
cares to believe anything at all. Everything is ready for the
new, and it is only you who are to blame--you weaklings whose
consciences will not permit you to sow doubt where nothing but a
feeble faith remains.
Lars. Look out, Olof! You wish to play the part of God.
Olof. Well, that is what we must do, for I don't think that He
Himself intends to conic down to us any more.
Lars. You are tearing down and tearing down, Olof, so that soon
there will be nothing left, and when people ask, "What do we get
instead?" you always answer, "Not this," "Not that," but never
once do you answer, "This."
Olof. Presumptuous man! Do you think faith can be given by one to
another? Do you think that Luther has given us anything new? No!
He has merely torn away the screens that had been placed around
the light. The new that I want is doubt of the old, not because
it is old, but because it is decaying. (Lars points toward their
mother's body.) I know what you mean. She was too old, and I
thank God that she is dead. Now I am free--only now! God has
Lars. Either you have lost your senses, or you are a wicked man!
Olof. Don't reproach me! I have as much respect for our mother's
memory as you have, but if she had not died now, I don't know how
far my sacrifices might have gone. Have you noticed in the
springtime, brother, how the fallen leaves of yesteryear cover
the ground as if to smother all the young; things that are coming
out? What do these do? They push aside the withered leaves, or
pass right through them, because they must get up!
Lars. You are right to a certain extent.--Olof, you broke the
laws of the Church during a time of lawlessness and unrest. What
could be forgiven then must be punished now. Don't force the King
to appear worse than he is. Don't let your scorn for the law and
your wilfulness force him to punish a man to whom he acknowledges
Olof. Nothing is more wilful than his own rule, and he must learn
to tolerate the same thing in others. Tell me you have taken
service with the King--are you going to work against me?
Lars. I am.
Olof. Then we are enemies, and that is what I need, for the old
ones have disappeared.
Lars. But the tie of blood, Olof--
Olof. I know it only in its source, which is the heart.
Lars. Yet you wept for our mother.
Olof. Weakness, or perhaps a touch of old devotion and gratitude,
but not because of the tie of blood. What is it, anyhow?
Lars. You are tired out, Olof.
Olof. Yes, I feel exhausted; I have been awake all night.
Lars. You were so late in coming.
Olof. I was out.
Lars. Your doings seem to shun the daylight.
Olof. The daylight shuns my doings.
Lars. Beware of false apostles of freedom!
Olof (struggling with sleepiness and fatigue). That's a self-contradictory
term. Oh, don't talk to me--I can't stand any more. I spoke so much
at our meeting--But you don't know about our society--Concordia res
parvae crescunt--We mean to continue the Reformation--Gert is a
farsighted man--I seem so small beside him--Good-night, Lars!
(He falls asleep on a chair.)
Lars (stands looking at him with solicitude). Poor brother--may
God protect you! (Resounding blows on the street door are heard.)
What's that? (He goes to the window.)
Gert (outside). For God's sake, open!
Lars. Why, it isn't a matter of life and death, Father
Gert (outside). In God's name, let me in!
[Enter Christine with a blanket.]
Christine. Olof, why are they knocking like that? He's asleep!
(She wraps him up in the blanket.) Oh, that I were Sleep, so that
you might flee to me when tired out by your struggles!
(The rattle of a heavy cart is heard; then the cart comes to a
stop outside the house.).
0lof (waking up with a start). Is it five already?
Christine. No, it is only three.
Olof. Wasn't that a baker's cart I heard?
Christine. I don't know, but I don't think it would make such a
noise. (She goes to the window.) Look, Olof! What can this he?
Olof (going to the window). The headsman's cart!--No, it isn't
Christine. It is a hearse!
[Enter Lars and Gert.]
Lars. The plague!
All. The plague!
Gert. The plague is here! Christine, my child, leave this house!
The angel of death has put his mark upon the gate.
Olof. Who sent the cart?
Gert. The man who put the black cross on the door. No dead body
must be left a moment in the house.
Olof. Then Marten was the angel of death--and all is nothing but
Gert. Look out of the window, and you'll see that the cart is
loaded full. (Blows are heard at the street door again.)
You hear! They're waiting!
Olof. Without proper burial? That shall never be!
Lars. Without ceremonies, Olof!
Gert. Come away with me, Christine, from this dreadful place!
I'll take you out of the city to some healthier spot.
Christine. I will stay with Olof after this. If you, father, had
loved me a little less, you would not have done so much harm.
Gert. Olof, you who have the power, command her to follow me
Olof. I set her free from your tyranny once, you selfish man, and
she shall never return to it again.
Gert. Christine, get out of this house, at least!
Christine. Not a step until Olof orders me.
Olof. I will no longer order you at all, Christine--remember
[Enter several Buriers.]
Burier. I've come for a body. No time to spare!
Olof. Begone from here!
Burier. The King's order!
Lars. Consider what you do, Olof! The law demands it!
Gert. This is no time to hesitate! The crazy mob is aroused
against you. This house was the first one to be marked, and they
are crying: "God's punishment upon the heretic!"
Olof (kneeling beside the bed). Mother, forgive! (Rising.) Do
(The Buriers come forward and begin to get their ropes ready.)
Gert (aside to Olof). "God's punishment upon the King" is our
(The Cemetery of the Convent of St. Clara. In the background
appears a partly demolished convent building, from which a gang
of workmen are carrying out timber and debris. At the left is a
mortuary chapel. Its windows are lighted from within, and
whenever the door is opened, a brilliantly illuminated crucifix
on the chancel wall, with a sarcophagus standing in front of it,
becomes visible. A number of the graves have been opened. The
moon is just rising from behind the ruined convent. Windrank is
seated outside the chapel door. Singing is heard from within the
Nils (goes up to Windrank). Good evening, Windrank.
Windrank. Please don't talk to me.
Nils. What's the matter now?
Windrank. Didn't you hear what I told you?
Nils. Has your scurvy ending as a skipper affected you so badly
that you think of turning monk?
Windrank. 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57.
Nils. You haven't lost your reason, have you?
Windrank. 58, 59, 60--In the name of Jesu, get away from here!
Nils. You had better have a little nightcap with me.
Windrank. 64, 65--That's what I expected! Get you gone, tempter!
I'll never take a drink again--until the day after to-morrow.
Nils. But it's a fine remedy against the plague, and with all
this cadaverous stuff about, you had better be careful.
Windrank. 70--So you really think it's good for the plague?
Windrank. Only a drop, then! (He drinks from the bottle offered
him by Nils.)
Nils. Only a drop! But tell me, are you suffering from vertigo
since you are counting to a hundred?
Windrank. Hush! Hush! There's an epoch coming.
Nils. An epoch?
Windrank. Yes, the day after to-morrow.
Nils. And that's why you keep counting like that?
Windrank. No, it's only because I find it so hard to hold my
tongue. Now, for heaven's sake, keep quiet! Please go away, or
you'll get me into trouble!--71, 72, 73.
Nils. Who's inside?
Windrank. 74, 75.
Nils. Is it a funeral?
Windrank. 76, 77.--Go to hell, won't you!
Nils. Just another tiny drop, and the counting will be easier.
Windrank. Just a little one--I will! (He drinks. Singing is heard
Nils. Here come the nuns of St. Clara to celebrate the memory of
their saint for the last time.
Windrank. That's fine mummery in days like these when everybody
is getting educated.
Nils. They have obtained the King's permission. You see, the
plague broke out in the parish of St. Clara, and some believe it
was because of the godless destruction of St. Clara's convent.
Windrank. And now they mean to drive away the plague with
singing--as if that bugaboo were a hater of music. But, of
course, it wouldn't be a wonder if he did flee from their
Nils. Will you please tell me who has dared to invade this last
sanctuary--for it's here the bones of the Saint are to be
deposited before the place is torn down entirely.
Windrank. Then there'll be a fight, I fear.
[The singing has drawn nearer. A procession enters, made up of
Dominican friars and Franciscan nuns, headed by Marten. They
come to a halt and continue singing, while the workmen are making
a great deal of noise in the background.]
Cur super vermes luteos furorem
Sunnis, O magni fabricator orbis!
Quid sumus quam fex, putris, umbra, pulvis
Marten (to the Abbess). You can see, my sister, how the abode of
the Lord has been despoiled.
Abbess. The Lord who has delivered us into the hands of the
Egyptians will also set its free in due time.
Marten (to the workmen). Cease working, and do not disturb our
Overseer. Our orders are to work day and night until this den has
been torn down.
Abbess. Alas, that unbelief has spread so far down among the
Marten. We are celebrating this feast with the permission of the
Overseer. Well, I don't mind!
Marten. And therefore I command you to cease your noise. I'll
appeal directly to your workmen, whom you have forced into this
shameless undertaking.--I'll ask them if they have any respect
whatever left for holy--
Overseer. You had better not, for I am in command here.
Furthermore, I can tell you that they are glad enough to have a
chance of tearing down these hornets' nests for which they
themselves have had to pay--and then, too, they are pretty
thankful to earn something during a time of famine. (He goes
toward the background.)
Marten. Let us forget the wickedness and tumult of this world.
Let us enter the sacred place and pray for them.
Abbess. Lord, Lord, the cities of Thy sanctuary are laid waste!
Zion is laid waste, and Jerusalem is lying desolate!
Windrank. 100.--Nobody can get in here!
The Conspirators (within the chapel). We swear!
Marten. Who has dared to invade the chapel?
Windrank. It's no more a chapel since it has become a royal
Abbess. That's why the godless one gave us his permission!
[The door of the chapel is thrown open and the conspirators
appear; among them Olof, Lars Andersson, Gert, the German, the
Dane, the Man from Smaland, and others.]
Olof (much excited). What kind of buffoonery is this?
Marten. Make way for the handmaidens of St. Clara!
Olof. Do you think your idols can keep away the plague that God
has sent you as a punishment? Do you think the Lord will find
those pieces of bone you carry in the box there so pleasant that
He forgives all your dreadful sins? Take away that abomination!
(He takes the reliquary from the Abbess and throws it into one of
the open graves.) From dust you have come, and to dust you shall
return, even if your name was Sancta Clara da Spoleto and you ate
only three ounces of bread a day and slept among the swine at
night! (The nuns scream.)
Marten. If you fear not what is holy, fear at least your temporal
ruler. Look here! He has still so much respect left for divine
things that he dreads the wrath of the saint. (He shows a
document to Olof.)
Olof. Do you know what the Lord did with the king of the
Assyrians when he permitted the worship of idols? He smote him
and all his people. Thus the righteous is made to suffer with the
unrighteous. In the name of the one omnipotent God, I declare
this worship of Baal abolished, even if all the kings of the
earth give their permit. The Pope wanted to sell my soul to
Satan, but I tore the contract to pieces--you remember? Should I
then fear a King who wants to sell his people to the Baalim? (He
tears the document to pieces.)
Marten (to his followers). You are my witnesses that he has
defamed the King.
Olof (to his followers). And you are my witnesses before God that
I have led the people of a godless King away from him!
Marten. Listen, ye faithful! It is because of this heretic that
God has smitten us with the plague--it is the punishment of God,
and it fell first of all on his mother.
Olof. Listen, ye faithless papists! It was the punishment of the
Lord on me because I had served Sennacherib against Judah. I will
atone my crime by leading Judah against the kings of the
Assyrians and the Egyptians.
(The moon has risen in the meantime. It is very red, and a fiery
glare pervades the place. The crowd is frightened.)
Olof (mounting one of the graves). Heaven is weeping blood over
your sins and your idolatry. Punishment shall be meted out, for
those in authority have fallen into wrongdoing. Can't you see
that the very graves are yawning for prey--
(Gert seizes Olof by the arm, whispers to him, and leads him down
from the mound. The crowd is panic-stricken.)
Abbess. Give us back our reliquary, so that we may abandon this
home of desolation.
Marten. It is better to let the bones of the Saint remain in this
consecrated soil than to have them touched by the vile hands of
Olof. You are afraid of the plague, cowards that you are! Is your
faith in the sacred bones no stronger?
(Gert whispers to Olof again. The procession has in the meantime
scattered, so that only a part of it remains on the stage.)
Olof (to Marten). Now you should be satisfied, you hypocrite! Go
and tell him whom you serve that a box of silver is about to be
buried here, and he'll dig it out of the earth with his own
nails. Tell him that the moon, which is usually made of silver,
has turned into gold, merely to make your master raise his eyes
toward heaven for once. Tell him that you, by your blasphemous
buffooneries, have succeeded in provoking an honest man's wrath--
[Exeunt Marten and the members of the procession.]
Gert. Enough, Olof! (To all the conspirators except Olof and
Lars.) Leave us, please!
[Exeunt the conspirators, exchanging whispers.]
Gert (to Olof and Lars). It's too late to back down now!
Olof. What do you want, Gert--speak!
Gert (showing them a bound volume). Before you two, servants of
God, a people steps forth to make its confession. Do you
acknowledge your oath?
Olof and Lars. We have sworn!
Gert. This book is the result of my silent labors. On every page
you will find a cry of distress, a sigh from thousands who have
been blind enough to think it God's will that they should suffer
the tyranny of one man--who have thought it their duty not even
to hope for liberation. (Olof takes the volume and begins to
read.) You shall hear complaints all the way from the primeval
forests of Norrland down to the Sound. Out of the wreckage from
the churches the King is building new castles for the nobility
and new prisons for the people. You shall read how the King is
bartering away law and justice by letting murderers escape their
punishment if they seek refuge at the salt-works. You shall read
how he is taxing vice by letting harlots pay for the right to ply
their traffic. Yea, the very fishes of the rivers, the water of
the sea itself, have been usurped by him. But the end is in
sight. The eyes of the people have been opened. There is seething
and fermenting everywhere. Soon the tyranny will be crushed, and
the people shall be free!
Olof. Who wrote the songs in this book?
Gert. The people! These are songs of the people--so they sing who
feel the yoke pressing. I have visited city and country, asking
them: "Are you happy?" These are the answers! I have held
assizes. Here are the verdicts entered. Do you believe that a
million wills may conquer one? Do you believe that God has
bestowed this land with all its human souls and all its property
upon a single man, for him to deal with as it suits his pleasure?
Or do you not rather believe that he should do the will of all?--
You do not answer? You are awed, I see, by the thought that it
may come to an end! Listen to my confession! Tomorrow the
oppressor dies, and you shall all be free!
Olof and Lars. What are you saying?
Gert. You didn't understand what I was talking about at our
Olof. You have deceived us!
Gert. Not at all! You are perfectly free. Two voices less mean
nothing. Everything is prepared.
Lars. Have you considered the consequences?
Gert. Fool! Is it not for the sake of the consequences that I
have done all this?
Olof. Supposing Gert be right--what do you say, Lars?
Lars. I wasn't born to lead.
Olof. All are born to lead, but all are not willing to sacrifice
Gert. Only he who has the courage to face scorn and ridicule can
lead. For hatred is as nothing compared with the laughter that
Olof. And if it should miscarry?
Gert. Dare to face that, too! You don't know that Thomas Munster
has established a new spiritual kingdom at Muhlhausen. You don't
know that all Europe is in revolt. Who was Dacke, if not a
defender of the oppressed? What have the Dalecarlians meant by
all their rebellions, if not to defend their freedom against him
who broke his plighted faith? He does such things and goes
unpunished, but when they want to defend themselves, then he
raises the cry of revolt and treason.
Olof. So this is the point to which you wanted to lead me, Gert?
Gert. Have you not been led here by the current? You will, but do
not dare! To-morrow, in the church, the mine will go off, and
that will be a signal for the people to rise and choose a ruler
after their own heart.
Olof (turning over the leaves of the book). If it be the will of
all, then nobody can stop it. Gert, let me take this book to the
King and show him what is the will of his people, and he will
grant them their rights.
Gert. Oh, you child! For a moment he may be scared, and perhaps
restore a silver pitcher to some church. Then he'll point toward
heaven and say: "It is not by my own will that I sit here and do
you wrong, but by the will of God!"
Olof. Then the will of God be done!
Gert. But how?
Olof. He must die that all may live. Murderer, ingrate, traitor--
those will be my names, perchance. I am sacrificing everything,
even my honor, my conscience, and my faith--could I possibly give
more for those pitiable ones who are crying for salvation? Let us
go ere I repent!
Gert. Even if you did, it would already be too late. Don't you
know that Marten is a spy, and perhaps sentence has already been
pronounced against the rebel!
Olof. Well, I won't repent--and why should I repent of an act
that implies the carrying out of God's own judgment? Forward,
then, in the name of the Lord. [Exeunt.]
[Enter Harlot, who kneels at a grave which she has strewn with
Harlot. Hast Thou punished me enough now, O Lord, to pardon me?
[Enter Christine quickly.]
Christine. Have you seen Master Olof, goodwife?
Harlot. Are you his friend or his enemy?
Christine. Do you mean to insult me?
Harlot. Pardon me! I haven't seen him since the last time I
Christine. You look so sorrowful! Oh, I know you now! It was you
to whom Olof was talking that night in Greatchurch.
Harlot. You mustn't let it be seen that you are talking to me.
You don't know who I am, do you?
Christine. Oh, yes, I know.
Harlot. You know--so they have told you?
Christine. Olof told me.
Harlot. O my God! And don't you despise me?
Christine. You are an unfortunate, down-trodden woman, Olof told
me. Why should I despise misfortune?
Harlot. Then you cannot be happy yourself?
Christine. No, we have shared the same fate.
Harlot. I am not the only one, then! Tell me, who was the
worthless man to whom you gave your love?
Harlot. Oh, pardon--to one who loves, no one seems worthless! To
whom did you give your love?
Christine. You know Master Olof, don't you?
Harlot. Oh, tell me that it is not true! Don't rob me of my faith
in him, too! It is the only thing I have left since God took my
Christine. You have had a child? Then you have been happy once.
Harlot. I thank God, who did not permit my son to find out the
unworthiness of his mother.
Christine. Have you been guilty of any crime, that you speak so?
Harlot. I have just buried it.
Christine. Your child? How can you! And I pray God every day to
grant me a little one--so that I may at least have one creature
Harlot. Oh, poor child, pray to God that He preserve you from it!
Christine. I don't understand you, goodwife!
Harlot. Don't call me that! You know who I am, don't you?
Christine. Well, don't they offer prayers in the churches for
those who have hopes?
Harlot. Not for such as we!
Christine. Such as we?
Harlot. They pray for the others and curse us.
Christine. What do you mean by "the others"? I don't understand
you at all.
Harlot. Do you know the wife of Master Olof?
Christine. Why, that is I!
Harlot. You? Oh, why didn't I guess at once? Can you forgive me a
moment's doubt? How could vice look like you and him? Alas! You
must leave me. You are a child, still ignorant of wickedness. You
must not be talking to me longer. God bless you! Good-bye! (She
starts to leave.)
Christine. Don't leave me! Whoever you be, for God's sake, stay!
They have broken into our house, and my husband is not to be
found. Take me away from here--home to yourself--anywhere. You
must be a good woman--you cannot be wicked--
Harlot (interrupting her). If I tell you that the brutality of
the crowd wouldn't hurt you half so much as my company, then
perhaps you will forgive me for leaving--
Christine. Who are you?
Harlot. I am an outcast on whom has been fulfilled that curse
which God hurled at woman after the fall of our first parents.
Ask me no more, for if I told you more, your contempt would goad
me to a self-defence that would be still more contemptible.--Here
comes somebody who perhaps will be generous enough to escort you,
if you promise to let him have your honor and virtue and eternal
peace for his trouble--for that is probably the least he will
accept for his protection at such a late hour as this! Please
forgive me--it is not at you that I am railing.
[Enter Windrank, intoxicated.]
Windrank. Why the devil can't a fellow be left alone, even here
among the corpses? See here, my good ladies, please don't ask me
anything, for now I can't guarantee that I won't answer. The day
after to-morrow I'll tell you all about it, for then it'll be too
late. Perhaps you're some of those nuns that have been made
homeless? Well, although women are nothing but women, I don't
think I have any right to be impolite, for all that the sun set
long ago. Of course, there is an old law saying that nobody can
be arrested after sunset, but though the law is a bugbear, I
think it's too polite to insist on anything when it's a question
of ladies. Hush, hush, tongue! Why, the old thing is going like a
spinning-wheel, but that comes from that infernal gin! Why should
I be dragged into this kind of thing? Of course, I'll get well
paid and be a man of means, but don't believe that I am doing it
for the sake of the money! It's done now, but I don't want to--I
don't want to! I want to sleep in peace nights and have no ghosts
to trouble me. Suppose I goo and tell? No, then they'll arrest
me. Suppose somebody else would go and tell? Perhaps one of you
nuns might be so kind as to do it?
Christine (who has been conferring with the, Harlot). If you have
anything on your conscience that troubles you, please tell us.
Windrank. Am I to tell? That's just what I want to get out of,
but this is horrible, and I can't stand it any longer. I am
forced to do it. Why should I be the one? I don't want to.
Christine. My dear man, you mean to commit--
Windrank. A murder. Who told you? Well, thank God that you
know! By all means, go ahead and tell about it--at once--or I'll
have no peace--no peace in all eternity!
Christine (recovering from the first shock). Why should you
Windrank. Oh, there are such a lot of reasons. Just look at the
way he is tearing down your nunneries.
Christine. The King?
Windrank. Yes, of course! The father and liberator of his
country! Of course, he's an oppressor, but that's no reason why
he should be murdered.
Christine. When is it going to happen?
Windrank. Why, to-morrow--in Greatchurch--right in church! [At a
signal from Christine, the Harlot leaves.]
Christine. How could they pick you for such a deed?
Windrank. Well, you see, I gave a connection or two among the
church attendants, and then I am poor, of course. What the devil
does it matter who puts the match to the powder, if only some
shrewd fellow is pointing the gun? And then we have several other
little schemes in reserve, although I'm to fire the first shot.
But why don't you run off and tell about it?
Christine. It has already been done.
Windrank. Well, God be thanked and praised! Goodbye, there goes
all my money!
Christine. Tell me who you are, you conspirators.
Windrank. No, that I won't tell!
[Enter Nils. He crosses the stage followed by a troop of soldiers
and a crowd of people.]
Christine. Do you see that they are already looking for you?
Windrank. I wash my hands of it.
Nils (goes up to Windrank without noticing Christine). Have you
seen Olof Pedersson?
Nils. Because he is wanted.
Windrank. No, I haven't seen him. Are there others wanted?
Nils. Yes, many.
Windrank. No, I haven't seen any of them.
Nils. Well, it will soon be your turn. [Exit.]
Christine. Are they looking for the conspirators?
Windrank. What a question! Now I'm going to clear out. Good-bye!
Christine. Tell me before you go--
Windrank. Haven't time!
Christine. Is Master Olof one of them?
Windrank. Of course! (Christine sinks down unconscious on one of
the graves. Windrank is suddenly sobered and genuinely moved.)
Good Lord in heaven, it must be his wife! (He goes to Christine.)
I think I've killed her! Oh, Hans, Hans, all you can do now is to
get a rope for yourself! What business did you have to get mixed
up with the high and mighty?--Come here, somebody, and help a
[Enter Olof, led by soldiers carrying torches as he catches sight
of Christine, he tears himself loose and throws himself on his
knees beside her.]
Christine. Olof! You're alive! Come away from here and let us go
Olof (overwhelmed). It's too late!
(Within Greatchurch. Olof and Gert, dressed as penitents, stand in
the pillory near the entrance. The organ is playing and the bells
are ringing. The service is just ended, and the people are
leaving the church. The Sexton and his wife are standing by
themselves in a corner near the footlights.)
Sexton. Lars the Chancellor, he was pardoned, but not Master
Wife. The Chancellor has always been a man of peace and has never
stirred up any trouble, so I can't understand how he could want
to have anything to do with such dreadful things.
Sexton. The Chancellor has always had a queer streak, although he
has never said much, and though he was pardoned, it cost him
everything he had. I can't help being sorry for Master Olof;
I have always had a liking for him, even though he has been a
Wife. Well, what's the use of making a young fellow like that
Sexton. Of course, he's rather young, and that has been his main
fault, but I'm sure time will cure it.
Wife. What nonsense you are talking, seeing that he's going to
Sexton. Well, Lord, Lord, if I hadn't clean forgotten about it!
But then it doesn't seem quite right to me, either.
Wife. Do you know if he has repented?
Sexton. I doubt very much, for I am sure his neck is just as
stiff as ever.
Wife. But I suppose he'll thaw out a little now, when he sees his
class of children whom they wouldn't let him prepare for
Sexton. Well, I must say that the King can be pretty mean when he
turns that side to. Now he is making the pastor do church penance
the very same day his children are being confirmed. It's almost
as bad as when he made the dean drink with the headsman, or when
he sent those two prelates riding through the city with crowns of
birch bark on their heads.
Wife. And his own brother Lars has been sent to shrive him.
Sexton. See, here come the children! How sad they're looking--
well, I don't wonder. I think I'll have to go in and have a cry
(Enter the children about to be confirmed, boys and girls. They
begin to march past Olof, carrying bunches of flowers in their
hands. They look sad and keep their eyes on the ground. A number
of older people accompany the children. A few curious persons
point out Olof and are rebuked by others. Last of all the
children in the procession comes Vilhelm, one of the scholars
with whom Olof was seen playing in the First Act. He stops
timidly in front of him, kneels, and drops his bunch of flowers
at the feet of Olof, who does not notice it because he has pulled
down the hood of his penitential robe so that it hides his face.
Some of the people mutter disapprovingly, while others show signs
of pleasure. Marten comes forward to take away the flowers, but
is pushed back by the crowd. Soldiers clear a path for Lars
Pedersson, who appears in canonicals. The crowd disappears
gradually, leaving Lars, Olof, and Gert alone on the stage. The
playing of the organ ceases, but the bells continue to toll.)
Lars. Olof, the King has refused to listen to the petition for
pardon submitted by the City Corporation. Are you prepared to
Olof. I am not able to think so far.
Lars. I have been ordered to prepare you.
Olof. That will have to be done in haste, for my blood is still
running quickly through my veins.
Lars. Have you repented?
Lars. Do you want to pass into eternity with an unforgiving mind?
Olof. Oh, put aside the formulas, if you want me to listen to
you. I can't think that I am going to die now--there 's far too
much of life and strength left in me.
Lars. I must tell you that I don't think so either, and that it
is for a new life in this world I am trying to prepare you.
Olof. Then I may live?
Lars. If you will admit that you were mistaken in the past, and
if you will take back what you have said about the King.
Olof. How could I? That would be to die indeed!
Lars. This was what I had to tell you. Now you must decide for
Olof. One doesn't parley about one's convictions.
Lars. Even a mistake may turn into conviction. I shall
leave you to think the matter over. [Exit.]
Gert. Our harvest wasn't ready. It takes a lot of snow
to make the fall crops ripen--nay, centuries must pass before you
will even see the first shoots. All the conspirators are under
arrest, they say, and te deums are sung on that account. But they
are mistaken; conspirators are abroad everywhere--in the royal
apartments, in the churches, and in the market-places--but they
dare not do what we have dared. And yet they'll reach that point
some time. Good-bye, Olof! You must live a little longer, for you
are young. I shall die with the utmost pleasure. The name of
every new martyr becomes the rallying-cry for a new host. Don't
believe that a human soul was ever set on fire by a lie. Don't
ever distrust those feelings that shake you to your inmost soul
when you have seen some one suffer spiritual or physical
oppression. If the whole world tell you that you are wrong,
believe your own heart just the same--if you are brave enough to
do so. The day when you deny your self--then you are dead, and
eternal perdition will seem a mercy to one who, has been guilty
of the sin against the Holy Ghost.
Olof. You speak of my release as though it were a certainty.
Gert. The Corporation has offered 500 ducats for your ransom, and
if it cost only 2000 to get Birgitta declared a saint, then 500
should suffice to get you declared guiltless. The King doesn't
dare to take your life!
[Enter the Lord High Constable, followed by the Headsman and
Constable. Take away Gert the Printer.
Gert (to Olof, as he is being led away). Good-bye, Olof! Take
care of my daughter, and don't ever forget the great Whitsunday!
Constable. Master Olof, you are a young man who has been led
astray. The King will pardon you for the sake of your youth, but
as a safeguard he demands a retraction wherein you take back
whatever you have ventured beyond and against his orders.
Olof. Then the King is still in need of me?
Constable. There are many more who need you, but don't rely on
his mercy until you have fulfilled his condition. Here is the
King's warrant. In a moment your fetters may be shed, if so be
your will, but it will be just as easy to tear up this sheet of
Olof. One who contents himself with 500 ducats is not likely to
care very much for a retraction--
Constable. That is a lie! The headsman is waiting for you. But
pray listen to a few words from an old man. I, too, have been
young, and moved by strong passions. They belong to youth; but
those passions are meant to be killed. I did as you do. I went
around telling the truth, and all I got in return was ingratitude,
or, at the best, a smile of derision. I, too, wanted to build
a little heaven here on earth--(speaking with marked emphasis)
of course, on other foundations than yours--but soon I came
to my senses, and the chimeras were sent packing. I have no
desire to make you out a man wishing to gain notoriety by getting
himself talked about--I don't believe anything of the kind. You
are moved by good intentions, but they are such as must cause
harm. Your blood is hot, and it blinds you because you exercise
no self-control. You preach freedom, and you are plunging
thousands into the slavery of license. Retrace your steps, young
man, and make atonement for your errors! Restore what you have
torn down, and your fellow-men will bless you!
Olof (agitated to a point of desperation). It is the truth you
speak; I hear it, but who taught you to speak like that?
Constable. Experience--that which you lack!
Olof. Can I have lived and fought for a lie? Must I now declare
my whole youth and the best part of my manhood lost, useless,
wasted? Oh, let me rather die together with my mistake!
Constable. You should have broken loose from your dreams earlier.
But calm yourself! Your life is still ahead of you. The past has
been a school--hard, to be sure, but all the more wholesome.
Hitherto you have given your life to whims and follies. Now you
have some inkling of what reality demands of you. Outside that
door your creditors are waiting with their claims. Here are their
bills. The clergy of the young Church demand that you live to
finish what you have begun so splendidly. The City Corporation
demands its secretary for the Council. The congregation demands
its shepherd. The children of the confirmation class demand their
teacher. Those are your legal creditors. But there is one more
waiting outside, to whom perhaps you owe more than all the rest,
and who yet demands nothing at all--your young wife. You have
torn her from her father's side and set her adrift in the storm.
You have broken down her childhood faith and filled her mind with
restlessness. Your reckless deeds have goaded the brutal mob into
driving her out of her own home. Yet she does not even demand
your love: all she asks of you is permission to spend a life of
suffering by your side.--Now you can see that we, too, give a
little consideration to other people, although you call us
selfish.--Let me open this door, which will lead you back into
the world. Discipline your heart before it hardens, and thank God
for granting you more time to work for mankind.
Olof (breaking into tears). I am lost!
(Constable gives a sign to the Headsman, who removes the fetters
and the garb of penitence from Olof; then the Constable opens the
door to the sacristy, and delegates from the lords, the clergy,
and the city guilds enter.)
Constable. Olof Pedersson, formerly pastor of the city church at
Stockholm, do you hereby repent of your misdeeds and retract what
you have said beyond and against the King's order? Do you declare
your willingness to keep your oath to the sovereign of this
realm, and to serve him faithfully?
(Olof remains silent. Lars Pedersson and Christine approach him,
while many of those present make pleading gestures.)
Olof (in a cold and determined voice). Yes!
Constable. In the name of the King, I set you free!
(Olof and Christine embrace. A number of persons come forward to
press his hand and utter words of congratulation.)
Olof (in the same cold voice). Before I leave this room, let me
be alone a moment with my God. I need it! Once upon a time I
struck the first blow right here, and here--
Lars. Right here you have won your greatest victory this very
(All leave the room except Olof, who falls on his knees.)
[Enter Vilhelm cautiously. He looks very much surprised at seeing
Olof alone and free.]
Vilhelm. I come to bid you farewell, Master Olof, before you pass
on to another life.
Olof (rising). You have not deserted me, Vilhelm! Help me, then,
to mourn those happy moments of my youth that are now nothing but
Vilhelm. Before you die I want to thank you for all that you have
done for us. It was I who gave you those flowers, which you
haven't noticed.--They have been trampled on, I see. I wanted to
bring you a reminder of the days when we were playing under the
lindens in the convent close at Strangnas. I thought it might do
you good to hear that we have never thanked God, as you said we
would, because you didn't return to us. We have never forgotten
you, for it was you who relieved us of those cruel penances, and
it was you who flung open the heavy convent doors and gave us
back our freedom and the blue sky and the happiness of living.
Why you must die, we do not know, but _you_ could never do
anything wrong. And if you die because you have rendered help to
some of those that were oppressed, as they tell us, then you
should not be sorry, although it hurts very, very much. Once you
told us how Hus was burned because he had dared to tell the truth
to those in power. You told us how he went to the stake and
joyfully commended himself into the hands of God, and how he
prophesied about the swan that should come singing new songs in
praise of awakened freedom. That's the way I have thought that
you would meet your death--with your head thrown back, and your
eyes toward the sky, and the people crying: "So dies a witness!"
(Olof leans against the pillory, his face showing how the words
of Vilhelm strike home to him.)
Gert (his voice heard from a distant part of the church.)
(Olof sinks down overwhelmed at the foot of the pillory.)