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Modern Icelandic Plays - Eyvind of the Hills; The Hraun Farm
by Jhann Sigurjnsson
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Halla.

Ask him.

Arnes.

Why does he not show it, if he cares so much for you? He forgets about helping you with firewood and carrying water, and if the meat is not cooked the way he likes it, he scolds you. One might think you were his servant girl.

Halla.

Don't let that worry you.

Arnes.

And he can't even see the color of your hair.

Halla.

Do you bear a grudge against Kari, because he caught the swan?

Arnes.

You had house and home and a good name, and you gave it all up for his sake. He ought to keep that in mind more than he does.

Halla.

I don't want Kari to be offering up thanks like a meek bondsman. Besides, I have done nothing for him. I did it all for myself.

Arnes.

He does not even bother to curry the skins for your bedding. If you did not have me, you would have to do it yourself.

Halla (stands up).

I don't want your help. (Takes hold of the skin.) Let go!

Arnes (gives it up reluctantly).

Are you angry?

Halla (takes the skin out of the horn-ring and throws it into the hut). You are not so sorely needed as you think you are. (Sits down again to her work.)

Arnes.

I did not mean that. It makes me happy when I can do some little thing for you. Won't you let me finish it?

Halla.

You shall not touch it.

Arnes (stands for a moment, puzzled).

Will you not forgive me what I said? I cannot bear to have you angry with me.

Halla.

I am not angry.

Arnes.

When you were ill, I once brought you some green leaves that had come up through the snow. Then you gave me a kiss.

Halla.

Did I? (Smiles; kisses him lightly on the cheek.) Have you peace in your soul now?

Arnes.

I don't know. I believe I shall never have peace in my soul any more.

(They are silent.)

Halla.

You were good to me the time I was ill.

Arnes.

I am not good to anybody. I am wicked.

Halla.

You are not.

Arnes.

Even with you I sometimes feel that I could hurt you.

Halla.

We can all be ugly when we are tired and hungry.

Arnes.

Will you let me kiss your mouth? Just once?

Halla (rising).

No.

Arnes.

Your lips will suffer no harm from it. (Takes hold of her shoulders and tries to draw her to him.)

Halla (tears herself away from him).

Have you gone mad?

Arnes.

You have been true to Kari for seven years now. It is time you tired of it.

Halla.

Now your face looks like the bailiff's when he called me a harlot. (Gives him a box on the ear.)

Arnes (furiously).

I know you better than you think. You are so pure! You have never done an evil deed!

Halla.

What do you mean?

Arnes.

Kari is more open-mouthed than you think. You have had a child before this one.

(Halla shields her face with her hands as though warding off a blow. Arnes sits silent.)

Halla.

Why don't you say that I killed my child? That is what you meant to say. You know I did it.

Arnes.

My cursed mouth.

Halla.

You judge me. How can you? You don't know what it means to bring a life into the world. It grows heavier day by day like the snow of winter. If we had had spring and sunshine! But the times were hard and food was scarce. I did a good deed when I laid my child out in the cold. Far less suffering that than life!

Arnes.

I do not judge what you did.

Halla.

No, you thought I was an angel who was longing to be your harlot. You can go with a lighted candle into my soul and search it. You will find no remorse there. What could we have done with a child, if we had been forced to flee? Should we have left it with strangers? And how do you think it would have fared? A child of felons, scorned by all!

Arnes (broken-hearted). I did not know that my words would hurt you so much.

Halla.

Do you think I did it with a light heart? I have given birth to two children, and cruel was the pain, but I would rather bear ten children than live that night over again. When I had carried my child out into the cold, my mind gave way. In my ravings, I thought the child lay by my side, and above us was a flock of birds— pitch black. I bent over it to shield it, and the birds pecked into my back, into my lungs they pecked. (Stops short from emotion.)

Arnes.

Would I were dead!

Halla (calmer).

I wished for the death of that child long before it was born. (Goes to Tota.) But this my little springtime child I have never wished ill. The first time I felt her life, it seemed a token of forgiveness that I was allowed to become a mother again, and when she came into the world, the sun was shining, and the sky was blue and warm. (Kisses her.)

Arnes.

My tongue got the better of me. (Puts his hand on his heart.) There is a devil dwelling in me. (Stands motionless.) I love you.

Halla (turns toward him).

Have you not done hurting me yet?

Arnes (crushed).

No matter what I say, you think I mean ill.

Halla.

I shall not speak to you again. (Sits down to her work.)

Arnes.

Nor will you have to listen to me any more. I am going down to the lowlands, and there they can do with me what they like.

Halla.

If you tell them of our hiding-place, they may let you off more easily.

Arnes.

Even that you believe I could do!

Halla (rising).

If you cared for me as much as you say, you would be good to me instead of bad.

Arnes.

Love has made you good and me bad. (He is silent.) Do you remember the time Kari and I went up the glacier, and he fell down into a crack? He told you I had been so frightened that I shook all over. It was not for his life I feared; I feared my own thoughts.

Halla (terrified by a dawning apprehension).

What do you mean?

Arnes.

I have often wished Kari dead.

Halla.

It is not true!

Arnes.

It is. Do you understand now that I must go away from here? I no longer dare to live with you two, and neither do I dare to live alone.

Halla.

I wish you had never crossed our path.

Arnes (following up his own thoughts).

If Kari had not been so trusting as he is, I don't know what I might not have done; but he had such faith in me. You don't know all the words the Tempter can whisper in one's ear. I thought Kari had been happy so long that it would be only fair if he had to die now. It seemed to me that you and I were more akin in our souls, that we had more of the wilds in us. I felt it was he alone that stood between us two.

Halla.

I forbid you to say another word. All your thoughts are lies. If Kari had died, I should have followed him. You would have had my corpse, not me. And if I had learned that you were the cause of his death, I should have killed you while you were asleep. I have given my all to my husband, even my conscience. I can go on living, even if he should not always care so much for me, but when I no longer love him, then I die.

Arnes.

I am glad you love your husband. I don't know whether it is because I have unburdened myself of all my evil thoughts, or whether it is because I have made up my mind to give myself up and serve my time, but I feel a peace within me that I have not known for long. To-morrow I shall go away from here and never come back. I shall tell Kari that I mean to take a short trip. (Goes to Halla.) Will you do the last thing I ask of you in this life— never to let him know the truth?

Halla.

I can make you no promise.

Arnes.

Then I will bid you good-bye while we are alone. I shall cross the lava strip and sit down where I can look out over the sand waste. You may tell Kari that I shall be back in an hour. (Holding out his hand.) Is there no hope that you can ever think of me without bitterness when I am gone?

Halla (takes his hand).

Good-bye, Arnes.

Arnes.

Good-bye, Halla. (Walks a few steps; stops.) When I am sitting within prison walls, I shall remember you as the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. [Exit.

Halla (stands looking after him; then goes to Tota).

What a good, quiet little girl you are! Getting sleepy? (Finds a small skin, which she spreads on the ground.) Now mother will sing you to sleep, as she did in the old times. (Unfastens the rope.) Shall I, Tota?

Tota.

Yes.

Halla (sits down and takes her on her lap).

Then you must close your eyes. (Sits silent, then hums as she rocks the child.)

Sweetly sleep, my dear young love, Outside rain is falling. Mother safely away will stow Horse and sheep and swan and dove. Then we'll rest, we two, for night is calling.

Darkness spreads o'er many a woe, Sore hearts, broken pledges. Meadows green laid waste I saw, Scythe of sand the field did mow, Death calls from the glacier's cruel ledges.

Are you asleep? (She rises slowly, lays the child on the skin, and covers her up, then sits down to her work.)

Enter Kari, his hair wet from the bath.

Kari.

Do you know what I have a mind to do?

Halla.

You must not speak too loud. Tota is asleep. (Kari goes to the left.) Where are you going?

Kari.

I'll be right back. (Disappears down the gorge. A moment later he comes into view again.) Some day when I feel good and strong I have a mind to try to swim against the current all the way into the inner ravine. From here I should look like a dwarf down there.

Halla (rising).

Arnes went out on the sands. He will be back in about an hour. He has made up his mind to start on a trip to the southland to-morrow.

Kari.

I knew he was longing to get away from here. I only hope he will not come to harm!

Halla (goes to him).

If he should never come back, we two should be alone, as we were in the old days. (Takes his hands.) Do you care a little for me yet?

Kari.

You know I do.

Halla.

I feel that I need to hear you say it.

Kari (holding her hands).

And I show it far too seldom. I forget. You must tell me when there is anything you want me to do. (Kisses her; releases her hands.) Are you sorry that Arnes is going?

Halla.

You never saw the queer little brook I found once. It welled out from a moss-covered hillock and ran in a ring. Where it flowed the banks were green, but elsewhere there was nothing but sand. Its whole course was no longer than what I could walk in thirty steps. It seems to me that life is like that stream.

Enter Arnes, running.

Arnes (in a whisper).

They're coming!

Kari (terrified).

What?

Halla (goes to Arnes).

Are you trying to scare us?

Arnes.

They'll be here in a minute. I counted nine. You must flee at once! There's no time to lose.

Halla.

I won't run away from Tota.

Kari.

We stand no chance, three against nine. You must leave her with them. There they are! For God's sake, run!

(Halla is on the point of running.)

Bjoern's voice (full of bitter malice). Now catch the foxes!

Halla (startled, stops).

It's Bjoern! (A terrible expression as of madness darkens her features. She seizes Tota; her voice is harsh and unnatural.) The cub he shall not have!

Tota (frightened and sleepy).

Mother!

Halla (runs sobbing to the gorge).

Tota! Tota! Tota! (Disappears.)

Kari (who has remained inert and dumb with terror runs after).

What are you doing?

(From the gorge is heard the scream of a child, which is suddenly silenced. Halla comes up again.)

Kari.

Halla! Halla!

Bjoern's voice (very near). Make haste!

Halla (shrieks to him).

Devil!

Enter Bjoern.

Bjoern (grabbing Halla).

Now I've got you!

(Kari seizes his knife and stabs Bjoern through the heart. Bjoern falls dead. Kari and Halla flee. Bjoern's men enter, stand as though paralyzed at the sight of the slain man. Arnes goes slowly up to them.)



ACT IV

A small hut in the hills. Two large stones covered with skins serve as seats. The low bedstead is also covered with skins. On the wall hang some poor, clumsy tools. In the slanting roof, a small window is darkened with snow. On the hearth, a low fire. Outside, a snowstorm. Now and then, snow comes whirling down the smoke-hole.

Kari is pacing to and fro, beating his arms. Halla sits silent. They are both dressed in skins.

Halla.

Are you cold?

Kari.

I don't know. (Halla rises and puts some faggots on the fire. Kari takes a stick from the wall; counts.) I needn't count the notches. This is the seventh day the snowstorm is raging without a break, and it is past Easter. How long do you think it can keep on?

Halla.

It's no use asking me about it.

Kari (replaces the stick in the wall).

If the walls were not frozen so hard, the storm would have torn down the hut long ago.

Halla.

It is bound to stop sometime.

Kari.

You think so? It's four years now since that terrible summer when the sun was red and dim from morning till night. (In secret awe.) There may come a summer when the sun does not rise at all.

Halla.

It was the ashes that made the sun look so red that summer.

Kari.

I could well live a whole summer without the sun, if I only had food. (Picks up a big knife.) This fellow has not tasted meat in a whole eternity. (A rapturous ring comes into his voice.) I remember a ram I once killed; he was so fat he could hardly walk. (Plants himself in front of Halla.) If he stood there now, bodily, should you have strength enough to hold his feet for me?

Halla.

I think I should.

Kari.

We should have to take care not to be too greedy. If we could only hold back the first two days, we might eat as much as we wanted afterward. (His mouth waters; he swallows saliva.) You have seen a butchered sheep hung up to dry in the wind; its flesh is as tender as a young girl's. I feel as though I could fondle it; I could bite it.

Halla.

We have promised each other not to speak of food.

Kari.

And how do you think the heart would taste smoking hot from the fire? I could swallow it in one mouthful. I should feel as if I had eaten, if I could only smell warm meat.

Halla.

You will make me sick if you don't stop talking about food. Don't you think I am just as hungry as you are? And I hold my peace.

Kari.

Yes, you hold your peace. (Puts down the knife.) If I did not see your eyes, I should think you were dead, and yet you are human and living like myself. Are you not? (Halla is silent.) Or perhaps you are a heathen image? Must I kneel down before you and pray for fine weather? Shall I build a fire before you and stain your feet with blood? What do you want?

Halla.

I want to be left in peace.

Kari.

You ought to be a tree, then you could wither in peace. Why don't you cry out like every living thing that suffers. You don't know how your calmness racks me. Even the trees cry and moan in the autumn gales— they wail!

Halla.

I should wail too, if there was any one that could hear me.

Kari.

I don't care whether anybody hears my screams or not. I'll scream; I'll yell. (Yells.)

Halla (stands up).

Are you not ashamed of yourself?

Kari (in a weak voice).

This cannot last. I should have gone long ago. I ought to have gone at once, the first day the food gave out, but you thought every day that the morrow would bring fine weather. I know you said it to soothe me, but it was not right.

Halla.

It was no use going to certain death.

Kari.

I should never be afraid of getting lost. If the snowstorm is ever so dark, I find my way. (Raises his hand.) I know where I am by trend of the wind.

Halla.

If you were so sure of yourself, you ought indeed to have gone long ago.

Kari (hardening).

You say that?

Halla.

Yes, I say that.

Kari.

Take care! You have tempted me to stay day after day. Your believing and hoping palsied my will. You wormed your own fear into my heart and broke my courage. If we both die of hunger, the fault is yours, and yours alone.

Halla.

Is it my fault?

Kari.

You have lived in the hills for sixteen years, and you don't know them more than a child does. Perhaps you think the snowstorm will have pity? Won't you open the door and bid the snowstorm be still? Why don't you?

Halla.

You say that it is my fault if we starve to death. Who was it that stole?

Kari (stands for a moment speechless).

You are homely. I have never before seen how homely you are. Your face makes me think of the head of a dead horse. (Reaches out his arms.) May I feel of your hair if it doesn't all come out?

Halla.

Don't touch me!

Kari (lets his arms fall. An expression of sadness comes into his voice). I thought you were the only one who understood that I could not help what I did. Neither could you help what you have done, and yet you are bringing my misdeeds up against me.

Halla.

Never before have I upbraided you for this, but you put the whole blame on me.

Kari.

And you said it in such a hard tone. It was as if you struck me with stones.

Halla.

My voice was no harder than yours.

Kari.

It's becoming in you to chide me, as if you had not yourself urged me to steal many a time!

Halla.

Since we became outlawed we have had a right to steal. We had to do it to keep from starving.

Kari.

I thought you had forgiven me, and then you have been hoarding your charges. For sixteen years you have kept them, and they have not been corrupted either by rust or moth.

Halla.

Come now, don't be angry, Kari. I said it in the heat of temper.

Kari.

I am not angry, but it hurt so! I thought that you would be my spokesman before the Great Judge. If you If could forgive me, He might do it, too.

Halla.

I did not mean to hurt you. I only said it to defend myself.

Kari (following up his own thoughts).

There are stones in the hills that are blood-stained from my feet; you must gather those and bring them before the Great Judge.

Halla.

Won't you take to weeping, so I can gather up your tears and bring them before the Great Judge?

Kari.

Are you mocking me?

Halla.

Yes; I won't listen to your whining any longer. Now we shall sit down and hold our peace. (Sits down.)

Kari.

You shall not be worried by my whining. (Takes the fur socks down from the wall; sits down and unties the straps of his shoes. Halla watches him in silence, while he puts on one sock.)

Halla.

Are you going?

Kari.

Yes.

Halla.

You don't ask my advice?

Kari.

No, this time I don't ask it.

Halla (rising).

When you go out of that door, you need not think of me any more.

Kari.

I know your voice when you are angry. You ought to thank me for going out in such weather.

Halla.

Yes, you are brave. It is not that you have any hope of saving our lives. You will only lie down in the snow and die.

Kari.

You can believe it if you like.

Halla (goes to him).

I beg of you, let those hard words be forgotten.

Kari.

It is not because of them that I am going. The worst that can befall me is to die in the snow, and that is better than sitting here.

Halla.

First of all, we must use our common sense. The only thing we can do is to wait here until the weather clears.

Kari.

And then the food will come flying in through the door!

Halla.

Not that, but there will be means of help. We can dig up roots to still the worst hunger, and we can go to the lake for fish.

Kari.

The snowstorm may last four or five days yet, and by that time we shall be dead from hunger.

Halla.

How long shall you be gone?

Kari.

Two days at the most.

Halla (goes to him and touches his shoulder).

I beg you to stay for my sake! We have lived together for sixteen years, and now let us also die together.

Kari.

I know your way of hiding your will. Now it is your will that I should stay, but this time you are foiled.

Halla.

You cared for me when I fled with you to the hills. You told me there was no one like me in all the world. You carried me across the streams, until I grew strong enough to ford them myself. You risked your life to get the things you knew I liked. Have you forgotten?

Kari.

I have forgotten nothing.

Halla.

And all the nights we slept with the heavens above us! Was it not blessed to feel the morning breeze over your face and to open your eyes and look into the blue sky? Then you kissed me and said that you loved me.

Kari.

You shall not stop me from going.

Halla (turns away from him).

I know why I have this fear of being alone. It is because I am so far away from every living thing, and there's no sun and no stream here. (Turns toward him.) If we feel that we must die, you can close the smoke-hole, and I will fill the hut with smoke. We shall lie down side by side. (Touches his hand.) I will take your hand, and we shall dream that we are going out into a sand-storm together.

Kari (harshly).

Now leave me in peace.

Halla (in helpless fear).

I will tell you the truth. I don't dare to be alone.

Kari.

Are you afraid of the dark?

Halla.

When you are gone, I know I shall begin to listen. I know what I shall hear.

Kari.

What do you hear?

Halla.

I hear the sound of a great heavy waterfall. I hear the screams of my child. You must not leave me.

Kari (turns away).

You spare me nothing; you make my going as hard as can be.

Halla.

I forbid you to go! It's inhuman to leave me here alone. If you ever come back, you will find me a mad beast.

Kari.

Now you shall keep still. I will not listen to your whining any longer.

Halla.

You are like all the rest. When your will is set, you have no heart. (Sits down silently.)

Kari (fastens his foot-gear; ties a rope around his waist). When I draw it tight enough, I don't feel that I am hungry. (Puts on a coat of heavy fur.) You must watch the fire and not let it go out. I'll bring you some more faggots from the wood-shed.

Halla (stands up; her voice is husky).

Better kill me before you go. (Bares her breast.) Stab me with your knife— right here! I won't scream. (Shuts her eyes.) I shall think I am nursing my child, and the little teeth are biting my breast.

Kari.

Have you gone mad?

Halla.

You haven't the heart, but you have the heart to let me sit here all alone. A wretched little train-oil lamp you would put out before you went; you could not bear to let it burn over nothing. (Sits down.)

Kari (stands silent a long time).

I have been guilty of many a bad deed, but so far as I know, I have never been cruel. Nor will I be cruel to you. (Takes off his coat.) Then we shall wait together as you wish. Does that make you feel happier?

Halla.

I don't know. I can feel neither joy nor grief any longer. I think I would rather be alone.

Kari.

You don't mean that.

Halla.

If you think it wiser to go, you must do so.

Kari.

I thought it would make you glad if I stayed.

Halla (rising).

If you had taken me in your arms and told me that you loved me with all my wretchedness and all my homeliness, that would have made me glad; but you did not.

Kari.

Yet you know it was for your sake I stayed.

Halla.

Are you so sure of that? Perhaps you were afraid that you might be guilty of a wrong deed. I think you had in mind the Great Judge rather than me.

Kari.

I have once been judged by men; that is why I so often think of the last judgment.

Halla.

I will have no talk of conscience between you and me. Be yourself with me, whether you are good or bad. After all, you don't know if the Great Judge looks kindly at what you call good deeds. Look at me! Look at me! You could not be more cruel to your worst enemy. Why was I given this hunger and not the food to still it? I have never wished to be born. I would rather be anything else than a human being. I would rather be the sand, whirling aimlessly over yonder waste. If there is a God, He must be cruel— but there is no God.

Kari.

You are only lashing yourself up. You ought rather to humble yourself and pray God to help both you and me. Without Him we are but dust and ashes.

Halla.

I want no mercy any more, but you can go on calling for help. (Mockingly.) I am sure He will hear you, if He is not busy breaking up the glaciers or cleaning out the gorge of a volcano to make it belch up more fire.

Kari.

Don't say another word! We are wretched enough without your calling down new curses upon us.

Halla.

I have but one sole and only wish before I die, and that is to do some unheard-of cruel deed. I should like to be a snowslide. I would come in the dead of night. It would be a joy to see the people half naked running for their lives— chaste old maids with gouty hips, and smug peasant women with bellies bobbing with fat. (Sits down, breaks into a paroxysm of laughter, wild and continued.)

Kari.

You have become a monster. I am afraid of you— afraid of the only human being I care for. (Walks over to a corner, where he finds his old Bible. Sits down, turning the pages with trembling hands; reads.) "And it came to pass that as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins: for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. Amen."

(They sit silent a while. Halla, leaning her elbows on her knees, her face buried in her hands, cries softly. Kari rises, stands silent for a moment, then goes to her.)

Kari.

You must not lose heart. When things are at the worst, they will mend. Perhaps the storm will quiet down during the night.

Halla.

It is so hard. (Bursts into sobs.)

Kari (kneeling).

But, dearest Halla! Are you ill?

Halla (warding him off).

Let me alone.

Kari (rises slowly).

You were always so strong. I thought nothing could make you lose heart.

Halla (looks up. She has stopped crying; her voice is calm and cold). You don't love me any more. You have never loved me.

Kari.

Is that what you are crying for?

Halla.

Before when you wanted to leave me, I besought you by all the memories I thought were dear to you. That did not touch you. I humbled myself so low that I would have thanked you just for a little pity,— that might have been an afterglow of your love, but you had no pity. You stayed only because you were anxious about your own soul.

Kari.

I stayed also for your sake.

Halla.

You know better. You would rather die than have your God find you guilty of an evil deed. You counted the saving of your soul higher than your life, but I have no God, and I have never been able to tell my soul from my love. If you had loved me, you would have understood that I was pleading for my soul. You would have heard it in my voice, but you did not hear it.

Kari.

You forget that it was to save our lives I wanted to go.

Halla (rises. Her eyes are large and burning). Why did you not take me with you?

Kari.

If I had gone alone, I might have come back alive. The two of us would have been sure to perish.

Halla (kneels).

I once dreamed of two people. To them their love was the one and only law. When they had lived a long life together, they were thrown into direst need. Hunger drew near to the fine web that time had woven between them and would tear it asunder. Then they looked into each other's eyes, and together they walked out into the snowstorm to die.

Kari.

It is every man's duty to keep alive as long as he can.

Halla (rising).

And why should it be, when life has become an agony to ourselves and of use to no one?

Kari.

It is the law of God.

Halla.

The storm writes many laws in the sand. (Sits down.) When my strength had given out, you could have left me in the snow.

Kari.

You know very well that I would never have done that.

Halla.

That would have been better than to leave me waiting here. And I don't believe that death is so hard. The storm carries you until you drop from weariness, and then the snow comes and covers you up. (Staring before her with eyes wide open.)

Kari (is silent for a moment).

You are bitter, because of our sore plight. Many a time have I told myself that I have been the curse of your life. If you had never known me, you would now be living in peace and quiet. You could have ridden to church every Sunday, if you liked. You would have been the rich and comely widow with all the young men flocking about you. I dare say you have often been sorry that you fled with me to the hills. (Halla is silent.) I remember once we had been out hunting together all night. Early in the morning we stood on the rim of the mountain plain looking down upon the fields and the dwellings of men. On some of the farms, the fires were lighted already, and the smoke rose straight up into the blue air, and the streams ran so quietly and pleasantly through the meadows. I thought then that I could see the homesickness in your eyes.

Halla (starting up, her voice cold and calm again).

If I could only have saved my faith in my own love, but I love you no longer, and it may be that I never have loved you. As a child I used to live more in my dreams than in the life about me. When I fled with you to the hills, I thought it was because I loved you, but perhaps it was only my longing for the strange and unknown. Afterwards, when the days became harder and lonelier, my love for you was a shelter which I would seek when sorrow for what I had done came clutching at my heart.

Kari.

Say no more! You are befouling our love— yours and mine. You say it was only a longing for the unknown and the free, unfettered life that made you flee with me to the hills. Shame on you! (His voice is soft and full of sadness.) I know what you have been. No woman was ever greater in her love than you. When the sun strikes the rim of the glacier, it takes on the loveliest hues, though in truth it is nothing but dull, colorless clay. So your love has been the sunlight in my life, and I love you— have always loved you. When I was away from you even for a single day, I would long to see you and hear your voice as eagerly as I would long for the murmur of a brook when nearly dying from thirst. When I went hunting and had good luck, I always thought of you. When I pictured to myself how pleased you would be, I forgot all about my weariness. But you must not ask the impossible of a man.

Halla (rising).

I am cold. Will you fetch some wood?

Kari.

Yes, indeed. (Goes to the door; leaves it ajar.) You cannot see a hand before you. (Goes out and shuts the door after him.)

[Halla goes to the door, listens, opens the door. A cloud of snow comes whirling in. Outside the storm sweeps past. She takes a long, lingering look around the hut, goes out into the doorway, throws her head back, and disappears, carried by the storm.

(The stage stands empty for a moment.)

Kari returns, covered with snow, his arms full of faggots.

Kari.

Why do you leave the door open? (Sees that Halla is not there, drops the faggots, goes out hurriedly, calls.) Halla! (His call is heard outside the hut. He comes back into the doorway, looks in, cries out.) Almighty God! (Two heart-broken cries are heard outside, the latter farther away and hushed by the storm.) Halla! Halla!

(The snow comes whirling into the empty hut.)



THE HRAUN FARM

[Gaarden Hraun]

A PLAY IN THREE ACTS

1912



DRAMATIS PERSONAE

SVEINUNGI, owner of the Hraun Farm. JORUNN, his wife. LJOT, their daughter. EINAR, a relative of Jorunn. JAKOBINA, an old woman. FRIDA, a child, eleven years old. SOELVI, a geologist. JON } INDRIDI } HELGI } RANNVEIG } Servants. BJOERG } THORA } A Shepherd Boy.

The action takes place in Iceland. Time, the Present. "Hraun" is the Icelandic word for lava-field.



ACT I

The farm. Five white gables, all adjoining and separated by heavy partitions. The roof is covered with turf, the walls are of earth and stone. The gable farthest to the left is without a door, but has two windows on the ground floor and a smaller window above. The next has a door leading into the "badstofa" or servants' quarters. The third is a dairy and storehouse; the fourth, a smithy; the fifth, a drying-shed. In the yard is a horse-block; to the left, a picket fence. Before the doors lie the packs unloaded from nine horses: two green chests, sacks of grain and household stuff, lumber, and a number of other articles. Jakobina stands feeling one of the sacks. Helgi is undoing the strappings. The door to the smithy is open. Einar is seen within, forging horseshoe nails.

It is morning, before breakfast.

Jakobina (talking half to herself).

This must be coffee. (Lays her hand on one of the chests.) And what has Jorunn got in these, I wonder! I fancy there are many pretty things there.

Helgi.

You may be sure of that.

Jakobina.

Nineteen years I've been here now, and it's never happened yet that the mistress has forgotten to bring something or other to please me when she came back from town,— and it wasn't always little things either, God bless her! Oh, but there they have knocked off the paint. What a shame! (Sits down on the chest and runs her hand over the paint.)

Enter Bjoerg and Rannveig from the left, carrying pails full of milk, which they set down.

Rannveig.

They brought home quite a bit. We shall not go hungry for a while yet. Where are they?

Helgi.

They are inside, drinking coffee.

Bjoerg.

Is Jon drunk?

Helgi.

Not so very; he's just a little gay.

The Shepherd Boy.

Are you through milking already?

Bjoerg.

Can't you see for yourself?

The Shepherd Boy.

Oh, pshaw! (His eyes light on the lumber piles. He bends down and begins to count the knots in the wood.) One, two, three—

Enter Sveinungi from the "badstofa."

Sveinungi.

What do you say, girls? Quite a pack, isn't it?

Bjoerg.

I should say so!

Sveinungi (to Helgi).

You've begun to undo the strappings? That's fine. And here come the others.

Enter Jon and Indridi from the house. Jon is somewhat intoxicated.

Jon.

Here stands our dear master. Good day to you, Rannveig! Good day!

Bjoerg and Rannveig.

Good day, and welcome home!

Sveinungi (laughing).

Why don't you put your arms around the girls and give them a kiss? Are you afraid?

Jon.

No, Jon isn't afraid.

Sveinungi.

You didn't get anything with your coffee. [Runs into the house.

Jon.

He is the same as ever.

[Bjoerg and Rannveig carry the milk into the store-house.

Jakobina (rising).

You didn't take notice of anything in particular on your way back?

Indridi.

Not that I remember.

Jakobina.

Did you see many birds?

Indridi.

Come to think of it, I don't believe I saw any.

Jakobina.

That's what I thought. [Goes into the house.

Enter Sveinungi from the house with a flask and a glass, which he fills.

Sveinungi.

Here, this is for you.

Jon (drinks).

Thanks.

Sveinungi (fills the glass again for Indridi and Helgi).

Won't you take a drop too, Einar?

Einar appears in the doorway of the smithy.

Einar.

Thank you. (Drinks.)

Sveinungi (sees the Shepherd Boy).

Are you here? Why, the girls are all through milking. Do you suppose you can keep the sheep standing in the fold all day? (The Shepherd Boy is about to go.) Wait a minute! I have a little thing here that I bought for you yesterday. (Takes a knife from his vest pocket.) I think the blade is good iron, and that is the main thing. (Gives him the knife. The Shepherd Boy kisses him.) It is not much. You are welcome to it.

The Shepherd Boy (opens the knife).

Look, Einar, it's a regular hunting-knife. (Closes it, runs to the left, calling.) Snati! Pila! Snati!

Rannveig.

You needn't call the dogs. They are up at the fold.

[Exit the Shepherd Boy.

Sveinungi.

That boy will amount to something in time. It's well done for one so young to tend more than four-score sheep, and he hasn't lost one yet.

[Takes the flask back to the house.

Jon.

He's in mighty good humor to-day, the old man.

Bjoerg.

I should say so.

Indridi.

Why, he got the highest price for his wool.

Jon.

And a sorry day it would be when we didn't get that!

Indridi.

What do you think Jakobina had in mind when she asked about the birds?

Jon.

It's hard to tell! She has her mind on so many things.

Enter Sveinungi and Jorunn from the house.

Sveinungi (in the door, laughing and talking).

I believe the girls have their eye on the green chests. Indridi, will you carry them in? [Indridi goes with one of the chests.

Jorunn.

You can put them in the little room.

Sveinungi.

Rannveig, will you bring me the key to the drying-shed? You know where it hangs. (Rannveig runs in.) You boys will have to carry the breadstuffs up into the loft of the storehouse, and the coffee and sugar too, and while I think of it, you had better take one sack out to the mill, Helgi.

Helgi.

I will.

Sveinungi (opening a bag).

Here, Einar, you'll find iron and nails and brazil-wood, and here's something for yourself. (Hands him a plug of tobacco.) See if you can be a bit saving of it.

Einar (pats him on the shoulder).

God bless you!

[Goes into the smithy.

Rannveig (comes out).

Here is the key.

Sveinungi (unlocks the door to the drying-shed). You can stack the timber on top of the old pile. After you have had your breakfast, you, Jon, and Indridi had better go and lie down. You must be tired.

Jon.

I am sure I could keep on working all day if need be, and just as hard as those who have had their sleep. (Indridi comes for the other chest.)

Sveinungi (laughs).

There are not many like you.

Jorunn.

Where is Ljot? I thought she was here.

Helgi.

I saw her walking in the yard. I have not seen her come back.

Sveinungi (goes to the picket fence; calls).

Ljot!

Ljot (is heard answering).

Yes!

Sveinungi.

Are you there? Aren't you coming home?

Ljot (is heard answering).

I am coming.

Jorunn.

Have you set the milk?

Rannveig.

Yes.

Jorunn.

Then come in, if you want to see what I have bought.

Einar (steps out into the door of the smithy. He holds a snuff-box in his hand, and is rolling up a long plug of tobacco, which he puts into the box). This tastes better; the old stuff was getting as dry as hay. (Spits.) Oh, well, there was a time, but that's so long ago.

Helgi.

What are you talking about?

Einar.

It was a winter night, and I was lying in wait for the fox. Well, what happened was neither more nor less than this, that when I wanted to take a chew of tobacco, I found I'd left the box at home. I can stand it for one night, I thought, but it was cold where I was lying, and the fox made himself scarce. Let me tell you, when I had been waiting till nearly dawn, I'd gladly have given my soul for a good honest chew.

(Ljot passes through from the right, carrying some freshly gathered flowers in her hand. Goes into the house.)

Helgi.

And did you get the fox?

Einar.

I did. It came just as I was about to go home.

Enter Indridi from the house.

Jon.

When you got home, I'm sure you went straight for a good big plug of tobacco.

Einar.

Maybe I did! It was the finest blue fox I've ever shot.

Enter Frida from the left. She is warm from running.

Frida.

Now I've turned the horses out on the grass. (Wipes her forehead.) Do you want me to pull the bellows for you?

Einar.

You'd better go in and see if Jorunn should happen to have something for you. Then you can come back here. [Frida runs in.

Enter Bjoerg and Rannveig from the house.

Bjoerg.

See what the mistress has brought for me! (Holding up a piece of cloth.) It will be fun to make that into an apron.

Rannveig.

I got a head-kerchief with red flowers (holds it up) and a piece of soap. (Smells it.)

Jon.

May I? (Smells it.) You'll be good to kiss, when you have washed with that soap.

Rannveig.

Only I won't let you.

Thora (in the doorway).

I must show you what I got, too.

Enter Soelvi from the left, carrying a gun over his shoulder and a small knapsack on his back.

Soelvi.

Good day to you!

The Servants.

Good day!

Indridi.

We did not see you coming.

Soelvi.

I took the short cut. May I have something to drink? I am thirsty.

Rannveig.

I'll get it for you.

Soelvi (lowering his voice).

And may I see Ljot for a moment? I have something for her.

Rannveig.

I'll tell her. [Exeunt Girls.

Indridi.

Have you any news?

Soelvi.

No.

Indridi.

You are still at Hol?

Soelvi.

Yes.

Indridi.

Have they begun to cut the hay?

Soelvi.

Not yet.

Indridi.

They generally start before any of the other farms.

Soelvi.

They need to. They don't keep much help.

Enter Rannveig with the milk.

Rannveig.

Here it is, and you are welcome to it.

Soelvi (drinks).

Thanks.

Rannveig.

I have told Ljot. [Goes in.

Helgi.

Here, give me a hand! (Indridi lifts the sack to Helgi's back; Helgi carries it out to the left.)

Jon (coiling the last ropes).

We can start carrying the lumber into the shed.

Enter Ljot from the house.

Soelvi.

Good day to you, Ljot!

Ljot.

Good day! You wished to see me?

Soelvi.

You won't be angry with me?— I thought perhaps you would like this. (Takes the skin of a duck from his knapsack.) I shot it on the creek the other day, and I thought it was so pretty that I took off the skin and dried it. Do you think you could make use of it— say for a riding-cap?

Ljot.

It is beautiful.

Soelvi.

When you hold the wing this way the spot is blue, and when you hold it so it is green; it's the way the light falls.

Ljot.

I doubt if I dare take it. I scarcely know you.

Soelvi.

You would make me very happy if you would take it.

Ljot.

Then I will, and thank you. (Gives him her hand.) How lovely it is!

Soelvi (lowering his voice).

Do you never go for a walk by yourself in the hraun?

Ljot.

Why do you ask?

Soelvi.

You know the pretty spot by the old roan tree; it is not more than a good ten minutes' walk from here. I thought perhaps you might go there sometimes on Sundays.

Ljot (blushes).

I don't know—

Soelvi.

I shall be there all day Sunday. Good-bye, Ljot.

Ljot (confused).

Good-bye.

Soelvi.

I shall be there at sunrise, and I shall be there when the sun goes down. [Exit to the left.

Enter Sveinungi, hurriedly.

Sveinungi.

Who was it that went just now?

Indridi.

Is he gone? It was Soelvi.

Sveinungi.

What did he want here?

Indridi.

He got a cup of milk.

Sveinungi (to Ljot).

It seemed to me he was talking to you. What have you there?

Ljot.

He gave me a bird's skin.

Sveinungi.

Pshaw! You should have made him keep it himself.

Ljot.

There was no harm meant.

Sveinungi.

Einar could have brought you down one just like it, if you had cared for it. Why are you blushing so?

Ljot.

I did not think you would be so angry because I took the bird's skin.

Sveinungi.

I can't bear him, that stone-picker! He roves from place to place like a tramp. Let him dare to set his nets for you! Give me the creature, and I'll hand it back to him next time he comes; for he's sure to come.

Ljot.

I can burn it myself, if you grudge me the keeping it. [Goes in.

Sveinungi (talking in the doorway).

And then you get angry to boot. (To Indridi.) I see you have undone all the strappings.

Indridi.

Yes.

Sveinungi.

Where is Helgi?

Indridi.

He went to the mill.

Enter Helgi from the left.

Sveinungi.

There he comes. Then you can do what I told you. [Goes in.

Helgi.

Anything amiss? The master seemed cross.

Indridi.

That's nothing.

Helgi.

Is Soelvi gone?

Indridi.

Yes. Let's get through with this. You go into the storehouse and take the things as I hand them to you.

[They carry the breadstuffs into the storehouse.

Einar appears in the door of the smithy.

Einar.

H'm, I feel I'm getting old. There was a time when I could forge three nails in one heating, and now it's a hard rub getting through with one.

Indridi.

We can't be young more than once.

Einar.

And we can't cast the slough of old age, as they could once upon a time.

Indridi.

Would you care to?

Einar.

I don't know. I almost think these new times are not for me.

Enter Frida.

Frida.

Einar, I was to call you to breakfast. (Runs against Sveinungi, who is coming out.)

Sveinungi.

There, there! Why, you have brought it all under cover and the ropes in the shed. That's fine. Now, Helgi, when you have eaten, you can go and begin to cut turf. The others will join you when they have had their sleep. (Lowering his voice.) Einar, will you ask Ljot to come out? I want to have a little talk with her.

Einar.

I will. [Einar and Frida go in.

(Sveinungi locks the drying-shed and looks into the storehouse, pretending to be very busy.)

Enter Ljot from the house.

Ljot.

Here I am, father.

Sveinungi.

I did not hear you. (Smiles.) You step as lightly as a young foal. You are not hurt at what I said a moment ago? It was only for your own good. I won't have any shiftless straggler around here making eyes at you. The parish can gossip about something else. (Ljot goes to the fence, resting her hands on it.) But that was not what I wanted to talk to you about. (Goes to her.) You know Arne, the farmer at Skrida. You have seen his son Halfdan. What do you think of him?

Ljot.

I have seen him only a few times.

Sveinungi.

There are two brothers. The older one is married and is going to take the farm, but Halfdan is most like his father. You should see the way their place is kept. Their yard is nearly as big as this, and there are long stretches where the grass stands so high that it falls over. It's as fine a sight as I have ever seen. We stopped there, Jorunn and I, for a full hour, on our way back from town, and there was no lack of welcome. Can you guess what we talked about?

Ljot.

No.

Sveinungi (laughs).

You can't? Arne asked me whether I would have his son Halfdan for a son-in-law.

Ljot.

And what did you say?

Sveinungi.

I said I had nothing against it— quite the contrary. I should be content if you had a husband like him, and we are getting old, your mother and I. We don't know when death may strike us. It may come at any time, and I should like to see the man who is to take my place when I am gone.

Ljot.

I don't think you are getting old.

Sveinungi.

Oh, yes, I feel it. Sometimes when I want to use this or that for my work I find that I have clean forgotten where I put it. That could never have happened when I was young; there was not a thing that slipped my mind. But what do you say, Ljot? Your mother thinks as I do, so it lies solely with you whether you will accept this happiness or not.

Ljot.

I don't think I care for that happiness.

Sveinungi.

You should weigh your words well before you speak. Perhaps you fancy there will be a wooer like Halfdan coming every day. But you don't mean that; you only mean that he must come and speak for himself.

Ljot.

I am so young, father.

Sveinungi.

You are past nineteen. There are many girls who marry at seventeen, and you have been so well taught that you can readily take your place at the head of a household. I need not be ashamed of you there, that's sure. And you will have your mother near you, for it is understood, of course, that you and Halfdan stay here with us. You will have your bridal now in the fall, and next spring you can take over the farm.

Ljot.

But I scarcely know him at all!

Sveinungi.

Your mother did not know me, and I can't see but that we two have lived happily together all these years. It is not always those who marry for what they call love who are happiest. Arne and I are friends from old times, and I have as good as given him my word.

Enter Jorunn from the house.

Ljot (straightening herself).

You should not have done that without speaking to me.

Sveinungi.

What has come over you? Do you mean to go right against the will of your parents? I can tell you one thing, if it is this tramp you are thinking of, it shall never come to pass. Not as long as I live. [Goes in.

Jorunn.

Your father was angry. What were you talking about?

Ljot.

He wants me to marry a man I don't know.

Jorunn.

Does he? You cannot say of Halfdan that he is a man you don't know.

Ljot.

We have never spoken a word to each other.

Jorunn.

Yet he has been here several times. Once he stayed overnight. Besides you have heard him spoken of, and you know his people. Everybody knows the Hofstad people.

Ljot.

Father has given his word without asking me. He had no right to do that.

Jorunn.

You have worked yourself up, Ljot. I don't understand you. Can it really be that you have promised yourself to some one without letting your parents know it?

Ljot.

I have not.

Jorunn.

You need not hide anything from me. If you have given your word, you must keep it.

Ljot.

I told you that I have not.

Jorunn.

You could not tell your old mother a falsehood! But if you are free and not bound by any promise, this puzzles me. Halfdan is young and a capable man, and his father is one of the richest and most respected farmers in the countryside.

Ljot.

But I don't care for him. You can't mean that I should marry a man I don't care for. (Leans over the fence.)

Jorunn.

Once you are married you will come to care for him. (Goes to her.) It is a great step you are about to take. Weigh your words well, so that you may not rue them. Be careful not to thrust away happiness when she reaches out her hand to you, or there may come a day when you will repent. You must know that your parents wish nothing but what is good for you.

Ljot (with tears in her voice).

It seems to me you are against me, both you and father.

Jorunn (stroking her hair).

I believe you are hiding something from your mother. I think I know what it is. You were very much pleased with the bird's skin you got to-day. (Ljot is silent.) The winter your father asked me in marriage there came to my home a man who used to go from farm to farm doing odd carpenter jobs. One evening I carried his coffee to him where he was at work. He had a big chest standing there that he kept his tools in. I can remember it plainly; it was yellow. I stood waiting for him to finish his coffee so that I could take the cup back, when he took out of the chest a work-box— the prettiest thing I've ever seen. It was of dark brown wood, the lid round, with pictures of animals carved on it. He made me a present of it, and when I was about to go, he asked me for a kiss, but I would not give it to him.

Ljot.

You never told me about this.

Jorunn.

He was a good-looking man, with big brown eyes. Well, when your father came, my father and mother both wanted me to become his wife. It was not altogether easy for me, but I would not go against their wishes. I thought it my duty to please them, and besides the other man had never asked me straight out.

Ljot.

But he was the one you cared for.

Jorunn.

Perhaps I thought so at the time. (Silence.) He went away on the night he heard that I was promised to your father. A year after I married your father, he was drowned— some thought he had taken his own life.

Ljot.

Maybe that was your doing.

Jorunn.

How can you say such a thing to your mother!

Ljot.

Don't be angry with me, mother.

Jorunn.

A man who cannot bear his fate is not worth much. I should not have been happy as his wife, and I could not wish for a better man than your father. When two people live together a whole lifetime and have an honest will to do what is right by each other, they will come to care for each other, as the years go by. (Silence.) I have told you this so that you may think it over, but if you feel in your own heart that it is right to go against the wishes of your parents, then you will have to do so. (Ljot is silent.) You say nothing, my child? I have tried as best I could, in my poor way, to do what seemed my duty. I cannot give my daughter any other or better advice. When the hour of sorrow comes, as it must come to you too, there is nothing else that can bring you peace.

Ljot.

I will do as you wish.

Jorunn.

I always knew that I had a good daughter. (Strokes her hair.) How glad your father will be! This will be a great day for him, and you will never regret that you did as your parents wished. [Goes in.

(Ljot stands alone.)

Enter Einar and Frida from the house.

Einar (to Frida).

You can start the bellows. I hope the fire has not gone out. [They go into the smithy.

Enter Helgi from the house. He goes into the smithy and comes out again with a turf-spade in his hand.

Einar (in the door).

Shall you be home for dinner?

Helgi.

No, the others will bring it to me. [Exit to the left.

Enter Sveinungi.

Sveinungi.

Are you here? Won't you come in and talk to your father? (Patting her shoulder.) This is the happiest day in my life since the time I got your mother. [They go in.

Enter Jakobina with a plate of chicken-feed in her hand; goes to the door of the smithy.

Jakobina.

Is Frida there? Can you spare her while she runs over to the chickens for me with their food?

Einar.

Yes, indeed. [Frida goes with the chicken-feed.

Jakobina (sits down on the horse-block). I had such a queer dream last night. I thought I was standing out there in the yard, and I saw a giant come striding across the hraun. I saw him stop right there— he stood with arms stretched out and bent down over the house.



ACT II

A grass-grown yard, some rocks partly sunk in the ground. In the foreground, farthest to the right, a tent. In the background, to the left, the farm-house. In the outskirts of the yard a sheep-house with the roof and part of the walls in ruins. Beyond it, the "hraun," a lava-field stretching for miles, studded with jutting rocks and lava formations.

It is evening of the same day.

The Servants (seated, singing).

God the power unending Rests with Thee alone. Cherubim are bending, Low before Thy throne. From Thy Heaven hear me! Weak and soiled am I, Wounds and sorrows sear me, Fainting I draw nigh. Is there then another way? Sorrow's rising hills may they Not reach up to heaven, pray? Help me— lest I die.

(They cover their eyes in prayer. Silence.)

Jorunn (uncovers her eyes).

The peace of God be with us.

(The Servants rise and shake hands.)

Jorunn (patting Frida's cheek). Now you must not be afraid of the earthquake any more. When we trust in Him, no harm can befall us. (Gathers the hymn-books.) Please take the books back to the tent, Ljot; it's a little too early yet to go in. (Ljot goes with the books.) And you may fetch the shoes I was sewing. I left them in there.

(Some sit on the rocks, others squat in the grass. Only Sveinungi remains standing.)

Ljot (coming from the tent).

Here are the shoes, mother.

Jorunn.

Thank you, daughter.

(Ljot lies down in the grass, gazing out over the "hraun.")

Indridi.

Did you hear the church-bells ringing?

Einar.

I did not hear them.

Jorunn.

I did. They rang of themselves.

(Silence.)

Indridi.

Where were you, Thora, when the shock came?

Thora.

In the kitchen.

Indridi.

It's your week, isn't it?

Thora.

I don't know how I ever got out, for the whole floor heaved under me, so that I was thrown right against the wall, and you should have seen me when I came out— all black from the falling soot.

Jon.

And the rest of you— where were you?

Bjoerg.

We were sitting in the badstofa, sorting wool.

Rannveig.

It felt as if some one was shaking the roof and trying to pull up the whole house.

Indridi.

We were just about to leave our work and run home to hear how you had fared, but then I thought they would be sure to send us word (looking askance at Sveinungi) if anything had happened. Besides, we wanted to get enough turf cut while we were at it so that we should not have to go back another time.

Jon.

But I must say that when I began working again, it went against me. It was like cutting into a living thing— like skinning a live animal.

Rannveig.

Ugh, yes.

Jon.

And the place where we'd cut turf last year looked like an ugly scar.

(Silence.)

Jorunn.

Did you meet anybody when you came home from work?

Indridi.

No.

Jorunn.

And no outsider has been here this afternoon. They don't come when they are wanted. I ought to have sent one of you to the next farm to find out how things were there, anyway.

Jon.

I can easily go yet, if mistress wants me to.

Jorunn.

Oh, no, it's getting late. I hope we shall have no bad tidings from any one.

Indridi.

I hope so, too.

Jon.

I'm afraid the Vik farm-house has fallen. It is both old and poorly built— nothing like ours.

(Silence.)

Einar.

You should have seen the hawks, Jorunn, right after the shock. They kept flying back and forth, just as they do when they're warding off a foe from their nest.

Jorunn.

They were frightened.

Einar.

And no wonder. Great pieces of rock came tumbling down into the creek. The sheep out on the heath yonder huddled together in flocks, looking like old snow.

Jon.

Then you were out hunting.

Einar.

No, I was not hunting. I was looking at the hawks, wondering whether one could get at them by going down in a rope.

(Silence.)

Jorunn.

What about the boy, Sveinungi? Do you mean to let him stay with the sheep all night?

Sveinungi.

Certainly. He can sleep to-morrow.

Jorunn.

I was only thinking he might be afraid to be alone.

Sveinungi.

He's no more afraid than grown people.

Jorunn.

I saw he took both the dogs with him.

(Silence.)

Helgi.

There was a man walking across the hraun a little while ago. Who can it be?

Indridi.

I saw him too.

Jon.

It was Soelvi. He carried his gun.

(Silence.)

Ljot.

How still it is on the hraun.

Einar.

I thought you were listening for something, while you lay there quiet as a mouse. I thought you were listening for the earthquake.

Frida.

Can one hear the earthquake when it is coming?

Rannveig.

Are you afraid? Yes, sometimes it can be heard a little before the shock. They say it sounds like the clatter of hoofs from many hundred horses.

Bjoerg.

To me it sounded like the whistling of the wind.

Jorunn.

You should sit down, Sveinungi. You'll get tired standing.

Sveinungi.

I am not tired.

(Silence.)

Frida.

What if the earth should open up right here where we are sitting?

Rannveig.

It won't. Who told you that it might?

Frida.

Jakobina said so.

Rannveig.

You must not listen to all she says; she talks so much.

Jakobina.

I say nothing but what is true. At the time of the last great earthquake the ground cracked and made a fissure many miles long; I saw it myself. The earth opened her mouth to breathe.

Einar (to Frida).

Don't be afraid. I have a black lamb— do you remember it?— with white feet. When I get it home in the fall, I will give it to you.

Jakobina (facing the "hraun"). Not one of you knows the hraun as I do. Can you tell me why the hollows out there are never filled with snow? Have you ever seen the snow falling fast enough to cover even the rims around them? It's the earth blowing her breath against it. The earth sets traps for men; the earth is a man-eater.

Jorunn (to Jakobina).

You must not frighten the child.

(Silence.)

Sveinungi.

Wasn't it you, Jakobina, who said that sometimes blood comes on the window-panes? It bodes ill, they say.

Jakobina.

Why do you ask? There is no one here who has seen it, is there?

Sveinungi.

Never mind why I ask.

Jakobina.

Well, if I must say it, it is a sign that some one in the house is going to die soon.

Sveinungi.

Or it might bode ill to the farm itself, maybe.

Jakobina.

What do you mean?

Sveinungi.

That it might be doomed.

Jorunn.

Indeed, it means neither the one nor the other. It's nothing but a silly old superstition.

Sveinungi.

Not that I believe in it, but look at the windows. Don't they look as if they were wet with blood?

Jorunn.

It's the sun shining on them.

Sveinungi.

And see the gables, how white they are. They don't look whiter from the fields down yonder when you spread a cloth over them to call me home.

Indridi (lowering his voice).

Did you see the sheep-cot fall?

Thora.

Yes, it happened just as we came out.

Indridi.

What did Sveinungi say?

Thora.

He said nothing.

Indridi.

But he told us to move out here.

Thora.

No, it was Jorunn who made us do it.

Sveinungi (to Jorunn).

I did not tell you that when I came into the badstofa, right after the shock, our old clock had stopped running.

Jorunn.

Was it broken?

Sveinungi.

No, when I touched the pendulum it started again, but the place was still as death when I entered. The grass on the roof cast a shadow over the skylight. It was as quiet as when my father lay dead.

Jorunn.

I think we had better go and lie down. There's nothing gained by staying here any longer.

Sveinungi.

I can't see that there was any need of moving out, but you had your way, Jorunn.

Jorunn.

I feel sure that they have done the same on all the other farms. We must be thankful it is summer, so that we can stay outdoors.

Sveinungi.

Must we be thankful? So you give thanks that my work is ruined.

Jorunn.

We must take what comes, whether good or evil, and trouble may help us to remember all the things we have neglected to give thanks for.

Sveinungi.

I don't know but that I have always done my duty. I have built all the sheep-cots; I have fenced in the land and looked after it as best I could. I demand justice of Him up there.

Jorunn (rising).

I won't listen to such talk. Did you buy the land from Him, perhaps? And what did you have to pay with that was not His already?

Sveinungi.

You needn't mock me. You can walk all over the yard and cut your handful of grass with your scissors wherever you like; it grows thick as wool everywhere, and it's all my work.

Jorunn.

Was it you who ruled the hraun for thousands of years so that it did not swallow up the bit of ground you are standing on, which you call yours? [Goes into the tent.

Sveinungi.

Which I call mine! (Stamping his foot.) It is mine! I've bought the land from Him up there with my work.

(The Servants rise.)

Jon.

I believe the worst is over and that we shall be let off with the fright.

Indridi.

I hope so.

Bjoerg.

You can never tell. Remember what happened the time when more than three-score farm-houses fell in one night.

Thora.

It must have been dreadful.

Sveinungi.

Now you must all go into the tent.

[The Servants go in.

Jakobina.

I shouldn't wonder if something dreadful were to happen to the farm. [Goes into the tent.

(Sveinungi stands quite still a little while, then walks a few steps, pauses, takes a few more steps, and again stops.)

Enter Ljot from the tent.

Ljot.

Are you not coming, father? Mother told me to ask you to come in.

Sveinungi.

Why doesn't she lie down? She need not wait for me.

Ljot.

We are so frightened, father— all of us.

Enter Jorunn from the tent.

Jorunn.

It's getting cold.

Ljot.

Yes, it is cold.

Jorunn.

The sun has set.

Sveinungi.

Why are you coming out again, Jorunn? Can't you sleep?

Jorunn.

No, I can't sleep.

Sveinungi.

Do you remember the night you thought I was lost in the snowstorm? A light was burning in the upper window. To see it was better than meeting a human being, and when the dogs began to bark behind the door, it was just as if the house itself were speaking— calling out its joy. It sounded better to me than a human voice, and when I stepped into the hall, the darkness seemed to put its arms around me. Never have I had so sweet a welcome, not even when my daughter was a little child.

Jorunn.

Ought we not to go in, Sveinungi? It's getting late. You too must go in now, Ljot.

Ljot.

I am only waiting for father.

Jorunn.

Do you hear that, Sveinungi? Ljot is waiting for you, and the servants can't sleep either before you go in.

Sveinungi.

I am not going to stay in the tent to-night. I am going home.

Jorunn.

You don't mean that!

Ljot.

But, father dear!

Sveinungi.

I won't let any foolish fear drive me out of my house, and it is nothing but a foolish fear. The earthquake will not come so suddenly but that I shall have time to get out. It's impossible. Besides, the badstofa will hold. It's well built, though it's old.

Jorunn.

Do you think the badstofa will hold if there should come a big earthquake? You cannot mean that!

Sveinungi.

It is not at all sure there will be another shock. It's only a fancy that the earthquake must needs keep on once it has begun. I believe it is over; I feel it. (During the last speeches the Servants have been coming out of the tent.) What are you running out for? Go in, all of you.

Jakobina.

I must tell master about the dream I had. It was last night. I thought I was standing out in the yard and saw a giant coming across the hraun. He walked with long, unsteady strides (she takes a few steps forward; her voice sounds distant and threatening), and seemed to grope as if he were blind. Then I saw him standing right by the house— with arms stretched out; he bent down over the farm and stood there like a stone cross. (Makes the sign of the cross with her arms.)

Sveinungi.

Did I ask you to tell me about your dream?

Jorunn.

I beg of you, Sveinungi, that you do not stay at the house to-night. It would be tempting God.

Sveinungi.

It's rather He who is tempting me. If I ran away, it would serve me right to have the house fall down. (Pointing to the house.) There it has stood waiting for me every evening as far back as I can remember. I have seen the windows flaming in the sun. I have seen them wet with rain. I have seen them white with frost. I've been with it ever since I was a child. I have climbed on the roof as I climbed on my father's shoulders. When I stood on the ridge, it seemed it had lifted me up to let me see better. No, Jorunn, even if I knew the earthquake to be coming, I should go home. Nor is it any wonder that I long to get into my own bed. I am old now, and I have waked up there almost every morning of my life. I have gone to bed so tired and worn that I could barely stand on my feet and have waked up young and strong. I have been ill and have lain there watching the sunbeams flitting across the floor. [Sveinungi walks homeward.

Jorunn.

Are you going home? (Following him hurriedly.) Whatever happens, your fate shall be mine.

Sveinungi (stops and looks back).

Do you hear that? She is not afraid, my wife.

[Sveinungi and Jorunn walk homeward.

Ljot.

How can you do it, father? (Walks a few steps away from the others and remains standing there.)

Jakobina.

God be with you, Jorunn, and with you, Sveinungi. You have been good to me, these nineteen years. [Goes into the tent.

(Silence.)

Helgi.

There, they went in.

Bjoerg.

Yes, they are in there now.

Jon.

I think we had better go and lie down, since there is nothing we can do.

Indridi.

No, we can do nothing.

Thora.

It will be a long night.

Rannveig.

Poor Ljot!

[The Servants walk slowly into the tent.

(Einar and Ljot remain. Silence.)

Einar (goes to Ljot).

I wish I could make you happy as easily now as when you were a little girl.

Ljot (struggling with her tears).

Father does not care for me at all. He does not think of me for a moment.

Einar.

Your father cares for you, no doubt of that, but he is beside himself with the earthquake.

Ljot.

You don't know what I am talking about. (In sudden fear.) If only something dreadful does not happen!

Einar.

We must trust to the Lord to keep us all. Won't you too try to lie down?

Ljot.

I can't sleep.

Einar.

Perhaps you would rather stay here a little while. Let me bring a shawl for you; it is getting cold. [Goes into the tent.

(Ljot stands motionless looking out over the "hraun.")

Einar (coming from the tent).

They are asleep in there already. Won't you put the shawl around your shoulders?

Ljot.

I am not cold.

Einar.

Then I'll spread it over one of the rocks for you to sit on. They are wet with dew. (Spreads it over the stone.) There! What did you have in mind when you stood there looking out over the hraun?

Ljot.

I was thinking of an old tale Jakobina once told me. It was about a young girl. She went out on the hraun with bare feet to meet her sweetheart, and wherever she stepped the moss grew under her foot.

Einar.

That's a pretty story. I can tell you one too, if you care to hear it. It might help to quiet you a little.

Ljot (takes his hand).

You are so good.

Einar (sits down; relates).

In olden times, they say, there was an underground stream that ran straight through the country from south to north and was meant as a sign of truce between land and sea. It happened that a cross-eyed, ill-natured shark was trying to tempt a young whale to swim that stream from end to end. The whale's name was Spray-tail. He was the handsomest of all the young whales and could shoot three jets of water at once. The shark boasted that he had swum through the stream himself, but of course it was only real fishes that could do it. Spray-tail felt stung on behalf of his kin, and as the shark had told him that there were openings here and there in the roof of this underground way, he made up his mind to try his luck, trusting that he could hold his breath from one opening to another. But it fell out otherwise. Spray-tail never came back. The last ever heard of him was that some swans, in their flight over the hills, had seen a jet of blood spurting out of the ground.

The whales were in a rage and, as they thought in their grief that the land had broken truce, they goaded the sea to wreak vengeance upon it. Are you listening?

(Ljot nods her head.)

One night a dreadful storm broke. The sea came rushing in over the land, fell upon the rocks like a monster, and tore them to pieces. The next morning thousands of sea fowls' nests were wrecked, and where green fields had been there were black sands. Now there was sore need of wise counsel. A shrewd old raven said that the fire should be roused. All the birds agreed that the raven had spoken well, but none dared do the deed. The raven was made judge, and decided that the spider should undertake the ticklish task, and that the eagle should carry her to the crater.

They gave the spider ten fat blue-flies to take with her. She spun herself well and firmly under some strong feathers, and off they went. They flew over deep dales, over dreary wastes, and over glaciers. In the evening they came to the fire-mountain, and there they rested overnight, but they did not sleep much, for the fire was snoring like a giant down below in the earth. Early the next morning the eagle flew to the top of the mountain. The spider made fast her thread and spun herself slowly down into the crater. It was dark down there, and the heat and sulphur made her eyes smart, but she could see enough to make out that the fire lay sleeping under a very thin black coverlet. The spider knew nothing but the finger-language, and she moved her legs incessantly, telling fully and truly all about the havoc that was wrought, and urging the fire to come to the rescue lest the whole land be swallowed up by the sea. Yet the fire did not stir. Then the spider bent her legs up under her and let herself fall all the way down to the fire. She stretched out one leg and poked the black coverlet. From that moment she couldn't remember anything till she was lying at the rim of the crater again. She peeped down and saw that the fire had thrown off the coverlet and was red and blazing. Then the spider understood that her task was done. Everybody knows how the fire had its reckoning with the sea and filled up whole fjords with lava and ashes.

(Soelvi is seen approaching from the "hraun.")

Ljot (rising).

You must tell me that story over again some time. I could not listen rightly.

Einar (rising).

Who is that coming so late? (Looking.) Now I know him; it's Soelvi.

Ljot.

I saw him a while ago walking over the hraun.

Einar.

He may bring us news.

Enter Soelvi carrying a gun and with a game-bag on his back.

Soelvi.

Good evening.

Einar.

Good evening.

Soelvi.

How good it seems to meet people! You have moved out, of course?

Einar.

You are walking late.

Soelvi.

You will have to take the earthquake as my excuse. This has been a bad day. What has happened here at your place?

Einar.

One of the outbuildings came down and a part of the yard-fence.

Soelvi.

At Hol one wall of the house fell. The folks barely got out. (Lays down his gun.)

Einar.

Was anybody hurt?

Soelvi.

No. I could not stay there any longer. I saw your house standing, and that was a relief. (Looking at Ljot.) Yet I had to come.

Einar.

What do you think? Do you believe the earthquake is over?

(Soelvi fails to answer; looks at Ljot.)

Ljot.

My father and mother are sleeping in the house.

Soelvi.

Why in the world are they doing that!

Ljot.

We were ready to go to bed, but father would not come into the tent. Mother begged him to stay, but it was no use, and when father went back to the house, mother went with him.

Soelvi.

But the buildings may fall at any moment if there should be another shock.

Einar.

Sveinungi knows that as well as we do, but he would not let the house stand forsaken.

Soelvi.

We must hope that no harm will come to them. So that is why you are still up. Have the others been in bed long?

Ljot.

No, they went in a little while ago.

Einar.

May I look at your gun?

Soelvi.

As much as you like.

Einar.

Is it loaded?

Soelvi.

It is. (To Ljot.) You are not angry with me for coming so late? It seemed an eternity till Sunday.

Ljot.

I knew you would come.

Soelvi.

You knew it! Won't you sit down? I have something to show you. (Ljot sits down. Soelvi opens the game-bag; takes from it a large fern.) I found this out on the hraun. Is it not beautiful? (Sits down.) Look, the stem is no thicker than a hair, while the leaf can easily hide your whole face. (Holds it up before her face.) It trembles when your breath touches it.

Ljot.

You have pulled it up by the roots. May I have the moss that came with it? (Soelvi loosens the moss from the roots. Ljot lays it in her hand; smiles.) When it withers, I'll keep it in my shoes.

Soelvi.

Will you keep it in your shoes? See these two small ferns on one root. They look like two slim hands. (Looks at Ljot.)

Einar (puts the gun aside).

It's a fine one. It must have cost a good deal. Perhaps you bought it yourself abroad?

Soelvi.

I did. (Lays down the fern. To Ljot.) If you have time, you can plant it to-morrow. It won't hurt it to lie overnight in the wet grass.

Einar (goes to Soelvi).

How long were you abroad?

Soelvi.

Seven years.

Einar.

That's a long time. (Sits down.)

Ljot.

My father was angry with me for keeping your bird's skin.

Soelvi.

Was he? And I was thinking of asking you to visit me at Hol some time before I leave.

Ljot.

I hardly think I dare to.

Soelvi.

You could take Einar with you. It is not much more than an hour's ride, and I have a number of things I should like to show you,— petrified tree-trunks that I have dug out of the earth, in which you can see plainly every bud and shoot, and stone slabs with impressions of flowers and leaves that lived thousands of years ago. Should you like to see them?

Ljot.

I should like it ever so much.

Soelvi.

I have some rocks, too, baked by fire and furrowed by ice. If you knew all the tales they tell me! They lay bare to me things that are hidden from every one else.

(A whirring of wings is heard far away.)

Einar (stands up, pointing with his finger).

Look, there is a flock of ducks flying over the hraun. (Stands gazing.)

Soelvi (in a low voice).

It made me so happy to see you. This evening, when the sun was setting, I reached out toward it. I did the same when I saw you.

Einar.

They're flying unusually low. There they alight— I'll get my gun.

Soelvi (rising).

I'll lend you mine. (Hands him the gun.) It will carry a distance of a hundred and thirty feet.

Einar.

What size shot have you?

Soelvi.

Duck-shot.

Einar.

Ljot, you don't mind, do you? I shall not be gone long. If they rise, I'm not going after them. [Exit.

(Ljot rises.)

Soelvi (goes to her).

My star must be in the heavens to-night.

Ljot.

You must not think that I was sitting up so late because I was waiting for you— I saw you walking over the hraun— but we shan't talk about that.

Soelvi.

Shall I tell you why I came home from abroad? It was for your sake.

Ljot (sits down).

That is not true.

Soelvi (sits down).

One night, the last winter I was away, I must have been dreaming, but it seemed to me that I was awake. I had come back home and was walking on the hraun. The hraun was covered with ashes. As I walked, I suddenly fell into a deep cleft and kept on falling and falling. At last I found myself lying on the bottom, unable to stir. Death came and sucked the life out of my eyes and held it in her hand like a tiny flame. Suddenly a woman stood beside me dressed in moss. She pleaded for me so long that death gave her my life. She looked like you. It was you. Don't you know that you hold my life in your hands?

(They rise.)

Ljot.

I think I shall go in. It is hard to tell when Einar will be back. When he is out hunting he forgets everything.

Soelvi.

I love you, Ljot! You have not been out of my thoughts since the first time I saw you. Everything reminds me of you— the sun, the sky—

Ljot.

I too have been happy in seeing you and talking with you. (Stands still as death.) This morning, right after you had gone, my father told me that on his way home from town he had seen his old friend,— and my father wanted me to promise myself to the son of his old friend, but I would not, because I was thinking of you. Then my mother came and talked to me— and I gave in. I could not do anything else.

Soelvi.

Why did I not speak before! You won't feel hurt at what I say, Ljot? You must not let your parents decide your life. That is for you to do.

Ljot.

You don't know my father. If he thought I was standing here talking to you, I can't tell what he would do.

Soelvi.

I am convinced your parents have but one wish, and that is for your happiness.

Ljot.

I don't know. My mother does not say much about happiness; she does her duty— and I know mine. (Turns toward the tent.)

Soelvi.

Are you going?

Ljot.

It is better that we two should not meet again— it would only cause us suffering. (Moves away.)

Soelvi (following her).

You don't realize what you are about to do! You will be committing a terrible crime— against all the wonderful days that life meant us two to have together. For you do care for me, Ljot, don't you? (Ljot is silent.) I thought you cared for me. When you spoke to me this morning you blushed, and I thought it was your heart that gave me its promise. The joy of it overwhelmed me.

Ljot.

It matters little whom I care for. I have given my word.

Soelvi.

You think it is your duty to keep your word, but there is another duty that is far greater, and that is to open your arms to happiness when it comes. There is no greater duty. It is the meaning of our existence. You must feel that, you who have grown like a flower out of the earth!

Ljot.

It is not only that I have given my word. If I had neither father nor mother, I should break my promise, but I know that it would grieve my parents. This morning father said to me that it was the happiest day of his life since he got my mother, and I know it was true.

Soelvi.

You must tell your parents that you cannot keep your word. You must do it for my sake. (Kneeling.) You are the only one I care for in all the world.

Ljot.

I can't deal such a blow to my father. No other living being has been so good to me as my father.

Soelvi (rising).

You do not care for me at all.

Ljot.

You think it is easy for me! (With tears in her eyes.) I own a spring— I cleanse it every Saturday. I have told it your name. (Goes to the tent.)

Soelvi.

You are going! (Turns away from Ljot, sits down on one of the rocks, covers his face.)

Ljot (stands silent for a long time, then goes over to him and takes his hands from his face).

I love you.

(Soelvi takes her face between his hands and kisses her.)

Enter Jakobina.

Jakobina (coming slowly from the tent).

We are not all asleep in there.

(Soelvi and Ljot rise.)

Soelvi (holding Ljot by the hand).

Let us go out on the hraun and look for Einar.

Ljot (runs to Jakobina, puts her arms around Jakobina's neck and holds her close). I know that you care for me. (Goes to Soelvi and takes his hand.) Come!

[They go toward the "hraun."

(Jakobina stands still, following them with her eyes, then shakes her head and turns toward the tent.)



ACT III

The farm-house is in ruins. Only the farther side of the "badstofa" is standing. It looks like a dark cavern. The servants have gathered near the wreckage; they are bare-headed, the men in their shirt-sleeves. Sveinungi is standing near the dark opening.

It is night.

Sveinungi (to Jon).

You dare not go in.

Jon (peering into the gloom).

I don't know. There's only one post that holds the roof, and it may snap at any moment.

Sveinungi.

It won't. It is drift-timber, which never rots.

Jon.

And besides, it stands aslant; the slightest push would make it go with a crash, and there would be no getting out alive if the heavy roof came down.

Sveinungi.

You are afraid. Is there anybody else who dares?

Jorunn.

You cannot ask any man to go in there.

Sveinungi (to Jon).

It would take you but a moment to bring out those few things. There's my tall chest— you know where it stands— and my old clock; you can unscrew it from the wall with your knife.

Jon.

I am not going in there.

Sveinungi.

Get drunk and brag— that you know how to do, all of you. (Starts into the ruins.)

Jon.

Is master going in there?

Sveinungi.

Do you think I will let my things be ruined, because you are a coward?

Jon.

Then I will go with you. It's easier for two.

[Sveinungi and Jon disappear from view.

Jorunn.

No matter what happens to that man, he will never learn to bend. (Goes to the ruins; looks in.) Can you see anything in there? Is it not too dark?

(Silence.)

Sveinungi and Jon appear, carrying the tall chest.

Sveinungi.

Indridi and you, Helgi, come here and take it from us. Set it over there.

[Sveinungi and Jon disappear again.

Indridi (to Jorunn, as the men carry the chest out into the open).

Can we leave it here?

Jorunn.

Yes. (She peers into the ruins again.)

Enter Jakobina from the direction of the tent.

Jakobina (goes to Jorunn, lays her hand on Jorunn's shoulder). I must feel that you are indeed safe and sound. (Stroking her arm.) When you went home, I was afraid that you would never come out of that house again. I thought your husband must be struck with blindness.

Jorunn.

You don't know where Einar and Ljot have gone?

Jakobina.

I saw Ljot going out on the hraun.

Sveinungi and Jon appear, carrying the clock.

Sveinungi.

You will have to be a little careful, the glass is broken. (Steps out into the open. To Jon.) I dare say you have had enough of this.

Jon.

I can't say it was any too cheerful in there.

Sveinungi (to the men).

You can carry the clock into the tent; the dampness here might be bad for it. And you, Bjoerg, go and get a blanket to spread over the chest.

[Exeunt Servants, Bjoern running, Indridi and Helgi carrying the clock, Jakobina following them.

Jorunn.

You are lucky, Sveinungi, that you have not come to grief with your foolhardiness.

Sveinungi.

It is nothing but my duty to care as best I can for what is mine. I have risked my life before in a good deal worse dangers than this. But I must send some one to look after the boy. He may have lost all the sheep. Will you go, Jon?

Jon.

I will.

Sveinungi.

You had better drive the sheep home.

Jorunn.

And if you should see Ljot and Einar, tell them to hurry.

Jon.

I will. [Exit.

Sveinungi.

Where are they?

Jorunn.

They are out on the hraun.

Enter Bjoerg, carrying a blanket.

Bjoerg.

Here is the blanket.

Sveinungi.

Why did they go out there? (Takes the blanket, goes to the chest, and runs his hand over it.) Here it's been bruised. (Throws the blanket over it.) I did not think you would have all this to go through. (Takes a long breath.) It is pretty hard when one has grown as old as I am to see one's work destroyed.

Jorunn.

That is true.

Sveinungi.

My only comfort is that I shall have a capable man to help me put up the buildings again. (Gazing over the "hraun.") What can it be that is keeping Ljot out there? Has she been gone long?

Rannveig.

I don't know.

Sveinungi.

I hope she has not gone down into one of the fissures. One can't tell what may happen. The walls might cave in, or they might close overhead.

Enter Indridi from the direction of the tent.

Indridi.

Einar and Ljot are coming now. We could see them from the tent.

Sveinungi.

Are they coming? (Goes toward the background.) Yes, Ljot has seen us; she is running.

Jorunn.

She must have thought we were buried under the ruins.

Sveinungi (looking).

There is a third person with them. Who can it be?

Rannveig.

So there is.

Indridi.

I believe it's Soelvi.

Sveinungi.

What business has he out there at night?

Indridi.

It's hard to tell!

Sveinungi.

I do hope that Ljot has not been talking to that fellow.

Enter Helgi from the direction of the tent.

(Silence.)

Enter Ljot, running.

Ljot (puts her arms around her mother).

I was so frightened!

Jorunn.

Were you frightened? You are quite out of breath with running.

Sveinungi (smiling).

And have you no greeting for your father?

Ljot.

Dear, dear father! (Embraces him.)

Sveinungi.

You were glad when you saw us?

Ljot.

I was so glad that I don't know yet what I am saying. I was afraid you had been caught under the ruins. I thought that was to be my punishment.

Sveinungi (stroking her hair).

Have you done anything you should be punished for?

Ljot (taking his hand).

Be fond of me, father! Be very, very fond of me!

Enter Einar and Soelvi.

Einar.

Thank God, you are safe! Then you had time to get out?

Jorunn.

No, we were in there.

Ljot.

Were you in there? (Goes to the ruins.) How weird it looks!

Sveinungi (goes to the ruins).

It is only the one post that holds it all. If that had snapped, you would never have laid eyes on us again.

Einar (looks into the ruins).

It's a miracle it didn't break.

Jorunn.

Yes, if it had not been God's will, we should not be here now.

Einar (turns from the ruins).

It was not any too cheerful out on the hraun either. The place seemed suddenly to have become alive.

Sveinungi.

What in the world made you go out there?

Einar.

There was a flock of ducks flying over the hraun, and I wanted to try a shot at them.

Sveinungi (to Ljot).

And why did you go with him?

Ljot.

I was not with him. Soelvi and I stayed behind.

Sveinungi.

Do you sit alone with a stranger in the middle of the night? (To Soelvi.) And you, why are you here at this time? I will not have you go hunting on my land without asking my leave.

Soelvi.

I was not hunting on your land.

Sveinungi.

But you are picking up stones, and I forbid you to take as much as a single pebble from my land. Now you know that.

Ljot.

Why do you say that, father?

Sveinungi.

You can go into the tent, Ljot. You have nothing to do here.

Ljot.

I have something to say to you.

Sveinungi.

What is it? (Ljot is silent. To the Servants.) You can go. To-morrow I shall have a talk with you, Einar, which you will remember.

Einar.

It was not my fault.

Sveinungi (to the Servants).

Go! What are you waiting for? [Exeunt Servants.

Sveinungi (to Ljot).

Now, what is it you have to say to me?

Soelvi.

I have come here to ask for the hand of your daughter.

Sveinungi.

Has not my daughter told you that she is betrothed?

Ljot.

I have told him everything. I never cared for Halfdan— you know that, father, and I will not be his wife.

Jorunn.

Ljot, it has never happened yet that one of my kin has broken faith. If you do it, you will be the first.

Sveinungi.

And you have not reckoned with your father. It does not lie altogether with yourself to break your word. Do you think you can make a fool of me? (To Soelvi.) It does not make you my son-in-law that you have trifled with my daughter.

Soelvi.

It was no mere chance that we two found each other. Only for Ljot's sake have I stayed so long in these parts. I came here to-night to find out how you had fared; I could not help it.

Sveinungi.

You feel proud that you have coaxed a young girl to break her word. You think yourself very brave, and you have taken advantage of her when she was beside herself with fear. You have come like a thief in the dead of night.

Soelvi.

I love your daughter. There is nothing wrong in that, and I am proud and happy that she has given me her heart.

Sveinungi (to Ljot).

So that is what you have done. I dare say you have met him before and more than once behind my back.

Ljot.

Not once.

Sveinungi.

And straightway you are ready to break your word. You knew that Halfdan's father is the best friend I have.

Ljot.

You must forgive me, father!

Sveinungi.

And you knew I had sent him word that everything was settled.

Ljot (takes his hand).

Do you remember, father, when I was so little that I had to put my arms around your knee? Then you never said no when I asked you for anything. I am still your little girl.

Sveinungi.

Let me go!

Ljot.

You do care for me, father. I know of no one who has been so good to me as you. You have given me everything that I call my own. You must give me my happiness!

Sveinungi.

Let go my hand!

Jorunn.

I understand that Soelvi is very dear to you, my child, but this comes upon us unawares, and it has been a terrible night for us all. (To Soelvi.) Could you not have waited before speaking to Sveinungi?

Soelvi.

I cannot help it that it has come in this way. I would have waited if I could.

Jorunn.

I might perhaps have seen my way to put in a good word for you two. (To Sveinungi.) You won't be hard on your daughter! If we had been lying under the ruins now, she would have had no need to ask us. To-night we must not be merciless.

Sveinungi.

Who is this man? I don't know him, nor do I know his people.

Soelvi.

My father was a farmer like yourself. Had he been living, you two might have become friends.

Sveinungi (interrupting).

The only thing I know about you is that you go about picking up stones like the children.

Soelvi.

You speak slightingly of my stones, but the knowledge I gain from them can bring me more money than you ever made on your farm, and it can bring me fame.

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