(The Banquet Hall, as before, but without the supper-table.)
(Biörn, the major-domo, enters carrying a lighted branch-candlestick, and lighting in Lady Inger and Olaf Skaktavl by the second door, on the left. Lady Inger has a bundle of papers in her hand.)
Lady Inger. (to Biörn). And you are sure my daughter spoke with the knight, here in the hall?
Biörn. (putting down the branch-candlestick on the table on the left). Sure as may be. I met her even as she stepped into the passage.
Lady Inger. And she seemed greatly moved? Said you not so?
Biörn. She looked all pale and disturbed. I asked if she were sick; she answered not, but said: “Go to mother and tell her the knight sets forth ere daybreak; if she have letters or messages for him, beg her not to delay him needlessly.” And then she added somewhat that I heard not rightly.
Lady Inger. Did you not hear it at all?
Biörn. It sounded to me as though she said:—“I almost fear he has already stayed too long at Östråt.”
Lady Inger. And the knight? Where is he?
Biörn. In his chamber belike, in the gate-wing.
Lady Inger. It is well. What I have to send by him is ready. Go to him and say I await him here in the hall.
(Biörn goes out to the right.)
Olaf Skaktavl. Know you, Lady Inger — ’tis true that in such things I am blind as a mole; yet seems it to me as though — hm!
Lady Inger. Well?
Olaf Skaktavl. —— As though Nils Lykke loved your daughter.
Lady Inger. Then it seems you are not so blind after all; I am the more deceived if you be not right. Marked you not at supper how eagerly he listened to the least word I let fall concerning Elina?
Olaf Skaktavl. He forgot both food and drink.
Lady Inger. And our secret business as well.
Olaf Skaktavl. Ay, and what is more — the papers from Peter Kanzler.
Lady Inger. And from all this you conclude ——?
Olaf Skaktavl. From all this I chiefly conclude that, as you know Nils Lykke and the name he bears, especially as concerns women ——
Lady Inger. —— I should be right glad to know him outside my gates?
Olaf Skaktavl. Ay; and that as soon as may be.
Lady Inger. (smiling). Nay — the case is just the contrary, Olaf Skaktavl!
Olaf Skaktavl. How mean you?
Lady Inger. If things be as we both think, Nils Lykke must in nowise depart from Östråt yet awhile.
Olaf Skaktavl. (looks at her with disapproval). Are you beginning on crooked courses again, Lady Inger? What scheme have you now in your mind? Something that may increase your own power at the cost of our ——
Lady Inger. Oh this blindness, that makes you all unjust to me! I see well you think I purpose to make Nils Lykke my daughter’s husband. Were such a thought in my mind, why had I refused to take part in what is afoot in Sweden, when Nils Lykke and all the Danish crew seem willing to support it?
Olaf Skaktavl. Then if it be not your wish to win him and bind him to you — what would you with him?
Lady Inger. I will tell you in few words. In a letter to me, Nils Lykke has spoken of the high fortune it were to be allied to our house; and I do not say but, for a moment, I let myself think of the matter.
Olaf Skaktavl. Ay, see you!
Lady Inger. To wed Nils Lykke to one of my house were doubtless a great step toward reconciling many jarring forces in our land.
Olaf Skaktavl. Meseems your daughter Merete’s marriage with Vinzents Lunge might have taught you the cost of such a step as this. Scarce had my lord gained a firm footing in our midst, when he began to make free with both our goods and our rights ——
Lady Inger. I know it even too well, Olaf Skaktavl! But times there be when my thoughts are manifold and strange. I cannot impart them fully either to you or to any one else. Often I know not what were best for me. And yet — a second time to choose a Danish lord for a son-inlaw — nought but the uttermost need could drive me to that resource; and heaven be praised — things have not yet come to that!
Olaf Skaktavl. I am no wiser than before, Lady Inger; — why would you keep Nils Lykke at Östråt?
Lady Inger. (softly). Because I owe him an undying hate. Nils Lykke has done me deadlier wrong than any other man. I cannot tell you wherein it lies; but I shall never rest till I am avenged on him. See you not now? Say that Nils Lykke were to love my daughter — as meseems were like enough. I will persuade him to remain here; he shall learn to know Elina well. She is both fair and wise. — Ah if he should one day come before me, with hot love in his heart, to beg for her hand! Then — to chase him away like a hound; to drive him off with jibes and scorn; to make it known over all the land that Nils Lykke had come a-wooing to Östråt in vain! I tell you I would give ten years of my life but to see that day!
Olaf Skaktavl. In faith and truth, Inger Gyldenlöve — is this your purpose towards him?
Lady Inger. This and nought else, as sure as God lives! Trust me, Olaf Skaktavl, I mean honestly by my countrymen; but I am in no way my own master. Things there be that must be kept hidden, or ’twere my death-blow. But let me once be safe on that side, and you shall see if I have forgotten the oath I swore by Knut Alfson’s corpse.
Olaf Skaktavl. (shakes her by the hand). Thanks for those words! I am loath indeed to think evil of you. — Yet, touching your design towards this knight, methinks ’tis a dangerous game you would play. What if you had misreckoned? What if your daughter ——? ’Tis said no woman can stand against this subtle devil.
Lady Inger. My daughter? Think you that she ——? Nay, have no fear of that; I know Elina better. All she has heard of his renown has but made her hate him the more. You saw with your own eyes ——
Olaf Skaktavl. Ay, but — a woman’s mind is shifting ground to build on. ’Twere best you looked well before you.
Lady Inger. That will I, be sure; I will watch them narrowly. But even were he to succeed in luring her into his toils, I have but to whisper two words in her ear, and ——
Olaf Skaktavl. What then?
Lady Inger. —— She will shrink from him as though he were sent by the foul Tempter himself. Hist, Olaf Skaktavl! Here he comes. Now be cautious.
(Nils Lykke enters by the foremost door on the right.)
Nils Lykke. (approaches Lady Inger courteously). My noble hostess has summoned me.
Lady Inger. I have learned through my daughter that you are minded to leave us to-night.
Nils Lykke. Even so, to my sorrow; — since my business at Östråt is over.
Olaf Skaktavl. Not before I have the papers.
Nils Lykke. True, true. I had well-nigh forgotten the weightiest part of my errand. ’Twas the fault of our noble hostess. With such pleasant skill did she keep her guests in talk at the table ——
Lady Inger. That you no longer remembered what had brought you hither? I rejoice to hear it; For that was my design. Methought that if my guest, Nils Lykke, were to feel at ease in Östråt, he must forget ——
Nils Lykke. What, lady?
Lady Inger. —— First of all his errand — and then all that had gone before it.
Nils Lykke. (to Olaf Skaktavl, while he takes out the packet and hands it to him). The papers from Peter Kanzler. You will find them a full account of our partizans in Sweden.
Olaf Skaktavl. It is well.
(Sits down by the table on the left, where he opens the packet and examines its contents.)
Nils Lykke. And now, Lady Inger Gyldenlöve — I know not that aught remains to keep me here.
Lady Inger. Were it things of state alone that had brought us together, you might be right. But I should be loath to think so.
Nils Lykke. You would say ——?
Lady Inger. I would say that ’twas not alone as a Danish Councillor or as the ally of Peter Kanzler that Nils Lykke came to be my guest. — Do I err in fancying that somewhat you may have heard down in Denmark may have made you desirous of closer acquaintance with the Lady of Östråt.
Nils Lykke. Far be it from me to deny ——
Olaf Skaktavl. (turning over the papers). Strange. No letter.
Nils Lykke. —— Lady Inger Gyldenlöve’s fame is all too widely spread that I should not long have been eager to see her face to face.
Lady Inger. So I thought. But what, then, is an hour’s jesting talk at the supper-table? Let us try to sweep away all that has separated us till now; it may well happen that the Nils Lykke I know may wipe out the grudge I bore the one I knew not. Prolong your stay here but a few days, Sir Councillor! I dare not persuade Olaf Skaktavl thereto, since his secret charge in Sweden calls him hence. But as for you, doubtless your sagacity has placed all things beforehand in such train, that your presence can scarce be needed. Trust me, your time shall not pass tediously with us; at least you will find me and my daughter heartily desirous to do all we may to pleasure you.
Nils Lykke. I doubt neither your goodwill toward me nor your daughter’s; of that I have had full proof. And you will doubtless allow that the necessity which calls for my presence elsewhere must be more vital, since, despite your kindness, I must declare my longer stay at Östråt impossible.
Lady Inger. Is it even so! — Know you, Sir Councillor, were I evilly disposed, I might fancy you had come to Östråt to try a fall with me, and that, having lost, you like not to linger on the battlefield among the witnesses of your defeat.
Nils Lykke. (smiling). There might be some show of reason for such a reading of the case; but sure it is that as yet I hold not the battle lost.
Lady Inger. Be that as it may, it might at any rate be retrieved, if you would tarry some days with us. You see yourself, I am still doubting and wavering at the parting of the ways — persuading my redoubtable assailant not to quit the field. — Well, to speak plainly, the thing is this: your alliance with the disaffected in Sweden still seems to me somewhat — ay, what shall I call it? — somewhat miraculous, Sir Councillor! I tell you this frankly, dear Sir! The thought that has moved the King’s Council to this secret step is in truth most politic; but it is strangely at variance with the deeds of certain of your countrymen in bygone years. Be not offended, then, if my trust in your fair promises needs to be somewhat strengthened ere I can place my whole welfare in your hands.
Nils Lykke. A longer stay at Östråt would scarce help towards that end; since I purpose not to make any further effort to shake your resolution.
Lady Inger. Then must I pity you from my heart. Ay, Sir Councillor —’tis true I stand here an unfriended widow; yet may you trust my word when I prophesy that this visit to Östråt will strew your future path with thorns.
Nils Lykke. (with a smile). Is that your prophecy, Lady Inger?
Lady Inger. Truly it is! What can one say dear Sir? ’Tis a calumnious age. Many a scurril knave will make scornful rhymes concerning you. Ere half a year is out, you will be all men’s fable; people will stop and gaze after you on the high roads; ’twill be: “Look, look; there rides Sir Nils Lykke, that fared north to Östråt to trap Inger Gyldenlöve, and was caught in his own nets.”— Nay nay, why so impatient, Sir Knight! ’Tis not that I think so; I do but forecast the thought of the malicious and evil-minded; and of them, alas! there are many. — Ay, ’tis shame; but so it is — you will reap nought but mockery — mockery, because a woman was craftier than you. “Like a cunning fox,” men will say, “he crept into Östråt; like a beaten hound he slunk away.” — And one thing more: think you not that Peter Kanzler and his friends will forswear your alliance, when ’tis known that I venture not to fight under a standard borne by you?
Nils Lykke. You speak wisely, lady! And so, to save myself from mockery — and further, to avoid breaking with all our dear friends in Sweden — I must needs ——
Lady Inger. (hastily). —— prolong your stay at Östråt?
Olaf Skaktavl. (who has been listening). He is in the trap!
Nils Lykke. No, my noble lady; — I must needs bring you to terms within this hour.
Lady Inger. But what if you should fail?
Nils Lykke. I shall not fail.
Lady Inger. You lack not confidence, it seems.
Nils Lykke. What shall we wager that you make not common cause with myself and Peter Kanzler?
Lady Inger. Östråt Castle against your knee-buckles.
Nils Lykke. (points to himself and cries:) Olaf Skaktavl — here stands the master of Östråt!
Lady Inger. Sir Councillor ——!
Nils Lykke. (to Lady Inger). I accept not the wager; for in a moment you will gladly give Östråt Castle, and more to boot, to be freed from the snare wherein not I but you are tangled.
Lady Inger. Your jest, Sir, grows a vastly merry one.
Nils Lykke. ’Twill be merrier yet — at least for me. You boast that you have overreached me. You threaten to heap on me all men’s scorn and mockery. Ah, beware that you stir not up my vengefulness; For with two words I can bring you to your knees at my feet.
Lady Inger. Ha-ha ——!
(Stops suddenly, as if struck by a foreboding.) And the two words, Nils Lykke? — the two words ——?
Nils Lykke. —— The secret of Sten Sture’s son and yours.
Lady Inger. (with a shriek). Oh, Jesus Christ ——!
Olaf Skaktavl. Inger Gyldenlöve’s son! What say you?
Lady Inger. (half kneeling to Nils Lykke). Mercy! oh be merciful ——!
Nils Lykke. (raises her up). Collect yourself, and let us talk calmly.
Lady Inger. (in a low voice, as though bewildered). Did you hear it, Olaf Skaktavl? or was it but a dream? Heard you what he said?
Nils Lykke. It was no dream, Lady Inger!
Lady Inger. And you know it! You — you! — Where is he then? Where have you got him? What would you do with him? (Screams.) Do not kill him, Nils Lykke! Give him back to me! Do not kill my child!
Olaf Skaktavl. Ah, I begin to understand ——
Lady Inger. And this fear —— this torturing dread! Through all these years it has been ever with me —— and then all fails at last, and I must bear this agony! — Oh Lord my God, is it right of thee? Was it for this thou gavest him to me?
(Controls herself and says with forced composure:) Nils Lykke — tell me one thing. Where have you got him? Where is he?
Nils Lykke. With his foster-father.
Lady Inger. Still with his foster-father. Oh, that merciless man ——! For ever to deny my prayers. — But it must not go on thus! Help me, Olaf Skaktavl!
Olaf Skaktavl. I?
Nils Lykke. There will be no need, if only you ——
Lady Inger. Hearken, Sir Councillor! What you know you shall know thoroughly. And you too, my old and faithful friend ——! Listen then. To-night you bade me call to mind that fatal day when Knut Alfson was slain at Oslo. You bade me remember the promise I made as I stood by his corpse amid the bravest men in Norway. I was scarce full-grown then; but I felt God’s strength in me, and methought, as many have thought since, that the Lord himself had set his mark on me and chosen me to fight in the forefront for my country’s cause. Was it vanity? Or was it a calling from on high? That I have never clearly known. But woe to him that has a great mission laid upon him. For seven years I fear not to say that I kept my promise faithfully. I stood by my countrymen in all their miseries. All my playmates were now wives and mothers. I alone could give ear to no wooer — not to one. That you know best, Olaf Skaktavl! Then I saw Sten Sture for the first time. Fairer man had never met my sight.
Nils Lykke. Ah, now it grows clear to me! Sten Sture was then in Norway on a secret errand. We Danes were not to know that he wished your friends well.
Lady Inger. Disguised as a mean serving-man he lived a whole winter under one roof with me. That winter I thought less and less of the country’s weal ——. So fair a man had I never seen, and I had lived well-nigh five-and-twenty years. Next autumn Sten Sture came once more; and when he departed again he took with him, in all secrecy, a little child. “Twas not folk’s evil tongues I feared; but our cause would have suffered had it got about the Sten Sture stood so near to me. The child was given to Peter Kanzler to rear. I waited for better times, that were soon to come. They never came. Sten Sture took a wife two years later in Sweden, and, dying, left a widow ——
Olaf Skaktavl. —— And with her a lawful heir to his name and rights.
Lady Inger. Time after time I wrote to Peter Kanzler and besought him to give me back my child. But he was ever deaf to my prayers. “Cast in your lot with us once for all,” he said, “and I send your son back to Norway; not before.” But ’twas even that I dared not do. We of the disaffected party were then ill regarded by many timorous folk. If these had got tidings of how things stood — oh, I know it! — to cripple the mother they had gladly meted to the child the fate that would have been King Christiern’s had he not saved himself by flight.1 But besides that, the Danes were active. They spared neither threats nor promises to force me to join them.
Olaf Skaktavl. ’Twas but reason. The eyes of all men were fixed on you as the vane that should show them how to shape their course.
Lady Inger. Then came Herlof Hyttefad’s revolt. Do you remember that time, Olaf Skaktavl? Was it not as though the whole land was filled with the sunlight of a new spring. Mighty voices summoned me to come forth; — yet I dared not. I stood doubting — far from the strife — in my lonely castle. At times it seemed as though the Lord God himself were calling me; but then would come the killing dread again to paralyse my will. “Who will win?” that was the question that was ever ringing in my ears. ’Twas but a short spring that had come to Norway. Herlof Hyttefad, and many more with him, were broken on the wheel during the months that followed. None could call me to account; yet there lacked not covert threats from Denmark. What if they knew the secret? At last methought they must know; I knew not how else to understand their words. ’Twas even in that time of agony that Gyldenlöve the High Steward, came hither and sought me in marriage. Let any mother that has feared for her child think herself in my place! — and homeless in the hearts of my countrymen. Then came the quiet years. There was now no whisper of revolt. Our masters might grind us down even as heavily as they listed. There were times when I loathed myself. What had I to do? Nought but to endure terror and scorn and bring forth daughters into the world. My daughters! God forgive me if I have had no mother’s heart towards them. My wifely duties were as serfdom to me; how then could I love my daughters? Oh, how different with my son! He was the child of my very soul. He was the one thing that brought to mind the time when I was a woman and nought but a woman — and him they had taken from me! He was growing up among strangers, who might sow in him the seed of destruction! Olaf Skaktavl — had I wandered like you on the lonely hills, hunted and forsaken, in winter and storm — if I had but held my child in my arms — trust me, I had not sorrowed and wept so sore as I have sorrowed and wept for him from his birth even to this hour.
Olaf Skaktavl. There is my hand. I have judged you too hardly, Lady Inger! Command me even as before; I will obey. — Ay, by all the saints, I know what it is to sorrow for a child.
Lady Inger. Yours was slain by bloody men. But what is death to the restless terror of all these long years?
Nils Lykke. Mark, then —’tis in your power to end this terror. You have but to reconcile the opposing parties, and neither will think of seizing on your child as a pledge of your faith.
Lady Inger. (to herself). This is the vengeance of Heaven. (Looks at him.) In one word, what do you demand?
Nils Lykke. I demand first that you shall call the people of the northern districts to arms, in support of the disaffected in Sweden.
Lady Inger. And next ——?
Nils Lykke. —— that you do your best to advance young Count Sture’s ancestral claim to the throne of Sweden.
Lady Inger. His? You demand that I——?
Olaf Skaktavl. (softly). It is the wish of many Swedes, and ‘twould serve our turn too.
Nils Lykke. You hesitate, lady? You tremble for your son’s safety. What better can you wish than to see his half-brother on the throne?
Lady Inger. (in thought). True — true ——
Nils Lykke. (looks at her sharply). Unless there be other plans afoot ——
Lady Inger. What mean you?
Nils Lykke. Inger Gyldenlöve might have a mind to be a — a kings mother.
Lady Inger. No, no! Give me back my child, and let who will have the crowns. But know you so surely that Count Sture is willing ——?
Nils Lykke. Of that he will himself assure you.
Lady Inger. Himself?
Nils Lykke. Even now.
Olaf Skaktavl. How now?
Lady Inger. What say you?
Nils Lykke. In one word, Count Sture is in Östråt.
Olaf Skaktavl. Here?
Nils Lykke. (to Lady Inger). You have doubtless been told that another rode through the gate along with me? The Count was my attendant.
Lady Inger. (softly). I am in his power. I have no longer any choice.
(Looks at him and says:) ’Tis well, Sir Councillor — I will assure you of my support.
Nils Lykke. In writing?
Lady Inger. As you will.
(Goes to the table on the left, sits down, and takes writing materials from the drawer.)
Nils Lykke. (aside, standing by the table on the right). At last, then, I win!
Lady Inger. (after a moment’s thought, turns suddenly in her chair to Olaf Skaktavl and whispers). Olaf Skaktavl — I am certain of it now — Nils Lykke is a traitor!
Olaf Skaktavl. (softly). What? You think ——?
Lady Inger. He has treachery in his heart
(Lays the paper before her and dips the pen in the ink.)
Olaf Skaktavl. And yet you would give him a written promise that may be your ruin?
Lady Inger. Hush; leave me to act. Nay, wait and listen first ——
(Talks with him in a whisper.)
Nils Lykke. (softly, watching them). Ah, take counsel together as much as ye list! All danger is over now. With her written consent in my pocket, I can denounce her when I please. A secret message to Jens Bielke this very night. — I tell him but the truth — that the young Count Sture is not at Östråt. And then tomorrow, when the road is open — to Trondhiem with my young friend, and thence by ship to Copenhagen with him as my prisoner. Once we have him safe in the castle-tower, we can dictate to Lady Inger what terms we will. And I——? Methinks after this the King will scarce place the French mission in other hands than mine.
Lady Inger. (still whispering to Olaf Skaktavl). Well, you understand me?
Olaf Skaktavl. Ay, fully. Let us risk it.
(Goes out by the back, to the right. Nils Stensson comes in by the first door on the right, unseen by Lady Inger, who has begun to write.)
Nils Stensson. (in a low voice). Sir Knight — Sir Knight!
Nils Lykke. (moves towards him). Rash boy! What would you here? Said I not you were to wait within until I called you?
Nils Stensson. How could I? Now you have told me that Inger Gyldenlöve is my mother, I thirst more than ever to see her face to face —— Oh, it is she! How proud and lofty she seems! Even thus did I ever picture her. Fear not, dear Sir, I shall do nought rashly. Since I have learnt this secret, I feel, as it were, older and wiser. I will no longer be wild and heedless; I will be even as other well-born youths. — Tell me — knows she that I am here? Surely you have prepared her?
Nils Lykke. Ay, sure enough; but ——
Nils Stensson. Well?
Nils Lykke. —— She will not own you for her son.
Nils Stensson. Will not own me? But she is my mother. — Oh, if there be no other way —(takes out a ring which he wears on a cord round his neck)— show her this ring. I have worn it since my earliest childhood; she must surely know its history.
Nils Lykke. Hide the ring, man! Hide it, I say! You mistake me. Lady Inger doubts not at all that you are her child; but — ay, look about you; look at all this wealth; look at these mighty ancestors and kinsmen whose pictures deck the walls both high and low; look lastly at herself, the haughty dame, used to bear sway as the first noblewoman in the kingdom. Think you it can be to her mind to take a poor ignorant youth by the hand before all men’s eyes and say: Behold my son!
Nils Stensson. Ay, you are right, I am poor and ignorant. I have nought to offer her in return for what I crave. Oh, never have I felt my poverty weigh on me till this hour! But tell me — what think you I should do to win her love? Tell me, dear Sir; sure you must know.
Nils Lykke. You must win your father’s kingdom. But until that may be, look well that you wound not her ears by hinting at kinship or the like. She will bear her as though she believed you to be the real Count Sture, until you have made yourself worthy to be called her son.
Nils Stensson. Oh, but tell me ——!
Nils Lykke. Hush; hush!
Lady Inger. (rises and hands him a paper). Sir Knight — here is my promise.
Nils Lykke. I thank you.
Lady Inger. (notices Nils Stensson). Ah — this young man is ——?
Nils Lykke. Ay, Lady Inger, he is Count Sture.
Lady Inger. (aside, looks at him stealthily). Feature for feature; — ay, by God — it is Sten Sture’s son!
(Approaches him and says with cold courtesy.) I bid you welcome under my roof, Count! It rests with you whether or not we shall bless this meeting a year hence.
Nils Stensson. With me? Oh, do but tell me what I must do! Trust me, I have courage and good-will enough ——
Nils Lykke. (listens uneasily). What is this noise and uproar, Lady Inger? There are people pressing hitherward. What does this mean?
Lady Inger. (in a loud voice). ’Tis the spirits awaking!
(Olaf Skaktavl, Einar Huk, Biörn, Finn, and a number of Peasants and Retainers come in from the back, on the right.)
The Peasants and Retainers. Hail to Lady Inger Gyldenlöve!
Lady Inger. (to Olaf Skaktavl). Have you told them what is in hand?
Olaf Skaktavl. I have told them all they need to know.
Lady Inger. (to the Crowd). Ay, now, my faithful house-folk and peasants, now must ye arm you as best you can and will. What I forbade you to-night you have now my fullest leave to do. And here I present to you the young Count Sture, the coming ruler of Sweden — and Norway too, if God will it so.
The Whole Crowd. Hail to him! Hail to Count Sture!
(General excitement. The Peasants and Retainers choose out weapons and put on breastplates and helmets, amid great noise.)
Nils Lykke. (softly and uneasily). The spirits awaking, she said? I but feigned to conjure up the devil of revolt —’twere a cursed spite if he got the upper hand of us.
Lady Inger. (to Nils Stensson). Here I give you the first earnest of our service — thirty mounted men, to follow you as bodyguard. Trust me — ere you reach the frontier many hundreds will have ranged themselves under my banner and yours. Go, then, and God be with you!
Nils Stensson. Thanks — Inger Gyldenlöve! Thanks — and be sure that you shall never have cause to shame you for — for Count Sture! If you see me again I shall have won my father’s kingdom.
Nils Lykke. (to himself). Ay, if she see you again!
Olaf Skaktavl. The horses wait, good fellows! Are ye ready?
The Peasants. Ay, ay, ay!
Nils Lykke. (uneasily, to Lady Inger). What? You mean not to-night, even now ——?
Lady Inger. This very moment, Sir Knight!
Nils Lykke. Nay, nay, impossible!
Lady Inger. I have said it.
Nils Lykke. (softly, to Nils Stensson). Obey her not!
Nils Stensson. How can I otherwise? I will; I must!
Nils Lykke. (with authority). And me!
Nils Stensson. I shall keep my word; be sure of that. The secret shall not pass my lips till you yourself release me. But she is my mother!
Nils Lykke. (aside). And Jens Bielke in wait on the road! Damnation! He will snatch the prize out of my fingers ——
(To Lady Inger.) Wait till tomorrow!
Lady Inger. (to Nils Stensson). Count Sture — do you obey me or not?
Nils Stensson. To horse! (Goes up towards the background).
Nils Lykke. (aside). Unhappy boy! He knows not what he does.
(To Lady Inger.) Well, since so it must be — farewell!
(Bows hastily, and begins to move away.)
Lady Inger. (detains him). Nay, stay! Not so, Sir Knight — not so!
Nils Lykke. What mean you?
Lady Inger. (in a low voice). Nils Lykke — you are a traitor! Hush! Let no one see there is dissension in the camp of the leaders. You have won Peter Kanzler’s trust by some devilish cunning that as yet I see not through. You have forced me to rebellious acts — not to help our cause, but to further your own plots, whatever they may be. I can draw back no more. But think not therefore that you have conquered! I shall contrive to make you harmless ——
Nils Lykke. (lays his hand involuntarily on his sword). Lady Inger!
Lady Inger. Be calm, Sir Councillor! Your life is safe. But you come not outside the gates of Östråt before victory is ours.
Nils Lykke. Death and destruction!
Lady Inger. It boots not to resist. You come not from this place. So rest you quiet; ’tis your wisest course.
Nils Lykke. (to himself). Ah — I am overreached. She has been craftier than I. (A thought strikes him.) But if I yet ——?
Lady Inger. (to Olaf Skaktavl). Ride with Count Sture’s troops to the frontier; then without pause to Peter Kanzler, and bring me back my child. Now has he no longer any plea for keeping from me what is my own.
(Adds, as Olaf Skaktavl is going:) Wait; a token. — He that wears Sten Sture’s ring is my son.
Olaf Skaktavl. By all the saints, you shall have him!
Lady Inger. Thanks — thanks, my faithful friend!
Nils Lykke. (to Finn, whom he has beckoned to him unobserved, and with whom he has been whispering). Good — now manage to slip out. Let none see you. The Swedes are in ambush two miles hence. Tell the commander that Count Sture is dead. The young man you see there must not be touched. Tell the commander so. Tell him the boy’s life is worth thousands to me.
Finn. It shall be done.
Lady Inger. (who has meanwhile been watching Nils Lykke). And now go, all of you; go with God! (Points to Nils Lykke.) This noble knight cannot find it in his heart to leave his friends at Östråt so hastily. He will abide here with me till the tidings of your victory arrive.
Nils Lykke. (to himself). Devil!
Nils Stensson. (seizes his hand). Trust me — you shall not have long to wait!
Nils Lykke. It is well; it is well! (Aside.) All may yet be saved. If only my message reach Jens Bielke in time ——
Lady Inger. (to Einar Huk, the bailiff, pointing to Finn). And let that man be placed under close guard in the castle dungeon.
The Bailiff and the Servants. Finn!
Nils Lykke. (aside). My last anchor gone!
Lady Inger. (imperatively). To the dungeon with him!
(Einar Huk, Biörn, and a couple of the house-servants lead Finn out to the left.)
All the Rest. (except Nils Lykke, rushing out to the right). Away! To horse — to horse! Hail to Lady Inger Gyldenlöve!
Lady Inger. (passes close to Nils Lykke as she follows the others). Who wins?
Nils Lykke. (remains alone). Who? Ay, woe to you; — your victory will cost you dear. I wash my hands of it. ’Tis not I that am murdering him. But my prey is escaping me none the less; and the revolt will grow and spread! — Ah, ’tis a foolhardy, a frantic game I have been playing here!
(Listens at the window.) There they go clattering out through the gateway. — Now ’tis closed after them — and I am left here a prisoner. No way of escape! Within half-an-hour the Swedes will be upon him. ’Twill be life or death. But if they should take him alive after all? — Were I but free, I could overtake the Swedes ere they reach the frontier, and make them deliver him up. (Goes towards the window in the background and looks out.) Damnation! Guards outside on every hand. Can there be no way out of this? (Comes quickly forward again; suddenly stops and listens.) What is that? Music and singing. It seems to come from Elina’s chamber. Ay, it is she that is singing. Then she is still awake —— (A thought seems to strike him.) Elina! — Ah, if that could be! If it could but —— And why should I not? Am I not still myself? Says not the song:—
Fair maidens a-many they sigh and they pine;
“Ah God, that Nils Lykke were mine, mine, mine.“
And she ——? —— Elina Gyldenlöve shall set me free!
(Goes quickly but stealthily towards the first door on the left.)
1 King Christian II. of Denmark (the perpetrator of the massacre at Stockholm known as the Blood-Bath) fled to Holland in 1523, five years before the date assigned to this play, in order to escape death or imprisonment at the hands of his rebellious nobles, who summoned his uncle, Frederick I., to the throne. Returning to Denmark in 1532, Christian was thrown into prison, where he spent the last twenty-seven years of his life.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51