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Enter Halla, carrying a pail of water. The pail is of plaited willow twigs chinked with clay. With the other hand she leads a little girl about three years old. Halla is dressed in a white jerkin and black skirt, both of knitted wool. She wears her silver girdle around her waist. The child has on white knitted clothes. They are bare-headed, and their foot-wear is the same as that worn by the men.
Halla. Did you have good luck to-day?
Kari (dolefully). We have caught nothing but trouble and weariness. The ptarmigans made themselves scarce to-day. We saw a Alock of six, but they few away before we could get our snares out.
Halla (to Arnes). Is it true, what he says?
Arnes. It's true enough. We saw six ptarmigans, but they got away from us.
Halla. I am sorry. We must hope for better luck next time.
Kari (laughing). I fooled you that time! (Runs toward the hut.) Look here! Five big, fat ptarmigans!
Halla. Well, well!
Arnes. I don't believe there are many who can beat him at that. I know I can't.
Tota. May Tota pat it?
Halla. Tota may do anything she wants to. I should like to make you a jacket of swan's down.
Kari (cuts off the feet of the swan). You would like these, would n't you?
Kari. Some day when I have time I will skin them and make little bags for you to keep your pebbles in.
Halla. You've got lovely playthings there!( Squats down on the ground.) Where are mother's eyes? (Hiding her eyes with the swan's feet.)
Tota (takes them away from her eyes). Here!
Halla. And it is too early for the evening meal, but I can make you some tea.
Kari. Yes, do. (To Arnes.) Let us carry the swan to the cave.
[Exeunt Kari and Arnes. Halla. Now Tota must be tied, so the waterfall can't take her, while mother is making tea. (Takes a rope that is fastened to a rock and ties it around Tota's waist. Brings some of her playthings.) Here are all your horses. (Puts a kettle of water over the fire; places some earthenware cups on the rocks by the hearth; takes a handful of dried herbs from a bag, rinses them in cold water, and portions them out in the cups. The faggots Arnes has brought, she throws on the fire. As she works, she sings.)
Have you seen a brave young lad?
Have you heard his voice's call,
There! Now we must get the water to boil. (Picks up the tufts of bearberry and goes to Tota.) See what Arnes brought
Tota. They are berries.
Halla. Yes, but you must not eat them or you will get a pain in your little stomach. (Rises and finds a long, stiff straw.) Now I'll show you what you can do. (Threading the berries on the straw, she counts.) One, two-four—six, seven — so many years your father and mother have been in the hills. (Strokes Tota's hair.) When you are sixteen, we shall have lived here for twenty years, and then we shall be free again. On that day, Tota shall wear snowwhite clothes and shoes of colored leather, and mother will clasp her silver girdle around your waist. And when we come down to the lowlands, the first one we meet is a young man with silver buttons in his coat. He stops and turns his horse and stands looking after you ever so long. Then your mother has grown old and wrinkled, and her hair is almost as white as snow. Your father, too, has grown old. But you are straight as a silver-weed, and . when you run, you lift your feet high!
Enter Kari and Arnes. Kari (laughing). Ah, now it's steaming. I nearly fell
headlong into the cave, when we lifted the cover from the entrance.
Halla. Did you? (Gives the straw to Tota.) Now you can go on by yourself. (Rises.) Is there any need of closing the cave every time? When it's not raining, it might be left open.
Kari. No harm in being careful. If they should come upon us suddenly, we surely should not have time to close the entrance, and they would find the cave and destroy all our stores, as they did five years ago. Do you remember when we came back to the old place and found nothing but ashes?—and winter setting in. Not a single piece of mutton did they leave us.
Halla. I don't easily forget.
Kari. Whenever I think of it, I feel like doing something wicked. After all, we are human too.
Halla (laughing coldly). We're only the foxes who take their sheep.
Kari (to Arnes). How did you hide your stores when you were alone?
Arnes. I had many hiding-places. Once I stole some twenty-eight pounds of butter. I stuffed it down into a fissure in a rock.
Kari. That was pretty shrewd. (They are silent.)
Halla. Did you have a clear outlook from the mountain this afternoon?
Kari. Yes. There was a little mist far to the southward.
Halla. It was from the south that the cloud came in my dream.
Kari. You can never forget about that dream.
the cloud. (Silent for a moment.) You are quite sure the two men whose tracks you saw a month ago did not get on our trail?
Kari. Quite sure. If they had, they would have come closer.
Halla. Just think if they had seen smoke and told about it down in the parish!
Kari. They have done nothing of the kind; for if they had, they would have been up here with many men long ago. Ah, the water is boiling. (Halla lifts the kettle from the fire and pours water over the herbs.)
Kari. Your tea will soon be giving out.
Halla. Yes, I must take a day and gather enough for the winter. I will go down to the Sun Valley. Nowhere else are the herbs so fine. (They drink their tea.)
Kari. Don't forget to lay in a store of herbs for your salve. You know how troublesome a little scratch can be, when the cold gets into it. You kept the honey I found?
Halla. I did.
Kari. That is good for wounds, too. And, you must gather cotton grass for lamp wicks. (Goes to Tota and gives her tea.) Tota must have a taste, too.
Arnes (has been looking at Halla). Your hair was quite black before, but now there has come a sheen of red into it.
Kari. I have not noticed it, but your freckles are all gone, I have seen that. (Patting her cheek.) Are you going to give us more tea?
Halla. As much as you want.
Kari (rises and goes into the hut; returns with three wooden pipes and two pouches, one large and one small). You need