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clashes with your will. Whatever is helpful to you,
is good — whatever lays stumbling-blocks in your
path, is evil.

Earl Skule {gazing thought/idly befoi'e him).
What has that throne not cost me, which yet I have
not reached ! And what has it cost Hakon, who now
sits in it so securely ! I was young, and I renounced
my sweet secret love to ally myself with a powerful
house. I prayed to the saints that I might be
blessed with a son — I got only daughters.

Bishop Nicholas. Hakon will have sons, Earl
■ — mark that !

Act II.] The Pretenders. 247

Earl Skule {crossing to the window on the right).
Ay — all things fall out to Hakon's wish.

Bishop Nicholas. And you — will you suffer
yourself to be outlawed from happiness all your life
through ? Are you blind ? See you not that it is a
stronger might than the Birchlegs that stands at
Hakon's back, and furthers all his life-work? He
has help from above, from — from those that are
against you — from those that have been your enemies,
even from your birth ! Rouse you, man ; straighten
your back ! To what end got you your masterful
soul ? Bethink you that the first great deed the
world knows of was done by one who rose against a
mighty realm !

Earl Skule. Who?

Bishop Nicholas. The angel who rose against
the light !

Earl Skule. And was hurled into the bottom-
less pit

Bishop Nicholas {wildly). And there founded a
kingdom, and made himself a king, a mighty king —
mightier than any of the ten thousand — earls up
yonder ! (Sinks doivn upon a bench beside the

Earl SKULE {looks long at him). Bishop Nicholas,
are you something more or something less than a

Bishop Nicholas {smiling). I am in the state of
innocence : I know not good from evil.

EARL SKULE {half to himsclj). Why did they
send me into the world, if they meant not to order it
better forme? Hakon has so firm and unswerving

248 Tiik Pretenders. [Act II.

a faith in himself — all his men have so firm and
unswerving" a faith in him

Bishop Nicholas. Let no man see that you
have not so firm a faith in yourself! Speak as
though you had it, swear great oaths that you have
it — and all will believe you.

Earl Skule. Had I a son ! Had I but a son,
to receive the inheritance at my hands !

BISHOP NICHOLAS {eagerly). And if you had a
son, Earl ?

Earl Skule. I have none.

Bishop Nicholas. Hakon will have sons.

Earl Skule {clasping his hands together). And
is king-born !

Bishop Nicholas. Earl — if he were not so ?

Earl SKULE. Has he not proved it ? The

Bishop Nicholas. And if he were not — in spite
of the ordeal ?

Earl Skule. Would you say that God lied in
the issue of the ordeal ?

Bishop Nicholas. What was it Inga of Varteig
called upon God to witness ?

Earl SKULE. That the child she bore in the
eastland, in Borgasyssel, was the son of Hakon

Bishop Nicholas {nods, looks round, and says
softly). And if King Hakon were not that child ?

Earl SKULE {starts a step backivards). Great
God ! {Controls himself.) It is beyond belief.

BISHOP NICHOLAS. Hearken to me, Earl. I
have lived seventy years and six ; it begins to go

Act II.] The Pretenders. 249

sharply downhill with me now, and I dare not take
this secret with me over to the other side

Earl Skule. Speak, speak ! Is he not the son
of Hakon Sverresson ?

Bishop Nicholas. Hear me. It was known to
none that Inga was with child. Hakon Sverresson
was lately dead, and doubtless she feared Inge Bards-
son, who was then king, and you, and — well, and the
Baglers 1 too mayhap. She was brought to bed
secretly in the house of Trond the Priest, east in
Heggen parish, and nine days afterwards she departed
homewards ; but the child remained a whole year
with the priest, she not daring to look to it, and none
knowing that it breathed save Trond and his two

Earl Skule. Ay, ay — and then ?

Bishop Nicholas. When the child was a year
old, it could scarce be kept hidden longer. So Inga
made the matter known to Erlend of Huseby — an old
Birchleg of Sverre's days, as you know.

Earl Skule. Well ?

Bishop Nicholas. He and other chiefs from the
Uplands took the child, bore it over the mountains in
midwinter, and brought it to the King, who was then
at Nidaros.

EARL Skule. And yet you can say that ?

Bishop NICHOLAS. You can well believe that it
was a dangerous matter for a humble priest to rear a
king's-child. So soon as the child was born, then, he
laid the matter before one of his superiors in the
church, and prayed for his counsel. This his superior
1 See note, p. 215.

2$o The Pretenders. [Act II.

bade Trond send the true king's-son with secrecy to a
place of safety, and give Inga another, if she or the
Birchlegs should afterwards ask for her child.

EARL Skule {indignantly?). And who was the
hound that gave that counsel ?

Bishop Nicholas. It was I.

Earl Skule. You ? Ay, you have ever hated
the race of Sverre.

Bishop Nicholas. I deemed it unsafe for the
king's-son to fall into your hands.

Earl Skule. But the priest ?

Bishop Nicholas. Promised to do as I bade.

Earl SKULE {seizing him by the arm). And is
Hakon the other ?

Bishop Nicholas. Ay, if the priest kept his

Earl Skule. //he kept it?

Bishop Nicholas. Trond the Priest departed the
land the same winter that the child was brought
to King Inge. He journeyed to Thomas Beckett's
grave, and afterwards abode in England till his death.

EARL SKULE. He departed the land, say you?
Then must he have changed the children and
dreaded the vengeance of the Birchlegs.

Bishop Nicholas. Or he did not change the
children, and dreaded my vengeance.

Earl Skule. Which surmise hold you for the
truth ?

Bishop Nicholas. Either may well be true.

Earl Skule. But the sons you spoke of?

Bishop Nicholas. They went with the crus-
aders to the Holy Land.

Act II.] The Pretenders. 251

Earl Skule. And you have had no tidings of

Bishop Nicholas. Ay, tidings I have had.

Earl Skule. Where are they ?

Bishop Nicholas. They were drowned in the
Greek Sea on the journey forth.

Earl Skule. And Inga ?

Bishop Nicholas. Knows nought, either of
priest's confession or of my counsel.

Earl Skule. Her child was but nine days old
when she left it, you said ?

Bishop Nicholas. Ay, and the child she next
saw was over a year

Earl Skule. Then no living creature can throw
light on this matter ! {Paces rapidly to and fro.)
Almighty God, can this be true? Hakon — the King
— he who holds sway over all this land, is he not
king-born ! — And why should it not be like enough ?
Has not all fortune miraculously followed him? —
Why not this also, to be taken as a child from a poor
cottar's hut and laid in a king's cradle ?

Bishop Nicholas. Whilst the whole people
believes that he is the king's son

Earl Skule. Whilst he himself believes it,
Bishop — that is the heart of his fortune, that is the
girdle of strength ! {Goes to the window) See how
bravely he sits his horse! None sits like him. His eyes
are filled with laughing, dancing sunshine; he looks
forth into the day as though he knew himself created
to go forward, ever forward. {Turns towards the
BISHOP.) I am a king's arm, mayhap a king's brain
as well ; but he is the whole King.

252 Tim: I'uktknders. [Act [I.

BISHOP NICHOLAS. Yet no king after all, may-

EARL Skule. Mayhap no king after all.

Bishop Nicholas {lays his hand on the Earl's
shoulder). Hearken to me, Earl Skule

EARL Skule {still looking out). There sits the
Queen. Hakon speaks gently to her; she turns
red and white with joy. He took her to wife because
it was wise to choose the daughter of the mightiest
man in the land. There was then no thought of love
for her in his heart; — but that will come; Hakon has

fortune with him. She will shed light over his life

{Stops, and cries in astonishment^) What is that ?

Bishop Nicholas. What?

Earl SKULE. Dagfinn the Peasant bursts violently
through the crowd. Now he is giving the King some

Bishop Nicholas {looking out from behind the
Earl). Hakon seems angered — does he not? He
clenches his fist

Earl Skule. He looks hitherward — what can it
be ? {Going.)

Bishop Nicholas {holding him back). Hearken
to me, Earl Skule — there may yet be one means of
winning assurance as to Hakon's right.

Earl Skule. One means, you say ?

BISHOP Nicholas. Trond the Priest, ere he died,
wrote a letter telling his whole tale, and took the
sacrament in witness of its truth.

Earl Skule. And that letter — for God's pity's
sake — where is it ?

Bishop Nicholas. You must know that

Act II.] The Pretenders. 253

{Looks towards the door.) Hist ! — here comes the

Earl Skule. The letter, Bishop — the letter !
Bishop Nicholas. Here is the King.

(Hakon enters, followed by his Guard and many
guests. Immediately afterwards, Margrete
appears; she seems anxious and alarmed, and
is about to rush up to the King, wJien she is
restrained by Lady Ragnhild, who, with
other ladies, has followed her. SlGRlD stands
somewhat apart, towards the back. The Earl's
men appear uneasy and gather in a group on
the right, where SKULE is standing, but some
ivay behind him.)
Hakon (in strong but repressed excitement). Earl
Skule, who is king in this land ?
Earl Skule. Who is king?
Hakon. That was my question. I bear the
kingly title, but who holds the kingly might ?

Earl Skule. The kingly might should dwell
with him who has the kingly right.

Hakon. So should it be; but is it so?
Earl Skule. Do you summon me to judg-

Hakon. That do I; for that right I have towards
every man in the land.

Earl Skule. I fear not to answer for my deal-

Hakon. Well for us all if you can. (Mounts one
of the steps of throne-dais, and leans upon one arm of the
throne?) Here stand I as your King, and ask: Know
you that Jon, Earl of Orkney, has risen against me ?

254 The Pretenders. [Act II.

Earl Skule. Yes.

HAKON. That he denies to pay me tribute ?

Earl Skule. Yes.

HAKON. And is it true that you, Sir Earl, have
this day sent him a letter ?

Earl Skule. Who says so ?

Ivar Bodde. That do I.

DAGFINN. Jostein Tamb dared not deny to carry
it, since it bore the King's seal.

Hakon. You write to the King's foes under the
King's seal, although the King knows nought of what
is written ?

Earl SKULE. So have I done for many a year,
with your good will.

Hakon. Ay, in the days of your regency.

Earl Skule. Never have you had aught but good
thereby. Earl Jon wrote to me praying that I would
mediate on his behalf; he offered peace, but on terms
dishonourable to the King. The war in Vermeland
has weighed much upon your mind ; had this matter
been left to you, Earl Jon had come too lightly off — I
can deal better with him.

Hakon. We choose rather to deal with him our-
selves. — And what have you answered ?

Earl SKULE. Read my letter.

Hakon. Give it me !

Earl Skule. I deemed you had it.

DAGFINN. You well know we have it not.
Gregorius Jonsson was too swift of foot; when we
came on board, the letter was gone.

Earl Skule (turns to Gregorius Jonsson).
Sir Baron, give the King the letter.

Act II.] The Pretenders. 255

GREGORIUS JONSSON {coming close to him, uneasily).
Hearken, Earl !

Earl Skule. What now ?

GREGORIUS JONSSON {softly). Bethink you, there
were sharp words in it concerning the King.

Earl Skule. My words I shall answer for. The
letter !

GREGORIUS JONSSON. I have it not !

Earl Skule. You have it not ?

GREGORIUS JONSSON. Dagfinn the Peasant was
at our heels. I snatched the letter from Jostein
Tamb, tied a stone to it

Earl Skule. Well ?

GREGORIUS JONSSON. It lies at the bottom of the

Earl Skule. You have done ill — ill.

Hakon. I await the letter, Sir Earl.

Earl Skule. I cannot give it you.

Hakon. You cannot !

Earl SKULE {advancing a step towards the King).
My pride brooks not to be put to shifts, as you and
your men would call them

Hakon {controlling his rising wrath). And so

EARL SKULE. In one word — I will not give it you !

Hakon. Then you defy me !

Earl Skule. Since so it must be — Yes, I defy you.

IVAR BODDE {forcibly). Now, my lord King, now
I scarce think you or any man can need more

DAGFINN. Ay, now I think we know the Earl's

256 The Pretenders. [Act IT.

1 1 \KON {coldly, to the Earl). You will give the
Great Seal to Ivar Bodde.

Margrete {rushes with clasped Jiands towards the
dais, where the King is standing). Hakon, be a kind
and gracious husband to me !

(Hakon makes an imperative gesture towards
her ; she hides her face in her veil, and goes up
towards her mother again.)

Earl Skule {to Ivar Bodde). Here is the
Great Seal.

Ivar Bodde. This was to be the last evening of
the feast. It has ended in a heavy sorrow for the
King ; but sooner or later it needs must come, and
methinks every true man must rejoice that it has

Earl Skule. And I think every true man must
feel bitter wrath to see a priest thus make mischief
between us Birchlegs ; — ay, Birchlegs, I say ; for I
am every whit as good a Birchleg as the King or any
of his men. I am of the same stock, the stock of
Sverre, the kingly stock — but you, Priest, you have
built up a wall of distrust around the King, and shut
me out from him ; that has been your task this many
a year.

PAUL FLIDA {enraged, to the bystanders). Earl's
men ! Shall we abide this longer ?

GREGORIUS JONSSON. No, we cannot and will not
abide it any more. 'Tis time to say it plainly — none
of the Earl's men can serve the King in full trust and
love, so long as Ivar Bodde comes and goes in the
palace, and makes bad blood between us.

PAUL FLIDA. Priest ! I bid you look to life and

Act II.] The Pretenders. 257

limb, wheresoever I meet you — in the field, on ship-
board, or in any unconsecrated house.

MANY Earl's-Men. I too ! I too ! You are an
outlaw to us !

IVAR BODDE. God forbid I should stand between
the King and so many mighty chieftains. — Hakon, my
gracious lord, my soul bears me witness that I have
served you in all faithfulness. True, I have warned
you against the Earl ; but if I have ever done him
wrong, I pray God forgive me. Now have I no
more to do in the palace ; here is your Seal ; take it
into your own hands ; there it should have rested
long ago.

Hakon {who has come down from the dais). You
shall remain !

IVAR Bodde. I cannot. If I did, my conscience
would gnaw and rend me night and day. Greater
evil can no man do in these times than to hold the
King and the Earl asunder.

HAKON. Ivar Bodde, I command you to remain !

IVAR Bodde. If the sainted King Olaf should
arise from his silver shrine to bid me stay, still I
needs must go. {Places the Seal in the King's hand.)
Farewell, my noble master ! God bless and prosper
you in all your life-work !

{Goes out through the crowd, to the right.)

Hakon {gloomily, to the Earl and his Men).
There have I lost a trusty friend for your sakes ;
what requital can you offer great enough to make
good that loss?

EARL SkuLE. I offer myself and all my friends.

Hakon. I almost fear 'twill not suffice. Now


i$$ The Pretenders. [Act II.

must I gather round mc all the men I can fully trust.
Dagfinn the Peasant, let a messenger set out forth-
with tor Halogaland ; Vegard Vaenulal must be

I I \ i\n {who has been standing somezvJiat towards
the back, in conversation with a Man i?i travelling
dress who has entered the hall, approaches and says
with emotion :) Vegard cannot come, my lord.

HAKON. How know you that ?

Dagfinn. I have even now received tidings of

HAKON. What tidings ?

Dagfinn. That Vegard Vaeradal is slain.

Many Voices. Slain !

HAKON. Who slew him ?

Dagfinn. Andres Skialdarband, the Earl's friend.
(A short pause; uneasy whispers pass among the

HAKON. Where is the messenger ?

DAGFINN {leading the man forward}. Here, my
lord King.

HaKON. What was the cause of slaying ?

The Messenger. That no man knows. The
talk fell upon the Finnish tribute, and on a sudden
Andres sprang up and gave him his death-wound.

HAKON. Had there been quarrels between them
before ?

The MESSENGER. Ever and anon. Andres was
oft heard to say that a wise councillor here in the
south had written to him that he should be as rock
and flint towards Vegard Vaeradal.

DAGFINN. Strange! Ere Vegard set forth he

Act II.] The Pretenders. 259

told me that a wise councillor had said he should be
as rock and flint towards Andres Skialdarband.

Bishop Nicholas {spitting). Shame upon such
councillors !

HAKON. We will not question more closely from
what root this wrong has grown. Two faithful souls
have I lost this day. I could weep for Vegard ; but
'tis no time for weeping ; it must be life for life. Sir
Earl, Andres Skialdarband is your sworn retainer ;
you offered me all service in requital for Ivar Bodde.
I take you at your word, and look to you to see that
this misdeed be avenged.

EARL Skule. Of a truth, bad angels are at work
between us to-day. On any other of my men, I
would have suffered you to avenge the murder

HAKON {expectantly). Well ?

EARL SKULE. But not on Andres Skialdarband.

HAKON {flaring up). Will you shield the
murderer ?

Earl Skule. This murderer I must shield.

Hakon. And the reason ?

Earl Skule. That none but God in heaven may

Bishop Nicholas {softly, to Dagfinn). I know it.

DAGFINN. And I suspect it.

Bishop Nicholas. Say nought, good Dagfinn.

HAKON. Earl, I will believe as long as I may,
that you mean not in earnest what you have said to

EARL SKULE. Were it my own father Andres
Skialdarband had slain, he should still go free. Ask
no more.

260 The Pretenders. [Act II.

ETAKON. Good. Then wc ourselves must see to
the matter !

Earl Skule {with an expression of alarm). There
will be bloodshed on both sides, my lord King!

Hakon. So be it ; none the less shall vengeance
be taken.

Earl Skule. It shall not be taken ! — It cannot be
taken !

BISHOP NICHOLAS. Nay, there the Earl is right.

HAKON. Say you so, my honoured lord ?

Bishop Nicholas. Andres Skialdarband has
taken the Cross.

Hakon and Earl Skule. Taken the Cross !

Bishop Nicholas. And has already sailed from
the land.

Earl Skule. Tis well for all of us !

HAKON. The day wanes ; the bridal-feast must
now be at an end. I thank you, Sir Earl, for all the
honour that has been shown me in these days. — You
are bound for Nidaros, as I think ?

Earl SKULE. That is my intent.

Hakon. And I for Viken. — If you, Margrete,
choose rather to abide in Bergen, then do so.

MARGRETE. Whither you go, I go too, until you

Hakon. Good ; then come with me.

SlGRID. Now is our kindred spread far abroad.
{Kneels to HAKON.) Grant me a grace, my lord
King !

Hakon. Rise, Lady Sigrid ; whatever you crave
shall be granted.

Sigrid. I cannot go with the Earl to Nidaros.

Act II.] The Pretenders. 261

The nunnery at Rein will soon be consecrated ; write
to the Archbishop — take order that I be made

Earl Skule. You, my sister ?

HAKON. You will enter a nunnery !

SlGRlD {rising). Since my bloody wedding-night
at Nidaros, when the Baglers came and hewed down
my bridegroom, and many hundreds with him, and
fired the town at all its corners — since then, it has
been as though the blood and fire had dulled and
deadened my sight for the world around me. But I
learned to catch glimpses of that which other eyes see
not — and one thing I now see : that a time of great
dread hangs over this land !

Earl Skule (vehemently). She is sick ! Heed
her not !

• SlGRlD. A plenteous harvest is ripening for him
that reaps in the darkness. Every woman in Norway
will have but one task now — to kneel in church
and cloister, and pray and pray both day and

HAKON {shaken). Is it prophecy or soul-sickness
that speaks thus ?

SlGRlD. Farewell, my brother — we shall meet
once more.

EARL SKULE {involuntarily). When ?

SlGRlD {softly). When you have taken the crown ;
in the hour of danger, — when you arc fain of me in
your direst need.

{Goes out to the right, with Margrete, Lady
RAGNHILD, and the tvoi/ien.)

HAKON {after a short pause, draws his sword, and

The Pretenders. [Act II.

'// quiet determination). All the Earl's men
shall take the oath of fealty.

EARL Skule {vehemently). Is this your settled
purpose? {Almost imploringly.) King Hakon, do
not so !

HAKON. No EarPs-man shall leave Bergen ere
he has sworn fealty to the King.

{Goes out with his Guard. A 11 except the Earl
and the BlSHOP/tf/Ztfw him.)

Bishop Nicholas. He has dealt hardly with you
to-day !

(Earl SKULE is silent, and looks out after the
KlNG, as though struck dumb.)

BISHOP Nicholas {more loudly). And mayhap
not king-born after all.

Earl Skule {turns suddenly, in strong excitement,
and seizes the Bishop by the arm). Trond the Priest's
confession — where is it ?

Bishop Nicholas. He sent it to me from Eng-
land ere he died ; I know not by whom — and it never
reached me.

Earl Skule. But it must be to be found !

Bishop Nicholas. I doubt not but it may.

Earl Skule. And if you find it, you will give it
into my hands?

Bishop Nicholas. That I promise.

Earl Skule. You swear it by your soul's salva-
tion ?

Bishop Nicholas. I swear it by my soul's
salvation !

Earl Skule. Good ; till that time I will work
against Hakon, wherever it can be done secretly and

Act II.] The Pretenders. 263

unnoted. He must be hindered from growing
mightier than I, ere the struggle begins.

Bishop Nicholas. But should it prove that he is
in truth king-born — what then ?

Earl Skule. Then must I try to pray — to pray
for humbleness, that I may serve him with all my
might, as a faithful chieftain.

BISHOP NICHOLAS. And if he be not king-
born ?

Earl Skule. Then shall he give place to me!
The kingly title and the kingly throne, host and
guard, fleet and tribute, towns and castles, all shall be
mine !

Bishop Nicholas. He will betake him to

Earl Skule. I will drive him out of Viken !

Bishop Nicholas. He will ensconce him in

Earl Skule. I will storm Nidaros !

Bishop Nicholas. He will shut himself up in
Olafs holy church

Earl Skule. I will force the sanctuary —

Bishop Nicholas. lie will fly to the high altar,
and cling to Olafs shrine

Earl Skule. I will drag him down from
the altar, though I drag the shrine along with

Bishop Nicholas. But the crown will still be on
his head, Earl !

EARL SKULE. I will strike off the crown with my
sword !

Bishop Nicholas. But if it sits too tight ?

264 The Pretenders. [Act II.

EARL Skulk. Then, in God's name or Satan's — I
will strike off the head along with it !
{Goes out to the right.)
Bishop Nicholas {looks out after him, nods slozv/y,
• says :) Ay — ay — in that mood I like the Earl !


Act III.] The Pretenders. 265

Act Third.

(A room in the BisJiofis Palace at Oslo} On the right is the
entrance door. In the back, a small door, standing open, leads
into the Chapel, which is lighted tip. A curtained door in the
left wall leads into the Bishop's sleeping-room. In front, on
the same side, stands a cushioned couch. Opposite, on the
right, is a writing-table, with letters, documents, and a lighted

{At first the room is empty j behind the curtain on the left, the
singing of monks is heard. Presently Paul Flida, i7i travel-
ling dress, enters from the right, stops by the door, waits, looks
around, and then knocks three times with his staff upon the

SlRA ViLlAM {comes out from the left, and exclaims
in a hushed voice). Paul Flida ! God be praised ; —
then the Earl is not far off.

Paul Flida. The ships are already at Hoved-
isle ; I came on ahead. And how goes it with the
Bishop ?

SlRA ViLlAM. Me is now receiving the Extreme

Paul Flida. Then there is great danger?

SlRA ViLlAM. Master Sigard of Brabant has said
that he cannot outlive the night.

Paul Flida. Mesecms he has summoned us too

SlRA Viliam. Nay, nay, — he has his full senses

1 An ancient city clo^c to the present Chriatiania.

266 The Pretenders. [Act III.

and some strength to boot, — every moment he asks if
the Earl comes not soon.

Paul Flida. You still call him Earl ; know
you not that the King has given him the title of
Duke ?

SlRA VlLIAM. Ay ay, we know it well ; 'tis but
old custom. Hist !

{He and PAUL Flida cross themselves and bow
their heads. From the BISHOP'S door issue two
acolytes with candles, then two more with

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