[The Preceding. LADY KIRSTEN, OLAF, INGEBORG, GUESTS, and SERVANTS and MAIDS enter gradually from the several sides.]
LADY KIRSTEN. [To herself.] I have not seen Olaf alone; but when I think it over, it is probably best that he know nothing about it until it is all over.
LADY KIRSTEN. [Softly, to HEMMING, who has been whispering with INGEBORG.] Well, Hemming! How do you think your master is disposed?
HEMMING. Alas, Lady Kirsten! I have but little hope unless you lend your aid.
LADY KIRSTEN. Aye, we’ll manage it all right.
[She mingles with the GUESTS.]
INGEBORG. [Softly, to HEMMING.] What do you mean? What blessed hope is it you are speaking of?
HEMMING. Alas, I hardly dare believe it myself; but Lady Kirsten means well by us. She will soon show you that—
INGEBORG. Hush! they are approaching.
OLAF. [In an undertone.] Tell me, mother! how goes it with her?
LADY KIRSTEN. Well enough, as I knew before.
OLAF. Then she knows how to comfort herself?
LADY KIRSTEN. [Smiling.] It seems so. Only wait! This very evening you shall know for certain.
OLAF. What do you mean?
LADY KIRSTEN. I mean that she is a sly witch. All her fair words have been deceitful wiles.
OLAF. No, no, mother!
LADY KIRSTEN. That we shall see! Alfhild is happy and gay,—so much I know.
OLAF. It were well for me if she were!
LADY KIRSTEN. [Loudly and clearly.] Lord Arne of Guldvik! Now is the hour come at length which we have all, I imagine, been looking forward to.
HEMMING. [Aside.] Now it begins!
LADY KIRSTEN. Soon will the church bestow its blessing on our children and unite them in a long and loving union.
HEMMING. [Aside, startled.] What now?
LADY KIRSTEN. The terms we have already agreed upon. But I suggest that we here once again seal them with hand and word.
HEMMING. [As before.] Heaven and earth! Is she trying to deceive me?
ARNE. That is not necessary; I stand by my word like an honorable man.
LADY KIRSTEN. That I well know, Lord Arne! but it will take but a moment. First of all, there shall be an end for all time to every quarrel and dispute between our families,—and as for the damages and injuries which our old disagreements have caused on either side, no one shall demand compensation for them; each must manage them as best he knows how. We promise that, do we not?
ARNE. That we promise!
[General shaking of hands among the relatives of the bridal couple.]
HEMMING. [Softly.] Curses upon you; you lied to me shamefully!
LADY KIRSTEN. Then we mention again, what we are already agreed upon, that the boundary line between Lord Arne’s domains and mine shall be moved as far in upon his land as good and impartial men may judge to be fitting and just.
ARNE. Yes, yes, I suppose it must be so!
LADY KIRSTEN. That we promise, then?
THE GUESTS. That we promise!
[Shaking of hands as before.]
LADY KIRSTEN. Finally, Lord Arne shall give in the form of a dowry to his daughter as much silver, linen, and other furnishings as were named and agreed upon at the betrothal feast, all of which shall here be placed in my home from the day Mistress Ingeborg moves herein as my son’s lawful wife, which is tonight. On that we are agreed?
THE GUESTS. That we solemnly promise!
[Shaking of hands.]
LADY KIRSTEN. Then let the bride and bridegroom clasp hands and go to the banquet-table and thence to the church.
ARNE. [Aside.] Ah, Hemming can now see whether Lady Kirsten deceives me.
HEMMING. [Softly.] O, then it is all over for me; a fool I was to depend on her.
LADY KIRSTEN. But on this joyful day it is fitting that we make as many as possible happy. And therefore I have a request to make, Lord Arne!
ARNE. Speak forth! If I can I shall gladly comply.
HEMMING. [Aside.] What does she purpose now?
LADY KIRSTEN. There is still a young couple who would like to go to the altar this evening; from what I hear, they are agreed between themselves. The bride I shall take care of, but the bridegroom you must assist; it is Hemming, your page, and Alfhild!
INGEBORG. [With a cry.] Hemming!
OLAF. [Likewise.] Alfhild!
HEMMING. O, woe is me! Now I understand—
THE GUESTS. [At the same time.] Hemming and Alfhild! The mountain girl!
[Laughter and whispering.]
OLAF. Alfhild! You will marry her off to—No, no, it shall not be! Never, never!
LADY KIRSTEN. Be still!—Olaf, my son; be still, I beg you!
ARNE. [To himself.] What’s this! Yes, truly, then Hemming was right; there is something between Olaf and Alfhild.
ARNE. [Whispering.] Aye, Lady Kirsten! I see your scheme. Now I know why Olaf wandered three days in the mountain, and now you intend to make use of Hemming to be rid of her. Ha, ha!
LADY KIRSTEN. [With forced composure.] Lord Arne! how can you believe such a thing?
ARNE. [In a low tone.] O, I see clearly! Now I should think I had very good reason to break the agreement.
LADY KIRSTEN. [Softly and frightened.] Break the agreement! I beg of you! Will you put us all to shame?
[They talk together softly.]
HEMMING. [To INGEBORG, with whom he has in the meantime been whispering.] That is all there is to it, I swear. Lady Kirsten and I have not understood each other.
INGEBORG. Well, then decline! You shall! I command you.
HEMMING. No, no! I dare not; she will then see that it was you I was thinking of.
INGEBORG. Good; then I shall.
INGEBORG. [Aloud.] Hemming shall not go to the altar with Alfhild;—he is too good to marry another man’s darling!
OLAF. [With a cry.] For shame!
THE GUESTS. Darling!
ARNE. [To INGEBORG.] What are you saying?
LADY KIRSTEN. Heaven protect us!
OLAF. Cursed be my soul! She is put to shame!
INGEBORG. Yes, loudly I proclaim it: she is another man’s darling. Let him gainsay it who dares.
ARNE. [Aside.] What is the matter with her?
LADY KIRSTEN. [Softly.] So that’s the way it is! She then,—she it is who cares for Hemming!
LADY KIRSTEN. [Softly and clearly, to ARNE.] Do you now intend to break the agreement? You can now see for yourself from your daughter’s conduct what reason I had to get Hemming married!
ARNE. [Disconcerted.] My daughter! Could you imagine that she—
LADY KIRSTEN. You need not pretend! Ingeborg has a fancy for your house-carl; now I should think I had good reason to break our agreement.
ARNE. Break, break—! What are you thinking of! To bring on me such disgrace!
LADY KIRSTEN. [Mocking.] Yes,—otherwise you would do it!
ARNE. [Quickly.] No, no, I have reconsidered; it is best we both keep still!
LADY KIRSTEN. [To herself.] See, now have I won! I know Olaf; a woman so scorned will never tempt him!