(The room at Östråt, 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 Gyldenlöve — 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 Gyldenlöve — 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. Östråt 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.
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 Gyldenlöve — 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 Östråt. 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 Östråt.
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 Östråt 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 Östråt 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 Östråt 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 Östråt 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 Östråt ——
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 Gyldenlöve’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 Östråt, you say. Ay, but how does that profit me? Be sure Lady Inger Gyldenlöve 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 Östråt 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 Gyldenlöve 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 Östråt, 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 Östråt 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.) Östråt. ’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 Östråt 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 Gyldenlöve 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 Östråt!
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 Östråt.
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 Gyldenlöve — 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-inlaw ——
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 Östråt?
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 Östråt — 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 Gyldenlöve’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 Gyldenlöve 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 Östråt. 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 Gyldenlöve ——
(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 Östråt 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 Gyldenlöve — 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
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51