HADDA PADDA. Death! You who are happy!
INGOLF. Death is not unhappiness.
HADDA PADDA. Come, sit down again. I will
tell you what death is.
Last night I was only a hair’s breadth away from it.
INGOLF [starts, terror stricken, he half arises]. What are you saying?
HADDA PADDA. When I lay there on the edge of the gorge, looking down, something dazzlingly white flashed before my eyes. Quite instinctively I reached out for it. It was as if my hands perceived what it was, before my eyes had had time to make it elear to me. It was the string of pearls which bad loosened from my hair. I reached for it without considering how unsafely I was lying there, when suddenly I felt myself slipping down. The sensation cannot be described. While my right hand reached for the pearls which were dropping down into the gorge, my left caught hold of the turf on the brink. I was losing my balance and nothing held me up but a few blades of grass. I felt my heart in my throat, and a cold perspiration over my whole body. Now the grass was giving way, now I clawed my fingers down into the earth and dug my feet into it, but it was too hard; I tried to press my knees down into the turf—nothing helped, I was slipping. Life or death! To the right there was a stone. I let go of the grass, and blindly swung my body to the right, my feet slipped beyond the edge,—but my hands had caught hold of the stone. When I got to the edge again, I lay in a stupour for a long time, and I did not know whether I was at the bottom of the gorge or at the top.— Never have I loved life as I do to-day.
INGOLF. How horrible! But what made you wear the pearls?
HADDA PADDA. It was foolish, but I don’t know whether you can blame me. One day, when I was almost melancholy, and I could not talk to anybody, I was seized with an unconquerable home-sick feeling. I yearned for mother, and felt how much I loved her. I took the pearls out and looked at this precious heirloom, which she had given me. I fastened it in my hair,—and immediately I felt better. That was why I wore them the nest day too.
INGOLF. And now they lie at the bottom of the gorge!
HADDA PADDA. Yes.
INGOLF. What are you going to tell your mother?
HADDA PADDA. I won’t tell her anything before I know whether they will be found.
INGOLF. Have you asked any one to search for them?
HADDA PADDA. I just thought of asking Steindor, but I can hardly bring myself to tell him,—if afterwards they should not be found.
INGOLF [A vague disquietude takes possession of him. He is silent for an instant, then stares at Hadda, trying to read the influence of his words upon her]. Well, you are going to-morrow, and the very next day I will go down into the gorge and look for them.
HADDA PADDA. Will you really, Ingolf? And not tell Runa that I lost them? Mother must not know that I have treated the pearls so carelessly.