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that barred the way for me.

ITakon. Accuse not heaven, Bishop Nicholas!
You have hated much.

Bishop Nicholas. Ay, I have hated much; hated
every head in this land that raised itself above the
crowd. But I hated because I could not love. Fair
women, — oh, I could devour them even now with
glistening eyes ! I have lived eighty years, and yet
do I yearn to kill men and kiss women ; — but my lot in
love was as my lot in war : naught but an itching will,
my strength sapped from my birth ; dowered with
seething desire — and yet a weakling ! So I became a
priest : king or priest must that man be who would
have all might in his hands. (Laughs.) I a priest ! I
a churchman ! Yes, for one clerkly office Heaven had
notably fitted me — -for taking the high notes — for
singing with a woman's voice at the great church-
festivals. And yet they up yonder claim of me — the
half-man — what they have a right to claim only of
those they have fully equipped for their life-work.

284 The Pretenders. [Act III.

There have been times when I fancied such a claim
might be just; I have lain on my sick-bed crushed
by the dread of doom and punishment. Now it is
over; my soul has fresh marrow in its bones! /have
not sinned; it is / that have suffered wrong; / am
the accuser !

Duke Skule (^//^). My lord — the letter! You
have little time left !

HAKON. Think of your soul, and humble you !

Bishop Nicholas. A man's life-work is his soul,
and my life-work will live on upon the earth. But
you, King Hakon, you should beware ; for as Heaven
has stood against me, and got harm for its reward, so
are you standing against the man who holds the
country's welfare in his hand

Hakon. Ha — Duke, Duke ! Now I see the bent
of this meeting !

Duke Skule {angrily, to the Bishop). Not a
word more of this !

Bishop Nicholas {to Hakon). He will stand
against you so long as his head sits fast on his
shoulders. Share with him ! I will have no peace
in my coffin, I will rise again, if you two share not
the kingdom ! Neither of you shall add the other's
height to his own stature. If that befell, there would
be a giant in the land, and here shall no giant be ; for
I was never a giant !

{Sinks back exhausted on the couch.)

DUKE SKULE {fails on his knees beside the conch
and cries to HAKON). Summon help ! For God's
pity's sake, the Bishop must not die yet !

BISHOP NICHOLAS. How it waxes dusk before

Act III.] The Pretenders. 285

my eyes ! — King, for the last time — will you share
with the Duke ?

HAKOX. Not a shred will I let slip of that which
God gave me.

Bishop Nicholas. Well and good. (Softly.) Your
faith, at least, you shall let slip. {Calls.) Viliam !

Duke SKULE (softly). The letter! The letter!

Bishop Nicholas (not listening to him). Viliam !
(Viliam enters ; the Bishop draws him close down
to him and whispers.) When I received Extreme
Unction, all my sins were forgiven me ?

SlRA VlLIAM. All your sins from your birth, till
the moment you received the Unction.

Bishop Nicholas. No longer? Not until the
very end ?

SlRA VlLIAM. You will not sin to-night, my
lord !

Bishop Nicholas. Hm, who knows ? Take

the golden goblet Bishop Absalon left me- — give it to
the Church — and say seven high masses more.

SlRA VlLIAM. God will be gracious to you, my

Bishop Nicholas. Seven more masses, I say —
for sins I may commit to-night! Go, go! (VlLIAM
goes ; the BISHOP turns to SKULE.) Duke, if you
should come to read Trond the Priest's letter, and it
should mayhap prove that Hakon is the rightful
king — what would you do then ?

DUKE SKULE. In God's name — king he should

Bishop Nicholas. Bethink you ; much is at
stake. Search every fold of your heart; answer as

286 The Pretenders. [Act III.

though you stood before your Judge ! What will you
do, if he be the rightful king ?

Duke SKULE. Bow my head and serve him.

Bishop Nicholas {mumbles). Then bide the
issue. ( To SKULE.) Duke, I am weak and weary ;
a mild and charitable mood comes over me

DUKE SKULE. It is death! Trond the Priest's
letter ! Where is it ?

Bishop Nicholas. First another matter; — I gave
you the list of my enemies

DUKE SKULE {impatiently). Yes, yes; I will take
full revenge upon them

Bishop Nicholas. No, my soul is filled with
mildness; I will forgive, as the scripture commands.
As you would renounce might, I will renounce
revenge. Burn the list !

DUKE SKULE. Ay, ay; as you will.

BISHOP NICHOLAS. Here, in the brazier, so that I
may see it

DUKE SKULE {throws the paper into the fire).
There now; see, it burns. And now, speak,
speak ! You risk thousands of lives if you speak
not now !

BISHOP NICHOLAS {with sparkling eyes). Thousands
of lives ! {Shrieks.) Light ! Air !

HAKON {rushes to the door and cries). Help ! The
Bishop is dying !

(Sira Viliam and several of the Bishop's men

Duke Skule {shakes the Bishop's arm). You
risk Norway's happiness through hundreds of years,
mayhap its greatness to all eternity !

Act III] The Pretenders. 287

Bishop Nicholas. To all eternity! (Trium-
phantly?) Perpetuum mobile I

DUKE Skule. By our souls' salvation, — where is
Trond the Priest's letter?

Bishop Nicholas {calls). Seven more masses,
Viliam !

Duke Skule {beside himself). The letter ! The
letter !

BISHOP NICHOLAS {smiling in his death-agony).
'Twas it you burned, good Duke ! {Falls back on the
couch and dies?)

DUKE Skule {with an involuntary scream, starts
backwards and covers his face with his hands).
Almighty God !

THE MONKS {rushing in flight from the chapel).
Save you, all who can !

Some VOICES. The powers of evil have broken
loose !

Other Voices. There rang a loud laugh from
the corner ! — A voice cried : " We have him ! " All
the lights went out !

HAKON. Bishop Nicholas is even now dead.

The MONKS {fleeing to the right.) Pater noster —
pater noster !

HAKON {approaches SKULE, and says in a low voice).
Duke, I will not question what secret plots you were
hatching with the Bishop ere he died ; — but from to-
morrow must you give up your powers and dignities
into my hands ; I see clearly now that we two cannot
go forward together.

Duke Skule (looks at him absently). Go forward
together ?

288 The Pretenders. [Act III.

IIakox. To-morrow I hold an Assembly in the
Palace ; then must all things come to settlement
between us.

{Goes out to the right.)

Duke Skule. The Bishop dead and the letter
burnt ! A life full of doubt and strife and dread !
Oh, could I but pray ! — No — I must act ; this evening
must the stride be taken, once for all ! {To VlLlAM.)
Whither went the King ?

SlRA VlLIAM. Christ save me, — what would you
with him ?

DUKE SKULE. Think you I would slay him
to-night ?

{Goes out to the right.)

SlRA VlLIAM {looks after him, shaking his head,
while the house-folk bear the body out to the left).
Seven more masses, the Bishop said ; I think 'twere
safest we should say fourteen.
{Follows the others.)

{A room in the Palace. In the back is the entrance-
door ; in each of the side walls a smaller door ; in
front, on the right, a window. Hung from the roof
a lamp is burning. Close to the door on the left
stands a bench, and further back a cradle, in which
the King-cliild is sleeping ; MARGRETE is kneeling
beside the child.)

Act III.] The Pretenders. 289

MARGRETE {rocks the cradle and sings).
Now roof and rafters blend with
the starry vault on high ;
now flieth little Hakon
on dream-wings through the sky.

There mounts a mighty stairway
from earth to God's own land ;
there Hakon with the angels
goes climbing, hand in hand.

God's angel-babes are watching
thy cot, the still night through ;
God bless thee, little Hakon,
thy mother watcheth too.

(A short pause. DUKE Skule enters from the
MARGRETE (starts up with a cry of joy and rushes
to meet him). My father ! — Oh, how I have sighed
and yearned for this meeting !

DUKE Skule. God's peace be with you, Mar-
grete ! Where is the King ?

MARGRETE. With Bishop Nicholas.
DUKE SKULE. Hm, — then must he soon be here.
MARGRETE. And you will talk together and be at
one, be friends again, as in the old days ?
Duke Skule. That would I gladly.
Margrete. 'Twould make Hakon, too, so glad;
and I pray to God every day that so it may be. Oh,

but come hither and see

(Takes his hand and leads him to the cradle.)
Duke Skule. Your child !


2qo The Pretenders. [Act III.

MARGRETE. Ay, that lovely babe is mine; — is it
not marvellous? He is called Hakon, like the King !
See, his eyes — nay, you cannot see them now he is
sleeping — but he has great blue eyes; and he can
laugh, and stretch out his hands to grasp me, — and
he knows me already.

{Smoothes out the bed-dotJies tenderly?)

Duke Skule. Hakon will have sons, the Bishop

MARGRETE. To me this little child is a thousand
times dearer than all Norway's land — and to Hakon
too. Meseems I cannot rightly believe my happi-
ness; I have the cradle standing by my bedside;
every night, as often as I waken, I look to see if
it be there — I am fearful lest it should all prove a

DUKE SKULE {listens and goes to the window). Is
not that the King ?

MARGRETE. Ay; he is going up the other stair; I
will bring him ! ( Takes lier father's hand and leads
him playfully up to the cradle?) Duke Skule ! Keep
watch over the King-child the while — for he is a
King-child — though I can never remember it !
Should he wake, then bow deeply before him, and
hail him as men hail kings ! Now will I bring
Hakon. Oh, God, God ! now at last come light and
peace over our house !

{Goes out to the right?)

DUKE SKULE {after a short and gloomy silence).
Hakon has a son. His race shall live after him. If
he dies, he leaves an heir who stands nearer the
throne than all others. All things thrive with Hakon.

Act III.] The Pretenders. 291

Mayhap he is not the rightful king ; but his trust in
himself stands firm as ever ; the Bishop would have
shaken it, but Death gave him not time, God gave
him not leave. God watches over Hakon, and suffers
him to keep the girdle of strength. Were I to tell him
now ? Were I to make oath to what the Bishop told
me ? What would it avail ? None would believe me,
neither Hakon nor the others. He would have believed
the Bishop in the hour of death ; the doubt would
have rankled poisonously in him ; but it was not to
be. And deep-rooted as is Hakon's confidence, so
deep-rooted is my doubt ; what man on earth can
weed it out ? None, none. The ordeal has been
performed, God has spoken, and still Hakon may
not be the rightful king, while my life goes to waste.
{Seats himself broodingly beside a table on the right.)
And if, now, I won the kingdom, would not the
doubt dwell with me none the less, gnawing and
wearing and wasting me away with its endless icy
drip, drip ? — True, true ; but 'tis better to sit doubting
on the throne than to stand down in the crowd,
doubting of him who sits there in your stead. — There
must be an end between me and Hakon ! An end ?
But how ? {Rises.) Almighty, thou who hast thus
bestead me, thou must bear the guilt of the issue !
{Goes to and fro, stops and reflects) I must break
down all bridges, hold only one and conquer or fall
there — as the Bishop said at the bridal-feast at
Bergen. That is now nigh upon three years since,
and through all that time have I spilt and wasted my
strength in trying to guard all the bridges. {Quickly.)
Now must I follow the Bishop's counsel ; now or never!

The Pretenders. [Act III.

Here arc we both in Oslo ; this time I have more men
than Hakon ; why not seize the advantage — 'tis so

seldom on my side. ( Vacillating?) But to-night ?

At once ? No, no ! Not to-night ! — Ha-ha-ha —

there again ! — pondering, wavering ! Hakon knows not
what that means ; he goes straight forward, and so he
conquers! {Going up the room, stops suddenly beside
the cradle.) The King-child ! — How fair a brow! He
is dreaming. {Smoothes out the bed-clothes, and looks
long at the child.) Such an one as thou can save many
things in a man's soul. I have no son. {Bends

over the cradle.) He is like Hakon {Shrinks

suddenly backwards.) The King-child, said the Queen!
Bow low before him and hail him as men hail kings !
Should Hakon die before me this child will be raised
to the throne ; and I — I shall stand before him, and
bow low and hail him as king ! {In rising agitation.)
This child, Hakon's son, shall sit on high, on the seat
that I, mayhap, have a truer right to — and I shall
stand before his footstool, white-haired and bowed
with age, and see my whole life-work lying undone —
die without having been king! — I have more men
than Hakon — there blows a storm to-night, and the
wind sweeps down the fiord — ! If I took the King-
child ? I am safe with the Tronders. 1 What would
Hakon dare attempt, if his child were in my power?
My men will follow me, fight for me and conquer.
They know I will reward them in kingly wise. — So be
it ! I will take the stride ; I will leap the abyss, for
the first time ! Could I but see if thou hadst Sverre's

1 Men of the Trondhiem district.

Act III.] The Pretenders. 293

eyes — or Hakon Sverresson's ! He sleeps. I can-
not see them. (A pause.) Sleep is as a shield. Sleep
in peace, thou little Pretender! (Goes over to the
tabled) Hakon shall decide ; once again will I speak
with him.

MARGRETE (enters, with the King, from the room
on the right). The Bishop dead ! Oh, trust me, all
strife dies with him.

HAKON. To bed, Margrete ! You must be tired
after the journey.

Margrete. Yes, yes. (To the Duke.) Father,
be kind and yielding — Hakon has promised to be the
like ! A thousand good-nights, to both of you !

(Makes a gesture of farewell at the door on the
left, and goes out ; two women carry out the

DUKE Skule. King Hakon, this time we must
not part as foes. All evil will follow ; there will fall
a time of dread upon the land.

Hakon. The land has been wont to nought else
through many generations ; but, see you, God is with
mc ; every foeman falls that would stand against me.
There are no more Baglers, no Slittungs, no Rib-
bungs ; Earl Jon is slain, Guthorm Ingesson is dead,
Sigurd Ribbung likewise — all claims that were put
forth at the folkmote at Bergen have fallen power-
less — from whom, then, should the time of dread now
come ?

DUKE SKULE. Hakon, I fear it might come from
me !

HAKON. When I came to the throne, I gave you
the third part of the kingdom

294 The Pretenders. [Act III.

Duke SKULE. But kept two-thirds !

Hakon. You ever thirsted after more; I eked
out your share until now you hold half the kingdom.

Duke Skule. There lack ten ship-wards. 1

Hakon. I made you Duke ; that has no man
been in Norway ere you.

Duke Skule. But you are king ! I must have
no king over me ! I was not born to serve you ; I
must rule in my own right !

Hakon {looks at him for a moment, and says coldly-)
Heaven guard your understanding, my lord. Good


Duke Skule {blocking the way). You shall not
go from me thus ! Beware, or I will forswear all faith
with you ; you can no longer be my overlord ; we two
must share !

Hakon. You dare to say this to me !

Duke Skule. I have more men than you in
Oslo, Hakon Hakonsson.

HAKON. Mayhap you think to

Duke Skule. Hearken to me ! Think of the
Bishop's words ! Let us share ; give me the ten ship-
wards ; let me hold my share as a free kingdom, with-
out tax or tribute. Norway has ere this been parted
into two kingdoms ; — we will hold firmly together

Hakon. Duke, you must be soul-sick, that you
can crave such a thing.

Duke Skule. Ay, I am soul-sick, and there is
no other healing for me. We two must be equals ;
there must be no man over me !

1 Skibreder, districts each of which furnished a ship to the fleet.

Act III.] The Pretenders. 295

Hakon. Every treeless holm is a stone in the
edifice which Harald Harfager and the sainted King
Olaf reared ; would you have me break in twain what
they have mortised together ? Never !

Duke Skule. Well, then let us reign by turns ;
let each bear sway for three years ! You have
reigned long ; now my turn has come. Depart from
the land for three years ; — I will be king the while ;
I will even out your paths for you against your home-
coming ; I will guide everything for the best ; — it
wears and blunts the senses to sit ever on the watch.
Hakon, hear me — three years each ; let us wear the
crown by turns !

HAKON. Think you my crown would sit well on
your temples ?

Duke Skule. For me is no crown too wide.

Hakon. It needs a God-sent right and a God-
sent calling to wear the crown.

Duke Skule. And know you so surely that you
have a God-sent right ?

Hakon. I have God's own word for that.

Duke SKULE. Rest not too surely on it. Had
the Bishop said all he might — but that were bootless
now ; you would not believe me. Ay, truly you have
mighty allies on high ; but I defy you none the less !
You will not reign by turns with me? Well — then
must we try the last resort ; — Hakon, let us two fight
for it, man to man, with heavy weapons, for life or
death !

Hakon. Speak you in jest, my lord ?

DUKE SKULE. I plead for my life-work and for my
soul's salvation !

296 The Pretenders. [Act III.

HAKON. Then is there small hope for the saving
of your soul.

Duke Skule. You will not fight with me ? you
shall, you shall !

Hakon. Oh blinded man ! I cannot but pity
you. You think 'tis the Lord's calling that draws
you towards the throne ; you sec not that 'tis nought
but arrogance. What is it that allures you? The
royal circlet, the purple-bordered mantle, the right to
be seated three steps above the floor ; — pitiful, pitiful !
Were that kingship, I would cast it into your hat, as
I cast a groat to a beggar.

Duke Skule. You have known me since your
childhood, and you judge me thus !

Hakon. You have wisdom and courage and all
noble gifts of the mind ; you are born to stand
nearest a king, but not to be a king yourself.

Duke Skule. That will we now assay.

Hakon. Name me a single king's-task you
achieved in all the years you were regent for me !
Were the Baglers or the Ribbungs ever mightier than
then ? You were a full-grown man, yet the land was
harried by rebellious factions ; did you quell a single
one of them ? I was young and untried when I came
to the helm — look at me — all fell before me when I
became king ; there are no Baglers, no Ribbungs

Duke Skule. That should you least boast of;
for there lies the greatest danger. Party must stand
against party, claim against claim, region against
region, if the king is to have the might. Every
village, every family must either need him or fear

Act III.] The Pretenders. 297

him. If you kill dissension, you kill your power at
the same stroke.

HAKON. And you would be king — you, who think
thus ! You had been well fitted for a chieftain's part
in Erling Skakke's days ; but the time has grown away
from you, and you know it not. See you not, then,
that Norway's realm, as Harald and Olaf built it up,
may be likened to a church that stands as yet uncon-
secrate ? The walls soar aloft with mighty buttresses,
the vaultings have a noble span, the spire points
upwards, like a fir-tree in the forest ; but the life, the
throbbing heart, the fresh blood-stream, is lacking to
the work ; God's living spirit is not breathed into it ;
it stands unconsecrate. — / will bring consecration !
Norway has been a kingdom, it shall become a people.
The Tronder has stood against the man of Viken,
the Agdeman against the Hordalandcr, the Haloga-
lander against the Sogndalesman ; all shall be one
hereafter, and all shall feel and know that they are
one ! That is the task which God has laid on my
shoulders ; that is the life-work which now lies before
the King of Norway. That life-work, Duke, I think
you were best to leave untried, for truly it is beyond
you !

Duke Skule {impressed). To unite ? To

unite the Tronders and the men of Viken, — all Nor-
way ? {Sceptically) 'Tis impossible ! Norway's

saga tells of no such thing !

HAKON. For you 'tis impossible, for you can but
work out the old saga afresh; for me, 'tis as easy as
for the falcon to cleave the clouds.

Duke SKULE {in uneasy agitation). To unite the

298 The Pretenders. Act III.]

whole people — to awaken it so that it shall know
itself one ! Whence got you so strange a thought ?
It runs like ice and fire through me. ( Vehemently)
It comes from the devil, Hakon; it shall never be
carried through while I have strength to buckle on
my helm !

Hakon. I have the thought from God, and shall
never let it slip while I bear Saint Olaf 's circlet on
my brow !

Duke Skule. Then must Saint Olafs circlet
fall from your brow !

Hakon. Who will make it fall ?

Duke Skule. I, if none other.

Hakon. You, Skule, will be harmless after the
to-morrow's Assembly.

DUKE SKULE. Hakon ! Tempt not God ! Drive
me not out upon the verge of the precipice !

Hakon {points to the door). Go, my lord— and be
it forgotten that we have spoken with sharp tongues
this night.

Duke Skule {looks hard at him for a moment,
and says:) Next time, we will speak with sharper

{Goes out by the back.)

Hakon {after a short pause). He threatens ! — No,
no, it cannot come to that. He must, he shall yield
and fall at my feet ; I have need of that strong arm,
that cunning brain. — Whatsoever courage and wisdom
and strength there may be in this land, all gifts that
God has endowed men withal, are but granted them
to my uses. 'Tis for my service that Duke Skule
received all his noble gifts ; to defy me is to defy

Act III.] The Pretenders. 299

Heaven ; 'tis my duty to punish whosoever shall set
himself up against Heaven's will ; for Heaven has
done so much for me.

DAGFINN THE PEASANT (enters from the back).
Be on your guard to-night, my lord ; the Duke has
surely evil in his mind.

HAKON. What say you ?

DAGFINN. What he is devising, I know not ; but
sure am I that something is brewing.

HAKON. Can he think to fall upon us? Impos-
sible, impossible !

DAGFINN. No, 'tis something else. His ships lie
clear for sailing ; he has summoned an Assembly on
board them.

HAKON. You must mistake ! Go, Dagfinn,

and bring me sure tidings.

DAGFINN. Ay ay ; trust to me. (Goes.)

HAKON. No, — 'tis not to be thought of! The
Duke dare not rise against me. God will not suffer
it— God, who has hitherto guided my course so
marvellously. I must have peace now, I must set
about my work ! — I have done so little yet ; but I
hear the infallible voice of the Lord calling to
me : Thou shalt achieve a great king's-task in
Norway !

Gregorius JONSSON (enters from the back). My
lord and King !

HAKON. Gregorius Jonsson ! Come you hither?

Gregorius Jonsson. I offer myself for your
service. Thus far have I followed the Duke ; but
now I dare follow him no further.

HAKON. What has befallen ?

300 The Pretenders. [Act III.

GREGORIUS JONSSON. That which no man will
believe, when 'tis rumoured through the land.

Hakon. Speak, speak !

GREGORIUS JONSSON. I tremble to hear the

sound of my own words ; know then

{He seises the King's arm and whispers.)

Hakon {starts backwards with a cry). Ha, are
you distraught ?

GREGORIUS JONSSON. Would to God I were.

Hakon. Unheard of ! No, it cannot be true !

GREGORIUS JONSSON. By Christ's dear blood, so
is it!

Hakon. Go, go ; sound the trumpet-call for my
guard ; get all my men under arms.

Hakon {paces the room once or twice, then goes
quickly up to the door of Margrete's chamber, knocks
at it, continues to pace the room once or twice, then goes
again to the door, knocks, and calls). Margrete ! {Goes
on pacing up and down?)

MARGRETE {in the doorzuay, attired for the night,
with her hair down ; she has a red cloak round her
shoulders, holding it close together over her breast).
Hakon, is it you ?

HAKON. Yes, yes ; come hither.

Margrete. Oh, but you must not look at me ; I
was in bed already.

Hakon. I have other things to think of.

Margrete. What has befallen ?

Hakon. Give me a good counsel ! I have even
now received the worst of tidings.
• Margrete {alarmed). What tidings, Hakon ?

Act III.] The Pretenders. 301

Hakon. That there are now two kings in Norway.

MARGRETE. Two kings in Norway! — Hakon,
where is my father ?

HAKON. He has proclaimed himself king on
board his ship ; now is he sailing to Nidaros to be

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