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The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen

Part 5 out of 5

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SOLNESS.

But he will never be able to build any more. Poor builder!

HILDA.

[Animated.] Oh, yes, he will! We two will set to work together.
And then we will build the loveliest--the very loveliest--thing in
all the world.

SOLNESS.

[Intently.] Hilda--tell me what that is!

HILDA.

[Looks smilingly at him, shakes her head a little, pouts, and speaks
as if to a child.] Builders--they are such very--very stupid people.

SOLNESS.

Yes, no doubt they are stupid. But now tell me what it is--the
loveliest thing in the world--that we two are to build together?

HILDA.

[Is silent a little while, then says with an indefinable expression
in her eyes.] Castles in the air.

SOLNESS.

Castles in the air?

HILDA.

[Nods.] Castles in the air, yes! Do you know what sort of thing a
castle in the air is?

SOLNESS.

It is the loveliest thing in the world, you say.

HILDA.

[Rises with vehemence, and makes a gesture of repulsion with her
hand.] Yes, to be sure it is! Castles in the air--they are so
easy to build, too--[looks scornfully at him]--especially for the
builders who have a--a dizzy conscience.

SOLNESS.

[Rises.] After this day we two will build together, Hilda.

HILDA.

[With a half-dubious smile.] A real castle in the air?

SOLNESS.

Yes. One with a firm foundation under it.

RAGNAR BROVIK comes out from the house. He is carrying a
large green wreath with flowers and silk ribbons.

HILDA.

[With an outburst of pleasure.] The wreath! Oh, that will be
glorious!

SOLNESS.

[In surprise.] Have you brought the wreath Ragnar?

RAGNAR.

I promised the foreman I would.

SOLNESS.

[Relieved.] Ah, then I suppose you father is better?

RAGNAR.

No.

SOLNESS.

Was he not cheered by what I wrote?

RAGNAR.

It came too late.

SOLNESS.

Too late!

RAGNAR.

When she came with it he was unconscious. He had had a stroke.

SOLNESS.

Why, then, you must go home to him! You must attend to your father!

RAGNAR.

He does not need me any more.

SOLNESS.

But surely you ought to be with him.

RAGNAR.

She is sitting by his bed.

SOLNESS.

[Rather uncertainly.] Kaia?

RAGNAR.

[Looking darkly at him.] Yes--Kaia.

SOLNESS.

Go home, Ragnar--both to him and to her. Give me the wreath.

RAGNAR.

[Suppresses a mocking smile.] You don't mean that you yourself---?

SOLNESS.

I will take it down to them myself [Takes the wreath from him.]
And now you go home; we don't require you to-day.

RAGNAR.

I know you do not require me any more; but to-day I shall remain.

SOLNESS.

Well, remain then, since you are bent upon it.

HILDA.

[At the railing.] Mr. Solness, I will stand here and look on at you.

SOLNESS.

At me!

HILDA.

It will be fearfully thrilling.

SOLNESS.

[In a low tone.] We will talk about that presently, Hilda.
[He goes down the flight of steps with the wreath, and away
through the garden.

HILDA.

[Looks after him, then turns to RAGNAR.] I think you might at least
have thanked him

RAGNAR.

Thanked him? Ought I to have thanked him?

HILDA.

Yes, of course you ought!

RAGNAR.

I think it is rather you I ought to thank.

HILDA.

How can you say such a thing?

RAGNAR.

[Without answering her.] But I advise you to take care, Miss Wangel!
For you don't know him rightly yet.

HILDA.

[Ardently.] Oh, no one knows him as I do!

RAGNAR.

[Laughs in exasperation.] Thank him, when he has held me down year
after year! When he made father disbelieve in me--made me disbelieve
in myself! And all merely that he might---!

HILDA.

[As if divining something.] That he might---? Tell me at once!

RAGNAR.

That he might keep her with him.

HILDA.

[With a start towards him.] The girl at the desk.

RAGNAR.

Yes.

HILDA.

[Threateningly, clenching her hands.] That is not true! You are
telling falsehoods about him!

RAGNAR.

I would not believe it either until to-day--when she said so herself.

HILDA.

[As if beside herself.] What did she say? I will know! At once!
at once!

RAGNAR.

She said that he had taken possession of her mind--her whole mind--
centred all her thoughts upon himself alone. She says that she can
never leave him--that she will remain here, where he is---

HILDA.

[With flashing eyes.] She will not be allowed to!

RAGNAR.

[As if feeling his way.] Who will not allow her?

HILDA.

[Rapidly.] He will not either!

RAGNAR.

Oh no--I understand the whole thing now. After this, she would merely
be--in the way.

HILDA.

You understand nothing--since you can talk like that! No, _I_ will
tell you why he kept hold of her.

RAGNAR.

Well then, why?

HILDA.

In order to keep hold of you.

RAGNAR.

Has he told you so?

HILDA.

No, but it is so. It must be so! [Wildly.] I will--I will have
it so!

RAGNAR.

And at the very moment when you came--he let her go.

HILDA.

It was you--you that he let go! What do you suppose he cares about
strange women like her?

RAGNAR.

[Reflects.] Is it possible that all this time he has been afraid of
me?

HILDA.

He afraid! I would not be so conceited if I were you.

RAGNAR.

Oh, he must have seen long ago that I had something in me, too.
Besides--cowardly--that is just what he is, you see.

HILDA.

He! Oh yes, I am likely to believe that!

RAGNAR.

In a certain sense he is cowardly--he, the great master builder. He
is not afraid of robbing others of their happiness--as he has done
both for my father and me. But when it comes to climbing up a paltry
bit of scaffolding--he will do anything rather than that.

HILDA.

Oh, you should just have seen him high, high up--at the dizzy height
where I once saw him.

RAGNAR.

Did you see that?

HILDA.

Yes, indeed I did. How free and great he looked as he stood and
fastened the wreath to the church vane!

RAGNAR.

I know that he ventured that, once in his life--one solitary time.
It is a legend among us younger men. But no power on earth would
induce him to do it again.

HILDA.

To-day he will do it again!

RAGNAR.

[Scornfully.] Yes, I daresay!

HILDA.

We shall see it!

RAGNAR.

That neither you nor I will see.

HILDA.

[With uncontrollable vehemence.] I will se it! I will and I must
see it!

RAGNAR.

But he will not do it. He simply dare not do it. For you see he
cannot get over this infirmity--master builder though he be.

MRS. SOLNESS comes from the house on to the verandah.

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Looks around.] Is he not here? Where has he gone to?

RAGNAR.

Mr. Solness is down with the men.

HILDA.

He took the wreath with him.

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Terrified.] Took the wreath with him! Oh God! oh God! Brovik--
you must go down to him! Get him to come back here!

RAGNAR.

Shall I say you want to speak to him, Mrs. Solness?

MRS. SOLNESS.

Oh yes, do!--No, no--don't say that _I_ want anything! You can say
that somebody is here, and that he must come at once.

RAGNAR.

Good. I will do so, Mrs. Solness.
[He goes down the flight of steps and away through the garden.

MRS. SOLNESS.

Oh, Miss Wangel, you can't think how anxious I feel about him.

HILDA.

Is there anything in this to be terribly frightened about?

MRS. SOLNESS.

Oh yes; surely you can understand. Just think, if he were really to
do it! If he should take it into his head to climb up the scaffolding!

HILDA.

[Eagerly.] Do you think he will?

MRS. SOLNESS.

Oh, one can never tell what he might take into his head. I am afraid
there is nothing he mightn't think of doing.

HILDA.

Aha! Perhaps you too think he is--well---?

MRS. SOLNESS.

Oh, I don't know what to think about him now. The doctor has been
telling me all sorts of things; and putting it all together with
several things I have heard him say---

DR. HERDAL looks out, at the door.

DR. HERDAL.

Is he not coming soon?

MRS. SOLNESS.

Yes, I think so. I have sent for him at any rate.

DR. HERDAL.

[Advancing.] I am afraid you will have to go in, my dear lady---

MRS. SOLNESS.

Oh no! Oh no! I shall stay out here and wait for Halvard.

DR. HERDAL.

But some ladies have just come to call on you---

MRS. SOLNESS.

Good heavens, that too! And just at this moment!

DR. HERDAL.

They say they positively must see the ceremony.

MRS. SOLNESS.

Well, well, I suppose I must go to them after all. It is my duty.

HILDA.

Can't you ask the ladies to go away?

MRS. SOLNESS.

No, that would never do. Now that they are here, it is my duty to
see them. But do you stay out here in the meantime--and receive him
when he comes.

DR. HERDAL.

And try to occupy his attention as long as possible---

MRS. SOLNESS.

Yes, do, dear Miss Wangel. Keep as firm hold of him as ever you can.

HILDA.

Would it not be best for you to do that?

MRS. SOLNESS.

Yes; God knows that is my duty. But when one has duties in so many
directions---

DR. HERDAL.

[Looks towards the garden.] There he is coming.

MRS. SOLNESS.

And I have to go in!

DR. HERDAL.

[To HILDA.] Don't say anything about my being here.

HILDA.

Oh no! I daresay I shall find something else to talk to Mr. Solness
about.

MRS. SOLNESS.

And be sure you keep firm hold of him. I believe you can do it best.
[MRS. SOLNESS and DR. HERDAL go into the house. HILDA remains
standing on the verandah. SOLNESS comes from the garden, up
the flight of steps.

SOLNESS.

Somebody wants me, I hear.

HILDA.

Yes; it is I, Mr. Solness.

SOLNESS.

Oh, is it you, Hilda? I was afraid it might be Aline or the Doctor.

HILDA.

You are very easily frightened, it seems!

SOLNESS.

Do you think so?

HILDA.

Yes; people say that you are afraid to climb about--on the
scaffoldings, you know.

SOLNESS.

Well, that is quite a special thing.

HILDA.

Then it is true that you are afraid to do it?

SOLNESS.

Yes, I am.

HILDA.

Afraid of falling down and killing yourself?

SOLNESS.

No, not of that.

HILDA.

Of what, then?

SOLNESS.

I am afraid of retribution, Hilda.

HILDA.

Of retribution? [Shakes her head.] I don't understand that.

SOLNESS.

Sit down, and I will tell you something.

HILDA.

Yes, do! At once!
[She sits on a stool by the railing, and looks expectantly
at him.

SOLNESS.

[Throws his hat on the table.] You know that I began by building
churches.

HILDA.

[Nods.] I know that well.

SOLNESS.

For, you see, I came as a boy from a pious home in the country; and
so it seemed to me that this church-building was the noblest task I
could set myself.

HILDA.

Yes, yes.

SOLNESS.

And I venture to say that I built those poor little churches with
such honest and warm and heartfelt devotion that--that---

HILDA.

That---? Well?

SOLNESS.

Well, that I think that he ought to have been pleased with me.

HILDA.

He? What he?

SOLNESS.

He who was to have the churches, of course! He to whose honour and
glory they were dedicated.

HILDA.

Oh, indeed! But are you certain, then, that--that he was not--pleased
with you?

SOLNESS.

[Scornfully.] He pleased with me! How can you talk so, Hilda? He
who gave the troll in me leave to lord it just as it pleased. He
who bade them be at hand to serve me, both day and might--all these--
all these---

HILDA.

Devils---

SOLNESS.

Yes, of both kinds. Oh no, he mad me feel clearly enough that he
was not pleased with me. [Mysteriously.] You see, that was really
the reason why he made the old house burn down.

HILDA.

Was that why?

SOLNESS.

Yes, don't you understand? He wanted to give me the chance of
becoming an accomplished master in my own sphere--so that I might
build all the more glorious churches for him. At first I did not
understand what he was driving at; but all of a sudden it flashed
upon me.

HILDA.

When was that?

SOLNESS.

It was when I was building the church-tower up at Lysanger.

HILDA.

I thought so.

SOLNESS.

For you see, Hilda--up there, amidst those new surroundings, I used
to go about musing and pondering within myself. Then I saw plainly
why he had taken my little children from me. It was that I should
have nothing else to attach myself to. No such thing as love and
happiness, you understand. I was to be only a master builder--
nothing else. and all my life long I was to go on building for him.
[Laughs.] But I can tell you nothing came of that!

HILDA.

What did you do then?

SOLNESS.

First of all, I searched and tried my own heart---

HILDA.

And then?

SOLNESS.

The I did the impossible--I, no less than he.

HILDA.

The impossible?

SOLNESS.

I had never before been able to climb up to a great, free height.
But that day I did it.

HILDA.

[Leaping up.] Yes, yes, you did!

SOLNESS.

And when I stood there, high over everything, and was hanging the
wreath over the vane, I said to him: Hear me now, thou Mighty One!
From this day forward I will be a free builder--I too, in my sphere--
just as thou in thine. I will never more build churches for thee--
only homes for human beings.

HILDA.

[With great sparkling eyes.] That was the song that I heard through
the air!

SOLNESS.

But afterwards his turn came.

HILDA.

What do you mean by that?

SOLNESS.

[Looks despondently at her.] Building homes for human beings--is not
worth a rap, Hilda.

HILDA.

Do you say that now?

SOLNESS.

Yes, for now I see it. Men have no use for these homes of theirs--
to be happy in. And I should not have had any use for such a home,
if I had had one. [With a quiet, bitter laugh.] See, that is the
upshot of the whole affair, however far back I look. Nothing really
built; nor anything sacrificed for the chance of building. Nothing,
nothing! the whole is nothing!

HILDA.

Then you will never build anything more?

SOLNESS.

[With animation.] On the contrary, I am just going to begin!

HILDA.

What, then? What will you build? Tell me at once!

SOLNESS.

I believe there is only one possible dwelling-place for human
happiness--and that is what I am going to build now.

HILDA.

[Looks fixedly at him.] Mr. Solness--you mean our castles in the air.

SOLNESS.

The castles in the air--yes.

HILDA.

I am afraid you would turn dizzy before we got half-way up.

SOLNESS.

Not if I can mount hand in hand with you, Hilda.

HILDA.

[With an expression of suppressed resentment.] Only with me? Will
there be no others of the party?

SOLNESS.

Who else should there be?

HILDA.

Oh--that girl--that Kaia at the desk. Poor thing--don't you want to
take her with you too?

SOLNESS.

Oho! Was it about her that Aline was talking to you?

HILDA.

Is it so--or is it not?

SOLNESS.

[Vehemently.] I will not answer such a question. You must believe
in me, wholly and entirely!

HILDA.

All these ten years I have believed in you so utterly--so utterly.

SOLNESS.

You must go on believing in me!

HILDA.

Then let me see you stand free and high up!

SOLNESS.

[Sadly.] Oh Hilda--it is not every day that I can do that.

HILDA.

[Passionately.] I will have you do it! I will have it!
[Imploringly.] Just once more, Mr. Solness! Do the impossible
once again!

SOLNESS.

[Stands and looks deep into her eyes.] If I try it, Hilda, I will
stand up there and talk to him as I did that time before.

HILDA.

[In rising excitement.] What will you say to him?

SOLNESS.

I will say to him: Hear me, Mighty Lord--thou may'st judge me as
seems best to thee. But hereafter I will build nothing but the
loveliest thing in the world---

HILDA.

[Carried away.] Yes--yes--yes!

SOLNESS.

---build it together with a princess, whom I love---

HILDA.

Yes, tell him that! Tell him that!

SOLNESS.

Yes. And then I will say to him: Now I shall go down and throw my
arms round her and kiss her---

HILDA.

--many times! Say that!

SOLNESS.

--many, many times, I will say it!

HILDA.

And then---?

SOLNESS.

Then I will wave my hat--and come down to the earth--and do as I said
to him.

HILDA.

[With outstretched arms.] Now I see you again as I did when there
was song in the air!

SOLNESS.

[Looks at here with his head bowed.] How have you become what you
are, Hilda?

HILDA.

How have you made me what I am?

SOLNESS.

[Shortly and firmly.] The princess shall have her castle.

HILDA.

[Jubilant, clapping her hands.] Oh, Mr. Solness---! My lovely,
lovely castle. Our castle in the air!

SOLNESS.

On a firm foundation.
[In the street a crowd of people has assembled, vaguely seen
through the trees. Music of wind-instruments is heard far
away behind the new house.

MRS. SOLNESS, with a fur collar round her neck, DOCTOR HERDAL
with her white shawl on his arm, and some ladies, come out
on the verandah. RAGNAR BROVIK comes at the same time up
from the garden.

MRS. SOLNESS.

[To RAGNAR.] Are we to have music, too?

RAGNAR.

Yes. It's the band of the Mason's Union. [To SOLNESS.] The foreman
asked me to tell you that he is ready now to go up with the wreath.

SOLNESS.

[Takes his hat.] Good. I will go down to him myself.

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Anxiously.] What have you to do down there, Halvard?

SOLNESS.

[Curtly.] I must be down below with the men.

MRS. SOLNESS.

Yes, down below--only down below.

SOLNESS.

That is where I always stand--on everyday occasions.
[He goes down the flight of steps and away through the garden.

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Calls after him over the railing.] But do beg the man to be careful
when he goes up! Promise me that, Halvard!

DR. HERDAL.

[To MRS. SOLNESS.] Don't you see that I was right? He has given up
all thought of that folly.

MRS. SOLNESS.

Oh, what a relief! Twice workmen have fallen, and each time they
were killed on the spot. [Turns to HILDA.] Thank you, Miss Wangel,
for having kept such a firm hold upon him. I should never have been
able to manage him.

DR. HERDAL.

[Playfully.] Yes, yes, Miss Wangel, you know how to keep firm hold
on a man, when you give your mind to it.
[MRS. SOLNESS and DR. HERDAL go up to the ladies, who are
standing nearer to the steps and looking over the garden.
HILDA remains standing beside the railing in the foreground.
RAGNAR goes up to her.

RAGNAR.

[With suppressed laughter, half whispering.] Miss Wangel--do you see
all those young fellows down in the street?

HILDA.

Yes.

RAGNAR.

They are my fellow students, come to look at the master.

HILDA.

What do they want to look at him for?

RAGNAR.

They want to see how he daren't climb to the top of his own house.

HILDA.

Oh, that is what those boys want, is it?

RAGNAR.

[Spitefully and scornfully.] He has kept us down so long--now we are
going to see him keep quietly down below himself.

HILDA.

You will not see that--not this time.

RAGNAR.

[Smiles.] Indeed! Then where shall we see him?

HILDA.

High--high up by the vane! That is where you will see him!

RAGNAR.

[Laughs.] Him! Oh yes, I daresay!

HILDA.

His will is to reach the top--so at the top you shall see him.

RAGNAR.

His will, yes; that I can easily believe. But he simply cannot do
it. His head would swim round, long, long before he got half-way.
He would have to crawl down again on his hands and knees.

DR. HERDAL.

[Points across.] Look! There goes the foreman up the ladders.

MRS. SOLNESS.

And of course he has the wreath to carry too. Oh, I do hope he will
be careful!

RAGNAR.

[Stares incredulously and shouts.] Why, but it's---

HILDA.

[Breaking out in jubilation.] It is the master builder himself?

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Screams with terror.] Yes, it is Halvard! Oh my great God---!
Halvard! Halvard!

DR. HERDAL.

Hush! Don't shout to him!

MRS. SOLNESS.

[Half beside herself.] I must go to him! I must get him to come
down again!

DR. HERDAL.

[Holds her.] Don't move, any of you! Not a sound!

HILDA.

[Immovable, follows SOLNESS with her eyes.] He climbs and climbs.
Higher and higher! Higher and higher! Look! Just look!

RAGNAR.

[Breathless.] He must turn now. He can't possibly help it.

HILDA.

He climbs and climbs. He will soon be at the top now.

MRS. SOLNESS.

Oh, I shall die of terror. I cannot bear to see it.

DR. HERDAL.

Then don't look up at him.

HILDA.

There he is standing on the topmost planks! Right at the top!

DR. HERDAL.

Nobody must move! Do you dear?

HILDA.

[Exulting, with quiet intensity.] At last! At last! Now I see him
great and free again!

RAGNAR.

[Almost voiceless.] But this is im---

HILDA.

So I have seen him all through these ten years. How secure he stands!
Frightfully thrilling all the same. Look at him! Now he is hanging
the wreath round the vane!

RAGNAR.

I feel as if I were looking at something utterly impossible.

HILDA.

Yes, it is the impossible that he is doing now! [With the indefinable
expression in her eyes.] Can you see any one else up there with him?

RAGNAR.

There is no one else.

HILDA.

Yes, there is one he is striving with.

RAGNAR.

You are mistaken.

HILDA.

Then do you hear no song in the air, either?

RAGNAR.

It must be the wind in the tree-tops.

HILDA.

_I_ hear a song--a mighty song! [Shouts in wild jubilation and glee.]
Look, look! Now he is waving his hat! He is waving it to us down
here! Oh, wave, wave back to him! For now it is finished! [Snatches
the white shawl from the Doctor, waves it, and shouts up to SOLNESS.]
Hurrah for Master Builder Solness!

DR. HERDAL.

Stop! Stop! For God's sake---!
[The ladies on the verandah wave their pocket-handkerchiefs, and
the shouts of "Hurrah" are taken up in the street. Then they
are suddenly silenced, and the crowd bursts out into a shriek
of horror. A human body, with planks and fragments of wood,
is vaguely perceived crashing down behind the trees.

MRS. SOLNESS AND THE LADIES.

[At the same time.] He is falling! He is falling!
[MRS. SOLNESS totters, falls backwards, swooning, and is caught,
amid cries and confusion, by the ladies. The crowd in the
street breaks down the fence and storms into the garden. At
the same time DR. HERDAL, too, rushes down thither. A short
pause.

HILDA.

[Stares fixedly upwards and says, as if petrified.] My Master Builder.

RAGNAR.

[Supports himself, trembling, against the railing.] He must be dashed
to pieces--killed on the spot.

ONE OF THE LADIES.

[Whilst MRS. SOLNESS is carried into the house.] Run down for the
doctor---

RAGNAR.

I can't stir a root---

ANOTHER LADY.

Then call to some one!

RAGNAR.

[Tries to call out.] How is it? Is he alive?

A VOICE.

[Below, in the garden.] Mr. Solness is dead!

OTHER VOICES.

[Nearer.] The head is all crushed.--he fell right into the quarry.

HILDA.

[Turns to RAGNAR, and says quietly.] I can't see him up there now.

RAGNAR.

This is terrible. So, after all, he could not do it.

HILDA.

[As if in quiet spell-bound triumph.] But he mounted right to the
top. And I heard harps in the air. [Waves her shawl in the air,
and shrieks with wild intensity.] My--my Master Builder!

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