Bjornstjerne M. Bjornson
Part 2 out of 5
Mother. Of course she will!--Drink his health! (AXEL touches her
glass with his; her hand trembles, and she spills come wine.) You
have filled the glasses too full, my dear! (They all clink
glasses and drink.)
Father (when the glasses have been filled again). My wife and I--
thank you very much for your welcome. We could not set out on our
journey without first seeing our child--our two children. A good
friend of ours (looking at MATHILDE) advised us to come
unexpectedly. At first we did not want to but now we are glad we
did; because now we can see for ourselves that Laura told the
truth in her letters. You are happy--and therefore we old folk
must be happy too, and bury all recollection of what--what
evidently happened for the best. Hm, hm!--At one time we could
not think it was so--and that was why we did not wish to be
parted from our child; but now we can make our minds quite easy
about it--because now we can trust you. I have complete trust in
you, Axel, my dear son--God bless you! (They grasp hands, and
drink to each other again.)
Mother. Do you know what I should like?
Mother. I should like Axel to tell us how your reconciliation
Mother. Why should you be shy about it? Why have you never
told us about it? Good gracious, didn't you think your parents
would be only too glad to hear how lucky their little girl was?
Father. I think it is a very good idea of your mother's. Now let
us sit down and hear all about it. (They sit down; LAURA turns
away.) No, come and sit down beside your mother, Laura! We are
going to have a good look at you while he tells us about it.
(Pulls her to him.)
Mother. And don't forget anything, Axel! Tell us of the very
first sign of love, the first little kindness, Laura showed you.
Axel. Yes, I will tell you how it came about.
Laura (getting up). But, Axel--!
Axel. I shall only be supplementing what you told in your
Mother. It is all to your credit, my child! Now be quiet and
listen to him, and correct him if he forgets anything. (Pulls her
down to her seat again.)
Axel. Yes, my dear parents. You know, of course, that we did not
begin very well--
Father. Quite so--but you can pass over that.
Axel. As soon as she was left to depend on herself alone, I
realised the great wrong I had done to Laura. She used to tremble
when I came near her, and before long she used to tremble just as
much before any one. At first I felt the humility of a strong man
who has triumphed; but after a time I became anxious, for I had
acted too strongly. Then I dedicated my love to the task of
winning back, in a Jacob's seven years of service, what I had
lost in one moment. You see this house--I made everything smooth
in it for her feet. You see what we have round us--I set that
before her eyes. By means of nights of work, by exerting myself
to the uttermost, I got it all together, bit by bit--in order
that she should never feel anything strange or inhospitable in
her home, but only what she was accustomed to and fond of. She
understood; and soon the birds of spring began to flutter about
our home. And, though she always ran away when I came, I was
conscious of her presence in a hundred little loving touches in
my room--at my desk--
Laura (ashamed). Oh, it isn't true!
Axel. Don't believe her! Laura is so kind-hearted--her fear of me
made her shy, but she could not withstand her own kind impulses
and my humble faithfulness. When I was sitting late in my room,
working for her, she was sitting up in hers--at any rate I often
thought I heard her footstep; and when I came home late after a
wearisome journey, if she did not run to welcome me, it was not
because she was wanting in wifely gratitude--Laura has no lack of
that--but because she did not wish to betray her happiness till
the great day of our reconciliation should come. (LAURA gets up.)
Father. Then you were not reconciled immediately?
Axel. Not immediately.
Mother (anxiously, in a subdued voice). My goodness, Laura did
not say a word about that!
Axel. Because she loved you, and did not want to distress you
unnecessarily. But does not her very silence about it show that
she was waiting for me? That was her love's first gift to me.
(LAURA sits down again.) After a while she gave me others. She
saw that I was not angry; on the contrary, she saw that where I
had erred, I had erred through my love for her; and she is so
loving herself, that little by little she schooled herself to
meet me in gentle silence--she longed to be a good wife. And
then, one lovely morning--just like to-day--we both had been
reading a book which was like a voice from afar, threatening our
happiness, and we were driven together by fear. Then, all at
once, all the doors and windows flew wide open! It was your
letter! The room seemed to glow with warmth--just as it does now
with you sitting there; summer went singing through the house--
and then I saw in her eyes that all the blossoms were going to
unfold their petals! Then I knelt down before her, as I do now,
and said: For your parents' sake, that they may be happy about
us--for my sake, that I may not be punished any longer--for your
own sake, that you may be able again to live as the fulness of
your kind heart prompts--let us find one another now! And then
Laura answered-- (LAURA throws herself into his arms, in a burst
of tears. All get up.)
Mother. That was beautiful, children!
Father. As beautiful as if we were young again ourselves, and
had found one another!--How well he told it, too!
Mother. Yes, it was just as if it was all happening before our
Father. Wasn't it?--He's a very gifted man.
Mother (in a low voice). He will do something big!
Father (in the same tones). Ay, a big man--and one of our family!
Axel (who has advanced towards the foreground with LAURA). So
that was your answer, Laura?
Laura. You haven't remembered everything.
Mother. Is there something more? Let us hear some more!
Axel. What did you say, then?
Laura. You know I said that something had held me back a long,
long time! I saw well enough that you were fond of me, but I
was afraid it was only as you would be fond of a child.
Laura. I am not so clever as--as some others, you know; but I am
not a child any longer, because now I love you!
Axel. You are a child, all the same!
Father (to the MOTHER). But what about our arrangements? We
were to have gone on our travels at once.
Axel. No, stay with us a few days now! (LAURA makes a sign to
Laura (softly). I would rather be alone with you, now.
Mother. What are you saying, Laura?
Laura. I?--I was saying that I should like to ask you, if you are
going abroad now, to take Mathilde with you.
Mother. That is very nice of you, Laura, to remember Mathilde.
People generally say that newly-married couples think of no one
Father. No, Laura is not like that!
All. No, Laura is not like that!
Laura (gently). Mathilde, forgive me! (They embrace, and LAURA
says softly:) I understand you now for the first time!
Mathilde. Not quite.
Laura. I know that I should never have got Axel, but for you.
Mathilde. That is true.
Laura. Oh, Mathilde, I am so happy now!
Mathilde. And I wish you every happiness.
Axel (taking LAURA'S arm). Now you may go and travel abroad,
Mathilde. Yes!--and my next book shall be a better one.
Axel. Your next--?
A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS
CORNELIA, his sister.
HAGBART, his nephew.
AAGOT, her niece.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROST.
PEDERSEN, agent to Mrs. Falk.
(SCENE.--A large room in LEONARDA FALK's house. At the back,
folding doors which are standing open. Antique furniture.
LEONARDA, dressed in a riding-habit, is standing beside a
writing-desk on the left, talking to her agent PEDERSEN.)
Leonarda. It is a complete loss.
Pedersen. But, Mrs. Falk--
Leonarda. A loss, every scrap of it. I can't sell burnt bricks.
How much is there of it? Two kilns' full, that is 24,000 bricks--
at their present price about thirty pounds' worth. What am I to
do with you?--send you about your business?
Pedersen. Madam, it is the first time--
Leonarda. No, indeed it is not; that is to say, it is certainly
the first time the bricks have been burnt, but your accounts have
been wrong over and over again, so that I have been led into
sending out faulty invoices. What is the matter with you?
Pedersen. Madam, I beg--.
Hans. Your horse is saddled, madam, and the General is coming
up the avenue.
Leonarda. Very well. (HANS goes out.) Have you taken to drink,
Pedersen. No, madam.
Leonarda. That wouldn't be like you. But what is it? You look
quite changed.--Pedersen! I believe I know! I saw you rowing back
across the river last night, from the summer-house in the wood.
Are you in love? (PEDERSEN turns away.) So that is it. And
crossed in love? (She goes up to him, puts her hand on his
shoulder and stands with her back turned to the audience, as he
does.) Are you engaged to her?
Leonarda. Then she is not treating you well? She is not true to
you? (Stoops and looks into his face.) And you love her in spite
of it? (Moves away from him.) Then you are a weak man, Pedersen.
We cannot possibly love those who are false to us. (Draws on one
of her gloves.) We may suffer horribly for a while; but love
Pedersen (still turning away from her). It is easy for those to
talk who have not experienced it.
Leonarda. Experienced it?--You never can tell that. Come to me
this evening at seven o'clock.
Pedersen. Yes, madam.
Leonarda. I will talk things over with you then. We will go for a
Pedersen. Thank you, madam.
Leonarda. I believe I may be able to help you in your trouble,
Pedersen. That is all right--don't think any more about the
bricks, or of what I said. Forgive me! (Holds out her hand to
Pedersen (grasping her hand). Oh, madam!
[Enter GENERAL ROSEN.]
Rosen. Good morning! (PEDERSEN crosses the room.) Bless my soul,
Pedersen, you look like a pat of melting butter! (PEDERSEN goes
out. ROSEN turns to LEONARDA.) Have you been playing father
confessor so early in the morning, and on such a fine day too?
That is too bad.--By the way, have you heard from Aagot?
Leonarda (putting on her hat). No, I don't know what
has come over the child. It is close on a fortnight since--
Rosen. She is enjoying herself. I remember when I was enjoying
myself I never used to write letters.
Leonarda (looking at him). You were enjoying yourself last night,
I rather think?
Rosen. Do I show it? Dear, dear! I thought that after a bath and
Leonarda. This sort of thing cannot go on!
Rosen. You know quite well that if I can't be here I have to go
to my club.
Leonarda. But can't you go to your club without--? (Stops, with a
gesture of disgust.)
Rosen. I know what you mean, worse luck. But they always give one
a glass too much.
Leonarda. One glass? Say three!
Rosen. Three, if you like. You know I never was good at counting.
Leonarda. Well, now you can go for your ride alone.
Rosen. Oh, but--
Leonarda. Yes, I am not going for a ride to-day with a man who
was tipsy last night. (Takes off her hat.) Hans! (HANS is heard
answering her from without.) Put my horse up for the present!
Rosen. You are punishing yourself as well as me, you know. You
ought to be out on a day like this--and it is a sin to deprive
the countryside of the pleasure of seeing you!
Leonarda. Will nothing ever make you take things seriously?
Rosen. Yes. When the day comes that you are in need of anything,
I will be serious.
Leonarda. And you propose to hang about here waiting, till I have
some ill luck? You will have to wait a long time, I hope. (Goes
to her desk.)
Rosen. I hope so too!--because meanwhile I shall be able to
continue coming here.
Leonarda. Till you get your orders from America.
Rosen. Of course--till I get my orders from Sherman.
Leonarda. You have not had any orders, then?
Leonarda. It is beginning to look very suspicious. How long is it
since I made you write to him?
Rosen. Oh, I am sure I forget.
Leonarda. It has just struck me--. I suppose you did write?
Rosen. Of course I did. I always do what you tell me.
Leonarda. You stand there twirling your moustache--and when you
do that I always know there is some nonsense going on--.
Rosen. How can you suppose such a thing?
Leonarda. You have never written! Why on earth did that never
strike me before?
Rosen. I have written repeatedly, I assure you!
Leonarda. But not to Sherman? You have not reported yourself for
Rosen. Do you remember the Russian cigarettes I have so often
spoken of? I have got some now. I brought a few with me to try;
may I offer you one?
Leonarda. Are you not ashamed to look me in the face?
Rosen. I do everything you tell me--
Leonarda. You have been putting me off with evasions for more than
two months--playing a perfect comedy with me! To think that an
officer, who has been through the American war and won honours,
rank, and a definite position, could throw away his time in this
way--and in other ways too--for a whole year now--
Rosen. Excuse me--only eight months.
Leonarda. And isn't that long enough?
Rosen. Too long. But you know, better than any one, why I have
Leonarda. Did I ask you to come here? Do you think you can tire
Rosen. Leonarda! (She looks at him; he bows formally.) I beg your
pardon. Mrs. Falk.
Leonarda. You shall write the letter here, now, and report
yourself for immediate service.
Rosen. If you order me to.
Leonarda. I shall post it.
Rosen. Many thanks.
Leonarda. You are twirling your moustache again. What are you
planning in your mind?
Rosen. I?--Shall I write here? (Goes to the desk.)
Leonarda. Yes. (He takes up a pen.) Ah, I know what it is! As
soon as you get home, you will write another letter recalling
Rosen. Yes, naturally.
Leonarda. Ha, ha, ha! (Sits down.) Well, I give you up!
Rosen. Thank you!--Then will you try one of my cigarettes?
Rosen. Nor come for a ride?
Rosen. Am I to come here this evening?
Leonarda. I shall be engaged.
Rosen. But you will be riding to-morrow morning?
Leonarda. I don't know.
Rosen. Then I shall take the liberty of coming to ask I wish you
a very good day.
Leonarda. Look, there is a strange man at the door (Gets up.)
Rosen. What? (Turns round.) He? Has he the face to come here?
(Looks out of the open window.) Pst! Pst!--Hans!--Don't you see
my horse has got loose? (Goes hurriedly out past the stranger,
who bows to him.) Pst! Pst!
Hagbart. Madam! (Stops short.)
Leonarda. May I ask--?
Hagbart. You do not know me, then?
Hagbart. I am Hagbart Tallhaug.
Leonarda. And you dare to tell me so--with a smile on your lips?
Hagbart. If you will only allow me to--
Leonarda. How is it you dare to come here?
Hagbart. If you will only allow me to--
Leonarda. Not a word! Or can there be two men of that name?
Leonarda. So it was you who came forward at the Philharmonic
concert, when I was seeking admittance for myself and my
adopted daughter, and spoke of me as "a woman of doubtful
reputation"? Is that so?
Hagbart. Yes, madam; and I must--
Leonarda (interrupting him impetuously). Then get out of here!--
Hans! (HANS is heard answering her from without.)
Hagbart. Mrs. Falk, first allow me to--.
Leonarda. Hans, will you see this gentleman off my premises.
Hans. Certainly, ma'am.
Hagbart. Wait a moment, Hans!
Hans. Shall I, ma'am? (Looks at LEONARDA.)
Hagbart. It concerns your niece, Mrs. Falk.
Leonarda. Aagot! Has anything happened to her? I have had no
letter from her!
Hagbart. Wait outside, Hans!
Hans (to LEONARDA). Shall I, ma'am?
Leonarda. Yes, yes! (HANS goes out.) What is it?
Hagbart. No bad news.
Leonarda. But how is it you are here on her behalf?
Hagbart. It is difficult to avoid people at a watering-place, you
know--although I must admit your niece did her best. She treated
me as contemptuously as possible even went farther than that; but
she could not prevent my talking to people she used to talk to,
or my happening to be where she was; so that--well--she heard
them talk about me, and heard me talk to them--and in the end she
talked to me herself.
Leonarda. Talked to you?
Hagbart. Yes, it is no good denying it--she actually talked to
me, and that more than once.
Leonarda. But what is the meaning of this visit to me?
Hagbart. If you will only allow me to--
Leonarda. I want you to deliver your message briefly and
concisely--and not a word more than that.
Hagbart. But I cannot do that until you have allowed me to--
Leonarda. Whether you can or not, I shall allow nothing else. I
am not going to give you an excuse for saying that you have been
holding conversations with me too.
Hagbart. If you have no objection, I am in love with your niece,
Leonarda. You? With Aagot?--It serves you right!
Hagbart. I know.
Leonarda. Ha, ha! That is how the land lies.
[HANS appears at the open door.]
Hans. Can I go now, ma'am?
Leonarda. Ha, ha!--Yes, you can go. (Exit HANS ) Well, what more
have you to tell me? Have you given Aagot any hint of this?
Leonarda. And what answer did you get?--You are silent. Do you
find it difficult to tell me?
Hagbart. I am very glad you take it so well, Mrs. Falk.
Leonarda. Yes, it's funny, isn't it?--Well, what did Aagot say?
She generally has plenty to say.
Hagbart. Indeed she has. We came here to-day by the same boat--
Leonarda. By the same boat? Aagot and you? Have you been
Hagbart. Mrs. Falk, you cannot possibly understand if you will
not allow me to--
Leonarda. I wish to hear the rest of it from my niece, as I
suppose she will be here directly.
Hagbart. Of course, but still--
Leonarda. There will be no more of that sort of thing here! If
you intend to persecute my niece with yon attentions in the same
way as you have persecuted me with your malice, you are at
liberty to try. But you shall not come here! I can forbid it
Hagbart. But, my dear Mrs. Falk--
Leonarda. I am really beginning to lose my patience, or rather I
have lost it already. What have you come here for?
Hagbart. As there is no help for it--well, I will tell you
straight out, although it may be a shock to you--I am here to ask
for your niece's hand.
Leonarda (taking up her gloves). If I were a man, so that there
should be nothing "doubtful" about my reply, I would strike
you across the face with my gloves.
Hagbart. But you are a woman, so you will not.
Hans. Here is Miss Aagot, ma'am.
Aagot (from without). Aunt!
[Enter AAGOT. HANS goes out.]
Aagot. Aunt!--That wretched Hans! I was signalling to him--I
wanted to surprise you. (Throws herself into LEONARDA'S arms.)
Leonarda. Child, have you deceived me?
Aagot. Deceived you? I?
Leonarda. I knew it! (Embraces her.) Forgive me! I had a
moment's horrible doubt--but as soon as I looked at you it was
gone!--Welcome, welcome! How pretty you look! Welcome!
Aagot. Oh, aunt!
Leonarda. What is it?
Aagot. You know.
Leonarda. His shameless persecution of you? Yes! (Meanwhile
HAGBART has slipped out.)
Aagot. Hush!--Oh, he has gone!--Have you been cross with him?
Leonarda. Not as cross as he deserved--
Aagot. Didn't I tell him so?
Leonarda (laughing). What did you tell him?
Aagot. How hasty you could be!--Were you really cruel to him?
Leonarda. Do you mean to say you have any sympathy--with him?
Aagot. Have I any--? But, good heavens, hasn't he told you?
Aagot. That he--that I--that we--oh, aunt, don't look so dreadfully
at me!--You don't know, then?
Aagot. Heaven help me! Aunt--!
Leonarda. You don't mean to say that you--?
Aagot. Yes, aunt.
Leonarda. With him, who--. In spite of that, you--Get away from
Aagot. Dear, darling aunt, listen to me!
Leonarda. Go away to him! Away with you!
Aagot. Have you looked at him, aunt? Have you seen how handsome
Leonarda. Handsome? He!
Aagot. No, not a bit handsome, of course! Really, you are going
Leonarda. To me he is the man who made a laughingstock of me in a
censorious little town by calling me "a woman of doubtful
reputation." And one day he presents himself here as my adopted
daughter's lover, and you expect me to think him handsome! You
Leonarda. I have sacrificed eight years of my life--eight years--
in this little hole, stinting myself in every possible way; and
you, for whom I have done this, are hardly grown up before you
fly into the arms of a man who has covered me with shame. And I
am supposed to put up with it as something quite natural!--and to
say nothing except that I think he is handsome! I--I won't look
at you! Go away!
Aagot (in tears). Don't you suppose I have said all that to
myself, a thousand times? That was why I didn't write. I have
been most dreadfully distressed to know what to do.
Leonarda. At the very first hint of such a thing you might to
have taken refuge here--with me--if you had had a scrap of
loyalty in you.
Aagot. Aunt! (Goes on her knees.) Oh, aunt!
Leonarda. To think you could behave so contemptibly!
Aagot. Aunt!--It was just because he was so sorry for the way he
had behaved to you, that I first--
Leonarda. Sorry? He came here with a smile on his lips!
Aagot. That was because he was in such a fright, aunt.
Leonarda. Do people smile because they are in a fright?
Aagot. Others don't, but he does. Do you know, dear, he was just
the same with me at first--he smiled and looked so silly; and
afterwards he told me that it was simply from fright.
Leonarda. If he had felt any qualms of conscience at all, as you
pretend he did, he would at least have taken the very first
opportunity to apologise.
Aagot. Didn't he do that?
Leonarda. No; he stood here beating about the bush and smiling--
Aagot. Then you must have frightened the sense out of him, aunt.
He is shy, you know.--Aunt, let me tell you he is studying for
Leonarda. Oh, he is that too, is he!
Aagot. Of course he is. You know he is the bishop's nephew, and
is studying for the church, and of course that is what made him
so prejudiced. But his behaviour that day was just what opened
his eyes--because he is very kind-hearted. Dear, darling aunt--
Leonarda. Get up! It is silly to lie there like that. Where did you
learn that trick?
Aagot (getting up). I am sure I don't know. But you frighten me
Leonarda. I can't help that. You frightened me first, you know,
Aagot. Yes, but it is all quite different from what you think,
aunt. He is no longer our enemy. He has reproached himself so
genuinely for treating you as he did--it is perfectly true, aunt.
We all heard him say so. He said so first to other people, so
that it should come round to me; and then I heard him saying so
to them; and eventually he told me so, in so many words.
Leonarda. Why did you not write and tell me?
Aagot. Because you are not like other people, aunt! If I had as
much as mentioned he was there, you would have told me to come
home again at once. You aren't like others, you know.
Leonarda. But how in the world did it come about that you--?
Aagot. You know, dear, that if any one sings _your_ praises, that
is enough to make me their friend at once. And when, to crown
all, this man did it who had behaved so unjustly to you, you can
well believe that I went about singing for joy all day. That was
the beginning of it--
Leonarda. Yes, tell me the whole story.
Aagot. That would be simply impossible, aunt! It would take me
days!--But I can tell you this, that I had no idea what it was
that was upsetting my nerves in such a manner.
Leonarda. If you felt like that, why did you not come away?
Aagot. That was just what I did! But that was also just what made
the whole thing happen!
Leonarda. How? Try and tell me a little more calmly and
Aagot. Thank you, aunt! It is good of you to listen to me! Good
heavens, how I--. (Bursts into tears.)
Leonarda. There--there! Tell me all about it from beginning to end.
Aagot. Yes--I was quite feverish for about a week--I thought I
was ill--and the others kept asking what was the matter with me.
And really I didn't know. There is a whole heap of things I could
tell you about those few days--but you wouldn't be able to
Leonarda. Yes, I should.
Aagot. No, you couldn't possibly! I can't, either. I was so
wretched then--and now I am so happy--
Leonarda. Well, tell me about it another time. But how did things
come to a head?
Aagot. He spoke to me--straight out!
Leonarda. Proposed to you?
Aagot. Yes.--Oh, I feel I am blushing again at the very thought of it.
Leonarda. And you looked foolish?
Aagot. I don't know what I looked like!
Leonarda. What did you do?
Aagot. I gave one scream--a real good scream--and ran; ran home,
packed my trunk, and got on board the boat as quick as I could.
Leonarda. And was that all?
Aagot. All? It happened out of doors amongst all the people.
Aagot. It happened so frightfully unexpectedly. I never was so
frightened in my life--and so ashamed of myself afterwards. I did
nothing but cry on the boat, all the way.
Leonarda. But he must have come by the same boat.
Aagot. Just fancy, he had travelled overland across the
promontory and caught the boat on the other side. And I knew
nothing about it till I saw him before my eyes! I thought I
should sink through the deck. I wanted to run away then, but--oh,
aunt, I couldn't! He looked at me with such a wonderful look in
his eyes, and took hold of my hands. He spoke to me, but I don't
know what he said; everything seemed to be going round and round.
And his eyes, aunt! Ah, you haven't looked at them, and that is
why you took it so--so--
Leonarda. No, dear.
Aagot. There is something about his mere presence--something so
true. And when he looks at me and says--not in words, you know,
but still says all the same "I love you so much," I tremble all
over. Oh, aunt, kiss me! --There! Thank heaven!--Do you know
what he said to-day?
Aagot. That the woman who had fostered--that was the word he
used--such a solemn word, but then he is studying for the church
--well, that the woman who had fostered such a girl--he meant me,
you know--I thought of all my faults, but he will get to know
them soon enough--
Leonarda. Well? That the woman who had fostered such a girl as
Aagot. --as me, could not have her equal anywhere!
Leonarda. You must have been praising me up nicely?
Aagot. On the contrary. It was afterwards when he said he would
come here first, before me--it was his duty, he said, to stand
the first shock. "For heaven's sake don't," I said; "you don't
know her, she will crush you!"
Leonarda. Oh, Aagot!
Aagot. It was then that he said, "No, the woman who has fostered
such a girl," etcetera, etcetera. Ah, now I see you have been
horrid to him.
Leonarda. I had been worried all the morning--and I
Aagot. You shall have no more worries after this. Because people
are so kind, you know, and you are going to move about among
them again. You, who are so good yourself--
Leonarda. No, that is just what I am not.
Aagot. You? You are only so very difficult to understand, aunt!--
Oh, what is it, dear?
Leonarda. I am unhappy, Aagot!
Aagot. Why, aunt? About me?
Leonarda. You are the sunshine of my life; you have brought light
and warmth and gentleness into it--but it is just because of
Aagot. Because of that? Aunt, I don't undcrstand you.
Leonarda. I am clumsy, I am hard, I am suspicious--wicked. I am a
savage, with no more self-restraint than I ever had. What sort of
a figure must I cut in his eyes--and in yours? Tell me! Am I not
a clumsy, ugly--
Aagot. You are the sweetest woman in the whole work! It is
only your indomitable strength and courage and youthfulness--
Leonarda. No, no--tell me the truth! I deserve it! Because, you
know, it has been for your sake that for eight years I have only
associated with work-people. All that I have will be yours. So
have some respect for me, Aagot--tell me the truth! Am I not--
what shall I say? Tell me what I am!
Leonarda. No, no! I have never realised as strongly as I do now
how I have buried myself all these eight years. All the books I
have read about the great movements going on in the world outside
have not really enlightened me. All that I have read and thought
fades away before the first gleam of life that reaches me from
the real world of men and women. I see new beauty merely in your
new clothes, your fashionable hat--the colours you are wearing--
the way they are blended. They mean something that I know nothing
of. You bring a fragrance in with you--a breath of freshness; you
are so dainty and full of life; whereas everything here has
become so old, so heavy, so disjointed--and my life most of all.
Aagot. Well, I must tell you what he said, since you won't
believe what I say.
Leonarda. But he knew nothing about me?
Aagot. No--it only indirectly referred to you. He said he had
never wanted so much to get to know any one, as he wanted to
get to know you, because seeing much of me had made him discover
you--that was the very expression he used! And it was an
extraordinary chance that--
Leonarda. Stop! I can't bear to think of it!--To think it should
be the very man whom we--we--
Aagot. Hated so!--yes, isn't it extraordinary?
Leonarda. The very first time you have been away from me!
Leonarda. And you come back in a halo of reconciliation and
affection for him!
Aagot. But who is responsible for that, I should like to know!
And you talk about your life here having made you clumsy and
ugly--you, who can manufacture a goddess of victory like me!
Leonarda. No, I don't complain when I see you and hear you--
when I have you with me! That is worth paying a price for. It
was selfish of me to think for a moment that the price was too
high. You are in the springtime of your life--while I--
Aagot. You? What is wrong with your life?
Leonarda. I am beginning to think my life is over.
Aagot. Yours? Your life over? Oh, you pain me by saying such a
Leonarda. I am very happy--very happy about all this! Believe
me that is so. But you know--
Aagot. I know how tremendously and incomprehensibly you have
Leonarda. Go, my child--and bring him back!
Aagot. How delicious that sounds! Bring him back! (Gets up, then
stops.) Thank you, my dear, sweet, darling aunt! (She runs out.
LEONARDA falls into a chair by the table and buries her head in
her hands. AAGOT'S voice is heard without: "Yes, come along!"
and HAGBART'S, answering: "Is it true?")
Aagot (coming in with HAGBART). Come along! (LEONARDA gets up,
dries her eyes, and meets them with a smile.) Aunt, here he is!
Hagbart. Mrs. Falk!
Leonarda. Forgive me!
Hagbart. What?--No, you must forgive me! I haven t been able to
ask you to! I--
Aagot. We can talk about that another time! Let aunt look at you
Leonarda. You two won't disappoint one another. I can see that.
Aagot. It is wonderfully sweet of you, aunt!
Leonarda. Yes, love one another! Bring some beauty, some warmth,
some colour into this cold house!
Aagot. Oh, aunt--!
Leonarda. Have you kissed her yet? (AAGOT moves a little away
from HAGBART.) Go on! (They embrace.)
Aagot (running from him to LEONARDA). But, dearest aunt, are you
Leonarda. Don't bother about me!--Have you told your uncle, the
bishop, about it?
Hagbart. Not yet.
Leonarda. You haven't?--Well, you have the worst of it before you
yet, I am afraid.
Hagbart. No; now that I have got as far as this, nothing shall
stand in my way!
Aagot. Do you hear that, aunt?
(SCENE.--A room in the BISHOP's house, some weeks later. A door at
the back of the room leads to another large room. Another door in
the right-hand wall; windows in the left. Well forward, by one of
the windows, a large easy-chair. Farther back, a writing-desk and
chair. On the right, near the door, a couch, and chairs ranged
along the wall. Chairs also alongside the door at the back. The
Bishop is sitting on the couch, talking to HAGBART.)
Bishop. My dear Hagbart, you keep on telling me that you have
acted up to your convictions. Very well, do you want to forbid
my acting up to mine?
Hagbart. You know that all I ask, uncle, is that you will see her
and talk to her first.
Bishop. But if that is exactly what I don't wish to do? You have
made things difficult for us, you know, by choosing a wife out
of your own class--although at the same time we have grown
fonder of her every day, and are ready to do anything for _her_.
But farther than that we cannot go. Do you want to read my
Bishop. I think you should. It is quite a polite letter.
Hagbart. I know you can put things politely enough. But it is the
fact, uncle--the fact of your doing it!
Bishop. Yes--I cannot alter that.
Hagbart. Could you not at all events postpone sending the
Bishop. It is sent.
Bishop. This morning. Yes. So there is nothing more to be done.
Hagbart. Uncle, you are cruel!
Bishop. How can you say that, Hagbart? I have acquiesced in your
giving up your clerical career--and Heaven alone knows what a
grief that is to me. (Gets up.) But I will not acquiesce in your
bringing into my house a woman who does not even bear her
husband's name. Do we as much as know who her husband was? She
was both married and divorced abroad. And we don't know anything
more about her life since then; it is scarcely likely it has been
blameless. Since she came here she has never once been to church.
She has led a most eccentric life, and lately has been allowing a
man of very evil reputation to visit her.
Hagbart. General Rosen?
Bishop. Yes, General Rosen. He is next door to a drunkard. And he
is a dissolute fellow in other ways, too.
Hagbart. He goes everywhere, all the same. He even comes here.
Bishop. Well, you see, he distinguished himself on military
service; he has many sociable qualities, and he is well
connected. It is the way of the world.
Hagbart. But Mrs. Falk is not to be received?
Bishop. She is a woman.
Hagbart. How long will this sort of thing be endured?
Bishop. Come, come--are you getting those ideas into your head
too? You seem to have imbibed a lot of new doctrines lately!
Hagbart. You should have seen her and talked to her once at
least, before making up your mind.
Bishop. I will tell you something in confidence, Hagbart. Justice
Rost, who lives out there in the country, has often seen General
Rosen coming away from her house at most unseemly hours. I will
have nothing to do with women of that sort.
Hagbart. What about men of that sort?
Bishop. Well, as I said, that is quite another matter.
Hagbart. Quite so.--Mrs. Falk takes compassion on the General;
she interests herself in him. That is all.
Bishop. Did she know him previously, then?
Hagbart. Very likely.
Bishop. Then she has her own private reasons for acting as she
Hagbart. Shall I tell you what it is? She has a kinder heart than
any of us, and can make a sacrifice more willingly.
Bishop. So you know that?
Hagbart. Yes. Hers is a finer nature than any of ours; it is more
completely developed, intellectually and morally.
Bishop. I am listening to you with the profoundest amazement!
Hagbart. Oh, don't misunderstand me! She has her faults.
Bishop. Really, you admit that!--I want to beg something of you
earnestly, Hagbart. Go away for a little while.
Hagbart. Go away!
Bishop. Yes, to your uncle's, for instance. Only for a week or a
fortnight. You need to clear your thoughts, badly--about all
sorts of things. Your brain is in a whirl.
Hagbart. That is true; but--
Bishop. Speak out!
Hagbart. My brain has been in a whirl much longer than you have
had any idea of. It has been so ever since that day in winter
when I did Mrs. Falk such a horrible injustice.
Bishop. Not exactly an injustice, but--
Hagbart. Yes, an injustice! It was a turning point in my life. To
think that I should have given way to such a fanatical outburst!
It ended in my being terrified at myself--well, I won't bore you
with the whole story of my long fight with myself. You saw
nothing of it, because I was not here. But at last, when I got
ill and had to go away and take the waters, and then happened
to see Aagot--the effect on me was more than anything I could
have imagined. I seemed to see the truth; mankind seemed
different, and I seemed to hear the voice of life itself at last.
You cannot imagine the upheaval it caused in me. It must be that
she had something within her that I lacked, and had always
lacked! It was her wonderful naturalness; everything she did was
done with more charm and gaiety than I found in any one else, and
she was quite unconscious of it herself. I used to ask myself
what was the reason of it--how it could be that it had been her
lot to grow up so free and wholesome. I realised that it was
because I had been oblivious to what I lacked myself, that I had
been so fanatically severe upon others. I knew it is humiliating
to confess it, but it is true. I have always been blundering and
impetuous.--But what was I going to say?
Bishop. You were going to speak about Mrs. Falk, I presume.
Hagbart. Yes!--My dear uncle, don't take it amiss. But all this
time I have never been able to keep away from her.
Bishop. Then it is she you have been talking to?
Hagbart. Of course!--and of course, that is to say, to Aagot too.
You propose my going away. I cannot! If I could multiply myself
by two, or if I could double the length of the days, I should
never have enough of being with her! No, I have seen daylight
now. On no account can I go away.
Bishop. And you call that seeing daylight! Poor boy!
Hagbart. I cannot discuss it with you. You would no more
understand than you did that day when you took away those books
of grandmother's from me and put them in the lumber-room.
Bishop. Oh, you are bringing that up again? Well, you are at
liberty to do as you please. You shall not have the right to say
I have exercised any compulsion.
Hagbart. No, uncle, you are very good--to me.
Bishop. But there is a new fact to be taken into consideration. I
have noticed it for some days.
Hagbart. What do you mean?
Bishop. In all this conversation we have just had, you have only
mentioned Aagot's name twice, at most.
Hagbart. But we were not talking about Aagot.
Bishop. Are you not in love with her any longer?
Hagbart. Not in love with Aagot? (Laughs.) Can you ask that? Do
you mean to say--?
Bishop. Yes, I mean to say--
Hagbart (laughing again). No, that is quite a misunderstanding on
your part, uncle.
Bishop. Well, I say it again: go away for a week or a fortnight,
Hagbart! Consider the situation from a distance--both your own
position and that of others!
Hagbart. It is impossible, absolutely impossible, uncle. It would
be just as useful to say to me: "Lie down and go to sleep for a
week or a fortnight, Hagbart; it will do you good"! No. All my
faculties are awake at last--yes, at last--so much so, that
sometimes I can scarcely control myself.
Bishop. That is the very reason.
Hagbart. The very reason why I must go straight ahead, for once
in my life! No, I must stay here now. --Well, good morning,
uncle! I must go out for a turn.
Bishop. Go to call on Mrs. Falk, you mean.
Hagbart (laughing). Unfortunately I haven't the face to do that
till this afternoon; I was there the whole day yesterday. But our
conversation has set all my thoughts agog again, and when I have
no means of appeasing them I have to go out and walk. Thank
you, uncle, for being so indulgent to me!
Bishop. Then you don't wish to read my letter?
Hagbart. Ah, that is true--the letter! That upsets the whole
thing again. I don't know how I came to forget that.
Bishop. You see for yourself how confused and distracted you
are. You need to pull yourself together. Go away for a little!
Hagbart. It is impossible!--Good-bye, uncle!
Bishop. Here is grandmother!
[Enter the GRANDMOTHER and CORNELIA.]
Hagbart. Good morning, grandmother! Have you slept well?
Grandmother (coming forward on CORNELIA's arm). Excellently!
Cornelia. She slept well into the morning.
Bishop. I am delighted, grandmother. (Takes her other arm.)
Grandmother. You needn't shout so loud. It is a fine day to-day
and I can hear very well. (To HAGBART.) You didn't come in to see
me last night.
Hagbart. I came in too late, grandmother.
Grandmother. I tell you, you needn't talk so loud.
Cornelia. She always wants to make out that she can hear.
Grandmother (as they settle her in the big chair by the window).
This is a nice seat--
Bishop. And I am always delighted to see you sitting there.
Grandmother. The window--and the mirror over there.
Cornelia. Yes, it enables you to see everything.
Grandmother. How you do shout, all you good people!
Bishop. I must go and change my things, if you will excuse me.
(Goes out to the right.)
Cornelia. Do you want anything more?
Grandmother. No, thank you. (CORNELIA goes out at the back.)
Hagbart. Dear, good grandmother! You are the only one here
who understands me!
Grandmother (trying to look round the room). Are we alone?
Grandmother. Has your uncle called on Mrs. Falk?
Hagbart. No, worse luck; he has written her a letter.
Grandmother. I thought as much.
Hagbart. Isn't it shameful, grandmother! He won't see her once,
or talk to her, before judging her.
Grandmother. They are all alike, these--. Are we alone?
Hagbart. Yes, grandmother.
Grandmother. You must have patience, Hagbart! You used to be
Hagbart. Yes, grandmother.
Grandmother. I have seen so many generations--so many different
ways of behaving. In my day we were tolerant.
Hagbart. I enjoyed reading your books so much, grand mother!
Grandmother. Of course you did.--Are we alone?
Hagbart. Yes, grandmother.
Grandmother. I am quite in love with your fiancee, Hagbart. She
is like what girls were in my day.
Hagbart. Courageous, weren't they?
Grandmother. Yes, and independent. They seem quite different
nowadays.--Are we alone?
Grandmother. You get married--and I will come and live with you
and her. Hush!
Hagbart. Do you mean it?
Grandmother. Hush! (Looks out of the window.) There is Justice
Rost coming, with his wife. Go and tell your uncle!
Grandmother. I might have expected it. They came up from the
Hagbart. Good-bye, then, grandmother!
Grandmother. Good-bye, my boy! (HAGBART goes out to the right.
The door at the back is opened. CORNELIA ushers in ROST and
Cornelia. Please walk in!
Mrs. Rost. Thank you! You must excuse us for calling so early.
We came up from the country yesterday, and my husband has to
go to the courts for a little while!
Rost. I have to go to the courts to-day. (The BISHOP conies in
from the right.)
Rost and Mrs. Rost. Thank you!
Mrs. Rost. You must excuse our calling so early; but we came up
from the country yesterday, and my husband has to go to the
Rost. I have to go to the courts for a little while.
Bishop. I know.
Mrs. Rost. And there is the old lady in her chair already!
Rost. Good morning, my dear madam!
Mrs. Rost. Good morning!--No, please don't get up!
Grandmother. Oh, I can get up still.
Rost. Ah, I wish I were as active as you!
Mrs. Rost. My husband was saying to Miss Cornelia only last
Grandmother. You need not strain yourself so. I can hear
perfectly well. (The others exchange glances.)
Rost. I was saying to Miss Cornelia only last night--we met for a
few moments after the service--
Grandmother. I know, I know.
Rost. I said I had never known any one of over ninety have all
their faculties so remarkably clear--
Mrs. Rost. --so remarkably clear as yours! And such good health,
too! My husband has suffered a great deal from asthma lately.
Rost. I have suffered a great deal from asthma lately.
Mrs. Rost. And I from a heart trouble, which--
Grandmother. We did not know anything about such ailments in
Mrs. Rost. Isn't she sweet! She doesn't remember that people
were sometimes ill in her day.
Bishop. Lovely weather we are having!
Rost. Delightful weather! I cannot in the least understand how it
is that I--. (The BISHOP brings a chair forward for him.) Oh,
please don't trouble, my lord! Allow me.
Mrs. Rost. My husband must have caught cold. (ROST sits down.)
Cornelia. It certainly was draughty in church last night.
Rost. But we sat in the corner farthest from the door.
Mrs. Rost. We sat in the corner farthest from the door. That was
why we were not able to bid your lordship good evening afterwards.
Bishop. There was such a crowd.
Rost, Mrs. Rost, and Cornelia. Such a crowd!
Mrs. Rost. These services must be a great help in your
Rost. Yes, every one says that.
Bishop. Yes, if only the result were something a little more
practical. We live in sad times.
All three (as before). Sad times!
Mrs. Rost. We only just heard yesterday and we met so many
friends that I was prevented from asking your sister about it--we
have only just heard--
Rost. And that is why we have come here to-day. We believe in
Mrs. Rost. Straightforward! That is my husband's motto.
Bishop. Probably you mean about Hagbart's engagement?
Rost and Mrs. Rost. To Miss Falk?
Cornelia. Yes, it is quite true.
Mrs. Rost. Really?
Cornelia. My brother came to the conclusion that he had no right
to oppose it.
Rost. Quite so. It must have been a difficult matter for your
lordship to decide.
Bishop. I cannot deny that it was.
Mrs. Rost. How Mr. Tallhaug has changed!
Rost. Yes, it seems only the other day he--
Bishop. We must not be too severe on young people in that
respect nowadays, Mrs. Rost.
Rost. It is the spirit of the time!
Bishop. Besides, I must say that the young lady is by no means
displeasing to me.
Cornelia. My brother has a very good opinion of her--although he
finds her manner perhaps a little free, a little too impetuous.
Mrs. Rost. But her adoptive mother?
Rost. Yes, her adoptive mother!
Cornelia. My brother has decided not to call on her.
Rost and Mrs. Rost. Really!
Mrs. Rost. We are extremely glad to hear that!
Rost. It was what we wanted to know! Everybody we met yesterday
was anxious to know.
Mrs. Rost. Everybody! We were so concerned about it.
Cornelia. My brother has written to her, to make it quite clear
Mrs. Rost. We are very glad to hear it!
Grandmother (looking out of the window). There is a carriage
stopping at the door.
Cornelia. I thought I heard a carriage, too. (Gets up.)
Grandmother. There is a lady getting out of it.
Mrs. Rost. A lady?--Good heavens, surely it is not--? (Gets up.)
Rost. What do you say? (Gets up.)
Cornelia. She has a veil on.
Mrs. Rost. I really believe--! (To her husband.) You look, my
dear--you know her.
Rost. It is she; I recognise her coachman Hans.
Bishop (who has got up). But perhaps it is Miss Aagot?
Cornelia. No, it is not Miss Aagot.--She is in the house by this
time. What are we to do?
Mrs. Rost. Has she not had your lordship's letter?
Bishop. Yes, this morning.
Rost. And in spite of that--?
Bishop. Perhaps for that very reason. Ahem!--Cornelia, you
must go down and--
Cornelia. Not on any account! I refuse!
Mrs. Rost (to her husband). Come, dear! Be quick, let us get
away. (Looks for her parasol.) Where is my parasol?
Bishop (in a low voice). Won't you wait a little while Mr. Rost?
Mrs. Rost. My parasol! I can't find my parasol.
Rost. Because you have got it in your hand, my love!
Mrs. Rost. So I have! You see how upset I am. Make haste--come
along! Can we get out this way?
Rost. Through the Bishop's bedroom!
Mrs. Rost. Oh!--But if you come with me, my dear!--Are we to meet
this woman? Why do you stand still? Surely you don't want to--?
Rost. Let us wait a little.
Mrs. Rost. Wait? So that you may talk to her? Oh, you men--you
are all alike!
Bishop. But, you know, some one must--. Cornelia!
Cornelia. Not for worlds! I am not going to stir an inch.
Bishop. Yes, grandmother?
Mrs. Rost. Now the old lady is going to interfere. I thought as
Grandmother. Courtesy is a duty that every one must recognise.
Bishop. You are quite right. (Goes towards the back of the room;
at the same time a knock is heard on the door). Come in! (The
door opens, and LEONARDA enters.)
Mrs. Rost. It is she!
Rost. Be quiet!
Mrs. Rost. But wouldn't you rather--?
Leonarda. Excuse me, am I speaking to the Bishop?
Bishop. Yes, madam. Whom have I the honour to--?
Leonarda. Mrs. Falk.
Bishop. Allow me to introduce my sister--and Mr. Justice Rost
and Mrs. Rost--and this is--
Leonarda. "Grandmamma" of whom I have heard, I think!
Bishop. Yes. Let me present Mrs. Falk to you, grandmother.
Grandmother (getting up). I am very glad to see you, ma'am.
Mrs. Rost and Cornelia. What does she say?
Grandmother. As the oldest of the family--which is the only
merit I possess--let me bid you welcome. (LEONARDA gives a start,
then kneels down and kisses her hand.)
Mrs. Rost. Good gracious!
Mrs. Rost. Let us go away!
Rost (in a low voice). Does your lordship wish--?
Bishop (in the same tone). No, thank you--I must go through with
Rost. Good morning, then!
Bishop. Many thanks for your visit and for being so frank with
Mrs. Rost. That is always our way, your lordship. Good morning!
Cornelia (as they advance to take leave of her). I will see you
Rost (to the GRANDMOTHER). I hope I shall always see you looking
as well, madam!
Mrs. Rost. Good-bye, madam! No, please don't disturb yourself.
You have over-exerted yourself just now you know.
Grandmother. The same to you.
Rost and Mrs. Rost. I beg your pardon?
Bishop. She thought you were wishing her good day--or something
of that sort.
Rost and Mrs. Rost. Oh, I see! (They laugh. They both
ceremoniously in silence to LEONARDA as they pass her; CORNELIA
and the BISHOP go with them to see them out, the BISHOP turning
at the door and coming back into the room.)
Bishop (to LEONARDA). Won't you sit down?
Leonarda. Your lordship sent me a letter to-day. (She pauses for
an answer, but without effect.) In it you give me to understand,
as politely as possible, that your family does not wish to have
any intercourse with me.
Bishop. I imagined, Mrs. Falk, that you had no such desire,
either previously or now.
Leonarda. What it rally means is that you want me to make over
my property to the two young people, and disappear.
Bishop. If you choose to interpret it in that way, Mrs. Falk.
Leonarda. I presume your nephew has told you that my means are
not such as to allow of my providing for one establishment here
and another for myself elsewhere.
Bishop. Quite so. But could you not sell your property?
Leonarda. And all three of us leave here, your lordship means?
Of course that would be possible; but the property is just now
becoming of some value, because of the projected railway--and,
besides, it has been so long in our family.
Bishop. It is a very fine property.
Leonarda. And very dear to us.
Bishop. It pains me deeply that things should have taken this
Leonarda. Then may I not hope that the fact may influence your
lordship's decision in some degree?
Bishop. My decision, madam, has nothing to do with your property.
Leonarda. During all these eight years have I offended you in any
way--or any one here?
Bishop. Mrs. Falk, you know quite well that you have not.
Leonarda. Or is it on account of the way I have brought up my
Bishop. Your niece does you the greatest credit, madam.
Leonarda. Then perhaps some of my people have been laying
complaints about me?--or some one has been complaining of them?
Bishop. Not even the most censorious person, my dear madam, could
pretend that you have been anything but exemplary in that respect.
Leonarda. Then what is it?
Bishop. You can scarcely expect me to tell a lady--
Leonarda. I will help you out. It is my past life.
Bishop. Since you say it yourself--yes.
Leonarda. Do you consider that nothing can expiate a past--about
which, moreover, you know nothing?
Bishop. I have not seen in you any signs of a desire to expiate
it, Mrs. Falk.
Leonarda. You mean that you have not seen me at confession or
Leonarda. Do you want me to seek expiation by being untrue to
Bishop. No; but the way I refer to is the only sure one.
Leonarda. There are others. I have chosen the way hard work and
Bishop. I said the only sure way, Mrs. Falk. Your way does not
protect against temptation.
Leonarda. You have something definite in your mind when you
say that, have you not?--Shall I help you out again? It is
Leonarda. You think I ought to send him away?
Leonarda. But it would be all up with him if I did. And there is
a good deal of ability in him.
Bishop. I have neither the right nor the desire to meddle in
affairs I know nothing of; but I must say that only a person of
unimpeachable reputation should attempt the rescue of such a
man as General Rosen.
Leonarda. You are quite right.
Bishop. You are paying too high a price for it, Mrs. Falk, and
without any certainty of achieving anything.
Leonarda. Maybe. But there is one aspect of the matter that you
Bishop. And that is?
Bishop. Quite so.--Yes.--Of course, if you approach the matter
from that point of view, I have nothing to say.
Leonarda. You don't believe it?
Bishop. I only wish the matter depended upon what I myself
believe. But it does not, Mrs. Falk.
Leonarda. But surely you will admit that one ought to do good
even at the risk of one's reputation?
Leonarda. Well, will your lordship not apply that maxim to
yourself? It is quite possible that for a while your congregation's
faith in you might be a little disturbed if you were to call upon
me; but you know now, from my own lips, that the rumours you have
heard are false, and that you ought rather to be all the more anxious
to support me in what I am trying to do. And in that way you will
do a good turn to these two young people, and to me, without
driving me away. For some years now I have lived only for others.
One does not do that without making some sacrifices, my lord--
especially when, as in my case, one does not feel that one's life
is quite over.
Bishop. You look the picture of youth, Mrs. Falk!
Leonarda. Oh, no--still I have not done it without a struggle.
And now I want a little reward for it. Who would not? I want to
spend my life with those for whom I have sacrificed myself; I
want to see their happiness and make it mine. Do not rob me of
that, my lord! It depends upon you!
Bishop. I do not quite see how it depends upon me.
Leonarda. It depends upon you for this reason; if my exile is to
be the price paid for her marriage, my niece will never consent
to wed your nephew.
Bishop. That would be very distressing to me, Mrs. Falk.
Leonarda. I made haste to come to you, before she should know
anything about it. I have brought your letter with me. Take it
back, my lord! (Searches in her pocket for the letter.)
Bishop (noticing her growing anxiety). What is wrong?
Leonarda. The letter!--I laid it on my desk while I dressed to
come out, meaning to bring it with me--but in my hurry and
anxiety I have forgotten it! And now Aagot is making out accounts
at that very desk. If she sees your handwriting she will suspect
something at once, because of course we have been expecting you
Bishop. Well, I suppose there is nothing to be done?
Leonarda. Indeed there is. When she comes here--for she will
understand everything and come straight here--could not your
lordship meet her yourself, and say to her--. (Stops short.)
Bishop. Say what?
Leonarda. "I have been mistaken. People should be judged, not
by their mistakes, but by what they have achieved; not by their
beliefs, but by their efforts towards goodness and truth. I mean
to teach my congregation that lesson by calling upon your aunt
next Sunday." (The GRANDMOTHER nods at her approvingly. LEONARDA
sees this, takes her hand, and turns again towards the BISHOP.)
This venerable lady pleads for me too. She belongs to a day that
was more tolerant than ours--at all events than ours is in this
little out-of-the-way place. All the wisdom of her long life is
summed up in these two words: Have forbearance!
Bishop. There is one kind of forbearance, Mrs. Falk, that is
forbidden us--the forbearance that would efface the distinction
between good and evil. That is what the "toleration" of my
grandmother's day meant; but it is not an example to be followed.
Leonarda (leaving the GRANDMOTHER's side). If I have erred--if I
seem of no account, from the lofty standpoint from which you look
upon life--remember that you serve One who was the friend of
Bishop. I will be your friend when I see you seeking your soul's
salvation. I will do all I can then.
Leonarda. Help me to expiate my past! That means everything to
me--and is not much for you to do. I only ask for a little show
of courtesy, instead of indignities! I will contrive that we
shall seldom meet. Only don't drive me away--because that means
exposing me to contempt. Believe me, I will give you no cause for
shame; and your good deed will be rewarded by the gratitude of
the young people.
Bishop. I am deeply distressed at having to take up this attitude
towards you. You are bound to think me hardhearted; but that is
not the case. I have to consider that I am the guardian of
thousands of anxious consciences. I dare not for my nephew's
sake offend the respect they feel for me, the trust they put in
me; nor dare I disregard the law we all must follow. For a bishop
to do as I have done in opening my doors to your niece, is in
itself no small thing, when you consider the dissensions that are
going on in the Church nowadays. I cannot, I dare not, go farther
and open my doors to a woman whom my whole congregation--albeit
unjustly--well, I won't wound your feelings by going on.
Bishop. Believe me, it gives me great pain. You have made a
remarkable impression upon me personally. (Meanwhile the
GRANDMOTHER has got up to go out of the room.)
Leonarda. Are you going away? (The BISHOP goes to the wall and
rings a bell.)
Grandmother. Yes--I am too old for these scenes. And, after what
I have just heard, I am sure I have no right to sit here either.
(CORNELIA comes in, takes her arm, and assists her out.)
Leonarda (coming forward). Now I can say this to your lordship:
you have no courage. Standing face to face with me here, you know
what you ought to do, but dare not do it.
Bishop. You are a woman--so I will not answer.
Leonarda. It is because I am a woman that you have said things to
me to-day that you would not have said to--to General Rosen, for
instance--a man who is allowed to come to your lordship's house
in spite of his past life, and his present life too.
Bishop. He shall come here no more in future. Beside, you cannot
deny that there is a difference between your two cases.
Leonarda. There is indeed a difference: but I did not expect the
distinction to be made on these lines. Nor did I imagine, my
lord, that your duty was to protect, not the weaker vessel, but
the stronger--to countenance open vice, and refuse help to those
who are unjustly accused!
Bishop. Do you think there is any use in our prolonging this
[AAGOT opens the door at the back and calls from the doorway.]
Leonarda. Aagot! Good heavens!
Aagot (coming forward). Aunt!
Leonarda. Then you know? (AAGOT throws herself into her arms.) My
Aagot. I felt sure you would be here, heaven help me!
Leonarda. Control yourself, my child!
Aagot. No, I cannot. This is too much.
Bishop. Would you ladies rather be alone?
Aagot. Where is Hagbart?
Bishop. He has gone out for a walk.
Aagot. It makes me boil with rage! So this was to be the price of
my being received into your family--that I was to sell the one
who has been a mother to me! Sell her, whom I love and honour
more than all the world!
Bishop. Mrs. Falk, do you wish to continue?--or--
Aagot. Continue what? Your negotiations for the sale of my dear
one? No. And if it were a question of being admitted to heaven
without her, I should refuse!
Bishop. Child! Child!
Aagot. You must let me speak! I must say what is in my heart.
And this, at any rate, is in it--that I hold fast to those I
love, with all the strength that is in my being!
Bishop. You are young, and speak with the exaggeration of
youth. But I think we should do better to put an end to this
interview; it can lead to nothing.
Leonarda. Let us go.
[HAGBART appears at the door.]
Aagot (seeing him before the others). Hagbart!
Hagbart. I heard your voice from outside. Mrs. Falk--
Aagot. Hagbart! (She goes towards him, but as he hastens to her
side she draws back.) No--don't touch me!
Hagbart. But, Aagot--?
Aagot. Why did you not manage to prevent this? You never said a
word to me about it!
Hagbart. Because really I knew nothing about it.
Aagot. One becomes conscious of such things as that without
needing to be told. It hasn't weighed much on your mind!--Did
you not know of it just now?
Hagbart. Yes, but--
Aagot. And you didn't fly to tell us?
Hagbart. It is true I--
Aagot. Your mind was taken up with something else altogether.
And my only aim in life has been that everything should be made
right for her! I thought you were going to do that.
Hagbart. You are unjust, Aagot. What can I do--?
Aagot. No, you are too much of a dreamer. But this you must
realise--that I am not going to buy an honoured position at the
price of insults to my aunt; that is the very last thing
Hagbart. Of course! But need there be any question of that? I
will come and live with you two, and--
Aagot. You talk like a fool!
Leonarda. Aagot! Aagot!
Aagot. Oh, I feel so hurt, so deceived, so mortified--I must say
it out. Because to-day is not the first of it--nor is this the
Leonarda. No, I can understand that. But what is it? You are
wounding his love for you.
Aagot (bitterly). His love for me!
Leonarda. Are you out of your mind? You are talking wildly!
Aagot. No, I am only telling the truth!
Leonarda (earnestly, and lowering her voice). Angry words, Aagot?
You, who have seen into the bottom of his heart in quiet sacred
moments! You who know how true, how steadfast he is! He is
different from other men, Aagot--
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