Three Dramas by Bjornstjerne Bjornson - HTML preview

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ACT II

(SCENE.--A street in the "villa quarter" of the town. Between it and another street running parallel with it in the background, are two houses standing in gardens, half of the facade of one of them projecting into the stage on the right. On the left a third street runs at right angles to the others, to the back of the stage. The left side of this third street opens onto a well-wooded park. The house in the foreground on the right is in two stories. There is a narrow strip of garden in front of it, enclosed by an iron railing with a gate in it. The gate is standing open. The entrance door to the house is immediately behind this gate. There is light in a small window by the door; the ground floor windows are in darkness; in those of the upper floor, light is visible through heavy curtains. It is a wintry evening, and everything is swathed in an unusually thick fog, in which the gas lamps in the streets show dimmer and dimmer as they recede in the distance. As the curtain goes up, a lamplighter is seen descending his ladder from a lamp-post, where he has just lit the lamp at the corner of the house.)

The Lamplighter (as he reaches the ground). It's all one whether the lamps are lit or not, in such a fog as this. (MRS. EVJE is seen drawing back the curtain at a window on the first floor. She opens the window and looks out.)

Mrs. Evje. The fog is so thick, my dear, that I can't see across the street.

Evje (coming to the window, with fur coat and cap on). So it is!-- Well, so much the better, my dear! (They withdraw into the room; the window is shut and the curtains drawn. Two passers-by come along the street from the right, talking.)

First Passer-by . The Land of Fogs--the old idea of the land of Fogs was that of a vision of confused and faint sensation, with the light of the intelligence dimmed and blurred like these gas lamps in the fog.

Second Passer-by . It would be that, if our hearts did not often act as guiding lights to our befogged intelligences. Look at this house behind us--the brandy distiller's. The devilish workings of his intelligence have befogged the whole country--befogged it with brandy-and some such guiding light is much needed there.

First Passer-by. Ah, well,--the old idea of the Land of Fogs was that fogs were--. (The sound of their conversation dies away as they pass into the park on the left. GERTRUD, closely veiled and wrapped in furs, comes slowly out of the park. She stops at the corner and looks down the street, then passed slowly along to the right, looking up at the house as she goes. She is scarcely out of sight when the house-door opens and EVJE comes out.)

Evje . This is about the time he comes home--I daren't go to his house and ask for him; I don't know if he would admit me. I daren't trust to the Doctor alone.--This uncertainty is dreadful! (He starts at seeing GERTRUD, whom he does not recognise in the fog, walking towards him. She turns suddenly and walks back the way she came.) Who was that? She gave me quite a fright in this fog! Her furs seemed rather like--no, no, it couldn't be. I must not let any one recognise me. (Puts up the high collar of his coat, so that only his nose is visible.) Both of them called me a coward, but they are very much mistaken. It is not cowardice for a man who is respected and honoured to try and avoid scandal. Hm! Naturally those who trade in scandals think otherwise!--To act without attaching weight to the opinion of others, to disregard one's own predilections, to put up with being laughed at--all for the sake of preventing a scandal--that is to be strong and courageous. And it is admirable, too; for it is admirable to act fearlessly in the interest of one's family, and of one's business, and of propriety. (Starts as he hears his door opened. JOHN has come along the street and gone into the house.) Is that some one coming out of my house? No, it is a man going in. And then to think of Harald Rejn beginning that nonsense about my being a coward, because I refused to become a party man! Every one ought to take sides in politics-- that is their cry. Hm! I should say it required rather more courage nowadays to refrain from taking sides. (Starts again.) Who is that? Oh, only that woman again. She is waiting for some one too. I expect we shall both catch bad colds. (Walks up and down.) It is an odd sensation to be walking up and down on the watch outside one's own house. Cowardice? Pshaw! To let one's self be abused in a public street without stirring a finger to prevent it, that would be cowardice. I only hope he has not gone round the other way? There is much more traffic in that street, and some one might easily--. I think I will take a turn towards the town, and turn back when I am a little way from here; it will look less suspicious. I must catch him, because his paper will be going to press. (Looks up at his house.) My poor wife, sitting up there dreadfully alarmed on my account! (Goes out to the right. As soon as he has gone, the house-door opens and JOHN comes warily out.)

JOHN. So he has gone out, has he! Oh, well, he is bound to come in again! I will wait and catch him, that I will! Tra, la, la, la, la! I can play about here in the fog till he comes back; I have nothing to lose! And it will be best to catch him in the street; he will make less fuss, and can't run away from me! Tra, la, la, la, la! (Lounges out to the right. A moment later, HARALD comes out of the park. He is dressed much as EVJE is, but has not his coat-collar turned up.)

Harald . There is a light in her window! Then she is alone in her room. What am I going to do now? Twice already I have come to look at that light; now I have seen it--and must go away! Good-bye, my darling! Be patient, and wait! I know your thoughts are with me now; and I know you feel that mine are with you! (As he turns away from the house he sees the veiled figure of GERTRUD, who, as soon as she has come nearer, rushes to him, throws up her veil, and falls into his arms in a glad embrace.)

Gertrud. I was certain that, if you could not go into the house again, you would be out here! I knew you would not go away from me, dear!

 

Harald. No--neither now nor ever.

Gertrud . And, while I was walking up and down here in the fog, I felt that though there might be all this gloom tend cold around us outside, there was the brightness and warmth of certainty in our hearts.

Harald. Yes, our love is the one certainty for me! Fog may obscure the goal I aim at, the road I have to I read, the very ground I stand on; doubts may even for a while attack my faith; but my love for you shines clear through it all!
Gertrud. Thank you, my darling! If that is so, there is nothing that we cannot overcome!

Harald. Of course, you know what took place to-day?

 

Gertrud. I can guess.

 

Harald. Is it true that you are ill? Why did you never tell me?

 

Gertrud. No, the doctor is not telling the truth; I am not ill! Even if I were, what matter? I should go on living as long as I could--and should have done my duty before I gave in!

 

Harald. That is the way to look at it!

Gertrud . But I am not ill! I suffer, it is true--and am likely to-- every time you are persecuted, or my parents on my account. Because I have drawn them into all this that, they are so unfitted for, and that is why it pains me so to see how unprepared it finds them --most of all when, out of tenderness for me, they try to conceal it. But I can't alter things. We are fighting for a cause that you believe to be right, and so do I; surely that is better than never to suffer at all in any good cause. Try me! Let me share the fight with you! I am not weak; it is only that my heart is sore for those I love.

Harald. You splendid, loyal creature!--and you are mine! (Embraces her.)

 

Gertrud. You should hear what grandfather says!

 

Harald. Yes, how is the dear old gentleman?

Gertrud . Pretty well, thanks, though he never gets out now. But he is following your work, and he says that what you are aiming at is right, if you ask for God's guidance on your way. Harald--you will always be the same as you are now--good and genuine--won't you, dear? Not like the rest of them--nothing but bitterness and malice, always talking of principles and consequences and all the rest of it, and always attacking others? If one were obliged to be like that, it would be a curse to be a politician.

Harald . I will be what you make me! I think that behind every man's public life you can see his private life--whether he has a real home, and what it is like, or whether he only has a place he lives in--that is to say, no real home.

Gertrud . With God's help I shall try to make a bright, snug and cosy home for you! And this fog is delightful, because it only makes the thought of such a home all the cosier and snugger! It makes us seem so alone, too; no one is out driving or walking; and we can talk as loud as we please, because the fog deadens the sound of our voices. Oh, I feel so happy again now! Do you know, I think it is rather nice to be persecuted a little; it makes our meetings so much more precious!

Harald . But, you know dear, to meet you like this--and just now-- Gertrud (as they walk up and down together). Yes, of course! I had altogether forgotten how much you have to bear just now; I have been chattering away--. Oh, I don't know how I could feel so happy, because I am really dreadfully distressed. But, you know, I sit the whole play beside grandfather, thinking, without even being able to talk. I generally read aloud to him; now and then he makes a remark, but he really lives more in the next world than in this one now. (They hear a cough in the distance, and give a start, because they recognise it. The EDITOR and EVJE, walking along together, EVJE apparently talking very earnestly, are seen, indistinctly through the fog, in the street running parallel with the one HARALD and GERTRUD are in. JOHN is seen following them cautiously. They disappear into the park.)

Harald. I hear the enemy! I am sure I caught a glimpse of him over there through the fog, talking to another man.

 

Gertrud. Is he always about the streets even in weather like this?

 

Harald. Well, we won't let him disturb us. (They begin walking up and down again in front of the house.)

 

Gertrud. Do you know whom I met out here? Father!

 

Harald. Really? Then it is as I thought; the other man over there was your father!

 

Gertrud. Do you think it was? Poor father!

 

Harald. Yes, he is weak.

 

Gertrud. But you must be good to him. He is so good himself. Think how mother loves him; she is absolutely wrapped up in him, because he is so good!

 

Harald. He is a good man, and an able man. But, but, but--

Gertrud . They have lived a very tranquil life. We of the younger generation try to undertake heavier duties and greater responsibilities than the older generation did. But we must not be angry with them.

Harald. I am afraid it is only too easy to feel angry with them.

Gertrud . No, do as grandfather does! If he thinks any one is going to be amenable to it, he talks to them quietly; if not, he only behaves affectionately to them. Do you understand, dear?--just affectionately.

Harald. Well, to-day--ought I to have put up with their allowing themselves to be treated in such an unseemly way, and their treating me in such an unseemly way?

 

Gertrud. Was it really as bad as that? Harald. You would not believe what it was like, I assure you!

Gertrud (standing still). Poor father! Poor father! (Throws her arms round HARALD'S neck.) Be good to them, Harald!--just because of their faults, dear! We are their children, you know, and it is God's commandment, even if we were not their children.

Harald . If only I could take you up in my arms and carry you off home with me now! Your love takes possession of my heart and my will, and purifies both of them. I am at a crisis in my life now-- and now you should be on my side!

Gertrud. Listen!--to begin with, I will go with you to your meeting to-night!

 

Harald. Yes, yes,--I will come and fetch you!

 

Gertrud. Down at the door here!

 

Harald. Yes!

 

Gertrud. And, in the next place, I am going to walls into the town with you now.

 

Harald. But then I shall have to see you home again.

 

Gertrud. Do you object?

 

Harald. No, no! And you shall teach me a lot of things on the way!

 

Gertrud. Yes, you will be so wise before we get back! (They go out to the right.)

(The EDITOR and EVJE come out of the park. JOHN follows them, unseen by them, and slips past them to the right when they stop for a moment. The following conversation is carried on in hurried tones, and every time the EDITOR raises his voice EVJE hushes him, and speaks himself in a persistently lowered voice.)

Evje. But what concern of yours--or of the public's--are my private affairs? I don't want to have anything to do with politics.

 

The Editor, Well, then, you ought not to have had anything to do with him.

 

Evje. When I first made his acquaintance he was not a politician.

 

The Editor. Then you ought to have dropped him when he became one.

 

Evje. Ought I to have dropped you too, when you became one?

The Editor. Let me repeat, for the last time, that we are not talking about me! Evje. Hush, hush! What a fellow you are! You get into a rage if any one chaffs you. But you want to hit out at everybody all round!

The Editor. Do you suppose I am myself?

 

Evje. Who the devil are you, if you are not yourself?

 

The Editor. I am merely the servant of the public.

 

Evje. The public executioner, that is to say?

 

The Editor. Well, yes, if you prefer it. But you shall pay for that word some day.

 

Evje. There--you see! Always talking of paying for things!--of revenge!

 

The Editor. You shall pay for it, I tell you!

Evje . You are absolutely mad!--Poof! I am sweating as if it were the dog days! (Changes his tone.) Think of the time when we used to go to school together--when you never could go to bed without first coming to thank me for the jolly times we were having together!

The Editor. None of that nonsense! I am accustomed to be hated, despised, spit upon, scourged; if any one speaks kindly to me, I do not trust them!

 

Evje. You must trust me!

 

The Editor. No--and, besides, I observed very clearly to-day that you had counted on having me in reserve if ever you got into a scrape.

 

Evje. Well, who doesn't count on his friends? Doesn't every one take them into his reckoning?

 

The Editor. I don't; I have no friends.

 

Evje. Haven't you me? Do you think I would leave you in the lurch?

 

The Editor. That is hypocrisy! At times when I have needed it, the very last thing you have thought of has been to give me any help!

 

Evje. Have I not helped you?

The Editor . That is hypocrisy, too-to pretend you think I am speaking of money. No; when I have been accused of being dishonourable--of lying--you, the "old schoolfellow," the "old friend," the "neighbour," have never once had the courage to come forward on my behalf.
Evje. I never meddle with politics.

The Editor (with rising temper). More hypocrisy! Another of your damned evasions!

 

Evje. Hush, hush, hush!

 

The Editor. You try to excuse yourself with a lie! You are doubly a traitor!--And then you expect me to have compassion on you!

 

Evje. As sure as I stand here, I have never thought of deserting you, however bad things were.

The Editor . And you have the face to take credit to yourself for that? It is all calculation from beginning to end! You thought it would be the best way of making me remember your loyalty, and reward you for it.

Evje. This is abominable!

 

The Editor. Oh, you are cunning enough! You represent wealth of another kind, which at first was not entirely irreproachably come by--

 

Evje. There you go again!

The Editor . --and want to give it the cachet of good society; so you take care to keep friends with a newspaper that may be able to give you a helping hand in gaining what you want. Can you deny it?

Evje . There may be a slight tinge of calculation even in our highest purposes. But the misfortune about you is that you can see nothing but the calculation, though it may be only an infinitesimal part of the whole thing.

The Editor. Oho--I have had experience of you!

 

Evje. Then you must have had experience of your party's loyalty, too.

 

The Editor. My party's loyalty!

 

Evje. Well, after all, it keeps you where you are to-day.

 

The Editor. It keeps me there?

Evje . And you have friends in that party-myself amongst others-- who certainly would rather stand outside altogether, but nevertheless give you their advice and support when you are in difficulties. You cannot deny that.
The Editor. I have friends in the party? Oh yes; and if we lose a fight these fine counsellors are the first to run away! They are always egging me on and egging me on; but only let public opinion once get tired of me, and they will throw me overboard without more ado! By that sort of treachery they manage to fill the sails of the party craft with a new breeze--and leave me to shift the best way I can!--they, for whom I have fought with all my might and main! I despise my opponents--they are either scoundrels and thieves, or they are blockheads and braggarts. But my supporters are lick-spittles, fools, cravens. I despise the whole pack of them, from first to last! If any one would give me the assurance that if, as a pledge that I would never use a pen again, I were to chop off my right hand I should thereby gain the prospect of a peaceful life a thousand miles away from here, I believe I would do it!--I despise the whole pack of them--oh, how I despise them!

Evje. But this is horrible! Do you find no comfort in religion? Or, at all events, you have your paper!

 

The Editor. My paper, yes--but what good do you suppose that is to me? And do you think I give the impression of being a religious man?

 

Evje. Then what do you work for?

The Editor . Perhaps you think I work for your sake?--or for the sake of prosperity, or order, or whatever it is you cowards or self-seekers like to imagine it is that you personify? No, the whole human race is not worth the powder and shot that they are holding at each other's heads.

Evje. Then why do you come and almost threaten my life, if the whole thing seems so worthless to you?

The Editor . Do you seriously suppose that I would give in, so as to spare you or some other shopkeeper?--so that you should be able to say triumphantly, "You see he didn't dare! He didn't dare quarrel with Capital!"--or, "You see he has given in--he has turned tail!" No; what I should like to do would be to lay a mine underground, and blow myself and the whole lot of you sky high!

Evje. And I and all the happiness of my family life are to be sacrificed in order that you shall not have to give in on a side issue of no importance!--Oh, I am chilled to the bone!

The Editor . Ha, ha! It is good to hear you speaking like yourself again, because it reminds me that it is time to put an end to this solemn nonsense! (Looks at his watch.) A quarter past! You must be quick!

Evje. Are you really in earnest?

The Editor . I often play off jokes on you, it is true. But I don't know how you will like this one to-morrow morning.
Evje. Then let me tell you that I solemnly refuse! I will not break off the engagement! Put me in your paper, if you like; I am a free man.

The Editor. Bah! nobody is that. Then you refuse? Good-bye! (Walks away from EVJE.)

 

Evje (going after him). No, no--where are you going?

 

The Editor (stopping). Nowhere--or rather, I am going home.

 

Evje. But you won't really do what you said?

 

The Editor. Ha! ha! ha! (Moves away.)

 

Evje (following him). No, listen! Listen to me for a minute.

 

The Editor (turning back). Do you think I have time to stop at all the stations your vanity or your fright will invent on the way? (Moves away.)

 

Evje. You mad creature--listen to me! (The EDITOR stops.) Tell me exactly what you mean to do?

 

The Editor. Fiddlesticks! (Moves on.)

 

Evje (following him). Do you mean to put in the paper that I have broken off this match?

 

The Editor (stopping). Better than that--I shall spread the news in the town; then it will get about, and all the journalists will get a hold of it.

 

Evje. Give me a day or two to think it over!

 

The Editor. Oh, no--you are not going to catch me like that! It is election time, and the other side must be made to feel that all decent people have deserted them.

 

Evje. But it is a lie, you know!

The Editor . What is lying, and what is truth? But your resignation from the Stock Exchange Committee and your subsequent failure to be elected to any public position will be no lies, I can assure you! Public opinion is not to be trifled with, you know!

Evje. And this from you!

 

The Editor. Bah! Public opinion is a very faithless friend.

Evje . But who, after all, constitute public opinion? The Editor. Oh, no--you are not going to lead me into a trap again! Besides--it would be very difficult to say exactly who does constitute it.

Evje. This is really--! Then you won't put that in the paper?

The Editor . The news of a broken engagement travels quickest by foot-post--ha, ha, ha! (Coughs; then adds seriously :) But won't you, of your own accord, break off what are really absolutely inadmissible relations with a man who scandalises all your acquaintances?

Evje . Lay the blame on me, of course! I know his credentials are no longer first class; but my daughter--ah, you would not be able to understand that. The circumstances are quite exceptional, and--. Look here, shall we go up and talk it over with my wife?

The Editor. Ha, ha!--you turned me out of the house this morning!

 

Evje. Oh, forget all about that!

 

The Editor (looking at his watch). Half past! Now, without any more evasions--will you, or will you not?

 

Evje (with a struggle). No! I repeat, no! (The EDITOR moves away.) Yes, yes!--It nearly kills me to do it!

The Editor . "The Capitalist, secure in his position, who needs pay no regard to," etc., etc.--that is the "common form," isn't it, you man of first-class credentials? Ha, ha! Goodbye. I am going home to send the boy to the printers; he has waited long enough. (Moves away.)

Evje (following him). You are the cruellest, hardest, most reckless--

 

The Editor (who has been laughing, suddenly becomes serious). Hush! Do you see?

 

Evje (turning round). What? Where?

 

The Editor. Over there!

 

Evje. Those two?

 

The Editor. Yes--your daughter and Mr. Harald Rejn.

 

Evje. But he swore this morning that he would never set foot in my house again!

The Editor . But he will stay outside your house, as you see! These gentlemen of the Opposition, when they give any assurance, always do it with a mental reservation! You can't trust the beggars! Come round the corner. (They do so.)
Evje. An assignation in the street in the fog! To think my daughter would let herself be induced to do such a thing!

The Editor. Evil communications corrupt good manners! You are a mere bungler in delicate matters, Evje. You made a bad choice in that quarter!

 

Evje. But he seemed to be--

The Editor . Yes, yes, I know! A real gentleman would have guessed what he would develop into. He has a brother, you know! (HARALD and GERTRUD come in slowly, arm-in-arm.)

Gertrud. While your brother has been ill you have received many gratifying proofs of the good feeling and goodwill that there is in this town-haven't you?

 

Harald. Yes, I have. I have found no ill-will against him, nothing but kindness on all sides--with the exception of one person, of course.

 

Gertrud. But even he has a heart! It has often seemed to me as if I heard a cry of yearning and disappointment from it--and that just when he spoke most bitterly.

 

Harald. Yes, it needs no very sharp sight to see that he, who makes so many unhappy, is himself the unhappiest of all.

 

The Editor. What the deuce are they talking about?

 

Evje. We cannot hear from here. And the fog deadens their voices.

 

The Editor. Go a bit nearer, then!

 

Evje. Not before they separate. You only understand him!

 

Harald (to GERTRUD). What are you holding there?

 

Gertrud (who has taken off her glove and then a ring from her finger). The ring they gave me when I was confirmed. Give me your hand! No, take your glove off!

 

Harald. Do you want me to try your ring on? I shall not be able to get it on.

 

Gertrud. On the little finger of your left hand? Yes!

 

Harald (putting it on). So I can. Well?

Gertrud . You mustn't laugh at me. I have been beating up my courage to do this all this time. It was really why I wanted to walk a little farther with you first! I wanted to bring the conversation round to it, you see! I am so convinced that your happiness, and consequently mine, depends on your being able to be kind. You have got this meeting before you to-night. It will be a decisive moment for you. If you, when you are facing all this horrible persecution, can be a kind boy, you will win all along the line! (Pulls at his buttons in an embarrassed way.) So I wanted you to wear this ring to remind you. The diamonds in it sparkle; they are like my tears when you are hard and forget us two. I know it is stupid of me (wipes her eyes hastily), but now, when it comes to the point, I can't say what I--. But do wear it!

Harald (kissing her). I will wear it! (Gently.) Its pure rays shall shed a light on my life.

 

Gertrud. Thank you! (Throws her arms round him and kisses him.)

 

The Editor. What they are doing now is all right! Ha, ha, ha!

Evje . I won't stand it! (The EDITOR coughs loudly.) What are you doing? (The EDITOR goes to the neighbouring house and rings the bell. The door is opened and he goes in, laughing as he goes.)

Gertrud (who has started from HARALD'S arms at the sound of the cough). That is--!

 

Harald. It sounds like him! (Turns, and sees Evje.)

 

Gertrud. Father! (Turns to run away, but stops.) No, it is cowardly to run away. (Comes back, and stands at HARALD'S side. EVJE comes forward.)

 

Evje. I should not have expected my daughter, a well-brought-up girl, to make an assignation in the street with--with--

 

Gertrud. With her fiancé.

 

Evje. --with a man who has made a mock of her father and mother, and of his own doing has banished himself from our house.

 

Harald. From your house, certainly; but not from my future wife.

 

Evje. A nice explanation! Do you suppose we will consent to have as our son-in-law a man who spurns her parents?

 

Gertrud. Father!

 

Evje. Be quiet, my child! You ought to have felt that yourself.

 

Gertrud. But, father, you surely do not expect him to submit to your being abused and himself ill-treated in our house?

Evje . Are you going to teach your parents--? Gertrud (putting her arm round his neck). I don't want to teach you anything; because you know yourself, dear, that Harald is worth far more--and far more to us--than the man who went away just now! (At this moment the printer's boy, who has come out of the EDITOR'S house, runs past them towards the town.)

Evje (seeing the boy, tries to get away). Go in now, Gertrud! I have something I wish to talk to Mr. Rejn about.

 

Gertrud. You have nothing to talk to Harald about that I cannot hear.

 

Evje. Yes, I have.

 

Harald. But why may she not hear it? What you want is to break off our engagement.

 

Gertrud. Father--! (Moves away from him.) Is that true?

 

Evje. Well-since it cannot be otherwise-it is true; that is to say, for the moment. (Aside.) Good Lord, they can make it up right enough when this is all over!

Gertrud (who is standing as if thunderstruck). I saw you with him! --Ah! that is how it is! (Looks at her father, bursts into tears and rushes to the door of their house, pulls the bell and disappears into the house.)

Evje. What is it? What is the matter with her?

 

Harald. I think I know. She realises that her life's happiness has been bought and sold. (Bows to EVJE.) Good-bye! (Goes out to the right.)

Evje (after standing dumb for some moments). Bought and sold? Some people take everything so dreadfully solemnly. It is only a manoeuvre--to get out of this difficulty. Why is it that I cannot get free of it! They both of them exaggerate matters so absurdly; first of all this crazy fellow, and then Harald with his "Good-bye," spoken as if the ground were giving way beneath his feet! I--I-- feel as if every one had deserted me. I will go in to my wife-- my dear, good wife; she will understand me. She is sitting up there, full of anxiety about me. (He turns towards his house; but, on reaching the garden gate, sees JOHN standing there.)

John (touching his hat respectfully). Excuse me, Mr. Evje--

 

Evje. You, John! Go away! I told you never to set foot in my house again.

 

John (very respectfully). But won't you allow me to stand outside your house either, sir?

Evje . No! John (standing in EVJE'S way, but still with a show of great respect). Not at the door here?

Evje. What are you standing in my way for, you scoundrel?

 

John. Shall I assist you to call for help, sir? (Calls out.) Help!

 

Evje. Be quiet, you drunken fool! Don't make a disturbance! What do you want? Be quick!

 

John. I want, with all respect, to ask you, sir, why you have sent me away.

 

Evje. Because you are a swine that gets drunk and then talks nonsense. You don't know what a dilemma you have put me in.--Now go away from here, quietly!

 

John. I know all about it! I was following you and the Editor all the time, you know!

 

Evje. What?

 

John. These articles, that were to go in the paper--the printing was at a standstill, waiting for them.

Evje . Hush, hush, John! So you overheard that, did you? You are too clever; you ought never to have been a servant.--Now, be off with you! Here is a shilling or two for you. Good-bye.

John. Thank you very much, sir.--This was how it was, sir. You see, I thought of the number of times I had run over to the printer's with messages when that nice Editor gentleman was spending an evening with you--and so I thought I might just as well run over with this one.

Evje (starting back in alarm). What? What have you done?

 

John. Just to do you a good turn, sir, I ran along and told them they might print those articles.

 

Evje. What articles?

 

John. The ones about you, sir. "Print away," I said--and they printed away. By Jove, how they worked, and then off to the post with the papers!

 

Evje. You had the impudence, you--! Ah, it's not true! I saw the printer's boy myself, running to the office to countermand the instructions.

John. I caught him up outside here and told him that a message had been sent from Mr. Evje's house. And I gave him sixpence to go to the theatre with; but he must have had to run for it, to be in time, because I am sure it was after seven. Excuse me, sir, but it _is_ after seven now, isn't it?

Evje. You scoundrel! You vindictive brute!

 

John. You can have a look at the paper, sir, if you like.

 

Evje. Have you got a copy?

 

John. Yes, sir, the first copy struck off is always sent to the Editor, so I volunteered to bring it to him. But you must be anxious to see it, sir! (Holds it out to EVJE.)

Evje (snatching it from him). Give it to me! Let me see--. (Moves towards his door, but stops.) No, my wife mustn't--. Here, under the gas-lamp! This filthy fog! I can't--. (Feels in his pocket for his glasses, and pasts them on.) Ah, that's better! (Holds the paper under the light.) What a mischance! The blackguard--! Where is the article, then? Oh, here--I can't see properly, my heart is beating so!

John. Shall I run for the doctor, sir?

 

Evje. Will you go away, you--! (Holds the paper first up, and then down, in his attempts to see better.) Ah, here it is! "The Stock Exchange Committee"--oh! (Lowers the paper.)

 

John (mimicking him). Oh!

 

Evje (trying to read). What a vile thing to do!

 

John. Oh, go on! go on!

 

Evje (as he reads). This beats everything I ever--Oh!

 

John. Oh! We are in a bad way!

Evje (wiping his forehead). What a different thing it is to read libellous attacks on others
-and on one's self! (Goes on reading.) Oh! Oh! What horrible, revolting rascality! What is it he says here? I must read through it again! Oh, oh!

John. And often of a morning, when you have been reading the paper, I have heard you laughing till the bed shook under you!

Evje . Yes, I who have so often laughed at others! (Reads.) No, this is beyond belief! I can't read any more! This will ruin my position in the town; I can hear every one laughing at me--he knows all my weaknesses, and has managed to make it all so hideously ludicrous! (Tries to go on reading.) Why, here is some more! (Reads.) It begins even worse than the other! (Lowers the paper, panting, then tries to go on reading.) No, I can't
-I can't! I must wait! Everything seems going round and round--and my heart is beating so violently that I know I shall have one of my attacks! What a devil it is that I have been making a friend of! What a creature to have broken bread with!--an unprincipled scoundrel! And the disgrace of it!--the disgrace! What will they say at the Exchange? What will--? I shall not dare to go out of my house, at least for some weeks! And then people will only say I have taken to my bed! Oh, oh! I feel as if it were the end of everything!

John (solicitously). Can I help you, sir?

Evje . Will you leave me alone--! No, I will have my revenge on him immediately! I will go and ring his bell, and go into his house and call him a scoundrel and spit in his face--! Did I bring my stick out with me? Where is my stick? I will send my man for it, and then I will thrash him round and round his own room!

John (eagerly). I will fetch it for you, sir!

Evje (without hearing him). No, it would only make more scandal!-- How can I take my revenge? I must do him some injury--some real injury that will seem to poison his food for him and rob him of his rest. Scoundrels like that don't deserve sleep! It must be something, too, that will make his family every bit as unhappy as mine will be when they have read this--something that will make them hide their heads for shame--something that will make them terrified every time their door-bell rings, out of shame for what their servants may hear! No, no, I am getting as evil-minded as he is, now!--What a horrible trade--for ever sowing the seeds of sin and reaping a crop of curses! Now I understand what Harald Rejn meant by saying that no one ought to give his help to such things! -Heavens, hear my vow: never again will I give my help to such things!--What am I to say to my wife--my dear, good wife, who has no suspicion how disgraced I am! And Gertrud, our good Gertrud--ah, at all events I can give her some pleasure at once. I cannot conceal it from them; but I will tell them myself, so that they shall not read it.

John. Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?

 

Evje (almost screaming at him). Once for all, can't you let me alone!

 

Mrs. Evje (leaning out of a window she has opened). The sound must have come from the street, all the same. Are you there, my dear?

 

Evje (drawing back in alarm). There she is! Shall I answer?

 

Mrs. Evje. Are you there, my dear?

 

Evje. Yes, dear, here I am!

 

Mrs. Evje. So you are! I heard your voice, and looked all over the house. What is the matter, dear?

 

Evje. Oh, I am so unhappy!

 

Mrs. Evje. Good heavens, are you, dear? Come along in--or shall I come down to you?

 

Evje. No, I will come in. Shut the window, or you will catch cold.

 

Mrs. Evje. Do you know, Gertrud is sitting up here, crying?

 

Evje. Good gracious, is she? I will come up--I will come up!

 

John. I will help him up, ma'am! (Pretends to be doing so.)

 

Mrs. Evje. Is that you, John?

 

Evje (in a low voice). Will you be off!

 

John. Yes, it is me, ma'am. He is so unwell.

 

Mrs. Evje. Is he! Heavens, it is one of his attacks! Help him, John!

 

Evje (as before). Don't you dare!

John (who has rung the bell loudly). I do hope you will moon be better, sir! (Calls up to the window.) I can leave him now, ma'am! (To EVJE, as he goes.) This has been a bit of luck, for me; but you shall have some more of it! (Disappears into the fog as EVJE goes into his house. The two Passers-by, that were seen at the beginning of the scene, are now indistinctly seen returning along the street at the back.)

First Passer-by. Well, the land of Fogs used to be thought by the ancients to lie in the north, where all confused ideas come from--

 

Second Passer-by (who does not seem to be able to get a word in). But, listen to me for a moment-do you think it means--?

 

[Curtain]

ACT III

(SCENE.--A room in HALVDAN REJN's house. He is lying, supported on pillows, on a sofa on the left-hand side of the room. There is a table in the background, and another near the sofa. A lamp is hanging from the ceiling, and another standing on the table at the back. HAAKON REJN, his dress proclaiming him to be a well-to-do yeoman farmer, is sitting on a chair by the sofa.)

Halvdan. So she couldn't come? Haakon. No; there are the youngsters, you know--she finds it difficult to get away.

Halvdan (after a moment's silence). Remember to thank her for all her kindness to me. The happiest moments of my life have been those Sundays and evenings that she and you and I spent together at your house. (A pause.)

Haakon. She wanted very much to know how you were feeling-- whether you, who have suffered so much, are at peace now.

 

Halvdan. At peace? A man who has to die with all his work unfinished, cannot easily root out all thoughts of that from his heart.

 

Haakon. You should try to lay in God's hands all that you have striven for.

 

Halvdan. That is what I struggle daily to do. (A pause.)

Haakon . A sister of my wife's, who was a widow and badly off, died leaving three young children. But she was glad to die. "Their Heavenly Father will help them better when I am out of the way," she said. "I took up too much room," she said; "I know I have often stood in their way." (A pause.)

Halvdan. You tell that just as your wife would; she told me that story once.

Haakon . I was to tell you from her that she believes you are to die in order that what you have worked for may come to its fullest fruit. She thinks that when you are gone, people will appreciate better what your aims were.

Halvdan . There is some comfort in the thought that I may be dying in order that what I have loved may live. I have already given up happiness-even honour-for it; I gladly give my life for it now. (A pause.)

Haakon. Do you bear ill-will to any of those who have opposed you so cruelly?

 

Halvdan. To no one.

 

Haakon. Not even to those whose doing it is that you are lying here?

 

Halvdan. No, to no one. (A pause.)

 

Haakon. Could you bear to read something hateful about yourself to-day?

 

Halvdan. I don't know.

Haakon . Then you have not done with it all yet. Halvdan. No, I know I have not. It is only sometimes that the busy world outside seems to me like a ship sailing idly before the wind. More often, I am back in the midst of it again--planning, hoping, praying! I am young, you know, and have had to suffer so much-- there was so much I wanted to do. (Lifts a handkerchief to his forehead. HAAKON helps him to wipe his face with it. A pause.)

Haakon. But it must be a comfort to you, too, that Harald is taking up what you are laying down. There is good stuff in him.

 

Halvdan. Yes.

 

Haakon. And he never says more than is necessary. The country folk will understand him all the better for it.

Halvdan . I hope so. As soon as he comes into my room I feel as if the atmosphere were charged with electricity--I feel as if I _must_ have a part in what he is doing--and so I work, and tire myself out. Ah, it often seems very hard to have to die, and leave undone a great work that one has failed to accomplish!

Haakon. But you have made him what he is, you know--and many others.

Halvdan . I have started the fight, that is all. It is hard to have to desert at the beginning of it!--But God is good, and will understand; He will not be surprised at what my thoughts are full of, when I go to Him. (A ring is heard at the bell.)

Haakon. I expect that is Harald.

 

Halvdan. No, he never rings. Besides, I expect he is taking a walk, to think over what he is going to say to-night.

 

Haakon. Yes, I suppose it will be a big meeting. (The HOUSEKEEPER comes in.)

 

The Housekeeper. Mr. Evje is here, sir, asking for Mr. Harald. I told him we were expecting him every moment. Shall I ask him to come in?

 

Halvdan. Yes, show him in. (HAAKON gets up, as EVJE is shown in.)

 

Evje (to HALVDAN). Good evening! (Sees HAAKON.) Ah, good evening! So you have come? That is splendid. Is your wife with you?

 

Haakon. No, she couldn't leave the children.

 

Evje. I see. (To HALVDAN.) And how are you? About the same? Of course, yes.-Where is your brother?

 

Halvdan. He has his meeting to-night, you know. Evje. His momentous meeting--I know! I am going to it myself!

 

Halvdan (turns his face towards him). You?

Evje . My object in coming here was to take him home with me, so that we could all go together to the meeting. We mean to go on to the platform with him; I mean people to see that we are with him!

Halvdan (turning his face away). Really!

 

Evje (to HAAKON). You never answered my letter, Mr. Rejn.

 

Haakon. No, I knew I was coming in to town.

 

Evje. Well--will you sell?

 

Haakon. No.

 

Evje. But, my dear Mr. Rejn, you have not sold a single potato to my distillery for five years! And with a farm like yours! This year you had the best crop in the whole valley.

 

Haakon. Oh, yes--it wasn't so bad.

 

Evje. Not so bad! It was an extraordinary crop; and, everywhere else round about, the crops were very middling.

 

Haakon. Oh, yes--it might have been worse.

Evje (laughing). I should think so! But then why won't you sell? (Turns to HALVDAN.) I hope you will excuse our talking business in a sick-room; a business man has to seize every opportunity, you know! (To HAAKON.) You have never got higher prices elsewhere than you have from me.

Haakon. No, so I believe; but I have my own reasons.

 

Evje. Your own reasons? What are they?

Haakon . I had a servant once--it is about five years ago now--a good, capable fellow. He used to take potatoes for me to the distillery every day, and every evening came back drunk. So I spoke to him seriously about it; and his answer was: "How do you suppose our brandy-merchants are to grow rich, if chaps like me don't drink pretty hard?" You know the man; he went into your service afterwards. But from that day I have never sold a potato to a distillery.

Evje. But, my dear Mr. Rejn, we cannot be held responsible for the use to which such rascals put God's gifts!

 

Haakon. No--no--I suppose not; still, I am not going to have anything more to do with it.

 

Evje (to HALVDAN). Do you think your brother will not be home before the meeting?

 

Halvdan. I should think he would; there is plenty of time yet.

Evje . There is; but I should have liked to take him home with me first. The fact is (laughs) I have promised my wife and daughter not to go home without him. You know what women are! Shall I just go into his room and wait for him? There is something I want to talk to him about, you know.

Halvdan. I don't think there is a fire in there.

Evje . Oh, well, never mind--I will sit here. I have got a newspaper to read, and yon two must go on with your talk just as if I were not here! I shall hear nothing, because I have something to read that interests me. (He pulls a chair up to the table on the right with its back to HALVDAN. HAAKON brings the lamp from the table at the back.) Ah, thank you very much! Now, just talk away as if I were not here! (Takes the paper from his pocket and sits down.)

Haakon (sitting down again beside his brother). I should have liked to go to the meeting, too.

Halvdan . Of course you must go! You will hear Harald tell them how each nation has its own appointed task in the world; that is why it _is_ a nation. But, as long as it does not realise the fact, its politics will be nothing but wrangling between the various classinterests--a haphazard struggle for power. Our nation has never got beyond that point! I have shouted myself to death over what is a mere market.

Evje (to himself, striking the table with his fist). The whole commercial community is insulted in this insult to me! I will stir them up at the meeting, and insist on our taking our revenge in common!

Haakon. I don't think things will be any better until we are better Christians. Men think of nothing nowadays but themselves and their position.

 

Evje (to himself). No, no-that wouldn't do. What would people say? They would only say I was badly hit by this.

Halvdan (half to himself). A Christian nation, thinking of nothing but its own interests-that is to say, power! Equality and Liberty have no meaning for it. Haakon, it surely will be bliss for a wounded soul to be taken into the Everlasting Love, high above all this socalled Christianity of the world! For my soul is sorely wounded!

Evje (to himself ). If only I could strike him dead! Halvdan. But may they all be forgiven!--You asked just now whether I could bear to read something hateful about myself to-day. I think I could.

Haakon . Then I can tell you the other message she gave me for you. I have been a little shy of telling you that. It was that you should remember that you must do more than forgive; you must pray for them. (A pause.)

Halvdan (with his hand over his eyes). I do.

Evje (crumpling up the paper and throwing it on the floor). No, I won't stand it! If the blackguard--. (Gets up in alarm, as he realises what he has done, and is just going to pick up the paper; but at that moment turns round facing the others, and lets it lie.) No, I won't touch it again--never, as long as I live! (To the others.) You must forgive me, but I was reading something that upset me very much. Your brother will tell you all about it in the morning, no doubt. Poof--it is very warm in here! But, of course, that is natural in a sickroom. I don't think he can be coming now. I think, too, that I will go on, so as not to be late for the meeting; there is sure to be a difficulty in getting seats. I will get him to go home with me after the meeting, instead. That will be better, after all.

Haakon. I was thinking of going to the meeting. Would you mind if I went with you?-for I do not know the way myself.

Evje . You will come with me, Mr. Rejn? (To himself.) That will be splendid--to make my entrance in the company of one of our yeomen farmers! (Aloud.) By all means let us go together! I feel flattered by the opportunity, because I have always maintained that our yeomen are the pick of the nation. Well, then--(to Halvdan) I hope you will soon be feeling better, Mr. Rejn. God bless you!

Halvdan (raising himself on his elbow, and looking at him with a smile). Something must have gone amiss with you to-day.

 

Evje. Why do you say that?

 

Halvdan. Because as a rule you appear so composed so aloof from all this squabbling.

Evje (impetuously). But, do what I like, I am not allowed to keep aloof from it! I have no greater wish in the world than to do so, I can assure you. Oh, well, your excellent brother
-my future son-in-law, as I am proud to call him--he will tell you all about it. Good-bye!-and--and--God bless you!

Haakon. Shall I tell your housekeeper to come to you?

 

Halvdan. Oh, no; but you might tell her to come in a little while.

Haakon . Good-bye for the present, then! Halvdan. Thank you for coming! Good-bye. (Sinks back on to the sofa. The others go out, HAAKON turning round once at the door.)

Halvdan. It is something in the paper that has disturbed his equanimity. What can it be? The same thing that made Harald so gloomy to-day, I wonder? (Gets half up.) It is lying there.--No! What interest have I in all their petty spite now? (Sinks back again.) "Could you bear to read something hateful about yourself to-day?" Haakon asked. Then I suppose there is something about me in it to-day. (Puts his hand over his heart.) My heart doesn't seem to be beating any the faster for my knowing that. (Gets half up.) There it lies! (Sinks back again.) No, I am only trying to tempt myself. All the same, I should like to know how many stations I have passed on my journey to the great City of Peace! Can their malice affect me still? Surely I have passed that station?--It would be worth trying, to see. There it lies! (Takes up a stick that is standing by the sofa.) Surely I can get over there by myself? (Gets up from the sofa with the help of the stick, and smiles.) I have not much strength left. (Takes a few steps.) Scarcely enough to get across the floor. (A few more steps.) To think that I should have--so much vanity--my weak point--. (His breath fails him, but he gets as far as the chair on which EVJE was sitting, and sits down.) One ought to have done with all that before the soul can get quite away from the dust that--. (Begins to rake the paper towards him with his stick.) And here am I, sitting here raking more of it towards me!--No, let the thing lie! I won't soil my wings any more.--Poor Harald! He has to take up the burden now! What a horrible bungle it is, that we should be brought into the world to give each other as much pain as possible! (Decidedly.) Well, I am going to see what legacy of unhappiness I am leaving him! I want to have a vivid impression of the misery I am escaping from. There is a certain comfort even in that. (Bends down and picks up the paper, rests for a moment, and then unfolds the paper.) But this is not to-day's paper; it is dated for to-morrow! How can Evje have got hold of it? Yes, here is the date--Sunday. "Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath Day!" On that day men's souls should turn to God--and they offer Him this! It is after reading this that these fine ladies and gentlemen go to church! (Pushes the paper away from him.) Suppose these "Christians" were to be brought to judgment one day without warning?-Let us think of ourselves and not of others! (Lets his eye rest on the paper.) Does that mean me? (Reads.) "Not yet actually dead, but already canonised by a calculating brother--." (Checks himself.) God forgive them! (Reads on.) "His teachings will no doubt obtain him a paean of praise, but this will be--or, at least, so it is to be hoped--from within the closely locked doors of the state's prisons and houses of correction"--(checks himself a little)--"for that is whither he leads his followers."--Good God, to think that they can say such things!--And yet, they said worse things of Him! Peace! (Reads.) "No doubt he talks against Socialism; no doubt he coquets with Christianity; but it is by these very means that he has become so expert a seducer of men's opinions-which was his aim all along." (Puts his hands before his face.) I should not have read it; forgive me! I am too weak still!--Ah! I feel--what is it? (Puts his hands suddenly to his heart, still unconsciously grasping the newspaper in them.) I must get into my room--get to bed! (Gets up with the help of his stick.) If only I can get there! Oh, I feel it coming on!--I must--. (Tries to hurry, but when he is halfway across the floor he stumbles, throws out his hands but finds no support, staggers on for a few steps, and falls full length on the threshold of his bedroom, so that half his length lies within the door and half without. A moment later, the HOUSEKEEPER comes in.)

The Housekeeper (not observing that he is not still on the sofa). Won't you go to bed now, sir? You can't stand so much in one day. (Goes to the sofa.) Where is he? Surely he has not tried to walk in alone? (Hurries across to the bedroom door and almost falls over his body. She starts back with a scream.) Where is--? (Catches up the lamp, hurries back, and bends over him; then calls out, screaming:) Help! Help! (Rings the bell wildly. A MAID appears.) Mr. Halvdan is lying here! Heaven knows whether he is dead or alive! Run for the Doctor! Leave the door open behind you, and beg the first man you meet in the street to come up here at once and help me. Tell them it is a matter of life and death!

Maid. Yes!

 

The Housekeeper. Hurry!

 

Maid (going out). Yes, yes!

The Housekeeper (coming back into the room). Is he alive or dead? I haven't the courage to find out. And both his brothers away! (Cries.) God grant some one comes soon!--Poor man, alone in his death as he was in his life! But what was he doing there? Why did he get up from the sofa? (Sees the paper.) Surely that can't be--? (Puts the lamp on the floor and unfolds the paper.) Yes, it is the paper, right enough! Who can have given it him? I can't look at it now; but if it is like the number I read the other day (lets the paper fall, and gets up with the lamp) then I understand everything --and may God requite those that do such things! (The EDITOR rushes in.)

The Editor. Is it here?

 

The Housekeeper (holds the lamp to him, then starts back). What do you want here?

 

The Editor. Where am I? A girl came running down the street and told me I must come up here and help some one that was dying. What do you want me to do?--or is it not here?

 

The Housekeeper. And it was you she met? It is the hand of God!

 

The Editor. What are you babbling about? If it is not here, say so at once.

 

The Housekeeper. Yes, it is here. There he lies!

 

The Editor. Then oughtn't we to get him into bed?

 

The Housekeeper. Yes. But do you know who it is you are helping?

 

The Editor (to himself). She is not very polite. (Aloud.) No; but what does that matter? The Housekeeper. This much--that it is you that have killed him.

 

The Editor. I--? She is mad.

The Housekeeper . The man lying there is Halvdan Rejn. And he had been reading about himself in your paper.--Come, now, and carry him in. (She goes into the bedroom with the lamp. Her voice is heard from inside the room.) Now, take hold of him and lift him. You can think afterwards.

The Editor (stoops to lift the body, but gets up again). I don't think he is dead yet.

 

The Housekeeper. All the more reason to make haste.

 

The Editor (stoops down again, but gets up once more.) Let me take his head.

 

The Housekeeper. Why?

 

The Editor. So that--if he should open his eyes

 

The Housekeeper. --he won't see you. (Comes out of the bedroom). Go in there, then, and take his head. (He goes in.) What was that?

 

The Editor (from inside the room). I slipped. There is something wet here.

The Housekeeper . Yes, he has had a hemorrhage. Carefully, now. (They carry him in. The stage remains empty for a moment. Then the EDITOR comes back, wiping his forehead. He walks backwards and forwards, treading on the paper as he goes, but without noticing it.)

The Editor. What a horrible thing to happen!--Newspapers are not meant for dying people.--It is not my fault.--Is this blood on my hand? It is! (Wipes it with his handkerchief.) And now it is on my handkerchief! (Throws it away.) No, it has my name on it. (Picks it up again.) No one can say it is my fault. (Sits down, then gets up, wiping his forehead with his handkerchief without noticing what he is doing.) Ah, I hope I haven't put blood on my forehead? I seem to feel it there! (Feels with his hand to see if his brow is wet.) No. (Sits down, then gets up again.) Let me get away from here. (Stops.) To think that I should be the one to come up! that it should just happen to-night that I did not receive my paper, and so went out! It almost seems more than accident. Indeed, I often had a foreboding that it would happen. (Stands opposite the bedroom door.) But is he dead? I think I will go and fetch the Doctor. Oh no, of course the maid has gone for him. He hasn't long to live, anyway; I could see that. (Walks forward, pointing with his finger.) "There goes the man that killed Halvdan Rejn! And his punishment was that he had to lift up his bloodstained body himself." That is what they will say; and they will look at me as if--. (Sits down.) No, let me get away! (Takes a few steps, then stops suddenly.) That article in to-morrow's paper! It is worse than the others! (Pulls out his watch.) Too late--the post has gone! I would have given--. (Checks himself.) I have nothing worth giving. In the morning It will be known all over the town just as everyone is reading my fresh article. There will be a riot; I shall be hunted like a wild beast. What shall I do? I might sneak out of the town? Then they will gloat over me! I won't allow them that pleasure! No, I cannot stay my hand utter a failure; only after a victory. That is the cursed part of it-never, never to be able to end it. Oh, for some one that could end it-end it, end it! Oh, for one day of real peace! Shall _I_ ever get that? (Sits down.) No, no, I must get away! (Gets up.) To-morrow must take care of itself. (Starts.) There is the paper he was reading! (Steps over it.) I will take it away--and burn it. (Takes it up.) I cannot burn it here; some one might come. (Is just going to put it into his pocket, as it is, but takes it out again to fold it better.) A Sunday's paper, apparently! Then it is _not_ today's? An old number, I suppose. Then the whole thing is a mistake! (Sighs with relief.) Let me look again! (Opens the paper, tremblingly.) I don't deserve it, but--. (Reads.) Sunday, the--. _To-morrow's_ paper? _Here_? How in all the world did it get here? (Appears horrified.) Here are the articles about Evje! How on earth did they get in? Didn't I send a message? Didn't I write? This on the top of everything else! Are even my printers conspiring against me? Well, even if it ruins me, I shall go on! They shall find out what I can do. How on earth can I be expected to help it if a weak-minded fellow dies, or if my printers are drunk or my manager has delirium tremens! I shall pursue my end through all chances and in spite of all their tricks, and I shall crush them, crush them--I shall--. (Gives way to a paroxysm of rage. At this moment the MAID comes in with the DOCTOR'S ASSISTANT. The MAID rushes into the bedroom. The EDITOR starts up.) Who is that? What do you want?

The Doctor's Assistant (coldly). What do you want here?

 

The Editor. I? Oh, I was called up to help the sick man into his bed.

 

The Doctor's Assistant (as before). Ah!--so it was you! (A pause.)

 

The Editor. Have you ever seen me before?

 

The Doctor's Assistant. Yes. I have heard you grind your teeth before this. (Goes into the bedroom.)

The Editor (after standing for a moment looking after him). They will all look at me tomorrow like that-with those cold eyes. "Every man's hand against him, and his hand against every man;" there can only be one end to that. To-night, the meeting--and Harald Rejn will take them by storm. To-morrow, his brother's death--and my new article in the paper--and, in addition to that, those about Evje, who at present is only angry. And the election in two days! Oh, yes, he will be elected now. So I may as well give it all up at once. I would change places with any wolf that has a lair to hide in. Those cold eyes of his! (Shudders.) That is how every one will look at me to-morrow! They have pierced through my armour! (The DOCTOR'S ASSISTANT comes back, and the EDITOR makes an effort to resume his former confident manner.)

The Doctor's Assistant. I don't know whether you will be glad to hear that it is all over. The Editor (under his breath). You brute!

 

The Doctor's Assistant. His old housekeeper does not feel equal to coming here to tell you what his last words were. They were: "Forgive him!" (Goes out.)

The Editor (sitting down, then getting up again). No, I mustn't be found here. (Walks about the room on tiptoe, as if he were afraid of waking some one. When he comes opposite to the bedroom door, he turns towards it, stretches out his arms and says:) Give me your forgiveness too!

ACT IV

(SCENE.--A large and handsomely furnished sitting-room at the EVJE'S. The room is brightly lit and the fire burning. The entrance door is on the right, and beyond it a door leading to the dining-room. INGEBORG is busy taking the covers off the chairs, folding them carefully as she does so. After a little, the bell rings. She goes to open the door, and returns, showing in the DOCTOR.)

The Doctor. Oho! Is it to be in here to-night?

 

Ingeborg (who has resumed her work of making the room ready). Yes, sir.

 

The Doctor. Where are they all?

 

Ingeborg. At the meeting, sir.

 

The Doctor. All of them?

 

Ingeborg. Yes, all of them. Miss Gertrud went first--

 

The Doctor. Yes, I saw her well enough!

 

Ingeborg. And then the master, and a farmer gentleman with him, came in to fetch the mistress.

The Doctor (to himself). Something has happened here, then. (Aloud.) Tell me, Ingeborg--has he been here again? You know who I mean. (Coughs in imitation of the EDITOR'S cough.)

Ingeborg. Oh, the Editor; no, sir.

The Doctor (to himself). I wonder what has happened. (Aloud.) Well, evidently there is to be a festivity here to-night; and, as I see the chairs are getting their covers taken off, I may as well take mine off too. (Takes off his coat and gives it to INGEBORG, who carries it out.) I don't blame Evje for wanting to celebrate Harald's success after a meeting like that! He is not exactly eloquent in the ordinary sense of the word--doesn't bother about his antitheses and climaxes and paradoxes, and all that sort of nonsense; but he is a _man_! He goes bail for what he says, and he says what he likes--ha, ha! And that dear Gertrud, too! Follows him into the hall, and, as there isn't a single seat left there, goes up on to the platform among the committee, and sits there looking at him with those trustful blue eyes of hers, as if there was no one else in the room! And _we_ were all looking at _her_! She helped him more than ten good speakers would have done, I am sure. Her faith in him bred it in others, whether they liked it or no. She is one who would die for her faith! Yes, yes! The man that gets her--. (INGEBORG comes back.) Well! (Rubs his hands together.) Look here, Ingeborg. (Very politely.) Do you know what is meant by the Rights of Man?

Ingeborg (going on with her work). No, sir. Something we have earned, I suppose.

 

The Doctor. Yes, you earn them every day.

 

Ingeborg. Our meals, perhaps?

 

The Doctor (laughing). No, it isn't something to eat, unfortunately. (Politely.) Do you ever read papers, Ingeborg?

 

Ingeborg. Papers? Oh, you mean the price-lists they leave at the kitchen door. Yes, sir; every day, before we go to market, I--

 

The Doctor. No, I don't mean papers of that sort. I mean--

 

Ingeborg. Oh, you mean the newspaper I take in to master's room every morning. No, Sir, I don't read that. I am told there are such horrors in it.

 

The Doctor. Quite so. Don't you care to read about horrors, then?

 

Ingeborg. Oh, we poor folk see enough of them in our everyday lives, without reading about them!--But perhaps the gentry enjoy it.

The Doctor. You are a very wise woman. Let me tell you, though, that there is a fight going on, about--oh, well, never mind what it is about. And the Editor and Mr. Rejn, who both come to this house, are the two chief fighters. Don't you want to know what they are fighting about?

Ingeborg (going on unconcernedly with her work). Oh, so they are fighting, are they? No, I don't care the least bit, sir!

The Doctor (to himself). Ha, ha--the difference between Ingeborg and me is that I am interested in the fight merely as a student of human nature, and she is not interested in it at all. I wonder which is farthest from any genuine belief in politics?--from our "duty as a citizen," as they call it? (To INGEBORG.) Ingeborg, do you know what your "duty as a citizen" means?
Ingeborg. My "duty as a citizen"? That mean; paying fines, doesn't it, sir?

The Doctor. Yes; and a very heavy fine, into the bargain!

 

Ingeborg. The master was fined because the pavement was not swept. John was ill.

 

The Doctor. Quite right, that was one of his duties as a citizen.-- Tell me, Ingeborg, are they expecting a lot of people here to-night?

 

Ingeborg. No, sir, I have only laid table for quite a few.

 

The Doctor. And what are they going to have?

 

Ingeborg. Oh, one or two dishes and one or two sorts of wine--.

 

The Doctor. Aha! (A ring is heard at the bell. INGEBORG goes to the door.) There they are! Now we shall have a fine time!

 

Ingeborg (coming back with a letter). It is a note for you, sir.

 

The Doctor. Oh, bother I

 

Ingeborg. The man who brought it was not sure whether you would be at the meeting or here.

The Doctor . How could he know--? (Putting on his glasses.) Oh, from my assistant--that is quite another thing. Of course he wants my help or my advice. Well, he shan't have it! I have run about quite enough to-day. Tell the messenger that I haven't time! I have my Duties as a Citizen to attend to! (Calls after her.) And my Manhood's Rights too! (Opens the envelope.) No, I won't read it; if I do, the matter will worry me all the evening. I know what I am. (Puts the note in his pocket.) I mean to enjoy this evening! (Suddenly.) I wonder how our friend the Editor is enjoying this evening! Was he at the meeting, I wonder? A remarkable personality --but malignity itself! Lion-hearted, though! He would fight till the last drop of his blood! But what is it, really, that he is fighting for? That question has always interested me, for I can't make it out. (To INGEBORG, who has comeback.) Well?

Ingeborg. The messenger has gone.--Yes, sir, I told him everything you told me to.

The Doctor . Of course. You would! Why the deuce does any one pay any attention to what I say! (The bell rings.) Here they are at last! Now we shall have a delightful evening! (EVJE and MRS. EVJE come in.) I am first, you see!

Evje and Mrs. Evje. Were you at the meeting, too?

 

The Doctor. Where else should I be? Evje. Did you see me?

 

Mrs. Evje. There were so many people there, dear.

 

Evje. But I was standing on a seat.

 

Mrs. Evje. Yes, he was standing on a seat!

 

The Doctor. There were plenty of people doing that.

 

Evje. I wanted to be seen!--There have been goings on here to-day, my friend!

 

Mrs. Evje. You will never guess what has happened!

 

The Doctor. Anyway I can see that something has happened.

 

Evje and Mrs. Evje. Oh--!

 

The Doctor. What is it, then?

 

Evje. Those articles will be in to-morrow's paper.

 

The Doctor. In the paper?--Yes, I didn't find him.

 

Evje. But I found him!

 

The Doctor (impatiently). Well?

 

Evje. I will tell you all about it another time. But I have read them--

 

Mrs. Evje. And he has told me all about them!

 

The Doctor. Are they very bad?

 

Evje. Oh--oh!

 

Mrs. Evje. Oh--oh--oh!

 

The Doctor (with a look of pleased curiosity.) As bad as all that?

 

Evje and Mrs. Evje. Oh--oh--oh--oh!

 

The Doctor. And that was why you went to the meeting!

 

Evje. Of course--tit for tat! It was my wife's idea. Mrs. Evje. It was the obvious thing to do, dear.

 

Evje. Our whole family at the meeting!--So that all the town should know that it was nothing but the meanest political persecution because I had joined my son-in-law's party.

 

Mrs. Evje. We are party people now, you know!

 

Evje. Do you know, there is something exciting about being mixed up with such things-something invigorating, something--

 

The Doctor (stepping back). Are you bitten with it, too?

 

Evje. Yes, if I can't be left in peace, I shall become a party man.

 

The Doctor (enthusiastically). Did you see Gertrud?

 

Evje and Mrs. Evje (with emotion). Our Gertrud! Yes, indeed we did!

 

The Doctor. Did you see her coming in with him!

 

Evje and Mrs. Evje (as before). Yes, we saw her coming in with him!

 

The Doctor. I suppose you did not know she was going?

 

Evje and Mrs. Evje. Oh, yes!

 

Mrs. Evje. She had said she would go with us--

 

Evje. But when we went to fetch her, the bird had flown!

 

The Doctor. How pretty she looked, too! All the men were looking at her. And how she looked at him!

 

Mrs. Evje. It made me want to cry. I had quite a job to prevent myself.

Evje. You need not have minded, dear! God has given us great happiness. Her faith in him and her love shone to from her eyes that it went to my heart. I felt quite upset! (Wipes his eyes.)

The Doctor. And what about him--eh? I don't fancy any one will think about stopping his career. We have been a pack of fools.

 

Evje. That we have!

The Doctor . He is not exactly eloquent, but-- Evje. That is precisely what I was saying to my wife! He is not exactly eloquent, but he is--

The Doctor. --a man!

 

Evje. A man! My very words, weren't they, my dear?

 

Mrs. Evje. Yes.--And I say he is so strong a man that he can afford to be tender-hearted. For he certainly has been that.

 

Evje. Yes, he has been that!

 

The Doctor (laughing). In spite of his strength!

 

Evje. Oh, you may make the most of your--. Aha! (Loud ringing at the bell is heard.) Here they are!

 

Mrs. Evje. Let us go and meet them!

 

The Doctor. No; look here--let us wait for them at the other side of the room, so that they may make a triumphal progress up to us!

Evje and Mrs. Evje , Yes! (They go to the opposite end of the room, while HARALD comes in rather quickly, with GERTRUD on his arm. As they cross the room, the others cry out: "Bravo! Bravo!" and clap their hands.)

Gertrud (still holding to HARALD's arm). And he is my man! My man! (Throws her arms round his neck, crying with happiness, and kisses him; then does the same to her mother, and then to her father, to whom she whispers: Thank you!)

The Doctor. Oh--me too!

 

Gertrud (after a moment's hesitation). Yes--you too!

 

(The DOCTOR helps her to take off her cloak, and talks to her, whispering and laughing.)

 

Harald (shaking EVJE's hand). Good evening!

 

Evje. Forgive me!

 

Harald. With all my heart!

 

Mrs. Evje. And now everything is all right!

 

Harald. For good!

 

Evje and Mrs. Evje. For good!

 

Harald. And, thank you for coming to the meeting.

 

Evje. It was no more than our duty! Look here--did you see me?

 

Harald. The whole time! But, tell me, was it a delusion, or was it my brother Haakon that was standing on the floor beside you, rather in the shadow?

 

Evje and Mrs. Evje. It was he!

 

Evje. I fetched him from your brother Halvdan's.

Harald . I am so glad! It must have pleased Haakon. Gertrud and I at first thought of going in to see Halvdan before we came on here; but we saw all his lights were out. He must be asleep.

Evje. I can give you news of him. He is all right.

 

Harald. And Haakon?

 

Evje. Very well, too. A fine fellow! I wanted him to come home with us now; but he said he was tired after his journey.

 

Mrs. Evje (to INGEBORG, who has come in from the dining room). Is it ready?

 

Ingeborg. Yes, ma'am.

 

Mrs. Evje. Then come along. (INGEBORG opens the dining-room door.)

 

The Doctor and Evje. Yes, come along!

The Doctor . But we must go ceremoniously! Let us make a little festivity of it to-night! You must head the procession, Evje--and then the two young people Gertrud (taking HARALD's arm). Yes!

The Doctor. And Mrs. Evje and I will bring up the rear! (Offers her his arm.)

 

Evje. Forward!(The bell rings. He stops.) Who can it be--as late as this?

 

The Doctor. Probably some friends on their way back from the meeting.

 

Mrs. Evje. We must wait a moment!(To INGEBORG, who is going to open the door.)Put a leaf in the table, and lay places for as many as come.

Ingeborg . Yes, ma'am. (The bell rings again, as she goes to open the door.) The Doctor. They are impatient! So much the better--it shows they are in a good humour after the meeting! (A knock is heard at the door.)

All . Come in!(The EDITOR comes in, with no overcoat on, but wearing his hat, which he forgets to take of till he is well into the room. He goes straight up to EVJE, who has crossed over to the left-hand side of the room.)

All (when they see him in the doorway). You! (GERTRUD clings closer to HARALD.)

The Editor . I wanted once more, as in the old days, not to go to bed without--this time it is not a question of thanking you for the happy time we have had together but without begging your pardon!(He speaks quietly, but with suppressed emotion.)There has been some unfortunate misunderstanding. Those articles have been printed, in spite of my express instructions to the contrary--I do not know how.

Evje. I have read them.

 

The Editor. You have read them?

 

Evje. Yes, the copy of the paper that was meant for you came into my hands.

 

The Editor. So that was it!--Forgive me, old friend! Won't you give me your hand?

 

Mrs. Evje (coming forward). That he shall never do!

The Editor (glancing over his shoulder at her). Let no one come between us at a moment like this! You don't know--. A hundred times in my life I would have done what I am doing now, had I not been afraid that people would call it affectation on my part and repulse me. Don't you do that!--least of all now! Give me your hand, Evje! I beg you, in the sight and hearing of you all--. (EVJE seems to vacillate.)

Mrs. Evje. No, you shan't!--not while he has anything to do with a newspaper. Otherwise it will all begin over again to-morrow. He is not his own master, you know.

 

The Editor. I have done with it all.

Mrs. Evje . Oh, you have said that so often! Nobody believes it. No; when a man can push political hatred so far as to write about an old friend, in whose house he has been a daily guest, as if he were a criminal--and all because he doesn't like his son-in-law, or his servant--one doesn't shake hands with him the very day his attacks appear in the paper.

The Editor (who, all the tinge, has kept his back turned to MRS. EVJE, and has not looked at her). Evje, you are a good-hearted fellow, I know. Don't listen to what others say, now. This is a very bitter hour for me. You would be doing a good deed! Give me your hand--or a word! I am in such a state now that I must have visible signs of some one's forgiveness, or I shall--!
Mrs. Evje (emphatically). Yes, a little repentance will do you good! But it will do you no good if you obtain forgiveness easily! You want to learn, just for once, what it is to be wounded at heart. You are only accustomed to deal with people whom you can flog one day and have at your feet--either from fear or from vanity--the next. And have we--God forgive us!--ever thought seriously the worse of you for it? No; because we never understood what it was till we were hit by it ourselves. But that is all the more reason why we should do our duty now! Hatred shall be met with hatred!

The Doctor (at the back of the room, to GERTRUD and HARALD). She is her father's daughter, after all, when it comes to the point!

 

The Editor (turns upon MRS. EVJE, with his fist clenched, but restrains himself from answering her). Then you won't shake hands, Evje? Not a word of forgiveness?

 

Evje. I think my wife is right.

 

The Editor (controlling himself with difficulty). You are a weak man, I know--

 

Evje. What do you mean?

 

The Editor. --but do not be weak this time! If you knew everything, you would know you must not refuse me what I ask. There are others concerned--and for that reason--

 

The Doctor. Let us go!

 

Mrs. Evje. No, stay! He shall not have his way again.

The Editor. Well, of all--! It is certainly true that those who are hardest on sinners are those who have never been tempted themselves--and the most merciless creature in the world is an injured woman.

Mrs. Evje. Now he is coming out in his true colours!

 

The Doctor (not without glee). Yes, that he is!

 

The Editor (controlling himself once more). Evje--you, who know me, know what it must cost me to do this--and you can form some idea of the need I am in. I have never--

 

Evje. I believe you; but I never can feel sure what your next move will be. You have so many.

 

The Editor. My next move is to have done with it all, as sure as--

Mrs. Evje . Don't believe him! A man who can ask for your sympathy one moment and abuse you the next is not fit to promise anything-- and certainly not fit to be forgiven, either.
The Editor (with an outburst of passion). Then may everything evil overtake me if I ever ask you or any one else for sympathy again! You have succeeded in teaching me that I can do without it! I can rise above your cowardly cruelty. (To EVJE.) You are a miserable, weak creature--and have always been, for all your apparent good-natured shrewdness! (To MRS. EVJE.) And as for you, who have often laughed so heartily at my so-called malice, and now all at once have become so severely virtuous--why, you are both like part-proprietors of my paper! You have taken all the profit you could from me, as long as it served your purpose--I have seen that for a long time! And all my pretended friends are like you--secret holders of shares in me, so as to secure their own safety and the persecution of others!--every bit as guilty as I am, only more prudent, more timid, more cowardly--!

Evje. Once more--leave this house, which you have outraged!

 

Mrs. Evje. And how dare you set foot in here again?

The Editor . No, I am not going until all the anger that is in my heart has turned into fear in yours! Because now I will not have done with it all! No--it is just through his death that respect for me will revive--it will be like a rampart of bayonets round me! "There goes one who can kill a man with a word, if he likes!" That will make them treat me respectfully!

Harald and the Doctor. What does he mean?

The Editor (as he hears HARALD'S voice). And you--you mountebank, who can stand up in public and seek applause before your brother's corpse is cold--don't come talking rant to me! You are more contemptible than I am! I couldn't have done that; I couldn't stand there, as you are doing now, impatient to get to your champagne and pretty speeches!--Oh, how I despise all such lying and heartlessness! (They all look at him and at each other with a questioning expression.)

Harald. Is my brother dead?

 

Mrs. Evje. Is his brother dead?

 

Gertrud. Good God, is Halvdan dead?

 

Evje. Is he dead? Impossible!

 

The Doctor. Is Rejn dead--and I--?

 

Evje. I saw him only a couple of hours ago, looking quite well.

 

The Editor (in a broken voice). Didn't you know?

 

All (except the DOCTOR). No! The Doctor. Ah, that letter, that letter! (Looks in his pocket for it and his glasses.)

 

The Editor. I am the wretchedest man alive! (Sinks into a chair.)

 

The Doctor. I had a letter from my assistant, but I have not read it!

 

Mrs. Evje. Read it, read it!

The Doctor (reading). "I am writing in great haste. As I expect you will be going to your old friends' after the meeting, and will meet Harald Rejn there, the task will probably fall to you of telling him--(the EDITOR gets up to go, but stands still)--that Halvdan Rejn died about eight o'clock of a fresh attack of hemorrhage! (HARALD leaves GERTRUD'S side and comes forward, with a cry. The EDITOR steadies himself by holding on to the table.) No one was with him; he was found lying across the threshold of his bedroom. A copy of the newspaper was lying on the floor behind him." (HARALD, with a groan, advance threateningly towards the EDITOR.)

Gertrud. Harald, my ring!--my ring! (HARALD Stops, collects himself, buries his face in his hands and bursts into uncontrollable tears. GERTRUD puts her arms round him and holds him folded in them.)

The Doctor (laying a hand on HARALD's arm). "The housekeeper told me he had only spoken two words, and they were 'Forgive him!'" (HARALD bursts into tears.)

The Doctor (after waiting for a little). "Apparently chance--or perhaps something else-decreed that the maid who ran for help, should meet the very man, who hats caused the tragedy, and that it should be he who helped the housekeeper to lay him on his deathbed." (All look at the EDITOR.)

Evje. That was why he came! (A pause.)

 

Gertrud. Harald! (HARALD, who has turned away from her to struggle with his emotion, does not turn round.) If he could forgive--

 

The Editor (with a gesture of refusal). No!

 

Gertrud (quietly, to the EDITOR). If you want to deserve it, make an end of all this!

The Editor . It is all at an end! (To MRS. EVJE.) You were right. I knew it myself, too. My armour is pierces pierced through. A child might conquer me now--and this child has done so; for she has begged for mercy for me, and no one has ever done that before. (Puts his hand over his eyes, turns away, and goes out. As he is going out the bell rings. A moment later, INGEBORG Shows in HAAKON REJN.)

Gertrud (who has put her arms round HARALD, whispers). Who is it? Harald. My brother. (Goes to meet HAAKON and throws himself into his arms.) You had a talk with him this afternoon, then?

Haakon. Yes.

 

Mrs. Evje. Let us all go to him.

 

Evje and Gertrud. Yes.

 

Mrs. Evje (to INGEBORG). Bring in our cloaks and hats again, and afterwards clear the table. (INGEBORG does so.)

 

Harald (unable to control his emotion). Haakon, this is my future wife. (Goes away from them.)

 

Haakon. Well, my dear, your engagement has begun seriously; take all the future seriously, too.

 

The Doctor. You need not say that to her. What she needs is to take life more lightly.

 

Haakon. Oh, yes--if she lays everything in God's hands she can always take life lightly.

 

Mrs. Evje. It is our own fault, I expect, when we take it too lightly.

 

Evje. But sometimes we learn a lesson by that.

 

Haakon. Oh, yes. Well, we must stand by one another, we who take life in the same way.

 

Mrs. Evje. Shall we go, children?

 

Harald (to HAAKON). Will you bring Gertrud, Haakon? I would rather go alone. (They go out. The curtain falls.)

THE BANKRUPT

A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS

 

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

HENNING TJAELDE, merchant and brewer. MRS. TJAELDE, his wife.
VALBORG and SIGNE, their daughters. LIEUTENANT HAMAR, engaged to Signe. SANNAES, Tjaelde's confidential clerk. JAKOSSEN, manager of Tjaelde's brewery. BERENT, a lawyer.
PRAM, a custom-house official.
An Agent.
The VICAR.
LIND, a guest.
FINNE, a guest.
RING, a guest.
HOLM, a guest.
KNUTZON, a guest.
KNUDSEN, a guest.
FALBE, a guest.

ACT I

(SCENE.--A sitting-room in the TJAELDES' house, opening on a verandah that is decorated with flowers. It is a hot summer's day. There is a view of the sea beyond the verandah, and boats are visible among the islands that fringe the coast. A good-sized yacht, with sails spread, is lying close up under the verandah on the right. The room is luxuriously furnished and full of flowers. There are two French windows in the left-hand wall; two doors in the right-hand. A table in the middle of the room; arm-chairs and rocking-chairs scattered about. A sofa in the foreground on the right. LIEUTENANT HAMAR is lying on the sofa, and SIGNE sitting in a rocking-chair.)

Hamar. What shall we do with ourselves to-day?

 

Signe (rocking herself). Hm! (A pause.)

 

Hamar. That was a delicious sail we had last night. (Yawns.) But I am sleepy to-day. Shall we go for a ride?

Signe . Hm! (A pause.) Hamar. I am too hot on this sofa. I think I will move. (Gets up. SIGNE begins to hum an air as she rocks herself.) Play me something, Signe!

Signe (singing her words to the air she has been humming). The piano is out of tune.

 

Hamar. Read to me, then!

 

Signe (as before, looking out of the window). They are swimming the horses. They are swimming the horses. They are swimming the horses.

 

Hamar. I think I will go and have a swim too. Or perhaps I will wait till nearer lunchtime.

 

Signe (as before). So as to have a better appetite--appetite-- appetite.

 

(MRS. TJAELDE comes in from the right, walking slowly.)

 

Hamar. You look very thoughtful!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, I don't know what to order.

 

Signe (as before). For dinner, I suppose you mean?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes.

 

Hamar. Do you expect any one?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, your father writes to me that Mr. Finne is coming.

 

Signe (speaking). The most tiresome person possible, of course.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. How would boiled salmon and roast chicken do?

 

Signe. We had that the other day.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. (with a sigh). There is nothing that we didn't. There is so little choice in the market just now.

 

Signe. Then we ought to send to town.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Oh, these meals, these meals!

 

Hamar (yawning). They are the best thing in life, anyway.

Signe . To eat, yes--but not to cook; I never will cook a dinner. Mrs. Tjaelde (sitting down at the table). One could put up with the cooking. It's the having always to think of something fresh!

Hamar. Why don't you get a chef from one of the hotels, as I have so often advised you?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Oh, we have tried that, but he was more trouble than it was worth.

 

Hamar. Yes, because he had no invention. Get a French chef!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, and have to be always beside him to interpret!-- But I am no nearer this dinner. And lately I have been finding such difficulty in getting about.

 

Hamar. I have never in my life heard so much talk about meals as I have in this house.

Mrs. Tjaelde . You see, you have never been in a prosperous business-man's house before. Our friends are mostly business-men, of course--and most of them have no greater pleasures than those of the table.

Signe. That's true.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Are you wearing that dress to-day?

 

Signe. Yes.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. You have worn a different one every day.

 

Signe. Well, if Hamar is tired of both the blue one and the grey one, what can I do?

 

Hamar. And I don't like this one any better than the others.

 

Signe. Indeed!--Then I really think you had better order me one yourself.

 

Hamar. Come to town with me, and I will!

Signe . Yes, mother--Hamar and I have made up our minds that we must go back to town. [Note: There would be nothing contrary to Norwegian ideas of propriety in Signe's proposal. In Norway an engaged couple could travel alone; and the fiancée would go to stay in the house of her future husband's relations.]

Mrs. Tjaelde. But you were there only a fortnight ago!

 

Hamar. And it is exactly a fortnight too long since we were there!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. (thoughtfully). Now, what can I order for dinner?

 

(VALBORG comes into sight on the verandah.) Signe (turning round and seeing VALBORG). Enter Her Highness!

 

Hamar (turning round). Carrying a bouquet! Oho! I have seen it before!

 

Signe. Have you? Did you give it her?

 

Hamar. No; I was coming through the garden--and saw it on the table in Valborg's summerhouse. Is it your birthday, Valborg?

 

Valborg. No.

 

Hamar. I thought not. Perhaps there is some other festivity to-day?

 

Valborg. No. (SIGNE suddenly bursts out laughing.)

 

Hamar. Why do you laugh?

 

Signe. Because I understand! Ha, ha, ha, ha!

 

Hamar. What do you understand?

 

Signe. Whose hands it is that have decked the altar! Ha, ha, ha!

 

Hamar. I suppose you think they were mine?

Signe. No, they were redder hands than yours! Ha, ha, ha, ha! (VALBORG throws the bouquet down.) Oh, dear me, it doesn't do to laugh so much in this heat. But it is delightful! To think he should have hit upon that idea! Ha, ha, ha!

Hamar (laughing). Do you mean--?

 

Signe (laughing). Yes! You must know that Valborg--

 

Valborg. Signe!

 

Signe.--who has sent so many distinguished suitors about their business, cannot escape from the attentions of a certain red pair of hands--ha, ha, ha, ha!

 

Hamar. Do you mean Sannaes?

Signe. Yes! (Points out of the window.) There is the culprit! He is waiting, Valborg, for you to come, in maiden meditation, with the bouquet in your hands--as you came just now--

Mrs. Tjaelde. (getting up). No, it is your father he is waiting for. Ah, he sees him now. (Goes out by the verandah.)

 

Signe. Yes, it really is father--riding a bay horse!

 

Hamar (getting up). On a bay horse! Let us go and say "how do you do" to the bay horse!

 

Signe. N--o, no!

 

Hamar. You won't come and say "how do you do" to the bay horse? A cavalry officer's wife must love horses next best to her husband.

 

Signe. And he his wife next best to his horses.

 

Hamar. What? Are you jealous of a horse?

 

Signe. Oh, I know very well you have never been so fond of me as you are of horses.

 

Hamar. Come along! (Pulls her up out of her chair.)

 

Signe. But I don't feel the least interested in the bay horse.

 

Hamar. Very well, then, I will go alone!

 

Signe. No, I will come.

 

Hamar (to VALBORG). Won't you come and welcome the bay horse too?

 

Valborg. No, but I will go and welcome my father!

 

Signe (looking back, as she goes). Yes, of course--father as well. (She and HAMAR go out.)

(VALBORG goes to the farthest window and stands looking out of it. Her dress is the same colour as the long curtain, and a piece of statuary and some flowers conceal her from any one entering the room. SANNAES comes in, carrying a small saddle-bag and a cloak, which he puts down on a chair behind the door. As he turns round he sees the bouquet on the door.)

Sannaes. There it is! Has she dropped it by accident, or did she throw it down? Never mind--she has had it in her hands. (Picks it up, kisses it, and is going to take it away.)

 

Valborg (coming forward). Leave it alone!

 

Sannaes (dropping the bouquet). You here, Miss Valborg--? I didn't see you--

Valborg. But I can see what you are after. How dare you presume to think of persecuting me with your flowers and your--your red hands? (He puts his hands behind his back.) How dare you make me a laughing-stock to every one in the house, and I suppose to every one in the town?

Sannaes. I--I--I--

Valborg . And what about me? Don't you think I deserve a little consideration? You will be turned out of the house before long, if you do not take care--! Now be quick and get away before the others come in. (SANNAES turns away, holding his hands in front of him, and goes out by the verandah to the right. At the same moment TJAELDE is seen coming at the other end of the verandah, followed by HAMAR and SIGNE.)

Tjaelde. Yes, it is a fine horse.

 

Hamar. Fine? I don't believe there is its equal in the country.

 

Tjaelde. I dare say. Did you notice that he hadn't turned a hair?

 

Hamar. What glorious lungs! And such a beauty, too--his head, his legs, his neck--! I never saw such a beauty!

 

Tjaelde. Yes, he is a handsome beast. (Looks out of the verandah at the yacht.) Have you been out for a sail?

 

Hamar. I was sailing among the islands last night, and came back this morning with the fishing-boats--a delightful sail!

 

Tjaelde. I wish I had time to do that.

 

Hamar. But surely it is only imagination on your part, to think that you never have time?

 

Tjaelde. Oh, well, perhaps I have time but not inclination.

 

Signe. And how do things stand where you have been?

 

Tjaelde. Badly.

 

Valborg (coming forward). Welcome home, father!

 

Tjaelde. Thank you, dear!

 

Hamar. Is it not possible to save anything?

 

Tjaelde. Not at present; that is why I took the horse.

Hamar . Then the bay horse is the only thing you get out of the smash? Tjaelde. Do you know that I might say that horse has cost me three or four thousand pounds?

Hamar . Well, that is its only defect, anyway! Still, if the worst comes to the worst, and you can afford it--the horse is priceless! (TJAELDE turns away, puts down his hat and coat and takes off his gloves.)

Signe. It is beautiful to see your enthusiasm when you talk about horses. I rather think it is the only enthusiasm you have.

 

Hamar. Yes, if I were not a cavalry officer I should like to be a horse!

 

Signe. Thank you! And what should I be?

 

Valborg. "Oh, were I but the saddle on thy back! Oh, were I but the whip about thy loins!"

 

Hamar. "Oh, were I but the flowers in thy--." No, "hand" doesn't rhyme!

 

Tjaelde. (coming forward, meets MRS. TJAELDE, who has come in from the right.) Well, my dear, how are you?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Oh, I find it more and more difficult to get about.

 

Tjaelde. There is always something the matter with you, my dear! Can I have something to eat?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, it has been standing waiting for you. Here it comes. (A maid brings in a tray which she lays on the table.)

 

Tjaelde. Good!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Will you have a cup of tea?

 

Tjaelde. No, thank you.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. (sitting down beside him and pouring him out a glass of wine). And how have things gone with the Möllers?

 

Tjaelde. Badly. I told you so already.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. I didn't hear you.

 

Valborg. I had a letter to-day from Nanna Möller. She tells me all about it--how none of the family knew anything about it till the officers of the courts came.

 

Tjaelde. Yes, there must have been a dreadful scene.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Did he tell you anything about it?

 

Tjaelde (as he eats). I didn't speak to him.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. My dear! Why, you are old friends!

 

Tjaelde. Bah! Old friends! He sat looking as if he had taken leave of his senses. Besides, I have had enough of that family. I didn't go there to hear them talk about their troubles.

 

Signe. I suppose it was all very sad?

 

Tjaelde (still eating). Shocking!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. What will they have to live on?

 

Tjaelde. What is allowed them by their creditors, of course.

 

Signe. But all the things they had?

 

Tjaelde. Sold.

 

Signe. All those pretty things--their furniture, their carriages, their--?

 

Tjaelde. All sold.

 

Hamar. And his watch? It is the most beautiful watch I have ever seen--next to yours.

 

Tjaelde. It had to go, of course, being jewellery. Give me some wine; I am hot and thirsty.

 

Signe. Poor things!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Where are they going to live now?

 

Tjaelde. In the house of one of the skippers of what was their fleet. Two small rooms and a kitchen.

 

Signe. Two small rooms and a kitchen! (A pause.)

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. What do they intend to do?

 

Tjaelde. There was a subscription started to enable Mrs. Möller to get the job of catering for the Club.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Is the poor woman going to have more cooking to do!

 

Signe. Did they send no messages to us?

 

Tjaelde. Of course they did; but I didn't pay any attention to them.

 

Hamar (who has been standing on the verandah). But Möller--what did he say? What did he do?

 

Tjaelde. I don't know, I tell you.

 

Valborg (who has been walking up and down the room during the preceding conversation). He has said and done quite enough already.

 

Tjaelde (who has at last finished eating and drinking, is struck by her words). What do you mean by that, Valborg?

 

Valborg. That if I were his daughter I would never forgive him.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. My dear Valborg, don't say such things!

 

Valborg. I mean it! A man who would bring such shame and misery upon his family does not deserve any mercy from them.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. We are all in need of mercy.

 

Valborg. In one sense, yes. But what I mean is that I could never give him my respect or my affection again. He would have wronged me too cruelly.

 

Tjaelde (getting up). Wronged you?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Have you finished already, dear?

 

Tjaelde. Yes.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. No more wine?

 

Tjaelde. I said I had finished. Wronged you? How?

Valborg . Well, I cannot imagine how one could be more cruelly wronged than to be allowed to assume a position that was nothing but a lie, to live up to means that had no real existence but were merely a sham--one's clothes a lie, one's very existence a lie! Suppose I were the sort of girl that found a certain delight in making use of her position as a rich man's daughter--in using it to the fullest possible extent; well, when I discovered that all that my father had given me was stolen-that all he had made me believe in was a lie--I am sure that then my anger and my shame would be beyond all bounds! Mrs. Tjaelde. My child, you have never been tried. You don't know how such things may happen. You don't really know what you are saying!

Hamar. Well it might do Möller good if he heard what she says!

 

Valborg. He has heard it. His daughter said that to him.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. His own daughter! Child, child, is that what you write to each other about? God forgive you both!

 

Valborg. Oh, He will forgive us, because we speak the truth.

 

Mrs. Tialde. Child, child!

 

Tjaelde. You evidently don't understand what business is--success one day and failure the next.

 

Valborg. No one will ever persuade me that business is a lottery.

 

Tjaelde. No, a sound business is not.

 

Valborg. Exactly. It is the unsound sort that I condemn.

 

Tjaelde. Still, even the soundest have their anxious moments.

Valborg . If the anxious moments really foreshadow a crisis, no man of honour would keep his family o: his creditors in ignorance of the fact. My God, how Mr. Möller has deceived his!

Signe. Valborg is always talking about business!

 

Valborg. Yes, it has had an attraction for me ever since I was a child. I am not ashamed of that.

 

Signe. You think you know all about it, anyway.

 

Valborg. Oh, no; but you can easily get to know a little about anything you are fond of.

Hamar . And one would need no great knowledge of business to condemn the way Möller went on. It was obvious to every one. And the way his family went on, too! Who went the pace as much as the Möllers? Think of his daughter's toilettes!

Valborg. His daughter is my best friend. I don't want to hear her abused.

Hamar . Your Highness will admit that it is possible to be the daughter of a very rich man without being as proud and as vain as--as the lady I am not allowed to mention! Valborg. Nanna is neither proud nor vain. She is absolutely genuine. She had the aptitude for being exactly what she thought she was--a rich man's daughter.

Hamar. Has she the "aptitude" for being a bankrupt's daughter now?

 

Valborg. Certainly. She has sold all her trinkets, her dresses-- every single thing she had. What she wears, she has either paid for herself or obtained by promising future payment.

 

Hamar. May I ask if she kept her stockings?

 

Valborg. She sent everything to a sale.

 

Hamar. If I had known that I would certainly have attended it!

 

Valborg. Yes, I daresay there was plenty to make fun of, and plenty of idle loafers, too, who were not ashamed to do so.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Children, children!

 

Hamar. May I ask if Miss Nanna sent her own idleness to the sale with her other effects?--because I have never known any one with a finer supply of it!

 

Valborg. She never thought she would need to work.

Tjaelde (coming forward to VALBORG). To take up the thread of what we were saying: you don't understand what a business-man's hope is from one day to the other--always a renewed hope. That fact does not make him a swindler. He may be unduly sanguine, perhaps--a poet, if you like, who lives in a world of dreams--or he may be a real genius, who sees land ahead when no one else suspects it.

Valborg . I don't think I misunderstand the real state of affairs. But perhaps you do, father. Because is not what you call hope, poetry, genius, merely speculating with what belongs to others, when a man knows that he owes more than he has got?

Tjaelde. It may be very difficult to be certain even whether he does that or not.

 

Valborg. Really? I should have thought his books would tell him--

Tjaelde . About his assets and his liabilities, certainly. But values are fluctuating things; and he may always have in hand some venture which, though it cannot be specified, may alter the whole situation.

Valborg . If he undeniably owes more than he possesses, any venture he undertakes must be a speculation with other people's money.
Tjaelde. Well--perhaps that is so; but that does not mean that he steals the money--he only uses it in trust for them.

Valborg. Entrusted to him on the false supposition that he is solvent.

 

Tjaelde. But possibly that money may save the whole situation.

 

Valborg. That does not alter the fact that he has got the use of it by a lie.

 

Tjaelde. You use very harsh terms. (MRS. TJAELDE has once or twice been making signs to VALBORG, which the latter sees but pays no attention to.)

 

Valborg. In that case the lie consists in the concealment.

 

Tjaelde. But what do you want him to do? To lay all his cards on the table, and so ruin both himself and the others?

 

Valborg. Yes, he ought to take every one concerned into his confidence.

Tjaelde . Bah! In that case we should see a thousand failures every year, and fortunes lost one after the other everywhere! No, you have a level head, Valborg, but your ideas are narrow. Look here, where are the newspapers? (SIGNE, who has been talking confidentially to HAMAR on the verandah, comes forward.)

Signe. I took them down to your office. I did not know you meant to stay in here.

 

Tjaelde. Oh, bother the office! Please fetch them for me. (SIGNE goes out, followed by Hamar.)

Mrs. Tjaelde (in an undertone to VALBORG). Why will you never listen to your mother, Valborg? (VALBORG goes out to the verandah; leans on the edge of it, with her head on her hands, and looks out.)

Tjaelde. I think I will change my coat. Oh no, I will wait till dinner-time.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Dinner! And here I am still sitting here!

 

Tjaelde. Are we expecting any one?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, have you forgotten?

 

Tjaelde. Of course, yes.

Mrs. Tjaelde (going out). What on earth am I to order? (TJAELDE comes forward as soon as he is alone, sits down on a chair with a weary, harassed expression, and buries his face in his hands with a sigh. SIGNE and HAMAR come back, she carrying some newspapers. HAMAR is going out to the verandah again, but SIGNE pulls him back.)

Signe. Here you are, father. Here are--

 

Tjaelde. What? Who?

 

Signe (astonished). The newspapers.

 

Tjaelde. Ah, yes. Give them to me. (Opens them hurriedly. They are mostly foreign papers, in which he scans the money articles one after another.)

 

Signe (after a whispered conversation with HAMAR). Father!

 

Tjaelde (without looking up from the papers).Well? (To himself, gloomily.) Down again, always down!

 

Signe. Hamar and I want so much to go into town again to Aunt Ulla's.

 

Tjaelde. But you know you were there only a fortnight ago. I received your bills yesterday. Have you seen them?

 

Signe. No need for that, father, if you have seen them! Why do you sigh?

 

Tjaelde. Oh--because I see that stocks keep falling.

Signe . Pooh! Why should you bother about that? Now you are sighing again. I am sure you know how horrid it is for those you love not to have what they want. You won't be so unkind to us, father?

Tjaelde. No, my child, it can't be done.

 

Signe. Why?

 

Tjaelde. Because--because--well, because now that it is summer time so many people will be coming here whom we shall have to entertain.

 

Signe. But entertaining people is the most tiresome thing I know, and Hamar agrees with me.

 

Tjaelde. Don't you think I have to do tiresome things sometimes, my girl?

Signe . Father dear, why are you talking so solemnly and ceremoniously? It sounds quite funny from you!
Tjaelde. Seriously, my child, it is by no means an unimportant matter for a big business house like ours, with such a wide-spread connection, that people coming here from all quarters should find themselves hospitably received. You might do that much for me.

Signe. Hamar and I will never have a moment alone at that rate.

 

Tjaelde. I think you mostly squabble when you are alone.

 

Signe. Squabble? That is a very ugly word, father.

 

Tjaelde. Besides, you would be no more alone if you were in town.

 

Signe. Oh, but it is quite different there!

 

Tjaelde. So I should think--from the way you throw your money about!

 

Signe (laughing). Throw our money about! What else have we to do? Isn't that what we are for? Daddy, listen--dear old dad--

 

Tjaelde. No, dear--no.

 

Signe. You have never been so horrid to me before.

 

Hamar (who has been making signs to her to stop, whispers). Can't you be quiet! Don't you see he is put out about something?

 

Signe (whispering). Well, you might have backed me up a little.

 

Hamar (as before). No, I am a bit wiser than you.

 

Signe (as before). You have been so odd lately. I am sure I don't know what you want?

 

Hamar (as before). Oh, well, it doesn't matter now--because I am going to town alone.

 

Signe (as before). What are you going to do?

 

Hamar (going). I am going to town alone. I am sick of this!

 

Signe (following him). Just you try! (Both go out by the verandah, to the right. TJAELDE lets the newspapers fall out of his hands with a heavy sigh.)

 

Valborg (looking in from the verandah). Father! (TJAELDE starts.) There goes Mr. Berent, the lawyer from Christiania.

Tjaelde (getting up). Berent? Where? On the wharf? Valborg. Yes. (Comes back into the room. TJAELDE looks out of the window.) The reason I told you was because I saw him yesterday at the timber-yard, and a little while before that, at the brewery and at the works.

Tjaelde (to himself). What can that mean? (Aloud.) Oh, I know he is very fond of making little trips to all sorts of places in the summer. This year he has come here--and no doubt he likes to see the chief industries of the place. There is not much else here to see! But are you sure it is he? I think--

Valborg (looking out). Yes, it is he. Look now, you know his walk--

 

Tjaelde. --and his trick of crossing his feet--yes, it is he. It looks as if he were coming here.

 

Valborg. No, he has turned away.

 

Tjaelde. All the better! (To himself, thoughtfully.) Could it possibly mean--? (SANNAES comes in from the right.)

 

Sannaes. Am I disturbing you, sir?

Tjaelde . Is that you, Sannaes? (SANNAES, as he comes forward, sees VALBORG standing by the farther window. He appears frightened and hides his hands quickly behind his back.) What do you want? (VALBORG looks at SANNAES, then goes on to the verandah and out to the right.) What is it, man? What the deuce are you standing there for?

Sannaes (bringing his hands from behind his back as soon as VALBORG has passed him, and looking after her.) I didn't like to ask you, before Miss Valborg, whether you are coming down to your office to-day or not.

Tjaelde. Have you gone mad? Why on earth shouldn't you ask me that before Miss Valborg?

 

Sannaes. I mean that--if not--I should like to speak to you here, if it is convenient.

Tjaelde . Look here, Sannaes, you ought to try and get rid of your shyness; it doesn't suit a business man. A business man should be smart and active, and not let his wits go woolgathering because he finds himself in the same room with a woman. I have often noticed it in you.--Now, what is it? Out with it!

Sannaes. You are not coming to the office this morning, sir?

 

Tjaelde. No, there is no post goes out before this evening.

 

Sannaes. No. But there are some bills of exchange-- Tjaelde. Bills? No.

 

Sannaes. Yes, sir--that fourth one of Möller's that was protested, and the big English one.

 

Tjaelde (angrily). Have they not been met yet? What does this mean?

 

Sannaes. The manager of the bank wanted to see you first, sir!

 

Tjaelde. Have you gone crazy--? (Collects himself.) There must be some misunderstanding, Sannaes.

 

Sannaes. That is what I thought; so I spoke about it to the chief clerk, and to Mr. Holst as well.

 

Tjaelde. And Mr. Holst said--?

 

Sannaes. The same thing.

Tjaelde (walking up and down). I will go and see him--or rather, I _won't_ go and see him; because this is evidently something that--. We have some days' grace yet, haven't we?

Sannaes. Yes, sir.

 

Tjaelde. And still no telegram from Mr. Lind?

 

Sannaes. No, sir.

Tjaelde (to himself). I can't understand it. (Aloud.) We will negotiate this matter direct with Christiania, Sannaes. That is what we will do--and leave these little local banks alone in future. That will do, Sannaes! (Makes a gesture of dismissal. Then says to himself:) That damned Möller! It has made them all suspicious! (Turns round and sees SANNAES still there.) What are you waiting for?

Sannaes. It is settling day--and I have no money in the safe.

Tjaelde . No money in the safe! A big business like this, and nothing in the safe on settling day! What kind of management is that, I should like to know? Must I teach you the A B C of business over and over again? One can never take a half day off, or hand over the control! of the tiniest part of the business--! I have no one, absolutely no one, that I can rely on! How have you let things get into such a state?

Sannaes . Well, there was a third bill, which expired to-day--Holm and Co., for £400. I had relied upon the bank, unfortunately--so there was nothing for it but to empty the safe
-here and at the brewery as well.
Tjaelde (walking about restlessly). Hm--hm--hm!--Now, who can have put that into Holst's head?--Very well, that will do. (Dismisses SANNAES, who goes out but comes back immediately.)

Sannaes (whispering). Here is Mr. Berent!

 

Tjaelde (surprised). Coming here?

 

Sannaes. He is just coming up the steps! (Goes out by the further door on the right.)

Tjaelde . (calls after him in a whisper). Send up some wine and cakes!--It is just as I suspected! (Catches sight of himself in a mirror.) Good Lord, how bad I look! (Turns away painfully from the mirror; looks in it again, forces a smile to his face, and so, smiling, goes towards the verandah, where BERENT is seen coming in slowly from the left.)

Tjaelde (greeting BERENT politely but with reserve). I feel honoured at receiving a visit from so distinguished a man.

 

Berent. Mr. Tjaelde, I believe?

 

Tjaelde. At your service! My eldest daughter has just been telling me that she had seen you walking about my property.

 

Berent. Yes; an extensive property--and an extensive business.

 

Tjaelde. Too extensive, Mr. Berent. Too many-sided. But one thing has led to another. Pray sit down.

 

Berent. Thank you; it is very warm to-day. (A maid brings in cakes and wine, and puts them on the table.)

 

Tjaelde. Let me give you a glass of wine?

 

Berent. No, thank you.

 

Tjaelde. Or something to eat?

 

Berent. Nothing, thank you.

 

Tjaelde (taking out his cigar-case). May I offer you a cigar? I can answer for their quality.

 

Berent. I am very fond of a good cigar. But for the moment I will not take anything, thank you! (A pause. TJAELDE takes a seat.)

 

Tjaelde (in a quiet, confidential voice). Have you been long here, Mr. Berent?

 

Berent. Only a day or two. You have been away, have you not?

 

Tjaelde. Yes--that unhappy affair of Mr. Möller's. A meeting of creditors after the sale.

 

Berent. Times are hard just now.

 

Tjaelde. Extraordinarily so!

 

Berent. Do you think that Möller's failure will bring down any more firms with it-besides those we know of already, I mean?

 

Tjaelde. I don't think so. His--his misfortune was an exceptional case in every respect.

 

Berent. It has made the banks a little nervous, I hear.

 

Tjaelde. I dare say.

 

Berent. Of course you know the state of affairs here better than any one.

 

Tjaelde. (with a smile). I am very much indebted to you for your flattering confidence in me.

 

Berent. I suppose all this might have a bad effect upon the export trade of this part of the country?

 

Tjaelde. Yes--it is really hard to tell; but the important thing certainly is to keep every one on their legs.

 

Berent. That is your opinion?

 

Tjaelde. Undoubtedly.

 

Berent. As a general rule a crisis of this sort shows up the unsound elements in a commercial community.

 

Tjaelde (with a smile). And for that reason this crisis should be allowed to take its natural course, you mean?

 

Berent. That is my meaning.

 

Tjaelde. Hm!--In some places it is possible that the dividing line between the sound firms and the unsound may not be very distinct.

Berent . Can there really be any danger of such a thing here? Tjaelde. Well--you are expecting too much of my knowledge of affairs; but I should be inclined to think that there may. (A pause.)

Berent. I have been instructed by the banks to prepare an opinion upon the situation--a fact which I have, so far, only confided to you.

 

Tjaelde. I am much obliged.

 

Berent. The smaller local banks here have combined, and are acting in concert.

 

Tjaelde. Indeed? (A pause.) I suppose you have seen Mr. Holst, then?

 

Berent. Of course. (A pause.) If we are to assist the sound firms and leave the others to their fate, the best way will certainly be for all alike to disclose their actual position.

 

Tjaelde. Is that Mr. Holst's opinion too?

 

Berent. It is. (A pause.) I have advised him for the present--at all events till we have all the balance-sheets--to say "no" to every request for an advance, without exception.

 

Tjaelde. (with a look of relief). I understand!

 

Berent. Only a temporary measure, of course--

 

Tjaelde. Quite so!

 

Berent. --but one that must apply to every one impartially.

 

Tjaelde. Admirable!

 

Berent. Not to treat every one alike would be to run the danger of throwing premature suspicion on individuals.

 

Tjaelde. I quite agree.

 

Berent. I am delighted to hear it. Then you will not misunderstand me if I ask you also to prepare a balance-sheet which shall show the actual position of your firm.

 

Tjaelde. With the greatest pleasure, if by doing so I can assist the general welfare.

 

Berent. I assure you, you can. It is by such means that public confidence is strengthened.

 

Tjaelde. When do you want the balance-sheet? Of course, it can only be a summary one.

Berent . Naturally. I will give myself the pleasure of calling for it. Tjaelde. By no means. I can let you have it at once, if you like. I am in the habit of frequently drawing up summary balance-sheets of that kind--as prices rise and fall, you know.

Berent . Indeed? (Smiles.) You know, of course, what they say of swindlers--that they draw up three balance-sheets everyday, and all different! But you are teaching me, apparently--

Tjaelde (laughing). --that others too, may have that bad habit!-- though I haven't actually got as far as three a day!

 

Berent. Of course I was only joking. (Gets up.)

Tjaelde (getting up). Of course. I will send it to the hotel in an hour's time; for I suppose you are staying in our only so-called hotel! Would you not care, for the rest of your stay, to move your things over here and make yourself at home in a couple of empty spare rooms that I have?

Bercnt . Thank you, but the length of my stay is so uncertain; and the state of my health imposes habits upon me which are embarrassing to every one, and to myself most of all, when I am among strangers.

Tjaelde. But at all events I hope you will dine with us to-day? I expect one or two friends. And perhaps a short sail afterwards; it is very pretty among the islands here.

 

Berent. Thank you, but my health won't allow me such dissipations.

 

Tjaelde. Ha, ha!--Well, if I can be of any further service to you--?

 

Berent. I should be glad to have a talk with you before I leave, preferably as soon as possible.

 

Tjaelde (somewhat surprised). You mean, after you have received all the balance-sheets?

 

Berent. I have already managed to get most of them quietly, through Mr. Holst.

 

Tjaelde (more surprised). Oh--so you mean to-day--?

 

Berent. Would five o'clock suit you?

 

Tjaelde. I am quite at your disposal! I will give myself the pleasure of calling upon you at five.

Berent . No, I will come here at five o'clock. (Bows, and turns to go.) Tjaelde (following him). But you are the invalid--the older man-- and a distinguished man--

Berent. But you are at home here. Good-bye!

 

Tjaelde. Let me thank you for the honour you have done me by calling upon me!

 

Berent. Please don't bother to see me out.

 

Tjaelde. Allow me to escort you?

 

Berent. I can find the way quite well, thank you.

 

Tjaelde. No doubt, no doubt-but I should feel it an honour!

Berent . As you please! (As they are about to go down the verandah steps they are met by SIGNE and HAMAR, who are coming up arm in arm. Each couple draws aside to make room for the other.)

Tjaelde. Let me introduce--no, I am sure Mr. Berent needs no introduction. This is my youngest daughter--and her fiancé, Lieutenant Hamar.

 

Berent. I thought your regiment was at the manoeuvres, Lieutenant?

 

Hamar. I have got furlough--

 

Berent. On account of urgent business, no doubt! Good day!

 

Tjaelde. Ha, ha, ha! (He and BERENT go down the steps.)

 

Hamar. Insolent fellow! But he is like that to every one.

 

Signe. Not to my father, as far as I could see.

 

Hamar. Your father is insolent too.

 

Signe. You shan't say such things of father!

 

Hamar. What else do you call it, to laugh at such impertinence as Berent's.

 

Signe. I call it good spirits! (Sits down in a rocking-chair and begins rocking herself.)

 

Hamar. Oh, then, so you--. You are not very agreeable to-day.

 

Signe (still rocking herself). No; do you know, sometimes I get so bored with you. Hamar. Yet you won't let me go away?

 

Signe. Because I should be still worse bored without you.

 

Hamar. Let me tell you this, I am not going to put up much longer with the way I am treated here!

 

Signe. Very well. (Takes off her engagement ring and holds it between her finger and her thumb, as she rocks herself and hums a tune.)

 

Hamar. Oh, I don't say anything about you; but look at Valborg! Look at your father! He hasn't even as much as offered me a mount on his new horse!

 

Signe. He has had something else to think about--possibly something even more important than that. (Goes on humming.)

Hamar . Oh, do be nice, Signe! You must admit that my feelings are very natural. Indeed, to speak quite candidly--because I know I can say anything to you--it seems to me that, as I am to be his son-in-law and am in a cavalry regiment, and as he has no sons of his own, I might almost expect that--that he would make me a present of the horse.

Signe. Ha, ha, ha!

 

Hamar. Does it seem so unreasonable to you?

 

Signe. Ha, ha, ha!

Hamar . Why do you laugh at what I say, Signe? It seems to me that it would reflect very well on your family if, when my friends admired my horse, I could say: "My father-inlaw made me a present of it." Because, you know, there isn't a finer horse in the whole of Norway.

Signe. And that is the reason why you should have it? Ha, ha, ha!

 

Hamar. I won't stand it!

 

Signe. The peerless lieutenant on the peerless horse! Ha, ha, ha!

 

Hamar. Signe, be quiet!

 

Signe. You are so funny! (Begins to hum again.)

 

Hamar. Listen, Signe! No one has so much influence with your father as you.--Oh, do listen! Can't you talk seriously for a moment?

Signe . I should like to! (Goes on humming.) Hamar. My idea was that, if that horse were mine, I would stay here for the summer and break it in thoroughly. (SIGNE stops rocking herself and humming. HAMAR comes up to her chair and leans over her.) In that case I would not go back till the autumn, and then you could come with the horse and me into town. Wouldn't that be delightful?

Signe (after looking at him for a moment). Oh, yes, my dear, you always have such delightful ideas!

 

Hamar. Don't I! But the whole thing depends, of course, on whether you can get the horse from your father. Will you try, darling?

 

Signe. And then you would stay here all the summer?

 

Hamar. All the summer!

 

Signe. So as to break in the horse.

 

Hamar. Just to break in the horse!

 

Signe. And I would go with you into town in the autumn--that was what you said, wasn't it?

 

Hamar. Yes; wouldn't it be jolly?

 

Signe. Shall you take the bay horse to stay with your Aunt Ulla too?

 

Hamar (laughing). What?

Signe . Well, you have spent your furlough here simply for the sake of that horse--I know that well enough--and you propose to stay here, just to break it in-and then you propose that the horse and I should go to your aunt's--

Hamar. But, Signe, what do you--?

 

Signe (beginning to rock herself furiously). Ugh! Go away!

 

Hamar. Jealous of a horse! Ha, ha, ha!

 

Signe. Go away to the stables.

 

Hamar. Is that meant for a punishment? Because it would be more amusing there than it is here.

 

Signe (throwing down her ring). There! Let your horse wear that!

Hamar . Every time you throw down that ring-- Signe. Oh, you have said that so often! I am tired of that too! (Turns her chair round so as to turn her back on him.)

Hamar. You are such a spoilt child that it would be absurd to take everything you say seriously--

 

Signe. I am sick of that too, I tell you--for the hundred and twentieth time! Go away!

 

Hamar. But can't you see how ridiculous it is of you to be jealous of a horse? Have you ever heard of anyone else behaving like that?

 

Signe (jumping up). Oh, you make me want to shout and scream! I feel so ashamed of you! (Stamps her foot.) I despise you!

 

Hamar (laughing). And all on account of the horse?

Signe . No, on your own account--yours, yours! I feel so miserable sometimes, I should like to throw myself down on the floor and cry--or run away and never come back! Can't you let me alone! Can't you go away!

Hamar. Yes--and I have not picked up the ring this time, either!

 

Signe. Oh, do go!--go, go, go! (Bursts out crying and sits down.)

 

Hamar. All right!--I see the steamer in the distance; I shall go home at once.

Signe . Oh, you know as well as I do that that steamer goes the other way! Oh! (Cries. The masts and funnel of a steamer come into sight, and a trail of smoke passes over the sky. TJAELDE'S voice is heard outside, calling: "Hurry up! Take the lieutenant's boat; it is ready!" SIGNE jumps up.)

Hamar . They are going to fetch some one from the steamer! (TJAELDE'S voice is heard again: "You get the boat out! He is coming here!" HAMAR runs to pick up the ring and comes back hurriedly to SIGNE.) Signe!

Signe. No, I won't!

 

Hamar. Signe, dear! What does this mean? What is it that I have done?

 

Signe. I don't know, but I am wretchedly unhappy! (Bursts into tears.)

 

Hamar. But you know that in the end I always do what you want? What more can you wish than that?

 

Signe. I can't help it, I wish I were dead! It is always the same thing! (In tears again.) Hamar. But, Signe--you who have told me hundreds of times that you loved me!

 

Signe. And so I do. But sometimes our engagement seems horrible!-- No, don't come near me!

Hamar . Signe! (TJAELDE'S voice is heard outside: "Of course, put your best coat on!" He calls louder: "Sannaes!" An answering voice is heard in the distance. TJAELDE continues: "Don't forget your gloves!") Dry your eyes, Signe! Don't let him see you have been crying. (He tries to give her the ring, but she turns away, wiping her eyes. TJAELDE comes up the steps on to the verandah.)

Tjaelde . Oh, there you are! That's right. Mr. Lind is arriving by this steamer--I had a telegram from him just now. (Calls out over the verandah.) Come along with those flags! And get this boat out of the way and unstep her mast! She is moored up tight! (HAMAR runs to help him.) Yes, you cast her off! (HAMAR does so, and the boat is hauled away to the right. TJAELDE comes forward into the room.) Signe! (Looks at her.) What? Squabbling again?

Signe. Father!

 

Tjaelde. Well, this is no time for tomfoolery of that sort! You must all do the honours of the house to-day. Tell Valborg--

 

Signe. Tell her yourself, please! You know Valborg only does just what she likes.

Tjaelde . Don't talk such rubbish! This is an important moment-- and you will all do as I say! Tell Valborg that she is to make herself look nice and come to me here. And you do the same. (She goes.) Signe!

Signe (stopping). Yes?

Tjaelde . We must ask five or six more people to dinner. You must send word to Mr. Finne that we shall dine punctually at three o'clock, instead of four. Mr. Lind has to go away again by the next boat, at five o'clock. Do you understand?

Signe. But has mother enough in the house for so many?

Tjaelde . It is not a mere question of there being enough--it must be a very good dinner. I expect my larder to be kept thoroughly well stocked all through the summer. How often am I to repeat that?

Signe (trying to repress her fears). But mother is feeling so ill to-day-

Tjaelde . Oh! don't begin about that everlasting "feeling ill." There is no time to-day to feel ill. Now, be quick! (SIGNE goes out by the farther door. TJAELDE turns to HAMAR.) Get a pen and ink and some paper! We must draw up a list of guests, at once! Hamar (looking about). There is none here.

Tjaelde (impatiently). Fetch some, then! (HAMAR goes into the next room. TJAELDE, after a long sigh of relief, reads a telegram he has in his hand. His hand trembles as he reads it slowly, repeating some passages twice.) "Letter received just as starting. Before taking charge of affairs, must have interview. Coming to-day earliest boat, return five o'clock. Have clear statement ready. Lind." I can hardly read it--but it is true! Yes, if I can only work this properly all doors will be open to me! (To HAMAR, who has come back.) Ah, there you are! It would take too long to write invitations. We will just draw up a list of names and one of my clerks shall run round to them all. Now then! (Dictates.) The Vicar--Oh, by the way, what is the champagne like?

Hamar. Do you mean the new lot?

 

Tjaelde. Yes.

 

Hamar. The Vicar praised it highly.

 

Tjaelde. Good. Well, then--

 

Hamar (writing). The Vicar.

 

Tjzlde. Mr. Ring.

 

Hamar. Mr. Ring.

 

Tjaelde. And--and--

 

Hamar. Mr. Holst?

Tjaelde . No, not Holst. (HAMAR appears greatly astonished. TJAELDE says to himself:) I can show him now that I have no need of him! (Suddenly, to HAMAR.) Mr. Holm. (To himself.) Holst's enemy!

Hamar. Mr. Holm.

 

Tjaelde (to himself). Although Holm is a boor. Still, it will annoy Holst. (Aloud.) The Chief Constable.

 

Hamar. The Chief--

 

Tjaelde. No, strike out the Chief Constable.

 

Hamar. Chief Constable struck out.

 

Tjaelde. Have we got the Vicar down? Hamar. He is number one on the list.

 

Tjaelde. Of course, yes.

 

Hamar. What about the Magistrate?

 

Tjaelde. No, he lives too far off. Besides, unless he is the guest of honour and can talk shop all the time--. No! But, let me see. Mr. Knutzon--Knutzon with a "z."

 

Hamar. Knutzon with a "z."

 

Tjaelde. Oh!--and--Knudsen, too! Knudsen with an "s."

 

Hamar. Knudsen with an "s."

 

Tjaelde. How many have we got?

 

Hamar. The Vicar, Ring, Holm, the Chief--oh, no, the Chief Constable was struck out; Knutzon with a "z," Knudsen with an "s "--that is one, two, three, four, five, six.

 

Tjaelde. And Finne, you, and I make nine. We must have twelve.

 

Hamar. What about some ladies?

 

Tjaelde. No; ladies are out of place at a business dinner. They may do the honours afterwards, when we have got to the cigarette stage. But whom shall we--?

 

Hamar. That new lawyer fellow? He's a smart chap--I can't remember his name?

 

Tjaelde. No, he always wants to be speechifying wherever he goes.-- Ah, Mr. Pram, the custom-house officer!

 

Hamar. That man? He always gets drunk!

 

Tjaelde. Yes, but he doesn't get noisy with it. He does no harm-- quite the contrary! Yes, put down Pram.

 

Hamar. Mr. Pram.

 

Tjaelde. It is a very difficult task, in such a small town, when you want to get a good set of people together. Ah!--Falbe! I forgot him. He is very neat, and no opinions.

 

Hamar. Neat in his dress, do you mean?

Tjaelde . Yes, in his dress too-but I meant it more generally. Now, for the twelfth-Morten Schultz?
Hamar. Morten Schultz! (Gets up.) No, really, I must take the liberty of protesting against him! Do you really know what he did the last time he was here, when you had a lot of guests? In the middle of dinner he took out his false teeth and began showing them to his neighbours. He wanted to have them passed round the table! If that is your idea of a good set of people--well!

Tjaelde. Yes, he is rather a rough diamond. But he is the richest man about here.

 

Hamar (who has sat down again). Well in that case he really ought to afford himself a new wig! It is far from pleasant to sit beside him, I can assure you!

Tjaelde . Yes, I know he is a pig; but he is wide awake, and this would flatter him! You see, my young friend, when a man is very rich you must make certain allowances for him.

Hamar. I can't understand what _you_ can hope to get out of him.

 

Tjaelde. Hm, hm!--No, well, perhaps we had better leave him out?

 

Hamar. Certainly!

 

Tjaelde (to himself). Although Lind would understand the significance of Morten Schultz's being here--

 

Hamar. And the things he says! Ladies have to leave the room!

 

Tjaelde. Yes, you are right. (Mutters to himself.) And, after all, I don't need him any longer. (Aloud.) But what about our twelfth, then? Let me see--.

 

Hamar. Christopher Hansen?

 

Tjaelde. Oh, Lord! no. We should have to talk politics. No, let me see--. Yes, I think I might risk it! Hm, hm--yes, just the man! Jakobsen, the brewery manager.

 

Hamar. Jakobsen?

 

Tjaelde. Hm, hm! Jakobsen will do very well. I know Jakobsen.

 

Hamar. Oh, he is a very good fellow--we all know that, but in polite society--!

 

Tjaelde. Hm, hm, hm!--Put him down!

 

Hamar (writing). Jakobsen. There, then! (Gets up.)

Tjaelde . Now let Skogstad go with the list! Remember, three o'clock punctually! And be quick! (Calls after HAMAR, who is going out.) And come back when you have given him the list! There may be something more to do! (HAMAR goes out by the nearer door. TJAELDE takes a letter out of his pocket.) Ah, of course! Shall I send the balance-sheet to Berent? I am independent of the banks now. Still, I am not out of the wood yet. And, anyway, it is a very pretty balance-sheet! Holst would be sure to see it, and that might be useful--and it might annoy him, too. Besides, if I don't send it, they will think that my promising to send it had put me into a hole, and that Lind had helped me out of it. I risk least by sending it. (HAMAR comes back.) Look here, let him take this letter, too. It is for Mr. Berent, at the Hotel Victoria.

Hamar. Is this an invitation? Because, if it is, we shall be thirteen at table.

Tjaelde . It is not an invitation. Be quick, before he goes. (HAMAR goes out again.) Oh, if only it succeeds! Lind is the sort of man one can persuade--and I must, I must persuade him! (Looks at his watch.) I have four whole hours to do it in. I have never felt so hopeful--not for a long time. (Is lost in thought; then says quietly:) After all, sometimes a crisis is a good thing--like a big wave that carries one on!--They have all had their suspicions aroused now, and are all ready to get into a panic. (Sighs.) If only I could get safely out of my difficulties without any one's suspecting it!--Oh, this anxious fear, night and day!--all this mystery, these shifts, these concealments, this farce I have to keep up! I go about my business as if I were in a dream. (Despairingly.) This shall be the last time-my last performance of this sort! No more of it!--I only need a helping hand now, and I have got it! But _have_ I got it? that is the question. Oh! if only, after this, I could know what it was to have a good night's sleep and to wake in the morning free from anxiety!-to join them at meals with an easy conscience!--come home in the evening and feel that it was all done with! If only I had something to take my stand upon that I could call my own--really and truly my own! I hardly dare to believe that there is a chance--I have so often been disappointed! (HAMAR comes back.)

Hamar. There--that's done!

 

Tjaelde. Good Lord, what about a salute from our cannon? We must give him a salute!

 

Hamar. We have powder.

 

Tjaelde. Then send word up at once to Ole to see about it! (They hurry out. The curtain falls.)