(Near a mountain tarn; the ground is soft and marshy round about.
A storm is gathering.
ÅSE enters, calling and gazing around her despairingly, in every direction. SOLVEIG has difficulty in keeping up with her. SOLVEIG'S FATHER and MOTHER, with HELGA, are some way behind.)
(tossing about her arms, and tearing her hair).
All things are against me with wrathful might!
Heaven, and the waters, and the grisly mountains!
Fog-scuds from heaven roll down to bewilder him!
The treacherous waters are lurking to murder him!
The mountains would crush him with landslip and rift!-
And the people too! They're out after his life!
God knows they shan't have it! I can't bear to lose him!
Oh, the oaf! to think that the fiend should tempt him!
(Turning to SOLVEIG.)
Now isn't it clean unbelievable this?
He, that did nought but romance and tell lies;-
he, whose sole strength was the strength of his jaw;
he, that did never a stroke of true work;-
he-! Oh, a body could both cry and laugh!-
Oh, we clung closely in sorrow and need.
Ay, you must know that my husband, he drank,
loafed round the parish to roister and prate,
wasted and trampled our gear under foot.
And meanwhile at home there sat Peerkin and I-
the best we could do was to try to forget;
for ever I've found it so hard to bear up.
It's a terrible thing to look fate in the eyes;
and of course one is glad to be quit of one's cares,
and try all one can to keep thought far away.
Some take to brandy, and others to lies;
and we-why we took to fairy-tales
of princes and trolls and of all sorts of beasts;
and of bride-rapes as well. Ah, but who could have dreamt
that those devil's yarns would have stuck in his head?
(In a fresh access of terror.)
Hu! What a scream! It's the nixie or droug!
Peer! Peer!-Up there on that hillock-!
(She runs to the top of a little rise, and looks out over the tarn. SOLVEIG'S FATHER and MOTHER come up.)
Not a sign to be seen!
It is worst for him!
Oh, my Peer! Oh, my own lost lamb!
You may well say lost.
Oh no, don't talk like that!
He is so clever. There's no one like him.
You foolish woman!
Oh ay; oh ay;
foolish I am, but the boy's all right!
His heart is hardened, his soul is lost.
No, no, he can't be so hard, our Lord!
Do you think he can sigh for his debt of sin?
No, but he can ride through the air on a buck, though!
Christ, are you mad?
Why, what do you mean?
Never a deed is too great for him.
You shall see, if only he lives so long-
Best if you saw him on the gallows hanging.
Oh, cross of Christ!
In the hangman's hands,
it may be his heart would be turned to repentance.
Oh, you'll soon talk me out of my senses!
We must find him!
To rescue his soul.
And his body!
If he's stuck in the swamp, we must drag him out;
if he's taken by trolls, we must ring the bells for him.
Hm!-Here's a sheep-path-
The Lord will repay you
your guidance and help!
It's a Christian's duty.
Then the others, fie! they are heathens all;
there wasn't one that would go with us-
They knew him too well.
He was too good for them!
(Wrings her hands.)
And to think-and to think that his life is at stake!
Here are tracks of a man.
Then it's here we must search!
We'll scatter around on this side of our saeter.
(He and his wife go on ahead.)
Say on; tell me more.
Of my son, you mean?
Everything?-Soon you'd be tired!
Sooner by far will you tire of the telling
than I of the hearing.