Act Third.
 

[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 yet risen.

[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.

MAIA
[Trying to tear herself loose.] Let me go! Let me go, I say!

ULFHEIM
Come, Come! are you going to bite now? You're as snappish as a wolf.

MAIA
[Striking him over the hand.] Let me, I tell you? And be quiet!

ULFHEIM
No, confound me if I will!

MAIA
Then I will not go another step with you. Do you hear?--not a single step!

ULFHEIM
Ho, ho! How can you get away from me, here, on the wild mountain-side?

MAIA
I will jump over the precipice yonder, if need be---

ULFHEIM
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.

MAIA
[Dusts her skirt with her hand, and looks at him with angry eyes.] Well, you are a nice one to go hunting with!

ULFHEIM
Say rather, sporting.

MAIA
Oh! So you call this sport, do you?

ULFHEIM
Yes, I venture to take that liberty. It is the sort of sport I like best of all.

MAIA
[Tossing her head.] Well--I must say! [After a pause; looks searchingly at him.] Why did you let the dogs loose up there?

ULFHEIM
[Blinking his eyes and smiling.] So that they too might do a little hunting on their own account, don't you see?

MAIA
There's not a word of truth in that! It wasn't for the dogs' sake that you let them go.

ULFHEIM
[Still smiling.] Well, why did I let them go then? Let us hear.

MAIA
You let them go because you wanted to get rid of Lars. He was to run after them and bring them in again, you said. And in the meant-time--. Oh, it was a pretty way to behave!

ULFHEIM
In the meantime?

MAIA
[Curtly breaking off.] No matter!

ULFHEIM
[In a confidential tone.] Lars won't find them. You may safely swear to that. He won't come with them before the time's up.

MAIA
[Looking angrily at him.] No, I daresay not.

ULFHEIM
[Catching at her arm.] For Lars--he knows my--my methods of sport, you see.

MAIA
[Eludes him, and measures him with a glance.] Do you know what you look like, Mr. Ulfheim?

ULFHEIM
I should think I'm probably most like myself.

MAIA
Yes, there you're exactly right. For you're the living image of a faun.

ULFHEIM
A faun?

MAIA
Yes, precisely; a faun.

ULFHEIM
A faun! Isn't that a sort of monster? Or a kind of a wood demon, as you might call it?

MAIA
Yes, just the sort of creature you are. A thing with a goat's beard and goat-legs. Yes, and the faun has horns too!

ULFHEIM
So, so!--has he horns too?

MAIA
A pair of ugly horns, just like yours, yes.

ULFHEIM
Can you see the poor little horns I have?

MAIA
Yes, I seem to see them quite plainly.

ULFHEIM
[Taking the dogs' leash out of his pocket.] Then I had better see about tying you.

MAIA
Have you gone quite mad? Would you tie me?

ULFHEIM
If I am a demon, let me be a demon! So that's the way of it! You can see the horns, can you?

MAIA
[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 hereabouts.

ULFHEIM
[Points with a flourish to the hut.] There you have it, before your very eyes.

MAIA
[Looks at him.] That old pig-stye!

ULFHEIM
[Laughing in his beard.] It has harboured more than one king's daughter, I can tell you.

MAIA
Was it there that that horrid man you told me about came to the king's daughter in the form of a bear?

ULFHEIM
Yes, my fair companion of the chase--this is the scene. [With a gesture of invitation.] If you would deign to enter---

MAIA
Isch! If ever I set foot in it--! Isch!

ULFHEIM
Oh, two people can doze away a summer night in there comfortably enough. Or a whole summer, if it comes to that!

MAIA
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 down there.

ULFHEIM
How do you propose to get down from here?

MAIA
That's your affair. There must be a way down somewhere or other, I suppose.

ULFHEIM
[Pointing towards the back.] Oh, certainly! There is a sort of way-- right down the face of the precipice yonder---

MAIA
There, you see. With a little goodwill---

ULFHEIM
--but just you try if you dare go that way.

MAIA
[Doubtfully.] Do you think I can't?

ULFHEIM
Never in this world--if you don't let me help you.

MAIA
[Uneasily.] Why, then come and help me! What else are you here for?

ULFHEIM
Would you rather I should take you on my back---?

MAIA
Nonsense!

ULFHEIM
--or carry you in my arms?

MAIA
Now do stop talking that rubbish!

ULFHEIM
[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---

MAIA
And yet you took her up and carried her next your heart?

ULFHEIM
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 my reward?

MAIA
No. What did you get?

ULFHEIM
[Looks at her, smiles and nods.] I got the horns! The horns that you can see so plainly. Is not that a comical story, madam bear-murderess?

MAIA
Oh yes, comical enough! But I know another story that is still more comical.

ULFHEIM
How does that story go?

MAIA
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---

ULFHEIM
Was she so anxious to be with him?

MAIA
Yes, for she was stupid, you see.

ULFHEIM
And he, no doubt, was a brilliant and beautiful personage?

MAIA
Oh, no, he wasn't so superlatively beautiful either. But he pretended that he would take her with him to the top of the highest of mountains, where there were light and sunshine without end.

ULFHEIM
So he was a mountaineer, was he, that man?

MAIA
Yes, he was--in his way.

ULFHEIM
And then he took the girl up with him---?

MAIA
[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.

ULFHEIM
Devil take me, but it served her right!

MAIA
Yes, but don't you think it's quite a comical story, all the same?

ULFHEIM
[Looks at her moment.] Now listen to me, my good companion of the chase---

MAIA
Well, what it is now?

ULFHEIM
Should not we two tack our poor shreds of life together?

MAIA
Is his worship inclined to set up as a patching-tailor?

ULFHEIM
Yes, indeed he is. Might not we two try to draw the rags together here and there--so as to make some sort of a human life out of them?

MAIA
And when the poor tatters were quite worn out--what then?

ULFHEIM
[With a large gesture.] Then there we shall stand, free and serene-- as the man and woman we really are!

MAIA
[Laughing.] You with your goat-legs yes!

ULFHEIM
And you with your--. Well, let that pass.

MAIA
Yes, come--let us pass--on.

ULFHEIM
Stop! Whither away, comrade?

MAIA
Down to the hotel, of course.

ULFHEIM
And afterward?

MAIA
Then we'll take a polite leave of each other, with thanks for pleasant company.

ULFHEIM
Can we part, we two? Do you think we can?

MAIA
Yes, you didn't manage to tie me up, you know.

ULFHEIM
I have a castle to offer you---

MAIA
[Pointing to the hut.] A fellow to that one?

ULFHEIM
It has not fallen to ruin yet.

MAIA
And all the glory of the world, perhaps?

ULFHEIM
A castle, I tell you---

MAIA
Thanks! I have had enough of castles.

ULFHEIM
--with splendid hunting-grounds stretching for miles around it.

MAIA
Are there works of art too in this castle?

ULFHEIM
[Slowly.] Well, no--it's true there are no works of art; but---

MAIA
[Relieved.] Ah! that's one good thing, at any rate!

ULFHEIM
Will you go with me, then--as far and as long as I want you?

MAIA
There is a tame bird of prey keeping watch upon me.

ULFHEIM
[Wildly.] We'll put a bullet in his wing, Maia!

MAIA
[Looks at him a moment, and says resolutely.] Come then, and carry me down into the depths.

ULFHEIM
[Puts his arm round her waist.] It is high time! The mist is upon us!

MAIA
Is the way down terribly dangerous?

ULFHEIM
The mountain is more dangerous still.

[She shakes him off, goes to the edge of the precipice and looks over, but starts quickly back.

ULFHEIM
[Goes towards her, laughing.] What? Does it make you a little giddy?

MAIA
[Faintly.] Yes, that too. But go and look over. Those two, coming up---

ULFHEIM
[Goes and bends over the edge of the precipice.] It's only your bird of prey--and his strange lady.

MAIA
Can't we get past them--without their seeing us?

ULFHEIM
Impossible! The path is far too narrow. And there's no other way down.

MAIA
[Nerving herself.] Well, well--let us face them here, then!

ULFHEIM
Spoken like a true bear-killer, comrade!

[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.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
[Still only half visible above the edge.] What, Maia! So we two meet once again?

MAIA
[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.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
[Coldly to MAIA.] So you, too, have been all night on the mountain,-- as we have?

MAIA
I have been hunting--yes. You gave me permission, you know.

ULFHEIM
[Pointing downward.] Have you come up that path there?

PROFESSOR RUBEK
As you saw.

ULFHEIM
And the strange lady too?

PROFESSOR RUBEK
Yes, of course. [With a glance at MAIA.] Henceforth the strange lady and I do not intend our ways to part.

ULFHEIM
Don't you know, then, that it is a deadly dangerous way you have come?

PROFESSOR RUBEK
We thought we would try it, nevertheless. For it did not seem particularly hard at first.

ULFHEIM
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.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
[Smiles and looks at him.] Am I to take these as oracular utterances, Mr. Ulfheim?

ULFHEIM
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?

PROFESSOR RUBEK
[Listening.] They sound like the prelude to the Resurrection Day.

ULFHEIM
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 -sheet!

IRENE
[With a start and shiver.] I know that sheet!

MAIA
[Drawing ULFHEIM away.] Let us make haste and get down.

ULFHEIM
[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.

IRENE
[In terror.] To fetch us away! No, no!

ULFHEIM
[Harshly.] To take you by force if necessary--for it's a matter of life and death here. Now, you know it. [To MAIA.] Come, then--and don't fear to trust yourself in your comrade's hands.

MAIA
[Clinging to him.] Oh, how I shall rejoice and sing, if I get down with a whole skin!

ULFHEIM
[Begins the descent and calls to the others.] You'll wait, then, in the hut, till the men come with ropes, and fetch you away.

[ULFHEIM, with MAIA in his arms, clambers rapidly but warily down the precipice.

IRENE
[Looks for some time at PROFESSOR RUBEK with terror-stricken eyes.] Did you hear that, Arnold?--men are coming up to fetch me away! Many men will come up here---

PROFESSOR RUBEK
Do not be alarmed, Irene!

IRENE
[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---

PROFESSOR RUBEK
Not a soul shall be suffered to touch you.

IRENE
[With a wild smile.] Oh no--I myself have a resource against that.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
What resource do you mean?

IRENE
[Drawing out the knife.] This!

PROFESSOR RUBEK
[Tries to seize it.] Have you a knife?

IRENE
Always, always--both day and night--in bed as well!

PROFESSOR RUBEK
Give me that knife, Irene!

IRENE
[Concealing it.] You shall not have it. I may very likely find a use for it myself.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
What use can you have for it, here?

IRENE
[Looks fixedly at him.] It was intended for you, Arnold.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
For me!

IRENE
As we were sitting by the Lake of Taunitz last evening---

PROFESSOR RUBEK
By the Lake of---

IRENE
--outside the peasant's hut--and playing with swans and water-lilies---

PROFESSOR RUBEK
What then--what then?

IRENE
--and when I heard you say with such deathly, icy coldness--that I was nothing but an episode in your life---

PROFESSOR RUBEK
It was you that said that, Irene, not I.

IRENE
[Continuing.] --then I had my knife out. I wanted to stab you in the back with it.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
[Darkly.] And why did you hold your hand?

IRENE
Because it flashed upon me with a sudden horror that you were dead already--long ago.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
Dead?

IRENE
Dead. Dead, you as well as I. We sat there by the Lake of Taunitz, we two clay-cold bodies--and played with each other.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
I do not call that being dead. But you do not understand me.

IRENE
Then where is the burning desire for me that you fought and battled against when I stood freely forth before you as the woman arisen from the dead?

PROFESSOR RUBEK
Our love is assuredly not dead, Irene.

IRENE
The love that belongs to the life of earth--the beautiful, miraculous earth-life--the inscrutable earth-life--that is dead in both of us.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
[Passionately.] And do you know that just that love--it is burning and seething in me as hotly as ever before?

IRENE
And I? Have you forgotten who I now am?

PROFESSOR RUBEK
Be who or what you please, for aught I care! For me, you are the woman I see in my dreams of you.

IRENE
I have stood on the turn-table-naked--and made a show of myself to many hundreds of men--after you.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
It was I that drove you to the turn-table--blind as I then was--I, who placed the dead clay-image above the happiness of life--of love.

IRENE
[Looking down.] Too late--too late!

PROFESSOR RUBEK
Not by a hairsbreadth has all that has passed in the interval lowered you in my eyes.

IRENE
[With head erect.] Nor in my own!

PROFESSOR RUBEK
Well, what then! Then we are free--and there is still time for us to live our life, Irene.

IRENE
[Looks sadly at him.] The desire for life is dead in me, Arnold. Now I have arisen. And I look for you. And I find you.--And then I see that you and life lie dead--as I have lain.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
Oh, how utterly you are astray! Both in us and around us life is fermenting and throbbing as fiercely as ever!

IRENE
[Smiling and shaking her head.] The young woman of your Resurrection Day can see all life lying on its bier.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
[Throwing his arms violently around her.] Then let two of the dead-- us two--for once live life to its uttermost--before we go down to our graves again!

IRENE
[With a shriek.] Arnold!

PROFESSOR RUBEK
But not here in the half darkness! Not here with this hideous dank shroud flapping around us---

IRENE
[Carried away by passion.] No, no--up in the light, and in all the glittering glory! Up to the Peak of Promise!

PROFESSOR RUBEK
There we will hold our marriage-feast, Irene--oh, my beloved!

IRENE
[Proudly.] The sun may freely look on us, Arnold.

PROFESSOR RUBEK
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 grace-given bride?

IRENE
[As though transfigured.] I follow you, freely and gladly, my lord and master!

PROFESSOR RUBEK
[Drawing her along with him.] We must first pass through the mists, Irene, and then---

IRENE
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.

MAIA.

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.

Pax vobiscum!

[MAIA's triumphant song sounds from still farther down below.