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if I knew enough, I could read your whole fate in them. Something, perhaps, I can see. Who would believe that these slender arms could be so strong.
Halla (laughing). And what stands written there?
Arnes. You must sit still. Here is a deep, narrow line across your arm, that means sorrow. And there is a big fire. (Stroking her arm with the tips of his fingers.) I can see the tongues of flame. That means that you are loved. (Kisses her arm.)
Halla (stands up; laughs). Did you burn yourself?
Arnes. I should like to read your fate all day long.
Halla. Then you might tell me things I did not care to hear. But I must get to work.
(Halla goes into the hut. Arnes looks after her. She comes out bringing wool., a spindle, and a sheep's skin.)
Halla. If you are not too tired after the hunt, this skin can stand a little more.
Arnes. Give it to me. (Takes a large ring made of a ram's horn. From the ring hangs a loop of rope, in which he puts his foot. He draws the skin through the ring and keeps pulling it back and forth. Halla sits down, turning her spindle. They are silent.)
Halla. It is queer about the sound of the waterfall. Most of the time I don't hear it at all, but if it were to stop, I should miss it. Is it the same with you?
Halla. At first I was almost afraid of it. Then I began to love it, and now I should only miss it if it were not there any more. We mortals are strange. (They are silent again.)
Arnes. Can you tell me why some people should be happier than others?
Halla. No, that I cannot.
Arnes. Kari has been happy for seven years.
Halla. Are you sure of that?
Arnes. Why should he not be happy? He has a wife and child.
Halla. Was there no one down your way whom you could bring with you up here?
Arnes. Who do you think would become an outlaw for my sake?
Halla. Would n't you dare to carry off a woman f I should try my best to be good to her.
Anus. Do you think Kari would have dared to carry you off against your will?
Halla. Ask him.
Arnes. Why does he not show it, if he cares so much for you? He forgets about helping you with firewood and carrying water, and if the meat is not cooked the way he likes it, he scolds you. One might think you were his servant girl.
Halla. Don't let that worry you.
Arnes. And he can't even see the color of vour hair.
Halla. Do you bear a grudge against Kari, because he caught the swan?
Arnes. You had house and home and a good name, and you gave it all up for his sake. He ought to keep that in mind more than he does.
Halla. I don't want Kari to be offering up thanks like a meek bondsman. Besides, I have done nothing for him. I did it all for myself.
Arnes. He does not even bother to curry the skins for your bedding. If you did not have me, you would have to do it yourself.
Halla (stands up). I don't want your help. (Takes hold of the skin.) Let go!
Arnes (gives it up reluctantly). Are you angry?
Halla (takes the skin out of the horn-ring and throws it into the hut). You are not so sorely needed as you think you are. (Sits down again to her work.)
Arnes. I did not mean that. It makes me happy when I can do some little thing for you. Won't you let me finish it?
Halla. You shall not touch it.
Arnes (stands for a moment,puzzled). Will you not forgive me what I said? I cannot bear to have you angry with me.
Halla. I am not angry.
Arnes. When you were ill, I once brought you some green leaves that had come up through the snow. Then you gave me a kiss.
Halla. Did I? (Smiles; kisses him lightly on the cheek.) Have you peace in your soul now?
Arnes. I don't know. I believe I shall never have peace in my soul any more. (They are silent.)
Halla. You were good to me the time I was ill.
Arnes. I am not good to anybody. I am wicked.
Halla. You are not.
Arnes. Even with you I sometimes feel that I could hurt you.
Halla. We can all be ugly when we are tired and hungry
Arnes. Will you let me kiss your mouth? Just once?
Halla (rising). No.
Arnes. Your lips will suffer no harm from it. (Takes hold of her shoulders and tries to draw her to him.)
Halla (tears herself away from him). Have you gone mad?
Arnes. You have been true to Kari for seven years now. It is time you tired of it.
Halla. Now your face looks like the bailifPs when he called me a harlot. (Gives him a box on the ear A
Arnes (furiously). I know you better than you think. You are so pure! You have never done an evil deed!
Halla. What do you mean?
Arnes. Kari is more open-mouthed than you think. You have had a child before this one.
(Halla shields her face with her hands as though warding off a blow. Arnes sits silent})
Halla. Why don't you say that I killed my child? That is what you meant to say. You know I did it.
Arnes. My cursed mouth.
Halla. You judge me. How can you? You don't know what it means to bring a life into the world. It grows heavier day by day like the snow of winter. If we had had spring and sunshine! But the times were hard and food was scarce. I did a good deed when I laid my child out in the cold. Far less suffering that than life!
Arnes. I do not judge what you did.
Halla. No, you thought I was an angel who was longing to be your harlot. You can go with a lighted candle into my soul and search it. You will find no remorse there. What could we have done with a child, if we had been forced to flee? Should we have left it with strangers? And how do you think it would have fared? A child of felons, scorned by all!
Arnes (broken-hearted). I did not know that my words would hurt you so much.
Halla. Do you think I did it with a light heart? I have given birth to two children, and cruel was the pain, but I would rather bear ten children than live that night over again. When I had carried my child out into the cold, my mind gave way. In my ravings, I thought the child lay by my side, and above us was a flock of birds—pitch black. I bent over it to shield it, and the birds pecked into my back, into my lungs they pecked. (Stops short from emotion.)
Arties. Would I were dead!
Halla (calmer). I wished for the death of that child long before it was born. (Goes to Tota.) But this my little springtime child I have never wished ill. The first time I felt her life, it seemed a token of forgiveness that I was allowed to become a mother again, and when she came into the world, the sun was shining, and the sky was blue and warm. (Kisses her.)
Arnes. My tongue got the better of me. (Puts his hand on his heart.) There is a devil dwelling in me. (Stands motionless.) I love you.
Halla (turns toward him). Have you not done hurting me yet?
Arnes (crushed). No matter what I say, you think I mean ill.
Halla. I shall not speak to you again. (Sits down to her work.)
Arnes. Nor will you have to listen to me any more. I am going down to the lowlands, and there they can do with me what they like.
Halla. If you tell them of our hiding-place, they may let you off' more easily.
Arnes. Even that you believe I could do!
Halla (rising). If you cared for me as much as you say, you would be good to me instead of bad.