[The Preceding. INGEBORG and the Bridesmaids come over the bridge.]
INGEBORG. [Still in the background.] Why do you run away from me? What good will that do? There can be no wedding anyway before I come.
INGEBORG. [Notices LADY KIRSTEN and her retinue.] Lady Kirsten! you here? Well, I am glad of that.
[Casually to the retinue.]
[To LADY KIRSTEN as she looks about.]
LADY KIRSTEN. Olaf!
LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside.] Woe is me! now it will out.
ARNE. Yes, Olaf, indeed! Ha, ha, ha! I must have been blind; ’tis well the bride sees better than I; for I have not noticed that the bridegroom is lacking; but now I understand very well how it comes that we meet here,—it is he who is causing—
LADY KIRSTEN. He—you mean—you know, that—
ARNE. I mean it has grown tedious for him down there in the festive hall. Aye, aye, I remember now my own wedding day; at that time I also was young. He has had a great desire to meet the bride, and accordingly he prevailed upon you to go with him.
LADY KIRSTEN. He greatly desired, to be sure, to meet the bride, but—
INGEBORG. But what?
LADY KIRSTEN. Olaf is not here with us.
HEMMING. [Approaches.] Not with you!
ARNE. And why not?
INGEBORG. Speak, I beg you!
LADY KIRSTEN. [Embarrassed and jestingly.] Truly, it appears the bride also is anxious! Come along, come along with me down to the bridal hall; there, I imagine he will be found.
HEMMING. [Whispering to ARNE.] Master! remember I gave you warning.
ARNE. [Suspiciously to LADY KIRSTEN.] First answer me; then shall we follow.
LADY KIRSTEN. Well then,—he is ridden out to the hunt.
LADY KIRSTEN. [As she is about to go.] Come, ’tis fast growing dark.
INGEBORG. To the hunt?
LADY KIRSTEN. Aye! Does that surprise you? You know the song of course: "The knight likes to ride in the forest around, To test his horse and his hound!"
INGEBORG. Does he think so little of his young bride that he uses the wedding days to go hunting wild animals?
LADY KIRSTEN. Now you are jesting. Come along, come along!
ARNE. [Who has in the meantime kept his eye on LADY KIRSTEN and her retinue.] No, wait, Lady Kirsten! I hardly dare measure myself in wisdom with you, but one thing clearly I see, and that is that you are concealing your real errand up here.
LADY KIRSTEN. [Confused.] I? How can you think that?
ARNE. From one thing and another I can see you are concealing something. You are strangely downcast, and yet you pretend to be playful in spirit; but it won’t do—
LADY KIRSTEN. ‘Tis nothing new for you to think ill of me and mine.
ARNE. Perhaps; but never did I do so without just cause.
ARNE. [Bursting out.] As sure as I live, there is something you are hiding from me.
LADY KIRSTEN. [Aside.] What will be the end of this?
ARNE. I let myself be fooled by you, but now I see clearly enough. You said you came to greet me at the boundary. How did you know we took the way over the mountain? It was Ingeborg who suggested this way just as we left Guldvik, and no one could have informed you about it.
ARNE. [When LADY KIRSTEN does not answer.] You are silent, as I might have known.
HEMMING. [In an undertone.] You see, master! Will you now believe what I said?
ARNE. [Likewise.] Hush!
LADY KIRSTEN. [Who has in the meantime composed herself.] Well and good, Lord Arne! I will be honest with you; let chance take care of the rest.
ARNE. Then tell us—
INGEBORG. What mean you?
LADY KIRSTEN. The agreement between us is sealed with word and with hand,—many honorable men whom I see here can bear witness to that: Olaf, my son, was to wed your daughter; tomorrow at my house the wedding was to be held—
ARNE. [Impatiently.] Yes, yes!
LADY KIRSTEN. Dishonor to him who breaks his word, but—
ARNE AND THE GUESTS.. What then! Speak out!
LADY KIRSTEN. There can be no wedding tomorrow as we had agreed.
ARNE. No wedding?
LADY KIRSTEN. It must be postponed.
HEMMING. Ah, shame and disgrace!
INGEBORG. No wedding!
ARNE. Cursed be you that you play me false!
THE GUESTS. [Threatening, as several of them draw their knives and rush in on Lady Kirsten’s people.] Revenge! Revenge on the house of Liljekrans!
LADY KIRSTEN’S MEN. [Raise their axes and prepare to defend themselves.] Strike too! Down with the men of Guldvik!
LADY KIRSTEN. [Throws herself between the contending parties.] Stop, stop; I pray you, stop! Lord Arne! hear me to the end ere you judge my conduct.
ARNE. [Who has tried to quiet his kinsmen, approaches LADY KIRSTEN and speaks in a low tone as he tries to overcome his inner agitation, which is nevertheless apparent.] Forgive me, Lady Kirsten! I was too quick in my wrath. Had I stopped to think I might surely have known the whole was a jest on your part; I beg you, do not contradict me, it must be so! No wedding tomorrow,—how could such a thing happen! If it is ale and mead you lack, or if you need silver or embroidered linens, then come you to me.
LADY KIRSTEN. It is no poor man’s house that your daughter is marrying into, Lord Arne! Do you but come to the wedding with all your kinsmen and friends, aye, come with three times as many if you wish,—in my home you shall find plenty of room and banquet fare, as much as you may desire. Think not for a moment that such an inglorious reason could stand in my way.
ARNE. You have changed your mind, perchance?
LADY KIRSTEN. Nor that either! If I have given my word, then am I likewise ready to keep it, today just as well as tomorrow; for such was ever the custom and rule in my family. But in this instance it is not in my power; one there is lacking—
INGEBORG. One! Whom? Surely I should think that when the bride is ready,—
LADY KIRSTEN. For a wedding two people are needed, the groom as well as the bride—
ARNE AND THE GUESTS. Olaf!
INGEBORG. My betrothed!
LADY KIRSTEN. Yes, he, my son—this night he is fled from his home and his bride.
ARNE. Fled! He!
LADY KIRSTEN. As I hope for the grace of heaven, I have no hand therein.
ARNE. [With suppressed exasperation.] And the wedding was to be tomorrow! My daughter has put on her golden attire; invitations I have sent around in the district; my kinsmen and friends come from far away to attend the festive day.
ARNE. [Flaring up.] Ah, take you good care, if Arne of Guldvik is held up to scorn before his neighbors; it shall profit you little,—that I solemnly swear!
LADY KIRSTEN. You reason unjustly, if you think—
ARNE. ‘Tis not, Lady Kirsten, for you to say so! We two have an old account to settle; it is not the first time that you set your cunning traps for me and mine. The race of Guldvik has long had to suffer, when you and your kinsmen plotted deception and guile. Power we had,—we had wealth and property too; but you were too crafty for us. You knew how to lure us with wily words and ready speech,—those are wares I am little able to reckon as I should.
LADY KIRSTEN. Lord Arne! Hear me, I pray!
ARNE. [Continuing.] Now I see clearly that I have behaved like the man who built his house on the ice-floe: a thaw came on and down he went to the bottom. But you shall have little joy of this. I shall hold you to account, Lady Kirsten! You must answer for your son; you it was who made love for him, and your affair it will be to keep the word you have given me! A fool I was, aye, tenfold a fool, that I put my faith in your glib tongue. Those who wished me well gave me warning; my enemies made me an object of scorn; but little heed gave I to either. I put on my gala attire; kinsmen and friends I gathered together; with song and laughter we set out for the festive hall, and then,—the bridegroom has fled.
INGEBORG. Never will I marry one who holds me so lightly.
ARNE. Be still!
HEMMING. [Softly to ARNE.] Mistress Ingeborg is right; best it is you break the agreement.
ARNE. Be still, I say!
LADY KIRSTEN. [To ARNE.] You may well be rilled with wrath and resentment; but if you think I meant to deceive you, you do me the greatest injustice. You think we are playing a game of deception with you. But tell me,—what would tempt me and my son to such a thing? Does he not love Ingeborg? Where could he choose him a better bride? Is she not fair and lithe? Is her father not rich and mighty? Is not her family mentioned with honor as far as it is known?
ARNE. But how then could Olaf—
LADY KIRSTEN. The lot I have suffered is worse than you think. You will pity me instead of growing angry when you have heard.—Since the sun rose this morning I have wandered up here to find him again.
ARNE. Up here?
LADY KIRSTEN. Yes, up here; I must tell you—you’ll be frightened—but nevertheless,—Olaf is bewitched in the mountain!
GUESTS. Bewitched in the mountain!
INGEBORG. [At the same time.] Deliver me, God!
ARNE. What say you, Lady Kirsten?
LADY KIRSTEN. He is bewitched in the mountain! Nothing else can it be.—Three weeks ago, after the betrothal feast at Guldvik, he did not come home till far into the next day. Pale he was and moody and quiet as I had never seen him before. And thus the days went by; he spoke but little; he lay in his bed most of the time and turned his face to the wall; but when evening came on, it seemed a strange uneasiness seized him; he saddled his horse and rode away, far up the mountain side; but no one dared follow him, and no one knew where he went beyond that. Believe me, ’tis evil spirits that have charmed his mind; great is the power they wield in here; from the time the terrible plague overran the country it has never been quite safe in the mountain here; there is scarcely a day goes by but the chalet girls hear strange playing and music, although there is no living soul in the place whence it comes.
ARNE. Bewitched in the mountain! Could such a thing be possible?
LADY KIRSTEN. Would to God it were not; but I can no longer doubt it. Three days is it now since he last was at home.
ARNE. And you have seen none who knows where he is?
LADY KIRSTEN. Alas, no, it is not so easy. Up here a hunter yesterday saw him; but he was wild and shy as the deer; he had picked all sorts of flowers, and these he scattered before him wherever he went, and all the while he whispered strange words. As soon as I heard of this, I set out with my people, but we have found nothing.
INGEBORG. You met none who could tell you—
LADY KIRSTEN. You know of course the mountain-side is desolate.
ARNE. [As he spies THORGJERD, who rises from the river.] Here comes one will I ask.
HEMMING. [Apprehensively.] Master! Master!
ARNE. What now?
HEMMING. Let him go! Do you not see who it is?
THE GUESTS AND LADY KIRSTEN’S PEOPLE. [Whispering among themselves.] Thorgjerd the fiddler! The crazy Thorgjerd!
INGEBORG. He has learned the nixie’s songs.
HEMMING. Let him go, let him go!
ARNE. No,—not even were he the nixie himself—