GRANDMOTHER. Out of the town gate?
COACHMAN. Yes, madam, and straight for the dark wood.
GRANDMOTHER. We will drive after her!
[Coachman jumps to his seat.]
OLD SOLDIER. Ha, ha, ha! You will never catch her!
GRANDMOTHER. Quick, Coachman, quick! We must catch her before she gets to the dark wood. My poor Karen! My poor Karen!
[The carriage dashes off.]
TIME: three days later; evening.
PLACE: the dark wood. A hut is seen among the vines.
* * * * *
THE OLD SOLDIER.
THE FAIRY QUEEN.
* * * * *
[The FORESTER and his SON are felling a tree.]
KAREN (heard calling off). Stop me! Stop me!
SON. Heard you that cry?
FORESTER (looking off). Mercy on us! ’T is the dancing girl I told you of!
[Enter KAREN, dancing.]
KAREN. Stop me, Forester!
FORESTER. No, no! I dare not!
KAREN (to Son). Stop me, I pray you! Three days have I danced! I can endure it no longer!
SON (to Forester). Come, let us help her!
FORESTER. Do not touch her! She is bewitched!
KAREN. ’T is my shoes are bewitched—not I!
SON. I say, little maid, pull off your shoes!
KAREN. They will not come off. See!
[She pulls at her shoes.]
SON (starting towards Karen). I’ll get them off, bewitched or not bewitched!
FORESTER (seizing Son). Would you get yourself into trouble? Come home with me!
[Forester runs from wood with Son. The MOON arises suddenly in a fir tree.]
KAREN. O Moon, see how I dance below you! Pray tell me how to break this spell!
MOON. Ha, ha, ha!
[The Moon changes into the red beard of the OLD SOLDIER.]
OLD SOLDIER. My beard makes moonlight for me that I may watch you dance.
KAREN. Mercy, Old Soldier! I pray you break your spell!
OLD SOLDIER. You forgot to say the prayers! You thought only of your red shoes!
KAREN. I will go barefoot to church!
OLD SOLDIER. You whispered “red” to the Shoemaker!
KAREN. I will never deceive my dear Grandmother again! Have pity!
OLD SOLDIER. You shall dance in your red shoes till you are pale and cold! By night and by day you shall dance; in sunshine and in rain; in snow and in sleet. Over highways and byways shall you dance; in dark swamps and on mountain tops. You shall go on dancing, dancing, dancing, forever and ever!