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Enter Halla with a wooden mug filled with porridge and milk. The lid is turned back and some meat, dried fish, and butter are placed upon it. Halla. You get nothing but skimmed milk. I thought you would rather have that than wait until the cows had been milked. (Lets down the table-leaf.) Arnes (sits down and reaches for the mug). God bless you, woman! I am used to having it on my knees. (Pulls out his pocket-knife and eats.) Halla (stops in front of Kari and looks at him). You are working hard; there are drops of sweat on your forehead. Kari. Are there? (Wipes his forehead; looks up.) Should you like to know your life beforehand? (Stands up and raises both arms to the ceiling.) I have lived where I could touch the roof over my head with my clenched fists, and I have lived where my eyes could not reach it. (Sits down.) Can you remember how few clothes I had when I came here? Halla (sitting down). I can well remember the green knitted jerkin you wore—you have it yet—and your coat and brown breeches. (Smiling.) There was a big black patch on the left knee. Kari. The rags on my back were all I had in the world, and now I own two new sets and even more underclothes. You deserve that I should put teeth of gold in your rake. Halla (smiling). That rake would be too heavy for me. Kari (looking at Halla). So many things come back to me to-night that I have not thought of before. You gave me leave to work in the smithy in my spare time instead of doing the wool-carding. You saw to it that I should be one of the men who gather the sheep down from the hills in the fall, because you knew I liked it.
Halla. That was only natural, since you are so swift of foot.
Kari. And for my bed you knitted a coverlet with seven colors in it. You have always been good to me.
Halla. Now you are getting far too grateful. (To Arnes.) Do you think you have enough food there, Arnes? I can get you some more, if you want it.
Arnes (patting his stomach). I don't even know if I can make room for the porridge.
Kari (looking at Halla). If I were to leave this place, I should miss you more than any other living being I have ever known. (Rises, pushes the box under the bed.)
Halla. I hope you will stay here for many years yet.
Kari. Nobody knows what the morrow may bring.
[Exit. (Halla follows Kari with her eyes. Silence.)
Arnes (puts the wooden mug on the table). Now I give thanks for the meal. Will you let me lie in one of your barns to-night?
Halla. You would surely sleep better in a bed. You can lie with Magnus.
Arnes. I never sleep better than in old dry hay.
Gudfinna. Is it true, Arnes, that you can tell what the birds are talking about?
Arnes. Do they say that?
Gudfinna. In olden times there were wise folks who understood all such things, but people nowadays are backward in that as in so many other ways..(Sits down.)
Halla (smiling).Yes, young people are not good for much, in your opinion.
Gudfinna. We need onlv think of the sagas. Where have we men now like Skarphjedinn and Grettir Asmundsson? There are none such in these days.
Halla. When I was a child there was nothing I wished so much as that I might have lived with Grettir in his banishment.
Arnes. Was it not eighteen Years he was an outlaw?
Halla. Nineteen. He lived longer as an outlaw than any one else has done. He lacked only one year to become free.
Arnes. He must have been a great man, but that brings to my mind what the leper said the other dav, when the talk turned to the old sagas.
Halla. And what did he say?
Arnes. Distance makes mountains blue and mortals great.
Enter the Boy, running.
The Boy. The bailiff is coming on horseback.
Halla (rising). What can he want so late? Did you find the cows?
The Boy. Yes, I met them coming home. They are in.
Halla. Did you tell the girls?
The Boy. No. [Exit.
Halla. Gudfinna, you go and ask him to come in. (Gudfinna rises.) You won't forget about the milk?
Arnes (rising). Now I think I shall go and seek my bed.
Halla (smiling). Don't you want to have a talk with the bailiff?
Arnes. If I had found some dead sheep up in the hills with his mark on their ears, I 'd gladly have told him so.
Halla. Sleep well! [Exit Arnes.
(Halla smooths her hair.)
Enter Bj0rn, carrying a riding-whip with a silver-mounted handle and a leather lash; he wears riding-socks reaching above the knees.
Halla. Good evening!
Bj0rn (pointing to his feet). I did not take off my socks. I see now that they are not quite clean.
Halla. Will you be seated? May I offer you anything?
Bj0rn. No, thank you. I want nothing. (Sits down.) You know I have not far to come. The sorrel and I can make it in fifteen minutes, when we are in the humor.
Halla. How is everything at your place? Have you any news?
Bj0rn. That depends on what you mean. Who was that I met in the hall? It was quite dark there.
Halla. It must have been Arnes.
Bj0rn. Is he spending the night here?
Bj0rn. It is no concern of mine, but I doubt if my late brother would have sheltered men of his kind, and yet he had the name of being hospitable. (Takes a snuff-box from his pocket.)
Halla (sitting down). I know nothing wrong of Arnes, and I do know that he is grateful for what I can offer him.
Bj0rn. I thought you had heard the common talk. His record is not of the best, I am sorry to say. I have been told that little things are apt to be missing where he has made his stay.
Halla. I would rather bear such a loss in silence than perhaps throw suspicion on an innocent man.
BJ0rn. Finely thought! Yet some one must be the first to warn the unwary. (Takes snuff.) You must hear what happened to me not long ago. The boy lost two milch sheep up in the hills. I was vexed that it should occur so early in the summer when they still had their wool, and therefore I sent one of my men to look for them. Near Red Peak he found tracks of the sheep and also the footprints of a large man. (Lowering his voice.) You could do me a good turn if you would give Ames a pair of new shoes; I should pay for them, of course. He will not suspect anything, if you do it. Then you keep his old shoes for me.
Halla (rising). No, I will have nothing to do with that.
Bj0rn. Then we shan't speak of it any more. I think I shall find out what I am after, nevertheless. (He is silent.)
Halla. You surely did n't come here to-night for Ames's sake?
Bj0rn. I did not. Was. Kari at church last Sunday?
Halla. Why do you ask?
Bj0rn. I know that he was there. (Sits dawn.) You are satisfied with him as an overseer?
Halla (sits down). In every way.
Bj0rn. All the same, I advise you to get rid of him, the sooner the better.
Halla (laughing). I thank you for your kind advice.
Bj0rn. My advice is not to be scorned, and besides, am I not your brother-in-law?
Halla. My sheep had to learn that to their cost, when they strayed in on your pastures, and you set your dogs on them.
Bj0rn. Even though we have not always been as neighborly as I might wish, you must listen to me this time. I have always disliked Kari; I would never have hired that man. Believe me, there is something underhanded about him. Nobody knows him, and no one has heard of his people. It is as if he had shot up out of the ground. The