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Halla (pronounced Hadld), a well-to-do widow.
Kari (pronounced Kowri), overseer on Halla's farm.
Bj0RN, Holla's brother-in-law-, farmer and bailiff'.
Arnes, a vagrant laborer.
Gudfinna, an elderly, unmarried relative of the family.
A Shepherd Boy
Arngrim, a leper.
A District Judge.
Tota, a child of three years.
Peasants, peasant women, and farm-hands.
The action takes place in Iceland in the middle of the eighteenth century. The story of the two principal characters is founded on historical events. Halla's nature is moulded on a Danish woman's soul.
A "badstofa" or servants' hall. Along each side-wall, a row of bedsteads with bright coverlets of knitted wool. Between the bedsteads, a narrow passageway. On the right, the entrance, which is reached by a staircase. On the left, opposite the entrance, a dormer-window with panes of bladder. On the right, over the bedsteads, a similar window. Long green blades of grass are visible through the panes. In the centre back a door opens into Halla's bed-chamber, which is separated from the ".".badstofa" by a thin board partition. A small table-leaf is attached by hinges to the partition. A copper train-oil lamp is fastened in the doorcase. Over the nearest bedsteads a cross-beam runs at a man's height from the floor; from this to the roof-tree is half of a man's height. Under the window stands a painted chest. Carved wooden boxes are pushed in under the bedsteads. The ".".badstofa" is old, the woodwork blackened by age and soot.
It is early spring, a late afternoon. Gudfinna and Oddny are sitting on the beds facing each other, Gudfinna mending shoes, Oddny putting patches on a coat. The Shepherd Boy is standing in the middle of the room, throwing a dart adorned with red cock's feathers. The costumes are old Icelandic.
The Boy (throws his dart). Ho! ho! I came pretty near hitting her that time!
Gudfinna. Hitting whom?
The Boy. Can't you see the little spider hanging down from the beam? I mean to shoot and break her thread.
Oddny. You are always up to some tomfoolery.
Gudfinna. Leave the poor creature in peace! It has done you no harm.
The Boy (laughing). Do you think she 'd break her legs if she should happen to fall down on the floor?
Gudfinna. I won't have it! Destroying a spider's web is sure to bring bad luck, and you 'll end by tearing the window-pane with your dart.
The Boy. Kari has told me of a man who broke a bowstring with one shot, and that from way off. (Shoots.)
Gudfinna. If you don't stop, you shall wear your shoes with the holes in them.
The Boy (pulling the dart out of the beam). Would you rather have me shoot your ear-locks?
Gudfinna. Are you crazy, lad? You might hit my eyes.
The Boy. I must have some kind of fun. I think I 'll have a shot at Oddny's plaits.
Oddny. If you dare!
The Boy (laughing). If I have bad luck, you will look at Kari with only one eye.
Oddny. You need a good spanking.
Gudfinna. Kari ought not to have given you that dart.
The Boy (going to the spider., makes a fanning motion with his hand). Up, old spinning-woman, if you bode good! Down, if you bode ill! Up, if you bode good! Down, if you bode ill!
Gudfinna. You are awfully hard on your shoes, worse than a grown man. I hope you don't walk on the sharpest stones just for fun?
Oddny. Of course he does!
The Boy.The sheep were so restless to-day. Some of them came near slipping away from me.
Oddny. If they had, you would n't be riding such a high horse now!
Gudfinna. Have they been bad to you, laddie? Do you never feel timid when you are alone so much?
The Boy. Sometimes I keep thinking what I should do if a mad bull came tearing down the mountains.
Gudfinna. Don't speak of them! They are the worst monsters in the world—except, perhaps, the skoffin.
The Boy. What is a skoffin?
Gudfinna. Don't you know that? When a rooster gets to be very old, he lays an egg, and if that's hatched, it becomes a skoffin. It kills a man by just looking at him, and the only thing that can slay it is a church-blessed silver bullet. Indeed, there are many things you have to be careful of, my child. Are you not afraid of the outlaws ? They're not good, those fellows; they go about in skins with the wool on them and carry long sticks with ice-spurs, and that at midsummer. Have you ever seen anything of them?
The Boy. No, but yesterday I pretty near got scared. There came a man with a big bag under his arm. I did n't know him at first, but it was only Arnes.
Gudfinna. And what did he want of you?
The Boy. He asked me to show him the way to a spring. He was thirsty.
Gudfinna. You had better not have too much talk with him. (Hands him the shoes.) There! Now they will last till to-morrow anyway. (Kneels down, pulls out a box, and examines its contents.)
Enter Halla from her chamber.
Halla. It is time for the sheep to be milked.
The Boy. I am going now to drive them home. I was waiting for my shoes.
Halla. Have you seen anything of the cows to-day?
The Boy. No. (To Oddny.) When I get rich I'll give you a cow's tail to tie up your plaits with.
Oddny. Hold your tongue! [Exit the Boy.
Halla (smiling). I heard him teasing you a while ago.
Oddny. He 's forever pestering me about Kari—as if I cared!
Halla (with a little laugh). Well,Sigrid does n't take such good care of Magnus's clothes as you of Kari's. [Exit.
Oddny (is silent for a moment and looks at the door). If I were a widow and owned a farm, the men would be noticing me too, even if I had been nothing but a poor orphan servant girl before I married—like some others.
Gudfinna (rising, a pair of stockings in her hand). What are you talking about? (Pushes the box under the bed.)
Oddny. Do you know who was Halla's father?
Gudfinna. That is what no one seems to know. Some would have it that he was a parson. (She darns the stockings.)
Oddny. Yes, or a vagabond. There were also some ugly whispers about a stain on her birth.
Gudfinna. You 'd better bridle your tongue!
Oddny. I am not so dull as you imagine. When Halla thinks no one is looking, she does n't take her eyes from Kari. And she has made him overseer; that seems queer to others besides me. Last Sunday at church some one asked me if there was anything between the widow and the "overseer."
Gudfinna. And what did you say?
Oddny. I told them that it was quite possible Halla had her lines out for him, but that I did not think Kari would swallow the fly, even if it had gold on its wings.
Gudfinna. Much good it did you, the gospel you heard in church! I am sorry for you, poor girl! You are crazy about a man who has neither eye nor ear for you, but that is no reason why you should be running around spreading gossip. Halla is not the kind of woman that is fond of men. There was never a harsh word between her and her