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Pillars of Society

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Lona: You mean it?

Dina: Yes, take me with you. The other has written to me that he
means to announce to everyone this evening.

Johan: Dina--you do not love him?

Dina: I have never loved the man! I would rather drown myself in
the fjord than be engaged to him! Oh, how he humiliated me
yesterday with his condescending manner! How clear he made it
that he felt he was lifting up a poor despised creature to his
own level! I do not mean to be despised any longer. I mean to go
away. May I go with you?

Johan: Yes, yes--a thousand times, yes!

Dina: I will not be a burden to you long. Only help me to get
over there; help me to go the right way about things at first.

Johan: Hurrah, it is all right after all, Dina!

Lona (pointing to BERNICK'S door): Hush!--gently, gently!

Johan: Dina, I shall look after you.

Dina: I am not going to let you do that. I mean to look after
myself; over there, I am sure I can do that. Only let me get away
from here. Oh, these women!--you don't know--they have written to
me today, too--exhorting me to realise my good fortune--
impressing on me how magnanimous he has been. Tomorrow, and every
day afterwards, they would be watching me to see if I were making
myself worthy of it all. I am sick and tired of all this

Johan: Tell me, Dina--is that the only reason you are coming
away? Am l nothing to you?

Dina: Yes, Johan, you are more to me than any one else in the

Johan: Oh, Dina--!

Dina: Every one here tells me I ought to hate and detest you--
that it is my duty; but I cannot see that it is my duty, and
shall never be able to.

Lona: No more you shall, my dear!

Martha: No, indeed you shall not; and that is why you shall go
with him as his wife.

Johan: Yes, yes!

Lona: What? Give me a kiss, Martha. I never expected that from

Martha: No, I dare say not; I would not have expected it myself.
But I was bound to break out some time! Ah, what we suffer under
the tyranny of habit and custom! Make a stand against that, Dina.
Be his wife. Let me see you defy all this convention.

Johan: What is your answer, Dina?

Dina: Yes, I will be your wife.

Johan: Dina!

Dina: But first of all I want to work--to make something of
myself--as you have done. I am not going to be merely a thing
that is taken.

Lona: Quite right--that is the way.

Johan: Very well; I shall wait and hope-

Lona: And win, my boy! But now you must get on board!

Johan: Yes, on board! Ah, Lona, my dear sister, just one word
with you. Look here-- (He takes her into the background and talks
hurriedly to her.)

Martha: Dina, you lucky girl, let me look at you, and kiss you
once more--for the last time.

Dina: Not for the last time; no, my darling aunt, we shall meet

Martha: Never! Promise me, Dina, never to come back! (Grasps her
hands and looks at her.) Now go to your happiness, my dear child-
-across the sea. How often, in my schoolroom, I have yearned to
be over there! It must be beautiful; the skies are loftier than
here--a freer air plays about your head--

Dina: Oh, Aunt Martha, some day you will follow us.

Martha: I? Never--never. I have my little vocation here, and now
I really believe I can live to the full the life that I ought.

Dina: I cannot imagine being parted from you.

Martha: Ah, one can part from much, Dina. (Kisses her.) But I
hope you may never experience that, my sweet child. Promise me to
make him happy.

Dina: I will promise nothing; I hate promises; things must happen
as they will.

Martha: Yes, yes, that is true; only remain what you are--true
and faithful to yourself.

Dina: I will, aunt.

Lona (putting into her pocket some papers that JOHAN has given
her): Splendid, splendid, my dear boy. But now you must be off.

Johan: Yes, we have no time to waste now. Goodbye, Lona, and
thank you for all your love. Goodbye, Martha, and thank you,
too, for your loyal friendship.

Martha: Goodbye, Johan! Goodbye, Dina! And may you be happy all
your lives! (She and LONA hurry them to the door at the back.
JOHAN and DINA go quickly down the steps and through the garden.
LONA shuts the door and draws the curtains over it.)

Lona: Now we are alone, Martha. You have lost her and I him.

Martha: You--lost him?

Lona: Oh, I had already half lost him over there. The boy was
longing to stand on his own feet; that was why I pretended to be
suffering from homesickness.

Martha: So that was it? Ah, then I understand why you came. But
he will want you back, Lona.

Lona: An old step-sister--what use will he have for her now? Men
break many very dear ties to win their happiness.

Martha: That sometimes is so.

Lona: But we two will stick together, Martha.

Martha: Can I be anything to you?

Lona: Who more so? We two foster-sisters--haven't we both lost
our children? Now we are alone.

Martha: Yes, alone. And therefore, you ought to know this too--I
loved him more than anything in the world.

Lona: Martha! (Grasps her by the arm.) Is that true?

Martha: All my existence lies in those words. I have loved him
and waited for him. Every summer I waited for him to come. And
then he came--but he had no eyes for me.

Lona: You loved him! And it was you yourself that put his
happiness into his hands.

Martha: Ought I not to be the one to put his happiness into his
hands, since I loved him? Yes, I have loved him. All my life has
been for him, ever since he went away. What reason had I to hope,
you mean? Oh, I think I had some reason, all the same. But when
he came back--then it seemed as if everything had been wiped out
of his memory. He had no eyes for me.

Lona: It was Dina that overshadowed you, Martha?

Martha: And it is a good thing she did. At the time he went away,
we were of the same age; but when I saw him again--oh, that
dreadful moment!--I realised that now I was ten years older than
he. He had gone out into the bright sparkling sunshine, and
breathed in youth and health with every breath; and here I sat
meanwhile, spinning and spinning--

Lona: Spinning the thread of his happiness, Martha.

Martha: Yes, it was a golden thread I spun. No bitterness! We
have been two good sisters to him, haven't we, Lona?

Lona (throwing her arms round her): Martha!

(BERNICK comes in from his room.)

Bernick (to the other men, who are in his room): Yes, yes,
arrange it any way you please. When the time comes, I shall be
able to--. (Shuts the door.) Ah, you are here. Look here, Martha-
-I think you had better change your dress; and tell Betty to do
the same. I don't want anything elaborate, of course--something
homely, but neat. But you must make haste.

Lona: And a bright, cheerful face, Martha; your eyes must look

Bernick: Olaf is to come downstairs too; I will have him beside

Lona: Hm! Olaf.

Martha: I will give Betty your message. (Goes out by the farther
door on the left.)

Lona: Well, the great and solemn moment is at hand.

Bernick (walking uneasily up and down): Yes, it is.

Lona: At such a moment I should think a man would feel proud and

Bernick (looking at her): Hm!

Lona: I hear the whole town is to be illuminated.

Bernick: Yes, they have some idea of that sort.

Lona: All the different clubs will assemble with their banners--
your name will blaze out in letters of fire--tonight the
telegraph will flash the news to every part of the country: "In
the bosom of his happy family, Mr. Bernick received the homage of
his fellow citizens, as one of the pillars of society."

Bernick: That is so; and they will begin to cheer outside, and
the crowd will shout in front of my house until I shall be
obliged to go out and bow to them and thank them.

Lona: Obliged to?

Bernick. Do you suppose I shall feel happy at that moment?

Lona: No, I don't suppose you will feel so very happy.

Bernick: Lona, you despise me.

Lona: Not yet.

Bernick: And you have no right to; no right to despise me! Lona,
you can have no idea how utterly alone I stand in this cramped
and stunted community--where I have had, year after year, to
stifle my ambition for a fuller life. My work may seem many-
sided, but what have I really accomplished? Odds and ends--
scraps. They would not stand anything else here. If I were to go
a step in advance of the opinions and views that are current at
the moment, I should lose all my influence. Do you know what we
are--we who are looked upon as pillars of society? We are nothing
more, nor less, than the tools of society.

Lona: Why have you only begun to realise that now?

Bernick: Because I have been thinking a great deal lately--since
you came back--and this evening I have thought more seriously
than ever before. Oh, Lona, why did not I really know you then--
in the old days, I mean?

Lona: And if you had?

Bernick: I should never have let you go; and, if I had had you, I
should not be in the position I am in tonight.

Lona: And do you never consider what she might have been to you--
she whom you chose in my place?

Bernick: I know, at all events, that she has been nothing to me
of what I needed.

Lona: Because you have never shared your interests with her;
because you have never allowed her full and frank exchange of
thoughts with you; because you have allowed her to be borne under
by self-reproach for the shame you cast upon one who was dear to

Bernick: Yes, yes; it all comes from lying and deceit.

Lona: Then why not break with all this lying and deceit?

Bernick: Now? It is too late now, Lona.

Lona: Karsten, tell me--what gratification does all this show and
deception bring you?

Bernick: It brings me none. I must disappear someday, and all
this community of bunglers with me. But a generation is growing
up that will follow us; it is my son that I work for--I am
providing a career for him. There will come a time when truth
will enter into the life of the community, and on that foundation
he shall build up a happier existence than his father.

Lona: With a lie at the bottom of it all? Consider what sort of
an inheritance it is that you are leaving to your son.

Bernick (in tones of suppressed despair): It is a thousand times
worse than you think. But surely some day the curse must be
lifted; and yet--nevertheless--. (Vehemently.) How could I bring
all this upon my own head! Still, it is done now; I must go on
with it now. You shall not succeed in crushing me! (HILMAR comes
in hurriedly and agitatedly from the right, with an open letter
in his hand.)

Hilmar: But this is--Betty, Betty.

Bernick: What is the matter? Are they coming already?

Hilmar: No, no--but I must speak to some one immediately. (Goes
out through the farther door on the left.)

Lona: Karsten, you talk about our having come here to crush you.
So let me tell you what sort of stuff this prodigal son, whom
your moral community shuns as if he had the plague, is made of.
He can do without any of you--for he is away now.

Bernick: But he said he meant to come back

Lona: Johan will never come back. He is gone for good, and Dina
with him.

Bernick: Never come back?--and Dina with him?

Lona: Yes, to be his wife. That is how these two strike your
virtuous community in the face, just as I did once--but never
mind that.

Bernick: Gone--and she too--in the "Indian Girl"--

Lona: No; he would not trust so precious a freight to that
rascally crew. Johan and Dina are on the "Palm Tree."

Bernick: Ah! Then it is all in vain-- (Goes hurriedly to the door
of his room, opens it and calls in.) Krap, stop the "Indian
Girl"--she must not sail tonight!

Krap (from within): The "Indian Girl" is already standing out to
sea, Mr. Bernick.

Bernick (shutting the door and speaking faintly): Too late--and
all to no purpose--

Lona: What do you mean?

Bernick: Nothing, nothing. Leave me alone!

Lona: Hm!--look here, Karsten. Johan was good enough to say that
he entrusted to me the good name and reputation that he once lent
to you, and also the good name that you stole from him while he
was away. Johan will hold his tongue; and I can act just as I
please in the matter. See, I have two letters in my hand.

Bernick: You have got them! And you mean now--this very evening-
perhaps when the procession comes--

Lona: I did not come back here to betray you, but to stir your
conscience so that you should speak of your own free will. I did
not succeed in doing that--so you must remain as you are, with
your life founded upon a lie. Look, I am tearing your two letters
in pieces. Take the wretched things--there you are. Now there is no
evidence against you, Karsten. You are safe now; be happy, too--if
you can.

Bernick (much moved): Lona--why did you not do that sooner!
Now it is too late; life no longer seems good to me; I cannot
live on after today.

Lona: What has happened?

Bernick: Do not ask me--But I must live on, nevertheless! I will
live--for Olaf's sake. He shall make amends for everything--expiate

Lona: Karsten--! (HILMAR comes hurriedly back.)

Hilmar: I cannot find anyone; they are all out--even Betty!

Bernick: What is the matter with you?

Hilmar: I daren't tell you.

Bernick: What is it? You must tell me!

Hilmar: Very well--Olaf has run away, on board the "Indian Girl."

Bernick (stumbling back): Olaf--on board the "Indian Girl"! No, no!

Lona: Yes, he is! Now I understand--I saw him jump out of the window.

Bernick (calls in through the door of his room in a despairing voice):
Krap, stop the "Indian Girl" at any cost!

Krap: It is impossible, sir. How can you suppose--?

Bernick: We must stop her; Olaf is on board!

Krap: What!

Rummel (coming out of BERNICK'S room): Olaf, run away? Impossible!

Sandstad (following him): He will be sent back with the pilot, Mr.

Hilmar: No, no; he has written to me. (Shows the letter.) He says he
means to hide among the cargo till they are in the open sea.

Bernick: I shall never see him again!

Rummel: What nonsense!--a good strong ship, newly repaired...

Vigeland (who has followed the others out of BERNICK'S room): And in
your own yard, Mr. Bernick!

Bernick: I shall never see him again, I tell you. I have lost him,
Lona; and--I see it now--he never was really mine. (Listens.) What is

Rummel: Music. The procession must be coming.

Bernick. I cannot take any part in it--I will not.

Rummel: What are you thinking of! That is impossible.

Sandstad: Impossible, Mr. Bernick; think what you have at stake.

Bernick: What does it all matter to me now? What have I to work for

Rummel: Can you ask? You have us and the community.

Vigeland: Quite true.

Sandstad: And surely, Mr. Bernick, you have not forgotten that
we--.(MARTHA comes in through the farther door to the left. Music
is heard in the distance, down the street.)

Martha: The procession is just coming, but Betty is not in the house. I
don't understand where she--

Bernick: Not in the house! There, you see, Lona--no support to me,
either in gladness or in sorrow.

Rummel: Draw back the curtains! Come and help me, Mr. Krap--and you,
Mr. Sandstad. It is a thousand pities that the family should not be
united just now; it is quite contrary to the program. (They draw back
all the curtains. The whole street is seen to be illuminated. Opposite
the house is a large transparency, bearing the words: "Long live
Karsten Bernick, Pillar of our Society ")

Bernick (shrinking back): Take all that away! I don't want to see it!
Put it out, put it out!

Rummel: Excuse me, Mr. Bernick, but are you not well?

Martha: What is the matter with him, Lona?

Lona: Hush! (Whispers to her.)

Bernick: Take away those mocking words, I tell you! Can't you see that
all these lights are grinning at us?

Rummel: Well, really, I must confess--

Bernick: Oh, how could you understand--! But I, I--! It is all like
candles in a dead-room!

Rummel: Well, let me tell you that you are taking the thing a great
deal too seriously.

Sandstad: The boy will enjoy a trip across the Atlantic, and then you
will have him back.

Vigeland: Only put your trust in the Almighty, Mr. Bernick.

Rummel: And in the vessel, Bernick; it is not likely to sink, I know.

Krap: Hm--

Rummel: Now if it were one of those floating coffins that one hears are
sent out by men in the bigger countries--

Bernick: I am sure my hair must be turning grey--

(MRS. BERNICK comes in from the garden, with a shawl thrown over her

Mrs. Bernick: Karsten, Karsten, do you know--?

Bernick: Yes. I know; but you--you, who see nothing that is going
on--you, who have no mother's eyes for your son--!

Mrs. Bernick: Listen to me, do!

Bernick: Why did you not look after him? Now I have lost him. Give him
back to me, if you can.

Mrs. Bernick: I can! I have got him.

Bernick: You have got him!

The Men: Ah!

Hilmar: Yes, I thought so.

Martha: You have got him back, Karsten.

Lona: Yes--make him your own, now.

Bernick: You have got him! Is that true? Where is he?

Mrs. Bernick: I shall not tell you, till you have forgiven him.

Bernick: Forgiven! But how did you know--?

Mrs. Bernick: Do you not think a mother sees? I was in mortal fear of
your getting to know anything about it. Some words he let fall
yesterday--and then his room was empty, and his knapsack and
clothes missing...

Bernick: Yes, yes?

Mrs. Bernick: I ran, and got hold of Aune; we went out in his boat;
the American ship was on the point of sailing. Thank God, we were in
time--got on board--searched the hold--found him! Oh, Karsten, you
must not punish him!

Bernick: Betty!

Mrs. Bernick: Nor Aune, either!

Bernick: Aune? What do you know about him? Is the "Indian Girl" under
sail again?

Mrs. Bernick: No, that is just it.

Bernick: Speak, speak!

Mrs. Bernick: Aune was just as agitated as I was; the search took us
some time; it had grown dark, and the pilot made objections; and so
Aune took upon himself--in your name--

Bernick: Well?

Mrs. Bernick: To stop the ship's sailing till tomorrow.

Krap: Hm--

Bernick: Oh, how glad I am!

Mrs. Bernick: You are not angry?

Bernick: I cannot tell you how glad I am, Betty

Rummel: You really take things far too seriously.

Hilmar: Oh yes, as soon as it is a question of a little struggle with
the elements--ugh!

Krap (going to the window): The procession is just coming through your
garden gate, Mr. Bernick.

Bernick: Yes, they can come now.

Rummel: The whole garden is full of people.

Sandstad: The whole street is crammed.

Rummel: The whole town is afoot, Bernick. It really is a moment that
makes one proud.

Vigeland: Let us take it in a humble spirit, Mr. Rummel.

Rummel: All the banners are out! What a procession! Here comes the
committee with Mr. Rorlund at their head.

Bernick: Yes, let them come in!

Rummel: But, Bernick--in your present agitated frame of mind--

Bernick: Well, what?

Rummel: I am quite willing to speak instead of you, if you like.

Bernick: No, thank you; I will speak for myself tonight.

Rummel: But are you sure you know what to say?

Bernick: Yes, make your mind easy, Rummel--I know now what to say.

(The music grows louder. The verandah door is opened. RORLUND
comes in, at the head of the Committee, escorted by a couple of
hired waiters, who carry a covered basket. They are followed by
townspeople of all classes, as many as can get into the room. An
apparently endless crowd of people, waving banners and flags, are
visible in the garden and the street.)

Rorlund: Mr. Bernick! I see, from the surprise depicted upon your face,
that it is as unexpected guests that we are intruding upon your
happyfamily circle and your peaceful fireside, where we find you
surrounded by honoured and energetic fellow citizens and friends. But
it is our hearts that have bidden us come to offer you our homage--not
for the first time, it is true, but for the first time on such a
comprehensive scale. We have on many occasions given you our thanks
for the broad moral foundation upon which you have, so to speak, reared
the edifice of our community. On this occasion we offer our homage
especially to the clear-sighted, indefatigable, unselfish--nay,
self-sacrificing citizen who has taken the initiative in an undertaking
which, we are assured on all sides, will give a powerful impetus to the
temporal prosperity and welfare of our community.

Voices: Bravo, bravo!

Rorlund: You, sir, have for many years been a shining example in our
midst. This is not the place for me to speak of your family life, which
has been a model to us all; still less to enlarge upon your unblemished
personal character. Such topics belong to the stillness of a man's own
chamber, not to a festal occasion such as this! I am here to speak of
your public life as a citizen, as it lies open to all men's eyes.
Well-equipped vessels sail away from your shipyard and carry our flag
far and wide over the seas. A numerous and happy band of workmen
look up to you as to a father. By calling new branches of industry into

existence, you have laid the foundations of the welfare of hundreds of
In a word--you are, in the fullest sense of the term, the mainstay of
our community.

Voices: Hear, hear! Bravo!

Rorlund: And, sir, it is just that disinterestedness, which colours all
your conduct, that is so beneficial to our community--more so than
words can express--and especially at the present moment. You are now on
the point of procuring for us what I have no hesitation in calling
bluntly by its prosaic name--a railway!

Voices: Bravo, bravo!

Rorlund: But it would seem as though the undertaking were beset by
certain difficulties, the outcome of narrow and selfish considerations.

Voices: Hear, hear!

Rorlund: For the fact has come to light that certain individuals, who
do not belong to our community, have stolen a march upon the hard-
working citizens of this place, and have laid hands on certain sources
of profit which by rights should have fallen to the share of our town.

Voices: That's right! Hear, hear!

Rorlund: This regrettable fact has naturally come to your knowledge
also, Mr. Bernick. But it has not had the slightest effect in deterring
you from proceeding steadily with your project, well knowing that a
patriotic man should not solely take local interests into

Voices: Oh!--No, no!--Yes, yes!

Rorlund: It is to such a man--to the patriot citizen, whose character
we all should emulate--that we bring our homage this evening. May your
undertaking grow to be a real and lasting source of good fortune to
this community! It is true enough that a railway may be the means of
our exposing ourselves to the incursion of pernicious influences from
without; but it gives us also the means of quickly expelling them from
within. For even we, at the present time, cannot boast of being
entirely free from the danger of such outside influences;but as we
have, on this very evening--if rumour is to be believed--fortunately
got rid of certain elements of that nature, sooner than was to be

Voices: Order, order!

Rorlund:--I regard the occurrence as a happy omen for our undertaking.
My alluding to such a thing at such a moment only emphasises the fact
that the house in which we are now standing is one where the claims of
morality are esteemed even above ties of family.

Voices: Hear, hear! Bravo!

Bernick (at the same moment): Allow me--

Rorlund: I have only a few more words to say, Mr. Bernick. What you
have done for your native place we all know has not been done with any
underlying idea of its bringing tangible profit to yourself. But,
nevertheless, you must not refuse to accept a slight token of grateful
appreciation at the hands of your fellow-citizens--least of all at this
important moment when, according to the assurances of practical men, we
are standing on the threshold of a new era.

Voices: Bravo! Hear, hear!

(RORLUND aigns to the servants, who bring forward the basket. During
the following speech, members of the Committee take out and present the
various objects mentioned.)

Rorlund: And so, Mr. Bernick, we have the pleasure of presenting you
with this silver coffee-service. Let it grace your board when in the
future, as so often in the past, we have the happiness of being
assembled under your hospitable roof.
You, too, gentlemen, who have so generously seconded the leader of our
community, we ask to accept a small souvenir.
This silver goblet is for you, Mr. Rummel. Many a time have you, amidst
the clink of glasses, defended the interests of your fellow-citizens in
well-chosen words; may you often find similar worthy opportunities to
raise and empty this goblet in some patriotic toast!
To you, Mr. Sandstad, I present this album containing photographs of
your fellow-citizens. Your well-known and conspicuous liberality has
put you in the pleasant position of being able to number your friends
amongst all classes of society.
And to you, Mr. Vigeland, I have to offer this book of Family
Devotions, printed on vellum and handsomely bound, to grace your study
table. The mellowing influence of time has led you to take an earnest
view of life; your zeal in carrying out your daily duties has, for a
long period of years, been purified and enobled by thoughts of higher
and holier things. (Turns to the crowd.) And now, friends, three cheers
for Mr. Bernick and his fellow-workers! Three cheers for the Pillars of
our Society!

The whole crowd: Bernick! Pillars of Society! Hurrah-hurrah-hurrah!

Lona: I congratulate you, brother-in-law.

(An expectant hush follows.)

Bernick (speaking seriously and slowly): Fellow citizens--your
spokesman said just now that tonight we are standing on the threshold
of a new era. I hope that will prove to be the case. But before that
can come to pass, we must lay fast hold of truth--truth which, till
tonight, has been altogether and in all circumstances a stranger to
this community of ours. (Astonishment among the audience.) To that end,
I must begin by deprecating the praises with which you, Mr. Rorlund,
according to custom on such occasions, have overwhelmed me. I do
not deserve them; because, until today, my actions have by no means
been disinterested. Even though I may not always have aimed at
pecuniary profit, I at all events recognise now that a craving for
power, influence and position has been the moving spirit of most of my

Rummel (half aloud): What next!

Bernick: Standing before my fellow citizens, I do not reproach myself
for that; because I still think I am entitled to a place in the front
rank of our capable men of affairs.

Voices: Yes, yes, yes!

Bernick: But what I charge myself with is that I have so often been
weak enough to resort to deceitfulness, because I knew and feared the
tendency of the community to espy unclean motives behind everything a
prominent man here undertakes. And now I am coming to a point which
will illustrate that.

Rummel (uneasily): Hm-hm!

Bernick: There have been rumours of extensive purchases of property
outside the town. These purchases have been made by me--by me alone,
and by no one else. (Murmurs are heard: "What does he say?--He?--
Bernick?") The properties are, for the time being, in my hands.
Naturally I have confided in my fellow-workers, Mr. Rummel, Mr.
Vigeland and Mr. Sandstad, and we are all agreed that--

Rummel: It is not true! Prove it--prove it!

Vigeland: We are not all agreed about anything!

Sandstad: Well, really I must say--!

Bernick: That is quite true--we are not yet agreed upon the matter I
was going to mention. But I confidently hope that these three gentlemen
will agree with me when I announce to you that I have tonight come to
the decision that these properties shall be exploited as a company of
which the shares shall be offered for public subscription; any one that
wishes can take shares.

Voices: Hurrah! Three cheers for Bernick!

Rummel (in a low voice, to BERNICK): This is the basest treachery--!

Sandstad (also in an undertone): So you have been fooling us!

Vigeland: Well, then, devil take--! Good Lord, what am I saying?
(Cheers are heard without.)

Bernick: Silence, gentlemen. I have no right to this homage you offer
me; because the decision I have just come to does not represent what
was my first intention. My intention was to keep the whole thing for
myself; and, even now, I am of opinion that these properties would be
worked to best advantage if they remained in one man's hands. But you
are at liberty to choose. If you wish it, I am willing to administer
them to the best of my abilities.

Voices: Yes, yes, yes!

Bernick: But, first of all, my fellow townsmen must know me thoroughly.
And let each man seek to know himself thoroughly, too; and so let it
really come to pass that tonight we begin a new era. The old era--with
its affectation, its hypocrisy and its emptiness, its pretence of
virtue and its miserable fear of public opinion--shall be for us like a
museum, open for purposes of instruction; and to that museum we will
present--shall we not, gentlemen?--the coffee service, and the goblet,
and the album, and the Family Devotions printed on vellum, and
handsomely bound.

Rummel: Oh, of course.

Vigeland (muttering): If you have taken everything else, then--

Sandstad: By all means.

Bernick: And now for the principal reckoning I have to make with the
community. Mr. Rorlund said that certain pernicious elements had left
us this evening. I can add what you do not yet know. The man referred
to did not go away alone; with him, to become his wife, went--

Lona (loudly): Dina Dorf!

Rorlund: What?

Mrs. Bernick: What? (Great commotion.)

Rorlund: Fled? Run away--with him! Impossible!

Bernick: To become his wife, Mr. Rorlund. And I will add more. (In a
low voice, to his wife.) Betty, be strong to bear what is coming.
(Aloud.) This is what I have to say : hats off to that man, for he has
nobly taken another's guilt upon his shoulders. My friends, I want to
have done with falsehood; it has very nearly poisoned every fibre of my
being. You shall know all. Fifteen years ago, I was the guilty man.

Mrs. Bernick (softly and tremblingly): Karsten!

Martha (similarly): Ah, Johan--!

Lona: Now at last you have found yourself!

(Speechless consternation among the audience.)

Bernick: Yes, friends, I was the guilty one, and he went away. The vile
and lying rumours that were spread abroad afterwards, it is beyond
human power to refute now; but I have no right to complain of that. For
fifteen years I have climbed up the ladder of success by the help of
those rumours; whether now they are to cast me down again, or not, each
of you must decide in his own mind.

Rorlund: What a thunderbolt! Our leading citizen--! (In a low voice, to
BETTY.) How sorry I am for you, Mrs. Bernick!

Hilmar: What a confession! Well, I must say--!

Bernick: But come to no decision tonight. I entreat every one to go
home--to collect his thoughts--to look into his own heart. When once
more you can think calmly, then it will be seen whether I have lost or
won by speaking out. Goodbye! I have still much--very much--to repent
of; but that concerns my own conscience only. Good night! Take away all
these signs of rejoicing. We must all feel that they are out of place

Rorlund: That they certainly are. (In an undertone to MRS. BERNICK.)
Run away! So then she was completely unworthy of me. (Louder, to the
Committee.) Yes, gentlemen, after this I think we had better disperse
as quietly as possible.

Hilmar: How, after this, any one is to manage to hold the Ideal's
banner high--Ugh!

(Meantime the news has been whispered from mouth to mouth. The crowd
gradually disperses from the garden. RUMMEL, SANDSTAD and VIGELAND go
out, arguing eagerly but in a low voice. HILMAR slinks away to the
right. When silence is restored, there only remain in the room BERNICK,

Bernick: Betty, can you forgive me?

Mrs. Bernick (looking at him with a smile): Do you know, Karsten, that
you have opened out for me the happiest prospect I have had for many a

Bernick: How?

Mrs. Bernick: For many years, I have felt that once you were mine and
that I had lost you. Now I know that you never have been mine yet; but
I shall win you.

Bernick (folding her in his arms): Oh, Betty, you have won me. It was
through Lona that I first learned really to know you. But now let Olaf
come to me.

Mrs. Bernick: Yes, you shall have him now. Mr. Krap--! (Talks softly to
KRAP in the background. He goes out by the garden door. During what
follows, the illuminations and lights in the houses are gradually

Bernick (in a low voice): Thank you, Lona--you have saved what was best
in me--and for me.

Lona: Do you suppose I wanted to do anything else?

Bernick: Yes, was that so--or not? I cannot quite make you out.

Lona: Hm--

Bernick: Then it was not hatred? Not revenge? Why did you come back,

Lona: Old friendship does not rust.

Bernick: Lona!

Lona: When Johan told me about the lie, I swore to myself that the hero
of my youth should stand free and true.

Bernick: What a wretch I am!--and how little I have deserved it of you!

Lona. Oh, if we women always looked for what we deserve, Karsten--!
(AUNE comes in with OLAF from the garden.)

Bernick (going to meet them): Olaf!

Olaf: Father, I promise I will never do it again--

Bernick: Never run away?

Olaf: Yes, yes, I promise you, father.

Bernick: And I promise you, you shall never have reason to. For the
future you shall be allowed to grow up, not as the heir to my life's
work, but as one who has his own life's work before him.

Olaf: And shall I be allowed to be what I like, when I grow up?

Bernick: Yes.

Olaf. Oh, thank you! Then I won't be a pillar of society.

Bernick: No? Why not?

Olaf: No--I think it must be so dull.

Bernick: You shall be yourself, Olaf; the rest may take care of
itself--And you, Aune...

Aune: I know, Mr. Bernick; I am dismissed.

Bernick: We remain together, Aune; and forgive me.

Aune: What? The ship has not sailed tonight.

Bernick: Nor will it sail tomorrow, either. I gave you too short grace.
It must be looked to more thoroughly.

Aune: It shall, Mr. Bernick--and with the new machines!

Bernick: By all means--but thoroughly and conscientiously. There are
many among us who need thorough and conscientious repairs, Aune. Well,
good night.

Aune: Good-night, sir--and thank you, thank you. (Goes out.)

Mrs. Bernick: Now they are all gone.

Bernick: And we are alone. My name is not shining in letters of fire
any longer; all the lights in the windows are out.

Lona: Would you wish them lit again?

Bernick: Not for anything in the world. Where have I been! You would be

horrified if you knew. I feel now as if I had come back to my right
senses, after being poisoned. But I feel this that I can be young and
healthy again. Oh, come nearer--come closer round me. Come, Betty!
Come, Olaf, my boy! And you, Martha--it seems to me as if I had never
seen you all these years.

Lona: No, I can believe that. Your community is a community of bachelor
souls; you do not see women.

Bernick: That is quite true; and for that very reason--this is a
bargain, Lona--you must not leave Betty and me.

Mrs. Bernick: No, Lona, you must not.

Lona: No, how could I have the heart to go away and leave you young
people who are just setting up housekeeping? Am I not your
foster-mother? You and I, Martha, the two old aunts-- What are you
looking at?

Martha: Look how the sky is clearing, and how light it is over the sea.
The "Palm Tree" is going to be lucky.

Lona: It carries its good luck on board.

Bernick: And we--we have a long earnest day of work ahead of us; I most
of all. But let it come; only keep close round me you true, loyal
women. I have learned this too, in these last few days; it is you women
that are the pillars of society.

Lona: You have learned a poor sort of wisdom, then, brother-in-law.
(Lays her hand firmly upon his shoulder.) No, my friend; the spirit of
truth and the spirit of freedom--they are the pillars of society.

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