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censers ; then priests bearing chalice, paten and
crucifix, and a church banner ; behind them a
file of priests and monks ; acolytes with candles
and censers close the procession, which passes
slowly into the chapel. The door is shut
behind them.)
PAUL FLIDA. Now has the old lord made up his
account with this world.

SlRA VlLIAM. I can tell him that Duke Skule
comes so soon as may be ?

PAUL FLIDA. He comes straight from the wharf
up here to the Palace. Farewell ! {Goes.)

{Several priests, amongst them PETER, with some
of the Bishop's servants, come out from the left
with furs, cushions, and a large brazier?)
SlRA VlLIAM. Why do you this ?
A PRIEST {arranging tlie couch). The Bishop wills
to lie out here.

SlRA VlLIAM. Is that prudent ?
The PRIEST. Master Sigard thinks we may
humour him. Here he is.

(Bishop Nicholas enters, supported by Master



Act III.] The Pretenders. 267

SlGARD and a Priest. He is in his canonicals,
but without crozier and mitre.)

Bishop Nicholas. Light more candles. (He is
led to a seat upon the couch, near the brazier, and is
covered with furs?) Viliam ! Now have I obtained
forgiveness for all my sins ! They took them all
away with them ; — meseems I am so light now.

SlRA VlLIAM. The Duke sends you greeting, my
lord ; he has already passed Hoved-isle !

Bishop Nicholas. Tis well, very well. Belike
the King, too, will soon be here. I have been a sinful
hound in my day, Viliam ; I have grievously tres-
passed against the King. The priests in there averred
that all my sins should be forgiven me ; — well well, it
may be so ; but 'tis easy for them to promise ; 'tis
not against them that I have trespassed. No no ; it is
safest to have it from the King's own mouth. (Ex-,
claims impatiently.) Light, I say! 'tis so dark in here.

SlRA VlLIAM. The candles arc lighted

Master SlGARD (stops him by a sign, and approacJies
the BISHOP). How goes it with you, my lord ?

BISHOP NICHOLAS. So-so — so-so ; my hands and
feet are cold.

Master SlGARD (half aloud, as he moves the brazier
nearer). Hm — 'tis the beginning of the end.

Bishop Nicholas (apprehensively, to Viliam). I
have commanded that eight monks shall chant and
pray for me in the chapel to-night. Have an eye to
them ; there are idle fellows amongst them.

(SlRA VlLTAM points silently towards the chapel,
whence singing is heard, rvliich continues during
what follows?)



268 The Pretenders. Act III.]

BISHOP Nicholas. So much still undone, and to
go and leave it all ! So much undone, Viliam !

SlRA Viliam. My lord, think of heavenly things!

Bishop Nicholas. I have time before me ; — till
well on in the morning, Master Sigard thinks

SlRA VlLIAM. My lord, my lord !

Bishop NICHOLAS. Give me mitre and crozier ! —

You say well that I should think {A Priest brings

them.) So, set the cap there, 'tis too heavy for me ;
give me the crozier in my hand ; there, now am I

equipped. A bishop ! The Evil One dare not

grapple with me now !

SlRA Viliam. Desire you aught beside ?

Bishop Nicholas. No. Stay — tell me ; — Peter,
Andres Skialdarband's son, — all speak well of him

SlRA Viliam. In truth, his is a blameless soul.
. Bishop NICHOLAS. Peter, you shall watch beside
me until the King or the Duke shall come. Leave
us, meanwhile, you others, but be at hand.
{All except Peter go out on the right.)

Bishop Nicholas [after a short pause). Peter !

Peter {approaches). My lord ?

Bishop Nicholas. Have you ever seen old men
die?

Peter. No.

Bishop Nicholas. They are all afeard ; that I
dare swear. There on the table lies a large letter
with seals to it ; give it to me. (Peter brings the
letter?) It is to your mother.

Peter. To my mother ?

Bishop Nicholas. You must get you northward
to Haloealand with it. I have written to her touch-



Act III.] The Pretenders. 269

ing a great and weighty matter; tidings have come
from your father.

Peter. He is fighting as a soldier of God in the
Holy Land. Should he fall there, he falls on hallowed
ground ; for there every foot's-breadth of earth is
sacred. I commend him to God in all my prayers.

Bishop Nicholas. Is Andres Skialdarband dear
to you ?

PETER. He is an honourable man ; but there lives
another man whose greatness my mother, as it were,
fostered and nourished me withal.

BISHOP NICHOLAS {hurriedly and eagerly). Is that
Duke Skule?

PETER. Ay, the Duke — Skule Bardsson. My
mother knew him in younger days. The Duke must
sure be the greatest man in the land !

Bishop NICHOLAS. There is the letter; get you
northward with it forthwith ! Are they singing in
there ?

Peter. Yes, my lord !

Bishop Nicholas. Eight lusty fellows with
throats like trumpets, they must surely help some-
what, methinks ?

PETER. My lord, my lord ! I would pray myself!

Bishop Nicholas. I have too much still undone,
Peter. Life is all too short; — besides, the King will

surely forgive me when he comes

{Gives a start, in pain.)

Peter. My lord suffers ?

Bishop Nicholas. I suffer not; but there is a
ringing in mine cars; and lights keep twinkling
before mine eyes



270 The Pretenders. [Act III.

Peter. Tis the heavenly bells ringing you home,
and the twinkling of the altar-lights God's angels
have kindled for you.

Bishop Nicholas. Ay, sure 'tis so; — there is no
danger if only they lag not with their prayers in
there. Farewell ; set forth at once with the letter.

Peter. Shall I not first ?

Bishop Nicholas. Nay, go; I fear not to be
alone.

PETER. Well met again, then, what time the
heavenly bells shall sound for me too.
{Goes out on the right.)

Bishop Nicholas. The heavenly bells, — ay, 'tis
easy talking when you still have two stout legs to
stand upon. — So much undone ! But much will live
after me, notwithstanding. I promised the Duke by
my soul's salvation to give him Trond the Priest's
confession if it came into my hand ; — 'tis well I have
not got it. Had he certainty, he would conquer or
fall; and then one of them would be the mightiest
man that ever lived in Norway. No no, — what I
could not reach none other shall reach. Uncertainty
serves best; so long as the Duke is burdened with
that, they two will waste each other's strength
wheresoever they may; towns will be burnt, dales will

be harried, — neither will gain by the other's loss

{Terrified.) Mercy, pity! It is I who bear the
guilt — I, who set it all agoing ! {Calming himself.)
Well, well, well ! but now the King is coming — 'tis
he that suffers most — he will forgive me — prayers
and masses shall be said; there is no danger; — I am
a bishop, and I have never slain any man with mine



Act III.] The Pretenders 271

own hand. — Tis well that Trond the Priest's confes-
sion came not; the saints are with me, they will not
tempt me to break my promise. — Who knocks at the
door ? It must be the Duke ! {Rubs his hands with
glee.) He will implore me for proofs as to the king-
ship, — and I have no proofs to give him !

(Inga of Varteig enters; she is dressed in
black, with a cloak and hood.)

Bishop Nicholas (starts). Who is that ?

INGA. A woman from Varteig in Borgasyssel, my
honoured lord.

Bishop Nicholas. The King's mother !

INGA. So was I called once.

Bishop Nicholas. Go, go! 'Twas not I coun-
selled Hakon to send you away.

Inga. What the King does is well done; 'tis not
therefore I come.

Bishop Nicholas. Wherefore then ?

INGA. Gunnulf, my brother, is come home from
England

Bishop Nicholas. From England !

Inga. He has been away these many years, as you
know, and has roamed far and wide ; now has he
brought home a letter

Bishop Nicholas (breathlessly). A letter ?

INGA From Trond the Priest. 'Tis for you, my
lord.

(Hands it to him.)

Bishop Nicholas. Ah, truly; — and you bring
it?

INGA. It was Trond's wish. I owe him great
thanks since the time he fostered Hakon. It was



2;2 The Pretenders. [Act III.

told mc that you were sick ; therefore I set forth at
once ; I have come hither on foot

Bishop Nicholas. It hasted not so much, Inga !
(Dagfinn the Peasant enters from the right)

DAGFINN. God's peace, my honoured lord !

Bishop Nicholas. Comes the King ?

DAGFINN. He is now riding down the Ryen hills,
with the Queen and the King-child and a great
following.

INGA {rushes up to Dagfinn). The King, — the
King ! Comes he hither ?

Dagfinn. Inga! You here, much-suffering
woman !

Inga. She is not much-suffering who has so great
a son.

DAGFINN. Now will his hard heart be melted.

Inga. Not a word to the King of me. Oh, but I
must see him ; — tell me, — comes he hither ?

Dagfinn. Ay, presently.

Inga. And it is dark evening. The King will be
lighted on his way with torches ?

Dagfinn. Yes.

Inga. Then will I hide me in a gateway as he
goes by ; — and then home to Varteig. But first will
I into Hallvard's church ; the lights are burning there
to-night ; there will I call down blessings on the
King, on my fair son.

{Goes out to the right.)

Dagfinn. I have fulfilled mine errand ; I go to
meet the King.

Bishop Nicholas. Bear him most loving greet-
ing, good Dagfinn !



Act III.] The Pretenders. 273

Dagfinn (as he goes out to the right). I would not
be Bishop Nicholas to-morrow.

Bishop Nicholas. Trond the Priest's confession

! So it has come after all — here I hold it in my

hand. (Muses and stares before him.) A man should
never promise aught by his soul's salvation, when he
is as old as I. Had I years before me, I could always
wriggle free from such a promise ; but this evening,
this last evening — no, that were imprudent. — But can
I keep it ? Is it not to endanger all that I have
worked for, my whole life through ? — ( Whispering.)
Oh, could I but cheat the Evil One, only this once
more! (Listens.) What was that ? (Calls.) Viliam,
Viliam !

(SlRA Viliam enters from the right.)

Bishop Nicholas. What is it that whistles and
howls so grimly ?

SlKA VlLIAM. Tis the storm ; it grows fiercer.

Bishop NICHOLAS. The storm grows fiercer ! Ay
truly, I will keep my promise ! The storm, say
you ? Are they singing in there ?

Sira Viliam. Yes, my lord.

BISHOP NICHOLAS. Bid them bestir themselves,
and chiefly brother Aslak ; he always makes such
scant prayers ; he shirks when he can ; he skips, the
hound ! (Strikes the floor zvith his crosier.) Go in
and say to him 'tis the last night I have left ; he shall
bestir himself, else will I haunt him from the dead !

SlRA VlLIAM. My lord, shall I not fetch Master
Sigard ?

BISHOP NICHOLAS. Go in, I say! (Viliam
into the chapel.) It must doubtless be heaven's will

18



274 The Pretenders. [Act 111.

that I should reconcile the King and the Duke, since
it sends me Trend's letter now. This is a hard thing,
Nicholas ; to tear down at one single wrench what
you have spent your life in building up. But there is
no other way; I must e'en do the will of heaven this
time. — If I could only read what is written in the
letter ; but I cannot see a word ! Mists drive before
my eyes ; they sparkle and flicker ; and I dare let

none other read it for me ! Is human cunning,

then, so poor a thing that it cannot govern the out-
come of its contrivances in the second and third
degree ? I spoke so long and so earnestly to Vegard
Vaeradal about making the King send Inga from him,
that at length it came to pass. That was wise in the
first degree ; but had I not counselled thus, then
Inga had not now been at Varteig, the letter had not
come into my hands in time, and I had not had any
promise to keep — therefore was it unwise in the

second degree. Had I yet time before me ! but

only the space of one night, and scarce even that. I
must, I will live longer ! {Knocks with his crozier ;
a Priest enters from the right?) Bid Master Sigard
come! {The Priest goes ; the Bishop crushes the letter
in his hands.) Here, under this thin seal, lies Nor-
way's saga for a hundred years ! It lies and dreams, like
the birdling in the egg ! Oh, that I had more souls
than one — or else none I {Presses the letter wildly to
his breast?) Oh, were not the end so close upon me, —
and judgment and punishment — I would hatch you
out into a hawk that should cast the deadful shadow
of his wings over all the land, and strike his sharp
talons into every heart ! ( With a sttdden shudder?



Act III.] The Pretenders. 275

But the last hour is at hand ! (Shrieking?) No, no !
You shall become a swan, a white swan ! (Throws
the letter far from him, onto the floor, and calls :)
Master Sigard, Master Sigard !

Master Sigard (from the right). How goes it,
honoured lord ?

BISHOP NICHOLAS. Master Sigard — sell me three
days' life !

Master Sigard. I have told you

Bishop Nicholas. Yes, yes ; but that was in
jest ; 'twas a little revenge on me. I have been a
tedious master to you ; therefore you thought to
scare me. Fie, that was evil, — nay, nay — 'twas but
just ! But, now be good and kind ! I will pay you
well ; — three days' life, Master Sigard, only three
days' life !

MASTER SlGARD. Though I myself were to die
in the same hour as you, yet could I not add three
days to your span.

Bishop NICHOLAS. One day, then, only one day !
Let it be light, let the sun shine when my soul sets
forth ! Listen, Sigard ! (Beckons him over, and drags
him down upon the couch.) I have given well-nigh all
my gold and silver to the Church, to have high masses
said for me. I will take it back again ; you shall
have it all ! How now, Sigard, shall we two fool
them in there ? Hc-hc-he ! You will be rich, Sigard,
and can depart the country ; I shall have time to cast
about me a little, and make shift with fewer prayers.

Come, Sigard, shall we ! (Sigard feels his pulse ;

the BISHOP exclaims anxiously :) I low now, why
answer you not ?



276 . Tin Pretenders. [Act III.

.Master Sigard '(rising). I have no time, my
lord. I must prepare you a draught that may ease
you some what at the last.

Bishop Nicholas. Nay, wait with that ! Wait,
— and answer me !

Master Sigard. I have no time; the draught
must be ready within an hour.
{Goes out to the right.)

Bishop Nicholas. Within an hour! (Knocks
wildly?) Viliam ! Viliam !

(Sira Viliam comes out from the chapel.)

Bishop Nicholas. Call more to help in there!
The eight are not enough !

Sira Viliam. My lord ?

Bishop Nicholas. More to help, I say! Brother
Kolbein has lain sick these five weeks, — he cannot
have sinned much in that time

SlRA ViLIAM. He confessed yesterday.

Bishop Nicholas {eagerly). Ay, he must be
good ; call him ! (ViLIAM goes into the chapel again.)
Within an hour ! {Dries the szucat off his brow.)
Pah — how warm it is here ! — The miserable hound — -
what boots all his learning, when he cannot add an
hour to my life ? There sits he in his closet day by
day, piecing together his cunning wheels and weights
and levers ; he thinks to fashion a machine that shall
go and go and never stop — perpetuum mobile he calls
it. Why not rather turn his art and his skill to making
man such a perpetuum mobile? (Stops and thinks ; his
eyes brighten.) Perpetuum mobile, — I am not strong
in Latin- -but it means somewhat that has power
to work eternally, throughout all ages. If I myself,



Act III.] The Pretenders. 277

now, could but ? That were a deed to end my

life withal ! That were to do my greatest deed in
my latest hour ! To set wheel and weight and lever
at work in the King's soul and the Duke's ; to set
them going so that no power on earth can stop
them ; if I can but do that, then shall I live indeed,
live in my work — and, when I think of it, mayhap 'tis
that which is called immortality. — Comfortable, sooth-
ing thoughts, how ye do the old man good ! {Draivs
a deep breath, and stretches himself comfortably upon
the couch.) Diabolus has pressed me hard to-night.
That comes of lying idle; otium est pulvis — pulveris —

pooh, no matter for the Latin Diabolus shall

no longer have power over me ; I will be busy to the

last ; I will ; how they bellow in yonder

{Knocks; VlLIAM comes out.) Tell them to hold their
peace ; they disturb me. The King and the Duke
will soon be here ; I have weighty matters to ponder.

SlRA VlLIAM. My lord, shall I then ?

Bishop Nicholas. Bid them hold awhile, that I
may think in peace. Look you, take up yonder letter
that lies upon the floor. — Good. Reach me the
papers here

SlRA VlLIAM {goes to the writing-table). Which,
my lord ?

Bishop Nicholas. It matters not- ; the scaled

ones ; those that lie uppermost — So ; go now in and
bid them be silent. (VlLIAM goes.) To die, and yet
rule in Norway! To die, and yet contrive things so
that no man may come to raise his head above the
rest. A thousand ways may lead towards that goal ;
yet is there but one that will reach it; — ;\ni] now to



278 The Pretenders. [Act III.

find that one — to find it and follow it. Ha !

The way lies so close, so close at hand ! Ay, so it
must be. I will keep my promise ; the Duke shall
have the letter in his hands ; — but the King — hm, he
shall have the thorn of doubt in his heart. Hakon is
upright, as they call it ; many things will go to wreck
in his soul along with the faith in himself and in his
right. Both of them shall doubt and believe by turns,
still swaying to and fro, and finding no firm ground
beneath their feet — perpeluum mobile! — But will Hakon
believe what I say ? Ay, that will he ; am I not a
dying man ? — And I will begin by cramming him
with truths. — My strength fails, but fresh life fills my
soul ; — I no longer lie on a sick-bed, I sit in my work-
room ; I will work the last night through, work —
till the light goes out

DUKE Skule {enters from the right and advances
towards the BISHOP). Peace and greeting, my
honoured lord ! I hear it goes ill with you.

BISHOP NICHOLAS. I am a corpse in the bud,
good Duke ; this night shall I blossom ; to-morrow
you may scent my perfume.

DUKE SKULE. Already to-night, say you ?

BISHOP Nicholas. Master Sigard says : within
an hour.

DUKE SKULE. And Trond the Priest's letter— — ?

Bishop Nicholas. Think you still upon that ?

DUKE SKULE. 'Tis never out of my thoughts.

Bishop Nicholas. The King has made you Duke;
before you, no man in Norway has borne that title.

Duke Skule. 'Tis not enough. If Hakon be
not the rightful king, then must I have all !



Act III.] The Pretenders. 279

Bishop Nicholas. Ha, 'tis cold in here; the
blood runs icy through my limbs.

DUKE SKULE. Trond the Priest's letter, my lord!
For Almighty God's sake, — have you it ?

Bishop Nicholas. At least, I know where it
can be found.

DUKE SKULE. Tell me then, tell me !

Bishop Nicholas. Wait

Duke SKULE. Nay, nay — lose not your time; I
see it draws to an end ; — and they tell me the King
comes hither.

BISHOP NICHOLAS. Ay, the King comes; thereby
you may best see that I am mindful of your cause,
even now.

DUKE Skule. What is your purpose ?

Bishop Nicholas. Mind you, at the King's
bridal — you said that Hakon's strength lay in his
steadfast faith in himself?

Duke Skule. Well?

Bishop Nicholas. If I confess, and raise a
doubt in his mind, then his faith will fall, and his
strength with it.

DUKE SKULE. My lord, this is sinful, sinful, if he
be the rightful king.

Bishop Nicholas. It will lie with you to restore
his faith. Ere I depart hence, I will tell you where
Trond the Priest's letter may be found.

SlRA VlLIAM {from the right). The King is
now coming up the street, with torch-bearers and
attendants.

Bishop Nicholas. He shall be welcome. (Vilia.m
goes.) Duke, I beg of you one last service. 1 )\ •



2$o The Pretenders. [Act IT I.

cany on my feuds against mine enemies. {Takes out
a letter) I have written them down here. Those
whose names stand first I would fain have hanged, if
so it could be ordered.

Duke Skule. Think not upon vengeance now ;
you have but little time left

Bishop Nicholas. Not upon vengeance, but
upon punishment. Promise me to wield the sword
of punishment over all mine enemies when-I am gone.
They are your foemen no less than mine ; when you
are King you must chastise them ; do you promise
me that ?

Duke Skule. I promise and swear it ; but
Trond's letter !

Bishop NICHOLAS. You shall learn where it is ; —
but see — the King comes; hide the list of our
foemen !

(The DUKE hides the paper; at the same moment
Hakon enters from the right)

Bishop Nicholas. Well met at the grave-feast,
my lord King.

HAKON. You have ever withstood me stubbornly ;
but that shall be forgiven and forgotten now ; death
wipes out even the heaviest reckoning.

Bishop Nicholas. That lightened my soul ! Oh
how marvellous is the King's clemency ! My lord,
what you have done for an old sinner this night shall
be tenfold- — —

HAKON. No more of that ; but I must tell you
that I greatly marvel you should summon me hither
to obtain my forgiveness, and yet prepare for me such
a meeting as this.



Act III.] The Pretenders. 281

Bishop Nicholas. Meeting, my lord ?

Duke Skule. Tis of me the King speaks. Will
you, my lord Bishop, assure King Hakon, by my faith
and honour, that I knew nought of his coming, ere I
landed at Oslo wharf?

Bishop Nicholas. Alas, alas ! The blame is all
mine ! I have been sickly and bedridden all the last
year ; I have learnt little or nought of the affairs of
the kingdom ; I thought all was now well between
the noble kinsmen !

HAKON. I have marked that the friendship
between the Duke and myself thrives best when wc
hold aloof from one another ; therefore farewell,
Bishop Nicholas, and God be with you where you
are going.

{Goes towards the door.)

DUKE SKULE {softly and uneasily). Bishop, Bishop,
he is going!

Bishop Nicholas {suddenly, and with wild
energy). Stay, King Hakon !

Hakon {stops). What now?

Bishop Nicholas. You shall not leave this room
until old Bishop Nicholas has spoken his last word !

HAKON {involuntarily lays his handtipon his sword).
Mayhap you have come well-attended to Vikcn,
Duke.

DUKE SKULE. I have no part in this.

Bishop Nicholas. 'Tis by force of words that !
will hold you. Where there is a burial in the house,
the dead man ever rules the roost ; he can do and let
alone as he will — so far as his power reaches. There-
fore will I now speak my own funeral-speech ; in



282 The Pretenders. [Act III,

days gone by, I was ever sore afraid lest King Sverre
should come to speak it

HAKON. Talk not so wildly, my lord !

Duke Skule. You shorten the precious hour still
left to you !

HAKON. Your eyes are already dim !

BISHOP NICHOLAS. Ay, my sight is dim ; I scarce
can see you where you stand ; but before my inward
eye, my whole life is moving past in shining light.

There I see sights ; hear and learn, oh King ! —

My race was the mightiest in the land ; many
great chieftains had sprung from it ; I longed to be
the greatest of them all. I was yet but a boy when I
began to thirst after great deeds ; meseemed I could
by no means wait till I were grown. Kings arose
who had less right than I, — Magnus Erlingsson, Sverre

the Priest ; I also would be king ; but I must

needs be a chieftain first. Then came the battle at
Ilevoldene ; 'twas the first time I went out to war.
The sun went up, and gleaming lightnings flashed from
a thousand burnished blades. Magnus and all his men
advanced as to a game; I alone felt a tightness at my
heart. Bravely our troop dashed forward ; but I
could not follow — I was afraid ! All Magnus's other
chieftains fought manfully, and many fell in the fight;
but I fled up over the mountain, and ran and ran, and
stayed not until I came down to the fiord again, far
away. Many a man had to wash his bloody clothes
in Trondhiem fiord that night ; — I had to wash mine
too, but not from blood. Ay, King, I was afraid ; —
born to be a chieftain — and afraid ! It fell upon me
as a thunderbolt; from that hour I hated all men. I



Act III.] The Pretenders. 283

prayed secretly in the churches, I wept and knelt
before the altars, I gave rich gifts, made sacred
promises ; I tried and tried in battle after battle, at
Saltosund, at Jonsvoldene that summer the Baglers
lay in Bergen, — but ever in vain. Sverre it was who
first noted it ; he proclaimed it loudly and with
mockery, and from that day forth, not a man in the
host but laughed when Nicholas Arnesson was seen in
war-weed. A coward, a coward — and yet was I filled
with longing to be a chief, to be a king ; nay, I felt I
was born to be King. I could have furthered God's
kingdom upon earth ; but 'twas the saints themselves


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