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Magnus (laughing). Some little gift you'd surely have for the bailiff — no?
Arnes. For him? Yes, if I could throw the sand into his eyes. (Opens the bag and takes out a handful of Iceland moss.) They are fine, these lichens, and taste good when you cook them in milk. Gudfinna (rising and muttering to herself ). The milk!
Enter the Boy.
Halla. You are not through yet, poor boy. You will have to go down along the creek and look for the cows.
[Exit Oddny. The Boy. I hope they're not up to new tricks and begin to stay out nights.
[Exit. Halla (calling after him). Take a drink of milk in the pantry; the key is in the door. (Magnus rises slowly.)
Arnes. Are you going to buy my bag?
Arnes. You ought to have it for nothing - you've given me shelter and good food so often. (Lifts his foot.) What I need most just now is to get something on my feet.
Halla. I don't think we shall quarrel about the price. (To Magnus.) Take it out into the kitchen.
[Exit Magnus with the bag. Halla. Will you not sit down? I'll go and find you a bite to eat.
Arnes ( following her with his eyes). That woman has a kind heart. (Sits down.) How long have you been working here on the farm?
Kari. This is my second year.
Arnes. And overseer already? Yes, some folks have luck. (Leans toward him.) As you may know, I haven't a very good name. I can't settle down very long at any one place, and it comes hard for me to be anybody's servant. You must surely have heard me spoken of as a thief?
Kari. People will say so many things.
Arnes (passing his hand over his ears). My ears are not marked yet, but somehow it sticks to you like dust — what people say —no matter whether it is true or not. Have you ever been the target for gossipy tales ?
Kari (slowly). Not that I know of.
Arnes. Then you have it coming to you. Shall I tell you what they are saying about you in these parts?
Kari. Is it about me and Halla?
Arnes. I have heard that too, but this story is about yourself.
Kari. I would rather be spared listening to gossip.
Arnes. If I had been quite sure that it was nothing but gossip, I should not have opened my mouth about it.
Kari (laughing coldly). You are at least frank.
Arnes (rising). It is all the same to me, but if you have anything to hide, you had better keep your eyes and ears open, for you have an enemy, that much I can tell
Kari. I don't know that I have harmed any one around here.
Arnes. You live and fill your place. That is enough to make enemies.
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.
Enter Gudfinna. 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 only 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 day, 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.
Halla (rising). What can he want so late? Did you find the cows?
The Boy. Yes, I met them coming home. They are in.
[Exit. Halla. Gudfinna, you go and ask him to come in. (Gudfinna rises.) You won't forget about the milk?
[Exit Gudfinna. 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.)
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