Bjornstjerne M. Bjornson
Part 5 out of 7
that I have to go away, and feel that you owe me some gratitude.
(Takes both her hand in his.) Let me speak! I know the truth better
than you, and have thought over it far more than you. You are so
immeasurably above me in ability, in education, in manners--and a
wife should not be able to look down on her husband. At all events,
I am too proud to be willing to be exposed to that. No, what you
are feeling now is only the result of your beautiful nature, and
the recollection of it will hallow all my life. All the pain and
all the happiness I have known have come from you. Your life will
be one of self-renunciation; but, God knows there are many such!
And my burden will be lightened now, because I shall know that your
good wishes will always be with me. (Gets up.) But part we must--
and now more than ever! For I could not bear to be near you unless
you were mine, and to make you mine would only mean misery for us
both after a little while!
Sannaes (holding her hands and interrupting her). I entreat you not
to say anything more! You have too much power over me; do not use
it to make me sin! For it would be that--a great sin--to put two
honest hearts into a false position, where they would distress one
another, even perhaps get to hate one another.
Valborg. But let me--
Sannas (letting go her hands and stepping back). No, you must not
tempt me. Life with you would mean perpetual anxiety, for I should
never feel equal to what it would demand of me! But now I can part
from you comforted. There will be no bitterness in my heart now;
and by degrees all my thoughts of the past and of you will turn to
sweetness. God bless you! May every good fortune go with you!
Good-bye! (Goes quickly towards the house.)
Valborg. Sannaes! (Follows him.) Sannaes! Listen to me! (SANNAES
takes up his coat and gloves, and, as he rushes out without looking
where he is going, runs full tilt into BERENT who comes in at that
moment followed by JAKOBSEN.)
Sannaes. I beg your pardon! (Rushes out to the right.)
Berent. Are you two playing a game of blind man's buff?
Valborg. God knows we are!
Berent. You need not be so emphatic about it! I have had forcible
evidence of it. (Rubs his stomach and laughs.)
Valborg. You must excuse me! Father is in there. (Points to the
left and goes hurriedly out to the right.)
Berent. We don't seem to be getting a particularly polite
Jakobsen. No, we seem to be rather in the way, Mr. Berent.
Berent (laughing). It looks like it. But what has been going on?
Jakobsen. I don't know. They looked as if they had been fighting,
their faces were so flushed.
Berent. They looked upset, you mean?
Jakobsen. Yes, that's it. Ah, here is Mr. Tjaelde! (To himself.)
Good Lord, how aged he looks! (Withdraws into the background as
BERENT goes forward to greet TJAELDE, who comes in.)
Tjaelde (to BERENT). I am delighted to see you! You are always
welcome in our little home--and this year more welcome than ever!
Berent. Because things are going better than ever this year! I
congratulate you on your discharge--and also on your determination
to pay everything in full!
Tjaelde. Yes, if God wills, I mean to--
Berent. Well, things are going splendidly, aren't they?
Tjaelde. So far, yes.
Berent. You are over the worst of it, now that you have laid the
foundations of a new business and laid them solidly.
Tjaelde. One of the things that have given me the greatest
encouragement has been the fact that I have won your confidence--
and that has gained me the confidence of others.
Berent. I could have done nothing unless you had first of all done
everything. But don't let us say any more about it!--Well, the
place looks even prettier than it did last year.
Tjaelde. We do a little more to it each year, you know.
Berent. And you are still all together here?
Tjaelde. So far, yes.
Berent. Ah, by the way, I can give you news of your deserter.
(TJAELDE looks surprised.) I mean your lieutenant!
Tjaelde. Oh--of him! Have you seen him?
Berent. I was on the same boat coming here. There was a very
rich girl on board.
Tjaelde (laughing). Oh, I see!
Berent. All the same, I don't think it came to any thing. It is
rather like coming upon a herd of deer when you are stalking; after
your first shot, you don't find it so easy to get another; they
have grown wary!
Jakobsen (who during this conversation has been screwing up his
courage to address TJAELDE). I--I am a pig, I am! I know that!
Tjaelde (taking his hand). Oh, come, Jakobsen!--
Jakobsen. A great blundering pig!--But I know it now!
Tjaelde. That's all right! I can tell you I am delighted to be able
to set affairs straight between you and me.
Jakobsen. I don't know what to answer. It goes to my heart! (Shakes
his hand heartily.) You are a far better man than I,--and I said so
to my wife. "He's a splendid fellow," I said.
Tjaelde (releasing his hand). Let us forget everything except the
happy days we have had together, Jakobsen! How do things go
at the Brewery?
Jakobsen. At the Brewery! As long as folk ladle beer into their
stomachs at the rate they do now--
Berent. Jakobsen was kind enough to drive me out here. We had a
most amusing drive. He is a character.
Jakobsen (in an anxious undertone, to TJAELDE). What does he mean
Tjaelde. That you are different from most people.
Jakobsen. Ah!--I didn't feel sure, you know, whether he wasn't
sitting there making game of me, all the way here.
Tjaelde. How can you think such a thing? (To BERENT.) Do come into
the house. Excuse my going first; but my wife is not always quite
prepared to receive visitors since she has been able to do so
little for herself. (Goes into the house.)
Berent. I don't think Mr. Tjaelde seems to me to be looking in
quite as good form as I expected?
Jakobsen. Don't you? I didn't notice anything.
Berent. Perhaps I am mistaken. I think he meant us to follow him
in, didn't he?
Jakobsen. So I understood.
Berent. Then, as you have brought me so far, you must take me
in to Mrs. Tjaelde.
Jakobsen. I am quite at your service, sir. I have the deepest
respect for Mrs. Tjaelde--(hurriedly)--and of course for Mr.
Tjaelde too. Of course.
Berent. Yes. Well, let us go in.
Jakobsen. Let us go in. (He tries anxiously to keep in step with
BERENT'S peculiar walk, but finds it difficult.)
Berent. I think you had better not try. My step suits very few.
Jakobsen. Oh, I shall manage--! (They go out to the left. SANNAES
comes hurriedly in from the right, and crosses the stage; looks
around; then comes across to the foreground and leans with his
back against a tree. VALBORG comes in a moment later, comes
forward, sees him, and laughs.)
Sannaes. There, you see, Miss Valborg; you are laughing at me.
Valborg. I don't know whether I want to laugh or to cry.
Sannaes. Believe me, you are mistaken about this, Miss Valborg.
You don't see things as plainly as I do.
Valborg. Which of us was it that was mistaken to-day?--and had
to beg pardon for it?
Sannaes. It was I, I know. But this is impossible! A real union of
hearts needs to be founded on more than respect--
Valborg (laughing). On love?
Sannaes. You misunderstand me. Could you go into society with me
without feeling embarrassed? (VALBORG laughs.) You see, the mere
idea of it makes you laugh.
Valborg (laughing). I am laughing because you are magnifying the
least important part of it into the most important.
Sannaes. You know how awkward and shy--in fact downright frightened
I am amongst those who--. (VALBORG laughs again.) There, you see--
you can't help laughing at the idea!
Valborg. I should perhaps even laugh at you when we were in society
Sannaes (seriously). But I should suffer horribly if you did.
Valborg. Believe me, Sannaes, I love you well enough to be able
to afford to have a little laugh sometimes at your little
imperfections. Indeed, I often do! And suppose we were out in
society, and I saw you weighed down under the necessity for pretty
manners that do not come easy to you; if I did laugh at you, do you
think there would be any unkindness behind my laughter? If others
laughed at you, do you suppose I would not, the very next moment,
take your arm and walk proudly down the room with you? I know what
you really are, and others know it too! Thank God it is not only
bad deeds that are known to others in this world!
Sannaes. Your words intoxicate me and carry me off my feet!
Valborg (earnestly). If you think I am only flattering you, let us
put it to the test. Mr. Berent is here. He moves in the very best
society, but he is superior to its littlenesses. Shall we take his
opinion? Without betraying anything, I could make him give it in
Sannaes (carried away). I want no one's opinion but yours!
Valborg. That's right! If only you feel certain of my love--
Sannaes (impetuously). --then nothing else will seem to matter;
and that alone will be able to teach me all that I lack, in a very
Valborg. Look into my eyes!
Sannaes (taking her hands). Yes!
Valborg. Do you believe that nothing would ever make me ashamed of
Sannaes. Yes, I believe that.
Valborg (with emotion). Do you believe that I love you?
Sannaes. Yes! (Falls on one knee.)
Valborg. Deeply enough for my love to last all our lives--
Sannaes. Yes, yes!
Valborg. Then stay with me; and we will look after the old folk--
and replace them when, in God's good time, they are taken from us.
(SANNAES bursts into tears. TJAELDE, who has come to the window to
show BERENT his ledgers, happens to look up and sees VALBORG and
Tjaelde (leaning out of the window, and speaking gently:) Valborg,
what has happened?
Valborg (quietly). Only that Sannaes and I are engaged to be
Tjaelde. Is it possible! (To BERENT, who is immersed in the
accounts.) Excuse me! (Hurries away from the window.)
Sannaes (who, in his emotion has heard nothing). Forgive me! It
has been such a long, hard struggle--and I feel overwhelmed!
Valborg. Let us go in to my mother.
Sannws (shrinking back). I can't, Miss Valborg--you must wait a
Valborg. Here they come. (TJAELDE comes in wheeling MRS. TJAELDE in
her chair. VALBORG runs to her mother and throws herself into her
Mrs. Tjaelde (softly). God be praised and thanked!
Tjaelde (going up to SANNAES and embracing him). My son!
Mrs. Tjaelde. So that was why Sannaes wanted to go away! Oh,
Sannaes! (TJAELDE brings SANNAES up to her. SANNAES kneels and
kisses her hand, then gets up and goes into the background, to
recover himself. SIGNE comes in.)
Signe. Mother, everything is ready now!
Mrs. Tjaelde. So are things out here!
Signe (looking round). Not really?
Valborg (to SIGNE). Forgive me for never having told you!
Signe. You certainly kept your secret well!
Valborg. I kept long years of suffering secret--that was all!
(SIGNE kisses her and whispers to her; then turns to SANNAES.)
Signe. Sannaes! (Shakes his hand.) So we are to be brother and
Sannaes (embarrassed). Oh, Miss Signe--
Signe. But you mustn't call me Miss Signe now, you know!
Valborg. You must expect that! He calls me "Miss" Valborg still!
Singe. Well, he won't be able to do that when you are married,
Mrs. Tjaelde (to TJAELDE). But where are our friends?
Tjaelde. Mr. Berent is in the office. There he is, at the window.
Berent (at the window). Now I am coming straight out to
congratulate you, with my friend Jakobsen. (Comes out.)
Valborg (going to TJAELDE). Father!
Tjaelde. My child!
Valborg. If we had not known those bad days we should never
have known this happy one! (He gives her a grip of the hand.)
Tjaelde (to BERENT). Allow me to present to you my daughter
Valborg's fiance--Mr. Sannaes.
Berent. I congratulate you on your choice, Miss Valborg--and I
congratulate the whole family on such a son-in-law.
Valborg (triumphantly). There, Sannaes!
Jakobsen. May I too, though I am only a stupid sort of chap, say
that this lad has been in love with you ever since he was in his
teens--he hardly could be sooner than that. But I can tell you,
honestly, I should never have credited you with having so much
sense as to take him. (All laugh.)
Mrs. Tjaelde. Signe is whispering to me that our dinner is getting
Signe. May I take my mother's place and ask you to take me in to
dinner, Mr. Berent?
Berent (offering her his arm). I am honoured!--But our bridal pair
must go first!
Sannaes (whispers, as he gives her his arm). To think that I have
you on my arm! (They go into the house, followed by BERENT
and SIGNE, and by JAKOBSEN.)
Tjaelde (bending over his wife, as he prepares to wheel her chair
in). My dear, God has blessed our house now!
Mrs. Tjaelde. My dear man!
A PLAY IN A PROLOGUE AND FOUR ACTS
HARALD GRAN, a rich manufacturer.
KOLL, Chief Magistrate of the district.
ANNA, a deaf and dumb girl.
NATHALIE, his daughter.
VILHELM, his son.
The PARISH PRIEST.
BANG, a rich trader.
A Ballad Singer.
A Young Beggar.
A Servant of the King's.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Masked Dancers, Work-people, Farmers, etc.
(SCENE.--A large gothic hall, brilliantly illuminated, in which a
masked ball is taking place. At the rise of the curtain a ballet is
being performed in the centre of the hall. Masked dancers are
grouped around, watching it. Two of them, women, are conversing on
the right of the stage.)
First Mask. Have you heard that the King is to be here to-night?
Second Mask. Yes, and since I heard it I have been imagining I
saw him everywhere.
First Mask (pointing). That is not he, is it?
Second Mask. He is taller than that.
First Mask. That one, then? Look, that one!
Second Mask. That one has spoken to me. He has too old a voice.
First Mask. Shall we see if we can find him?
Second Mask. Yes, come along!
(A number of girls, wearing similar costumes and all masked,
have meanwhile collected on the left side of the stage.)
First Girl. Are we all here?
Second Girl. All but Matilde.
Matilde. Here I am! Have you heard that the King is to be here?
Matilde. I don't know how he is dressed; but one of the masters
of the ceremonies told me he was to be here.
Several of the Girls. The dear King! (Two masked dancers, dressed
as Cats, pass by.)
Tom Cat. Do you hear that, my pet?
Matilde. Let us try and discover him.
All. Yes, yes!
A Mask. And when we have discovered him--?
Matilde. Let us all dance round him!
Tom Cat (to Puss). You had better look after your virtue, Miss!
Tom Cat. Miau! (They pass out of sight.)
Matilde. Remember that we are all to meet here in a quarter of an
All. Yes! (They disperse. The ballet comes to a close amidst
universal applause. Conversation among the dancers becomes general
and animated. The BARONESS MARC, disguised as an Old Woman, comes
forward, talking to another mask dressed as a Donkey.)
Baroness. I will never forgive you for that, my lord chamberlain.
The Donkey. But you frighten me clean out of my part, Baroness!
Baroness. If only I could understand how it happened!
The Donkey. After all, my dear Baroness, you cannot be expected to
take out all your schoolmistresses and their senior pupils on a
Baroness. No, but I have particular reasons for wishing to look
closely after _her_. (All this time she has been persistently
looking round the room.) And in such a whirling crowd as this--
The Donkey. Let us lose ourselves in it, then! (He brays as they
go out. The PRINCESS, masked and dressed in a costume of the time
of Louis XV., comes forward accompanied by a Cavalier in a costume
of the same period.)
Princess (continuing a discussion). And I say that if a king has
such graces of mind and person as ours has, he may do anything he
Cavalier. _Anything_, Princess?
Princess. Anything that his mind prompts, provided that he do it
beautifully. (A GENTLEMAN-IN-WAITING, dressed in a costume of the
same period, approaches them.)
Gentleman-in-Waiting. I cannot discover him, your Royal Highness!
Princess. But he is here. He is _here_. And for a lady's sake. I am
certain I am right.
Cavalier. But I asked one of the masters of the ceremonies, and
he knew nothing about it.
Princess. Then it must have been one that has not been let into
Cavalier. But, your Royal Highness--
Princess. Don't keep calling me "your Royal Highness," but get
me a description of the costume he is wearing. (The GENTLEMAN-
IN-WAITING bows and goes away.) And you and I will go on hunting--
Cavalier. --for the noble huntsman--
Princess. --who is being hunted himself! (Moves away, but stops
suddenly.) Who is that? (CLARA ERNST, masked and in peasant
costume, comes forward followed by a masked figure wearing a
domino. He is whispering to her over her shoulder. She keeps
glancing about, as if looking for some one.)
The Domino. --and there, in the enchanted castle, buried deep in
the wooded park--
Clara. Let me alone!
The Domino. --there we shall be greeted by a babbling fountain of
water--a nymph, holding the cup of joy high above her head--
Clara (anxiously). What can have become of her?
(Meanwhile one of the masked dancers has been following them,
and now turns back to join others.)
A Masked Dancer (pointing to the DOMINO). That is the King!
Another (quickly). But who is _she_?
The Domino. --on both sides, shady alleys leading to the doors of a
secret retreat; and there--
Clara (turning round). I despise you! (The dancing and music
suddenly stop. General consternation.)
The Baroness (starting forward as she hears CLARA voice.) Clara!
The Domino (taking CLARA's hand and leading her apart from the
others). Do you know who it is that you despise?
Clara (greatly agitated). Yes, I know who you are!--and that is
why, from the bottom of my heart, I despise you! (The music
begins afresh, covering the general consternation that has spread
among the dancers. The BARONESS comes forward with a cry of
"Clara!" CLARA bursts into tears and throws herself into her arms.
(SCENE.--A large hall in Gran's factory. The walls are bare. On the
left, about half-way forward, is a small platform. A meeting of the
shareholders of a railway company is in progress. Facing the
platform are seated the gentry; the common herd, mainly farmers and
work-people, are sitting and standing about wherever they can find
room. On the right, large windows are standing open; through these
another crowd can be seen, listening from outside. GRAN is standing
in front of the platform, speaking to the meeting.)
Gran. And, as it was found impossible for the main 1ine of the
railway to touch our town, we determined, rather than allow all our
exertions to be wasted, to construct a branch line on our own
account. I had the honour to be elected chairman of the board of
directors of this undertaking. No directors ever had more
unrestricted powers than were given to us--possibly because there
were no two opinions as to the route the line should take the
natural formation of the ground indicated it unmistakably. It was
only when we approached the question of the purchase of our
rolling-stock that any dissension arose--not among the directors,
but among the shareholders. As the majority of the latter are
farmers and work-people, we had decided on buying only one class of
railway carriage of a type slightly more comfortable than the
ordinary third-class carriage. That is the extent of our misdeeds!
To-day's meeting will probably show what the general sense on the
matter is. Our powers being unlimited, we were under no obligation
to consult any one in the matter; but, notwithstanding that, we
decided to call a meeting of the shareholders and submit the
question to them. And, on the directors' behalf, I must thank the
shareholders for having attended in such numbers; young and
old, men and women, I dare say quite a third of the total number
of shareholders are present. The meeting will now proceed to
elect a chairman. (Sits down.)
The Mayor (after a pause). I beg to move that Mr. Koll, our chief
magistrate, whom it is a great pleasure to see honouring this
meeting with his presence, have the further kindness to take the
Gran. The motion before the meeting is that the Chief Magistrate
shall take the chair. Shall I assume it to be carried? (Silence
The Mayor. Yes. (Laughter.)
Gran. The meeting should preferably elect some one who may be
considered to be unaffected by considerations of party.
Alstad (half rising, with his glasses in his hand). Then we shall
have to send for some one that does not live in these parts! There
is no one of that sort left here! (Sits down, amidst laughter.)
The Priest. All authority springs from on high. Obedience to those
set in authority over us is obedience to the Almighty. But it is
against this very obedience that people are rebelling nowadays.
Gran. It is precisely some one to be in authority over us that we
want to elect. At present we have no one.
The Priest. No, that's just it. Every meeting nowadays seems to
claim authority on its own account. Let rather show our respect
to actual authority--such respect as we would show to our fathers.
Gran. Then, as far as I can grasp the situation, the Chief
Magistrate has been proposed and seconded?
The Priest. Yes.
Gran. Does any one wish to propose any one else? (Silence.)
Alstad. May I request the Chief Magistrate to take the chair?
Koll (getting up). I don't know that it is any great compliment to
be elected in this way; but I will take the chair, for the sole
reason of enabling the meeting to proceed to business. (Takes his
place on the platform, and raps on the table with a mallet.) I
declare the meeting open.
Gran (getting up). Mr. Chairman!
Koll. Mr. Gran will address the meeting.
Gran. The motion proposed by the directors is this: "That only
one class of railway carriage shall be purchased, slightly more
comfortable than the ordinary third-class carriage." (Gives the
motion in writing to the chairman, and sits down.)
Koll. The following is the motion submitted to meeting. (Reads it
out.) Who wishes to speak on the motion? (Silence.) Come, some one
must speak on it--or I shall have to put it to the vote forthwith.
(Silence, followed by laughter here and there.)
The Priest. Mr. Chairman!
Koll. The Priest will address the meeting.
The Priest. I see, in this assembly, a number of young men, even
a number of maidens; and I feel bound to ask whether young men, and
even maidens, are to be allowed to take part in these proceedings?
Koll. Any shareholder that is of age has the right to.
The Priest. But St. Paul expressly tells us that women are not to
speak in public places.
Koll. Well, they can hold their tongues, then. (Laughter.)
The Priest. But even the fact of voting at a railway meeting does
not seem to me to be in accordance with the humility and modesty
that both Nature and the Scriptures indicate as characteristic of
woman. I believe it to be the first step on a wrong road. The
Koll. We must leave them to decide the matter for themselves. Does
any one wish to--?
The Priest (interrupting him). Mr. Chairman, if you will not
permit me to quote the apostle, allow me at all events to say that
the spectacle of a young man voting against his father, or a
woman voting against her husband--
Koll. Will you tell me who could prohibit it? Does any one wish
The Priest (interrupting). The Scriptures prohibit it, Mr.
Chairman!--the Scriptures, which we are all bound to obey, even--
Gran (getting up and interrupting him). Mr. Chairman!
Koll. Mr. Gran will address the meeting.
Gran. I only want to ask whether--
The Priest. But _I_ was addressing the meeting!
Koll. Mr. Gran will address the meeting.
The Priest. I protest against that ruling!
Alstad (half rising). Our worthy Priest must obey authority. (Sits
down amidst laughter.)
The Priest. Not when it does an injustice! I appeal to the meeting!
Koll. Very good!--Will those in favour of the Priest addressing the
meeting kindly stand up? (No one gets up; and those who were
previously standing bob down. Laughter.) Carried unanimously, that
the Priest do not address the meeting. (The PRIEST sits down.) Mr.
Gran will address the meeting.
Gran (getting up). I withdraw from my right! (Renewed laughter.)
The Mayor (getting up). Mr. Chairman!
Koll. The Mayor will address the meeting.
The Mayor. I am one of many to whom this proposal of the directors
seems extraordinary, to say the least of it. Do they propose that
the ladies of my family--I will leave myself out of the question,
for as a public man I have to rub shoulders with all sorts of
people--do they propose, I say, that ladies who have been
delicately brought up shall travel with any Tom, Dick and Harry?--
perhaps with convicts being conveyed to gaol, or with journeymen
labourers? Is his honour the Chief Magistrate, who is a Commander
of a noble Order of Knighthood, to travel side by side with a
drunken navvy? Supposing the King were to pay a visit to this
beautiful district, which has acquired such a reputation since so
many of the best people from town have taken villas here; is his
Majesty to make the journey in one of these third-class carriages,
with the chance of travelling in company with tradesman stinking of
stale cheese?--with folk who, moreover--well, perhaps in common
decency I ought not to go on, as ladies are present. (Laughter.)
"Economy," I hear some one suggest. That word is in great favour
nowadays. But I should like to know what economy there is getting
your clothes soiled? (Laughter.) Does a first-class carriage wear
out sooner than a third class? It costs more to build, no doubt,
but that is soon made up by the higher fares charged. I can
discover no reasonable ground for this proposal, look at it how you
will from the commercial point of view. One has to look at the
_political_ aspect of the matter, to understand it; and I am
reluctant to drag in politics. I will only say, in conclusion, that
it must be those who have framed this proposal that expect to
derive some profit from it; the railway certainly would derive
none. (Sits down.)
Koll. That last remark was a little like an accusation--
The Mayor (getting up). I only alluded to what is in every one's
mind. (Sits down.)
Koll. A speaker is not in order in making accusations, even though
they be assumed to be in every one's mind.--I see that Mr. Alstad
wishes to speak.
Alstad. Human nature is frail. That seems to me a sufficient
explanation of how such a proposal came to be laid before us. But
honestly--for we all ought to be honest!--it seems to me that any
material advantage it might bring would be more than counterbalanced
by loss of esteem. (Uproar.) There has been quite a different
spirit in the place of late years--what with the factories, and the
stranger workmen, and the summer visitors. We never used to have so
much unrest or to hear so much of this talk about "equality." And
now, if we are to give the impression that there is only one social
class here--and that a third class--I know that I shall be by no
means alone in feeling offended. We certainly don't want to sit on
our work-people's laps; and, equally, we don't want to have them
sitting on ours. (Sits down.)
Gran. Our friend the Mayor is very fond of talking of his loyalty;
but I must say I am surprised at his dragging the King even into
this matter. As for the matter of the railway carriage in which one
of so high degree would travel here--well, if our carriages are not
good enough, surely his Majesty's private saloon can be used on our
line as well as on the main line. And as for any of us ordinary
mortals who are afraid of mixing with the common herd, surely they
can sit together in carriages by themselves. The carriages would be
separate; they would only be of the same kind. I think there would
be little fear of their being exposed to intrusion on the part of
our country-folk. _They_ are much more apt to be more timidly shy
than is even desirable. On all small lines--even on many of the
bigger ones--it is the less luxurious carriages, the second and
third class, that for the cost of the more luxurious ones; it is
the third class that pays for the first. But that some passengers
should travel comfortably at the expense of those who travel less
comfortably, is what we wish to avoid. (Applause.) An old resident
of the yeoman class has reproached us with wishing to alter our
customs. Well, if one of our old customs is the aristocratic one
which makes the gulf that separates masters and men wider than it
already is, all I can say is that the sooner it is abolished the
better; for it is not a good custom; it is even a dangerous one.
(Murmurs.) And as for the political aspect of the question--
Koll. Don't you think we should leave politics out of the question?
Gran (bows, with a laugh). That is just what I was going to say,
Mr. Chairman; that we ought to leave politics out out of the
question. (Sits down, amidst laughter applause. The audience, first
the younger men and then the older farmers, begin arguing the
matter with one another, more and more loudly.)
Koll. I must beg the meeting to keep quiet, as long as this
business is under discussion. The Mayor wishes to speak.
The Mayor. I admit that I am loyal--
Koll. Those people outside must be quiet!
Alstad (going to the window). You must keep quiet!
The Mayor. I admit I am loyal! I count it a point of honour, as a
native of the place, to show his Majesty that our first thought
when we planned this railway was, at that important moment, that
his Majesty might possibly be pleased to manifest a desire to pay
us a visit. "Let him use his own private saloon," we are told! No,
Mr. Chairman, that is not the way to speak when we are speaking
of his Majesty! And what about his Majesty's suite? Are they to
travel third class? What I say is that we are casting a slight on
his Majesty if we cast a slight on his railway carriage--I should
say, on his suite. And I go farther than that. I say that his
Majesty's functionaries are his Majesty's representatives, and that
it is casting an additional slight upon his Majesty not to show a
proper respect for them. I know that this jars upon the ears of
many present; they do not consider that a man who holds a public
office should be shown any more respect than any one else. The
majority rules, and the majority only thinks of its own interests
and those of its servile supporters. But even in this community of
ours there is a minority that bears the burden of its affairs and
represents its honour; and we will never consent to be dragged down
into the mire of this "equality" into which you want to plunge each
and every one of us! (Uproar.)
Koll. The honourable speaker appears to me to be trenching upon
The Mayor. Possibly I am, Mr. Chairman; but what honest man can
shirk the truth? Only compare the present state of things in this
community with what was the case when everything here was as it
should be; when the King and his officials were respected; when
public affairs were in the hands of those who knew how to direct
them; when we used to have singing competitions, shooting
competitions, and other festal meetings of that kind. And--yes--
well--compare, I say, the conditions in those days with our
conditions to-day--that is to say, with all this talk of "the
people;" as, for instance--
Koll. It is railway carriages that we are discussing.
The Mayor. Quite so! But what is it that is at the bottom of this
proposal, Mr. Chairman? Does it not spring from that passion for
destruction, for a universal levelling which aims at abolishing the
monarchy, at destroying authority--
The Priest. And the Church too, my friend!
The Mayor. --and the Church, it is quite true! Yes, it is because
they desire the Church and--
Koll. It is railway carriages that we are discussing.
The Mayor. Exactly. But an old public official like myself, who
once was held in respect, when he sees the pillars of society
tottering and feels the keenest pang of sorrow at--
Koll. For the last time, it is railway carriages that we are
The Mayor (overcome by his feelings). I have no more say. (Sits
Koll. Mr. Alstad wishes to speak.
Alstad (getting up). The question before the meeting is itself a
small matter; but it is the consequences of it that I fear. We may
expect any proposal of the same kidney now. Never let it be said
that our community was eager to range itself under this banner of
"equality!" It bears too old and honoured a name for that! But
there is one thing I want to say. We have always, before this, felt
it an honour and a privilege to have the richest man in these parts
living amongst us. But when we see him one of the most eager in
support of a "popular" proposal of this sort, then it appears, to
me at all events, to be absolutely unaccountable how--oh, well, I
won't run the risk making what our chairman calls "accusations"; I
will sit down and hold my tongue. I have the right to do that at
all events. (Sits down.)
Koll. Mr. Gran will address the meeting.
Flink. Three cheers for Mr. Gran! (Almost the whole meeting cheers
lustily. KOLL shouts at them and hammers on the table with his
mallet in vain.)
Koll (when peace is restored). I must ask the meeting to show some
respect for its chairman. If not, I will leave the chair.--Mr. Gran
will address the meeting.
Gran. The plan that we are proposing is no new one. It has been in
practice for a long time. In America--
The Priest, Alstad, and others. Yes, in America!
The Mayor (getting up). Mr. Chairman, are we to have politics,
Koll. I cannot see that to mention America is to talk politics.
The Mayor. Then what is politics, if America isn't?
Koll. To talk politics is--for instance--to use the arguments your
worship did. Mr. Gran will proceed.
Gran. I see that the Priest wishes to speak. I shall be happy to
Koll. The Priest will address the meeting.
The Priest. I see here, in this assembly, a number of those whom I
am accustomed to address in more solemn surroundings. My dear
parishioners, it was for your sake that I came here. You have heard
for yourselves--the whole question is a political one; and, dear
fellow Christians, let me entreat you to shun politics! Did not our
Lord Himself say: "My kingdom is not of this world"? This freedom,
this equality, of which they talk is not the soul's freedom, not
that equality which--
Koll. I would suggest to the reverend speaker that he should
postpone his remarks until the next time he gets into the pulpit.
The Priest. One should be instant in season and out of season;
Koll. I forbid you to continue.
The Priest. It is written: "Thou shalt obey God rather than man"!
My dear parishioners, let us all leave this meeting! Who will
follow his priest? (Takes a few steps towards the door, but no one
follows him. Laughter. He sighs deeply, and sits down again.)
Koll. If no one else wishes to speak--
Vinaeger. Mr. Chairman!
Koll. Mr. Vinaeger wishes to speak.
Vinaeger. These proceedings remind me of China, and of the Chinese
mandarins who will not allow any one of lesser degree to come near
them--although at moments I have felt as if I were still in Europe
in the presence of a still greater power, greater even than the
Grand Turk--I mean this democratic envy which grudges others what
it has not got itself. To reconcile both parties I should like to
make the following suggestion. Build the carriages, as is often
done, in two stories. Then those who wish to ensure their privacy
can do so by sitting upstairs; and the others will be satisfied
too, because they will all be in the same carriage after all.
Koll. If no one else wishes to speak (looks at GRAN, who shakes his
head) I shall proceed to put the question to the vote. The motion
submitted by the directors, which is now before the meeting, is as
The Mayor. Excuse me, but what of my motion wit h regard to a
saloon for his Majesty?
Koll. I did not understand your worship to mean your suggestion
as a formal motion.
The Mayor. I did, though.
Koll. Then I will put it to the vote after the director, motion has
been voted upon.
The Mayor. A motion that concerns the King should take precedence
of all others.
Koll. Even the King is subject to the rules of logic. The
directors' motion is: "That only one class of railway carriage
shall be purchased, of a type slightly more comfortable than the
ordinary third-class carriage." Will those in favour of the motion
kindly go to the left--on this side of the room; those against the
motion, to the right. (Nearly all go to the left. Cheers are heard
outside, and are gradually taken up by those inside. KOLL hammers
with his mallet.) Order, please! (The cheering ceases, but an
animated conversation goes on.) The directors' motion is carried!
The Mayor (shouting). I am sure every one did not understand the
method of voting!
Koll (hammering with his mallet). Order, order. (Quiet is gradually
restored.) What did your worship say?
The Mayor. That some people must have misunderstood the way of
voting; because I see my daughter Natalie, who is a shareholder
too, on the other side of the room. Of course she has made a
Natalie. Oh no, father, I haven't. (Loud laughter, and applause.)
The Priest. Ah, my poor deluded parishioners, I shall pray for you!
The Mayor. Order!--The Mayor's motion--
Alstad. I would suggest that the Mayor should withdraw it. We know
what its fate would be in such a meeting as this.
Koll. As long as I occupy the chair, I shall not permit any
derogatory expressions to be applied to the meeting. Does the Mayor
still insist on his motion being put? (Whispers to him: "Say no!")
The Mayor. No.
Koll. Then, as no one else wishes to speak, I declare the meeting
at an end. (Every one begins to move about and discuss affairs
Alstad (to his son VILHELM). So you have the face to vote with
these--these Americans, against your old father, have you?
Vilhelm. Well, father, I honestly think--
Alstad. Just you wait till I get you home!
Vilhelm. Oh, that's it, is it? Then I shan't go home--so there! I
shall stay here and get drunk, I shall.
Alstad. Oh, come, come!
Vilhelm. Yes, I shall! I shall stay here and get drunk!
Alstad. But, Vilhelm, listen to me! (Takes him by the arm. Meantime
a STRANGER has taken KOLL and GRAN by the arm, to their manifest
surprise, and brought the forward away from the crowd. He stands
for a moment, looking them in the face, till suddenly KOLL gives a
start and cries out: "The King!")
The King. Hush!
Gran. It really is--!
The King (to GRAN). You are at home here; take up into a room--and
give us some champagne. My throat is as dry as a lime-kiln!
(SCENE.--A room built in Gothic style, comfortably furnished and
decorated with trophies of the chase. GRAN ushers in the KING and
Gran. We can be quite alone here. (ANNA, a deaf and dumb girl of
about fifteen, brings in some bottles of champagne, and, during
the following dialogue, sets out glasses, refreshments, cigars, and
pipes. She is quick and attentive to render the slightest service
required of her; when not employed, she sits on a stool in the
background. She talks to GRAN on her fingers, and receives orders
from him in the same manner.)
The King. Ah, this is like old times! I know the setting: "Gothic
room in mediaeval style, decorated with trophies of the chase.
Furnished with an eye to bachelor comfort!" You always had bachelor
habits, you know, even when you were quite a boy. (To KOLL.) We
never called him anything but "the Bachelor" on board ship. He
never had a love affair in all the three years our cruise lasted;
but the rest of us had them in every port we touched at!
Koll. He is just the same in that respect now.
Gran (offering the KING some champagne). Allow me!
The King. Thanks; I shall be glad of it. (To KOLL.) Your health, my
former tutor! (To GRAN.) And yours! (They drink.) Ah, that has done
me good!--Well now, let me ask you this: isn't it true that, all
through the meeting, you were talking nothing but republicanism,
although you didn't actually mention the word?
Koll (laughing). You are not far wrong.
The King. And you, who in the old days were considered to be too
advanced in your opinions to be retained as my tutor, are now not
considered advanced enough! They nearly--threw you over, didn't
Koll. Yes! That shows you, if I may say so, the result of
government by a minority.
The King. And the result of mixing with such people as our
excellent friend the millionaire here, I suppose?
Gran. It is always a mistake to lay the blame of public opinion on
The King. I quite agree with you. And now it is time you knew the
reason of my coming here--in the strictest incognito, as you see.
By the way, I hope no one recognised me?
Gran and Koll. Not a soul!
(FLINK comes in.)
Flink. Ah, here you are! (Comes forward, rubbing his hands
delightedly.) Well, what did you think of the meeting, my boys?
The King (aside to GRAN). Who is that?
Gran (to the KING). We will get rid of him. (To FLINK.) Look here,
Flink (catching sight of the KING). Oh, I beg your pardon, I
thought we were--
Gran (obliged to introduce him). Let me introduce Mr.--? Mr.--?
(Looks at the KING inquiringly.)
The King. Speranza.
Flink. An Italian?
The King. In name only.
Gran (completing the introduction). Mr. Flink.
The King. Surely not A. B. Flink?
The King (interested). Our peripatetic philosopher? (Shakes hands
with him.) I have read one or two of your books.
Flink (laughing). Really?
The King. Are you meditating another expedition?
Flink. That's it.
The King. And on foot?
Flink. Always on foot.
The King. Upon my word, I don't believe there is a man in the
country that can gauge popular opinion as accurately as you! Let
us sit down and have a chat. Do you drink champagne?
Flink. Yes--when I can't get anything better!
The King (lifting his glass to FLINK). Your health, (They all
drink, and then seat themselves.) What part the country were you in
Flink. I have just been shooting with our friend here.
The King. So he is your friend? He is mine, too! My best friend,
ever since I was a boy. (He stretches out his hand; GRAN gets up
and grasps it in both of his.)
Koll (to FLINK, who is looking astonished). Mr. Speranza was a
naval cadet at the same time as Gran.
Flink. Really! Were they on the same ship?
The King. Yes, we were on a cruise round the world together--
Flink. Do you mean the time when the Prince went on account of his
lungs?--the present King, I mean?
The King. The Prince that afterwards became King--yes.
Flink. There is quite a royal flavour about our little gathering,
then! Here is the King's shipmate, and here is his tutor in
Koll. You are forgetting yourself! You are the King's tutor's
tutor, you know--
The King. Were you Koll's tutor? Really?
Flink (with a laugh). Yes, I had that misfortune!
The King. You hadn't so great a misfortune in your pupil as he had
Koll. The King was a very apt pupil.
Flink (jestingly). He has shown traces of it in his reign, hasn't
Koll. Don't speak ill of the King, please.
Flink (ironically). Heaven forbid! (Takes a pinch of snuff.) I
know all about his talent--his great talent, his genial talent!
(Offers his snuff-box to the KING.)
Gran. But it was public opinion we were talking about, Flink; is
it very much like what we heard to-day?
Flink. I wouldn't say that; your opinions are rather advanced in
The King. Is the tendency republican, rather than monarchical?
Flink. That depends how you look at it. The King has just been
paying some visits in the country districts; he is, so to speak,
the commercial traveller for his firm--as all kings and crown
princes are. Of course he was cheered everywhere. But go and
ask the agricultural classes if they set great store by the pomp
and circumstance of royalty; they will unanimously answer: "It
costs an infernal lot to keep up!" Ha, ha, ha!
Gran. Your farmer is a realist.
Flink. A brutal realist! Ha, ha, ha! Self-government is cheaper.
He has it all at his fingers' ends, the scoundrel!
The King. He is not a republican by conviction, then
Flink. Not universally, no. At least, not _yet_. But things are
moving that way; and our reactionary government is helping the
movement--that, and the letter they get from America.
The King. The letters they get from America?
Koll. Letters from their relations in America.
Gran. There is scarcely a family in the country now that has not
relations in America.
The King. And they write home about self-government?--about
Flink. And republican institutions. That is the situation!
The King. Have you read any of these letters?
The King. This is excellent champagne! (Drinks.)
Gran. Let me fill your glasses. (They all drink.)
Flink. It doesn't really agree with me.
The King. But suppose the King were to establish democratic
government? Suppose he were to live like an ordinary citizen in
Flink. In every way? What do you mean by that?
The King. Kept house like an ordinary citizen--were married like
an ordinary citizen--were to be found in his office at regular
hours like any other official?
Gran. And had no court, I suppose?
The King. No. (KOLL and GRAN exchange glances.)
Flink (shrugging his shoulders). It would be the last sensation
left for him to try.
The King (who did not observe his shrug, eagerly). That is so,
isn't it? You agree with me as to that? I am delighted to have had
this talk with you, Mr. Flink.
Flink. The same to you, Mr.--Mr.--. (In an undertone, to KOLL.) Is
he a republican?
The King (who has overheard him). Am I a republican? I have had too
much experience not to be! Ha, ha! (Takes up his glass.) Devilish
good champagne, this!
Flink (drinking). But, you know, Mr.--Mr. Republican--ha, ha!--
(smiles and whispers)--the King simply would not be allowed to
do what you suggest. Ha, ha!
The King. What do you mean?
Gran (aside to KOLL, who gets up). Are you sure this is right?
Koll. It will do him good, anyway, to hear all sides.
Flink (who has got up and gone to the table on the other side to
get a pipe). He simply would not be allowed to, poor chap! What is
monarchy, I ask you? Nothing more or less than an insurance
business in which a whole crew of priests, officials, noblemen,
landed proprietors, merchants and military men hold shares? And,
goodness knows, _they_ are not going to give their director leave
to commit any such folly! Ha, ha, ha!
The King (getting up). Ha, ha, ha!
Flink (vociferously, to him). Don't you think that is true?
The King. Good Lord!--perfectly true! Ha, ha ha!
Flink (who has cleaned and filled a pipe, but forgotten to light
it, going up to the KING). And what do they insure themselves
again, these beauties? (More seriously.) Against the great mass of
the people--against _his_ people! (The KING looks at him and makes
a movement of dislike.)
Gran. Look here, Flink; suppose we go out into the garden for a
little? These spring evenings are so lovely.
Flink. Compared to a political talk, the loveliest spring evenings
have no attraction for me--no more than warm water, offered me in
place of fine cooling wine, would have. No, let us stay where we
are. What is the matter with this pipe? (ANNA signs that she will
put it right for him, but he does not understand.)
Gran. Give her your pipe; she will put it right.
Koll. What I have always said is that, if the King had an
opportunity of understanding the situation, he would interfere.
Flink. The King? He doesn't care a brass farthing about the
whole matter! He has something else to do! Ha, ha!
The King. Ha, ha, ha!
Koll. The King is an unusually gifted man; he would not remain
indifferent in the long run.
Flink. He has so many unusual gifts that have gone to the devil--!
The King. Tralalla! Tralalalalala! Tralala! It feels quite odd to
be with you fellows again! (Drinks.)
Flink (in an undertone, to GRAN). Is he drunk?
The King (sitting down). Give me a cigar--! And let us discuss the
matter a little more seriously. (KOLL and GRAN sit down.)
Gran. As a matter of fact, it is not a thing that can be discussed.
It must be tried. If, one day, the King were to say: "I mean to
live a natural life among my people, and to withdraw my name from
the old-established royal firm, which has lost all its reputation
for honesty"--that day everything else would follow of itself.
Flink. Yes, that day, I dare say!
Gran. Remember you are the guest of a man who is a friend of the
The King. Don't play the domestic despot--you who are a republican!
Let us have free discussion!
Flink. I certainly don't intend to insult the King. He has never
done me any harm. But surely you will allow me to doubt whether he
is really the shining light you make him out to be?
The King. That is true enough!
Flink (eagerly). You agree with me as to that, then?
The King. Absolutely! But--leaving him out of the question--suppose
we _had_ a king who made himself independent of others, and, as a
necessary consequence, rose superior to questions of party--?
Flink (interrupting him). It is a vain supposition, my dear fellow!
A king bound to no party? (Puffs at his pipe.) It wouldn't work!
(Puffs again.) It wouldn't work!--It wouldn't work!--Falsehood is
the foundation of constitutional monarchy. A king superior to
questions of party? Rubbish!
Gran. It would be expecting something superhuman of him, too.
Flink. Of course it would!
The King. But the president of a republic is even less independent
of party, isn't he?
Flink (turning to hint). He doesn't make any pretence that he
isn't. Haha! That's the difference! (Comes forward, repeating to
himself.) It is the falsehood that makes the difference.
Koll. Oh, there are falsehoods enough in republics too,
Flink. I know; but they are not old-established institutions! Ha,
The King. That is an idea you have got from Professor Ernst's
Flink (eagerly). Have you read them?
The King. I have scarcely read anything else for the last few
months. (KOLL and GRAN exchange glances.)
Flink. Indeed?--Then there is no need for me to say anything more.
Koll. But, after all this talk, we have got no further. Our friend
(pointing to the KING) wants to know, I think, whether a real,
serious attempt at what one might call "democratic monarchy"
could not reckon on being understood and supported--
The King (breaking in, eagerly). Yes, that's just it!
Koll. --understood and supported by the most enlightened section of
the people, who are weary of falsehood and long for a generous but
secure measure of self-government.
The King. That's just it!
Flink (who was just going to sit down, jumps up again, lays down
his pipe and stands with arms akimbo, as he says:) But what sort of
ridiculous ideas are these? Aren't you republicans, then?
Koll. I am not.
Gran. I am; but that does not prevent my being of opinion that the
change of government should be made gradually and gently--
Flink. That would be treason!
Flink. Treason against the truth--against our convictions!
Koll. Don't let us use big words! Monarchy is strongly rooted in
the existing order of things.
Flink (with a laugh). In the insurance company!
Koll. Well, call it so if you like. It _exists_; that is the point.
And, since it exists, we must make it as honest and as serviceable
as we can.
The King. Your health, Koll! (Drinks to him.)
Flink (moving away from them). No true republican would agree with
Gran. You are wrong there. (FLINK gives a start of surprise.)
The King (who has seen FLINK's surprise, gets up). Listen to me!
Suppose we had a king who said: "Either you help me to establish a
democratic monarchy--purged of all traces of absolutism, purged of
falsehood--or else I abdicate--"
The King. I only say, "suppose"! You know quite well that the
cousin of the present king, the heir apparent, is a bigoted--
Koll (who has been exchanging glances with GRAN while the KING was
speaking, breaks in hurriedly). Don't go on!
The King (with a laugh). I won't!--And his mother, who rules him--
Flink. --is even worse!
The King. What would be your choice, then? Would you help the king
to establish a democratic monarchy or--?
Flink (impetuously). I would ten thousand times rather have the
bigoted prince, with all his own and his mother's follies!--the
madder the better!
Gran. No, no, no, no!
The King (to GRAN and KOLL). We see his true colours now! (Moves
away from them.)
Koll (to FLINK). That is the way you republicans always ride your
principles to death.
Gran. Patriotism ought to come before--
Flink. --before truth? No; a short sharp pang of agony is better
than endless doubt and falsehood, my friend! That is true
Koll. Oh, these theories!--these phrases!
Gran. I am a republican as well as you, and, I think, as sincere a
one. But I should have no hesitation--
Flink. --in playing the traitor?
Gran. Why do you use such words as that?
Flink. Words! Do you think it is nothing but words? No, my friend,
if you did what--what I did not allow you to say--I should come
here one day to call you to account. And if you refused to fight
me, I should shoot you like a dog!
Gran (gently). You would not do that.
Flink (heatedly). Not do it?--Have I given you the deepest
affection of which my heart is capable, only for you to turn
traitor to it? Am I to see the man whose character is the crowning
achievement of my life, betraying our cause--and, by reason of his
great personal prestige, dragging thousands down with him? On the
head of all the disillusionments I have suffered, am I to have this
one in the evening of my life--? (Stops, overcome by his emotion. A
pause.) You shouldn't jest about such things you know. (Walks away.
ANNA has placed herself in front of GRAN, as if to protect him.)
Koll. I think we had better change the subject, and go out for a
The King (aside, to him). Yes, get him away!
Flink (in the background, as if he were addressing an invisible
audience). We must have discipline in the ranks!
Koll. Gran, ask your maid to hurry up with the supper.
Gran. Yes, I will.
Koll (to the KING). What do you say to a turn in the garden,
The King. By all means!
Flink (coming forward to GRAN). This friendship of yours with the
King--to which I had attached no particular importance--I hope it
has not altogether--(Stops short.)
Gran. --not altogether corrupted me, you mean?
The King (laughing). Politically?
Flink. Politics are not unconnected with morals, sir!
The King. But why get so heated, sir? We know that the present King
Koll (breaking in hurriedly). Don't say any more!
The King (with a laugh). You said yourself that he doesn't care a
brass farthing about the whole matter--he has something else to
do! And so the whole thing ends in smoke!
Flink (more amiably). I dare say you are right.
The King. Of course I am. You are all agreed that, under his rule,
republican sentiments are growing in real earnest.
Flink. You are right! He couldn't help things on better if he were
a republican himself, I assure you!
The King. Perhaps he _is_ a republican?
Flink (animatedly). Perhaps he _is_! Splendid! And works against
his own interests--!
The King. A sort of commercial traveller working for the downfall
of his own firm!
Flink (excitedly). For the downfall of his own firm! Splendid!
Props up his reactionary rule by means of royal pronouncements,
confidential communications, public speeches--
The King. --in a suicidal manner!
Flink. Splendidly suicidal! Ah, that makes you laugh, does it?
Koll. Hush, some one might hear us!
Flink. I don't care who hears us! (The KING bursts out laughing.)
But you ought, as one of the King's officials, to stop _his_
laughing! (Points to the KING.) It's shocking!--It's high treason!
Koll. Listen to me!
Flink. You ought to arrest him for laughing like that! Suppose the
Gran. That _is_ the King! (The KING goes on laughing. FLINK looks
from him to the others, and from the others to him.)
The King. This is too much for me! (Sits down. FLINK rushes out.)
Koll. That was very bad of you.
The King. I know it was; but forgive me! I couldn't help it! Ha,
ha, ha, ha, ha!
Koll. For all his queer ways, he is too good a fellow to be made a
The King. Yes, scold me; I deserve it. But, all the same--ha, ha,
Gran. Hush!--he is coming back. (The KING gets up as FLINK comes in
Flink. Your Majesty may be assured that I would never have
expressed myself as I did in your Majesty's presence if I had been
fairly treated and told whom I was addressing.
The King. I know. The fault is mine alone.
Flink. The fault is that of others--my so-called friends.
The King (earnestly). By no means! It is mine--mine alone. I have
had a scolding for it!--And in your presence I ask my friends'
pardon; I have put them in a false position. And, in the next
place, I ask for your forgiveness. My sense of humour got the
better of me. (Laughs again.)
Flink. Yes, it was extremely amusing.
The King. It really was! And, after all, what have you to complain
of? You had an opportunity of speaking your mind, any way!
Flink. I certainly did!
The King. Very well, then!--And when you wanted to show any
respect, _I_ prevented you. So I think we are quits.
Flink. No, we are not.
The King (impatiently). Indeed?--What do you want from me, then?
Flink (proudly). Nothing!
The King. I beg your pardon! I did not mean to offend you.
Flink. You have done so to a degree that you are naturally
incapable of appreciating. (Goes out.)
The King. This is a nice business! (Laughs. Then notices GRAN, who
is standing at his desk with his back to the KING, and goes up to
him.) You are angry with me.
Gran (looking up slowly). Yes.
The King. Why didn't you stop me?
Gran. It all happened too quickly. But to think that you could have
the heart to do it--in my own house--to a man who was my father's
oldest friend, and is mine--!
The King. Harald! (Puts his arm round his shoulders.) Have I ever
asked you for anything that you have not given me?
The King. Then I ask you now to admit that you know that, if I
had thought this would hurt you, I would never have done it--not
for worlds! Do you still believe as well of me as that?
The King. Thank you. Then I will admit to you, in return, that for
months past I have lived in a state of horrible tension of mind;
and that is why I jump too easily from one extreme to the other.
So, my friends, you must forgive me! Or finish my scolding some
other time! Because now I must talk to you of the matter which
induced me to come here. You are the only ones I can turn to; so
be good to me!--Shall we sit down again?
Koll. As you please.
The King (moving towards the table). I know you both want to ask
me the same question: why I have never come before now. My answer
is: because I have only now arrived at a clear conception of my own
position. Some months ago some hard words that were used to me lit
a fire in my heart and burnt out a heap of rubbish that had
collected there. (ANNA fills their glasses.) Won't you send that
Gran. She is deaf and dumb.
The King. Poor girl! (Sits down.) When I came back from my cruise
round the world, the old king was dead. My father had come to the
throne, and I was crown prince, and I went with my father to the
cathedral to attend a thanksgiving service for my safe return.
Gran. I was there.
The King. The whole thing was a novelty to me, and a solemn one. I
was overcome with emotion. Seeing that, my father whispered to me:
"Come farther forward, my boy! The people must see their future
king praying." That finished it! I was not born to be a king; my
soul was still too unsullied, and I spurned such falsehood with the
deepest loathing. Just think of it!--to come back from three years
at sea, and begin my life in that way--as if perpetually in front
of a mirror! I won't dwell on it. But when my father died and I
became king, I had become so accustomed to the atmosphere of
falsehood I lived in that I no longer recognised truth when I saw
it. The constitution prescribed my religion for me--and naturally I
had none. And it was the same with everything--one thing after
another! What else could you expect? The only tutor I valued--you,
Koll--had been dismissed; they considered you to be too freethinking.
Koll (smilingly). Oh, yes!
The King. The only real friend that dated from my happier days--
you, Harald, had been sent to the right about; you were a
republican. It was while I was in despair over that loss that I
fell really in love for the first time--with your sister, Harald.
Banishment, again. What then? Why, then the craving that every
healthy youth feels--the desire for love--was turned into dissolute
Gran. I understand, well enough.
The King. Well, put all those things together. That was what my
life was--until just lately. Because lately something happened, my
dear friends. And now you must help me! Because, to make a long
story short, either I mean to be the chief official in my country
in a peaceful, citizenlike, genuine way, or--as God is above me--I
will no longer be king! (Gets up, and the others do so.)
Koll. Ah, we have got it at last!
The King. Do you think I don't know that our republican friend
there spoke what is every thoughtful man's verdict upon me? (They
are silent.) But how could I possibly undertake my task, as long as
I believed everything to be make-believe and falsehood, without
exception? Now I know the root of the falsehood! It is in our
institutions; he was quite right. And one kind of falsehood begets
another. You cannot imagine how ludicrous it appeared to me--who up
till then had led such a sinful, miserable existence--when I saw
honourable men pretending that I was a being of some superior
mould! I! (Walks up and down, then stops.) It is the state--our
institutions--that demand this falsehood both on their part and on
mine. And that for the security and happiness of the country!
(Moves about restlessly.) From the time I became crown prince they
kept from me everything that might have instilled truth into me--
friendship, love, religion, a vocation--for my vocation is quite
another one; and it was all done in the name of my country! And now
that I am king, they take away all responsibility from me as well--
all responsibility for my own acts--the system demands it! Instead
of an individual, what sort of a contemptible creature do they make
of me! The kingly power, too?--that is in the hands of the people's
representatives and the government. I don't complain of that; but
what I do complain of is that they should pretend that _I_ have it,
and that everything should be done in _my_ name; that I should be
the recipient of petitions, cheers, acclamations, obeisances--as if
the whole power and responsibility were centred in _my_ person! In
me--from whom, in the interests of all, they have taken away
everything! Is that not a pitiful and ludicrous falsehood? And, to
make it credible, they endow me into the bargain with a halo of
sanctity! "The King is sacred;" "Our Most Gracious Sovereign,"
"Your Majesty!" It becomes almost blasphemous!
Gran. Quite true.
The King. No, if that cannot be done away with, I can do away with
myself. But it must be possible to do away with it! It cannot be
necessary for a people, who are marching on the eternal path
towards truth, to have a lie marching at the head of them!
Koll. No, it is not necessary.
The King (eagerly). And that is what you will help me to show them.
Koll. I have no objection! There is life in the country yet!
The King (to Gran). And you, my friend? Are you afraid of being
shot by a mad republican if you help me?
Gran. I am not particularly afraid of death, any way. But the maid
is telling us that supper is served.
The King. Yes, let us have supper!
Koll. And then, to our task!
(SCENE.--A park with old lofty trees. In the foreground, to the
right, an arbour with a seat. The KING is sitting, talking to BANG,
who is a man of gross corpulence.)
Bang. And I felt so well in every way that, I assure your Majesty,
I used to feel it a pleasure to be alive.
The King (drawing patterns in the dust with his walking stick). I
can quite believe it.
Bang. And then I was attacked by this pain in my heart and this
difficulty in breathing. I run round and round this park, on an
empty stomach, till I am absolutely exhausted.
The King (absently). Couldn't you drive round, then?
Bang. Drive?--But it is the exercise, your Majesty, that--
The King. Of course. I was thinking of something else.
Bang. I would not mind betting that I know what your Majesty was
thinking of--if I may say so without impertinence.
The King. What was it, then?
Bang. Your Majesty was thinking of the socialists!
The King. Of the--?
Bang. The socialists!
The King (looking amused). Why particularly of them?
Bang. I was right, you see! Ha, ha, ha! (His laughter brings on a
violent fit of coughing.) Your Majesty must excuse me; laughing
always brings on my cough.--But, you know, the papers this morning
are full of their goings on!
The King. I have not read the paper.
Bang. Then I can assure your Majesty that the way they are going on
is dreadful. And just when we were all getting on so comfortably!
What in the world do they want?
The King. Probably they want to get on comfortably too.
Bang. Aren't they well off as it is, the beasts? Excuse me, your
Majesty, for losing my temper in your Majesty's presence.
The King. Don't mention it.
Bang. You are very good. These strikes, too--what is the object of
them? To make every one poor? Every one can't be rich. However, I
pin my faith to a strong monarchy. Your Majesty is the padlock on
The King. I am what?
Bang. The padlock on my cash-box! A figure of speech I ventured to
apply to your Majesty.
The King. I am much obliged!
Bang. Heaven help us if the liberals come into power; their aim is
to weaken the monarchy.
(A BEGGAR BOY comes up to them.)
Beggar Boy. Please, kind gentlemen, spare a penny! I've had nothing
to eat to-day!
Bang (taking no notice of him). Aren't there whispers of the sort
about? But of course it can't be true.
Beggar Boy (pertinaciously). Please, kind gentlemen, spare a penny!
I've had nothing to eat to-day.
Bang. You have no right to beg.
The King. You have only the right to starve, my boy! Here! (Gives
him a gold coin. The BEGGAR Boy backs away from him, staring at
him, and gripping the coin in his fist.)
Bang. He never even thanked you! Probably the son of a socialist!--
I would never have opened this park to every one in the way your
Majesty has done.
The King. It saves the work-people a quarter of am hour if they can
go through it to get to their work.
(The GENERAL appears, driving the BEGGAR BOY before him with his
The General (to the BEGGAR). A gentleman sitting on a seat gave it
you? Point him out to me, then!
Bang (getting up). Good morning, your Majesty!
The King. Good morning! (Looks at his watch.)
The General. That gentleman, do you say?
The King (looking up). What is it?
The General. Your Majesty? Allow me to welcome you back!
The King. Thank you.
The General. Excuse me, sir; but I saw this fellow with a gold coin
in his hand, and stopped him. He says your Majesty gave it to him--?
The King. It is quite true.
The General. Oh--of course that alters the case! (To the BEGGAR.)
It is the King. Have you thanked him? (The boy stands still,
staring at the KING.)
The King. Are you taking a morning walk on an empty stomach because
of a weak heart, too?
The General. Because of my stomach, sir--because of my stomach! It
has struck work!
The Beggar Boy. Ha, ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho! (Runs away.)
The General. I am astonished at your Majesty's having thrown this
park open to every one.
The King. It saves the work-people a quarter of an hour if they can
go through it to get to their work.--Well, General, it seems you
have become religious all of a sudden?
The General. Ha, ha, ha! Your Majesty has read my Order of the Day,
The King. Yes.
The General (confidentially). Well, sir, you see things couldn't go
on any longer as they were. (Whispers.) Debauchery in the ranks! I
won't say anything about the officers; but when the men take to
such courses openly--!
The King. Oho!
The General. My brother the bishop and I, between us, composed an
Order of the Day on the subject of the necessity of religion--
religion as the basis of discipline.
The King. As a matter of fact the bishop was the first person I
met here to-day.--Is he suffering from a disordered stomach, too?
The General. More so than any of us, Sir! Ha, ha, ha! (The KING
motions to him to sit down.) Thank you, Sir.--But, apart from that,
I have had it in my mind for some time that in these troublous days
there ought to be a closer co-operation between the Army and the
The King. In the matter of digestion, do you mean?
The General. Ha, ha, ha!--But seriously, Sir, the time is
approaching when such a co-operation will be the only safeguard
of the throne.
The King. Indeed?
The General (hurriedly). That is to say, of course, the throne
stands firm by itself--God forbid I should hint otherwise! But
what I mean is that it is the Army ants the Church that must
supply the monarchy with the necessary splendour and authority--
The King. I suppose, then, that the monarchy has no longer any
of its own?
The General (jumping up). Heaven forbid that I should say such
a thing! I would give my life in support of the monarchy!
The King. You will have to die some day, unfortunately (Laughs
as he gets up.) Who is that coming this way?
The General (putting up his eyeglass). That? It is the Princess
and Countess L'Estoque, Sir.
The King. Is the Princess suffering from indigestion too?
The General (confidentially). I fancy your Majesty knows best
what the Princess is suffering from. (The KING moves away from
him.) I made a mess of that! It comes of my trying to be too
clever.--He is walking towards her. Perhaps there is something in
it, after all? I must tell Falbe about it. (Turns to go.) Confound
it, he saw that I was watching them! (Goes out. The KING returns to
the arbour with the PRINCESS on his arm. The COUNTESS and one of
the royal servants are seen crossing the park in the background.)
The Princess. This is a most surprising meeting! When did your
The King. Last night.--You look very charming, Princess! Such
blushing cheeks!--and so early in the morning!
The Princess. I suppose you think it is rouge?--No, Sir, it is
nothing but pleasure at meeting you.
The King. Flatterer! And I went pale at the sight of you.
The Princess. Perhaps your conscience--?
The King. I am sorry to say my conscience had nothing to do with
it. But this morning I have been meeting so many people that are
suffering from indigestion that, when I saw your Highness walking
The Princess. Make your mind easy! My reason for my morning walk is
to keep my fat down. Later in the day I ride--for the same reason.
I live for nothing else now.
The King. It is a sacred vocation!
The Princess. Because it is a royal one?
The King. Do you attribute your sanctity to me? Wicked Princess!
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