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Enter Bjørn, carrying a riding-whip with a silver-mounted handle and a leather lash; he wears riding-socks reaching above the knees.

Halla. Good evening!

Bjørn (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?

Bjørn. 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?

Bjørn. 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.
Bjørn. Is he spending the night here?
Halla. Yes.

Bjørn. 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.

Bjørn. 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.

Bjørn. 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 Arnes 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.

Bjørn. 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 Arnes's sake?

Bjørn. I did not. Was Kari at church last Sunday? Halla. Why do you ask?

Bjørn. I know that he was there. (Sits down.) You are satisfied with him as an overseer?

Halla (sits down). In every way.

Bjørn. All the same, I advise you to get rid of him, the sooner the better.

Halla (laughing). I thank you for your kind advice.

Bjørn. 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.

Bjørn. 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 only thing you know about him is that his name is Kari, and you don't even know that.

Halla (rising). What are you driving at with all this?

Bjørn. Sit still. (Halla sits down.) Last fall two strangers who stopped on their journey through here thought they knew Kari. They said it was easier to change one's name than one's face. As bad luck would have it, I did not get a chance to talk with them myself, but my suspicions were roused. Now there is a man staying with me who has just come from the south. He saw Kari at church last Sunday, and if he is right, it is an ugly story.

Halla. What do you mean?

Bjørn (rising). Neither more nor less than that your overseer's name is not Kari but Eyvind, that he was locked up for theft, and got away.

Halla (has risen). You must be mad, both of you.

Bjørn. The man would not swear that he had seen right. (Smiles.) Somehow he seemed sorry that he had told me. He said he had never seen two people more alike, and Eyvind had a scar on his forehead just as Kari has— that much he remembered plainly.

Halla. It was last Sunday at church that he saw Kari?
Bjørn. Yes.
Halla (laughing). Kari was not at church last Sunday.

Bjørn. That's queer. Two of my men were there. But we can easily solve that riddle, if I bring my guest over here to-morrow.

Halla. I don't believe for a moment that Kari is a thief.

Bjørn. You need not believe it. Simply tell him what I have said, and that I mean to have the judge look into the matter. I warrant he will be out of the house before sunrise.

Halla. You are quick to believe evil and quick to run to the judge, but in this case you will not reap much honor.

Bjørn. If you suppose I shall act hastily, you are mistaken. I shall write to the county that Eyvind hails from and give the letter to my guest, who will see that it gets safely and speedily into the proper hands. The answer can be here within two or three months.

Halla. Is it out of kindness to me that you are so eager about this matter?

Bjørn. If it is true what people say, it would be best for you that Kari should take himself away from here as fast as can be. You might find it harder to part from him two or three months hence.

Halla (icily). Now you show your real self. You did not come here to give me kind counsel, nor do I look for such from you, but you had better leave me and my household in peace. Do you think I have forgotten what you did to me? When your brother told you that he intended to marry me, you thought it would be a disgrace to the family for him to make a poor servant girl his wife. You urged him to satisfy his fleeting passion, as you called it, without any marriage.

Bjørn. I never said that.

Halla (laying her hand on her heart). In here I have a sealed book in which I keep the words my friends have spoken. And I have more to tell you. There was something behind it—your fear of losing a part of your power.

Bjørn. What are you saying?

Halla. Did that prick your soul, you godly man! You knew that your brother would follow your advice like a child, but you had misgivings that you could not work me like dough in your hands, and what you feared came true. You can never forget that I made my husband stand on his own feet. I know your greed for power! But now I warn you for all time to let me and mine alone. (Sits down.)

Bjørn (flushed with anger, but still controlling his voice). Much have I learned to-night that I did not know before. Now I see why you made Kari overseer. You are not your mother's daughter for nothing.

Halla (her lips trembling). You want to make me angry. You can't do it. Nor shall you succeed in blackening Kari in my eyes. You were hoping that I should hurt him by telling him what you have said. I shall not tell him.

Bjørn. You will talk differently when I hold the proof in my hand. (Shakes his hand; goes toward the door.)

Halla (rising, hatred burning in her eyes). Just before you came, the servants were making bets about who was best at glima, you or Kari. Oddny was the only one who stood up for you. Kari thought you had grown so old and stiff in your joints that you would not dare to go in for a wrestlingmatch.

Bjørn. Tell Kari that I am ready to meet him this evening, if he wishes it.

Halla. No, I shall tell Kari that you have given your word to wrestle with him at the big sheep-folds in the fall. I hope to have a good many witnesses, when the bailiff bites the dust.

Bjørn. I will fight him whenever and wherever he may wish — anywhere but in jail. Good-bye!

[Exit. Halla (stands motionless for a moment; passes her hands down over her face; goes to the door; calls). Gudfinna! Gudfinna! (Goes back into the room; again passes her hands down over her face.)

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