(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
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
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
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
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
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
NILS STENSSON. A guest?—Is not to-night the third night after
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
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
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-
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.
NILS LYKKE. I understand. The Count was the peasants’ rallying- point. Were the tidings of his death to spread, they would fall asunder,—and the whole project would come to nought.
NILS STENSSON. Ay, maybe so; I know little of such matters.
NILS LYKKE. But how came you to give yourself out for the Count?
NILS STENSSON. How came I to——? Nay, what know I? Many’s the mad prank I’ve hit on in my day. And yet ’twas not I hit on it neither; wherever I appeared in the Dales, the people crowded round me and greeted me as Count Sture. Deny it as I pleased, —’twas wasted breath. The Count had been there two years before, they said—and the veriest child knew me again. Well, be it so, thought I; never again will you be a Count in this life; why not try what ’tis like for once?
NILS LYKKE. Well,—and what did you more?
NILS STENSSON. I? I ate and drank and took my ease. Pity ’twas that I must away again so soon. But when I set forth across the frontier—ha-ha-ha—I promised them I would soon be back with three or four thousand men—I know not how many I said—and then we would lay on in earnest.
NILS LYKKE. And you did not bethink you that you were acting
NILS STENSSON. Ay, afterwards; but then, to be sure, ’twas too
NILS LYKKE. It grieves me for you, my young friend; but you will soon come to feel the effects of your folly. Let me tell you that you are pursued. A troop of Swedish men-at-arms is out after you.
NILS STENSSON. After me? Ha-ha-ha. Nay, that is rare! And when they come and think they have Count Sture in their clutches— ha-ha-ha!
NILS LYKKE (gravely). ——Then farewell to your life.
NILS STENSSON. My——? But I am not Count Sture.
NILS LYKKE. You have called the people to arms. You have given seditious promises, and raised troubles in the land.
NILS STENSSON. Ay, but ’twas only in jest!
NILS LYKKE. King Gustav will scarce look on the matter in that light.
NILS STENSSON. Truly, there is something in what you say. To think I could be such a madman—— —— Well well, I’m not a dead man yet! You will protect me; and besides—the men-at-arms can scarce be at my heels.
NILS LYKKE. But what else have you to tell me?
NILS STENSSON. I? Nothing. When once I have given you the packet——
NILS LYKKE (unguardedly). The packet?
NILS STENSSON. Ay, sure you know——
NILS LYKKE. Ah, right, right; the papers from Peter Kanzler——
NILS STENSSON. See, here they all are.
(Takes out a packet from inside his doublet, and hands it to
NILS LYKKE (aside). Letters and papers for Olaf Skaktavl.
(To NILS STENSSON.)
The packet is open, I see. ‘Tis like you know what it contains?
NILS STENSSON. No, good sir; I am ill at reading writing; and
for reason good.
NILS LYKKE. I understand; you have given most care to the trade of arms. (Sits down by the table on the right, and runs through the papers.) Aha! Here is light enough and to spare on what is brewing. This small letter tied with a silken thread—— (Examines the address.) This too for Olaf Skaktavl. (Opens the letter, and glances through its contents.) From Peter Kanzler. I thought as much. (Reads under his breath.) “I am hard bested, for——; ay, sure enough; here it stands,—”Young Count Sture has been gathered to his fathers, even at the time fixed for the revolt to break forth”—”—but all may yet be made good——” What now? (Reads on in astonishment.) “You must know, then, Olaf Skaktavl, that the young man who brings you this letter is a son of——” Heaven and earth—can it be so?—Ay, by Christ’s blood, even so ’tis written! (Glances at NILS STENSSON.) Can he be——? Ah, if it were so! (Reads on.) “I have nurtured him since he was a year old; but up to this day I have ever refused to give him back, trusting to have in him a sure hostage for Inger Gyldenlove’s faithfulness to us and to our friends. Yet in that respect he has been of but little service to us. You may marvel that I told you not this secret when you were with me here of late; therefore will I confess freely that I feared you might seize upon him, even as I had done. But now, when you have seen Lady Inger, and have doubtless assured yourself how loath she is to have a hand in our undertaking, you will see that ’tis wisest to give her back her own as soon as may be. Well might it come to pass that in her joy and security and thankfulness—” —— “—that is now our last hope.” (Sits for awhile as though struck dumb with surprise; then exclaims in a low voice:) Aha,—what a letter! Gold would not buy it!
NILS STENSSON. ‘Tis plain I have brought you weighty tidings.
Ay, ay,—Peter Kanzler has many irons in the fire, folk say.
NILS LYKKE (to himself). What to do with all this? A thousand
paths are open to me—— Suppose I——? No, ’twere to risk too
much. But if—ah, if I——? I will venture it.
(Tears the letter across, crumples up the pieces, and hides
them inside his doublet; puts back the other papers into
the packet, which he sticks inside his belt; rises and says:)
A word, my friend!
NILS STENSSON. Well—your looks say that the game goes bravely.
NILS LYKKE. Ay, by my soul it does. You have given me a hand
of nought but court cards,—queens and knaves and——
NILS STENSSON. But what of me, that have brought all these good
tidings? Have I nought more to do?
NILS LYKKE. You? Ay, that have you. You belong to the game.
You are a king—and king of trumps too.
NILS STENSSON. I a king? Oh, now I understand; you are thinking
of my exaltation——
NILS LYKKE. Your exaltation?
NILS STENSSON. Ay; that which you foretold me, if King Gustav’s men got me in their clutches——
(Makes a motion to indicate hanging.)
NILS LYKKE. True enough;—but let that trouble you no more. It now lies with yourself alone whether within a month you shall have the hempen noose or a chain of gold about your neck.
NILS STENSSON. A chain of gold? And it lies with me?
(NILS LYKKE nods.)
NILS STENSSON. Why then, the devil take musing! Do you tell me what I am to do.
NILS LYKKE. I will. But first you must swear me a solemn oath that no living creature in the wide world shall know what I am to tell you.
NILS STENSSON. Is that all? You shall have ten oaths if you will.
NILS LYKKE. Not so lightly, young Sir! It is no jesting matter.
NILS STENSSON. Well well; I am grave enough.
NILS LYKKE. In the Dales you called yourself a Count’s son;—
is’t not so?
NILS STENSSON. Nay—begin you now on that again? Have I not
made free confession——
NILS LYKKE. You mistake me. What you said in the Dales was the
NILS STENSSON. The truth? What mean you by that? Tell me but——!
NILS LYKKE. First your oath! The holiest, the most inviolable
you can swear.
NILS STENSSON. That you shall have. Yonder on the wall hangs
the picture of the Holy Virgin——
NILS LYKKE. The Holy Virgin has grown impotent of late. Know
you not what the monk of Wittenberg maintains?
NILS STENSSON. Fie! how can you heed the monk of Wittenberg?
Peter Kanzler says he is a heretic.
NILS LYKKE. Nay, let us not wrangle concerning him. Here can I show you a saint will serve full well to make oath to. (Points to a picture hanging on one of the panels.) Come hither,—swear that you will be silent till I myself release your tongue—silent, as you hope for Heaven’s salvation for yourself and for the man whose picture hangs there.
NILS STENSSON (approaching the picture). I swear it—so help
me God’s holy word!
(Falls back a step in amazement.)
But—Christ save me——!
NILS LYKKE. What now?
NILS STENSSON. The picture——! Sure ’tis myself!
NILS LYKKE. ‘Tis old Sten Sture, even as he lived and moved in his youthful years.
NILS STENSSON. Sten Sture!—And the likeness——? And—said you not I spoke the truth, when I called myself a Count’s son? Was’t not so?
NILS LYKKE. So it was.
NILS STENSSON. Ah, I have it, I have it! I am——
NILS LYKKE. You are Sten Sture’s son, good Sir.
NILS STENSSON (with the quiet of amazement). I Sten Sture’s son!
NILS LYKKE. On the mother’s side too your blood is noble. Peter Kanzler spoke not the truth, if he said that a poor peasant woman was your mother.
NILS STENSSON. Oh strange, oh marvellous!—But can I believe——?
NILS LYKKE. You may believe all I tell you. But remember, all this will be merely your ruin, if you should forget what you swore to me by your father’s salvation.
NILS STENSSON. Forget it? Nay, that you may be sure I never shall.—But you to whom I have given my word,—tell me—who are you?
NILS LYKKE. My name is Nils Lykke.
NILS STENSSON (surprised). Nils Lykke? Surely not the Danish
NILS LYKKE. Even so.
NILS STENSSON. And it was you——? ‘Tis strange. How come you——?
NILS LYKKE. ——To be receiving missives from Peter Kanzler?
You marvel at that?
NILS STENSSON. I cannot deny it. He has ever named you as our
NILS LYKKE. And therefore you mistrust me?
NILS STENSSON. Nay, not wholly that; but—well, the devil take musing!
NILS LYKKE. Well said. Go but your own way, and you are as sure of the halter as you are of a Count’s title and a chain of gold if you trust to me.
NILS STENSSON. That will I. My hand upon it, dear Sir! Do you but help me with good counsel as long as there is need; when counsel gives place to blows I shall look to myself.
NILS LYKKE. It is well. Come with me now into yonder chamber, and I will tell you how all these matters stand, and what you have still to do.
(Goes out to the right.)
NILS STENSSON (with a glance at the picture). I Sten Sture’s son! Oh, marvellous as a dream—!
(Goes out after NILS LYKKE.)