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The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen

Part 3 out of 5

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Miss Wangle was up long ago.

SOLNESS.

Oh, was she?

MRS. SOLNESS.

When I went in to see her, she was busy putting her things in order.
[She goes in front of the mirror and slowly begins to put on
her hat.

SOLNESS.

[After a short pause.] So we have found a use for one our nurseries
after all, Aline.

MRS. SOLNESS.

Yes, we have.

SOLNESS.

That seems to me better than to have them all standing empty.

MRS. SOLNESS.

That emptiness is dreadful; you are right there.

SOLNESS.

[Closes the portfolio, rises and approaches her.] You will find that
we shall get on far better after this, Aline. Things will be more
comfortable. Life will be easier--especially for you.

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Looks at him.] After this?

SOLNESS.

Yes, believe me, Aline---

MRS. SOLNESS.

Do you mean--because she has come here?

SOLNESS.

[Checking himself.] I mean, of course--when once we have moved into
the new home.

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Takes her cloak.] Ah, do you think so, Halvard? Will it be better
then?

SOLNESS.

I can't think otherwise. And surely you think so too?

MRS. SOLNESS.

I think nothing at all about the new house.

SOLNESS.

[Cast down.] It's hard for me to hear you say that; for you know it
is mainly for your sake that I have built it.
[He offers to help her on with her cloak.

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Evades him.] The fact is, you do far too much for my sake.

SOLNESS.

[With a certain vehemence.] No, no, you really mustn't say that,
Aline! I cannot bear to hear you say such things!

MRS. SOLNESS.

Very well, then I won't say it, Halvard.

SOLNESS.

But I stick to what _I_ said. You'll see that things will be easier
for you in the new place.

MRS. SOLNESS.

Oh, heavens--easier for me---!

SOLNESS.

[Eagerly.] Yes, indeed they will! You may be quite sure of that!
For you see--there will be so very, very much there that will remind
you of your own home---

MRS. SOLNESS.

The home that used to be father's and mother's--and that was burnt
to the ground---

SOLNESS.

[In a low voice.] Yes, yes, my poor Aline. That was a terrible blow
for you.

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Breaking out in lamentation.] You may build as much as ever you
like, Halvard--you can never build up again a real home for me!

SOLNESS.

[Crosses the room.] Well, in Heaven's name, let us talk no more
about it then.

MRS. SOLNESS.

We are not in the habit of talking about it. For you always put the
thought away from you---

SOLNESS.

[Stops suddenly and looks at her.] Do I? And why should I do that?
Put the thought away from me?

MRS. SOLNESS.

Oh yes, Halvard, I understand you very well. You are so anxious to
spare me--and to find excuses for me too--as much as ever you can.

SOLNESS.

[With astonishment in his eyes.] You! Is it you--yourself, that
your are talking about, Aline?

MRS. SOLNESS.

Yes, who else should it be but myself?

SOLNESS.

[Involuntarily to himself.] That too!

MRS. SOLNESS.

As for the old house, I wouldn't mind so much about that. When once
misfortune was in the air--why---

SOLNESS.

Ah, you are right there. Misfortune will have its way--as the saying
goes.

MRS. SOLNESS.

But it's what came of the fire--the dreadful thing that followed---!
That is the thing! That, that, that!

SOLNESS.

[Vehemently.] Don't think about that, Aline!

MRS. SOLNESS.

Ah, that is exactly what I cannot help thinking about. And now, at
last, I must speak about it, too; for I don't seem to be able to
bear it any longer. And then never to be able to forgive myself---

SOLNESS.

[Exclaiming.] Yourself---!

MRS. SOLNESS.

Yes, for I had duties on both sides--both towards you and towards
the little ones. I ought to have hardened myself--not to have let
the horror take such hold upon me--nor the grief for the burning of
my home. [Wrings her hands.] Oh, Halvard, if I had only had the
strength!

SOLNESS.

[Softly, much moved, comes closer.] Aline--you must promise me never
to think these thoughts any more.--Promise me that, dear!

MRS. SOLNESS.

Oh, promise, promise! One can promise anything.

SOLNESS.

[Clenches his hands and crosses the room.] Oh, but this is hopeless,
hopeless! Never a ray of sunlight! Not so much as a gleam of
brightness to light up our home!

MRS. SOLNESS.

This is no home, Halvard.

SOLNESS.

Oh no, you may well say that. [Gloomily.] And God knows whether you
are not right in saying that it will be no better for us in the new
house, either.

MRS. SOLNESS.

It will never be any better. Just as empty--just as desolate--there
as here.

SOLNESS.

[Vehemently.] Why in all the world have we built it then? Can you
tell me that?

MRS. SOLNESS.

No; you must answer that question for yourself.

SOLNESS.

[Glances suspiciously at her.] What do you mean by that, Aline?

MRS. SOLNESS.

What do I mean?

SOLNESS.

Yes, in the devil's name! You said it so strangely--as if you had
some hidden meaning in it.

MRS. SOLNESS.

No, indeed, I assure you---

SOLNESS.

[Comes closer.] Oh, come now--I know what I know. I have both my
eyes and my ears about me, Aline--you may depend upon that!

MRS. SOLNESS.

Why, what are you talking about? What is it?

SOLNESS.

[Places himself in front of her.] Do you mean to say you don't find
a kind of lurking, hidden meaning in the most innocent word I happen
to say?

MRS. SOLNESS.

_I_ do you say? _I_ do that?

SOLNESS.

[Laughs.] Ho-ho-ho! It's natural enough, Aline! When you have a
sick man on your hands---

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Anxiously.] Sick? Are you ill, Halvard?

SOLNESS.

[Violently.] A half-mad man then! A crazy man! Call me what you
will.

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Feels blindly for a chair and sits down.] Halvard--for God's sake---

SOLNESS.

But you are wrong, both you and the doctor. I am not in the state
that you imagine.
[He walks up and down the room. MRS. SOLNESS follows him
anxiously with her eyes. Finally he goes up to her.

SOLNESS.

[Calmly.] In reality there is nothing whatever the matter with me.

MRS. SOLNESS.

No, there isn't, is there? But then what is it that troubles you so?

SOLNESS.

Why this, that I often feel ready to sink under this terrible burden
of debt---

MRS. SOLNESS.

Debt, do you say? But you owe no one anything, Halvard!

SOLNESS.

[Softly, with emotion.] I owe a boundless debt to you--to you--to
you, Aline.

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Rises slowly.] What is behind all this? You may just as well tell
me at once.

SOLNESS.

But there is nothing behind it! I have never done you any wrong--
not wittingly and willfully, at any rate. And yet--and yet it seems
as though a crushing debt rested upon me and weighed me down.

MRS. SOLNESS.

A debt to me?

SOLNESS.

Chiefly to you.

MRS. SOLNESS.

Then you are--ill after all, Halvard.

SOLNESS.

[Gloomily.] I suppose I must be--or not far from it. [Looks towards
the door to the right, which is opened at this moment.] Ah! now it
grows light.

HILDA WANGEL comes in. She has made some alteration in her
dress, and let down her skirt.

HILDA.

Good morning, Mr. Solness!

SOLNESS.

[Nods.] Slept well?

HILDA.

Quite deliciously! Like a child in a cradle. Oh--I lay and stretched
myself like--like a princess!

SOLNESS.

[Smiles a little.] You were thoroughly comfortable then?

HILDA.

I should think so.

SOLNESS.

And no doubt you dreamed, too.

HILDA.

Yes, I did. But that was horrid.

SOLNESS.

Was it?

HILDA.

Yes, for I dreamed I was falling over a frightfully high, sheer
precipice. Do you never have that kind of dream?

SOLNESS.

Oh yes--now and then---

HILDA.

It's tremendously thrilling--when you fall and fall---

SOLNESS.

It seems to make one's blood run cold.

HILDA.

Do you draw your legs up under you while you are falling?

SOLNESS.

Yes, as high as ever I can.

HILDA.

So do I.

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Takes her parasol.] I must go into town now, Halvard. [To HILDA.]
And I'll try to get one or two things that you may require.

HILDA.

[Making a motion to throw her arms round her neck.] Oh, you dear,
Mrs. Solness! You are really much too kind to me! Frightfully
kind---

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Deprecatingly, freeing herself.] Oh, not at all. It's only my duty,
so I am very glad to do it.

HILDA.

[Offended, pouts.] But really, I think I am quite fit to be seen in
the streets--now that I've put my dress to rights. Or do you think
I am not?

MRS. SOLNESS.

To tell you the truth, I think people would stare at you a little.

HILDA.

[Contemptuously.] Pooh! Is that all? That only amuses me.

SOLNESS.

[With suppressed ill-humour.] Yes, but people might take it into
their heads that you were mad too, you see.

HILDA.

Mad? Are there so many mad people here in town, then?

SOLNESS.

[Points to his own forehead.] Here you see one at all events.

HILDA.

You--Mr. Solness!

SOLNESS.

Have you not noticed that yet?

HILDA.

No, I certainly have not. [Reflects and laughs a little.] And yet--
perhaps in one single thing.

SOLNESS.

Ah, do you hear that, Aline?

MRS. SOLNESS.

What is that one single thing, Miss Wangel?

HILDA.

No, I won't say.

SOLNESS.

Oh yes, do!

HILDA.

No thank you--I am not so mad as that.

MRS. SOLNESS.

When you and Miss Wangel are alone, I daresay she will tell you,
Halvard.

SOLNESS.

Ah--you think she will?

MRS. SOLNESS.

Oh yes, certainly. For you have known her so well in the past. Ever
since she was a child--you tell me.
[She goes out by the door on the left.

HILDA.

[After a little while.] Does your wife dislike me very much?

SOLNESS.

Did you think you noticed anything of the kind?

HILDA.

Did you notice it yourself?

SOLNESS.

[Evasively.] Aline has become exceedingly shy with strangers of
late years.

HILDA.

Has she really?

SOLNESS.

But if only you could get to know her thoroughly---! Ah, she is so
good--so kind--so excellent a creature---

HILDA.

[Impatiently.] But if she is all that--what made her say that about
her duty?

SOLNESS.

Her duty?

HILDA.

She said that she would go out and buy something for me, because it
was her duty. Oh, I can't bear that ugly, horrid word!

SOLNESS.

Why not?

HILDA.

It sounds so could and sharp, and stinging. Duty--duty--duty. Don't
you think so, too? Doesn't it seem to sting you?

SOLNESS.

H'm--haven't thought much about it.

HILDA.

Yes, it does. And if she is so good--as you say she is--why should
she talk in that way?

SOLNESS.

But, good Lord, what would you have had her say, then?

HILDA.

She might have said she would do it because she had taken a
tremendous fancy to me. She might have said something like that--
something really warm and cordial, you understand.

SOLNESS.

[Looks at her.] Is that how you would like to have it?

HILDA.

Yes, precisely. [She wanders about the room, stops at the bookcase
and looks at the books.] What a lot of books you have.

SOLNESS.

Yes, I have got together a good many.

HILDA.

Do you read them all, too?

SOLNESS.

I used to try to. Do you read much?

HILDA.

No, never! I have given it up. For it all seems so irrelevant.

SOLNESS.

That is just my feeling.
[HILDA wanders about a little, stops at the small table, opens
the portfolio and turns over the contents.

HILDA.

Are all these your drawings yours?

SOLNESS.

No, they are drawn by a young man whom I employ to help me.

HILDA.

Some one you have taught?

SOLNESS.

Oh yes, no doubt he has learnt something from me, too.

HILDA.

[Sits down.] Then I suppose he is very clever. [Looks at a
drawing.] Isn't he?

SOLNESS.

Oh, he might be worse. For my purpose---

HILDA.

Oh yes--I'm sure he is frightfully clever.

SOLNESS.

Do you think you can see that in the drawings?

HILDA.

Pooh--these scrawlings! But if he has been learning from you---

SOLNESS.

Oh, so far as that goes---there are plenty of people here that have
learnt from me, and have come to little enough for all that.

HILDA.

[Looks at him and shakes her head.] No, I can't for the life of me
understand how you can be so stupid.

SOLNESS.

Stupid? Do you think I am so very stupid?

HILDA.

Yes, I do indeed. If you are content to go about here teaching all
these people---

SOLNESS.

[With a slight start.] Well, and why not?

HILDA.

[Rises, half serious, half laughing.] No indeed, Mr. Solness! What
can be the good of that? No one but you should be allowed to build.
You should stand quite alone--do it all yourself. Now you know it.

SOLNESS.

[Involuntarily.] Hilda---!

HILDA.

Well!

SOLNESS.

How in the world did that come into your head?

HILDA.

Do you think I am so very far wrong then?

SOLNESS.

No, that's not what I mean. But now I'll tell you something.

HILDA.

Well?

SOLNESS.

I keep on--incessantly--in silence and alone--brooding on that very
thought.

HILDA.

Yes, that seems to me perfectly natural.

SOLNESS.

[Looks somewhat searchingly at her.] Perhaps you have noticed it
already?

HILDA.

No, indeed I haven't.

SOLNESS.

But just now--when you said you thought I was--off my balance? In
one thing, you said---

HILDA.

Oh, I was thinking of something quite different.

SOLNESS.

What was it?

HILDA.

I am not going to tell you.

SOLNESS.

[Crosses the room.] Well, well--as you please. [Stops at the bow-
window.] Come here, and I will show you something.

HILDA.

[Approaching.] What is it?

SOLNESS.

Do you see over here in the garden---?

HILDA.

Yes?

SOLNESS.

[Points.] Right above the great quarry---?

HILDA.

That new house, you mean?

SOLNESS.

The one that is being built, yes. Almost finished.

HILDA.

It seems to have a very high tower.

SOLNESS.

The scaffolding is still up.

HILDA.

Is that your new house?

SOLNESS.

Yes.

HILDA.

The house you are soon going to move into?

SOLNESS.

Yes.

HILDA.

[Looks at him.] Are there nurseries in that house, too?

SOLNESS.

Three, as there are here.

HILDA.

And no child.

SOLNESS.

And there never will be one.

HILDA.

[With a half-smile.] Well, isn't it just as I said---?

SOLNESS.

That---?

HILDA.

That you are a little--a little mad after all.

SOLNESS.

Was that what you were thinking of?

HILDA.

Yes, of all the empty nurseries I slept in.

SOLNESS.

[Lowers his voice.] We have had children--Aline and I.

HILDA.

[Looks eagerly at him.] Have you---?

SOLNESS.

Two little boys. They were of the same age.

HILDA.

Twins, then.

SOLNESS.

Yes, twins. It's eleven or twelve years ago now.

HILDA.

[Cautiously.] And so both of them---? You have lost both the
twins, then?

SOLNESS.

[With quiet emotion.] We kept them only about three weeks. Or
scarcely so much. [Bursts forth.] Oh, Hilda, I can't tell you
what a good thing it is for me that you have come! For now at
last I have some one to talk to!

HILDA.

Can you not talk to--her, too?

SOLNESS.

Not about this. Not as I want to talk and must talk. [Gloomily.]
And not about so many other things, either.

HILDA.

[In a subdued voice.] Was that all you meant when you said you
need me?

SOLNESS.

That was mainly what I meant--at all events, yesterday. For to-day
I am not so sure--[Breaking off.] Come here and let us sit down,
Hilda. Sit there on the sofa--so that you can look into the garden.
[HILDA seats herself in the corner of the sofa. SOLNESS brings a
chair closer.] Should you like to hear about it?

HILDA.

Yes, I shall love to sit and listen to you.

SOLNESS.

[Sits down.] Then I will tell you all about it.

HILDA.

Now I can see both the garden and you, Mr. Solness. So now, tell
away! Begin!

SOLNESS.

[Points towards the bow-window.] Out there on the rising ground--
where you see the new house---

HILDA.

Yes?

SOLNESS.

Aline and I lived there in the first years of our married life.
There was an old house up there that had belonged to her mother;
and we inherited it, and the whole of the great garden with it.

HILDA.

Was there a tower on that house, too?

SOLNESS.

No, nothing of the kind. From the outside it looked like a great,
dark, ugly wooden box; but all the same, it was snug and comfortable
enough inside.

HILDA.

Then did you pull down the ramshackle old place?

SOLNESS.

No, it was burnt down.

HILDA.

The whole of it?

SOLNESS.

Yes.

HILDA.

Was that a great misfortune for you?

SOLNESS.

That depends on how you look at it. As a builder, the fire was the
making of me---

HILDA.

Well, but---

SOLNESS.

It was just after the birth of the two little boys---

HILDA.

The poor little twins, yes.

SOLNESS.

They came healthy and bonny into the world. And they were growing
too--you could see the difference day to day.

HILDA.

Little children do grow quickly at first.

SOLNESS.

It was the prettiest sight in the world to see Aline lying with the
two of them in her arms.--But then came the night of the fire---

HILDA.

[Excitedly.] What happened? Do tell me! Was any one burnt?

SOLNESS.

No, not that. Every one got safe and sound out of the house---

HILDA.

Well, and what then---?

SOLNESS.

The fright had shaken Aline terribly. The alarm--the escape--the
break-neck hurry--and then the ice-cold night air--for they had to
be carried out just as they lay--both she and the little ones.

HILDA.

Was it too much for them?

SOLNESS.

Oh no, they stood it well enough. But Aline fell into a fever, and
it affected her milk. She would insist on nursing them herself;
because it was her duty, she said. And both our little boys, they--
[Clenching his hands.]--they--oh!

HILDA.

They did not get over that?

SOLNESS.

No, that they did not get over. That was how we lost them.

HILDA.

It must have been terribly hard for you.

SOLNESS.

Hard enough for me; but ten time harder for Aline. [Clenching his
hands in suppressed fury.] Oh, that such things should be allowed
to happen here the world! [Shortly and firmly.] From the day I
lost them, I had no heart for building churches.

HILDA.

Did you not like building the church-tower in our town?

SOLNESS.

I didn't like it. I know how free and happy I felt when that tower
was finished.

HILDA.

_I_ know that, too.

SOLNESS.

And now I shall never--never build anything of that sort again!
Neither churches nor church-towers.

HILDA.

[Nods slowly.] Nothing but houses for people to live in.

SOLNESS.

Homes for human beings, Hilda.

HILDA.

But homes with high towers and pinnacles upon them.

SOLNESS.

If possible. [Adopts a lighter tone.] But, as I said before, that
fire was the making of me--as a builder, I mean.

HILDA.

Why don't you call yourself an architect, like the others?

SOLNESS.

I have not been systematically enough taught for that. Most of what
I know I have found out for myself.

HILDA.

But you succeeded all the same.

SOLNESS.

Yes, thanks to the fire. I laid out almost the whole of the garden
in villa lots; and there I was able to build after my own heart. So
I came to the front with a rush.

HILDA.

[Looks keenly at him.] You must surely be a very happy man, as
matters stand with you.

SOLNESS.

[Gloomily.] Happy? Do you say that, too--like all the rest of them?

HILDA.

Yes, I should say you must be. If you could only cease thing about
the two little children---

SOLNESS.

[Slowly.] The two little children--they are not so easy to forget,
Hilda.

HILDA.

[Somewhat uncertainly.] Do you still feel their loss so much--after
all these years?

SOLNESS.

[Looks fixedly at her, without replying.] A happy man you said---

HILDA.

Well, now, are you not happy--in other respects?

SOLNESS.

[Continues to look at her.] When I told you all this about the fire--
h'm---

HILDA.

Well?

SOLNESS.

Was there not one special thought that you--that you seized upon?

HILDA.

[Reflects in vain.] No. What thought should that be?

SOLNESS.

[With subdued emphasis.] It was simply and solely by that fire that
I was enabled to build homes for human beings. Cosy, comfortable,
bright homes, where father and mother and the whole troop of children
can live in safety and gladness, feeling what a happy thing it is to
be alive in the world--and most of all to belong to each other--in
great things and in small.

HILDA.

[Ardently.] Well, and is it not a great happiness for you to be able
to build such beautiful homes?

SOLNESS.

The price, Hilda! The terrible price I had to pay for the opportunity!

HILDA.

But can you never get over that?

SOLNESS.

No. That I might build homes for others, I had to forego--to forego
for all time--the home that might have been my own. I mean a home
for a troop of children--and for father and mother, too.

HILDA.

[Cautiously.] But need you have done that? For all time, you say?

SOLNESS.

[Nods slowly.] That was the price of this happiness that people talk
about. [Breathes heavily.] This happiness--h'm--this happiness was
not to be bought any cheaper, Hilda.

HILDA.

[As before.] But may it not come right even yet?

SOLNESS.

Never in this world--never. That is another consequence of the fire--
and of Aline's illness afterwards.

HILDA.

[Looks at him with an indefinable expression.] And yet you build all
these nurseries.

SOLNESS.

[Seriously.] Have you never noticed, Hilda, how the impossible--how
it seems to beckon and cry aloud to one?

HILDA.

[Reflecting.] The impossible? [With animation.] Yes, indeed! Is
that how you feel too?

SOLNESS.

Yes, I do.

HILDA.

Then there must be--a little of the troll in you too.

SOLNESS.

Why of the troll?

HILDA.

What would you call it, then?

SOLNESS.

[Rises.] Well, well, perhaps you are right. [Vehemently.] But how
can I help turning into a troll, when this is how it always goes with
me in everything--in everything!

HILDA.

How do you mean?

SOLNESS.

[Speaking low, with inward emotion.] Mark what I say to you, Hilda.
All that I have succeeded in doing, building, creating--all the
beauty, security, cheerful comfort--ay, and magnificence too--
[Clenches his hands.] Oh, is it not terrible even to think of---?

HILDA.

What is so terrible?

SOLNESS.

That all this I have to make up for, to pay for--not in money, but
in human happiness. And not with my own happiness only, but with
other people's too. Yes, yes, do you see that, Hilda? That is the
price which my position as an artist has cost me--and others. And
every single day I have to look on while the price is paid for me
anew. Over again, and over again--and over again for ever!

HILDA.

[Rises and looks steadily at him.] Now I can see that you are
thinking of--of her.

SOLNESS.

Yes, mainly of Aline. For Aline--she, too, had her vocation in life,
just as much as I had mine. [His voice quivers.] But her vocation
has had to be stunted, and crushed, and shattered--in order that mine
might force its way to--to a sort of great victory. For you must
know that Aline--she, too, had a talent for building.

HILDA.

She! For building?

SOLNESS.

[Shakes his head.] Not houses and towers, and spires--not such things
as I work away at---

HILDA.

Well, but what then?

SOLNESS.

[Softly, with emotion.] For building up the souls of little children,
Hilda. For building up children's souls in perfect balance, and in
noble and beautiful forms. For enabling them to soar up into erect
and full-grown human souls. That was Aline's talent. And there it
all lies now--unused and unusable for ever--of no earthly service
to any one--just like the ruins left by a fire.

HILDA.

Yes, but even if this were so---?

SOLNESS.

It is so! It is so! I know it!

HILDA.

Well, but in any case it is not your fault.

SOLNESS.

[Fixes his eyes on her, and nods slowly.] Ah, that is the great, the
terrible question. That is the doubt that is gnawing me--night and
day.

HILDA.

That?

SOLNESS.

Yes. Suppose the fault was mine--in a certain sense.

HILDA.

Your fault! The fire!

SOLNESS.

All of it; the whole thing. And yet, perhaps--I may not have had
anything to do with it.

HILDA.

[Looks at him with a troubled expression.] Oh, Mr. Solness--if you
can talk like that, I am afraid you must be--ill after all.

SOLNESS.

H'm--I don't think I shall ever be of quite sound mind on that point.

RAGNAR BROVIK cautiously opens the little door in the left-
hand corner. HILDA comes forward.

RAGNAR.

[When he sees Hilda.] Oh. I beg pardon, Mr. Solness--- [He makes
a movement to withdraw.

SOLNESS.

No, no, don't go. Let us get it over.

RAGNAR.

Oh, yes--if only we could.

SOLNESS.

I hear your father is no better?

RAGNAR.

Father is fast growing weaker--and therefore I beg and implore you
to write a few kind words for me on one of the plans! Something for
father to read before he---

SOLNESS.

[Vehemently.] I won't hear anything more about those drawings of
yours!

RAGNAR.

Have you looked at them?

SOLNESS.

Yes--I have.

RAGNAR.

And they are good for nothing? And _I_ am good for nothing, too?

SOLNESS.

[Evasively.] Stay here with me, Ragnar. You shall have everything
your own way. And then you can marry Kaia, and live at your ease--
and happily too, who knows? Only don't think of building on your
own account.

RAGNAR.

Well, well, then I must go home and tell father what you say--I
promised I would.--Is this what I am to tell father--before he dies?

SOLNESS.

[With a groan.] Oh tell him--tell him what you will, for me. Best
to say nothing at all to him! [With a sudden outburst.] I cannot do
anything else, Ragnar!

RAGNAR.

May I have the drawings to take with me?

SOLNESS.

Yes, take them--take them by all means! They are lying there on the
table.

RAGNAR.

[Goes to the table.] Thanks.

HILDA.

[Puts her hand on the portfolio.] No, no; leave them here.

SOLNESS.

Why?

HILDA.

Because I want to look at them, too.

SOLNESS.

But you have been--- [To RAGNAR.] Well, leave them here, then.

RAGNAR.

Very well.

SOLNESS.

And go home at once to your father.

RAGNAR.

Yes, I suppose I must.

SOLNESS.

[As if in desperation.] Ragnar--you must not ask me to do what is
beyond my power! Do you hear, Ragnar? You must not!

RAGNAR.

No, no. I beg you pardon---
[He bows, and goes out by the corner door. HILDA goes over and
sits down on a chair near the mirror.

HILDA.

[Looks angrily at SOLNESS.] That was a very ugly thing to do.

SOLNESS.

Do you think so, too?

HILDA.

Yes, it was horribly ugly--and hard and bad and cruel as well.

SOLNESS.

Oh, you don't understand my position.

HILDA.

No matter---. I say you ought not to be like that.

SOLNESS.

You said yourself, only just now, that no one but _I_ ought to be
allowed to build.

HILDA.

_I_ may say such things--but you must not.

SOLNESS.

I most of all, surely, who have paid so dear for my position.

HILDA.

Oh yes--with what you call domestic comfort--and that sort of thing.

SOLNESS.

And with my peace of soul into the bargain.

HILDA.

[Rising.] Peace of soul! [With feeling.] Yes, yes, you are right
in that! Poor Mr. Solness--you fancy that---

SOLNESS.

[With a quiet, chuckling laugh.] Just sit down again, Hilda, and
I'll tell you something funny.

HILDA.

[Sits down; with intent interest.] Well?

SOLNESS.

It sounds such a ludicrous little thing; for, you see, the whole
story turns upon nothing but a crack in the chimney.

HILDA.

No more than that?

SOLNESS.

No, not to begin with.
[He moves a chair nearer to HILDA and sits down.

HILDA.

[Impatiently, taps on her knee.] Well, now for the crack in the
chimney!

SOLNESS.

I had noticed the split in the flue long, long before the fire.
Every time I went up into the attic, I looked to see if it was
still there.

HILDA.

And it was?

SOLNESS.

Yes; for no one else knew about it.

HILDA.

And you said nothing?

SOLNESS.

Nothing.

HILDA.

And did not think of repairing the flue either?

SOLNESS.

Oh yes, I thought about it--but never got any further. Every time
I intended to set to work, it seemed just as if a hand held me back.
Not to-day, I thought--to-morrow; and nothing ever came of it.

HILDA.

But why did you keep putting it off like that?

SOLNESS.

Because I was revolving something in my mind. [Slowly, and in a low
voice.] Through that little black crack in the chimney, I might,
perhaps, force my way upwards--as a builder.

HILDA.

[Looking straight in front of her.] That must have been thrilling.

SOLNESS.

Almost irresistible--quite irresistible. For at that time it
appeared to me a perfectly simple and straightforward matter. I
would have had it happen in the winter-time--a little before midday.
I was to be out driving Aline in the sleigh. The servants at home
would have made huge fires in the stoves.

HILDA.

For, of course, it was to be bitterly cold that day?

SOLNESS.

Rather biting, yes--and they would want Aline to find it thoroughly
snug and warm when she came home.

HILDA.

I suppose she is very chilly by nature?

SOLNESS.

She is. And as we drove home, we were to see the smoke.

HILDA.

Only the smoke?

SOLNESS.

The smoke first. But when we came up to the garden gate, the whole
of the old timber-box was to be a rolling mass of flames.--That is
how I wanted it to be, you see.

HILDA.

Oh, why, why could it not have happened so!

SOLNESS.

You may well say that, Hilda.

HILDA.

Well, but now listen, Mr. Solness. Are you perfectly certain that
the fire was caused by that little crack in the chimney!

SOLNESS.

No, on the contrary--I am perfectly certain that the crack in the
chimney had nothing whatever to do with the fire.

HILDA.

What!

SOLNESS.

It has been clearly ascertained that the fire broke out in a clothes-
cupboard--in a totally different part of the house.

HILDA.

Then what is all this nonsense you are talking about the crack in
the chimney!

SOLNESS.

May I go on talking to you a little, Hilda?

HILDA.

Yes, if you'll only talk sensibly---

SOLNESS.

I will try to. [He moves his chair nearer.

HILDA.

Out with it, then, Mr. Solness.

SOLNESS.

[Confidentially.] Don't you agree with me, Hilda, that there exist
special, chosen people who have been endowed with the power and
faculty if desiring a thing, craving for a thing, willing a thing--
so persistently and so--so inexorably--that at last it has to happen?
Don't you believe that?

HILDA.

[With an indefinable expression in her eyes.] If that is so, we
shall see, one of these days, whether _I_ am one of the chosen.

SOLNESS.

It is not one's self alone that can do such great things. Oh, no--
the helpers and the servers--they must do their part too, if it is
to be of any good. But they never come of themselves. One has to
call upon them very persistently--inwardly, you understand.

HILDA.

What are these helpers and servers?

SOLNESS.

Oh, we can talk about that some other time. For the present, let us
keep to this business of the fire.

HILDA.

Don't you think that fire would have happened all the same--even
without your wishing for it?

SOLNESS.

If the house had been old Knut Brovik's, it would never have burnt
down so conveniently for him. I am sure of that; for he does not
know how to call for the helpers--no, nor for the servers, either.
[Rises in unrest.] So you see, Hilda--it is my fault, after all,
that the lives of the two little boys had to be sacrificed. And do
you think it is not my fault, too, that Aline has never been the

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