Three Dramas by Bjornstjerne Bjornson - HTML preview
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THE EDITOR ..................................................................................................................... 8
ACT I .......................................................................................................................... 8
ACT II....................................................................................................................... 34
ACT III...................................................................................................................... 51
ACT IV ..................................................................................................................... 61
THE BANKRUPT ............................................................................................................ 73
ACT I ........................................................................................................................ 73
ACT II..................................................................................................................... 101
ACT III.................................................................................................................... 124
ACT IV ................................................................................................................... 142
THE KING...................................................................................................................... 161
PROLOGUE ........................................................................................................... 161
ACT I ...................................................................................................................... 164
ACT II..................................................................................................................... 187
ACT III.................................................................................................................... 204
ACT IV ................................................................................................................... 224
The three plays here presented were the outcome of a period when Björnson's views on many topics were undergoing a drastic revision and he was abandoning much of his previous orthodoxy in many directions. Two of them were written during, and one immediately after, a three years' absence from Norway--years spent almost entirely in southern Europe. [Note: Further details respecting Björnson's life will be found in the Introduction to Three Comedies by Björnson, published in Everyman's Library in 1912.] For nearly ten years previous to this voluntary exile, Björnson had been immersed in theatrical management and political propagandism. His political activities (guided by a more or less pronounced republican tendency) centred in an agitation for a truer equality between the kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, his point of view being that Norway had come to be regarded too much as a mere appanage of Sweden. Between that and his manifold and distracting cares as theatrical director, he had let imaginative work slide for the time being; but his years abroad had a recuperative effect, and, in addition, broadened his mental outlook in a remarkable manner. Foreign travel, a wider acquaintance with differing types of humanity, and, above all, a newly-won acquaintance with the contemporary literature of other countries, made a deep impression upon Björnson's vigorously receptive mind. He browsed voraciously upon the works of foreign writers. Herbert Spencer, Darwin, John Stuart Mill, Taine, Max-Müller, formed a portion of his mental pabulum at this time--and the result was a significant alteration of mental attitude on a number of questions, and a determination to make the attempt to embody his theories in dramatic form. He had gained all at once, as he wrote to Georg Brandes, the eminent Danish critic, "eyes that saw and ears that heard." Up to this time the poet in him had been predominant; now it was to be the social philosopher that held the reins. Just as Ibsen did, so Björnson abandoned historical drama and artificial comedy for an attempt at prose drama which should have at all events a serious thesis. In this he anticipated Ibsen; for (unless we include the satirical political comedy, _The League of Youth_, which was published in 1869, among Ibsen's "social dramas") Ibsen did not enter the field with _Pillars of Society_ [Note: Published in _The Pretenders and Two Other Plays_, in Everyman's Library, 1913.] until 1877, whereas Björnson's _The Editor_, _The Bankrupt_, and _The King_ were all published between 1874 and 1877. Intellectual and literary life in Denmark had been a good deal stirred and quickened in the early seventies, and the influence of that awakening was inevitably felt by the more eager spirits in the other Scandinavian countries. It is amusing to note, as one Norwegian writer has pointed out, that this intellectual upheaval (which, in its turn, was a reflection of that taking place in outer Europe) came at a time when the bulk of the Scandinavian folk "were congratulating themselves that the doubt and ferment of unrest which were undermining the foundations of the great communities abroad had not had the power to ruffle the placid surface of our good, old-fashioned, Scandinavian orthodoxy." Björnson makes several sly hits in these plays (as does Ibsen in _Pillars of Society_) at this distrust of the opinions and manners of the larger communities outside of Scandinavia, notably America, with which the Scandinavian countries were more particularly in touch through emigration.
Brandes characterises the impelling motive of these three plays as a passionate appeal for a higher standard of truth--in journalism, in finance, in monarchy: an appeal for less casuistry and more honesty. Such a motive was characteristic of the vehement honesty of Björnson's own character; he must always, as he says in one of his letters, go over to the side of any one whom he believed to "hold the truth in his hands."
_The Editor_ (_Redaktören_) was written while Björnson was in Florence, and was published at Copenhagen in 1874. It was at first not accepted for performance at Christiania or Copenhagen, though an unauthorised performance of it was given at one of the lesser Christiania theatres in 1875, Meanwhile a Swedish version of it had been produced, authoritatively, at Stockholm in February of that year. The play eventually made its way on the Norwegian and Danish stage; but, before that, it had been seen in German dress at Munich and Hamburg. As an inevitable result of his recent activities as a political speaker and pamphleteer, Björnson had come in for a good deal of vituperation in the press, a fact which no doubt added some gall to the ink with which he drew the portrait of the journalist in this play. The Stockholm critics, indeed, had condemned _The Editor_ as merely a pamphleteering attack on the editor of a well-known journal. In answer to this criticism Björnson wrote from Rome in March, 1875: "It is said that my play is a pamphleteering attack on a certain individual. That is a deliberate lie. I have studied the journalist type, which is here represented, in many other countries besides my own. The chief characteristic of this type is to be actuated by an inordinate egotism that is perpetually being inflamed by passion; that makes use of bogeys to frighten people, and does this in such a way that, while it makes all its honest contemporaries afraid of any freedom of thought, it also produces the same result on every single individual by means of reckless persecution. As I wished to portray that type, I naturally took a good deal of the portrait from the representative of the type that I knew best; but, like every artist who wishes to produce a complete creation, I had to build it up from separate revelations of itself. There can, therefore, be no question of any individual being represented in my play except in so far as he may partially agree with the type."
However much Björnson may have written _The Editor_ with a "purpose," his vivid dramatic sense kept him from becoming merely didactic. The little tragedy that takes place amongst this homely group of people makes quite a moving play, thanks to the skill with which the types are depicted--the bourgeois father and mother, with their mixture of timidity and self-interest; the manly, straightforward young politician, resolute to carry on the work that has sapped his brother's life; the warped, de-humanised nature of the journalist; the sturdy common-sense of the yeoman farmer; and the doctor, the "family friend," as a sort of mocking chorus. Besides its plea for a higher regard for truth, the play also attacks the precept, preached by worldly wisdom, that we ought to harden our natures to make ourselves invulnerable; a proposition which was hateful to one of Björnson's persistently impressionable and ingenuous nature. The fact remains, as Brandes grimly admits, that "nowadays we have only a very qualified sympathy with public characters who succumb to the persecution of the press." Brandes sees in the play, besides its obvious motive, an allegory. Halvdan Rejn, the weary and dying politician, is (he says) meant for Henrik Wergeland, a Norwegian poet-politician who had similar struggles, sank under the weight of similar at tacks, died after a long illness, and was far higher reputed after his death than during his life. In Harald Rejn, with his honest enthusiasm and misjudged political endeavours Brandes sees Björnson himself; while the yeoman brother, Haakon, seems to him to typify the Norwegian people.
The Bankrupt (En Fallit: literally A Bankruptcy) was partly written in Rome, partly in Tyrol, and published at Copenhagen in 1875. It was a thing entirely new to the Scandinavian stage for a dramatist to deal seriously with the tragi-comedy of money, and, while making a forcible plea for honesty, to contrive to produce a stirring and entertaining play on what might seem so prosaic a foundation as business finance. Some of the play's earliest critics dismissed it as "dry," "prosaic," "trivial," because of the nature of its subject; but it made a speedy success on the boards, and very soon became a popular item in the repertories of the Christiania, Bergen and Copenhagen theatres. It was actually first performed, in a Swedish translation, at Stockholm, a few days before it was produced at Christiania. Very soon, too, the play reached Berlin, Munich, Vienna, and other German and Austrian theatres. It was played in Paris, at the Théâtre Libre in 1894. The character of Berent, the lawyer, which became a favourite one with the famous Swedish actor Ernst Possart, was admittedly more or less of a portrait of a well-known Norwegian lawyer, by name Dunker. When Björnson was writing the play, he went to stay for some days with Dunker, who was to instruct him as to the legal aspect of bankruptcy. Björnson took the opportunity of studying the lawyer as well as the law.
_The King_ (_Kongen_) was written at Aulestad, the Norwegian home in which Björnson settled after his return from abroad, and was published at Copenhagen in 1877. It is perhaps not surprising that the play, with its curious blend of poetry and social philosophy, and its somewhat exuberant (though always interesting) wordiness, was not at first a conspicuous success on the stage; but the interest aroused by the published book was enormous. It was widely read and vigorously discussed, both in Scandinavia and abroad; and while, on the one hand, it brought upon Björnson the most scurrilous abuse and the harshest criticism from his political opponents, on the other hand a prominent compatriot of his (whose opinion was worth having) gave it as his verdict, at a political meeting held soon after the play's publication, that "the most notable thing that has happened in Norway of late--or at any rate, one of the most notable--in my opinion is this last book of Björnson's--_The King_."
The idea of a "democratic monarchy"--a kind of reformed constitutional monarchy, that should be a half-way house on the road to republicanism--was not entirely new; Björnson's success was in presenting the problem as seen from the _inside_--that is to say, from the king's point of view. His opponents, of course, branded him as a red-hot republican, which he was not. In a preface he wrote for a later edition of the play, he says that he did not intend the play mainly as an argument in favour of republicanism, but "to extend the boundaries of free discussion"; but that, at the same time, he believed the republic to be the ultimate form of government, and all European states to be proceeding at varying rates of speed towards it.
_The King_ is composed of curiously incongruous elements. The railway meeting in the first act is pure comedy of a kind to compare with the meeting in Ibsen's _An Enemy of Society_; the last act is melodrama with a large admixture of remarkably interesting social philosophy; the intervening acts betray the poet that always underlay the dramatist in Björnson. The crudity, again, of the melodramatic appearance of the wraith of Clara's father in the third act, contrasts strangely with the mature thoughtfulness of much of the last act and with the tender charm of what has gone before: And--strangest incongruity of all in a play so essentially "actual"--there is in the original, between each act, a mysterious "mellemspil," or "interlude," in verse, consisting of somewhat cryptic dialogues between Genii and Unseen Choirs in the clouds, between an "Old Grey Man" and a "Chorus of Tyrants" in a desolate scene of snow and ice, between Choruses of Men, Women, and Children in a sylvan landscape, and so forth--their utterances being of the nature of the obscurest choruses in the Greek dramatists, but for the most part with a less obvious relevance to the play itself. Such a device leads the present-day reader's thoughts inevitably to the use made of the "unseen chorus," in a similar way, by Thomas Hardy in _The Dynasts_; but Hardy's interludes are closely relevant to his drama and help it on its way, which Björnson's do not. They have been entirely omitted in the present translation, on the ground of their complete superfluity as well as from the extreme difficulty of retaining their "atmosphere" in translation.
None of the three plays in the present volume have previously been translated into English. German, French, and Swedish versions of _The Editor_ are extant; German, Swedish, Finnish, French, and Hungarian of _The Bankrupt_; French and Spanish of _The King_.R. FARQUHARSON SHARP. The following is a list of the works of Björnstjerne Björnson:--
DRAMATIC AND POETIC WORKS.--Mellem Slagene (Between the Battles), 1857. Halte-Hulda (Lame Hulda), 1858. Kong Sverre (King Sverre), 1861. Sigurd Slembe (Sigurd the Bastard), 1862; translated by W. M. Payne, 1888. Maria Stuart i Skotland, 1864. De Nygifte (The Newly-Married Couple), 1865; translated by T. Soelfeldt, 1868; by S. and E. Hjerleid, 1870; as A Lesson in Marriage, by G. I. Colbron, 1911. Sigurd Jorsalfar (Sigurd the Crusader), 1872. Redaktören (The Editor), 1874. En Fallit (A Bankruptcy), 1874. Kongen (The King), 1877. Leonarda, 1879. Det ny System (The New System), 1879. En Hanske, 1883; translated as A Gauntlet, by H. L. Braekstad 1890; by Osman Edwards 1894. Over AEvne (Beyond our Strength), Part I., 1883; translated as Pastor Sang, by W. Wilson, 1893; Part II., 1895. Geografi og Kaerlighed (Geography and Love), 1885; Paul Lange og Tora Parsberg, 1898; translated by H. L. Braekstad, 1899. Laboremus, 1901; translation published by Chapman and Hall, 1901. Paa Storhove (At Storhove), 1904; Daglannet, 1904; Naar den ny Vin blomstrer (When the Vineyards are in Blossom), 1909; The Newly-Married Couple, Leonarda, and A Gauntlet, translated by R. Farquharson Sharp (Everyman's Library), 1912.
Digte og Sange (Poems and Songs), 1870; Arnljot Gelline, 1870. FICTION.--Synnöve Solbakken 1857; translated as Trust and Trial, by Mary Howitt, 1858; as Love and Life in Norway, by Hon. Augusta Bethell and A. Plesner, 1870; as The Betrothal, in H. and A. Zimmern's Half-hours with Foreign Novelists, 1880; also translated by Julie Sutter, 1881; by R. B. Anderson, 1881. Arne, 1858; translated by T. Krag, 1861; by A. Plesner and S. Rugeley- Powers, 1866; by R. B. Anderson, 1881; by W. Low (Bohn's Library), 1890. Smaastykker (Sketches), 1860. En glad Gut, 1860; translated as Ovind, by S. and E. Hjerleid 1869; as The Happy Boy, by R. B. Anderson, 1881; as The Happy Lad (published by Blackie), 1882. Fiskerjenten, 1868 translated as The Fisher Maiden, by M. E. Niles, 1869; as The Fishing Girl, by A. Plesner and F. Richardson, 1870; as The Fishing Girl, by S. and E. Hjerleid, 1871; as The Fisher Maiden, by R. B. Anderson, 1882. Brude-Slaatten, 1873; translated as The Bridal March, by R. B. Anderson, 1882; by J. E. Williams, 1893. Fortaellinger (Tales), 1872. Magnhild, 1877; translated by R. B. Anderson, 1883. Kaptejn Mansana, 1879; translated as Captain Mansana by R. B. Anderson, 1882. Det flager i Byen og paa Havnen (Flags are Flying in Town and Port), 1884; translated as The Heritage of the Kurts, by C Fairfax 1892. Paa Guds Veje, 1889; translated as In God's Way, by E. Carmichael, 1890. Nye Fortaellinger (New Tales), 1894; To Fortaelinger (Two Tales), 1901; Mary, 1906. Collected edition of the Novels, translated into English, edited by E. Gosse, 13 vols., 1895-1909.
[See Life of Björnson by W. M. Payne, 1910; E. Gosse's Study of the Writings of Björnson, in edition of Novels, 1895; H. H. Boyesen's Essays on Scandinavian Literature, 1895; G. Brandes' Critical Studies of Ibsen and Björnson, 1899.]
THE EDITORA PLAY IN FOUR ACTS DRAMATIS PERSONAE
EVJE, a prosperous distiller.
GERTRUD, their daughter, engaged to HARALD REJN. The DOCTOR.
HAAKON REJN, a yeoman farmer.
HALVDAN REJN and HARALD REJN, his brothers. The DOCTOR'S ASSISTANT.
INGEBORG, maid to the Evjes.
JOHN, coachman to the Evjes.
HALVDAN REJN's HOUSEKEEPER.
HALVDAN REJN's MAID.
(SCENE.--The breakfast-room at the EVJES' house. A glass-cupboard, in two partitions, stands against the left-hand wall, well forward. On the top of it stand a variety of objects. Beyond it, a stove. At the back of the room, a sideboard. In the middle of the room a small round folding table, laid for four persons. There is an armchair by the stove; a sofa on the right; chairs, etc. A door at the back of the room, and another in the left-hand wall. There are paintings on the walls, and the general impression of the room is one of snug comfort. EVJE, MRS. EVJE, and GERTRUD are seated at the table. INGEBORG is standing by the sideboard. Breakfast is proceeding in silence as the curtain rises. INGEBORG takes away EVJE'S cup and re-fills it. As she brings it back to him, a ring is heard at the bell. GERTRUD gets up.)Evje. Sit still; John will go to the door. (GERTRUD sits down again. Directly afterwards, another ring is heard.) Mrs. Evje. What can John be doing?Ingeborg. I will go. (Goes out. She comes back, showing in HARALD REJN, who hangs up his hat and coat in the hall before coming in.) Harald. Good morning! Evje and Mrs. Evje. Good morning! (HARALD shakes hands with them.)
Harald (to GERTRUD, who is sitting on the right). Good morning, Gertrud! Am I a bit late to-day? (GERTRUD, who has taken his hand, looks lovingly at him but says nothing.)Mrs. Evje. Yes, I suppose you have been for a long constitutional, although the weather is none of the best. Harald. It is not; I expect we shall have a thick fog by the afternoon. Evje. Did you have breakfast before you went out?
Harald. I did, thanks. (To INGEBORG, who has come forward with a cup of coffee.) No, thank you. I will sit down here while you are finishing. (Sits down on the sofa behind GERTRUD.)Mrs. Evje. How is your brother Halvdan?Harald. A little better to-day, thanks--but of course we cannot build on that. Evje. Is your eldest brother coming to see him?Harald. Yes, we expect him every day. Probably his wife has come with him, and that has been the reason of the delay; she finds it difficult to get away. Mrs. Evje. Halvdan so often talks of her. Harald. Yes, I believe she is the best friend he has. Evje. No wonder, then, that she wants to come and say good-bye to him. By the way, have you seen how the paper bids him good-bye to-day?Harald. Yes, I have seen it. Mrs. Evje (hurriedly). I hope Halvdan has not seen it?Harald (smiling). No, it is a long time now since Halvdan read a newspaper. (A pause.) Evje. Then I suppose you have read what they say about you too?Harald. Naturally. Mrs. Evje. It is worse than anything they have said about you before. Harald. Well--of course, you know, my election meeting comes on this evening. Evje. I can tell you it has upset _us_. Mrs. Evje. Day after day we wake up to find our house invaded by these abominations. That is a nice thought to begin your day's work with! Harald. Is it so indispensable, then, to educated people to begin their day by reading such things?Mrs. Evje. Well--one must have a paper. Evje. And most people read it. Besides, one can't deny that a lot of what is in it is true, although its general tendency is to run everyone down. Harald (getting up). Quite so, yes. (Leans over GERTRUD'S shoulder.) Gertrud, have you read it?Gertrud (does not look at him, and hesitates for a moment; then says gently): Yes. Harald (under his breath). So that is it! (Walks away from her.) Evje. We have had a little bit of a scene here, I must tell you. Harald (walking up and down). Yes, I can understand that. Evje. I will repeat what I have said already: they write about _you_, and _we_ have to suffer for it. Mrs. Evje. Yes, and Gertrud especially. Gertrud. No--I don't want anyone to consider me in the matter at all. Besides, it is not what they say of you in the paper that hurts me--. (Stops abruptly.) Harald (who has come up to her). But what your parents are feeling about it? Is that it? (GERTRUD does not answer.)
Evje (pushing back his plate). There, I have finished! (They rise from the table. MRS. EVJE helps INGEBORG to clear away the things, which INGEBORG carries out of the room.)Mrs. Evje. Couldn't you wash your hands of politics, Harald? (GERTRUD goes out to the left.)
Evje (who has followed GERTRUD with his eyes). We cannot deny that it pains us considerably that in our old age our peaceful home should be invaded by all this squabbling and abomination.
Mrs. Evje (who rung for INGEBORG to move the table). You have no need to do it, either, Harald! You are a grown man, and your own master. (INGEBORG comes in. HARALD helps her to move the table.)
Evje (taking a cigar and lighting it). As my wife said just now-- couldn't you wash your hands of politics, Harald? You, who have both talent and means, need not be at a loss for a vocation in life.Harald (sitting down on the sofa). If I have any talent, it is for politics--and so I intend to devote my means to that. Evje. What do you propose to gain by it?Harald. What any one who believes in a cause hopes to gain--that is to say, to help it on. Evje. And to become a cabinet minister?Harald. I certainly can't do that any other way; well, I admit-- that _is_ my idea. Evje. You will not be elected now. Harald. That we shall see. Evje. But suppose you are not re-elected to-morrow?Harald. Then I must find some other way. Evje. Always with the same object?Harald. Always with the same object. (EVJE sighs.) Mrs. Evje (who has taken her sewing and sat down by the fire). Oh, these politics!
Harald . At any rate, they are the most prominent factors in life just now. Evje. We do not suppose we can exercise any influence over you. But at any rate it is possible that you yourself have not considered the position into which you have put the whole of us. (Both he and his wife avoid looking at HARALD during this discussion.)Mrs. Evje. Say what you really mean, dear--that he is making us all thoroughly unhappy, and that is the truth!
Harald (getting up, and walking up and down). Well, look here--I have a proposal to make. It is, that you should abandon all opposition to Gertrud's marrying me at once. Today again my brother has expressed the wish that we should be married by his bedside; so that he should be able to take part in it. I scarcely need add how happy it would make me.Evje. But whether she is here at home or married to you, you know, her parents' distress would be just as great every time their child was persecuted. Mrs. Evje. Surely you can appreciate that! Harald. But what answer am I to give to my brother's request?-- most likely the last he will ever--. (Stops.)
Evje (after a pause). He is very kind to wish it, as he always is. Nothing would make us happier; but we who are her parents do not consider that you could make our daughter happy as long as you remain in politics and on the lines on which you are now travelling.Harald (after a pause, during which he has stood still). That is to say, you contemplate breaking off our engagement?Evje (looking at him quickly). Far from it! Mrs. Evje (at the same time). How can you say such a thing? Evje (turning towards the fire again). We have spoken about it to Gertrud to-day--as to whether it would not be possible to induce you to choose some other career. Mrs. Evje. You understand now, why you found Gertrud upset. You must listen to us now, as she did, in all friendliness.
Evje (getting up and standing with his back to the fire). The first thing I do in the morning is to read my paper. You know what was in it to-day--the same as is in it now every day.Mrs. Evje. No; I am sure it has never been as bad as to-day.
Harald (walking up and down again). The election is just at hand! Evje. Well--it is just as painful to us, her father and mother, whether it is before or after the election. We are not accustomed to associate with any one who has not first-class credentials--and now we have to endure seeing doubt cast upon our own son-in-law's. Do not misunderstand me; to my mind, for credentials to be first-class they must not only actually be so, but must also be considered to be so by people in general. (HARALD begins to walk up and down again.) The second thing I do in the morning is to open my letters. Amongst to-day's were several from friends we had invited to a party we thought of giving--if, that is to say, your brother's illness took no sudden turn for the worse. No fewer than ten of them refuse our invitation--most of them making some excuse, and a few with a little more show of a real reason; but one of them speaks straight out, and I have his letter here. (Takes it from his pocket.) I have kept it for you. It is from my father's old friend, the bishop. I haven't my spectacles--and for me to have mislaid my spectacles will show you what a state of mind I am in. I don't think I have done such a thing for--. Here, read it yourself! Read it aloud!
Harald (taking the letter). "My dear Mr. Evje. As you are my poor dear friend's son, you must listen to the truth from me. I cannot willingly come to your house while I might meet there a certain person who, certainly, is one of you, but nevertheless is a person whom I cannot hold in entire respect."Mrs. Evje. Well, Harald, what do you think our feelings must be when we read things like that? Evje. Do not imagine that, in spite of that, _we_ do not hold you in entire respect. We only ask you to ensure our daughter's happiness. You can do that with a word.
Mrs. Evje . We know what you are, whatever people say--even if they are bishops. But, in return, you ought to have confidence in our judgment; and our advice to you is, have done with it! Marry Gertrud at once, and go away for your honeymoon; by the time you come back, people will have got something else to talk about--and you will have found something else to occupy you as well.
Evje . You must not misunderstand us. We mean no coercion. We are not insisting on this alternative. If you wish to be married, you shall--without feeling yourself obliged to change your vocation for _our_ sakes. We only want to make it clear that it would pain us-- pain us very deeply.
Mrs. Evje . If you want to take time to think it over, or want to talk it over with Gertrud or with your brother, do! (GERTRUD comes in and goes about the room looking for something.)Evje. What are you looking for, dear?Gertrud. Oh, for the--. Mrs. Evje. I expect it is the newspaper; your grandfather has been asking for it. Evje. Surely there is no need for him to read it?Mrs. Evje. He asked me for it, too. He knows quite well what has made us all unhappy. Evje. Can't you tell him? No, that wouldn't do. Mrs. Evje (to GERTRUD). I suppose you have had to confess to him what is the matter?Gertrud (trying to conceal an emotion that is almost too much for her). Yes. (Finds the paper, and goes out.) Mrs. Evje (when GERTRUD has gone). Poor child!
Evje . Does not what she is carrying to him, with all that it says about you and about your brother, seem to you like an omen? I will tell you how it strikes me. Your brother is a very much more gifted man than I am; and although it is true, as that paper says, that nothing of all that he has worked for has ever come to anything, still perhaps he may nevertheless have accomplished more than either you or me, although we have done a good deal between us to increase the prosperity of our town. I feel that to be so, although I cannot express what I mean precisely. But consider the reputation he will leave behind him. All educated people will say just what that paper says to-day--and to-morrow he will be forgotten. He will scarcely find a place in history, for history only concerns itself with the great leaders of men. What does it all come to, then? Neither present nor posthumous fame; but death--death all the time. He is dying by inches now, dying of the most horrible persecution; and the emotion that his end will cause among a few individuals cannot be called posthumous fame. (HARALD begins to speak, but checks himself.) Can _you_ hope to make a better fight of it? You think you are stronger? Very well; perhaps you may have the strength to endure it until other times come and other opinions with them. But there will be one by your side who will not have the strength to endure it. Gertrud is not strong--she could never stand it; indeed now--already--. (Is stopped by his emotion.)Mrs. Evje. She hides it from you, but she cannot hide it from us. Besides, a friend of ours--our dear doctor--said only yesterday--. (Breaks off in tears.)
Evje . We never told you, but he warned us some time ago; we had no idea it was so serious, or that it had anything to do with this. But yesterday he frightened us; he said she--. Well, you can ask him yourself. He will be here directly. (HARALD fills a glass of water and raises it to his lips, but sets it down again untasted.)
Mrs. Evje (going to him). I am so sorry for you, Harald! To have this come on you just now--when your splendid brother is at the point of death, and you yourself are being persecuted! (A ring is heard at the bell.)Evje. But it should be a warning to you! Sometimes a single movement will change the course of a whole life. Mrs. Evje. And do have a little confidence in us! (A ring is heard again.) Evje. What on earth has become of John to-day? That is the second time the bell has rung. Mrs. Evje. One of the maids is opening the door, I can hear. Evje. I expect it is the doctor. Mrs. Evje. Yes, it is he--I know his ring. (A knock is heard at the door.) Evje. Come in! (The DOCTOR comes in.) The Doctor. Good morning! (Lays down his hat and stick.) Well, so I hear John has been up to his pranks again? The rascal is in bed. Evje and Mrs. Evje. In bed?The Doctor. Came home at four o'clock in the morning, drunk. Ill to-day, naturally. Ingeborg asked me to go in and see him.Evje. Well!--I am determined to put an end to it! Mrs. Evje. Yes, I have never been able to understand why you were so lenient with John. Evje. He has been with us five years; and, besides, it makes people talk so, if you have to send your servants away. Mrs. Evje. But surely this sort of thing makes them talk much worse! Evje. Well--he shall leave this very day.
The Doctor (to HARALD). How are you, Rejn?--Oho! I understand. I have come at an inopportune moment with my complaints of John? You have all got something more serious on your minds?Mrs. Evje. Yes, we have had it out, as we agreed yesterday.
The Doctor . You must forgive me, my dear Rejn, for having told my old friends the whole truth yesterday. She (pointing to MRS. EVJE) was an old playfellow of mine, and her husband and I have been friends from boyhood; so we have no secrets from each other. And Gertrud's condition makes me very uneasy.
Harald . Why have you never told me that before? The Doctor. Goodness knows I have often enough given her parents hints that she was not well; but they have only made up their minds that her happiness in her engagement would quite cure her. They are a considerate couple, these two dear people, you know; they didn't want to seem interfering.
Harald . Their consideration--which I appreciate and have lately had constant reason to be grateful for--has all at once become a more powerful weapon than open opposition. It makes a duty of what I should otherwise have felt to be unfair coercion. But now the situation is such that I can neither go forward nor back. After what I have gone through, you must see that I cannot withdraw on the very eve of the election--and after the election it will be too late. On the other hand--(with emotion)--I cannot, I dare not, go on with it if it is to cost me--. (Breaks off.)Evje (standing in front of the fire). There, there! Take time to think it over, my dear boy; talk it over with her and with your brother.
The Doctor (who has sat down on a chair to the left, a little away from the others). I have just been to see your brother. A remarkable man! But do you know what occurred to me as I sat there? He is dying because he _is_ a man. The only people that are fit for political life nowadays are those whose hearts have been turned to stone. (Picks up something from the table and gets up.) Ah, just look here! Here is a fine specimen of petrifaction. It is a fragment of palm leaf of some kind, found impressed in a bit of rock from Spitzbergen. I sent it you myself, so I know it. That is what you have to be like to withstand arctic storms!--it will take to harm. But your brother--well, his life had been like that of the original palm tree, with the air sighing through its branches; the change of climate was too sudden for him. (Goes up to HARALD.) You have still to try it. Shall you be able to kill all the humanity that is in you? If you can make yourself as insensate a thing as this stone, I daresay you will be able to stand the life. But are you willing to venture upon political life at such a price? If you are--so be it; but remember that in that case you must also kill all humanity in Gertrud--in these two--in every one that is dear to you. Otherwise no one will understand you or follow you. If you cannot do that, you will never be more than a dabbler in politics-- a quarter, an eighth part, of a politician--and all your efforts, in what you consider your vocation, will be pitiable!
Mrs. Evje (who has been occupied at the back of the room, but now sits down by the fare). That is quite true! I know cases of petrifaction like that--and God preserve anyone that I love from it!
Evje (coming forward towards HARALD). I don't want to say anything to hurt your feelings--least of all just now. But I just want to add my warning, because I believe I have discovered that there is a danger that persecution may make you hard.Harald. Yes!--but do you suppose it is only politics that offer that dangerous prospect?
The Doctor . You are quite right! It is all the cry nowadays, "Harden yourself!" It isn't only military men and doctors that have to be hardened; commercial men have to be hardened, civil servants have to be hardened, or dried up; and everybody else has to be hardened for life, apparently. But what does it all mean? It means that we are to drive out all warmth from our hearts, all desire from our imaginations. There is a child's heart at the bottom of every one of our hearts-ever young, full of laughter and tears; and that is what we shall have killed before we are "fitted for the battle of life," as they put it. No, no--that is what we ought to preserve; we were given it for that! (HARALD hides his face in his hands, and sits so for some time.)Mrs. Evje. Any mother or any wife knows that. Evje (standing with his back to the fire). You want to bring back the age of romance, doctor!
The Doctor (with a laugh). Not its errors--because in those days unclean minds brought to birth a great deal that was unclean. (Seriously.) But what is it, when all is said and done, but a violent protest on the part of the Teutonic people against the Romanesque spirit and school--a remarkable school, but not _ours_. To us it seems a barren, merely intellectual school--a mere mass of formulas which led to a precocious development of the mind. And that was the spirit it bred--critical and barren. But these schools of thought are now all we have, and both of them are bad for us! They have no use for the heart or the imagination; they do not breed faith or a longing for high achievement. Look at _our_ life! Is our life really our own?Mrs. Evje. No. You have only to think of our language, our tastes, our society, our--
The Doctor (interrupting her). Those are the externals of our life, merely the externals! No, look within--look at such a view of life as we were talking about, clamouring for "hardening"--is that ours? Can we, for all our diligence, make as much way in it as, for instance, a born Parisian journalist?--become like a bar of steel with a point at each end, a pen-point and a sword-point? _We_ can't do that; the Teutonic temperament is not fitted for it.Evje. Oh, we are well on the way towards it. Look at the heartless intolerance in our politics; it will soon match what you were describing. Harald. Everyone that disagrees with you is either an ambitious scoundrel, or half mad, or a blockhead.
The Doctor (laughing). Yes, and here in the north, in our small communities, where a man meets all his enemies in the same barber's shop, we feel it as keenly as if we were digging our knives into each other! (Seriously.) We may laugh at it, but if we could add up the sum of suffering that has been caused to families and to individuals--if we could see the concrete total before us--we should be tempted to believe that our liberty had been given to us as a curse! For it _is_ a cursed thing to destroy the humanity that is in us, and make us cruel and hard to one another.
Harald (getting up, but standing still). But, my good friends, if you are of the same mind about that, and I with you--what is the next thing to do?
Evje . That is true enough; but, after all, if we agree with its politics? Harald. I will accept help from any one whose opinions on public affairs agree with my own. Who am I that I should pretend to judge him? But I will not give him my help in anything that is malicious or wicked.The Doctor. Pshaw!
Harald . Everyone who subscribes to, or contributes to, or gives any information to a paper that is scurrilous, is giving his help to what is wicked. And, moreover, every one who is on terms of friendship with a man who is destroying public morality, is helping him to do it.The Doctor (getting up). Does he still come here? (A silence.) Evje. He and I are old schoolfellows--and I don't like breaking with old acquaintances. Mrs. Evje. He is a most amusing man, too--though I can't deny that he is malicious. (The DOCTOR sits down again, humming to himself.) Harald. But that is not all. Both you and the Doctor have--with some eloquence-- The Doctor (with a laugh). Thank you!
Harald . --expressed your abhorrence of certain political tendencies with which neither you nor I have any sympathy--which affront our ideas of humane conduct. You do not feel called upon to enter actively into the lists against them; but why do you try to prevent those who do feel so called upon? You lament the existing state of things--and yet you help to maintain it, and make a friend of the man who is its champion!The Doctor (turning his head). Apparently we are on our defence, Evje!
Harald . No--I am. I was told a little while ago that I was in a fair way to become hardened and callous, and that I must abandon my career--and that I must do so for Gertrud's sake, too, because she would never be able to share the fight with me. I was told this at one of the bitterest moments in my life. And that made me hesitate for a moment. But now I have turned my face forward again, because you have enlightened me! (A short, sharp cough is heard in the hall.)Mrs. Evje (getting up). That is he! (A knock is heard at the door; the DOCTOR gets up and pushes his chair back. The EDITOR comes in.) The Editor. Good morning, my children! How are you?Mrs. Evje (sitting down). I did not hear the bell. The Editor. I don't suppose you did--I came in by the back door. I took you by surprise, eh? Discussing me, too--what? (Laughs.) Evje. You have given us enough reason to, to-day, any way. The Editor. Yes, haven't I? Such a thing for a man to do to his best friends--eh?Evje. That is true. The Editor. To his old schoolfellows--his neighbours--eh? I expect it has disturbed your natural moderation--eh?Evje. I pride myself on my moderation. The Editor. As much as on your brandy! Evje. Are you going to begin your nonsense again?
The Editor . Good-morning, Doctor! Have you been making them a fine speech this morning?--about my paper? or about humanity?-- romanticism? or catholicism?--eh? (Laughs.)The Doctor (laughing). Certainly one of us two has made a fine speech this morning! The Editor. Not me; mine was made yesterday!--How is your hall-porter?The Doctor (laughing). Quite well, I am ashamed to say. The Editor. There's a faithful subscriber to my paper, if you like! (The DOCTOR laughs.) Well, Mrs. Evje, I can give you news of your man, Master John! Mrs. Evje. Can you? It is more than I can. The Editor. Yes--he is in bed still. That is why I came in the back way--to enquire after his health. Mrs. Evje. But how--?The Editor. How is he after last night?Mrs. Evje. Really, I believe you know everything. We had no idea he was out last night.
The Editor . Oh, that is the very latest intelligence! He has been figuring as a speaker--he was drunk, of course--before the Association founded by his master's future son-in-law. And he made a most effective speech--indeed, the speakers at that Association always make most effective speeches! It was all about a Sliding Scale of Taxation, Profit-Sharing for Workers, the necessity for a Labour majority in Parliament, etc., etc., all the usual Socialist rhodomontade. You see how infectious intellectual ideas are!
Evje. Well!--I shall turn him out of the house to-day!
The Doctor (interrupting them). When you are in these provoking moods there is always some grievance lurking at the back of your mind. Out with it! I am a doctor, you know; I want to get at the cause of your complaint!The Editor. You were not very successful in that, you know, when you said my maid had cholera, and she really only was--. (Laughs.) The Doctor (laughing). Are you going to bring that story up again? Every one is liable to make mistakes, you know--even you, my boy! The Editor. Certainly. But before making a mistake this time-- ahem!--I wanted first of all to enquire whether-- The Doctor. Ah! now it is coming! The Editor --whether you have any objection to my mentioning John in my paper?Mrs. Evje. What has John to do with us?The Editor. Just as much as the Association, where he delivered his speech, has; it-ahem!--is one of the family institutions!
Evje. I have had no more to do with making John what he is than I have had with making that Association what it is.
The Editor. Your future son-in-law made the Association what it is, and the Association has made John what he is.
The Doctor . Or, to put it the other way round: John is Mr. Evje's servant; John has become an active member of the Association; therefore Mr. Evje is a patron of the Association.
The Editor . Or this way: John, being the well-known Mr. Evje's servant, has for that reason become an active member of the Association which--as he expressed it--his employer's future son-in-law "has had the honour to found!"Mrs. Evje. Surely you never mean to put that in the paper?The Editor (laughing). They are John's own words. Mr. Evje. Of course, he would never put a tipsy man's maunderings into the paper. (To his wife.) Don't you understand that he is joking? The Editor (clearing his throat). It is already in type. The Doctor. Oh, nonsense! The Editor. The scene afforded an opportunity for an extremely amusing sketch, without mentioning any names. Mr. Evje. I sincerely hope that The Doctor (to EVJE). Oh, he is only teasing you! You know him. The Editor. What do you think of this? "Those who indirectly support so dangerous an institution will have to face exposure."--I quite agree with it. Mrs. Evje (getting up). What do you mean? Do you mean that my husband--?The Editor. A little fright will be a good discipline for him!Evje. Is what you quoted meant as an accusation against us-- whether you are serious or whether you are joking?The Doctor. He is only trying to frighten you with a bogey; it is not the first time, you know! Evje. Yes, but what have I to be frightened of? I don't belong to the Association. The Editor. But persons who do belong to it frequent your house. A man is known by the company he keeps. Mrs. Evje. I really begin to think he _does_ mean it seriously. The Editor. It is too ugly a thing to jest about, you mean?Evje. Is it possible that you seriously mean to allude to John as my servant?The Editor. Isn't he your servant?Evje. And to put that in the paper for every one to read?The Editor. No--only for those who read the paper. Evje. And you have come here to tell us that? The Editor. Do you suppose I would do it without telling you?Mrs. Evje. It is perfectly shameless! The Editor. It certainly is. Evje. Is it your intention to quarrel with me?The Editor. Of course! Evje. With your own schoolfellow?--one who has been it true friend to you in all your ups and downs? It is abominable! The Editor. Perhaps it was to ensure my holding my tongue that you have been my friend! Mrs. Evje. You _couldn't_ behave in such a fashion to a friend! The Editor (drily). To my own brother, if he stood in my way!
Harald (to himself). This is too much! (Comes forward.) Is your hatred for me so bitter that on my account you must persecute even my future parents-in-law, your own old friends?
The Editor (who, as soon as HARALD came forward, has turned away to the DOCTOR). Have you heard how people are being beaten up to go to the meeting of electors to-night? The last political speeches of the campaign must be made with red fire burning at the wings! (Laughs.)Mrs. Evje (coming up to him). No, you are not going to get out of it by changing the subject. Is it really your intention to put my husband in your paper?The Editor. He is putting himself there. Evje. I, who all my life have avoided being drawn into any political party? The Doctor. What has Evje to do with Harald Rein's politics?The Editor. He endorses them! Mrs. Evje. No!--a thousand times no! Evje. Why, only to-day The Doctor. I can bear witness to that! The Editor. It is no use protesting! Evje. But you must believe our protestations! The Editor. Bah! You will see something more to-morrow-- Evje. Something more?Mrs. Evje. Against my husband?The Editor. That scandal about the Stock Exchange Committee. No less than three Letters to the Editor about it have been lying in my pigeon-holes for some time. Evje (in bewilderment). Are you going to put nonsense of that sort in your paper? The most respected men on the Exchange--?Mrs. Evje. Members of the Committee--?
The Editor. They are only respected men so long as they respect themselves. When their chairman enters into connections which offend public opinion, the whole crew of them must be made to feel what sort of a man it is they are associating with.The Doctor. So on Mr. Rejn's account you are going to expose Evje, and on Evje's account the Stock Exchange Committee? I suppose my turn will come soon! The Editor. It will come. The Doctor. Indeed!
The Editor. The letters that have been sent to me are all from highly respected men. That shows that public opinion has turned round; and public opinion must be obeyed! (Throws out his hands.)
Evje (in a troubled voice). It is quite true that I have noticed in several little ways that their temper--. (Looks round him, and checks himself. Then speaks more confidently.) But it was just at such a time that I looked for help from you, my friend. That is why I did not bother myself much about it.
Mrs. Evje. I am sure you don't deserve to be either one or the other! (The EDITOR laughs.) Think what you wrote to-day about Halvdan Rejn, who is dying. A man could only write that who--who--The Editor. Well?--who? Mrs. Evje. Who has not an atom of heart. The Editor. Ha, ha! "The natural affections!"--"family considerations!" Truth, my dear lady, has no family ties; it has no respect even for a "dying man." Mrs. Evje. Yes, indeed--every decent man has some respect for suffering, and even wicked men are silent in the presence of death! The Editor. "Sufferer"--"dying man"--"martyr," I suppose! Oh, we know all that old story! Harald (coming forward). Let me tell you that you are a--person with whom I will not condescend to argue. (Walks away from him.)
The Editor (who has at once crossed the room). This theatrical flaunting of the "dying man" before people's eyes, that a calculating brother has permitted himself, is of course what is really shocking in the whole affair. But I will tear the mask off him.
The Doctor (following him). Listen to me, now; listen! We are gentlefolk, you know! And even if Mr. Rejn has let himself be so carried away as to mention his dying brother on a public occasion--well, I am not going to say that I approve of it, but surely it is excusable and--Harald (coming forward). I want none of your defence, thank you! The Doctor. The one of you is just as mad as the other! (To the EDITOR.) But what has all this to do with Evje, seeing that, after all, the whole of this affair of the Rejns'--
Evje (to the EDITOR, eagerly). I give you my word of honour that I have never approved of Harald's utterances about his brother, either. I am a man of moderation, as you know; I do not approve of his politics. Only to-day--Mrs. Evje. And what on earth have politics to do with the Stock Exchange Committee?The Doctor. Or with Evje's coachman! Evje. You might just as well take it into your head to write about my clerks, or my workmen, or-- The Doctor. His carpenters, or his brewers--or his horses! The Editor (stands suddenly still and says, drily): You may assure yourselves that things are quite sufficient as they are! (Begins to button up his coat.) Evje. Is it so bad as all that! Mrs. Evje. Good gracious!--what is it then?The Editor (taking up his hat). You will be able to read it to-morrow, together with some more about the "dying man." Good-bye! Evje and Mrs. Evje (together.) But before you go-- The Doctor. Hush, hush! Let us remember we are gentlefolk! What will you bet that the whole thing is not just a bogey to frighten you?The Editor (holding out his hand towards the DOCTOR). I hold Mr. Evje's position in the town in the hollow of my hand! Evje (fuming). Is your object to ruin that, then?Mrs. Evje. You will never succeed in that! The Doctor. Hush, hush! let us remember we are gentlefolk!
Evje . In my own house--my old schoolfellow--that he should have the audacity--! The Editor. I have told you the truth openly. And, as far as that goes, you have stood more than that from me in your own house, my boy. Because the misfortune is that you are a coward.Evje. I a coward? The Doctor (laughing). Hush, hush! Let us remember we are gentlefolk!
Evje . Yes, I have been weak enough to be afraid of scandal, especially in the newspapers, it is true; that is why I have put up with you too long! But now you shall see that I am not a coward. Leave my house!Mrs. Evje. That's right! The Doctor. But you must part like gentlefolk, you know. The Editor. Pooh! You will be sending me a message directly, to call me back! Evje. You have the face to say that? Mrs. Evje (to EVJE). Come, dear, don't provoke him any more! The Editor (turning to go). You daren't do otherwise. The Doctor. But part like gentlefolk--! Evje (following the EDITOR). No, as sure as I live-- The Editor. You will be sending a message to call me back! Ha, ha, ha! Evje. Never, never! Mrs. Evje. My dear--! The Editor. Yes, you will--directly--this very day! Ha, ha, ha! The Doctor. Don't part like that! Part like gentle-Evje. No, I tell you! The Editor (laughing all the time). Yes! Mrs. Evje. My dear-remember you may bring on one of your attacks! The Editor (at the door). You are too much of a coward! Ha! ha! (Goes out.) Evje (in a rage). No! The Editor (sticking his head in at the door). Yes! (Goes away.) The Doctor. What a visit! I cannot help laughing, all the same! Ha, ha, ha, ha! Evje. Do you dare to laugh at that?The Doctor. "Old schoolfellows"--ha, ha! "Moderation"--ha, ha! "The same party"--ha, ha, ha! Mrs. Evje. Oh, my husband is ill! Evje (faintly). Yes--a little water! Mrs. Evje. Water, water, Harald!
The Doctor . One of his attacks--that is another affair altogether. Here (takes a bottle from his pocket)--smell this! That's it! Now, a little water! (Gives him some.) No danger this time. Cheer up, old boy!Evje. What a scandal! Mrs. Evje. Yes, you will never be able to bear it, dear; I told you so. Evje. To think of my name appearing in the papers, when all my life I have-- Mrs. Evje. --done everything you could to keep clear of such things! And you such a dear, good, upright man!--Oh, these politics are the curse of the world! The Doctor (laughing). As I told you, you must go through a special process of hardening before you can stand them. Evje. And think of public opinion--my position--my connections! It is more than I can bear! Mrs. Evje (to the Doctor). I am sure the first time he reads something about himself in the paper, it will make him really ill! He won't be able to stand it, I know. The Doctor. Oh, he will get over it. Mrs. Evje. No, he won't. I am frightened at the mere thought of it. He will never be able to bear it, never!
Evje. When all my life I have tried to keep clear of such things--! Mrs. Evje. And now in your old age, though you deserve it no more than a child does, to be dragged into it! If I could prevent that, I would willingly take on my own shoulders whatever--Evje. No, no--not you! Not you! The Doctor. But the thing is not necessarily done because he threatened he would do it.Evje. Do you think--?The Doctor. He is so dreadfully hot-headed, but I am sure he will think twice-- Mrs. Evje. --before he attacks a lifelong friend! Yes, that is so, isn't it! Evje. Do you really think that there is any possibility then--?The Doctor. I really can't say! Mrs. Evje. Nothing in the world is impossible! Evje. We were both so hot-headed. The Doctor. Yes, it will have to be a more peaceable conversation than that of a few minutes ago! Evje. I don't know how it is--there is something so provoking about him.Mrs. Evje. Yes, and you have not been very well lately, either. I have often said so to you. Evje. No, I haven't. It has been just one thing after another! And all my life I have tried to keep clear of such things! The Doctor. I will tell you what, old friend; I am sure the best thing to do would be-- Evje. What? The Doctor. I am sure you will not be easy in your mind until someone has talked to him.Mrs. Evje. Yes, couldn't that be done? Good gracious, that is not sending a message to him!Evje. But who would--? (A short silence.) The Doctor. I don't know who would be best. Mrs. Evje. All our old friends have deserted us; we shall soon have none. The Doctor. Well, at all events, you have me. Evje. Would you really be willing to--? Do you mean it? (Grasps his hand.) The Doctor. Of course I will! He can't eat me! Mrs. Evje. How good you are! Of course you only need tell him-- what is quite true--that my husband would never be able to bear it! He, who all these years-- Evje. --have put up with an incredible amount for his sake, both from himself and from others! Mrs. Evje. Yes, that is true! And now you will go, dear friend--our only friend!--and talk to him quite amicably and sensibly, won't you?Evje. But don't delay! He is so hot-headed that we must find him before-- The Doctor. Oh, I will find him; he is always about the town. Evje. And tell him--ask him-- The Doctor. Oh, I know what to say to him. Mrs. Evje. That is right!
Evje . Thank you! I shall never forget how, at a moment when everything threatened to overwhelm me, you were the only one to stand by me! Ah, I feel as if a load had fallen off my shoulders! I feel all at once quite happy again!The Doctor. That's right. You pull yourself together! I will see to everything else. Evje. Thanks, thanks! But make haste! The Doctor. I am off! My hat? (Turns, and sees HARALD, and says to himself.) A-ha! He looks as if he had had about enough of this. It would have been a joke to-- Evje. Oh, do make haste, my friend! The Doctor. Yes, yes--if only I could find my hat. Mrs. Evje. It is on the table. The Doctor. So it is! Evje. Good luck to you! Mrs. Evje. And do it very tactfully! The Doctor (meaningly). And I hope you three will enjoy yourselves! (Goes out.) Evje. What a morning! Mrs. Evje. We, who have always endeavoured to take everything quietly and indulgently-- Evje. Yes, and to conduct our family affairs peaceably and affectionately! (Jumps up and turns to HARALD.) The whole thing is your fault! Mrs. Evje. Yes, it is Harald's fault! From the day this unfortunate engagement came about, we have scarcely had a moment's peace here.
Evje. No, no, that is not the case! We must be reasonable. At first, when Mr. Rejn had a fine future before him, when people vied with one another to catch him, then the engagement was an honour to us as well as to our daughter. But from the moment he took up these wretched politics--that is to say, from the time his brother fell ill-- well, he can see for himself what the result has been to us!Mrs. Evje. And he certainly must admit that it is not what we have deserved; indeed it is more than a respected and well-bred family can put up with. Harald. I quite agree that it is more than a respected and well-bred family _ought_ to put up with. Mrs. Evje. Oh, so you feel that too? Harald. Certainly. And the only excuse I can see is that there are many more in the same case. It is only in that way that such things become possible. Evje. I do not understand. Many more like--?--like whom?Harald. Like you! Mrs. Evje. In what respect?
Harald. I will explain. Most of the successful politicians nowadays have not gained their position by means of any greatness of their own, but by the pitiable weakness of others. Another age will form a different estimate of them--see them in their proper perspective, and find them to be much smaller men!
Evje . But what has that to do with us? Harald. Well, just try to size up that man whom a little while ago you turned out of your house and afterwards sent a message to--Evje. We sent no message to him!Mrs. Evje. A friend of ours has gone to talk to him. That is quite a different thing!
Harald. Well, take his measure by yours and yours by his! He went away, and he will come back like a conquering hero. Will that be thanks to his greatness, or his talent--to the loftiness of his opinions or his feelings? No,--it will be thanks to your pitiable weakness.Mrs. Evje. Upon my word! Evje. Well, I--!
Harald . Do you think any one who has any pluck in his disposition would consent to be a party to such a contemptible state of things? Think of your own daughter, educated by that good old man who lies in there, but an obedient child to you; think how she must be perpetually torn between what she loves and respects and what she sees going on here! No wonder she is ill! But remember this--she is not ill because she sticks to me; she is ill because of your pitiable weakness!Mrs. Evje. How can you dare to say such things! So you too--! Evje. Such an absolute want of respect!
Harald . Listen to me, once for all. I intend, God helping me, to take up the fight that has killed my brother, the noblest man I know! And Gertrud is going to take up _her_ share in the fight, as I do mine. But to come to this house as long as _he_ comes here--to go through what I have gone through to-day--sullies my self-respect to such an extent, and offends my better feelings so deeply, that either he never sets foot here again, or I do not!Evje and Mrs. Evje. But--!
Harald (quietly). When I came here to-day, I thought we should be able to arrange matters without my speaking out; but there is nothing else for it, so good-bye! (Goes out. A moment's silence follows.)Mrs. Evje. Is he giving us our dismissal? Or does he not really mean to break with us?-My dear, what is the matter? (Goes to her husband's side.) Evje (without moving). Tell me, my dear--am I a bad man?
Mrs. Evje . You, a bad man? Evje. Because, if I were not a bad, wicked man, they could not behave in such a way to me, one after the other.Mrs. Evje. But, my dear, you are the best and dearest and most considerate of men! And they are shameless traitors to you, my dear husband! Evje. But how on earth, then, could it come about that I, who all my life have tried to keep clear of such things--for I have, haven't I?Mrs. Evje. Every one knows that, that knows anything about you. Evje. How could it come about that in my old age I should be despised and forsaken by everybody? Surely it is no crime to want to live in peace, apart from all that sort of thing?Mrs. Evje. No, indeed; that is what all decent people want to do. Evje. Yes, I thought so too. But now you see! Mrs. Evje. But you have been dreadfully unfortunate. Evje. Why should I have been just the one to be dreadfully unfortunate? Most people escape such things altogether. Mrs. Evje (starting). Here is Gertrud.Evje. Poor child! Mrs. Evje. What on earth are we to say to her? Evje. Be careful, my dear! be careful! (GERTRUD comes in quietly and comes forward to them.) Gertrud. Did I see Harald go away?Mrs. Evje. Yes, my child, he--he went away. Gertrud. Without saying good-bye to me?Evje. That's true, he didn't say good-bye to you. Mrs. Evje. Were you expecting him to come into grandfather's room to say good-bye to you?Gertrud. Yes. Tell me how things went here?Evje. Why were you not here, dear? Gertrud (in astonishment). I here? You said you did not want me to be present-- Evje. I remember, yes; we thought it would not be advisable. Gertrud (still speaking quietly, but in growing alarm). But how did things go, then?Evje. How did they go? Badly. Mrs. Evje (hurriedly). That is to say, he did not behave at all well. You must prepare yourself for the worst, my child! Gertrud. Is it something very bad, then?Evje. You know he is a little hasty just now, when he has so much on his hands. He lacks a proper sense of moderation--but he will learn it, sure enough. Gertrud (almost inaudibly). But what does it mean? Is he never coming back?Evje. Never coming back? What an extraordinary question! Of course he will come back. He was only a little over-hasty, you know-- Gertrud. And said he would never come back?Mrs. Evje. Come, come, my dear--you mustn't be alarmed. Evje. He talked such a lot, you know, that we must not attach any particular importance to anything he said. Gertrud. So that is how it is! Mrs. Evje. We must make allowances for all that he is going through just now-- Evje (suddenly). My child, you look so pale-- Mrs. Evje (going to her). Gertrud!
Gertrud (with a quiet movement of protest). I must give grandfather his drink; that was really what I came for. And that was how I happened to see Harald through the window. I will take grandfather his drink. (The curtain falls as she goes out of the room.)