HotFreeBooks.com
Modern Icelandic Plays - Eyvind of the Hills; The Hraun Farm
by Jhann Sigurjnsson
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Transcriber's note:

The first few pages of the book, before the Contents, have been rearranged in the order 4, 5, 2, 1, 3. Rows of asterisks show the original page breaks.



MODERN ICELANDIC PLAYS

Eyvind of the Hills The Hraun Farm

by

JOHANN SIGURJONSSON

Translated by Henninge Krohn Schanche



New York The American-Scandinavian Foundation London: Humphrey Milford Oxford University Press 1916

* * * * *

Copyright, 1916, by The American-Scandinavian Foundation All Stage Rights reserved by Henninge Krohn Schanche

D. B. Updike . The Merrymount Press . Boston . U.S.A.

* * * * *

SCANDINAVIAN CLASSICS

VOLUME VI

...

MODERN ICELANDIC PLAYS

* * * * *

This series of SCANDINAVIAN CLASSICS is published by The American-Scandinavian Foundation in the belief that greater familiarity with the chief literary monuments of the North will help Americans to a better understanding of Scandinavians, and thus serve to stimulate their sympathetic cooperation to good ends.

* * * * *



* * * * *

CONTENTS

Introduction vii Eyvind Of The Hills 1 The Hraun Farm 81



INTRODUCTION

Both volumes of the SCANDINAVIAN CLASSICS selected to appear in 1916 are by natives of Iceland. They belong, however, to periods of time and to modes of writing remote from each other. Snorri Sturluson, the greatest of Icelandic historians, was born in 1179. His Prose Edda, the companion-piece of the present volume, is a Christian's account of Old Norse myths and poetic conceptions thus happily preserved as they were about to pass into oblivion. More than seven hundred years separate Johann Sigurjonsson from Snorri, and his work is in dramatic, not saga form. But even as in outward appearance modern Iceland is not unlike ancient Iceland, so the Icelandic writers of the present have marked kinship with the past. Despite many centuries of relative neglect, the old traditions lived on, cherished by scholars, until now, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Icelandic mind appears to be again renascent and creative. Einar Jonsson, the sculptor, has his counterpart in the domain of letters in such recent writers as Jonas Jonasson, Emar Hjoerleifsson, Gudmundur Magnusson, Jonas Gudlaugsson, Gunnar Gunnarson, and Gudmundur Kamban, while every important fjord and valley can claim its own poet or novelist. As yet, the most distinguished performance of these younger authors is the play printed in this volume, Eyvind of the Hills (Bjaerg-Ejvind og hans Hustru), by Johann Sigurjonsson. Among literary phenomena Eyvind of the Hills is a surprise, almost as though Iceland woke to find her naked mountains clothed in forest in a night.

Let Sigurjonsson tell his life story in his own words:[1] "I was born June 19, 1880, on a large farm in the northern part of Iceland. Our household numbered about twenty people. A broad stream, well stocked with salmon; on both sides of the river, rocks where thousands of eider-ducks had their nests; a view out over the Atlantic with high cliffs where sea-birds lived; lava-fields with unusual flowers; and in the distance blue mountains; such was the theatre where I acted my childhood pieces and where I wrote my first poems.

[Footnote 1: A letter dated November 7, 1912, to M. Leon Pineau, published in La Revue (Paris), July 1, 1914.]

"When fourteen years old, I was sent to school at Reykjavik; but after pocketing the diploma of the upper class, my longing led me down to Copenhagen, where I chose the study of veterinary science. For three years I worked zealously at my studies and took all the preliminary examinations required, until suddenly I burned my ships and resolutely threw myself into the work of a playwright. At first one difficulty piled up after another. To begin with, I had to write in a language not my own. And then, what knowledge I had of human nature was limited to a most incomplete knowledge of myself and of a few college chums of my own age. Besides, it was not long before I had to concern myself about mere bread and butter.

"My first victory was an appreciative letter from Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson, wherein he promised warmly to recommend me to Gyldendal's, the great publishing house, which subsequently published my first play, Dr. Rung.

"My second victory was the acceptance by the Dagmar Theatre of The Hraun Farm. After the sometime directors of that theatre resigned, my play passed into the control of the Royal Theatre. Finally, I made my stage debut with Eyvind of the Hills, which was received with much enthusiasm both by press and public.

"In order to give as much actuality as possible to this drama, I traversed Iceland on foot from north to south and saw the places high up in the wild mountain waste where Eyvind lived with his wife. In my little garret in Copenhagen I had learned by my own experience the agony of loneliness."

Sigurjonsson's first drama, Dr. Rung, was written in Danish and published in 1905. This tragedy presents a young Copenhagen physician, Harold Rung, who is endeavoring to find a specific against tuberculosis. In order to test the effect of his serum, he decides to inoculate himself with the disease, and the pleading of Vilda, who loves him, fails to shake him from his purpose. The remedy proves a failure; the young scientist goes mad, giving Vilda poisoned grapes.

The Hraun Farm was published in Icelandic in 1908 (Bondinn a Hrauni), and in Danish in 1912 (Gaarden Hraun). In rewriting the play for the Copenhagen stage, Sigurjonsson gave it a happy ending, thus changing a tragedy into a pleasant dramatic idyl of contemporary country life in Iceland. It is the familiar Scandinavian theme of the struggle of human love with love of the homestead. An old farmer, Sveinungi, is a veritable patriarch living at the edge of the "hraun," the lava-field. His only daughter, Ljot, he has destined for a sturdy neighbor's son, who will keep up the estate. But the girl falls in love with a young geologist and arouses her father's wrath, until the play ends with a scene in which Sveinungi is won over by Jorunn, his persuasive wife. The action is interrupted by an earthquake. The dialogue is well maintained and rises to heights of lyrical splendor. In point of dramatic effectiveness, The Hraun Farm may be regarded as only a preliminary study compared to the next play, but its picture of pastoral Iceland makes it a fitting companion-piece to the greater drama in the present volume.

All other work of Sigurjonsson and the younger Icelandic dramatists pales beside Eyvind of the Hills, written in Danish and published in 1911.[2] The high sky of dramatic vision, the simple nobility of the characters portrayed, and the poetry of exalted passion raise above the ordinary this stern tragedy of natural lives in the wilderness. Eyvind is a man of heroic mould, who was forced by circumstances and hunger to the state of a common thief. When outlawed, he fled to the mountains. Seeking human companionship, he now descends into a valley where his identity is unknown and takes service with Halla, a rich young widow. She learns of his disguise only to fall in love with his real character. Persecuted by her brother-in-law, who wishes to marry her, and possessed by a great love, she insists on sharing the outlaw's lot and escapes with him to his old haunt in the mountains. Here they have two children, but she is obliged to sacrifice them both in turn, and to flee ever farther away. The last act finds the outlaw and his wife facing each other in a lonely hut, in the midst of a snowstorm which has shut off every avenue of sustenance. Although the beautiful reality of love is there, they are tormented by hunger and utter need into doubts and mutual reproaches, and at last seek death in the snow.

[Footnote 2: The English translation combines features of the original edition and a revised version printed in 1913. The play appeared also in Icelandic (Fjalla-Eyvindur) in 1912.]

According to the historical facts upon which the story is based, a stray horse found its way to the hut of the starving couple, and so their lives were saved. Sigurjonsson used this ending when he rewrote the last scenes of the fourth act for Fru Dybvad, who played the part of Halla in Copenhagen, concluding with Halla's exclamation: "So there is then a God!" With Eyvind, as with The Hraun Farm, we can thus take our choice of two endings.

The Wish (Oensket), Sigurjonsson's latest play, was published in 1915. Gloomy and terrible, but strong and restrained, it is built on a theme of seduction, remorse, and forgiveness in death, woven about the legendary figure of Galdra-Loftur, who lived in Iceland at the beginning of the eighteenth century. It ends with an intensely dramatic scene in the old cathedral church at Holar.

In addition to these four plays, Sigurjonsson has also written some beautiful verse.

In Mrs. Schanche, Sigurjonsson has a translator well fitted by artistic family traditions for the task. Herself of Norwegian descent, she has been for upward of thirty years a resident of Philadelphia. She has interpreted the pure idiom of Sigurjonsson's dialogue with real dramatic perception. In editing the volume the Publication Committee has had the valuable assistance of Hanna Astrup Larsen.

Georg Brandes, the veteran Danish critic, though not given to over optimism, has recognized Sigurjonsson's distinction, and the Icelander is acclaimed by the public who best know Ibsen and Strindberg, in Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Christiania. Eyvind has been successful also on the German stage. "Poetic talent of high order," says Brandes, "manifests itself in this new drama, with its seriousness, rugged force, and strong feeling. Few leading characters, but these with a most intense inner life; courage to confront the actual, and exceptional skill to depict it; material fully mastered and a corresponding confident style!" And the French critic, Leon Pineau, concludes a long account of Sigurjonsson's production with the following estimate of Eyvind of the Hills: "In this drama there is no haze of fantasy, no bold and startling thesis, not even a new theory of art— nothing but poetry; not the poetry of charming and fallacious words, not that of lulling rhythm, nor of dazzling imagery which causes forgetfulness, but the sublimely powerful poetry which creates being of flesh and blood like ourselves— to whom Johann Sigurjonsson has given of his own soul."

Written by the author in a language not his by birth, this rock-ribbed tragedy of the strong and simple passions of Iceland lends itself peculiarly to international interpretation. It is with some curiosity, therefore, as well as satisfaction, that we introduce to English readers a young representative of the renaissance of Icelandic literature. How will he be judged by our countrymen, and what will be his place, if any, upon the American stage?

H. G. L.

New York, June 1, 1916.



EYVIND OF THE HILLS

[Bjaerg-Ejvind og Hans Hustru]

A DRAMA IN FOUR ACTS

1911



DRAMATIS PERSONAE

HALLA (pronounced Hadla), a well-to-do widow. KARI (pronounced Kowri), overseer on Halla's farm. BJOERN, Halla's brother-in-law, farmer and bailiff. ARNES, a vagrant laborer. GUDFINNA, an elderly, unmarried relative of the family. MAGNUS } ODDNY } Halla's servants. SIGRID } A Shepherd Boy } ARNGRIM, a leper. A District Judge. TOTA, a child of three years. Peasants, peasant women, and farm-hands.

The action takes place in Iceland in the middle of the eighteenth century. The story of the two principal characters is founded an historical events. Halla's nature is moulded on a Danish woman's soul.



ACT I

A "badstofa" or servants' hall. Along each side-wall, a row of bedsteads with bright coverlets of knitted wool. Between the bedsteads, a narrow passageway. On the right, the entrance, which is reached by a staircase. On the left, opposite the entrance, a dormer-window with panes of bladder. On the right, over the bedsteads, a similar window. Long green blades of grass are visible through the panes. In the centre back a door opens into Halla's bed-chamber, which is separated from the "badstofa" by a thin board partition. A small table-leaf is attached by hinges to the partition. A copper train-oil lamp is fastened in the doorcase. Over the nearest bedsteads a cross-beam runs at a man's height from the floor; from this to the roof-tree is half of a man's height. Under the window stands a painted chest. Carved wooden boxes are pushed in under the bedsteads. The "badstofa" is old, the woodwork blackened by age and soot.

It is early spring, a late afternoon. Gudfinna and Oddny are sitting on the beds facing each other, Gudfinna mending shoes, Oddny putting patches on a coat. The Shepherd Boy is standing in the middle of the room, throwing a dart adorned with red cock's feathers. The costumes are old Icelandic.

The Boy (throws his dart).

Ho! ho! I came pretty near hitting her that time!

Gudfinna.

Hitting whom?

The Boy.

Can't you see the little spider hanging down from the beam? I mean to shoot and break her thread.

Oddny.

You are always up to some tomfoolery.

Gudfinna.

Leave the poor creature in peace! It has done you no harm.

The Boy (laughing).

Do you think she'd break her legs if she should happen to fall down on the floor?

Gudfinna.

I won't have it! Destroying a spider's web is sure to bring bad luck, and you'll end by tearing the window-pane with your dart.

The Boy.

Kari has told me of a man who broke a bow-string with one shot, and that from way off. (Shoots.)

Gudfinna.

If you don't stop, you shall wear your shoes with the holes in them.

The Boy (pulling the dart out of the beam).

Would you rather have me shoot your ear-locks?

Gudfinna.

Are you crazy, lad? You might hit my eyes.

The Boy.

I must have some kind of fun. I think I'll have a shot at Oddny's plaits.

Oddny.

If you dare!

The Boy (laughing).

If I have bad luck, you will look at Kari with only one eye.

Oddny.

You need a good spanking.

Gudfinna.

Kari ought not to have given you that dart.

The Boy (going to the spider, makes a fanning motion with his hand).

Up, old spinning-woman, if you bode good! Down, if you bode ill! Up, if you bode good! Down, if you bode ill!

Gudfinna.

You are awfully hard on your shoes, worse than a grown man. I hope you don't walk on the sharpest stones just for fun?

Oddny.

Of course he does!

The Boy.

The sheep were so restless to-day. Some of them came near slipping away from me.

Oddny.

If they had, you wouldn't be riding such a high horse now!

Gudfinna.

Have they been bad to you, laddie? Do you never feel timid when you are alone so much?

The Boy.

Sometimes I keep thinking what I should do if a mad bull came tearing down the mountains.

Gudfinna.

Don't speak of them! They are the worst monsters in the world— except, perhaps, the skoffin.

The Boy.

What is a skoffin?

Gudfinna.

Don't you know that? When a rooster gets to be very old, he lays an egg, and if that's hatched, it becomes a skoffin. It kills a man by just looking at him, and the only thing that can slay it is a church-blessed silver bullet. Indeed, there are many things you have to be careful of, my child. Are you not afraid of the outlaws? They're not good, those fellows; they go about in skins with the wool on them and carry long sticks with ice-spurs, and that at midsummer. Have you ever seen anything of them?

The Boy.

No, but yesterday I pretty near got scared. There came a man with a big bag under his arm. I didn't know him at first, but it was only Arnes.

Gudfinna.

And what did he want of you?

The Boy.

He asked me to show him the way to a spring. He was thirsty.

Gudfinna.

You had better not have too much talk with him. (Hands him the shoes.) There! Now they will last till to-morrow anyway. (Kneels down, pulls out a box, and examines its contents.)

Enter Halla from her chamber.

Halla.

It is time for the sheep to be milked.

The Boy.

I am going now to drive them home. I was waiting for my shoes.

Halla.

Have you seen anything of the cows to-day?

The Boy.

No. (To Oddny.) When I get rich I'll give you a cow's tail to tie up your plaits with.

Oddny.

Hold your tongue!

[Exit the Boy.

Halla (smiling).

I heard him teasing you a while ago.

Oddny.

He's forever pestering me about Kari— as if I cared!

Halla (with a little laugh).

Well, Sigrid doesn't take such good care of Magnus's clothes as you of Kari's. [Exit.

Oddny (is silent for a moment and looks at the door).

If I were a widow and owned a farm, the men would be noticing me too, even if I had been nothing but a poor orphan servant girl before I married— like some others.

Gudfinna (rising, a pair of stockings in her hand).

What are you talking about? (Pushes the box under the bed.)

Oddny.

Do you know who was Halla's father?

Gudfinna.

That is what no one seems to know. Some would have it that he was a parson. (She darns the stockings.)

Oddny.

Yes, or a vagabond. There were also some ugly whispers about a stain on her birth.

Gudfinna.

You'd better bridle your tongue!

Oddny.

I am not so dull as you imagine. When Halla thinks no one is looking, she doesn't take her eyes from Kari. And she has made him overseer; that seems queer to others besides me. Last Sunday at church some one asked me if there was anything between the widow and the "overseer."

Gudfinna.

And what did you say?

Oddny.

I told them that it was quite possible Halla had her lines out for him, but that I did not think Kari would swallow the fly, even if it had gold on its wings.

Gudfinna.

Much good it did you, the gospel you heard in church! I am sorry for you, poor girl! You are crazy about a man who has neither eye nor ear for you, but that is no reason why you should be running around spreading gossip. Halla is not the kind of woman that is fond of men. There was never a harsh word between her and her husband, God rest his soul, but there was not much love-making between them either. No, indeed!

Oddny.

Well, what of that! He was a man up in years and had a fine farm.

Gudfinna.

He was an upright and honest man, and Halla made him a good wife, my dear.

Oddny.

Who doubts that? (Silence.) I don't know what ails Kari of late. Yesterday he flew into a rage when I asked him if he knew of a cure for freckles. I hope Halla has not become such a saint yet that one can't notice her freckles.

Enter Kari and Magnus.

Kari and Magnus.

Good evening!

Gudfinna and Oddny.

Good evening!

Oddny (rising).

I am sitting on your bed, I believe.

Magnus (throws off his cap).

Oddny, ask Sigrid to come here and pull off my stockings. (Sits down.) It feels good to sit down. [Oddny goes reluctantly.

Kari.

Why is she so grumpy? She is not so cheerful a body as you are. I should like to have known you in your young days. I dare say you knew how to handle a rake.

Gudfinna (straightening her back).

You may be sure. On dry ground, two lively fellows had all they could do to make ready for my rake.

Kari.

And you were not afraid to tuck up your skirts, where the ground was low and marshy.

Gudfinna.

Indeed not! Many a time I had water in my shoes.

Enter Sigrid and Oddny.

Magnus (stretching his feet out on the floor).

Pull off my shoes! I'm so tired to-night I can't move.

Sigrid.

It must be laziness that ails you, as usual. (Kneels down.) How in the name of heaven did you manage to get so wet in this dry weather? I can wring the water out of your stockings.

Magnus.

Kari wanted to jump the creek to make a short cut, and I fell in.

Oddny (to Kari).

Aren't you wet, too?

Kari.

No. (Sits down.)

Magnus.

Kari skims over everything like a bird.

Kari.

Every man has his gift. (To Sigrid.) You should see the rocks Magnus can lift.

Magnus.

Well, it may be true that I am pretty strong, but I should like to see the man who could throw you in an honest glima.

Oddny.

I know one whom Kari couldn't stand against.

Magnus.

And who is that? (Sigrid pulls at his stockings.) There! There!

Oddny.

Bjoern, Halla's brother-in-law.

Magnus.

I should not be afraid to bet on Kari against him. (To Sigrid.) Give me the stockings! (Dries his feet with the stocking legs.)

(Sigrid pulls out a chest, where she finds dry stockings.)

Enter Halla.

Oddny.

I don't think Kari would dare to try a fall with the bailiff.

Kari.

If you were the prize, I should not dare to!

Gudfinna (laughing).

There you got it!

(Everybody laughs except Oddny.)

Halla (smiling).

Yet many have fought for less.

Magnus.

I'm ready to make a wager with you, Oddny, that Kari would win.

Halla.

It does not look as if the cows were coming home to-night. Magnus, won't you go up the gorge and see if they are there, and I will send the boy down to the creek.

[Exit Sigrid with the wet stockings.

Magnus.

Oh, why did I bother to change my stockings!

Halla.

You can take a horse. (A dog is heard barking.) There! we shall have company.

Kari (rising).

I'll run up there.

Halla.

You have your trout nets to look after. I know Magnus won't mind.

Magnus.

Confound those cows! Why can't they come home in time! (Puts on his shoes.)

(Kari pulls out a small box from under the bed and begins to whittle teeth for a rake.)

Arnes puts his head in at the door; he carries a large bag.

Arnes.

Good evening! I did not want to trouble any one to come to the outside door. (Drops his bag on the floor.) Now Arnes is rich— there's gold sand in my bag.

Halla.

I dare say there is.

Arnes.

You people don't know what lies hidden in the hills. I have heard of a man who lost his way in Surt's Cave. For days he walked underground, and when at last he came up he had gold sand in his shoes.

Halla.

What would you do if that were really gold in your bag?

Arnes.

Then Arnes would do many things. You should help yourself to all your hands could hold, and as many times as you have given me shelter, and Arngrim the leper should also fill his fists. I know of no one else to whom I care to do good.

Gudfinna.

And should I have nothing?

Arnes.

I would give you new, long ear-locks of gold.

Magnus (laughing).

Some little gift you'd surely have for the bailiff— no?

Arnes.

For him? Yes, if I could throw the sand into his eyes. (Opens the bag and takes out a handful of Iceland moss.) They are fine, these lichens, and taste good when you cook them in milk.

Gudfinna (rising and muttering to herself).

The milk! [Exit.

Arnes (holding up a handful).

See how big they are.

Halla.

Yes, they are fine.

Arnes (patting the bag).

And it is well stuffed, too.

Enter the Boy.

The Boy.

Now you can milk the sheep.

Halla.

You are not through yet, poor boy. You will have to go down along the creek and look for the cows.

[Exit Oddny.

The Boy.

I hope they're not up to new tricks and begin to stay out nights. [Exit.

Halla (calling after him).

Take a drink of milk in the pantry; the key is in the door. (Magnus rises slowly.)

Arnes.

Are you going to buy my bag?

Halla.

If you make the price right.

Arnes.

You ought to have it for nothing— you've given me shelter and good food so often. (Lifts his foot.) What I need most just now is to get something on my feet.

Halla.

I don't think we shall quarrel about the price. (To Magnus.) Take it out into the kitchen.

[Exit Magnus with the bag.

Halla.

Will you not sit down? I'll go and find you a bite to eat. [Exit.

Arnes (following her with his eyes).

That woman has a kind heart. (Sits down.) How long have you been working here on the farm?

Kari.

This is my second year.

Arnes.

And overseer already? Yes, some folks have luck. (Leans toward him.) As you may know, I haven't a very good name. I can't settle down very long at any one place, and it comes hard for me to be anybody's servant. You must surely have heard me spoken of as a thief?

Kari.

People will say so many things.

Arnes (passing his hand over his ears).

My ears are not marked yet, but somehow it sticks to you like dust— what people say— no matter whether it is true or not. Have you ever been the target for gossipy tales?

Kari (slowly).

Not that I know of.

Arnes.

Then you have it coming to you. Shall I tell you what they are saying about you in these parts?

Kari.

Is it about me and Halla?

Arnes.

I have heard that too, but this story is about yourself.

Kari.

I would rather be spared listening to gossip.

Arnes.

If I had been quite sure that it was nothing but gossip, I should not have opened my mouth about it.

Kari (laughing coldly).

You are at least frank.

Arnes (rising).

It is all the same to me, but if you have anything to hide, you had better keep your eyes and ears open, for you have an enemy, that much I can tell you.

Kari.

I don't know that I have harmed any one around here.

Arnes.

You live and fill your place. That is enough to make enemies.

Enter Halla with a wooden mug filled with porridge and milk. The lid is turned back and some meat, dried fish, and butter are placed upon it.

Halla.

You get nothing but skimmed milk. I thought you would rather have that than wait until the cows had been milked. (Lets down the table-leaf.)

Arnes (sits down and reaches for the mug).

God bless you, woman! I am used to having it on my knees. (Pulls out his pocket-knife and eats.)

Halla (stops in front of Kari and looks at him).

You are working hard; there are drops of sweat on your forehead.

Kari.

Are there? (Wipes his forehead; looks up.) Should you like to know your life beforehand? (Stands up and raises both arms to the ceiling.) I have lived where I could touch the roof over my head with my clenched fists, and I have lived where my eyes could not reach it. (Sits down.) Can you remember how few clothes I had when I came here?

Halla (sitting down).

I can well remember the green knitted jerkin you wore— you have it yet— and your coat and brown breeches. (Smiling.) There was a big black patch on the left knee.

Kari.

The rags on my back were all I had in the world, and now I own two new sets and even more underclothes. You deserve that I should put teeth of gold in your rake.

Halla (smiling).

That rake would be too heavy for me.

Kari (looking at Halla).

So many things come back to me to-night that I have not thought of before. You gave me leave to work in the smithy in my spare time instead of doing the wool-carding. You saw to it that I should be one of the men who gather the sheep down from the hills in the fall, because you knew I liked it.

Halla.

That was only natural, since you are so swift of foot.

Kari.

And for my bed you knitted a coverlet with seven colors in it. You have always been good to me.

Halla.

Now you are getting far too grateful. (To Arnes.) Do you think you have enough food there, Arnes? I can get you some more, if you want it.

Arnes (patting his stomach).

I don't even know if I can make room for the porridge.

Kari (looking at Halla).

If I were to leave this place, I should miss you more than any other living being I have ever known. (Rises, pushes the box under the bed.)

Halla.

I hope you will stay here for many years yet.

Kari.

Nobody knows what the morrow may bring. [Exit.

(Halla follows Kari with her eyes. Silence.)

Arnes (puts the wooden mug on the table).

Now I give thanks for the meal. Will you let me lie in one of your barns to-night?

Halla.

You would surely sleep better in a bed. You can lie with Magnus.

Arnes.

I never sleep better than in old dry hay.

Enter Gudfinna.

Gudfinna.

Is it true, Arnes, that you can tell what the birds are talking about?

Arnes.

Do they say that?

Gudfinna.

In olden times there were wise folks who understood all such things, but people nowadays are backward in that as in so many other ways. (Sits down.)

Halla (smiling).

Yes, young people are not good for much, in your opinion.

Gudfinna.

We need only think of the sagas. Where have we men now like Skarphjedinn and Grettir Asmundsson? There are none such in these days.

Halla.

When I was a child there was nothing I wished so much as that I might have lived with Grettir in his banishment.

Arnes.

Was it not eighteen years he was an outlaw?

Halla.

Nineteen. He lived longer as an outlaw than any one else has done. He lacked only one year to become free.

Arnes.

He must have been a great man, but that brings to my mind what the leper said the other day, when the talk turned to the old sagas.

Halla.

And what did he say?

Arnes.

Distance makes mountains blue and mortals great.

Enter the Boy, running.

The Boy.

The bailiff is coming on horseback.

Halla (rising).

What can he want so late? Did you find the cows?

The Boy.

Yes, I met them coming home. They are in.

Halla.

Did you tell the girls?

The Boy.

No. [Exit.

Halla.

Gudfinna, you go and ask him to come in. (Gudfinna rises.) You won't forget about the milk?

[Exit Gudfinna.

Arnes (rising).

Now I think I shall go and seek my bed.

Halla (smiling).

Don't you want to have a talk with the bailiff?

Arnes.

If I had found some dead sheep up in the hills with his mark on their ears, I'd gladly have told him so.

Halla.

Sleep well!

[Exit Arnes.

(Halla smooths her hair.)

Enter Bjoern, carrying a riding-whip with a silver-mounted handle and a leather lash; he wears riding-socks reaching above the knees.

Halla.

Good evening!

Bjoern (pointing to his feet).

I did not take off my socks. I see now that they are not quite clean.

Halla.

Will you be seated? May I offer you anything?

Bjoern.

No, thank you. I want nothing. (Sits down.) You know I have not far to come. The sorrel and I can make it in fifteen minutes, when we are in the humor.

Halla.

How is everything at your place? Have you any news?

Bjoern.

That depends on what you mean. Who was that I met in the hall? It was quite dark there.

Halla.

It must have been Arnes.

Bjoern.

Is he spending the night here?

Halla.

Yes.

Bjoern.

It is no concern of mine, but I doubt if my late brother would have sheltered men of his kind, and yet he had the name of being hospitable. (Takes a snuff-box from his pocket.)

Halla (sitting down).

I know nothing wrong of Arnes, and I do know that he is grateful for what I can offer him.

Bjoern.

I thought you had heard the common talk. His record is not of the best, I am sorry to say. I have been told that little things are apt to be missing where he has made his stay.

Halla.

I would rather bear such a loss in silence than perhaps throw suspicion on an innocent man.

Bjoern.

Finely thought! Yet some one must be the first to warn the unwary. (Takes snuff.) You must hear what happened to me not long ago. The boy lost two milch sheep up in the hills. I was vexed that it should occur so early in the summer when they still had their wool, and therefore I sent one of my men to look for them. Near Red Peak he found tracks of the sheep and also the footprints of a large man. (Lowering his voice.) You could do me a good turn if you would give Arnes a pair of new shoes; I should pay for them, of course. He will not suspect anything, if you do it. Then you keep his old shoes for me.

Halla (rising).

No, I will have nothing to do with that.

Bjoern.

Then we shan't speak of it any more. I think I shall find out what I am after, nevertheless. (He is silent.)

Halla.

You surely didn't come here to-night for Arnes's sake?

Bjoern.

I did not. Was Kari at church last Sunday?

Halla.

Why do you ask?

Bjoern.

I know that he was there. (Sits down.) You are satisfied with him as an overseer?

Halla (sits down).

In every way.

Bjoern.

All the same, I advise you to get rid of him, the sooner the better.

Halla (laughing).

I thank you for your kind advice.

Bjoern.

My advice is not to be scorned, and besides, am I not your brother-in-law?

Halla.

My sheep had to learn that to their cost, when they strayed in on your pastures, and you set your dogs on them.

Bjoern.

Even though we have not always been as neighborly as I might wish, you must listen to me this time. I have always disliked Kari; I would never have hired that man. Believe me, there is something underhanded about him. Nobody knows him, and no one has heard of his people. It is as if he had shot up out of the ground. The only thing you know about him is that his name is Kari, and you don't even know that.

Halla (rising).

What are you driving at with all this?

Bjoern.

Sit still. (Halla sits down.) Last fall two strangers who stopped on their journey through here thought they knew Kari. They said it was easier to change one's name than one's face. As bad luck would have it, I did not get a chance to talk with them myself, but my suspicions were roused. Now there is a man staying with me who has just come from the south. He saw Kari at church last Sunday, and if he is right, it is an ugly story.

Halla.

What do you mean?

Bjoern (rising).

Neither more nor less than that your overseer's name is not Kari but Eyvind, that he was locked up for theft, and got away.

Halla (has risen).

You must be mad, both of you.

Bjoern.

The man would not swear that he had seen right. (Smiles.) Somehow he seemed sorry that he had told me. He said he had never seen two people more alike, and Eyvind had a scar on his forehead just as Kari has— that much he remembered plainly.

Halla.

It was last Sunday at church that he saw Kari?

Bjoern.

Yes.

Halla (laughing).

Kari was not at church last Sunday.

Bjoern.

That's queer. Two of my men were there. But we can easily solve that riddle, if I bring my guest over here to-morrow.

Halla.

I don't believe for a moment that Kari is a thief.

Bjoern.

You need not believe it. Simply tell him what I have said, and that I mean to have the judge look into the matter. I warrant he will be out of the house before sunrise.

Halla.

You are quick to believe evil and quick to run to the judge, but in this case you will not reap much honor.

Bjoern.

If you suppose I shall act hastily, you are mistaken. I shall write to the county that Eyvind hails from and give the letter to my guest, who will see that it gets safely and speedily into the proper hands. The answer can be here within two or three months.

Halla.

Is it out of kindness to me that you are so eager about this matter?

Bjoern.

If it is true what people say, it would be best for you that Kari should take himself away from here as fast as can be. You might find it harder to part from him two or three months hence.

Halla (icily).

Now you show your real self. You did not come here to give me kind counsel, nor do I look for such from you, but you had better leave me and my household in peace. Do you think I have forgotten what you did to me? When your brother told you that he intended to marry me, you thought it would be a disgrace to the family for him to make a poor servant girl his wife. You urged him to satisfy his fleeting passion, as you called it, without any marriage.

Bjoern.

I never said that.

Halla (laying her hand on her heart).

In here I have a sealed book in which I keep the words my friends have spoken. And I have more to tell you. There was something behind it— your fear of losing a part of your power.

Bjoern.

What are you saying?

Halla.

Did that prick your soul, you godly man! You knew that your brother would follow your advice like a child, but you had misgivings that you could not work me like dough in your hands, and what you feared came true. You can never forget that I made my husband stand on his own feet. I know your greed for power! But now I warn you for all time to let me and mine alone. (Sits down.)

Bjoern (flushed with anger, but still controlling his voice).

Much have I learned to-night that I did not know before. Now I see why you made Kari overseer. You are not your mother's daughter for nothing.

Halla (her lips trembling).

You want to make me angry. You can't do it. Nor shall you succeed in blackening Kari in my eyes. You were hoping that I should hurt him by telling him what you have said. I shall not tell him.

Bjoern.

You will talk differently when I hold the proof in my hand. (Shakes his hand; goes toward the door.)

Halla (rising, hatred burning in her eyes).

Just before you came, the servants were making bets about who was best at glima, you or Kari. Oddny was the only one who stood up for you. Kari thought you had grown so old and stiff in your joints that you would not dare to go in for a wrestling-match.

Bjoern.

Tell Kari that I am ready to meet him this evening, if he wishes it.

Halla.

No, I shall tell Kari that you have given your word to wrestle with him at the big sheep-folds in the fall. I hope to have a good many witnesses, when the bailiff bites the dust.

Bjoern.

I will fight him whenever and wherever he may wish— anywhere but in jail. Good-bye! [Exit.

Halla (stands motionless for a moment; passes her hands down over her face; goes to the door; calls).

Gudfinna! Gudfinna! (Goes back into the room; again passes her hands down over her face.)

Enter Gudfinna.

Gudfinna.

Has the bailiff gone?

Halla.

Yes.

Gudfinna.

He came near upsetting me in the hall and didn't even say good evening.

Halla.

Do sweep the floor! I won't have in here the dirt he has dragged with him.

(Gudfinna takes a bird's wing and sweeps.)

Enter the Boy.

The Boy (shouting).

Come and see what we have caught!

Gudfinna.

Not so noisy! Did you catch a whale?

The Boy.

We got a salmon— so big! (Shows the size with his hands.)

Halla.

Tell Kari to come here; I want to speak with him. I will let you take care of the salmon. Open and clean it, sprinkle some salt on it, and lay it in fresh grass overnight.

The Boy.

Won't you look at it before it is cut?

Halla (patting his cheek).

You big baby! Do you think I have never seen a salmon before? Now run and tell Kari that I want to speak to him.

[Exit the Boy.

Gudfinna (calling after him through the door).

And tell him to lift the milk pot from the fire.

Halla.

If the coals are good, I must ask you to do some baking to-night for Sunday.

Gudfinna.

The coals are good enough. [Exit.

(Halla stands listening. Footsteps are heard in the hall.)

Enter Kari.

Kari.

You wanted to speak to me?

Halla.

I hear you have made a fine catch. Thank you! I have promised the bailiff that you shall meet him in a glima at the folds in the autumn. What do you say to that?

Kari.

I call that great news, but surely that was not what he came here for to-night?

Halla.

No, he had another errand. He spoke ill of you.

Kari.

What did he say?

Halla.

There is a man just come from the south who saw you at church last Sunday. He told Bjoern that you looked like some one by the name of Eyvind, a thief who had run away. He even thought he recognized the scar on your forehead.

Kari (in a low voice, sitting down).

And did the bailiff believe the man was right?

Halla.

He said I should tell you that he meant to speak to the judge, and that then you would flee from here this very night.

Kari (rising with a loud laugh).

This is to laugh at. Do you know when they will come to catch the thief!

Halla (has been looking at him steadily; holds out her hand to him).

Give me your hand, Kari, and say that you have nothing to fear from any man.

Kari (evasively).

I understand that this seems strange to you, but the man who saw me must be some one who has a grudge against me from former days, and does this out of spite.

Halla.

What do I care about him or about the bailiff! Say that you are innocent!

Kari.

So you doubt me, too!

Halla (aloof).

I have no right to call you to task.

Kari (warmly).

I know of no one in the world whom I would rather trust than you.

Halla.

You are innocent?

Kari.

Yes, in this I am innocent.

Halla.

God be praised! (Puts her hand on her heart.) If it had been otherwise, I don't see how I could have borne it.

Kari.

I shall remember the bailiff for this.

Halla (in an outburst of joy).

Let him do his worst! What care we! I am so happy now that I know you are innocent, I could kiss you for joy. (Exultantly.) Kari, will you be my husband?

(It is growing dark.)

Kari (terrified).

No, Halla, I cannot.

Halla (stares at him, speechless. Suddenly she goes close to him and scans his face). Have you a wife?

Kari.

No.

Halla.

I could not believe that your eyes lied this evening. (Stamps her foot with anger and shame.) Take yourself away from here! Go! (Covers her face with her hands; rocks to and fro.)

Kari.

My eyes did not lie to-night. (Stands for a moment in terrible emotion; then begins to walk up and down.) I knew a man named Eyvind. His father was poor and had many children. Eyvind was the next to the oldest. It was said in those parts that thieving ran in the blood of his kin, though no one could say anything against Eyvind's father. (Halla looks up, listening.) Two years ago or more, toward the end of the winter, it happened, as often before, that there was no food in the house. Eyvind went to the parson to ask him to help them out with food. He offered to pay for it with his work in the spring, but the parson refused. It was late in the evening, dark and snowing. The road to Eyvind's home went past the parson's sheep-cots. (As Kari proceeds, he now and then passes his hand over his forehead.) They loomed before him like a big black mound. Then the temptation came over him. The herdsman had gone home, the snow would cover up the tracks, and the parson was rich enough. I hated him! (Halla rises.) Late that night, Eyvind came home with a fine big sheep. The next day, word came from the parson. They had found his mittens in the sheep-cot. Eyvind was locked up and given ten years in prison. They thought they could prove that he had more thefts to answer for— (He breaks off suddenly.)

Halla (breathlessly).

Kari!

Kari.

My name is not Kari— it is Eyvind. I was sentenced for theft. I fled and lived one year in the hills as an outlaw.

Halla.

After this I shall never believe in any one. (Sits down and bursts into tears.)

Kari (kneeling).

Do with me what you will. Drive me out of your house— now— this evening, or give me into the hands of the law, but you must forgive me. It was our poverty and the snow that made me steal.

Halla (rising).

I will not cry. It is stupid to cry. Get up! I am no God that you should ask my forgiveness.

Kari (rising to his feet).

It is lonesome to live a whole winter up there in the hills. That is why I ventured down here, far from home, and under a new name. Since then I have gone about like one who walks in his sleep, afraid of the awakening. Many a time have I made up my mind to tell you the whole truth, but somehow it seemed to get harder with every day that passed. I have never understood why it was so before to-night, but now I know it, and now I can speak of it. Kari has loved you. You are the only woman he has ever loved, but now Kari is no more, and never has been anything but the dream of a poor and unhappy man.

Halla.

Say no more!

Kari.

He has loved you long, but never until to-night has he seen how beautiful you are. (Carried away.) Like a blue mountain rising from the mist!

Halla (stepping close to him).

Close your eyes, Kari, and sleep yet a while. Kiss me!

Kari (kissing her).

I will sleep with my eyes open.



ACT II

A resting-place near one of the large folds into which the sheep are driven in the autumn, when they are gathered down from the hills. A grass-grown dell. On the left, a steep heather-covered slope, here and there in the heather gray, jutting stones. To the right, a low bluff, where grass, flowers, and juniper bushes grow in the clefts and on the ledges. Toward the background, the bluff becomes lower and more bushy, and bending somewhat to the left, it partly shuts off the view into a hilly, rock-studded landscape with the distant mountains beyond. In the foreground, at the foot of the bluff, several saddles. The women's saddles have broad, brass-mounted backs.

It is a fine autumn day. Gudfinna alone is busy with the luggage.

Enter Arngrim carrying a roll of paper under his arm. His face is livid and drawn.

Arngrim.

So you are all alone here.

Gudfinna.

Indeed I am. I did not want to leave the luggage, and it seemed a pity to keep the boy from the folds.

Arngrim.

Is Halla up at the folds?

Gudfinna.

I don't know where she is now. She is so restless to-day. A while ago she climbed up on a knoll to see if the last drove was coming down from the hills. I hardly know whether it's the sheep or Kari she is looking for.

Arngrim.

We don't get tired of watching for what we are looking forward to. I have but one thing to look forward to. (Sits down on one of the rocks.)

Gudfinna.

And what is that, poor fellow?

Arngrim.

To hear the nails being driven into my coffin. Then I should say like the man in the story: "Now I'd laugh if I weren't dead."

Enter Halla, happy and smiling, wearing a silver girdle around her waist.

Halla.

The last flock is coming, and it is not the smallest. Kari is with it.

Gudfinna.

Of course he is with it.

Halla (laughing).

Yes, of course. (To Arngrim.) I am glad to see you here.

Arngrim.

Did you happen to bring anything good from home?

Halla (smiling).

You never can tell. (Searching in one of the saddle-bags, she finds a blue flask which she hands to Arngrim.) You may keep the bottle.

Arngrim.

That is just like you. (Holds the flask up to the light.) There are juniper berries in it. (Takes a pull.) It is like drinking sunshine.

Halla (has moved toward the background and stands gazing).

What a change in the sheep since spring. Then they were yellow and dirty, but now they are white as ptarmigans in winter. It always makes me happy to see a flock of sheep coming down the mountain side.

Gudfinna.

Kari's shoes must be a sight. He doesn't save his legs, that man.

Halla.

No, you are right in that. (Goes to Gudfinna.) But he runs swifter than any one else.

Arngrim.

No one can run away from his fate, were he fleeter than the wind.

Halla (turns to Arngrim).

Are you sure of that? May not a strong will turn the tide of fate?

Arngrim.

My fate no one can alter. (Looks up.) An old song comes to my mind when I look at you. I cannot remember how it runs, but it is about some one who had the thoughts of her soul written on her forehead.

Halla (smiling).

I feel only the sun shining on my brow. [Exit.

Arngrim.

She deserves to be happy. (Brings out the roll of paper.) Should you like to see what I am doing to make the days slip by?

Gudfinna (goes to him).

Yes, let me look at it.

Arngrim (opens the roll, which is seen to contain drawings in bright colors).

These are birds from the garden of Eden— too bad I never heard them sing!— and here is a blue flower so sensitive that it closes at the slightest touch, and here is a small plant from Gethsemane with red berries lying like drops of blood on the ground.

Enter the Boy, running.

The Boy.

Kari is coming!

Gudfinna.

We know that.

The Boy.

I must be off again to help drive the sheep into the fold. (Leaps with joy.) What fun to be here! It's most as good as Christmas! [Exit.

Arngrim.

He skips about like a merry little lamb.

Gudfinna (calling after him).

Take care the rams don't butt you!

Enter Halla.

Halla.

Now the sheep will soon be at the fold. (Brushes her hair back from her forehead.) Aren't you clever enough to know a cure for freckles? I am so tired of my freckles.

Arngrim (smiling).

Perhaps you have a new looking-glass.

Halla (smiling).

Perhaps I have.

Enter Jon and two other peasants, followed directly by two peasant women, Jon's Wife, and her friend with two little daughters, eight and nine years old.

Jon (slightly intoxicated).

Now a bite of shark's meat would taste first-rate. You didn't happen to be so thoughtful as to bring some, did you?

Halla (laughing).

That is just what I did. (Looks in the saddle-bags.)

Jon.

Didn't I tell you so! (Takes a brandy-flask out of his pocket.) Do you mind if I bring out my bottle?

Halla.

Please yourself.

Jon (sits down. The others follow suit, until only the children remain standing). If I didn't have so fine a wife, I should have asked you to marry me long ago. (Takes a pull at the flask and hands it to the one sitting next to him.) Let the bottle go the rounds!

Halla (to Jon's Wife). Your husband is happy to-day.

Jon's Wife. Yes, he loves everybody to-day.

First Peasant (hands the flask to Jon).

Thanks!

Jon.

Don't think I am forgetting you, Arngrim. (Hands him the flask.)

Arngrim.

The blood grows colder as one gets old, and then the warmth of the bottle feels good.

Halla (hands Jon a piece of shark's meat). Help yourself.

Jon.

Bless you! My mouth waters. (Takes a knife from his pocket and cuts off a slice.) It is white as milk and sweet-smelling. I say, shark's meat and brandy are the best things the Lord ever made— next to women! (Hands the fish to one of the peasants.)

Halla (finds a piece of sugar-candy and divides it between the children). Have the little girls been to the folds before?

Peasant Woman.

No, this is the first time. I promised them last spring that if they were good and worked hard I would bring them, and they have surely earned it. It's past belief how much they can do, no older than they are.

Halla.

Did you see the last flock? That was a large one. (Goes toward the background.)

Jon's Wife. Indeed it was.

Jon.

My brown bell-wether was the leader of the flock. He generally stays in the hills till they gather in the sheep for the last time, unless there are signs of bad weather. (Gudfinna crosses over to the peasant women and fingers their clothes. They stand talking together.)

First Peasant.

I should not wonder if the winter were to come early after so good a summer.

Second Peasant.

God knows how many sheep the hills have taken this year! Do you remember those cold days in the spring? It may be a good many lambs froze to death.

First Peasant.

And then those cursed foxes!

Jon.

The foxes are nothing to the men— both those down here and those in the hills.

Second Peasant.

I don't believe there is anybody living in the hills, at least not in these parts.

Jon.

You don't believe it? I tell you, my good man, there are more outlaws than you think. To my mind, the laws are to blame for it. If I had my say, all thieves would be strung up.

Second Peasant.

Well, I look at it in another way. I believe the laws are too strict. It seems to me it is making too much of the sheep, when a man is locked up for life because he has stolen two or three of them.

Jon.

You always have to be of a different mind from anybody else.

(Halla comes back and listens.)

Second Peasant.

I don't know about that, but those who flee to the hills do it from need. If the laws were milder, I believe there would be no outlaws. What do you say, Arngrim?

Arngrim.

If we were all to be judged by our thoughts, the hills would be swarming with outlaws.

Halla.

It is too light yet to be talking about thieves. Can't you tell us something funny?

Jon's Wife. Tell about our calf.

Jon (laughing).

When he saw the sun for the first time in his life, he fell down on his tail from fright.

Enter Arnes, somewhat intoxicated.

Jon.

There comes the man who can tell us stories. (Rises and goes to meet him.)

Arnes.

Good day to you all! So you want a story?

Jon.

You shall have a drink if you tell us a story, but it must be a good one.

Arnes.

Hand me the bottle. (Drinks.) I could tell you some spook stories that would make your hair stand on end, but they are better told in the gloaming. (Laughs.) The girls are less afraid of us men folks when they hear about spooks.

Jon (laughing).

Yes, of two evils men are better than spooks.

Arnes (sees Halla).

Now I know what I shall tell you. Hush! Once upon a time there were two outlaws. What their crime had been I don't know, but they had to flee to the hills to save their lives. They found a green spot among the glaciers, hemmed in by huge rocks. There they built their hut, for there they knew they would be left in peace. But the hills were hankering for their old loneliness and hated those two, and swore they would drive them away. First they sent the storms and the frost. There came a winter night so terrible that the roots of the grass trembled with fear under the snow, but unknown to those two their love had built an invisible wall around the hut, and the storm and the snow could not get in. Then the hills sent hunger. It came to them in their dreams, tempting them with sweet-smelling hot bread and butter fresh from the churn. It would have them barter their love—

Enter a Farm Hand.

The Farm Hand.

Is Arnes here by any chance?

Arnes.

Here I am.

The Farm Hand.

There is a sheep with earmarks that nobody can make out. Will you come over and take a look at it?

Arnes (rising).

No peace to be had!

Halla (holding out her hand to Arnes).

Thanks for the story. [Arnes takes Halla's hand. Exit.

The Farm Hand (to Jon).

Your brown bell-wether ran away from the men as they were trying to drive it in.

Jon (rising).

That promises a fine fall. (All the peasants rise.)

Jon's Wife (to Halla). We shall see each other later.

Halla.

So we shall. [Exeunt peasants.

Gudfinna.

They have not been sparing of the shark's meat. (Packs it away.)

Enter Kari, warm from running, happy and smiling.

Kari.

Good day to you, Halla! (Shakes hands with her.)

Halla (has gone to meet Kari).

Good day to you, and welcome back!

Arngrim (rising).

Now I am so drunk that I can enjoy listening to the bleating of the sheep. By the way, washing with lukewarm milk is good for freckles. [Exit.

Halla.

Thanks! (To Gudfinna.) You may go now, if you like. You have been here with the luggage long enough.

[Exit Gudfinna.

(Halla and Kari stand silent until Gudfinna has disappeared. Then Kari draws her to him and kisses her.)

Halla.

I would rather wait for you here than meet you at the fold. I was so frightened! I thought you had gone and would never come back. (Takes his hand and looks at him in loving wonder.) Where do you get your courage? I can't understand that you have not fled long ago.

Kari.

I will tell you where I get my courage. (Kisses her.) I don't know how the days can be so gloriously long. It seems to me that I have lived more than the age of man since the first time you kissed me.

Halla.

You love me!

Kari (is silent for a moment).

I love you.

Halla.

You don't know how much that one word promises me. It means the sunshine on the hills. It means the streams and lakes. Shall I tell you something, Kari? Something you don't know?

Kari.

What could that be?

Halla.

I am not going to say it just now, but I will tell you something else. I care a thousand times more for you now than I did three months ago. Do you know why?

Kari.

No.

Halla.

Because you are so brave. You sleep in my arms as calmly as if you had not a foe in the whole country.

Kari (smiling).

I must have borrowed your courage.

Halla.

It is dear to see you smile. Your hair is like a cloud, and when you smile it seems to lift from your forehead.

Kari.

You must not make me out braver than I am. Part of my courage is recklessness. I close my eyes and let the sun shine on my face.

Halla.

Do you never think of the future?

Kari (earnestly).

I do.

Halla.

I have blamed myself much these last days. I ought to have sent you away long ago, but I could not. I had to be sure that you loved me. Last night I heard the hills calling you, and I called against them with all my soul. If you had never come back, I would have forgiven you, though it had broken my heart. (Exultantly.) And then I saw you coming down the mountain like a god, driving a white snowslide before you!

Kari.

Did you think I could have gone without letting you know? I remember once you had fallen asleep in my arms. The night was light. Your eyes were closed, but I could see through your eyelids. I saw a little girl with black hair. (Fondly stroking her hair.)

Halla (taking his right hand).

How well I know this hand! (Lays it on her heart.) My heart beats with joy.

Kari.

I am like the man in the fairy-tale who fell down into a deep well. He thought he would never again see the sun, but suddenly he stood in a green meadow. There was a tall castle, and the king's daughter came out to meet him. Halla, do you understand? If I had not stolen, we two should never have met.

Halla.

That is true.

Kari.

The year I lived in the hills, I would sometimes get into such a rage that I wanted to give myself a good thrashing. Once I really did it— I beat myself with a knotted rope.

Halla.

How you must have suffered!

Kari.

If anybody had told me in those days that I should ever become a happy man, I would have laughed at him. Then I believed riches and honors meant happiness. I used to dream of riding through the parish where I was born, dressed in fine clothes and with many horses.

Halla (laughing).

I did not know you were vain.

Kari.

Nor am I any more, but I have grown stingy. The minutes are my gold-pieces. (Takes her hand.) When I hold your hand in mine, I am happy. Before I cared for you, I did not see the sun shining, and now when it rains, all the drops prattle about you.

Halla.

You do love me!

Kari.

I seem to be in a church. I hold a torch in my hand and light one taper after another. For every taper that is lighted, the church grows larger and more beautiful. But I am a thief. If I am caught I must be buried alive, and now the church-bells are ringing. I hear the crowd gathering outside.

Halla.

You frighten me.

Kari (taking her face between his hands).

I must have a long look at your face. If I were to become blind this moment, I should always remember it. Your soul is in your eyes. When you look at me, I feel an unseen hand fondling my face. Whenever the sun shines, I shall see your eyes. It is hard to tell you, but when the sky grows red to-morrow, I shall be on my way to the hills. I must flee this very night.

Halla.

I knew it. (Sits down.) Tell me how you have planned your flight.

Kari.

I must be off before the winter sets in, and besides the letter from the south may be here any day now.

Halla.

I know all that.

Kari (sits down).

When I come home to-night, I shall say that I have seen the tracks of a flock of sheep farther up in the hills than we usually go to look for them. I shall ask you for two horses. You won't refuse me them? (Halla shakes her head.) I shall say that I must start at once, this very night, before the tracks disappear. When I don't come back, they will think I have come across outlaws or have met with an accident.

Halla.

And where shall you go?

Kari.

To the mountain plain where the warm springs are. I lived there before I came to you.

Halla.

How long will it take you to reach it?

Kari.

Three days. It is about in the middle of the country.

Halla.

And there you will build your hut?

Kari.

No; last time I lived in a lava cave. I had brought with me some tools that my brother gave me, and I left them there. Something told me that I might need them again. (He is silent.)

Halla (taking his hand).

You must tell me more, much more. I want to see the place where you will live (with a strange smile), so that I can come and visit you in my thoughts.

Kari.

I forget what I have told you and what I have not told you. You may think that the hills are wild and forbidding, but that is not so at all. In the summer, when the sun is shining, they are beautiful. The glaciers lie like white untrodden land in a sea of sand, their lower rim flashing green and blue in the sunlight. When you come nearer, you see a chain of jagged sandhills like a dark surf, where the glacier and the sand waste meet. (He is silent again. Halla has picked a flower and is pulling its petals.) Why are you doing that? What are you asking about?

Halla.

You love me!

Kari.

Do you need to ask a flower about that? (Rising.) Are you not the least bit sorry that we must part?

Halla (rising).

Would it make it easier for you, if I were to whine and weep like a child?

Kari.

I don't know. (He is silent.) Yet you need not pity me. I am rich— I am king of the hills! The fire on my hearth never dies, day or night. The country is mine, as far as my eyes can reach. Mine are the glaciers that make the streams! When I get angry, they swell, and the stones gnash their teeth against the current. And I own a whole lake with a fleet of ice-ships and a choir of swans.

Halla.

I never said that I pitied you.

Kari.

But one thing you must promise me. You must not marry the bailiff.

Halla.

But, dear man—

Kari.

If you do, I shall come some night and kill you both, first him and then you.

Halla.

Are you really jealous of the bailiff? He hates me.

Kari.

Why should he be hounding me like a wild beast, if it were not for your sake? I have never done him any harm.

Halla.

I promise you that I shall never marry the bailiff. (Puts her arms around his neck and tries to draw him to her.) Kiss me, Kari!

Kari (gently pushing her away).

My name is not Kari. From this day on my name is Eyvind— "Eyvind of the Hills," they call me in the southland, my brother told me.

Halla.

From my lips you shall never hear any other name than Kari. By that name I learned to love you. A man who is not loved has no name. (Takes his hands.)

Kari (in a sudden outburst, drawing her to him and kissing her forehead).

God bless you, Halla! (With difficulty mastering his voice.) Now I am going to the fold. (Turns away from Halla.)

Halla (calling).

Kari! (Kari turns back.) Must I ask you to marry me a second time? I thought we two were married.

Kari.

So we are before God.

Halla.

So far as I know, it is the custom that when a man moves from one place to another, he takes his wife with him.

Kari.

Do you think there is anything in the world I would rather do than live with you?

Halla.

Then ask me if I am willing.

Kari.

Will you be my beloved wife and go with me through all suffering?

Halla.

I will!

Kari.

Will you take upon yourself half of my guilt and become an outcast like me?

Halla (exultantly).

I will!

Kari.

Will you face hunger and cold and all terrors for my sake?

Halla.

Have you not always known that I would go with you? Could you believe me so low that I would keep you here with this dread hanging over you, if I had not meant to go with you? Every night I thought: To-morrow he will ask if you will go with him.

Kari.

How beautiful you are! All the days we have had together live in your face!

Halla.

Did you believe I could rest satisfied in thinking of you with the mountains between us? Then you don't know me yet. I will live! I will sail with you in your white ships!

Enter Bjoern.

Bjoern.

Good day to you, Halla. I looked for you at the fold. It is a long time since we two neighbors have met.

Halla (confused).

Yes, it is a long time.

Bjoern.

Who sees to it that your sheep are taken out of the fold? Your cots seem to be standing empty.

Halla.

Kari attends to that.

Bjoern.

Then it is time you sent him about his work.

Kari.

Perhaps the bailiff has come to lend a hand?

Bjoern (to Halla).

I should like to have a few words with you.

Halla.

We were just starting for the fold. Perhaps we could have our talk on the way up.

Bjoern.

If it is the same to you, I prefer to stay here. It is a matter of some weight, which I do not care to discuss in the presence of your overseer or any one but yourself.

Halla (to Kari).

Then you had better go up to the fold.

Kari.

Don't forget to ask the bailiff if it is true that he has been rubbing his knee-joints with fat every night the whole summer through. [Exit.

Bjoern.

He's bold enough, that fellow. It is well we shall soon be rid of him.

Halla (roused).

And what was it you wanted to see me about?

Bjoern.

We were both somewhat angry when we met last. Shall we let it be forgotten?

Halla (relieved).

I thought perhaps you had got your letter from the southland with the proofs that you had been wrong in your suspicions.

Bjoern.

Everything in good time. Did you say anything to him?

Halla.

I told you I wouldn't.

Bjoern.

I might have known that, since he is still here. Do you think I am beginning to look old?

Halla (amazed).

To me you look as you have always looked. (Watches him keenly.)

Bjoern.

I admit you were right in some of the things you said to me when we met last, but we all have our failings, and since my mother died I have had no one who dared to speak plainly to me except you.

Halla.

You may not often have wished to listen to others.

Bjoern.

Perhaps you are right, but somehow there must be two different souls in every one of us.

Halla.

Have you had a good hay crop this summer?

Bjoern.

Fairly good. At least I have enough for myself. Don't you understand what I want to say to you, or don't you want to understand?

Halla.

You said that it was a matter of weight. That is all I know.

Bjoern.

I am not skilled in fine words. Could you think of becoming my wife? (Halla laughs. Bjoern flushes.) Is that so laughable?

Halla.

You can't be in earnest.

Bjoern.

In dead earnest. I shall soon be forty-eight years old, but you are not a child any longer either, and we are of equal standing. If we two marry and make our farms into one, I think we should have to look outside of this parish for a finer property.

Halla.

So we two should marry in order to join our farms?

Bjoern.

I will not deny that I should like to see the boundary line gone between the two farms, but that is not the reason why I have made up my mind to ask you to marry me. It is not good for a man to be alone, and you are the only woman in this parish whom I could think of taking for a wife. You are healthy and strong of body, and you are good-looking. What answer do you give?

Halla.

I must have some time to think it over. This comes upon me unawares. Within three days you shall have my answer. Are you satisfied with that?

Bjoern.

I think it is but natural that you should want some time to make up your mind, and all the more as we have not always been the best of friends. Perhaps you will now more readily understand why I did not wish you to have a thief as overseer of your farm, and I am sorry to say that my distrust was well founded. (Pulls from his pocket a letter with a large seal.) This letter came yesterday.

Halla (holding out her hand).

May I see it?

Bjoern.

It is an official letter, which I do not like to give out of my hands, but I am not afraid to trust you with it. (Halla takes the letter; reads.) I can lend you one of my men to drive your sheep home this evening, for you will have to do without your overseer. It is lucky that the judge is here to-day.

Halla.

I shall keep this letter.

Bjoern.

I can understand a joke.

Halla.

Kari has been with me for more than a year. He has been a hard worker and an able man. I will not have any one lay hands on him so long as he is in my service. I want to give him a chance to get away. That is what you yourself advised, three months ago.

Bjoern.

At that time the case was very different. There was no proof of his guilt then.

Halla (putting her hand to her forehead).

I can't believe yet that he is a thief. (Hands the letter to Bjoern.) Bjoern, I beg of you to show me a great favor. You must let this matter rest, till we get home.

Bjoern.

In that I cannot serve you.

Halla.

Perhaps I can do something for you in return.

Bjoern.

I don't understand how you can pity a felon and a thief.

Halla.

Nor do I understand it myself, but somehow I do. You have just asked me if I would be your wife. Surely you will grant me the first thing I ask of you!

Bjoern.

One would think you were pleading for your best friend.

Halla.

I may have cared more for him than I knew myself. If you will let him get away, I shall have no objection to making our two farms into one.

Bjoern.

I never thought your overseer would be the means of my getting you for a wife, but I yield on those terms. Once we are married, you will surely forget him. But he must be gone from here within twenty-four hours, and I want you to know that if he ever shows himself in these parts again, he will have to take his punishment.

Halla.

You need have no fear that he will ever come back here.

Bjoern.

Then let us forget all about him. You have saved him from jail for a time, but he's sure to end there any way. (Goes to her.) Who would have thought that you should become my little wife! (Tries to put his arm around her waist.)

Halla (draws back).

So many things happen that we do not look for.

Enter Kari.

Bjoern.

You are just in time. It will surely please you to hear that your mistress is to marry me within a short time.

Kari (turning to Halla).

What does this mean?

Bjoern (laughing).

You hadn't expected this. (Goes to Halla.) My sweetheart might give me a kiss.

Halla (warding him off).

No, no!

Kari (grasping Bjoern's arm). That man lies! She is mine. (To Halla.) If you two get married to-morrow, still you are mine.

Bjoern.

Has my brother's wife become a harlot? [Exit.

Halla.

What have you done, Kari? It was to save you I promised to be his wife. I hoped to get a chance to speak to you. He has the letter and is going to give you up to the judge to-day.

Kari.

I could not bear that man to touch you.

Halla.

You must run for the horses and flee!

Kari.

That would be madness. The others have just as good horses. We must take what comes. I shall deny everything.

Halla.

What good would that do? It is impossible to mistake the description. I have read it myself.

Kari.

Did you really mean to marry the bailiff to save my life?

Halla.

I lied to him, so that I could flee with you. I hate him.

Kari.

I love you, Halla.

Halla (in rising fear).

What shall we do? (Wrings her hands.) It is all my fault for holding you back. (On the point of weeping.) I am an unhappy woman.

Kari.

You must not cry. Even if I faced the death warrant, I should not be sorry that I stayed. (Kisses her hands.) These summer days we have had together— in all eternity no one can take them from us.

Halla (withdraws her hands excitedly).

Don't you know of any way? Say that the bailiff is your enemy and has had the letter framed up.

Kari.

You know yourself that it would be no use. (Goes to her.) I believe it is God's will that you should not flee with me. I have told you how beautiful it can be in the hills, but all the terrors I have not told you of— the sand-storms, when the whole plain seems to be on fire, the nights as long as a whole winter, and the hunger stealing close to you like an evil mist. You might have come to hate me.

Halla.

I will hear nothing of all that. (Under her breath in terror.) They are coming!

Enter Bjoern and the District Judge, followed by a crowd of peasants and farm hands. Others come in as the action proceeds.

Bjoern (pointing).

There stands the man.

The Judge (goes to Kari).

You say your name is Kari. (Shows the letter.) According to this letter, your name is Eyvind, and you are an escaped thief.

Kari.

That is a lie.

Bjoern.

Read the letter.

(The Judge gives him a sharp look. He opens the letter and reads to himself, now and then raising his eyes from the letter to Kari's face.)

A Peasant (in a low voice).

What does the judge say?

Bjoern.

In the early spring, a man came here who knew him (pointing) as an escaped thief. I wrote to have the case looked up, and yesterday I got the answer.

The Judge.

The description fits you. It is my duty under the law to take you into custody.

(Murmuring among the peasants.)

First Peasant.

I never should have believed it.

Kari.

It is the bailiff to whom this letter was sent. May I be allowed to ask where it came from?

Bjoern.

From the southland where you were born.

Kari.

I was born in the east and have never been south.

Bjoern.

Will the judge look at the seal?

The Judge.

The seal is correct. (To Halla.) He is in your service. Have you found this man to be a thief?

Halla.

No. He has shown himself a trustworthy and an able man. (To the people.) Don't you believe, as I do, that Kari is innocent?

The Crowd (murmuring).

Yes, yes!

The Judge.

I cannot judge this case. I must send him to the district where Eyvind's home is. (To Halla.) Can you vouch for him a few days? At present I cannot well spare two men for the journey.

Halla.

I am not afraid to do that.

Bjoern.

It seems to me unwise to set a woman to watch a thief. If the judge wishes it, I will take him into safe-keeping myself.

Halla.

Does the bailiff think he can give counsel to the judge? I offer my farm as surety for Kari.

The Judge (interrupting Bjoern, who is about to reply).

Silence! (To Halla.) Then you are responsible. [Exit.

Bjoern.

I must say that the former judge was not wont to delay the law.

Halla (to the peasants).

You came here to listen to false charges, but you shall have a better pastime. You shall see the bailiff himself play at glima with the man he calls thief.

Bjoern.

You must be crazy! I won't touch him.

Halla.

My dear brother-in-law made me a promise last spring that he would wrestle with Kari here at the folds. It was a wager, and now he is backing out of it. What do you say to that?

Bjoern.

An honest man does not play with a thief.

Halla.

He is no more thief than you are. Should you be a thief, because I said so? (To the people.) He is only too glad to get out of the glima. He is a coward! He is a coward!

(Loud or suppressed laughter all around.)

Bjoern.

Never before has Bjoern Bergsteinsson been called a coward. (Takes off his coat.)

(Kari throws off his coat. The crowd draws back, leaving an open space. The "glima" begins. Bjoern pushes Kari out to the back, and the people follow. The heads of the wrestlers are seen; then they disappear to the left. A moment of silence, then a sudden outcry.)

All.

Kari has won! Kari has won! (Silence again.) Bjoern is hurt! [Exeunt some of the crowd.

Kari.

I think he has had enough. (Goes to Halla.)

A Peasant.

Bjoern had his leg broken. We must help him.

Jon.

I told them to look out for the rocks.

Halla.

It was the bailiff who drew Kari out on the rocks.

[Exeunt the rest of the peasants.

Bjoern's voice is heard, threatening. You shall pay me back for this, Halla!

Arnes.

I am glad he got it.

Arngrim.

"Hard upon hard," said the old woman; she sat down on a stone.

The Boy (goes to Kari, almost weeping).

You are not a thief!

Kari (patting him on the head).

No, no!

Halla (to Arnes).

Will you do me the favor to see that my sheep are driven home to-night? I don't want Kari to stay here any longer.

Arnes.

I will do it gladly. (To Kari.) I meant to warn you against what has overtaken you now.

Kari.

I know it. You meant well.

The Boy.

May I go home with Kari?

Halla.

No, you must stay here and help Arnes. I will go home with Kari myself. (Laughs.) You know I must watch my prisoner. You may bring the horses, the black and the sorrel.

[Exit the Boy.

Gudfinna.

Why all this hurry?

Halla (goes to her).

You always had a liking for the little box where my husband kept his money. When we get home, I want you to have that box and all that is in it.

Gudfinna.

But you keep your own money there!

Halla.

Not all. I meant to buy quite a number of sheep here to-day.

Gudfinna (on her way out).

I must be getting old. I don't understand anything any more.

Halla.

You need not tell them up at the folds that I am going home.

Gudfinna (taking Halla's hand). God bless you! (Her voice breaks.) [Exit.

Arnes (to Arngrim).

We had better be off, too.

Arngrim (goes to Kari).

If you should happen to ride astray, take care you don't lose her in the mist.

[Exeunt.

Kari (to Halla).

What do you mean by riding home now?

Halla.

Thank God, we have good horses! The folks won't get home with the sheep before nightfall, and they will not begin to look for us until to-morrow. By that time we shall have a good start.

Kari.

You must not flee with me, Halla. You don't know the life you are going to.

Halla.

You are a great child. Don't you think that I have weighed it all? (Smiles.) If you won't let me come and live with you, I will marry the bailiff.

Kari (kneeling before her).

Halla!

Halla (stands for a moment in silence; takes a long breath).

To-night we two shall ride alone in the hills!



ACT III

A small grass-grown plot. In the foreground, to the right, a fantastic lava formation, a hollow cone five yards in height and three yards in circumference, once an enormous lava bubble produced by gases in the liquid lava. In course of time, the roof has crumbled, also the nearest wall. The farther wall is still standing, but there is a hole in it, through which the sky can be seen. Farther back and somewhat to the left, the wall of a small hut is seen, though partly hidden by the lava formation. The hut is built of stone, the walls of small stones chinked with sod, the roof of large lava slabs. To the left, a deep gorge, the farther wall of which is so much higher than the one near by that it completely shuts off the view to the left. At the bottom of the gorge, a stream. Farther up, the gorge makes a turn to the left, and here the upper part of a waterfall is seen. Behind this, the glacier. On the grass plot is a hearth with a smouldering fire. Some rocks covered with skins serve as seats. From the gorge comes the murmuring sound of the waterfall.

The stage is empty. A horn is heard, first a short call, then a longer.

Enter Kari and Arnes. They are weather-beaten, bareheaded, dressed in knitted jerkins and knitted knee-breeches. Their feet are bare in their shoes. Both have ram's horns hanging at their side. Kari carries a swan, Arnes a bunch of ptarmigans, some faggots, and a few tufts of bearberry.

Kari (looking into the hut).

Halla! No, she is not here.

Arnes.

She may have gone for water.

Kari (lays down the swan).

It is quite heavy.

Arnes.

You might have let me carry it. I had not tired myself with running.

Kari.

As I had caught it, I wanted to carry it. (Smiles.) The old pride, you see.

Arnes.

The honor would have been yours just the same.

Kari.

This is the first swan this fall. (Stroking it fondly.) I am glad the feathers didn't get blood-stained.

Arnes.

It would be lonesome up here if we were only two.

Kari.

Indeed it would, but you have tried the loneliness before. Was it not two years you had been alone before you met us?

Arnes.

Two and a half.

Kari (pleased).

Do you know what we'll do? We'll hide the swan and say that we've come home empty-handed. (Takes the swan.) Hand me the ptarmigans. (Hides them behind the hut.) Now I wish Halla would come soon. (Walks to the back and blows his horn.)

Halla (is heard answering).

Hello!

Kari.

Here she comes.

Arnes.

You are a happy mortal.

Kari.

Yes, I am happy, and it is good to be here. We are free. We have enough to eat. We have sunshine, water, and shelter. What more do you want? (Arnes is silent.) I know you are brooding over something you don't want to tell me. You seem more gloomy every day. Are you longing to get away from here?

Arnes.

Don't let us talk about such things to-day.

Kari.

Perhaps it would do you good to unburden yourself to me or, better still, to Halla. She is wiser than I am, and she cares a good deal for you, I tell you.

Arnes.

There are not many like Halla.

Kari (hastily).

We won't tell Halla about the mist. It might frighten her.

Arnes.

I'll hold my peace.

Enter Halla, carrying a pail of water. The pail is of plaited willow twigs chinked with clay. With the other hand she leads a little girl about three years old. Halla is dressed in a white jerkin and black skirt, both of knitted wool. She wears her silver girdle around her waist. The child has on white knitted clothes. They are bare-headed, and their foot-wear is the same as that worn by the men.

Halla.

Did you have good luck to-day?

Kari (dolefully).

We have caught nothing but trouble and weariness. The ptarmigans made themselves scarce to-day. We saw a flock of six, but they flew away before we could get our snares out.

Halla (to Arnes).

Is it true, what he says?

Arnes.

It's true enough. We saw six ptarmigans, but they got away from us.

Halla.

I am sorry. We must hope for better luck next time.

Kari (laughing).

I fooled you that time! (Runs toward the hut.) Look here! Five big, fat ptarmigans!

Halla.

Well, well!

Kari (holding up the swan).

And that's all.

Halla.

What a lovely surprise! How did you catch it?

Kari.

I ran it down.

Arnes.

I don't believe there are many who can beat him at that. I know I can't.

Tota.

May Tota pat it?

Halla.

Tota may do anything she wants to. I should like to make you a jacket of swan's down.

Kari (cuts off the feet of the swan).

You would like these, wouldn't you?

Tota.

Yes.

Kari.

Some day when I have time I will skin them and make little bags for you to keep your pebbles in.

Halla.

You've got lovely playthings there! (Squats down on the ground.) Where are mother's eyes? (Hiding her eyes with the swan's feet.)

Tota (takes them away from her eyes).

Here!

Halla (rising).

Did you eat all your food?

Kari.

Every bite.

Halla.

Then you can't be hungry.

Kari.

No.

Halla.

And it is too early for the evening meal, but I can make you some tea.

Kari.

Yes, do. (To Arnes.) Let us carry the swan to the cave. [Exeunt Kari and Arnes.

Halla.

Now Tota must be tied, so the waterfall can't take her, while mother is making tea. (Takes a rope that is fastened to a rock and ties it around Tota's waist. Brings some of her playthings.) Here are all your horses. (Puts a kettle of water over the fire; places some earthenware cups on the rocks by the hearth; takes a handful of dried herbs from a bag, rinses them in cold water, and portions them out in the cups. The faggots Arnes has brought, she throws on the fire. As she works, she sings.)

Have you seen a brave young lad? 'Tis my friend, Dearest friend; 'Mongst all men in byrnie clad The bonniest is he. I have smiled my teeth all white and shining, I have smiled my teeth all white and shining with glee.

Have you heard his voice's call, Call of love, Song of love? O'er my heart the sound did fall And hushed its quick desire. He has kissed my lips all red and glowing, He has kissed my lips all red and glowing as fire.

There! Now we must get the water to boil. (Picks up the tufts of bearberry and goes to Tota.) See what Arnes brought you!

Tota.

They are berries.

Halla.

Yes, but you must not eat them or you will get a pain in your little stomach. (Rises and finds a long, stiff straw.) Now I'll show you what you can do. (Threading the berries on the straw, she counts.) One, two— four— six, seven— so many years your father and mother have been in the hills. (Strokes Tota's hair.) When you are sixteen, we shall have lived here for twenty years, and then we shall be free again. On that day, Tota shall wear snow-white clothes and shoes of colored leather, and mother will clasp her silver girdle around your waist. And when we come down to the lowlands, the first one we meet is a young man with silver buttons in his coat. He stops and turns his horse and stands looking after you ever so long. Then your mother has grown old and wrinkled, and her hair is almost as white as snow. Your father, too, has grown old. But you are straight as a silver-weed, and when you run, you lift your feet high!

Enter Kari and Arnes.

Kari (laughing).

Ah, now it's steaming. I nearly fell headlong into the cave, when we lifted the cover from the entrance.

Halla.

Did you? (Gives the straw to Tota.) Now you can go on by yourself. (Rises.) Is there any need of closing the cave every time? When it's not raining, it might be left open.

Kari.

No harm in being careful. If they should come upon us suddenly, we surely should not have time to close the entrance, and they would find the cave and destroy all our stores, as they did five years ago. Do you remember when we came back to the old place and found nothing but ashes?— and winter setting in. Not a single piece of mutton did they leave us.

Halla.

I don't easily forget.

Kari.

Whenever I think of it, I feel like doing something wicked. After all, we are human too.

Halla (laughing coldly).

We're only the foxes who take their sheep.

Kari (to Arnes).

How did you hide your stores when you were alone?

Arnes.

I had many hiding-places. Once I stole some twenty-eight pounds of butter. I stuffed it down into a fissure in a rock.

Kari.

That was pretty shrewd.

(They are silent.)

Halla.

Did you have a clear outlook from the mountain this afternoon?

Kari.

Yes. There was a little mist far to the southward.

Halla.

It was from the south that the cloud came in my dream.

Kari.

You can never forget about that dream.

Halla.

I counted fourteen men who came riding out of the cloud. (Silent for a moment.) You are quite sure the two men whose tracks you saw a month ago did not get on our trail?

Kari.

Quite sure. If they had, they would have come closer.

Halla.

Just think if they had seen smoke and told about it down in the parish!

Kari.

They have done nothing of the kind; for if they had, they would have been up here with many men long ago. Ah, the water is boiling.

(Halla lifts the kettle from the fire and pours water over the herbs.)

Kari.

Your tea will soon be giving out.

Halla.

Yes, I must take a day and gather enough for the winter. I will go down to the Sun Valley. Nowhere else are the herbs so fine.

(They drink their tea.)

Kari.

Don't forget to lay in a store of herbs for your salve. You know how troublesome a little scratch can be, when the cold gets into it. You kept the honey I found?

Halla.

I did.

Kari.

That is good for wounds, too. And you must gather cotton grass for lamp wicks. (Goes to Tota and gives her tea.) Tota must have a taste, too.

Arnes (has been looking at Halla).

Your hair was quite black before, but now there has come a sheen of red into it.

Kari.

I have not noticed it, but your freckles are all gone, I have seen that. (Patting her cheek.) Are you going to give us more tea?

Halla.

As much as you want.

Kari (rises and goes into the hut; returns with three wooden pipes and two pouches, one large and one small.) You need not be saving of the leaves, but the tobacco I shall have to dole out to you.

(They fill their pipes.)

Halla (smiling).

It was foolish of you to teach me to smoke.

Kari.

Why shouldn't you have that boon as well as I? (Shakes his bag.) You need not be shy, I have more in the cave, and when winter sets in and the snow is fit for skiing, we'll take Arnes down to my brother's. He promised to lay in good stores of tobacco and salt, and I will pay him with wool, as I did last time.

Halla.

If only you don't end by being caught on one of those journeys!

Kari.

Never! (They sit smoking in silence.) Now I am just in the mood to listen to a good story. Have you one to tell us?

Arnes (rising).

No, I have not. (Goes toward the gorge.)

Kari.

It does not matter if you have told it before.

Halla.

Arnes may be saving them for the winter.

Kari (rises; lays down his pipe).

Do you know what you should do? Have a good talk with Arnes. I believe he is getting restless and thinks of leaving us.

Halla.

I hope not.

Kari.

I will go and take a bath. You can speak better to him alone, and I need to wash off the sweat. (Sings on his way out.)

Far in the hills I wandered; softly shone the summer night, And the sun had ne'er a thought of sleeping. Now will I bring my sweetheart dear the hidden treasure bright, For faithfully my vows I would be keeping. Heigh, ho! New and fine my stockings are, new and fine my shoes, And not a care in all the world to plague me!

Halla (sits silent).

Is time hanging heavy on you up here?

Arnes (goes to her).

No, that is only something Kari has got into his head, because I am not always merry.

Halla (smiling).

Once you boasted of being kin to the trolls.

Arnes.

So I am. (Halla rises; blows a great puff of smoke into his face; laughs. Arnes takes hold of her wrists.) Once there were two trolls. They quarrelled and turned each other into stone. One had to stand where all the birds dropped their filth, and the other had to stand where all the winds blew. Which would you rather be?

Halla (tears herself away).

I have not been turned to stone yet. (Laughs.) I thought you had forgotten all your old stories.

Arnes.

You are strong.

Halla (sits down on the grass, leaning on her arm).

Can you foretell things from the clouds?

Arnes.

Yes, about the weather.

Halla.

I don't mean that.

Arnes (sits down beside her).

When I was a child, I used to sail my viking ships on the clouds. Do you want me to foretell your fate?

Halla.

You just said that you could not.

Arnes.

The clouds tell nothing about our lives. They are only the dreamlands of earth. Will you let me see your arm?

Halla.

Why?

Arnes (lifts her arm).

You think these lines on your arm are nothing but marks drawn by heather and grass, but if I knew enough, I could read your whole fate in them. Something, perhaps, I can see. Who would believe that these slender arms could be so strong.

Halla (laughing).

And what stands written there?

Arnes.

You must sit still. Here is a deep, narrow line across your arm, that means sorrow. And there is a big fire. (Stroking her arm with the tips of his fingers.) I can see the tongues of flame. That means that you are loved.

(Kisses her arm.)

Halla (stands up; laughs).

Did you burn yourself?

Arnes.

I should like to read your fate all day long.

Halla.

Then you might tell me things I did not care to hear. But I must get to work.

(Halla goes into the hut. Arnes looks after her. She comes out bringing wool, a spindle, and a sheep's skin.)

Halla.

If you are not too tired after the hunt, this skin can stand a little more.

Arnes.

Give it to me. (Takes a large ring made of a ram's horn. From the ring hangs a loop of rope, in which he puts his foot. He draws the skin through the ring and keeps pulling it back and forth. Halla sits down, turning her spindle. They are silent.)

Halla.

It is queer about the sound of the waterfall. Most of the time I don't hear it at all, but if it were to stop, I should miss it. Is it the same with you?

Arnes.

Yes.

Halla.

At first I was almost afraid of it. Then I began to love it, and now I should only miss it if it were not there any more. We mortals are strange.

(They are silent again.)

Arnes.

Can you tell me why some people should be happier than others?

Halla.

No, that I cannot.

Arnes.

Kari has been happy for seven years.

Halla.

Are you sure of that?

Arnes.

Why should he not be happy? He has a wife and child.

Halla.

Was there no one down your way whom you could bring with you up here?

Arnes.

Who do you think would become an outlaw for my sake?

Halla.

Wouldn't you dare to carry off a woman? I should try my best to be good to her.

Arnes.

Do you think Kari would have dared to carry you off against your will?

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse