Three Dramas by Bjornstjerne Bjornson - HTML preview

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ACT II

SCENE I

(SCENE.--The same room. The table, which has been drawn to one side, is covered with bottles of champagne aged dishes of fruit. MRS. TJAELDE and SIGNE, with a manservant and a maid, are busy preparing it. Through the door on the right a lively conversation can be heard, and occasional bursts of laughter.)
Mrs. Tjaelde (in a tired voice). Now I think it is all ready.

Signe. They are talking a long time over their dinner.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde (looking at her watch). Yes, they will only have half an hour for their dessert, because Mr. Lind has to leave at five o'clock.

Signe . Ah, they have finished at last! Listen, they are getting up from the table. (Amidst the loud noise of conversation the noise of chairs being pushed back is audible.) Here they come!

Mrs. Tjaelde . Yes; let us retreat. (The maid goes out by the farther door; SIGNE helps MRS. TJAELDE out after her. The man-servant begins opening the champagne. The guests come in from the dining-room, headed by LIND escorted by TJAELDE, whom he is assuring that the dinner was excellent, to which TJAELDE replies that it is impossible to do much in a small country town. Both look at their watches, and observe that there is only half an hour left. TJAELDE vainly endeavours to persuade LIND to stay longer. Close behind them come HOLM and RING, engaged in an animated dispute about timber prices, the former maintaining that they will fall still lower, the latter that they will rise speedily owing to the fall in the prices of coal and iron, a point of view which the former vigorously controverts. Immediately behind them comes the VICAR, escorted by HAMAR, who is a little tipsy. The VICAR is assuring him that he has no objection to parishioners repudiating the obligation to attend the services of their own priest, so long as they are compelled to pay him for those services whether they avail themselves of them or not; because order, which is an essential characteristic of the Heavenly Kingdom, must be maintained. HAMAR tries to get in a word or two about the bay horse, but without success. At the same time KNUTZON and FALBE are deep in a discussion about a dancer whom FALBE has seen at Hamburg. He is maintaining that she can leap six feet into the air, which KNUTZON ventures to doubt, but FALBE says there is no doubt about it, and he knows because he has once sat at the same dinner-table with her. FINNE, KNUDSEN, and JAKOBSEN follow them. JAKOBSEN is heard challenging any one to contradict him, while the others eagerly protest that he has entirely misunderstood their meaning. He affirms stoutly that he doesn't care a damn what they meant, but that his employer is the greatest business man and the finest fellow in the world, or at all events in Norway. PRAM comes in by himself, wrapt in tipsy contemplation. They all talk at the same time.)

Tjaelde (rapping on a glass). Gentlemen! (There is a sudden silence, except for the sound of the voices of FALBE and JAKOBSEN, who are hushed down by the others.) Gentlemen! I am sorry dinner has occupied such a long time.

All (unanimously). No, no!

Tjaelde . Our distinguished guest has, unfortunately, to leave us in half an hour, so I should like to take the opportunity of saying a few words. Gentlemen, we have a prince among us to-day. I say a prince, because if it is true that it is the financiers that rule the world--and it is true, gentlemen--

Pram (who is standing well forward, supporting himself by the edge of the table, says solemnly:) Yes.

 

Tjaelde. --then our friend here is a prince! There is not a single important undertaking that he has not initiated, or at any rate backed with his name.

 

Pram (lifting his glass). Mr. Lind, may I have the honour--?

 

Voices. Sh! Sh!

 

Tjaelde. Yes, gentlemen, his name backs every enterprise. It would be impossible to carry one through that had not his backing.

 

Pram (solemnly). His backing.

 

Tjaelde. Am I not right, then, in describing him as a prince?

 

Falbe (in a feeble voice). Yes.

Tjaelde . Gentlemen, to-day his name is once more exercising its powerful, I might say its creative, influence upon circumstances. I may say that at this moment the country holds no truer benefactor than he.

Pram. Great man.

 

Tjaelde. Let us drink his health! May prosperity attend him and his, and may his name be deathless in Norway! Mr. Lind!

 

All. Mr. Lind! Mr. Lind! (They all drink his health effusively.)

 

Tjaelde (to HAMAR, whom he pulls forward somewhat roughly, as the others begin to help themselves to the dessert.) What has become of the salute?

 

Hamar (in consternation).Good Lord, yes! (Rushes to the window, but comes back.) I have no handkerchief. I must have laid it down in the dining-room.

Tjaelde . Here is mine!(Feels in his pocket for it.) One cannot rely on you for the least thing. The salute will be too late now. It is disgraceful! (HAMAR goes to the window and waves the handkerchief madly. At last the report of a cannon is heard. The guests are standing in a group, holding their dessert plates.)

Holm. A little bit late! Knutzon. Rather behind the moment--

 

Ring. A very important moment, however!

 

Holm. A very unexpected one, anyway!

 

Knutzon (jestingly). Allow me, amidst the cannon's roar, to introduce to you a man who has been led by the nose!

 

Ring. Oh, Tjaelde knows what he is about!

 

Tjaelde. Mr. Lind is kind enough to wish to propose a toast. (They all compose themselves into respectful silence.)

Lind . Our worthy host has proposed my health in most flattering terms. I would merely add this, that wealth is entrusted to those who have it precisely in order that they may support industry, genius, and great undertakings.

Pram (who has never changed his position). Nobly said.

 

Lind. I am only an administrator of a trust, and too often a weak and short-sighted one.

 

Pram. Beautiful.

Lind . But I shall not be mistaken if I say that Mr. Tjaelde's many-sided activities, which we must all admire, rest upon a sound foundation; and of that fact no one, at the present moment, is better able to judge than I. (The guests look at one another in surprise.) Therefore I have no hesitation in saying that his activities are an honour to this town, to this district, to our whole country, and that therefore his genius and his energy deserve support. I propose the toast of "prosperity to the firm of Tjaelde!"

All. Prosperity to the firm of Tjaelde!

 

(HAMAR signals again with the handkerchief, and a cannon shot is heard.)

 

Tjaelde. I thank you heartily, Mr. Lind! I am profoundly touched.

 

Lind. I said no more than I am convinced of, Mr. Tjaelde!!

 

Tjaelde. Thank you! (To HAMAR.) What do you mean by signalling for a salute for the host? Blockhead!

 

Hamar. You said there was to be a salute when a toast was proposed, didn't you?

 

Tjaelde. Oh, you are a--! Hamar (to himself). Well, if ever again I--!

 

Holm. Then it is an accomplished fact, I suppose?

 

Knutzon. Fait accompli! That toast represents twenty thousand pounds, at least.

 

Ring. Yes, Tjaelde knows what he is about! I have always said that! (FALBE is seen drinking ceremoniously with LIND. JAKOBSEN comes forward, talking to KNUDSEN.)

 

Jakobsen (in a low voice). There isn't a word of truth in what you say!

 

Knudsen. But, my dear Jakobsen, you misunderstand me!

 

Jakobsen (louder). Hang it, I know my people!

 

Knudsen. Don't talk so loud!

 

Jakobsen (still louder). What I say any one may hear!

 

Tjaelde. (at the same moment). The Vicar wishes to say a few words.

 

Knudsen (to JAKOBSEN). Hush! The Vicar wishes to say a few words.

 

Jakobsen. Have I got to hush because that damned--

 

Tjaelde (in a voice of authority). The Vicar wishes to speak.

 

Jakobsen. I beg your pardon!

The Vicar (in a feeble voice). As the spiritual adviser of this household, I have the pleasing duty of invoking a blessing on the gifts that have been so richly showered upon our host and his friends. May they be to their souls' present good and eternal welfare!

Pram. Amen.

The Vicar . I am going to ask you to drink the health of our host's dear children--those lovely girls whose welfare has been the object of my prayers ever since they were confirmed--ever since that memorable day when household and religious duties began to walk side by side.

Pram. Ah, yes!

 

The Vicar. May they always in the future, as they have in the past, grow in the holy fear of God and in meekness and gratitude towards their parents!

 

All. Miss Valborg, Miss Signe! Hamar (in a panic). Am I to signal?

 

Tjaelde. Oh, go to--!

 

Hamar. Well, if ever again--!

 

Tjaelde. Thank you very much, Mr. Vicar. Like you, I hope that the intimate relations between parent and child that exist here--

 

The Vicar. It has always been a pleasure to me to come into your most hospitable house.

 

Tjaelde. May I have the honour of drinking a glass of wine with you? (They drink to each other.)

 

The Vicar. Excellent champagne, my dear sir!

 

Lind (to HOLM). It pains me to hear what you say. Is it possible that this town, which owes so much to Mr. Tjaelde, repays him with such ingratitude?

 

Holm (in a low voice). One never can quite confidently rely on him.

 

Lind. Really? I have heard others sing his praises so loudly, you know.

 

Holm (as before). You misunderstand me. I mean his position--

 

Lind. His position? That must be merely envy! People are often so unjust towards those whose enterprise has lifted them above the heads of the crowd.

 

Holm. At any rate I assure you it was not from--

 

Lind (coldly). I don't doubt it. (Walks away from him.)

 

Jakobsen (with whom TJAELDE has just drunk). Gentlemen!

Knutzon (to HOLM, in passing). Is that boor really going to be allowed to make a speech! (Going up to LIND.) May I have the honour of drinking a glass of wine with you, Mr. Lind? (Several of the guests begin to talk, ostentatiously indifferent to JAKOBSEN who is trying to begin his speech.)

Jakobsen (in a formidable voice). Gentlemen! (Silence ensues, and he continues in his usual voice.) Permit a common man to say a word, too, on this festive occasion. I was a poor little boy when I entered Mr. Tjaelde's employment; but he pulled me out of the gutter. (Laughter.) I am-what I am, gentlemen! And therefore if any here is qualified to talk about Mr. Tjaelde, it is I; because I know him. I know he is a fine fellow.

Lind (to TJAELDE). Children and drunken men-- Tjaelde (laughing). --speak the truth!

Jakobsen . There are lots of people that will tell you one thing or another about him--and, of course, he may have his failings like all of us. But as I find myself in such fine company as this I am going to say that--that--devil take me if Mr. Tjaelde isn't too good for the lot of you! (Laughter.)

Tjaelde. That's enough, Jakobsen!

Jakobsen . No, it's not enough! Because there is one toast we have all forgotten, although we have all had such a splendid dinner. (Laughter. FALBE claps his hands and cries: "Bravo!") Yes, and it is nothing to laugh at; because it is the toast of Mrs. Tjaelde's health that we have not drunk!

Lind. Bravo!

Jakobsen . There's a wife and mother for you! I can tell you--and it's true--she goes about the house attending to her duties and preparing for our entertainment when all the time she is ill, and she takes the whole thing on her shoulders and says nothing. God bless her, I say!--and that is all I have to say.

Several of the Guests (raising their glasses). Mrs. Tjaelde! Mrs. Tjaelde!

 

Pram (grasping JAKOBSEN by the hand). That was fine of you, Jakobsen! (LIND joins them; PRAM steps aside respectfully.)

 

Lind. Will you drink a glass of wine with me, Jakobsen?

 

Jakobsen. Thank you, very much. I am only a common man--

Lind . But a good-hearted one! Your health! (They drink to each other. A boat is seen putting in to shore below the verandah. Its crew of six men stand up and toss their oars in naval fashion. SANNAES is standing at the helm.)

Holm (in a whisper, to KNUTZON). Tjaelde knew what he was doing when he invited Jakobsen!

 

Knutzon (whispering). Just look at the boat!

 

Ring. Tjaelde is a very clever fellow--a very clever fellow! (VALBORG, SIGNE and MRS. TJAELDE are seen coming up the verandah steps.)

Tjaelde . Gentlemen, the moment of departure is at hand; I see the ladies coming to take leave of our distinguished guest. Let us take this last opportunity of gathering around him--round our prince-- and thanking him for coming! Let us cheer him with three times three! (Cheers.)
Lind. Thank you, gentlemen! There is so little time left that I must confine myself to merely bidding you all good-bye. (To MRS. TJAELDE.) Good-bye, my dear madam! You should have heard how your health was proposed and drunk just now. My warmest thanks for your hospitality, and forgive me for the trouble I have caused you. (To SIGNE.) Good-bye, Miss Signe. I am sorry time has not permitted me to have the honour of becoming better acquainted with you; you seem so full of spirit! But if, as you said, you are soon coming to Christiania--

Signe. I shall then do myself the honour of calling upon your wife.

 

Lind. Thank you, thank you--you will be most welcome. (To VALBORG.) Are you not feeling well, Miss Valborg?

 

Valborg. Yes.

 

Lind. You look so serious. (As VALBORG does not reply, he continues somewhat coldly:) Good-bye, Miss Valborg. (To HAMAR.) Good-bye, Mr.--Mr.--

 

Tjaelde. Mr. Hamar.

 

Lind. Ah, the young man that talked to me about a horse--your future son-in-law! Pray forgive me for not--

 

Hamar. Don't mention it!

 

Lind. Good-bye!

 

Hamar. A pleasant journey, sir!

 

Lind (coldly, to HOLM). Good-bye, Mr. Holm.

 

Holm (imperturbably polite). I wish you a very pleasant journey, Mr. Lind.

 

Lind (to PRAM). Good-bye, Mr. Pram.

 

Pram (holds his hand, and seems as if he wanted to say something but could not. At last he finds his voice). I want to thank you for--for--I want to thank you for--for--

 

Lind. You are an excellent fellow!

 

Pram (in a relieved voice). I am so glad to hear it! Thank you.

 

Lind (to KNUTZON). Good-bye, Mr.--

 

Knutzon (hastily). Knutzon. Pram. With a "z."

 

Lind (to KNUDSEN). Good-bye, Mr.--

 

Knudsen. Knudsen, again.

 

Pram. With an "s."

 

Lind (to FALBE). Mr--?

 

Falbe. Falbe.

 

Lind. Good-bye, Mr. Falbe! (To RING.) I am delighted to see you looking so well, Mr. Ring.

 

Ring (with a low bow). The same to you, sir!

 

Lind. Good-bye, Mr. Vicar!

 

The Vicar (holding his hand, impressively). Let me wish you good luck and happiness, Mr. Lind--

 

Lind. Thank you. (Tries to get away.)

 

The Vicar. --in your journey over the perilous seas to foreign lands!

 

Lind. Thank you. (Tries to get away.)

 

The Vicar. Let me wish you a safe return, Mr. Lind--

 

Lind. Thank you very much. (Tries to get away.)

 

The Vicar. --to our dear fatherland; a land, Mr. Lind, which possesses in you--

 

Lind. You must excuse me, Mr. Vicar, but time presses.

 

The Vicar. Let me thank you for the pleasure of our meeting to-day, Mr. Lind, for--

 

Lind. Indeed, there is no occasion! Good-bye! (To JAKOBSEN.) Good-bye, Jakobsen, good-bye!

 

Jakobsen. Good-bye, Mr. Lind! I am only a common man, I know; but that is no reason why I shouldn't wish you a pleasant journey too, is it?

Lind . Certainly not, Jakobsen.--Good-bye, Mr. Finne! By the way-- just a word! (In an undertone.) You said that Mr. Berent--. (Takes him aside.)
Tjaelde (to HAMAR). Now, remember the salute this time!--No, no, no! Don't be in such a hurry! Wait till the boat puts off! You want to make a mess of it again!

Hamar. Well, if ever again I--!

Tjaelde (to LIND, who holds out his hand to him). Goodbye, Mr. Lind! (In a low voice.) No one has so much reason to thank you for your visit as I. You are the only one that can understand--.

Lind (a shade coldly). Don't mention it, Mr. Tjaelde! Good luck to your business! (In warmer tones.) Good-bye everybody--and thank you all for your kindness! (The footman, who has for some time been holding out his hat to him, gives it him, and his coat to SANNAES. LIND steps on board the boat.)

All. Good-bye, Mr. Lind, good-bye!

Tjaelde . One cheer more! (Cheers and a cannon salute are heard together. The boat glides away. They all wave their handkerchiefs. TJAELDE hurries into the room.) I have no handkerchief; that blockhead has--. (Looks at VALBORG.) Why are you not waving?

Valborg . Because I don't wish to. (TJAELDE looks at her, but says nothing. He goes into the other room and comes back with a table-napkin in each hand, and hurries on to the verandah.)

Tjaelde (waving and shouting). Good-bye! Good-bye!

 

Signe. Let us go out to the point and see the last of them!

 

All. Yes, yes! (All but TJAELDE and VALBORG hurry off to the right.)

Tjaelde (coming into the room). I saw Berent coming! (VALBORG goes out by the door on the right. TJAELDE comes forward, throws the napkins on to a table and himself into a chair.) Oh--oh! But this must be the last time.--I shan't need this sort of thing any more! Never again! (Gets up wearily.) Ah, I had forgotten. Berent!

[The Curtain falls.]

 

[The interval between this scene and the next should be as short as possible.]

 

SCENE II

(SCENE.-TJAELDE'S private office. On the left, a desk strewn with ledgers and papers. On the right, a stove. An easy chair by the stove. A table in the foreground to the right; on it an inkstand and pens. Two armchairs; one at the table facing the audience, the other at the side of the table. Windows on either side of the desk; a door beyond the stove. A door in the background, leading to other offices. A bell-pull hangs down the wall. A chair on either side of the door. Quite at the back, on the left, a staircase leading direct to TJAELDE'S bedroom. BERENT and TJAELDE come in from the back.)

Tjaelde. You must excuse my receiving you here. But the other rooms are all upside down; we have had some people to dinner.

 

Berent. I heard you had guests.

 

Tjaelde. Yes, Mr. Lind from Christiana.

 

Berent. Quite so.

Tjaelde . Won't you sit down? (BERENT lays down his hat and coat on a chair by the door. He comes slowly forward, sits down at the side of the table, and takes some papers from his breast-pocket. TJAELDE sits down at the other chair by the table and watches him indifferently.)

Berent . What we now want is some fixed standard by which to make our valuations, especially of real estate. Have you any objection to our making your business a basis for arriving at that?

Tjaelde. None at all.

 

Berent. Then may I make my comments on your own figures, and ask you a few questions about them?

 

Tjaelde. By all means.

Berent . Well, to begin with, let us take your properties immediately round here; they will give us the best idea of local values. For instance, take the Mjölstad forest; you have put that down, I see, at £16,500.

Tjaelde (indifferently). Have I?

 

Berent. You bought it for £10,000.

 

Tjaelde. Yes, four years ago. Timber prices ruled low then.

 

Berent. And since then you have cut down more than £20,000 worth of timber there.

 

Tjaelde. Who told you so?

 

Berent. Mr. Holst.

 

Tjaelde. Holst knows nothing about it. Berent. We must try to be very accurate, you know.

 

Tjaelde. Well, of course, the whole valuation is not my concern; but those whom it does concern will protest.

 

Berent (taking no notice of his objection). So I think we will reduce the £16,500 to £10,000.

 

Tjaelde. To £10,000! (Laughs.) As you please.

 

Berent. Calculating by the same standard, we can scarcely put down the Stav forest at more than £4000.

 

Tjaelde. Allow me to say that, if that is the way you are going to make your valuation, everybody in the place will have to go bankrupt!

 

Berent (with a smile). We will risk that. You have put down your wharf and its contents at £12,000.

 

Tjaelde. Including two ships in course of construction--

 

Berent. --for which it would be difficult to find a purchaser, as they are so far from completion.

 

Tjaelde. Indeed?

 

Berent. So I think we cannot put down the wharf and its contents at a higher figure than £8,000--and I believe even that will turn out to be too high.

Tjaelde . If you can find me another wharf as well stocked, and with the advantages that this one has, I will buy it whenever you like for £8000; I am certain I should be more than £4000 to the good over the bargain.

Berent. May I go on?

 

Tjaelde. If you like! I even feel a certain curiosity to view my possessions under such an entirely new light.

Berent . As a matter of fact the items that are too highly valued are just those that comprise this property that you live on--its land, its gardens, its dwelling houses, warehouses, and quays-not to mention the brewery and the factory, which I shall come to later. Even regarded as business premises they seem to me to be over-valued.

Tjaelde. Well?

Berent , Moreover, the luxurious appointments of this house of yours, which would very probably be superfluous for any one else, cannot possibly be counted upon to realise their full value in a sale. Suppose--as is indeed most likely--that it were a countryman that bought the place?

Tjaelde. You are reckoning me as turned out of it already, then!

 

Berent. I am obliged to base all my calculations on what the property would fetch if sold now.

 

Tjaelde (getting up). What may you happen to value it at then?

 

Berent. At less than half your valuation; that is to say at--

Tjaelde . You must really forgive me if I use an expression which has been on the tip of my tongue for some time: this is scandalous! You force yourself into a man's house, and then, under pretext of asking for his opinion, you practically--on paper--rob him of his possessions!

Berent. I don't understand you. I am trying to arrive at a basis for values hereabouts; and you said yourself, did you not, that it is a matter that does not concern you alone?

Tjaelde . Certainly; but even in jest--if I may be allowed the expression--one does not take the statement that an honourable man has voluntarily offered and treat it as a mendacious document.

Berent. There are many different points of view from which valuations can be made, obviously. I see nothing more in it than that.

Tjaelde . But don't you understand that this is like cutting into my living flesh? Bit by bit, my property has been brought together or created by my own work, and preserved by the most strenuous exertions on my part under terribly trying conditions--it is bound up with my family, with all that is dear to me--it has become a part of my very life!

Berent (with a bow). I understand that perfectly. You have put down the Brewery at--

Tjaelde . No; I refuse to allow you to go on in this way. You must find some one else's property as a basis for your calculations-- you must consult some one else, whose idea of business corresponds somewhat closer to your own ridiculous one.

Berent (leaning back in his chair). That is a pity. The banks were anxious to be acquainted with your answers to my observations.

 

Tjaelde. Have you sent my statement to the banks?

 

Berent. With my remarks and comments on it, and Mr. Holst's. Tjaelde. This has been a trap, then? I believed I had to deal with a gentleman!

 

Berent. The banks or I, what is the difference? It comes to the same thing, as I represent them unreservedly.

 

Tjaelde. Such impudent audacity is unpardonable!

 

Berent. I would suggest that we avoid hard words--at all events, for the moment--and rather consider the effect that will be produced by the balance-sheet sent in.

 

Tjaelde. That some of us will see!

 

Berent. The banking house of Lind & Co., for instance?

 

Tjaelde. Do you mean to say that my balance-sheet, ornamented with marginal notes by you and Holst, is to be submitted to Mr. Lind's firm too?

 

Berent. When the cannon-salutes and noise of your festivities enlightened me as to the situation, I took the liberty of making some inquiries of the banks.

 

Tjaelde. So you have been spying here, too? You have been trying to undermine my business connections?

 

Berent. Is your position such, then, that you are afraid?

 

Tjaelde. The question is not my position, but your behaviour!

 

Berent. I think we had better keep to the point. You have put down the Brewery at--

Tjaelde . No; your conduct is so absolutely underhanded that, as an honest man, I must refuse all further dealing with you. I am, as I said before, accustomed to have to deal with gentlemen.

Berent . I think you misunderstand the situation. Your indebtedness to the banks is so considerable that a settlement of it may reasonably be required of you. But to effect that you must work with us in the matter.

Tjaelde (after a moment's thought). Very well! But, no more details--let me know your conclusions, briefly.

 

Berent. My conclusions, briefly, are that you have estimated your assets at £90,800. I estimate them at £40,600.

Tjaelde (quietly). That is to say, you make me out to have a deficit of about £30,000? Berent. As to that, I must point out that your estimate of your liabilities does not agree with mine, either.

Tjaelde (quietly). Oh, of course not!

 

Berent. For instance, the dividend that Möller's estate is to yield to you.

 

Tjaelde. No more details! What do you put my total liabilities at?

 

Berent. Let me see. Your total liabilities amount, according to your calculations, to £70,000. I estimate them at £80,000--to be precise, at £79,372.

 

Tjaelde. That puts my deficit at about--

 

Berent. At about £39,400--or, in round figures, £40,000.

 

Tjaelde. Oh, by all means let us stick to round figures!

Berent . So that the difference between your views of your balance-sheet and mine is that, whereas you give yourself a surplus of about £20,000, I give you a deficit of about £40,000.

Tjaelde. Thank you very much.--Do you know my opinion of the whole matter? (BERENT looks up at him.) That I am in this room with a madman.

Berent . I have had the same opinion for some time.--The stock of timber you hold in France I have not been able to deal with; you have forgotten to include it in your account. Perhaps it may make a little difference.

Tjaelde . It is of no consequence! I have often enough heard people speak of your callousness and your heartlessness; but their account of you has come nowhere near the truth. I don't know why I have not turned you out of my house long before this; but you will have the goodness to leave it now!

Berent. We shall both leave presently. But before we do, we must discuss the question of handing over the house to the Receiver in Bankruptcy.

Tjaelde . Ha, ha, ha! Allow me to inform you that at this very moment a sum is being telegraphed to me which will be sufficient not only to cover my present liabilities, but to set me straight in every direction!

Berent. The telegraph is a useful invention which is open to every one.

Tjaelde (after a moment's thought). What do you mean by that? Berent. One effect of the noise of your festivities was that I used the telegraph also. Mr. Lind will receive, on board the boat, a telegram from his firm--and I doubt if the money you speak of will be forthcoming.

Tjaelde. It is not true! You have not dared to do that!

 

Berent. The facts are exactly as I state.

 

Tjaelde. Give me my balance-sheet; let me look at it again. (Stretches out his hand to take it.)

 

Berent (taking it up). Excuse me!

 

Tjaelde. Do you presume to keep back my own balance-sheet in my own writing?

 

Berent. Yes, and even to put it in my pocket. (Does so.) A fraudulent balance-sheet, dated and signed, is a document of some importance.

 

Tjaelde. You are determined to ruin my private and public reputation?

Berent . You have been working for that yourself for a long time. I know your position. For a month past I have been in correspondence with all the quarters in which you have business connections, both here any I abroad.

Tjaelde . What underhanded deceitfulness an honest man is exposed to! Here have I been surrounded by spies for the last month! A plot between my business acquaintances and the banks! A snake creeping into my house and crawling over my accounts! But I will break up the conspiracy! And you will find out what it mean, to try and ruin a reputable firm by underhand devices!

Berent. This is no time for fine phrases. Do you propose to surrender your property at once?

 

Tjaelde. Ha, ha! I am to surrender it because you have made me out a bankrupt on your bit of paper!

Berent . You might conceal the facts for a month, I know. But for your own sake, and especially for the sake of others, I would urgently advise you to end the matter at once. That was the reason of my journey here.

Tjaelde . Ah, now the truth is out! And you came here pretending a friendly concern that the tangle should be straightened out! We were to distinguish between the sound and unsound firms, and you requested me, most politely, to give you my assistance in the matter!
Berent. Exactly. But there is no question of anything unsound here except your own business and what is bound up with it.

Tjaelde (when he has controlled himself). So you came into my house with the hidden design of ruining me?

 

Berent. I must repeat that it is not I that am responsible for your bankruptcy; it is yourself.

Tjaelde . And I must repeat that my bankruptcy only exists in your imagination! Much may happen in a month; and I have shown that I can find a way out of difficulties before now!

Berent. That is to say, by involving yourself deeper and deeper in falsehood.

Tjaelde . Only a man of business can understand such things. But, if you really understand them, I would say to you: "Give me £20,000 and I will save the situation entirely." That would be doing something worthy of your great powers; that would give you a reputation for penetration in discerning the real state of affairs; because by so doing you would safeguard the welfare of more than a thousand people, and ensure a prosperous future for the whole district!

Berent. I don't rise to that bait.

Tjaelde (after a moment's reflection). Do you want me to explain to you how £20,000 would be sufficient to set the whole complicated situation straight? Within three months remittances would be coming in. I can make it its clear as daylight to you--

Berent. --that you would be falling from one disillusionment to another! That is what you have been doing for the last three years, from month to month.

 

Tjaelde. Because the last three years have been bad years--horrible years! But we have reached the crisis; things must begin to improve now!

 

Berent. That is what every defaulter thinks.

 

Tjaelde. Do not drive me to despair! Have you any idea what I have gone through in these three years? Have you any idea what I am capable of?

 

Berent. Of still further falsehood.

Tjaelde . Take care!--It is quite true that I am standing on the edge of a precipice. It is true that for three years I have done everything in mortal power to save the situation! I maintain that there has been something heroic in the fight I have made. And that deserves some reward. You have unrestricted powers; every one trusts you. Realise for yourself what your mission is; do not let it be necessary for me to teach it you! Let me tell you this, emphatically: it will be a dreadful thing for you if hundreds of people are to be ruined unnecessarily now!

Berent. Let us make an end of this.

 

Tjaelde. No, devil take me if I give up a fight like this with a senseless surrender!

 

Berent. How do you propose to end it, then?

Tjaelde . There is no issue to it that I have not turned over in my thoughts--thousands of times. I know what I shall do! I won't be a mark for the jeers of this wretched little town, nor triumphed over by those who have envied me all round the countryside!

Berent. What will you do, then?

 

Tjaelde. You shall see! (Speaking more and more excitedly.) You won't help me under any conditions?

 

Berent. No.

 

Tjaelde. You insist that I shall surrender my estate, here and now?

 

Berent. Yes.

 

Tjaelde. Hell and damnation! You dare do that?

 

Berent. Yes.

Tjaelde (his agitation robbing him of his voice, which all at once sinks to a hoarse whisper). You have never known what despair is!-- You don't know what an existence I have endured!-But if the decisive moment has come, and I have a man here in my office who _ought_ to save me but will not, then that man shall share what is in store for me.

Berent (leaning back in his chair). This is beginning to be impressive.

Tjaelde . No more jesting; you might regret it! (Goes to all the doors and locks them with a key which he takes out of his pocket; then unlocks his desk, and takes a revolver out of it.) How long do you suppose I have had this in here?

Berent. Since you bought it, I suppose.

Tjaelde . And why do you suppose I bought it?--Do you suppose that after I have been master of this town and the biggest man in the district, I would endure the disgrace of bankruptcy?

Berent . You have been enduring it for a long time. Tjaelde. It is in your power now either to ruin me or to wave me. You have behaved in such a way that you deserve no mercy--and you shall have none! Report to the banks that they may give me the use of £14,000 for a year--I need no more than that--and I will save the situation for good and all. Think seriously, now! Remember my family, remember how long my firm has been established, remember the numbers that would be ruined if I were! And do not forget to think of your own family! Because, if you don't agree to what I ask, neither of us shall leave this room alive!

Berent (pointing to the revolver). Is it loaded?

 

Tjaelde (putting his finger on the trigger). You will find that out in good time. You must answer me now!

 

Berent. I have a suggestion to make. Shoot yourself first and me afterwards.

 

Tjaelde (going up to him and holding the revolver to his head). I will soon quiet your pretty wit.

Berent (getting up, and taking out of his pocket a paper which he unfolds). This is a formal surrender of your estate to the Receiver in Bankruptcy. If you sign it, you will be doing your duty to your creditors, to your family, and to yourself. Shooting yourself and me would only be adding an acted lie to all your others. Put away your revolver and take up your pen!

Tjaelde. Never! I had resolved on this long ago. But you shall keep me company, now!

 

Berent. Do what you please. But you cannot threaten me into a falsehood.

 

Tjaelde (who has lowered the revolver, takes a step back, raises the revolver and aims at BERENT). Very well!

Berent (walking up to TJAELDE and looking him straight in the eyes, while the latter reluctantly lowers the revolver). Do you suppose I don't know that a man who has for so long shivered with falsehood and terror in his inmost heart has lots of schemes but no courage? You dare not do it!

Tjaelde (furiously). I will show you! (Steps back and raises the revolver again.)

Berent (following him). Shoot, and you will hear a report--that is what you are longing for, I suppose! Or, give up your plan of shooting, think of what you have done, confess, and afterwards hold your tongue!

Tjaelde. No; may the devil take both you and me--

 

Berent. And the horse? Tjaelde. The horse?

Berent . I mean the magnificent charger on which you came galloping home from the sale of Möller's estate. You had better let some one shoot you on horseback--on what was your last and greatest piece of business duplicity! (Goes nearer to him and speaks more quietly.) Or--strip yourself of the tissue of lies which enfolds you, and your bankruptcy will bring you more blessing than your riches have ever done. (TJAELDE lets the revolver drop out of his hand, and sinks into a chair in an outburst of tears. There is silence for a moment.) You have made an amazing fight of it for these last three years. I do not believe I know any one who could have done what you have done. But you have lost the fight this time. Do not shrink now from a final settlement and the pain that it must cost you. Nothing else will cleanse your soul for you.

Tjaelde (weeping unrestrainedly, with his face buried in his hands). Oh, oh!

Berent . You have blamed me for my method of proceeding in the matter. My answer to that is that I forgive you for yours. (A pause.) Try now to look the situation in the face, and take it like a man.

Tjaelde (as before). Oh!

 

Berent. At the bottom of your heart you must be weary of it all; make an end of it all now!

 

Tjaelde (as before). Oh!

Berent (sitting down beside him, after a moment's pause). Wouldn't you like to feel your conscience clear again--to be able really to live with your wife and children? Because I am sure you have not done that for many a day.

Tjaelde (as before). Oh!

Berent. I have known many speculators in my time and have received many confessions. So I know what you have been robbed of for three years--never a good night's rest, never a meal eaten with a light heart. You have scarcely been conscious of what your children were doing or saying, except when accident brought you together. And your wife--

Tjaelde. My wife!

 

Berent. Yes, she has slaved hard enough to prepare these banquets that were to conceal the nakedness of the land. Indeed, she has been the hardest worked servant in your house.

 

Tjaelde. My patient, good wife!

 

Berent. I feel certain you would rather be the humblest labourer earning your daily bread than live through such suffering again.

 

Tjaelde. A thousand times rather!

 

Berent. Then can you hesitate to do what will give every man his due, and bring you back to truthfulness again? Take the paper and sign it!

Tjaelde (falling on his knees). Mercy, mercy! You do not know what you are asking me. My own children will curse me. I have just heard of a child doing that to her father! And my business friends, who will be ruined with me--numbers of them--think of their families! Oh! What is to become of my work-people? Do you know there are more than four hundred of them? Think of them and their families, robbed of their livelihood!--Be merciful! I cannot, I dare not, do it! Save me, help me! It was horrible of me to try and threaten you; but now I implore you, for the sake of all those that deserve more than I, but to whom I shall devote the rest of my life in loyal work!

Berent. I cannot save you, least of all with money that belongs to others. What you ask me to do would be disloyalty to them.

Tjaelde . No, no! Publish my accounts openly--put me under trustees, if you like; but let me go on with the scheme that I believe will succeed! Every clear-headed man will see that it must succeed!

Berent. Come and sit down. Let us discuss it. (TJAELDE sits down.) Isn't what you are now proposing exactly what you have been trying to do for the last three years? You _have_ been able to borrow the means; but what good has it done?

Tjaelde. Times have been so bad!

Berent (shaking his head). You have mixed up falsehood and truth for so long that you have forgotten the simplest laws of commerce. To speculate during bad times, on the chance of their becoming better, is all very well for those who can afford it. Others must leave such things alone.

Tjaelde. But it is to the advantage of my creditors themselves, and of the banks too, that my estate should hold together!

 

Berent. It is of no advantage to sound firms to prop up unsound ones.

 

Tjaelde. But, surely, to avoid losing their capital--?

 

Berent, Oh, perhaps in the Receiver's hands the estate may--

 

Tjaelde (hopefully, half rising from his chair). Yes? Well?

 

Berent. But not till you have been removed from the control of it.

Tjaelde (sinking down again). Not till I have been removed from the control of it! Berent. On its own resources I dare say the estate can hold out until better times come, but not on borrowed money.

Tjaelde. Not on borrowed money--

 

Berent. You understand the difference, of course?

 

Tjaelde. Oh, yes.

 

Berent. Good. Then you must understand that there is nothing left for you to do but to sign this.

 

Tjaelde. Nothing left but to sign--

 

Berent. Here is the paper. Come, now!

 

Tjaelde (rousing himself). Oh, I cannot, I cannot!

 

Berent. Very well. But in that case the crash will come of itself in a short time, and everything will be worse than it is now.

 

Tjaelde (falling on his knees).Mercy, mercy! I cannot let go of all hope! Think, after a fight like mine!

 

Berent. Tell the truth and say: "I haven't the courage to face the consequences."

 

Tjaelde. Yes, that is the truth.

 

Berent. "I haven't the courage to begin an honest life."

 

Tjaelde. Yes.

 

Berent. You don't know what you are saying, man!

 

Tjaelde. No, I don't. But spare me!

 

Berent (getting up). This is nothing but despair! I am sorry for you.

 

Tjaelde (getting up). Yes, surely you must be? Try me! Ask me to do anything you like! Tell me what you--

 

Berent. No, no! Before anything else, you must sign this.

Tjaelde (sinking back into his chair). Oh!--How shall I ever dare to look any one in the face again?--I, who, have defied everything and deceived every one!
Berent. The man who has enjoyed the respect which he did not deserve must some day undergo the humiliation which he has deserved. That is a law; and I cannot save you from that.

Tjaelde. But they will be crueller to me than to any one else! I deserve it, I know; but I shall not be able to endure it!

 

Berent. Hm! You are remarkably tough; your fight, these last three years, proves that.

 

Tjaelde. Be merciful! Surely your ingenuity--your influence--_must_ be able to find some way out for me?

 

Berent. Yes. The way out is for you to sign this.

 

Tjaelde. Won't you even take it over from me by private contract? If you did that, everything would come right.

 

Berent. Sign! Here is the paper! Every hour is precious.

 

Tjaelde. Oh! (Takes up a pen; but turns to BERENT with a gesture of supplication.) Daren't you test me, after what I have just gone through?

Berent . Yes, when you have signed. (TJAELDE signs the paper, and sinks back in his chair with an expression of the keenest anguish. BERENT takes the paper, folds it, and puts it in his pocket-book.) Now I will go to the Bankruptcy Court with this, and afterwards to the telegraph office. Probably the officials of the court will come this evening to make their inventory. So you ought to warn your family.

Tjaelde. How shall I be able to do that? Give me a little time! Be merciful!

 

Berent. The sooner the better for you--not to speak of the interests of all concerned. Well, I have finished for the present.

 

Tjaelde. Don't desert me like this! Don't desert me!

 

Berent. You would like your wife to come to you, wouldn't you?

 

Tjaelde (resignedly). Yes.

Berent (taking up the revolver). And this--I will not take it with me. There is no danger from it now. But I will put it in the desk, for the sake of the others. Now, if you or yours should need me, send word to me.

Tjaelde . Thank you. Berent. I shall not leave the town until the worst is over.-- Remember, night or day, if you need me, send word to me.

Tjaelde. Thank you.

 

Berent. And now will you unlock the door for me?

 

Tjaelde (getting up). Ah, of course. Excuse me!

 

Berent (taking his hat and coat). Won't you call your wife now?

 

Tjaelde. No. I must have a little time first. I have the worst part of it before me now.

 

Berent. I believe you have, and that is just why--. (Takes hold of the bell-pull and rings the bell.)

 

Tjaelde. What are you doing?

 

Berent. I want, before I go, to be sure of your wife's coming to you.

 

Tjaelde. You should not have done that! (An office-boy comes in. BERENT looks at TJAELDE.) Ask your mistress--ask my wife to come to me.

 

Berent. At once, please. (The boy goes out.) Good-bye! (Goes out. TJAELDE sinks down on to a chair by the door.)

 

[The Curtain falls.]

ACT III

(SCENE.-The same as in the preceding act. TJAELDE is sitting alone, on the chair by the door, in the position he was in when the curtain fell on the last act. After sitting motionless for a considerable time, he suddenly gets up.)

Tjaelde . How am I to begin? After her, there are the children; after them, all my workpeople--and then all the others! If only I could get away! But the Receiver's men will be here.--I must have some air! (Goes to the nearest window.) What a beautiful day!--but not for me. (Opens the window and looks out.) My horse! No, I daren't look at it. Why is it saddled? Oh, of course I meant, after my talk with Berent, to--. But now everything is different! (Walks up and down once or twice, thinking; then says suddenly:) Yes, on that horse I might reach the outer harbour before the foreign boat sails! (Looks at his watch.) I can do it! And I shall be able to put behind me all--. (Stops, with a start, as he hears footsteps on the stair.) Who is there? What is it? (MRS. TJAELDE comes down the stair into the room.)

Mrs. Tjaelde. You sent for me? Tjaelde. Yes. (Watching her.) Were you upstairs?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, I was resting.

 

Tjaelde (sympathetically). Ah, you were sleeping, and I woke you up!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. No, I was not asleep. (She has come slowly forward.)

 

Tjaelde. You weren't asleep? (Apprehensively, to her.) I suppose you didn't--? (To himself.) No, I daren't ask her.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. What did you want?

 

Tjaelde. I wanted--. (Sees her eyes fixed on the revolver.) You are surprised at my having that out? I got it out because I am going on a journey.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde (supporting herself on the desk). Going on a journey?

 

Tjaelde. Yes. Mr. Berent has been here, as I dare say you know. (She does not answer.) Business, you know. I have to go abroad.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde (faintly). Abroad?

 

Tjaelde. Only for a few days. So I will only take my usual bag with a change of clothes and one or two shirts; but I must have it at once.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. I don't think your bag has been unpacked since you brought it home today.

 

Tjaelde. So much the better. Will you get it for me?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Are you going away now--at once?

 

Tjaelde. Yes, by the foreign boat--from the outer harbour.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. You have no time to lose, then.

 

Tjaelde. Are you not well?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Not very.

 

Tiwlde. One of your attacks?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes!--but I must fetch your bag. (TJAELDE helps her over to the staircase.)

 

Tjaelde. You are not well, my dear--but you will be better some day.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. I only wish you looked better.

 

Tjaelde. We all have our burdens to bear.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. If only we could bear more together!

 

Tjaelde. But you don't understand my affairs--and I have never had time to talk about yours.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. No--that's it. (Begins to go upstairs slowly.)

 

Tjaelde. Shall I help you?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. No, thank you, dear.

Tjaelde (coming forward). Does she suspect? She is always like that--she takes all my courage away from me. But there is no other way! Now--about money? I surely have some gold here somewhere. (Goes to his desk, takes some gold out of a drawer and counts it; then lifts his head and sees MRS. TJAELDE who has sat down on the stair halfway up.) My dear, are you sitting down?

Mrs. Tjaelde. I felt faint for a moment. I will go up now. (Gets up and climbs the stair slowly.)

Tjaelde . Poor thing, she is worn out. (Pulls himself together.) No-- five, six, eight, ten-that is not enough. I must have some more. (Searches in the desk.) And when I run short I have my watch and chain. Twenty, twenty-four--that is all I can find. Ah, my papers! I must on no account forget them. The ground is falling away under me! Isn't she coming back? The bag was packed, surely?-- Ah, how all this will make her suffer! But it will not be so bad for her if I am away. People will be more merciful, both to her and the children. Oh, my children! (Collects himself.) Only let me get away, away! Thoughts will follow me there, all the same!--Ah, here she is! (MRS. TJAELDE is seen coming down slowly, with a bag which is evidently, heavy.) Shall I help you, dear?

Mrs. Tjaelde. Thanks, will you take hold of the bag?

 

Tjaelde (takes it; she comes slowly down). It is heavier than it was this morning.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Is it?

Tjaelde. I have some papers to put in it. (Opens the bag.) But, my dear, there is money in this bag.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes--some gold that you have given me at odd times. I thought it might be useful to you now.

Tjaelde. There is a large sum.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. I don't believe you even know how much you have given me.

 

Tjaelde. She knows everything!--My dear! (Opens his arms.)

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Henning! (They both burst into tears and fall into each other's arms. MRS. TJAELDE whispers to him:) Shall I call the children?

Tjaelde (in a whisper). No, say nothing--till later! (They embrace again. He takes up the bag.) Go to the window, so that I can see you when I mount. (Shuts the bag and hurries to the door, but stops.) My dear!

Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes?

 

Tjaelde. Forgive me!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Everything! (TJAELDE, as he is hurrying out, meets in the doorway an office-boy who is bringing him a letter. TJAELDE takes it, and the boy goes out.)

Tjaelde . From Berent! (Opens the letter, stands in the doorway and reads it; then comes back into the room, with his bag in his hand, and reads it again.) "When I left your house, I saw a horse standing saddled at your door. To prevent misunderstanding, let me inform you that your house is watched by the police."

Mrs. Tjaelde (supporting herself on the desk). You can't go?

 

Tjaelde. No. (A pause. He puts down the bag and wipes his forehead.)

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Henning, shall we pray together?

 

Tjaelde. What do you mean?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Pray--pray to God to help us? (Bursts into tears. TJAELDE is silent. She falls on her knees.) Come, Henning! You see that all human ingenuity is of no avail!

 

Tjaelde. I know that, only too well.

Mrs. Tjaelde . Well, try once, in this hour of our greatest need! (TJAELDE appears to be struggling with his emotion.) You never would! You have never confided in us, or in your God!--never opened your heart to any one!

Tjaelde . Be quiet! Mrs. Tjaelde. But what you concealed by day, you used to talk of in the night. We mortals must talk, you know! But I have lain awake and listened to your distress. Now you know why I am no longer good for anything. No sleep at night, and none of your confidence in the daytime. I have suffered even more than you. (TJAELDE throws himself into a chair. She goes to him.) You wanted to run away. When we are afraid of our fellow-men, we have only Him to turn to. Do you think I should be alive now, if it were not for Him?

Tjaelde. I have thrown myself imploringly at His feet, but always in vain!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Henning, Henning!

 

Tjaelde. Why did He not bless my work and the fight I was making? It is all one now.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Ah, there is more to come.

 

Tjaelde (getting up). Yes, the worst is before us now--

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. --because it is in our own hearts! (A pause. VALBORG appears coming down the stair, but stops at the sight of the others.) What do you want, dear?

 

Valborg (with suppressed emotion). From my room I can see the police watching the house. Are the Receiver's men coming now?

Mrs. Tjaelde (sitting down). Yes, my child. After a terrible struggle--how terrible, his God and I alone know--your father has just sent in his declaration of bankruptcy. (VALBORG takes a step or two forward, then stands still. A pause.)

Tjaelde (unable to control himself). Now I suppose you will say to me just what Möller's daughter said to him!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde (getting up). You won't do that, Valborg!--God alone can judge him.

 

Tjaelde. Tell me how cruelly I have wronged you! Tell me that you will never be able to forgive me--(breaking down)--that I have lost your respect and your love for ever!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Oh, my child!

 

Tjaelde. That your anger and your shame know no bounds!

Valborg . Oh, father, father! (Goes out by the door at the back. TJAELDE tries to cross the room, as if to follow her, but can only stagger as far as the staircase, to which he clings for support. MRS. TJAELDE sinks back into her chair. There is a long pause. Suddenly JAKOBSEN cones in from the outer once, dressed as before except that he has changed his coat. TJAELDE is not aware of his entrance until JAKOBSEN is close to him; then he stretches out his hands to him as if in entreaty, but JAKOBSEN goes right up to him and speaks in a voice choked with rage.)

Jakobsen. You scoundrel! (TJAELDE recoils.)

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Jakobsen! Jakobsen!

 

Jakobsen (without heeding her). The Receiver's men are here. The books and papers at the Brewery have been seized. Work is at a standstill--and the same thing at the factory.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. My God!

 

Jakobsen. And I had made myself responsible for twice as much as I possessed! (He speaks low, but his voice vibrates with anger and emotion.)

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Dear Jakobsen!

Jakobsen (turning to her). Didn't I say to him, every time he told me to sign, "But I don't possess as much as that! It's not right!"-- But he used to answer, "It is only a matter of form, Jakobsen." "Yes, but not an honourable form," I used to say. "It is a matter of form in business," he would say; "all business folk do it." And all I knew of business, I had learnt from him; so I trusted him. (With emotion.) And he made me do it time after time. And now I owe more than I shall ever be able to pay, all my life. I shall live and die a dishonoured man. What have you to say to that, Mrs. Tjaelde? (She does not answer him. He turns angrily upon TJAELDE.) Do you hear? Even she can find nothing to say!-- Scoundrel!

Mrs. Tjaelde. Jakobsen!

Jakobsen (in a voice broken with emotion). I have nothing but the deepest respect for you, Mrs. Tjaelde. But, you see, he has made me swindle other people! In his name I shall have ruined numbers of them. They trusted me, you see; just as I trusted him. I used to tell them that he was a benefactor to the whole countryside, and that therefore they ought to help him in these hard times. And now there will be many an honest family robbed of house and home by our treachery. And that is what he has brought me to! What heartless cruelty! (To TJAELDE.) I can tell I feel inclined to--. (Takes a threatening step towards him.)

Mrs. Tjaelde (getting up). For my sake, Jakobsen!

Jakobsen (restraining himself). Yes, for your sake, ma'am; because I have the deepest respect for you. But how am I to face all those poor creatures that I have ruined? It will do them no good to explain to them how it has happened; that won't help them to get their daily bread! How shall I face my own wife! (With emotion.) She has had such faith in me, and in those I trusted. And my children, too? It is very hard on children, because they hear so much talk in the street. It won't be long before they hear what sort of a father they have got; and they will hear it from the children of the men I have ruined.

Mrs. Tjaelde. As you feel how hard it is yourself, that should make you willing to spare others. Be merciful!

Jakobsen . I have the deepest respect for you; but it is hard that in my home we should never again be able to eat a crust that we can properly call our own--for I owe more than I can ever live to repay! That is hard, Mrs. Tjaelde! What will become of my evenings with my children now?--of our Sundays together? No, I mean that he shall hear the truth from me. (Turns upon TJAELDE.) You scoundrel! You shan't escape me! (TJAELDE shrinks back in terror and tries to reach the office door, but at that moment the RECEIVER comes in, followed by two of his clerks and SANNAES. TJAELDE crosses the room, staggers to his desk, and leans upon it with his back turned to the newcomers.)

The Receiver (coming up behind Tjaelde). Excuse me! May I have your books and papers? (TJAELDE gives a start, moves away to the stove, and supports himself on it.)

 

Jakobsen (in a whisper, standing over him). Scoundrel! (TJAELDE moves away from him and sits down on a chair by the door, hiding his face in his hands.)

Mrs. Tjaelde (getting up and whispering to JAKOBSEN), Jakobsen! Jakobsen! (He comes towards her.) He has never deliberately cheated any one! He has never been what you say, and never will be! (Sits down again.)

Jakobsen . I have the deepest respect for _you_, Mrs. Tjaelde. But if _he_ is not a liar and swindler, there is no truth in anything! (Bursts into tears. MRS. TJAELDE hides her face in her hands as she leans back in her chair. A short silence. Then a confused noise of voices is heard without. The RECEIVER and his men stop their work of sorting and inventorying papers, and all look up.)

Mrs. Tjaelde (apprehensively). What is that? (SANNAES and the RECEIVER go to one window, and JAKOBSEN to another.)

Jakobsen. It's the hands from the quay and the brewery and the factory and the warehouse. All work is stopped until further orders; but this is pay-day--and there is no pay for them! (The others resume their work.)

Tjaelde (coming forward despairingly). I had forgotten that!

 

Jakobsen (going up to him). Well, go out and face them, and they will let you know what you are!

 

Tjaelde (in a low voice, as he takes up his saddle-bag). Here is money, but it is all in gold. Go into the town and get it changed, and pay them!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, do, Jakobsen!

Jakobsen (in lower tones). If _you_ ask me to, ma'am, I--So there is money in this bag? (Opens it.) And all done up in rolls. He meant to bolt, then!--and with the money his people had lent him. And yet you say he is not a scoundrel! (TJAELDE gives a groan. The noise of voices without grows louder.)

Mrs. Tjaelde (in a low voice). Be quick, or we shall have them in here.

 

Jakobsen. I will go.

 

The Receiver (interposing). Excuse me, but nothing must be taken away from here until it has been examined and inventoried.

 

Jakobsen. It is pay-day, and this is the money for the wages.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Jakobsen is responsible for it, and will account for it.

 

The Receiver. Oh, that alters the case. Mr. Jakobsen is a man of integrity. (Goes back to his work.)

Jakobsen (to MRS. TJAELDE, in a low voice full of emotion). Did you hear that, Mrs. Tjaelde? He called me a man of integrity--and very soon not a single soul will call me that! (Goes out past TJAELDE to whom he whispers as he passes:) Scoundrel! I shall come back again!

The Receiver (going up to TJAELDE). Excuse me, but I must ask you for the keys of your private rooms and cupboards.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde (answering for her husband). My housekeeper shall go with you. Sannaes, here is the key of the cupboard. (SANNAES takes it from her.)

The Receiver (looking at TJAELDE'S massive watch-chain). Whatever article of dress can be called a necessary, we have nothing to do with; but if it happens that it comrises jewellery of any great value--. (TJAELDE begins to take off the watch-chain.) No, no; keep it on. But it will have to be included in the inventory.

Tjaelde. I don't wish to keep it.

The Receiver . As you please. (Signs to one of his clerks to take it.) Good-day! (Meanwhile SIGNE and HAMAR have appeared at the door of the outer office, and have seen what passed. The RECEIVER, SANNAES, and the clerks try to open the door on the right, but find it locked.) This door is locked.

Tjaelde (as if waking from a dream). Ah, of course! (Goes to the door and unlocks it.) Signe (rushing to MRS. TJAELDE and falling on her knees beside her). Mother!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, dear, the day of our trial has come! And I am afraid--afraid that it may find us all too weak.

 

Signe. Mother, what is to become of us?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. We are in God's hands.

 

Signe. I will go with Hamar to his aunt's. We will go at once.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. It is possible that his aunt may not be willing to have you now.

 

Signe. Aunt Ulla! What do you mean?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. I mean that you have been the rich man's daughter; and you do not know what the world is.

 

Signe. Hamar, do you think Aunt Ulla would refuse to have me?

 

Hamar (after a moment's thought). I don't know.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. You hear that, my child. In the next few hours you will learn more than you have learnt in all your life.

 

Signe (in a horrified whisper). Do you mean that even--?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Hush! (SIGNE hides her face in her mother's lap. A loud burst of laughter is heard outside.)

Hamar (going to the nearest window). What is that? (SANNAES comes in through the right-hand door and goes to the other window. TJAELDE, SIGNE and MRS. TJAELDE get up.) The bay horse! They have got hold of it.

Sannaes. They have led it up the steps, and are pretending to sell it by auction.

 

Hamar. They are ill-treating it! (SANNAES runs out. HAMAR snatches up the revolver from the desk and looks to see if it is loaded.) I will--!

 

Signe. What are you going to do? (As he starts to go out, she clings to him and prevents him.)

 

Hamar. Let me go!

 

Signe. Tell me first what you are going to do! Do you mean to go out among all those men--alone?

 

Hamar. Yes.

 

Signe (throwing her arms round him). You shan't go!

 

Hamar. Take care, this is loaded!

 

Signe. What are you going to do with it?

Hamar (in a determined voice, as he shakes himself free of her). Put a bullet into the poor beast! It is too good for that crew. It shan't be put up for auction, either in joke or in earnest! (Goes to the farther window.) I shall get a better aim from here.

Signe (following him, with a cry). You will hit some one!

 

Hamar. No, I can aim too well for that. (Takes aim.)

 

Signe. Father! If they hear a shot from here now--

 

Tjaelde (starting up). The house belongs to my creditors now--and the revolver too!

Hamar . No, I am past taking orders from you now! (TJAELDE snatches at the revolver, which goes off. SIGNE screams and rushes to her mother. Outside, but this time immediately below the window, two cries are heard: "They are shooting at us! They are shooting at us!" Then the noise of breaking glass is heard, and stones fly in through the windows, followed by shouts and ribald laughter. VALBORG, who has rushed in from the outer office, stands in front of her father to protect him, her face turned to the window. A voice is heard: "Follow me, my lads!")

Hamar (pointing the revolver at the window). Yes, just you try it!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde and Signe. They are coming in here!

 

Valborg. You shan't shoot! (Stands between him and the window.)

Tjaelde . It is Sannaes with the police! (Cries of "Get back, there!" are heard; then a renewed uproar and a loud voice gradually dominating it; until at last the noise gradually lessens and ceases.)

Mrs. Tjaelde . Thank God! We were in great danger. (Sinks into a chair. A pause.) Henning, where are you? (TJAELDE comes up behind her, and strokes her head with his hand, but turns away immediately to hide his deep emotion. A pause.)

Signe (on her knees by her mother's side). But won't they come back? Hadn't we better go away from here?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Where to?

 

Signe (despairingly). What is to become of us?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. What God wills. (A pause. Meanwhile HAMAR, unobserved, has laid down the revolver on a chair and slipped out of the room by the door at the back.)

 

Valborg (softly). Signe, look! (SIGNE gets up, looks round the room, and gives a little cry.)

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. What is it?

 

Signe. I knew he would!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde (apprehensively). What is it?

 

Valborg. Every rich family has its tame lieutenant--and ours has just left us. That's all.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde (getting up). Signe, my child!

 

Signe (throwing herself into her arms). Mother!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. There will be no more pretence now. Do not let us regret it!

 

Signe (in tears). Mother, mother!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Things are better as they are. Do you hear, dear? Don't cry!

 

Signe. I am not crying! but I feel so ashamed--oh, so ashamed!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. It is I that ought to feel ashamed for never having had the courage to put a stop to what I saw was folly.

 

Signe (as before). Mother!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Soon there will be no one else left to desert us; and we shall have nothing left that any one can rob us of, either.

 

Valborg (comes forward evidently labouring under great emotion). Yes, there is, mother; _I_ mean to desert you.

 

Signe. You, Valborg? Desert us? You?

 

Valborg. Our home is going to be broken up, anyway. Each of us ought to shift for herself.

Signe . But what am I to do? I don't know how to do anything. Mrs. Tjaelde (who has sunk back into her chair). What a bad mother I must have been, not to be able to keep my children together now!

Valborg (impetuously). You know we cannot stay together now! You know we cannot put up with living on the charity of our creditors; we have done that too long!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Hush, remember your father is in the room. (A pause.) What do you want to do, Valborg?

 

Valborg (after she has regained her self-control, quietly). I want to go into Mr. Holst's office, and learn commercial work--and keep myself.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. You don't know what you are undertaking.

 

Valborg. But I know what I am leaving.

 

Signe. And I shall only be a burden to you, mother, because I can't do anything--

 

Valborg. You can! Go out and earn a living; even if it is only as a servant, what does that matter? Don't live on our creditors--not for a day, not for an hour!

 

Signe. And what is to become of mother, then?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Your mother will stay with your father.

 

Signe. But all alone? You, who are so ill?

Mrs. Tjaelde . No, not alone! Your father and I will be together. (TJAELDE comes forward, kisses the hand she has stretched out to him, and falls on his knees by her chair, burying his face in her lap. She strokes his hair gently.) Forgive your father, children. That is the finest thing you can do. (TJAELDE gets up again and goes back to the other end of the room. A messenger comes in with a letter.)

Signe (turning round anxiously). It is a letter from him! I can't stand any more! I won't have it! (The messenger hands the letter to TJAELDE.)

 

Tjaelde. I accept no more letters.

 

Valborg (looking at the letter). It is from Sannaes?

 

Tjaelde. He, too!

Mrs. Tjaelde . Take it and read it, Valborg. Let us get it all over at once. (VALBORG takes the letter from the messenger, who goes out. She opens the letter, looks at it, and then reads it with emotion.) "Sir,--I have owed you everything since I entered your employment as a boy. Therefore do not take what I am going to say amiss. You know that about eight years ago I came into a little legacy. I have used the money to some advantage, having especially looked out for such investments as would not be affected by the uncertainties of high finance. The total sum, which now amounts to about £1400, I beg to offer to you as a token of respectful gratitude; because, in the end, I owe it to you that I have been able to make it that sum. Besides, you will be able to make many times better use of it than I could. If you need me, my dearest wish is to remain with you in the future. Forgive me for having seized just this moment for doing this; I could not do otherwise.-- Your obedient servant, J. SANNAES." (While VALBORG has been reading, TJAELDE has come gradually forward, and is now standing beside his wife.)

Mrs. Tjaelde . Though out of all those you have helped, Henning, only one comes to your aid at a time like this, you must feel that you have your reward. (TJAELDE nods, and goes to the back of the room again.) And you, children--do you see how loyally this man, a stranger, is standing by your father? (A pause. SIGNE stands by the desk, crying. TJAELDE walks up and down uneasily at the back of the room once or twice, then goes up the staircase.)

Valborg. I should like to speak to Sannaes.

Mrs. Tjaelde . Yes, do, dear! I couldn't, just now; and I am sure your father couldn't either. You speak to him! (Gets up.) Come, Signe, you and I must have a talk; you must open your heart to me now.--Ah, when have we ever had a real talk together? (SIGNE goes to her.) Where is your father?

Valborg. He went upstairs.

Mrs. Tjaelde (leaning on SIGNE's arm). So he did. I am sure he must be longing to rest-although he won't find it easy to do that. It has been a terrible day; but surely God will turn it to our good! (Goes out with SIGNE. VALBORG goes to the back of the room and rings the bell. A messenger comes.)

Valborg . If Mr. Sannaes is out there, please ask him to be so good as to come in here for a moment. (The messenger goes out.) Perhaps he won't come, when he hears it is I. (Listens.) Yes, he is coming!

(SANNAES comes in, but stops short when he sees VALBORG, and hurriedly puts his hands behind his back.)

 

Sannaes. Is it you, Miss Valborg, that want me?

Valborg . Please come in. (SANNAES takes a few timid steps forward. VALBORG speaks in a more friendly tone.) Come in, then! (SANNAES comes further into the room.)

Valborg. You have written a letter to my father. Sannaes (after a moment's pause). Yes.

 

Valborg. And made him a most generous offer.

 

Sannaes (as before). Oh, well--it was only natural that I should.

 

Valborg. Do you think so? It doesn't seem so to me. It is an offer that honours the man that made it. (A pause.)

 

Sannaes. I hope he means to accept it?

 

Valborg. I don't know.

 

Sannaes (sadly, after a moment's pause). Then he doesn't mean to? No--I suppose not.

 

Valborg. I honestly don't know. It depends on whether he dare.

 

Sannaes. Whether he dare?

 

Valborg. Yes. (A pause.)

 

Sannaes (evidently very shy of VALBORG). Have you any more orders for me, Miss Valborg?

 

Valborg (with a smile). Orders? I am not giving you orders.--You have offered also to stay with my father for the future.

 

Sannaes. Yes--that is to say, if he wishes me to.

 

Valborg. I don't know. In that case there would be only he and my mother and you; no one else.

 

Sannaes. Indeed? What about the others, then?

 

Valborg. I don't know for certain what my sister means to do--but I am leaving home today.

 

Sannaes. Then you are going to--

Valborg . --to try and get a clerkship somewhere. So that it will be a bit lonely for you to be in my father's employment now. (A pause.) I expect you had not thought of it in that light?

Sannaes . No--yes--that is to say, your father will have all the more need of me then. Valborg. Indeed he will. But what sort of a prospect is it for you to bind up your fortunes with my father's? The future is so very problematical, you know.

Sannaes. What sort of a prospect--?

 

Valborg. Yes, a young man should have some sort of a prospect before him.

 

Sannaes. Yes--of course; that is to say, I only thought that at first it would be so difficult for him.

 

Valborg. But I am thinking of you. Surely you have some plans for the future?

 

Sannaes (embarrassed). Really I would rather not talk about myself.

 

Valborg. But I want to.--You have something else in reserve, then?

Sannaes . Well--if I must tell you--I have some well-to-do relations in America who have for a long time wanted me to go over there. I should soon be able to get, a good situation there.

Valborg . Indeed?--But why haven't you accepted such a good offer long before this? (SANNAES does not answer.) You must have been sacrificing your best interests by staying so long with us? (SANNAES is still silent.) Any! it will be making a still greater sacrifice to stay with us now--

Sannaes (struggling with his embarrassment). I have never thought of it as being that.

 

Valborg. But my father can scarcely accept so much from you.

 

Sannaes (in alarm). Why not?

 

Valborg. Because it really would be too much.--And, in any case, I shall try to prevent him.

 

Sannaes (almost imploringly). You, Miss Valborg?

 

Valborg. Yes. You must not be misemployed any longer.

 

Sannaes. Misemployed? In what I _myself_ desire so much?

 

Valborg. When I have talked it over with my father, I think he will see my point.

 

Sannaes (anxiously). What do you mean?

Valborg (after a moment's reflection). --I mean, the reason of your having made such great sacrifices for us--and of your being willing to make still greater now. (A pause. SANNAES hangs his head, and is raising his hands to hide his face, when suddenly he puts them behind his back again. VALBORG continues, in gentle but firm tones:) I have taught myself, all my life, to look behind deeds and words for their motives.

Sannaes (quietly, without raising his head). You have taught yourself to be cruelly bitter, hard and unjust.

Valborg (starts, but collects herself, and says gently:) Don't say that, Mr. Sannaes! It is not hard-heartedness or bitterness that makes me think of your future now--and makes me wish to spare you disappointment.

Sannaes (with a cry of pain). Miss Valborg!

 

Valborg. Be honest with yourself, and you will be able to take a fairer view of what I have just said.

 

Sannaes. Have you any more orders, Miss Valborg?

Valborg . I give you no orders, as I have told you already. I am only bidding you goodbye; and I do it with grateful thanks to you for all your goodness to me--and to us all. Good-bye and good luck, Mr. Sannaes. (SANNAES bows.)Won't you shake hands? Ah, I forgot--I offended you. I beg your pardon for that. (SANNAES bows and turns to go.) Come, Mr. Sannaes--let us at least part as good friends! You are going to America, and I am going among strangers. Let us go away wishing one another well.

Sannaes (moved). Good-bye, Miss Valborg. (Turns to go.)

 

Valborg. Mr. Sannaes--shake hands!

 

Sannaes (stopping). No, Miss Valborg.

 

Valborg. Don't treat me uncivilly; I have not deserved that. (SANNAES again turns to go.) Mr. Sannaes!

 

Sannaes (stopping). You might soil your fingers, Miss Valborg! (Walks proudly away.)

 

Valborg (controlling herself with an effort). Well, we have offended each other now. But why should we not forgive each other as well?

Sannaes. Because you have just offended me for the second time to-day--and more deeply than the first time.
Valborg. Oh, this is too much! I spoke as I did, because I owed it to myself not to be put in a false position, and owed it to you to spare you future disappointment. And you call that insulting you! Which of us has insulted the other, I should like to know?

Sannaes. You have, by thinking such things of me. Do you realise how cruelly you have spoilt the happiest action of my life?

 

Valborg. I have done so quite unintentionally, then. I am only glad that I was mistaken.

 

Sannes (bitterly). You are glad! So it really makes you glad to know that I am not a scoundrel!

 

Valborg (quietly). Who said anything of the kind?

Sannaes. You! You know the weak spot in my armour; but that you should on that account believe that I could lay a trap for you and try to trade on your father's misfortune, Miss Valborg--! No, I cannot shake hands with any one who has thought so badly of me as that! And, since you have so persistently insulted me that I have lost all the timidity I used to feel in your presence, let me tell you this openly; these hands (stretching out his hands to her) have grown red and ugly in loyal work for your father, and his daughter should have been above mocking at me for them! (Turns to go, but stops.) And, one word more. Ask your father for _his_ hand now, and hold fast to it, instead of deserting him on the very day that misfortune has overtaken him. That would be more to the point than worrying about _my_ future. I can look after that for myself. (Turns again to go, but comes back.) And when, in his service--which will be no easy service now--your hands bear the same honourable marks of work as mine do, and are as red as mine, then you will perhaps understand how you have hurt me! At present you cannot. (He goes quickly towards the door of the outer office.)

Valborg (with a wry smile). What a temper! (More seriously.) And yet, after all--. (Looks after him. Just as SANNAES gets to the door TJAELDE'S voice is heard calling him from the top of the staircase. SANNAES answers him.)

Tjaelde (coming down the stairs). Sannaes! Sannaes! I can see Jakobsen coming. (Hurries across the room as if pursued by fear. SANNAES follows him.) Of course he will be coming back to look for me again! It is cowardly of me to feel that I cannot stand it; but I cannot--not to-day, not now! I cannot stand any more! Stop him! Don't let him come in! I shall have to drink my cup of misery to the dregs; but (almost in a whisper) not all at one draught! (Hides his face in his hands.)

Sannaes. He shan't come; don't be afraid! (Goes quickly out, with an air of determination.)

Tjaelde. It is hard--oh, it is hard! Valborg (coming to his side). Father! (He looks at her, anxiously.) You may safely accept the money Sannaes offers you.

Tjaelde (in surprise). What do you mean by that?

 

Valborg. I mean--that, if you do, I will not forsake you either, but stay here with you too.

 

Tjaelde (incredulously). You, Valborg?

 

Valborg. Yes, you know I want to learn office work, and business; and I would rather learn in your office.

 

Tjaelde (shyly). I don't understand what you--?

Valborg . Don't you understand, dear? I believe I could become of some use in the office. And in that way, you know, we might begin afresh--and try, with God's help, to pay your creditors.

Tjaelde (happily, but shyly). My child! Who put such a happy idea into your head?

 

Valborg (putting an arm round his neck). Father, forgive me for all that I have neglected to do! You shall see how I will try and make up for it! How hard I shall work!

 

Tjaelde (still half incredulous). My child! My child!

 

Valborg. I feel--I cannot tell you how deeply--a craving for love and for work! (Throws both her arms round his neck.) Oh, father, how I love you!--and how I shall work for you!

 

Tjaelde. Ah, that is the Valborg I have waited for, ever since you were a little child! But we had drifted away from one another, somehow.

 

Valborg. No more about the past! Look forward, father, look forward! Concerns "that would not be affected by the uncertainties of high finance,"--weren't those his words?

 

Tjaelde. So you were struck by that expression, too?

Valborg . That may mean a future for us now! We will have a home all to ourselves--a little house down on the shore--and I shall help you, and Signe will help mother--we shall know what it is to live, for the first time!

Tjaelde. What happiness it will be!

 

Valborg. Only look forward, father! Look forward! A united family is invincible!

Tjaelde . And to think that such help should come to me now! Valborg. Yes, now we are all going to our posts--and all together, where formerly you stood alone! You will have good fairies round you; wherever you look, you will see happy faces and busy fingers all day long; and we shall all enjoy our meals and our evenings together, just as we did when we were children!

Tjaelde. That, above everything!

 

Valborg. Ha, ha!--it is after the rain that the birds sing blithest, you know! And this time our happiness can never miscarry, because we shall have something worth living for!

 

Tjaelde. Let us go to your mother! This will cheer her heart!

 

Valborg. Ah, how I have learnt to love her! What has happened to-day has taught me.

 

Tjaelde. It is for her that we shall all work now.

 

Valborg. Yes--for her, for her. She shall rest now. Let us go to her!

 

Tjaelde. Kiss me first, my dear. (His voice trembles.) It is so long since you did!

 

Valborg (kissing him). Father! Tjaelde. Now let us go to your mother. (The curtain falls as they go out together.)

ACT IV

(SCENE.--In the garden of TJAELDE'S new home, on the shore of the fjord, three years later. A view of tranquil sunlit sea, dotted with boats, in the background. On the left a portion of the house is seen, with an open window within which VALBORG is seen writing at a desk. The garden is shaded with birch trees; flower-beds run round the house, and the whole atmosphere one of modest comfort. Two small garden tables and several chairs are in the foreground on the right. A chair standing by itself, further back, has evidently had a recent occupant. When the curtain rises the stage is empty, but VALBORG is visible at the open window. Soon afterwards TJAELDE comes in, wheeling MRS. TJAELDE in an invalid chair.)

Mrs. Tjaelde. Another lovely day!

Tjaelde. Tjaelde. Lovely! There was not a ripple on the sea last night. I saw a couple of steamers far out, and a sailing ship that had hove to, and the fisher-boats drifting silently in.

Mrs. Tjaelde. And think of the storm that was raging two days ago!

 

Tjaelde. And think of the storm that broke over our lives barely three years ago! I was thinking of that in the night.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Sit down here with me.

 

Tjaelde. Shall we not continue our stroll?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. The sun is too hot.

 

Tjaelde. Not for me.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. You big strong man! It is too hot for me.

 

Tjaelde (taking a chair). There you are, then.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde (taking off his hat and wiping his forehead). You are very hot, dear. You have never looked so handsome as you do now!

 

Tjaelde. That's just as well, as you have so much time to admire me now!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Now that I find getting about so difficult, you mean? Ah, that is only my pretence, so as to get you to wheel me about!

 

Tjaelde (with a sigh). Ah, my dear, it is good of you to take it so cheerfully. But that you should be the only one of us to bear such hard traces of our misfortune--

Mrs. Tjaelde (interrupting him). Do you forget your own whitened hair? That is a sign of it, too, but a beautiful one! And, as for my being an invalid, I thank God every day for it! In the first place I have almost no pain, and then it gives me the opportunity to feel how good you are to me in every way.

Tjaelde. You enjoy your life, then?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, indeed I do--and just as I should wish to.

 

Tjaelde. Just to be spoiled, and yourself to spoil us?

 

Valborg (from the window). I have finished the accounts, father.

 

Tjaelde. Doesn't it come out at about what I said?

 

Valborg. Almost exactly. Shall I enter it in the ledger at once?

 

Tjaelde. Oho! You are glad then, as you seem in such it hurry?

 

Valborg. Certainly! Such a good stroke of business!

 

Tjaelde. And both you and Sannaes tried your best to dissuade me from it! Valborg. Such a pair of wiseacres!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Ah, your father is your master, my dear!

 

Tjaelde. Tjaelde. Oh, it is easy enough to captain a small army that marches on, instead of a big one that is in retreat. (VALBORG goes on with her work.)

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. And yet it seemed hard enough for us to give it up.

Tjaelde . Yes, yes--oh, yes. I can tell you, I was thinking of that last night. If God had given me what I begged for then, what state should we have been in now? I was thinking of that, too.

Mrs. Tjaelde. It is the fact of the estate being at last wound up that has brought all these thoughts into your mind, dear?

 

Tjaelde. Yes.

Mrs. Tjaelde. Then I must confess that I, too, have scarcely been able to think of anything else since yesterday, when Sannaes went into town to settle it up. This a redletter day! Signe is wrestling with a little banquet for us; we shall see what an artist she has become! Here she is!

Tjaelde. I think I will just go and look over Valborg's accounts. (Goes to the window. SIGNE comes out of the house, wearing a cook's apron and carrying a basin.)

 

Signe. Mother, you must taste my soup! (Offers her a spoonful.)

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Clever girl! (Tastes the soup.) Perhaps it would stand a little--. No, it is very good as it is. You are clever!

 

Signe. Am I not! Will Sannaes be back soon?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Your father says we may expect him any moment.

 

Tjaelde (at the window, to VALBORG). No, wait a moment. I will come in. (Goes into the house, and is seen within the window beside VALBORG.)

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. My little Signe, I want to ask you something?

 

Signe. Do you?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. What was in the letter you had yesterday evening?

 

Signe. Aha, I might have guessed that was it! Nothing, mother. Mrs. Tjaelde. Nothing that pained you, then?

 

Signe. I slept like a top all night--so you can judge for yourself.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. I am so glad. But, you know, there seems to me something a little forced in the gay way you say that?

 

Signe. Does there? Well, it was something that I shall always be ashamed of; that is all.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. I am thankful to hear it, for--

 

Signe (interrupting her). That must be Sannaes. I hear wheels. Yes, here he is! He has come too soon; dinner won't be ready for half an hour yet.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. That doesn't matter.

 

Signe. Father, here is Sannaes!

 

Tjaelde (from within). Good! I will come out! (SIGNE goes into the house as TJAELDE comes out. SANNAES comes in a moment later.)

 

Tjaelde and Mrs. Tjaelde. Welcome!

 

Sannaes. Thank you! (Lays down his dust-coat and driving gloves on a chair, and comes forward.)

 

Tjaelde. Well?

 

Sannaes. Yes--your bankruptcy is discharged!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. And the result was--?

 

Sannaes. Just about what we expected.

 

Tjaelde. And, I suppose, just about what Mr. Berent wrote?

Sannaes . Just about, except for one or two inconsiderable trifles. You can see for yourself. (Gives him a bundle of papers.) The high prices that have ruled of late, and good management, have altered the whole situation.

Tjaelde (who has opened the papers and glanced at the totals). A deficit of £12,000.

 

Sannaes. I made a declaration on your behalf, that you intended to try and repay that sum, but that you should be at liberty to do it in whatever way you found best. And so--

Tjaelde . And so--? Sannaes. --I proferred on the spot rather more than half the amount you still owed Jakobsen.

Mrs. Tjaelde. Not really? (TJAELDE takes out a pencil and begins making calculations on the margins of the papers.)

 

Sannaes. There was general satisfaction--and they all sent you their cordial congratulations.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. So that, if all goes well--

 

Tjaelde. Yes, if things go as well with the business as they promise to, Sannaes, in twelve or fourteen years I shall have paid every one in full.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. We haven't much longer than that left to live, dear!

 

Tjaelde. Then we shall die poor. And I shall not complain!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. No, indeed! The honourable name you will leave to your children will be well worth it.

 

Tjaelde. And they will inherit a sound business, which they can go on with if they choose.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Did you hear that, Valborg?

 

Valborg (from the window). Every word! (SANNAES bows to her.) I must go in and tell Signe! (Moves away from the window.)

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. What did Jakobsen say?--honest old Jakobsen?

 

Sannaes. He was very much affected, as you would expect. He will certainly be coming out here to-day.

 

Tjaelde (looking up from the papers). And Mr. Berent?

 

Sannaes. He is coming hard on my heels. I was to give you his kind regards and tell you so.

 

Tjaelde. Splendid! We owe him so much.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, he has been a true friend to us. But, talking of true friends, I have something particular to ask _you_, Sannaes.

Sannaes . Me, Mrs. Tjaelde? Mrs. Tjaelde. The maid told me that yesterday, when you went into town, you took the greater part of your belongings with you. Is that so?

Sannaes. Yes, Mrs. Tjaelde.

 

Tjaelde. What does that mean? (To his wife.) You said nothing about it to me, my dear.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Because I thought it might be a misunderstanding. But now I must ask what was the meaning of it. Are you going away?

 

Sannaes (fingering a chair, in evident confusion). Yes, Mrs. Tjaelde.

 

Tjaelde. Where to? You never said anything about it.

 

Sannaes. No; but I have always considered that I should have finished my task here as soon as the estate was finally wound up.

 

Tjaelde and Mrs. Tjaelde. You mean to leave us?

 

Sannaes. Yes.

 

Tjaelde. But why?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Where do you mean to go?

 

Sannaes. To my relations in America. I can now, without doing you any harm, withdraw my capital from the business by degrees and transfer it abroad.

 

Tjaelde. And dissolve our partnership?

 

Sannaes. You know that at any rate you had decided now to resume the old style of the firm's name.

 

Tjaelde. That is true; but, Sannaes, what does it all mean? What is your reason?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Are you not happy here, where we are all so attached to you?

 

Tjaelde. You have quite as good a prospect for the future here as in America.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. We held together in evil days; are we not to hold together now that good days have come?

 

Sannaes. I owe you both so much.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Good heavens, it is we that owe you-- Tjaelde. --more than we can ever repay. (Reproachfully.) Sannaes!

 

(SIGNE comes in, having taken off her cooking apron.)

 

Signe. Congratulations! Congratulations! Father mother! (Kisses them both.) Welcome, Sannaes!--But aren't you pleased?--now? (A pause. VALBORG comes in.)

 

Valborg. What has happened?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Sannaes wants to leave us, my children (A pause.)

 

Signe. But, Sannaes--!

Tjaelde . Even if you want to go away, why have you never said a single word to us about it before? (To the others.) Or has he spoken to any of you? (MRS. TJAELDE shakes her head.)

Signe. No.

 

Sannaes. It was because--because--I wanted to be able to go as soon as I had told you. Otherwise it would be too hard to go.

 

Tjaelde. You must have very serious grounds for it, then! Has anything happened to you to--to make it necessary? (SANNAES does not answer.)

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. And to make it impossible for you to trust any of us?

 

Sannaes (shyly). I thought I had better keep it to myself. (A pause.)

Tjaelde . That makes it still more painful for us--to think that you could go about in our little home circle here, where you have shared everything with us, carrying the secret of this intention hidden in your heart.

Sannaes. Do not be hard on me! Believe me, if I could stay, I would; and if I could tell you the reason, I would. (A pause.)

 

Signe (to her mother, in an undertone). Perhaps he wants to get married?

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. Would his being here with us make any difference to that? Any one that Sannaes loved would be dear to us.

 

Tjaelde (going up to SANNAES and putting an arm round his shoulders). Tell one of us, then, if you cannot tell us all. Is it nothing we can help you in?

 

Sannaes. No.

 

Tjaelde. But can you judge of that alone? One does not always realise how much some one else's advice, on the experience of an older man, may help one.

 

Sannaes. Unfortunately it is as I say.

 

Tjaelde. It must be something very painful, then?

 

Sannaes. Please--!

 

Tjaelde. Well, Sannaes, you have quite cast a cloud over to-day's happiness for us. I shall miss you as I have never missed any one.

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. I cannot imagine the house without Sannaes!

 

Tjaelde (to his wife). Come, dear, shall we go in again?

Mrs. Tjaelde . Yes--it is not nice out here any longer. (TJAELDE takes her into the house. SIGNE turns to VALBORG to go in with her, but when she comes close to her she gives a little cry. VALBORG takes her arm, and their eyes meet.)

Signe . Where have my wits been? (She goes into the house, looking back at VALBORG and SANNAES. The latter is giving way to his emotion, but as soon as his eyes fall on VALBORG he recovers himself.)

Valborg (impetuously). Sannaes!

 

Sannaes. What are your orders, Miss Valborg?

 

Valborg (turning away from him, then turning back, but avoiding his eyes). Do you really mean to leave us?

 

Sannaes. Yes, Miss Valborg. (A pause.)

 

Valborg. So we shall never stand back to back at our desks in the same room again?

 

Sannaes. No, Miss Valborg.

 

Valborg. That is a pity; I had become so accustomed to it.

 

Sannaes. You will easily become accustomed to some one else's-- back.

 

Valborg. Ah, some one else is some one else.

 

Sannaes. You must excuse me, Miss Valborg; I don't feel in the humour for jesting today. (Turn to go.)

 

Valborg (looking up at him). Is this to be our parting, then? (A pause.)

 

Sannaes. I thought of taking leave of you all this afternoon.

 

Valborg (taking a step towards him). But ought not we two to settle our accounts first?

 

Sannaes (coldly). No, Miss Valborg.

 

Valborg. Do you feel then that everything between us has been just as it ought?

 

Sannaes. God knows I don't!

 

Valborg. But you think I am to blame?--Oh, well, it doesn't matter.

 

Sannaes. I am quite willing to take the blame. Put anyway, it is all finished with now.

 

Valborg. But if we were to share the blame? You cannot be quite indifferent as to which of us should take it?

 

Sannaes. I confess I am not. But, as I said, I do not wish for any settling of accounts between us.

 

Valborg. But I wish it.

 

Sannaes. You will have plenty of time to settle it to your own satisfaction.

 

Valborg. But, if I am in difficulties about it, I cannot do it alone.

 

Sannaes. I do not think you will find any difficulty.

 

Valborg. But if _I_ think so?--if I feel myself deeply wronged?

 

Sannaes. I have told you that I am willing to take all the blame upon myself.

 

Valborg. No, Sannaes--I don't want charity; I want to be understood. I have a question to ask you.

 

Sannaes. As you will.

 

Valborg. How was it that we got on so well for the first year after my father's failure-and even longer? Have you ever thought of that?

 

Sannaes. Yes. I think it was because we never talked about anything but our work--about business.

 

Valborg. You were my instructor. Sannaes. And when you no longer needed an instructor--

 

Valborg. --we hardly spoke to one another.

 

Sannaes (softly). No.

 

Valborg. Well, what could I say or do, when every sign of friendship on my part went unnoticed?

 

Sannaes. Unnoticed? Oh no, Miss Valborg, I noticed them.

 

Valborg. That was my punishment, then!

Sannas . God forbid I should do you an injustice. You had a motive which did you credit; you felt compassion for me, and so you could not help acting as you did. But, Miss Valborg, I refuse your compassion.

Valborg. And suppose it were gratitude?

 

Sannaes (softly). I dreaded that more than anything else! I had had a warning.

 

Valborg. You must admit, Sannaes, that all this made you very difficult to deal with!

Sannaes . I quite admit that. But, honestly, _you_ must admit that I had good reason to mistrust an interest in me that sprang from mere gratitude. Had circumstances been different, I should only have bored you cruelly; I knew that quite well. And I had no fancy for being an amusement for your idle hours.

Valborg . How you have mistaken me!--If you will think of it, surely you must understand how different a girl, who has been accustomed to travel and society, becomes when she has to stay at home and work because it is her duty. She comes to judge men by an altogether different standard, too. The men that she used to think delightful are very likely to appear small in her eyes when it is a question of the demands life makes on ability or courage or self-sacrifice; while the men she used to laugh at are transformed in her eyes into models of what God meant men to be, when she is brought into close contact with them in her father's office.--Is there anything so surprising in that? (A pause.)

Sannaes. Thank you, at all events, for saying that to me. It has done me good. But you should have said it sooner.

Valborg (emphatically). How could I, when you misjudged everything I did or said? No; it was impossible until mistakes and misunderstandings had driven us so far apart that we could not endure them any longer (Turns away.)
Sannaes. Perhaps you are right. I cannot at once recall all that has happened. If I have been mistaken, I shall by degrees find the knowledge of it a profound comfort.--You must excuse me, Miss Valborg, I have a number of things to see to. (Turns to go.)

Valborg (anxiously). Sannaes, as you admit that you have judged me unjustly, don't you think you ought at least to give me--some satisfaction?

Sannaes . You may be certain, Miss Valborg, that when I am balancing our account you shall not suffer any injustice. But I cannot do it now. All I have to do now is to get ready to go.

Valborg. But you are not ready to go, Sannaes! You have not finished your work here yet! There is what I just spoke of--and something else that dates farther back than that.

 

Sannaes. You must feel how painful it is for me to prolong this interview. (Turns to go.)

 

Valborg. But surely you won't go without setting right something that I am going to beg you to?

 

Sannas. What is that, Miss Valborg?

 

Valborg. Something that happened a long time ago.

 

Sannaes. If it is in my power, I will do what you ask.

 

Valborg. It is.--Ever since that day you have never offered to shake hands with me.

 

Sannaes. Have you really noticed that? (A pause.)

 

Valborg (with a smile, turning away). Will you do so now?

 

Sannaes (stepping nearer to her). Is this more than a mere whim?

 

Valborg (concealing her emotion). How can you ask such a question now?

 

Sannaes. Because all this time you have never once asked me to shake hands with you.

 

Valborg. I wanted you to offer me your hand. (A pause.)

 

Sannaes. Are you serious for once?

 

Valborg. I mean it, seriously.

 

Sannaes (in a happier voice). You really set a value on it?

 

Valborg. A great value. Sannaes (going up to her). Here it is, then!

 

Valborg (turning and taking his hand). I accept the hand you offer me.

 

Sannaes (turning pale). What do you mean?

Valborg . I mean that for some time past I have known that I should be proud to be the wife of a man who has loved me, and me alone, ever since he was a boy, and has saved my father and us all.

Sannaes. Oh, Miss Valborg!

Valborg . And you wanted to go away, rather than offer me your hand; and that, only because we had accepted help from you--and you did not think we were free agents! That was too much; and, as you would not speak, I had to!

Sannaes (kneeling to her). Miss Valborg!

 

Valborg. You have the most loyal nature, the most delicate mind, and the warmest heart I have ever known.

 

Sannaes. This is a thousand times too much!

 

Valborg. Next to God, I have to thank you that I have become what I am; and I feel that I can offer you a life's devotion such as you would rarely find in this world.

Sannaes . I cannot answer because I scarcely realise what you are saying. But you are saying it because you are sorry for me, now that I have to go away, and feel that you owe me some gratitude. (Takes both her hand in his.) Let me speak! I know the truth better than you, and have thought over it far more than you. You are so immeasurably above me in ability, in education, in manners--and a wife should not be able to look down on her husband. At all events, I am too proud to be willing to be exposed to that. No, what you are feeling now is only the result of your beautiful nature, and the recollection of it will hallow all my life. All the pain and all the happiness I have known have come from you. Your life will be one of self-renunciation; but, God knows there are many such! And my burden will be lightened now, because I shall know that your good wishes will always be with me. (Gets up.) But part we must-- and now more than ever! For I could not bear to be near you unless you were mine, and to make you mine would only mean misery for us both after a little while!

Valborg. Sannaes--!

Sannaes (holding her hands and interrupting her). I entreat you not to say anything more! You have too much power over me; do not use it to make me sin! For it would be that--a great sin--to put two honest hearts into a false position, where they would distress one another, even perhaps get to hate one another.
Valborg. But let me--

Sannas (letting go her hands and stepping back). No, you must not tempt me. Life with you would mean perpetual anxiety, for I should never feel equal to what it would demand of me! But now I can part from you comforted. There will be no bitterness in my heart now; and by degrees all my thoughts of the past and of you will turn to sweetness. God bless you! May every good fortune go with you! Good-bye! (Goes quickly towards the house.)

Valborg . Sannaes! (Follows him.) Sannaes! Listen to me! (SANNAES takes up his coat and gloves, and, as he rushes out without looking where he is going, runs full tilt into BERENT who comes in at that moment followed by JAKOBSEN.)

Sannaes. I beg your pardon! (Rushes out to the right.)

 

Berent. Are you two playing a game of blind man's buff?

 

Valborg. God knows we are!

 

Berent. You need not be so emphatic about it! I have had forcible evidence of it. (Rubs his stomach and laughs.)

 

Valborg. You must excuse me! Father is in there. (Points to the left and goes hurriedly out to the right.)

 

Berent. We don't seem to be getting a particularly polite reception!

 

Jakobsen. No, we seem to be rather in the way, Mr. Berent.

 

Berent (laughing). It looks like it. But what has been going on?

 

Jakobsen. I don't know. They looked as if they had been fighting, their faces were so flushed.

 

Berent. They looked upset, you mean?

Jakobsen . Yes, that's it. Ah, here is Mr. Tjaelde! (To himself.) Good Lord, how aged he looks! (Withdraws into the background as BERENT goes forward to greet TJAELDE, who comes in.)

Tjaelde (to BERENT). I am delighted to see you! You are always welcome in our little home--and this year more welcome than ever!

 

Berent. Because things are going better than ever this year! I congratulate you on your discharge--and also on your determination to pay everything in full!

 

Tjaelde. Yes, if God wills, I mean to--

 

Berent. Well, things are going splendidly, aren't they?

 

Tjaelde. So far, yes.

 

Berent. You are over the worst of it, now that you have laid the foundations of a new business and laid them solidly.

 

Tjaelde. One of the things that have given me the greatest encouragement has been the fact that I have won your confidence-- and that has gained me the confidence of others.

 

Berent. I could have done nothing unless you had first of all done everything. But don't let us say any more about it!--Well, the place looks even prettier than it did last year.

 

Tjaelde. We do a little more to it each year, you know.

 

Berent. And you are still all together here?

 

Tjaelde. So far, yes.

 

Berent. Ah, by the way, I can give you news of your deserter. (TJAELDE looks surprised.) I mean your lieutenant!

 

Tjaelde. Oh--of him! Have you seen him?

 

Berent. I was on the same boat coming here. There was a very rich girl on board.

 

Tjaelde (laughing). Oh, I see!

Berent . All the same, I don't think it came to any thing. It is rather like coming upon a herd of deer when you are stalking; after your first shot, you don't find it so easy to get another; they have grown wary!

Jakobsen (who during this conversation has been screwing up his courage to address TJAELDE). I--I am a pig, I am! I know that!

 

Tjaelde (taking his hand). Oh, come, Jakobsen!--

 

Jakobsen. A great blundering pig!--But I know it now!

 

Tjaelde. That's all right! I can tell you I am delighted to be able to set affairs straight between you and me.

Jakobsen. I don't know what to answer. It goes to my heart! (Shakes his hand heartily.) You are a far better man than I,--and I said so to my wife. "He's a splendid fellow," I said. Tjaelde (releasing his hand). Let us forget everything except the happy days we have had together, Jakobsen! How do things go at the Brewery?

Jakobsen. At the Brewery! As long as folk ladle beer into their stomachs at the rate they do now--

 

Berent. Jakobsen was kind enough to drive me out here. We had a most amusing drive. He is a character.

 

Jakobsen (in an anxious undertone, to TJAELDE). What does he mean by that?

 

Tjaelde. That you are different from most people.

 

Jakobsen. Ah!--I didn't feel sure, you know, whether he wasn't sitting there making game of me, all the way here.

Tjaelde . How can you think such a thing? (To BERENT.) Do come into the house. Excuse my going first; but my wife is not always quite prepared to receive visitors since she has been able to do so little for herself. (Goes into the house.)

Berent. I don't think Mr. Tjaelde seems to me to be looking in quite as good form as I expected?

 

Jakobsen. Don't you? I didn't notice anything.

 

Berent. Perhaps I am mistaken. I think he meant us to follow him in, didn't he?

 

Jakobsen. So I understood.

 

Berent. Then, as you have brought me so far, you must take me in to Mrs. Tjaelde.

 

Jakobsen. I am quite at your service, sir. I have the deepest respect for Mrs. Tjaelde-(hurriedly)--and of course for Mr. Tjaelde too. Of course.

 

Berent. Yes. Well, let us go in.

 

Jakobsen. Let us go in. (He tries anxiously to keep in step with BERENT'S peculiar walk, but finds it difficult.)

 

Berent. I think you had better not try. My step suits very few.

Jakobsen . Oh, I shall manage--! (They go out to the left. SANNAES comes hurriedly in from the right, and crosses the stage; looks around; then comes across to the foreground and leans with his back against a tree. VALBORG comes in a moment later, comes forward, sees him, and laughs.)
Sannaes. There, you see, Miss Valborg; you are laughing at me.

Valborg. I don't know whether I want to laugh or to cry.

 

Sannaes. Believe me, you are mistaken about this, Miss Valborg. You don't see things as plainly as I do.

 

Valborg. Which of us was it that was mistaken to-day?--and had to beg pardon for it?

 

Sannaes. It was I, I know. But this is impossible! A real union of hearts needs to be founded on more than respect--

 

Valborg (laughing). On love?

 

Sannaes. You misunderstand me. Could you go into society with me without feeling embarrassed? (VALBORG laughs.) You see, the mere idea of it makes you laugh.

 

Valborg (laughing). I am laughing because you are magnifying the least important part of it into the most important.

Sannaes . You know how awkward and shy--in fact downright frightened I am amongst those who--. (VALBORG laughs again.) There, you see-- you can't help laughing at the idea!

Valborg. I should perhaps even laugh at you when we were in society together! (Laughs.)

 

Sannaes (seriously). But I should suffer horribly if you did.

Valborg. Believe me, Sannaes, I love you well enough to be able to afford to have a little laugh sometimes at your little imperfections. Indeed, I often do! And suppose we were out in society, and I saw you weighed down under the necessity for pretty manners that do not come easy to you; if I did laugh at you, do you think there would be any unkindness behind my laughter? If others laughed at you, do you suppose I would not, the very next moment, take your arm and walk proudly down the room with you? I know what you really are, and others know it too! Thank God it is not only bad deeds that are known to others in this world!

Sannaes. Your words intoxicate me and carry me off my feet!

Valborg (earnestly). If you think I am only flattering you, let us put it to the test. Mr. Berent is here. He moves in the very best society, but he is superior to its littlenesses. Shall we take his opinion? Without betraying anything, I could make him give it in a moment.

Sannaes (carried away). I want no one's opinion but yours! Valborg. That's right! If only you feel certain of my love--

 

Sannaes (impetuously). --then nothing else will seem to matter; and that alone will be able to teach me all that I lack, in a very short time.

 

Valborg. Look into my eyes!

 

Sannaes (taking her hands). Yes!

 

Valborg. Do you believe that nothing would ever make me ashamed of you!

 

Sannaes. Yes, I believe that.

 

Valborg (with emotion). Do you believe that I love you?

 

Sannaes. Yes! (Falls on one knee.)

 

Valborg. Deeply enough for my love to last all our lives--

 

Sannaes. Yes, yes!

Valborg . Then stay with me; and we will look after the old folk-- and replace them when, in God's good time, they are taken from us. (SANNAES bursts into tears. TJAELDE, who has come to the window to show BERENT his ledgers, happens to look up and sees VALBORG and SANNAES.)

Tjaelde (leaning out of the window, and speaking gently:) Valborg, what has happened?

 

Valborg (quietly). Only that Sannaes and I are engaged to be married.

 

Tjaelde. Is it possible! (To BERENT, who is immersed in the accounts.) Excuse me! (Hurries away from the window.)

 

Sannaes (who, in his emotion has heard nothing). Forgive me! It has been such a long, hard struggle--and I feel overwhelmed!

 

Valborg. Let us go in to my mother.

 

Sannws (shrinking back). I can't, Miss Valborg--you must wait a little--

 

Valborg. Here they come. (TJAELDE comes in wheeling MRS. TJAELDE in her chair. VALBORG runs to her mother and throws herself into her arms.)

 

Mrs. Tjaelde (softly). God be praised and thanked!

Tjaelde (going up to SANNAES and embracing him). My son! Mrs. Tjaelde. So that was why Sannaes wanted to go away! Oh, Sannaes! (TJAELDE brings SANNAES up to her. SANNAES kneels and kisses her hand, then gets up and goes into the background, to recover himself. SIGNE comes in.)

Signe. Mother, everything is ready now!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. So are things out here!

 

Signe (looking round). Not really?

 

Valborg (to SIGNE). Forgive me for never having told you!

 

Signe. You certainly kept your secret well!

 

Valborg. I kept long years of suffering secret--that was all! (SIGNE kisses her and whispers to her; then turns to SANNAES.)

 

Signe. Sannaes! (Shakes his hand.) So we are to be brother and sister-in-law?

 

Sannaes (embarrassed). Oh, Miss Signe--

 

Signe. But you mustn't call me Miss Signe now, you know!

 

Valborg. You must expect that! He calls me "Miss" Valborg still!

 

Singe. Well, he won't be able to do that when you are married, anyway!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde (to TJAELDE). But where are our friends?

 

Tjaelde. Mr. Berent is in the office. There he is, at the window.

 

Berent (at the window). Now I am coming straight out to congratulate you, with my friend Jakobsen. (Comes out.)

 

Valborg (going to TJAELDE). Father!

 

Tjaelde. My child!

 

Valborg. If we had not known those bad days we should never have known this happy one! (He gives her a grip of the hand.)

 

Tjaelde (to BERENT). Allow me to present to you my daughter Valborg's fiancé--Mr. Sannaes.

 

Berent. I congratulate you on your choice, Miss Valborg--and I congratulate the whole family on such a son-in-law.

 

Valborg (triumphantly). There, Sannaes!

Jakobsen . May I too, though I am only a stupid sort of chap, say that this lad has been in love with you ever since he was in his teens--he hardly could be sooner than that. But I can tell you, honestly, I should never have credited you with having so much sense as to take him. (All laugh.)

Mrs. Tjaelde. Signe is whispering to me that our dinner is getting cold.

 

Signe. May I take my mother's place and ask you to take me in to dinner, Mr. Berent?

 

Berent (offering her his arm). I am honoured!--But our bridal pair must go first!

 

Valborg. Sannaes--?

 

Sannaes (whispers, as he gives her his arm). To think that I have you on my arm! (They go into the house, followed by BERENT and SIGNE, and by JAKOBSEN.)

 

Tjaelde (bending over his wife, as he prepares to wheel her chair in). My dear, God has blessed our house now!

 

Mrs. Tjaelde. My dear man! Curtain.

THE KING

A PLAY IN A PROLOGUE AND FOUR ACTS

 

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

The KING.
HARALD GRAN, a rich manufacturer.
KOLL, Chief Magistrate of the district.
FLINK.
CLARA ERNST.
The PRINCESS.
BARONESS MARC.
ANNA, a deaf and dumb girl.
FALBE.
The MAYOR.
NATHALIE, his daughter.
ALSTAD.
VILHELM, his son.
The PARISH PRIEST.
BANG, a rich trader.
VINÄGER.
COUNT PLATEN.
The GENERAL.
MATILDE.
A Ballad Singer.
A Young Beggar.
A Servant of the King's.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Masked Dancers, Work-people, Farmers, etc.

PROLOGUE

(SCENE.--A large gothic hall, brilliantly illuminated, in which a masked ball is taking place. At the rise of the curtain a ballet is being performed in the centre of the hall. Masked dancers are grouped around, watching it. Two of them, women, are conversing on the right of the stage.)

First Mask. Have you heard that the King is to be here to-night?

 

Second Mask. Yes, and since I heard it I have been imagining I saw him everywhere.

 

First Mask (pointing). That is not he, is it?

 

Second Mask. He is taller than that. First Mask. That one, then? Look, that one!

 

Second Mask. That one has spoken to me. He has too old a voice.

 

First Mask. Shall we see if we can find him?

 

Second Mask. Yes, come along!

 

(A number of girls, wearing similar costumes and all masked, have meanwhile collected on the left side of the stage.)

 

First Girl. Are we all here?

 

Second Girl. All but Matilde.

 

Matilde. Here I am! Have you heard that the King is to be here?

 

All. Really?

 

Matilde. I don't know how he is dressed; but one of the masters of the ceremonies told me he was to be here.

 

Several of the Girls. The dear King! (Two masked dancers, dressed as Cats, pass by.)

 

Tom Cat. Do you hear that, my pet?

 

Puss. Miau!

 

Matilde. Let us try and discover him.

 

All. Yes, yes!

 

A Mask. And when we have discovered him--?

 

Matilde. Let us all dance round him!

 

All. Yes!

 

Tom Cat (to Puss). You had better look after your virtue, Miss!

 

Puss. Miau!

 

Tom Cat. Miau! (They pass out of sight.)

Matilde . Remember that we are all to meet here in a quarter of an hour! All. Yes! (They disperse. The ballet comes to a close amidst universal applause. Conversation among the dancers becomes general and animated. The BARONESS MARC, disguised as an Old Woman, comes forward, talking to another mask dressed as a Donkey.)

Baroness. I will never forgive you for that, my lord chamberlain.

 

The Donkey. But you frighten me clean out of my part, Baroness!

 

Baroness. If only I could understand how it happened!

 

The Donkey. After all, my dear Baroness, you cannot be expected to take out all your schoolmistresses and their senior pupils on a leash!

Baroness . No, but I have particular reasons for wishing to look closely after _her_. (All this time she has been persistently looking round the room.) And in such a whirling crowd as this--

The Donkey . Let us lose ourselves in it, then! (He brays as they go out. The PRINCESS, masked and dressed in a costume of the time of Louis XV., comes forward accompanied by a Cavalier in a costume of the same period.)

Princess (continuing a discussion). And I say that if a king has such graces of mind and person as ours has, he may do anything he pleases.

 

Cavalier. Anything, Princess?

Princess . Anything that his mind prompts, provided that he does it beautifully. (A GENTLEMAN-IN-WAITING, dressed in a costume of the same period, approaches them.)

Gentleman-in-Waiting. I cannot discover him, your Royal Highness!

 

Princess. But he is here. He is here. And for a lady's sake. I am certain I am right.

 

Cavalier. But I asked one of the masters of the ceremonies, and he knew nothing about it.

 

Princess. Then it must have been one that has not been let into the secret.

 

Cavalier. But, your Royal Highness--

Princess . Don't keep calling me "your Royal Highness," but get me a description of the costume he is wearing. (The GENTLEMAN- IN-WAITING bows and goes away.) And you and I will go on hunting--
Cavalier. --for the noble huntsman--

Princess . --who is being hunted himself! (Moves away, but stops suddenly.) Who is that? (CLARA ERNST, masked and in peasant costume, comes forward followed by a masked figure wearing a domino. He is whispering to her over her shoulder. She keeps glancing about, as if looking for some one.)

The Domino. --and there, in the enchanted castle, buried deep in the wooded park--

 

Clara. Let me alone!

 

The Domino. --there we shall be greeted by a babbling fountain of water--a nymph, holding the cup of joy high above her head--

 

Clara (anxiously). What can have become of her?

 

(Meanwhile one of the masked dancers has been following them, and now turns back to join others.)

 

A Masked Dancer (pointing to the DOMINO). That is the King!

 

Another (quickly). But who is she?

 

The Domino. --on both sides, shady alleys leading to the doors of a secret retreat; and there--

 

Clara (turning round). I despise you! (The dancing and music suddenly stop. General consternation.)

 

The Baroness (starting forward as she hears CLARA voice.) Clara!

 

The Domino (taking CLARA's hand and leading her apart from the others). Do you know who it is that you despise?

Clara (greatly agitated). Yes, I know who you are!--and that is why, from the bottom of my heart, I despise you! (The music begins afresh, covering the general consternation that has spread among the dancers. The BARONESS comes forward with a cry of "Clara!" CLARA bursts into tears and throws herself into her arms. Curtain.)