[Stares at them for a moment; then lifts his hat.] Why, blast me if here isn’t a country tyke that has strayed into regular tip-top society.
[Looking up.] What do you mean by that, Mr. Ulfheim?
[More quietly and politely.] I believe I have the honour of addressing no less a person than the great Sculptor Rubek.
[Nods.] I remember meeting you once or twice—the autumn when I was last at home.
That’s many years ago, now. And then you weren’t so illustrious as I hear you’ve since become. At that time even a dirty bear-hunter might venture to come near you.
[Smiling.] I don’t bite even now.
[Looks with interest at ULFHEIM.] Are you really and truly a bear-hunter?
[Seating himself at the next table, nearer the hotel.] A bear-hunter when I have the chance, madam. But I make the best of any sort of game that comes in my way—eagles, and wolves, and women, and elks, and reindeer—if only it’s fresh and juicy and has plenty of blood in it.
[Drinks from his pocket-flask.
[Regarding him fixedly.] But you like bear-hunting best?
I like it best, yes. For then one can have the knife handy at a pinch. [With a slight smile.] We both work in a hard material, madam—both your husband and I. He struggles with his marble blocks, I daresay; and I struggle with tense and quivering bear-sinews. And we both of us win the fight in the end—subdue and master our material. We never rest till we’ve got the upper hand of it, though it fight never so hard.
[Deep in thought.] There’s a great deal of truth in what you say.
Yes, for I take it the stone has something to fight for too. It is dead, and determined by no manner of means to let itself be hammered into life. Just like the bear when you come and prod him up in his lair.
Are you going up into the forests now to hunt?
I am going right up into the high mountain.—I suppose you have never been in the high mountain, madam?