VOLUME XXIV VACATION, 1912 NUMBER IV
SWORD AND CROZIER
Drama in Five Acts
BY INDRIDI EINARSSON
(Authorized translation from the Icelandic by Lee M. Hollander)
BOTOLF, bishop of Holar
KOLBEIN ARNORSSON 'THE YOUNG,' chieftain of the 'North Quarter of Iceland,' thirty-four years old
HELGA, his wife
SALVOR, woman physician
THOROLF BJARNASON } ASBJORN ILLUGASON } Henchmen of Kolbein Arnorsson HAF BJARNASON }
KOLBEIN KALDALJOS, kinsman of Kolbein Arnorsson and steward of the bishopric of Holar, seventy years old
BRAND KOLBEINSSON, his son, chieftain of Reynistad, thirty-three years old
JORUN, his wife
KALF, eight years old } their sons THORGEIR, six years old }
BRODDI THORLEIFSSON, brother-in-law of Kolbein Arnorsson
HELGI SKAFTASON } henchmen of Brand ALF OF GROF }
EINAR THE RICH, of Vik
HELGI, priest at Holar
ILLUGI, the blind beggar BOY LEADING ILLUGI
Followers of Thorolf Bjarnason, of Brand, and of Kolbein Arnorsson. People of Holar in Hjaltadel.
The scene is laid in the district of Skagafirth, in the North of Iceland. The action takes place during the winter previous to the battle of Hunafloi, 1244 A.D.
(So-called 'Little Hall' in BRAND'S manor-house at Reynistad. Enter the DEACON SIGURD, THOROLF BJARNASON, ALF OF GROF, and EINAR THE RICH, of Vik.)
Deacon Sigurd.—Thorolf, Lady Jorun bade you wait here until her husband comes.
Thorolf.—Where is Brand Kolbeinsson? I bear a message for him from my Lord Kolbein the Young.
Sigurd.—Why comes he not himself?
Alf.—Kolbein is nigh unto d——
Thorolf.—Are you garrulous again, Alf?
Sigurd.—He lies sick with his wound, I ween.
Thorolf and Alf (remain silent).
Einar the Rich (aside).—That news I ought to bring secretly to Thord Kakali.
Thorolf.—Why will Lady Jorun not speak to her guests?
Sigurd.—She bade me say that she had seen you last, Thorolf Bjarnason, at such business that she cares not to see you any more.
Thorolf (laughs).—Last I saw her at the slaying of Kalf Guttormsson, her father, and of Guttorm, her brother.
Sigurd.—Much good reason has my lady if she cares to see you no more.
Einar.—You are the man who most egged on to the deed, that father and son should be slain.
Thorolf.—No, Uraekja it was, the son of Snorri Sturlason. A most useful deed it was. Ever since Kolbein's men have obeyed his commands without gainsaying.
Einar.—More useful still, I suppose you think that you snatched from out of Kalf's hands the crucifix he held when kneeling to receive the mortal stroke.
Thorolf.—His blood would have spurted on the cross, had it been held so near. (Wrathfully.) And likewise would I do to you, Einar the Rich, if Kolbein struck off your head. Your wife is a kinswoman of Thord Kakali, and dreamt have I that you will find an earlier grave than will I.
Einar.—An evil business it is to threaten me with death. No one knows who will be buried first. A faithful follower of Kolbein I have been.
Thorolf.—'Scarce shall I trust you, Troll, quoth Haustkoll.'
Sigurd.—Wicked speech this is and witless.
(Enter BRAND KOLBEINSSON, BRODDI THORLEIFSSON, HELGI SKAFTASON, and others.)
Brand.—You here, Thorolf Bjarnason?
Thorolf.—Ay, sir; and with a message for you, for Broddi, and for other chieftains, from Kolbein the Young.
Brand.—Is it that Thord Kakali is expected from the West with war?
Thorolf.—Not to my knowledge. He is still busy drinking the arvel after Tumi his brother, whom we put to death this last week!
Alf.—Yes, and he and his men are now drinking the ale by the bowlful, they say.
Brand.—What of it, if Thord does give his men in plenty?
Thorolf.—And why should we not speak of it, we who know what folly it is for men to drink heavily before going to war?
Einar.—A generous chieftain is Thord Kakali, and likely to accomplish great deeds. No chieftain in this land has ever lost so many men as has he. It is not seeming to make sport of his sorrow.
Thorolf.—None have I ever seen flee so fast as these men of Thord's, they urge each other on to flight.
Brand.—Idle speech is this, Thorolf!
Thorolf.—I say what I will, and care not whether others like it or no.
Broddi.—Where is the message my brother-in-law sends us?
Thorolf (handing the letter to BRAND).—I have lived all my life in warfare and am not able to read.
Brand (handing the letter to DEACON SIGURD).—Read for us, deacon!
Einar the Rich (while SIGURD is undoing the strings with which the parchment is tied, aside to ALF OF GROF).—I know you are no friend of Thorolf; stay behind here and help me to persuade Brand Kolbeinsson.
Alf (aside to EINAR THE RICH).—Broddi and all of Thorolf's neighbors hate him because he elbows himself forward ruthlessly. Against my will I left my home with Thorolf; but how shall I help you?
Einar (aside to ALF).—Help me dye Thorolf's white coat of mail as red as blood.
Alf (aside).—Hush! We would have to fight against great odds.
Einar (aside).—Not if Brand Kolbeinsson were on our side.
Alf (aside).—Brand—indeed! No, if Broddi Thorleifsson were with us.
Sigurd (has now untied the parchment, reads).—'To Brand Kolbeinsson of Stad, to Broddi Thorleifsson, to Kolbein Kaldaljos, and to Paul Kolbeinsson, Kolbein Arnorsson of Flugumyr sends God's greetings and his own. Little we know of Thord Kakali's affairs after Easter. After the slaying of his brother Tumi it is but likely that he is preparing for war against us, and in such case, if he came upon us from the West, we of the North Quarter would want to subject him to a severe test. But now it is so ill with our health that we may no longer conceal it from you. Because of this it is our will that all of you meet me here as soon as possible. Only in this wise may we prevent the danger now threatening both the entire quarter and our district.'
Brand.—To what danger to the district does the letter refer? Is Kinsman Kolbein sick anew, then?
Thorolf.—Answer that yourself; but well may these words mean that it were better now to take off the 'velvet glove' and bestir one's hands.
Brand (angrily).—Get you gone, Thorolf, at once! Astonishing it is that you should be sent hither to Stad, such enemies as we two have been.
Thorolf.—My course I shall steer wheresoever it take me, whether or no you like it, Brand Kolbeinsson. To horse, yeoman Alf!
Alf.—Unwillingly I followed you, Thorolf, and left my farm work behind. Take with you the two companions that always have followed you—death and the devil!
Thorolf.—Right, you insolent fool, death has ever been my companion. (BRAND KOLBEINSSON goes to the door and opens it.) Now you precede me to the door, Brand Kolbeinsson, for higher-born than I you are. But in all tests of manhood, in assemblies and in battles, I have gone before you. There is no danger in going before me now; it is quite safe! (Exit.)
Broddi.—An astonishing thing it is that base men should dare to speak in such wise to chieftains!
Brand.—He is a greater friend of my kinsman Kolbein than any other man.
Einar.—And in greater favor even with Lady Helga than with Kolbein.
Sigurd.—He journeyed to Rome with Kolbein. Such a pilgrimage atones for many a sin.
(Enter LADY JORUN with her and BRAND'S sons, KALF and THORGEIR.)
Jorun.—What errand brought Thorolf Bjarnason hither to Stad?
Brand.—Kolbein the Young sent him.
Jorun.—Then we shall have to put up with that insult.
Alf.—Your husband he called a 'velvet glove!'
Jorun.—Gentle have his hands ever been to me, and I might well call him so.
Alf.—And a coward he called him.
Jorun.—Slower he is to ill deeds than Thorolf.
Einar.—Me Thorolf threatened with death, and to wrench out of my hands the crucifix, whenever I should lie down for the blow, just as he did to Kalf Guttormsson.
Jorun (moved to tears).—Was that done to my father?
Sigurd.—It was indeed done to him, and a mighty ill deed it was.
Jorun.—I had not thought that men who were to lose their lives would be thus cruelly dealt with.
Alf.—These men have indeed done enough to forfeit their lives, and ought to live no longer.
Helgi Skaftason.—If no one can be prevailed upon to kill them I shall undertake it.
Alf.—No one's duty it is as much as yours, Brand Kolbeinsson, to take revenge for the murder of Kalf Guttormsson.
Jorun.—Let no one be so bold as to seek revenge for my father. Full composition did Kolbein the Young pay for reconciliation, after the death of father and son, with the fine of hundred marks silver, which were paid out to my mother and me as stipulated.
Einar.—And yet might Brand and others take revenge for the wrongs they have suffered at the hands of Thorolf, even though Kalf Guttormsson's death be atoned for.
Jorun.—Do not undertake so dangerous an enterprise, my husband. Well you know that if you slay Thorolf his friend Kolbein will slay you all in revenge.
Alf.—Kolbein lies nigh unto death.
Broddi.—Is his condition so dangerous?
Brand.—Why, have you not told news so important and so—sad until now?
Alf.—I could not, on account of Thorolf. Kolbein holds his malady secret as long as he can.
Brand.—Then my kinsman Kolbein must have summoned us to dispose of his dominions before he dies.
Sigurd.—That is, all the North Quarter and the Westfirths!
Brand.—About the Westfirths we have been at war until now.
Einar.—And his heir? (All look at BRAND.) They say that it is the wish of Lady Helga to set Thorolf Bjarnason over all the dominions.
Broddi.—It would mean the death of one man or many men.
Brand.—Helgi Skaftason, have the saddles laid upon twelve horses! I and eleven men shall ride forthwith to Flugumyr. (Exit HELGI.)
Kalf.—Lay saddle on my horse also. I shall ride to Flugumyr to my foster-mother.
Broddi.—What will you of her, my young fellow?
Kalf.—I want to get the weapons she has promised to give me.
Jorun.—No weapons, Kalf! You will not go to Flugumyr, this time; rather too long you have been there as a child. (Towards BRAND KOLBEINSSON.) My husband, remember my words. To kill one of my kinsman Kolbein's or Lady Helga's men is to conjure up odds against you, whatever be the provocation. (Exit with the boys.)
Broddi.—Never shall that come to pass that a man of low birth govern so large a dominion. (Exeunt all.)
(Room at Flugumyr. LADY HELGA and the woman physician SALVOR enter.)
Helga.—I have much to do about the house and can attend the patient but little. How is my husband, Salvor?
Salvor.—Rather poorly! He is now confessing to Bishop Botolf, Lady Helga.
Helga.—Confessing? Did he speak about the disposition of his dominions after his death?
Salvor.—The bishop touched upon that, but Kolbein said that this would have to wait until his kinsmen were assembled.
Helga.—To what purpose is the advice of his kinsmen in that matter? I see how it will end.
Salvor.—I have hopes that your husband will again recover his health this time.
Helga.—And how long will he keep it then?
Salvor.—So long as he stirs not.
Helga.—My husband will have to go to war and do battle as long as he lives.
Salvor.—Now he longs for peace.
Helga.—Then is he surely sick! (Vehemently.) My husband must not be sick; he will have to speak with his kinsmen, when they come. Give him strong drugs that he may have strength to do so. His sickness must not become known in the Westfirths by Thord Kakali.
Salvor.—Such strong drugs are not without danger.
Helga.—What danger is there in them?
Salvor.—That he loses possession of his senses, and becomes even more sick thereafter.
Helga (vehemently).—His kinsmen must not know that he is sick, or else they will take matters in their own hands. He will have to have drugs so strong as to give him strength to hold council with them.
Salvor.—But if he loses possession of his senses during it?
Helga (with a look of relief).—Let me take care of that. Then I shall speak for him, for all his intentions are known to me.
Salvor.—My advice it is not to use strong drugs; they may endanger Kolbein's life.
Helga.—Will you, low-born woman, give advice to a great?
Salvor.—Why seek you then a low-born woman to heal the great?
Helga.—I knew none better. Do as I bid you!
Salvor.—I shall do as you bid, my lady. You run the risk, not I.
Thorolf.—Hail, lady! How is the chieftain's health?
Helga.—Rather good! Salvor says he will not be able to bear going into war for the first.
Thorolf.—Kolbein has a-plenty of men to lead his troops.
Thorolf.—He, the velvet glove! Whilst Kolbein was on his foray to Reykholar and slew Tumi—a feat now famous—Brand was to dispatch old Sturla Thordsson—the fellow who mostly goes about with ink on his fingers. But Sturla gulled him so that Brand had to return with shame. Brand lacks both forethought before battle and that fire in battle which wins the victory.
Salvor.—Brand Kolbeinsson is a man of peace.
Helga.—You shall stay here at Flugumyr now, Thorolf, whilst my husband is in ill health. Brand Kolbeinsson would be but a low wall between us and Thord Kakali, should he advance from the West.
Thorolf.—So long have I been one of your household, my lady, that I am bound to obey. But who shall take care of the shipbuilding which I have under way for Kolbein the Young?
Helga.—Your wife Arnfrid; for this is not a place for women to be at.
Salvor.—The ships that are to be used for carrying our war into the Westfirths this spring?
Thorolf.—Yes. This spring we shall lay waste the Westfirths, kill cattle and people, burn down storehouses, farms, and churches, and slay all men we overtake. Thord shall not be able to hold himself there thereafter.
Salvor.—Holy mother of God! Why are the people to suffer all that misery and affliction! Have there not been enough maimings and killings in the Westfirths? Be mindful, Thorolf, that you, too, may be taken captive and your bright coat of mail get a red collar.
Thorolf.—Often have I thought of it. But he who lets himself be kept back by such thoughts had better never venture into danger.
Helga.—Go now, Salvor, and attend to the patient! (Exit SALVOR.) The life of my husband is in great danger!
Thorolf. (coming close to her).—And shall I then become the Lord of Eyafirth?
Helga (motioning him away).—Kolbein the Young still lives. Whilst he is living the disposition of the dominions remains his matter. It may well be, though, that I succeed in making him give you Eyafirth, and then more people from here would settle there than are there now. Then I shall foster up young Kalf, the son of Brand, because he will inherit Skagafirth from his father; and while he is young, and I gain influence over him, it may happen that the men of Skagafirth and Eyafirth would work in unison in all undertakings, and rule the entire country alone.
Helga.—Swear allegiance to me, Thorolf!
Thorolf.—I have ever been faithful to you.
Helga.—Will you be obedient to me, Thorolf?
Thorolf.—Yes, gladly (kisses her hand), now as always before.
Helga (gently).—You have always been true to me, and that shall be rewarded as soon as ever I can.
(Enter BRAND KOLBEINSSON, BRODDI, DEACON SIGURD, EINAR THE RICH, ALF, HELGI SKAFTASON, together with six others.)
Helga.—Hail, my nephew! Hail, all of you! My husband has been expecting you with impatience.
Einar (aside).—Now we shall see how sick a man Kolbein is.
Helga.—We pray you all to say the least possible about the infirmity of my husband; I have no more than sixty armed men about me.
Broddi.—And who is their leader?
Helga.—Thorolf Bjarnason, Asbjorn Illugason, and Haf Bjarnason.
Broddi.—And Thorolf Bjarnason remains here?
Thorolf.—First I shall return to my estate to give orders as to my affairs.
Helga (aside to THOROLF).—You speak incautiously, to tell them where you mean to go. I read your death in their eyes.
Alf.—You will not refuse me to keep you company on the way home?
Thorolf.—No; I care not to have your company, you insolent fool!
Helga.—You will remain here with us, Thorolf, on account of the infirmity of my husband and our defencelessness otherwise; you can send some one else to arrange matters on your estate.
(LADY HELGA and those about her exeunt by door. BRODDI, ALF, and EINAR THE RICH remain behind in the foreground.)
Broddi.—Lady Helga has become suspicious of us.
Einar.—Sharp are the eyes of my Lady Helga whenever Thorolf is concerned.
Alf.—He has slipped from our grasp, the hellhound!
(KOLBEIN THE YOUNG, pale and weak, is borne in on shields by ASBJORN ILLUGASON, HAF BJARNASON, and others. BISHOP BOTOLF and SALVOR enter with them.)
Kolbein.—Hail to you all!
(They bow to KOLBEIN and the BISHOP. KOLBEIN is borne to the high seat. HELGA stands beside him, also SALVOR keeps near him always.)
Brand (coming forward).—How stands matters with you, kinsman Kolbein?
Kolbein.—Not so very well.
Broddi (coming forward).—You have but a small body-guard about you to-day, brother-in-law!
Kolbein (pointing to BISHOP BOTOLF).—This body-guard alone has been sufficient for some time.
Brand.—You have summoned us to meet you.
Kolbein.—I wanted, with the assistance of my kinsmen and of others, to make such provisions for our dominions as would most likely result in peace for the district.
Brand.—Peace we should desire for every consideration, since many regions are beginning to grow poor.
Sigurd.—The wars have fanned into flame hatred and malice over all the land.
Botolf.—Blessed are the peacemakers!
Kolbein.—During these last days the deep wound I received in the battle of Orlygsstad has been troubling me sorely, and I am so exhausted that I often look forward to death. Now you well know that Thord Kakali has lost through me both father and five brothers. That stands in the way of peace in the district. I therefore offer to go abroad and give up all my dominions.
Helga.—Give up all dominions!
Botolf.—And yield them to King Hakon?
Kolbein.—If King Hakon should lay claim to my lands I should give him six feet of land, or so much less as he lacks in height. To give Iceland to him is as bad as yielding up one's soul to the devil.
Brand.—But who is to receive the lands?
Kolbein.—I shall give all my dominions to Thord Kakali, and thus atone for the killing of his father and brothers. Your own cases would then be at his mercy. I expect that you will fare well in this, because just then did Thord prove to be my best friend when I entrusted my matters entirely to him; at that time you were also on friendly terms, you and the men from Skagafirth.
Botolf.—That would be a disposition promising peace, if the king himself is not to receive the dominion. (Aside.) It is the same as if King Hakon did receive it.
Brand.—You will deprive me of my rightful inheritance, and give up all your dominions to Thord! Then will I rather fight for them until I fall.
Broddi.—Thord may think he has so much to settle with us that we could not endure the punishments he would inflict upon us—that is, if we had any desire to do so.
Einar.—If all dominions were given up to Thord he would treat us well.
Botolf.—And then there would be peace on earth and good-will among men.
Thorolf.—In Thord's Hall all we, your men, would have to sit upon the lower bench. His men whom we have pursued, wounded, stripped of their clothes, and beaten whenever we engaged them, they would take revenge on us, under cover of him. All of us desire but one of two things, to do battle until we gain peace, or else, to fall with such renown as is granted us.
Asbjorn.—We will follow no other man whilst you live.
The followers of Kolbein.—No, no other man!
Kolbein.—Then your other choice is that all yeomen at their own expense guard in four parties the frontier during the remainder of winter. The first will have to be on the Skagafirth, to guard the road over the Kjol and the ways leading from Storasand. The second guard will have to be in Vididale, Vatnsdale, and Nupsdale to watch the paths over the Grimstungu-heath, and the one over Tvidaegra-heath. The third and fourth guards will have to be in Midfirth and Hrutafirth, and to protect the ways along the Holtavordu-heath, and those from the Dales and Strands. When the sea is safe two light-sailing vessels will have to be sent around the Skaw to reconnoitre the sea-way toward the west.
Broddi.—Well, you have thought out everything, brother-in-law; to me this plan of war seems in every regard the best.
Thorolf.—If it is followed, Thord will never return west alive over the Blanda River, should he attack us.
Asbjorn.—Thord will be able to get over the Kjol Mountains or the Sprengisand Desert, down to the Eyafirth. There he will call upon his friends and attack us in the flank.
Thorolf.—That is unthinkable. In order to reach either of these ways Thord would have to journey around the whole island, and then overcome Hjalti the bishop's son, and Gissur's men. I should think it likeliest that Hjalti would flee north over the Kjol should he be defeated, and come our way some little time before Thord, who would have to go by a farther way and would waste his time in getting the men of Eyafirth to rise. Kolbein's plan of war is the best that can be chosen.
Kolbein.—It is most often Thorolf Bjarnason who best comprehends my plans.
Broddi (aside, clinching his hand against his breast).—Does he understand them best?
Brand.—All shall be done as you bid, kinsman Kolbein. I myself shall send three hundred men as guard into Hunathing.
Kolbein.—Then all is well, kinsman Brand!
Salvor.—You speak too much, my lord!
Kolbein.—I must speak to-day; to-day to-morrow is not sure to me (to the others). The third matter is the apportionment of the districts after my death.
Salvor.—Speaking irritates your wound, my lord, and you may become delirious.
Kolbein.—Let come what may! I will that my kinsman Brand have Skagafirth and Hunathing after my death. But Eyafirth and all districts east of the Heath I give to—(He becomes delirious. Lady HELGA makes a motion and stops him.)
Kolbein.—See, wife, now fly the swans from Holar in Hjaltadale.
Botolf (to DEACON SIGURD).—He is dreaming about the messengers of the Holy Church, the sick man!
Sigurd (to BISHOP BOTOLF).—He will not live till to-morrow's matins!
Helga (bending down over KOLBEIN).—Appoint Thorolf Bjarnason!
Broddi.—Who is to get Eyafirth?
Brand.—I heard no one named.
Kolbein.—I name you, Thorolf Bjarnason!
Broddi.—For what do you name Thorolf Bjarnason?
Helga.—For the chieftainship over Eyafirth and all districts north of the Heath.
Broddi.—I claim that I have better title to it than Thorolf.
Thorolf.—It will prove a troublesome business for you to wrench Eyafirth out of my hands. (In a whisper to HELGA, to whom he has approached more closely.) Am I given Eyafirth then?
Helga (whispers back).—Do not let it be seen that you are whispering to me. They will become suspicious. My position is difficult.
Kolbein.—I shall spare you, kinsman! (Speaks unintelligibly. HELGA bends down over him.)
Helga.—My husband wishes that you, Brand Kolbeinsson, and you, Thorolf, shall swear to each other an everlasting truce, now immediately.
Brand.—Is that your wish, kinsman Kolbein?
Kolbein.—It is. It is. Six hundred men! Advance bravely after me! My kinsman Brand is in great danger.
Broddi.—Always it is you, Brand! Physician, attend to the sick man.
Salvor.—Carry your chieftain into his bed!
Kolbein.—Woden owns all the slain men! Neither Thord Kakali nor one of his men will return alive over Blanda. Another battle won. A great and glorious victory. Carry away the fallen, I will not see them. Woden owns all the slain men.
Botolf.—So much devilish magic yet living in a Christian country! And this man have I shriven but a short while ago! Woden owns all the slain men! (KOLBEIN'S men surround him to bear him out on their shields. HELGA speaks fast and in a low voice to ASBJORN ILLUGASON.)
Helga.—Place our armed servants before all doors. And let them stay there. And leave the doors open after you when you come in again.
Kolbein.—Woden owns all the slain men. You bleed, Thorolf Bjarnason. Put on your head, Thorolf! Put on your head! Beware of the cave by the Kolbeinstream!
(ASBJORN ILLUGASON, HAF, and others carry KOLBEIN out. SALVOR follows them. HELGA leads BISHOP BOTOLF to the high seat.)
Helga.—I have neglected to show you those marks of esteem which I ought to have shown you, my lord! But my situation has been a troublesome one for a while.
Botolf.—I have been thinking in my mind the while, my lady, how much you resemble in mien and carriage the women of the ancient race of the kings of Norway.
Helga (laughs).—I am a descendant in the fourth generation of King Magnus Bareleg, and were I a man and not a woman I would be nearer to the throne of Norway than your King Hakon. This relationship cost my brother Paul his life, when he was in Norway.
Botolf.—That story I have heard! But his death was not the wish of the Norwegians.
(ASBJORN and HAF, and the men who carried out KOLBEIN, come in again, leaving the door stand open. One sees armed men standing outside. LADY HELGA seats herself on the dais.)
Helga.—How long shall my husband wait until you swear the truce to each other, Thorolf and Brand?
Botolf.—The Holy Church cannot confirm the apportionment of the districts which you have made, excepting the chieftains swear each other an everlasting truce.
Broddi.—The Holy Church owns not the Northland Quarter!
Botolf.—But God does; and do you for his sake as Kolbein and the lady bid you, because that promises best for peace.
Helga (very loud).—Close the door! (All look to the door and perceive the armed men; it is closed.) Haf Bjarnason will pronounce for you the words of the truce. The truce which his namesake established between the men of Skagafirth and Grettir Asmundarson was well kept, and it redounded to their honor.
Broddi (aside to BRAND).—Agree to the truce! Sixty armed men are standing but a few feet away!
(BRAND KOLBEINSSON places himself in the left foreground, with six of his men behind him. HAF behind him in the middle ground. THOROLF advances to the right foreground, posturing himself opposite BRAND.)
Asbjorn.—Are we to be witnesses, Thorolf?
Thorolf.—All those present shall be witnesses!
(ASBJORN and five others arrange themselves behind him.)
Helga.—In Oddi, at my father Saemund's, I heard that those oaths were void which were made against one's free will.
Thorolf.—I shall swear a truce to Brand Kolbeinsson of my own free will.
Helga.—And you, kinsman Brand?
(BRAND looks toward the door and says nothing.)
Helga (stamps her foot on the floor of the dais, whereupon the door opens slowly, and swords and spears become visible).—And you, Brand Kolbeinsson?
Brand.—I shall swear a truce to Thorolf with a willing mind. But what are the conditions, and for what offence the fine?
Helga.—Thorolf Bjarnason shall make atonement for having, in my hearing and in the presence of other men, given Brand Kolbeinsson a nickname; he shall pay for his offence with the ring which he wears on his arm and which weighs six ounces. Is this offer of reconciliation a good one?
Brand and Thorolf.—Indeed a good one!
Helga (taking a large ring off her arm and holding it between her fingers).—Pronounce, then, the pledge of truce, Haf—according to our laws!
Haf (sets a little table between them and stands beside it. Receives the ring from THOROLF, holds it in one hand, and a parchment in the other, and pronounces the pledge of truce in an impressive manner).—Contention there has been between Brand Kolbeinsson and Thorolf Bjarnason. But now is this contention no more, a fine has been paid according to the decision of good and noble men, of full weight, and good metal, and handed over to him to whom it is due. But if contention there should arise again between them, then shall they settle by fee, and not by reddened steel. But if one of these parties become so bereft of his senses that he break this reconciliation, and pledge of truce, or becomes the contriver of the other's death, then shall he be driven from God, and from the commerce of all Christendom, as far as men pursue wolves, Christians visit churches, heathen men sacrifice in temples, mothers bear children, children say mother, fire burns, ships sail, shields flash, the sun shines, snow lies, pines grow, the falcon flies the long spring day, with a fair wind under both his wings. He shall shun churches and Christian people, the house of God and the houses of men, and the abodes of men, and every home but hell. (HAF lays the ring on the parchment, which he holds between them. They lay each their right hand on the book.) Both of you with your hands touch one book, and even on it lies the fine with which Thorolf atones for his offence, for himself and for his heirs, conceived or unconceived, born or unborn, baptized or unbaptized; and in return he receives from Brand Kolbeinsson assurances of eternal and everlasting truce, a truce which shall persist the while the earth lasts and men live. (Silence. BRAND KOLBEINSSON takes the ring off the book and puts it on his arm, whilst HAF lays the book on the table again.) Now you, Brand Kolbeinsson and Thorolf Bjarnason, shall be men reconciled and agreeing, wherever you meet, whether on land or on sea, on ship or on ski, on sea or on horseback, on bench or on thwart; and if need be, divide between you oar and scoop, knife and piece of meat; shall be at one with each other as is father with son, or son with father. Join hands now (they grasp each the other's hand) and stand by your truce according to the will of Christ and all those men who now have heard your pledge of faith. May he have the grace of God who keeps the truce, but his wrath he who breaks it. Let this be a full reconciliation between you, and let us be witnesses who are present.
(THOROLF approaches HELGA, who gives him the ring she had been holding; He puts it on his arm, without anybody noticing it but her. BISHOP BOTOLF walks up to her. The ranks of the witnesses mix, BRAND and BRODDI station themselves in the foreground.)
Botolf.—A great work and one sorely needed have you performed to-day, my lady. Assuredly more than small good fortune it is to have reconciled two such men whom Kolbein the Young never could prevail upon to become reconciled, as we are told.
Helga (smiling).—The granddaughter of Ion Loftsson of Oddi ought to have sufficient good fortune to reconcile by her sole efforts men who both are her friends.
Brand (aside to BRODDI).—May it never be avenged on Lady Helga to have cowed me by overwhelming force to promise an eternal truce to my worst foe.
Broddi (to BRAND).—But a short while will the hand rejoice over the blow!
(A cave by KOLBEIN's stream. The stage represents a small vale with the cave in the background. The cave is large and deep, opening in the direction of the spectator. Water has been coursing down the vale and has frozen to knolls of ice here and there. A part of the cave-mouth is hidden by icicles formed by the water trickling from the rock above the cave. Snow is falling heavily and drifting. This continues throughout the act.)
(BRAND KOLBEINSSON, BRODDI, ALF, DEACON SIGURD, HELGI SKAFTASON, EINAR THE RICH, and six others enter.)
Alf.—A cursed ill weather this!
Sigurd.—The great drift-ice must be near!
Brand.—But there is shelter in this cave here, and here we shall stay awhile.
Einar.—A witch-storm this is, and we have lost our way!
Broddi.—The weather is cold and fit for men. We would do well to use our stay here for coming to an agreement about our attack on Thorolf Bjarnason; because home he journeyed, even if Lady Helga assured us to the contrary.
Einar.—Let us make away with the new chief of the Eyafirthings!
Brand.—For me it is not seeming to be in this undertaking, having sworn an eternal truce to Thorolf.
Broddi.—But none of us others have.
Helgi Skaftason.—I am not your slave, Brand Kolbeinsson; and if I may not avenge the insults Thorolf has inflicted on you, I shall no longer be your follower, either.
Broddi.—All your men will desert you, if you permit them not to avenge you on Thorolf.
Brand.—What would men say if my followers broke a pledged truce?
Alf.—A truce under compulsion it was, with sixty men, but a few steps away.
Einar.—Slight is your recollection concerning the murder of Kalf the son of Guttorm!
Brand.—It is better to suffer than to do ill.
Broddi.—It is seeming to a chieftain to commit deeds of injustice and highhandedness, so soon as need be for them; but not to suffer them of others.
Brand.—What need is there that we kill Thorolf Bjarnason now rather than before?
Broddi.—He is now set as lord over Eyafirth. He is our enemy, and as it is the Eyafirthings have grievances against us.
Alf.—For their shameful defeat at Orlygsstad and the fall of their chieftains.
Broddi.—The Eyafirthings will assail us from the east under Thorolf, and Thord Kakali from the west. The henchmen of Lady Helga will stand by Thorolf, and not by you, Brand.
Brand.—But Gissur Thorvaldsson will come to my help over the mountains from the south.
Broddi.—An ill thing, to have Gissur as one's only friend. He is no warrior, keeps no promise, and dares not to fight.
Sigurd.—Never rely on Gissur's valor!
Alf.—He is a coward!
Einar.—None of you mentions what is of most importance. Lady Helga it was, and not Kolbein the Young, who assigned Eyafirth to Thorolf.
Broddi.—That is a lie, Einar!
Einar.—Kolbein had become delirious when Helga asserted Eyafirth was given to Thorolf.
Alf.—That, indeed, is the truth.
Several.—Yes, that indeed is the truth.
Broddi.—Does she mean to arrange the districts? If so, we mean to make away with Thorolf. You shall have no hand in this, Brand Kolbeinsson, but your men shall follow me.
Brand.—And who is to follow me?
Brand.—That was the cause of my kinsman Kolbein's greatness that all his men obeyed him without a murmur. No one obeys me now!
Einar.—But this obedience came first about after the fall of Kalf Guttormsson.
Brand.—No need to remind me again that Thorolf was the foremost instigator to the killing of him.
Broddi.—Let us then seize Thorolf, wherever we may find him, and slay him.
All (except BRAND).—Yes, let us slay him!
Broddi.—Or else let us surround his house and lead him out to be put to death.
Alf.—Oh, let him perish in the flames of his own house.
Sigurd—For shame, Alf! I do not care to share the torments of hell with incendiaries.
Brand.—Kolbein the Young will surely take revenge on us for his friend Thorolf.
Einar.—Kolbein is no longer to be reckoned among living men.
Broddi.—Kinsman Kolbein lay more sorely stricken with his wound this time than last, and even then was in danger of his life.
Alf.—I cannot tell a doomed man if he ever arises again.
Sigurd.—A great loss it would be if a chieftain so noble and so beloved should depart this world.
Broddi.—And one so victorious!
Sigurd.—Let us pray for his soul!
(Silence. All present show marks of grief and of praying.)
Broddi.—But you will lend us your aid, Brand, after the slaying of Thorolf, and will take steps to make Lady Helga leave the district?
Brand.—It is not seeming that I give counsel to those who plan Thorolf's death.
Broddi.—We shall help you to obtain all the dominions in Skagafirth and west as far as Hrutafirth for it; because it is not so very sure whether all are willing to accept you as overlord.
Brand.—I thank you, friend Broddi. But I shall take no part in your dealings with Thorolf. Afterwards I shall not part from you.
Alf.—Let us touch our weapons to confirm it, according to Norse custom!
Many.—Yes, let us brandish weapons!
Broddi (mounting a rock).—We, Alf of Grof, Broddi Thorleifsson, Einar the Rich, and all who are here, excepting only Brand Kolbeinsson, agree, and brandish our weapons in confirmation of our purpose, that we shall not part from one another, and share a common fate, until we shall have brought from life to death Thorolf Bjarnason.
(All, except BRAND, lift their weapons and strike their shields with their swords.)
Brand.—And remember then, Broddi, what you promised me!
Broddi.—We all who are assembled here promise and brandish our weapons in confirmation thereof, to aid Brand Kolbeinsson to gain dominion over Skagafirth and west as far as Hrutafirth, after the death of Kolbein the Young; he on his part promises to support us with all his might in the action against us for the killing of Thorolf Bjarnason.
(All raise their weapons and clash them against their shields, BRAND likewise.)
Sigurd.—The weather has been clearing up this while.
Broddi.—Who will now seek the way and go before us?
Brand.—Alf Gudmundsson of Grof. (They depart.)
(The stage is empty for a while, the snow begins to fall and drift again. Of a sudden, JARNGRIM is seen to stand in the cave. He has a spear in his hand and is tall and of strong frame. He wears a wide cloak with the hood down over his eyes. He has a long beard. As soon as he appears two ravens settle over the mouth of the cave and disappear with him.[A])
[Footnote A: In Norse mythology Woden (Odin) is represented as one-eyed. Else, his attributes are those described here.]
Jarngrim (leans on his spear and calls out).—Thorolf!
Thorolf (from without).—All's well, companions, I heard a human voice! (Silence.)
Thorolf (from without).—Where are you?
Thorolf (and two others enter.. THOROLF'S men never see JARNGRIM. They kindle a fire forthwith).—What is your name, friend?
Jarngrim.—Jarngrim I am called.
Thorolf.—We have lost our way. Will you allow me to sit down at the fire?
Jarngrim.—There is a plenty of dry fuel in the cave.
(THOROLF'S men have been kindling the fire which burns up brightly. JARNGRIM nods to THOROLF.)
Jarngrim.—This eve we shall drink mead together!
Thorolf.—And no houses hereabouts? (With arising suspicion.) How many are there of you?
Jarngrim.—Never have I had a companion, except my horse and two hawks.
Thorolf (points to the ravens, mockingly).—Your hawks are of a black color, likely; they are sitting there near enough to you.
Jarngrim.—Near they sit to me, whenever good prey is near.
Thorolf.—Who has made you an outlaw?
Jarngrim.—The White Christ.
Thorolf.—Excommunicated then you are! Bishop Botolf will absolve you if you confess to him your troubles.
Jarngrim.—Never would Botolf admit me to church if he knew who I am.
Thorolf.—Give some of your property to the church for absolution.
Jarngrim.—The temples of the White God have taken possession of all my goods, except my horse and my hawks,—we four still journey together.
Thorolf.—Become my follower and accompany me to Eyafirth, if Kolbein the Young dies.
Jarngrim.—Kolbein the Young will not die. But to be your man, Thorolf, I care not, because you pursue your ends to excess, small means as you have. It will never end well.
Thorolf.—How can you know that, you who are ignorant of all?
Jarngrim.—An old man knows that a man's character is his destiny.
Thorolf.—Go then and serve Kolbein the Young if he lives.
Jarngrim.—Oft was I a follower of Kolbein.
Thorolf.—How may that be, then, that I know you not?
Jarngrim.—The haughty heed not though they see a sage. Most men knew me in former times, but few know me now. Small has become the number of my friends.
Thorolf.—Now I recognize you, friend. I saw you in the battle of Orlygsstad, when you stood over the corpse of Sighvat Sturluson.
Jarngrim.—A great friend of mine was Sighvat.
Thorolf.—And a short time ago, when you stood over the body of Tumi Sighvatsson, at Reykholar. You turned your back to the church. And whither are you journeying now?
Jarngrim.—Thither where tidings are near. Whenever I come down the mountain side there arises tumult in the valleys; wherever I remain all day great battles are fought. The Norns have decreed all that. But now men say that the White God is about to come from the south, with great splendor, and that he will bring with him peace. I ween it will prove a lie.
Thorolf.—Decreed by the Norns! You must be an old man?
Jarngrim.—I was Ingolf's the First Settler's pilot on his journey to Iceland.
Thorolf.—I am not a book-learned man; yet must you, then, be exceedingly old and yet are not gray-haired.
Jarngrim.—I and my likes grow not gray.
Thorolf.—Will you tell me where I am?
Jarngrim.—This is the cave by Kolbein's stream.
Thorolf (shudders).—I have heard it mentioned! But what do you here?
Jarngrim.—I gather shields for my roof.
Jarngrim.—Those that drop from the hands of men slain in battle.
Thorolf (in fear and wrath).—You plunder the dead!
Jarngrim.—Mine are all the slain!
Thorolf.—Are you Woden, then, the father of all devils? (Draws his sword and strikes at him, but the blow strikes the roof of the cave.)
Jarngrim (who has not stirred while the blow was struck).—Rarely avails the blow which is struck too high.
Thorolf (holds his shield before his body, with his sword behind it, and peers under the hood of JARNGRIM).—You startled not!
Jarngrim.—But you have changed color. I never blink my eyes.
Thorolf.—Yet it may go ill with but one eye, you evil spirit!
Jarngrim.—Many are the eyes of day, the night has but one! Let not the fire die down, Thorolf! The mead you will drink with me to-night has become warm! Is well-nigh ready.
(JARNGRIM walks into the cave. As soon as his back is turned a black patch is seen between his shoulders. THOROLF strikes another blow at him, but his sword strikes the rock wall. JARNGRIM and the ravens vanish.)
Thorolf.—Is he hiding here, the hell-hound?
His Men—Who? Who?
Thorolf.—I have spoken with Woden and he has foretold me my death.
First Man.—You have not spoken with any one, since we came here. But we have heard avalanches in the distance, nor is that strange in weather such as this.
Thorolf.—I shall live no longer than this fire burns! Take well care of the fire, men! Where are you, my men? (Falls into a swoon. The second man tends the fire and makes it blaze up; the first man busies himself with THOROLF.)
Second Man.—He is very ill.
First Man.—He may have seen some ill wight, for ever since he saw the fire he has lost his senses.
Broddi (behind the stage).—There is that fire again, let us go that way.
First Man.—I heard some one speaking, a small distance away. Likely, they are no friends of Thorolf's who are abroad.
Second Man.—And no water at hand to put out the fire, neither would it avail now.
Brand (without).—None but fugitives will be here!
(Enter BRAND KOLBEINSSON, BRODDI, ALF, EINAR THE RICH, DEACON SIGURD, HELGI SKAFTASON, and six other men.)
Broddi.—What's this? Seize the men that cower over Thorolf.
(THOROLF'S men are seized and disarmed.)
Einar.—There he lies now, the lord of Eyafirth!
Alf.—Strike the dog!
Thorolf (regains his senses and stands up quickly).—For shame, neighbor Alf! Why do you seize upon my men and hold them?
Broddi.—So that they may harm no one! Now, Thorolf, it is our intention that this will be our last meeting.
Einar.—Death is before your door now, Thorolf.
Thorolf.—'The love of many girls had I, One time every one must die.'[A] Did I see right? Is Brand Kolbeinsson here?
[Footnote A: These lines are from a stanza spoken by one Thorir Jokul, when kneeling for the blow (Sturlunga, 143).]
Einar.—Here he is.
Thorolf.—There is no glory in my overcoming such as you, Einar the Rich. But there, I want to get to where stands Brand Kolbeinsson. (BRAND stands still while these words are exchanged; some men stand between him and THOROLF. THOROLF rushes at BRAND, but the others fell him and wound him before he has reached BRAND.) Now was I too short by one step.
Einar (giving THOROLF a wound).—You have always despised me!
Thorolf (gets upon his feet, but is held fast and made to surrender his arms).—A priest I would now have, Broddi, in the name of God!
Alf.—What will you with a priest, you heathen dog?
Broddi.—All the more need. Go to him, Deacon Sigurd!
Sigurd (goes to THOROLF, whom the others release).—You know, Thorolf, that I am a priest?
Thorolf.—Give me absolution, priest, the same as if you were in my place! My soul is in danger. I have spoken with Woden, but a short while ago. He said the ale was ready which we were to drink together to-night. For God's sake absolve me well of my sins!
Sigurd.—So shall it be.
Thorolf (to BRODDI).—What will you have for my life?
(BRODDI remains silent.)
Thorolf.—I offer you to leave the country and never come back to Iceland.
Broddi.—You must know, Thorolf, that you are to die. There is no other condition.
Thorolf.—Each of you would consider himself too young to die already, if he were in my place now. You are keeping long your vow of everlasting truce, Brand Kolbeinsson!
(BRAND remains silent.)
Thorolf.—Those that keep it as you do 'shall shun churches and Christian people, the house of God and the houses of men and every home but hell!' A great wonder it would be if you obtain the absolution of a priest in the hour of your death. I summon you before God, Brand Kolbeinsson!
Broddi.—Lead the man away to be executed, Helgi Skaftason, you have a good axe.
Helgi.—That I have; nor shall I refuse its service.
Thorolf.—Helgi Skaftason is then to—! (Quickly takes his ring off his wrist and comes close to SIGURD. EINAR happens to stand near so that he can discern their speech.) Can you keep a secret, priest?
Sigurd.—That can every one who is in holy office.
Thorolf (gives him the ring and says in low voice).—Quickly hide this ring and bring it to Lady Helga.
Sigurd (do).—With what message?
Thorolf.—That you shall be spared life and limb, though you have been participant in this onslaught on me. (EINAR gives a start.)
Sigurd.—And any others?
Thorolf.—Little I care.
Einar (aside).—That ring must I try to get hold of.
(THOROLF is led out to the left; all the others follow, excepting BRODDI and BRAND.)
Broddi.—You must not be present at it, Brand! I shall tell you what is happening. Now Thorolf is shriven; he has but few sins to confess; he has been absolved but recently.
Brand.—If they had not lit the fire we would never have found them. Better had it been they had not lit it!
Broddi.—A pity that brave men such as Thorolf was should not be good men to work together with, likewise. Now Thorolf kneels down for the blow. Do not look that way, Brand!
Brand.—Has he the crucifix in his hand?
Broddi.—No; he reached it to Deacon Sigurd, before kneeling down. Why does Helgi let a brave man wait so long for the blow?
(A heavy blow on a body is heard without. BRAND starts up, pulls THOROLF'S ring from his arm and gives it to BRODDI.)
Brand.—Give Helgi Skaftason this ring; he will have need of the value in it. It is the ring Thorolf handed over to me in Flugumyr. I will not wear it!
Broddi.—It shall be as you wish. Now our men have laid a shield over Thorolf's body.
(The slayers of THOROLF enter from the left.)
Alf.—Great news abroad!
Brand.—We know what has happened, and that Thorolf Bjarnason is dead.
Alf.—'Dog-like on crushed bones he fed, Tan of bark his hide dyed red.'[A]
[Footnote A: Alf's lines are to be understood, so that Thorolf lived like a beggar in his youth, eating crushed bones (of dried fish; the dried fish are beaten with a hammer so as to crush the bones and separate them from the meat), and gnawing the bark of trees. (H. Hermannsson.) The lines are from a stanza made by one Gudmund Asbjarnason on Thorolf Sturlunga, ch. 122.]
Broddi.—Shame on you, Alf, to make mock at Thorolf, now he is dead.
(Enter from the right LADY HELGA, ASBJORN, and SALVOR. HELGA in traveling costume, with a veil with long white tassels. All present are greatly alarmed as they see her.)
Brand.—Lady Helga! Hail, cousin!
Helga.—Hail to all of you! (They bow to her.) What are you about, here, kinsman Brand?
Brand.—I am biding for better weather. But what may be the purpose of your journey?
Helga.—I am on a voyage to inspect our building of ships. In the snowstorm I and Asbjorn lost our way; but a short while ago we saw a fire or a light and turned that way. Now we are come here.
Brand.—How fares Kolbein, your husband?
Helga.—Very eager you are now to succeed to him. (Smiles. THOROLF'S men, weaponless, come running up and stop behind.) You here!
First Man.—They have slain Thorolf Bjarnason. His body lies here!
Helga (grasps at her heart for a moment).—Thorolf Bjarnason! Slain!
Second Man.—But this moment they beheaded him.
Helga.—Oh, pity that I came too late! (Shoves ASBJORN aside and fixes her eyes on those present.) Who of you slew T-h-o-r-o-l-f?
Helgi Skaftason (advances and dries his axe on the fringes of her veil; she smiles at him).—Here you may see the blood of Thorolf, your friend, my lady. Me you have to thank for it that his locks are bloody.
Asbjorn (pushing forth between them).—You wretched knave!
Broddi.—Shame upon you, Helgi Skaftason!
Helga.—What business of yours is it? (Smiling, to HELGI.) You may depend upon me for rewarding you for the precious stain you have put on my veil. Not just now. I shall find you later, Helgi Skaftason!
Alf (to BRODDI).—She will bring a plague upon us all; let us draw a sack over her head.[A]
[Footnote A: A measure taken against the influence of the 'evil eye' of witches.]
Broddi.—I shall kill you, Alf!
Helga (to BRAND).—Is it from our kinsmen at Oddi that you have learned how to keep an eternal truce, Brand, 'a truce which shall persist the while the earth lasts and men live'?
Broddi.—Brand Kolbeinsson had no part in Thorolf's execution.
Helga (smiling).—Then it is clear he has kept the eternal truce. Perhaps neither you had a part in it, Broddi?
Broddi.—I shall not deny that I had, lady.
Helga.—But little you know the mind of my husband, Broddi, if you think he will let his men lie dead by his house and unatoned. You, Asbjorn, and you, men of Thorolf's, lay now his body upon my sleigh. I intend to bring Kolbein the Young, his friend. Very likely I shall have to dress his bloody locks. But that shall I say to you all that Kolbein the Young is almost quite well again, and may be able to wear mail even to-morrow. (All are startled and become alarmed.)
Alf.—Loose sits my head on its shoulders!
Helga (smiling).—You will do well to hold it fast with both your hands, Alf of Grof. (Aside to SALVOR.) Lend me your arm! My eyes grow dim!
(Exeunt HELGA, SALVOR, and ASBJORN, the two men of THOROLF. HELGA walks away like a queen, smiling, and saluting to both sides. Silence.)
Helgi Skaftason (leaning on his axe).—But a short while will the hand rejoice over the blow.
Broddi.—She smiled rather too often, the queen of the Northlanders!
Sigurd.—We shall be dead men, all of us, before seven suns have set, unless we bethink ourselves of some counsel.
Brand.—Give us some counsel, Broddi, or else my kinsman Kolbein will set our women busy dressing bloody locks also.
Broddi.—We have but little choice. Let us collect as many men as we may. I myself hope to collect two hundred men, for all the men of Sletthlid and Fljot are at home now, building boats. Yourself ought to be able to collect one hundred. All this troop we shall let come together at Holar and occupy the stronghold there, until more men come together. We would then have three hundred men, while Kolbein has no more than one hundred, because three hundred of his men have been sent west to guard Vididal and Vatnsdal. Then we shall march upon Flugumyr as fast as possible before he has had time to recall these men. There we shall inform him that we are come to seek composition.
Brand.—But, first of all, we must be absolved for the murder of Thorolf, so that men will not refuse our company and deal with us.
Broddi.—A pity that we need to, because it will delay us, and meanwhile Lady Helga will inform Kolbein about Thorolf's death and egg him on against us. To Holar, then!
Einar (aside).—Thord Kakali ought to know about this in good time.
(Exeunt all except BRODDI and BRAND, who remain after.)
Brand.—When think you, Broddi, that all this slaughtering and warring will cease?
Broddi.—When all the world has become a wilderness again!
(The Cathedral at Holar. High altar in the center, and over it Christ on the Cross, an image of white alabaster, with bloody hands and feet and side, life-size. To either side, in the aisles, altars of the Virgin, splendid with images. On the floor of the aisle the tombstone of Bishop Gudmund Arason, surmounted by a statue of the bishop in his sacerdotal vestments, recumbent. Doors at both sides. The spectator is supposed to sit in the pews.)
(BISHOP BOTOLF, in full pontificals, stands before the altar. BRAND KOLBEINSSON, BRODDI, ALF, DEACON SIGURD, EINAR THE RICH, HELGI SKAFTASON, and six others kneeling before him weaponless with bared neck and shoulders. An invisible chorus sings the end of a Miserere. The music stops as soon as the psalm is finished.)
Botolf.—By that power which God gave to the apostle Peter to bind and to absolve all in heaven as well as on earth, which power he bestowed upon the pope, and the pope upon the archbishop, and the archbishop upon me, by this power I absolve you: Brand Kolbeinsson, Broddi Thorleifsson, Alf Gudmundsson, Deacon Sigurd Thjodolfsson, Helgi Skaftason, Einar the Rich, and you six other men, from the sin of your having been present at and caused the death of Thorolf Bjarnason; I absolve you from the excommunication of the Holy Church and permit to you church-going, and the association of Christian men.
Brand.—In return for our being freed from the excommunication of the Holy Church I and Broddi Thorleifsson each will give the value of five hundred in land, to the see of Holar; and two hundred for each of those who were present at the slaying of Thorolf, as is set forth more explicitly in the deed of gift which I now deliver into your hands and which Deacon Sigurd worded. (Gives the bishop a scroll of parchment. BRAND and his men rearrange their garments.)
Botolf.—Exceeding bold have you become, Deacon Sigurd, to carry weapons and to shed blood.
Broddi.—A weaponless man is but a wretch, my lord!
Sigurd.—Armed priests went to war with Bishop Gudmund Arason, my lord!
Botolf.—Because of his visitations with armed men, his battlings, and his unruliness Bishop Gudmund was declared to have forfeited his office.
Brand.—Yet retained his office as bishop till his dying day, through the good services of Kolbein the Young.
Botolf.—Kolbein is king over you all, yet archbishop, I know, he is not. Over my clerics I mean to rule so long as I am in power.
Sigurd.—I did not urge on to Thorolf's execution, and no sacraments would he have received had I not been one of the company.
Botolf.—For that reason I shall let pass by your transgression, this once, but leave your weapons here, when you depart, and never more carry weapons henceforth.
Sigurd.—I shall obey, my lord!
Kolbein Kaldaljos (enters).—Now I would pray you, sir bishop, that you assist my son and his men to obtain a becoming reconciliation in the action about Thorolf's death; because my namesake Kolbein was a stanch friend of his.
Botolf.—Those who are reconciled with the Holy Church ought also to be reconciled with all Christian men.
Alf.—They ought certainly; but Kolbein the Young is but little of a Christian when he means to take revenge for one of his men.
Broddi.—He will perhaps call the slaying of Thorolf an act of insurrection against himself.
Botolf.—It is an ill matter to assist rebels.
Kolbein Kaldaljos.—Thorolf insulted my son by giving him a nickname, and he took revenge for that.
Botolf.—You Icelanders must be more deliberate in your words than are we Norwegians, if every nickname shall cost a man's life. The slaying of Thorolf was a wicked deed, because Brand swore him an eternal truce. But in this land every one seems hardened in the ways of Kain.
Kolbein Kaldaljos.—My son Brand will succeed to Kolbein the Young!
Botolf.—He will succeed Kolbein? Then shall I seek to bring about a reconciliation between you and Kolbein the Young!
Broddi.—And for the purpose that it come about in the smoothest manner possible I need the fortifications of your see a day or two for my men.
Botolf.—You will be welcome to use them, Broddi.
Brand.—In still another matter give me assistance, sir bishop! During the hostilities that have lasted all these years a certain man who was being led to execution summoned me before the tribunal of God.
Botolf.—For that the Church knows no other help than a general indulgence and your living the rest of your natural life in peace.
Brand.—In peace? How is that possible now?
Botolf.—Blessed peace! when will you descend upon this blood-stained earth?
Broddi (smiling).—You must call out louder, my lord, to do some good! The blessed peace has been stricken with deafness these times.
Botolf.—Oh wicked mockery!
Broddi.—Wicked indeed, if it were not true.
(The cleric HELGI enters quickly.)
Helgi.—Kolbein the Young is riding toward Holar at this moment, with a hundred men.
Alf.—Let us flee to the mountains.
Broddi.—Let us wait for my brother-in-law Kolbein at this spot.
Alf.—He will have us dragged out of the church and killed.
Broddi.—I shall not flee with my shield on my back.
Brand.—No, friend Broddi, we shall not part as yet. (Seizes hold of BRODDI, whom they drag out by force between them.)
Broddi.—Why run away thus? I care not when I die.
(BRAND and his eleven companions depart, together with KOLBEIN KALDALJOS.)
Helgi.—Now they will offer you violence, my lord.
Botolf.—I expect no harm from Kolbein the Young, no wrong have I done in this land, but only what all may thank me for, and that is to reconcile the chieftains.
Helgi.—But it was in your presence that Gizur betrayed Uraekja at the bridge over the White River.
Botolf.—But Kolbein released Uraekja again!
Helgi.—Much do you say in defence of Kolbein the Young; the enemy of our sainted Bishop Gudmund Arason, my father-brother. Now the blessed bishop has revealed himself to me in a dream and announced that at this very hour he would make known his glory and power, right here in the church, through a miracle on Illugi, a wretched blind man. I wish much that Kolbein should behold it, so that he might repent of his ill deeds against this holy man. A miraculum magnum will come to pass!
Botolf.—Nothing, indeed, would so much allay Kolbein's violence as the holiness of Bishop Gudmund becoming apparent. It would make him ready for reconciliation, should he behold that he used ill so great a saint. But are you so very sure that the see of Holar really possessed such a holy man in Bishop Gudmund?
Helgi.—Most certainly, indeed! (Exit.)
Botolf (alone).—Bishop Gudmund a saint? Notwithstanding all the slayings and destruction that followed in his wake? Bishop Gudmund a saint, hm! He who used to speak a blessing over mad dogs, with his hands uplifted! Bishop Gudmund a saint, hm! Well, then would the church indeed be victorious over Kolbein the Young and his men.
(Enter KOLBEIN THE YOUNG, HAF, and ASBJORN. They salute the bishop, who returns their greetings.)
Kolbein.—I have come hither, sir bishop, to confer with you.
Botolf.—With whom then do all those your men wish to confer, and what mean the arms you carry into the church?
Kolbein.—Tumult and riot is rife in the district.
Botolf.—But a few days ago I expected to hear of your death, Kolbein, rather than see you here heading a host of men.
Asbjorn.—Does it not suit you, my lord?
Botolf.—I desire the death of no man.
Kolbein.—For a while I was very sick, indeed; but no sooner heard I of the death of my friend Thorolf than all weakness left me, so that now I am a well man again.
(Enter CLERK HELGI, ILLUGI THE BLIND MAN, and HIS BOY, who supports him. People stream in with them, stationing themselves in the doors and near them. CLERK HELGI makes ILLUGI kneel down before the sepulchre of BISHOP GUDMUND, so that he turns his face to the spectators.)
Helgi.—Kneel down now before the sepulchre of the sainted friend of God who appeared to you in your dream; because your prayers have made you deserving of that beatitude. Embrace the image of our blessed father and say the Lord's prayer.
Kolbein.—Is that man blind?
Illugi (looks up and glances at him for a moment).—I am born blind.
Kolbein (aside to HAF BJARNASON).—His eyes were fixed on me as he looked up.
Helgi.—Domine Gudmunde, fac miraculum magnum!
Illugi (mutters).—Pater noster!
Helgi.—Behold the white hand of the saint, how it draws the film from the eyes of the blind man!
Kolbein.—I have not the gift to see such things.
Helgi.—Oh ye of little faith!
Some at the Door.—I smell sweet fragrance. I see a tongue of fire above the tombstone of Bishop Gudmund!
Others.—He was good to the poor!
Illugi (with a loud voice, lifting up his crutch and arising).—Praised be the blessed Bishop Gudmund! My eyes can see!
Helgi.—O miraculum magnum!
The People at the Doors.—A miracle! A miracle! A miracle!
Botolf.—Let all bells of the church be rung.
Kolbein.—Wait an instant, my lord! The eyes of the man are unchanged. Let him prove that he can see.
Helgi.—Ay, let him do that, my lord! Let the man prove that he can see, so that Thomas be made to believe.
Kolbein (aside).—Hand me a parchment, Haf! (HAF takes a scroll out of a box in the choir and reaches it over to him.) You were blind, then, when I spoke to you before?
Illugi.—I am born blind, my lord! But now it seems to me I can see all that others see.
Kolbein.—I have still my doubts about that (holding the parchment before ILLUGI). Are you able to see what this is?
Illugi.—A parchment, my lord.
Kolbein.—And can you discern what is there written?
Illugi.—I can see the letters clearly.
Kolbein.—That you could say, although you could not see them.
Illugi (reads).—'And when St. John was arrayed in his pontifical robes, ready for burial—'
Kolbein.—How is it possible that you who are born blind have learned to read?
(ILLUGI remains silent, greatly frightened.)
Helgi.—O miraculum magnum! Holy Bishop Gudmund has imparted to him the art of reading!
Illugi.—The glorious saint appeared to me last night in a dream and taught me to read, so that I might prove to-day that my eyes can see.
Kolbein.—In that case more forethought was shown by Bishop Gudmund than he was accustomed to show when he was alive.
(BISHOP BOTOLF becomes uneasy; KOLBEIN's men look at each other smiling.)
Helgi.—The revelation of the saintliness of Holy Bishop Gudmund has affected me so much, my lord, that I forgot to have all the bells of the church rung. (Intends to leave.)
Botolf.—Wait with that a little while, Helgi.
Haf.—They will ring of themselves when the time has come.
Kolbein.—Where are you from?
(ILLUGI remains silent, as to all following questions. The boy always looks at him first before answering, making reply only when he sees that ILLUGI remains silent.)
Kolbein.—Where are you two from?
The Boy.—From the Hornstrands, my lord!
Kolbein.—What was Thord Kakali about when you left?
The Boy.—We do not know, my lord!
Kolbein.—You must have remained over night at Bolstadarhlid before you ascended the Vatnsskard.
The Boy.—We did, my lord!
Kolbein.—Did yeoman Jon send me no message by you?
The Boy.—No, my lord, yeoman Jon sent no message by us.
Kolbein.—You must be a clever and trusty lad, though you are young.
The Boy.—You give me high praise, my lord, and it is good to hear.
Kolbein.—You are careful to ask men about their names, or get to know them from others. That is doing well for a young lad.
The Boy.—I asked yeoman Jon myself what his name was, my lord!
Kolbein.—There you lied again, little boy. The yeoman at Bolstadarhlid is called Thorvard Arnason. (The boy runs out.)
Helgi.—You lied in that yourself, Kolbein, to say that the yeoman's name was Jon. The boy would never have dared to ask the yeoman about his name.
Kolbein (to HAF).—Seize hold of this man and bring him into the prison at Flugumyr. Bishop Gudmund will open its doors for him if time hangs heavy on his hands there. (ILLUGI the blind man runs out, forgetting his crutches; the people follow him. One hears the multitude outside shouting, 'A miracle'.)
Asbjorn (to HELGI).—Was it Bishop Gudmund or Kolbein the Young who made that man forget his crutches?
Helgi.—If Kolbein has done it, then has he done it by the help of Beelzebub. (He gathers up the crutches. HAF and ASBJORN follow him as he leaves the church.)
Kolbein.—Did you have a part in this farce, my lord?
Botolf.—No, my lord! (Mutters.) Pia fraus, pia fraus!
Kolbein.—Then all is well. Bishop Gudmund was a witless man, but no saint.
Botolf.—That is without example in Christendom how you laymen of Iceland treated Bishop Gudmund; you killed his men and his clerks, went to battle against him, beat and bound him, and in no wise let him enjoy peace.
Kolbein.—Bishop Gudmund was a scourge upon the land. On his journeys he devoured the property of one farmer in the morning, and of another in the evening.
Botolf.—Finally you deprived him even of his freedom.
Kolbein.—That was the very best thing for him!
Botolf.—Such conduct on your part violated God's laws.
Kolbein.—But not the laws of this land, sir bishop. They say, 'But if a man have a savage dog, then shall this dog be kept bound.' And I took the dog and bound him, sir bishop!
Botolf.—The property of the church it was that tempted you, and not the laws of the land; and how have you atoned for your robbery?
Kolbein.—With my and Thorolf Bjarnason's pilgrimage to Rome.
Botolf.—And with the help of this property of the church you have set yourself in the place of that man who alone had divine right to the land.
Kolbein.—His is the land who holds it.
Botolf.—The king of Norway lays claim to all the land settled by Norwegians.
Kolbein.—The fewest of the settlers on Iceland's soil were subjects of the king of Norway. For that matter, why comes not King Hakon and take the land from us?
Botolf.—Because many hands would be raised in its defence, and the king wishes the land to remain in peace.
Kolbein.—No one has caused more feuds among us Icelanders than has King Hakon. All feuds arose through his devices.
Botolf.—Raise the banner of King Hakon in this land, Kolbein!
Kolbein.—Who would bear the banner for that coward? No, but should the king come hither you will see me take up a banner; but it will not be that of King Hakon!
Botolf.—In order to bring the land under the king's dominion you would need but to ride to the king with twelve hundred men and let all the assembly swear an oath of allegiance to the king. Both bishops would stand back of you in that undertaking.
Botolf.—The archbishop has written me that the king would raise you to the highest rank among Icelanders if you did that.
Kolbein.—What I am already I need not become by the grace of Hakon.
Botolf.—He would give you an earl's rank and set you over all Iceland.
Kolbein.—They gave Snorri Sturluson an earl's name, and the king became the contriver of his death.
Botolf.—The archbishop writes that the king would make you highest commander among his forces, if you should prefer that.
Kolbein (rejoiced at first, but quickly controls himself).—Is that written in the archbishop's letter?
Botolf (taking out a scroll of parchment).—Here you may read it!
Kolbein.—Leader of the Birchlegs![A] That is a goodly army! No, for that my health suffices no more—they all are brisk men! Tell the archbishop that even if I were always in good health I would think it a nobler thing to do battle against the Birchlegs than with them.
[Footnote A: The name of the Norwegian king Sverre's hardy soldiers.]
Botolf.—You are the only Icelander who hates Norway and its king, Kolbein!
Kolbein.—I remember too well that my father died in Norway an enemy of the king and the archbishop. At that time I was thirteen years and dull it seemed to me in Norway thereafter.
Botolf.—If such is the case, Gizur and Thord Kakali will stretch out both their hands after the honors you now turn your back upon. Gizur has already received honors from the king.
Kolbein.—I recall that Gizur has become his link-boy. It is strange that he wanted to snuff candles for Kakon.
Botolf.—Gizur holds lands from the king and is his kinsman.
Kolbein.—Whatever the king may make of my kinsman Gizur, I know for sure that he will never be able to give him the courage to take up arms against me.
Botolf.—But he might go so far as to let Thord Kakali have his men, and Thord would dare to fight with you.
Kolbein.—He does indeed! I shall have to kill Thord before mid-summer!
Botolf.—True is the saying that no chieftain in Iceland lays himself down to sleep any day without danger!
Kolbein.—We are mortal men, we chieftains.
Botolf.—Will Gizur also have to be made a head shorter before mid-summer, Kolbein, should he come to Iceland?
Kolbein.—Who can know what the future will bring, sir bishop?
(ASBJORN and HAF enter in headlong haste.)
Asbjorn.—There is prospect of tidings; Broddi Thorleifsson comes riding down the valley with two hundred armed men.
Kolbein (wrathfully, to the BISHOP).—What seeks my cousin Broddi at Holar with two hundred men?
Botolf.—The peace of the land seems insecure to him and he is coming hither for defending himself in the fort.
Kolbein.—You encourage men to rebellion against me, you devil in a bishop's guise! Is that the peace the king and the archbishop intend to bring to the land?
Botolf.—What means this wrath in God's church?
Haf.—What council shall we take, Kolbein? Broddi is advancing rapidly.
Kolbein.—You, Asbjorn, will cross the mountains with a dozen men and advise my wife Helga to draw all guards from the west as fast as is at all possible. You yourself will continue your journey south over the Kjol to Hjalti, the son of the bishop to come north at once with all the men he can summon, to prevent difficulties here.
Asbjorn.—Indeed, a strenuous journey, now at the height of winter!
Kolbein.—Maintain the length of your days' journeys as if I were along myself, and be back at Flugumyr by the next Sunday. (ASBJORN departs.) But you, Haf, will take half of the company remaining, and take position in the fortifications close by. The horses you will let into the fort. The other half you will let take position on the outside of the gates of the fort, so that we may leave it at our will. We shall hold the fortification until help comes to us, if need be. Let all undo the peace-straps[A] from their swords!
[Footnote A: Straps wound round the sheath and fastened to a ring in the hilt.]
Haf.—I shall arrange all as you command. (Departs.)
Kolbein (to the BISHOP, who is about to leave).—Bide an instant, bishop! Remain here at my side! If it appears that Broddi's men show any hostilities towards me, I shall behead you here before the high altar.
Botolf (to himself).—Broddi's men! Are they so wise, I wonder? (Aloud.) You will permit me to speak with Kolbein Kaldajos, in order that he may adjust our difficulties.
Kolbein.—Are you thinking perhaps that he should come here with his men to take care of us?
Botolf.—Far from it. (About to leave.)
Kolbein (grasping the BISHOP by the wrist).—You will not go hence alive, sir bishop; if you stir the church will have another saint (points to Bishop Gudmund's tomb).
Botolf.—It would be a fair death for the servant of God. But unlikely it is that you will accomplish this deed of violence, because God's angels follow me wherever I go.
Kolbein.—I, too, have attendant wraiths; my victory at Orlygsstad, my pursuits of Thord Kakali, my raid to Reykholar, and my journey over Tvidaegra Heath with thirty men.
Botolf.—Angels with black wings all, Kolbein!
Kolbein.—Whatever the hue of their wings, yet they cause me to come out of every fray unscathed and more powerful than other men.
Botolf.—God has hardened your heart, Kolbein!
Kolbein.—And you, cease to aid my cousin Brand and Broddi, and never release them from the interdict!
Botolf.—I have released them.
Kolbein.—That is an act of open hostility against me.
Botolf.—Whilst I am bishop I have the power of the keys, and not you.
Kolbein.—I have undone the gates of death for more men than I wished, and that power of the keys, I know, is not lies and wonders.
Botolf.—You have but one key, Kolbein, and that leads to hell. You will have need for it to open its gates when you arrive there; in case the Holy Church has not already opened them up for you.
Kolbein.—You threaten me with excommunication, bishop! Do not stir! Now I have decided what I shall do with you. Next summer I shall put you bodily in a sack and bring it on a ship and send you thus to the archbishop.[A] (Laughs heartily.)
[Footnote A: The archbishop of Nidaros (Throndhjem), then primate of Norway.]
Botolf.—God is my castle.
Kolbein.—And you shall have both food and your power of the keys on top of you in your bag. That would teach Kakon and the archbishop to appoint fewer bishops from Norway who are chiefly busy plotting to betray Iceland. (Laughs.)
(KOLBEIN KALDALJOS enters. The BISHOP breathes relieved.)
Botolf.—You are an enemy of God, Kolbein the Young!
Kolbein.—No friend of the king, you meant to say.
Kolbein Kaldaljos.—Broddi has taken a stand at Vidiness with two hundred men. It seems he will order his troop there in battle array.
Botolf (to KOLBEIN THE YOUNG).—Your father's brother, Kolbein, fell at Vidiness, the same perchance may betide you.
Kolbein Kaldaljos.—Pledge a truce to me on behalf of my son Brand and his fellows.
Kolbein.—Brand holds no truce!
Kolbein Kaldaljos.—If you intend to slay my son you will find that Broddi and his men will stand between you and Brand for this once.
Kolbein.—Hear you, bishop, will you forbear aiding Brand and Broddi, if I now depart?
Kolbein.—Then shall I make the see at Holar even with the ground, as soon as I return.
Haf (entering hurriedly).—Broddi Thorleifsson has arranged his men in fighting order at Vidiness, and now they are advancing this way in battle array. I let our men mount their horses.
Kolbein.—You will follow me to Flugumyr, bishop. There are strong fortifications. But if Broddi's men pursue us, or make other show of hostility, I shall have you beheaded.
Haf.—Come, sir bishop.
Botolf (to KOLBEIN KALDALJOS).—If Kolbein commits such wickedness you shall let the 'Peace of God' be rung over all the land until next Monday evening; and then all the ill deeds he does meanwhile will become two-fold crimes.
Kolbein.—'God's peace'—hm! That is a new thing in this land! In that case I shall come after Monday and break to pieces 'Likabong' and the other bells of the cathedral; then you will have to cease ringing for a while, sir bishop.
Botolf.—Now the foul fiend talks through Kolbein's mouth.
Haf.—Come along with the foul fiend, sir!
Kolbein Kaldaljos.—The church needs men to guard it, the danger is greater than ever. Give me the watchword, sir bishop.
Botolf (aside to KOLBEIN KALDALJOS).—God is our castle!
Haf.—Come along, sir bishop!
Botolf (to himself).—Better I were a simple monk in Helgiseter cloister in Norway, than be a weak bishop and stand between the feuds of the chieftains of this land. But the king requested me.
(KOLBEIN THE YOUNG and HAF lead the BISHOP away between them.)
KOLBEIN KALDALJOS.—Oh the enormity to take the bishop prisoner in his own cathedral. And yet we have won the victory. I shall let the 'Peace of God' be rung out over the land, and that will protect the bishop from all danger and also give my son Brand time to collect his forces.
(Exit. The scene is empty a little while. Then BRODDI, ALF, and the other slayers of THOROLF enter hurriedly.)
Broddi.—Where is the bishop?
Alf.—I was told that Kolbein Kaldaljos was here. (KOLBEIN KALDALJOS enters again.)
Kolbein Kaldaljos.—You come too late, Broddi. Kolbein the Young has taken the bishop with him against his will to Flugumyr.
Broddi (aghast).—Unlike Kolbein to other men. Who could have thought of such an unheard-of thing?
Kolbein Kaldaljos.—And will kill the bishop, if you show any hostilities against Kolbein.
Alf.—Will kill the bishop? Whenever has the like been heard, to take a bishop out of his church against his will and threaten him with death! He will straightway be doomed to hell when he dies, but not before having made away with us all.
Broddi—I have two hundred men. Kolbein has not even one hundred and will get no more before to-morrow evening. Who cares about the bishop's life? He will have to die some day. I shall ride after Kolbein with all my men, and the battle is won. Have you no message to me from the bishop?
Kolbein Kaldaljos.—He authorizes you to use the fortifications and wishes you to defend the see.
Broddi.—What do I need the fortifications now? I have twice as many men.
Kolbein Kaldaljos.—The bishop has ordered to set a guard over the see, and to ring out the 'Peace of God' over all the land.
Broddi (in furious wrath).—The hellish coward! So afraid he was for his life! A manifold crime it would be, then, if we attempt anything. Better had it been for us Northlanders if the archbishop had appointed a dog to be our bishop! (The watchword is taken up outside, first near by, then farther and farther away: 'God is our castle,' 'God is our castle,'—'is our castle,' 'our castle,'—'castle.' The cathedral bells begin ringing out the 'Peace of God.' BRODDI rushes at KOLBEIN KALDALJOS.) Let them stop this ringing!
Kolbein Kaldaljos.—No, no, the bishop has commanded it.
Broddi (grips him with both hands at his shoulders and forces him on his knees).—Let them stop this ringing, wretch!
Kolbein Kaldaljos.—Hold the peace of the church, Broddi! I am an old man.
Broddi (letting go of KOLBEIN).—But a few moments ago our fight with Kolbein was altogether won, but now it is (casts his steel glove on the floor) altogether lost.
(The ringing continues vigorously while the curtain drops.)
(The 'Little Hall' at Reynistad. Daytime. Enter LADY HELGA, JORUN, and her two sons, KALF, eight years, and THORGEIR, six years.)
Jorun.—What do you need for your journey, lady? I do not know whether I can assist you, because there is no one but women at home.
Helga.—That knew I well that only women were at home. I need ice-spurs for my horse, or else he will fall under me and I lose life or limb.
Jorun.—You are welcome to our horseshoes as to all other things, lady.
Helga.—Harden well the ice-spurs for my horse, Haf. It seems to me that most iron is soft at Reynistad.
Haf.—It shall be done, lady! (Exit.)
Jorun.—Soft iron bends but does not break!
Helga.—Neither does it remain sharp long.
Jorun.—Are you finding fault with my husband and me because we observe the 'Peace of God'? I might easily let the women fetch so many of my servants as would be needed to take you and Haf prisoners.
Helga.—Yes, if we waited until they came. But let us drop this; rather show me your boys, because I should like to see what will become of them when they grow up.
Jorun.—There are but few that can see that in such small boys, excepting their own mother.
Helga (sits down and extends her hand).—Come to me, Kalf, my foster-son. (KALF comes up to her.) What do you want to be when you grow up? A bishop?
Kalf.—I want to become a great chieftain!
Helga.—What chieftain would you most want to be like?
Kalf.—The one who commands the greatest army.
Helga.—You want to command a great army, foster-son?
Kalf.—Yes, and be victorious in many battles.
Helga (placing KALF on her knee).—I think as before about my foster-son Half. In him you will bring up a man fit to be a chieftain, Jorun, though I know not how fit you are for that task.
Jorun.—My sons will have to be satisfied with such bringing up as I am able to give them.
Helga,—Which chieftain would you most like to be?
Kalf.—Kolbein the Young.
Helga.—Older people ought to say that! (To THORGEIR.) But what do you most like to become, little tot? (THORGEIR comes up to her.)
Thorgeir.—Like father. (Puts a finger into his mouth.)
Helga.—Do you want to be a priest?
Thorgeir.—I want to be like my papa. (HELGA gazes at him; he retires behind his mother, concealing his face in her gown, and cries.)
Jorun.—You must not make my boy cry, lady.
Helga—You may keep that boy yourself. But give me your boy Kalf along to Flugumyr, for that would further reconciliations. I wish to be the mother of a chieftain.
Kalf.—Will you give me sword and helmet, and shield, then?
Helga.—Yes, my boy, a shield with an eagle on it.
Jorun.—A woman who herself has no children is not destined to be mother to a chieftain. My son Kalf shall never come into your hands whilst I live. I wish him to learn works of peace, and not warfare and slaughter.
Helga.—Let your Thorgeir be ordained priest, as kinsmen of yours have done. (Stands KALF on the floor, getting up herself and stroking him on his head.) But be careful to raise Kalf in such a manner that he become a successor to my husband and his father.
Jorun.—Go now, boys! (The boys leave the room.) You say that Kalf will be the successor of your husband and of his father?
Helga.—You know about the ill health of my husband Kolbein, which may take him away earlier than one might suspect. And yet it may be that Brand Kolbeinsson will not live even as long as he.
Jorun.—What is that you say? As a fact I know that Hjalti, the son of the bishop, is not coming from the South to settle our differences!
Helga (laughs).—He, the cod-biter! His men were all at the fishing-stations when Asbjorn arrived in the South. Hjalti is coming by no means, and my husband is raging at him.
Jorun.—You must have stirred up Kolbein the Young in this matter as never before. Did you not drive home with the corpse of Thorolf, saying to him that there was life in him still; but when he took Thorolf out of your sleigh his head rolled about Kolbein's feet. Nor was that to be wondered at, considering the love that was between you and Thorolf.
Helga.—The slayers of Thorolf themselves incited me most.
Jorun.—And now it may appear to you as though not only Thorolf was to be avenged. Asbjorn fared South with eleven men and returned alone. He lost all men in the winter storms that have been raging now for some time. At last there were only six who returned over the Kjol, without food and worn out. Man after man threw himself down on the frozen ground to die; they cursed the wars that will not let men die in peace with God and men, they cursed Brand Kolbeinsson, and Broddi, and Kolbein the Young, because it is they who are the cause of this war.
Helga.—You say the truth about the journey of Asbjorn from the South. But I shall forget about all that, and shall procure the best terms for your husband from Kolbein, if you will give me your boy Kalf to foster and to let me bring him up. It has become rather solitary about me now at Flugumyr!
Jorun.—And you wish that I shall bring up my sons so that dying men shall curse them?
Helga.—You shall surrender the boy to me, whether you like it or no.
Jorun.—Then would I rather die!
Helga.—Weak spirit! My husband has promised me the life of a man in this feud, and also that I might choose who it shall be.
Jorun.—Then I know that it will be the life of my husband.
Helga.—You spoke of the love between me and Thorolf Bjarnason. I shall not deny it. Thorolf summoned your husband before the judgment of God before he was put to death. Now he is dead I can do nothing more pleasing to him than to see to it that Brand Kolbeinsson follow the summons in due time.
Jorun.—You are a devil, Helga! You dare to treat thus a chieftain as beloved as Brand Kolbeinsson?
Helga.—Loud you exclaim now, my lady! Yet I am better than you think me. If Brand is as beloved a chieftain as you make him out to be, somebody will surely be ready to die in his place; and that will I promise you that I shall give your husband full release, and kill him instead who offers himself to that end. (She laughs.)
Jorun.—You promise me that because you know full well that no one will do that.
Helga.—Is not Brand Kolbeinsson a beloved chieftain?
Jorun.—Yet you will stand by your word neither to me nor my husband.
Helga.—When did I ever fail to live up to my promise?
Jorun.—Did you never say that you would love your husband?
Helga.—When I was given to Kolbein I never once was asked whether I would love him, so that if I have been much lacking in this matter I have never deceived him in any way. Your husband may rest assured that if any one offer to die instead of so highly beloved a chieftain, then shall I take that man's life, and not Brand's.
Haf (coming in again).—Now your horse is provided with ice-spurs. Make haste; I see men riding this way. (LADY HELGA and HAF depart.)
Jorun (throwing up her hands in dismay).—And to-night the Peace of God is at an end! Holy mother of God! Rather extinguish the sun than let my husband be taken from me and put to death. Rather extinguish the sun than let this war continue. The earth does not deserve to exist when no one obeys the command of love and peace.
Brand (enters).—You are praying?
Jorun.—Lady Helga departed but this moment; she said to me that her husband had promised her the life of a man in this feud, and that she intended to choose yours.
Brand.—It is altogether uncertain as yet whether kinsman Kolbein will get power over my life.
Jorun.—Hjalti, the bishop's son, will not come to effect a settlement between you.
Brand.—I am not so sure whether we shall need him. Broddi has two hundred men, and if Deacon Sigurd and Helgi Skaftason manage to get any men it is likely that we shall have a greater host than kinsman Kolbein. (SIGURD, deacon, enters. BRAND goes to meet him.) You come late, deacon!
Sigurd.—I have been going about asking for help, as you bade me, and I may as well say in few words that no one will take up arms for you, excepting only your tenants, if you mean to begin hostilities against Kolbein the Young.
Brand.—That had I not expected.
Sigurd.—People are saying that the district is growing poor through warfare, that brothers, fathers, or sons lie buried on battlefields in all directions, and that they want to know where to look for their bones before more men are sent to their death.
Brand.—I have not been the cause of warring hitherto, and these same men will take to their arms by the hundreds, whenever Kolbein the Young summons them, and yet half of the lands he now rules are really mine.
Sigurd.—That I told them also; but I cannot tell you what they answered thereupon!
Brand.—You certainly must!
Sigurd.—They said that Kolbein had ever been victorious in war, but you never.
Brand (gloomy).—It is true, I have not been victorious!
(HELGI SKAFTASON enters. BRAND goes to meet him.)
Brand.—What tidings have you from, the West?
Helgi (leaning wearily on his axe).—The weather has been very bad—
Brand.—I know that! I know that!
Helgi.—I found the men on guard in the West. When I came to the first of them, the messengers of Lady Helga were there. Both they and the guards raised a great outcry against me, and I owe it to my horse and the storm that I escaped with my life. At the second and the third post it went the same way.
Brand.—And no one wanted to follow me?
Helgi.—They all said that you always suffered the most disgraceful reverses, while victory was perched on the helmet of Kolbein.
Brand.—I did not have the hardness and the ruthlessness of my kinsman Kolbein to kill men.
Jorun.—And it is better not to be ruthless.
Helgi.—I went to the peasants in the West, but got the worst reception. Often I did not even get food. I was allowed to stay overnight only in the outhouses. At Bolstadahlid the hut burned down in which I slept. I do not know whether the farmer intended to burn me in it, but three armed men were standing outside when I made my escape from the fire. They did nothing to put out the fire, but neither did they attack me. Maybe that they were not minded to seek a night's shelter under my axe. After that I was not allowed to come into the house. I stood under the house wall during the remainder of the night, with my axe on my shoulder, and looking into the fire. Now I have come here!
Brand.—Our cause is altogether lost. Yeoman Thorvard tries to murder my messenger! (Murmurs to himself.) Thorolf said, 'He shall shun churches and Christian people, the houses of God and the houses of men, and every home but hell.'
Jorun.—You will have to fight against terrible odds.
Einar the Rich (enters with a pair of scales and a gold ring in his hand).—Now I shall ride home by the fastest and shall return within a short while with twenty men.
Brand.—That will be excellent, Einar. (Exeunt BRAND and JORUN.)
Einar.—Deacon Sigurd, what weighs the ring you wear on your arm there?
Sigurd.—Why do you ask?
Einar.—A ring has been paid me for a debt, and I want to weigh it now.
Sigurd.—My ring weighs four ounces.
Einar.—Mine was to weigh as much; let me have yours for a moment!
Sigurd (takes THOROLF'S ring off his arm and gives it to him).—But let me have it back at once!
Einar (weighs the rings. As soon as SIGURD looks away he exchanges the rings; handing SIGURD the other).—Thank you, deacon. Here is your ring! I am astonished that a priest should wear so precious a piece of gold on his arm.
Sigurd.—This ring is not my own. (Puts it on.)
Einar.—I did not know that. Farewell, friends! (Exit.)
Helgi Skaftason (approaches closely to DEACON SIGURD).—I dreamed last night that I stood out of doors and looked up at the sky, and I thought I saw streams of blood run over all the sky. And down below on earth shone flames that licked up to the vault of heaven from all directions.
Sigurd.—You became aware in your sleep that the hut was burning about you.
Helgi.—No! I dreamed this dream three times, and awoke each time and never became aware of the fire. The end of the dream was most terrible and always the same.
Sigurd.—And what was the end of it?
Helgi.—Meseemed Thorolf Bjarnason drowned me in blood, and then I awoke and thought I was in hell.
Sigurd.—Put no faith in that hellish dream. You dreamed about the end of the world.
Helgi.—Yes, my world is at an end. The eyes of Lady Helga marked me for death, when I dried the blade of my axe on the fringes of her veil.
Sigurd.—That was indeed a most unfortunate act!
Helgi.—Thorolf had been her lover for many years.
Sigurd.—I do not know about that. I am not her father confessor.
Sigurd.—No. She has the father devil as father confessor, but not you.
Sigurd.—You speak ill of so great a lady.
Helgi.—And I shall have to sell my life and salvation as dearly as I ever may. (Sobs.) Help me, deacon, I sink, I sink!
Sigurd (taking his ring off his arm).—Take this ring! And ride at once to Flugumyr and give it to Lady Helga, with this last message from Thorolf Bjarnason that you shall have peace for life and limb, although you have slain him.
Helgi.—That ring? That is the ring of Einar the Rich!
Sigurd.—Ah, the wretch stole the right ring, and now he has ridden away! Holy Mother of God, then I know not what to do for you!
Helgi (close to him, as before).—I shall not live more than three days, and then I shall awake in the place I dreamed of. Deacon, as sure as you want to be saved yourself, read masses for my soul when I am dead.
Sigurd.—I shall, depend on it. It may be your dream signifies the fall of that chieftain whom you shall harm most. I dreamed (BRAND and JORUN appear behind them), that night when I lodged at Sauda—I dreamed three times in succession that Brand Kolbeinsson stood at my bedside and said, 'Domine Jesu Christe, accipe spiritum meum!'