(A Cloister opening upon a Convent Close planted with groups of trees. The convent church forms the right side of the quadrangle. A brick wall runs along the rear. Fruit trees in blossom appear above the wall. Olof is seated on a stone bench. Before him stand two scholars, who are reading their respective parts out of "The Comedy of Tobit.")
First Scholar.Now have our enemies trapped us full well.Woe unto us, poor children of Israel!
Second Scholar.Yea, brother, good cause you have to make such plaint!Now certes we have come upon days of great lament—Our land is taken away, and so's our increase,And ne'er we may look for any help or surcease.It must be, as long I have both dreamt and said,That the promise to Abram has been long mislaid.
[Enter Lars Andersson.]
Lars Andersson. What are you doing?
Olof. I am playing.
Olof. I am playing a little comedy about the children of Israel and the Babylonian captivity.
Lars. Have you nothing better to do? Bigger work is waiting for you.
Olof. I am too young.
Lars. Do not say you are too young.
Olof. No, for there are plenty of others who say it.
Lars (takes out a roll of paper, which he opens; for a while he stands looking at Olof; then he begins to read) "Then the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah: 'Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.'
"Then said Jeremiah: 'Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak, for I am a child.'
"But the Lord said: 'Say not, I am a child; for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee,' saith the Lord, 'to deliver thee.'"
Olof (leaping to his feet). Did the Lord say that?
Lars. "Thou therefore gird up thy loins and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee."
Olof. Why do not you go?
Lars. I am too old.
Olof. You are afraid!
Lars. I am, for I have not the strength; but you have—and now may the Lord give you the faith also.
Olof. Oh, once I did have the flame of faith, and it burned wondrously, but the monkish gang smothered it with their holy water when they were trying to read the devil out of my body.
Lars. That was a fire of straw which had to flicker out; but now the Lord will light you a fire of logs by which the offspring of the Philistines shall be consumed. Do you know your own will, Olof?
Olof. No, but I feel myself choking when I think of these poor people who yearn for salvation. They are crying for water—for living water—but there is no one who can give it to them.
Lars. Tear down the crumbling old house first, you can do that. Then the Lord Himself will build them a new one....