Bjornstjerne M. Bjornson
Part 2 out of 7
affairs? I don't want to have anything to do with politics.
The Editor, Well, then, you ought not to have had anything to do
Evje. When I first made his acquaintance he was not a politician.
The Editor. Then you ought to have dropped him when he became one.
Evje. Ought I to have dropped you too, when you became one?
The Editor. Let me repeat, for the last time, that we are not
talking about me!
Evje. Hush, hush! What a fellow you are! You get into a rage if
any one chaffs you. But you want to hit out at everybody all round!
The Editor. Do you suppose I am myself?
Evje. Who the devil are you, if you are not yourself?
The Editor. I am merely the servant of the public.
Evje. The public executioner, that is to say?
The Editor. Well, yes, if you prefer it. But you shall pay for that
word some day.
Evje. There--you see! Always talking of paying for things!--of
The Editor. You shall pay for it, I tell you!
Evje. You are absolutely mad!--Poof! I am sweating as if it were
the dog days! (Changes his tone.) Think of the time when we used to
go to school together--when you never could go to bed without first
coming to thank me for the jolly times we were having together!
The Editor. None of that nonsense! I am accustomed to be hated,
despised, spit upon, scourged; if any one speaks kindly to me, I
do not trust them!
Evje. You must trust me!
The Editor. No--and, besides, I observed very clearly to-day that
you had counted on having me in reserve if ever you got into a
Evje. Well, who doesn't count on his friends? Doesn't every one
take them into his reckoning?
The Editor. I don't; I have no friends.
Evje. Haven't you me? Do you think I would leave you in the lurch?
The Editor. That is hypocrisy! At times when I have needed it, the
very last thing you have thought of has been to give me any help!
Evje. Have I not helped you?
The Editor. That is hypocrisy, too-to pretend you think I am
speaking of money. No; when I have been accused of being
dishonourable--of lying--you, the "old schoolfellow," the "old
friend," the "neighbour," have never once had the courage to
come forward on my behalf.
Evje. I never meddle with politics.
The Editor (with rising temper). More hypocrisy! Another of your
Evje. Hush, hush, hush!
The Editor. You try to excuse yourself with a lie! You are doubly
a traitor!--And then you expect me to have compassion on you!
Evje. As sure as I stand here, I have never thought of deserting
you, however bad things were.
The Editor. And you have the face to take credit to yourself for
that? It is all calculation from beginning to end! You thought it
would be the best way of making me remember your loyalty, and
reward you for it.
Evje. This is abominable!
The Editor. Oh, you are cunning enough! You represent wealth of
another kind, which at first was not entirely irreproachably come
Evje. There you go again!
The Editor. --and want to give it the cachet of good society; so
you take care to keep friends with a newspaper that may be able
to give you a helping hand in gaining what you want. Can you
Evje. There may be a slight tinge of calculation even in our
highest purposes. But the misfortune about you is that you can
see nothing but the calculation, though it may be only an
infinitesimal part of the whole thing.
The Editor. Oho--I have had experience of you!
Evje. Then you must have had experience of your party's loyalty,
The Editor. My party's loyalty!
Evje. Well, after all, it keeps you where you are to-day.
The Editor. _It_ keeps me there?
Evje. And you have friends in that party-myself amongst others--
who certainly would rather stand outside altogether, but
nevertheless give you their advice and support when you are in
difficulties. You cannot deny that.
The Editor. I have friends in the party? Oh yes; and if we lose a
fight these fine counsellors are the first to run away! They are
always egging me on and egging me on; but only let public opinion
once get tired of me, and they will throw me overboard without more
ado! By that sort of treachery they manage to fill the sails of the
party craft with a new breeze--and leave me to shift the best way I
can!--they, for whom I have fought with all my might and main! I
despise my opponents--they are either scoundrels and thieves, or
they are blockheads and braggarts. But my supporters are lick-spittles,
fools, cravens. I despise the whole pack of them, from first
to last! If any one would give me the assurance that if, as a
pledge that I would never use a pen again, I were to chop off my
right hand I should thereby gain the prospect of a peaceful life a
thousand miles away from here, I believe I would do it!--I despise
the whole pack of them--oh, how I despise them!
Evje. But this is horrible! Do you find no comfort in religion? Or,
at all events, you have your paper!
The Editor. My paper, yes--but what good do you suppose that is to
me? And do you think I give the impression of being a religious
Evje. Then what do you work for?
The Editor. Perhaps you think I work for your sake?--or for the
sake of prosperity, or order, or whatever it is you cowards or
self-seekers like to imagine it is that you personify? No, the
whole human race is not worth the powder and shot that they are
holding at each other's heads.
Evje. Then why do you come and almost threaten my life, if the whole
thing seems so worthless to you?
The Editor. Do you seriously suppose that I would give in, so as to
spare you or some other shopkeeper?--so that you should be able to
say triumphantly, "You see he didn't dare! He didn't dare quarrel
with Capital!"--or, "You see he has given in--he has turned tail!"
No; what I should like to do would be to lay a mine underground,
and blow myself and the whole lot of you sky high!
Evje. And I and all the happiness of my family life are to be
sacrificed in order that you shall not have to give in on a side
issue of no importance!--Oh, I am chilled to the bone!
The Editor. Ha, ha! It is good to hear you speaking like yourself
again, because it reminds me that it is time to put an end to this
solemn nonsense! (Looks at his watch.) A quarter past! You must be
Evje. Are you really in earnest?
The Editor. I often play off jokes on you, it is true. But I don't
know how you will like this one to-morrow morning.
Evje. Then let me tell you that I solemnly refuse! I will not break
off the engagement! Put me in your paper, if you like; I am a free
The Editor. Bah! nobody is that. Then you refuse? Good-bye! (Walks
away from EVJE.)
Evje (going after him). No, no--where are you going?
The Editor (stopping). Nowhere--or rather, I am going home.
Evje. But you won't really do what you said?
The Editor. Ha! ha! ha! (Moves away.)
Evje (following him). No, listen! Listen to me for a minute.
The Editor (turning back). Do you think I have time to stop at all
the stations your vanity or your fright will invent on the way?
Evje. You mad creature--listen to me! (The EDITOR stops.) Tell me
exactly what you mean to do?
The Editor. Fiddlesticks! (Moves on.)
Evje (following him). Do you mean to put in the paper that I have
broken off this match?
The Editor (stopping). Better than that--I shall spread the news in
the town; then it will get about, and all the journalists will get
a hold of it.
Evje. Give me a day or two to think it over!
The Editor. Oh, no--you are not going to catch me like that! It is
election time, and the other side must be made to feel that all
decent people have deserted them.
Evje. But it is a lie, you know!
The Editor. What is lying, and what is truth? But your resignation
from the Stock Exchange Committee and your subsequent failure to be
elected to any public position will be no lies, I can assure you!
Public opinion is not to be trifled with, you know!
Evje. And this from you!
The Editor. Bah! Public opinion is a very faithless friend.
Evje. But who, after all, constitute public opinion?
The Editor. Oh, no--you are not going to lead me into a trap again!
Besides--it would be very difficult to say exactly who does
Evje. This is really--! Then you won't put that in the paper?
The Editor. The news of a broken engagement travels quickest by
foot-post--ha, ha, ha! (Coughs; then adds seriously :) But won't
you, of your own accord, break off what are really absolutely
inadmissible relations with a man who scandalises all your
Evje. Lay the blame on me, of course! I know his credentials are no
longer first class; but my daughter--ah, you would not be able to
understand that. The circumstances are quite exceptional, and--.
Look here, shall we go up and talk it over with my wife?
The Editor. Ha, ha!--you turned me out of the house this morning!
Evje. Oh, forget all about that!
The Editor (looking at his watch). Half past! Now, without any
more evasions--will you, or will you not?
Evje (with a struggle). No! I repeat, no! (The EDITOR moves away.)
Yes, yes!--It nearly kills me to do it!
The Editor. "The Capitalist, secure in his position, who needs pay
no regard to," etc., etc.--that is the "common form," isn't it, you
man of first-class credentials? Ha, ha! Good-bye. I am going home
to send the boy to the printers; he has waited long enough. (Moves
Evje (following him). You are the cruellest, hardest, most reckless--
The Editor (who has been laughing, suddenly becomes serious). Hush!
Do you see?
Evje (turning round). What? Where?
The Editor. Over there!
Evje. Those two?
The Editor. Yes--your daughter and Mr. Harald Rejn.
Evje. But he swore this morning that he would never set foot in
my house again!
The Editor. But he will stay _outside_ your house, as you see!
These gentlemen of the Opposition, when they give any assurance,
always do it with a mental reservation! You can't trust the
beggars! Come round the corner. (They do so.)
Evje. An assignation in the street in the fog! To think my daughter
would let herself be induced to do such a thing!
The Editor. Evil communications corrupt good manners! You are a
mere bungler in delicate matters, Evje. You made a bad choice in
Evje. But he seemed to be--
The Editor. Yes, yes, I know! A real gentleman would have guessed
what he would develop into. He has a brother, you know! (HARALD and
GERTRUD come in slowly, arm-in-arm.)
Gertrud. While your brother has been ill you have received many
gratifying proofs of the good feeling and goodwill that there is in
this town-haven't you?
Harald. Yes, I have. I have found no ill-will against him, nothing
but kindness on all sides--with the exception of one person, of
Gertrud. But even he has a heart! It has often seemed to me as if I
heard a cry of yearning and disappointment from it--and that just
when he spoke most bitterly.
Harald. Yes, it needs no very sharp sight to see that he, who
makes so many unhappy, is himself the unhappiest of all.
The Editor. What the deuce are they talking about?
Evje. We cannot hear from here. And the fog deadens their voices.
The Editor. Go a bit nearer, then!
Evje. Not before they separate. You only understand _him_!
Harald (to GERTRUD). What are you holding there?
Gertrud (who has taken off her glove and then a ring from her
finger). The ring they gave me when I was confirmed. Give me
your hand! No, take your glove off!
Harald. Do you want me to try your ring on? I shall not be able
to get it on.
Gertrud. On the little finger of your left hand? Yes!
Harald (putting it on). So I can. Well?
Gertrud. You mustn't laugh at me. I have been beating up my courage
to do this all this time. It was really why I wanted to walk a
little farther with you first! I wanted to bring the conversation
round to it, you see! I am so convinced that your happiness, and
consequently mine, depends on your being able to be kind. You have
got this meeting before you to-night. It will be a decisive moment
for you. If you, when you are facing all this horrible persecution,
can be a kind boy, you will win all along the line! (Pulls at his
buttons in an embarrassed way.) So I wanted you to wear this ring
to remind you. The diamonds in it sparkle; they are like my tears
when you are hard and forget us two. I know it is stupid of me
(wipes her eyes hastily), but now, when it comes to the point, I
can't say what I--. But do wear it!
Harald (kissing her). I will wear it! (Gently.) Its pure rays shall
shed a light on my life.
Gertrud. Thank you! (Throws her arms round him and kisses him.)
The Editor. What they are doing now is all right! Ha, ha, ha!
Evje. I won't stand it! (The EDITOR coughs loudly.) What are you
doing? (The EDITOR goes to the neighbouring house and rings the
bell. The door is opened and he goes in, laughing as he goes.)
Gertrud (who has started from HARALD'S arms at the sound of the
cough). That is--!
Harald. It sounds like him! (Turns, and sees Evje.)
Gertrud. Father! (Turns to run away, but stops.) No, it is cowardly
to run away. (Comes back, and stands at HARALD'S side. EVJE comes
Evje. I should not have expected my daughter, a well-brought-up
girl, to make an assignation in the street with--with--
Gertrud. With her fiance.
Evje. --with a man who has made a mock of her father and mother,
and of his own doing has banished himself from our house.
Harald. From your house, certainly; but not from my future wife.
Evje. A nice explanation! Do you suppose we will consent to have as
our son-in-law a man who spurns her parents?
Evje. Be quiet, my child! You ought to have felt that yourself.
Gertrud. But, father, you surely do not expect him to submit to
your being abused and himself ill-treated in our house?
Evje. Are you going to teach your parents--?
Gertrud (putting her arm round his neck). I don't want to teach
you anything; because you know yourself, dear, that Harald is
worth far more--and far more to us--than the man who went away
just now! (At this moment the printer's boy, who has come out of
the EDITOR'S house, runs past them towards the town.)
Evje (seeing the boy, tries to get away). Go in now, Gertrud! I
have something I wish to talk to Mr. Rejn about.
Gertrud. You have nothing to talk to Harald about that I cannot
Evje. Yes, I have.
Harald. But why may she not hear it? What you want is to break off
Gertrud. Father--! (Moves away from him.) Is that true?
Evje. Well-since it cannot be otherwise-it is true; that is to say,
for the moment. (Aside.) Good Lord, they can make it up right
enough when this is all over!
Gertrud (who is standing as if thunderstruck). I saw you with him!
--Ah! that is how it is! (Looks at her father, bursts into tears
and rushes to the door of their house, pulls the bell and
disappears into the house.)
Evje. What is it? What is the matter with her?
Harald. I think I know. She realises that her life's happiness has
been bought and sold. (Bows to EVJE.) Good-bye! (Goes out to the
Evje (after standing dumb for some moments). Bought and sold? Some
people take everything so dreadfully solemnly. It is only a
manoeuvre--to get out of this difficulty. Why is it that I cannot
get free of it! They both of them exaggerate matters so absurdly;
first of all this crazy fellow, and then Harald with his "Good-bye,"
spoken as if the ground were giving way beneath his feet! I--I--
feel as if every one had deserted me. I will go in to my wife--
my dear, good wife; she will understand me. She is sitting up
there, full of anxiety about me. (He turns towards his house;
but, on reaching the garden gate, sees JOHN standing there.)
John (touching his hat respectfully). Excuse me, Mr. Evje--
Evje. You, John! Go away! I told you never to set foot in my
John (very respectfully). But won't you allow me to stand outside
your house either, sir?
John (standing in EVJE'S way, but still with a show of great
respect). Not at the door here?
Evje. What are you standing in my way for, you scoundrel?
John. Shall I assist you to call for help, sir? (Calls out.)
Evje. Be quiet, you drunken fool! Don't make a disturbance! What do
you want? Be quick!
John. I want, with all respect, to ask you, sir, why you have sent
Evje. Because you are a swine that gets drunk and then talks
nonsense. You don't know what a dilemma you have put me in.--Now go
away from here, quietly!
John. I know all about it! I was following you and the Editor all
the time, you know!
John. These articles, that were to go in the paper--the printing
was at a standstill, waiting for them.
Evje. Hush, hush, John! So you overheard that, did you? You are
too clever; you ought never to have been a servant.--Now, be off
with you! Here is a shilling or two for you. Good-bye.
John. Thank you very much, sir.--This was how it was, sir. You
see, I thought of the number of times I had run over to the
printer's with messages when that nice Editor gentleman was
spending an evening with you--and so I thought I might just as
well run over with this one.
Evje (starting back in alarm). What? What have you done?
John. Just to do you a good turn, sir, I ran along and told them
they might print those articles.
Evje. What articles?
John. The ones about you, sir. "Print away," I said--and they
printed away. By Jove, how they worked, and then off to the
post with the papers!
Evje. You had the impudence, you--! Ah, it's not true! I saw the
printer's boy myself, running to the office to countermand the
John. I caught him up outside here and told him that a message
had been sent from Mr. Evje's house. And I gave him sixpence to
go to the theatre with; but he must have had to run for it, to be
in time, because I am sure it was after seven. Excuse me, sir, but
it _is_ after seven now, isn't it?
Evje. You scoundrel! You vindictive brute!
John. You can have a look at the paper, sir, if you like.
Evje. Have _you_ got a copy?
John. Yes, sir, the first copy struck off is always sent to the
Editor, so I volunteered to bring it to him. But you must be
anxious to see it, sir! (Holds it out to EVJE.)
Evje (snatching it from him). Give it to me! Let me see--. (Moves
towards his door, but stops.) No, my wife mustn't--. Here, under
the gas-lamp! This filthy fog! I can't--. (Feels in his pocket for
his glasses, and pasts them on.) Ah, that's better! (Holds the
paper under the light.) What a mischance! The blackguard--! Where
is the article, then? Oh, here--I can't see properly, my heart is
John. Shall I run for the doctor, sir?
Evje. Will you go away, you--! (Holds the paper first up, and then
down, in his attempts to see better.) Ah, here it is! "The Stock
Exchange Committee"--oh! (Lowers the paper.)
John (mimicking him). Oh!
Evje (trying to read). What a vile thing to do!
John. Oh, go on! go on!
Evje (as he reads). This beats everything I ever--Oh!
John. Oh! We _are_ in a bad way!
Evje (wiping his forehead). What a different thing it is to read
libellous attacks on others--and on one's self! (Goes on reading.)
Oh! Oh! What horrible, revolting rascality! What is it he says
here? I must read through it again! Oh, oh!
John. And often of a morning, when you have been reading the
paper, I have heard you laughing till the bed shook under you!
Evje. Yes, I who have so often laughed at others! (Reads.) No,
this is beyond belief! I can't read any more! This will ruin my
position in the town; I can hear every one laughing at me--he
knows all my weaknesses, and has managed to make it all so
hideously ludicrous! (Tries to go on reading.) Why, here is some
more! (Reads.) It begins even worse than the other! (Lowers the
paper, panting, then tries to go on reading.) No, I can't--I can't!
I must wait! Everything seems going round and round--and my heart
is beating so violently that I know I shall have one of my attacks!
What a devil it is that I have been making a friend of! What a
creature to have broken bread with!--an unprincipled scoundrel!
And the disgrace of it!--the disgrace! What will they say at the
Exchange? What will--? I shall not dare to go out of my house, at
least for some weeks! And then people will only say I have taken
to my bed! Oh, oh! I feel as if it were the end of everything!
John (solicitously). Can I help you, sir?
Evje. Will you leave me alone--! No, I will have my revenge on him
immediately! I will go and ring his bell, and go into his house and
call him a scoundrel and spit in his face--! Did I bring my stick
out with me? Where is my stick? I will send my man for it, and then
I will thrash him round and round his own room!
John (eagerly). I will fetch it for you, sir!
Evje (without hearing him). No, it would only make more scandal!--
How can I take my revenge? I must do him some injury--some real
injury that will seem to poison his food for him and rob him of his
rest. Scoundrels like that don't deserve sleep! It must be
something, too, that will make his family every bit as unhappy as
mine will be when they have read this--something that will make
them hide their heads for shame--something that will make them
terrified every time their door-bell rings, out of shame for what
their servants may hear! No, no, I am getting as evil-minded as he
is, now!--What a horrible trade--for ever sowing the seeds of sin
and reaping a crop of curses! Now I understand what Harald Rejn
meant by saying that no one ought to give his help to such things!
--Heavens, hear my vow: never again will I give my help to such
things!--What am I to say to my wife--my dear, good wife, who has
no suspicion how disgraced I am! And Gertrud, our good Gertrud--ah,
at all events I can give her some pleasure at once. I cannot
conceal it from them; but I will tell them myself, so that they
shall not read it.
John. Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?
Evje (almost screaming at him). Once for all, can't you let me
Mrs. Evje (leaning out of a window she has opened). The sound must
have come from the street, all the same. Are you there, my dear?
Evje (drawing back in alarm). There she is! Shall I answer?
Mrs. Evje. Are you there, my dear?
Evje. Yes, dear, here I am!
Mrs. Evje. So you are! I heard your voice, and looked all over the
house. What is the matter, dear?
Evje. Oh, I am so unhappy!
Mrs. Evje. Good heavens, are you, dear? Come along in--or shall I
come down to you?
Evje. No, I will come in. Shut the window, or you will catch cold.
Mrs. Evje. Do you know, Gertrud is sitting up here, crying?
Evje. Good gracious, is she? I will come up--I will come up!
John. I will help him up, ma'am! (Pretends to be doing so.)
Mrs. Evje. Is that you, John?
Evje (in a low voice). Will you be off!
John. Yes, it is me, ma'am. He is so unwell.
Mrs. Evje. Is he! Heavens, it is one of his attacks! Help him,
Evje (as before). Don't you dare!
John (who has rung the bell loudly). I do hope you will moon be
better, sir! (Calls up to the window.) I can leave him now, ma'am!
(To EVJE, as he goes.) This has been a bit of luck, for me; but
you shall have some more of it! (Disappears into the fog as EVJE
goes into his house. The two Passers-by, that were seen at the
beginning of the scene, are now indistinctly seen returning along
the street at the back.)
First Passer-by. Well, the land of Fogs used to be thought by the
ancients to lie in the north, where all confused ideas come from--
Second Passer-by (who does not seem to be able to get a word in).
But, listen to me for a moment-do you think it means--?
(SCENE.--A room in HALVDAN REJN's house. He is lying, supported on
pillows, on a sofa on the left-hand side of the room. There is a
table in the background, and another near the sofa. A lamp is
hanging from the ceiling, and another standing on the table at the
back. HAAKON REJN, his dress proclaiming him to be a well-to-do
yeoman farmer, is sitting on a chair by the sofa.)
Halvdan. So she couldn't come?
Haakon. No; there are the youngsters, you know--she finds it
difficult to get away.
Halvdan (after a moment's silence). Remember to thank her for
all her kindness to me. The happiest moments of my life have
been those Sundays and evenings that she and you and I spent
together at your house. (A pause.)
Haakon. She wanted very much to know how you were feeling--
whether you, who have suffered so much, are at peace now.
Halvdan. At peace? A man who has to die with all his work
unfinished, cannot easily root out all thoughts of that from his
Haakon. You should try to lay in God's hands all that you have
Halvdan. That is what I struggle daily to do. (A pause.)
Haakon. A sister of my wife's, who was a widow and badly off, died
leaving three young children. But she was glad to die. "Their
Heavenly Father will help them better when I am out of the way,"
she said. "I took up too much room," she said; "I know I have often
stood in their way." (A pause.)
Halvdan. You tell that just as your wife would; she told me that
Haakon. I was to tell you from her that she believes you are to die
in order that what you have worked for may come to its fullest
fruit. She thinks that when you are gone, people will appreciate
better what your aims were.
Halvdan. There is some comfort in the thought that I may be dying
in order that what I have loved may live. I have already given up
happiness-even honour-for it; I gladly give my life for it now. (A pause.)
Haakon. Do you bear ill-will to any of those who have opposed you
Halvdan. To no one.
Haakon. Not even to those whose doing it is that you are lying
Halvdan. No, to no one. (A pause.)
Haakon. Could you bear to read something hateful about
Halvdan. I don't know.
Haakon. Then you have not done with it all yet.
Halvdan. No, I know I have not. It is only sometimes that the busy
world outside seems to me like a ship sailing idly before the wind.
More often, I am back in the midst of it again--planning, hoping,
praying! I am young, you know, and have had to suffer so much--
there was so much I wanted to do. (Lifts a handkerchief to his
forehead. HAAKON helps him to wipe his face with it. A pause.)
Haakon. But it must be a comfort to you, too, that Harald is
taking up what you are laying down. There is good stuff in him.
Haakon. And he never says more than is necessary. The country folk
will understand him all the better for it.
Halvdan. I hope so. As soon as he comes into my room I feel as if
the atmosphere were charged with electricity--I feel as if I _must_
have a part in what he is doing--and so I work, and tire myself
out. Ah, it often seems very hard to have to die, and leave undone
a great work that one has failed to accomplish!
Haakon. But you have made him what he is, you know--and many
Halvdan. I have started the fight, that is all. It is hard to have
to desert at the beginning of it!--But God is good, and will
understand; He will not be surprised at what my thoughts are full
of, when I go to Him. (A ring is heard at the bell.)
Haakon. I expect that is Harald.
Halvdan. No, he never rings. Besides, I expect he is taking a walk,
to think over what he is going to say to-night.
Haakon. Yes, I suppose it will be a big meeting. (The HOUSEKEEPER
The Housekeeper. Mr. Evje is here, sir, asking for Mr. Harald. I
told him we were expecting him every moment. Shall I ask him to
Halvdan. Yes, show him in. (HAAKON gets up, as EVJE is shown in.)
Evje (to HALVDAN). Good evening! (Sees HAAKON.) Ah, good evening!
So you have come? That is splendid. Is your wife with you?
Haakon. No, she couldn't leave the children.
Evje. I see. (To HALVDAN.) And how are you? About the same? Of
course, yes.--Where is your brother?
Halvdan. He has his meeting to-night, you know.
Evje. His momentous meeting--I know! I am going to it myself!
Halvdan (turns his face towards him). You?
Evje. My object in coming here was to take him home with me, so
that we could all go together to the meeting. We mean to go on to
the platform with him; I mean people to see that we are with him!
Halvdan (turning his face away). Really!
Evje (to HAAKON). You never answered my letter, Mr. Rejn.
Haakon. No, I knew I was coming in to town.
Evje. Well--will you sell?
Evje. But, my dear Mr. Rejn, you have not sold a single potato to
my distillery for five years! And with a farm like yours! This year
you had the best crop in the whole valley.
Haakon. Oh, yes--it wasn't so bad.
Evje. Not so bad! It was an extraordinary crop; and, everywhere
else round about, the crops were very middling.
Haakon. Oh, yes--it might have been worse.
Evje (laughing). I should think so! But then why won't you sell?
(Turns to HALVDAN.) I hope you will excuse our talking business in
a sick-room; a business man has to seize every opportunity, you
know! (To HAAKON.) You have never got higher prices elsewhere than
you have from me.
Haakon. No, so I believe; but I have my own reasons.
Evje. Your own reasons? What are they?
Haakon. I had a servant once--it is about five years ago now--a
good, capable fellow. He used to take potatoes for me to the
distillery every day, and every evening came back drunk. So I spoke
to him seriously about it; and his answer was: "How do you suppose
our brandy-merchants are to grow rich, if chaps like me don't drink
pretty hard?" You know the man; he went into your service
afterwards. But from that day I have never sold a potato to a
Evje. But, my dear Mr. Rejn, we cannot be held responsible for the
use to which such rascals put God's gifts!
Haakon. No--no--I suppose not; still, I am not going to have
anything more to do with it.
Evje (to HALVDAN). Do you think your brother will not be home
before the meeting?
Halvdan. I should think he would; there is plenty of time yet.
Evje. There is; but I should have liked to take him home with me
first. The fact is (laughs) I have promised my wife and daughter
not to go home without him. You know what women are! Shall I just
go into his room and wait for him? There is something I want to
talk to him about, you know.
Halvdan. I don't think there is a fire in there.
Evje. Oh, well, never mind--I will sit here. I have got a newspaper
to read, and yon two must go on with your talk just as if I were
not here! I shall hear nothing, because I have something to read
that interests me. (He pulls a chair up to the table on the right
with its back to HALVDAN. HAAKON brings the lamp from the table at
the back.) Ah, thank you very much! Now, just talk away as if I
were not here! (Takes the paper from his pocket and sits down.)
Haakon (sitting down again beside his brother). I should have
liked to go to the meeting, too.
Halvdan. Of course you must go! You will hear Harald tell them
how each nation has its own appointed task in the world; that is
why it _is_ a nation. But, as long as it does not realise the fact,
its politics will be nothing but wrangling between the various
class-interests--a haphazard struggle for power. Our nation has
never got beyond that point! I have shouted myself to death over
what is a mere market.
Evje (to himself, striking the table with his fist). The whole
commercial community is insulted in this insult to me! I will stir
them up at the meeting, and insist on our taking our revenge in
Haakon. I don't think things will be any better until we are better
Christians. Men think of nothing nowadays but themselves and their
Evje (to himself). No, no-that wouldn't do. What would people say?
They would only say I was badly hit by this.
Halvdan (half to himself). A Christian nation, thinking of nothing
but its own interests--that is to say, power! Equality and Liberty
have no meaning for it. Haakon, it surely will be bliss for a
wounded soul to be taken into the Everlasting Love, high above all
this so-called Christianity of the world! For my soul is sorely
Evje (to himself ). If only I could strike him dead!
Halvdan. But may they all be forgiven!--You asked just now whether
I could bear to read something hateful about myself to-day. I think
Haakon. Then I can tell you the other message she gave me for you.
I have been a little shy of telling you that. It was that you
should remember that you must do more than forgive; you must pray
for them. (A pause.)
Halvdan (with his hand over his eyes). I do.
Evje (crumpling up the paper and throwing it on the floor). No, I
won't stand it! If the blackguard--. (Gets up in alarm, as he
realises what he has done, and is just going to pick up the paper;
but at that moment turns round facing the others, and lets it lie.)
No, I won't touch it again--never, as long as I live! (To the
others.) You must forgive me, but I was reading something that
upset me very much. Your brother will tell you all about it in the
morning, no doubt. Poof--it is very warm in here! But, of course,
that is natural in a sick-room. I don't think he can be coming now.
I think, too, that I will go on, so as not to be late for the
meeting; there is sure to be a difficulty in getting seats. I will
get him to go home with me after the meeting, instead. That will be
better, after all.
Haakon. I was thinking of going to the meeting. Would you mind if I
went with you?--for I do not know the way myself.
Evje. You will come with me, Mr. Rejn? (To himself.) That will be
splendid--to make my entrance in the company of one of our yeomen
farmers! (Aloud.) By all means let us go together! I feel flattered
by the opportunity, because I have always maintained that our
yeomen are the pick of the nation. Well, then--(to Halvdan) I hope
you will soon be feeling better, Mr. Rejn. God bless you!
Halvdan (raising himself on his elbow, and looking at him with a
smile). Something must have gone amiss with you to-day.
Evje. Why do you say that?
Halvdan. Because as a rule you appear so composed so aloof from all
Evje (impetuously). But, do what I like, I am not allowed to keep
aloof from it! I have no greater wish in the world than to do so, I
can assure you. Oh, well, your excellent brother--my future
son-in-law, as I am proud to call him--he will tell you all about
it. Good-bye!--and--and--God bless you!
Haakon. Shall I tell your housekeeper to come to you?
Halvdan. Oh, no; but you might tell her to come in a little while.
Haakon. Good-bye for the present, then!
Halvdan. Thank you for coming! Good-bye. (Sinks back on to the
sofa. The others go out, HAAKON turning round once at the door.)
Halvdan. It is something in the paper that has disturbed his
equanimity. What can it be? The same thing that made Harald so
gloomy to-day, I wonder? (Gets half up.) It is lying there.--No!
What interest have I in all their petty spite now? (Sinks back
again.) "Could you bear to read something hateful about yourself
to-day?" Haakon asked. Then I suppose there is something about me
in it to-day. (Puts his hand over his heart.) My heart doesn't seem
to be beating any the faster for my knowing that. (Gets half up.)
There it lies! (Sinks back again.) No, I am only trying to tempt
myself. All the same, I should like to know how many stations I
have passed on my journey to the great City of Peace! Can their
malice affect me still? Surely I have passed _that_ station?--It
would be worth trying, to see. There it lies! (Takes up a stick
that is standing by the sofa.) Surely I can get over there by
myself? (Gets up from the sofa with the help of the stick, and
smiles.) I have not much strength left. (Takes a few steps.)
Scarcely enough to get across the floor. (A few more steps.) To
think that I should have--so much vanity--my weak point--. (His
breath fails him, but he gets as far as the chair on which EVJE was
sitting, and sits down.) One ought to have done with all that
before the soul can get quite away from the dust that--. (Begins to
rake the paper towards him with his stick.) And here am I, sitting
here raking more of it towards me!--No, let the thing lie! I won't
soil my wings any more.--Poor Harald! He has to take up the burden
now! What a horrible bungle it is, that we should be brought into
the world to give each other as much pain as possible! (Decidedly.)
Well, I am going to see what legacy of unhappiness I am leaving
him! I want to have a vivid impression of the misery I am escaping
from. There is a certain comfort even in that. (Bends down and
picks up the paper, rests for a moment, and then unfolds the
paper.) But this is not to-day's paper; it is dated for to-morrow!
How can Evje have got hold of it? Yes, here is the date--Sunday.
"Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath Day!" On that day men's
souls should turn to God--and they offer Him _this_! It is after
reading _this_ that these fine ladies and gentlemen go to church!
(Pushes the paper away from him.) Suppose these "Christians" were
to be brought to judgment one day without warning?--Let us think of
ourselves and not of others! (Lets his eye rest on the paper.) Does
that mean me? (Reads.) "Not yet actually dead, but already
canonised by a calculating brother--." (Checks himself.) God
forgive them! (Reads on.) "His teachings will no doubt obtain him a
paean of praise, but this will be--or, at least, so it is to be
hoped--from within the closely locked doors of the state's prisons
and houses of correction"--(checks himself a little)--"for that is
whither he leads his followers."--Good God, to think that they can
say such things!--And yet, they said worse things of _Him_! Peace!
(Reads.) "No doubt he talks against Socialism; no doubt he coquets
with Christianity; but it is by these very means that he has become
so expert a seducer of men's opinions-which was his aim all along."
(Puts his hands before his face.) I should not have read it;
forgive me! I am too weak still!--Ah! I feel--what is it? (Puts his
hands suddenly to his heart, still unconsciously grasping the
newspaper in them.) I must get into my room--get to bed! (Gets up
with the help of his stick.) If only I can get there! Oh, I feel it
coming on!--I must--. (Tries to hurry, but when he is halfway
across the floor he stumbles, throws out his hands but finds no
support, staggers on for a few steps, and falls full length on the
threshold of his bedroom, so that half his length lies within the
door and half without. A moment later, the HOUSEKEEPER comes in.)
The Housekeeper (not observing that he is not still on the sofa).
Won't you go to bed now, sir? You can't stand so much in one day.
(Goes to the sofa.) Where is he? Surely he has not tried to walk in
alone? (Hurries across to the bedroom door and almost falls over
his body. She starts back with a scream.) Where is--? (Catches up
the lamp, hurries back, and bends over him; then calls out,
screaming:) Help! Help! (Rings the bell wildly. A MAID appears.)
Mr. Halvdan is lying here! Heaven knows whether he is dead or
alive! Run for the Doctor! Leave the door open behind you, and beg
the first man you meet in the street to come up here at once and
help me. Tell them it is a matter of life and death!
The Housekeeper. Hurry!
Maid (going out). Yes, yes!
The Housekeeper (coming back into the room). Is he alive or dead? I
haven't the courage to find out. And both his brothers away!
(Cries.) God grant some one comes soon!--Poor man, alone in his
death as he was in his life! But what was he doing _there_? Why did
he get up from the sofa? (Sees the paper.) Surely that can't be--?
(Puts the lamp on the floor and unfolds the paper.) Yes, it is the
paper, right enough! Who can have given it him? I can't look at it
now; but if it is like the number I read the other day (lets the
paper fall, and gets up with the lamp) then I understand everything
--and may God requite those that do such things! (The EDITOR rushes
The Editor. Is it here?
The Housekeeper (holds the lamp to him, then starts back). What do
_you_ want here?
The Editor. Where am I? A girl came running down the street and
told me I must come up here and help some one that was dying. What
do you want me to do?--or is it not here?
The Housekeeper. And it was _you_ she met? It is the hand of God!
The Editor. What are you babbling about? If it is not here, say so
The Housekeeper. Yes, it is here. There he lies!
The Editor. Then oughtn't we to get him into bed?
The Housekeeper. Yes. But do you know who it is you are helping?
The Editor (to himself). She is not very polite. (Aloud.) No; but
what does that matter?
The Housekeeper. This much--that it is you that have killed him.
The Editor. I--? She is mad.
The Housekeeper. The man lying there is Halvdan Rejn. And he had
been reading about himself in your paper.--Come, now, and carry him
in. (She goes into the bedroom with the lamp. Her voice is heard
from inside the room.) Now, take hold of him and lift him. You can
The Editor (stoops to lift the body, but gets up again). I don't
think he is dead yet.
The Housekeeper. All the more reason to make haste.
The Editor (stoops down again, but gets up once more.) Let me take
The Housekeeper. Why?
The Editor. So that--if he should open his eyes
The Housekeeper. --he won't see you. (Comes out of the bedroom). Go
in there, then, and take his head. (He goes in.) What was that?
The Editor (from inside the room). I slipped. There is something
The Housekeeper. Yes, he has had a hemorrhage. Carefully, now.
(They carry him in. The stage remains empty for a moment. Then the
EDITOR comes back, wiping his forehead. He walks backwards and
forwards, treading on the paper as he goes, but without noticing
The Editor. What a horrible thing to happen!--Newspapers are not
meant for dying people.--It is not my fault.--Is this blood on my
hand? It is! (Wipes it with his handkerchief.) And now it is on my
handkerchief! (Throws it away.) No, it has my name on it. (Picks it
up again.) No one can say it is my fault. (Sits down, then gets up,
wiping his forehead with his handkerchief without noticing what
he is doing.) Ah, I hope I haven't put blood on my forehead? I
seem to feel it there! (Feels with his hand to see if his brow is
wet.) No. (Sits down, then gets up again.) Let me get away from
here. (Stops.) To think that I should be the one to come up! that
it should just happen to-night that I did not receive my paper,
and so went out! It almost seems more than accident. Indeed, I
often had a foreboding that it would happen. (Stands opposite the
bedroom door.) But is he dead? I think I will go and fetch the
Doctor. Oh no, of course the maid has gone for him. He hasn't
long to live, anyway; I could see that. (Walks forward, pointing
with his finger.) "There goes the man that killed Halvdan Rejn!
And his punishment was that he had to lift up his bloodstained
body himself." That is what they will say; and they will look at
me as if--. (Sits down.) No, let me get away! (Takes a few steps,
then stops suddenly.) That article in to-morrow's paper! It is
worse than the others! (Pulls out his watch.) Too late--the post
has gone! I would have given--. (Checks himself.) I have nothing
worth giving. In the morning It will be known all over the town
just as everyone is reading my fresh article. There will be a riot;
I shall be hunted like a wild beast. What shall I do? I might sneak
out of the town? Then they will gloat over me! I won't allow them
that pleasure! No, I cannot stay my hand utter a failure; only
after a victory. That is the cursed part of it-never, never to be
able to end it. Oh, for some one that could end it--end it, end it!
Oh, for one day of real peace! Shall _I_ ever get that? (Sits down.)
No, no, I must get away! (Gets up.) To-morrow must take care of
itself. (Starts.) There is the paper he was reading! (Steps over
it.) I will take it away--and burn it. (Takes it up.) I cannot burn
it here; some one might come. (Is just going to put it into his
pocket, as it is, but takes it out again to fold it better.) A
Sunday's paper, apparently! Then it is _not_ to-day's? An old number,
I suppose. Then the whole thing is a mistake! (Sighs with relief.)
Let me look again! (Opens the paper, tremblingly.) I don't deserve
it, but--. (Reads.) Sunday, the--. _To-morrow's_ paper? _Here_? How in
all the world did it get here? (Appears horrified.) Here are the
articles about Evje! How on earth did they get in? Didn't I send a
message? Didn't I write? This on the top of everything else! Are
even my printers conspiring against me? Well, even if it ruins me,
I shall go on! They shall find out what I can do. How on earth can
I be expected to help it if a weak-minded fellow dies, or if my
printers are drunk or my manager has delirium tremens! I shall
pursue my end through all chances and in spite of all their tricks,
and I shall crush them, crush them--I shall--. (Gives way to a
paroxysm of rage. At this moment the MAID comes in with the
DOCTOR'S ASSISTANT. The MAID rushes into the bedroom. The EDITOR
starts up.) Who is that? What do you want?
The Doctor's Assistant (coldly). What do _you_ want here?
The Editor. I? Oh, I was called up to help the sick man into his
The Doctor's Assistant (as before). Ah!--so it was _you_! (A pause.)
The Editor. Have you ever seen me before?
The Doctor's Assistant. Yes. I have heard you grind your teeth
before this. (Goes into the bedroom.)
The Editor (after standing for a moment looking after him). They
will all look at me to-morrow like that-with those cold eyes.
"Every man's hand against him, and his hand against every man;"
there can only be one end to that. To-night, the meeting--and
Harald Rejn will take them by storm. To-morrow, his brother's
death--and my new article in the paper--and, in addition to
that, those about Evje, who at present is only angry. And the
election in two days! Oh, yes, he will be elected now. So I may as
well give it all up at once. I would change places with any wolf
that has a lair to hide in. Those cold eyes of his! (Shudders.)
That is how every one will look at me to-morrow! They have pierced
through my armour! (The DOCTOR'S ASSISTANT comes back, and the
EDITOR makes an effort to resume his former confident manner.)
The Doctor's Assistant. I don't know whether you will be glad to
hear that it is all over.
The Editor (under his breath). You brute!
The Doctor's Assistant. His old housekeeper does not feel equal to
coming here to tell you what his last words were. They were:
"Forgive him!" (Goes out.)
The Editor (sitting down, then getting up again). No, I mustn't be
found here. (Walks about the room on tiptoe, as if he were afraid
of waking some one. When he comes opposite to the bedroom door, he
turns towards it, stretches out his arms and says:) Give me your
(SCENE.--A large and handsomely furnished sitting-room at the
EVJE'S. The room is brightly lit and the fire burning. The entrance
door is on the right, and beyond it a door leading to the dining-room.
INGEBORG is busy taking the covers off the chairs, folding them
carefully as she does so. After a little, the bell rings. She
goes to open the door, and returns, showing in the DOCTOR.)
The Doctor. Oho! Is it to be in here to-night?
Ingeborg (who has resumed her work of making the room ready). Yes,
The Doctor. Where are they all?
Ingeborg. At the meeting, sir.
The Doctor. All of them?
Ingeborg. Yes, all of them. Miss Gertrud went first--
The Doctor. Yes, I saw her well enough!
Ingeborg. And then the master, and a farmer gentleman with him,
came in to fetch the mistress.
The Doctor (to himself). Something has happened here, then.
(Aloud.) Tell me, Ingeborg--has _he_ been here again? You know
who I mean. (Coughs in imitation of the EDITOR'S cough.)
Ingeborg. Oh, the Editor; no, sir.
The Doctor (to himself). I wonder what has happened. (Aloud.)
Well, evidently there is to be a festivity here to-night; and, as I
see the chairs are getting their covers taken off, I may as well
take mine off too. (Takes off his coat and gives it to INGEBORG,
who carries it out.) I don't blame Evje for wanting to celebrate
Harald's success after a meeting like that! He is not exactly
eloquent in the ordinary sense of the word--doesn't bother about
his antitheses and climaxes and paradoxes, and all that sort of
nonsense; but he is a _man_! He goes bail for what he says, and he
says what he likes--ha, ha! And that dear Gertrud, too! Follows
him into the hall, and, as there isn't a single seat left there,
goes up on to the platform among the committee, and sits there
looking at him with those trustful blue eyes of hers, as if there
was no one else in the room! And _we_ were all looking at _her_!
She helped him more than ten good speakers would have done, I am
sure. Her faith in him bred it in others, whether they liked it or
no. She is one who would die for her faith! Yes, yes! The man
that gets her--. (INGEBORG comes back.) Well! (Rubs his hands
together.) Look here, Ingeborg. (Very politely.) Do you know
what is meant by the Rights of Man?
Ingeborg (going on with her work). No, sir. Something we have
earned, I suppose.
The Doctor. Yes, you earn them every day.
Ingeborg. Our meals, perhaps?
The Doctor (laughing). No, it isn't something to eat,
unfortunately. (Politely.) Do you ever read papers, Ingeborg?
Ingeborg. Papers? Oh, you mean the price-lists they leave at the
kitchen door. Yes, sir; every day, before we go to market, I--
The Doctor. No, I don't mean papers of that sort. I mean--
Ingeborg. Oh, you mean the newspaper I take in to master's room
every morning. No, Sir, I don't read that. I am told there are such
horrors in it.
The Doctor. Quite so. Don't you care to read about horrors, then?
Ingeborg. Oh, we poor folk see enough of them in our everyday lives,
without reading about them!--But perhaps the gentry enjoy it.
The Doctor. You are a very wise woman. Let me tell you, though,
that there is a fight going on, about--oh, well, never mind what it
is about. And the Editor and Mr. Rejn, who both come to this
house, are the two chief fighters. Don't you want to know what
they are fighting about?
Ingeborg (going on unconcernedly with her work). Oh, so they are
fighting, are they? No, I don't care the least bit, sir!
The Doctor (to himself). Ha, ha--the difference between Ingeborg
and me is that I am interested in the fight merely as a student of
human nature, and she is not interested in it at all. I wonder
which is farthest from any genuine belief in politics?--from our
"duty as a citizen," as they call it? (To INGEBORG.) Ingeborg, do
you know what your "duty as a citizen" means?
Ingeborg. My "duty as a citizen"? That mean; paying fines, doesn't
The Doctor. Yes; and a very heavy fine, into the bargain!
Ingeborg. The master was fined because the pavement was not swept.
John was ill.
The Doctor. Quite right, that was one of his duties as a citizen.--
Tell me, Ingeborg, are they expecting a lot of people here to-night?
Ingeborg. No, sir, I have only laid table for quite a few.
The Doctor. And what are they going to have?
Ingeborg. Oh, one or two dishes and one or two sorts of wine--.
The Doctor. Aha! (A ring is heard at the bell. INGEBORG goes to the
door.) There they are! Now we shall have a fine time!
Ingeborg (coming back with a letter). It is a note for you, sir.
The Doctor. Oh, bother I
Ingeborg. The man who brought it was not sure whether you would be
at the meeting or here.
The Doctor. How could he know--? (Putting on his glasses.) Oh, from
my assistant--that is quite another thing. Of course he wants my
help or my advice. Well, he shan't have it! I have run about quite
enough to-day. Tell the messenger that I haven't time! I have my
Duties as a Citizen to attend to! (Calls after her.) And my
Manhood's Rights too! (Opens the envelope.) No, I won't read it; if
I do, the matter will worry me all the evening. I know what I am.
(Puts the note in his pocket.) I mean to enjoy this evening!
(Suddenly.) I wonder how our friend the Editor is enjoying this
evening! Was he at the meeting, I wonder? A remarkable personality
--but malignity itself! Lion-hearted, though! He would fight till
the last drop of his blood! But what is it, really, that he is
fighting for? That question has always interested me, for I can't
make it out. (To INGEBORG, who has comeback.) Well?
Ingeborg. The messenger has gone.--Yes, sir, I told him everything
you told me to.
The Doctor. Of course. You would! Why the deuce does any one pay
any attention to what I say! (The bell rings.) Here they are at
last! Now we shall have a delightful evening! (EVJE and MRS. EVJE
come in.) I am first, you see!
Evje and Mrs. Evje. Were you at the meeting, too?
The Doctor. Where else should I be?
Evje. Did you see me?
Mrs. Evje. There were so many people there, dear.
Evje. But I was standing on a seat.
Mrs. Evje. Yes, he was standing on a seat!
The Doctor. There were plenty of people doing that.
Evje. I wanted to be seen!--There _have_ been goings on here
to-day, my friend!
Mrs. Evje. You will never guess what has happened!
The Doctor. Anyway I can see that something has happened.
Evje and Mrs. Evje. Oh--!
The Doctor. What is it, then?
Evje. Those articles will be in to-morrow's paper.
The Doctor. In the paper?--Yes, I didn't find him.
Evje. But I found him!
The Doctor (impatiently). Well?
Evje. I will tell you all about it another time. But I have read them--
Mrs. Evje. And he has told me all about them!
The Doctor. Are they very bad?
Mrs. Evje. Oh--oh--oh!
The Doctor (with a look of pleased curiosity.) As bad as all that?
Evje and Mrs. Evje. Oh--oh--oh--oh!
The Doctor. And _that_ was why you went to the meeting!
Evje. Of course--tit for tat! It was my wife's idea.
Mrs. Evje. It was the obvious thing to do, dear.
Evje. Our whole family at the meeting!--So that all the town should
know that it was nothing but the meanest political persecution
because I had joined my son-in-law's party.
Mrs. Evje. We are party people now, you know!
Evje. Do you know, there is something exciting about being mixed
up with such things--something invigorating, something--
The Doctor (stepping back). Are _you_ bitten with it, too?
Evje. Yes, if I can't be left in peace, I shall become a party man.
The Doctor (enthusiastically). Did you see Gertrud?
Evje and Mrs. Evje (with emotion). Our Gertrud! Yes, indeed we did!
The Doctor. Did you see her coming in with him!
Evje and Mrs. Evje (as before). Yes, we saw her coming in with him!
The Doctor. I suppose you did not know she was going?
Evje and Mrs. Evje. Oh, yes!
Mrs. Evje. She had said she would go with us--
Evje. But when we went to fetch her, the bird had flown!
The Doctor. How pretty she looked, too! All the men were looking
at her. And how she looked at him!
Mrs. Evje. It made me want to cry. I had quite a job to prevent
Evje. You need not have minded, dear! God has given us great
happiness. Her faith in him and her love shone to from her eyes
that it went to my heart. I felt quite upset! (Wipes his eyes.)
The Doctor. And what about _him_--eh? I don't fancy any one will
think about stopping his career. We have been a pack of fools.
Evje. That we have!
The Doctor. He is not exactly eloquent, but--
Evje. That is precisely what I was saying to my wife! He is not
exactly eloquent, but he is--
The Doctor. --a man!
Evje. A man! My very words, weren't they, my dear?
Mrs. Evje. Yes.--And I say he is so strong a man that he can afford
to be tender-hearted. For he certainly has been that.
Evje. Yes, he has been that!
The Doctor (laughing). In spite of his strength!
Evje. Oh, you may make the most of your--. Aha! (Loud ringing at
the bell is heard.) Here they are!
Mrs. Evje. Let us go and meet them!
The Doctor. No; look here--let us wait for them at the other side
of the room, so that they may make a triumphal progress up to us!
Evje and Mrs. Evje, Yes! (They go to the opposite end of the room,
while HARALD comes in rather quickly, with GERTRUD on his arm. As
they cross the room, the others cry out: "Bravo! Bravo!" and clap
Gertrud (still holding to HARALD's arm). And he is my man! My man!
(Throws her arms round his neck, crying with happiness, and kisses
him; then does the same to her mother, and then to her father, to
whom she whispers: Thank you!)
The Doctor. Oh--me too!
Gertrud (after a moment's hesitation). Yes--you too!
(The DOCTOR helps her to take off her cloak, and talks to her,
whispering and laughing.)
Harald (shaking EVJE's hand). Good evening!
Evje. Forgive me!
Harald. With all my heart!
Mrs. Evje. And now everything is all right!
Harald. For good!
Evje and Mrs. Evje. For good!
Harald. And, thank you for coming to the meeting.
Evje. It was no more than our duty! Look here--did you see me?
Harald. The whole time! But, tell me, was it a delusion, or was it
my brother Haakon that was standing on the floor beside you, rather
in the shadow?
Evje and Mrs. Evje. It _was_ he!
Evje. I fetched him from your brother Halvdan's.
Harald. I am so glad! It must have pleased Haakon. Gertrud and I at
first thought of going in to see Halvdan before we came on here;
but we saw all his lights were out. He must be asleep.
Evje. I can give you news of him. He is all right.
Harald. And Haakon?
Evje. Very well, too. A fine fellow! I wanted him to come home with
us now; but he said he was tired after his journey.
Mrs. Evje (to INGEBORG, who has come in from the dining room). Is
Ingeborg. Yes, ma'am.
Mrs. Evje. Then come along. (INGEBORG opens the dining-room door.)
The Doctor and Evje. Yes, come along!
The Doctor. But we must go ceremoniously! Let us make a little
festivity of it to-night! You must head the procession, Evje--and
then the two young people Gertrud (taking HARALD's arm). Yes!
The Doctor. And Mrs. Evje and I will bring up the rear! (Offers her
Evje. Forward!(The bell rings. He stops.) Who can it be--as late as this?
The Doctor. Probably some friends on their way back from the
Mrs. Evje. We must wait a moment!(To INGEBORG, who is going to open
the door.)Put a leaf in the table, and lay places for as many as
Ingeborg. Yes, ma'am. (The bell rings again, as she goes to open
The Doctor. They are impatient! So much the better--it shows they
are in a good humour after the meeting! (A knock is heard at the
All. Come in!(The EDITOR comes in, with no overcoat on, but wearing
his hat, which he forgets to take of till he is well into the
room. He goes straight up to EVJE, who has crossed over to the
left-hand side of the room.)
All (when they see him in the doorway). You! (GERTRUD clings closer
The Editor. I wanted once more, as in the old days, not to go to
bed without--this time it is not a question of thanking you for the
happy time we have had together but without begging your pardon!(He
speaks quietly, but with suppressed emotion.)There has been some
unfortunate misunderstanding. Those articles have been printed, in
spite of my express instructions to the contrary--I do not know how.
Evje. I have read them.
The Editor. You have read them?
Evje. Yes, the copy of the paper that was meant for you came into
The Editor. So that was it!--Forgive me, old friend! Won't you give
me your hand?
Mrs. Evje (coming forward). That he shall never do!
The Editor (glancing over his shoulder at her). Let no one come
between us at a moment like this! You don't know--. A hundred times
in my life I would have done what I am doing now, had I not been
afraid that people would call it affectation on my part and repulse
me. Don't _you_ do that!--least of all now! Give me your hand,
Evje! I beg you, in the sight and hearing of you all--. (EVJE seems
Mrs. Evje. No, you shan't!--not while he has anything to do with a
newspaper. Otherwise it will all begin over again to-morrow. He
is not his own master, you know.
The Editor. I have done with it all.
Mrs. Evje. Oh, you have said that so often! Nobody believes it.
No; when a man can push political hatred so far as to write about
an old friend, in whose house he has been a daily guest, as if he
were a criminal--and all because he doesn't like his son-in-law, or
his servant--one doesn't shake hands with him the very day his
attacks appear in the paper.
The Editor (who, all the tinge, has kept his back turned to MRS.
EVJE, and has not looked at her). Evje, you are a good-hearted
fellow, I know. Don't listen to what others say, now. This is a
very bitter hour for me. You would be doing a good deed! Give
me your hand--or a word! I am in such a state now that I must
have visible signs of _some one's_ forgiveness, or I shall--!
Mrs. Evje (emphatically). Yes, a little repentance will do you
good! But it will do you no good if you obtain forgiveness easily!
You want to learn, just for once, what it is to be wounded at
heart. You are only accustomed to deal with people whom you can
flog one day and have at your feet--either from fear or from
vanity--the next. And have we--God forgive us!--ever thought
seriously the worse of you for it? No; because we never understood
what it was till we were hit by it ourselves. But that is all the
more reason why we should do our duty now! Hatred shall be met with
The Doctor (at the back of the room, to GERTRUD and HARALD). She is
her father's daughter, after all, when it comes to the point!
The Editor (turns upon MRS. EVJE, with his fist clenched, but
restrains himself from answering her). Then you won't shake hands,
Evje? Not a word of forgiveness?
Evje. I think my wife is right.
The Editor (controlling himself with difficulty). You are a weak
man, I know--
Evje. What do you mean?
The Editor. --but do not be weak this time! If you knew everything,
you would know you _must_ not refuse me what I ask. There are
others concerned--and for that reason--
The Doctor. Let us go!
Mrs. Evje. No, stay! He shall not have his way again.
The Editor. Well, of all--! It is certainly true that those who are
hardest on sinners are those who have never been tempted
themselves--and the most merciless creature in the world is an
Mrs. Evje. Now he is coming out in his true colours!
The Doctor (not without glee). Yes, that he is!
The Editor (controlling himself once more). Evje--you, who know me,
know what it must cost me to do this--and you can form some idea of
the need I am in. I have never--
Evje. I believe you; but I never can feel sure what your next move
will be. You have so many.
The Editor. My next move is to have done with it all, as sure as--
Mrs. Evje. Don't believe him! A man who can ask for your sympathy
one moment and abuse you the next is not fit to promise anything--
and certainly not fit to be forgiven, either.
The Editor (with an outburst of passion). Then may everything evil
overtake me if I ever ask you or any one else for sympathy again!
You have succeeded in teaching me that I can do without it! I can
rise above your cowardly cruelty. (To EVJE.) You are a miserable,
weak creature--and have always been, for all your apparent
good-natured shrewdness! (To MRS. EVJE.) And as for you, who have
often laughed so heartily at my so-called malice, and now all at
once have become so severely virtuous--why, you are both like
part-proprietors of my paper! You have taken all the profit you could
from me, as long as it served your purpose--I have seen that for a
long time! And all my pretended friends are like you--secret
holders of shares in me, so as to secure their own safety and the
persecution of others!--every bit as guilty as I am, only more
prudent, more timid, more cowardly--!
Evje. Once more--leave this house, which you have outraged!
Mrs. Evje. And how dare you set foot in here again?
The Editor. No, I am not going until all the anger that is in my
heart has turned into fear in yours! Because now I will _not_ have
done with it all! No--it is just through _his_ death that respect
for me will revive--it will be like a rampart of bayonets round me!
"There goes one who can kill a man with a word, if he likes!"
_That_ will make them treat me respectfully!
Harald and the Doctor. What does he mean?
The Editor (as he hears HARALD'S voice). And you--you mountebank,
who can stand up in public and seek applause before your brother's
corpse is cold--don't come talking rant to me! You are more
contemptible than I am! I couldn't have done that; I couldn't stand
there, as you are doing now, impatient to get to your champagne and
pretty speeches!--Oh, how I despise all such lying and heartlessness!
(They all look at him and at each other with a questioning
Harald. Is my brother dead?
Mrs. Evje. Is his brother dead?
Gertrud. Good God, is Halvdan dead?
Evje. Is he dead? Impossible!
The Doctor. Is Rejn dead--and I--?
Evje. I saw him only a couple of hours ago, looking quite well.
The Editor (in a broken voice). Didn't you know?
All (except the DOCTOR). No!
The Doctor. Ah, that letter, that letter! (Looks in his pocket for
it and his glasses.)
The Editor. I am the wretchedest man alive! (Sinks into a chair.)
The Doctor. I had a letter from my assistant, but I have not read
Mrs. Evje. Read it, read it!
The Doctor (reading). "I am writing in great haste. As I expect you
will be going to your old friends' after the meeting, and will meet
Harald Rejn there, the task will probably fall to you of telling
him--(the EDITOR gets up to go, but stands still)--that Halvdan
Rejn died about eight o'clock of a fresh attack of hemorrhage!
(HARALD leaves GERTRUD'S side and comes forward, with a cry. The
EDITOR steadies himself by holding on to the table.) No one was
with him; he was found lying across the threshold of his bedroom. A
copy of the newspaper was lying on the floor behind him." (HARALD,
with a groan, advance threateningly towards the EDITOR.)
Gertrud. Harald, my ring!--my ring! (HARALD Stops, collects
himself, buries his face in his hands and bursts into uncontrollable
tears. GERTRUD puts her arms round him and holds him folded in them.)
The Doctor (laying a hand on HARALD's arm). "The housekeeper told
me he had only spoken two words, and they were 'Forgive him!'"
(HARALD bursts into tears.)
The Doctor (after waiting for a little). "Apparently chance--or
perhaps something else--decreed that the maid who ran for help,
should meet the very man, who hats caused the tragedy, and that it
should be _he_ who helped the housekeeper to lay him on his
deathbed." (All look at the EDITOR.)
Evje. That was why he came! (A pause.)
Gertrud. Harald! (HARALD, who has turned away from her to struggle
with his emotion, does not turn round.) If _he_ could forgive--
The Editor (with a gesture of refusal). No!
Gertrud (quietly, to the EDITOR). If you want to deserve it, make
an end of all this!
The Editor. It is all at an end! (To MRS. EVJE.) You were right. I
knew it myself, too. My armour is pierces pierced through. A child
might conquer me now--and this child has done so; for she has
begged for mercy for me, and no one has ever done that before.
(Puts his hand over his eyes, turns away, and goes out. As he is
going out the bell rings. A moment later, INGEBORG Shows in HAAKON
Gertrud (who has put her arms round HARALD, whispers). Who is it?
Harald. My brother. (Goes to meet HAAKON and throws himself into
his arms.) You had a talk with him this afternoon, then?
Mrs. Evje. Let us all go to him.
Evje and Gertrud. Yes.
Mrs. Evje (to INGEBORG). Bring in our cloaks and hats again, and
afterwards clear the table. (INGEBORG does so.)
Harald (unable to control his emotion). Haakon, this is my future
wife. (Goes away from them.)
Haakon. Well, my dear, your engagement has begun seriously; take
all the future seriously, too.
The Doctor. You need not say that to _her_. What she needs is to
take life more lightly.
Haakon. Oh, yes--if she lays everything in God's hands she can
always take life lightly.
Mrs. Evje. It is our own fault, I expect, when we take it too
Evje. But sometimes we learn a lesson by that.
Haakon. Oh, yes. Well, we must stand by one another, we who
take life in the same way.
Mrs. Evje. Shall we go, children?
Harald (to HAAKON). Will you bring Gertrud, Haakon? I would rather
go alone. (They go out. The curtain falls.)
A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS
HENNING TJAELDE, merchant and brewer.
MRS. TJAELDE, his wife.
VALBORG and SIGNE, their daughters.
LIEUTENANT HAMAR, engaged to Signe.
SANNAES, Tjaelde's confidential clerk.
JAKOSSEN, manager of Tjaelde's brewery.
BERENT, a lawyer.
PRAM, a custom-house official.
LIND, a guest.
FINNE, a guest.
RING, a guest.
HOLM, a guest.
KNUTZON, a guest.
KNUDSEN, a guest.
FALBE, a guest.
(SCENE.--A sitting-room in the TJAELDES' house, opening on a
verandah that is decorated with flowers. It is a hot summer's day.
There is a view of the sea beyond the verandah, and boats are
visible among the islands that fringe the coast. A good-sized
yacht, with sails spread, is lying close up under the verandah on
the right. The room is luxuriously furnished and full of flowers.
There are two French windows in the left-hand wall; two doors in
the right-hand. A table in the middle of the room; arm-chairs and
rocking-chairs scattered about. A sofa in the foreground on the
right. LIEUTENANT HAMAR is lying on the sofa, and SIGNE sitting in
Hamar. What shall we do with ourselves to-day?
Signe (rocking herself). Hm! (A pause.)
Hamar. That was a delicious sail we had last night. (Yawns.)
But I am sleepy to-day. Shall we go for a ride?
Signe. Hm! (A pause.)
Hamar. I am too hot on this sofa. I think I will move. (Gets up.
SIGNE begins to hum an air as she rocks herself.) Play me
Signe (singing her words to the air she has been humming).
The piano is out of tune.
Hamar. Read to me, then!
Signe (as before, looking out of the window). They are swimming
the horses. They are swimming the horses. They are swimming
Hamar. I think I will go and have a swim too. Or perhaps I will
wait till nearer lunch-time.
Signe (as before). So as to have a better appetite--appetite--
(MRS. TJAELDE comes in from the right, walking slowly.)
Hamar. You look very thoughtful!
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, I don't know what to order.
Signe (as before). For dinner, I suppose you mean?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes.
Hamar. Do you expect any one?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, your father writes to me that Mr. Finne is
Signe (speaking). The most tiresome person possible, of course.
Mrs. Tjaelde. How would boiled salmon and roast chicken do?
Signe. We had that the other day.
Mrs. Tjaelde. (with a sigh). There is nothing that we didn't. There
is so little choice in the market just now.
Signe. Then we ought to send to town.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Oh, these meals, these meals!
Hamar (yawning). They are the best thing in life, anyway.
Signe. To eat, yes--but not to cook; I never will cook a dinner.
Mrs. Tjaelde (sitting down at the table). One could put up with the
cooking. It's the having always to think of something fresh!
Hamar. Why don't you get a chef from one of the hotels, as I have
so often advised you?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Oh, we have tried that, but he was more trouble
than it was worth.
Hamar. Yes, because he had no invention. Get a French chef!
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, and have to be always beside him to interpret!--
But I am no nearer this dinner. And lately I have been finding such
difficulty in getting about.
Hamar. I have never in my life heard so much talk about meals
as I have in this house.
Mrs. Tjaelde. You see, you have never been in a prosperous
business-man's house before. Our friends are mostly business-men,
of course--and most of them have no greater pleasures than those of
Signe. That's true.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Are you wearing _that_ dress to-day?
Mrs. Tjaelde. You have worn a different one every day.
Signe. Well, if Hamar is tired of both the blue one and the grey
one, what can I do?
Hamar. And I don't like this one any better than the others.
Signe. Indeed!--Then I really think you had better order me one
Hamar. Come to town with me, and I will!
Signe. Yes, mother--Hamar and I have made up our minds that
we must go back to town. [Note: There would be nothing contrary to
Norwegian ideas of propriety in Signe's proposal. In Norway an
engaged couple could travel alone; and the fiancee would go to stay
in the house of her future husband's relations.]
Mrs. Tjaelde. But you were there only a fortnight ago!
Hamar. And it is exactly a fortnight too long since we were there!
Mrs. Tjaelde. (thoughtfully). Now, what _can_ I order for dinner?
(VALBORG comes into sight on the verandah.)
Signe (turning round and seeing VALBORG). Enter Her Highness!
Hamar (turning round). Carrying a bouquet! Oho! I have seen it
Signe. Have you? Did _you_ give it her?
Hamar. No; I was coming through the garden--and saw it on the table
in Valborg's summerhouse. Is it your birthday, Valborg?
Hamar. I thought not. Perhaps there is some other festivity to-day?
Valborg. No. (SIGNE suddenly bursts out laughing.)
Hamar. Why do you laugh?
Signe. Because I understand! Ha, ha, ha, ha!
Hamar. What do you understand?
Signe. Whose hands it is that have decked the altar! Ha, ha, ha!
Hamar. I suppose you think they were mine?
Signe. No, they were redder hands than yours! Ha, ha, ha, ha!
(VALBORG throws the bouquet down.) Oh, dear me, it doesn't do to
laugh so much in this heat. But it is delightful! To think he
should have hit upon that idea! Ha, ha, ha!
Hamar (laughing). Do you mean--?
Signe (laughing). Yes! You must know that Valborg--
Signe.--who has sent so many distinguished suitors about their
business, cannot escape from the attentions of a certain red pair
of hands--ha, ha, ha, ha!
Hamar. Do you mean Sannaes?
Signe. Yes! (Points out of the window.) There is the culprit! He is
waiting, Valborg, for you to come, in maiden meditation, with the
bouquet in your hands--as you came just now--
Mrs. Tjaelde. (getting up). No, it is your father he is waiting
for. Ah, he sees him now. (Goes out by the verandah.)
Signe. Yes, it really is father--riding a bay horse!
Hamar (getting up). On a bay horse! Let us go and say "how do
you do" to the bay horse!
Signe. N--o, no!
Hamar. You won't come and say "how do you do" to the bay horse? A
cavalry officer's wife must love horses next best to her husband.
Signe. And he his wife next best to his horses.
Hamar. What? Are you jealous of a horse?
Signe. Oh, I know very well you have never been so fond of me
as you are of horses.
Hamar. Come along! (Pulls her up out of her chair.)
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