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Halla. I want no mercy any more, but you can go on calling for help. (M-cockingly.) I am sure He will hear you, if He is not busy breaking up the glaciers or cleaning out the gorge of a volcano to make it belch up more fire.
Kari. Don't say another word! We are wretched enough without your calling down new curces, upon us.
Halla. I have but one Sote and only wisk before I die, and that is to do some unheard-of cruel deed. I should like to be a snowslide. I would come in the dead of night. It would be a joy to see the people half naked running for their lives—chaste old maids with gouty hips, and smug peasant women with bellies bobbing with fat. (Sits down, breaks into a paroxysm of laughter, wild and continued.)
Kari. You have become a monster. I am afraid of you -afraid of the only human being I care for. (Walks over to a corner, where he finds his old Bible. Sits down, turning the pages with trembling hands; reads.) “ And it came to pass that as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins: for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. Amen.” (They sit silent a while. Halla, leaning her elbows on her knees, her face buried in her hands, cries softly. Kari rises, stands silent for a moment, then goes to her.) Kari. You must not lose heart. When things are at the
worst, they will mend. Perhaps the storm will quiet down i during the night.
Halla. It is so hard. (Bursts into sobs.)
Kari (rises slowly). You were always so strong. I thought nothing could make you lose heart. · Halla (looks up. She has stopped crying; her voice is calm and cold). You don't love me any more. You have never loved me.
Kari. Is that what you are crying for?
Halla. Before when you wanted to leave me, I besought you by all the memories I thought were dear to you. That did not touch you. I humbled myself so low that I would have thanked you just for a little pity that might have been an afterglow of your love, but you had no pity. You stayed only because you were anxious about your own soul.
Kari. I stayed also for your sake. · Halla. You know better. You would rather die than have your God find you guilty of an evil deed. You counted the saving of your soul higher than your life, but I have no God, and I have never been able to tell my soul from my love. If you had loved me, you would have understood that I was pleading for my soul. You would have heard it in my voice, but you did not hear it.
Kari. You forget that it was to save our lives I wanted to go.
Halla (rises. Her eyes are large and burning). Why did you not take me with you?
Kari. If I had gone alone, I might have come back alive. The two of us would have been sure to perish.
Halla (kneels). I once dreamed of two people. To them their love was the one and only law. When they had lived a long life together, they were thrown into direst need. Hunger drew near to the fine web that time had woven between them and would tear it asunder. Then they looked into each other's eyes, and together they walked out into the snowstorm to die.
Kari. It is every man's duty to keep alive as long as he can. · Halla (rising). And why should it be, when life has become an agony to ourselves and of use to no one?
Kari. It is the law of God.
Halla. The storm writes many laws in the sand. (Sits down.) When my strength had given out, you could have left me in the snow.
Kari. You know very well that I would never have done that.
Halla. That would have been better than to leave me waiting here. And I don't believe that death is so hard. The storm carries you until you drop from weariness, and then the snow comes and covers you up. (Staring before her with eyes wide open.)
Kari(is silent for a moment). You are bitter, because of our sore plight. Many a time have I told myself that I have been the curse of your life. If you had never known me, you would now be living in peace and quiet. You could have ridden to church every Sunday, if you liked. You would have been the rich and comely widow with all the young men flocking about you. I dare say you have often been sorry that you Aed with me to the hills. (Halla is silent.) I remember once we had been out hunting together all night. Early in the morning we stood on the rim of the mountain
plain looking down upon the fields and the dwellings of men. On some of the farms, the fires were lighted already, and the smoke rose straight up into the blue air, and the streams ran so quietly and pleasantly through the meadows. I thought then that I could see the homesickness in your eyes.
Halla (starting up, her voice cold and calm again). If I could only have saved my faith in my own love, but I love you no longer, and it may be that I never have loved you. As a child I used to live more in my dreams than in the life about me. When I Aed with you to the hills, I thought it was because I loved you, but perhaps it was only my longing for the strange and unknown. Afterwards, when the days became harder and lonelier, my love for you was a shelter which I would seek when sorrow for what I had done came clutching at my heart.
Kari. Say no more! You are befouling our love-yours and mine. You say it was only a longing for the unknown and the free, unfettered life that made you Alee with me to the hills. Shame on you! (His voice is soft and full of sadness.) I know what you have been. No woman was ever greater in her love than you. When the sun strikes the rim of the glacier, it takes on the loveliest hues, though in truth it is nothing but dull, colorless clay. So your love has been the sunlight in my life, and I love you—have always loved you. When I was away from you even for a single day, I would long to see you and hear your voice as eagerly as I would long for the murmur of a brook when nearly dying from thirst. When I went hunting and had good luck, I always thought of you. When I pictured to myself how pleased you would be, I forgot all about my weariness. But you must not ask the impossible of a man.
Halla (rising). I am cold. Will you fetch some wood? Kari. Yes, indeed. (Goes to the door ; leaves it ajar.) You cannot see a hand before you. (Goes out and shuts the door after him.)
[Halla goes to the door, listens, opens the door. A cloud of snow comes whirling in. Outside the storm sweeps past. She takes a long, lingering look around the hut, goes out into the doorway, throws her head back, and
disappears, carried by the storm. (The stage stands empty for a moment.) Kari returns, covered with snow, his arms full of faggots.
Kari. Why do you leave the door open? (Sees that Halla is not there, drops the faggots, goes out hurriedly, calls.) Halla! (His call is heard outside the hut. He comes back into the doorway, looks in, cries out.) Almighty God! (Two heart-broken cries are heard outside, the latter farther away and hushed by the storm.) Halla! Halla! (The snow comes whirling into the empty hut.)