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Enter Gudfinna. Gudfinna. Has the bailiff gone? Halla. Yes.
Gudfinna. He came near upsetting me in the hall and did n't even say good evening.
Halla. Do sweep the floor! I won't have in here the dirt he has dragged with him. (Gudfinna takes a bird's wing and sweeps.)
Enter the Boy. The Boy (shouting). Come and see what we have caught! Gudfinna. Not so noisy! Did you catch a whale?
The Boy. We got a salmon—so big! (Shows the size with his hands.)
Halla. Tell Kari to come here; I want to speak with him. I will let you take care of the salmon. Open and clean it, sprinkle some salt on it, and lay it in fresh grass overnight.
The Boy. Won't you look at it before it is cut?
Halla (patting his cheek). You big baby! Do you think I have never seen a salmon before? Now run and tell Kari that I want to speak to him.
[Exit the Boy. Gudfinna (calling after him through the door). And tell him to lift the milk pot from the fire.
Halla. If the coals are good, I must ask you to do some baking to-night for Sunday.
Gudfinna. The coals are good enough. [Exit. (Halla stands listening. Footsteps are heard in the hall.)
Enter Kari. Kari. You wanted to speak to me?
Halla. I hear you have made a fine catch. Thank you! I have promised the bailiff that you shall meet him in
a glima at the folds in the autumn. What do you say to that?
Kari. I call that great news, but surely that was not what he came here for to-night?
Halla. No, he had another errand. He spoke ill of you. Kari. What did he say?
Halla. There is a man just come from the south who saw you at church last Sunday. He told Bjørn that you looked like some one by the name of Eyvind, a thief who had run away. He even thought he recognized the scar on your forehead.
Kari (in a low voice, sitting down). And did the bailiff believe the man was right?
Halla. He said I should tell you that he meant to speak to the judge, and that then you would fee from here this very night.
Kari (rising with a loud laugh). This is to laugh at. Do you know when they will come to catch the thief!
Halla (has been looking at him steadily; holds out her hand to him). Give me your hand, Kari, and say that you have nothing to fear from any man.
Kari (evasively). I understand that this seems strange to you, but the man who saw me must be some one who has a grudge against me from former days, and does this out of spite.
Halla. What do I care about him or about the bailiff! Say that you are innocent!
Kari. So you doubt me, too!
Kari (warmly). I know of no one in the world whom I would rather trust than you.
Halla. You are innocent?
Kari. Yes, in this I am innocent. · Halla. God be praised! (Puts her hand on her heart.) If it had been otherwise, I don't see how I could have borne it.
Kari. I shall remember the bailiff for this.
Halla (in an outburst of joy). Let him do his worst! What care we! I am so happy now that I know you are innocent, I could kiss you for joy. (Exultantly.) Kari, will you be my husband? (It is growing dark.)
Kari (terrified). No, Halla, I cannot.
Halla (stares at him, speechless. Suddenly she goes close to him and scans his face). Have you a wife?
Halla. I could not believe that your eyes lied this evening. (Stamps her foot with anger and shame.) Take yourself away from here! Go! (Covers her face with her hands; rocks to and fro.)
Kari. My eyes did not lie to-night. (Stands for a moment in terrible emotion; then begins to walk up and down.) I knew a man named Eyvind. His father was poor and had many children. Eyvind was the next to the oldest. It was said in those parts that thieving ran in the blood of his kin, though no one could say anything against Eyvind's father. (Halla looks up, listening.) Two years ago or more, toward the end of the winter, it happened, as often before, that there was no food in the house. Eyvind went to the parson to ask him to help them out with food. He offered to pay for it with his work in the spring, but the parson refused. It was late in the evening, dark and snowing. The road to Eyvind's home went past the parson's sheep-cots. ( As Kari proceeds, he now and then passes his hand over his forehead.) They loomed before him like a big black mound. Then the temp
tation came over him. The herdsman had gone home, the snow would cover up the tracks, and the parson was rich enough. I hated him! (Halla risés.) Late that night, Eyvind came home with a fine big sheep. The next day, word came from the parson. They had found his mittens in the sheepcot. Eyvind was locked up and given ten years in prison. They thought they could prove that he had more thefts to answer for—(He breaks off suddenly.)
Halla (breathlessly). Kari!
Kari. My name is not Kari — it is Eyvind. I was sentenced for theft. I fled and lived one year in the hills as an outlaw.
Halla. After this I shall never believe in any one. (Sits down and bursts into tears.)
Kari (kneeling). Do with me what you will. Drive me out of your house —now—this evening, or give me into the hands of the law, but you must forgive me. It was our poverty and the snow that made me steal.
Halla (rising). I will not cry. It is stupid to cry. Get up! I am no God that you should ask my forgiveness.
Kari (rising to his feet). It is lonesome to live a whole winter up there in the hills. That is why I'ventured down here, far from home, and under a new name. Since then I have gone about like one who walks in his sleep, afraid of the awakening. Many a time have I made up my mind to tell you the whole truth, but somehow it seemed to get harder with every day that passed. I have never understood why it was so before to-night, but now I know it, and now I can speak of it. Kari has loved you. You are the only woman he has ever loved, but now Kari is no more, and never has been anything but the dream of a poor and unhappy man.
Halla. Say no more!
Kari. He has loved you long, but never until to-night has he seen how beautiful you are. (Carried away:) Like a blue mountain rising from the mist!
Halla (stepping close to him). Close your eyes, Kari, and sleep yet a while. Kiss me!
Kari (kissing her). I will sleep with my eyes open.