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A resting-place near one of the large folds into which the sheep are driven in the autumn, when they are gathered down from the hills. A grass-grown dell. On the left, a steep heather-covered slope, here and there in the heather gray, jutting stones. To the right, a low bluff, where grass, flowers, and juniper bushes grow in the clefts and on the ledges. Toward the background, the bluff becomes lower and more bushy, and bending somewhat to the left, it partly shuts off the view into a hilly, rock-studded landscape with the distant mountains beyond. In the foreground, at the foot of the bluff, several saddles. The women's saddles have broad, brass-mounted backs.
It is a fine autumn day. Gudfinna alone is busy with the luggage. Enter Arngrim carrying a roll of paper under his arm. His face is livid and drawn. Arngrim. So you are all alone here.
Gudfinna. Indeed I am. I did not want to leave the luggage, and it seemed a pity to keep the boy from the folds.
Arngrim. Is Halla up at the folds?
Gudfinna. I don't know where she is now. She is so restless to-day. A while ago she climbed up on a knoll to see if the last drove was coming down from the hills. I hardly know whether it's the sheep or Kari she is looking for.
Arngrim. We don't get tired of watching for what we are looking forward to. I have but one thing to look forward to. (Sits down on one of the rocks.)
Gudfinna. And what is that, poor fellow?
Then I should say like the man in the story: “Now I'd laugh if I were n't dead.” Enter Halla, happy and smiling, wearing a silver girdle around her waist.
Halla. The last Aock is coming, and it is not the smallest. Kari is with it.
Gudfinna. Of course he is with it.
Halla (laughing). Yes, of course. (To Arngrim.) I am glad to see you here.
Arngrim. Did you happen to bring anything good from home?
Halla (smiling). You never can tell. (Searching in one of the saddle-bags, she finds a blue flask which she hands to Arngrim.) You may keep the bottle.
Arngrim. That is just like you. (Holds the flask up to the light.) There are juniper berries in it. (Takes a pull.) It is like drinking sunshine.
Halla (has moved toward the background and stands gazing). What a change in the sheep since spring. Then they were yellow and dirty, but now they are white as ptarmigans in winter. It always makes me happy to see a fock of sheep coming down the mountain side.
Gudfinna. Kari's shoes must be a sight. He does n't save his legs, that man.
Halla. No, you are right in that. (Goes to Gudfinna.) But he runs swifter than any one else.
Arngrim. No one can run away from his fate, were he Aeeter than the wind.
Halla (turns to Arngrim). Are you sure of that? May not a strong will turn the tide of fate?
Arngrim. My fate no one can alter. (Looks up.) An old
song comes to my mind when I look at you. I cannot remember how it runs, but it is about some one who had the thoughts of her soul written on her forehead. Halla (smiling). I feel only the sun shining on my brow.
[Exit. Arngrim. She deserves to be happy. (Brings out the roll of paper.) Should you like to see what I am doing to make the days slip by?
Gudfinna (goes to him). Yes, let me look at it.
Arngrim (opens the roll, which is seen to contain drawings in bright colors). These are birds from the garden of Edentoo bad I never heard them sing!—and here is a blue flower so sensitive that it closes at the slightest touch, and here is a small plant from Gethsemane with red berries lying like drops of blood on the ground.
Enter the Boy, running.
The Boy. I must be off again to help drive the sheep into the fold. (Leaps with joy.) What fun to be here! It's most as good as Christmas!
[Exit. Arngrim. He skips about like a merry little lamb.
Gudfinna (calling after him). Take care the rams don't butt you!
Enter Halla. Halla. Now the sheep will soon be at the fold. (Brushes her hair back from her forehead.) Are n’t you clever enough to know a cure for freckles? I am so tired of my freckles.
Arngrim (smiling). Perhaps you have a new lookingglass.
Halla (smiling). Perhaps I have.
Enter Jon and two other peasants, followed directly by two peasant women, Jon's Wife, and her friend with two little daughters, eight and nine years old.
Jon (slightly intoxicated). Now a bite of shark's meat would taste first-rate. You did n't happen to be so thoughtful as to bring some, did you?
Halla (laughing). That is just what I did. (Looks in the saddle-bags.)
Jon. Did n't I tell you so! (Takes a brandy-flask out of his pocket.) Do you mind if I bring out my bottle?
Halla. Please yourself.
Yon (sits down. The others follow suit, until only the children remain standing). If I did n't have so fine a wife, I should have asked you to marry me long ago. (Takes a pull at the
flask and hands it to the one sitting next to him.) Let the bottle go the rounds!
Halla (to Jon's Wife). Your husband is happy to-day.
Jon. Don't think I am forgetting you, Arngrim. (Hands him the flask.)
Arngrim. The blood grows. colder as one gets old, and then the warmth of the bottle feels good.
Halla (hands Jon a piece of shark’s meat). Help yourself.
Jon. Bless you! My mouth waters. (Takes a knife from his pocket and cuts off a slice.) It is white as milk and sweetsmelling. I say, shark's meat and brandy are the best things the Lord ever made— next to women! (Hands the fish to one of the peasants.)
Halla (finds a piece of sugar-candy and divides it between the children). Have the little girls been to the folds before?
Peasant Woman. No, this is the first time. I promised them last spring that if they were good and worked hard I would bring them, and they have surely earned it. It 's past belief how much they can do, no older than they are.
Halla. Did you see the last Alock? That was a large one. (Goes toward the background.)
Fon's Wife. Indeed it was.
Jon. My brown bell-wether was the leader of the flock. He generally stays in the hills till they gather in the sheep for the last time, unless there are signs of bad weather. (Gudfinna crosses over to the peasant women and fingers their clothes. They stand talking together.)
First Peasant. I should not wonder if the winter were to come early after so good a summer.
Second Peasant. God knows how many sheep the hills have taken this year! Do you remember those cold days in the spring? It may be a good many lambs froze to death.
First Peasant. And then those cursed foxes!
Jon. The foxes are nothing to the men— both those down here and those in the hills.
Second Peasant. I don't believe there is anybody living in the hills, at least not in these parts.
Jon. You don't believe it? I tell you, my good man, there are more outlaws than you think. To my mind, the laws are to blame for it. If I had my say, all thieves would be strung up.
Second Peasant. Well, I look at it in another way. I believe the laws are too strict. It seems to me it is making too much of the sheep, when a man is locked up for life because he has stolen two or three of them.
Jon. You always have to be of a different mind from anybody else.