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Ljot. I told you that I have not.

Forunn. You could not tell your old mother a falsehood! But if you are free and not bound by any promise, this puzzles me. Halfdan is young and a capable man, and his father is one of the richest and most respected farmers in the countryside.

Ljot. But I don't care for him. You can't mean that I should marry a man I don't care for. (Leans over the fence.)

Forunn. Once you are married you will come to care for him. (Goes to her.) It is a great step you are about to take. Weigh your words well, so that you may not rue them. Be careful not to thrust away happiness when she reaches out her hand to you, or there may come a day when you will repent. You must know that your parents wish nothing but what is good for you.

Ljot (with tears in her voice). It seems to me you are against me, both you and father.

Jorunn (stroking her hair). I believe you are hiding something from your mother. I think I know what it is. You were very much pleased with the bird's skin you got to-day. (Ljot is silent.) The winter your father asked me in marriage there came to my home a man who used to go from farm to farm doing odd carpenter jobs. One evening I carried his coffee to him where he was at work. He had a big chest standing there that he kept his tools in. I can remember it plainly; it was yellow. I stood waiting for him to finish his coffee so that I could take the cup back, when he took out of the chest a work-box— the prettiest thing I've ever seen. It was of dark brown wood, the lid round, with pictures of animals carved on it. He made me a present of it, and when I was about to go, he asked me for a kiss, but I would not give it to him.

Ljot. You never told me about this.

Jorunn. He was a good-looking man, with big brown eyes. Well, when your father came, my father and mother both wanted me to become his wife. It was not altogether easy for me, but I would not go against their wishes. I thought it my duty to please them, and besides the other man had never asked me straight out.

Ljot. But he was the one you cared for.

Forunn. Perhaps I thought so at the time. (Silence.) He went away on the night he heard that I was promised to your father. A year after I married your father, he was drowned—some thought he had taken his own life.

Ljot. Maybe that was your doing.
Jorunn. How can you say such a thing to your mother!
Ljot. Don't be angry with me, mother.

Jorunn. A man who cannot bear his fate is not worth much. I should not have been happy as his wife, and I could not wish for a better man than your father. When two people live together a whole lifetime and have an honest will to do what is right by each other, they will come to care for each other, as the years go by. (Silence.) I have told you this so that you may think it over, but if you feel in your own heart that it is right to go against the wishes of your parents, then you will have to do so. (Ljot is silent.) You say nothing, my child? I have tried as best I could, in my poor way, to do what seemed my duty. I cannot give my daughter any other or better advice. When the hour of sorrow comes, as it must come to you too, there is nothing else that can bring you peace.

Ljot. I will do as you wish.

Jorunn. I always knew that I had a good daughter. (Strokes her hair.) How glad your father will be! This will be a great day for him, and you will never regret that you did as your parents wished.

[Goes in. (Ljot stands alone.)

Enter Einar and Frida from the house. Einar (to Frida). You can start the bellows. I hope the fire has not gone out.

[They go into the smithy. Enter Helgi from the house. He goes into the smithy and comes out again with a turf-spade in his hand.

Einar (in the door). Shall you be home for dinner?
Helgi. No, the others will bring it to me.

[Exit to the left. Enter Sveinungi. Sveinungi. Are you here? Won't you come in and talk to your father? (Patting her shoulder.) This is the happiest day in my life since the time I got your mother. [They go in. Enter Jakobina with a plate of chicken-feed in her hand; goes to the door of the smithy.

Jakobina. Is Frida there? Can you spare her while she runs over to the chickens for me with their food?

Einar. Yes, indeed. [Frida goes with the chicken-feed.

Jakobina (sits down on the horse-block). I had such a queer dream last night. I thought I was standing out there in the yard, and I saw a giant come striding across the hraun. I saw him stop right there—he stood with arms stretched out and bent down over the house.

ACT II A grass-grown yard, some rocks partly sunk in the ground. In the foreground, farthest to the right, a tent. In the background, to the left, the farm-house. In the outskirts of the yard a sheephouse with the roof and part of the walls in ruins. Beyond it, the hraun," a lava-field stretching for miles, studded with jutting rocks and lava formations.

It is evening of the same day.
The Servants (seated, singing).

God the power unending
Rests with Thee alone.
Cherubim are bending
Low before Thy throne.
From Thy Heaven hear me!
Weak and soiled am I,
Wounds and sorrows sear me,
Fainting I draw nigh.
Is there then another way?
Sorrow's rising hills may they
Not reach up to heaven, pray?

Help me—lest I die.
(They cover their eyes in prayer. Silence.)

Jorunn (uncovers her eyes). The peace of God be with us. (The Servants rise and shake hands.)

Jorunn (patting Fridas cheek). Now you must not be afraid of the earthquake any more. When we trust in Him, no harm can befall us. (Gathers the hymn-books.) Please take the books back to the tent, Ljot; it's a little too early yet to go in. (Ljot goes with the books.) And you may fetch the shoes I was sewing. I left them in there.

(Some sit on the rocks, others squat in the grass. Only Sveinungi remains standing.)

Ljot (coming from the tent). Here are the shoes, mother.

Jorunn. Thank you, daughter.
(Ljot lies down in the grass, gazing out over the hraun.)

Indridi. Did you hear the church-bells ringing?
Einar. I did not hear them.

Jorunn. I did. They rang of themselves. (Silence.)

Indridi. Where were you, Thora, when the shock came?

Thora. In the kitchen.
Indridi. It's your week, is n't it?

Thora. I don't know how I ever got out, for the whole Aloor heaved under me, so that I was thrown right against the wall, and you should have seen me when I came out —all black from the falling soot.

Jon. And the rest of you— where were you?
Bjørg. We were sitting in the badstofa, sorting wool.

Rannveig. It felt as if some one was shaking the roof and trying to pull up the whole house.

Indridi. We were just about to leave our work and run home to hear how you had fared, but then I thought they would be sure to send us word (looking askance at Sveinungi) if anything had happened. Besides, we wanted to get enough turf cut while we were at it so that we should not have to go back another time.

Yon. But I must say that when I began working again, it went against me. It was like cutting into a living thing -like skinning a live animal.

Rannveig. Ugh, yes.

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