Part 1 out of 4
E-text prepared by Nicole Apostola
by AUGUST STRINDBERG
Translated by Edith and Warner Oland
To M. C. S. and J. H. S.,
Under whose rooftree these translations were made.
A Tragedy in III Acts.
A Tragedy in I Act.
A play in I Act.
An Episode in I Scene.
Since the accompanying biographical note, which aims solely at
outlining the principal events of Strindberg's life up to 1912, was
put in type, the news of his death from cancer, at Stockholm on
May 14, 1912, has been reported.
Of the plays included in the present volume, "The Father" and
"Countess Julie" are representative of Strindberg's high water mark
in dramatic technique and have successfully maintained their claim
to a permanent place, not only in dramatic literature, but, as
"The Stronger," than which no better example of Strindberg's
uncanny power for analysis of the female mind exists, while
essentially a chamber play, is from time to time presented at the
theatre, and affords a splendid test of the dramatic ability of the
actors, only one of whom speaks. The author has boldly thrown on
the other the burden of maintaining her share in the development of
the action by pantomime, facial expression, and an occasional
"The Outlaw," although inferior in construction to the others, is
still played with success and is full of dignity and atmosphere.
The important part it played in promoting the fortunes of the
author lends to it an added interest which fully justifies its
inclusion in this volume.
"I tell you, you must have chaos in you, if you would give birth to
a dancing star." --Nietzsche.
In Stockholm, living almost as a recluse, August Strindberg is
dreaming life away. The dancing stars, sprung from the chaos of his
being, shine with an ever-increasing refulgence from the high-arched
dome of dramatic literature, but he no longer adds to their number.
The constellation of the Lion of the North is complete.
At sixty-three, worn by the emotional intensity of a life, into
which has been crowded the stress and storm of a universe, he sits
at his desk, every day transcribing to his diary a record of those
mystical forces which he says regulate his life.
Before him lies a crucifix, Hardly as a symbol of sectarian faith,
for Strindberg is a Swedenborgian, but a fitting accompaniment,
nevertheless, to a state of mind which he expresses in saying "One
gets more and more humble the longer one lives, and in the shadow
of death many things look different." A softer light beams from
those blue eyes, which, under that tossing crown of tawny hair
flung high from a speaking forehead, in times past flashed defiance
at every opposition. For him the fierce, unyielding, never-ceasing,
ever-pressing strife of mind and unrest of life is passing, an eddy
in the tide has borne him into quieter waters, and if the hum of
the world reaches his solitude, it no longer rouses him to headlong
Secure in his position as the foremost man of letters Sweden has
produced in modern times, the last representative of that
distinguished group of Scandinavian writers which included Ibsen,
Bjornson and Brandes, with a Continental reputation surpassing that
of any one of them, Strindberg well may be entitled to dream of the
One day when in the evolution of the drama Strindberg's technique
shall have served its purpose and like Ibsen's, be forced to give
way before the advance of younger artists, when his most radical
views shall have become the commonplaces of pseudo-culture, the
scientific psychologist will take the man in hand and, from the
minute record of his life, emotions, thoughts, fancies,
speculations and nightmares, which he has embodied in
autobiographical novels and that most remarkable perhaps of all his
creations, abysmal in its pessimism, "The Inferno," will be drawn a
true conception of the man.
That the individual will prove quite as interesting a study as his
literary work, even the briefest outline of Strindberg's life will
The lack of harmony in his soul that has permeated his life and
work with theses and antitheses Strindberg tries to explain through
heredity, a by no means satisfying or complete solution for the
motivation of his frequently unusual conduct and exceptional
temperamental qualities, which the abnormal psychologist is in the
habit of associating with that not inconsiderable group of cases in
which the emotional and temperamental characteristics of the
opposite sex are dominant in the individual. His ancestry has been
traced back to the sixteenth century, when his father's family was
of the titled aristocracy, later, generation after generation,
becoming churchmen, although Strindberg's father, Carl Oscar,
undertook a commercial career. His mother, Ulrica Eleanora Norling,
was the daughter of a poor tailor, whom Strindberg's father first
met as a waitress in a hotel, and, falling in love with her,
married, after she had borne him three children.
August, christened Johann August, the fourth child, was born at
Stockholm, January 22, 1849, soon after his father had become a
bankrupt. There was little light or cheer in the boy's home; the
misfortune that overtook the family at the time of August's birth
always hung over them like a dark cloud; the mother became nervous
and worn from the twelve child-births she survived, the father
serious and reserved. The children were brought up strictly and as
August was no favorite, loneliness and hostility filled even his
His first school days were spent among boys of the better class,
who turned up their noses at his leather breeches and heavy boots.
He was taken away from that school and sent where there was a lower
class of boys, whose leader he soon became, but in his studies he
was far from precocious, though not dull.
As he grew up the family fortunes bettered, and he attended a
private school patronized by cultivated and wealthy people. Mixing
so with both classes meant much in the development of the youth,
and he began to realize that he belonged to both and neither, felt
homeless, torn in his sympathies and antipathies, plebian and
aristocratic at the same time. In his thirteenth year, his mother
died, a loss for which his father was apparently soon consoled, as
in less than a year he married his housekeeper. This was another
blow to the boy, for he disliked the woman, and there was soon war
At fifteen he fell in love with it woman of thirty of very
religious character, and its this was a period of fervent belief
with the youth himself, she became an influence in his life for
Home time, but one day a young comrade asked him to luncheon at a
cafe, and for the first time Strindberg partook of schnaps and ale
with a hearty meal. This little luncheon was the event which broke
up the melancholy introspection of his youth and stirred him to
He went to Upsala University for one term and then left, partly on
account of the lack of funds for books, and partly because the
slow, pedantic methods of learning were distasteful to his
restless, active nature. He then became a school teacher; next
interested in medical science, which he studied energetically,
until the realities of suffering drove him from it. About this
time, the same time, by the way, that Ibsen's "The League of Youth"
was being hissed down at Christiana, the creative artist in
Strindberg began to stir, and after six months more of turmoil of
soul, he turned to the stage as a possible solution, making his
debut at the Dramatiska Theatre in 1869 in Bjornson's "Mary
Stuart," in the part of a lord with one line to speak. After two
months of no advancement he found courage to ask to be heard in one
of the classical roles he had been studying.
The director, tired from a long rehearsal, reluctantly consented to
listen to him, likewise, the bored company of actors. Strindberg
went on "to do or die," and was soon shouting like a revivalist,
and made such it bad impression that he was advised to go to the
dramatic school to study. He went home disgusted and heartsick,
and, determined to take his life, swallowed an opium pill which he
had long been keeping for that purpose.
However, it was not sufficiently powerful, and, a friend coming to
see him, he was persuaded to go out, and together they drowned his
chagrin in an evening at it cafe.
The day after was a memorable one, for it was Strindberg's birthday
as a dramatist. He was lying on a sofa at home, his body still hot
from the shame of his defeat--and wine, trying to figure out how he
could persuade his stepmother to effect a reconciliation between
him and his father. He saw the scenes played as clearly as though
on a stage, and with his brain working at high pressure, in two
hours had the scheme for two acts of a comedy worked out. In four
days it was finished--Strindberg's first play! It was refused
production, but he was complimented, and felt that his honor was
The fever of writing took possession of him and within two months
he had finished two comedies, and a tragedy in verse called
"Hermione," which was later produced. Giving so much promise as a
dramatist he was persuaded to leave the stage and, unwilling of
spirit, returned to Upsala in the spring of 1870, as he was advised
that he would never he recognized as a writer unless he had secured
is university degree. The means with which to continue his studies
were derived from the two hundred crowns left him by his mother,
which he now forced his father to allow him to use. Despite this,
however, his fortunes often ran to the lowest ebb.
One day Strindberg announced that he had a one act play called "In
Rome" to read to the "Runa" (Song) Club, a group of six students
whom he had gotten together, and which was devoted exclusively to
the reading of the poetry of its members. The play, based upon an
incident in the life of Thorvaldsen, was received enthusiastically
by the "Runa," and the rest of the night was spent in high talk of
Strindberg's future over a champagne supper in his honor given by
one of the well-to-do members. These days of homage and
appreciation from this student group Strindberg cherishes as the
happiest time in his life, but notwithstanding their worshipful
attitude, he himself was full of doubts and misgivings about his
One of these friends sent the manuscript of "In Rome" to the
Dramatiska Theatre at Stockholm, where it was accepted and produced
anonymously in August of the same year, 1870. Strindberg was
present at the premiere and although it was well received, to him
it was all a fine occasion--except the play! He was ashamed of his
self-confession in it and fled before the final curtain. He soon
finished another play, "The Outlaw," which is included in the
present volume. In this drama, which retains a high place among his
plays, Strindberg shows for the first time his lion's claw and in
it began to speak with his own voice. It was accepted by the Court
Theatre at Stockholm for production during the next autumn, that of
At the close of the summer, after a violent quarrel with his
father, he returned to the University in the hope of finding help
from his comrades. Arrived at Upsala, with just one crown, he found
that many of his old and more prosperous friends were no longer
there. Times were harder than ever.
But at last a gleam of hope came with the news that "The Outlaw"
was actually to be produced. And his wildest dreams were then
realized, for, despite the unappreciative attitude of the critics
toward this splendid Viking piece, the King, Carl XV, after seeing
the play, commanded Strindberg to appear before him. Strindberg
regarded the summons as the perpetration of a practical joke, and
only obeyed it after making sure by telegraph that it was not a
Strindberg tells of the kindly old king standing with a big pipe in
his hand as the young author strode between chamberlains and other
court dignitaries into the royal presence.
The king, a grandson of Napoleon's marshal Bernadotte, and as a
Frenchman on the throne of Sweden, diplomatic enough to desire at
least the appearance of being more Swedish than the Swedes, spoke
of the pleasure the ancient Viking spirit of "The Outlaw" had given
him, and, after talking genially for some time, said, "You are the
son of Strindberg, the steamship agent, I believe and so, of
course, are not in need."
"Quite the reverse," Strindberg replied, explaining that his father
no longer gave him the meager help in his university course, which
he had formerly done.
"How much can you get along on per annum until you graduate?" asked
Strindberg was unable to say in a moment. "I'm rather short of coin
myself," said the king quite frankly, "but do you think you could
manage on eight hundred riksdaler a year?" Strindberg was
overwhelmed by such munificence, and the interview was concluded by
his introduction to the court treasurer, from whom he received his
first quarter's allowance of two hundred crowns.
Full of thankfulness for this unexpected turn of fate, the young
dramatist returned to Upsala. For once he appeared satisfied with
his lot, and took up his studies with more earnestness than ever.
The year 1871 closed brilliantly for the young writer, for in
addition to the kingly favor be received honorable mention from the
Swedish Academy for his Greek drama "Hermione." The following year,
1872, life at the university again began to pall on his restless
mind, and he took to painting.
Then followed a serious disagreement with one of the professors, so
that when he received word from the court treasurer that it was
uncertain whether his stipend could be continued on account of the
death of the king, he decided to leave the University for good. At
a farewell banquet in his honor, he expressed his appreciation of
all he had received from his student friends, saying, "A
personality does not develop from itself, but out of each soul it
comes in contact with, it sucks a drop, just as the bee gathers its
honey from a million flowers giving it forth eventually as its
Strindberg went to Stockholm to become a literateur and, if
possible, a creative artist. He gleaned a living from newspaper
work for a few months, but in the summer went to a fishing village
on a remote island in Bothnia Bay where, in his twenty-third year,
he wrote his great historical drama, "Master Olof." Breaking away
from traditions and making flesh and blood creations instead of
historical skeletons in this play, it was refused by all the
managers of the theatres, who assured Strindberg that the public
would not tolerate any such unfamiliar methods. Strindberg
protested, and defended and tried to elucidate his realistic
handling of the almost sacred historical personages, but in vain,
for "Master Olof" was not produced until seven years later, when it
was put on at the Swedish Theatre at Stockholm in 1880, the year
Ibsen was writing "Ghosts" at Sorrento.
In 1874, after a year or two of unsuccessful effort to make a
living in various employments, he became assistant at the Court
library, which was indeed a haven of refuge, a position providing
both leisure for study and an assured income. Finding in the
library some Chinese parchments which had not been catalogued; he
plunged into the study of that language. A treatise which he wrote
on the subject won him medals from various learned societies at
home, as well as recognition from the French Institute. This
success induced the many other treatises that followed, for which
he received a variety of decorations, and along with the honors
nearly brought upon himself "a salubrious idiocy," to use his own
Then something happened that stirred the old higher voice in him,--
he fell in love. He had been invited through a woman friend to go
to the home of Baron Wrangel, where his name as an author was
esteemed. He refused the invitation, but the next day, walking in
the city streets with this same woman friend, they encountered the
Baroness Wrangel to whom Strindberg was introduced. The Baroness
asked him once more to come. He promised to do so, and they
separated. As Strindberg's friend went into a shop, he turned to
look down the street; noting the beautiful lines of the
disappearing figure of the Baroness, noting, too, a stray lock of
her golden hair, that had escaped from her veil, and played against
the white ruching at her throat. He gazed after her long, in fact,
until she disappeared in the crowded street. From that moment he
was not a free man. The friendship which followed resulted in the
divorce of the Baroness from her husband and her marriage to
Strindberg, December 30, 1877, when he was twenty-eight years old.
At last Strindberg had someone to love, to take care of, to
worship. This experience of happiness, so strange to him, revived
the creative impulse.
The following year, 1878, "Master Olof" was finally accepted for
publication, and won immediate praise and appreciation. This, to
his mind, belated success, roused in Strindberg a smoldering
resentment, which lack of confidence and authority of position had
heretofore caused him to repress. He broke out with a burning
satire, in novel form, called "The Red Room," the motto of which he
made Voltaire's words "Rien n'est si desagreable que s'etre pendu
Hardly more than mention can be made of the important work of this
dramatist, poet, novelist, historian, scientist and philosopher. In
1888 he left Sweden, as the atmosphere there had become too
disagreeable for him through controversy after controversy in which
lie became involved. He joined a group of painters and writers of
all nationalities in it little village in France. There he wrote
"La France," setting forth the relations between France and Sweden
in olden times. This was published in Paris and the French
government, tendered him the decoration of the legion of honor
which, however, he refused very politely, explaining that he never
wore a frock coat! The episode ends amusingly with the publisher, a
Swede, receiving the decoration instead. In 1884 the first volume
of his famous short stories, called "Marriages" appeared. It was
aimed at the cult that had sprung up from Ibsen's "A Doll's House,"
which was threatening the peace of all households. A few days after
the publication of "Marriages" the first edition was literally
swallowed up. As the book dealt frankly with the physical facts of
sex relations, it was confiscated by the Swedish government a month
after its publication, and Strindberg was obliged to go to
Stockholm to defend his cause in the courts, which he won, and in
another month "Marriages" was again on the market.
The next year, 1885, his "Real Utopias" was written in Switzerland,
an attack, in the form of four short stories, on over-civilization,
which won him much applause in Germany. He went to Italy as a
special correspondent for the "Daily News" of Stockholm.
In 1886 the much anticipated second volume of "Marriages" appeared.
These were the short stories, satisfying to the simplest as well as
to the most discriminating minds, that attracted Nietzsche's
attention to Strindberg. A correspondence sprung up between the two
men, referring to which in a letter to Peter Gast, Nietzsche said,
"Strindberg has written to me, and for the first time I sense an
answering note of universality." The mutual admiration and
intellectual sympathies of these two conspicuous creative geniuses
has led a number of critics, including Edmund Gosse, into the error
of attributing to Nietzsche a dominating influence over Strindberg.
It should be remembered, however, the "Countess Julie" and "The
Father," which are cited its the most obvious examples of that
supposed influence, were completed before Strindberg's acquaintance
with Nietzsche's philosophy, and that among others, the late John
Davidson, is also charged with having drawn largely from Nietzsche.
The fact is, that, during the last quarter of the nineteenth
century, the most original thinkers of many countries were quite
independently, though less clearly, evolving the same philosophic
principals that the master mind of Nietzsche was radiating in the
almost blinding flashes of his genius.
Then came the period during which Strindberg attained the highest
peaks of his work, the years 1886-90, with his autobiography, "The
Servant Woman's Son," the tragedies, "The Father," and "Countess
Julie," the comedies, "Comrades," and "The Stronger," and the
tragi-comedies, "The Creditors" and "Simoon." Of these, "The
Father" and "Countess Julie" soon made Strindberg's name known and
honored throughout Europe, except in his home country.
In "The Father" perhaps his biggest vision is felt. It was
published in French soon after it appeared in Sweden, with an
introduction by Zola in which he says, "To be brief, you have
written a mighty and capitvating work. It is one of the few dramas
that have had the power to stir me to the depths."
Of his choice of theme in "Countess Julie," Strindberg says: "When
I took this motive from life, as it was related to me a few years
ago, it made a strong impression on me. I found it suitable for
tragedy, and it still makes a sorrowful impression on me to see an
individual to whom happiness has been allotted go under, much more,
to see a line become extinct." And in defence of his realism he has
said further in his preface to "Countess Julie": "The theatre has
for a long time seemed to me the Biblia pauperum in the fine arts,
a bible with pictures for those who can neither read nor write, and
the dramatist is the revivalist, and the revivalist dishes tap the
ideas of the day in popular form, so popular that the middle class,
of whom the bulk of theatre-goers is comprised, can without
burdening their brains understand what it is all about. The theatre
therefore has always been a grammar school for the young, the
half-educated, and women, who still possess the primitive power of
being able to delude themselves and of allowing themselves to be
deluded, that is to say, receive illusions and accept suggestions
from the dramatist. *** Some people have accused my tragedy, 'The
Father' of being too sad, as though one desired a merry tragedy.
People call authoritatively for the 'Joy of Life' and theatrical
managers call for farces, as though the Joy of Life lay in being
foolish, and in describing people who each and every one are
suffering from St. Vitus' dance or idiocy. I find the joy of life
in the powerful, terrible struggles of life; and the capability of
experiencing something, of learning something, is a pleasure to me.
And therefore I have chosen an unusual but instructive subject; in
other words, an exception, but a great exception, that will
strengthen the rules which offend the apostle of the commonplace.
What will further create antipathy in some, is the fact that my
plan of action is not simple, and that there is not one view alone
to be taken of it. An event in life--and that is rather a new
discovery--is usually occasioned by a series of more or less
deep-seated motifs, but the spectator generally chooses that one
which his power of judgment finds simplest to grasp, or that his
gift of judgment considers the most honorable. For example, someone
commits suicide: 'Bad business!' says the citizen; 'Unhappy love!'
says the woman; 'Sickness!' says the sick man; 'Disappointed
hopes?' the bankrupt. But it may be that none of these reasons is
the real one, and that the dead man hid the real one by pretending
another that would throw the most favorable light on his memory.
*** In the following drama ('Julie') I have not sought to do
anything new, because that cannot be done, but only to modernize
the form according to the requirements I have considered
present-day people require."
Following the mighty output, of those years, in 1891 Strindberg
went out: to the islands where he had lived years before, and led a
hermit's life. Many of his romantic plays were written there, and
much of his time was spent at painting.
In 1892 he was divorced from his wife.
After a few months Strindberg went to Berlin, where he was received
with all honors by literary Germany. Richard Dehmel, one of their
foremost minstrels, celebrated the event by a poem called "An
Immortal,--To Germany's Guest." In the shop windows his picture
hung alongside that of Bismarck, and at the theatres his plays were
being produced. About this time he heard of the commotion that
"Countess Julie" had created in Paris, where it had been produced
by Antoine. During these victorious times Strindberg met a young
Austrian writer, Frida Uhl, to whom he was married in April 1898.
Although the literary giant of the hour, he was nevertheless in
very straightened pecuniary circumstances, which led to his
allowing the publication of "A Fool's Confession," written in
French, and later, with out his permission or knowledge, issued in
German and Swedish, which entangled him in a lawsuit, as the
subject matter contained much of his marital miseries. Interest in
chemistry had long been stirring in Strindberg's mind; it now began
to deepen. About this time also he passed through that religious
crisis which swept artistic Europe, awakened nearly a century after
his death by that Swedenborgian poet and artist, William Blake. To
this period belongs "To Damascus," a play of deepest soul probing,
which was not finished however until 1904.
Going to Paris in the fall of 1894, to pursue chemical research
most seriously, he ran into his own success at the theatres there.
"The Creditors" had been produced and Strindberg was induced to
undertake the direction of "The Father" at the Theatre de l'Oeuvre,
where it was a tremendous success. A Norwegian correspondent was
forced to send word home that with "The Father" Strindberg had
overreached Ibsen in Paris, because what it had never been possible
to do with an Ibsen play, have a run in Paris, they were now doing
with Strindberg. At the same time the Theatre des Ecaliers put on
"The Link," the Odean produced "The Secret of the Guild," and the
Chat Noir "The Kings of Heaven," and translations of his novels
were running in French periodicals. But Strindberg turned his back
on all this success and shut himself up in his laboratory to delve
into chemistry. This he did with such earnestness that with his
discovery of Swedenborg his experimentations and speculations
reduced him to a condition of mind that unfitted him for any kind
of companionship, so that when his wife left him to go to their
child who was ill and far away, he welcomed the complete freedom.
Strindberg says of their parting at the railway station that
although they smiled and waved to each other as they called out
"Auf wiedersehen" they both knew that they were saying good bye
forever, which proved to be true, as they were divorced a year
later. In 1896 he returned to Sweden so broken in health through
his tremendous wrestling with the riddle of life that he went into
the sanitorium of his friend, Dr. Aliasson at Wstad. After two
months he was sufficiently restored to go to Austria, at the
invitation of his divorced wife's family, to see his child. Then
back to Sweden, to Lund, a university town, where he lived solely
to absorb Swedenborg. By May of that year he was able to go to
work on "The Inferno," that record of a soul's nightmare, which in
all probability will remain unique in the history of literature.
Then came the writing of the great historical dramas, then the
realistically symbolic plays of Swedenborgian spirit, of which
"Easter" is representative, and the most popular.
When "Easter" was produced in Stockholm a young Norwegian, Harriet
Bosse, played Eleanora, the psychic, and in 1901 this young actress
became Strindberg's wife. This third marriage ended in divorce
three years later. In 1906, the actor manager, August Folk,
produced "Countess Julie" in Stockholm, seventeen years after it
had been written. To Strindberg's amazement, it won such tremendous
attention that the other theatres became deserted. In consequence
of this success an intimate theatre was founded for the production
of none but Strindberg's plays.
How he is estimated today in his own country may be judged by the
following extract from an article which appeared in a recent issue
of the leading periodical of Stockholm:
"For over thirty years he has dissected us from every point of
view; during that time his name has always been conspicuous in
every book-shop window and his books gradually push out the others
from our shelves; every night his plays are produced at the
theatres; every conversation turns on him, and his is the name the
pigmies quarrel over daily; the cry is heard that he has become
hysterical, sentimental, out of his mind, but the next one knows,
he is robustness itself, and enduring beyond belief, despite great
need, enmity, sorrow. One hour one is angry over some extravagance
which he has allowed himself, the next captivated by one of his
plays, stirred, melted, strengthened and uplifted by his sublime
A CAPTAIN OF CAVALRY
LAURA, his wife
BERTHA, their daughter
[The sitting room at the Captain's. There is a door a little to the
right at the back. In the middle of the room, a large, round table
strewn with newspapers and magazines. To right a leather-covered
sofa and table. In the right-hand corner a private door. At left
there is a door leading to the inner room and a desk with a clock
on it. Gamebags, guns and other arms hang on the walls. Army coats
hang near door at back. On the large table stands a lighted lamp.]
CAPTAIN [rings, an orderly comes in.]
ORDERLY. Yes, Captain.
CAPTAIN. Is Noejd out there?
ORDERLY. He is waiting for orders in the kitchen.
CAPTAIN. In the kitchen again, is he? Send him in at once.
ORDERLY. Yes, Captain. [Goes.]
PASTOR. What's the matter now?
CAPTAIN. Oh the rascal has been cutting up with the servant-girl
again; he's certainly a bad lot.
PASTOR. Why, Noejd got into the same trouble year before last,
CAPTAIN. Yes, you remember? Won't you be good enough to give him a
friendly talking to and perhaps you can make some impression on
him. I've sworn at him and flogged him, too, but it hasn't had the
PASTOR. And so you want me to preach to him? What effect do you
suppose the word of God will have on a rough trooper?
CAPTAIN. Well, it certainly has no effect on me.
PASTOR. I know that well enough.
CAPTAIN. Try it on him, anyway.
[Noejd comes in.]
CAPTAIN. What have you been up to now, Noejd?
NOEJD. God save you, Captain, but I couldn't talk about it with the
PASTOR. Don't be afraid of me, my boy.
CAPTAIN. You had better confess or you know what will happen.
NOEJD. Well, you see it was like this; we were at a dance at
Gabriel's, and then--then Ludwig said--
CAPTAIN. What has Ludwig got to do with it? Stick to the truth.
NOEJD. Yes, and Emma said "Let's go into the barn--"
CAPTAIN. --Oh, so it was Emma who led you astray, was it?
NOEJD. Well, not far from it. You know that unless the girl is
willing nothing ever happens.
CAPTAIN. Never mind all that: Are you the father of the child or
NOEJD. Who knows?
CAPTAIN. What's that? Don't you know?
NOEJD. Why no--that is, you can never be sure.
CAPTAIN. Weren't you the only one?
NOEJD. Yes, that time, but you can't be sure for all that.
CAPTAIN. Are you trying to put the blame on Ludwig? Is that what
you are up to?
NOEJD. Well, you see it isn't easy to know who is to blame.
CAPTAIN. Yes, but you told Emma you would marry her.
NOEJD. Oh, a fellow's always got to say that--
CAPTAIN [to Pastor.] This is terrible, isn't it?
PASTOR. It's the old story over again. See here, Noejd, you surely
ought to know whether you are the father or not?
NOEJD. Well, of course I was mixed up with the girl--but you know
yourself, Pastor, that it needn't amount to anything for all that.
PASTOR. Look here, my lad, we are talking about you now. Surely you
won't leave the girl alone with the child. I suppose we can't
compel you to marry her, but you should provide for the child--that
you shall do!
NOEJD. Well, then, so must Ludwig, too.
CAPTAIN. Then the case must go to the courts. I cannot ferret out
the truth of all this, nor is it to my liking. So now be off.
PASTOR. One moment, Noejd. H'm--don't you think it dishonorable to
leave a girl destitute like that with her child? Don't you think
so? Don't you see that such conduct-- -- --h'm-- --h'm-- -- --
NOEJD. Yes, if I only knew for sure that I was father of the child,
but you can't be sure of that, Pastor, and I don't see much fun
slaving all your life for another man's child. Surely you, Pastor,
and the Captain can understand for yourselves.
CAPTAIN. Be off.
NOEJD. God save you, Captain. [Goes.]
CAPTAIN. But keep out of the kitchen, you rascal! [To Pastor.] Now,
why didn't you get after him?
PASTOR. What do you mean?
CAPTAIN. Why, you only sat and mumbled something or other.
PASTOR. To tell the truth I really don't know what to say. It is a
pity about the girl, yes, and a pity about the lad, too. For think
if he were not the father. The girl can nurse the child for four
months at the orphanage, and then it will be permanently provided
for, but it will be different for him. The girl can get a good
place afterwards in some respectable family, but the lad's future
may be ruined if he is dismissed from the regiment.
CAPTAIN. Upon my soul I should like to be in the magistrate's shoes
and judge this case. The lad is probably not innocent, one can't be
sure, but we do know that the girl is guilty, if there is any guilt
in the matter.
PASTOR. Well, well, I judge no one. But what were we talking about
when this stupid business interrupted us? It was about Bertha and
her confirmation, wasn't it?
CAPTAIN. Yes, but it was certainly not in particular about her
confirmation but about her whole welfare. This house is full of
women who all want to have their say about my child. My mother-in-law
wants to make a Spiritualist of her. Laura wants her to be an
artist; the governess wants her to be a Methodist, old Margret a
Baptist, and the servant-girls want her to join the Salvation Army!
It won't do to try to make a soul in patches like that. I, who have
the chief right to try to form her character, am constantly opposed
in my efforts. And that's why I have decided to send her away from
PASTOR. You have too many women trying to run this house.
CAPTAIN. You're right! It's like going into a cage full of tigers,
and if I didn't hold a red-hot iron under their noses they would
tear me to pieces any moment. And you laugh, you rascal! Wasn't it
enough that I married your sister, without your palming off your
old stepmother on me?
PASTOR. But, good heavens, one can't have stepmothers in one's own
CAPTAIN. No, you think it is better to have mothers-in-law in some
one else's house!
PASTOR. Oh well, we all have some burden in life.
CAPTAIN. But mine is certainly too heavy. I have my old nurse into
the bargain, who treats me as if I ought still to wear a bib. She
is a good old soul, to be sure, and she must not be dragged into
PASTOR. You must keep a tight rein on the women folks. You let them
run things too much.
CAPTAIN. Now will you please inform me how I'm to keep order among
the women folk?
PASTOR. Laura was brought up with a firm hand, but although she is
my own sister, I must admit she _was_ pretty troublesome.
CAPTAIN. Laura certainly has her faults, but with her it isn't so
PASTOR. Oh, speak out--I know her.
CAPTAIN. She was brought up with romantic ideas, and it has been
hard for her to find herself, but she is my wife--
PASTOR And because she is your wife she is the best of wives? No,
my dear fellow, it is she who really wears on you most.
CAPTAIN. Well, anyway, the whole house is topsy-turvy. Laura won't
let Bertha leave her, and I can't allow her to remain in this
PASTOR. Oh, so Laura won't? Well, then, I'm afraid you are in for
trouble. When she was a child if she set her mind on anything she
used to play dead dog till she got it, and then likely as not she
would give it back, explaining that it wasn't the thing she wanted,
but having her own way.
CAPTAIN. So she was like that even then? H'm--she really gets into
such a passion sometimes that I am anxious about her and afraid she
PASTOR. But what do you want to do with Bertha that is so
unpardonable? Can't you compromise?
CAPTAIN. You mustn't think I want to make a prodigy of her or an
image of myself. I don't want to be it procurer for my daughter and
educate her exclusively for matrimony, for then if she were left
unmarried she might have bitter days. On the other hand, I don't
want to influence her toward a career that requires a long course
of training which would be entirely thrown away if she should
PASTOR. What do you want, then?
CAPTAIN. I want her to be it teacher. If she remains unmarried she
will be able to support herself, and at any rate she wouldn't be
any worse off than the poor schoolmasters who have to share their
salaries with a family. If she marries she can use her knowledge in
the education of her children. Am I right?
PASTOR. Quite right. But, on the other hand, hasn't she shown such
talent for painting that it would be a great pity to crush it?
CAPTAIN. No! I have shown her sketches to an eminent painter, and
he says they are only the kind of thing that can be learned at
schools. But then a young fop came here in the summer who, of
course, understands the matter much better, and he declared that
she had colossal genius, and so that settled it to Laura's
PASTOR. Was he quite taken with Bertha?
CAPTAIN. That goes without saying.
PASTOR. Then God help you, old man, for in that case I see no hope.
This is pretty bad--and, of course, Laura has her supporters--in
CAPTAIN. Yes, you may be sure of that; the whole house is already
up in arms, and, between ourselves, it is not exactly a noble
conflict that is being waged from that quarter.
PASTOR. Don't you think I know that?
CAPTAIN. You do?
PASTOR. I do.
CAPTAIN. But the worst of it is, it strikes me that Bertha's future
is being decided from spiteful motives. They hint that men better
be careful, because women can do this or that now-a-days. All day
long, incessantly, it is a conflict between man and woman. Are you
going? No, stay for supper. I have no special inducements to offer,
but do stay. You know I am expecting the new doctor. Have you seen
PASTOR. I caught a glimpse of him as I came along. He looked
pleasant, and reliable.
CAPTAIN. That's good. Do you think it possible he may become my
PASTOR. Who can tell? It depends on how much he has been among
CAPTAIN. But won't you really stay?
PASTOR. No thanks, my dear fellow; I promised to be home for
supper, and the wife gets uneasy if I am late.
CAPTAIN. Uneasy? Angry, you mean. Well, as you will. Let me help
you with your coat.
PASTOR. It's certainly pretty cold tonight. Thanks. You must take
care of your health, Adolf, you seem rather nervous.
PASTOR. Yes, you are not, really very well.
CAPTAIN. Has Laura put that into your head? She has treated me for
the last twenty years as if I were at the point of death.
PASTOR. Laura? No, but you make me uneasy about you. Take care of
yourself--that's my advice! Good-bye, old man; but didn't you want
to talk about the confirmation?
CAPTAIN. Not at all! I assure you that matter will have to take its
course in the ordinary way at the cost of the clerical conscience
for I am neither a believer nor a martyr.
PASTOR. Good-bye. Love to Laura. [Goes.]
[The Captain opens his desk and seats himself at it. Takes up
CAPTAIN [Figuring.] Thirty-four--nine, forty-three--seven, eight,
LAURA [Coming in from inner room.] Will you be kind enough--
CAPTAIN. Just a moment! Sixty-six--seventy-one, eighty-four,
eighty-nine, ninety-two, a hundred. What is it?
LAURA. Am I disturbing you?
CAPTAIN. Not at all. Housekeeping money, I suppose?
LAURA. Yes, housekeeping money.
CAPTAIN. Put the accounts down there and I will go over them.
LAURA. The accounts?
LAURA. Am I to keep accounts now?
CAPTAIN. Of course you are to keep accounts. Our affairs are in a
precarious condition, and in case of a liquidation, accounts are
necessary, or one is liable to punishment for being careless.
LAURA. It's not my fault that our affairs are in a precarious
CAPTAIN. That is exactly what the accounts will decide.
LAURA. It's not my fault that our tenant doesn't pay.
CAPTAIN. Who recommended this tenant so warmly? You! Why did you
recommend a--good-for-nothing, we'll call him?
LAURA. But why did you rent to this good-for-nothing?
CAPTAIN. Because I was not allowed to eat in peace, nor sleep in
peace, nor work in peace, till you women got that man here. You
wanted him so that your brother might be rid of him, your mother
wanted him because I didn't want him, the governess wanted him
because he reads his Bible, and old Margret because she had known
his grandmother from childhood. That's why he was taken, and if he
hadn't been taken, I'd be in a madhouse by now or lying in my
grave. However, here is the housekeeping money and your pin money.
You may give me the accounts later.
LAURA [Curtesies.] Thanks so much. Do you too keep an account of
what you spend besides the housekeeping money?
CAPTAIN. That doesn't concern you.
LAURA. No, that's true--just as little as my child's education
concerns me. Have the gentlemen come to a decision after this
CAPTAIN. I had already come to a decision, and therefore it only
remained for me to talk it over with the one friend I and the
family have in common. Bertha is to go to boarding school in town,
and starts in a fortnight.
LAURA. To which boarding school, if I may venture to ask?
CAPTAIN. Professor Saefberg's.
LAURA. That free thinker!
CAPTAIN. According to the law, children are to be brought up in
their father's faith.
LAURA. And the mother has no voice in the matter?
CAPTAIN. None whatever. She has sold her birthright by a legal
transaction, and forfeited her rights in return for the man's
responsibility of caring for her and her children.
LAURA. That is to say she has no rights concerning her child.
CAPTAIN. No, none at all. When once one has sold one's goods, one
cannot have them back and still keep the money.
LAURA. But if both father and mother should agree?
CAPTAIN. Do you think that could ever happen? I want her to live in
town, you want her to stay at home. The arithmetical result would
be that she remain at the railway station midway between train and
home. This is a knot that cannot be untied, you see.
LAURA. Then it must be broken. What did Noejd want here?
CAPTAIN. That is an official secret.
LAURA. Which the whole kitchen knows!
CAPTAIN. Good, then you must know it.
LAURA. I do know it.
CAPTAIN. And have your judgment ready-made?
LAURA. My judgment is the judgment of the law.
CAPTAIN. But it is not written in the law who the child's father
LAURA. No, but one usually knows that.
CAPTAIN. Wise minds claim that one can never know.
LAURA. That's strange. Can't one ever know who the father of a
CAPTAIN. No; so they claim.
LAURA. How extraordinary! How can the father have such control over
the children then?
CAPTAIN. He has control only when he has assumed the
of the child, or has had them forced upon him. But in wedlock, of
course, there is no doubt about the fatherhood.
LAURA. There are no doubts then?
CAPTAIN. Well, I should hope not.
LAURA. But if the wife has been unfaithful?
CAPTAIN. That's another matter. Was there anything else you wanted
CAPTAIN. Then I shall go up to my room, and perhaps you will be
kind enough to let me know when the doctor arrives. [Closes desk
[Captain goes through the primate door right.]
CAPTAIN. As soon as he comes. For I don't want to seem rude to him,
you understand. [Goes.]
LAURA. I understand. [Looks at the money she holds in her hands.]
MOTHER-IN-LAW'S VOICE [Within.] Laura!
MOTHER-IN-LAW'S VOICE. Is my tea ready?
LAURA [In doorway to inner room]. In just a moment.
[Laura goes toward hall door at back as the orderly opens it.]
ORDERLY. Doctor Ostermark.
LAURA [Advances and offers her hand]. Welcome, Doctor--you are
heartily welcome. The Captain is out, but he will be back soon.
DOCTOR. I hope you will excuse my coming so late, but I have
already been called upon to pay some professional visits.
LAURA. Sit down, won't you?
DOCTOR. Thank you.
LAURA. Yes, there is a great deal of illness in the neighborhood
just now, but I hope it will agree with you here. For us country
people living in such isolation it is of great value to find a
doctor who is interested in his patients, and I hear so many nice
things of you, Doctor, that I hope the pleasantest relations will
exist between us.
DOCTOR. You are indeed kind, and I hope for your sake my visits to
you will not often be caused by necessity. Your family is, I
believe, as a rule in good health--
LAURA. Fortunately we have bear spared acute illnesses, but still
things are not altogether as they should be.
LAURA. Heaven knows, things are not as might be wished.
DOCTOR. Really, you alarm me.
LAURA. There are some circumstances in a family which through honor
and conscience one is forced to conceal from the whole world--
DOCTOR. Excepting the doctor.
LAURA. Exactly. It is, therefore, my painful duty to tell you the
whole truth immediately.
DOCTOR. Shouldn't we postpone this conference until I have had the
honor of being introduced to the Captain?
LAURA. No! You must hear me before seeing him.
DOCTOR. It relates to him then?
LAURA. Yes, to him, my poor, dear husband.
DOCTOR. You alarm me, indeed, and believe me, I sympathize with
LAURA [Taking out handkerchief]. My husband's mind is affected. Now
you know all, and may judge for yourself when you see him.
DOCTOR. What do you say? I have read the Captain's excellent
treatises on mineralogy with admiration, and have found that they
display a clear and powerful intellect.
LAURA. Really? How happy I should be if we should all prove to be
DOCTOR. But of course it is possible that his mind might be
affected in other directions.
LAURA. That is just what we fear, too. You see he has sometimes the
most extraordinary ideas which, of course, one might expect in a
learned man, if they did not have a disastrous effect on the
welfare of his whole family. For instance, one of his whims is
buying all kinds of things.
DOCTOR. That is serious; but what does he buy?
LAURA. Whole boxes of books that he never reads.
DOCTOR. There is nothing strange about a scholar's buying books.
LAURA. You don't believe what I am saying?
DOCTOR. Well, Madam, I am convinced that you believe what you are
LAURA. Tell me, is it reasonable to think that one can see what is
happening on another planet by looking through a microscope?
DOCTOR. Does he say he can do that?
LAURA. Yes, that's what he says.
DOCTOR. Through a microscope?
LAURA. Through a microscope, yes.
DOCTOR. This is serious, if it is so.
LAURA. If it is so! Then you have no faith in me, Doctor, and here
I sit confiding the family secret to--
DOCTOR. Indeed, Madam, I am honored by your confidence, but as a
physician I must investigate and observe before giving an opinion.
Has the Captain ever shown any symptoms of indecision or
instability of will?
LAURA. Has he! We have been married twenty years, and he has never
yet made a decision without changing his mind afterward.
DOCTOR. Is he obstinate?
LAURA. He always insists on having his own way, but once he has got
it he drops the whole matter and asks me to decide.
DOCTOR. This is serious, and demands close observation. The will,
you see, is the mainspring of the mind, and if it is affected the
whole mind goes to pieces.
LAURA. God knows how I have taught myself to humor his wishes
through all these long years of trial. Oh, if you knew what a life
I have endured with him--if you only knew.
DOCTOR. Your misfortune touches me deeply, and I promise you to see
what can be done. I pity you with all my heart, and I beg you to
trust me completely. But after what I have heard I must ask you to
avoid suggesting any ideas that might make a deep impression on the
patient, for in a weak brain they develop rapidly and quickly turn
to monomania or fixed ideas.
LAURA. You mean to avoid arousing suspicions?
DOCTOR. Exactly. One can make the insane believe anything, just
because they are receptive to everything.
LAURA. Indeed? Then I understand. Yes--yes. [A bell rings within.]
Excuse me, my mother wishes to speak to me. One moment-- --Ah, here
[Captain comes in through private door.]
CAPTAIN. Oh, here already, Doctor? You are very welcome.
DOCTOR. Captain! It is a very great pleasure to me to make the
acquaintance of so celebrated a man of science.
CAPTAIN. Oh, I beg of you. The duties of service do not allow me to
make any very profound investigations, but I believe I am now
really on the track of a discovery.
CAPTAIN. You see, I have submitted meteoric stones to spectrum
analysis, with the result that I have found carbon, that, is to
say, a clear trace of organic life. What do you say to that?
DOCTOR. Can you see that with it microscope?
CAPTAIN. Lord, no--with the spectroscope.
DOCTOR. The spectroscope! Pardon. Then you will soon be able to
tell us what is happening on Jupiter.
CAPTAIN. Not what is happening, but what has happened. If only the
confounded booksellers in Paris would send me the books; but I
believe all the booksellers in the universe have conspired against
me. Think of it, for the last two months not a single one has ever
answered my communications, neither letters nor abusive telegrams.
I shall go mad over it, and I can't imagine what's the matter.
DOCTOR. Oh, I suppose it's the usual carelessness; you mustn't let
it vex you so.
CAPTAIN. But the devil of it is I shall not get my treatise done in
time, and I know they are working along the same lines in Berlin.
But we shouldn't be talking about this--but about you. If you care
to live here we have rooms for you in the wing, or perhaps you
would rather live in the old quarters?
DOCTOR. Just as you like.
CAPTAIN. No, as you like. Which is it to be?
DOCTOR. You must decide that, Captain.
CAPTAIN. No, it's not for me to decide. You must say which you
prefer. I have no preference in the matter, none at all.
DOCTOR. Oh, but I really cannot decide.
CAPTAIN. For heaven's sake, Doctor, say which you prefer. I have no
choice in the matter, no opinion, no wishes. Haven't you got
character enough to know what you want? Answer me, or I shall be
DOCTOR. Well, if it rests with me, I prefer to live here.
CAPTAIN. Thank you--forgive me, Doctor, but nothing annoys me so
touch as to see people undecided about anything. [Nurse comes in.]
Oh, there you are, Margret. Do you happen to know whether the rooms
in the wing are in order for the Doctor?
NURSE. Yes, sir, they are.
CAPTAIN. Very well. Then I won't detain you, Doctor; you must be
tired. Good bye, and welcome once more. I shall see you tomorrow, I
DOCTOR. Good evening, Captain.
CAPTAIN. I daresay that my wife explained conditions here to you a
little, so that you have some idea how the land lies?
DOCTOR. Yes, your excellent wife has given me a few hints about
this and that, such as were necessary to a stranger. Good evening,
CAPTAIN [To Nurse]. What do you want, you old dear? What is it?
NURSE. Now, little Master Adolf, just listen--
CAPTAIN. Yes, Margret, you are the only one I can listen to without
NURSE. Now, listen, Mr. Adolf. Don't you think you should go
half-way and come to an agreement with Mistress in this fuss over
the child? Just think of a mother--
CAPTAIN. Think of a father, Margret.
NURSE. There, there, there. A father has something besides his
child, but a mother has nothing but her child.
CAPTAIN. Just so, you old dear. She has only one burden, but I have
three, and I have her burden too. Don't you think that I should
hold a better position in the world than that of a poor soldier if
I had not had her and her child?
NURSE. Well, that isn't what I wanted to talk about.
CAPTAIN. I can well believe that, for you wanted to make it appear
that I am in the wrong.
NURSE. Don't you believe, Mr. Adolf, that I wish you well?
CAPTAIN. Yes, dear friend, I do believe it; but you don't know what
is for my good. You see it isn't enough for me to have given the
child life, I want to give her my soul, too.
NURSE. Such things I don't understand. But I do think that you
ought to be able to agree.
CAPTAIN. You are not my friend, Margret.
NURSE. I? Oh, Lord, what are you saying, Mr. Adolf? Do you think I
can forget that you were my child when you were little?
CAPTAIN. Well, you dear, have I forgotten it? You have been like a
mother to me, and always have stood by me when I had everybody
against me, but now, when I really need you, you desert me and go
over to the enemy.
NURSE. The enemy!
CAPTAIN, Yes, the enemy! You know well enough how things are in
this house! You have seen everything from the beginning.
NURSE. Indeed I have seen! But, God knows, why two people should
torment the life out of each other; two people who are otherwise so
good and wish all others well. Mistress is never like that to me or
CAPTAIN. Only to me, I know it. But let me tell you, Margret, if
you desert me now, you will do wrong. For now they have begun to
weave a plot against me, and that doctor is not my friend.
NURSE. Oh, Mr. Adolf, you believe evil about everybody. But you see
it's because you haven't the true faith; that's just what it is.
CAPTAIN. Yes, you and the Baptists have found the only true faith.
You are indeed lucky!
NURSE. Anyway, I'm not unhappy like you, Mr. Adolf. Humble your
heart and you will see that God will make you happy in your love
for your neighbor.
CAPTAIN. It's a strange thing that you no sooner speak of God and
love than your voice becomes hard and your eyes fill with hate. No,
Margret, surely you have not the true faith.
NURSE. Yes, go on being proud and hard in your learning, but it
won't amount to much when it comes to the test.
CAPTAIN. How mightily you talk, humble heart. I know very well that
knowledge is of no use to you women.
NURSE. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. But in spite of
everything old Margret cares most for her great big boy, and he
will come back to the fold when it's stormy weather.
CAPTAIN. Margret! Forgive me, but believe me when I say that there
is no one here who wishes me well but you. Help me, for I feel that
something is going to happen here. What it is, I don't know, but
something evil is on the way. [Scream from within.] What's that?
Who's that screaming?
[Berths enters from inner room.]
BERTHA. Father! Father! Help me; save me.
CAPTAIN. My dear child, what is it? Speak!
BERTHA. Help me. She wants to hurt me.
CAPTAIN. Who wants to hurt you? Tell me! Speak!
BERTHA. Grandmother! But it's my fault for I deceived her.
CAPTAIN. Tell me more.
BERTHA. Yes, but you mustn't say anything about it. Promise me you
CAPTAIN. Tell me what it is then.
BERTHA. In the evening she generally turns down the lamp and then
she makes me sit at a table holding a pen over a piece of paper.
And then she says that the spirits are to write.
CAPTAIN. What's all this--and you have never told me about it?
BERTHA. Forgive me, but I dared not, for Grandmother says the
spirits take revenge if one talks about them. And then the pen
writes, but I don't know whether I'm doing it or not. Sometimes it
goes well, but sometimes it won't go at all, and when I am tired
nothing comes, but she wants it to come just the same. And tonight
I thought I was writing beautifully, but then grandmother said it
was all from Stagnelius, and that I had deceived her, and then she
got terribly angry.
CAPTAIN. Do you believe that there are spirits?
BERTHA. I don't know.
CAPTAIN. But I know that there are none.
BERTHA. But Grandmother says that you don't understand, Father, and
that you do much worse things--you who can see to other planets.
CAPTAIN. Does she say that! Does she say that? What else does she
BERTHA. She says that you can't work witchery.
CAPTAIN. I never said that I could. You know what meteoric stones
are,--stones that fall from other heavenly bodies. I can examine
them and learn whether they contain the same elements as our world.
That is all I can tell.
BERTHA. But Grandmother says that there are things that she can see
which you cannot see.
CAPTAIN. Then she lies.
BERTHA. Grandmother doesn't tell lies.
CAPTAIN. Why doesn't she?
BERTHA. Then Mother tells lies too.
BERTHA. And if you say that Mother lies, I can never believe in you
CAPTAIN. I have not said so; and so you must believe in me when I
tell you that it is for your future good that you should leave
home. Will you? Will you go to town and learn something useful?
BERTHA. Oh, yes, I should love to go to town, away from here,
anywhere. If I can only see you sometimes--often. Oh, it is so
gloomy and awful in there all the time, like a winter night, but
when you come home Father, it is like a morning in spring when they
take off the double windows.
CAPTAIN. My beloved child! My dear child!
BERTHA. But, Father, you'll be good to Mother, won't you? She cries
CAPTAIN. H'm--then you want to go to town?
BERTHA. Yes, yes.
CAPTAIN. But if Mother doesn't want you to go?
BERTHA. But she must let me.
CAPTAIN. But if she won't?
BERTHA. Well, then, I don't know what will happen. But she must!
CAPTAIN. Will you ask her?
BERTHA. You must ask her very nicely; she wouldn't pay any
attention to my asking.
CAPTAIN. H'm! Now if you wish it, and I wish it, and she doesn't
wish it, what shall we do then?
BERTHA. Oh, then it will all be in a tangle again! Why can't you
[Laura comes in.]
LAURA. Oh, so Bertha is here. Then perhaps we may have her own
opinion as the question of her future has to be decided.
CAPTAIN. The child can hardly have any well-grounded opinion about
what a young girl's life is likely to be, while we, on the
contrary, can more easily estimate what it may be, as we have seen
so many young girls grow up.
LAURA. But as we are of different opinions Bertha must be the one
CAPTAIN. No, I let no one usurp my rights, neither women nor
children. Bertha, leave us.
[Bertha goes out.]
LAURA. You were afraid of hearing her opinion, because you thought
it would be to my advantage.
CAPTAIN. I know that she wishes to go away from home, but I know
also that you possess the power of changing her mind to suit your
LAURA. Oh, am I really so powerful?
CAPTAIN. Yes, you have a fiendish power of getting your own way;
but so has anyone who does not scruple about, the way it is
accomplished. How did you get Doctor Norling away, for instance,
and how did you get this new doctor here?
LAURA. Yes, how did I manage that?
CAPTAIN. You insulted the other one so much that he left, and made
your brother recommend this fellow.
LAURA. Well, that was quite simple and legitimate. Is Bertha to
leave home now?
CAPTAIN. Yes, she is to start in a fortnight.
LAURA. That is your decision?
LAURA. Then I must try to prevent it.
CAPTAIN. You cannot.
LAURA. Can't I? Do you really think I would trust my daughter to
wicked people to have her taught that everything her mother has
implanted in her child is mere foolishness? Why, afterward, she
would despise me all the rest of her life!
CAPTAIN. Do you think that a father should allow ignorant and
conceited women to teach his daughter that he is a charlatan?
LAURA. It means less to the father.
CAPTAIN. Why so?
LAURA. Because the mother is closer to the child, as it has been
discovered that no one can tell for a certainty who the father of a
CAPTAIN. How does that apply to this case?
LAURA. You do not know whether you are Bertha's father or not.
CAPTAIN. I do not know?
LAURA. No; what no one knows, you surely cannot know.
CAPTAIN. Are you joking?
LAURA. No; I am only making use of your own teaching. For that
matter, how do you know that I have not been unfaithful to you?
CAPTAIN. I believe you capable of almost anything, but not that,
nor that you would talk about it if it were true.
LAURA. Suppose that I was prepared to bear anything, even to being
despised and driven out, everything for the sake of being able to
keep and control my child, and that I am truthful now when I
declare that Bertha is my child, but not yours. Suppose--
CAPTAIN. Stop now!
LAURA. Just suppose this. In that case your power would be at an
CAPTAIN. When you had proved that I was not the father.
LAURA. That would not be difficult! Would you like me to do so?
LAURA. Of course I should only need to declare the name of the real
father, give all details of place and time. For instance--when was
Bertha born? In the third year of our marriage.
CAPTAIN. Stop now, or else--
LAURA. Or else, what? Shall we stop now? Think carefully about all
you do and decide, and whatever you do, don't make yourself
CAPTAIN. I consider all this most lamentable.
LAURA. Which makes you all the more ridiculous.
CAPTAIN. And you?
LAURA. Oh, we women are really too clever.
CAPTAIN. That's why one cannot contend with you.
LAURA. Then why provoke contests with a superior enemy?
LAURA. Yes, it's queer, but I have never looked at a man without
knowing myself to be his superior.
CAPTAIN. Then you shall be made to see your superior for once, so
that you shall never forget it.
LAURA. That will be interesting.
NURSE [comes in]. Supper is served. Will you come in?
LAURA. Very well.
[Captain lingers; sits down with a magazine in an arm chair near
LAURA. Aren't you coming in to supper?
CAPTAIN. No, thanks. I don't want anything.
LAURA. What, are you annoyed?
CAPTAIN. No, but I am not hungry.
LAURA. Come, or they will ask unnecessary questions--be good now.
You won't? Stay there then. [Goes.]
NURSE. Mr. Adolf! What is this all about?
CAPTAIN. I don't know what it is. Can you explain to me why you
women treat an old man as if he were a child?
NURSE. I don't understand it, but it must be because all you men,
great and small, are women's children, every man of you.
CAPTAIN. But no women are born of men. Yes, but I am Bertha's
father. Tell me, Margret, don't you believe it? Don't you?
NURSE. Lord, how silly you are. Of course you are your own child's
father. Come and eat now, and don't sit there and sulk. There,
there, come now.
CAPTAIN. Get out, woman. To hell with the hags. [Goes to private
door.] Svaerd, Svaerd!
[Orderly comes in.]
ORDERLY. Yes, Captain.
CAPTAIN. Hitch into the covered sleigh at once.
NURSE. Captain, listen to me.
CAPTAIN. Out, woman! At once!
NURSE. Good Lord, what's going to happen now.
[Captain puts on his cap and coat and prepares to go out.]
CAPTAIN. Don't expect me home before midnight. [Goes.]
NURSE. Lord preserve us, whatever will be the end of this!
[The same scene as in previous act. A lighted lamp is on the table;
it is night. The Doctor and Laura are discovered at rise of
DOCTOR. From what I gathered during my conversation with him the
case is not fully proved to me. In the first place you made a
mistake in saying that he had arrived at these astonishing results
about other heavenly bodies by means of a microscope. Now that I
have learned that it was a spectroscope, he is not only cleared of
any suspicion of insanity, but has rendered a great service to
LAURA. Yes, but I never said that.
DOCTOR. Madam, I made careful notes of our conversation, and I
remember that I asked about this very point because I thought I had
misunderstood you. One must be very careful in making such
accusations when a certificate in lunacy is in question.
LAURA. A certificate in lunacy?
DOCTOR. Yes, you must surely know that an insane person loses both
civil and family rights.
LAURA. No, I did not know that.
DOCTOR. There was another matter that seemed to me suspicious. He
spoke of his communications to his booksellers not being answered.
Permit me to ask if you, through motives of mistaken kindness, have
LAURA. Yes, I have. It was my duty to guard the interests of the
family, and I could not let him ruin us all without some
DOCTOR. Pardon me, but I think you cannot have considered the
consequences of such an act. If he discovers your secret
interference in his affairs, he will have grounds for suspicions,
and they will grow like an avalanche. And besides, in doing this
you have thwarted his will and irritated him still more. You must
have felt yourself how the mind rebels when one's deepest desires
are thwarted and one's will is crossed.
LAURA. Haven't I felt that!
DOCTOR. Think, then, what he must have gone through.
LAURA [Rising]. It is midnight and he hasn't come home. Now we may
fear the worst.
DOCTOR. But tell me what actually happened this evening after I
left. I must know everything.
LAURA. He raved in the wildest way and had the strangest ideas. For
instance, that he is not the father of his child.
DOCTOR. That is strange. How did such an idea come into his head?
LAURA. I really can't imagine, unless it was because he had to
question one of the men about supporting a child, and when I tried
to defend the girl, he grew excited and said no one could tell who
was the father of a child. God knows I did everything to calm him,
but now I believe there is no help for him. [Cries.]
DOCTOR. But this cannot go on. Something must be done here without,
of course, arousing his suspicions. Tell me, has the Captain ever
had such delusions before?
LAURA. Six years ago things were in the same state, and then he,
himself, confessed in his own letter to the doctor that he feared
for his reason.
DOCTOR. Yes, yes, yes, this is a story that has deep roots and the
sanctity of the family life--and so on--of course I cannot ask
about everything, but must limit myself to appearances. What is
done can't be undone, more's the pity, yet the remedy should be
based upon all the past.--Where do you think he is now?
LAURA. I have no idea, he has such wild streaks.
DOCTOR. Would you like to have me stay until he returns? To avoid
suspicion, I could say that I had come to see your mother who is
LAURA. Yes, that will do very nicely. Don't leave us, Doctor; if
you only knew how troubled I am! But wouldn't it be better to tell
him outright what you think of his condition.
DOCTOR. We never do that unless the patient mentions the subject
himself, and very seldom even then. It depends entirely on the
case. But we mustn't sit here; perhaps I had better go into the
next room; it will look more natural.
LAURA. Yes, that will be better, and Margret can sit here. She
always waits up when he is out, and she is the only one who has any
power over him. [Goes to the door left] Margret, Margret!
NURSE. Yes, Ma'am. Has the master come home?
LAURA. No; but you are to sit here and wait for him, and when he
does come you are to say my mother is ill and that's why the doctor
NURSE. Yes, yes. I'll see that everything is all right.
LAURA [Opens the door to inner rooms]. Will you come in here,
DOCTOR. Thank you.
[Nurse seats herself at the table and takes up a hymn book and
spectacles and reads.]
NURSE. Ah, yes, ah yes!
[Reads half aloud]
Ah woe is me, how sad a thing
Is life within this vale of tears,
Death's angel triumphs like a king,
And calls aloud to all the spheres--
Vanity, all is vanity.
Yes, yes! Yes, yes!
All that on earth hath life and breath
To earth must fall before his spear,
And sorrow, saved alone from death,
Inscribes above the mighty bier.
Vanity, all is vanity.
BERTHA [Comes in with a coffee-pot and some embroidery. She speaks
in a low voice]. Margret, may I sit with you? It is so frightfully
lonely up there.
NURSE. For goodness sake, are you still up, Bertha?
BERTHA. You see I want to finish Father's Christmas present. And
here's something that you'll like.
NURSE. But bless my soul, this won't do. You must be up in the
morning, and it's after midnight now.
BERTHA. What does it matter? I don't dare sit up there alone. I
believe the spirits are at work.
NURSE. You see, just what I've said. Mark my words, this house was
not built on a lucky spot. What did you hear?
BERTHA. Think of it, I heard some one singing up in the attic!
NURSE. In the attic? At this hour?
BERTHA. Yes, it was such it sorrowful, melancholy song! I never
heard anything like it. It sounded as if it came from the
store-room, where the cradle stands, you know, to the left-- -- --
NURSE. Dear me, Dear me! And such a fearful night. It seems as if
the chimneys would blow down. "Ah, what is then this earthly life,
But grief, afiction and great strife? E'en when fairest it has
seemed, Nought but pain it can be deemed." Ah, dear child, may God
give us a good Christmas!
BERTHA. Margret, is it true that Father is ill?
NURSE. Yes, I'm afraid he is.
BERTHA. Then we can't keep Christmas eve? But how can he be up and
around if he is 111?
NURSE. You see, my child, the kind of illness he has doesn't keep
him from being up. Hush, there's some one out in the hall. Go to
bed now and take the coffee pot away or the master will be angry.
BERTHA [Going out with tray]. Good night, Margret.
NURSE. Good night, my child. God bless you.
[Captain comes in, takes off his overcoat.]
CAPTAIN. Are you still up? Go to bed.
NURSE. I was only waiting till-- --
[Captain lights a candle, opens his desk, sits down at it and takes
letters and newspapers out of his pocket.]
NURSE. Mr. Adolf.
CAPTAIN. What do you want?
NURSE. Old mistress is ill and the doctor is here.
CAPTAIN. Is it anything dangerous?
NURSE. No, I don't think so. Just a cold.
CAPTAIN [Gets up]. Margret, who was the father of your child?
NURSE. Oh, I've told you many and many a time; it was that scamp
CAPTAIN. Are you sure that it was he?
NURSE. How childish you are; of course I'm sure when he was the
CAPTAIN. Yes, but was he sure that he was the only one? No, he
could not be, but you could be sure of it. There is a difference,
NURSE. Well, I can't see any difference.
CAPTAIN. No, you cannot see it, but the difference exists,
nevertheless. [Turns over the pages of a photograph album which is
on the table.] Do you think Bertha looks like me?
NURSE. Of course! Why, you are as like as two peas.
CAPTAIN. Did Johansson confess that he was the father?
NURSE. He was forced to!
CAPTAIN. How terrible! Here is the Doctor. [Doctor comes in.] Good
evening, Doctor. How is my mother-in-law?
DOCTOR. Oh, it's nothing serious; merely a slight sprain of the
CAPTAIN. I thought Margret said it was a cold. There seem to be
different opinions about the same case. Go to bed, Margret.
[Nurse goes. A pause.]
CAPTAIN. Sit down, Doctor.
DOCTOR [Sits]. Thanks.
CAPTAIN. Is it true that you obtain striped foals if you cross a
zebra and a mare?
DOCTOR [Astonished]. Perfectly true.
CAPTAIN. Is it true that the foals continue to be striped if the
breed is continued with a stallion?
DOCTOR. Yes, that is true, too.
CAPTAIN. That is to say, under certain conditions a stallion can be
sire to striped foals or the opposite?
DOCTOR. Yes, so it seems.
CAPTAIN. Therefore an offspring's likeness to the father proves
DOCTOR. Well-- -- --
CAPTAIN. That is to say, paternity cannot be proven.
DOCTOR. H'm-- --well-- --
CAPTAIN. You are a widower, aren't you, and have had children?
CAPTAIN. Didn't you ever feel ridiculous as a. father? I know of
nothing so ludicrous as to see a father leading his children by the
hand around the streets, or to hear it father talk about his
children. "My wife's children," he ought to say. Did you ever feel
how false your position was? Weren't you ever afflicted with
doubts, I won't say suspicions, for, as a gentleman, I assume that
your wife was above suspicion.
DOCTOR. No, really, I never was; but, Captain, I believe Goethe
says a man must take his children on good faith.
CAPTAIN. It's risky to take anything on good faith where a woman is
DOCTOR. Oh, there are so many kinds of women.
CAPTAIN. Modern investigations have pronounced that there is only
one kind! Lately I have recalled two instances in my life that make
me believe this. When I was young I was strong and, if I may boast,
handsome. Once when I was making a trip on a steamer and sitting
with a few friends in the saloon, the young stewardess came and
flung herself down by me, burst into tears, and told us that her
sweetheart was drowned. We sympathized with her, and I ordered some
champagne. After the second glass I touched her foot; after the
fourth her knee, and before morning I had consoled her.
DOCTOR. That was just a winter fly.
CAPTAIN. Now comes the second instance--and that was a real summer
fly. I was at Lyskil. There was a young married woman stopping
there with her children, but her husband was in town. She was
religious, had extremely strict principles, preached morals to me,
and was, I believe, entirely honorable. I lent her a book, two
books, and when she was leaving, she returned them, strange to say!
Three months later, in those very books I found her card with a
declaration on it. It was innocent, as innocent its it declaration
of love can be from a married woman to a strange man who never made
any advances. Now comes the moral: Just don't have too much faith.
DOCTOR. Don't have too little faith either.
CAPTAIN. No, but just enough. But, you see, Doctor, that woman was
so unconsciously dishonest that she talked to her husband about the
fancy she had taken to me. That's what makes it dangerous, this
very unconsciousness of their instinctive dishonesty. That is a
mitigating circumstance, I admit, but it cannot nullify judgment,
only soften it.
DOCTOR. Captain, your thoughts are taking a morbid turn, and you
ought to control them.
CAPTAIN. You must not use the word morbid. Steam boilers, as you
know, explode at it certain pressure, but the same pressure is not
needed for all boiler explosions. You understand? However, you are
here to watch me. If I were not a man I should have the right to
make accusations or complaints, as they are so cleverly called, and
perhaps I should be able to give you the whole diagnosis, and, what
is more, the history of my disease. But unfortunately, I am a man,
and there is nothing for me to do but, like a Roman, fold my arms
across my breast and hold my breath till I die.
DOCTOR. Captain, if you are ill, it will not reflect upon your
honor as a man to tell me all. In fact, I ought to hear the other
CAPTAIN. You have had enough in hearing the one, I imagine. Do you
know when I heard Mrs. Alving eulogizing her dead husband, I
thought to myself what a damned pity it was the fellow was dead. Do
you suppose that he would have spoken if he had been alive? And do
you suppose that if any of the dead husbands came back they would
be believed? Good night, Doctor. You see that I am calm, and you
can retire without fear.
DOCTOR. Good night, then, Captain. I'm afraid. I can be of no
further use in this case.
CAPTAIN. Are we enemies?
DOCTOR. Far from it. But it is too bad we cannot be friends. Good
[Goes. The Captain follows the Doctor to the door at back and then