Part 1 out of 7
THE EDITOR--THE BANKRUPT--THE KING
BY BJORNSTJERNE BJORNSON
The three plays here presented were the outcome of a period when
Bjornson's views on many topics were undergoing a drastic revision
and he was abandoning much of his previous orthodoxy in many
directions. Two of them were written during, and one immediately
after, a three years' absence from Norway--years spent almost
entirely in southern Europe. [Note: Further details respecting
Bjornson's life will be found in the Introduction to Three Comedies
by Bjornson, published in Everyman's Library in 1912.] For nearly
ten years previous to this voluntary exile, Bjornson had been
immersed in theatrical management and political propagandism. His
political activities (guided by a more or less pronounced
republican tendency) centred in an agitation for a truer equality
between the kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, his point of view being
that Norway had come to be regarded too much as a mere appanage of
Sweden. Between that and his manifold and distracting cares as
theatrical director, he had let imaginative work slide for the time
being; but his years abroad had a recuperative effect, and, in
addition, broadened his mental outlook in a remarkable manner.
Foreign travel, a wider acquaintance with differing types of
humanity, and, above all, a newly-won acquaintance with the
contemporary literature of other countries, made a deep impression
upon Bjornson's vigorously receptive mind. He browsed voraciously
upon the works of foreign writers. Herbert Spencer, Darwin, John
Stuart Mill, Taine, Max-Mueller, formed a portion of his mental
pabulum at this time--and the result was a significant alteration
of mental attitude on a number of questions, and a determination to
make the attempt to embody his theories in dramatic form. He had
gained all at once, as he wrote to Georg Brandes, the eminent
Danish critic, "eyes that saw and ears that heard." Up to this time
the poet in him had been predominant; now it was to be the social
philosopher that held the reins. Just as Ibsen did, so Bjornson
abandoned historical drama and artificial comedy for an attempt at
prose drama which should have at all events a serious thesis. In
this he anticipated Ibsen; for (unless we include the satirical
political comedy, _The League of Youth_, which was published in
1869, among Ibsen's "social dramas") Ibsen did not enter the field
with _Pillars of Society_ [Note: Published in _The Pretenders and
Two Other Plays_, in Everyman's Library, 1913.] until 1877,
whereas Bjornson's _The Editor_, _The Bankrupt_, and _The King_
were all published between 1874 and 1877. Intellectual and literary
life in Denmark had been a good deal stirred and quickened in the
early seventies, and the influence of that awakening was inevitably
felt by the more eager spirits in the other Scandinavian countries.
It is amusing to note, as one Norwegian writer has pointed out,
that this intellectual upheaval (which, in its turn, was a
reflection of that taking place in outer Europe) came at a time
when the bulk of the Scandinavian folk "were congratulating
themselves that the doubt and ferment of unrest which were
undermining the foundations of the great communities abroad had not
had the power to ruffle the placid surface of our good,
old-fashioned, Scandinavian orthodoxy." Bjornson makes several sly
hits in these plays (as does Ibsen in _Pillars of Society_) at this
distrust of the opinions and manners of the larger communities
outside of Scandinavia, notably America, with which the
Scandinavian countries were more particularly in touch through
Brandes characterises the impelling motive of these three plays as
a passionate appeal for a higher standard of truth--in journalism,
in finance, in monarchy: an appeal for less casuistry and more
honesty. Such a motive was characteristic of the vehement honesty
of Bjornson's own character; he must always, as he says in one of
his letters, go over to the side of any one whom he believed to
"hold the truth in his hands."
_The Editor_ (_Redaktoeren_) was written while Bjornson was in
Florence, and was published at Copenhagen in 1874. It was at first
not accepted for performance at Christiania or Copenhagen, though
an unauthorised performance of it was given at one of the lesser
Christiania theatres in 1875, Meanwhile a Swedish version of it had
been produced, authoritatively, at Stockholm in February of that
year. The play eventually made its way on the Norwegian and Danish
stage; but, before that, it had been seen in German dress at Munich
and Hamburg. As an inevitable result of his recent activities as a
political speaker and pamphleteer, Bjornson had come in for a good
deal of vituperation in the press, a fact which no doubt added some
gall to the ink with which he drew the portrait of the journalist
in this play. The Stockholm critics, indeed, had condemned _The
Editor_ as merely a pamphleteering attack on the editor of a
well-known journal. In answer to this criticism Bjornson wrote from
Rome in March, 1875: "It is said that my play is a pamphleteering
attack on a certain individual. That is a deliberate lie. I have
studied the journalist type, which is here represented, in many
other countries besides my own. The chief characteristic of this
type is to be actuated by an inordinate egotism that is perpetually
being inflamed by passion; that makes use of bogeys to frighten
people, and does this in such a way that, while it makes all its
honest contemporaries afraid of any freedom of thought, it also
produces the same result on every single individual by means
of reckless persecution. As I wished to portray that type, I
naturally took a good deal of the portrait from the representative
of the type that I knew best; but, like every artist who wishes to
produce a complete creation, I had to build it up from separate
revelations of itself. There can, therefore, be no question of any
individual being represented in my play except in so far as he may
partially agree with the type."
However much Bjornson may have written _The Editor_ with a
"purpose," his vivid dramatic sense kept him from becoming merely
didactic. The little tragedy that takes place amongst this homely
group of people makes quite a moving play, thanks to the skill with
which the types are depicted--the bourgeois father and mother, with
their mixture of timidity and self-interest; the manly,
straightforward young politician, resolute to carry on the work
that has sapped his brother's life; the warped, de-humanised nature
of the journalist; the sturdy common-sense of the yeoman farmer;
and the doctor, the "family friend," as a sort of mocking chorus.
Besides its plea for a higher regard for truth, the play also
attacks the precept, preached by worldly wisdom, that we ought to
harden our natures to make ourselves invulnerable; a proposition
which was hateful to one of Bjornson's persistently impressionable
and ingenuous nature. The fact remains, as Brandes grimly admits,
that "nowadays we have only a very qualified sympathy with public
characters who succumb to the persecution of the press." Brandes
sees in the play, besides its obvious motive, an allegory. Halvdan
Rejn, the weary and dying politician, is (he says) meant for Henrik
Wergeland, a Norwegian poet-politician who had similar struggles,
sank under the weight of similar at tacks, died after a long
illness, and was far higher reputed after his death than during his
life. In Harald Rejn, with his honest enthusiasm and misjudged
political endeavours Brandes sees Bjornson himself; while the
yeoman brother, Haakon, seems to him to typify the Norwegian
_The Bankrupt_ (_En Fallit_: literally _A Bankruptcy_) was partly
written in Rome, partly in Tyrol, and published at Copenhagen in
1875. It was a thing entirely new to the Scandinavian stage for a
dramatist to deal seriously with the tragi-comedy of money, and,
while making a forcible plea for honesty, to contrive to produce a
stirring and entertaining play on what might seem so prosaic a
foundation as business finance. Some of the play's earliest critics
dismissed it as "dry," "prosaic," "trivial," because of the nature
of its subject; but it made a speedy success on the boards, and
very soon became a popular item in the repertories of the
Christiania, Bergen and Copenhagen theatres. It was actually first
performed, in a Swedish translation, at Stockholm, a few days
before it was produced at Christiania. Very soon, too, the play
reached Berlin, Munich, Vienna, and other German and Austrian
theatres. It was played in Paris, at the Theatre Libre in 1894. The
character of Berent, the lawyer, which became a favourite one with
the famous Swedish actor Ernst Possart, was admittedly more or less
of a portrait of a well-known Norwegian lawyer, by name Dunker.
When Bjornson was writing the play, he went to stay for some days
with Dunker, who was to instruct him as to the legal aspect of
bankruptcy. Bjornson took the opportunity of studying the lawyer as
well as the law.
_The King_ (_Kongen_) was written at Aulestad, the Norwegian home
in which Bjornson settled after his return from abroad, and was
published at Copenhagen in 1877. It is perhaps not surprising that
the play, with its curious blend of poetry and social philosophy,
and its somewhat exuberant (though always interesting) wordiness,
was not at first a conspicuous success on the stage; but the
interest aroused by the published book was enormous. It was widely
read and vigorously discussed, both in Scandinavia and abroad; and
while, on the one hand, it brought upon Bjornson the most
scurrilous abuse and the harshest criticism from his political
opponents, on the other hand a prominent compatriot of his (whose
opinion was worth having) gave it as his verdict, at a political
meeting held soon after the play's publication, that "the most
notable thing that has happened in Norway of late--or at any rate,
one of the most notable--in my opinion is this last book of
The idea of a "democratic monarchy"--a kind of reformed
constitutional monarchy, that should be a half-way house on the
road to republicanism--was not entirely new; Bjornson's success was
in presenting the problem as seen from the _inside_--that is to
say, from the king's point of view. His opponents, of course,
branded him as a red-hot republican, which he was not. In a preface
he wrote for a later edition of the play, he says that he did not
intend the play mainly as an argument in favour of republicanism,
but "to extend the boundaries of free discussion"; but that, at
the same time, he believed the republic to be the ultimate form of
government, and all European states to be proceeding at varying
rates of speed towards it.
_The King_ is composed of curiously incongruous elements. The
railway meeting in the first act is pure comedy of a kind to
compare with the meeting in Ibsen's _An Enemy of Society_; the last
act is melodrama with a large admixture of remarkably interesting
social philosophy; the intervening acts betray the poet that always
underlay the dramatist in Bjornson. The crudity, again, of the
melodramatic appearance of the wraith of Clara's father in the
third act, contrasts strangely with the mature thoughtfulness of
much of the last act and with the tender charm of what has gone
before: And--strangest incongruity of all in a play so essentially
"actual"--there is in the original, between each act, a mysterious
"mellemspil," or "interlude," in verse, consisting of somewhat
cryptic dialogues between Genii and Unseen Choirs in the clouds,
between an "Old Grey Man" and a "Chorus of Tyrants" in a desolate
scene of snow and ice, between Choruses of Men, Women, and Children
in a sylvan landscape, and so forth--their utterances being of the
nature of the obscurest choruses in the Greek dramatists, but for
the most part with a less obvious relevance to the play itself.
Such a device leads the present-day reader's thoughts inevitably to
the use made of the "unseen chorus," in a similar way, by Thomas
Hardy in _The Dynasts_; but Hardy's interludes are closely relevant
to his drama and help it on its way, which Bjornson's do not. They
have been entirely omitted in the present translation, on the
ground of their complete superfluity as well as from the extreme
difficulty of retaining their "atmosphere" in translation.
None of the three plays in the present volume have previously been
translated into English. German, French, and Swedish versions of
_The Editor_ are extant; German, Swedish, Finnish, French, and
Hungarian of _The Bankrupt_; French and Spanish of _The King_.
R. FARQUHARSON SHARP.
The following is a list of the works of Bjornstjerne Bjornson:--
DRAMATIC AND POETIC WORKS.--Mellem Slagene (Between the Battles),
1857. Halte-Hulda (Lame Hulda), 1858. Kong Sverre (King Sverre),
1861. Sigurd Slembe (Sigurd the Bastard), 1862; translated by
W. M. Payne, 1888. Maria Stuart i Skotland, 1864. De Nygifte (The
Newly-Married Couple), 1865; translated by T. Soelfeldt, 1868; by
S. and E. Hjerleid, 1870; as A Lesson in Marriage, by G. I.
Colbron, 1911. Sigurd Jorsalfar (Sigurd the Crusader), 1872.
Redaktoeren (The Editor), 1874. En Fallit (A Bankruptcy), 1874.
Kongen (The King), 1877. Leonarda, 1879. Det ny System (The New
System), 1879. En Hanske, 1883; translated as A Gauntlet, by
H. L. Braekstad 1890; by Osman Edwards 1894. Over AEvne (Beyond our
Strength), Part I., 1883; translated as Pastor Sang, by W. Wilson,
1893; Part II., 1895. Geografi og Kaerlighed (Geography and Love),
1885; Paul Lange og Tora Parsberg, 1898; translated by H. L.
Braekstad, 1899. Laboremus, 1901; translation published by
Chapman and Hall, 1901. Paa Storhove (At Storhove), 1904;
Daglannet, 1904; Naar den ny Vin blomstrer (When the Vineyards
are in Blossom), 1909; The Newly-Married Couple, Leonarda, and A
Gauntlet, translated by R. Farquharson Sharp (Everyman's Library),
Digte og Sange (Poems and Songs), 1870; Arnljot Gelline, 1870.
FICTION.--Synnoeve Solbakken 1857; translated as Trust and Trial,
by Mary Howitt, 1858; as Love and Life in Norway, by Hon. Augusta
Bethell and A. Plesner, 1870; as The Betrothal, in H. and
A. Zimmern's Half-hours with Foreign Novelists, 1880; also
translated by Julie Sutter, 1881; by R. B. Anderson, 1881. Arne,
1858; translated by T. Krag, 1861; by A. Plesner and S. Rugeley-
Powers, 1866; by R. B. Anderson, 1881; by W. Low (Bohn's Library),
1890. Smaastykker (Sketches), 1860. En glad Gut, 1860; translated
as Ovind, by S. and E. Hjerleid 1869; as The Happy Boy, by R. B.
Anderson, 1881; as The Happy Lad (published by Blackie), 1882.
Fiskerjenten, 1868 translated as The Fisher Maiden, by M. E. Niles,
1869; as The Fishing Girl, by A. Plesner and F. Richardson, 1870;
as The Fishing Girl, by S. and E. Hjerleid, 1871; as The Fisher
Maiden, by R. B. Anderson, 1882. Brude-Slaatten, 1873; translated
as The Bridal March, by R. B. Anderson, 1882; by J. E. Williams,
1893. Fortaellinger (Tales), 1872. Magnhild, 1877; translated by
R. B. Anderson, 1883. Kaptejn Mansana, 1879; translated as Captain
Mansana by R. B. Anderson, 1882. Det flager i Byen og paa Havnen
(Flags are Flying in Town and Port), 1884; translated as The
Heritage of the Kurts, by C Fairfax 1892. Paa Guds Veje, 1889;
translated as In God's Way, by E. Carmichael, 1890. Nye Fortaellinger
(New Tales), 1894; To Fortaelinger (Two Tales), 1901; Mary, 1906.
Collected edition of the Novels, translated into English, edited by
E. Gosse, 13 vols., 1895-1909.
[See Life of Bjornson by W. M. Payne, 1910; E. Gosse's Study of
the Writings of Bjornson, in edition of Novels, 1895; H. H.
Boyesen's Essays on Scandinavian Literature, 1895; G. Brandes'
Critical Studies of Ibsen and Bjornson, 1899.]
A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS
EVJE, a prosperous distiller.
GERTRUD, their daughter, engaged to HARALD REJN.
HAAKON REJN, a yeoman farmer.
HALVDAN REJN and HARALD REJN, his brothers.
The DOCTOR'S ASSISTANT.
INGEBORG, maid to the Evjes.
JOHN, coachman to the Evjes.
HALVDAN REJN's HOUSEKEEPER.
HALVDAN REJN's MAID.
The action takes place in a town in Norway.
(SCENE.--The breakfast-room at the EVJES' house. A glass-cupboard,
in two partitions, stands against the left-hand wall, well forward.
On the top of it stand a variety of objects. Beyond it, a stove. At
the back of the room, a sideboard. In the middle of the room a
small round folding table, laid for four persons. There is an
armchair by the stove; a sofa on the right; chairs, etc. A door at
the back of the room, and another in the left-hand wall. There are
paintings on the walls, and the general impression of the room is
one of snug comfort. EVJE, MRS. EVJE, and GERTRUD are seated at the
table. INGEBORG is standing by the sideboard. Breakfast is
proceeding in silence as the curtain rises. INGEBORG takes away
EVJE'S cup and re-fills it. As she brings it back to him, a ring is
heard at the bell. GERTRUD gets up.)
Evje. Sit still; John will go to the door. (GERTRUD sits down
again. Directly afterwards, another ring is heard.)
Mrs. Evje. What can John be doing?
Ingeborg. I will go. (Goes out. She comes back, showing in HARALD
REJN, who hangs up his hat and coat in the hall before coming
Harald. Good morning!
Evje and Mrs. Evje. Good morning! (HARALD shakes hands with them.)
Harald (to GERTRUD, who is sitting on the right). Good morning,
Gertrud! Am I a bit late to-day? (GERTRUD, who has taken his hand,
looks lovingly at him but says nothing.)
Mrs. Evje. Yes, I suppose you have been for a long constitutional,
although the weather is none of the best.
Harald. It is not; I expect we shall have a thick fog by the
Evje. Did you have breakfast before you went out?
Harald. I did, thanks. (To INGEBORG, who has come forward with a
cup of coffee.) No, thank you. I will sit down here while you are
finishing. (Sits down on the sofa behind GERTRUD.)
Mrs. Evje. How is your brother Halvdan?
Harald. A little better to-day, thanks--but of course we cannot
build on that.
Evje. Is your eldest brother coming to see him?
Harald. Yes, we expect him every day. Probably his wife has
come with him, and that has been the reason of the delay; she
finds it difficult to get away.
Mrs. Evje. Halvdan so often talks of her.
Harald. Yes, I believe she is the best friend he has.
Evje. No wonder, then, that she wants to come and say good-bye
to him. By the way, have you seen how the paper bids him
Harald. Yes, I have seen it.
Mrs. Evje (hurriedly). I hope Halvdan has not seen it?
Harald (smiling). No, it is a long time now since Halvdan read a
newspaper. (A pause.)
Evje. Then I suppose you have read what they say about you too?
Mrs. Evje. It is worse than anything they have said about you
Harald. Well--of course, you know, my election meeting comes on
Evje. I can tell you it has upset _us_.
Mrs. Evje. Day after day we wake up to find our house invaded by
these abominations. That is a nice thought to begin your day's
Harald. Is it so indispensable, then, to educated people to begin
their day by reading such things?
Mrs. Evje. Well--one must have a paper.
Evje. And most people read it. Besides, one can't deny that a lot
of what is in it is true, although its general tendency is to run
Harald (getting up). Quite so, yes. (Leans over GERTRUD'S
shoulder.) Gertrud, have you read it?
Gertrud (does not look at him, and hesitates for a moment; then
says gently): Yes.
Harald (under his breath). So that is it! (Walks away from her.)
Evje. We have had a little bit of a scene here, I must tell you.
Harald (walking up and down). Yes, I can understand that.
Evje. I will repeat what I have said already: they write about
_you_, and _we_ have to suffer for it.
Mrs. Evje. Yes, and Gertrud especially.
Gertrud. No--I don't want anyone to consider me in the matter at
all. Besides, it is not what they say of you in the paper that
hurts me--. (Stops abruptly.)
Harald (who has come up to her). But what your parents are
feeling about it? Is that it? (GERTRUD does not answer.)
Evje (pushing back his plate). There, I have finished! (They rise
from the table. MRS. EVJE helps INGEBORG to clear away the
things, which INGEBORG carries out of the room.)
Mrs. Evje. Couldn't you wash your hands of politics, Harald?
(GERTRUD goes out to the left.)
Evje (who has followed GERTRUD with his eyes). We cannot deny that
it pains us considerably that in our old age our peaceful home
should be invaded by all this squabbling and abomination.
Mrs. Evje (who rung for INGEBORG to move the table). You have no
need to do it, either, Harald! You are a grown man, and your own
master. (INGEBORG comes in. HARALD helps her to move the table.)
Evje (to his wife). Don't let Ingeborg hear. Come along, we will go
into my room.
Mrs. Evje. You forget, all the windows are open there. I have had
the fire lit here, so that we could stay here.
Evje. Very well--then we will sit here. (Sits down by the fire.)
Will you have a cigar?
Harald. No, thanks. (INGEBORG goes out.)
Evje (taking a cigar and lighting it). As my wife said just now--
couldn't you wash your hands of politics, Harald? You, who have
both talent and means, need not be at a loss for a vocation in
Harald (sitting down on the sofa). If I have any talent, it is for
politics--and so I intend to devote my means to that.
Evje. What do you propose to gain by it?
Harald. What any one who believes in a cause hopes to gain--that
is to say, to help it on.
Evje. And to become a cabinet minister?
Harald. I certainly can't do that any other way; well, I admit--
that _is_ my idea.
Evje. You will not be elected now.
Harald. That we shall see.
Evje. But suppose you are not re-elected to-morrow?
Harald. Then I must find some other way.
Evje. Always with the same object?
Harald. Always with the same object. (EVJE sighs.)
Mrs. Evje (who has taken her sewing and sat down by the fire).
Oh, these politics!
Harald. At any rate, they are the most prominent factors in
life just now.
Evje. We do not suppose we can exercise any influence over you. But
at any rate it is possible that you yourself have not considered
the position into which you have put the whole of us. (Both he and
his wife avoid looking at HARALD during this discussion.)
Mrs. Evje. Say what you really mean, dear--that he is making us
all thoroughly unhappy, and that is the truth!
Harald (getting up, and walking up and down). Well, look here--I
have a proposal to make. It is, that you should abandon all
opposition to Gertrud's marrying me at once. To-day again my
brother has expressed the wish that we should be married by his
bedside; so that he should be able to take part in it. I scarcely
need add how happy it would make me.
Evje. But whether she is here at home or married to you, you know,
her parents' distress would be just as great every time their child
Mrs. Evje. Surely you can appreciate that!
Harald. But what answer am I to give to my brother's request?--
most likely the last he will ever--. (Stops.)
Evje (after a pause). He is very kind to wish it, as he always is.
Nothing would make us happier; but we who are her parents do not
consider that you could make our daughter happy as long as you
remain in politics and on the lines on which you are now
Harald (after a pause, during which he has stood still). That is to
say, you contemplate breaking off our engagement?
Evje (looking at him quickly). Far from it!
Mrs. Evje (at the same time). How can you say such a thing?
Evje (turning towards the fire again). We have spoken about it
to Gertrud to-day--as to whether it would not be possible to
induce you to choose some other career.
Mrs. Evje. You understand now, why you found Gertrud upset. You
must listen to us now, as she did, in all friendliness.
Evje (getting up and standing with his back to the fire). The first
thing I do in the morning is to read my paper. You know what
was in it to-day--the same as is in it now every day.
Mrs. Evje. No; I am sure it has never been as bad as to-day.
Harald (walking up and down again). The election is just at
Evje. Well--it is just as painful to us, her father and mother,
whether it is before or after the election. We are not accustomed
to associate with any one who has not first-class credentials--and
now we have to endure seeing doubt cast upon our own son-in-law's.
Do not misunderstand me; to my mind, for credentials to be
first-class they must not only actually be so, but must also be
considered to be so by people in general. (HARALD begins to walk
up and down again.) The second thing I do in the morning is to
open my letters. Amongst to-day's were several from friends we
had invited to a party we thought of giving--if, that is to say,
your brother's illness took no sudden turn for the worse. No fewer
than ten of them refuse our invitation--most of them making some
excuse, and a few with a little more show of a real reason; but one
of them speaks straight out, and I have his letter here. (Takes it
from his pocket.) I have kept it for you. It is from my father's
old friend, the bishop. I haven't my spectacles--and for me to have
mislaid my spectacles will show you what a state of mind I am in. I
don't think I have done such a thing for--. Here, read it yourself!
Read it aloud!
Harald (taking the letter). "My dear Mr. Evje. As you are my poor
dear friend's son, you must listen to the truth from me. I cannot
willingly come to your house while I might meet there a certain
person who, certainly, is one of you, but nevertheless is a person
whom I cannot hold in entire respect."
Mrs. Evje. Well, Harald, what do you think our feelings must be
when we read things like that?
Evje. Do not imagine that, in spite of that, _we_ do not hold you
in entire respect. We only ask you to ensure our daughter's
happiness. You can do that with a word.
Mrs. Evje. We know what you are, whatever people say--even if they
are bishops. But, in return, you ought to have confidence in our
judgment; and our advice to you is, have done with it! Marry
Gertrud at once, and go away for your honeymoon; by the time you
come back, people will have got something else to talk about--and
you will have found something else to occupy you as well.
Evje. You must not misunderstand us. We mean no coercion. We are
not insisting on this alternative. If you wish to be married, you
shall--without feeling yourself obliged to change your vocation for
_our_ sakes. We only want to make it clear that it would pain us--
pain us very deeply.
Mrs. Evje. If you want to take time to think it over, or want to
talk it over with Gertrud or with your brother, do! (GERTRUD
comes in and goes about the room looking for something.)
Evje. What are you looking for, dear?
Gertrud. Oh, for the--.
Mrs. Evje. I expect it is the newspaper; your grandfather has been
asking for it.
Evje. Surely there is no need for _him_ to read it?
Mrs. Evje. He asked me for it, too. He knows quite well what has
made us all unhappy.
Evje. Can't you tell him? No, that wouldn't do.
Mrs. Evje (to GERTRUD). I suppose you have had to confess to him
what is the matter?
Gertrud (trying to conceal an emotion that is almost too much for
her). Yes. (Finds the paper, and goes out.)
Mrs. Evje (when GERTRUD has gone). Poor child!
Evje. Does not what she is carrying to him, with all that it says
about you and about your brother, seem to you like an omen? I will
tell you how it strikes me. Your brother is a very much more gifted
man than I am; and although it is true, as that paper says, that
nothing of all that he has worked for has ever come to anything,
still perhaps he may nevertheless have accomplished more than
either you or me, although we have done a good deal between us to
increase the prosperity of our town. I feel that to be so, although
I cannot express what I mean precisely. But consider the reputation
he will leave behind him. All educated people will say just what
that paper says to-day--and to-morrow he will be forgotten. He will
scarcely find a place in history, for history only concerns itself
with the great leaders of men. What does it all come to, then?
Neither present nor posthumous fame; but death--death all the time.
He is dying by inches now, dying of the most horrible persecution;
and the emotion that his end will cause among a few individuals
cannot be called posthumous fame. (HARALD begins to speak, but
checks himself.) Can _you_ hope to make a better fight of it? You
think you are stronger? Very well; perhaps you may have the
strength to endure it until other times come and other opinions
with them. But there will be one by your side who will not have the
strength to endure it. Gertrud is not strong--she could never stand
it; indeed now--already--. (Is stopped by his emotion.)
Mrs. Evje. She hides it from you, but she cannot hide it from us.
Besides, a friend of ours--our dear doctor--said only yesterday--.
(Breaks off in tears.)
Evje. We never told you, but he warned us some time ago; we had no
idea it was so serious, or that it had anything to do with this.
But yesterday he frightened us; he said she--. Well, you can ask
him yourself. He will be here directly. (HARALD fills a glass of
water and raises it to his lips, but sets it down again untasted.)
Mrs. Evje (going to him). I am so sorry for you, Harald! To have
this come on you just now--when your splendid brother is at the
point of death, and you yourself are being persecuted! (A ring is
heard at the bell.)
Evje. But it should be a warning to you! Sometimes a single
movement will change the course of a whole life.
Mrs. Evje. And do have a little confidence in us! (A ring is heard
Evje. What on earth has become of John to-day? That is the second
time the bell has rung.
Mrs. Evje. One of the maids is opening the door, I can hear.
Evje. I expect it is the doctor.
Mrs. Evje. Yes, it is he--I know his ring. (A knock is heard at the
Evje. Come in! (The DOCTOR comes in.)
The Doctor. Good morning! (Lays down his hat and stick.) Well, so I
hear John has been up to his pranks again? The rascal is in bed.
Evje and Mrs. Evje. In bed?
The Doctor. Came home at four o'clock in the morning, drunk. Ill
to-day, naturally. Ingeborg asked me to go in and see him.
Evje. Well!--I am determined to put an end to it!
Mrs. Evje. Yes, I have never been able to understand why you were
so lenient with John.
Evje. He has been with us five years; and, besides, it makes people
talk so, if you have to send your servants away.
Mrs. Evje. But surely this sort of thing makes them talk much
Evje. Well--he shall leave this very day.
The Doctor (to HARALD). How are you, Rejn?--Oho! I understand. I
have come at an inopportune moment with my complaints of John? You
have all got something more serious on your minds?
Mrs. Evje. Yes, we have had it out, as we agreed yesterday.
The Doctor. You must forgive me, my dear Rejn, for having told my
old friends the whole truth yesterday. She (pointing to MRS. EVJE)
was an old playfellow of mine, and her husband and I have been
friends from boyhood; so we have no secrets from each other. And
Gertrud's condition makes me very uneasy.
Harald. Why have you never told me that before?
The Doctor. Goodness knows I have often enough given her parents
hints that she was not well; but they have only made up their minds
that her happiness in her engagement would quite cure her. They are
a considerate couple, these two dear people, you know; they didn't
want to seem interfering.
Harald. Their consideration--which I appreciate and have lately had
constant reason to be grateful for--has all at once become a more
powerful weapon than open opposition. It makes a duty of what I
should otherwise have felt to be unfair coercion. But now the
situation is such that I can neither go forward nor back. After
what I have gone through, you must see that I cannot withdraw on
the very eve of the election--and after the election it will be too
late. On the other hand--(with emotion)--I cannot, I dare not, go
on with it if it is to cost me--. (Breaks off.)
Evje (standing in front of the fire). There, there! Take time to
think it over, my dear boy; talk it over with her and with your
The Doctor (who has sat down on a chair to the left, a little away
from the others). I have just been to see your brother. A
remarkable man! But do you know what occurred to me as I sat there?
He is dying because he _is_ a man. The only people that are fit for
political life nowadays are those whose hearts have been turned to
stone. (Picks up something from the table and gets up.) Ah, just
look here! Here is a fine specimen of petrifaction. It is a
fragment of palm leaf of some kind, found impressed in a bit of
rock from Spitzbergen. I sent it you myself, so I know it. That is
what you have to be like to withstand arctic storms!--it will take
to harm. But your brother--well, his life had been like that of the
original palm tree, with the air sighing through its branches; the
change of climate was too sudden for him. (Goes up to HARALD.) You
have still to try it. Shall you be able to kill all the humanity
that is in you? If you can make yourself as insensate a thing as
this stone, I daresay you will be able to stand the life. But are
you willing to venture upon political life at such a price? If you
are--so be it; but remember that in that case you must also kill
all humanity in Gertrud--in these two--in every one that is dear to
you. Otherwise no one will understand you or follow you. If you
cannot do that, you will never be more than a dabbler in politics--
a quarter, an eighth part, of a politician--and all your efforts,
in what you consider your vocation, will be pitiable!
Mrs. Evje (who has been occupied at the back of the room, but now
sits down by the fare). That is quite true! I know cases of
petrifaction like that--and God preserve anyone that I love from
Evje (coming forward towards HARALD). I don't want to say anything
to hurt your feelings--least of all just now. But I just want to
add my warning, because I believe I have discovered that there is a
danger that persecution may make you hard.
Harald. Yes!--but do you suppose it is only politics that offer
that dangerous prospect?
The Doctor. You are quite right! It is all the cry nowadays,
"Harden yourself!" It isn't only military men and doctors that
have to be hardened; commercial men have to be hardened, civil
servants have to be hardened, or dried up; and everybody else has
to be hardened for life, apparently. But what does it all mean? It
means that we are to drive out all warmth from our hearts, all
desire from our imaginations. There is a child's heart at the
bottom of every one of our hearts-ever young, full of laughter and
tears; and that is what we shall have killed before we are "fitted
for the battle of life," as they put it. No, no--that is what we
ought to preserve; we were given it for that! (HARALD hides his
face in his hands, and sits so for some time.)
Mrs. Evje. Any mother or any wife knows that.
Evje (standing with his back to the fire). You want to bring back
the age of romance, doctor!
The Doctor (with a laugh). Not its errors--because in those days
unclean minds brought to birth a great deal that was unclean.
(Seriously.) But what is it, when all is said and done, but a
violent protest on the part of the Teutonic people against the
Romanesque spirit and school--a remarkable school, but not _ours_.
To us it seems a barren, merely intellectual school--a mere mass of
formulas which led to a precocious development of the mind. And
that was the spirit it bred--critical and barren. But these schools
of thought are now all we have, and both of them are bad for us!
They have no use for the heart or the imagination; they do not
breed faith or a longing for high achievement. Look at _our_ life!
Is our life really our own?
Mrs. Evje. No. You have only to think of our language, our tastes,
our society, our--
The Doctor (interrupting her). Those are the externals of our life,
merely the externals! No, look within--look at such a view of life
as we were talking about, clamouring for "hardening"--is that ours?
Can we, for all our diligence, make as much way in it as, for
instance, a born Parisian journalist?--become like a bar of steel
with a point at each end, a pen-point and a sword-point? _We_
can't do that; the Teutonic temperament is not fitted for it.
Evje. Oh, we are well on the way towards it. Look at the heartless
intolerance in our politics; it will soon match what you were
Harald. Everyone that disagrees with you is either an ambitious
scoundrel, or half mad, or a blockhead.
The Doctor (laughing). Yes, and here in the north, in our small
communities, where a man meets all his enemies in the same barber's
shop, we feel it as keenly as if we were digging our knives into
each other! (Seriously.) We may laugh at it, but if we could add up
the sum of suffering that has been caused to families and to
individuals--if we could see the concrete total before us--we
should be tempted to believe that our liberty had been given to us
as a curse! For it _is_ a cursed thing to destroy the humanity that
is in us, and make us cruel and hard to one another.
Harald (getting up, but standing still). But, my good friends, if
you are of the same mind about that, and I with you--what is the
next thing to do?
The Doctor. The next thing to do?
Harald. Naturally, to unite in making an end of it.
Mrs. Evje (as she works). What can _we_ do?
Evje. I am no politician and do not wish to become one.
The Doctor (laughing, and sitting down). No, a politician is a
principle, swathed round with a printed set of directions for use.
I prefer to be allowed to be a human being.
Harald. No one can fairly insist on your taking up any vocation
to which you do not feel you have a calling.
The Doctor. Of course not.
Harald. But one certainly might insist on your not helping to
maintain a condition of affairs that you detest.
Harald. This newspaper, which is the ultimate reason of all this
conversation we have had--you take it in.
Evje. Why, you take it in yourself!
Harald. No. Every time there is anything nasty in it about me or
mine, it is sent to me anonymously.
The Doctor (with a laugh). I don't take it in; I read my hall-porter's
Harald. I have heard you say that before. I took an opportunity
to ask your hall-porter. He said _he_ did not read it, and did not
take it in either.
The Doctor (as before). Then I should like to know who does pay
Evje. A newspaper is indispensable to a business man.
Harald. An influential business man could by himself, or at any
rate with one or two others, start a paper that would be as useful
again to him as this one is.
Evje. That is true enough; but, after all, if we agree with its
Harald. I will accept help from any one whose opinions on public
affairs agree with my own. Who am I that I should pretend to
judge him? But I will not give him my help in anything that is
malicious or wicked.
The Doctor. Pshaw!
Harald. Everyone who subscribes to, or contributes to, or gives
any information to a paper that is scurrilous, is giving his help to
what is wicked. And, moreover, every one who is on terms of
friendship with a man who is destroying public morality, is
helping him to do it.
The Doctor (getting up). Does he still come here? (A silence.)
Evje. He and I are old schoolfellows--and I don't like breaking with
Mrs. Evje. He is a most amusing man, too--though I can't deny that
he is malicious. (The DOCTOR sits down again, humming to himself.)
Harald. But that is not all. Both you and the Doctor have--with
The Doctor (with a laugh). Thank you!
Harald. --expressed your abhorrence of certain political tendencies
with which neither you nor I have any sympathy--which affront
our ideas of humane conduct. You do not feel called upon to
enter actively into the lists against them; but why do you try to
prevent those who do feel so called upon? You lament the
existing state of things--and yet you help to maintain it, and make
a friend of the man who is its champion!
The Doctor (turning his head). Apparently we are on our defence,
Harald. No--I am. I was told a little while ago that I was in a fair
way to become hardened and callous, and that I must abandon
my career--and that I must do so for Gertrud's sake, too, because
she would never be able to share the fight with me. I was told
this at one of the bitterest moments in my life. And that made me
hesitate for a moment. But now I have turned my face forward
again, because you have enlightened me! (A short, sharp cough is
heard in the hall.)
Mrs. Evje (getting up). That is he! (A knock is heard at the door;
the DOCTOR gets up and pushes his chair back. The EDITOR comes in.)
The Editor. Good morning, my children! How are you?
Mrs. Evje (sitting down). I did not hear the bell.
The Editor. I don't suppose you did--I came in by the back door. I
took you by surprise, eh? Discussing me, too--what? (Laughs.)
Evje. You have given us enough reason to, to-day, any way.
The Editor. Yes, haven't I? Such a thing for a man to do to his
Evje. That is true.
The Editor. To his old schoolfellows--his neighbours--eh? I expect it
has disturbed your natural moderation--eh?
Evje. I pride myself on my moderation.
The Editor. As much as on your brandy!
Evje. Are you going to begin your nonsense again?
The Editor. Good-morning, Doctor! Have you been making them
a fine speech this morning?--about my paper? or about humanity?--
romanticism? or catholicism?--eh? (Laughs.)
The Doctor (laughing). Certainly one of us two has made a fine
speech this morning!
The Editor. Not me; mine was made yesterday!--How is your hall-porter?
The Doctor (laughing). Quite well, I am ashamed to say.
The Editor. There's a faithful subscriber to my paper, if you like!
(The DOCTOR laughs.) Well, Mrs. Evje, I can give you news of your
man, Master John!
Mrs. Evje. Can you? It is more than I can.
The Editor. Yes--he is in bed still. That is why I came in the back
way--to enquire after his health.
Mrs. Evje. But how--?
The Editor. How is he after last night?
Mrs. Evje. Really, I believe you know everything. We had no idea
he was out last night.
The Editor. Oh, that is the very latest intelligence! He has been
figuring as a speaker--he was drunk, of course--before the
Association founded by his master's future son-in-law. And he
made a most effective speech--indeed, the speakers at that
Association always make most effective speeches! It was all
about a Sliding Scale of Taxation, Profit-Sharing for Workers, the
necessity for a Labour majority in Parliament, etc., etc., all the
usual Socialist rhodomontade. You see how infectious intellectual
Evje. Well!--I shall turn him out of the house to-day!
The Editor. But that is not in accordance with your love of
Evje. It is a scandal.
The Editor (to EVJE). But not the worst. Because, if you want to
avoid that sort of thing, there are others you must turn out of the
house. (Glances towards HARALD.)
Evje. You seem determined to quarrel to-day?
The Editor. Yes, with your "moderation."
Evje. You would be none the worse of a little of it.
The Editor. "Brandy and Moderation" is your watchword--eh?
Evje. Do stop talking such nonsense!--I know one thing, and that
is that you seem to find the brandy from my distillery remarkably
to your taste!
The Doctor (interrupting them). When you are in these provoking
moods there is always some grievance lurking at the back of your
mind. Out with it! I am a doctor, you know; I want to get at the
cause of your complaint!
The Editor. You were not very successful in that, you know,
when you said my maid had cholera, and she really only was--.
The Doctor (laughing). Are you going to bring that story up
again? Every one is liable to make mistakes, you know--even you,
The Editor. Certainly. But before making a mistake this time--
ahem!--I wanted first of all to enquire whether--
The Doctor. Ah! now it is coming!
The Editor --whether you have any objection to my mentioning
John in my paper?
Mrs. Evje. What has John to do with us?
The Editor. Just as much as the Association, where he delivered
his speech, has; it--ahem!--is one of the family institutions!
Evje. I have had no more to do with making John what he is than I
have had with making that Association what it is.
The Editor. Your future son-in-law made the Association what it is,
and the Association has made John what he is.
The Doctor. Or, to put it the other way round: John is Mr. Evje's
servant; John has become an active member of the Association;
therefore Mr. Evje is a patron of the Association.
The Editor. Or this way: John, being the well-known Mr. Evje's
servant, has for that reason become an active member of the
Association which--as he expressed it--his employer's future
son-in-law "has had the honour to found!"
Mrs. Evje. Surely you never mean to put that in the paper?
The Editor (laughing). They are John's own words.
Mr. Evje. Of course, he would never put a tipsy man's maunderings
into the paper. (To his wife.) Don't you understand that he is joking?
The Editor (clearing his throat). It is already in type.
The Doctor. Oh, nonsense!
The Editor. The scene afforded an opportunity for an extremely
amusing sketch, without mentioning any names.
Mr. Evje. I sincerely hope that
The Doctor (to EVJE). Oh, he is only teasing you! You know him.
The Editor. What do you think of this? "Those who indirectly
support so dangerous an institution will have to face exposure."--I
quite agree with it.
Mrs. Evje (getting up). What do you mean? Do you mean that my
The Editor. A little fright will be a good discipline for him!
Evje. Is what you quoted meant as an accusation against us--
whether you are serious or whether you are joking?
The Doctor. He is only trying to frighten you with a bogey; it is
not the first time, you know!
Evje. Yes, but what have _I_ to be frightened of? I don't belong to
The Editor. But persons who do belong to it frequent your house.
A man is known by the company he keeps.
Mrs. Evje. I really begin to think he _does_ mean it seriously.
The Editor. It is too ugly a thing to jest about, you mean?
Evje. Is it possible that you seriously mean to allude to John as
The Editor. Isn't he your servant?
Evje. And to put that in the paper for every one to read?
The Editor. No--only for those who read the paper.
Evje. And you have come here to tell us that?
The Editor. Do you suppose I would do it without telling you?
Mrs. Evje. It is perfectly shameless!
The Editor. It certainly is.
Evje. Is it your intention to quarrel with me?
The Editor. Of course!
Evje. With your own schoolfellow?--one who has been it true friend
to you in all your ups and downs? It is abominable!
The Editor. Perhaps it was to ensure my holding my tongue that
you have been my friend!
Mrs. Evje. You _couldn't_ behave in such a fashion to a friend!
The Editor (drily). To my own brother, if he stood in my way!
Harald (to himself). This is too much! (Comes forward.) Is your
hatred for me so bitter that on my account you must persecute
even my future parents-in-law, your own old friends?
The Editor (who, as soon as HARALD came forward, has turned away
to the DOCTOR). Have you heard how people are being beaten up to
go to the meeting of electors to-night? The last political speeches
of the campaign must be made with red fire burning at the wings! (Laughs.)
Mrs. Evje (coming up to him). No, you are not going to get out of it
by changing the subject. Is it really your intention to put my
husband in your paper?
The Editor. He is putting himself there.
Evje. I, who all my life have avoided being drawn into any political
The Doctor. What has Evje to do with Harald Rein's politics?
The Editor. He endorses them!
Mrs. Evje. No!--a thousand times no!
Evje. Why, only to-day
The Doctor. I can bear witness to that!
The Editor. It is no use protesting!
Evje. But you must believe our protestations!
The Editor. Bah! You will see something more to-morrow--
Evje. Something more?
Mrs. Evje. Against my husband?
The Editor. That scandal about the Stock Exchange Committee. No
less than three Letters to the Editor about it have been lying in my
pigeon-holes for some time.
Evje (in bewilderment). Are you going to put nonsense of that sort
in your paper? The most respected men on the Exchange--?
Mrs. Evje. Members of the Committee--?
The Editor. They are only respected men so long as they respect
themselves. When their chairman enters into connections which
offend public opinion, the whole crew of them must be made to
feel what sort of a man it is they are associating with.
The Doctor. So on Mr. Rejn's account you are going to expose
Evje, and on Evje's account the Stock Exchange Committee? I
suppose my turn will come soon!
The Editor. It will come.
The Doctor. Indeed!
The Editor. The letters that have been sent to me are all from
highly respected men. That shows that public opinion has turned
round; and public opinion must be obeyed! (Throws out his hands.)
Evje (in a troubled voice). It is quite true that I have noticed in
several little ways that their temper--. (Looks round him, and
checks himself. Then speaks more confidently.) But it was just at
such a time that I looked for help from you, my friend. That is
why I did not bother myself much about it.
The Editor (to EVJE). But you know it is you that are attacking me
Mrs. Evje. He?
The Editor. And, besides, I have no choice in the matter. You have
made your bed, and must lie on it.
Evje (growing angry again). But do you really mean that you don't
feel yourself how shocking such behaviour in an old friend is?
The Editor. "Old friend," "old schoolfellow," "neighhour,"--out
with the whole catalogue!
Mrs. Evje. I am sure you don't deserve to be either one or the other!
(The EDITOR laughs.) Think what you wrote to-day about Halvdan
Rejn, who is dying. A man could only write that who--who--
The Editor. Well?--who?
Mrs. Evje. Who has not an atom of heart.
The Editor. Ha, ha! "The natural affections!"--"family considerations!"
Truth, my dear lady, has no family ties; it has no respect even for a
Mrs. Evje. Yes, indeed--every decent man has some respect for
suffering, and even wicked men are silent in the presence of death!
The Editor. "Sufferer"--"dying man"--"martyr,"
I suppose! Oh, we know all that old story!
Harald (coming forward). Let me tell you that you are a--person
with whom I will not condescend to argue. (Walks away from him.)
The Editor (who has at once crossed the room). This theatrical
flaunting of the "dying man" before people's eyes, that a
calculating brother has permitted himself, is of course what is
really shocking in the whole affair. But I will tear the mask off him.
The Doctor (following him). Listen to me, now; listen!
We are gentlefolk, you know! And even if Mr. Rejn
has let himself be so carried away as to mention his
dying brother on a public occasion--well, I am not going
to say that I approve of it, but surely it is excusable
Harald (coming forward). I want none of your defence, thank you!
The Doctor. The one of you is just as mad as the other! (To the
EDITOR.) But what has all this to do with Evje, seeing that, after all,
the whole of this affair of the Rejns'--
Evje (to the EDITOR, eagerly). I give you my word of honour that I
have never approved of Harald's utterances about his brother,
either. I am a man of moderation, as you know; I do not approve
of his politics. Only to-day--
Mrs. Evje. And what on earth have politics to do with the Stock
The Doctor. Or with Evje's coachman!
Evje. You might just as well take it into your head to write about
my clerks, or my workmen, or--
The Doctor. His carpenters, or his brewers--or his horses!
The Editor (stands suddenly still and says, drily): You may assure
yourselves that things are quite sufficient as they are! (Begins to
button up his coat.)
Evje. Is it so bad as all that!
Mrs. Evje. Good gracious!--what is it then?
The Editor (taking up his hat). You will be able to read it
to-morrow, together with some more about the "dying man."
Evje and Mrs. Evje (together.) But before you go--
The Doctor. Hush, hush! Let us remember we are gentlefolk! What
will you bet that the whole thing is not just a bogey to frighten you?
The Editor (holding out his hand towards the DOCTOR).
I hold Mr. Evje's position in the town in the hollow of my hand!
Evje (fuming). Is your object to ruin _that_, then?
Mrs. Evje. You will never succeed in that!
The Doctor. Hush, hush! let us remember we are gentlefolk!
Evje. In my own house--my old schoolfellow--that
he should have the audacity--!
The Editor. I have told you the truth openly. And, as far as that
goes, you have stood more than that from me in your own house,
my boy. Because the misfortune is that you are a coward.
Evje. _I_ a coward?
The Doctor (laughing). Hush, hush! Let us remember we are
Evje. Yes, I have been weak enough to be afraid of
scandal, especially in the newspapers, it is true; that is why I have
put up with you too long! But now you shall see that I am not a
coward. Leave my house!
Mrs. Evje. That's right!
The Doctor. But you must part like gentlefolk, you know.
The Editor. Pooh! You will be sending me a message
directly, to call me back!
Evje. You have the face to say that?
Mrs. Evje (to EVJE). Come, dear, don't provoke him any more!
The Editor (turning to go). You daren't do otherwise.
The Doctor. But part like gentlefolk--!
Evje (following the EDITOR). No, as sure as I live--
The Editor. You will be sending a message to call me back! Ha, ha,
Evje. Never, never!
Mrs. Evje. My dear--!
The Editor. Yes, you will--directly--this very day! Ha, ha, ha!
The Doctor. Don't part like that! Part like gentle--
Evje. No, I tell you!
The Editor (laughing all the time). Yes!
Mrs. Evje. My dear-remember you may bring on one of your
The Editor (at the door). You are too much of a coward! Ha! ha!
Evje (in a rage). No!
The Editor (sticking his head in at the door). Yes! (Goes away.)
The Doctor. What a visit! I cannot help laughing, all the same! Ha,
ha, ha, ha!
Evje. Do you dare to laugh at that?
The Doctor. "Old schoolfellows"--ha, ha! "Moderation"--ha, ha!
"The same party"--ha, ha, ha!
Mrs. Evje. Oh, my husband is ill!
Evje (faintly). Yes--a little water!
Mrs. Evje. Water, water, Harald!
The Doctor. One of his attacks--that is another affair altogether.
Here (takes a bottle from his pocket)--smell this! That's it! Now, a
little water! (Gives him some.) No danger this time. Cheer up, old
Evje. What a scandal!
Mrs. Evje. Yes, you will never be able to bear it, dear; I told you
Evje. To think of _my_ name appearing in the papers, when all my
life I have--
Mrs. Evje. --done everything you could to keep clear of such
things! And you such a dear, good, upright man!--Oh, these politics
are the curse of the world!
The Doctor (laughing). As I told you, you must go through a
special process of hardening before you can stand them.
Evje. And think of public opinion--my position--my connections! It
is more than I can bear!
Mrs. Evje (to the Doctor). I am sure the first time he reads
something about himself in the paper, it will make him really ill!
He won't be able to stand it, I know.
The Doctor. Oh, he will get over it.
Mrs. Evje. No, he won't. I am frightened at the mere thought of it.
He will never be able to bear it, never!
Evje. When all my life I have tried to keep clear of such things--!
Mrs. Evje. And now in your old age, though you deserve it no
more than a child does, to be dragged into it! If I could prevent
that, I would willingly take on my own shoulders whatever--
Evje. No, no--not you! Not you!
The Doctor. But the thing is not necessarily done because he
threatened he would do it.
Evje. Do you think--?
The Doctor. He is so dreadfully hot-headed, but I am sure he will
Mrs. Evje. --before he attacks a lifelong friend! Yes, that is so, isn't
Evje. Do you really think that there is any possibility then--?
The Doctor. I really can't say!
Mrs. Evje. Nothing in the world is impossible!
Evje. We were both so hot-headed.
The Doctor. Yes, it will have to be a more peaceable conversation
than that of a few minutes ago!
Evje. I don't know how it is--there is something so provoking about
Mrs. Evje. Yes, and you have not been very well lately, either. I
have often said so to you.
Evje. No, I haven't. It has been just one thing after another! And all
my life I have tried to keep clear of such things!
The Doctor. I will tell you what, old friend; I am sure the best thing
to do would be--
The Doctor. I am sure you will not be easy in your mind until
someone has talked to him.
Mrs. Evje. Yes, couldn't that be done? Good gracious, that is not
sending a message to him!
Evje. But who would--? (A short silence.)
The Doctor. I don't know who would be best.
Mrs. Evje. All our old friends have deserted us; we shall soon have
The Doctor. Well, at all events, you have me.
Evje. Would you really be willing to--? Do you mean it? (Grasps his
The Doctor. Of course I will! He can't eat me!
Mrs. Evje. How good you are! Of course you only need tell him--
what is quite true--that my husband would never be able to bear it!
He, who all these years--
Evje. --have put up with an incredible amount for his sake, both
from himself and from others!
Mrs. Evje. Yes, that is true! And now you will go, dear friend--our
only friend!--and talk to him quite amicably and sensibly, won't
Evje. But don't delay! He is so hot-headed that we must find him
The Doctor. Oh, I will find him; he is always about the town.
Evje. And tell him--ask him--
The Doctor. Oh, I know what to say to him.
Mrs. Evje. That is right!
Evje. Thank you! I shall never forget how, at a moment when
everything threatened to overwhelm me, you were the only one to
stand by me! Ah, I feel as if a load had fallen off my shoulders! I
feel all at once quite happy again!
The Doctor. That's right. You pull yourself together! I will see to
Evje. Thanks, thanks! But make haste!
The Doctor. I am off! My hat? (Turns, and sees HARALD, and says to
himself.) A-ha! He looks as if he had had about enough of this. It
would have been a joke to--
Evje. Oh, do make haste, my friend!
The Doctor. Yes, yes--if only I could find my hat.
Mrs. Evje. It is on the table.
The Doctor. So it is!
Evje. Good luck to you!
Mrs. Evje. And do it very tactfully!
The Doctor (meaningly). And I hope you three will enjoy
yourselves! (Goes out.)
Evje. What a morning!
Mrs. Evje. We, who have always endeavoured to take everything
quietly and indulgently--
Evje. Yes, and to conduct our family affairs peaceably and
affectionately! (Jumps up and turns to HARALD.) The whole thing is
Mrs. Evje. Yes, it is Harald's fault! From the day this unfortunate
engagement came about, we have scarcely had a moment's peace
Evje. No, no, that is not the case! We must be reasonable. At first,
when Mr. Rejn had a fine future before him, when people vied
with one another to catch him, then the engagement was an honour
to us as well as to our daughter. But from the moment he took up these
wretched politics--that is to say, from the time his brother fell ill--
well, he can see for himself what the result has been to us!
Mrs. Evje. And he certainly must admit that it is not what we
have deserved; indeed it is more than a respected and well-bred
family can put up with.
Harald. I quite agree that it is more than a respected and
well-bred family _ought_ to put up with.
Mrs. Evje. Oh, so _you_ feel that too?
Harald. Certainly. And the only excuse I can see is that there are
many more in the same case. It is only in that way that such
things become possible.
Evje. I do not understand. Many more like--?--like whom?
Harald. Like you!
Mrs. Evje. In what respect?
Harald. I will explain. Most of the successful politicians
nowadays have not gained their position by means of any
greatness of their own, but by the pitiable weakness of others.
Another age will form a different estimate of them--see them in
their proper perspective, and find them to be much smaller men!
Evje. But what has that to do with us?
Harald. Well, just try to size up that man whom a little while ago
you turned out of your house and afterwards sent a message to--
Evje. We sent _no_ message to him!
Mrs. Evje. A friend of ours has gone to talk to him. That is quite a
Harald. Well, take his measure by yours and yours by his! He
went away, and he will come back like a conquering hero. Will
that be thanks to his greatness, or his talent--to the loftiness of his
opinions or his feelings? No,--it will be thanks to your pitiable
Mrs. Evje. Upon my word!
Evje. Well, I--!
Harald. Do you think any one who has any pluck in his
disposition would consent to be a party to such a contemptible
state of things? Think of your own daughter, educated by that
good old man who lies in there, but an obedient child to you;
think how she must be perpetually torn between what she loves
and respects and what she sees going on here! No wonder she is
ill! But remember this--she is not ill because she sticks to me;
she is ill because of your pitiable weakness!
Mrs. Evje. How can you dare to say such things! So you too--!
Evje. Such an absolute want of respect!
Harald. Listen to me, once for all. I intend, God helping me, to
take up the fight that has killed my brother, the noblest man I
know! And Gertrud is going to take up _her_ share in the fight, as I
do mine. But to come to this house as long as _he_ comes here--to go
through what I have gone through to-day--sullies my self-respect
to such an extent, and offends my better feelings so deeply, that
either he never sets foot here again, or I do not!
Evje and Mrs. Evje. But--!
Harald (quietly). When I came here to-day, I thought we should
be able to arrange matters without my speaking out; but there is
nothing else for it, so good-bye! (Goes out. A moment's silence
Mrs. Evje. Is _he_ giving _us_ our dismissal? Or does he not really
mean to break with us?--My dear, what is the matter? (Goes to
her husband's side.)
Evje (without moving). Tell me, my dear--am I a bad man?
Mrs. Evje. You, a bad man?
Evje. Because, if I were not a bad, wicked man, they could not
behave in such a way to me, one after the other.
Mrs. Evje. But, my dear, you are the best and dearest and most
considerate of men! And they are shameless traitors to you, my
Evje. But how on earth, then, could it come about that I, who all
my life have tried to keep clear of such things--for I have, haven't I?
Mrs. Evje. Every one knows that, that knows anything about you.
Evje. How could it come about that in my old age I should be
despised and forsaken by everybody? Surely it is no crime to
want to live in peace, apart from all that sort of thing?
Mrs. Evje. No, indeed; that is what all decent people want to do.
Evje. Yes, I thought so too. But now you see!
Mrs. Evje. But _you_ have been dreadfully unfortunate.
Evje. Why should I have been just the one to be dreadfully
unfortunate? Most people escape such things altogether.
Mrs. Evje (starting). Here is Gertrud.
Evje. Poor child!
Mrs. Evje. What on earth are we to say to her?
Evje. Be careful, my dear! be careful! (GERTRUD comes in quietly
and comes forward to them.)
Gertrud. Did I see Harald go away?
Mrs. Evje. Yes, my child, he--he went away.
Gertrud. Without saying good-bye to me?
Evje. That's true, he didn't say good-bye to you.
Mrs. Evje. Were you expecting him to come into grandfather's
room to say good-bye to you?
Gertrud. Yes. Tell me how things went here?
Evje. Why were you not here, dear?
Gertrud (in astonishment). I here? You said you did not want me
to be present--
Evje. I remember, yes; we thought it would not be advisable.
Gertrud (still speaking quietly, but in growing alarm).
But how did things go, then?
Evje. How did they go? Badly.
Mrs. Evje (hurriedly). That is to say, he did not behave at all well.
You must prepare yourself for the worst, my child!
Gertrud. Is it something very bad, then?
Evje. You know he is a little hasty just now, when he has so much
on his hands. He lacks a proper sense of moderation--but he will
learn it, sure enough.
Gertrud (almost inaudibly). But what does it mean? Is he never
Evje. Never coming back? What an extraordinary question! Of
course he will come back. He was only a little over-hasty, you
Gertrud. And said he would never come back?
Mrs. Evje. Come, come, my dear--you mustn't be alarmed.
Evje. He talked such a lot, you know, that we must not attach any
particular importance to anything he said.
Gertrud. So that is how it is!
Mrs. Evje. We must make allowances for all that he is going
through just now--
Evje (suddenly). My child, you look so pale--
Mrs. Evje (going to her). Gertrud!
Gertrud (with a quiet movement of protest). I must give grandfather
his drink; that was really what I came for. And that was how I
happened to see Harald through the window. I will take grandfather
his drink. (The curtain falls as she goes out of the room.)
(SCENE.--A street in the "villa quarter" of the town. Between it
and another street running parallel with it in the background, are
two houses standing in gardens, half of the facade of one of them
projecting into the stage on the right. On the left a third street
runs at right angles to the others, to the back of the stage. The
left side of this third street opens onto a well-wooded park.
The house in the foreground on the right is in two stories. There
is a narrow strip of garden in front of it, enclosed by an iron
railing with a gate in it. The gate is standing open. The entrance
door to the house is immediately behind this gate. There is light
in a small window by the door; the ground floor windows are in
darkness; in those of the upper floor, light is visible through
heavy curtains. It is a wintry evening, and everything is swathed
in an unusually thick fog, in which the gas lamps in the streets
show dimmer and dimmer as they recede in the distance. As the
curtain goes up, a lamplighter is seen descending his ladder from a
lamp-post, where he has just lit the lamp at the corner of the
The Lamplighter (as he reaches the ground). It's all one whether
the lamps are lit or not, in such a fog as this. (MRS. EVJE is seen
drawing back the curtain at a window on the first floor. She opens
the window and looks out.)
Mrs. Evje. The fog is so thick, my dear, that I can't see across
Evje (coming to the window, with fur coat and cap on). So it is!--
Well, so much the better, my dear! (They withdraw into the room;
the window is shut and the curtains drawn. Two passers-by come
along the street from the right, talking.)
First Passer-by. The Land of Fogs--the old idea of the land of Fogs
was that of a vision of confused and faint sensation, with the
light of the intelligence dimmed and blurred like these gas lamps
in the fog.
Second Passer-by. It would be that, if our hearts did not often act
as guiding lights to our befogged intelligences. Look at this house
behind us--the brandy distiller's. The devilish workings of his
intelligence have befogged the whole country--befogged it with
brandy--and some such guiding light is much needed there.
First Passer-by. Ah, well,--the old idea of the Land of Fogs was
that fogs were--. (The sound of their conversation dies away as
they pass into the park on the left. GERTRUD, closely veiled and
wrapped in furs, comes slowly out of the park. She stops at the
corner and looks down the street, then passed slowly along to the
right, looking up at the house as she goes. She is scarcely out of
sight when the house-door opens and EVJE comes out.)
Evje. This is about the time he comes home--I daren't go to his
house and ask for him; I don't know if he would admit me. I
daren't trust to the Doctor alone.--This uncertainty is dreadful!
(He starts at seeing GERTRUD, whom he does not recognise in the
fog, walking towards him. She turns suddenly and walks back the
way she came.) Who was that? She gave me quite a fright in this
fog! Her furs seemed rather like--no, no, it couldn't be. I must
not let any one recognise me. (Puts up the high collar of his coat,
so that only his nose is visible.) Both of them called me a coward,
but they are very much mistaken. It is not cowardice for a man who
is respected and honoured to try and avoid scandal. Hm! Naturally
those who trade in scandals think otherwise!--To act without
attaching weight to the opinion of others, to disregard one's own
predilections, to put up with being laughed at--all for the sake of
preventing a scandal--that is to be strong and courageous. And it
_is_ admirable, too; for it is admirable to act fearlessly in the
interest of one's family, and of one's business, and of propriety.
(Starts as he hears his door opened. JOHN has come along the street
and gone into the house.) Is that some one coming out of my house?
No, it is a man going in. And then to think of Harald Rejn
beginning that nonsense about my being a coward, because I refused
to become a party man! Every one ought to take sides in politics--
that is their cry. Hm! I should say it required rather more
courage nowadays to _refrain_ from taking sides. (Starts again.) Who
is that? Oh, only that woman again. She is waiting for some one
too. I expect we shall both catch bad colds. (Walks up and down.)
It is an odd sensation to be walking up and down on the watch
outside one's own house. Cowardice? Pshaw! To let one's self be
abused in a public street without stirring a finger to prevent it,
_that_ would be cowardice. I only hope he has not gone round the
other way? There is much more traffic in that street, and some one
might easily--. I think I will take a turn towards the town, and
turn back when I am a little way from here; it will look less
suspicious. I must catch him, because his paper will be going to
press. (Looks up at his house.) My poor wife, sitting up there
dreadfully alarmed on my account! (Goes out to the right. As soon
as he has gone, the house-door opens and JOHN comes warily out.)
JOHN. So he has gone out, has he! Oh, well, he is bound to come in
again! I will wait and catch him, that I will! Tra, la, la, la, la!
I can play about here in the fog till he comes back; I have nothing
to lose! And it will be best to catch him in the street; he will
make less fuss, and can't run away from me! Tra, la, la, la, la!
(Lounges out to the right. A moment later, HARALD comes out of the
park. He is dressed much as EVJE is, but has not his coat-collar
Harald. There is a light in her window! Then she is alone in her
room. What am I going to do now? Twice already I have come to look
at that light; now I have seen it--and must go away! Good-bye, my
darling! Be patient, and wait! I know your thoughts are with me
now; and I know you feel that mine are with you! (As he turns away
from the house he sees the veiled figure of GERTRUD, who, as soon
as she has come nearer, rushes to him, throws up her veil, and
falls into his arms in a glad embrace.)
Gertrud. I was certain that, if you could not go into the house
again, you would be out here! I knew you would not go away from me,
Harald. No--neither now nor ever.
Gertrud. And, while I was walking up and down here in the fog, I
felt that though there might be all this gloom tend cold around us
outside, there was the brightness and warmth of certainty in our
Harald. Yes, our love is the one certainty for me! Fog may obscure
the goal I aim at, the road I have to I read, the very ground I
stand on; doubts may even for a while attack my faith; but my love
for you shines clear through it all!
Gertrud. Thank you, my darling! If that is so, there is nothing
that we cannot overcome!
Harald. Of course, you know what took place to-day?
Gertrud. I can guess.
Harald. Is it true that you are ill? Why did you never tell me?
Gertrud. No, the doctor is not telling the truth; I am not ill!
Even if I were, what matter? I should go on living as long as I
could--and should have done my duty before I gave in!
Harald. That is the way to look at it!
Gertrud. But I am not ill! I suffer, it is true--and am likely to--
every time you are persecuted, or my parents on my account. Because
_I_ have drawn them into all this that, they are so unfitted for,
and that is why it pains me so to see how unprepared it finds them
--most of all when, out of tenderness for me, they try to conceal
it. But I can't alter things. We are fighting for a cause that you
believe to be right, and so do I; surely that is better than never
to suffer at all in any good cause. Try me! Let me share the fight
with you! I am not weak; it is only that my heart is sore for those
Harald. You splendid, loyal creature!--and you are mine! (Embraces
Gertrud. You should hear what grandfather says!
Harald. Yes, how is the dear old gentleman?
Gertrud. Pretty well, thanks, though he never gets out now. But he
is following your work, and he says that what you are aiming at is
right, if you ask for God's guidance on your way. Harald--you will
always be the same as you are now--good and genuine--won't you,
dear? Not like the rest of them--nothing but bitterness and malice,
always talking of principles and consequences and all the rest of
it, and always attacking others? If one were obliged to be like
that, it would be a curse to be a politician.
Harald. I will be what you make me! I think that behind every man's
public life you can see his private life--whether he has a real
home, and what it is like, or whether he only has a place he lives
in--that is to say, no real home.
Gertrud. With God's help I shall try to make a bright, snug and
cosy home for you! And this fog is delightful, because it only
makes the thought of such a home all the cosier and snugger! It
makes us seem so alone, too; no one is out driving or walking; and
we can talk as loud as we please, because the fog deadens the sound
of our voices. Oh, I feel so happy again now! Do you know, I think
it is rather nice to be persecuted a little; it makes our meetings
so much more precious!
Harald. But, you know dear, to meet you like this--and just now--
Gertrud (as they walk up and down together). Yes, of course! I had
altogether forgotten how much you have to bear just now; I have
been chattering away--. Oh, I don't know how I could feel so happy,
because I am really dreadfully distressed. But, you know, I sit the
whole play beside grandfather, thinking, without even being able to
talk. I generally read aloud to him; now and then he makes a
remark, but he really lives more in the next world than in this one
now. (They hear a cough in the distance, and give a start, because
they recognise it. The EDITOR and EVJE, walking along together,
EVJE apparently talking very earnestly, are seen, indistinctly
through the fog, in the street running parallel with the one HARALD
and GERTRUD are in. JOHN is seen following them cautiously. They
disappear into the park.)
Harald. I hear the enemy! I am sure I caught a glimpse of him over
there through the fog, talking to another man.
Gertrud. Is he always about the streets even in weather like this?
Harald. Well, we won't let him disturb us. (They begin walking up
and down again in front of the house.)
Gertrud. Do you know whom I met out here? Father!
Harald. Really? Then it is as I thought; the other man over there
was your father!
Gertrud. Do you think it was? Poor father!
Harald. Yes, he is weak.
Gertrud. But you must be good to him. He is so good himself. Think
how mother loves him; she is absolutely wrapped up in him, because
he is so good!
Harald. He is a good man, and an able man. But, but, but--
Gertrud. They have lived a very tranquil life. We of the younger
generation try to undertake heavier duties and greater responsibilities
than the older generation did. But we must not be angry with them.
Harald. I am afraid it is only too easy to feel angry with them.
Gertrud. No, do as grandfather does! If he thinks any one is going
to be amenable to it, he talks to them quietly; if not, he only
behaves affectionately to them. Do you understand, dear?--just
Harald. Well, to-day--ought I to have put up with their allowing
themselves to be treated in such an unseemly way, and their
treating me in such an unseemly way?
Gertrud. Was it really as bad as that?
Harald. You would not believe what it was like, I assure you!
Gertrud (standing still). Poor father! Poor father! (Throws her
arms round HARALD'S neck.) Be good to them, Harald!--just because
of their faults, dear! We are their children, you know, and it is
God's commandment, even if we were not their children.
Harald. If only I could take you up in my arms and carry you off
home with me now! Your love takes possession of my heart and my
will, and purifies both of them. I am at a crisis in my life now--
and now you should be on my side!
Gertrud. Listen!--to begin with, I will go with you to your meeting
Harald. Yes, yes,--I will come and fetch you!
Gertrud. Down at the door here!
Gertrud. And, in the next place, I am going to walls into the town
with you now.
Harald. But then I shall have to see you home again.
Gertrud. Do you object?
Harald. No, no! And you shall teach me a lot of things on the way!
Gertrud. Yes, you will be so wise before we get back! (They go
out to the right.)
(The EDITOR and EVJE come out of the park. JOHN follows them,
unseen by them, and slips past them to the right when they stop for
a moment. The following conversation is carried on in hurried
tones, and every time the EDITOR raises his voice EVJE hushes him,
and speaks himself in a persistently lowered voice.)
Evje. But what concern of yours--or of the public's--are my private