Bjornstjerne M. Bjornson
Part 3 out of 5
Aagot (drawing away from her). Stop! stop! You don't see!
Leonarda. You are out of your senses, my child! Your behaviour
is disgracing us.
Aagot. The greatest disgrace is his, then--because it is not me
he loves! (Bursts into tears and rushes to the back of the room.)
Bishop (to HAGBART, in a low voice). I hope now you will go away
for a little while.
Bishop. Come away, then. (Goes out to the left, HAGBART follows
Aagot (coming forward to LEONARDA). Can you forgive me?
Leonarda. Let us go home.
Aagot. But say something kind to me.
L eonarda. No.
Aagot. I won't let you go away till you do.
Leonarda. I cannot.
Aagot. Aunt, I am not jealous of you.
Leonarda. Be quiet!
Aagot. Only you must let me go away for a few days--I must get
things straight in my mind. (Bursts into tears.) Oh, aunt--for
pity's sake--do you love him? (LEONARDA tries to get away from
her.) I don't love him any longer! If you love him, aunt, I will
give him up!
Leonarda. At least hold your tongue about it, here in another
person's house!--If you are not coming with me, I am going home
Aagot. Then I shall never follow you.
Leonarda. You are completely out of your senses!
Aagot. Yes; I cannot live, unless you speak to me gently and look
at me kindly.--God keep you, aunt, now and always!
Leonarda (turning to her). My child!
Aagot. Ah! (Throws herself into her arms.)
Leonarda. Let us go home!
(SCENE--The garden at LEONARDA FALK'S house some days later. On
the left, a summer-house with table and chairs. A large basket,
half full of apples, is on the table. LEONARDA is standing
talking to PEDERSEN.)
Leonarda. Very well, Pedersen; if the horses are not needed here,
we may as well send to fetch Miss Aagot home. Can we send to-day?
Pedersen. Certainly, ma'am.
Leonarda. Then please send Hans as soon as possible with a pair
of horses to the hill farm for her. It is too cold for her to be
up there now, anyway.
Pedersen. I will do so. (Turns to go.)
Leonarda. By the way, Pedersen, how has that little affair of
yours been going?
Leonarda. Come to me this evening. We will see if we can continue
our little talk about it.
Pedersen. I have been wishing for that for a long time, ma'am.
Leonarda. Yes, for the last eight or ten days I have not been
able to think of anything properly.
Pedersen. We have all noticed that there has been something
wrong with you, ma'am.
Leonarda. We all have our troubles. (PEDERSEN waits; but as
LEONARDA begins to pick apples carefully from a young tree and
put them in a small basket that is on her arm, he goes out to the
left. HAGBART appears from the right, and stands for a minute
without her seeing him.)
Hagbart. Mrs. Falk! (LEONARDA gives a. little scream.) I beg your
pardon, but I have been looking for you everywhere. How are you?
I have only just this moment got back.
Leonarda. Aagot is not at home.
Hagbart. I know. Has she been away the whole time?
Hagbart. Will she be away long?
Leonarda. I am sending the horses up to-day, so she should be
here by the day after to-morrow.
Hagbart. It was you I wanted to speak to, Mrs. Falk.
Leonarda. About Aagot?
Hagbart. Yes, about Aagot--amongst other things.
Leonarda. But couldn't you wait--till some other time?
Hagbart. Mrs. Falk, I came straight here from the steamer; so
you can see for yourself--
Leonarda. But if it concerns Aagot, and she is not here?
Hagbart. The part of it that concerns Aagot is soon said. She was
perfectly right--only I did not know it at the time.
Leonarda. Good God!
Hagbart. I do not love Aagot.
Leonarda. But if Aagot loves you?
Hagbart. She has showed me lately that she does not. Did she not
tell you so, plainly?
Leonarda. She was--how shall I put it?--too excited for me to
attach much importance to what she said.
Hagbart. Then she did tell you so. I thought she had--indeed I
was sure of it. Aagot does not love me, but she loves you. She
wants you to be happy.
Leonarda. If you do not love Aagot, it seems to me you ought
not to have come here.
Hagbart. Perhaps you are right. But I am not the same man as I
was when I used to come here before; nor do I come for the same
Leonarda. If you do not love Aagot, I must repeat that you have
no right to be here. You owe that much consideration both to her
and to me.
Hagbart. I assure you that it is from nothing but the sincerest
consideration for you that I am here now.
Leonarda (who up to this point has been standing by the tree).
Then I must go!
Hagbart. You won't do that!
Leonarda. You seem to me completely changed.
Hagbart. Thank goodness for that!--because I don't feel any great
respect for the man I was before. Many people can decide such
things in a moment, but it has taken me time to see my course
Leonarda. I don't understand you.
Hagbart (almost before the words are out of her mouth, coming
close to her). You do understand me!
Leonarda. It would be wicked! Take care!
Hagbart. Your hand is trembling--
Leonarda. That is not true!
Hagbart. They say there is a devil in every one that should not
be waked. It is a foolish saying, because these devils are our
Leonarda. But we ought to have them under control. That is the
lesson my life has taught me; it has cost me dear, and I mean to
profit by it.
Hagbart. If I did not believe that it was the impulse of truth
itself that guided me to you, I should not be standing here. I
have had a long struggle. I have had to give up one prejudice
after another, to enable my soul to find itself fully and go
forward confidently. It has brought me to you--and now we will go
Leonarda. That might have been, without this.
Hagbart. I love you! It is you I have loved in her--since the
very first day. I love you!
Leonarda. Then have respect for me--and go!
Leonarda. No, no! (Shrinks away from him.) Oh, why did this
Hagbart. It has come upon us step by step. The cruel obstacles in
our way have only proved friends to us, in bringing us together.
Give yourself up to happiness, as I do now!
Leonarda. I do not deserve happiness. I have never expected that.
Hagbart. I don't know what you have gone through to make you what
you are now--so beautiful, so good, so true; but this I do know,
that if the others had not judged you by your failures, I should
not have loved you for what you have achieved. And I thought that
might give me some value in your eyes.
Leonarda. Thank you for that, from my heart!--But the world
disapproves of such things. It disapproves of a young man's
making love to an older woman, and if--
Hagbart. I have never cared much about the world's opinion, even
in the days when I was most hidebound in prejudice. It is your
opinion I want--yours only!
Leonarda. And my answer is that one who is alone can get along
without the world's sympathy--but it is different with a couple.
They will soon feel the cold wind of the world's displeasure
blowing between them.
Hagbart. When you answer me, it makes what I have said seem so
formal and ceremonious--so clumsy. But I must just be as I am; I
cannot alter myself. Dearest, from the moment I felt certain that
it was you I loved, only one thing seemed of any importance to
me--everything else was blotted out. And that is why I do not
understand what you say. Do you suppose they will try to make
me tire of you? Do you suppose that is possible?
Leonarda. Not now, but later on. There will come a time--
Hagbart. Yes, a time of work--self-development! It has come
now. That is why I, am here! Perhaps a time of conflict may come
too--heaven send that it may! Are we to pay any heed to that? No!
You are free, and I am free; and our future is in our own hands.
Leonarda. Besides, I have grown old--
Leonarda. --and jealous, and troublesome; while you are the
incarnation of youth and joy.
Hagbart. You have more youth in you than I. You are an
enchantress! All your life you will be showing me new aspects of
yourself--as you are doing now. Each year will invest you with a
new beauty, new spiritual power. Do you think I only half
understand you, or only half love you? I want to sit close in
your heart, warmed by its glow. It is the irresistible power of
truth that has drawn me to you. My whole life will not be long
enough for me to sound the unfathomable depths of your soul.
Leonarda. Your words are like the spring breezes, alluring and
intoxicating, but full of deadly peril too.
Hagbart. You love me! I knew it before I came here to-day. I saw
it the moment I stood here. Love is the very breath of life to
you, surpassingly more than to any one else I have ever seen; and
that is why you have suffered so terribly from the disappointments
and emptiness of life. And now, when love is calling to you--love
that is true and sincere--you are trembling!
Leonarda. You understand me in a way I thought impossible! It
takes away all my resolution; it--
Hagbart. Surely you saw it in all the many talks we love had?
Hagbart. Then is that not a proof that we two--?
Leonarda. Yes, it is true! I can hide nothing from you. (Bursts
Hagbart. But why this unhappiness?
Leonarda. I don't know! It pursues me all day, and all through
the sleepless night. (Weeps helplessly.)
Hagbart. But it has no real existence. It might, in the case of
others; but not in our case--not for us.
Leonarda. I spoke in my distress, without thinking. I threw out
the first thing that came into my head, to try and stop you. But
it is not that--oh, God! (Sways as if half swooning.)
Hagbart (rushing to her side). Leonarda!
Leonarda. No, no! Let me be!
Hagbart. You know your love is too strong for you--will you not
give way to it?
Leonarda. Hagbart, there is something about it that is not right--
Hagbart. Do you mean in the way it has come about? In Aagot's
having been the means of leading me to you? Think of it, and you
will see that it could not have happened otherwise.
Leonarda. Talking about it will not help me. I must see Aagot; I
must speak to Aagot.
Hagbart. But you have done that! You know it is you that love
me, and not she. You know it is you that I love, and not her.
What more do you need?
Leonarda. I want time. I want not to lose the self-control I have
won for myself by years of renunciation and self-sacrifice, and
was so proud of. But it won't obey me when you speak to me.
Your words possess me in spite of myself. If there is any
happiness on earth, it is to find one's every thought faultlessly
understood. But that happiness brings a pain with it--for me, at
any rate. No, don't answer! You are too strong for me; because I
love you--love you as only one can who has never believed such
joy could exist or could possibly come to her--and now the depths
of my peace are troubled with the thought that it is treachery to
Hagbart. But you know that it is not!
Leonarda. I don't know. Let me have time to think! I am afraid,
and my fear revives forgotten memories. More than that--I am
afraid of the immensity of my love for you, afraid of dragging
you with me into a whirlpool of disaster!--No, don't answer!
Don't touch me!--Hagbart, do you love me?
Hagbart. Can you ask that?
Leonarda. Then help me! Go away!--Be generous. Let my heart
know this triumph and see you in its glorious rays! Other
women do not need that, perhaps--but I need it--go!
Leonarda. Wait till you hear from me. It will not be long.
Whatever happens, be patient--and remember, I love you!--No,
don't say anything! I have neither courage nor strength for
anything more. (Her voice sinks to a whisper.) Go! (He turns to
go.) Hagbart! (He stops.) What you have said to me to-day has
given me the greatest happiness of my life. But your going away
now without a word will be more to me than all you have sail.
(He goes out.)
Leonarda (stands for some moments in a kind of ecstasy, moves,
and stands still again. Suddenly she calls out): Aagot!
Aagot (from without). Are you there?
Leonarda. My dear child! (Goes out, and cones in again with
AAGOT in her arms.) Did you walk?
Aagot. The whole way! (She is carrying her hat in her hand,
appears hot and sunburnt, and bears evident signs of laving made
a long journey on foot. She takes off a knapsack which she has
been carrying on her back.) I washed in a brook to-day and used
it as a looking-glass as well!
Leonarda. Have you been walking all night?
Aagot. No; I slept for a little while at Opsal, but I was out by
sunrise. It was lovely!
Leonarda. And I have just been arranging to send and fetch you.
Aagot. Really? Well, they can fetch my things. I could not wait
Leonarda. You look so well.
Aagot. Oh, that is because I am so sunburnt.
Leonarda. You are feeling all right again, then--now?
Aagot. Splendid, aunt! All that is over, now.--I have had a
letter from grandmother.
Leonarda. Was that letter from her that I sent on to you? I could
not make out whom it was from.
Aagot. Yes, it was from her. Here it is. You must hear it.
Aagot (reads). "My dear child. I have not written a letter for
many years, so I do not know what this will be like. But Hagbart
is away, so I must tell you myself. Do not be distressed any
longer. As soon as you are married, I will come and live with
you." Isn't that glorious, aunt? (She is trembling with
happiness, and throws her arms round LEONARDA'S neck.)
Aagot. But what? There is no more "but" about it, don't you
see! It is on your account.
Leonarda. On my account? Yes, but--what about you? How do you
Aagot. Oh, that?--Well, I will tell you the whole story! I can do
that now.--Oh, don't take it all so seriously, aunt! It really is
nothing. But let us sit down. (Brings forward a seat, as she
speaks.) I really feel as if I wanted to sit down for a little
while, too!--Well, you see, it came upon me like an unexpected
attack--a blow from behind, as it were. Now, my dear aunt, don't
look so troubled. It is all over now. As a matter of fact, the
beginning of it all was a play I saw.
Leonarda. A play?
Aagot. We saw it together once, you and I, do you remember?
Scribe's Bataille de Dames.
Aagot. And I remember thinking and saying to you: That fellow
Henri, in the play, was a stupid fellow. He had the choice
between a strong-natured, handsome, spirited woman, who was ready
to give her life for him, and a child who was really a stupid
little thing--for she was, it is no use denying it, aunt--and he
chose the insignificant little person. No, I would rather sit
down here; I can rest better so. Ah, that is good! And now you
mustn't look me in the face oftener than I want to let you,
because you take it too dreadfully solemnly, and I am going to
tell you something foolish now.--All of a sudden it flashed
across my mind: Good heavens! the woman was--,and the little
hussy with the curly hair was--,and he? But Hagbart is a man of
some sense: he had chosen otherwise! And I did not know; but I
realised at the same time that almost from the first day Hagbart
used always to talk to you, and only to you, and hardly at all to
me except to talk about you. I got so miserable about it that I
felt as if some one had put a knife into my heart; and from that
moment--I am so ashamed of it now--I had no more peace. I carried
an aching pain in my heart night and day, and I thought my heart
itself would break merely to see him speak to you or you to him.
I am ashamed of myself; because what was more natural than that
he should never be tired of talking to you? I never should,
Leonarda. But still I don't see--I don't understand yet--
Aagot. Wait a bit! Oh, don't look so anxiously at me! It is all
over now, you know.
Leonarda. What is all over?
Aagot. Bless my soul, wait! Aunt, dear, you are more impatient
than I am myself! I do not want you to think me worse than I am,
so I must first tell you how I fought with myself. I lay and
cried all night, because I could not talk to you about it, and in
the daytime I forced myself to seem merry and lively and happy.
And then, aunt, one day I said to myself quite honestly: Why
should you feel aggrieved at his loving her more than you? What
are you, compared with her? And how splendid it would be, I
thought, for my dear aunt to find some one she could truly love,
and that it should be I that had brought them together!
Leonarda. That was splendid of you, Aagot!
Aagot. Yes, but now I mustn't make myself out better than I am,
either. Because I did not always manage to look at it that way;
very often something very like a sob kept rising in my throat.
But then I used to talk to myself seriously, and say: Even
supposing it is your own happiness you are giving up for her
sake, is that too much for you to do for her? No, a thousand
times no! And even supposing he does not love you any more, ought
you not to be able to conquer your own feelings? Surely it would
be cowardly not to be able to do that! Think no more of him, if
he does not love you!
Leonarda. Aagot, I cannot tell you how I admire you, and love
you, and how proud I am of you!
Aagot. Oh, aunt, I never realised as I did then what you have
been to me! I knew that if I were capable of any great deed,
anything really good or really fine, it was you that had planted
the impulse in me. And then I sought every opportunity to bring
this about; I wanted to take ever so humble a part in it, but
without your hearing a word or a sigh from me. Besides, I had you
always before me as an example; because I knew that you would
have done it for me--indeed that you had already done as much.
Your example was like a shining beacon to me, aunt!
Aagot. But you don't seem to be as happy about it as I am! Don't
you understand yet how it all happened?
Leonarda. Yes, but--about the result of it?
Aagot. Dearest, you know all about that!--No, it is true, you
don't! I must not forget to tell you that; otherwise you won't be
able to understand why I behaved so stupidly at the Bishop's.
Aagot. Well, you see, when I was full of this splendid
determination to sacrifice myself so as to make you happy, I used
to feel a regular fury come over me because Hagbart noticed no
change in me--or, to be more correct, did not understand it in
the least. He used to go about as if he were in a dream. Isn't it
extraordinary how one thing leads to another? My feeling was
stronger than I had any idea of; because when the Bishop wanted
to slight you--and that was like a stab from behind, too!--I
absolutely lost my head with Hagbart because of his not having
prevented that, instead of going about dreaming. I don't know--
but--well, you saw yourself what happened. I blurted out the
first thing that came into my head and was abominably rude; you
were angry; then we made friends again and I went away--and then,
Leonarda. And then--?
Aagot. Then I thought it all over! All the beautiful things you
said to me about him, as we were going home, came back to me more
and more forcibly. I saw you as I had always known you, noble
and gentle.--It was so wonderful up there, too! The air, the
clearness, the sense of space! And the lake, almost always calm,
because it was so sheltered! And the wonderful stillness,
especially in the evening!--And so it healed, just as a wound
Leonarda. What healed?
Aagot. The pain in my heart, aunt. All the difficulties vanished.
I know Hagbart to be what you said--noble and true. And you too,
aunt! You would neither of you have wished to give me a moment's
pain, even unconsciously, I knew. It was so good to realise that!
It was so restful, that often while I was thinking of it, I went
to sleep where I sat--I was so happy!--Ah, how I love him! And
then came grandmother's letter--.
[HANS comes in, but does not see AAGOT at first.]
Hans. Then I am to fetch Miss Aagot--why, there she is!
Aagot (getting up). You quite frightened me, Hans!
Hans. Welcome back, miss!
Aagot. Thank you.
Hans. Well, you have saved me a journey, miss, I suppose?
Aagot. Yes. But someone must go and fetch my things.
Hans. Of course, miss.--But what is the matter with the mistress?
Aagot. Aunt!--Heavens, what is the matter?
Hans. The mistress has not looked well lately.
Aagot. Hasn't she? Aunt, dear! Shall I--? Would you like to--?
Hans. Shall I fetch some one to--
Leonarda. No, no!--But you, Aagot--will you-. Oh, my God!--Will
you run in--and get--
Aagot. Your bottle of drops?
Leonarda. Yes. (AAGOT runs out.) Hans, go as quickly as you can
to the General's--ask him to come here! At once!
Hans. Yes, ma'am.
Hans. Yes, ma'am.
Leonarda. Go on horseback. You may not find the General at home--
and have to go elsewhere after him.
Hans. Yes, ma'am. (Goes out. AAGOT re-enters.)
Aagot. Here it is, aunt!
Leonarda. Thank you. It is over now.
Aagot. But what was it, aunt?
Leonarda. It was something, dear--something that comes over one
sometimes at the change of the year.
(The interval between this act and the next should be very short.)
(SCENE.--A room in the BISHOP'S house, the same evening. The
lights are lit. The BISHOP comes in with LEONARDA, who is in
travelling dress, with a shawl over her arm and a bag in her
hand. The BISHOP makes a movement as though to relieve her of
them, but she puts them down herself.)
Leonarda. Your lordship must excuse me for troubling you so late
as this; but the reason of it is something over which I have no
control.---Is your nephew here?
Bishop. No, but I expect him. He has been here twice this
afternoon already to see me, but I was out.
Leonarda. I will make haste then, and do what I have to do
before he comes.
Bishop. Shall I give instructions that we are to be told when he
Leonarda. If you please.
Bishop (ringing the bell). Grandmother says that as soon as he
came back to-day, he went at once to see you.
[Enter a Maid.]
Bishop (to the Maid). Be so good as to let me know when Mr.
Hagbart comes in. (Exit Maid.)
Leonarda. Has he had a talk with his grandmother?
Leonarda. After he--? (Checks herself.)
Bishop. After he had been to see you.
Leonarda. Did he tell her anything?
Bishop. He was very much agitated, apparently. I did not ask
grandmother any further questions; I can imagine what passed
between them.--Has he spoken to you?
Bishop. And you, Mrs. Falk?
Leonarda. I--? Well, I am here.
Bishop. Going on a journey, if I am not mistaken?
Leonarda. Going on a journey. Things are turning out as you
wished after all, my lord.
Bishop. And he is to know nothing about it?
Leonarda. No one--except the person who will accompany me. I am
sailing for England by to-night's boat.
Bishop (looking at his watch). You haven't much time, then.
Leonarda. I only want to entrust to your lordship a deed of gift
of my property here.
Bishop. In favour of your niece?
Leonarda. Yes, for Aagot. She shall have everything.
Bishop. But last time, Mrs. Falk, you said--
Leonarda. Oh, I have enough for my journey. Later on I shall want
nothing; I can provide for myself.
Bishop. But what about Aagot? Will you not wait until she comes
Leonarda. She came home to-day. She is resting now. But I have
sent back my carriage to bring her here immediately. I want to
ask you to take her in--I know no one else--and to comfort her--
Bishop. Indeed I will, Mrs. Falk. I understand what this must
Leonarda. And will you try--to--to bring those two together again?
Bishop. But they don't love each other!
Leonarda. Aagot loves him. And--as they both love me--my idea
was that when I am gone, and they know that it was my wish, the
love they both have for me may bring them together again. I hope
so--they are both so young.
Bishop. I will do all I can.
Leonarda. Thank you. And I want to make bold to beg you to let
grandmother go and live in the country with Aagot--or let Aagot
come and live here, whichever they prefer. It would divert
Aagot's mind if she had the care of grandmother; and she is very
fond of her.
Bishop. And grandmother of her.
Leonarda. And wherever the grandmother is, Hagbart will be
too. Very likely the old lady would help them.
Bishop. I think your idea is an excellent one; and I am amazed
that you have had time and strength to think it all out in this
Leonarda. Is grandmother still up?
Bishop. Yes; I have just come from her room. Hagbart has excited
her; she can stand so little.
Leonarda. Then I expect I had better not go and bid her good-bye.
I should have liked to, otherwise.
Bishop. I don't think I ought to allow it.
Leonarda. Then please say good-bye to her from me--and thank her.
Bishop. I will.
Leonarda. And ask her--to help--
Bishop. I will do everything I possibly can.
Leonarda. And your lordship must forgive me for all the upset I
have caused here. I did not intend it.
Bishop. I am only sorry that I did not know you sooner. Many
things might have been different.
Leonarda. We won't talk about that now.
Maid. I was asked to bring you this card, ma'am.
Leonarda. Thank you. Is the General in the hall?
Bishop. General Rosen--here?
Leonarda. I took the liberty of asking him to call for me here
when the boat was signalled.
Bishop. Ask the General to come in. (Exit Maid.) Then it is
General Rosen that is to--. (Checks himself.)
Leonarda (searching in her bag). --that is to accompany me? He is
Bishop. The husband you divorced.
Bishop. I see I have done you a great injustice, Mrs. Falk.
Leonarda. Yes. (GENERAL ROSEN comes in, dressed in a smart
travelling suit and looking very spruce.)
General Rosen. I beg your lordship's pardon--but, time is up.--
Mrs. Falk, is this yours? (Gives her a letter.)
Leonarda. Yes.--When Aagot comes, will your lordship give her
this?--and help her?
Bishop. I will, Mrs. Falk. God bless you!
Maid. Mr. Hagbart has just come in.
Leonarda. Good-bye!--Say good-bye to--
Bishop (taking her hand). What you are doing is more than any one
of us could have done.
Leonarda. It all depends on how deeply one loves.--Thank you, and
Bishop. Good-bye! (GENERAL ROSEN offers LEONARDA his arm. She
takes it, and they go out. The BISHOP follows them. HAGBART comes
in from the right, looks round in astonishment, then goes towards
the back of the room and meets the BISHOP in the doorway.)
Bishop. Is that you? (Both come forward without speaking.)
Hagbart (in a low voice, but evidently under the influence of
great emotion). I can tell by your voice--and your face--that you
know about it.
Bishop. You mean that you think I have had a talk with
Bishop. Well, I have. She told me nothing definite, but I see how
things stand. I saw that sooner than you did yourself, you know.
Hagbart. That is true. The fight is over now, as far as I am
Bishop. Scarcely that, Hagbart.
Hagbart. Oh, you won't admit it, I know. But I call it the most
decisive victory of my life. I love Mrs. Falk--and she loves me.
Bishop. If you were not in such an excited condition--
Hagbart. It is not excitement, it is happiness. But here, with
you--oh, I have not come to ask for your blessing; we must do
without that! But I have come to tell you the fact, because it
was my duty to do so.--Does it grieve you so much?
Hagbart. Uncle, I feel hurt at that.
Bishop. My boy--!
Hagbart. I feel hurt both on her account and on my own. It shows
that you know neither of us.
Bishop. Let us sit down and talk quietly, Hagbart.
Hagbart. I must ask you to make no attempt to persuade me to
alter my decision.
Bishop. Make your mind easy on that score. Your feelings do you
honour--and I know now that she is worthy of them.
Hagbart. What--do you say that? (They sit down.)
Bishop. My dear Hagbart, let me tell you this at once. I have
gone through an experience, too, since the last time we met. And
it has taught me that I had no right to treat Mrs. Falk as I did.
Hagbart. Is it possible?
Bishop. I judged her both too quickly and too harshly. That is
one of our besetting sins. And I have paid too much heed to the
opinion of others, and too little to the charity that should give
us courage to do good. She, whom I despised, has taught me that.
Hagbart. You do not know how grateful and how happy you have made
me by saying that!
Bishop. I have something more to say. At the time we held that
unjust opinion of her, we misled you--for you relied on our
opinion then--until you ended by sharing our views and being even
more vehement in the matter than we, as young people will. That
created a reaction in you, which in the end led to love. If that
love had been a sin, we should have been to blame for it.
Hagbart. Is it a sin, then?
Bishop. No. But when you felt that we were inclined to look upon
it in that light, that very fact stirred up your sense of justice
and increased your love. You have a noble heart.
Hagbart. Ah, how I shall love you after this, uncle!
Bishop. And that is why I wanted you to sit down here just now,
Hagbart--to beg your pardon--and hers. And my congregation's,
too. It is my duty to guide them, but I was not willing to trust
them enough. By far the greater number among them are good
people; they would have followed me if I had had the courage to
Hagbart. Uncle, I admire and revere you more than I have ever
done before--more than any one has ever done!
Bishop (getting up). My dear boy!
Hagbart (throwing himself into his arms). Uncle!
Bishop. Is your love strong enough to bear--
Bishop. Because sometimes love is given to us to teach us self-sacrifice.
[The GRANDMOTHER comes in.]
Grandmother. I heard Hagbart's voice.
Hagbart. Grandmother! (He and the BISHOP go to help her.)
Grandmother! You don't know how happy I am! (Takes her by the
Grandmother. Is that true?
Bishop (taking her other arm). You should not walk about without
Grandmother. I heard Hagbart's voice. He was talking so loud,
that I thought something had happened.
Hagbart. So it has--something good! Uncle consents! He is
splendid! He has made everything all right again, and better than
ever! Oh, grandmother, I wish you were not so old! I feel as if I
should like to take you up in my arms and dance you round the
Grandmother. You mustn't do that, my dear. (They put her into her
chair.) Now! What is your last bit of news?
Hagbart. My last bit of news? I have no fresh news! There is
nothing more to tell!
Bishop. Yes, Hagbart, there is.
Hagbart. Why do you say that so seriously?--You look so serious--
and seem agitated! Uncle! (The noise of wheels is heard outside.)
Bishop. Wait a little, my dear boy. Wait a little! (Goes out by
the door at the back.)
Hagbart. Grandmother, what can it be?
Grandmother. I don't know.--But happiness is often so brief.
Hagbart. Happiness so brief? What do you mean?--Good God,
grandmother, don't torture me!
Grandmother. I assure you, I know nothing about it--only--
Grandmother. While your uncle was with me, Mrs. Falk was
Hagbart. Mrs. Falk? Has she been here? Just now?
Grandmother. Yes, just now.
Hagbart. Then something must have happened! Perhaps it was
she that uncle--. (Rushes to the door, which opens, and the
BISHOP comes in with AAGOT on his arm, followed by CORNELIA.)
Aagot. Hagbart!-- (Anxiously.) Is aunt not here!
Cornelia. What, grandmother here! (Goes to her.)
Bishop. My dear Aagot, your aunt entrusted this letter to me to
give to you.
Hagbart. A letter--?
Grandmother. What is the matter? Let me see! (CORNELIA moves
her chair nearer to the others.)
Hagbart. Read it aloud, Aagot!
Aagot (reads). "My darling. When you receive this letter I shall
have--gone away. I love the man you--." (With a cry, she falls
swooning. The BISHOP catches her in his arms.)
Grandmother. She has gone away?
Cornelia. She loves the man you--? Good God, look at Hagbart!
Bishop. Cornelia! (She goes to him, and they lay AAGOT on the
couch. CORNELIA stays beside her. The BISHOP turns to HAGBART.)
Hagbart! (HAGBART throws himself into his arms.) Courage!
Courage, my boy!
Grandmother (getting up). It is like going back to the days of
[The Curtain falls slowly.]
A PLAY IN THREE ACTS
SVAVA, their daughter.
MARGIT, their maid.
ALFRED, their son, betrothed to Svava.
THOMAS, his servant.
The action of the play passes in Christiania.
(SCENE.--A room in RIIS' house. An open door at the back leads
into a park and gives a glimpse of the sea beyond. Windows on
each side of the door. Doors also in the right and left walls.
Beyond the door on the right is a piano; opposite to the piano a
cupboard. In the foreground, to the right and left, two couches
with small tables in front of them. Easy-chairs and smaller
hairs scattered about. MRS. RIIS is sitting on the couch to the
left, and DR. NORDAN in a chair in the centre of the room. He is
wearing a straw hat pushed on to the back of his head, and has a
large handkerchief spread over his knees. He is sitting with his
arms folded, leaning upon his stick.)
Mrs. Riis. A penny for your thoughts!
Nordan. What was it you were asking me about?
Mrs. Riis. About that matter of Mrs. North, of course.
Nordan. That matter of Mrs. North? Well, I was talking to
Christensen about it just now. He has advanced the money and
is going to try and get the bank to suspend proceedings. I have
told you that already. What else do you want to know?
Mrs. Riis. I want to know how much gossip there is about it, my
Nordan. Oh, men don't gossip about each other's affairs.--By the
way, isn't our friend in there (nodding towards the door on the
right) going to be told about it? This seem, a good opportunity.
Mrs. Riis. Let us wait.
Nordan. Because Christensen will have to be repaid, you know. I
told him he would be.
Mrs. Riis. Naturally. What else would you suppose?
Nordan (getting up). Well, I am going away for my holidays, so
Christensen must look after it now.--Was it a very grand party
Mrs. Riis. There was not much display.
Nordan. No, the Christensens' parties are never very luxurious.
But I suppose there were a lot of people?
Mrs. Riis. I have never seen so many at a private entertainment.
Nordan. Is Svava up?
Mrs. Riis. She is out bathing.
Nordan. Already? Did you come home early, then?
Mrs. Riis. At about twelve, I think. Svava wanted to come home.
My husband was late, I think.
Nordan. The card tables. She looked radiant, I suppose, eh?
Mrs. Riis. Why didn't you come?
Nordan. I never go to betrothal parties, and I never go to
Weddings--never! I can't bear the sight of the poor victims in
their veils and wreaths.
Mrs. Riis. But, my dear doctor, you surely think--as we all do--
that this will be a happy marriage?
Nordan. He is a fine lad. But, all the same--I have been taken in
so often.--Oh, well!
Mrs. Riis. She was so happy, and is just as happy to-day.
Nordan. It is a pity I shall not see her. Good-bye, Mrs. Riis.
Mrs. Riis. Good-bye, doctor. Then you are off to-day?
Nordan. Yes, I need a change of air.
Mrs. Riis. Quite so. Well, I hope you will enjoy yourself--and,
many thanks for what you have done!
Nordan. It is I ought to thank you, my dear lady! I aim vexed not
to be able to say good-bye to Svava. (Goes out. MRS. RIIS takes
up a magazine from the table on the left and settles herself
comfortably on a couch from which she can see into the park.
During what follows she reads whenever opportunity allows. RIIS
comes in through the door to the right, in his shirt sleeves and
struggling with his collar.)
Riis. Good morning! Was that Nordan that went out just now?
Mrs. Riis. Yes. (RIIS crosses the room, then turns back and
disappears through the door on the right. He comes back again
immediately and goes through the same proceeding, all the tine
busy with his collar.) Can I help you at all?
Riis. No--thanks all the same! These new-fangled shirts are
troublesome things. I bought some in Paris.
Mrs. Riis. Yes, I believe you have bought a whole dozen.
Riis. A dozen and a half. (Goes into his room, comes out again in
apparently the same difficulties, and walks about as before.) As
a matter of fact I am wondering about something.
Mrs. Riis. It must be something complicated.
Riis. It is--it is. No doubt of it!--This collar is the very--Ah,
at last! (Goes into his room and comes out again, this time with
his necktie in his hand.) I have been wondering--wondering--what
our dear girl's character is made up of?
Mrs. Riis. What it is made up of?
Riis. Yes--what characteristics she gets from you and what from
me, and so forth. In what respects, that is to say, she takes
after your family, and in what respect after mine, and so forth.
Svava is a remarkable girl.
Mrs. Riis. She is that.
Riis. She is neither altogether you nor altogether me nor is she
exactly a compound of us both.
Mrs. Riis. Svava is something more than that.
Riis. A considerable deal more than that, too. (Disappears again;
then comes out with his coat on, brushing himself.) What did you
Mrs. Riis. I did not speak.--I rather think it is my mother that
Svava is most like.
Riis. I should think so! Svava, with her quiet pleasant ways!
What a thing to say!
Mrs. Riis. Svava can be passionate enough.
Riis. Svava never forgets her manners as your mother did.
Mrs. Riis. You never understood mother. Still, no doubt they are
unlike in a great many things.
Riis. Absolutely!--Can you see now how right I was in chattering
to her in various languages from the beginning, even when she was
quite tiny? Can you see that now? You were opposed to my doing it.
Mrs. Riis. I was opposed to your perpetually plaguing the child,
and also to the endless jumping from one thing to another.
Riis. But look at the result, my dear! Look at the result!
(Begins to hum a tune.)
Mrs. Riis. You are surely never going to pretend that it is the
languages that have made her what she is?
Riis (as he disappears). No, not the languages; but--(His voice
is heard from within his room)--the language have done a
wonderful lot! She has savoir vivre--what? (Comes out again.)
Mrs. Riis. I am sure that is not what Svava is most admired for.
Riis. No, no. On the boat, a man asked me if I were related to
the Miss Riis who had founded the Kindergartens in the town. I
said I had the honour to be her father. You should have seen his
face! I nearly had a fit.
Mrs. Riis. Yes, the Kindergartens have been a great success from
the very first.
Riis. And they are responsible for her getting engaged, too--
aren't they? What?
Mrs. Riis. You must ask her.
Riis. You have never even noticed my new suit.
Mrs. Riis. Indeed I have.
Riis. I didn't hear as much as the tiniest cry of admiration
from you. Look at the harmony of it all!--the scheme of colour,
even down to the shoes!--what? And the handkerchief, too!
Mrs. Riis. How old are you, dear?
Riis. Hold your tongue!--Anyway. how old do you think people take
me to be?
Mrs. Riis. Forty, of course.
Riis. "Of course"? I don't see that it is so obvious. This suit
is a kind of Bridal Symphony, composed at Cologne when I got the
telegram telling me of Svava's engagement. Just think of it! At
Cologne--not ten hours' journey from Paris! But I could not wait
ten hours; I had risen too much in my own estimation in view of
my approaching relationship with the richest family in the
Mrs. Riis. Is that suit all you have to show for it, then?
Riis. What a question! Just you wait till I have got my luggage
through the custom-house!
Mrs. Riis. We shall be quite out of it, I suppose?
Riis. You out of it! When a very lucky daddy finds himself in
Paris at a most tremendous moment--
Mrs. Riis. And what did you think of the party yesterday?
Riis. I was quite delighted with the boat for being late so that
I was landed in the middle of a fete champetre as by magic. And
Naturally one had a tremendous welcome as the party was in honour
of one's own only daughter!
Mrs. Riis. What time did you come in last night?
Riis. Don't you understand that we had to play cards yesterday,
too? I could not get out of it; I had to make a fourth with
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--that is to say, with our host, a
cabinet minister, and old Holk. It was a tremendous honour to
lose one's money to grand folk like that. Because I always lose,
you know.--I came home about three o'clock, I should think.--What
is that you are reading?
Mrs. Riis. The Fortnightly.
Riis. Has there been anything good in it while I have been away?
(Begins to hum a tune.)
Mrs. Riis. Yes--there is an article here on heredity that you
must read. It has some reference to what we began to talk about.
Riis. Do you know this tune? (Goes over to the piano.) It is all
the rage now. I heard it all over Germany. (Begins to play and
sing, but breaks off suddenly.) I will go and fetch the music,
while I think of it! (Goes into his room and comes out again with
the music. Sits down and begins to play and sing again. SVAVA
comes in by it, door on the left. RIIS stops when he sees her,
and jumps up.) Good morning, my child! Good morning! I have
hardly had a chance to say a word to you yet. At the party
everyone took you away from me! (Kisses her, and comes forward
Svava. Why were you so long of coming back from abroad?
Riis. Why don't people give one some warning when they are
going to get engaged?
Svava. Because people don't know anything about it themselves,
till it happens! Good morning again, mother. (Kneels down beside
Mrs. Riis. There is a delicious freshness about you, dear! Did
you have a walk in the wood after your swim?
Svava (getting up). Yes, and just as I got home a few minutes ago
Alfred passed the house and called up to me. He is coming in
Riis. To tell you the truth--and one ought always to tell the
truth--I had quite given up the hope of such happiness coming to
our dear girl.
Svava. I know you had. I had quite given it up myself.
Riis. Until your fairy prince came?
Svava. Until my fairy prince came. And he took his time about it,
Riis. You had been waiting for him a long time, though--hadn't
Svava. Not a bit of it! I never once thought of him.
Riis. Now you are talking in riddles.
Svava. Yes, it is a riddle to understand how two people, who have
seen each other from childhood without even giving each other a
thought, suddenly--! Because that was really how it happened. It
all dates from a certain moment--and then, all at once, he became
quite another man in my eyes.
Riis. But in every one else's, I suppose, he is the same us
Svava. I hope so!
Riis. He is more lively than he was, at any rate--in my eyes.
Svava. Yes, I saw you laughing together last night. What was it?
Riis. We were discussing the best way of getting through the
world. I gave him my three famous rules of life.
Mrs. Riis and Svava (together). Already!
Riis. They were a great success. Do you remember them, you bad
Svava. Rule number one: Never make a fool of yourself.
Riis. Rule number two: Never be a burden to any one.
Svava. Rule number three: Always be in the fashion. They are not
very hard to remember, because they art neither obscure nor
Riis. But all the harder to put into practice! And thus is a
great virtue in all rules of life.--I congratulate you on your
new morning frock. Under the circumstances it is really charming.
Svava. "Under the circumstances" means, I suppose, considering
that you have had no hand in it.
Riis. Yes, because I should never have chosen that trimming.
However, the "under the circumstances" is not so bad. A good
cut, too--yes. Aha! Just you wail till my portmanteau comes!
Svava. Some surprises for us?
Riis. Big ones!--By the way, I have something here. (Goes into
Svava. Do you know, mother, he seems to me more restless than
Mrs. Riis. That is happiness, dear.
Svava. And yet father's restlessness has always something
a little sad about it. He is--. (RIIS comes out of his room
again.) Do you know what I heard a cabinet minister say about you
Riis. A man of that stamp is sure to say something worth hearing.
Svava. "We all always look upon your father, Miss Riis, as our
Well-dressed man par excellence."
Riis. Ah, a bien dit son excellence! But I can tell you something
better than that. You are getting your father a knighthood.
Svava. I am?
Riis. Yes, who else? Of course the Government has once or twice
made use of me to some small degree in connection with various
commercial treaties; but now, as our great man's brother-in-law,
I am going to be made a Knight of St. Olaf!
Svava. I congratulate you.
Riis. Well, when it rains on the parson it drips on the clerk,
Svava. You are really most unexpectedly modest in your new
Riis. Am I not!--And now you shall see me as a modest showman
of beautiful dresses--that is to say, of drawings of dresses--
still more modest than the showman, from the latest play at the
Svava. Oh no, dad--not now!
Mrs. Riis. We won't start on that till the afternoon.
Riis. One would really think I were the only woman of the lot!
However, as you please. You rule the world! Well, then, I have
another proposition to make, in two parts. Part one, that we sit
Svava. We sit down! (She and her father sit.)
Riis. And next, that you tell your newly-returned parent exactly
how it all happened. All about that "riddle," you know!
Svava. Oh, that!--You must excuse me; I cannot t you about that.
Riis. Not in all its sweet details, of course! Good heavens, who
would be so barbarous as to ask such a thing in the first
delicious month of an engagement! No, I of only I want you to
tell us what was the primum mobile in the matter.
Svava. Oh, I understand. Yes, I will tell you that because that
really means teaching you to know Alfred's true character.
Riis. For instance--how did you come to speak to him?
Svava. Well, that was those darling Kindergartens of ours--
Riis. Oho!--Your darling Kindergartens, you mean?
Svava. What, when there are over a hundred girls there--?
Riis. Never mind about that! I suppose he came to bring a
Svava. Yes, he came several times with a donation--
Svava. And one day we were talking about luxury saying that it
was better to use one's time and money in our way, than to use
them in luxurious living.
Riis. But how do you define luxury?
Svava. We did not discuss that at all. But I saw that he
considered luxury to be immoral.
Riis. Luxury immoral!
Svava. Yes, I know that is not your opinion. But it is mine.
Riis. Your mother's, you mean, and your grand mother's.
Svava. Exactly; but mine too, if you don't object?
Riis. Not I!
Svava. I mentioned that little incident that happened to us when
we were in America--do you remember? We had gone to a temperance
meeting, and saw women drive up who were going to support the
cause of abstinence, and yet were--well, of course we did not
know their circumstances--but to judge from their appearance,
with their carriages and horses, their jewellery and dresses--
especially their jewellery--they must have been worth, say--
Riis. Say many thousands of dollars! No doubt about it.
Svava. There is no doubt about it. And don't you think that is
really just as disgraceful debauchery, in its town way, as drink
is in its?
Riis. Oh, well--!
Svava. Yes, you shrug your shoulders. Alfred did not do that.
He told me of his own experiences--in great cities. It was
Riis. What was horrible?
Svava. The contrast between poverty and wealth--between the
bitterest want and the most reckless luxury.
Riis. Oh--that! I thought, perhaps--. However, go on!
Svava. He did not sit looking quite indifferent and clean his
Riis. I beg your pardon.
Svava. Oh, please go on, dear!--No, he prophesied a great social
revolution, and spoke so fervently about it--and it was then that
he told me what his ideas about wealth were. It was the greatest
possible surprise to me--and a new idea to me, too, to some
extent. You should have seen how handsome he looked!
Riis. Handsome, did you say?
Svava. Isn't he handsome? I think so, at all events. And so does
mother, I think?
Mrs. Riis (without looking up from her book). And so does mother.
Riis. Mothers always fall in love with their daughters' young
men--but they fall out again when they become their mothers-in-law!
Svava. Is that your experience?
Riis. That is my experience. So Alfred Christensen has blossomed
into a beauty? Well, we must consider that settled.
Svava. He stood there so sure of himself, and looking so honest
and clean--for that is an essential thing, you know.
Riis. What exactly do you mean by "clean," my dear?
Svava. I mean just what the word means.
Riis. Exactly--but I want to know what meaning attach to the
Svava. Well--the meaning that I hope any one would attach to it
if they used the word of me.
Riis. Do you attach the same meaning to it if it is used' of a
man, as you would if it were used of a girl?
Svava. Yes, of course.
Riis. And do you suppose that Christensen's son--
Svava (getting up). Father, you are insulting me!
Riis. How can the fact of his being his father's son I an insult
Svava. In that respect he is not his father's son! I am not
likely to make any mistake in a thing of that sort!
Mrs. Riis. I am just reading about inherited tendencies. It is
Not necessary to suppose that he has inherited all his father's.
Riis. Oh, well--have it as you please! I am afraid all these
superhuman theories of yours. You will never get through the
world with them.
Svava. What do you mean?--Mother, what does father mean?
Mrs. Riis. I suppose he means that all men are alike. And one
must allow that it is true.
Svava. You do not really mean that?
Riis. But why get so excited about it?--Come and sit down! And,
besides, how can you possibly tell?
Svava. Tell? What?
Riis. Well, in each individual case--
Svava. --whether the man I see standing before me or walking past
me is an unclean, disgusting beast--or a man?
Riis. Etcetera, etcetera!--You may make mistakes, my dear Svava?
Svava. No--not any more than I should make a mistake about
you, father, when you begin to tease me with your horrid
principles! Because, in spite of them, you are the chastest and
most refined man I know.
Mrs. Riis (laying down her book). Are you going to keep that
morning frock on, dear child? Won't you change your dress before
Svava. No, mother, I am not going to be put off like that.--By
this time I have seen so many of my girl friends giving
themselves trustfully to their "fairy prince," as they think, and
waking in the arms of a beast. I shall not risk that! I shall not
make that mistake!
Mrs. Riis. Well, as it is, there is no occasion for you to get
heated about it. Alfred is a man of honour.
Svava. He is. But I have heard of one shocking experience after
another. There was poor Helga, only a month ago! And I myself--
I can speak about it now, for I am happy now and feel secure--I
can tell you now why I have been so long about it. For a long
time I did nut dare to trust myself; because I too have been on
the brink of being deceived.
Riis and Mrs. Riis (together, starting up from their chairs).
Svava. I was quite young at the time. Like most young girls, I
was looking for my ideal, and found it in a young, vivacious man
--I won't describe him more accurately. He had--oh, the noblest
principles and the highest aims--the most complete contrast to
you in that respect father! To say I loved him, is much too mild;
I worshipped him. But I never can tell you what I discovered or
how I discovered it. It was the time when you all thought I had--
Mrs. Riis. --something wrong with your lungs? Is it possible,
child? Was it then?
Svava. Yes, it was then.--No one could endure or forgive being
deceived like that!
Mrs. Riis. And you never said a word to me?
Svava. Only those who have made such a mistake as I did can
understand the shame one feels.--Well, it is all over now. But
this much is certain, that no one who has had such an experience
once will make the same mistake again. (Meanwhile RIIS has gone
into his room.)
Mrs. Riis. Perhaps it was a good thing for you, after all?
Svava. I am sure it was.--Well, it is all done with now. But it
was not quite done with till I found Alfred. Where is father?
Mrs. Riis. Your father? Here he comes.
Riis (coming out of his room, with his hat on, and drawing on his
gloves). Look here, little girl! I must go and see what has
happened to my luggage at the Customs. I will go to the station
and telegraph. You must have all your things looking very nice,
you know, because the King is coming here in a day or two--and so
it is worth it! Good-bye, then, my dear girl! (Kisses her.) You
have made us very happy--so very happy. It is true you have
certain ideas that are not--. Well, never mind! Goodbye! (Goes
Mrs. Riis. Good-bye!
Riis (drawing off his gloves). Did you notice the tune I was
playing when you came in? (Sits down at the piano.) I heard it
everywhere in Germany. (Begins to play and sing, but stops
short.) But, bless my soul, here is the music! You can play it
and sing it for yourself. (Goes out, humming the air.)
Svava. He is delightful! There is really something so innocent
about him. Did you notice him yesterday? He was simply coruscating.
Mrs. Riis. You did not see yourself, my dear!
Svava. Why? Was I sparkling, too?
Mrs. Riis. Your father's daughter--absolutely!
Svava. Yes, it is no use denying, mother, that however great
one's happiness is, the friendliness of others increases it. I
was thinking to-day over all the things that gave me so much
happiness yesterday, and felt--oh, I can't tell you what I felt!
(Nestles in her mother's arms.)
Mrs. Riis. You are a very lucky girl!--Now I must go and do my
Svava. Shall I help you?
Mrs. Riis. No, thank you, dear. (They cross the room together.)
Svava. Well, then, I will run through father's song once or
twice--and Alfred should be here directly. (MRS. RIIS goes out by
the door on the left. SVAVA sits down at the piano. ALFRED comes
in softly from the left, and bends over her shoulder so that his
face comes close to hers.)
Alfred. Good morning, darling!
Svava (jumping up). Alfred! I did not hear the door!
Alfred. Because you were playing. Something very pretty, too!
Svava. I enjoyed myself so much yesterday!
Alfred. I do not believe you have any idea what an impression you
Svava. Just a suspicion. But you must not talk about that,
because it would be most improper for me to confess it!
Alfred. Every one was singing your praises to me, and a mother
and father too. We are all very happy at how, to-day.
Svava. So we are here!--What is that you have got in your hand? A
Alfred. Yes, a letter. Your maid who opened the door gave it to
me. Someone has been clever enough to count upon my coming here
some time this morning.
Svava. You don't think that was difficult to guess?
Alfred. Not particularly. It is from Edward Hansen.
Svava. But you can take a short cut to his house through our
park. (Points to the right.)
Alfred. Yes, I know. And as he says it is urgent, and underlines
Svava. --you can have my key. Here it is. (Gives it to him.)
Alfred. Thank you, dear, very much.
Svava. Oh, it is only selfishness; we shall have you back again
all the sooner.
Alfred. I will stay here till lunch time.
Svava. You will stay here a great deal longer than that. We have
a frightful lot to talk about--all about yesterday, and--
Alfred. Of course we have!
Svava. And lots of other things as well.
Alfred. I have a most important question to ask you.
Svava. Have you?
Alfred. Perhaps you will find the answer by the time I come back.
Svava. It can't be so very difficult, then!
Alfred. Indeed it is. But sometimes you have inspirations.
Svava. What is it?
Alfred. Why did we two not find each other many years ago?
Svava. Because we were not ready for it, of course!
Alfred. How do you know that?
Svava. Because I know that at that time I was quite another girl
from what I am now.
Alfred. But there is a natural affinity between those that love
one another. I am sure of it. And it was just its much the case
at that time, surely?
Svava. We do not feel the natural affinity as long as we are
developing on different lines.
Alfred. Have we been doing that? And nevertheless we--
Svava. Nevertheless we love one another. Our paths may be as
unlike as they please, if only they lead together in the end.
Alfred. To the same way of thinking, you mean?
Svava. Yes, to our being such comrades as we are now.
Alfred. Such true comrades?
Svava. Such true comrades!
Alfred. Still, it is just at moments like this, when I hold you
in my arms as I do now, that I ask myself over and over again why
I did not do this long ago.
Svava. Oh, I don't think about that--not the least bit! It is the
safest place in the world--that is what I think!
Alfred. Perhaps before this year it would not have been so.
Svava. What do you mean?
Alfred. I mean--well, I mean practically the same as you; that I
have not always been the man I am now.--But I must hurry away.
The letter says it is something urgent. (They cross the room
Svava. One minute won't make any difference, will it?--because
there is something I must say to you first.
Alfred (standing still). What is it?
Svava. When I saw you standing amongst all the others yesterday,
I felt for the first moment as if I did not know you. Some change
seemed to have come over you--the effect of the others, perhaps--
anyway you really _were_ actually different.
Alfred. Of course. People always are that, among strangers. When
you came in with the ladies, it just seemed to me as if I had
never observed you carefully before. Besides, there are certain
things one cannot know till one sees a person amongst others. It
was the first time I realised how tall you are--and your way of
bending just a tiny bit to one side when you bow to any one. And
your colouring! I had never properly seen--
Svava. Do be quiet, and let me get a word in!
Alfred. No, no! Here we are, back in the room--and I _must_ be
Svava. Only just a moment. You interrupted me, you know! When I
saw you standing there among the men for the first moment I felt
just as if I did not know you. But at the same moment you caught
sight of me and nodded. I don't know what sort of a transformation
came over us both; but I felt myself blushing as red as fire. And
it was some time before I had the courage to look at you again.
Alfred. Well, do you know what happened to me? Every time any one
came to dance with you, didn't I envy him! Oh, not at all!--To
tell you the truth, I cannot bear any one else to touch you.
(Clasps her in his arms.) And I have not told you the best part
of it yet.
Svava. What is that?
Alfred. That when I see you amongst other people, and catch--say
--a glimpse of your arm, I think to myself: That arm has been
round my neck and round no one else's in the whole world! She
is mine, mine, mine--and no one else's!--There, that is the best
part of it all!--Look here, here we are back again in the room!
It is witchcraft! Now I must go. (Crosses the room.) Good-bye!
(Lets her go, then catches hold of her again.) Why didn't I find
my happiness many years ago?--Good-bye!
Svava. I think I will come with you.
Alfred. Yes, do!
Svava. No, I forgot--I must learn this song before father comes
back. If I don't learn it now, I expect you will take care I
don't do so to-day. (A ring is heard at the front door.)
Alfred. Here is some one coming! Let me get away first. (Hurries
out to the right. SVAVA stands waving her hand to him, then turns
to the piano. The maid MARGIT enters.)
Margit. A gentleman has called, miss, who wants to know if--
Svava. A gentleman? Don't you know who he is?
Margit. No, miss.
Svava. What is he like?
Margit. He looks rather--
Svava. Rather suspicious?
Margit. No, far from it, miss--a very nice gentleman.
Svava. Tell him my father is not at home; he has gone down to the
Margit. I told him so, miss, but it is you he wants to see.
Svava. Ask my mother to come in here!--Oh, no, why should she!
Let him come in. (MARGIT shows in HOFF, and goes out.)
Hoff. Is it Miss Riis I have the honour to--? Yes, I see it is.
My name is Hoff--Karl Hoff. I am a commercial traveller--travel
Svava. But what has that to do with me?
Hoff. Just this much, that if I had been an ordinary stay-at-home
man, a great many things would not have happened.
Svava. What would not have happened?
Hoff (taking a large pocket-book out of his docket, and
extracting a letter from it). Will you condescend to read this?
Or perhaps you would rather not?
Svava. How can I tell?
Hoff. Of course, you must first--Allow me. (Gives her the
Svava (reading). "To-night between ten and eleven that is to say,
if the booby has not come home. I love you so dearly! Put a light
in the hall window."
Hoff. "The booby" is me.
Svava. But I don't understand--?
Hoff. Here is another.
Svava. "I am full of remorse. Your cough frightens me; and now,
when you are expecting--" But what in the world has this to do
Hoff (after a moment's thought). What do you suppose?
Svava. Is it some one you want me to help?
Hoff. No, poor soul, she doesn't need help any more. She is dead.
Svava. Dead? Was she your wife?
Hoff. That's it. She was my wife. I found these and come other
things in a little box. At the bottom were these notes--there are
more of them--and some cotton wool on the top of them. On the top
of that lay some earrings and things that had been her mother's.
And also (producing some bracelets) these bracelets. They are
certainly much too costly to have been her mother's.
Svava. I suppose she died suddenly, as she did not--
Hoff. I cannot say. Consumptives never think they are going to
die. Anyway she was very delicate and weak.--May I sit down?
Svava. Please do. Are there any children?
Hoff (after a moment's thought). I believe not.
Svava. You believe not? I asked because I thought you wanted our
Society to help you. This really is all very distressful to me.
Hoff. I thought it would be--I thought as much. Besides, I am not
really sure if I--. You cannot understand this, then?
Svava. No, I cannot.
Hoff. No, you cannot.-I have heard so much good spoken of you for
many years. My wife used to sing your praises, too.
Svava. Did she know me?
Hoff. She was Maren Tang--who used to be companion to--
Svava. --to Mrs. Christensen, my future mother-in-law? Was it
she? She was such a well-bred, quiet woman. Are you sure you are
not mistaken? One or two notes, unsigned and undated--what?
Hoff. Did you not recognise the handwriting?
Svava. I? No. Besides, isn't it a disguised hand?
Hoff. Yes, but not much disguised.
Svava. I presume you had some more definite errand with me?
Hoff. Yes, I had--but I think I will let it alone. You do not
understand anything about this, I can see Perhaps you think I am
a little crazy? I am not so sure you would not be right.
Svava. But there was something you wanted to say to me?
Hoff. Yes, there was. You see, these Kindergartens--
Svava. Oh, so it was them, all the time?
Hoff. No, it was not them. But they are responsible for my having
for a long time thought very highly of you, Miss Riis. If you
will excuse my saying so, I had never before seen fashionable
young ladies trying to do anything useful--never. I am only a
little broken-down tradesman travelling for a firm--a worthless
sort of chap in many ways, and one that very likely deserves what
he has got--but anyway I wanted you to be spared. Indeed thought
it was my duty--absolutely my duty. But now when I see you
sitting there before me--well, now I only I feel miserably
unhappy. So I won't trouble you at all (Gets up.) Not at all.
Svava. I really cannot understand--
Hoff. Please don't bother about me! And please forgive my
disturbing you.--No, you really must not give me another thought!
Just imagine that I have not been here--that is all. (As he
reaches the door, he meets ALFRED coming in. As soon as he sees
that SVAVA is watching them, he goes hurriedly out. SVAVA sees
the meeting between the two and gives a little scream, then
rushes to meet ALFRED. But as soon as she is face to face with
him, she seems terrified. As he comes nearer to take her in his
arms she cries out: "Don't touch me!" and hurries out by the door
on the left. She is heard locking and bolting it on the inside.
Then a violent outburst of weeping is heard, the sound being
somewhat deadened by the distance, but only for a few moments.
Then the sound of singing is heard outside, and a few seconds
later RIIS comes into the room. The curtain falls as he enters.)
(SCENE.--The same as in Act I. SVAVA is lying on the couch to the
right, resting her head on one hand, looking out towards the
park. Her mother is sitting beside her.)
Mrs. Riis. Decisions as hasty as yours, Svava, are not really
decisions at all. There is always a great deal more to be taken
into consideration than one realises at first. Take time to think
it over! I believe he is a fine fellow. Give him time to show it;
don't break it off immediately!
Svava. Why do you keep on saying that to me?
Mrs. Riis. Well, dear, you know I have never had the chance of
saying anything to you till to-day.
Svava. But you keep harping on that one string.
Mrs. Riis. What note do you want me to strike, then?
Svava. The note your dear good mother would have struck--quite a
different one altogether.
Mrs. Riis. It is one thing to teach your child how to make a
proper choice in life, but--
Svava. But quite another thing to put into practice what you
Mrs. Riis. No; I was going to say that life itself is quite
another thing. In daily life, and especially in married life, it
is sometimes advisable to make allowances.
Svava. Yes, on points that do not really matter.
Mrs. Riis. Only on points that do not matter?
Svava. Yes--personal peculiarities, and things like that, which
after all are only excrescences; but not on points that concern
one's moral growth.
Mrs. Riis. Yes, on those points too.
Svava. On those points too?--But isn't it just for the sake of
our own self-development that we marry? What else should we marry
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