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could do that.

228 The Pretenders. [Act I.

Ivar BODDE. There must be an end to sin.

Bishop Nicholas (who has drawn near in the
meantime). Now is the time to bind the Earl's hands,
King Hakon.

Hakon. Think you that is needful ?

Bishop Nicholas. You cannot buy the peace in
the land at a cheaper rate.

Hakon. Then must I do it. Give me the pen !
( Writes.)

Earl Skule {to the Bishop, who crosses to the
right). You have the King's ear, it would seem.

Bishop Nicholas. For your behoof.

Earl Skule. Say you so?

Bishop Nicholas. Before nightfall you will thank
me. (He moves away.)

HAKON (hands the EARL the parchment'. Read
that, Earl.

Earl Skule (reads, looks in surprise at the KlNG,
and says in a low voice). You break with Kanga the

HAKON. With Kanga whom I have loved more
than all the world. From this day forth she must
never more cross the King's path.

Earl Skule. In this do you show yourself great,
Hakon — I know well by mine own self what it must

Hakon. Whoever is too dear to the King must
away. — Tie up the letter.

(Gives it to Ivar Bodde.)

Bishop Nicholas (bending over the chair). You
have made a great stride towards the Earl's friend-
ship, my lord King.

Act I.] The Pretenders. 229

HAKON (holds out his hand to him). Thanks, Bishop
Nicholas; you counselled me for the best. Ask a
grace of me, and I will grant it.

Bishop Nicholas. Will you ?

HAKON. I promise it on my kingly faith.

Bishop Nicholas. Then make Vegard Vaeradal
thane of Halogaland.

HAKON. Vegard ? He is well-nigh the trustiest
friend I have; I am loath to send him so far from me.

Bishop Nicholas. The King's friend must be
royally rewarded. Bind the Earl's hands as I have
counselled you, and you will be secure for ever and a

Hakon (takes a sheet of parchment). Vegard shall
have the thane-ship of Halogaland. ( Writing.) I
hereby grant it to him under my royal hand.
(The Bishop retires.)

EARL SKULE (approaches the table). What write
you now?

HAKON (hands him the sheet). Read.

Earl Skule (reads, and looks steadily at the KING).
Vegard Vaeradal? In Halogaland?

HAKON. The northern part stands vacant.

Earl Skule. Bethink you that Andres Skialdar-
band 1 has also a charge in the north. They two
are bitter foes; — Andres Skialdarband is of my fol-

HAKON (smiling and rising). And Vegard Vaera-
dal of mine. Therefore they must e'en make friends
again, the sooner the better. Henceforth there must
be no enmity between the King's men and the Earl's.

1 Pronounce ShahtarbanJ.

230 The Pretenders. [Act I.

Bishop Nicholas. Hm. This may go too far.
(Approaclies, uneasy.)

Earl Skule. Your thoughts are wise and deep,

Hakon (warmly). Earl Skule, to-day have I
taken the kingdom from you — let your daughter
share it with me !

Earl Skule. My daughter !

Margrete. Oh God !

Hakon. Margrete — will you be my Queen ?
(Margrete is silent.)

Hakon (takes her hand). Answer me.

MARGRETE (softly). I will gladly be your wife.

Earl Skule (pressing Hakon's hand). Peace
and friendship from my heart !

Hakon. I thank you !

Ivar Bodde (to Dagfinn). Heaven be praised ;
here is the dawn.

Dagfinn. I almost believe it. Never before
have I seen so much good in the Earl.

Bishop Nicholas (behind him). Ever on your
guard, good Dagfinn, ever on your guard.

Ivar Bodde (to Vegard). Now are you thane
of Halogaland ; here you have it under the King's

(Gives him the letter)

Vegard VzERADAL. I will thank the King for
his favour another time. (About to go)

BISHOP NICHOLAS (stops him). Andres Skialdar-
band is an ugly adversary ; be not cowed by him.

Vegard V^eradal. No one has yet cowed
Vegard Vaeradal. (Goes.)

Act I.] The Pretenders. 231

Bishop Nicholas (follozving). Be as rock and
flint to Andres Skialdarband, — and take my blessing
with you, if you will.

Ivar Bodde (who has been waiting behind the
King with the parchments in his hand). Here are
the letters, my lord.

Hakon. Good ; give them to the Earl.

Ivar Bodde. To the Earl? Will not you seal
them ?

Hakon. The Earl is wont to do that ; — he holds
the seal.

IVAR Bodde (softly). Ay, hitherto — while he was
regent — but now !

Hakon. Now as before ; — the Earl holds the seal.

Earl Skule. Give me the letters, Ivar Bodde.
(Goes to the table with them, takes out the Great
Seal xvJiich he wears under his girdle, and seals
the letters during the following?)

Bishop Nicholas (muttering). Hakon Hakons-
son is King and the Earl holds the royal seal ; — I
like that— I like that.

Hakon. What says my lord Bishop ?

Bishop Nicholas. I say that God and Saint
Olaf watch over their holy church.
(Goes into the King's Hall.)

llAKON (approaching MARGRETE). A wise queen
can do great things in the land : I have chosen you
fearlessly, for I know you arc wise.

MARGRETE. That only !
• HAKON. What mean you?

MARGRETE. Nothing, my lord, nothing.

232 The Pretenders. [Act I.

HAKON. And you will bear me no grudge if for
my sake you have had to let slip fair hopes.

Margrete. I have let slip no fair hopes for your

HAKON. And you will stand ever near me, and
give me good counsel ?

Margrete. I would fain stand near to you.

Hakon. And give me good counsel. Thanks for
that ; a woman's counsel profits every man, and
henceforth I have none but you — my mother I have
sent away

Margrete. Ay, she was too dear to you

HAKON. And I am King. Farewell then, Mar-
grete ! You are so young yet ; but next summer
shall our bridal be, and from that hour I swear to
keep you by my side in all seemly faith and honour.

MARGRETE {smiles sadly). Ay, I know 'twill be
long ere you send me away.

Hakon (brightly). Send you away ? That will I
never do !

Margrete {with tears in her eyes). No, that
Hakon does only to those who are too dear to him.
{She goes towards the entrance door. Hakon
gazes thoughtfully after her.)

Lady RAGNHILD {from the right). The King and
the Earl so long in here ! My fears are killing me ;
— Margrete, what has the King said and done ?

Margrete. Oh, much, much ! Last of all, he
chose a thane and a Queen.

Lady Ragnhild. You, Margrete !

Margrete {throws her arms round her mothers
neck). Yes !

Act I.] The Pretenders. 233

Lady Ragnhild. You are to be Queen !

Margrete. Queen only; — but I think I am glad
even of that

{She and her mother go out to the right.')

Earl Skule (to Ivar Bodde). Here are our
letters; bear them to the King's mother and to

(Ivar Bodde bows and goes.)

Dagfinn {in the doorivay of the hall). The Arch-
bishop of Nidaros craves leave to offer King Hakon
Hakonsson his homage.

Hakon {draws a deep breath). At last I am King
of Norway.

{Goes into the hall?)

Earl Skule {places the Great Seal in his girdle).
But / rule the realm.


234 The Pretenders. [Act II.

Act Second.

{Banquet Hall in the Palace at Bergen. A large bay-window
in the middle of the back wall, along which there is a dais
with seats for the ladies. Against the left wall stands the
tlirone, raised some steps above the floor; in the centre of the
opposite wall is the great entrance door. Banners, standards,
shields and weapons, with ma?iy- coloured draperies, hang
from the wall-timbers and from the carvefi rafters. Around
the hall stand drinking -tables, with flagons, horns, and

(King Hakon sits upon the dais, with Margrete, Sigrid,
Lady Ragnhild, and many noble ladies. Ivar Bodde
stands behind the King's chair. Round the drinking -tables
are seated the King's and the Earl's men, with guests. At
the foremost table on the right sit, amo?igst others, Dagfinn
the Peasant, Gregorius Jonsson, and Paul Flida.
Earl Skule and Bishop Nicholas are playing chess at a
table on the left. The Earl's house-folk go to and fro, bearing
cans of liquor. From an adjoining roofn, music is heard
during the following scene.)

DAGFINN. 'Tis now wearing on for the fifth day,
yet the henchmen are none the less nimble at setting
forth the brimming flagons.

Paul Flida. It was never the Earl's wont to
stint his guests.

Dagfinn. No, so it would seem. So royal a
bridal-feast was never seen in Norway before.

Paul Flida. Earl Skule has never before given a
daughter in marriage.

Act II.] The Pretenders. 235

DAGFINN. True, true; the Earl is a mighty man.

A Man- AT- A RMS. He holds a third part of the
kingdom. That is more than any Earl has held

PAUL Flida. But the King's part is larger.

Dagfinn. We talk not of that here; we are
friends now, and fully at one. {Drinks to PAUL.) So
let King be King and Earl be Earl.

PAUL FLIDA {laughs). 'Tis easy to hear that you
are a King's man.

Dagfinn. That should the Earl's men also be.

Paul Flida. Never. We have sworn fealty to
the Earl, not to the King.

DAGFINN. That may still be done.

Bishop Nicholas {to the Earl, under cover of the
game). Hear you what Dagfinn the Peasant says ?

EARL SKULE {without looking up). I hear.

GREGORIUS JONSSON {looking steadily at DAGFINN).
Has the King thoughts of that ?

DAGFINN. Nay, nay, — let be; — no wrangling to-

Bishop Nicholas. The King would force your
men to swear him fealty, Earl.

GREGORIUS JONSSON {louder). Has the King
thoughts of that, I ask ?

DAGFINN. I will not answer. Let us drink to
peace and friendship between the King and the Earl.
The ale is good.

PAUL Flida. It has had time enough to mellow.

GREGORIUS JONSSON. Three times has the Earl
prepared the bridal — three times the King promised
to come — three times he came not.

236 The Pretenders. [Act II.

DAGFINN. Blame the Earl for that : he gave us
plenty to do in Viken.

PAUL Flida. They say Sigurd Ribbung gave
you still more to do in Vermeland.

DAGFINN {flaring up). Ay, who was it that let
Sigurd Ribbung slip through their ringers ?

GREGORIUS JONSSON. Sigurd Ribbung fled from
us at Nidaros, that is well known.

DAGFINN. But it is not well known that you did
aught to hinder him.

Bishop Nicholas {to the Earl, who is pondering
on a move). Hear you, Earl ? It was you who let
Sigurd Ribbung escape.

Earl Skule {makes a move). That is an old

GREGORIUS JONSSON. Have you not heard, then,
of the Icelander Andres Torsteinsson, Sigurd Rib-
bung's friend

Dagfinn. Ay ; when Sigurd had escaped, you
hanged the Icelander — that I know.

BISHOP NICHOLAS {makes a move and says laugh-
ingly to the Earl). I take the pawn, Sir Earl. 1

Earl Skule {aloud). Take him ; a pawn is not
worth much.

DAGFINN. No ; that the Icelander found to his
cost, when Sigurd Ribbung escaped to Vermeland.
{Suppressed laughter amongst the King's-men ; the

1 Bishop Nicholas's speech, "Nu slar jeg bonden, herre jarl," means
literally, "Now I strike (or slay) the peasant;" the pawn being
called in Norwegian " bonde," peasant, as in German " Bauer."
Thus in this speech and the next the Bishop and the Earl are girding at
Dagfinn the Peasant. [Our own word " pawn " comes from the Spanish
feon = a. foot -soldier or day-labourer.]

Act II.] The Pretenders. 237

conversation is continued in a low tone ; presently
a man comes in and whispers to GREGORIUS

Bishop Nicholas. Then I move here, and you
have lost.

Earl Skule. So it seems.

Bishop NICHOLAS (leaning back in his chair).
You did not guard the king well at the last.

Earl SKULE {strews the pieces topsy-turvy and
rises). I have long wearied of being the King's

GREGORIUS JONSSON {approaches and says in a low
tone). Sir Earl, Jostein 1 Tamb sends word that the
ship now lies ready for sea.

Earl Skule (softly). Good. (Takes out a sealed
parchment?) Here is the letter.

GREGORIUS JONSSON (shaking his head). Earl,
Earl, is this prudent ?

Earl Skule. What?

GREGORIUS JONSSON. It bears the King's seal.

Earl SKULE. I am acting for the King's good.

GREGORIUS JONSSON. Then let the King himself
reject the offer.

Earl Skule. That he will not, if he has his own
way. His whole heart is bent on cowing the Rib-
bungs, therefore he is fain to secure himself on other

GREGORIUS JONSSON. Your way may be wise,
but it is bold.

Earl Skule. Leave that to me. Take the
letter, and bid Jostein sail forthwith.

1 Pronounce " Yostcin.'

238 The Pretenders. [Act II.

GREGORIUS JONSSON. It shall be as you command.
{Goes out to the right, and cones in again

Bishop Nicholas {to the Earl). You have much
to see to, it would seem.

EARL SKULL. But small thanks for it.

Bishop Nicholas. The King has risen.

(Hakon comes down ; all the men rise from the

Hakon {to the Bishop). We are rejoiced to see
you bear up so bravely and well through all these
days of merriment.

BISHOP NICHOLAS. There comes a flicker now
and then, my lord King ; but 'twill scarce last long.
I have lain sick all the winter through.

Hakon. Ay, ay, — you have lived a strong life,
rich in deeds of fame.

Bishop Nicholas {shakes his head). Ah, 'tis
little enough I have done, and I have much still left
to do. If I but knew whether I should have time for
it all !

HAKON. The living must take up the tasks of
those who are gone, honoured lord ; we have all
the welfare of the land at heart. {Turns to the
Earl.) I marvel much at one thing : that neither of
our thanes from Halogaland has come to the bridal.

Earl Skule. True ; I doubted not that Andres
Skialdarband would be here.

Hakon {smiling). And Vegard Vasradal too.

Earl Skule. Ay, Vegard too.

HAKON {in jest). And I trust you would now
have received my old friend better than you did

Act II.] The Pretenders. .239

seven years ago on Oslo wharf, when you stabbed him
in the cheek so that the blade cut its way out.

Earl Skule {with a forced laugh). Ay, the
time that Gunnulf, your mother's brother, cut off
the right hand of Sira Eiliv, my best friend and

Bishop Nicholas {merrily). And when Dagfinn
the Peasant and the men-at-arms set a strong night-
watch on the King's ship, saying that the King was
unsafe in the Earl's ward !

Hakon (seriously). Those days are old and for-

Dagfinn {approaching). Now may we sound the
summons to the weapon-sports on the green, if so
please you, my lord.

Hakon. Good. To-day will we give up to
nought but merriment ; to-morrow we must turn our
thoughts again to the Ribbungs and the Earl of

Bishop Nicholas. Ay, he refuses to pay tribute,
does he not ?

Hakon. Were I once rid of the Ribbungs, I
would myself fare westward.

(HAKON goes towards the dais, gives his hand to
Margrete, and leads her out to the right ; the
others gradually follow.)

Bishop Nicholas (to Ivar Bodde). Hearken
here — who is the man called Jostein Tamb ?

Ivar Bodde. He is a trader from Orkney.

Bishop Nicholas. From Orkney ? So, so ! And
now he sails home again ?

Ivar Bodde. So I think.

240 The Pretenders. [Act II.

Bishop Nicholas {softly). With a precious
freight, Ivar Bodde !

IVAR BODDE. Corn and clothing, most like.

Bishop Nicholas. And a letter from Earl

IVAR BODDE {starting). To whom ?

Bishop Nicholas. I know not ; it bore the
King's seal

Ivar Bodde {seizes him by the arm). Lord Bishop,
— is it as you say ?

Bishop Nicholas. Hist ! Do not mix me up* in
the matter. {Retires.)

IVAR BODDE. Then must I forthwith Dag-

finn the Peasant ! Dagfinn ! Dagfinn ! {Pushes

through the crowd towards the door.)

Bishop Nicholas {in a tone of commiseration, to
GREGORIUS JONSSON). Not a day but one or another
must suffer in goods or freedom.

GREGORIUS JONSSON. Who is it now ?

Bishop Nicholas. A poor trader, — Jostein Tamb
methinks they called him.


Bishop Nicholas. Dagfinn the Peasant would
forbid him to set sail.

GREGORIUS JONSSON. Dagfinn would forbid him,
say you ?

Bishop Nicholas. He went even now.

GREGORIUS JONSSON. I crave your pardon, my
lord; I must make speed

BISHOP NICHOLAS. Ay, do even so, my dear lord ;
— Dagfinn the Peasant is so hasty.

(GREGORIUS JONSSON hastens out to the right

Act II.] The Pretenders. 241

along with the remainder of the company ; only
Earl Skule and Bishop Nicholas are left
behind in the hall.)

Earl Skule {walks up anddoivn in deep thought ;
he seems suddenly to awaken ; looks roiuid him, and
says :) How still it has become here all at once !

Bishop Nicholas. The King has gone.

Earl Skule. And every one has followed him.

Bishop Nicholas. All, save us.

Earl SKULE. It is a great thing to be King.

Bishop Nicholas (tentatively). Are you fain to
try it, Earl ?

Earl SKULE (with a serious smile). I have tried
it ; every night that brings me sleep makes me King
of Norway.

Bishop Nicholas. Dreams forebode.

Earl Skule. Ay, and tempt.

Bishop Nicholas. Not you, surely. Formerly,
that I could understand — but now, when you hold a
third part of the kingdom, rule as the first man in the
land, and are the Queen's father

Earl Skule. Now most of all — now most of all.

Bishop Nicholas. Hide nothing ! Confess ; for
I see a great pain is gnawing you.

Earl Skule. Now most of all, I say. This is
the great curse that lies upon my whole life : to stand
so near to the highest, but with an abyss between.
One leap, and on the other side are the kingly title,
the purple robes, the throne, the might, and all ! I
have it daily before my eyes — but can never reach it.

Bishop Nicholas. True, Earl, true.

EARL Skule. When they made Guthorm Sigurds-


242 The Pretenders. [Act II.

son king, I was in the full strength of my youth ; it
was as though a voice cried aloud within me : Away
with the child, — I am the man, the strong man ! — But
Guthorm was the king's-son ; there yawned an abyss
between me and the throne.

Bishop Nicholas. And you dared not

Earl Skule. Then Erling Steinvaeg was chosen
by the Slittungs. The voice cried within me again :
Skule is a greater chieftain than Erling Steinvseg !
But I must needs have broken with the Birchlegs, —
that was the abyss that time.

BISHOP Nicholas. And Erling became king of
the Slittungs, and afterwards of the Ribbungs, and
still you waited !

Earl Skule. I waited for Guthorm to die.

Bishop Nicholas. And Guthorm died, and Inge
Bardsson, your brother, became king.

Earl Skule. Then I waited for my brother's
death. He was sickly from the first ; every morning,
when we met at holy mass, I would cast stolen glances
to see whether his sickness increased. Every twitch
of pain that crossed his face was as a puff of wind in
my sails, and bore me nearer to the throne. Every
sigh he breathed in his agony sounded to me like a
trumpet-blast echoed from distant leas, heralding a
messenger from afar to tell me that the throne
should soon be mine. Thus I tore up by the roots
every thought of brotherly kindness ; and Inge died,
and Hakon came — and the Birchlegs made him king.

Bishop Nicholas. And you waited

Earl Skule. Methought help must come from
above. I felt the kingly strength within me, and I

Act II.] The Pretenders. 243

was growing old ; every day that passed was a day
taken from my life-work. Each evening I thought :
To-morrow will come the miracle that shall strike him
down and set me in the empty seat.

Bishop Nicholas. At that time Hakon's power
was small ; he was no more than a child ; it wanted
but a single step from you — yet you took it not.

Earl Skule. That step was hard to take ; it
would have parted me from my kindred and from all
my friends.

Bishop NICHOLAS. Ay, there is the rub, Earl
Skule, — that is the curse which has lain upon your
life. You would fain know every way open at need,
— you dare not break all your bridges and keep only
one, defend it alone, and conquer or fall upon it.
You lay snares for your foe, you set traps for his
feet, and hang sharp swords over his head ; you
strew poison in every dish, and you spread a hundred
nets for him ; but when he walks into your toils you
dare not draw the string ; if he stretches out his hand
for the poison, you think it safer that he should fall
by the sword ; if he is like to be caught in the morn-
ing, you think it wiser to wait till eventide.

EARL SKULE {looking seriously at him). And
what would you do, my lord Bishop ?

Bishop Nicholas. Speak not of me ; my work
is to build up thrones in this land, not to sit on them
and rule.

EARL SKULE {after a short pause). Answer me
one thing, my honoured lord, and answer me truly.
How comes it that Hakon can follow the straight path
so unflinchingly ? He is no wiser, no bolder than I.

244 The Pretenders. [Act II.

Bishop Nicholas. Who does the greatest deeds
in this world ?

Earl Skule. The greatest man.

Bishop Nicholas. But who is the greatest man ?

Earl Skule. The bravest.

Bishop Nicholas. So says the warrior. A priest
would say: the man of greatest faith, — a philosopher:
the most learned. But it is none of these, Earl. The
most fortunate man 1 is the greatest man. It is the
most fortunate man that does the greatest deeds — he
whom the cravings of his time seize like a passion,
begetting thoughts he himself cannot fathom, and
pointing to paths which lead he knows not whither,
but which he follows and must follow till he hears the
people shout for joy, and, looking around him with
wondering eyes, finds himself the hero of a great

Earl SKULE. Ay, there is that unflinching con-
fidence in Hakon.

Bishop Nicholas. It is that which the Romans
called ingenium. — Truly I am not strong in Latin ;
but 'twas called ingeniwn.

EARL SKULE {thoughtfully at first, afterwards
in increasing excitement). Is Hakon made of other
clay than mine ? The fortunate man ? — Ay, does
not everything thrive with him ? Does not every-
thing shape itself for the best, when he is concerned ?
Even the peasants note it; they say the trees bear

1 Den lykkeligste mand. The word lykke means not only luck or
fortune, but happiness. To render lykkeligste completely, we should
require a word in which the ideas "fortunate" and "happy" should
be blent.

Act II.] The Pretenders. 245

fruit twice, and the fowls hatch out two broods every
summer, whilst Hakon is king. Vermeland, where
he burned and harried, stands smiling with its houses
built afresh, and its cornlands bending heavy-eared
before the breeze. 'Tis as though blood and ashes
fertilised the land where Hakon's armies pass; 'tis as
though the Lord clothed with double verdure what
Hakon had trampled down; 'tis as though the holy
powers made haste to blot out all evil in his track.
And how easy has been his path to the throne ! He
needed that Inge should die early, and Inge died:
his youth needed to be watched and warded, and his
men kept watch and ward around him; he needed
the ordeal, and his mother bore the iron for him.

Bishop Nicholas {with an involuntary outburst).
But we — we two !

Earl Skule. We?

Bishop Nicholas. You, I would say — what of
you ?

Earl SKULE. The right is Hakon's, Bishop.

Bishop Nicholas. The right is his, for he is the
fortunate one; 'tis even the summit of fortune, to
have the right. But by what right has Hakon the
right, and not you ?

Earl Skule (after a short pause). There are
things I pray God to save me from thinking upon.

Bishop Nicholas. Saw you never an old picture
in Christ's Church at Nidaros ? It shows the Deluge
rising and rising over all the hills, so that there is but
one single peak left above the waters. Up it clam-
bers a whole household, father and mother and son
and son's wife and children ; — and the son is hurling

-4 6 The Pretenders. [Act II.

the father back into the flood to gain better footing ;
and he will cast his mother down and his wife and all
his children, to win to the top himself; — for up there
he sees a handsbreadth of ground, where he may keep
life in him for an hour. — That, Earl, that is the saga
of wisdom, and the saga of every wise man.

Earl Skule. But the right !

Bishop Nicholas. The son had the right. He had
strength, and the craving for life ; — fulfil your cravings
and use your strength: so much right has every man.

Earl Skule. Ay, for that which is good.

Bishop Nicholas. Words, words! There is
neither good nor evil, up nor down, high nor low.
You must forget such words, else will you never take
the last stride, never leap the abyss. (In a subdued
voice and insistently^) You must not hate a party or
a cause because the party or the cause would have
this and not that; but you must hate every man of a
party because he is against you, and you must hate
all who gather round a cause, because the cause

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