HENRIK IBSEN'S PROSE DRAMAS, VOL. III
LADY INGER OF OSTRAT, Translation by Charles Archer
LADY INGER OF OSTRAT (1855.)
LADY INGER OTTISDAUGHTER ROMER, widow of High Steward Nils Gyldenlove. ELINA GYLDENLOVE, her daughter. NILS LYKKE, Danish knight and councilor. OLAF SKAKTAVL, an outlawed Norwegian noble. NILS STENSSON. JENS BIELKE, Swedish commander. BIORN, major-domo at Ostrat. FINN, a servant. EINAR HUK, bailiff at Ostrat. Servants, peasants, and Swedish men-at-arms.
The action takes place at Ostrat Manor, on the Trondhiem Fiord, the year 1528.
[PRONUNCIATION of NAMES.—Ostrat=Ostrot; Inger=Ingher (g nearly as in "ringer"); Gyldenlove=Ghyldenlove; Elina (Norwegian, Eline)= Eleena; Stennson=Staynson; Biorn=Byorn; Jens Bielke=Yens Byelke; Huk=Hook. The final e's and the o's pronounced much as in German.]
1. Diacritical Marks in Characters' names:
Romer, umlaut (diaresis) above the "o" Ostrat, umlaut above the "O", ring above the "a" Gyldenlove, umlaut above the "o" Biorn, umlaut above the "o"
2. All the text inside parentheses in the original is printed in italics, save for the characters' names. I've eliminated the usual markings indicating italics for the sake of readability. —D. L.
LADY INGER OF OSTRAT
DRAMA IN FIVE ACTS.
(A room at Ostrat. Through an open door in the back, the Banquet Hall is seen in faint moonlight, which shines fitfully through a deep bow-window in the opposite wall. To the right, an entrance- door; further forward, a curtained window. On the left, a door leading to the inner rooms; further forward a large, open fireplace, which casts a glow over the room. It is a stormy evening.)
(BIORN and FINN are sitting by the fireplace. The latter is occupied in polishing a helmet. Several pieces of armour lie near them, along with a sword and shield.)
FINN (after a pause). Who was Knut* Alfson?
* Pronounce Knoot.
BIORN. My Lady says he was the last of Norway's knighthood.
FINN. And the Danes killed him at Oslo-fiord?
BIORN. Ask any child of five, if you know not that.
FINN. So Knut Alfson was the last of our knighthood? And now he's dead and gone! (Holds up the helmet.) Well then, hang thou scoured and bright in the Banquet Hall; for what art thou now but an empty nut-shell? The kernel—the worms have eaten that many a winter agone. What say you, Biorn—may not one call Norway's land an empty nut- shell, even like the helmet here; bright without, worm-eaten within?
BIORN. Hold your peace, and mind your work!—Is the helmet ready?
FINN. It shines like silver in the moonlight.
BIORN. Then put it by.—— —— See here; scrape the rust off the sword.
FINN (turning the sword over and examining it). Is it worth while?
BIORN. What mean you?
FINN. The edge is gone.
BIORN. What's that to you? Give it me.—— —— Here, take the shield.
FINN (as before). There's no grip to it!
BIORN (mutters). If once I got a grip on you——
(FINN hums to himself for a while.)
BIORN. What now?
FINN. An empty helmet, an edgeless sword, a shield without a grip—there's the whole glory for you. I see not that any can blame Lady Inger for leaving such weapons to hang scoured and polished on the walls, instead of rusting them in Danish blood.
BIORN. Folly! Is there not peace in the land?
FINN. Peace? Ay, when the peasant has shot away his last arrow, and the wolf has reft the last lamb from the fold, then is there peace between them. But 'tis a strange friendship. Well well; let that pass. It is fitting, as I said, that the harness hang bright in the hall; for you know the old saw: "Call none a man but the knightly man." Now there is no knight left in our land; and where no man is, there must women order things; therefore——
BIORN. Therefore—therefore I order you to hold your foul prate! (Rises.) It grows late. Go hang helm and harness in the hall again.
FINN (in a low voice). Nay, best let it be till tomorrow.
BIORN. What, do you fear the dark?
FINN. Not by day. And if so be I fear it at even, I am not the only one. Ah, you look; I tell you in the housefolk's room there is talk of many things. (Lower.) They say that night by night a tall figure, clad in black, walks the Banquet Hall.
BIORN. Old wives' tales!
FINN. Ah, but they all swear 'tis true.
BIORN. That I well believe.
FINN. The strangest of all is that Lady Inger thinks the same——
BIORN (starting). Lady Inger? What does she think?
FINN. What Lady Inger thinks no one can tell. But sure it is that she has no rest in her. See you not how day by day she grows thinner and paler? (Looks keenly at him.) They say she never sleeps—and that it is because of the dark figure——
(While he is speaking, ELINA GYLDENLOVE has appeared in the half-open door on the left. She stops and listens, unobserved.)
BIORN. And you believe such follies?
FINN. Well, half and half. There be folk, too, that read things another way. But that is pure malice, for sure.—Hearken, Biorn— know you the song that is going round the country?
BIORN. A song?
FINN. Ay, 'tis on all folks' lips. 'Tis a shameful scurril thing, for sure; yet it goes prettily. Just listen (sings in a low voice):
_Dame Inger sitteth in Ostrat fair, She wraps her in costly furs— She decks her in velvet and ermine and vair, Red gold are the beads that she twines in her hair— But small peace in that soul of hers.
Dame Inger hath sold her to Denmark's lord. She bringeth her folk 'neath the stranger's yoke— In guerdon whereof—— ——_
(BIORN enraged, seizes him by the throat. ELINA GYLDENLOVE withdraws without having been seen.)
BIORN. And I will send you guerdonless to the foul fiend, if you prate of Lady Inger but one unseemly word more.
FINN (breaking from his grasp). Why—did I make the song?
(The blast of a horn is heard from the right.)
BIORN. Hush—what is that?
FINN. A horn. So we are to have guests to-night.
BIORN (at the window). They are opening the gate. I hear the clatter of hoofs in the courtyard. It must be a knight.
FINN. A knight? A knight can it scarce be.
BIORN. Why not?
FINN. You said it yourself: the last of our knighthood is dead and gone. (Goes out to the right.)
BIORN. The accursed knave, with his prying and peering! What avails all my striving to hide and hush things? They whisper of her even now——; ere long will all men be clamouring for——
ELINA (comes in again through the door on the left; looks round her, and says with suppressed emotion). Are you alone, Biorn?
BIORN. Is it you, Mistress Elina?
ELINA. Come, Biorn, tell me one of your stories; I know you have more to tell than those that——
BIORN. A story? Now—so late in the evening——?
ELINA. If you count from the time when it grew dark at Ostrat, it is late indeed.
BIORN. What ails you? Has aught crossed you? You seem so restless.
ELINA. May be so.
BIORN. There is something the matter. I have hardly known you this half year past.
ELINA. Bethink you: this half year past my dearest sister Lucia has been sleeping in the vault below.
BIORN. That is not all, Mistress Elina—it is not that alone that makes you now thoughtful and white and silent, now restless and ill at ease, as you are to-night.
ELINA. You think so? And wherefore not? Was she not gentle and pure and fair as a summer night? Biorn, I tell you, Lucia was dear to me as my life. Have you forgotten how many a time, as children, we sat on your knee in the winter evenings? You sang songs to us, and told us tales——
BIORN. Ay, then your were blithe and gay.
ELINA. Ah, then, Biorn! Then I lived a glorious life in the fable-land of my own imaginings. Can it be that the sea-strand was naked then as now? If it were so, I did not know it. It was there I loved to go, weaving all my fair romances; my heroes came from afar and sailed again across the sea; I lived in their midst, and set forth with them when they sailed away. (Sinks on a chair.) Now I feel so faint and weary; I can live no longer in my tales. They are only—tales. (Rises hastily.) Biorn, do you know what has made me sick? A truth; a hateful, hateful truth, that gnaws me day and night.
BIORN. What mean you?
ELINA. Do you remember how sometimes you would give us good counsel and wise saws? Sister Lucia followed them; but I—ah, well-a-day!
BIORN (consoling her). Well, well——!
ELINA. I know it—I was proud and self-centred! In all our games, I would still be the Queen, because I was the tallest, the fairest, the wisest! I know it!
BIORN. That is true.
ELINA. Once you took me by the hand and looked earnestly at me, and said: "Be not proud of your fairness, or your wisdom; but be proud as the mountain eagle as often as you think: I am Inger Gyldenlove's daughter!"
BIORN. And was it not matter enough for pride?
ELINA. You told me so often enough, Biorn! Oh, you told me so many tales in those days. (Presses his hand.) Thanks for them all! Now, tell me one more; it might make me light of heart again, as of old.
BIORN. You are a child no longer.
ELINA. Nay, indeed! But let me dream that I am.—Come, tell on!
(Throws herself into a chair. BIORN sits in the chimney-corner.)
BIORN. Once upon a time there was a high-born knight——
ELINA (who has been listening restlessly in the direction of the hall, seizes his arm and breaks out in a vehement whisper). Hush! No need to shout so loud; I can hear well!
BIORN (more softly). Once upon a time there was a high-born knight, of whom there went the strange report——
(ELINA half-rises and listens in anxious suspense in the direction of the hall.)
BIORN. Mistress Elina, what ails you?
ELINA (sits down again). Me? Nothing. Go on.
BIORN. Well, as I was saying, when he did but look straight in a woman's eyes, never could she forget it after; her thoughts must follow him wherever he went, and she must waste away with sorrow.
ELINA. I have heard that tale—— —— And, moreover, 'tis no tale you are telling, for the knight you speak of is Nils Lykke, who sits even now in the Council of Denmark——
BIORN. May be so.
ELINA. Well, let it pass—go on!
BIORN. Now it happened once——
ELINA (rises suddenly). Hush; be still!
BIORN. What now? What is the matter?
ELINA. It is there! Yes, by the cross of Christ it is there!
BIORN (rises). What is there? Where?
ELINA. It is she—in the hall. (Goes hastily towards the hall.)
BIORN (following). How can you think——? Mistress Elina, go to your chamber!
ELINA. Hush; stand still! Do not move; do not let her see you! Wait—the moon is coming out. Can you not see the black-robed figure——?
BIORN. By all the holy——!
ELINA. Do you see—she turns Knut Alfson's picture to the wall. Ha-ha; be sure it looks her too straight in the eyes!
BIORN. Mistress Elina, hear me!
ELINA (going back towards the fireplace). Now I know what I know!
BIORN (to himself). Then it is true!
ELINA. Who was it, Biorn? Who was it?
BIORN. You saw as plainly as I.
ELINA. Well? Whom did I see?
BIORN. You saw your mother.
ELINA (half to herself). Night after night I have heard her steps in there. I have heard her whispering and moaning like a soul in pain. And what says the song—— Ah, now I know! Now I know that——
(LADY INGER GYLDENLOVE enters rapidly from the hall, without noticing the others; she goes to the window, draws the curtain, and gazes out as if watching for some one on the high road; after a while, she turns and goes slowly back into the hall.)
ELINA (softly, following her with her eyes). White as a corpse——!
(An uproar of many voices is heard outside the door on the right.)
BIORN. What can this be?
ELINA. Go out and see what is amiss.
(EINAR HUK, the bailiff, appears in the ante-room, with a crowd of Retainers and Peasants.)
EINAR HUK (in the doorway). Straight in to her! And see you lose not heart!
BIORN. What do you seek?
EINAR HUK. Lady Inger herself.
BIORN. Lady Inger? So late?
EINAR HUK. Late, but time enough, I wot.
THE PEASANTS. Yes, yes; she must hear us now!
(The whole rabble crowds into the room. At the same moment, LADY INGER appears in the doorway of the hall. A sudden silence.)
LADY INGER. What would you with me?
EINAR HUK. We sought you, noble lady, to——
LADY INGER. Well, speak out!
EINAR HUK. Why, we are not ashamed of our errand. In one word, we come to pray you for weapons and leave——
LADY INGER. Weapons and leave——? And for what?
EINAR HUK. There has come a rumour from Sweden that the people of the Dales have risen against King Gustav——
LADY INGER. The people of the Dales?
EINAR HUK. Ay, so the tidings run, and they seem sure enough.
LADY INGER. Well, if it were so, what have you to do with the Dale-folk's rising?
THE PEASANTS. We will join them! We will help! We will free ourselves!
LADY INGER (aside). Can the time be come?
EINAR HUK. From all our borderlands the peasants are pouring across to the Dales. Even outlaws that have wandered for years in the mountains are venturing down to the homesteads again, and drawing men together, and whetting their rusty swords.
LADY INGER (after a pause). Tell me, men, have you thought well of this? Have you counted the cost, if King Gustav's men should win?
BIORN (softly and imploringly to LADY INGER). Count the cost to the Danes if King Gustav's men should lose.
LADY INGER (evasively). That reckoning is not for me to make. (Turns to the people). You know that King Gustav is sure of help from Denmark. King Frederick is his friend, and will never leave him in the lurch——
EINAR HUK. But if the people were now to rise all over Norway's land?—if we all rose as one man, nobles and peasants together?— ay, Lady Inger Gyldenlove, the time we have waited for is surely come. We have but to rise now to drive the strangers from the land.
THE PEASANTS. Ay, out with the Danish sheriffs! Out with the foreign masters! Out with the Councillors' lackeys!
LADY INGER (aside). Ah, there is metal in them; and yet, yet——!
BIORN (to himself). She is of two minds. (To ELINA.) What say you now, Mistress Elina—have you not sinned in misjudging your mother?
ELINA. Biorn, if my eyes have deceived me, I could tear them out of my head!
EINAR HUK. See you not, my noble lady, King Gustav must be dealt with first. Once his power is gone, the Danes cannot long hold this land——
LADY INGER. And then?
EINAR HUK. Then we shall be free. We shall have no more foreign masters, and can choose ourselves a king, as the Swedes have done before us.
LADY INGER (with animation). A king for ourselves. Are you thinking of the Sture stock?
EINAR HUK. King Christiern and others after him have swept bare our ancient houses. The best of our nobles are outlaws on the hill- paths, if so be they still live; nevertheless, it might still be possible to find one or other shoot of the old stems——
LADY INGER (hastily). Enough, Einar Huk, enough! (To herself.) Ah, my dearest hope! (Turns to the Peasants and Retainers.) I have warned you, now, as well as I can. I have told you how great is the risk you run. But if you are fixed in your purpose, it were folly of me to forbid what I have no power to prevent.
EINAR HUK. Then we have your leave to——?
LADY INGER. You have your own firm will; take counsel with that. If it be as you say, that you are daily harassed and oppressed—— —— I know but little of these matters, and would not know more. What can I, a lonely woman——? Even if you were to plunder the Banquet Hall—and there's many a good weapon on the walls—you are the masters at Ostrat to-night. You must do as seems good to you. Good-night!
(Loud cries of joy from the multitude. Candles are lighted; the retainers bring weapons of different kinds from the hall.)
BIORN (seizes LADY INGER'S hand as she is going). Thanks, my noble and high-souled mistress! I, that have known you from childhood up—I have never doubted you.
LADY INGER. Hush, Biorn. It is a dangerous game that I have ventured this night. The others stake only their lives; but I, trust me, a thousandfold more!
BIORN. How mean you? Do you fear for your power and your favour with——?
LADY INGER. My power? O God in Heaven!
A RETAINER (comes from the hall with a large sword). See, here's a real good wolf's-tooth to flay the blood-suckers' lackeys with!
EINAR HUK. 'Tis too good for such as you. Look, here is the shaft of Sten Sture's* lance; hang the breastplate upon it, and we shall have the noblest standard heart can desire.
* Pronounce Stayn Stoore [umlaut above "e"—D. L.].
FINN (comes from the door on the left, with a letter in his hand, and goes towards LADY INGER). I have sought you through all the house.
LADY INGER. What do you want?
FINN (hands her the letter). A messenger is come from Trondhiem with a letter for you.
LADY INGER. Let me see! (opening the letter). From Trondhiem? What can it be? (Runs through the letter.) Help, Christ! From him! and here in Norway——
(Reads on with strong emotion, while the men go on bringing out arms from the hall.)
LADY INGER (to herself). He is coming here. He is coming to- night!—Ay, then 'tis with our wits we must fight, not with the sword.
EINAR HUK. Enough, enough, good fellows; we are well armed now, and can set forth on our way.
LADY INGER (with a sudden change of tone). No man shall leave my house to-night!
EINAR HUK. But the wind is fair, noble lady; we can sail up the fiord, and——
LADY INGER. It shall be as I have said.
EINAR HUK. Are we to wait till to-morrow, then?
LADY INGER. Till to-morrow, and longer still. No armed man shall go forth from Ostrat yet awhile.
(Signs of displeasure from the crowd.)
SOME OF THE PEASANTS. We will go all the same, Lady Inger!
THE CRY SPREADS. Yes, yes; we will go!
LADY INGER (advancing a step towards them). Who dares to move? (A silence. After a moment's pause, she adds:) I have thought for you. What do you common folk know of the country's needs? How dare you judge of such things? You must even bear your oppressions and burdens yet awhile. Why murmur at that, when you see that we, your leaders, are as ill bested as you?—— —— Take all the weapons back to the hall. You shall know my further will hereafter. Go!
(The Retainers take back the arms, and the whole crowd then withdraws by the door on the right.)
ELINA (softly to BIORN). Do you still think I have sinned in misjudging—the Lady of Ostrat?
LADY INGER (beckons to BIORN, and says). Have a guest chamber ready.
BIORN. It is well, Lady Inger!
LADY INGER. And let the gate stand open to all that knock.
LADY INGER. The gate open!
BIORN. The gate open. (Goes out to the right.)
LADY INGER (to ELINA, who has already reached the door on the left). Stay here!—— —— Elina—my child—I have something to say to you alone.
ELINA. I hear you.
LADY INGER. Elina—— ——you think evil of your mother.
ELINA. I think, to my sorrow, what your deeds have forced me to think.
LADY INGER. You answer out of the bitterness of your heart.
ELINA. Who has filled my heart with bitterness? From my childhood I have been wont to look up to you as a great and high-souled woman. It was in your likeness I pictured the women we read of in the chronicles and the Book of Heroes. I thought the Lord God himself had set his seal on your brow, and marked you out as the leader of the helpless and the oppressed. Knights and nobles sang your praise in the feast-hall, and the peasants, far and near, called you the country's pillar and its hope. All thought that through you the good times were to come again! All thought that through you a new day was to dawn over the land! The night is still here; and I no longer know if I dare look for any morning to come through you.
LADY INGER. It is easy to see whence you have learnt such venomous words. You have let yourself give ear to what the thoughtless rabble mutters and murmurs about things it can little judge of.
ELINA. "Truth is in the people's mouth," was your word when they praised you in speech and song.
LADY INGER. May be so. But if indeed I had chosen to sit here idle, though it was my part to act—do you not think that such a choice were burden enough for me, without your adding to its weight?
ELINA. The weight I add to your burden bears on me as heavily as on you. Lightly and freely I drew the breath of life, so long as I had you to believe in. For my pride is my life; and well had it become me, if you had remained what once you were.
LADY INGER. And what proves to you I have not? Elina, how can you know so surely that you are not doing your mother wrong?
ELINA (vehemently). Oh, that I were!
LADY INGER. Peace! You have no right to call your mother to account—— With a single word I could—— ——; but it would be an ill word for you to hear; you must await what time shall bring; may be that——
ELINA (turns to go). Sleep well, my mother!
LADY INGER (hesitates). Nay, stay with me; I have still somewhat— Come nearer;—you must hear me, Elina!
(Sits down by the table in front of the window.)
ELINA. I am listening.
LADY INGER. For as silent as you are, I know well that you often long to be gone from here. Ostrat is too lonely and lifeless for you.
ELINA. Do you wonder at that, my mother?
LADY INGER. It rests with you whether all this shall henceforth be changed.
ELINA. How so?
LADY INGER. Listen.—I look for a guest to-night.
ELINA (comes nearer). A guest?
LADY INGER. A stranger, who must remain a stranger to all. None must know whence he comes or whither he goes.
ELINA (throws herself, with a cry of joy, at her mother's feet and seizes her hands). My mother! My mother! Forgive me, if you can, all the wrong I have done you!
LADY INGER. What do you mean? Elina, I do not understand you.
ELINA. Then they were all deceived! You are still true at heart!
LADY INGER. Rise, rise and tell me——
ELINA. Do you think I do not know who the stranger is?
LADY INGER. You know? And yet——?
ELINA. Do you think the gates of Ostrat shut so close that never a whisper of evil tidings can slip through? Do you think I do not know that the heir of many a noble line wanders outlawed, without rest or shelter, while Danish masters lord it in the home of their fathers?
LADY INGER. And what then?
ELINA. I know well that many a high-born knight is hunted through the woods like a hungry wolf. No hearth has he to rest by, no bread to eat——
LADY INGER (coldly). Enough! Now I understand you.
ELINA (continuing). And that is why the gates of Ostrat must stand open by night! That is why he must remain a stranger to all, this guest of whom none must know whence he comes or whither he goes! You are setting at naught the harsh decree that forbids you to harbour or succor the exiles——
LADY INGER. Enough, I say! (After a short silence, adds with an effort:) You mistake, Elina—it is no outlaw that I look for——
ELINA (rises). Then I have understood you ill indeed.
LADY INGER. Listen to me, my child; but think as you listen; if indeed you can tame that wild spirit of yours.
ELINA. I am tame, till you have spoken.
LADY INGER. Then hear what I have to say—I have sought, so far as lay in my power, to keep you in ignorance of all our griefs and miseries. What could it avail to fill your young heart with wrath and care? It is not weeping and wailing of women that can free us from our evil lot; we need the courage and strength of men.
ELINA. Who has told you that, when courage and strength are indeed needed, I shall be found wanting?
LADY INGER. Hush, child;—I might take you at your word.
ELINA. How mean you, my mother?
LADY INGER. I might call on you for both; I might——; but let me say my say out first. Know then that the time seems now to be drawing nigh, towards which the Danish Council have been working for many a year—the time for them to strike a final blow at our rights and our freedom. Therefore must we now——
ELINA (eagerly). Throw off the yoke, my mother?
LADY INGER. No; we must gain breathing-time. The Council is now sitting in Copenhagen, considering how best to aim the blow. Most of them are said to hold that there can be no end to dissensions till Norway and Denmark are one; for if we should still have our rights as a free land when the time comes to choose the next king, it is most like that the feud will break out openly. Now the Danish Councillors would hinder this——
ELINA. Ay, they would hinder it——! But are we to endure such things? Are we to look on quietly while——?
LADY INGER. No, we will not endure it. But to take up arms—to begin open warfare—what would come of that, so long as we are not united? And were we ever less united in this land than we are even now?—No, if aught is to be done, it must be done secretly and in silence. Even as I said, we must have time to draw breath. In the South, a good part of the nobles are for the Dane; but here in the North they are still in doubt. Therefore King Frederick has sent hither one of his most trusted councillors, to assure himself with his own eyes how we stand affected.
ELINA (anxiously). Well—and then——?
LADY INGER. He is the guest I look for to-night.
ELINA. He comes here? And to-night?
LADY INGER. He reached Trondhiem yesterday by a trading ship. Word has just been brought that he is coming to visit me; he may be here within the hour.
ELINA. Have you not thought, my mother, how it will endanger your fame thus to receive the Danish envoy? Do not the people already regard you with distrustful eyes? How can you hope that, when the time comes, they will let you rule and guide them, if it be known——
LADY INGER. Fear not. All this I have fully weighed; but there is no danger. His errand in Norway is a secret; he has come unknown to Trondhiem, and unknown shall he be our guest at Ostrat.
ELINA. And the name of this Danish lord——?
LADY INGER. It sounds well, Elina; Denmark has scarce a nobler name.
ELINA. But what do you propose then? I cannot yet grasp your meaning.
LADY INGER. You will soon understand.—Since we cannot trample on the serpent, we must bind him.
ELINA. Take heed that he burst not your bonds.
LADY INGER. It rests with you to tighten them as you will.
ELINA. With me?
LADY INGER. I have long seen that Ostrat is as a cage to you. The young falcon chafes behind the iron bars.
ELINA. My wings are clipped. Even if you set me free—it would avail me little.
LADY INGER. Your wings are not clipped, except by your own will.
ELINA. Will? My will is in your hands. Be what you once were, and I too——
LADY INGER. Enough, enough. Hear what remains—— It would scarce break your heart to leave Ostrat?
ELINA. Maybe not, my mother!
LADY INGER. You told me once, that you lived your happiest life in tales and histories. What if that life were to be yours once more?
ELINA. What mean you?
LADY INGER. Elina—if a mighty noble were now to come and lead you to his castle, where you should find damsels and pages, silken robes and lofty halls awaiting you?
ELINA. A noble, you say?
LADY INGER. A noble.
ELINA (more softly). And the Danish envoy comes here to-night?
LADY INGER. To-night.
ELINA. If so be, then I fear to read the meaning of your words.
LADY INGER. There is nought to fear if you misread them not. Be sure it is far from my thought to put force upon you. You shall choose for yourself in this matter, and follow your own counsel.
ELINA (comes a step nearer). Have you heard the story of the mother that drove across the hills by night with her little children by her in the sledge? The wolves were on her track; it was life or death with her;—and one by one she cast out her little ones, to gain time and save herself.
LADY INGER. Nursery tales! A mother would tear the heart from her breast, before she would cast her child to the wolves!
ELINA. Were I not my mother's daughter, I would say you were right. But you are like that mother; one by one you have cast out your daughters to the wolves. The eldest went first. Five years ago Merete* went forth from Ostrat; now she dwells in Bergen and is Vinzents Lunge's** wife. But think you she is happy as the Danish noble's lady? Vinzents Lunge is mighty, well-nigh as a king; Merete has damsels and pages, silken robes and lofty halls; but the day has no sunshine for her, and the night no rest; for she has never loved him. He came hither and he wooed her; for she was the greatest heiress in Norway, and he needed to gain a footing in the land. I know it; I know it well! Merete bowed to your will; she went with the stranger lord.—But what has it cost her? More tears than a mother should wish to answer for at the day of reckoning.
* Pronounce Mayrayte ** Pronounce Loonghe.
LADY INGER. I know my reckoning, and I fear it not.
ELINA. Your reckoning ends not here. Where is Lucia, your second child?
LADY INGER. Ask God, who took her.
ELINA. It is you I ask; it is you that must answer for her young life. She was glad as a bird in spring when she sailed from Ostrat to be Merete's guest. A year passed, and she stood in this room once more; but her cheeks were white, and death had gnawed deep into her breast. Ah, you wonder at me, my mother! You thought that the ugly secret was buried with her;—but she told me all. A courtly knight had won her heart. He would have wedded her. You knew that her honour was at stake; yet your will never bent—and your child had to die. You see, I know all!
LADY INGER. All? Then she told you his name?
ELINA. His name? No; his name she did not tell me. His name was a torturing horror to her;—she never uttered it.
LADY INGER (relieved, to herself). Ah, then you do not know all—— —— Elina—it is true that the whole of this matter was well known to me. But there is one thing about it you seem not to have noted. The lord whom Lucia met in Bergen was a Dane——
ELINA. That too I know.
LADY INGER. And his love was a lie. With guile and soft speeches he had ensnared her.
ELINA. I know it; but nevertheless she loved him; and had you had a mother's heart, your daughter's honour had been more to you than all.
LADY INGER. Not more than her happiness. Do you think that, with Merete's lot before my eyes, I could sacrifice my second child to a man that loved her not?
ELINA. Cunning words may befool many, but they befool not me—— Think not I know nothing of all that is passing in our land. I understand your counsels but too well. I know well that our Danish lords have no true friend in you. It may be that you hate them; but your fear them too. When you gave Merete to Vinzents Lunge the Danes held the mastery on all sides throughout our land. Three years later, when you forbade Lucia to wed the man she had given her life to, though he had deceived her,—things were far different then. The King's Danish governors had shamefully misused the common people, and you thought it not wise to link yourself still more closely to the foreign tyrants. And what have you done to avenge her that had to die so young? You have done nothing. Well then, I will act in your stead; I will avenge all the shame they have brought upon our people and our house.
LADY INGER. You? What will you do?
ELINA. I shall go my way, even as you go yours. What I shall do I myself know not; but I feel within me the strength to dare all for our righteous cause.
LADY INGER. Then you have a hard fight before you. I once promised as you do now—and my hair has grown grey under the burden of that promise.
ELINA. Good-night! Your guest will soon be here, and at that meeting I should be out of place. It may be there is yet time for you—— ——; well, God strengthen you and guide your way! Forget not that the eyes of many thousands are fixed upon you. Think on Merete, weeping late and early over her wasted life. Think on Lucia, sleeping in her black coffin. And one thing more. Forget not that in the game you play this night, your stake is your last child.
(Goes out to the left.)
LADY INGER (looks after her awhile). My last child? You know not how true was that word—— —— But the stake is not my child only. God help me, I am playing to-night for the whole of Norway's land. Ah—is not that some one riding through the gateway? (Listens at the window.) No; not yet. Only the wind; it blows cold as the grave—— —— Has God a right to do this?—To make me a woman—and then to lay a man's duty upon my shoulders? For I have the welfare of the country in my hands. It is in my power to make them rise as one man. They look to me for the signal; and if I give it not now—— it may never be given. To delay? To sacrifice the many for the sake of one?—Were it not better if I could—— ——? No, no, no—I will not! I cannot! (Steals a glance towards the Banquet Hall, but turns away again as if in dread, and whispers:) I can see them in there now. Pale spectres—dead ancestors— fallen kinsfolk.—Ah, those eyes that pierce me from every corner! (Makes a backward gesture with her hand, and cries:) Sten Sture! Knut Alfson! Olaf Skaktavl! Back—back!—I cannot do this!
(A STRANGER, strongly built, and with grizzled hair and beard, has entered from the Banquet Hall. He is dressed in a torn lambskin tunic; his weapons are rusty.)
THE STRANGER (stops in the doorway, and says in a low voice). Hail to you, Inger Gyldenlove!
LADY INGER (turns with a scream). Ah, Christ in heaven save me!
(Falls back into a chair. The STRANGER stands gazing at her, motionless, leaning on his sword.)
(The room at Ostrat, as in the first Act.)
(LADY INGER GYLDENLOVE is seated at the table on the right, by the window. OLAF SKAKTAVL is standing a little way from her. Their faces show that they have been engaged in an animated discussion.)
OLAF SKAKTAVL. For the last time, Inger Gyldenlove—you are not to be moved from your purpose?
LADY INGER. I can do nought else. And my counsel to you is: do as I do. If it be heaven's will that Norway perish utterly, perish it must, for all we may do to save it.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. And think you I can content myself with words like these? Shall I sit and look quietly on, now that the hour is come? Do you forget the reckoning I have to pay? They have robbed me of my lands, and parcelled them out among themselves. My son, my only child, the last of my race, they have slaughtered like a dog. Myself they have outlawed and forced to lurk by forest and fell these twenty years.—Once and again have folk whispered of my death; but this I believe, that they shall not lay me beneath the earth before I have seen my vengeance.
LADY INGER. Then is there a long life before you. What would you do?
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Do? How should I know what I will do? It has never been my part to plot and plan. That is where you must help me. You have the wit for that. I have but my sword and my two arms.
LADY INGER. Your sword is rusted, Olaf Skaktavl! All the swords in Norway are rusted.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. That is doubtless why some folk fight only with their tongues.—Inger Gyldenlove—great is the change in you. Time was when the heart of a man beat in your breast.
LADY INGER. Put me not in mind of what was.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. 'Tis for that alone I am here. You shall hear me, even if——
LADY INGER. Be it so then; but be brief; for—I must say it— this is no place of safety for you.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Ostrat is no place of safety for an outlaw? That I have long known. But you forget that an outlaw is unsafe wheresoever he may wander.
LADY INGER. Speak then; I will not hinder you.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. It is nigh on thirty years now since first I saw you. It was at Akershus* in the house of Knut Alfson and his wife. You were scarce more than a child then; yet you were bold as the soaring falcon, and wild and headstrong too at times. Many were the wooers around you. I too held you dear—dear as no woman before or since. But you cared for nothing, thought of nothing, save your country's evil case and its great need.
* Pronounce Ahkers-hoos.
LADY INGER. I counted but fifteen summers then—remember that. And was it not as though a frenzy had seized us all in those days?
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Call it what you will; but one thing I know—even the old and sober men among us doubted not that it was written in the counsels of the Lord that you were she who should break our thraldom and win us all our rights again. And more: you yourself then thought as we did.
LADY INGER. It was a sinful thought, Olaf Skaktavl. It was my proud heart, and not the Lord's call, that spoke in me.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. You could have been the chosen one had you but willed it. You came of the noblest blood in Norway; power and riches were at your feet; and you had an ear for the cries of anguish—then!—— —— Do you remember that afternoon when Henrik Krummedike and the Danish fleet anchored off Akershus? The captains of the fleet offered terms of settlement, and, trusting to the safe-conduct, Knut Alfson rowed on board. Three hours later, we bore him through the castle gate——
LADY INGER. A corpse; a corpse!
OLAF SKAKTAVL. The best heart in Norway burst, when Krummedike's hirelings struck him down. Methinks I still can see the long procession that passed into the banquet-hall, heavily, two by two. There he lay on his bier, white as a spring cloud, with the axe- cleft in his brow. I may safely say that the boldest men in Norway were gathered there that night. Lady Margrete stood by her dead husband's head, and we swore as one man to venture lands and life to avenge this last misdeed and all that had gone before.— Inger Gyldenlove,—who was it that burst through the circle of men? A maiden—then almost a child—with fire in her eyes and her voice half choked with tears.— What was it she swore? Shall I repeat your words?
LADY INGER. And how did the others keep their promise? I speak not of you, Olaf Skaktavl, but of your friends, all our Norwegian nobles? Not one of them, in all these years, has had the courage to be a man; and yet they lay it to my charge that I am a woman.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. I know what you would say. Why have they bent to the yoke, and not defied the tyrants to the last? 'Tis but too true; there is base metal enough in our noble houses nowadays. But had they held together—who knows what might have been? And you could have held them together, for before you all had bowed.
LADY INGER. My answer were easy enough, but it would scarce content you. So let us leave speaking of what cannot be changed. Tell me rather what has brought you to Ostrat. Do you need harbour? Well, I will try to hide you. If you would have aught else, speak out; you shall find me ready——
OLAF SKAKTAVL. For twenty years have I been homeless. In the mountains of Jaemteland my hair has grown grey. My dwelling has been with wolves and bears.—You see, Lady Inger—I need you not; but both nobles and people stand in sore need of you.
LADY INGER. The old burden.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Ay, it sounds but ill in your ears, I know; yet hear it you must for all that. In brief, then: I come from Sweden: troubles are at hand: the Dales are ready to rise.
LADY INGER. I know it.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Peter Kanzler is with us—secretly, you understand.
LADY INGER (starting). Peter Kanzler?
OLAF SKAKTAVL. It is he that has sent me to Ostrat.
LADY INGER (rises). Peter Kanzler, say you?
OLAF SKAKTAVL. He himself;—but mayhap you no longer know him?
LADY INGER (half to herself). Only too well!—But tell me, I pray you,—what message do you bring?
OLAF SKAKTAVL. When the rumour of the rising reached the border mountains, where I then was, I set off at once into Sweden. 'Twas not hard to guess that Peter Kanzler had a finger in the game. I sought him out and offered to stand by him;—he knew me of old, as you know, and knew that he could trust me; so he has sent me hither.
LADY INGER (impatiently). Yes yes,—he sent you hither to——?
OLAF SKAKTAVL (with secrecy). Lady Inger—a stranger comes to Ostrat to-night.
LADY INGER (surprised). What? Know you that——?
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Assuredly I know it. I know all. 'Twas to meet him that Peter Kanzler sent me hither.
LADY INGER. To meet him? Impossible, Olaf Skaktavl,—impossible!
OLAF SKAKTAVL. 'Tis as I tell you. If he be not already come, he will soon——
LADY INGER. Yes, I know; but——
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Then you know of his coming?
LADY INGER. Ay, surely. He sent me a message. That was why they opened to you as soon as you knocked.
OLAF SKAKTAVL (listens). Hush!—some one is riding along the road. (Goes to the window.) They are opening the gate.
LADY INGER (looks out). It is a knight and his attendant. They are dismounting in the courtyard.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Then it is he. His name?
LADY INGER. You know not his name?
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Peter Kanzler refused to tell it me. He would only say that I should find him at Ostrat the third evening after Martinmas——
LADY INGER. Ay; even to-night.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. He was to bring letters with him, and from them, and from you, I was to learn who he is.
LADY INGER. Then let me lead you to your chamber. You have need of rest and refreshment. You shall soon have speech with the stranger.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Well, be it as you will. (Both go out to the left.)
(After a short pause, FINN enters cautiously through the door on the right, looks round the room, and peeps into the Banquet Hall; he then goes back to the door, and makes a sign to some one outside. Immediately after, enter COUNCILLOR NILS LYKKE and the Swedish Commander, JENS BIELKE.)
NILS LYKKE (softly). No one?
FINN (in the same tone). No one, master!
NILS LYKKE. And we may depend on you in all things?
FINN. The commandant in Trondhiem has ever given me a name for trustiness.
NILS LYKKE. It is well; he has said as much to me. First of all, then—has there come any stranger to Ostrat to-night, before us?
FINN. Ay; a stranger came an hour since.
NILS LYKKE (softly, to JENS BIELKE). He is here. (Turns again to FINN.) Would you know him again? Have you seen him?
FINN. Nay, none have seen him, that I know, but the gatekeeper. He was brought at once to Lady Inger, and she——
NILS LYKKE. Well? What of her? He is not gone again already?
FINN. No; but it seems she keeps him hidden in one of her own rooms; for——
NILS LYKKE. It is well.
JENS BIELKE (whispers). Then the first thing is to put a guard on the gate; then we are sure of him.
NILS LYKKE (with a smile). Hm! (To FINN.) Tell me—is there any way of leaving the castle but by the gate? Gape not at me so! I mean—can one escape from Ostrat unseen, while the castle gate is shut?
FINN. Nay, that I know not. 'Tis true they talk of secret ways in the vaults beneath; but no one knows them save Lady Inger—and mayhap Mistress Elina.
JENS BIELKE. The devil!
NILS LYKKE. It is well. You may go.
FINN. And should you need me in aught again, you have but to open the second door on the right in the Banquet Hall, and I shall presently be at hand.
NILS LYKKE. Good. (Points to the entrance-door. FINN goes out.)
JENS BIELKE. Now, by my soul, dear friend and brother—this campaign is like to end but scurvily for both of us.
NILS LYKKE (with a smile). Oh—not for me, I hope.
JENS BIELKE. Not? First of all, there is small honour to be got in hunting an overgrown whelp like this Nils Sture. Are we to think him mad or in his sober senses after the pranks he has played? First he breeds bad blood among the peasants; promises them help and all their hearts can desire;—and then, when it comes to the pinch, off he runs to hide behind a petticoat! Moreover, to tell the truth, I repent that I followed your counsel and went not my own way.
NILS LYKKE (aside). Your repentance comes somewhat late, my brother.
JENS BIELKE. Look you, I have never loved digging at a badger's earth. I look for quite other sport. Here have I ridden all the way from the Jaemteland with my horsemen, and have got me a warrant from the Trondhiem commandant to search for the rebel wheresoever I please. All his tracks point towards Ostrat——
NILS LYKKE. He is here! He is here, I tell you!
JENS BIELKE. If that were so, should we not have found the gate barred and well guarded? Would that we had; then could I have found use for my men-at-arms——
NILS LYKKE. But instead, the gate is opened for us in hospitality. Mark now—if Inger Gyldenlove's fame belie her not, I warrant she will not let her guests lack for either meat or drink.
JENS BIELKE. Ay, to turn us aside from our errand! And what wild whim was that of yours to persuade me to leave my horsemen a good mile from the castle? Had we come in force——
NILS LYKKE. She had made us none the less welcome for that. But mark well that then our coming had made a stir. The peasants round about had held it for an outrage against Lady Inger; she had risen high in their favour once more—and with that, look you, we were ill served.
JENS BIELKE. May be so. But what am I to do now? Count Sture is in Ostrat, you say. Ay, but how does that profit me? Be sure Lady Inger Gyldenlove has as many hiding-places as the fox, and more than one outlet to them. We two can go snuffing about here alone as long as we please. I would the devil had the whole affair!
NILS LYKKE. Well, then, my friend—if you like not the turn your errand has taken, you have but to leave the field to me.
JENS BIELKE. To you? What will you do?
NILS LYKKE. Caution and cunning may here do more than could be achieved by force of arms.—And to say truth, Captain Jens Bielke— something of the sort has been in my mind ever since we met in Trondhiem yesterday.
JENS BIELKE. Was that why you persuaded me to leave the men at arms?
NILS LYKKE. Both your purpose at Ostrat and mine could best be served without them; and so——
JENS BIELKE. The foul fiend seize you—I had almost said! And me to boot! Might I not have known that there is guile in all your dealings?
NILS LYKKE. Be sure I shall need all my guile here, if I am to face my foe with even weapons. And let me tell you 'tis of the utmost moment to me that I acquit me of my mission secretly and well. You must know that when I set forth I was scarce in favour with my lord the King. He held me in suspicion; though I dare swear I have served him as well as any man could, in more than one ticklish charge.
JENS BIELKE. That you may safely boast. God and all men know you for the craftiest devil in all the three kingdoms.
NILS LYKKE. You flatter! But after all, 'tis not much to say. Now this present errand I hold for the crowning proof of my policy; for here I have to outwit a woman——
JENS BIELKE. Ha-ha-ha! In that art you have long since given crowning proofs of your skill, dear brother. Think you we in Sweden know not the song—
Fair maidens a-many they sigh and they pine; "Ah God, that Nils Lykke were mine, mine, mine!"
NILS LYKKE. Alas, it is women of twenty and thereabouts that ditty speaks of. Lady Inger Gyldenlove is nigh on fifty, and wily to boot beyond all women. It will be no light matter to overcome her. But it must be done—at any cost. If I succeed in winning certain advantages over her that the King has long desired, I can reckon on the embassy to France next spring. You know that I spent three years at the University in Paris? My whole soul is bent on coming thither again, most of all if I can appear in lofty place, a king's ambassador.—Well, then—is it agreed?—do you leave Lady Inger to me? Remember—when you were last at Court in Copenhagen, I made way for you with more than one fair lady——
JENS BIELKE. Nay, truly now—that generosity cost you little; one and all of them were at your beck and call. But let that pass; now that I have begun amiss in this matter, I had as lief that you should take it on your shoulders. One thing, though, you must promise—if the young Count Sture be in Ostrat, you will deliver him into my hands, dead or alive!
NILS LYKKE. You shall have him all alive. I, at any rate, mean not to kill him. But now you must ride back and join your people. Keep guard on the road. Should I mark aught that mislikes me, you shall know it forthwith.
JENS BIELKE. Good, good. But how am I to get out?
NILS LYKKE. The fellow that brought us in will show the way. But go quietly.
JENS BIELKE. Of course, of course. Well—good fortune to you!
NILS LYKKE. Fortune has never failed me in a war with women. Haste you now!
(JENS BIELKE goes out to the right.)
NILS LYKKE (stands still for a while; then walks about the room, looking round him; at last he says softly). So I am at Ostrat at last—the ancient seat that a child, two years ago, told me so much of. Lucia. Ay, two years ago she was still a child. And now—now she is dead. (Hums with a half-smile.) "Blossoms plucked are blossoms withered—— ——" (Looks round him again.) Ostrat. 'Tis as though I had seen it all before; as though I were at home here.—In there is the Banquet Hall. And underneath is—the grave-vault. It must be there that Lucia lies. (In a lower voice, half seriously, half with forced gaiety.) Were I timorous, I might well find myself fancying that when I set foot within Ostrat gate she turned about in her coffin; as I walked across the courtyard she lifted the lid; and when I named her name but now, 'twas as though a voice summoned her forth from the grave-vault.—Maybe she is even now groping her way up the stairs. The face-cloth blinds her, but she gropes on and on in spite of it. Now she has reached the Banquet Hall; she stands watching me from behind the door! (Turns his head backwards over one shoulder, nods, and says aloud:) Come nearer, Lucia! Talk to me a little! Your mother keeps me waiting. 'Tis tedious waiting—and you have helped me to while away many a tedious hour—— —— (Passes his hand over his forehead, and takes one or two turns up and down.) Ah, there!—Right, right; there is the the deep curtained window. It is there that Inger Gyldenlove is wont to stand gazing out over the road, as though looking for one that never comes. In there— (looks towards the door on the left)—somewhere in there is Sister Elina's chamber. Elina? Ay, Elina is her name. Can it be that she is so rare a being—so wise and so brave as Lucia drew her? Fair, too, they say. But for a wedded wife——? I should not have written so plainly—— —— (Lost in thought, he is on the point of sitting down by the table, but stands up again.) How will Lady Inger receive me? She will scarce burn the castle over our heads, or slip me through a trap-door. A stab from behind——? No, not that way either—— (Listens towards the hall.) Aha!
(LADY INGER GYLDENLOVE enters from the hall.)
LADY INGER (coldly). My greeting to you, Sir Councillor——
NILS LYKKE (bows deeply). Ah—the Lady of Ostrat!
LADY INGER. And thanks that you have forewarned me of your visit.
NILS LYKKE. I could do no less. I had reason to think that my coming might surprise you——
LADY INGER. In truth, Sir Councillor, you thought right there. Nils Lykke was certainly the last guest I looked to see at Ostrat.
NILS LYKKE. And still less, mayhap, did you think to see him come as a friend?
LADY INGER. As a friend? You add insult to all the shame and sorrow you have heaped upon my house? After bringing my child to the grave, you still dare——
NILS LYKKE. With your leave, Lady Inger Gyldenlove—on that matter we should scarce agree; for you count as nothing what I lost by that same unhappy chance. I purposed nought but in honour. I was tired of my unbridled life; my thirtieth year was already past; I longed to mate me with a good and gentle wife. Add to all this the hope of becoming your son-in-law——
LADY INGER. Beware, Sir Councillor! I have done all in my power to hide my child's unhappy fate. But because it is out of sight, think not it is out of mind. It may yet happen——
NILS LYKKE. You threaten me, Lady Inger? I have offered you my hand in amity; you refuse to take it. Henceforth, then, it is to be open war between us?
LADY INGER. Was there ever aught else?
NILS LYKKE. Not on your side, mayhap. I have never been your enemy,—though as a subject of the King of Denmark I lacked not good cause.
LADY INGER. I understand you. I have not been pliant enough. It has not proved so easy as some of you hoped to lure me over into your camp.— Yet methinks you have nought to complain of. My daughter Merete's husband is your countryman—further I cannot go. My position is no easy one, Nils Lykke!
NILS LYKKE. That I can well believe. Both nobles and people here in Norway think they have an ancient claim on you—a claim, 'tis said, you have but half fulfilled.
LADY INGER. Your pardon, Sir Councillor,—I account for my doings to none but God and myself. If it please you, then, let me understand what brings you hither.
NILS LYKKE. Gladly, Lady Inger! The purport of my mission to this country can scarce be unknown to you——?
LADY INGER. I know the mission that report assigns you. Our King would fain know how the Norwegian nobles stand affected towards him.
NILS LYKKE. Assuredly.
LADY INGER. Then that is why you visit Ostrat?
NILS LYKKE. In part. But it is far from my purpose to demand any profession of loyalty from you——
LADY INGER. What then?
NILS LYKKE. Hearken to me, Lady Inger! You said yourself but now that your position is no easy one. You stand half way between two hostile camps, neither of which dares trust you fully. Your own interest must needs bind you to us. On the other hand, you are bound to the disaffected by the bond of nationality, and—who knows?—mayhap by some secret tie as well.
LADY INGER (aside). A secret tie! Christ, does he——?
NILS LYKKE (notices her emotion, but makes no sign and continues without change of manner). You cannot but see that such a position must ere long become impossible.—Suppose, now, it lay in my power to free you from these embarrassments which——
LADY INGER. In your power, you say?
NILS LYKKE. First of all, Lady Inger, I would beg you to lay no stress on any careless words I may have used concerning that which lies between us two. Think not that I have forgotten for a moment the wrong I have done you. Suppose, now, I had long purposed to make atonement, as far as might be, where I had sinned. Suppose that were my reason for undertaking this mission.
LADY INGER. Speak your meaning more clearly, Sir Councillor;—I cannot follow you.
NILS LYKKE. I can scarce be mistaken in thinking that you, as well as I, know of the threatened troubles in Sweden. You know, or at least you can guess, that this rising is of far wider aim than is commonly supposed, and you understand therefore that our King cannot look on quietly and let things take their course. Am I not right?
LADY INGER. Go on.
NILS LYKKE (searchingly, after a short pause). There is one possible chance that might endanger Gustav Vasa's throne——
LADY INGER (aside). Whither is he tending?
NILS LYKKE. ——the chance, namely, that there should exist in Sweden a man entitled by his birth to claim election to the kingship.
LADY INGER (evasively). The Swedish nobles have been even as bloodily hewn down as our own, Sir Councillor. Where would you seek for——?
NILS LYKKE (with a smile). Seek? The man is found already——
LADY INGER (starts violently). Ah! He is found?
NILS LYKKE. ——And he is too closely akin to you, Lady Inger, to be far from your thoughts at this moment. (Looks at her.) The last Count Sture left a son——
LADY INGER (with a cry). Holy Saviour, how know you——?
NILS LYKKE (surprised). Be calm, Madam, and let me finish.— This young man has lived quietly till now with his mother, Sten Sture's widow.
LADY INGER (breathes more freely). With——? Ah, yes—true, true!
NILS LYKKE. But now he has come forward openly. He has shown himself in the Dales as leader of the peasants; their numbers are growing day by day; and—as perhaps you know—they are finding friends among the peasants on this side of the border-hills.
LADY INGER (who has in the meantime regained her composure). Sir Councillor,—you speak of all these things as though they must of necessity be known to me. What ground have I given you to believe so? I know, and wish to know, nothing. All my care is to live quietly within my own domain; I give no helping hand to the rebels; but neither must you count on me if it be your purpose to put them down.
NILS LYKKE (in a low voice). Would you still be inactive, if it were my purpose to stand by them?
LADY INGER. How am I to understand you?
NILS LYKKE. Have you not seen whither I have been aiming all this time?—Well, I will tell you all, honestly and straightforwardly. Know, then, that the King and his Council see clearly that we can have no sure footing in Norway so long as the nobles and the people continue, as now, to think themselves wronged and oppressed. We understand to the full that willing allies are better than sullen subjects; and we have therefore no heartier wish than to loosen the bonds that hamper us, in effect, quite as straitly as you. But you will scarce deny that the temper of Norway towards us makes such a step too dangerous—so long as we have no sure support behind us.
LADY INGER. And this support——?
NILS LYKKE. Should naturally come from Sweden. But, mark well, not so long as Gustav Vasa holds the helm; his reckoning with Denmark is not settled yet, and mayhap never will be. But a new king of Sweden, who had the people with him, and who owed his throne to the help of Denmark—— —— Well, you begin to understand me? Then we could safely say to you Norwegians: "Take back your old ancestral rights; choose you a ruler after your own mind; be our friends in need, as we will be in yours!"—Mark you well, Lady Inger, herein is our generosity less than it may seem; for you must see that, far from weakening, 'twill rather strengthen us. And now I have opened my heart to you so fully, do you too cast away all mistrust. And therefore (confidently)—the knight from Sweden, who came hither an hour before me——
LADY INGER. Then you already know of his coming?
NILS LYKKE. Most certainly. It is him I seek.
LADY INGER (to herself). Strange! It must be as Olaf Skaktavl said. (To NILS LYKKE.) I pray you wait here, Sir Councillor! I go to bring him to you.
(Goes out through the Banquet Hall.)
NILS LYKKE (looks after her a while in exultant astonishment). She is bringing him! Ay, truly—she is bringing him! The battle is half won. I little thought it would go so smoothly—— She is deep in the counsels of the rebels; she started in terror when I named Sten Sture's son—— And now? Hm! Since Lady Inger has been simple enough to walk into the snare, Nils Sture will not make many difficulties. A hot-blooded boy, thoughtless and rash—— —— With my promise of help he will set forth at once—unhappily Jens Bielke will snap him up by the way—and the whole rising will be nipped in the bud. And then? Then one step more in our own behalf. It is spread abroad that the young Count Sture has been at Ostrat,—that a Danish envoy has had audience of Lady Inger—that thereupon the young Count Nils has been snapped up by King Gustav's men-at-arms a mile from the castle—— —— Let Inger Gyldenlove's name among the people stand never so high—it will scarce recover from such a blow. (Starts up in sudden uneasiness.) By all the devils——! What if she has scented mischief! It may be he is slipping through our fingers even now—— (Listens toward the hall, and says with relief.) Ah, there is no fear. Here they come.
(LADY INGER GYLDENLOVE enters from the hall along with OLAF SKAKTAVL.)
LADY INGER (to NILS LYKKE). Here is the man you seek.
NILS LYKKE (aside). In the name of hell—what means this?
LADY INGER. I have told this knight your name and all that you have imparted to me——
NILS LYKKE (irresolutely). Ay? Have you so? Well——
LADY INGER—— And I will not hide from you that his faith in your help is none of the strongest.
NILS LYKKE. Is it not?
LADY INGER. Can you marvel at that? You know, surely, both the cause he fights for and his bitter fate——
NILS LYKKE. This man's——? Ah—yes, truly——
OLAF SKAKTAVL (to NILS LYKKE). But seeing 'tis Peter Kanzler himself that has appointed us this meeting——
NILS LYKKE. Peter Kanzler——? (Recovers himself quickly.) Ay, right,—I have a mission from Peter Kanzler——
OLAF SKAKTAVL. He must know best whom he can trust. So why should I trouble my head with thinking how——
NILS LYKKE. Ay, you are right, noble Sir; that were folly indeed.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Rather let us come straight to the matter.
NILS LYKKE. Straight to the point; no beating about the bush— 'tis ever my fashion.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Then will you tell me your mission here?
NILS LYKKE. Methinks you can partly guess my errand——
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Peter Kanzler said something of papers that——
NILS LYKKE. Papers? Ay, true, the papers!
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Doubtless you have them with you?
NILS LYKKE. Of course; safely bestowed; so safely that I cannot at once—— (Appears to search the inner pockets of his doublet; says to himself:) Who the devil is he? What pretext shall I make? I may be on the brink of great discoveries—— (Notices that the Servants are laying the table and lighting the lamps in the Banquet Hall, and says to OLAF SKAKTAVL:) Ah, I see Lady Inger has taken order for the evening meal. We could perhaps better talk of our affairs at table.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Good; as you will.
NILS LYKKE (aside). Time gained—all gained! (To LADY INGER with a show of great friendliness.) And meanwhile we might learn what part Lady Inger Gyldenlove purposes to take in our design?
LADY INGER. I?—None.
NILS LYKKE AND OLAF SKAKTAVL. None!
LADY INGER. Can ye marvel, noble Sirs, that I venture not on a game, wherein all is staked on one cast? And that, too, when none of my allies dare trust me fully.
NILS LYKKE. That reproach touches not me. I trust you blindly; I pray you be assured of that.
OLAF SKAKTAVL. Who should believe in you, if not your countrymen?
LADY INGER. Truly,—this confidence rejoices me.
(Goes to a cupboard in the back wall and fills two goblets with wine.)
NILS LYKKE (aside). Curse her, will she slip out of the noose?
LADY INGER (hands a goblet to each). And since so it is, I offer you a cup of welcome to Ostrat. Drink, noble knights! Pledge me to the last drop! (Looks from one to the other after they have drunk, and says gravely:) But now I must tell you—one goblet held a welcome for my friend; the other—death for my enemy.
NILS LYKKE (throws down the goblet). Ah, I am poisoned!
OLAF SKAKTAVL (at the same time, clutches his sword). Death and hell, have you murdered me?
LADY INGER (to OLAF SKAKTAVL, pointing to NILS LYKKE.) You see the Danes' trust in Inger Gyldenlove—— (To NILS LYKKE, pointing to OLAF SKAKTAVL.) ——and likewise my countrymen's faith in me! (To both of them.) And I am to place myself in your power? Gently, noble Sirs— gently! The Lady of Ostrat is not yet in her dotage.
(ELINA GYLDENLOVE enters by the door on the left.)
ELINA. I heard voices! What is amiss?
LADY INGER (to NILS LYKKE). My daughter Elina.
NILS LYKKE (softly). Elina! I had not pictured her thus.
(ELINA catches sight of NILS LYKKE, and stands still, as in surprise, gazing at him.)
LADY INGER (touches her arm). My child—this knight is——
ELINA (motions her mother back with her hand, still looking intently at him, and says:) There is no need! I see who he is. He is Nils Lykke.
NILS LYKKE (aside, to LADY INGER). How? Does she know me? Can Lucia have——? Can she know——?
LADY INGER. Hush! She knows nothing.
ELINA (to herself). I knew it;—even so must Nils Lykke appear.
NILS LYKKE (approaches her). Yes, Elina Gyldenlove,—you have guessed rightly. And as it seems that, in some sense, you know me,—and moreover, as I am your mother's guest,—you will not deny me the flower-spray you wear in your bosom. So long as it is fresh and fragrant I shall have in it an image of yourself.
ELINA (proudly, but still gazing at him). Pardon me, Sir Knight— it was plucked in my own chamber, and there can grow no flower for you.
NILS LYKKE (loosening a spray of flowers that he wears in the front of his doublet). At least you will not disdain this humble gift. 'Twas a farewell token from a courtly lady when I set forth from Trondhiem this morning.—But mark me, noble maiden,—were I to offer you a gift that were fully worthy of you, it could be naught less than a princely crown.
ELINA (who has taken the flowers passively). And were it the royal crown of Denmark you held forth to me—before I shared it with you, I would crush it to pieces between my hands, and cast the fragments at your feet!
(Throws down the flowers at his feet, and goes into the Banquet Hall.)
OLAF SKAKTAVL (mutters to himself). Bold—as Inger Ottisdaughter by Knut Alfson's bier!
LADY INGER (softly, after looking alternately at ELINA and NILS LYKKE). The wolf can be tamed. Now to forge the fetters.
NILS LYKKE (picks up the flowers and gazes in rapture after ELINA). God's holy blood, but she is proud and fair
(The Banquet Hall. A high bow-window in the background; a smaller window in front on the left. Several doors on each side. The roof is supported by massive wooden pillars, on which, as well as on the walls, are hung all sorts of weapons. Pictures of saints, knights, and ladies hang in long rows. Pendent from the roof a large many-branched lamp, alight. In front, on the right, an ancient carven high-seat. In the middle of the hall, a table with the remnants of the evening meal.)
(ELINA GYLDENLOVE enters from the left, slowly and in deep thought. Her expression shows that she is going over again in her mind the scene with NILS LYKKE. At last she repeats the motion with which she flung away the flowers, and says in a low voice:)
ELINA. —— ——And then he gathered up the fragments of the crown of Denmark—no, 'twas the flowers—and: "God's holy blood, but she is proud and fair!" Had he whispered the words in the remotest corner, long leagues from Ostrat,—still had I heard them! How I hate him! How I have always hated him,—this Nils Lykke!— There lives not another man like him, 'tis said. He plays with women—and treads them under his feet. And it was to him my mother thought to offer me!—How I hate him! They say Nils Lykke is unlike all other men. It is not true! There is nothing strange in him. There are many, many like him! When Biorn used to tell me his tales, all the princes looked as Nils Lykke looks. When I sat lonely here in the hall and dreamed my histories, and my knights came and went,—they were one and all even as he. How strange and how good it is to hate! Never have I known how sweet it can be—till to-night. Ah—not to live a thousand years would I sell the moments I have lived since I saw him!— "God's holy blood, but she is proud—— ——"
(Goes slowly towards the background, opens the window and looks out. NILS LYKKE comes in by the first door on the right.)
NILS LYKKE (to himself). "Sleep well at Ostrat, Sir Knight," said Inger Gyldenlove as she left me. Sleep well? Ay, it is easily said, but—— —— Out there, sky and sea in tumult; below, in the grave-vault, a young girl on her bier; the fate of two kingdoms in my hand; and in my breast a withered flower that a woman has flung at my feet. Truly, I fear me sleep will be slow of coming. (Notices ELINA, who has left the window, and is going out on the left.) There she is. Her haughty eyes seem veiled with thought.—Ah, if I but dared—(aloud). Mistress Elina!
ELINA (stops at the door). What will you? Why do you pursue me?
NILS LYKKE. You err; I pursue you not. I am myself pursued.
NILS LYKKE. By a multitude of thoughts. Therefore 'tis with sleep as with you:—it flees me.
ELINA. Go to the window, and there you will find pastime;—a storm-tossed sea——
NILS LYKKE (smiles). A storm-tossed sea? That I may find in you as well.
ELINA. In me?
NILS LYKKE. Ay, of that our first meeting has assured me.
ELINA. And that offends you?
NILS LYKKE. Nay, in nowise; yet I could wish to see you of milder mood.
ELINA (proudly). Think you that you will ever have your wish?
NILS LYKKE. I am sure of it. I have a welcome word to say to you.
ELINA. What is it?
NILS LYKKE. Farewell.
ELINA (comes a step nearer him). Farewell? You are leaving Ostrat—so soon?
NILS LYKKE. This very night.
ELINA (seems to hesitate for a moment; then says coldly:) Then take my greeting, Sir Knight! (Bows and is about to go.)
NILS LYKKE. Elina Gyldenlove,—I have no right to keep you here; but 'twill be unlike your nobleness if you refuse to hear what I have to say to you.
ELINA. I hear you, Sir Knight.
NILS LYKKE. I know you hate me.
ELINA. You are keen-sighted, I perceive.
NILS LYKKE. But I know, too, that I have fully merited your hate. Unseemly and insolent were the words I wrote of you in my letter to Lady Inger.
ELINA. It may be; I have not read them.
NILS LYKKE. But at least their purport is not unknown to you; I know your mother has not left you in ignorance of the matter; at the least she has told you how I praised the lot of the man who——; surely you know the hope I nursed——
ELINA. Sir Knight—if it is of that you would speak——
NILS LYKKE. I speak of it only to excuse what I have done; for no other reason, I swear to you. If my fame has reached you—as I have too much cause of fear—before I myself set foot in Ostrat, you must needs know enough of my life not to wonder that in such things I should go to work something boldly. I have met many women, Elina Gyldenlove; but not one have I found unyielding. Such lessons, look you, teach a man to be secure. He loses the habit of roundabout ways——
ELINA. May be so. I know not of what metal those women can have been. For the rest, you err in thinking 'twas your letter to my mother that aroused my soul's hatred and bitterness against you. It is of older date.
NILS LYKKE (uneasily). Of older date? What mean you?
ELINA. 'Tis as you guessed:—your fame has gone before you to Ostrat, even as over all the land. Nils Lykke's name is never spoken save with the name of some woman whom he has beguiled and cast off. Some speak it in wrath, others with laughter and wanton jeering at those weak-souled creatures. But through the wrath and the laughter and the jeers rings the song they have made of you, masterful and insolent as an enemy's song of triumph. 'Tis all this that has begotten my hate for you. Your were ever in my thoughts, and I longed to meet you face to face, that you might learn that there are women on whom your soft speeches are lost—if you should think to use them.
NILS LYKKE. You judge me unjustly, if you judge from what rumour has told of me. Even if there be truth in all you have heard,— you know not the causes that have made me what I am.—As a boy of seventeen I began my course of pleasure. I have lived full fifteen years since then. Light women granted me all that I would—even before the wish had shaped itself into a prayer; and what I offered them they seized with eager hands. You are the first woman that has flung back a gift of mine with scorn at my feet. Think not I reproach you. Rather I honour you for it, as never before have I honoured woman. But for this I reproach my fate— and the thought is a gnawing pain to me—that I did not meet you sooner—— —— Elina Gyldenlove! Your mother has told me of you. While far from Ostrat life ran its restless course, you went your lonely way in silence, living in your dreams and histories. Therefore you will understand what I have to tell you.—Know, then, that once I too lived even such a life as yours. Methought that when I stepped forth into the great world, a noble and stately woman would come to meet me, and would beckon me to her and point me the path towards a lofty goal.—I was deceived, Elina Gyldenlove! Women came to meet me; but she was not among them. Ere yet I had come to full manhood, I had learnt to despise them all. Was it my fault? Why were not the others even as you?—I know the fate of your fatherland lies heavy on your soul, and you know the part I have in these affairs—— —— 'Tis said of me that I am false as the sea-foam. Mayhap I am; but if I be, it is women who have made me so. Had I sooner found what I sought,—had I met a woman proud and noble and high-souled even as you, then had my path been different indeed. At this moment, maybe, I had been standing at your side as the champion of all that suffer wrong in Norway's land. For this I believe: a woman is the mightiest power in the world, and in her hand it lies to guide a man whither God Almighty would have him go.
ELINA (to herself). Can it be as he says? Nay nay; there is falsehood in his eyes and deceit on his lips. And yet—no song is sweeter than his words.
NILS LYKKE (coming closer, speaks low and more intimately). How often, when you have been sitting here at Ostrat, alone with your changeful thoughts, have you felt your bosom stifling; how often have the roof and walls seemed to shrink together till they crushed your very soul. Then have your longings taken wing with you; then have you yearned to fly far from here, you knew not whither.—How often have you not wandered alone by the fiord; far out a ship has sailed by in fair array, with knights and ladies on her deck with song and music of stringed instruments;—a faint, far-off rumour of great events has reached your ears;—and you have felt a longing in your breast, an unconquerable craving to know all that lies beyond the sea. But you have not understood what ailed you. At times you have thought it was the fate of your fatherland that filled you with all these restless broodings. You deceived yourself;—a maiden so young as you has other food for musing—— —— Elina Gyldenlove! Have you never had visions of an unknown power—a strong mysterious might, that binds together the destinies of mortals? When you dreamed of knightly jousts and joyous festivals—saw you never in your dreams a knight, who stood in the midst of the gayest rout, with a smile on his lips and with bitterness in his heart,—a knight that had once dreamed a dream as fair as yours, of a woman noble and stately, for whom he went ever seeking, and in vain?
ELINA. Who are you, that have power to clothe my most secret thought in words? How can you tell me what I have borne in my inmost soul—and knew it not myself? How know you——?
NILS LYKKE. All that I have told you, I have read in your eyes.
ELINA. Never has any man spoken to me as you have. I have understood you but dimly; and yet—all, all seems changed since—— (To herself.) Now I understand why they said that Nils Lykke was unlike all other.
NILS LYKKE. There is one thing in the world that might drive a man to madness, but to think of it; and that is the thought of what might have been if things had fallen out in this way or that. Had I met you on my path while the tree of my life was yet green and budding, at this hour, mayhap, you had been—— —— But forgive me, noble lady! Our speech of these past few moments has made me forget how we stand one to another. 'Twas as though a secret voice had told me from the first that to you I could speak openly, without flattery or dissimulation.
ELINA. That can you.
NILS LYKKE. 'Tis well;—and it may be that this openness has already in part reconciled us. Ay—my hope is yet bolder. The time may yet come when you will think of the stranger knight without hate or bitterness in your soul. Nay,—mistake me not! I mean not now— but some time, in the days to come. And that this may be the less hard for you—and as I have begun once for all to speak to you plainly and openly—let me tell you——
ELINA. Sir Knight——!
NILS LYKKE (smiling). Ah, I see the thought of my letter still affrights you. Fear nought on that score. I would from my heart it were unwritten, for—I know 'twill concern you little enough, so I may even say it right out—for I love you not, and shall never come to you. Fear nothing, therefore, as I said before; I shall in no wise seek to—— —— But what ails you——?
ELINA. Me? Nothing, nothing.—Tell me but one thing. Why do you still wear those flowers? What would you with them?
NILS LYKKE. These? Are they not a gage of battle you have thrown down to the wicked Nils Lykke on behalf of all womankind? What could I do but take it up? You asked what I would with them. (Softly.) When I stand again amidst the fair ladies of Denmark—when the music of the strings is hushed and there is silence in the hall—then will I bring forth these flowers and tell a tale of a young maiden sitting alone in a gloomy black-beamed hall, far to the north in Norway—— (Breaks off and bows respectfully.) But I fear I keep the noble daughter of the house too long. We shall meet no more; for before day-break I shall be gone. So now I bid you farewell.
ELINA. Fare you well, Sir Knight!
(A short silence.)
NILS LYKKE. Again you are deep in thought, Elina Gyldenlove! Is it the fate of your fatherland that weighs upon you still?
ELINA (shakes her head, absently gazing straight in front of her). My fatherland?—I think not of my fatherland.
NILS LYKKE. Then 'tis the strife and misery of the time that cause you dread.
ELINA. The time? I have forgotten time—— —— You go to Denmark? Said you not so?
NILS LYKKE. I go to Denmark.
ELINA. Can I see towards Denmark from this hall?
NILS LYKKE (points to the window on the left). Ay, from this window. Denmark lies there, to the south.
ELINA. And is it far from here? More than a hundred miles?
NILS LYKKE. Much more. The sea lies between you and Denmark.
ELINA (to herself). The sea? Thought has seagull's wings. The sea cannot stay it.
(Goes out to the left.)
NILS LYKKE (looks after her awhile; then says:) If I could but spare two days now—or even one—I would have her in my power, even as the others. And yet is there rare stuff in this maiden. She is proud. Might I not after all——? No; rather humble her—— —— (Paces the room.) Verily, I believe she has set my blood on fire. Who would have thought it possible after all these years?—Enough of this! I must get out of the tangle I am entwined in here. (Sits in a chair on the right.) What is the meaning of it? Both Olaf Skaktavl and Inger Gyldenlove seem blind to the mistrust 'twill waken, when 'tis rumoured that I am in their league.—Or can Lady Inger have seen through my purpose? Can she have seen that all my promises were but designed to lure Nils Sture forth from his hiding-place? (Springs up.) Damnation! Is it I that have been fooled? 'Tis like enough that Count Sture is not at Ostrat at all? It may be the rumour of his flight was but a feint. He may be safe and sound among his friends in Sweden, while I—— (Walks restlessly up and down.) And to think I was so sure of success! If I should effect nothing? If Lady Inger should penetrate my designs—and publish my discomfiture—— To be a laughing-stock both here and in Denmark! To have sought to lure Lady Inger into a trap—and given her cause the help it most needed—strengthened her in the people's favour——! Ah, I could well-nigh sell myself to the Evil One, would he but help me to lay hands on Count Sture.
(The window in the background is pushed open. NILS STENSSON is seen outside.)
NILS LYKKE (clutches at his sword). What now?
NILS STENSSON (jumps down on to the floor). Ah; here I am at last then!
NILS LYKKE (aside). What means this?
NILS STENSSON. God's peace, master!
NILS LYKKE. Thanks, good Sir! Methinks yo have chosen a strange mode of entrance.
NILS STENSSON. Ay, what the devil was I to do? The gate was shut. Folk must sleep in this house like bears at Yuletide.
NILS LYKKE. God be thanked! Know you not that a good conscience is the best pillow?
NILS STENSSON. Ay, it must be even so; for all my rattling and thundering, I——
NILS LYKKE. ——You won not in?
NILS STENSSON. You have hit it. So I said to myself: As you are bidden to be in Ostrat to-night, if you have to go through fire and water, you may surely make free to creep through a window.
NILS LYKKE (aside). Ah, if it should be——! (Moves a step or two nearer.) Was it, then, of the last necessity that you should reach Ostrat to-night?
NILS STENSSON. Was it? Ay, faith but it was. I love not to keep folk waiting, I can tell you.
NILS LYKKE. Aha,—then Lady Inger Gyldenlove looks for your coming?
NILS STENSSON. Lady Inger Gyldenlove? Nay, that I can scarce say for certain; (with a sly smile) but there might be some one else——
NILS LYKKE (smiles in answer). Ah, so there might be some one else?
NILS STENSSON. Tell me—are you of the house?
NILS LYKKE. I? Well, in so far that I am Lady Inger's guest this evening.
NILS STENSSON. A guest?—Is not to-night the third night after Martinmas?
NILS LYKKE. The third night after——? Ay, right enough.—Would you seek the lady of the house at once? I think she is not yet gone to rest. But might you not sit down and rest awhile, dear young Sir? See, here is yet a flagon of wine remaining, and doubtless you will find some food. Come, fall to; you will do wisely to refresh your strength.
NILS STENSSON. You are right, Sir; 'twere not amiss. (Sits down by the table and eats and drinks.) Both roast meat and sweet cakes! Why, you live like lords here! When one has slept, as I have, on the naked ground, and lived on bread and water for four or five days——
NILS LYKKE (looks at him with a smile). Ay, such a life must be hard for one that is wont to sit at the high-table in noble halls——
NILS STENSSON. Noble halls——?
NILS LYKKE. But now can you take your rest at Ostrat, as long as it likes you.
NILS STENSSON (pleased). Ay? Can I truly? Then I am not to begone again so soon?
NILS LYKKE. Nay, that I know not. Sure you yourself can best say that.
NILS STENSSON (softly). Oh, the devil! (Stretches himself in the chair.) Well, you see—'tis not yet certain. I, for my part, were nothing loath to stay quiet here awhile; but——
NILS LYKKE. ——But you are not in all points your own master? There be other duties and other circumstances——?
NILS STENSSON. Ay, that is just the rub. Were I to choose, I would rest me at Ostrat at least the winter through; I have seldom led aught but a soldier's life—— (Interrupts himself suddenly, fills a goblet, and drinks.) Your health, Sir!
NILS LYKKE. A soldier's life? Hm!
NILS STENSSON. Nay, what I would have said is this: I have been eager to see Lady Inger Gyldenlove, whose fame has spread so wide. She must be a queenly woman,—is't not so?—The one thing I like not in her, is that she shrinks so cursedly from open action.
NILS LYKKE. From open action?
NILS STENSSON. Ay ay, you understand me; I mean she is so loath to take a hand in driving the foreign rulers out of the land.
NILS LYKKE. Ay, you are right. But if you do your best now, you will doubtless work her to your will.
NILS STENSSON. I? God knows it would but little serve if I——
NILS LYKKE. Yet 'tis strange you should seek her here if you have so little hope.
NILS STENSSON. What mean you?—Tell me, know you Lady Inger?
NILS LYKKE. Surely; I am her guest, and——
NILS STENSSON. Ay, but it does not at all follow that you know her. I too am her guest, yet have I never seen so much as her shadow.
NILS LYKKE. Yet did you speak of her——
NILS STENSSON. ——As all folk speak. Why should I not? And besides, I have often enough heard from Peter Kanzler——
(Stops in confusion, and begins eating again.)
NILS LYKKE. You would have said——?
NILS STENSSON (eating). I? Nay, 'tis all one.
(NILS LYKKE laughs.)
NILS STENSSON. Why laugh you, Sir?
NILS LYKKE. 'Tis nought, Sir!
NILS STENSSON (drinks). A pretty vintage ye have in this house.
NILS LYKKE (approaches him confidentially). Listen—were it not time now to throw off the mask?
NILS STENSSON (smiling). The mask? Why, do as seems best to you.
NILS LYKKE. Then off with all disguise. You are known, Count Sture!
NILS STENSSON (with a laugh). Count Sture? Do you too take me for Count Sture? (Rises from the table.) You mistake, Sir; I am not Count Sture.
NILS LYKKE. You are not? Then who are you?
NILS STENSSON. My name is Nils Stensson.
NILS LYKKE (looks at him with a smile). Hm! Nils Stensson? But you are not Sten Sture's son Nils? The name chimes at least.
NILS STENSSON. True enough; but God knows what right I have to bear it. My father I never knew; my mother was a poor peasant- woman, that was robbed and murdered in one of the old feuds. Peter Kanzler chanced to be on the spot; he took me into his care, brought me up, and taught me the trade of arms. As you know, King Gustav has been hunting him this many a year; and I have followed him faithfully, wherever he went.
NILS LYKKE. Peter Kanzler has taught you more than the trade of arms, meseems—— —— Well, well; then you are not Nils Sture. But at least you come from Sweden. Peter Kanzler has sent you here to find a stranger, who——
NILS STENSSON (nods cunningly). ——Who is found already.
NILS LYKKE (somewhat uncertain). And whom you do not know?
NILS STENSSON. As little as you know me; for I swear to you by God himself: I am not Count Sture!
NILS LYKKE. In sober earnest, Sir?
NILS STENSSON. As truly as I live! Wherefore should I deny it, if I were?
NILS LYKKE. Then where is Count Sture?
NILS STENSSON (in a low voice). Ay, that is just the secret.
NILS LYKKE (whispers). Which is known to you, is it not?
NILS STENSSON (nods). And which I have to tell to you.
NILS LYKKE. To me? Well then,—where is he?
(NILS STENSSON points upwards.)
NILS LYKKE. Up there? Lady Inger holds him hidden in the loft- room?
NILS STENSSON. Nay, nay; you mistake me. (Looks round cautiously.) Nils Sture is in Heaven!
NILS LYKKE. Dead? And where?
NILS STENSSON. In his mother's castle,—three weeks since.
NILS LYKKE. Ah, you are deceiving me! 'Tis but five or six days since he crossed the frontier into Norway.
NILS STENSSON. Oh, that was I.
NILS LYKKE. But just before that the Count had appeared in the Dales. The people were restless already, and on his coming they broke out openly and would have chosen him for king.
NILS STENSSON. Ha-ha-ha; that was me too!
NILS LYKKE. You?
NILS STENSSON. I will tell you how it came about. One day Peter Kanzler called me to him and gave me to know that great things were preparing. He bade me set out for Norway and go to Ostrat, where I must be on a certain fixed day——
NILS LYKKE (nods). The third night after Martinmas.
NILS STENSSON. I was to meet a stranger there——
NILS LYKKE. Ay, right; I am he.
NILS STENSSON. He was to tell me what more I had to do. Moreover, I was to let him know that the Count was dead of a sudden, but that as yet 'twas known to no one save to his mother the Countess, together with Peter Kanzler and a few old servants of the Stures.