Bjornstjerne M. Bjornson
Part 4 out of 7
have forgotten to include it in your account. Perhaps it may make
a little difference.
Tjaelde. It is of no consequence! I have often enough heard people
speak of your callousness and your heartlessness; but their account
of you has come nowhere near the truth. I don't know why I have not
turned you out of my house long before this; but you will have the
goodness to leave it now!
Berent. We shall both leave presently. But before we do, we must
discuss the question of handing over the house to the Receiver in
Tjaelde. Ha, ha, ha! Allow me to inform you that at this very
moment a sum is being telegraphed to me which will be sufficient
not only to cover my present liabilities, but to set me straight in
Berent. The telegraph is a useful invention which is open to every
Tjaelde (after a moment's thought). What do you mean by that?
Berent. One effect of the noise of your festivities was that I used
the telegraph also. Mr. Lind will receive, on board the boat, a
telegram from his firm--and I doubt if the money you speak of will
Tjaelde. It is not true! You have not dared to do that!
Berent. The facts are exactly as I state.
Tjaelde. Give me my balance-sheet; let me look at it again.
(Stretches out his hand to take it.)
Berent (taking it up). Excuse me!
Tjaelde. Do you presume to keep back my own balance-sheet in
my own writing?
Berent. Yes, and even to put it in my pocket. (Does so.) A
fraudulent balance-sheet, dated and signed, is a document of
Tjaelde. You are determined to ruin my private and public
Berent. You have been working for that yourself for a long time. I
know your position. For a month past I have been in correspondence
with all the quarters in which you have business connections, both
here any I abroad.
Tjaelde. What underhanded deceitfulness an honest man is exposed
to! Here have I been surrounded by spies for the last month! A
plot between my business acquaintances and the banks! A snake
creeping into my house and crawling over my accounts! But I will
break up the conspiracy! And you will find out what it mean, to try
and ruin a reputable firm by underhand devices!
Berent. This is no time for fine phrases. Do you propose to
surrender your property at once?
Tjaelde. Ha, ha! I am to surrender it because you have made me
out a bankrupt on your bit of paper!
Berent. You might conceal the facts for a month, I know. But for
your own sake, and especially for the sake of others, I would
urgently advise you to end the matter at once. That was the reason
of my journey here.
Tjaelde. Ah, now the truth is out! And you came here pretending a
friendly concern that the tangle should be straightened out! We
were to distinguish between the sound and unsound firms, and you
requested me, most politely, to give you my assistance in the
Berent. Exactly. But there is no question of anything unsound here
except your own business and what is bound up with it.
Tjaelde (when he has controlled himself). So you came into my house
with the hidden design of ruining me?
Berent. I must repeat that it is not I that am responsible for your
bankruptcy; it is yourself.
Tjaelde. And I must repeat that my bankruptcy only exists in your
imagination! Much may happen in a month; and I have shown that I
can find a way out of difficulties before now!
Berent. That is to say, by involving yourself deeper and deeper in
Tjaelde. Only a man of business can understand such things. But,
if you really understand them, I would say to you: "Give me
L20,000 and I will save the situation entirely." That would be
doing something worthy of your great powers; that would give
you a reputation for penetration in discerning the real state of
affairs; because by so doing you would safeguard the welfare of
more than a thousand people, and ensure a prosperous future for
the whole district!
Berent. I don't rise to that bait.
Tjaelde (after a moment's reflection). Do you want me to explain to
you how L20,000 would be sufficient to set the whole complicated
situation straight? Within three months remittances would be coming
in. I can make it its clear as daylight to you--
Berent. --that you would be falling from one disillusionment to
another! That is what you have been doing for the last three
years, from month to month.
Tjaelde. Because the last three years have been bad years--horrible
years! But we have reached the crisis; things must begin to improve
Berent. That is what every defaulter thinks.
Tjaelde. Do not drive me to despair! Have you any idea what I have
gone through in these three years? Have you any idea what I am
Berent. Of still further falsehood.
Tjaelde. Take care!--It is quite true that I am standing on the
edge of a precipice. It is true that for three years I have done
everything in mortal power to save the situation! I maintain that
there has been something heroic in the fight I have made. And that
deserves some reward. You have unrestricted powers; every one
trusts you. Realise for yourself what your mission is; do not let
it be necessary for me to teach it you! Let me tell you this,
emphatically: it will be a dreadful thing for _you_ if hundreds of
people are to be ruined unnecessarily now!
Berent. Let us make an end of this.
Tjaelde. No, devil take me if I give up a fight like this with a
Berent. How do you propose to end it, then?
Tjaelde. There is no issue to it that I have not turned over in my
thoughts--thousands of times. _I_ know what I shall do! I won't be
a mark for the jeers of this wretched little town, nor triumphed
over by those who have envied me all round the countryside!
Berent. What will you do, then?
Tjaelde. You shall see! (Speaking more and more excitedly.) You
won't help me under any conditions?
Tjaelde. You insist that I shall surrender my estate, here and now?
Tjaelde. Hell and damnation! You dare do that?
Tjaelde (his agitation robbing him of his voice, which all at once
sinks to a hoarse whisper). You have never known what despair is!--
You don't know what an existence I have endured!-But if the
decisive moment has come, and I have a man here in my office
who _ought_ to save me but will not, then that man shall share
what is in store for me.
Berent (leaning back in his chair). This is beginning to be
Tjaelde. No more jesting; you might regret it! (Goes to all the
doors and locks them with a key which he takes out of his pocket;
then unlocks his desk, and takes a revolver out of it.) How long do
you suppose I have had this in here?
Berent. Since you bought it, I suppose.
Tjaelde. And why do you suppose I bought it?--Do you suppose that
after I have been master of this town and the biggest man in the
district, I would endure the disgrace of bankruptcy?
Berent. You have been enduring it for a long time.
Tjaelde. It is in your power now either to ruin me or to wave me.
You have behaved in such a way that you deserve no mercy--and you
shall have none! Report to the banks that they may give me the use
of L14,000 for a year--I need no more than that--and I will save
the situation for good and all. Think seriously, now! Remember my
family, remember how long my firm has been established, remember
the numbers that would be ruined if I were! And do not forget to
think of your own family! Because, if you _don't_ agree to what I
ask, neither of us shall leave this room alive!
Berent (pointing to the revolver). Is it loaded?
Tjaelde (putting his finger on the trigger). You will find that out
in good time. You must answer me now!
Berent. I have a suggestion to make. Shoot yourself first and me
Tjaelde (going up to him and holding the revolver to his head). I
will soon quiet your pretty wit.
Berent (getting up, and taking out of his pocket a paper which he
unfolds). This is a formal surrender of your estate to the Receiver
in Bankruptcy. If you sign it, you will be doing your duty to your
creditors, to your family, and to yourself. Shooting yourself and
me would only be adding an acted lie to all your others. Put away
your revolver and take up your pen!
Tjaelde. Never! I had resolved on this long ago. But you shall
keep me company, now!
Berent. Do what you please. But you cannot threaten me into a
Tjaelde (who has lowered the revolver, takes a step back, raises
the revolver and aims at BERENT). Very well!
Berent (walking up to TJAELDE and looking him straight in the eyes,
while the latter reluctantly lowers the revolver). Do you suppose I
don't know that a man who has for so long shivered with falsehood
and terror in his inmost heart has lots of schemes but no courage?
You _dare_ not do it!
Tjaelde (furiously). I will show you! (Steps back and raises the
Berent (following him). Shoot, and you will hear a report--that is
what you are longing for, I suppose! Or, give up your plan of
shooting, think of what you have done, confess, and afterwards
hold your tongue!
Tjaelde. No; may the devil take both you and me--
Berent. And the horse?
Tjaelde. The horse?
Berent. I mean the magnificent charger on which you came galloping
home from the sale of Moeller's estate. You had better let some one
shoot you on horseback--on what was your last and greatest piece of
business duplicity! (Goes nearer to him and speaks more quietly.)
Or--strip yourself of the tissue of lies which enfolds you, and
your bankruptcy will bring you more blessing than your riches have
ever done. (TJAELDE lets the revolver drop out of his hand, and
sinks into a chair in an outburst of tears. There is silence for a
moment.) You have made an amazing fight of it for these last three
years. I do not believe I know any one who could have done what you
have done. But you have lost the fight this time. Do not shrink now
from a final settlement and the pain that it must cost you. Nothing
else will cleanse your soul for you.
Tjaelde (weeping unrestrainedly, with his face buried in his
hands). Oh, oh!
Berent. You have blamed me for my method of proceeding in the
matter. My answer to that is that I forgive you for yours. (A
pause.) Try now to look the situation in the face, and take it
like a man.
Tjaelde (as before). Oh!
Berent. At the bottom of your heart you must be weary of it all;
make an end of it all now!
Tjaelde (as before). Oh!
Berent (sitting down beside him, after a moment's pause). Wouldn't
you like to feel your conscience clear again--to be able really to
live with your wife and children? Because I am sure you have not
done that for many a day.
Tjaelde (as before). Oh!
Berent. I have known many speculators in my time and have received
many confessions. So I know what you have been robbed of for three
years--never a good night's rest, never a meal eaten with a light
heart. You have scarcely been conscious of what your children were
doing or saying, except when accident brought you together. And
Tjaelde. My wife!
Berent. Yes, she has slaved hard enough to prepare these banquets
that were to conceal the nakedness of the land. Indeed, she has
been the hardest worked servant in your house.
Tjaelde. My patient, good wife!
Berent. I feel certain you would rather be the humblest labourer
earning your daily bread than live through such suffering again.
Tjaelde. A thousand times rather!
Berent. Then can you hesitate to do what will give every man his
due, and bring you back to truthfulness again? Take the paper and
Tjaelde (falling on his knees). Mercy, mercy! You do not know what
you are asking me. My own children will curse me. I have just heard
of a child doing that to her father! And my business friends, who
will be ruined with me--numbers of them--think of their families!
Oh! What is to become of my work-people? Do you know there are more
than four hundred of them? Think of them and their families, robbed
of their livelihood!--Be merciful! I cannot, I dare not, do it!
Save me, help me! It was horrible of me to try and threaten you;
but now I implore you, for the sake of all those that deserve more
than I, but to whom I shall devote the rest of my life in loyal
Berent. I cannot save you, least of all with money that belongs to
others. What you ask me to do would be disloyalty to them.
Tjaelde. No, no! Publish my accounts openly--put me under trustees,
if you like; but let me go on with the scheme that I believe will
succeed! Every clear-headed man will see that it must succeed!
Berent. Come and sit down. Let us discuss it. (TJAELDE sits down.)
Isn't what you are now proposing exactly what you have been trying
to do for the last three years? You _have_ been able to borrow the
means; but what good has it done?
Tjaelde. Times have been so bad!
Berent (shaking his head). You have mixed up falsehood and truth
for so long that you have forgotten the simplest laws of commerce.
To speculate during bad times, on the chance of their becoming
better, is all very well for those who can afford it. Others must
leave such things alone.
Tjaelde. But it is to the advantage of my creditors themselves, and
of the banks too, that my estate should hold together!
Berent. It is of no advantage to sound firms to prop up unsound
Tjaelde. But, surely, to avoid losing their capital--?
Berent, Oh, perhaps in the Receiver's hands the estate may--
Tjaelde (hopefully, half rising from his chair). Yes? Well?
Berent. But not till you have been removed from the control of it.
Tjaelde (sinking down again). Not till I have been removed from the
control of it!
Berent. On _its own_ resources I dare say the estate can hold out
until better times come, but not on borrowed money.
Tjaelde. Not on borrowed money--
Berent. You understand the difference, of course?
Tjaelde. Oh, yes.
Berent. Good. Then you must understand that there is nothing left
for you to do but to sign this.
Tjaelde. Nothing left but to sign--
Berent. Here is the paper. Come, now!
Tjaelde (rousing himself). Oh, I cannot, I cannot!
Berent. Very well. But in that case the crash will come of itself
in a short time, and everything will be worse than it is now.
Tjaelde (falling on his knees).Mercy, mercy! I cannot let go of all
hope! Think, after a fight like mine!
Berent. Tell the truth and say: "I haven't the courage to face the
Tjaelde. Yes, that is the truth.
Berent. "I haven't the courage to begin an honest life."
Berent. You don't know what you are saying, man!
Tjaelde. No, I don't. But spare me!
Berent (getting up). This is nothing but despair! I am sorry for
Tjaelde (getting up). Yes, surely you must be? Try me! Ask me to do
anything you like! Tell me what you--
Berent. No, no! Before anything else, you must sign this.
Tjaelde (sinking back into his chair). Oh!--How shall I ever dare
to look any one in the face again?--I, who, have defied everything
and deceived every one!
Berent. The man who has enjoyed the respect which he did not
deserve must some day undergo the humiliation which he has
deserved. That is a law; and I cannot save you from that.
Tjaelde. But they will be crueller to me than to any one else! I
deserve it, I know; but I shall not be able to endure it!
Berent. Hm! You are remarkably tough; your fight, these last three
years, proves that.
Tjaelde. Be merciful! Surely your ingenuity--your influence--_must_
be able to find some way out for me?
Berent. Yes. The way out is for you to sign this.
Tjaelde. Won't you even take it over from me by private contract?
If you did that, everything would come right.
Berent. Sign! Here is the paper! Every hour is precious.
Tjaelde. Oh! (Takes up a pen; but turns to BERENT with a gesture of
supplication.) Daren't you test me, after what I have just gone
Berent. Yes, when you have signed. (TJAELDE signs the paper, and
sinks back in his chair with an expression of the keenest anguish.
BERENT takes the paper, folds it, and puts it in his pocket-book.)
Now I will go to the Bankruptcy Court with this, and afterwards to
the telegraph office. Probably the officials of the court will come
this evening to make their inventory. So you ought to warn your
Tjaelde. How shall I be able to do that? Give me a little time! Be
Berent. The sooner the better for you--not to speak of the
interests of all concerned. Well, I have finished for the present.
Tjaelde. Don't desert me like this! Don't desert me!
Berent. You would like your wife to come to you, wouldn't you?
Tjaelde (resignedly). Yes.
Berent (taking up the revolver). And this--I will not take it with
me. There is no danger from it now. But I will put it in the desk,
for the sake of the others. Now, if you or yours should need me,
send word to me.
Tjaelde. Thank you.
Berent. I shall not leave the town until the worst is over.--
Remember, night or day, if you need me, send word to me.
Tjaelde. Thank you.
Berent. And now will you unlock the door for me?
Tjaelde (getting up). Ah, of course. Excuse me!
Berent (taking his hat and coat). Won't you call your wife now?
Tjaelde. No. I must have a little time first. I have the worst part
of it before me now.
Berent. I believe you have, and that is just why--. (Takes hold of
the bell-pull and rings the bell.)
Tjaelde. What are you doing?
Berent. I want, before I go, to be sure of your wife's coming to
Tjaelde. You should not have done that! (An office-boy comes in.
BERENT looks at TJAELDE.) Ask your mistress--ask my wife to come to
Berent. At once, please. (The boy goes out.) Good-bye! (Goes out.
TJAELDE sinks down on to a chair by the door.)
[The Curtain falls.]
(SCENE.-The same as in the preceding act. TJAELDE is sitting alone,
on the chair by the door, in the position he was in when the
curtain fell on the last act. After sitting motionless for a
considerable time, he suddenly gets up.)
Tjaelde. How am I to begin? After her, there are the children;
after them, all my work-people--and then all the others! If only I
could get away! But the Receiver's men will be here.--I must have
some air! (Goes to the nearest window.) What a beautiful day!--but
not for me. (Opens the window and looks out.) My horse! No, I
daren't look at it. Why is it saddled? Oh, of course I meant, after
my talk with Berent, to--. But now everything is different! (Walks
up and down once or twice, thinking; then says suddenly:) Yes, on
that horse I might reach the outer harbour before the foreign boat
sails! (Looks at his watch.) I can do it! And I shall be able to
put behind me all--. (Stops, with a start, as he hears footsteps on
the stair.) Who is there? What is it? (MRS. TJAELDE comes down the
stair into the room.)
Mrs. Tjaelde. You sent for me?
Tjaelde. Yes. (Watching her.) Were you upstairs?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, I was resting.
Tjaelde (sympathetically). Ah, you were sleeping, and I woke you
Mrs. Tjaelde. No, I was not asleep. (She has come slowly forward.)
Tjaelde. You weren't asleep? (Apprehensively, to her.) I suppose
you didn't--? (To himself.) No, I daren't ask her.
Mrs. Tjaelde. What did you want?
Tjaelde. I wanted--. (Sees her eyes fixed on the revolver.) You are
surprised at my having that out? I got it out because I am going
on a journey.
Mrs. Tjaelde (supporting herself on the desk). Going on a journey?
Tjaelde. Yes. Mr. Berent has been here, as I dare say you know.
(She does not answer.) Business, you know. I have to go abroad.
Mrs. Tjaelde (faintly). Abroad?
Tjaelde. Only for a few days. So I will only take my usual bag with
a change of clothes and one or two shirts; but I must have it at
Mrs. Tjaelde. I don't think your bag has been unpacked since you
brought it home to-day.
Tjaelde. So much the better. Will you get it for me?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Are you going away now--at once?
Tjaelde. Yes, by the foreign boat--from the outer harbour.
Mrs. Tjaelde. You have no time to lose, then.
Tjaelde. Are you not well?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Not very.
Tiwlde. One of your attacks?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes!--but I must fetch your bag. (TJAELDE helps
her over to the staircase.)
Tjaelde. You are not well, my dear--but you will be better some
Mrs. Tjaelde. I only wish _you_ looked better.
Tjaelde. We all have our burdens to bear.
Mrs. Tjaelde. If only we could bear more together!
Tjaelde. But you don't understand my affairs--and I have never
had time to talk about yours.
Mrs. Tjaelde. No--that's it. (Begins to go upstairs slowly.)
Tjaelde. Shall I help you?
Mrs. Tjaelde. No, thank you, dear.
Tjaelde (coming forward). Does she suspect? She is always like
that--she takes all my courage away from me. But there is no
other way! Now--about money? I surely have some gold here
somewhere. (Goes to his desk, takes some gold out of a drawer and
counts it; then lifts his head and sees MRS. TJAELDE who has sat
down on the stair half-way up.) My dear, are you sitting down?
Mrs. Tjaelde. I felt faint for a moment. I will go up now. (Gets up
and climbs the stair slowly.)
Tjaelde. Poor thing, she is worn out. (Pulls himself together.) No--
five, six, eight, ten--that is not enough. I must have some more.
(Searches in the desk.) And when I run short I have my watch and
chain. Twenty, twenty-four--that is all I can find. Ah, my papers!
I must on no account forget them. The ground is falling away
under me! Isn't she coming back? The bag was packed, surely?--
Ah, how all this will make her suffer! But it will not be so bad
for her if I am away. People will be more merciful, both to her and
the children. Oh, my children! (Collects himself.) Only let me get
away, away! Thoughts will follow me there, all the same!--Ah, here
she is! (MRS. TJAELDE is seen coming down slowly, with a bag which
is evidently, heavy.) Shall I help you, dear?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Thanks, will you take hold of the bag?
Tjaelde (takes it; she comes slowly down). It is heavier than it
was this morning.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Is it?
Tjaelde. I have some papers to put in it. (Opens the bag.) But, my
dear, there is money in this bag.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes--some gold that you have given me at odd times.
I thought it might be useful to you now.
Tjaelde. There is a large sum.
Mrs. Tjaelde. I don't believe you even know how much you have
Tjaelde. She knows everything!--My dear! (Opens his arms.)
Mrs. Tjaelde. Henning! (They both burst into tears and fall into
each other's arms. MRS. TJAELDE whispers to him:) Shall I call the
Tjaelde (in a whisper). No, say nothing--till later! (They embrace
again. He takes up the bag.) Go to the window, so that I can see
you when I mount. (Shuts the bag and hurries to the door, but
stops.) My dear!
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes?
Tjaelde. Forgive me!
Mrs. Tjaelde. Everything! (TJAELDE, as he is hurrying out, meets in
the doorway an office-boy who is bringing him a letter. TJAELDE
takes it, and the boy goes out.)
Tjaelde. From Berent! (Opens the letter, stands in the doorway and
reads it; then comes back into the room, with his bag in his hand,
and reads it again.) "When I left your house, I saw a horse
standing saddled at your door. To prevent misunderstanding, let
me inform you that your house is watched by the police."
Mrs. Tjaelde (supporting herself on the desk). You can't go?
Tjaelde. No. (A pause. He puts down the bag and wipes his
Mrs. Tjaelde. Henning, shall we pray together?
Tjaelde. What do you mean?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Pray--pray to God to help us? (Bursts into tears.
TJAELDE is silent. She falls on her knees.) Come, Henning! You see
that all human ingenuity is of no avail!
Tjaelde. I know that, only too well.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Well, try once, in this hour of our greatest need!
(TJAELDE appears to be struggling with his emotion.) You never
would! You have never confided in us, or in your God!--never
opened your heart to any one!
Tjaelde. Be quiet!
Mrs. Tjaelde. But what you concealed by day, you used to talk
of in the night. We mortals must talk, you know! But I have lain
awake and listened to your distress. Now you know why I am no
longer good for anything. No sleep at night, and none of your
confidence in the daytime. I have suffered even more than you.
(TJAELDE throws himself into a chair. She goes to him.) You
wanted to run away. When we are afraid of our fellow-men, we
have only Him to turn to. Do you think I should be alive now, if
it were not for Him?
Tjaelde. I have thrown myself imploringly at His feet, but always
Mrs. Tjaelde. Henning, Henning!
Tjaelde. Why did He not bless my work and the fight I was making?
It is all one now.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Ah, there is more to come.
Tjaelde (getting up). Yes, the worst is before us now--
Mrs. Tjaelde. --because it is in our own hearts! (A pause. VALBORG
appears coming down the stair, but stops at the sight of the
others.) What do you want, dear?
Valborg (with suppressed emotion). From my room I can see the
police watching the house. Are the Receiver's men coming now?
Mrs. Tjaelde (sitting down). Yes, my child. After a terrible
struggle--how terrible, his God and I alone know--your father has
just sent in his declaration of bankruptcy. (VALBORG takes a step
or two forward, then stands still. A pause.)
Tjaelde (unable to control himself). Now I suppose you will say
to me just what Moeller's daughter said to him!
Mrs. Tjaelde (getting up). You won't do that, Valborg!--God
alone can judge him.
Tjaelde. Tell me how cruelly I have wronged you! Tell me that
you will never be able to forgive me--(breaking down)--that I have
lost your respect and your love for ever!
Mrs. Tjaelde. Oh, my child!
Tjaelde. That your anger and your shame know no bounds!
Valborg. Oh, father, father! (Goes out by the door at the back.
TJAELDE tries to cross the room, as if to follow her, but can only
stagger as far as the staircase, to which he clings for support.
MRS. TJAELDE sinks back into her chair. There is a long pause.
Suddenly JAKOBSEN cones in from the outer once, dressed as before
except that he has changed his coat. TJAELDE is not aware of his
entrance until JAKOBSEN is close to him; then he stretches out
his hands to him as if in entreaty, but JAKOBSEN goes right up to
him and speaks in a voice choked with rage.)
Jakobsen. You scoundrel! (TJAELDE recoils.)
Mrs. Tjaelde. Jakobsen! Jakobsen!
Jakobsen (without heeding her). The Receiver's men are here.
The books and papers at the Brewery have been seized. Work is
at a standstill--and the same thing at the factory.
Mrs. Tjaelde. My God!
Jakobsen. And I had made myself responsible for twice as much
as I possessed! (He speaks low, but his voice vibrates with anger
Mrs. Tjaelde. Dear Jakobsen!
Jakobsen (turning to her). Didn't I say to him, every time he told
me to sign, "But I don't possess as much as that! It's not right!"--
But he used to answer, "It is only a matter of form, Jakobsen."
"Yes, but not an honourable form," I used to say. "It is a matter
of form in business," he would say; "all business folk do it."
And all I knew of business, I had learnt from him; so I trusted
him. (With emotion.) And he made me do it time after time. And
now I owe more than I shall ever be able to pay, all my life. I
shall live and die a dishonoured man. What have you to say to
that, Mrs. Tjaelde? (She does not answer him. He turns angrily
upon TJAELDE.) Do you hear? Even _she_ can find nothing to say!--
Mrs. Tjaelde. Jakobsen!
Jakobsen (in a voice broken with emotion). I have nothing but the
deepest respect for you, Mrs. Tjaelde. But, you see, he has made
me swindle other people! In his name I shall have ruined numbers
of them. They trusted me, you see; just as I trusted him. I used
to tell them that he was a benefactor to the whole countryside, and
that therefore they ought to help him in these hard times. And now
there will be many an honest family robbed of house and home by our
treachery. And that is what he has brought me to! What heartless
cruelty! (To TJAELDE.) I can tell I feel inclined to--. (Takes a
threatening step towards him.)
Mrs. Tjaelde (getting up). For my sake, Jakobsen!
Jakobsen (restraining himself). Yes, for your sake, ma'am; because
I have the deepest respect for you. But how am I to face all those
poor creatures that I have ruined? It will do them no good to
explain to them how it has happened; that won't help them to get
their daily bread! How shall I face my own wife! (With emotion.)
She has had such faith in me, and in those I trusted. And my
children, too? It is very hard on children, because they hear so
much talk in the street. It won't be long before they hear what
sort of a father they have got; and they will hear it from the
children of the men I have ruined.
Mrs. Tjaelde. As you feel how hard it is yourself, that should
make you willing to spare others. Be merciful!
Jakobsen. I have the deepest respect for you; but it is hard that
in my home we should never again be able to eat a crust that we can
properly call our own--for I owe more than I can ever live to
repay! That is hard, Mrs. Tjaelde! What will become of my evenings
with my children now?--of our Sundays together? No, I mean that he
shall hear the truth from me. (Turns upon TJAELDE.) You scoundrel!
You shan't escape me! (TJAELDE shrinks back in terror and tries to
reach the office door, but at that moment the RECEIVER comes in,
followed by two of his clerks and SANNAES. TJAELDE crosses the
room, staggers to his desk, and leans upon it with his back turned
to the newcomers.)
The Receiver (coming up behind Tjaelde). Excuse me! May I have your
books and papers? (TJAELDE gives a start, moves away to the stove,
and supports himself on it.)
Jakobsen (in a whisper, standing over him). Scoundrel! (TJAELDE
moves away from him and sits down on a chair by the door, hiding
his face in his hands.)
Mrs. Tjaelde (getting up and whispering to JAKOBSEN), Jakobsen!
Jakobsen! (He comes towards her.) He has never deliberately cheated
any one! He has never been what you say, and never will be! (Sits
Jakobsen. I have the deepest respect for _you_, Mrs. Tjaelde. But
if _he_ is not a liar and swindler, there is no truth in anything!
(Bursts into tears. MRS. TJAELDE hides her face in her hands as she
leans back in her chair. A short silence. Then a confused noise of
voices is heard without. The RECEIVER and his men stop their work
of sorting and inventorying papers, and all look up.)
Mrs. Tjaelde (apprehensively). What is that? (SANNAES and the
RECEIVER go to one window, and JAKOBSEN to another.)
Jakobsen. It's the hands from the quay and the brewery and the
factory and the warehouse. All work is stopped until further
orders; but this is pay-day--and there is no pay for them! (The
others resume their work.)
Tjaelde (coming forward despairingly). I had forgotten that!
Jakobsen (going up to him). Well, go out and face them, and they
will let you know what you are!
Tjaelde (in a low voice, as he takes up his saddle-bag). Here is
money, but it is all in gold. Go into the town and get it changed,
and pay them!
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, do, Jakobsen!
Jakobsen (in lower tones). If _you_ ask me to, ma'am, I--So there
is money in this bag? (Opens it.) And all done up in rolls. He
meant to bolt, then!--and with the money his people had lent him.
And yet you say he is not a scoundrel! (TJAELDE gives a groan. The
noise of voices without grows louder.)
Mrs. Tjaelde (in a low voice). Be quick, or we shall have them in
Jakobsen. I will go.
The Receiver (interposing). Excuse me, but nothing must be taken
away from here until it has been examined and inventoried.
Jakobsen. It is pay-day, and this is the money for the wages.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Jakobsen is responsible for it, and will account for
The Receiver. Oh, that alters the case. Mr. Jakobsen is a man of
integrity. (Goes back to his work.)
Jakobsen (to MRS. TJAELDE, in a low voice full of emotion). Did you
hear that, Mrs. Tjaelde? He called me a man of integrity--and very
soon not a single soul will call me that! (Goes out past TJAELDE to
whom he whispers as he passes:) Scoundrel! I shall come back again!
The Receiver (going up to TJAELDE). Excuse me, but I must ask you
for the keys of your private rooms and cupboards.
Mrs. Tjaelde (answering for her husband). My housekeeper shall go
with you. Sannaes, here is the key of the cupboard. (SANNAES takes
it from her.)
The Receiver (looking at TJAELDE'S massive watch-chain). Whatever
article of dress can be called a necessary, we have nothing to do
with; but if it happens that it comrises jewellery of any great
value--. (TJAELDE begins to take off the watch-chain.) No, no; keep
it on. But it will have to be included in the inventory.
Tjaelde. I don't wish to keep it.
The Receiver. As you please. (Signs to one of his clerks to take
it.) Good-day! (Meanwhile SIGNE and HAMAR have appeared at the
door of the outer office, and have seen what passed. The RECEIVER,
SANNAES, and the clerks try to open the door on the right, but find
it locked.) This door is locked.
Tjaelde (as if waking from a dream). Ah, of course! (Goes to the
door and unlocks it.)
Signe (rushing to MRS. TJAELDE and falling on her knees beside
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, dear, the day of our trial has come! And I am
afraid--afraid that it may find us all too weak.
Signe. Mother, what is to become of us?
Mrs. Tjaelde. We are in God's hands.
Signe. I will go with Hamar to his aunt's. We will go at once.
Mrs. Tjaelde. It is possible that his aunt may not be willing to
have you now.
Signe. Aunt Ulla! What do you mean?
Mrs. Tjaelde. I mean that you have been the rich man's daughter;
and you do not know what the world is.
Signe. Hamar, do you think Aunt Ulla would refuse to have me?
Hamar (after a moment's thought). I don't know.
Mrs. Tjaelde. You hear that, my child. In the next few hours you
will learn more than you have learnt in all your life.
Signe (in a horrified whisper). Do you mean that even--?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Hush! (SIGNE hides her face in her mother's lap. A
loud burst of laughter is heard outside.)
Hamar (going to the nearest window). What is that? (SANNAES comes
in through the right-hand door and goes to the other window.
TJAELDE, SIGNE and MRS. TJAELDE get up.) The bay horse! They have
got hold of it.
Sannaes. They have led it up the steps, and are pretending to sell
it by auction.
Hamar. They are ill-treating it! (SANNAES runs out. HAMAR snatches
up the revolver from the desk and looks to see if it is loaded.) I
Signe. What are you going to do? (As he starts to go out, she
clings to him and prevents him.)
Hamar. Let me go!
Signe. Tell me first what you are going to do! Do you mean to go
out among all those men--alone?
Signe (throwing her arms round him). You shan't go!
Hamar. Take care, this is loaded!
Signe. What are you going to do with it?
Hamar (in a determined voice, as he shakes himself free of her).
Put a bullet into the poor beast! It is too good for that crew. It
shan't be put up for auction, either in joke or in earnest! (Goes
to the farther window.) I shall get a better aim from here.
Signe (following him, with a cry). You will hit some one!
Hamar. No, I can aim too well for that. (Takes aim.)
Signe. Father! If they hear a shot from here now--
Tjaelde (starting up). The house belongs to my creditors now--and
the revolver too!
Hamar. No, I am past taking orders from you now! (TJAELDE snatches
at the revolver, which goes off. SIGNE screams and rushes to her
mother. Outside, but this time immediately below the window, two
cries are heard: "They are shooting at us! They are shooting at
us!" Then the noise of breaking glass is heard, and stones fly in
through the windows, followed by shouts and ribald laughter.
VALBORG, who has rushed in from the outer office, stands in front
of her father to protect him, her face turned to the window. A
voice is heard: "Follow me, my lads!")
Hamar (pointing the revolver at the window). Yes, just you try it!
Mrs. Tjaelde and Signe. They are coming in here!
Valborg. You shan't shoot! (Stands between him and the window.)
Tjaelde. It is Sannaes with the police! (Cries of "Get back,
there!" are heard; then a renewed uproar and a loud voice gradually
dominating it; until at last the noise gradually lessens and
Mrs. Tjaelde. Thank God! We were in great danger. (Sinks into a
chair. A pause.) Henning, where are you? (TJAELDE comes up behind
her, and strokes her head with his hand, but turns away immediately
to hide his deep emotion. A pause.)
Signe (on her knees by her mother's side). But won't they come
back? Hadn't we better go away from here?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Where to?
Signe (despairingly). What is to become of us?
Mrs. Tjaelde. What God wills. (A pause. Meanwhile HAMAR,
unobserved, has laid down the revolver on a chair and slipped
out of the room by the door at the back.)
Valborg (softly). Signe, look! (SIGNE gets up, looks round the
room, and gives a little cry.)
Mrs. Tjaelde. What is it?
Signe. I knew he would!
Mrs. Tjaelde (apprehensively). What is it?
Valborg. Every rich family has its tame lieutenant--and ours has
just left us. That's all.
Mrs. Tjaelde (getting up). Signe, my child!
Signe (throwing herself into her arms). Mother!
Mrs. Tjaelde. There will be no more pretence now. Do not let us
Signe (in tears). Mother, mother!
Mrs. Tjaelde. Things are better as they are. Do you hear, dear?
Signe. I am not crying! but I feel so ashamed--oh, so ashamed!
Mrs. Tjaelde. It is I that ought to feel ashamed for never having
had the courage to put a stop to what I saw was folly.
Signe (as before). Mother!
Mrs. Tjaelde. Soon there will be no one else left to desert us; and
we shall have nothing left that any one can rob us of, either.
Valborg (comes forward evidently labouring under great emotion).
Yes, there is, mother; _I_ mean to desert you.
Signe. You, Valborg? Desert us? You?
Valborg. Our home is going to be broken up, anyway. Each of us
ought to shift for herself.
Signe. But what am I to do? I don't know how to do anything.
Mrs. Tjaelde (who has sunk back into her chair). What a bad mother
I must have been, not to be able to keep my children together now!
Valborg (impetuously). You know we cannot stay together now! You
know we cannot put up with living on the charity of our creditors;
we have done that too long!
Mrs. Tjaelde. Hush, remember your father is in the room. (A pause.)
What do you want to do, Valborg?
Valborg (after she has regained her self-control, quietly). I want
to go into Mr. Holst's office, and learn commercial work--and keep
Mrs. Tjaelde. You don't know what you are undertaking.
Valborg. But I know what I am leaving.
Signe. And I shall only be a burden to you, mother, because I can't
Valborg. You _can_! Go out and earn a living; even if it is only as
a servant, what does that matter? Don't live on our creditors--not
for a day, not for an hour!
Signe. And what is to become of mother, then?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Your mother will stay with your father.
Signe. But all alone? You, who are so ill?
Mrs. Tjaelde. No, not alone! Your father and I will be together.
(TJAELDE comes forward, kisses the hand she has stretched out to
him, and falls on his knees by her chair, burying his face in her
lap. She strokes his hair gently.) Forgive your father, children.
That is the finest thing you can do. (TJAELDE gets up again and
goes back to the other end of the room. A messenger comes in with a
Signe (turning round anxiously). It is a letter from him! I can't
stand any more! I won't have it! (The messenger hands the letter to
Tjaelde. I accept no more letters.
Valborg (looking at the letter). It is from Sannaes?
Tjaelde. He, too!
Mrs. Tjaelde. Take it and read it, Valborg. Let us get it all over
at once. (VALBORG takes the letter from the messenger, who goes
out. She opens the letter, looks at it, and then reads it with
emotion.) "Sir,--I have owed you everything since I entered your
employment as a boy. Therefore do not take what I am going to say
amiss. You know that about eight years ago I came into a little
legacy. I have used the money to some advantage, having especially
looked out for such investments as would not be affected by the
uncertainties of high finance. The total sum, which now amounts to
about L1400, I beg to offer to you as a token of respectful
gratitude; because, in the end, I owe it to you that I have been
able to make it that sum. Besides, you will be able to make many
times better use of it than I could. If you need me, my dearest
wish is to remain with you in the future. Forgive me for having
seized just this moment for doing this; I could not do otherwise.--
Your obedient servant, J. SANNAES." (While VALBORG has been
reading, TJAELDE has come gradually forward, and is now standing
beside his wife.)
Mrs. Tjaelde. Though out of all those you have helped, Henning,
only one comes to your aid at a time like this, you must feel that
you have your reward. (TJAELDE nods, and goes to the back of the
room again.) And you, children--do you see how loyally this man, a
stranger, is standing by your father? (A pause. SIGNE stands by the
desk, crying. TJAELDE walks up and down uneasily at the back of the
room once or twice, then goes up the staircase.)
Valborg. I should like to speak to Sannaes.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, do, dear! I couldn't, just now; and I am sure
your father couldn't either. You speak to him! (Gets up.) Come,
Signe, you and I must have a talk; you must open your heart to
me now.--Ah, when have we ever had a real talk together? (SIGNE
goes to her.) Where is your father?
Valborg. He went upstairs.
Mrs. Tjaelde (leaning on SIGNE's arm). So he did. I am sure he must
be longing to rest--although he won't find it easy to do that. It
has been a terrible day; but surely God will turn it to our good!
(Goes out with SIGNE. VALBORG goes to the back of the room and
rings the bell. A messenger comes.)
Valborg. If Mr. Sannaes is out there, please ask him to be so good
as to come in here for a moment. (The messenger goes out.) Perhaps
he won't come, when he hears it is I. (Listens.) Yes, he is coming!
(SANNAES comes in, but stops short when he sees VALBORG, and
hurriedly puts his hands behind his back.)
Sannaes. Is it you, Miss Valborg, that want me?
Valborg. Please come in. (SANNAES takes a few timid steps forward.
VALBORG speaks in a more friendly tone.) Come in, then! (SANNAES
comes further into the room.)
Valborg. You have written a letter to my father.
Sannaes (after a moment's pause). Yes.
Valborg. And made him a most generous offer.
Sannaes (as before). Oh, well--it was only natural that I should.
Valborg. Do you think so? It doesn't seem so to me. It is an offer
that honours the man that made it. (A pause.)
Sannaes. I hope he means to accept it?
Valborg. I don't know.
Sannaes (sadly, after a moment's pause). Then he doesn't mean to?
No--I suppose not.
Valborg. I honestly don't know. It depends on whether he dare.
Sannaes. Whether he dare?
Valborg. Yes. (A pause.)
Sannaes (evidently very shy of VALBORG). Have you any more orders
for me, Miss Valborg?
Valborg (with a smile). Orders? I am not giving you orders.--You
have offered also to stay with my father for the future.
Sannaes. Yes--that is to say, if he wishes me to.
Valborg. I don't know. In that case there would be only he and
my mother and you; no one else.
Sannaes. Indeed? What about the others, then?
Valborg. I don't know for certain what my sister means to do--but
I am leaving home to-day.
Sannaes. Then you are going to--
Valborg. --to try and get a clerkship somewhere. So that it will be
a bit lonely for you to be in my father's employment now. (A
pause.) I expect you had not thought of it in that light?
Sannaes. No--yes--that is to say, your father will have all the
more need of me then.
Valborg. Indeed he will. But what sort of a prospect is it for you
to bind up your fortunes with my father's? The future is so very
problematical, you know.
Sannaes. What sort of a prospect--?
Valborg. Yes, a young man should have some sort of a prospect
Sannaes. Yes--of course; that is to say, I only thought that at
first it would be so difficult for him.
Valborg. But I am thinking of you. Surely you have some plans for
Sannaes (embarrassed). Really I would rather not talk about myself.
Valborg. But I want to.--You have something else in reserve, then?
Sannaes. Well--if I must tell you--I have some well-to-do relations
in America who have for a long time wanted me to go over there. I
should soon be able to get, a good situation there.
Valborg. Indeed?--But why haven't you accepted such a good offer
long before this? (SANNAES does not answer.) You must have been
sacrificing your best interests by staying so long with us?
(SANNAES is still silent.) Any! it will be making a still greater
sacrifice to stay with us now--
Sannaes (struggling with his embarrassment). I have never thought
of it as being that.
Valborg. But my father can scarcely accept so much from you.
Sannaes (in alarm). Why not?
Valborg. Because it really would be too much.--And, in any case, I
shall try to prevent him.
Sannaes (almost imploringly). You, Miss Valborg?
Valborg. Yes. You must not be misemployed any longer.
Sannaes. Misemployed? In what I _myself_ desire so much?
Valborg. When I have talked it over with my father, I think he will
see my point.
Sannaes (anxiously). What do you mean?
Valborg (after a moment's reflection). --I mean, the reason of your
having made such great sacrifices for us--and of your being willing
to make still greater now. (A pause. SANNAES hangs his head, and is
raising his hands to hide his face, when suddenly he puts them
behind his back again. VALBORG continues, in gentle but firm
tones:) I have taught myself, all my life, to look behind deeds and
words for their motives.
Sannaes (quietly, without raising his head). You have taught
yourself to be cruelly bitter, hard and unjust.
Valborg (starts, but collects herself, and says gently:) Don't say
that, Mr. Sannaes! It is not hard-heartedness or bitterness that
makes me think of your future now--and makes me wish to spare you
Sannaes (with a cry of pain). Miss Valborg!
Valborg. Be honest with yourself, and you will be able to take a
fairer view of what I have just said.
Sannaes. Have you any more orders, Miss Valborg?
Valborg. I give you no orders, as I have told you already. I am
only bidding you good-bye; and I do it with grateful thanks to you
for all your goodness to me--and to us all. Good-bye and good luck,
Mr. Sannaes. (SANNAES bows.)Won't you shake hands? Ah, I forgot--I
offended you. I beg your pardon for that. (SANNAES bows and turns
to go.) Come, Mr. Sannaes--let us at least part as good friends!
You are going to America, and I am going among strangers. Let us go
away wishing one another well.
Sannaes (moved). Good-bye, Miss Valborg. (Turns to go.)
Valborg. Mr. Sannaes--shake hands!
Sannaes (stopping). No, Miss Valborg.
Valborg. Don't treat me uncivilly; I have not deserved that.
(SANNAES again turns to go.) Mr. Sannaes!
Sannaes (stopping). You might soil your fingers, Miss Valborg!
(Walks proudly away.)
Valborg (controlling herself with an effort). Well, we have
offended each other now. But why should we not forgive each other
Sannaes. Because you have just offended me for the second time
to-day--and more deeply than the first time.
Valborg. Oh, this is too much! I spoke as I did, because I owed it
to myself not to be put in a false position, and owed it to you to
spare you future disappointment. And you call that insulting you!
Which of us has insulted the other, I should like to know?
Sannaes. You have, by thinking such things of me. Do you realise
how cruelly you have spoilt the happiest action of my life?
Valborg. I have done so quite unintentionally, then. I am only
glad that I was mistaken.
Sannes (bitterly). You are glad! So it really makes you glad to
know that I am not a scoundrel!
Valborg (quietly). Who said anything of the kind?
Sannaes. You! You know the weak spot in my armour; but that you
should on that account believe that I could lay a trap for you
and try to trade on your father's misfortune, Miss Valborg--!
No, I cannot shake hands with any one who has thought so badly
of me as that! And, since you have so persistently insulted me
that I have lost all the timidity I used to feel in your presence,
let me tell you this openly; these hands (stretching out his hands
to her) have grown red and ugly in loyal work for your father, and
his daughter should have been above mocking at me for them!
(Turns to go, but stops.) And, one word more. Ask your father for
_his_ hand now, and hold fast to it, instead of deserting him on
the very day that misfortune has overtaken him. That would be more
to the point than worrying about _my_ future. I can look after that
for myself. (Turns again to go, but comes back.) And when, in his
service--which will be no easy service now--your hands bear the
same honourable marks of work as mine do, and are as red as mine,
then you will perhaps understand how you have hurt me! At present
you cannot. (He goes quickly towards the door of the outer office.)
Valborg (with a wry smile). What a temper! (More seriously.) And
yet, after all--. (Looks after him. Just as SANNAES gets to the
door TJAELDE'S voice is heard calling him from the top of the
staircase. SANNAES answers him.)
Tjaelde (coming down the stairs). Sannaes! Sannaes! I can see
Jakobsen coming. (Hurries across the room as if pursued by fear.
SANNAES follows him.) Of course he will be coming back to look for
me again! It is cowardly of me to feel that I cannot stand it; but
I cannot--not to-day, not now! I cannot stand any more! Stop him!
Don't let him come in! I shall have to drink my cup of misery to
the dregs; but (almost in a whisper) not all at one draught! (Hides
his face in his hands.)
Sannaes. He shan't come; don't be afraid! (Goes quickly out, with
an air of determination.)
Tjaelde. It is hard--oh, it is hard!
Valborg (coming to his side). Father! (He looks at her, anxiously.)
You may safely accept the money Sannaes offers you.
Tjaelde (in surprise). What do you mean by that?
Valborg. I mean--that, if you do, I will not forsake you either,
but stay here with you too.
Tjaelde (incredulously). You, Valborg?
Valborg. Yes, you know I want to learn office work, and business;
and I would rather learn in your office.
Tjaelde (shyly). I don't understand what you--?
Valborg. Don't you understand, dear? I believe I could become of
some use in the office. And in that way, you know, we might
begin afresh--and try, with God's help, to pay your creditors.
Tjaelde (happily, but shyly). My child! Who put such a happy idea
into your head?
Valborg (putting an arm round his neck). Father, forgive me for
all that I have neglected to do! You shall see how I will try and
make up for it! How hard I shall work!
Tjaelde (still half incredulous). My child! My child!
Valborg. I feel--I cannot tell you how deeply--a craving for love
and for work! (Throws both her arms round his neck.) Oh, father,
how I love you!--and how I shall work for you!
Tjaelde. Ah, that is the Valborg I have waited for, ever since you
were a little child! But we had drifted away from one another,
Valborg. No more about the past! Look forward, father, look
forward! Concerns "that would not be affected by the uncertainties
of high finance,"--weren't those his words?
Tjaelde. So you were struck by that expression, too?
Valborg. That may mean a future for us now! We will have a home all
to ourselves--a little house down on the shore--and I shall help
you, and Signe will help mother--we shall know what it is to live,
for the first time!
Tjaelde. What happiness it will be!
Valborg. Only look forward, father! Look forward! A united family
Tjaelde. And to think that such help should come to me now!
Valborg. Yes, now we are all going to our posts--and all together,
where formerly you stood alone! You will have good fairies round
you; wherever you look, you will see happy faces and busy fingers
all day long; and we shall all enjoy our meals and our evenings
together, just as we did when we were children!
Tjaelde. That, above everything!
Valborg. Ha, ha!--it is after the rain that the birds sing
blithest, you know! And this time our happiness can never miscarry,
because we shall have something worth living for!
Tjaelde. Let us go to your mother! This will cheer her heart!
Valborg. Ah, how I have learnt to love her! What has happened
to-day has taught me.
Tjaelde. It is for her that we shall all work now.
Valborg. Yes--for her, for her. She shall rest now. Let us go to
Tjaelde. Kiss me first, my dear. (His voice trembles.) It is so
long since you did!
Valborg (kissing him). Father!
Tjaelde. Now let us go to your mother. (The curtain falls as they
go out together.)
(SCENE.--In the garden of TJAELDE'S new home, on the shore of the
fjord, three years later. A view of tranquil sunlit sea, dotted
with boats, in the background. On the left a portion of the house
is seen, with an open window within which VALBORG is seen writing
at a desk. The garden is shaded with birch trees; flower-beds run
round the house, and the whole atmosphere one of modest comfort.
Two small garden tables and several chairs are in the foreground on
the right. A chair standing by itself, further back, has evidently
had a recent occupant. When the curtain rises the stage is empty,
but VALBORG is visible at the open window. Soon afterwards TJAELDE
comes in, wheeling MRS. TJAELDE in an invalid chair.)
Mrs. Tjaelde. Another lovely day!
Tjaelde. Tjaelde. Lovely! There was not a ripple on the sea last
night. I saw a couple of steamers far out, and a sailing ship that
had hove to, and the fisher-boats drifting silently in.
Mrs. Tjaelde. And think of the storm that was raging two days ago!
Tjaelde. And think of the storm that broke over our lives barely
three years ago! I was thinking of that in the night.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Sit down here with me.
Tjaelde. Shall we not continue our stroll?
Mrs. Tjaelde. The sun is too hot.
Tjaelde. Not for me.
Mrs. Tjaelde. You big strong man! It is too hot for me.
Tjaelde (taking a chair). There you are, then.
Mrs. Tjaelde (taking off his hat and wiping his forehead). You are
very hot, dear. You have never looked so handsome as you do now!
Tjaelde. That's just as well, as you have so much time to admire
Mrs. Tjaelde. Now that I find getting about so difficult, you mean?
Ah, that is only my pretence, so as to get you to wheel me about!
Tjaelde (with a sigh). Ah, my dear, it is good of you to take it so
cheerfully. But that you should be the only one of us to bear such
hard traces of our misfortune--
Mrs. Tjaelde (interrupting him). Do you forget your own whitened
hair? That is a sign of it, too, but a beautiful one! And, as for
my being an invalid, I thank God every day for it! In the first
place I have almost no pain, and then it gives me the opportunity
to feel how good you are to me in every way.
Tjaelde. You enjoy your life, then?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, indeed I do--and just as I should wish to.
Tjaelde. Just to be spoiled, and yourself to spoil us?
Valborg (from the window). I have finished the accounts, father.
Tjaelde. Doesn't it come out at about what I said?
Valborg. Almost exactly. Shall I enter it in the ledger at once?
Tjaelde. Oho! You are glad then, as you seem in such it hurry?
Valborg. Certainly! Such a good stroke of business!
Tjaelde. And both you and Sannaes tried your best to dissuade
me from it!
Valborg. Such a pair of wiseacres!
Mrs. Tjaelde. Ah, your father is your master, my dear!
Tjaelde. Tjaelde. Oh, it is easy enough to captain a small army
that marches on, instead of a big one that is in retreat. (VALBORG
goes on with her work.)
Mrs. Tjaelde. And yet it seemed hard enough for us to give it up.
Tjaelde. Yes, yes--oh, yes. I can tell you, I was thinking of that
last night. If God had given me what I begged for then, what state
should we have been in now? I was thinking of that, too.
Mrs. Tjaelde. It is the fact of the estate being at last wound up
that has brought all these thoughts into your mind, dear?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Then I must confess that I, too, have scarcely been
able to think of anything else since yesterday, when Sannaes went
into town to settle it up. This a red-letter day! Signe is
wrestling with a little banquet for us; we shall see what an
artist she has become! Here she is!
Tjaelde. I think I will just go and look over Valborg's accounts.
(Goes to the window. SIGNE comes out of the house, wearing a
cook's apron and carrying a basin.)
Signe. Mother, you must taste my soup! (Offers her a spoonful.)
Mrs. Tjaelde. Clever girl! (Tastes the soup.) Perhaps it would
stand a little--. No, it is very good as it is. You are clever!
Signe. Am I not! Will Sannaes be back soon?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Your father says we may expect him any moment.
Tjaelde (at the window, to VALBORG). No, wait a moment. I will come
in. (Goes into the house, and is seen within the window beside
Mrs. Tjaelde. My little Signe, I want to ask you something?
Signe. Do you?
Mrs. Tjaelde. What was in the letter you had yesterday evening?
Signe. Aha, I might have guessed that was it! Nothing, mother.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Nothing that pained you, then?
Signe. I slept like a top all night--so you can judge for yourself.
Mrs. Tjaelde. I am so glad. But, you know, there seems to me
something a little forced in the gay way you say that?
Signe. Does there? Well, it was something that I shall always be
ashamed of; that is all.
Mrs. Tjaelde. I am thankful to hear it, for--
Signe (interrupting her). That must be Sannaes. I hear wheels. Yes,
here he is! He has come too soon; dinner won't be ready for half an
Mrs. Tjaelde. That doesn't matter.
Signe. Father, here is Sannaes!
Tjaelde (from within). Good! I will come out! (SIGNE goes into
the house as TJAELDE comes out. SANNAES comes in a moment later.)
Tjaelde and Mrs. Tjaelde. Welcome!
Sannaes. Thank you! (Lays down his dust-coat and driving gloves on
a chair, and comes forward.)
Sannaes. Yes--your bankruptcy is discharged!
Mrs. Tjaelde. And the result was--?
Sannaes. Just about what we expected.
Tjaelde. And, I suppose, just about what Mr. Berent wrote?
Sannaes. Just about, except for one or two inconsiderable trifles.
You can see for yourself. (Gives him a bundle of papers.) The high
prices that have ruled of late, and good management, have altered
the whole situation.
Tjaelde (who has opened the papers and glanced at the totals). A
deficit of L12,000.
Sannaes. I made a declaration on your behalf, that you intended to
try and repay that sum, but that you should be at liberty to do it
in whatever way you found best. And so--
Tjaelde. And so--?
Sannaes. --I proferred on the spot rather more than half the amount
you still owed Jakobsen.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Not really? (TJAELDE takes out a pencil and begins
making calculations on the margins of the papers.)
Sannaes. There was general satisfaction--and they all sent you
their cordial congratulations.
Mrs. Tjaelde. So that, if all goes well--
Tjaelde. Yes, if things go as well with the business as they
promise to, Sannaes, in twelve or fourteen years I shall have paid
every one in full.
Mrs. Tjaelde. We haven't much longer than that left to live, dear!
Tjaelde. Then we shall die poor. And I shall not complain!
Mrs. Tjaelde. No, indeed! The honourable name you will leave to
your children will be well worth it.
Tjaelde. And they will inherit a sound business, which they can go
on with if they choose.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Did you hear that, Valborg?
Valborg (from the window). Every word! (SANNAES bows to her.) I
must go in and tell Signe! (Moves away from the window.)
Mrs. Tjaelde. What did Jakobsen say?--honest old Jakobsen?
Sannaes. He was very much affected, as you would expect. He will
certainly be coming out here to-day.
Tjaelde (looking up from the papers). And Mr. Berent?
Sannaes. He is coming hard on my heels. I was to give you his kind
regards and tell you so.
Tjaelde. Splendid! We owe him so much.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes, he has been a true friend to us. But, talking of
true friends, I have something particular to ask _you_, Sannaes.
Sannaes. Me, Mrs. Tjaelde?
Mrs. Tjaelde. The maid told me that yesterday, when you went into
town, you took the greater part of your belongings with you. Is
Sannaes. Yes, Mrs. Tjaelde.
Tjaelde. What does that mean? (To his wife.) You said nothing
about it to me, my dear.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Because I thought it might be a misunderstanding.
But now I must ask what was the meaning of it. Are you going away?
Sannaes (fingering a chair, in evident confusion). Yes, Mrs.
Tjaelde. Where to? You never said anything about it.
Sannaes. No; but I have always considered that I should have
finished my task here as soon as the estate was finally wound up.
Tjaelde and Mrs. Tjaelde. You mean to leave us?
Tjaelde. But why?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Where do you mean to go?
Sannaes. To my relations in America. I can now, without doing you
any harm, withdraw my capital from the business by degrees and
transfer it abroad.
Tjaelde. And dissolve our partnership?
Sannaes. You know that at any rate you had decided now to resume
the old style of the firm's name.
Tjaelde. That is true; but, Sannaes, what does it all mean? What is
Mrs. Tjaelde. Are you not happy here, where we are all so attached
Tjaelde. You have quite as good a prospect for the future here as
Mrs. Tjaelde. We held together in evil days; are we not to hold
together now that good days have come?
Sannaes. I owe you both so much.
Mrs. Tjaelde. Good heavens, it is we that owe you--
Tjaelde. --more than we can ever repay. (Reproachfully.) Sannaes!
(SIGNE comes in, having taken off her cooking apron.)
Signe. Congratulations! Congratulations! Father mother! (Kisses
them both.) Welcome, Sannaes!--But aren't you pleased?--now?
(A pause. VALBORG comes in.)
Valborg. What has happened?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Sannaes wants to leave us, my children (A pause.)
Signe. But, Sannaes--!
Tjaelde. Even if you want to go away, why have you never said a
single word to us about it before? (To the others.) Or has he
spoken to any of you? (MRS. TJAELDE shakes her head.)
Sannaes. It was because--because--I wanted to be able to go as
soon as I had told you. Otherwise it would be too hard to go.
Tjaelde. You must have very serious grounds for it, then! Has
anything happened to you to--to make it necessary? (SANNAES
does not answer.)
Mrs. Tjaelde. And to make it impossible for you to trust any of
Sannaes (shyly). I thought I had better keep it to myself. (A
Tjaelde. That makes it still more painful for us--to think that you
could go about in our little home circle here, where you have
shared everything with us, carrying the secret of this intention
hidden in your heart.
Sannaes. Do not be hard on me! Believe me, if I could stay, I
would; and if I could tell you the reason, I would. (A pause.)
Signe (to her mother, in an undertone). Perhaps he wants to get
Mrs. Tjaelde. Would his being here with us make any difference to
that? Any one that Sannaes loved would be dear to us.
Tjaelde (going up to SANNAES and putting an arm round his
shoulders). Tell one of us, then, if you cannot tell us all.
Is it nothing we can help you in?
Tjaelde. But can you judge of that alone? One does not always
realise how much some one else's advice, on the experience of an
older man, may help one.
Sannaes. Unfortunately it is as I say.
Tjaelde. It must be something very painful, then?
Tjaelde. Well, Sannaes, you have quite cast a cloud over to-day's
happiness for us. I shall miss you as I have never missed any one.
Mrs. Tjaelde. I cannot imagine the house without Sannaes!
Tjaelde (to his wife). Come, dear, shall we go in again?
Mrs. Tjaelde. Yes--it is not nice out here any longer. (TJAELDE
takes her into the house. SIGNE turns to VALBORG to go in with her,
but when she comes close to her she gives a little cry. VALBORG
takes her arm, and their eyes meet.)
Signe. Where have my wits been? (She goes into the house, looking
back at VALBORG and SANNAES. The latter is giving way to his
emotion, but as soon as his eyes fall on VALBORG he recovers
Valborg (impetuously). Sannaes!
Sannaes. What are your orders, Miss Valborg?
Valborg (turning away from him, then turning back, but avoiding
his eyes). Do you really mean to leave us?
Sannaes. Yes, Miss Valborg. (A pause.)
Valborg. So we shall never stand back to back at our desks in the
same room again?
Sannaes. No, Miss Valborg.
Valborg. That is a pity; I had become so accustomed to it.
Sannaes. You will easily become accustomed to some one else's--
Valborg. Ah, some one else is some one else.
Sannaes. You must excuse me, Miss Valborg; I don't feel in the
humour for jesting to-day. (Turn to go.)
Valborg (looking up at him). Is this to be our parting, then? (A
Sannaes. I thought of taking leave of you all this afternoon.
Valborg (taking a step towards him). But ought not we two to settle
our accounts first?
Sannaes (coldly). No, Miss Valborg.
Valborg. Do you feel then that everything between us has been just
as it ought?
Sannaes. God knows I don't!
Valborg. But you think I am to blame?--Oh, well, it doesn't matter.
Sannaes. I am quite willing to take the blame. Put anyway, it is
all finished with now.
Valborg. But if we were to share the blame? You cannot be quite
indifferent as to which of us should take it?
Sannaes. I confess I am not. But, as I said, I do not wish for any
settling of accounts between us.
Valborg. But I wish it.
Sannaes. You will have plenty of time to settle it to your own
Valborg. But, if I am in difficulties about it, I cannot do it
Sannaes. I do not think you will find any difficulty.
Valborg. But if _I_ think so?--if I feel myself deeply wronged?
Sannaes. I have told you that I am willing to take all the blame
Valborg. No, Sannaes--I don't want charity; I want to be
understood. I have a question to ask you.
Sannaes. As you will.
Valborg. How was it that we got on so well for the first year after
my father's failure-and even longer? Have you ever thought of that?
Sannaes. Yes. I think it was because we never talked about
anything but our work--about business.
Valborg. You were my instructor.
Sannaes. And when you no longer needed an instructor--
Valborg. --we hardly spoke to one another.
Sannaes (softly). No.
Valborg. Well, what could I say or do, when every sign of
friendship on my part went unnoticed?
Sannaes. Unnoticed? Oh no, Miss Valborg, I noticed them.
Valborg. That was my punishment, then!
Sannas. God forbid I should do you an injustice. You had a motive
which did you credit; you felt compassion for me, and so you could
not help acting as you did. But, Miss Valborg, I refuse your
Valborg. And suppose it were gratitude?
Sannaes (softly). I dreaded that more than anything else! I had had
Valborg. You must admit, Sannaes, that all this made you very
difficult to deal with!
Sannaes. I quite admit that. But, honestly, _you_ must admit that I
had good reason to mistrust an interest in me that sprang from
mere gratitude. Had circumstances been different, I should only
have bored you cruelly; I knew that quite well. And I had no
fancy for being an amusement for your idle hours.
Valborg. How you have mistaken me!--If you will think of it, surely
you must understand how different a girl, who has been accustomed
to travel and society, becomes when she has to stay at home and
work because it is her duty. She comes to judge men by an
altogether different standard, too. The men that she used to think
delightful are very likely to appear small in her eyes when it is a
question of the demands life makes on ability or courage or
self-sacrifice; while the men she used to laugh at are transformed
in her eyes into models of what God meant men to be, when she is
brought into close contact with them in her father's office.--Is
there anything so surprising in that? (A pause.)
Sannaes. Thank you, at all events, for saying that to me. It has
done me good. But you should have said it sooner.
Valborg (emphatically). How could I, when you misjudged everything
I did or said? No; it was impossible until mistakes and
misunderstandings had driven us so far apart that we could not
endure them any longer (Turns away.)
Sannaes. Perhaps you are right. I cannot at once recall all that
has happened. If I have been mistaken, I shall by degrees find the
knowledge of it a profound comfort.--You must excuse me, Miss
Valborg, I have a number of things to see to. (Turns to go.)
Valborg (anxiously). Sannaes, as you admit that you have judged me
unjustly, don't you think you ought at least to give me--some
Sannaes. You may be certain, Miss Valborg, that when I am balancing
our account you shall not suffer any injustice. But I cannot do it
now. All I have to do now is to get ready to go.
Valborg. But you are not ready to go, Sannaes! You have not
finished your work here yet! There is what I just spoke of--and
something else that dates farther back than that.
Sannaes. You must feel how painful it is for me to prolong this
interview. (Turns to go.)
Valborg. But surely you won't go without setting right something
that I am going to beg you to?
Sannas. What is that, Miss Valborg?
Valborg. Something that happened a long time ago.
Sannaes. If it is in my power, I will do what you ask.
Valborg. It is.--Ever since that day you have never offered to
shake hands with me.
Sannaes. Have you really noticed that? (A pause.)
Valborg (with a smile, turning away). Will you do so now?
Sannaes (stepping nearer to her). Is this more than a mere whim?
Valborg (concealing her emotion). How can you ask such a question
Sannaes. Because all this time you have never once asked me to
shake hands with you.
Valborg. I wanted you to offer me your hand. (A pause.)
Sannaes. Are you serious for once?
Valborg. I mean it, seriously.
Sannaes (in a happier voice). You really set a value on it?
Valborg. A great value.
Sannaes (going up to her). Here it is, then!
Valborg (turning and taking his hand). I accept the hand you offer
Sannaes (turning pale). What do you mean?
Valborg. I mean that for some time past I have known that I should
be proud to be the wife of a man who has loved me, and me alone,
ever since he was a boy, and has saved my father and us all.
Sannaes. Oh, Miss Valborg!
Valborg. And you wanted to go away, rather than offer me your
hand; and that, only because we had accepted help from you--and you
did not think we were free agents! That was too much; and, as you
would not speak, I had to!
Sannaes (kneeling to her). Miss Valborg!
Valborg. You have the most loyal nature, the most delicate mind,
and the warmest heart I have ever known.
Sannaes. This is a thousand times too much!
Valborg. Next to God, I have to thank you that I have become what I
am; and I feel that I can offer you a life's devotion such as you
would rarely find in this world.
Sannaes. I cannot answer because I scarcely realise what you are
saying. But you are saying it because you are sorry for me, now
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