Part 1 out of 3
E-text scanned by Martin Adamson
Pillars of Society
A play in four acts.
by Henrik Ibsen
Translated by R. Farquharson Sharp
Karsten Bernick, a shipbuilder.
Mrs. Bernick, his wife.
Olaf, their son, thirteen years old.
Martha Bernick, Karsten Bernick's sister.
Johan Tonnesen, Mrs. Bernick's younger brother.
Lona Hessel, Mrs. Bernick's elder half-sister.
Hilmar Tonnesen, Mrs. Bernick's cousin.
Dina Dorf, a young girl living with the Bernicks.
Rorlund, a schoolmaster.
Rummel, a merchant.
Vigeland and Sandstad, tradesman
Krap, Bernick's confidential clerk.
Aune, foreman of Bernick's shipbuilding yard.
Hilda Rummel, her daughter.
Netta Holt, her daughter.
Townsfolk and visitors, foreign sailors, steamboat passengers, etc.,
(The action takes place at the Bernicks' house in one of the smaller
coast towns in Norway)
(SCENE.--A spacious garden-room in the BERNICKS' house. In the
foreground on the left is a door leading to BERNICK'S business room;
farther back in the same wall, a similar door. In the middle of the
opposite wall is a large entrance-door, which leads to the street. The
wall in the background is almost wholly composed of plate-glass; a door
in it opens upon a broad flight of steps which lead down to the garden;
a sun-awning is stretched over the steps.Below the steps a part of the
garden is visible,bordered by a fence with a small gate in it. On the
other side of the fence runs a street, the opposite side of which is
occupied by small wooden houses painted in bright colours. It is
summer, and the sun is shining warmly. People are seen, every now and
then, passing along the street and stopping to talk to one another;
others going in and out of a shop at the corner, etc.
In the room a gathering of ladies is seated round a table. MRS. BERNICK
is presiding; on her left side are MRS. HOLT and her daughter NETTA,
and next to them MRS. RUMMEL and HILDA RUMMEL. On MRS. BERNICK'S right
are MRS. LYNGE, MARTHA BERNICK and DINA DORF. All the ladies are busy
working. On the table lie great piles of linen garments and other
articles of clothing, some half finished, and some merely cut out.
Farther back, at a small table on which two pots of flowers and a glass
of sugared water are standing, RORLUND is sitting, reading aloud from a
book with gilt edges, but only loud enough for the spectators to catch
a word now and then. Out in the garden OLAF BERNICK is running about
and shooting at a target with a toy crossbow.
After a moment AUNE comes in quietly through the door on the right.
There is a slight interruption in the reading. MRS. BERNICK nods to him
and points to the door on the left. AUNE goes quietly across, knocks
softly at the door of BERNICK'S room, and after a moment's pause,
knocks again. KRAP comes out of the room, with his hat in his hand and
some papers under his arm.)
Krap: Oh, it was you knocking?
Aune: Mr. Bernick sent for me.
Krap: He did--but he cannot see you. He has deputed me to tell you--
Aune: Deputed you? All the same, I would much rather--
Krap: --deputed me to tell you what he wanted to say to you. You must
give up these Saturday lectures of yours to the men.
Aune: Indeed? I supposed I might use my own time--
Krap: You must not use your own time in making the men useless in
working hours. Last Saturday you were talking to them of the harm that
would be done to the workmen by our new machines and the new working
methods at the yard. What makes you do that?
Aune: I do it for the good of the community.
Krap: That's curious, because Mr. Bernick says it is disorganising the
Aune: My community is not Mr. Bernick's, Mr. Krap! As President of the
Industrial Association, I must--
Krap: You are, first and foremost, President of Mr. Bernick's
shipbuilding yard; and, before everything else, you have to do your
duty to the community known as the firm of Bernick & Co.; that is what
every one of us lives for. Well, now you know what Mr. Bernick had to
say to you.
Aune: Mr. Bernick would not have put it that way, Mr. Krap! But I know
well enough whom I have to thank for this. It is that damned American
boat. Those fellows expect to get work done here the way they are
accustomed to it over there, and that--
Krap: Yes, yes, but I can't go into all these details. You know now
what Mr. Bernick means, and that is sufficient. Be so good as to go
back to the yard; probably you are needed there. I shall be down myself
in a little while. --Excuse me, ladies! (Bows to the ladies and goes
out through the garden and down the street. AUNE goes quietly out to
the right. RORLUND, who has continued his reading during the foregoing
conversation, which has been carried on in low tones, has now come to
the end of the book, and shuts it with a bang.)
Rorlund: There, my dear ladies, that is the end of it.
Mrs. Rummel: What an instructive tale!
Mrs. Holt: And such a good moral!
Mrs. Bernick: A book like that really gives one something to think
Rorlund: Quite so; it presents a salutary contrast to what,
unfortunately, meets our eyes every day in the newspapers and
magazines. Look at the gilded and painted exterior displayed by any
large community, and think what it really conceals!--emptiness and
rottenness, if I may say so; no foundation of morality beneath it. In a
word, these large communities of ours now-a-days are whited sepulchres.
Mrs. Holt: How true! How true!
Mrs. Rummel: And for an example of it, we need look no farther than at
the crew of the American ship that is lying here just now.
Rorlund: Oh, I would rather not speak of such offscourings of humanity
as that. But even in higher circles--what is the case there? A spirit
of doubt and unrest on all sides; minds never at peace, and instability
characterising all their behaviour. Look how completely family life is
undermined over there! Look at their shameless love of casting doubt on
even the most serious truths!
Dina (without looking up from her work): But are there not many big
things done there too?
Rorlund: Big things done--? I do not understand--.
Mrs. Holt (in amazement): Good gracious, Dina--!
Mrs. Rummel (in the same breath): Dina, how can you--?
Rorlund: I think it would scarcely be a good thing for us if such "big
things" became the rule here. No, indeed, we ought to be only too
thankful that things are as they are in this country. It is true enough
that tares grow up amongst our wheat here too, alas; but we do our best
conscientiously to weed them out as well as we are able. The important
thing is to keep society pure, ladies--to ward off all the hazardous
experiments that a restless age seeks to force upon us.
Mrs.Holt: And there are more than enough of them in the wind,
Mrs.Rummel: Yes, you know last year we only by a hair's breadth escaped
the project of having a railway here.
Mrs.Bernick: Ah, my husband prevented that.
Rorlund: Providence, Mrs. Bernick. You may be certain that your husband
was the instrument of a higher Power when he refused to have anything
to do with the scheme.
Mrs.Bernick: And yet they said such horrible things about him in the
newspapers! But we have quite forgotten to thank you, Mr. Rorlund. It
is really more than friendly of you to sacrifice so much of your time
Rorlund: Not at all. This is holiday time, and--
Mrs.Bernick: Yes, but it is a sacrifice all the same, Mr. Rorlund.
Rorlund (drawing his chair nearer): Don't speak of it, my dear lady.
Are you not all of you making some sacrifice in a good cause?--and that
willingly and gladly? These poor fallen creatures for whose rescue we
are working may be compared to soldiers wounded on the field of battle;
you, ladies, are the kind-hearted sisters of mercy who prepare the lint
for these stricken ones, lay the bandages softly on their wounds, heal
them and cure them.
Mrs.Bernick: It must be a wonderful gift to be able to see everything
in such a beautiful light.
Rorlund: A good deal of it is inborn in one--but it can be to a great
extent acquired, too. All that is needful is to see things in the light
of a serious mission in life. (To MARTHA:) What do you say, Miss
Bernick? Have you not felt as if you were standing on firmer ground
since you gave yourself up to your school work?
Martha: I really do not know what to say. There are times, when I am in
the schoolroom down there, that I wish I were far away out on the
Rorlund: That is merely temptation, dear Miss Bernick. You ought to
shut the doors of your mind upon such disturbing guests as that. By the
"stormy seas"--for of course you do not intend me to take your words
literally--you mean the restless tide of the great outer world, where
so many are shipwrecked. Do you really set such store on the life you
hear rushing by outside? Only look out into the street. There they go,
walking about in the heat of the sun, perspiring and tumbling about
over their little affairs. No, we undoubtedly have the best of it, who
are able to sit here in the cool and turn our backs on the quarter from
which disturbance comes.
Martha: Yes,I have no doubt you are perfectly right.
Rorlund: And in a house like this,in a good and pure home, where family
life shows in its fairest colours--where peace and harmony rule-- (To
MRS. BERNICK:) What are you listening to, Mrs. Bernick?
Mrs.Bernick (who has turned towards the door of BERNICK'S room): They
are talking very loud in there.
Rorlund: Is there anything particular going on?
Mrs.Bernick: I don't know. I can hear that there is somebody with my
(HILMAR TONNESEN, smoking a cigar, appears in the doorway on the right,
but stops short at the sight of the company of ladies.)
Hilmar: Oh, excuse me-- (Turns to go back.)
Mrs.Bernick: No, Hilmar, come along in; you are not disturbing us. Do
you want something?
Hilmar: No, I only wanted to look in here--Good morning, ladies. (To
MRS. BERNICK :) Well, what is the result?
Mrs.Bernick: Of what?
Hilmar: Karsten has summoned a meeting, you know.
Mrs.Bernick: Has he? What about?
Hilmar: Oh, it is this railway nonsense over again.
Mrs.Rummel: Is it possible?
Mrs.Bernick: Poor Karsten, is he to have more annoyance over that?
Rorlund: But how do you explain that, Mr. Tonnesen? You know that last
year Mr. Bernick made it perfectly clear that he would not have a
Hilmar: Yes, that is what I thought, too; but I met Krap, his
confidential clerk, and he told me that the railway project had been
taken up again, and that Mr. Bernick was in consultation with three of
our local capitalists.
Mrs.Rummel: Ah, I was right in thinking I heard my husband's voice.
Hilmar: Of course Mr. Rummel is in it, and so are Sandstad and Michael
Vigeland,"Saint Michael", as they call him.
Hilmar: I beg your pardon, Mr. Rorlund?
Mrs.Bernick: Just when everything was so nice and peaceful.
Hilmar: Well, as far as I am concerned, I have not the slightest
objection to their beginning their squabbling again. It will be a
little diversion, any way.
Rorlund: I think we can dispense with that sort of diversion.
Hilmar: It depends how you are constituted. Certain natures feel the
lust of battle now and then. But unfortunately life in a country town
does not offer much in that way, and it isn't given to every one to
(turns the leaves of the book RORLUND has been reading). " Woman as the
Handmaid of Society." What sort of drivel is this?
Mrs.Bernick: My dear Hilmar, you must not say that. You certainly have
not read the book.
Hilmar: No, and I have no intention of reading it, either.
Mrs.Bernick: Surely you are not feeling quite well today.
Hilmar: No, I am not.
Mrs.Bernick: Perhaps you did not sleep well last night?
Hilmar: No, I slept very badly. I went for a walk yesterday evening for
my health's sake; and I finished up at the club and read a book about a
Polar expedition. There is something bracing in following the
adventures of men who are battling with the elements.
Mrs.Rummel: But it does not appear to have done you much good, Mr.
Hilmar: No, it certainly did not. I lay all night tossing about, only
half asleep, and dreamt that I was being chased by a hideous walrus.
Olaf (who meanwhile has come up the steps from the garden): Have you
been chased by a walrus, uncle?
Hilmar: I dreamt it, you duffer! Do you mean to say you are still
playing about with that ridiculous bow? Why don't you get hold of a
Olaf: I should like to, but--
Hilmar: There is some sense in a thing like that; it is always an
excitement every time you fire it off.
Olaf: And then I could shoot bears, uncle. But daddy won't let me.
Mrs.Bernick: You really mustn't put such ideas into his head, Hilmar.
Hilmar: Hm! It's a nice breed we are educating up now-a-days, isn't
it! We talk a great deal about manly sports, goodness knows--but we
only play with the question, all the same; there is never any serious
inclination for the bracing discipline that lies in facing danger
manfully. Don't stand pointing your crossbow at me, blockhead--it might
Olaf: No, uncle, there is no arrow in it.
Hilmar: You don't know that there isn't--there may be, all the same.
Take it away, I tell you !--Why on earth have you never gone over to
America on one of your father's ships? You might have seen a buffalo
hunt then, or a fight with Red Indians.
Mrs.Bernick: Oh, Hilmar--!
Olaf: I should like that awfully, uncle; and then perhaps I might meet
Uncle Johan and Aunt Lona.
Mrs.Bernick: You can go down into the garden again now, Olaf.
Olaf: Mother, may I go out into the street too?
Mrs.Bernick: Yes, but not too far, mind.
(OLAF runs down into the garden and out through the gate in the fence.)
Rorlund: You ought not to put such fancies into the child's head, Mr.
Hilmar: No, of course he is destined to be a miserable stay-at-home,
like so many others.
Rorlund: But why do you not take a trip over there yourself?
Hilmar: I? With my wretched health? Of course I get no consideration on
that account. But putting that out of the question, you forget that one
has certain obligations to perform towards the community of which one
forms a part. There must be some one here to hold aloft the banner of
the Ideal.--Ugh, there he is shouting again !
The Ladies: Who is shouting?
Hilmar: I am sure I don't know. They are raising their voices so loud
in there that it gets on my nerves.
Mrs.Bernick: I expect it is my husband, Mr. Tonnesen. But you must
remember he is so accustomed to addressing large audiences.
Rorlund: I should not call the others low-voiced, either.
Hilmar: Good Lord, no!--not on any question that touches their
pockets. Everything here ends in these petty material considerations.
Mrs.Bernick: Anyway, that is a better state of things than it used to
be when everything ended in mere frivolity.
Mrs.Lynge: Things really used to be as bad as that here?
Mrs.Rummel: Indeed they were, Mrs. Lynge. You may think yourself lucky
that you did not live here then.
Mrs.Holt: Yes, times have changed, and no mistake, when I look back to
the days when I was a girl.
Mrs. Rummel: Oh, you need not look back more than fourteen or fifteen
years. God forgive us, what a life we led! There used to be a Dancing
Society and a Musical Society--
Mrs.Bernick: And the Dramatic Club. I remember it very well.
Mrs.Rummel: Yes, that was where your play was performed, Mr. Tonnesen.
Hilmar (from the back of the room): What, what?
Rorlund: A play by Mr. Tonnesen?
Mrs.Rummel: Yes, it was long before you came here, Mr. Rorlund. And it
was only performed once.
Mrs.Lynge: Was that not the play in which you told me you took the part
of a young man's sweetheart, Mrs. Rummel?
Mrs.Rummel (glancing towards RORLUND): I? I really cannot remember,
Mrs.Lynge. But I remember well all the riotous gaiety that used to go
Mrs.Holt: Yes, there were houses I could name in which two large
dinner-parties were given in one week.
Mrs.Lynge: And surely I have heard that a touring theatrical company
came here, too?
Mrs.Rummel: Yes, that was the worst thing of the lot.
Mrs.Holt (uneasily): Ahem!
Mrs.Rummel: Did you say a theatrical company? No, I don't remember that
Mrs.Lynge: Oh yes, and I have been told they played all sorts of mad
pranks. What is really the truth of those stories?
Mrs.Rummel: There is practically no truth in them, Mrs. Lynge.
Mrs.Holt: Dina, my love, will you give me that linen?
Mrs.Bernick (at the same time): Dina, dear, will you go and ask Katrine
to bring us our coffee?
Martha: I will go with you, Dina.
(DINA and MARTHA go out by the farther door on, the left.)
Mrs. Bernick (getting up): Will you excuse me for a few minutes?
I think we will have our coffee outside. (She goes out to the
verandah and sets to work to lay a table. RORLUND stands in the
doorway talking to her. HILMAR sits outside, smoking.)
Mrs. Rummel (in a low voice): My goodness, Mrs. Lynge, how you
Mrs.Holt: Yes, but you know it was you that began it, Mrs.
Mrs.Rummel: I? How can you say such a thing, Mrs. Holt? Not a
syllable passed my lips!
Mrs.Lynge: But what does it all mean?
Mrs.Rummel: What made you begin to talk about--? Think--did you
not see that Dina was in the room?
Mrs.Lynge: Dina? Good gracious, is there anything wrong with--?
Mrs.Holt: And in this house, too! Did you not know it was Mrs.
Mrs.Lynge: What about him? I know nothing about it at all; I am
quite new to the place, you know.
Mrs.Rummel: Have you not heard that--? Ahem!
(To her daughter) Hilda, dear, you can go for a little stroll in the
Mrs.Holt: You go too, Netta. And be very kind to poor Dina when
she comes back. (HILDA and NETTA go out into the garden.)
Mrs.Lynge: Well, what about Mrs. Bernick's brother?
Mrs.Rummel: Don't you know the dreadful scandal about him?
Mrs.Lynge: A dreadful scandal about Mr. Tonnesen?
Mrs.Rummel: Good Heavens, no. Mr. Tonnesen is her cousin, of
course, Mrs. Lynge. I am speaking of her brother--
Mrs.Holt: The wicked Mr. Tonnesen--
Mrs.Rummel: His name was Johan. He ran away to America.
Mrs.Holt: Had to run away, you must understand.
Mrs.Lynge: Then it is he the scandal is about?
Mrs.Rummel: Yes; there was something--how shall I put it?--there
was something of some kind between him and Dina's mother. I
remember it all as if it were yesterday. Johan Tonnesen was in
old Mrs. Bernick's office then; Karsten Bernick had just come
back from Paris--he had not yet become engaged--
Mrs.Lynge: Yes, but what was the scandal?
Mrs.Rummel: Well, you must know that Moller's company were
acting in the town that winter--
Mrs.Holt: And Dorf, the actor, and his wife were in the company.
All the young men in the town were infatuated with her.
Mrs.Rummel: Yes, goodness knows how they could think her pretty.
Well, Dorf came home late one evening--
Mrs.Holt: Quite unexpectedly.
Mrs.Rummel: And found his-- No, really it isn't a thing one can
Mrs.Holt: After all, Mrs. Rummel, he didn't find anything,
because the door was locked on the inside.
Mrs.Rummel: Yes, that is just what I was going to say--he found
the door locked. And--just think of it--the man that was in the
house had to jump out of the window.
Mrs.Holt: Right down from an attic window.
Mrs.Lynge: And that was Mrs. Bernick's brother?
Mrs.Rummel: Yes, it was he.
Mrs.Lynge: And that was why he ran away to America?
Mrs.Holt: Yes, he had to run away, you may be sure.
Mrs.Rummel: Because something was discovered afterwards that was
nearly as bad; just think--he had been making free with the cash-
Mrs.Holt: But, you know, no one was certain of that, Mrs.
Rummel; perhaps there was no truth in the rumour.
Mrs.Rummel: Well, I must say--! Wasn't it known all over the
town? Did not old Mrs. Bernick nearly go bankrupt as the result
of it? However, God forbid I should be the one to spread such
Mrs.Holt: Well, anyway, Mrs. Dorf didn't get the money, because
Mrs.Lynge: Yes, what happened to Dina's parents afterwards?
Mrs.Rummel: Well, Dorf deserted both his wife and his child. But
madam was impudent enough to stay here a whole year. Of course
she had not the face to appear at the theatre any more, but she
kept herself by taking in washing and sewing--
Mrs.Holt: And then she tried to set up a dancing school.
Mrs.Rummel: Naturally that was no good. What parents would trust
their children to such a woman? But it did not last very long.
The fine madam was not accustomed to work; she got something
wrong with her lungs and died of it.
Mrs.Lynge: What a horrible scandal!
Mrs.Rummel: Yes, you can imagine how hard it was upon the
Bernicks. It is the dark spot among the sunshine of their good
fortune, as Rummel once put it. So never speak about it in this
house, Mrs. Lynge.
Mrs.Holt: And for heaven's sake never mention the stepsister,
Mrs.Lynge: Oh, so Mrs. Bernick has a step-sister, too?
Mrs.Rummel: Had, luckily-- for the relationship between them is
all over now. She was an extraordinary person too! Would you
believe it, she cut her hair short, and used to go about in men's
boots in bad weather!
Mrs.Holt: And when her step-brother,the black sheep, had gone
away, and the whole town naturally was talking about him--what do
you think she did? She went out to America to him!
Mr.Rummel: Yes, but remember the scandal she caused before she
went, Mrs. Holt.
Mrs.Holt: Hush, don't speak of it.
Mrs.Lynge: My goodness, did she create a scandal too?
Mrs.Rummel: I think you ought to hear it, Mrs. Lynge. Mr.
Bernick had just got engaged to Betty Tonnesen, and the two of
them went arm in arm into her aunt's room to tell her the news--
Mrs.Holt: The Tonnesens' parents were dead, you know--
Mrs.Rummel: When, suddenly, up got Lona Hessel from her chair
and gave our refined and well-bred Karsten Bernick such a box on
the ear that his head swam.
Mrs.Lynge: Well, I am sure I never--
Mrs.Holt: It is absolutely true.
Mrs.Rummel: And then she packed her box and went away to
Mrs.Lynge: I suppose she had had her eye on him for herself.
Mrs.Rummel: Of course she had. She imagined that he and she
would make a match of it when he came back from Paris.
Mrs.Holt: The idea of her thinking such a thing! Karsten
Bernick--a man of the world and the pink of courtesy, a perfect
gentleman, the darling of all the ladies...
Mrs.Rummel: And, with it all, such an excellent young man, Mrs.
Mrs.Lynge: But what has this Miss Hessel made of herself in
Mrs.Rummel: Well, you see, over that (as my husband once put it)
has been drawn a veil which one should hesitate to lift.
Mrs.Lynge: What do you mean?
Mrs.Rummel: She no longer has any connection with the family, as
you may suppose; but this much the whole town knows, that she has
sung for money in drinking saloons over there--
Mrs.Holt: And has given lectures in public--
Mrs.Rummel: And has published some mad kind of book.
Mrs.Lynge: You don't say so!
Mrs.Rummel: Yes, it is true enough that Lona Hessel is one of
the spots on the sun of the Bernick family's good fortune. Well,
now you know the whole story, Mrs. Lynge. I am sure I would never
have spoken about it except to put you on your guard.
Mrs.Lynge: Oh, you may be sure I shall be most careful. But that
poor child Dina Dorf! I am truly sorry for her.
Mrs.Rummel: Well, really it was a stroke of good luck for her.
Think what it would have meant if she had been brought up by such
parents! Of course we did our best for her, every one of us, and
gave her all the good advice we could. Eventually Miss Bernick
got her taken into this house.
Mrs.Holt: But she has always been a difficult child to deal
with. It is only natural--with all the bad examples she had had
before her. A girl of that sort is not like one of our own; one
must be lenient with her.
Mrs.Rummel: Hush--here she comes. (In a louder voice.) Yes, Dina
is really a clever girl. Oh, is that you, Dina? We are just
putting away the things.
Mrs.Holt: How delicious your coffee smells, my dear Dina. A nice
cup of coffee like that--
Mrs.Bernick (calling in from the verandah): Will you come out
here? (Meanwhile MARTHA and DINA have helped the Maid to bring
out the coffee. All the ladies seat themselves on the verandah,
and talk with a great show of kindness to DINA. In a few moments
DINA comes back into the room and looks for her sewing.)
Mrs. Bernick(from the coffee table): Dina, won't you--?
Dina: No, thank you. (Sits down to her sewing. MRS. BERNICK and
RORLUND exchange a few words; a moment afterwards he comes back
into the room, makes a pretext for going up to the table, and
begins speaking to DINA in low tones.)
Rorlund: Why don't you want to sit with the others?
Dina: When I came in with the coffee, I could see from the
strange lady's face that they had been talking about me.
Rorlund: But did you not see as well how agreeable she was to you
Dina: That is just what I will not stand
Rorlund: You are very self-willed, Dina.
Rorlund: But why?
Dina: Because it is my nature.
Rorlund: Could you not try to alter your nature?
Rorlund: Why not?
Dina (looking at him): Because I am one of the "poor fallen
creatures", you know.
Rorlund: For shame, Dina.
Dina: So was my mother.
Rorlund: Who has spoken to you about such things?
Dina: No one; they never do. Why don't they? They all handle me
in such a gingerly fashion, as if they thought I should go to
pieces if they---. Oh, how I hate all this kind-heartedness.
Rorlund: My dear Dina, I can quite understand that you feel
repressed here, but--
Dina: Yes; if only I could get right away from here. I could make
my own way quite well, if only I did not live amongst people who
Rorlund: So what?
Dina: So proper and so moral.
Rorlund: Oh but, Dina, you don't mean that.
Dina: You know quite well in what sense I mean it. Hilda and
Netta come here every day, to be exhibited to me as good
examples. I can never be so beautifully behaved as they; I don't
want to be. If only I were right away from it all, I should grow
to be worth something.
Rorlund: But you are worth a great deal, Dina dear.
Dina: What good does that do me here?
Rorlund: Get right away, you say? Do you mean it seriously?
Dina: I would not stay here a day longer, if it were not for you.
Rorlund: Tell me, Dina--why is it that you are fond of being with
Dina: Because you teach me so much that is beautiful.
Rorlund: Beautiful? Do you call the little I can teach you,
Dina: Yes. Or perhaps, to be accurate, it is not that you teach
me anything; but when I listen to you talking I see beautiful
Rorlund: What do you mean exactly when you call a thing
Dina: I have never thought it out.
Rorlund: Think it out now, then. What do you understand by a
Dina: A beautiful thing is something that is great--and far off.
Rorlund: Hm!--Dina, I am so deeply concerned about you, my dear.
Dina: Only that?
Rorlund: You know perfectly well that you are dearer to me than I
Dina: If I were Hilda or Netta, you would not be afraid to let
people see it.
Rorlund: Ah, Dina, you can have no idea of the number of things I
am forced to take into consideration. When it is a man's lot to
be a moral pillar of the community he lives in, he cannot be too
circumspect. If only I could be certain that people would
interpret my motives properly. But no matter for that; you must,
and shall be, helped to raise yourself. Dina, is it a bargain
between us that when I come--when circumstances allow me to come -
-to you and say: "Here is my hand," you will take it and be my
wife? Will you promise me that, Dina?
Rorlund: Thank you, thank you! Because for my part, too--oh,
Dina, I love you so dearly. Hush! Some one is coming. Dina--for my
sake--go out to the others.(She goes out to the coffee table. At
the same moment RUMMEL, SANDSTAD and VIGELAND come out of
BERNICK'S room, followed by Bernick, who has a bundle of papers
in his hand.)
Bernick: Well, then, the matter is settled.
Vigeland: Yes, I hope to goodness it is.
Rummel: It is settled, Bernick. A Norseman's word stands as firm
as the rocks on Dovrefjeld, you know!
Bernick: And no one must falter, no one give way, no matter what
opposition we meet with.
Rummel: We will stand or fall together, Bernick.
Hilmar (coming in from the verandah): Fall? If I may ask, isn't
it the railway scheme that is going to fall?
Bernick: No, on the contrary, it is going to proceed--
Rummel: Full steam, Mr. Tonnesen.
Hilmar (coming nearer): Really?
Rorlund: How is that?
Mrs. Bernick(at the verandah door): Karsten, dear, what is it
Bernick: My dear Betty, how can it interest you? (To the three
men.) We must get out lists of subscribers, and the sooner the
better. Obviously our four names must head the list. The
positions we occupy in the community makes it our duty to make
ourselves as prominent as possible in the affair.
Sandstad: Obviously, Mr. Bernick.
Rummel: The thing shall go through, Bernick; I swear it shall!
Bernick: Oh, I have not the least anticipation of failure. We
must see that we work, each one among the circle of his own
acquaintances; and if we can point to the fact that the scheme is
exciting a lively interest in all ranks of society, then it
stands to reason that our Municipal Corporation will have to
contribute its share.
Mrs.Bernick: Karsten, you really must come out here and tell us--
Bernick: My dear Betty, it is an affair that does not concern
ladies at all.
Hilmar: Then you are really going to support this railway scheme
Bernick: Yes, naturally.
Rorlund: But last year, Mr. Bernick--
Bernick: Last year it was quite another thing. At that time it
was a question of a line along the coast--
Vigeland: Which would have been quite superfluous, Mr. Rorlund;
because, of course, we have our steamboat service--
Sandstad: And would have been quite unreasonably costly--
Rummel: Yes, and would have absolutely ruined certain important
interests in the town.
Bernick: The main point was that it would not have been to the
advantage of the community as a whole. That is why I opposed it,
with the result that the inland line was resolved upon.
Hilmar: Yes, but surely that will not touch the towns about here.
Bernick: It will eventually touch our town, my dear Hilmar,
because we are going to build a branch line here.
Hilmar: Aha--a new scheme, then?
Rummel: Yes, isn't it a capital scheme? What?
Vigeland: There is no denying that it looks as though Providence
had just planned the configuration of the country to suit a
Rorlund: Do you really mean it, Mr. Vigeland?
Bernick: Yes, I must confess it seems to me as if it had been the
hand of Providence that caused me to take a journey on business
this spring, in the course of which I happened to traverse a
valley through which I had never been before. It came across my
mind like a flash of lightning that this was where we could carry
a branch line down to our town. I got an engineer to survey the
neighbourhood, and have here the provisional calculations and
estimate; so there is nothing to hinder us.
Mrs.Bernick (who is still with the other ladies at the verandah
door): But, my dear Karsten, to think that you should have kept
it all a secret from us!
Bernick: Ah, my dear Betty, I knew you would not have been able
to grasp the exact situation. Besides, I have not mentioned it to
a living soul until today. But now the decisive moment has come,
and we must work openly and with all our might. Yes, even if I
have to risk all I have for its sake, I mean to push the matter
Rummel: And we will back you up, Bernick; you may rely upon that.
Rorlund: Do you really promise us so much, then, from this
Bernick: Yes, undoubtedly. Think what a lever it will be to raise
the status of our whole community. Just think of the immense
tracts of forest-land that it will make accessible; think of all
the rich deposits of minerals we shall be able to work; think of
the river with one waterfall above another! Think of the
possibilities that open out in the way of manufactories!
Rorlund: And are you not afraid that an easier intercourse with
the depravity of the outer world--?
Bernick: No, you may make your mind quite easy on that score, Mr.
Rorlund. Our little hive of industry rests now-a-days, God be
thanked, on such a sound moral basis; we have all of us helped to
drain it, if I may use the expression; and that we will continue
to do, each in his degree. You, Mr. Rorlund, will continue your
richly blessed activity in our schools and our homes. We, the
practical men of business, will be the support of the community
by extending its welfare within as wide a radius as possible; and
our women--yes, come nearer ladies--you will like to hear it-- our
women, I say, our wives and daughters--you, ladies-- will work on
undisturbed in the service of charity, and moreover will be a
help and a comfort to your nearest and dearest, as my dear Betty
and Martha are to me and Olaf.(Looks around him.) Where is Olaf
Mrs. Bernick: Oh, in the holidays it is impossible to keep him at
Bernick: I have no doubt he is down at the shore again. You will
see he will end by coming to some harm there.
Hilmar: Bah! A little sport with the forces of nature
Mrs.Rummel: Your family affection is beautiful, Mr. Bernick!
Bernick: Well, the family is the kernel of society. A good home,
honoured and trusty friends, a little snug family circle where no
disturbing elements can cast their shadow-- (KRAP comes in from
the right, bringing letters and papers.)
Krap: The foreign mail, Mr. Bernick--and a telegram from New
Bernick (taking the telegram): Ah--from the owners of the "Indian
Rummel: Is the mail in? Oh, then you must excuse me.
Vigeland: And me too.
Sandstad: Good day, Mr. Bernick.
Bernick: Good day, good day, gentlemen. And remember, we have a
meeting this afternoon at five o'clock.
The Three Men: Yes--quite so--of course. (They go out to the
Bernick (who has read the telegram): This is thoroughly American!
Mrs.Bernick: Good gracious, Karsten, what is it?
Bernick: Look at this, Krap! Read it!
Krap (reading): "Do the least repairs possible. Send over 'Indian
Girl' as soon as she is ready to sail; good time of year; at a
pinch her cargo will keep her afloat." Well, I must say--
Rorlund: You see the state of things in these vaunted great
Bernick: You are quite right; not a moment's consideration for
human life, when it is a question of making a profit. (To KRAP:)
Can the "Indian Girl" go to sea in four--or five--days?
Krap: Yes, if Mr. Vigeland will agree to our stopping work on the
"Palm Tree" meanwhile.
Bernick: Hm--he won't. Well, be so good as to look through the
letters. And look here, did you see Olaf down at the quay?
Krap: No, Mr. Bernick. (Goes into BERNICK'S room.)
Bernick (looking at the telegram again): These gentlemen think
nothing of risking eight men's lives--
Hilmar: Well, it is a sailor's calling to brave the elements; it
must be a fine tonic to the nerves to be like that, with only a
thin plank between one and the abyss--
Bernick: I should like to see the ship-owner amongst us who would
condescend to such a thing! There is not one that would do it--
not a single one! (Sees OLAF coming up to the house.) Ah, thank
Heaven, here he is, safe and sound. (OLAF, with a fishing-line in
his hand, comes running up the garden and in through the
Olaf: Uncle Hilmar, I have been down and seen the steamer.
Bernick: Have you been down to the quay again?
Olaf: No, I have only been out in a boat. But just think, Uncle
Hilmar, a whole circus company has come on shore, with horses and
animals; and there were such lots of passengers.
Mrs.Rummel: No, are we really to have a circus?
Rorlund: We? I certainly have no desire to see it.
Mrs.Rummel: No, of course I don't mean we, but--
Dina: I should like to see a circus very much.
Olaf: So should I.
Hilmar: You are a duffer. Is that anything to see? Mere tricks.
No, it would be something quite different to see the Gaucho
careering over the Pampas on his snorting mustang. But,Heaven
help us, in these wretched little towns of ours.
Olaf (pulling at MARTHA'S dress): Look, Aunt Martha! Look, there
Mrs.Holt: Good Lord, yes--here they come.
Mrs.Lynge: Ugh, what horrid people!
(A number of passengers and a whole crowd of townsfolk, are seen
coming up the street.)
Mrs.Rummel: They are a set of mountebanks, certainly. Just look
at that woman in the grey dress, Mrs. Holt--the one with a
knapsack over her shoulder.
Mrs.Holt: Yes--look--she has slung it on the handle of her
parasol. The manager's wife, I expect.
Mrs.Rummel: And there is the manager himself, no doubt. He
looks a regular pirate. Don't look at him, Hilda!
Mrs.Holt: Nor you, Netta!
Olaf: Mother, the manager is bowing to us.
Mrs. Bernick: What are you saying, child?
Mrs. Rummel: Yes, and--good Heavens--the woman is bowing to us
Bernick: That is a little too cool--
Martha (exclaims involuntarily): Ah--!
Mrs.Bernick: What is it, Martha?
Martha: Nothing, nothing. I thought for a moment--
Olaf (shrieking with delight): Look, look, there are the rest of
them, with the horses and animals! And there are the Americans,
too! All the sailors from the "Indian Girl"! (The strains of
"Yankee Doodle," played on a clarinet and a drum, are heard.)
Hilmar (stopping his ears): Ugh, ugh, ugh!
Rorlund: I think we ought to withdraw ourselves from sight a
little, ladies; we have nothing to do with such goings on. Let us
go to our work again.
Mrs.Bernick: Do you think we had better draw the curtains?
Rorlund: Yes, that was exactly what I meant.
(The ladies resume their places at the work-table; RORLUND shuts
the verandah door, and draws the curtains over it and over the
windows, so that the room becomes half dark.)
Olaf (peeping out through the curtains): Mother, the manager's
wife is standing by the fountain now, washing her face.
Mrs.Bernick: What? In the middle of the marketplace?
Mrs.Rummel: And in broad daylight, too!
Hilmar: Well, I must say if I were travelling across a desert
waste and found myself beside a well, I am sure I should not stop
to think whether--. Ugh, that frightful clarinet!
Rorlund: It is really high time the police interfered.
Bernick: Oh no; we must not be too hard on foreigners. Of course
these folk have none of the deep-seated instincts of decency
which restrain us within proper bounds. Suppose they do behave
outrageously, what does it concern us? Fortunately this spirit of
disorder, that flies in the face of all that is customary and
right, is absolutely a stranger to our community, if I may say
so--. What is this! (LONA HESSEL walks briskly in from the door
on the right.)
The Ladies (in low, frightened tones): The circus woman! The
Mrs.Bernick: Heavens, what does this mean?
Martha (jumping up): Ah--!
Lona: How do you do, Betty dear! How do you do, Martha! How do
you do, brother-in-law!
Mrs.Bernick (with a cry): Lona--!
Bernick (stumbling backwards): As sure as I am alive--!
Mrs.Holt: Mercy on us--!
Mrs.Rummel: It cannot possibly be--!
Hilmar: Well! Ugh!
Mrs.Bernick: Lona--! Is it really--?
Lona: Really me? Yes, indeed it is; you may fall on my neck if
Hilmar: Ugh, ugh!
Mrs.Bernick: And coming back here as--?
Mrs.Bernick: And actually mean to appear in--?
Lona: Appear? Appear in what?
Bernick: Well, I mean--in the circus--
Lona: Ha, ha, ha! Are you mad, brother-in-law? Do you think I
belong to the circus troupe? No,certainly I have turned my hand
to a good many things and made a fool of myself in a good many
Lona: But I have never tried circus riding.
Bernick: Then you are not--?
Mrs.Bernick: Thank Heaven!
Lona: No, we travelled like other respectable folk, second-class,
certainly, but we are accustomed to that.
Mrs.Bernick: We, did you say?
Bernick (taking a step for-ward): Whom do you mean by "we"?
Lona: I and the child, of course.
The Ladies (with a cry): The child!
Rorlund: I really must say--!
Mrs.Bernick: But what do you mean, Lona?
Lona: I mean John, of course; I have no other child, as far as I
know, but John, or Johan as you used to call him.
Mrs.Rummel (in an undertone to MRS. LYNGE): The scapegrace
Bernick (hesitatingly): Is Johan with you?
Lona: Of course he is; I certainly would not come without him.
Why do you look so tragical? And why are you sitting here in the
gloom, sewing white things? There has not been a death in the
family, has there?
Rorlund: Madam,you find yourself in the Society for Fallen Women.
Lona (half to herself): What? Can these nice, quiet-looking
ladies possibly be--?
Mrs.Rummel: Well, really--!
Lona: Oh, I understand! But, bless my soul, that is surely Mrs.
Rummel? And Mrs. Holt sitting there too! Well, we three have not
grown younger since the last time we met. But listen now, good
people; let the Fallen Women wait for a day--they will be none
the worse for that. A joyful occasion like this--
Rorlund: A home-coming is not always a joyful occasion.
Lona: Indeed? How do you read your Bible, Mr. Parson?
Rorlund: I am not a parson.
Lona: Oh, you will grow into one, then. But--faugh!--this moral
linen of yours smells tainted,just like a winding-sheet. I am
accustomed to the air of the prairies, let me tell you.
Bernick (wiping his forehead): Yes, it certainly is rather close
Lona: Wait a moment; we will resurrect ourselves from this vault.
(Pulls the curtains to one side) We must have broad daylight in
here when the boy comes. Ah, you will see a boy then that has
Lona (opening the verandah door and window): I should say, when
he has washed himself, up at the hotel--for on the boat he got
Hilmar: Ugh, ugh!
Lona: Ugh? Why, surely isn't that--? (Points at HILDAR and asks
the others): Is he still loafing about here saying "Ugh"?
Hilmar: I do not loaf; it is the state of my health that keeps me
Rorlund: Ahem! Ladies, I do not think--
Lona (who has noticed OLAF): Is he yours, Betty? Give me a paw,
my boy! Or are you afraid of your ugly old aunt?
Rorlund (putting his book under his arm): Ladies, I do not think
any of us is in the mood for any more work today. I suppose we
are to meet again tomorrow?
Lona (while the others are getting up and taking their leave):
Yes, let us. I shall be on the spot.
Rorlund: You? Pardon me, Miss Hessel, but what do you propose to
do in our Society?
Lona: I will let some fresh air into it, Mr. Parson.
SCENE.--The same room. MRS. BERNICK is sitting alone at the work-
table, sewing. BERNICK comes in from the right, wearing his hat
and gloves and carrying a stick.)
Mrs. Bernick: Home already, Karsten?
Bernick: Yes, I have made an appointment with a man.
Mrs. Bernick (with a sigh): Oh yes, I suppose Johan is coming up
Bernick: With a man, I said. (Lays down his hat.) What has become
of all the ladies today?
Mrs. Bernick: Mrs. Rummel and Hilda hadn't time to come.
Bernick: Oh !--did they send any excuse?
Mrs. Bernick: Yes, they had so much to do at home.
Bernick: Naturally. And of course the others are not coming
Mrs. Bernick: No, something has prevented them today, too.
Bernick: I could have told you that, beforehand. Where is Olaf?
Mrs. Bernick: I let him go out a little with Dina.
Bernick: Hm--she is a giddy little baggage. Did you see how she
at once started making a fuss of Johan yesterday?
Mrs. Bernick: But, my dear Karsten, you know Dina knows nothing
Bernick: No, but in any case Johan ought to have had sufficient
tact not to pay her any attention. I saw quite well, from his
face, what Vigeland thought of it.
Mrs. Bernick (laying her sewing down on her lap): Karsten, can
you imagine what his objective is in coming here?
Bernick: Well--I know he has a farm over there, and I fancy he is
not doing particularly well with it; she called attention
yesterday to the fact that they were obliged to travel second
Mrs. Bernick: Yes, I am afraid it must be something of that sort.
But to think of her coming with him! She! After the deadly insult
she offered you!
Bernick: Oh, don't think about that ancient history.
Mrs. Bernick: How can I help thinking of it just now? After all,
he is my brother--still, it is not on his account that I am
distressed, but because of all the unpleasantness it would mean
for you. Karsten, I am so dreadfully afraid!
Bernick: Afraid of what?
Mrs. Bernick: Isn't it possible that they may send him to prison
for stealing that money from your mother?
Bernick: What rubbish! Who can prove that the money was stolen?
Mrs. Bernick: The whole town knows it, unfortunately; and you
know you said yourself.
Bernick: I said nothing. The town knows nothing whatever about
the affair; the whole thing was no more than idle rumour.
Mrs. Bernick: How magnanimous you are, Karsten!
Bernick: Do not let us have any more of these reminiscences,
please! You don't know how you torture me by raking all that up.
(Walks up and down; then flings his stick away from him.) And to
think of their coming home now--just now, when it is particularly
necessary for me that I should stand well in every respect with
the town and with the Press. Our newspaper men will be sending
paragraphs to the papers in the other towns about here. Whether I
receive them well, or whether I receive them ill, it will all be
discussed and talked over. They will rake up all those old
stories--as you do. In a community like ours--(Throws his gloves
down on the table.) And I have not a soul here to whom I can talk
about it and to whom I can go for support.
Mrs. Bernick: No one at all, Karsten?
Bernick: No--who is there? And to have them on my shoulders just
at this moment! Without a doubt they will create a scandal in
some way or another--she, in particular. It is simply a calamity
to be connected with such folk in any way!
Mrs. Bernick: Well, I can't help their--
Bernick: What can't you help? Their being your relations? No,
that is quite true.
Mrs. Bernick: And I did not ask them to come home.
Bernick: That's it--go on! "I did not ask them to come home; I did
not write to them; I did not drag them home by the hair of their
heads!" Oh, I know the whole rigmarole by heart.
Mrs. Bernick (bursting into tears): You need not be so unkind--
Bernick: Yes, that's right--begin to cry, so that our neighbours
may have that to gossip about too. Do stop being so foolish,
Betty. Go and sit outside; some one may come in here. I don't
suppose you want people to see the lady of the house with red
eyes? It would be a nice thing, wouldn't it, if the story got out
about that--. There, I hear some one in the passage. (A knock is
heard at the door.) Come in! (MRS. BERNICK takes her sewing and
goes out down the garden steps. AUNE comes in from the right.)
Aune: Good morning, Mr. Bernick.
Bernick: Good morning. Well, I suppose you can guess what I want
Aune: Mr. Krap told me yesterday that you were not pleased with--
Bernick: I am displeased with the whole management of the yard,
Aune. The work does not get on as quickly as it ought. The "Palm
Tree" ought to have been under sail long ago. Mr. Vigeland comes
here every day to complain about it; he is a difficult man to
have with one as part owner.
Aune: The "Palm Tree" can go to sea the day after tomorrow.
Bernick: At last. But what about the American ship, the "Indian
Girl," which has been laid up here for five weeks and--
Aune: The American ship? I understood that, before everything
else, we were to work our hardest to get your own ship ready.
Bernick: I gave you no reason to think so. You ought to have
pushed on as fast as possible with the work on the American ship
also; but you have not.
Aune: Her bottom is completely rotten, Mr. Bernick; the more we
patch it, the worse it gets.
Bernick: That is not the reason. Krap has told me the whole
truth. You do not understand how to work the new machines I have
provided--or rather, you will not try to work them.
Aune: Mr. Bernick, I am well on in the fifties; and ever since I
was a boy I have been accustomed to the old way of working--
Bernick: We cannot work that way now-a-days. You must not
imagine, Aune, that it is for the sake of making profit; I do not
need that, fortunately; but I owe consideration to the community
I live in, and to the business I am at the head of. I must take
the lead in progress, or there would never be any.
Aune: I welcome progress too, Mr. Bernick.
Bernick: Yes, for your own limited circle--for the working class.
Oh, I know what a busy agitator you are; you make speeches, you
stir people up; but when some concrete instance of progress
presents itself--as now, in the case of our machines--you do not
want to have anything to do with it; you are afraid.
Aune: Yes, I really am afraid, Mr. Bernick. I am afraid for the
number of men who will have the bread taken out of their mouths
by these machines. You are very fond, sir, of talking about the
consideration we owe to the community; it seems to me, however,
that the community has its duties too. Why should science and
capital venture to introduce these new discoveries into labour,
before the community has had time to educate a generation up to
Bernick: You read and think too much, Aune; it does you no good,
and that is what makes you dissatisfied with your lot.
Aune: It is not, Mr. Bernick; but I cannot bear to see one good
workman dismissed after another, to starve because of these
Bernick: Hm! When the art of printing was discovered, many a
quill-driver was reduced to starvation.
Aune: Would you have admired the art so greatly if you had been a
quill-driver in those days, sir?
Bernick: I did not send for you to argue with you. I sent for you
to tell you that the "Indian Girl" must be ready to put to sea
the day after tomorrow.
Aune: But, Mr. Bernick--
Bernick: The day after tomorrow, do you hear?--at the same time
as our own ship, not an hour later. I have good reasons for
hurrying on the work. Have you seen today's paper? Well, then
you know the pranks these American sailors have been up to again.
The rascally pack are turning the whole town upside down. Not a
night passes without some brawling in the taverns or the streets-
-not to speak of other abominations.
Aune: Yes, they certainly are a bad lot.
Bernick: And who is it that has to bear the blame for all this
disorder? It is I! Yes, it is I who have to suffer for it. These
newspaper fellows are making all sorts of covert insinuations
because we are devoting all our energies to the "Palm Tree." I,
whose task in life it is to influence my fellow-citizens by the
force of example, have to endure this sort of thing cast in my
face. I am not going to stand that. I have no fancy for having my
good name smirched in that way.
Aune: Your name stands high enough to endure that and a great
deal more, sir.
Bernick: Not just now. At this particular moment I have need of
all the respect and goodwill my fellow-citizens can give me. I
have a big undertaking on, the stocks, as you probably have
heard; but, if it should happen that evil-disposed persons
succeeded in shaking the absolute confidence I enjoy, it might
land me in the greatest difficulties. That is why I want, at any
price, to avoid these shameful innuendoes in the papers, and that
is why I name the day after tomorrow as the limit of the time I
can give you.
Aune: Mr. Bernick, you might just as well name this afternoon as
Bernick: You mean that I am asking an impossibility?
Aune: Yes, with the hands we have now at the yard.
Bernick: Very good; then we must look about elsewhere.
Aune: Do you really mean, sir, to discharge still more of your
Bernick: No, I am not thinking of that.
Aune: Because I think it would cause bad blood against you both
among the townsfolk and in the papers, if you did that.
Bernick: Very probably; therefore, we will not do it. But, if the
"Indian Girl" is not ready to sail the day after tomorrow, I
shall discharge you.
Aune (with a start): Me! (He laughs.) You are joking, Mr.
Bernick: I should not be so sure of that, if I were you.
Aune: Do you mean that you can contemplate discharging me?--Me,
whose father and grandfather worked in your yard all their lives,
as I have done myself--?
Bernick: Who is it that is forcing me to do it?
Aune: You are asking what is impossible, Mr. Bernick.
Bernick: Oh, where there's a will there's a way. Yes or no; give
me a decisive answer, or consider yourself discharged on the
Aune (coming a step nearer to him): Mr. Bernick, have you ever
realised what discharging an old workman means? You think he can
look about for another job? Oh, yes, he can do that; but does
that dispose of the matter? You should just be there once, in the
house of a workman who has been discharged, the evening he comes
home bringing all his tools with him.
Bernick: Do you think I am discharging you with a light heart?
Have I not always been a good master to you?
Aune: So much the worse, Mr. Bernick. Just for that very reason
those at home will not blame you; they will say nothing to me,
because they dare not; but they will look at me when I am not
noticing, and think that I must have deserved it. You see, sir,
that is--that is what I cannot bear. I am a mere nobody, I know;
but I have always been accustomed to stand first in my own home.
My humble home is a little community too, Mr. Bernick--a little
community which I have been able to support and maintain because
my wife has believed in me and because my children have believed
in me. And now it is all to fall to pieces.
Bernick: Still, if there is nothing else for it, the lesser must
go down before the greater; the individual must be sacrificed to
the general welfare. I can give you no other answer; and that,
and no other, is the way of the world. You are an obstinate man,
Aune! You are opposing me, not because you cannot do otherwise,
but because you will not exhibit 'the superiority of machinery
over manual labour'.
Aune: And you will not be moved, Mr. Bernick, because you know
that if you drive me away you will at all events have given the
newspapers proof of your good will.
Bernick: And suppose that were so? I have told you what it means
for me--either bringing the Press down on my back, or making them
well-disposed to me at a moment when I am working for an objective
which will mean the advancement of the general welfare. Well,
then, can I do otherwise than as I am doing? The question, let me
tell you, turns upon this--whether your home is to be supported,
as you put it, or whether hundreds of new homes are to be
prevented from existing--hundreds of homes that will never be
built, never have a fire lighted on their hearth, unless I
succeed in carrying through the scheme I am working for now. That
is the reason why I have given you your choice.
Aune: Well, if that is the way things stand, I have nothing more
Bernick: Hm--my dear Aune, I am extremely grieved to think that
we are to part.
Aune: We are not going to part, Mr. Bernick.
Bernick: How is that?
Aune: Even a common man like myself has something he is bound to
Bernick: Quite so, quite so--then I presume you think you may
Aune: The "Indian Girl" shall be ready to sail the day after
tomorrow. (Bows and goes out to the right.)
Bernick: Ah, I have got the better of that obstinate fellow! I
take it as a good omen. (HILMAR comes in through the garden door,
smoking a cigar.)
Hilmar (as he comes up the steps to the verandah): Good morning,
Betty! Good morning, Karsten!
Mrs. Bernick: Good morning.
Hilmar: Ah, I see you have been crying, so I suppose you know all
about it too?
Mrs. Bernick: Know all about what?
Hilmar: That the scandal is in full swing. Ugh!
Bernick: What do you mean?
Hilmar (coming into the room): Why, that our two friends from
America are displaying themselves about the streets in the
company of Dina Dorf.
Mrs. Bernick (coming in after him): Hilmar, is it possible?
Hilmar: Yes, unfortunately, it is quite true. Lona was even so
wanting in tact as to call after me, but of course I appeared not
to have heard her.
Bernick: And no doubt all this has not been unnoticed.
Hilmar: You may well say that. People stood still and looked at
them. It spread like wildfire through the town--just like a
prairie fire out West. In every house people were at the windows
waiting for the procession to pass, cheek by jowl behind the
curtains--ugh! Oh, you must excuse me, Betty, for saying "ugh"--
this has got on my nerves. If it is going on, I shall be forced
to think about getting right away from here.
Mrs. Bernick: But you should have spoken to him and represented
to him that--
Hilmar: In the open street? No, excuse me, I could not do that.
To think that the fellow should dare to show himself in the town
at all! Well, we shall see if the Press doesn't put a stopper on
him; yes--forgive me, Betty, but--
Bernick: The Press, do you say? Have you heard a hint of anything
of the sort?
Hilmar: There are such things flying about. When I left here
yesterday evening I looked in at the club, because I did not feel
well. I saw at once, from the sudden silence that fell when I
went in, that our American couple had been the subject of
conversation. Then that impudent newspaper fellow, Hammer, came
in and congratulated me at the top of his voice on the return of
my rich cousin.
Hilmar: Those were his words. Naturally I looked him up and down
in the manner he deserved, and gave him to understand that I knew
nothing about Johan Tonnesen's being rich. "Really," he said,
"that is very remarkable. People usually get on in America when
they have something to start with, and I believe your cousin did
not go over there quite empty-handed."
Bernick: Hm--now will you oblige me by--
Mrs. Bernick (distressed): There, you see, Karsten!
Hilmar: Anyhow, I have spent a sleepless night because of them.
And here he is, walking about the streets as if nothing were the
matter. Why couldn't he disappear for good and all? It really is
insufferable how hard some people are to kill.
Mrs. Bernick: My dear Hilmar, what are you saying P
Hilmar: Oh, nothing. But here this fellow escapes with a whole
skin from railway accidents and fights with California grizzlies
and Blackfoot Indians--has not even been scalped--. Ugh, here
Bernick (looking down the street): Olaf is with them too!
Hilmar: Of course! They want to remind everybody that they belong
to the best family in the town. Look there!--look at the crowd of
loafers that have come out of the chemist's to stare at them and
make remarks. My nerves really won't stand it; how a man is to be
expected to keep the banner of the Ideal flying under such
Bernick: They are coming here. Listen, Betty; it is my particular
wish that you should receive them in the friendliest possible
Mrs. Bernick: Oh, may I, Karsten.
Bernick: Certainly, certainly--and you too, Hilmar. It is to be
hoped they will not stay here very long; and when we are quite by
ourselves--no allusions to the past; we must not hurt their
feelings in any way.
Mrs. Bernick: How magnanimous you are, Karsten!
Bernick: Oh, don't speak of that.
Mrs. Bernick: But you must let me thank you; and you must forgive
me for being so hasty. I am sure you had every reason to--
Bernick: Don't talk about it, please.
(JOHAN TONNESEN and DINA come up through the garden, followed by
LONA and OLAF.)
Lona: Good morning, dear people!
Johan: We have been out having a look round the old place,
Bernick: So I hear. Greatly altered, is it not?
Lona: Mr. Bernick's great and good works everywhere. We have been
up into the Recreation Ground you have presented to the town.
Bernick: Have you been there?
Lona: "The gift of Karsten Bernick," as it says over the gateway.
You seem to be responsible for the whole place here.
Johan: Splendid ships you have got, too. I met my old
schoolfellow, the captain of the "Palm Tree."
Lona: And you have built a new school-house too; and I hear that
the town has to thank you for both the gas supply and the water
Bernick: Well, one ought to work for the good of the community
one lives in.
Lona: That is an excellent sentiment, brother-in-law, but it is a
pleasure, all the same, to see how people appreciate you. I am
not vain, I hope; but I could not resist reminding one or two of
the people we talked to that we were relations of yours.
Lona: Do you say "ugh" to that?
Hilmar: No, I said "ahem."
Lona: Oh, poor chap, you may say that if you like. But are you
all by yourselves today?
Bernick: Yes, we are by ourselves today.
Lona: Ah, yes, we met a couple of members of your Morality
Society up at the market; they made out they were very busy. You
and I have never had an opportunity for a good talk yet.
Yesterday you had your three pioneers here, as well as the parson.
Hilmar: The schoolmaster.
Lona: I call him the parson. But now tell me what you think of my
work during these fifteen years? Hasn't he grown a fine fellow?
Who would recognise the madcap that ran away from home?
Johan: Now, Lona, don't brag too much about me.
Lona: Well, I can tell you I am precious proud of him. Goodness
knows it is about the only thing I have done in my life; but it
does give me a sort of right to exist. When I think, Johan, how
we two began over there with nothing but our four bare fists.
Lona: I say fists; and they were dirty fists.
Lona: And empty, too.
Hilmar: Empty? Well, I must say--
Lona: What must you say?
Hilmar: I must say--ugh! (Goes out through the garden.)
Lona: What is the matter with the man?
Bernick: Oh, do not take any notice of him; his nerves are rather
upset just now. Would you not like to take a look at the garden?
You have not been down there yet, and I have got an hour to
Lona: With pleasure. I can tell you my thoughts have been with
you in this garden many and many a time.
Mrs. Bernick: We have made a great many alterations there too, as
you will see. (BERNICK, MRS. BERNICK, and LONA go down to the
garden, where they are visible every now and then during the
Olaf (coming to the verandah door): Uncle Hilmar, do you know
what uncle Johan asked me? He asked me if I would go to America
Hilmar: You, you duffer, who are tied to your mother's apron
Olaf: Ah, but I won't be that any longer. You will see, when I
Hilmar: Oh, fiddlesticks! You have no really serious bent towards
the strength of character necessary to--.
(They go down to the garden. DINA meanwhile has taken off her hat
and is standing at the door on the right, shaking the dust off
Johan (to DINA): The walk has made you pretty warm.
Dina: Yes, it was a splendid walk. I have never had such a
splendid walk before.
Johan: Do you not often go for a walk in the morning?
Dina: Oh, yes--but only with Olaf.
Johan: I see.--Would you rather go down into the garden than stay
Dina: No, I would rather stay here.
Johan.: So would I. Then shall we consider it a bargain that we
are to go for a walk like this together every morning?
Dina: No, Mr. Tonnesen, you mustn't do that.
Johan: What mustn't I do? You promised, you know.
Dina: Yes, but--on second thought--you mustn't go out with me.
Johan: But why not?
Dina: Of course, you are a stranger--you cannot understand; but I
must tell you--
Dina: No, I would rather not talk about it.
Johan: Oh, but you must; you can talk to me about whatever you
Dina: Well, I must tell you that I am not like the other young
girls here. There is something--something or other about me. That
is why you mustn't.
Johan: But I do not understand anything about it. You have not
done anything wrong?
Dina: No, not I, but--no, I am not going to talk any more about
it now. You will hear about it from the others, sure enough.
Dina: But there is something else I want very much to ask you.
Johan: What is that?
Dina: I suppose it is easy to make a position for oneself over in
Johan: No, it is not always easy; at first you often have to
rough it and work very hard.
Dina: I should be quite ready to do that.
Dina: I can work now; I am strong and healthy; and Aunt Martha
taught me a lot.
Johan: Well, hang it, come back with us!
Dina: Ah, now you are only making fun of me; you said that to
Olaf too. But what I wanted to know is if people are so very--so
very moral over there?
Dina: Yes; I mean are they as--as proper and as well-behaved as
they are here?
Johan: Well, at all events they are not so bad as people here
make out. You need not be afraid on that score.
Dina: You don't understand me. What I want to hear is just that
they are not so proper and so moral.
Johan: Not? What would you wish them to be, then?
Dina: I would wish them to be natural.
Johan: Well, I believe that is just what they are.
Dina: Because in that case I should get on if I went there.
Johan: You would, for certain!--and that is why you must come
back with us.
Dina: No, I don't want to go with you; I must go alone. Oh, I
would make something of my life; I would get on--
Bernick (speaking to LONA and his wife at the foot of the garden
steps): Wait a moment--I will fetch it, Betty dear; you might so
easily catch cold. (Comes into the room and looks for his wife's
Mrs. Bernick (from outside): You must come out too, Johan; we are
going down to the grotto.
Bernick: No, I want Johan to stay here. Look here, Dina; you take
my wife's shawl and go with them. Johan is going to stay here
with me, Betty dear. I want to hear how he is getting on over
Mrs. Bernick: Very well--then you will follow us; you know where
you will find us. (MRS. BERNICK, LONA and DINA go out through the
garden, to the left. BERNICK looks after them for a moment, then
goes to the farther door on the left and locks it, after which he
goes up to JOHAN, grasps both his hands, and shakes them warmly.)
Bernick: Johan, now that we are alone, you must let me thank you.
Johan: Oh, nonsense!
Bernick: My home and all the happiness that it means to me--my
position here as a citizen--all these I owe to you.
Johan: Well, I am glad of it, Karsten; some good came of that mad
story after all, then.
Bernick (grasping his hands again): But still you must let me
thank you! Not one in ten thousand would have done what you did
Johan: Rubbish! Weren't we, both of us, young and thoughtless?
One of us had to take the blame, you know.
Bernick: But surely the guilty one was the proper one to do that?
Johan: Stop! At the moment the innocent one happened to be the
proper one to do it. Remember, I had no ties--I was an orphan; it
was a lucky chance to get free from the drudgery of the office.
You, on the other hand, had your old mother still alive; and,
besides that, you had just become secretly engaged to Betty, who
was devoted to you. What would have happened between you and her
if it had come to her ears?
Bernick: That is true enough, but still--
Johan: And wasn't it just for Betty's sake that you broke off
your acquaintance with Mrs. Dorf? Why, it was merely in order to
put an end to the whole thing that you were up there with her
Bernick: Yes, that unfortunate evening when that drunken creature
came home! Yes, Johan, it was for Betty's sake; but, all the
same, it was splendid of you to let all the appearances go
against you, and to go away.
Johan: Put your scruples to rest, my dear Karsten. We agreed that
it should be so; you had to be saved, and you were my friend. I
can tell you, I was uncommonly proud of that friendship. Here was
I, drudging away like a miserable stick-in-the-mud, when you came
back from your grand tour abroad, a great swell who had been to
London and to Paris; and you chose me for your chum, although I
was four years younger than you--it is true it was because you
were courting Betty, I understand that now--but I was proud of
it! Who would not have been? Who would not willingly have
sacrificed himself for you?--especially as it only meant a
month's talk in the town, and enabled me to get away into the
Bernick: Ah, my dear Johan, I must be candid and tell you that
the story is not so completely forgotten yet.
Johan: Isn't it? Well, what does that matter to me, once I am
back over there on my farm again?
Bernick: Then you mean to go back?
Johan: Of course.
Bernick: But not immediately, I hope?
Johan: As soon as possible. It was only to humour Lona that I
came over with her, you know.