[A wild riven mountain-side, with sheer precipices at the back.
Snow-clad peaks rise to the right, and lose themselves in drifting
mists. To the left, on a stone-scree, stands an old, half-ruined
hut. It is early morning. Dawn is breaking. The sun has not
[MAIA comes, flushed and irritated, down over the stone-scree on the
left. ULFHEIM follows, half angry, half laughing, holding her
fast by the sleeve.
[Trying to tear herself loose.] Let me go! Let me go, I say!
Come, Come! are you going to bite now? You're as snappish as a wolf.
[Striking him over the hand.] Let me, I tell you? And be quiet!
Then I will not go another step with you. Do you hear?--not a single
Ho, ho! How can you get away from me, here, on the wild mountain-side?
I will jump over the precipice yonder, if need be---
And mangle and mash yourself up into dogs'-meat! A juicy morsel!
[Lets go his hold.] As you please. Jump over the precipice if you
want to. It's a dizzy drop. There's only one narrow footpath down
it, and that's almost impassable.
[Dusts her skirt with her hand, and looks at him with angry eyes.]
Well, you are a nice one to go hunting with!
If I am a demon, let me be a demon! So that's the way of it! You
can see the horns, can you?
[Soothingly.] There, there, there! Now try to behave nicely, Mr.
Ulfheim. [Breaking off.] But what has become of that hunting-castle
of yours, that you boasted so much of? You said it lay somewhere
[Points with a flourish to the hut.] There you have it, before your
Oh, two people can doze away a summer night in there comfortably
enough. Or a whole summer, if it comes to that!
Thanks! One would need to have a pretty strong taste for that kind of
thing. [Impatiently.] But now I am tired both of you and the hunting
expedition. Now I am going down to the hotel--before people awaken
[With suppressed exasperation.] I once took a young girl--lifted her
up from the mire of the streets and carried her in my arms. Next my
heart I carried her. So I would have borne her all through life--
lest haply she should dash her foot against a stone. For her shoes
were worn very thin when I found her---
And yet you took her up and carried her next your heart?
Took her up out of the gutter and carried her as high and as carefully
as I could. [With a growling laugh.] And do you know what I got for
This is how it goes. There was once a stupid girl, who had both a
father and a mother--but a rather poverty-stricken home. Then there
came a high and mighty seigneur into the midst of all this poverty.
And he took the girl in his arms--as you did--and travelled far, far
away with her---
[With a toss of the head.] Took her up with him finely, you may be
sure! Oh no! he beguiled her into a cold, clammy cage, where--as it
seemed to her--there was neither sunlight nor fresh air, but only
gilding and great petrified ghosts of people all around the walls.
[PROFESSOR RUBEK and IRENE appear over the edge of the precipice
at the back. He has his plaid over his shoulders; she has a
fur cloak thrown loosely over her white dress, and a swansdown
hood over her head.
[Still only half visible above the edge.] What, Maia! So we two meet
[With assumed coolness.] At your service. Won't you come up?
[PROFESSOR RUBEK climbs right up and holds out his hand to IRENE,
who also comes right to the top.
[Coldly to MAIA.] So you, too, have been all night on the mountain,--
as we have?
I have been hunting--yes. You gave me permission, you know.
[Pointing downward.] Have you come up that path there?
Yes, of course. [With a glance at MAIA.] Henceforth the strange lady
and I do not intend our ways to part.
Don't you know, then, that it is a deadly dangerous way you have come?
We thought we would try it, nevertheless. For it did not seem
particularly hard at first.
No, at first nothing seems hard. But presently you may come to a tight
place where you can neither get forward nor back. And then you stick
fast, Professor! Mountain-fast, as we hunters call it.
[Smiles and looks at him.] Am I to take these as oracular utterances,
Lord preserve me from playing the oracle! [Urgently, pointing up
towards the heights.] But don't you see that the storm is upon us?
Don't you hear the blasts of wind?
[Listening.] They sound like the prelude to the Resurrection Day.
They are storm-blasts form the peaks, man! Just look how the clouds
are rolling and sinking--soon they'll be all around us like a winding
[With a start and shiver.] I know that sheet!
[Drawing ULFHEIM away.] Let us make haste and get down.
[To PROFESSOR RUBEK.] I cannot help more than one. Take refuge in
the hut in the mean-time--while the storm lasts. Then I shall send
people up to fetch the two of you away.
[In growing terror.] And she, the woman in black--she will come too.
For she must have missed me long ago. And then she will seize me,
Arnold! And put me in the strait-waistcoat. Oh, she has it with her,
in her box. I have seen it with my own eyes---
Not a soul shall be suffered to touch you.
[With a wild smile.] Oh no--I myself have a resource against that.
But not here in the half darkness! Not here with this hideous dank
shroud flapping around us---
[Carried away by passion.] No, no--up in the light, and in all the
glittering glory! Up to the Peak of Promise!
There we will hold our marriage-feast, Irene--oh, my beloved!
[Proudly.] The sun may freely look on us, Arnold.
All the powers of light may freely look on us--and all the powers of
darkness too. [Seizes her hand.] Will you then follow me, oh my
[As though transfigured.] I follow you, freely and gladly, my lord
[Drawing her along with him.] We must first pass through the mists,
Irene, and then---
Yes, through all the mists, and then right up to the summit of the
tower that shines in the sunrise.
[The mist-clouds close in over the scene--PROFESSOR RUBEK and
IRENE, hand in hand, climb up over the snow-field to the right
and soon disappear among the lower clouds. Keen storm-gusts
hurtle and whistle through the air.
[The SISTER OF MERCY appears upon the stone-scree to the left.
She stops and looks around silently and searchingly.
I am free! I am free! I am free!
No more life in the prison for me!
I am free as a bird! I am free!
[Suddenly a sound like thunder is heard from high up on the snow-
field, which glides and whirls downwards with headlong speed.
PROFESSOR RUBEK and IRENE can be dimly discerned as they are
whirled along with the masses of snow and buried in them.
THE SISTER OF MERCY
[Gives a shriek, stretches out her arms towards them and cries.] Irene!
[Stands silent a moment, then makes the sign of the cross before
her in the air, and says.