[ALFHILD. Later HEMMING, INGEBORG, and others at various times.]
ALFHILD. [Remains lying motionless for a long time with her face concealed in her hands. At length she half raises herself, looks about bewildered, rises, and speaks with quiet broken laughter.]
One falcon the heavens with plenty may bless, Another must suffer great want and distress! One bird wears a coat of feathers so gay, Another must live contented with gray! I have known that tears are a balm to the soul, When the world is nothing but gall; But now I have suffered such sorrow and dole, I could laugh myself dead at the thought of it all!
[It is now quite dark. The windows of the church are being lighted up. ALFHILD goes over to the house and listens while the following song is heard faintly within.]
CHORUS OF WEDDING GUESTS.
Hail to the bridegroom and hail to the bride! There's feasting and joy everywhere. Lord Olaf, all hail! a knight who can ride, And Ingeborg a lady so fair!
HEMMING. [Steals in from the left during the song.] The horse stands saddled and ready! Now a secret sign to Ingeborg and then away!
[He goes out to the right to the rear of the house.]
His health from the silvery cup they drink, The bride sits proudly enthroned at his side; The candles of wax on the altar now wink, Soon out to the church they will ride! Within at the banquet sit host and guest And laugh as they bandy the merry jest! But here I must wander alone in the night, Alas, they have all forsaken me quite! Olaf! The storm is rending my hair! The rain beats against me wherever I fare! Olaf, Olaf! Can you see me thus languish Beneath this unspeakable torture and anguish?
But rain or storm is a trifling thing, 'Tis as nothing beside the poignant sting I suffer within my breast.— My home and my father and all the rest I left for Olaf, the friend I loved best! He swore to me then I should be his bride! And I came—God's love I felt in my soul; But he drove me away, he thrust me aside; So loudly he laughed when I writhed in dole! While they banquet within, like a dog I must stay Out here in the storm. Hence,—hence I will go!
[Starts to go, but stops.]
But I have not the power, I cannot go away; Here must I stay and suffer my woe! 'Tis little the flowers out there in the wood Can tear themselves up from the ground! And Olaf, whether he be false or good,— About him my roots I have wound.
[Pause.—The HOUSE SERVANTS come with torches from the left.]
ALFHILD. [As if seized by an uneasy presentiment.] Whither do you go? Whither, whither? What is going to happen?
A SERVANT. Why, see, see! It is Alfhild; she is still here!
ALFHILD. O, tell me this! What is going to happen,—why all these preparations?
THE SERVANT. The wedding! Wouldn’t you care to see it?
ALFHILD. [In feverish anxiety.] The wedding! O, no, no! Put it off, only till tomorrow! If the wedding is held, then is everything over with me, I well know!
THE SERVANT. Postpone it! No, Alfhild! ‘Tis not, I’m afraid, the wish of bridegroom or bride!
ANOTHER. Think for a moment! Were you yourself but the bride, you surely would not want to wait.
THE FIRST SERVANT. Now we go down to the gate at the church to light the way with red bridal lights when the procession starts from the house.
THE SECOND SERVANT. Come along with us, Alfhild! You shall also have a torch to carry!
SEVERAL. Yes, yes, you must come! It is Lord Olaf’s day of glory!
ALFHILD. [Takes one of the torches.] Yes, yes, I will! As the most humble in the row I shall stand down there, and then, when he sees me, when I ask of him, when I remind him of everything he has promised and sworn,—O, tell me, tell me, do you not think that he will be kind to me again? Do you think so? O, tell me you do! Say that you think so!
THE SERVANTS. Aha,—for certain he will; now come!
[They go out to the right to the rear of the house.]
ALFHILD. [Bursts into tears.] They mock at me, laugh at me,—one and all! So harsh is not even the mountain wall; The moss thereon is permitted to grow; There's no one so kind to me here! I—I must go! [Thunder and lightning.] ALFHILD. Ah, heaven itself is angry and grim, It pours out its wrath on my wretched head; But flash there is none to annihilate him Who craftily tricked me in all that he said! [The tones of the organ are heard from within the church.] ALFHILD. O, listen! I hear God's angel choir! 'Tis Olaf to the altar they call! And I must stand here in my ragged attire And suffer outside the church-hall! [She swings the torch high in the air.] ALFHILD. No, no, that I will not, thou all-highest God! O, tempt me no longer, forswear thee I may! [She is silent and listens to the organ music.] ALFHILD. God's angels are singing! From under the sod The dead they were able to carol away! O, my bosom is bursting with woe! [She kneels and faces the church.] ALFHILD. Cease, cease your melodies tender and sweet! O, cease your singing; be kind, I entreat! Or Olaf to the altar will go! [Whispering and in the greatest apprehension.] ALFHILD. Be still! O, be still! For a little while yet! He is lulled in a sleep that will make him forget! O, waken him not, else straight he will hie To the church—and then, alas, I must die! [The organ grows louder through the storm. ALFHILD springs up, beside herself with despair.] The angels of God have forsaken me quite! They mock at my anguish and woe! They conjure him forth;—he is now in their might! Ah, if here in the dark, dark night I must go, Your bridal chamber at least shall be light! [She throws the torch in through the opening in the gable and falls down on the ground.—INGEBORG and HEMMING come hurriedly from behind the house.] HEMMING. Now it is time. The horse stands saddled behind the store house.
INGEBORG. And all the servants are down at the church, are they not?
HEMMING. Aye, rest you assured; and in the banquet house I have barred every shutter and door with heavy iron rings; no one can get out!
INGEBORG. Away, then! Up to the valley which Alfhild has told of!
HEMMING. Yes, up there! There no one will seek us!
[They rush out to the left.—ALFHILD continues to lie motionless for some time. Suddenly cries and commotion are hear in the bridal house; the flames break out through the roof.]
ALFHILD. [Jumps up in despair.]
It burns!—Aha,—I remember! 'T was here Too dark for my soul—it filled me with fear! Olaf, before it was you who smiled, Now it is Alfhild, so gay and so wild!— In the bridal house there is anguish and gloom, The bride is burning on the arm of the groom!
[The HOUSE SERVANTS rush in one by one without torches and stand as if turned to stone. OLAF comes into view up in the opening, which he seeks to widen with desperate efforts.]
Alfhild! 'Tis you! So might I have known! If only from out of this danger you save me, 'T is silver and gold you shall hereafter own!
ALFHILD. [With wild laughter.]
Too well I remember the promise you gave me! Now ride to the church with minstrel and priest! Now hold your wedding,—forget all the rest! Alfhild has honored you as she knew best,— The torch she has swung at your bridal feast!
[She rushes out at the back. The SERVANTS hasten to lend their help; a part of the roof falls in; OLAF is seen high amidst the flames as the curtain falls.]