The Father; Countess Julie; The Outlaw; The Stronger by August Strindberg

E-text prepared by Nicole Apostola PLAYS: The Father Countess Julie The Outlaw The Stronger by AUGUST STRINDBERG Translated by Edith and Warner Oland To M. C. S. and J. H. S., Under whose rooftree these translations were made. CONTENTS. THE FATHER A Tragedy in III Acts. COUNTESS JULIE A Tragedy in I Act. THE OUTLAW
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  • 1887
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E-text prepared by Nicole Apostola

The Father
Countess Julie
The Outlaw
The Stronger


Translated by Edith and Warner Oland

To M. C. S. and J. H. S.,
Under whose rooftree these translations were made.


A Tragedy in III Acts.

A Tragedy in I Act.

A play in I Act.

An Episode in I Scene.


Since the accompanying biographical note, which aims solely at outlining the principal events of Strindberg’s life up to 1912, was put in type, the news of his death from cancer, at Stockholm on May 14, 1912, has been reported.

Of the plays included in the present volume, “The Father” and “Countess Julie” are representative of Strindberg’s high water mark in dramatic technique and have successfully maintained their claim to a permanent place, not only in dramatic literature, but, as acting plays.

“The Stronger,” than which no better example of Strindberg’s uncanny power for analysis of the female mind exists, while essentially a chamber play, is from time to time presented at the theatre, and affords a splendid test of the dramatic ability of the actors, only one of whom speaks. The author has boldly thrown on the other the burden of maintaining her share in the development of the action by pantomime, facial expression, and an occasional laugh.

“The Outlaw,” although inferior in construction to the others, is still played with success and is full of dignity and atmosphere. The important part it played in promoting the fortunes of the author lends to it an added interest which fully justifies its inclusion in this volume.


“I tell you, you must have chaos in you, if you would give birth to a dancing star.” –Nietzsche.

In Stockholm, living almost as a recluse, August Strindberg is dreaming life away. The dancing stars, sprung from the chaos of his being, shine with an ever-increasing refulgence from the high-arched dome of dramatic literature, but he no longer adds to their number. The constellation of the Lion of the North is complete.

At sixty-three, worn by the emotional intensity of a life, into which has been crowded the stress and storm of a universe, he sits at his desk, every day transcribing to his diary a record of those mystical forces which he says regulate his life.

Before him lies a crucifix, Hardly as a symbol of sectarian faith, for Strindberg is a Swedenborgian, but a fitting accompaniment, nevertheless, to a state of mind which he expresses in saying “One gets more and more humble the longer one lives, and in the shadow of death many things look different.” A softer light beams from those blue eyes, which, under that tossing crown of tawny hair flung high from a speaking forehead, in times past flashed defiance at every opposition. For him the fierce, unyielding, never-ceasing, ever-pressing strife of mind and unrest of life is passing, an eddy in the tide has borne him into quieter waters, and if the hum of the world reaches his solitude, it no longer rouses him to headlong action.

Secure in his position as the foremost man of letters Sweden has produced in modern times, the last representative of that distinguished group of Scandinavian writers which included Ibsen, Bjornson and Brandes, with a Continental reputation surpassing that of any one of them, Strindberg well may be entitled to dream of the past.

One day when in the evolution of the drama Strindberg’s technique shall have served its purpose and like Ibsen’s, be forced to give way before the advance of younger artists, when his most radical views shall have become the commonplaces of pseudo-culture, the scientific psychologist will take the man in hand and, from the minute record of his life, emotions, thoughts, fancies, speculations and nightmares, which he has embodied in autobiographical novels and that most remarkable perhaps of all his creations, abysmal in its pessimism, “The Inferno,” will be drawn a true conception of the man.

That the individual will prove quite as interesting a study as his literary work, even the briefest outline of Strindberg’s life will suggest.

The lack of harmony in his soul that has permeated his life and work with theses and antitheses Strindberg tries to explain through heredity, a by no means satisfying or complete solution for the motivation of his frequently unusual conduct and exceptional temperamental qualities, which the abnormal psychologist is in the habit of associating with that not inconsiderable group of cases in which the emotional and temperamental characteristics of the opposite sex are dominant in the individual. His ancestry has been traced back to the sixteenth century, when his father’s family was of the titled aristocracy, later, generation after generation, becoming churchmen, although Strindberg’s father, Carl Oscar, undertook a commercial career. His mother, Ulrica Eleanora Norling, was the daughter of a poor tailor, whom Strindberg’s father first met as a waitress in a hotel, and, falling in love with her, married, after she had borne him three children.

August, christened Johann August, the fourth child, was born at Stockholm, January 22, 1849, soon after his father had become a bankrupt. There was little light or cheer in the boy’s home; the misfortune that overtook the family at the time of August’s birth always hung over them like a dark cloud; the mother became nervous and worn from the twelve child-births she survived, the father serious and reserved. The children were brought up strictly and as August was no favorite, loneliness and hostility filled even his earliest years.

His first school days were spent among boys of the better class, who turned up their noses at his leather breeches and heavy boots. He was taken away from that school and sent where there was a lower class of boys, whose leader he soon became, but in his studies he was far from precocious, though not dull.

As he grew up the family fortunes bettered, and he attended a private school patronized by cultivated and wealthy people. Mixing so with both classes meant much in the development of the youth, and he began to realize that he belonged to both and neither, felt homeless, torn in his sympathies and antipathies, plebian and aristocratic at the same time. In his thirteenth year, his mother died, a loss for which his father was apparently soon consoled, as in less than a year he married his housekeeper. This was another blow to the boy, for he disliked the woman, and there was soon war between them.

At fifteen he fell in love with it woman of thirty of very religious character, and its this was a period of fervent belief with the youth himself, she became an influence in his life for Home time, but one day a young comrade asked him to luncheon at a cafe, and for the first time Strindberg partook of schnaps and ale with a hearty meal. This little luncheon was the event which broke up the melancholy introspection of his youth and stirred him to activity.

He went to Upsala University for one term and then left, partly on account of the lack of funds for books, and partly because the slow, pedantic methods of learning were distasteful to his restless, active nature. He then became a school teacher; next interested in medical science, which he studied energetically, until the realities of suffering drove him from it. About this time, the same time, by the way, that Ibsen’s “The League of Youth” was being hissed down at Christiana, the creative artist in Strindberg began to stir, and after six months more of turmoil of soul, he turned to the stage as a possible solution, making his debut at the Dramatiska Theatre in 1869 in Bjornson’s “Mary Stuart,” in the part of a lord with one line to speak. After two months of no advancement he found courage to ask to be heard in one of the classical roles he had been studying.

The director, tired from a long rehearsal, reluctantly consented to listen to him, likewise, the bored company of actors. Strindberg went on “to do or die,” and was soon shouting like a revivalist, and made such it bad impression that he was advised to go to the dramatic school to study. He went home disgusted and heartsick, and, determined to take his life, swallowed an opium pill which he had long been keeping for that purpose.

However, it was not sufficiently powerful, and, a friend coming to see him, he was persuaded to go out, and together they drowned his chagrin in an evening at it cafe.

The day after was a memorable one, for it was Strindberg’s birthday as a dramatist. He was lying on a sofa at home, his body still hot from the shame of his defeat–and wine, trying to figure out how he could persuade his stepmother to effect a reconciliation between him and his father. He saw the scenes played as clearly as though on a stage, and with his brain working at high pressure, in two hours had the scheme for two acts of a comedy worked out. In four days it was finished–Strindberg’s first play! It was refused production, but he was complimented, and felt that his honor was saved.

The fever of writing took possession of him and within two months he had finished two comedies, and a tragedy in verse called “Hermione,” which was later produced. Giving so much promise as a dramatist he was persuaded to leave the stage and, unwilling of spirit, returned to Upsala in the spring of 1870, as he was advised that he would never he recognized as a writer unless he had secured is university degree. The means with which to continue his studies were derived from the two hundred crowns left him by his mother, which he now forced his father to allow him to use. Despite this, however, his fortunes often ran to the lowest ebb.

One day Strindberg announced that he had a one act play called “In Rome” to read to the “Runa” (Song) Club, a group of six students whom he had gotten together, and which was devoted exclusively to the reading of the poetry of its members. The play, based upon an incident in the life of Thorvaldsen, was received enthusiastically by the “Runa,” and the rest of the night was spent in high talk of Strindberg’s future over a champagne supper in his honor given by one of the well-to-do members. These days of homage and appreciation from this student group Strindberg cherishes as the happiest time in his life, but notwithstanding their worshipful attitude, he himself was full of doubts and misgivings about his abilities.

One of these friends sent the manuscript of “In Rome” to the Dramatiska Theatre at Stockholm, where it was accepted and produced anonymously in August of the same year, 1870. Strindberg was present at the premiere and although it was well received, to him it was all a fine occasion–except the play! He was ashamed of his self-confession in it and fled before the final curtain. He soon finished another play, “The Outlaw,” which is included in the present volume. In this drama, which retains a high place among his plays, Strindberg shows for the first time his lion’s claw and in it began to speak with his own voice. It was accepted by the Court Theatre at Stockholm for production during the next autumn, that of 1871.

At the close of the summer, after a violent quarrel with his father, he returned to the University in the hope of finding help from his comrades. Arrived at Upsala, with just one crown, he found that many of his old and more prosperous friends were no longer there. Times were harder than ever.

But at last a gleam of hope came with the news that “The Outlaw” was actually to be produced. And his wildest dreams were then realized, for, despite the unappreciative attitude of the critics toward this splendid Viking piece, the King, Carl XV, after seeing the play, commanded Strindberg to appear before him. Strindberg regarded the summons as the perpetration of a practical joke, and only obeyed it after making sure by telegraph that it was not a hoax.

Strindberg tells of the kindly old king standing with a big pipe in his hand as the young author strode between chamberlains and other court dignitaries into the royal presence.

The king, a grandson of Napoleon’s marshal Bernadotte, and as a Frenchman on the throne of Sweden, diplomatic enough to desire at least the appearance of being more Swedish than the Swedes, spoke of the pleasure the ancient Viking spirit of “The Outlaw” had given him, and, after talking genially for some time, said, “You are the son of Strindberg, the steamship agent, I believe and so, of course, are not in need.”

“Quite the reverse,” Strindberg replied, explaining that his father no longer gave him the meager help in his university course, which he had formerly done.

“How much can you get along on per annum until you graduate?” asked the king.

Strindberg was unable to say in a moment. “I’m rather short of coin myself,” said the king quite frankly, “but do you think you could manage on eight hundred riksdaler a year?” Strindberg was overwhelmed by such munificence, and the interview was concluded by his introduction to the court treasurer, from whom he received his first quarter’s allowance of two hundred crowns.

Full of thankfulness for this unexpected turn of fate, the young dramatist returned to Upsala. For once he appeared satisfied with his lot, and took up his studies with more earnestness than ever. The year 1871 closed brilliantly for the young writer, for in addition to the kingly favor be received honorable mention from the Swedish Academy for his Greek drama “Hermione.” The following year, 1872, life at the university again began to pall on his restless mind, and he took to painting.

Then followed a serious disagreement with one of the professors, so that when he received word from the court treasurer that it was uncertain whether his stipend could be continued on account of the death of the king, he decided to leave the University for good. At a farewell banquet in his honor, he expressed his appreciation of all he had received from his student friends, saying, “A personality does not develop from itself, but out of each soul it comes in contact with, it sucks a drop, just as the bee gathers its honey from a million flowers giving it forth eventually as its own.”

Strindberg went to Stockholm to become a literateur and, if possible, a creative artist. He gleaned a living from newspaper work for a few months, but in the summer went to a fishing village on a remote island in Bothnia Bay where, in his twenty-third year, he wrote his great historical drama, “Master Olof.” Breaking away from traditions and making flesh and blood creations instead of historical skeletons in this play, it was refused by all the managers of the theatres, who assured Strindberg that the public would not tolerate any such unfamiliar methods. Strindberg protested, and defended and tried to elucidate his realistic handling of the almost sacred historical personages, but in vain, for “Master Olof” was not produced until seven years later, when it was put on at the Swedish Theatre at Stockholm in 1880, the year Ibsen was writing “Ghosts” at Sorrento.

In 1874, after a year or two of unsuccessful effort to make a living in various employments, he became assistant at the Court library, which was indeed a haven of refuge, a position providing both leisure for study and an assured income. Finding in the library some Chinese parchments which had not been catalogued; he plunged into the study of that language. A treatise which he wrote on the subject won him medals from various learned societies at home, as well as recognition from the French Institute. This success induced the many other treatises that followed, for which he received a variety of decorations, and along with the honors nearly brought upon himself “a salubrious idiocy,” to use his own phrase.

Then something happened that stirred the old higher voice in him,– he fell in love. He had been invited through a woman friend to go to the home of Baron Wrangel, where his name as an author was esteemed. He refused the invitation, but the next day, walking in the city streets with this same woman friend, they encountered the Baroness Wrangel to whom Strindberg was introduced. The Baroness asked him once more to come. He promised to do so, and they separated. As Strindberg’s friend went into a shop, he turned to look down the street; noting the beautiful lines of the disappearing figure of the Baroness, noting, too, a stray lock of her golden hair, that had escaped from her veil, and played against the white ruching at her throat. He gazed after her long, in fact, until she disappeared in the crowded street. From that moment he was not a free man. The friendship which followed resulted in the divorce of the Baroness from her husband and her marriage to Strindberg, December 30, 1877, when he was twenty-eight years old. At last Strindberg had someone to love, to take care of, to worship. This experience of happiness, so strange to him, revived the creative impulse.

The following year, 1878, “Master Olof” was finally accepted for publication, and won immediate praise and appreciation. This, to his mind, belated success, roused in Strindberg a smoldering resentment, which lack of confidence and authority of position had heretofore caused him to repress. He broke out with a burning satire, in novel form, called “The Red Room,” the motto of which he made Voltaire’s words “Rien n’est si desagreable que s’etre pendu obscurement.”

Hardly more than mention can be made of the important work of this dramatist, poet, novelist, historian, scientist and philosopher. In 1888 he left Sweden, as the atmosphere there had become too disagreeable for him through controversy after controversy in which lie became involved. He joined a group of painters and writers of all nationalities in it little village in France. There he wrote “La France,” setting forth the relations between France and Sweden in olden times. This was published in Paris and the French government, tendered him the decoration of the legion of honor which, however, he refused very politely, explaining that he never wore a frock coat! The episode ends amusingly with the publisher, a Swede, receiving the decoration instead. In 1884 the first volume of his famous short stories, called “Marriages” appeared. It was aimed at the cult that had sprung up from Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” which was threatening the peace of all households. A few days after the publication of “Marriages” the first edition was literally swallowed up. As the book dealt frankly with the physical facts of sex relations, it was confiscated by the Swedish government a month after its publication, and Strindberg was obliged to go to Stockholm to defend his cause in the courts, which he won, and in another month “Marriages” was again on the market.

The next year, 1885, his “Real Utopias” was written in Switzerland, an attack, in the form of four short stories, on over-civilization, which won him much applause in Germany. He went to Italy as a special correspondent for the “Daily News” of Stockholm.

In 1886 the much anticipated second volume of “Marriages” appeared. These were the short stories, satisfying to the simplest as well as to the most discriminating minds, that attracted Nietzsche’s attention to Strindberg. A correspondence sprung up between the two men, referring to which in a letter to Peter Gast, Nietzsche said, “Strindberg has written to me, and for the first time I sense an answering note of universality.” The mutual admiration and intellectual sympathies of these two conspicuous creative geniuses has led a number of critics, including Edmund Gosse, into the error of attributing to Nietzsche a dominating influence over Strindberg. It should be remembered, however, the “Countess Julie” and “The Father,” which are cited its the most obvious examples of that supposed influence, were completed before Strindberg’s acquaintance with Nietzsche’s philosophy, and that among others, the late John Davidson, is also charged with having drawn largely from Nietzsche. The fact is, that, during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the most original thinkers of many countries were quite independently, though less clearly, evolving the same philosophic principals that the master mind of Nietzsche was radiating in the almost blinding flashes of his genius.

Then came the period during which Strindberg attained the highest peaks of his work, the years 1886-90, with his autobiography, “The Servant Woman’s Son,” the tragedies, “The Father,” and “Countess Julie,” the comedies, “Comrades,” and “The Stronger,” and the tragi-comedies, “The Creditors” and “Simoon.” Of these, “The Father” and “Countess Julie” soon made Strindberg’s name known and honored throughout Europe, except in his home country.

In “The Father” perhaps his biggest vision is felt. It was published in French soon after it appeared in Sweden, with an introduction by Zola in which he says, “To be brief, you have written a mighty and capitvating work. It is one of the few dramas that have had the power to stir me to the depths.”

Of his choice of theme in “Countess Julie,” Strindberg says: “When I took this motive from life, as it was related to me a few years ago, it made a strong impression on me. I found it suitable for tragedy, and it still makes a sorrowful impression on me to see an individual to whom happiness has been allotted go under, much more, to see a line become extinct.” And in defence of his realism he has said further in his preface to “Countess Julie”: “The theatre has for a long time seemed to me the Biblia pauperum in the fine arts, a bible with pictures for those who can neither read nor write, and the dramatist is the revivalist, and the revivalist dishes tap the ideas of the day in popular form, so popular that the middle class, of whom the bulk of theatre-goers is comprised, can without burdening their brains understand what it is all about. The theatre therefore has always been a grammar school for the young, the half-educated, and women, who still possess the primitive power of being able to delude themselves and of allowing themselves to be deluded, that is to say, receive illusions and accept suggestions from the dramatist. *** Some people have accused my tragedy, ‘The Father’ of being too sad, as though one desired a merry tragedy. People call authoritatively for the ‘Joy of Life’ and theatrical managers call for farces, as though the Joy of Life lay in being foolish, and in describing people who each and every one are suffering from St. Vitus’ dance or idiocy. I find the joy of life in the powerful, terrible struggles of life; and the capability of experiencing something, of learning something, is a pleasure to me. And therefore I have chosen an unusual but instructive subject; in other words, an exception, but a great exception, that will strengthen the rules which offend the apostle of the commonplace. What will further create antipathy in some, is the fact that my plan of action is not simple, and that there is not one view alone to be taken of it. An event in life–and that is rather a new discovery–is usually occasioned by a series of more or less deep-seated motifs, but the spectator generally chooses that one which his power of judgment finds simplest to grasp, or that his gift of judgment considers the most honorable. For example, someone commits suicide: ‘Bad business!’ says the citizen; ‘Unhappy love!’ says the woman; ‘Sickness!’ says the sick man; ‘Disappointed hopes?’ the bankrupt. But it may be that none of these reasons is the real one, and that the dead man hid the real one by pretending another that would throw the most favorable light on his memory. *** In the following drama (‘Julie’) I have not sought to do anything new, because that cannot be done, but only to modernize the form according to the requirements I have considered present-day people require.”

Following the mighty output, of those years, in 1891 Strindberg went out: to the islands where he had lived years before, and led a hermit’s life. Many of his romantic plays were written there, and much of his time was spent at painting.

In 1892 he was divorced from his wife.

After a few months Strindberg went to Berlin, where he was received with all honors by literary Germany. Richard Dehmel, one of their foremost minstrels, celebrated the event by a poem called “An Immortal,–To Germany’s Guest.” In the shop windows his picture hung alongside that of Bismarck, and at the theatres his plays were being produced. About this time he heard of the commotion that “Countess Julie” had created in Paris, where it had been produced by Antoine. During these victorious times Strindberg met a young Austrian writer, Frida Uhl, to whom he was married in April 1898. Although the literary giant of the hour, he was nevertheless in very straightened pecuniary circumstances, which led to his allowing the publication of “A Fool’s Confession,” written in French, and later, with out his permission or knowledge, issued in German and Swedish, which entangled him in a lawsuit, as the subject matter contained much of his marital miseries. Interest in chemistry had long been stirring in Strindberg’s mind; it now began to deepen. About this time also he passed through that religious crisis which swept artistic Europe, awakened nearly a century after his death by that Swedenborgian poet and artist, William Blake. To this period belongs “To Damascus,” a play of deepest soul probing, which was not finished however until 1904.

Going to Paris in the fall of 1894, to pursue chemical research most seriously, he ran into his own success at the theatres there. “The Creditors” had been produced and Strindberg was induced to undertake the direction of “The Father” at the Theatre de l’Oeuvre, where it was a tremendous success. A Norwegian correspondent was forced to send word home that with “The Father” Strindberg had overreached Ibsen in Paris, because what it had never been possible to do with an Ibsen play, have a run in Paris, they were now doing with Strindberg. At the same time the Theatre des Ecaliers put on “The Link,” the Odean produced “The Secret of the Guild,” and the Chat Noir “The Kings of Heaven,” and translations of his novels were running in French periodicals. But Strindberg turned his back on all this success and shut himself up in his laboratory to delve into chemistry. This he did with such earnestness that with his discovery of Swedenborg his experimentations and speculations reduced him to a condition of mind that unfitted him for any kind of companionship, so that when his wife left him to go to their child who was ill and far away, he welcomed the complete freedom. Strindberg says of their parting at the railway station that although they smiled and waved to each other as they called out “Auf wiedersehen” they both knew that they were saying good bye forever, which proved to be true, as they were divorced a year later. In 1896 he returned to Sweden so broken in health through his tremendous wrestling with the riddle of life that he went into the sanitorium of his friend, Dr. Aliasson at Wstad. After two months he was sufficiently restored to go to Austria, at the invitation of his divorced wife’s family, to see his child. Then back to Sweden, to Lund, a university town, where he lived solely to absorb Swedenborg. By May of that year he was able to go to work on “The Inferno,” that record of a soul’s nightmare, which in all probability will remain unique in the history of literature. Then came the writing of the great historical dramas, then the realistically symbolic plays of Swedenborgian spirit, of which “Easter” is representative, and the most popular.

When “Easter” was produced in Stockholm a young Norwegian, Harriet Bosse, played Eleanora, the psychic, and in 1901 this young actress became Strindberg’s wife. This third marriage ended in divorce three years later. In 1906, the actor manager, August Folk, produced “Countess Julie” in Stockholm, seventeen years after it had been written. To Strindberg’s amazement, it won such tremendous attention that the other theatres became deserted. In consequence of this success an intimate theatre was founded for the production of none but Strindberg’s plays.

How he is estimated today in his own country may be judged by the following extract from an article which appeared in a recent issue of the leading periodical of Stockholm:

“For over thirty years he has dissected us from every point of view; during that time his name has always been conspicuous in every book-shop window and his books gradually push out the others from our shelves; every night his plays are produced at the theatres; every conversation turns on him, and his is the name the pigmies quarrel over daily; the cry is heard that he has become hysterical, sentimental, out of his mind, but the next one knows, he is robustness itself, and enduring beyond belief, despite great need, enmity, sorrow. One hour one is angry over some extravagance which he has allowed himself, the next captivated by one of his plays, stirred, melted, strengthened and uplifted by his sublime genius.”



LAURA, his wife
BERTHA, their daughter



[The sitting room at the Captain’s. There is a door a little to the right at the back. In the middle of the room, a large, round table strewn with newspapers and magazines. To right a leather-covered sofa and table. In the right-hand corner a private door. At left there is a door leading to the inner room and a desk with a clock on it. Gamebags, guns and other arms hang on the walls. Army coats hang near door at back. On the large table stands a lighted lamp.]

CAPTAIN [rings, an orderly comes in.]

ORDERLY. Yes, Captain.

CAPTAIN. Is Noejd out there?

ORDERLY. He is waiting for orders in the kitchen.

CAPTAIN. In the kitchen again, is he? Send him in at once.

ORDERLY. Yes, Captain. [Goes.]

PASTOR. What’s the matter now?

CAPTAIN. Oh the rascal has been cutting up with the servant-girl again; he’s certainly a bad lot.

PASTOR. Why, Noejd got into the same trouble year before last, didn’t he?

CAPTAIN. Yes, you remember? Won’t you be good enough to give him a friendly talking to and perhaps you can make some impression on him. I’ve sworn at him and flogged him, too, but it hasn’t had the least effect.

PASTOR. And so you want me to preach to him? What effect do you suppose the word of God will have on a rough trooper?

CAPTAIN. Well, it certainly has no effect on me.

PASTOR. I know that well enough.

CAPTAIN. Try it on him, anyway.

[Noejd comes in.]

CAPTAIN. What have you been up to now, Noejd?

NOEJD. God save you, Captain, but I couldn’t talk about it with the Pastor here.

PASTOR. Don’t be afraid of me, my boy.

CAPTAIN. You had better confess or you know what will happen.

NOEJD. Well, you see it was like this; we were at a dance at Gabriel’s, and then–then Ludwig said–

CAPTAIN. What has Ludwig got to do with it? Stick to the truth.

NOEJD. Yes, and Emma said “Let’s go into the barn–“

CAPTAIN. –Oh, so it was Emma who led you astray, was it?

NOEJD. Well, not far from it. You know that unless the girl is willing nothing ever happens.

CAPTAIN. Never mind all that: Are you the father of the child or not?

NOEJD. Who knows?

CAPTAIN. What’s that? Don’t you know?

NOEJD. Why no–that is, you can never be sure.

CAPTAIN. Weren’t you the only one?

NOEJD. Yes, that time, but you can’t be sure for all that.

CAPTAIN. Are you trying to put the blame on Ludwig? Is that what you are up to?

NOEJD. Well, you see it isn’t easy to know who is to blame.

CAPTAIN. Yes, but you told Emma you would marry her.

NOEJD. Oh, a fellow’s always got to say that–

CAPTAIN [to Pastor.] This is terrible, isn’t it?

PASTOR. It’s the old story over again. See here, Noejd, you surely ought to know whether you are the father or not?

NOEJD. Well, of course I was mixed up with the girl–but you know yourself, Pastor, that it needn’t amount to anything for all that.

PASTOR. Look here, my lad, we are talking about you now. Surely you won’t leave the girl alone with the child. I suppose we can’t compel you to marry her, but you should provide for the child–that you shall do!

NOEJD. Well, then, so must Ludwig, too.

CAPTAIN. Then the case must go to the courts. I cannot ferret out the truth of all this, nor is it to my liking. So now be off.

PASTOR. One moment, Noejd. H’m–don’t you think it dishonorable to leave a girl destitute like that with her child? Don’t you think so? Don’t you see that such conduct– — –h’m– –h’m– — —

NOEJD. Yes, if I only knew for sure that I was father of the child, but you can’t be sure of that, Pastor, and I don’t see much fun slaving all your life for another man’s child. Surely you, Pastor, and the Captain can understand for yourselves.

CAPTAIN. Be off.

NOEJD. God save you, Captain. [Goes.]

CAPTAIN. But keep out of the kitchen, you rascal! [To Pastor.] Now, why didn’t you get after him?

PASTOR. What do you mean?

CAPTAIN. Why, you only sat and mumbled something or other.

PASTOR. To tell the truth I really don’t know what to say. It is a pity about the girl, yes, and a pity about the lad, too. For think if he were not the father. The girl can nurse the child for four months at the orphanage, and then it will be permanently provided for, but it will be different for him. The girl can get a good place afterwards in some respectable family, but the lad’s future may be ruined if he is dismissed from the regiment.

CAPTAIN. Upon my soul I should like to be in the magistrate’s shoes and judge this case. The lad is probably not innocent, one can’t be sure, but we do know that the girl is guilty, if there is any guilt in the matter.

PASTOR. Well, well, I judge no one. But what were we talking about when this stupid business interrupted us? It was about Bertha and her confirmation, wasn’t it?

CAPTAIN. Yes, but it was certainly not in particular about her confirmation but about her whole welfare. This house is full of women who all want to have their say about my child. My mother-in-law wants to make a Spiritualist of her. Laura wants her to be an artist; the governess wants her to be a Methodist, old Margret a Baptist, and the servant-girls want her to join the Salvation Army! It won’t do to try to make a soul in patches like that. I, who have the chief right to try to form her character, am constantly opposed in my efforts. And that’s why I have decided to send her away from home.

PASTOR. You have too many women trying to run this house.

CAPTAIN. You’re right! It’s like going into a cage full of tigers, and if I didn’t hold a red-hot iron under their noses they would tear me to pieces any moment. And you laugh, you rascal! Wasn’t it enough that I married your sister, without your palming off your old stepmother on me?

PASTOR. But, good heavens, one can’t have stepmothers in one’s own house!

CAPTAIN. No, you think it is better to have mothers-in-law in some one else’s house!

PASTOR. Oh well, we all have some burden in life.

CAPTAIN. But mine is certainly too heavy. I have my old nurse into the bargain, who treats me as if I ought still to wear a bib. She is a good old soul, to be sure, and she must not be dragged into such talk.

PASTOR. You must keep a tight rein on the women folks. You let them run things too much.

CAPTAIN. Now will you please inform me how I’m to keep order among the women folk?

PASTOR. Laura was brought up with a firm hand, but although she is my own sister, I must admit she _was_ pretty troublesome.

CAPTAIN. Laura certainly has her faults, but with her it isn’t so serious.

PASTOR. Oh, speak out–I know her.

CAPTAIN. She was brought up with romantic ideas, and it has been hard for her to find herself, but she is my wife–

PASTOR And because she is your wife she is the best of wives? No, my dear fellow, it is she who really wears on you most.

CAPTAIN. Well, anyway, the whole house is topsy-turvy. Laura won’t let Bertha leave her, and I can’t allow her to remain in this bedlam.

PASTOR. Oh, so Laura won’t? Well, then, I’m afraid you are in for trouble. When she was a child if she set her mind on anything she used to play dead dog till she got it, and then likely as not she would give it back, explaining that it wasn’t the thing she wanted, but having her own way.

CAPTAIN. So she was like that even then? H’m–she really gets into such a passion sometimes that I am anxious about her and afraid she is ill.

PASTOR. But what do you want to do with Bertha that is so unpardonable? Can’t you compromise?

CAPTAIN. You mustn’t think I want to make a prodigy of her or an image of myself. I don’t want to be it procurer for my daughter and educate her exclusively for matrimony, for then if she were left unmarried she might have bitter days. On the other hand, I don’t want to influence her toward a career that requires a long course of training which would be entirely thrown away if she should marry.

PASTOR. What do you want, then?

CAPTAIN. I want her to be it teacher. If she remains unmarried she will be able to support herself, and at any rate she wouldn’t be any worse off than the poor schoolmasters who have to share their salaries with a family. If she marries she can use her knowledge in the education of her children. Am I right?

PASTOR. Quite right. But, on the other hand, hasn’t she shown such talent for painting that it would be a great pity to crush it?

CAPTAIN. No! I have shown her sketches to an eminent painter, and he says they are only the kind of thing that can be learned at schools. But then a young fop came here in the summer who, of course, understands the matter much better, and he declared that she had colossal genius, and so that settled it to Laura’s satisfaction.

PASTOR. Was he quite taken with Bertha?

CAPTAIN. That goes without saying.

PASTOR. Then God help you, old man, for in that case I see no hope. This is pretty bad–and, of course, Laura has her supporters–in there?

CAPTAIN. Yes, you may be sure of that; the whole house is already up in arms, and, between ourselves, it is not exactly a noble conflict that is being waged from that quarter.

PASTOR. Don’t you think I know that?

CAPTAIN. You do?


CAPTAIN. But the worst of it is, it strikes me that Bertha’s future is being decided from spiteful motives. They hint that men better be careful, because women can do this or that now-a-days. All day long, incessantly, it is a conflict between man and woman. Are you going? No, stay for supper. I have no special inducements to offer, but do stay. You know I am expecting the new doctor. Have you seen him?

PASTOR. I caught a glimpse of him as I came along. He looked pleasant, and reliable.

CAPTAIN. That’s good. Do you think it possible he may become my ally?

PASTOR. Who can tell? It depends on how much he has been among women.

CAPTAIN. But won’t you really stay?

PASTOR. No thanks, my dear fellow; I promised to be home for supper, and the wife gets uneasy if I am late.

CAPTAIN. Uneasy? Angry, you mean. Well, as you will. Let me help you with your coat.

PASTOR. It’s certainly pretty cold tonight. Thanks. You must take care of your health, Adolf, you seem rather nervous.

CAPTAIN. Nervous?

PASTOR. Yes, you are not, really very well.

CAPTAIN. Has Laura put that into your head? She has treated me for the last twenty years as if I were at the point of death.

PASTOR. Laura? No, but you make me uneasy about you. Take care of yourself–that’s my advice! Good-bye, old man; but didn’t you want to talk about the confirmation?

CAPTAIN. Not at all! I assure you that matter will have to take its course in the ordinary way at the cost of the clerical conscience for I am neither a believer nor a martyr.

PASTOR. Good-bye. Love to Laura. [Goes.]

[The Captain opens his desk and seats himself at it. Takes up account books.]

CAPTAIN [Figuring.] Thirty-four–nine, forty-three–seven, eight, fifty-six–

LAURA [Coming in from inner room.] Will you be kind enough–

CAPTAIN. Just a moment! Sixty-six–seventy-one, eighty-four, eighty-nine, ninety-two, a hundred. What is it?

LAURA. Am I disturbing you?

CAPTAIN. Not at all. Housekeeping money, I suppose?

LAURA. Yes, housekeeping money.

CAPTAIN. Put the accounts down there and I will go over them.

LAURA. The accounts?


LAURA. Am I to keep accounts now?

CAPTAIN. Of course you are to keep accounts. Our affairs are in a precarious condition, and in case of a liquidation, accounts are necessary, or one is liable to punishment for being careless.

LAURA. It’s not my fault that our affairs are in a precarious condition.

CAPTAIN. That is exactly what the accounts will decide.

LAURA. It’s not my fault that our tenant doesn’t pay.

CAPTAIN. Who recommended this tenant so warmly? You! Why did you recommend a–good-for-nothing, we’ll call him?

LAURA. But why did you rent to this good-for-nothing?

CAPTAIN. Because I was not allowed to eat in peace, nor sleep in peace, nor work in peace, till you women got that man here. You wanted him so that your brother might be rid of him, your mother wanted him because I didn’t want him, the governess wanted him because he reads his Bible, and old Margret because she had known his grandmother from childhood. That’s why he was taken, and if he hadn’t been taken, I’d be in a madhouse by now or lying in my grave. However, here is the housekeeping money and your pin money. You may give me the accounts later.

LAURA [Curtesies.] Thanks so much. Do you too keep an account of what you spend besides the housekeeping money?

CAPTAIN. That doesn’t concern you.

LAURA. No, that’s true–just as little as my child’s education concerns me. Have the gentlemen come to a decision after this evening’s conference?

CAPTAIN. I had already come to a decision, and therefore it only remained for me to talk it over with the one friend I and the family have in common. Bertha is to go to boarding school in town, and starts in a fortnight.

LAURA. To which boarding school, if I may venture to ask?

CAPTAIN. Professor Saefberg’s.

LAURA. That free thinker!

CAPTAIN. According to the law, children are to be brought up in their father’s faith.

LAURA. And the mother has no voice in the matter?

CAPTAIN. None whatever. She has sold her birthright by a legal transaction, and forfeited her rights in return for the man’s responsibility of caring for her and her children.

LAURA. That is to say she has no rights concerning her child.

CAPTAIN. No, none at all. When once one has sold one’s goods, one cannot have them back and still keep the money.

LAURA. But if both father and mother should agree?

CAPTAIN. Do you think that could ever happen? I want her to live in town, you want her to stay at home. The arithmetical result would be that she remain at the railway station midway between train and home. This is a knot that cannot be untied, you see.

LAURA. Then it must be broken. What did Noejd want here?

CAPTAIN. That is an official secret.

LAURA. Which the whole kitchen knows!

CAPTAIN. Good, then you must know it.

LAURA. I do know it.

CAPTAIN. And have your judgment ready-made?

LAURA. My judgment is the judgment of the law.

CAPTAIN. But it is not written in the law who the child’s father is.

LAURA. No, but one usually knows that.

CAPTAIN. Wise minds claim that one can never know.

LAURA. That’s strange. Can’t one ever know who the father of a child is?

CAPTAIN. No; so they claim.

LAURA. How extraordinary! How can the father have such control over the children then?

CAPTAIN. He has control only when he has assumed the responsibilities
of the child, or has had them forced upon him. But in wedlock, of course, there is no doubt about the fatherhood.

LAURA. There are no doubts then?

CAPTAIN. Well, I should hope not.

LAURA. But if the wife has been unfaithful?

CAPTAIN. That’s another matter. Was there anything else you wanted to say?

LAURA. Nothing.

CAPTAIN. Then I shall go up to my room, and perhaps you will be kind enough to let me know when the doctor arrives. [Closes desk and rises]

LAURA. Certainly.

[Captain goes through the primate door right.]

CAPTAIN. As soon as he comes. For I don’t want to seem rude to him, you understand. [Goes.]

LAURA. I understand. [Looks at the money she holds in her hands.]

MOTHER-IN-LAW’S VOICE [Within.] Laura!


MOTHER-IN-LAW’S VOICE. Is my tea ready?

LAURA [In doorway to inner room]. In just a moment.

[Laura goes toward hall door at back as the orderly opens it.]

ORDERLY. Doctor Ostermark.

DOCTOR. Madam!

LAURA [Advances and offers her hand]. Welcome, Doctor–you are heartily welcome. The Captain is out, but he will be back soon.

DOCTOR. I hope you will excuse my coming so late, but I have already been called upon to pay some professional visits.

LAURA. Sit down, won’t you?

DOCTOR. Thank you.

LAURA. Yes, there is a great deal of illness in the neighborhood just now, but I hope it will agree with you here. For us country people living in such isolation it is of great value to find a doctor who is interested in his patients, and I hear so many nice things of you, Doctor, that I hope the pleasantest relations will exist between us.

DOCTOR. You are indeed kind, and I hope for your sake my visits to you will not often be caused by necessity. Your family is, I believe, as a rule in good health–

LAURA. Fortunately we have bear spared acute illnesses, but still things are not altogether as they should be.

DOCTOR. Indeed?

LAURA. Heaven knows, things are not as might be wished.

DOCTOR. Really, you alarm me.

LAURA. There are some circumstances in a family which through honor and conscience one is forced to conceal from the whole world–

DOCTOR. Excepting the doctor.

LAURA. Exactly. It is, therefore, my painful duty to tell you the whole truth immediately.

DOCTOR. Shouldn’t we postpone this conference until I have had the honor of being introduced to the Captain?

LAURA. No! You must hear me before seeing him.

DOCTOR. It relates to him then?

LAURA. Yes, to him, my poor, dear husband.

DOCTOR. You alarm me, indeed, and believe me, I sympathize with your misfortune.

LAURA [Taking out handkerchief]. My husband’s mind is affected. Now you know all, and may judge for yourself when you see him.

DOCTOR. What do you say? I have read the Captain’s excellent treatises on mineralogy with admiration, and have found that they display a clear and powerful intellect.

LAURA. Really? How happy I should be if we should all prove to be mistaken.

DOCTOR. But of course it is possible that his mind might be affected in other directions.

LAURA. That is just what we fear, too. You see he has sometimes the most extraordinary ideas which, of course, one might expect in a learned man, if they did not have a disastrous effect on the welfare of his whole family. For instance, one of his whims is buying all kinds of things.

DOCTOR. That is serious; but what does he buy?

LAURA. Whole boxes of books that he never reads.

DOCTOR. There is nothing strange about a scholar’s buying books.

LAURA. You don’t believe what I am saying?

DOCTOR. Well, Madam, I am convinced that you believe what you are saying.

LAURA. Tell me, is it reasonable to think that one can see what is happening on another planet by looking through a microscope?

DOCTOR. Does he say he can do that?

LAURA. Yes, that’s what he says.

DOCTOR. Through a microscope?

LAURA. Through a microscope, yes.

DOCTOR. This is serious, if it is so.

LAURA. If it is so! Then you have no faith in me, Doctor, and here I sit confiding the family secret to–

DOCTOR. Indeed, Madam, I am honored by your confidence, but as a physician I must investigate and observe before giving an opinion. Has the Captain ever shown any symptoms of indecision or instability of will?

LAURA. Has he! We have been married twenty years, and he has never yet made a decision without changing his mind afterward.

DOCTOR. Is he obstinate?

LAURA. He always insists on having his own way, but once he has got it he drops the whole matter and asks me to decide.

DOCTOR. This is serious, and demands close observation. The will, you see, is the mainspring of the mind, and if it is affected the whole mind goes to pieces.

LAURA. God knows how I have taught myself to humor his wishes through all these long years of trial. Oh, if you knew what a life I have endured with him–if you only knew.

DOCTOR. Your misfortune touches me deeply, and I promise you to see what can be done. I pity you with all my heart, and I beg you to trust me completely. But after what I have heard I must ask you to avoid suggesting any ideas that might make a deep impression on the patient, for in a weak brain they develop rapidly and quickly turn to monomania or fixed ideas.

LAURA. You mean to avoid arousing suspicions?

DOCTOR. Exactly. One can make the insane believe anything, just because they are receptive to everything.

LAURA. Indeed? Then I understand. Yes–yes. [A bell rings within.] Excuse me, my mother wishes to speak to me. One moment– –Ah, here is Adolf.

[Captain comes in through private door.]

CAPTAIN. Oh, here already, Doctor? You are very welcome.

DOCTOR. Captain! It is a very great pleasure to me to make the acquaintance of so celebrated a man of science.

CAPTAIN. Oh, I beg of you. The duties of service do not allow me to make any very profound investigations, but I believe I am now really on the track of a discovery.

DOCTOR. Indeed?

CAPTAIN. You see, I have submitted meteoric stones to spectrum analysis, with the result that I have found carbon, that, is to say, a clear trace of organic life. What do you say to that?

DOCTOR. Can you see that with it microscope?

CAPTAIN. Lord, no–with the spectroscope.

DOCTOR. The spectroscope! Pardon. Then you will soon be able to tell us what is happening on Jupiter.

CAPTAIN. Not what is happening, but what has happened. If only the confounded booksellers in Paris would send me the books; but I believe all the booksellers in the universe have conspired against me. Think of it, for the last two months not a single one has ever answered my communications, neither letters nor abusive telegrams. I shall go mad over it, and I can’t imagine what’s the matter.

DOCTOR. Oh, I suppose it’s the usual carelessness; you mustn’t let it vex you so.

CAPTAIN. But the devil of it is I shall not get my treatise done in time, and I know they are working along the same lines in Berlin. But we shouldn’t be talking about this–but about you. If you care to live here we have rooms for you in the wing, or perhaps you would rather live in the old quarters?

DOCTOR. Just as you like.

CAPTAIN. No, as you like. Which is it to be?

DOCTOR. You must decide that, Captain.

CAPTAIN. No, it’s not for me to decide. You must say which you prefer. I have no preference in the matter, none at all.

DOCTOR. Oh, but I really cannot decide.

CAPTAIN. For heaven’s sake, Doctor, say which you prefer. I have no choice in the matter, no opinion, no wishes. Haven’t you got character enough to know what you want? Answer me, or I shall be provoked.

DOCTOR. Well, if it rests with me, I prefer to live here.

CAPTAIN. Thank you–forgive me, Doctor, but nothing annoys me so touch as to see people undecided about anything. [Nurse comes in.] Oh, there you are, Margret. Do you happen to know whether the rooms in the wing are in order for the Doctor?

NURSE. Yes, sir, they are.

CAPTAIN. Very well. Then I won’t detain you, Doctor; you must be tired. Good bye, and welcome once more. I shall see you tomorrow, I hope.

DOCTOR. Good evening, Captain.

CAPTAIN. I daresay that my wife explained conditions here to you a little, so that you have some idea how the land lies?

DOCTOR. Yes, your excellent wife has given me a few hints about this and that, such as were necessary to a stranger. Good evening, Captain.

CAPTAIN [To Nurse]. What do you want, you old dear? What is it?

NURSE. Now, little Master Adolf, just listen–

CAPTAIN. Yes, Margret, you are the only one I can listen to without having spasms.

NURSE. Now, listen, Mr. Adolf. Don’t you think you should go half-way and come to an agreement with Mistress in this fuss over the child? Just think of a mother–

CAPTAIN. Think of a father, Margret.

NURSE. There, there, there. A father has something besides his child, but a mother has nothing but her child.

CAPTAIN. Just so, you old dear. She has only one burden, but I have three, and I have her burden too. Don’t you think that I should hold a better position in the world than that of a poor soldier if I had not had her and her child?

NURSE. Well, that isn’t what I wanted to talk about.

CAPTAIN. I can well believe that, for you wanted to make it appear that I am in the wrong.

NURSE. Don’t you believe, Mr. Adolf, that I wish you well?

CAPTAIN. Yes, dear friend, I do believe it; but you don’t know what is for my good. You see it isn’t enough for me to have given the child life, I want to give her my soul, too.

NURSE. Such things I don’t understand. But I do think that you ought to be able to agree.

CAPTAIN. You are not my friend, Margret.

NURSE. I? Oh, Lord, what are you saying, Mr. Adolf? Do you think I can forget that you were my child when you were little?

CAPTAIN. Well, you dear, have I forgotten it? You have been like a mother to me, and always have stood by me when I had everybody against me, but now, when I really need you, you desert me and go over to the enemy.

NURSE. The enemy!

CAPTAIN, Yes, the enemy! You know well enough how things are in this house! You have seen everything from the beginning.

NURSE. Indeed I have seen! But, God knows, why two people should torment the life out of each other; two people who are otherwise so good and wish all others well. Mistress is never like that to me or to others–

CAPTAIN. Only to me, I know it. But let me tell you, Margret, if you desert me now, you will do wrong. For now they have begun to weave a plot against me, and that doctor is not my friend.

NURSE. Oh, Mr. Adolf, you believe evil about everybody. But you see it’s because you haven’t the true faith; that’s just what it is.

CAPTAIN. Yes, you and the Baptists have found the only true faith. You are indeed lucky!

NURSE. Anyway, I’m not unhappy like you, Mr. Adolf. Humble your heart and you will see that God will make you happy in your love for your neighbor.

CAPTAIN. It’s a strange thing that you no sooner speak of God and love than your voice becomes hard and your eyes fill with hate. No, Margret, surely you have not the true faith.

NURSE. Yes, go on being proud and hard in your learning, but it won’t amount to much when it comes to the test.

CAPTAIN. How mightily you talk, humble heart. I know very well that knowledge is of no use to you women.

NURSE. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. But in spite of everything old Margret cares most for her great big boy, and he will come back to the fold when it’s stormy weather.

CAPTAIN. Margret! Forgive me, but believe me when I say that there is no one here who wishes me well but you. Help me, for I feel that something is going to happen here. What it is, I don’t know, but something evil is on the way. [Scream from within.] What’s that? Who’s that screaming?

[Berths enters from inner room.]

BERTHA. Father! Father! Help me; save me.

CAPTAIN. My dear child, what is it? Speak!

BERTHA. Help me. She wants to hurt me.

CAPTAIN. Who wants to hurt you? Tell me! Speak!

BERTHA. Grandmother! But it’s my fault for I deceived her.

CAPTAIN. Tell me more.

BERTHA. Yes, but you mustn’t say anything about it. Promise me you won’t.

CAPTAIN. Tell me what it is then.

[Nurse goes.]

BERTHA. In the evening she generally turns down the lamp and then she makes me sit at a table holding a pen over a piece of paper. And then she says that the spirits are to write.

CAPTAIN. What’s all this–and you have never told me about it?

BERTHA. Forgive me, but I dared not, for Grandmother says the spirits take revenge if one talks about them. And then the pen writes, but I don’t know whether I’m doing it or not. Sometimes it goes well, but sometimes it won’t go at all, and when I am tired nothing comes, but she wants it to come just the same. And tonight I thought I was writing beautifully, but then grandmother said it was all from Stagnelius, and that I had deceived her, and then she got terribly angry.

CAPTAIN. Do you believe that there are spirits?

BERTHA. I don’t know.

CAPTAIN. But I know that there are none.

BERTHA. But Grandmother says that you don’t understand, Father, and that you do much worse things–you who can see to other planets.

CAPTAIN. Does she say that! Does she say that? What else does she say?

BERTHA. She says that you can’t work witchery.

CAPTAIN. I never said that I could. You know what meteoric stones are,–stones that fall from other heavenly bodies. I can examine them and learn whether they contain the same elements as our world. That is all I can tell.

BERTHA. But Grandmother says that there are things that she can see which you cannot see.

CAPTAIN. Then she lies.

BERTHA. Grandmother doesn’t tell lies.

CAPTAIN. Why doesn’t she?

BERTHA. Then Mother tells lies too.


BERTHA. And if you say that Mother lies, I can never believe in you again.

CAPTAIN. I have not said so; and so you must believe in me when I tell you that it is for your future good that you should leave home. Will you? Will you go to town and learn something useful?

BERTHA. Oh, yes, I should love to go to town, away from here, anywhere. If I can only see you sometimes–often. Oh, it is so gloomy and awful in there all the time, like a winter night, but when you come home Father, it is like a morning in spring when they take off the double windows.

CAPTAIN. My beloved child! My dear child!

BERTHA. But, Father, you’ll be good to Mother, won’t you? She cries so often.

CAPTAIN. H’m–then you want to go to town?

BERTHA. Yes, yes.

CAPTAIN. But if Mother doesn’t want you to go?

BERTHA. But she must let me.

CAPTAIN. But if she won’t?

BERTHA. Well, then, I don’t know what will happen. But she must! She must!

CAPTAIN. Will you ask her?

BERTHA. You must ask her very nicely; she wouldn’t pay any attention to my asking.

CAPTAIN. H’m! Now if you wish it, and I wish it, and she doesn’t wish it, what shall we do then?

BERTHA. Oh, then it will all be in a tangle again! Why can’t you both–

[Laura comes in.]

LAURA. Oh, so Bertha is here. Then perhaps we may have her own opinion as the question of her future has to be decided.

CAPTAIN. The child can hardly have any well-grounded opinion about what a young girl’s life is likely to be, while we, on the contrary, can more easily estimate what it may be, as we have seen so many young girls grow up.

LAURA. But as we are of different opinions Bertha must be the one to decide.

CAPTAIN. No, I let no one usurp my rights, neither women nor children. Bertha, leave us.

[Bertha goes out.]

LAURA. You were afraid of hearing her opinion, because you thought it would be to my advantage.

CAPTAIN. I know that she wishes to go away from home, but I know also that you possess the power of changing her mind to suit your pleasure.

LAURA. Oh, am I really so powerful?

CAPTAIN. Yes, you have a fiendish power of getting your own way; but so has anyone who does not scruple about, the way it is accomplished. How did you get Doctor Norling away, for instance, and how did you get this new doctor here?

LAURA. Yes, how did I manage that?

CAPTAIN. You insulted the other one so much that he left, and made your brother recommend this fellow.

LAURA. Well, that was quite simple and legitimate. Is Bertha to leave home now?

CAPTAIN. Yes, she is to start in a fortnight.

LAURA. That is your decision?


LAURA. Then I must try to prevent it.

CAPTAIN. You cannot.

LAURA. Can’t I? Do you really think I would trust my daughter to wicked people to have her taught that everything her mother has implanted in her child is mere foolishness? Why, afterward, she would despise me all the rest of her life!

CAPTAIN. Do you think that a father should allow ignorant and conceited women to teach his daughter that he is a charlatan?

LAURA. It means less to the father.

CAPTAIN. Why so?

LAURA. Because the mother is closer to the child, as it has been discovered that no one can tell for a certainty who the father of a child is.

CAPTAIN. How does that apply to this case?

LAURA. You do not know whether you are Bertha’s father or not.

CAPTAIN. I do not know?

LAURA. No; what no one knows, you surely cannot know.

CAPTAIN. Are you joking?

LAURA. No; I am only making use of your own teaching. For that matter, how do you know that I have not been unfaithful to you?

CAPTAIN. I believe you capable of almost anything, but not that, nor that you would talk about it if it were true.

LAURA. Suppose that I was prepared to bear anything, even to being despised and driven out, everything for the sake of being able to keep and control my child, and that I am truthful now when I declare that Bertha is my child, but not yours. Suppose–

CAPTAIN. Stop now!

LAURA. Just suppose this. In that case your power would be at an end.

CAPTAIN. When you had proved that I was not the father.

LAURA. That would not be difficult! Would you like me to do so?


LAURA. Of course I should only need to declare the name of the real father, give all details of place and time. For instance–when was Bertha born? In the third year of our marriage.

CAPTAIN. Stop now, or else–

LAURA. Or else, what? Shall we stop now? Think carefully about all you do and decide, and whatever you do, don’t make yourself ridiculous.

CAPTAIN. I consider all this most lamentable.

LAURA. Which makes you all the more ridiculous.

CAPTAIN. And you?

LAURA. Oh, we women are really too clever.

CAPTAIN. That’s why one cannot contend with you.

LAURA. Then why provoke contests with a superior enemy?

CAPTAIN. Superior?

LAURA. Yes, it’s queer, but I have never looked at a man without knowing myself to be his superior.

CAPTAIN. Then you shall be made to see your superior for once, so that you shall never forget it.

LAURA. That will be interesting.

NURSE [comes in]. Supper is served. Will you come in?

LAURA. Very well.

[Captain lingers; sits down with a magazine in an arm chair near table.]

LAURA. Aren’t you coming in to supper?

CAPTAIN. No, thanks. I don’t want anything.

LAURA. What, are you annoyed?

CAPTAIN. No, but I am not hungry.

LAURA. Come, or they will ask unnecessary questions–be good now. You won’t? Stay there then. [Goes.]

NURSE. Mr. Adolf! What is this all about?

CAPTAIN. I don’t know what it is. Can you explain to me why you women treat an old man as if he were a child?

NURSE. I don’t understand it, but it must be because all you men, great and small, are women’s children, every man of you.

CAPTAIN. But no women are born of men. Yes, but I am Bertha’s father. Tell me, Margret, don’t you believe it? Don’t you?

NURSE. Lord, how silly you are. Of course you are your own child’s father. Come and eat now, and don’t sit there and sulk. There, there, come now.

CAPTAIN. Get out, woman. To hell with the hags. [Goes to private door.] Svaerd, Svaerd!

[Orderly comes in.]

ORDERLY. Yes, Captain.

CAPTAIN. Hitch into the covered sleigh at once.

NURSE. Captain, listen to me.

CAPTAIN. Out, woman! At once!

[Orderly goes.]

NURSE. Good Lord, what’s going to happen now.

[Captain puts on his cap and coat and prepares to go out.]

CAPTAIN. Don’t expect me home before midnight. [Goes.]

NURSE. Lord preserve us, whatever will be the end of this!


[The same scene as in previous act. A lighted lamp is on the table; it is night. The Doctor and Laura are discovered at rise of curtain.]

DOCTOR. From what I gathered during my conversation with him the case is not fully proved to me. In the first place you made a mistake in saying that he had arrived at these astonishing results about other heavenly bodies by means of a microscope. Now that I have learned that it was a spectroscope, he is not only cleared of any suspicion of insanity, but has rendered a great service to science.

LAURA. Yes, but I never said that.

DOCTOR. Madam, I made careful notes of our conversation, and I remember that I asked about this very point because I thought I had misunderstood you. One must be very careful in making such accusations when a certificate in lunacy is in question.

LAURA. A certificate in lunacy?

DOCTOR. Yes, you must surely know that an insane person loses both civil and family rights.

LAURA. No, I did not know that.

DOCTOR. There was another matter that seemed to me suspicious. He spoke of his communications to his booksellers not being answered. Permit me to ask if you, through motives of mistaken kindness, have intercepted them?

LAURA. Yes, I have. It was my duty to guard the interests of the family, and I could not let him ruin us all without some intervention.

DOCTOR. Pardon me, but I think you cannot have considered the consequences of such an act. If he discovers your secret interference in his affairs, he will have grounds for suspicions, and they will grow like an avalanche. And besides, in doing this you have thwarted his will and irritated him still more. You must have felt yourself how the mind rebels when one’s deepest desires are thwarted and one’s will is crossed.

LAURA. Haven’t I felt that!

DOCTOR. Think, then, what he must have gone through.

LAURA [Rising]. It is midnight and he hasn’t come home. Now we may fear the worst.

DOCTOR. But tell me what actually happened this evening after I left. I must know everything.

LAURA. He raved in the wildest way and had the strangest ideas. For instance, that he is not the father of his child.

DOCTOR. That is strange. How did such an idea come into his head?

LAURA. I really can’t imagine, unless it was because he had to question one of the men about supporting a child, and when I tried to defend the girl, he grew excited and said no one could tell who was the father of a child. God knows I did everything to calm him, but now I believe there is no help for him. [Cries.]

DOCTOR. But this cannot go on. Something must be done here without, of course, arousing his suspicions. Tell me, has the Captain ever had such delusions before?

LAURA. Six years ago things were in the same state, and then he, himself, confessed in his own letter to the doctor that he feared for his reason.

DOCTOR. Yes, yes, yes, this is a story that has deep roots and the sanctity of the family life–and so on–of course I cannot ask about everything, but must limit myself to appearances. What is done can’t be undone, more’s the pity, yet the remedy should be based upon all the past.–Where do you think he is now?

LAURA. I have no idea, he has such wild streaks.

DOCTOR. Would you like to have me stay until he returns? To avoid suspicion, I could say that I had come to see your mother who is not well.

LAURA. Yes, that will do very nicely. Don’t leave us, Doctor; if you only knew how troubled I am! But wouldn’t it be better to tell him outright what you think of his condition.

DOCTOR. We never do that unless the patient mentions the subject himself, and very seldom even then. It depends entirely on the case. But we mustn’t sit here; perhaps I had better go into the next room; it will look more natural.

LAURA. Yes, that will be better, and Margret can sit here. She always waits up when he is out, and she is the only one who has any power over him. [Goes to the door left] Margret, Margret!

NURSE. Yes, Ma’am. Has the master come home?

LAURA. No; but you are to sit here and wait for him, and when he does come you are to say my mother is ill and that’s why the doctor is here.

NURSE. Yes, yes. I’ll see that everything is all right.

LAURA [Opens the door to inner rooms]. Will you come in here, Doctor?

DOCTOR. Thank you.

[Nurse seats herself at the table and takes up a hymn book and spectacles and reads.]

NURSE. Ah, yes, ah yes!
[Reads half aloud]
Ah woe is me, how sad a thing
Is life within this vale of tears, Death’s angel triumphs like a king,
And calls aloud to all the spheres– Vanity, all is vanity.
Yes, yes! Yes, yes!
[Reads again]
All that on earth hath life and breath To earth must fall before his spear,
And sorrow, saved alone from death, Inscribes above the mighty bier.
Vanity, all is vanity.
Yes, Yes.

BERTHA [Comes in with a coffee-pot and some embroidery. She speaks in a low voice]. Margret, may I sit with you? It is so frightfully lonely up there.

NURSE. For goodness sake, are you still up, Bertha?

BERTHA. You see I want to finish Father’s Christmas present. And here’s something that you’ll like.

NURSE. But bless my soul, this won’t do. You must be up in the morning, and it’s after midnight now.

BERTHA. What does it matter? I don’t dare sit up there alone. I believe the spirits are at work.

NURSE. You see, just what I’ve said. Mark my words, this house was not built on a lucky spot. What did you hear?

BERTHA. Think of it, I heard some one singing up in the attic!

NURSE. In the attic? At this hour?

BERTHA. Yes, it was such it sorrowful, melancholy song! I never heard anything like it. It sounded as if it came from the store-room, where the cradle stands, you know, to the left– — —

NURSE. Dear me, Dear me! And such a fearful night. It seems as if the chimneys would blow down. “Ah, what is then this earthly life, But grief, afiction and great strife? E’en when fairest it has seemed, Nought but pain it can be deemed.” Ah, dear child, may God give us a good Christmas!

BERTHA. Margret, is it true that Father is ill?

NURSE. Yes, I’m afraid he is.

BERTHA. Then we can’t keep Christmas eve? But how can he be up and around if he is 111?

NURSE. You see, my child, the kind of illness he has doesn’t keep him from being up. Hush, there’s some one out in the hall. Go to bed now and take the coffee pot away or the master will be angry.

BERTHA [Going out with tray]. Good night, Margret.

NURSE. Good night, my child. God bless you.

[Captain comes in, takes off his overcoat.]

CAPTAIN. Are you still up? Go to bed.

NURSE. I was only waiting till– —

[Captain lights a candle, opens his desk, sits down at it and takes letters and newspapers out of his pocket.]

NURSE. Mr. Adolf.

CAPTAIN. What do you want?

NURSE. Old mistress is ill and the doctor is here.

CAPTAIN. Is it anything dangerous?

NURSE. No, I don’t think so. Just a cold.

CAPTAIN [Gets up]. Margret, who was the father of your child?

NURSE. Oh, I’ve told you many and many a time; it was that scamp Johansson.

CAPTAIN. Are you sure that it was he?

NURSE. How childish you are; of course I’m sure when he was the only one.

CAPTAIN. Yes, but was he sure that he was the only one? No, he could not be, but you could be sure of it. There is a difference, you see.

NURSE. Well, I can’t see any difference.

CAPTAIN. No, you cannot see it, but the difference exists, nevertheless. [Turns over the pages of a photograph album which is on the table.] Do you think Bertha looks like me?

NURSE. Of course! Why, you are as like as two peas.

CAPTAIN. Did Johansson confess that he was the father?

NURSE. He was forced to!

CAPTAIN. How terrible! Here is the Doctor. [Doctor comes in.] Good evening, Doctor. How is my mother-in-law?

DOCTOR. Oh, it’s nothing serious; merely a slight sprain of the left ankle.

CAPTAIN. I thought Margret said it was a cold. There seem to be different opinions about the same case. Go to bed, Margret.

[Nurse goes. A pause.]

CAPTAIN. Sit down, Doctor.

DOCTOR [Sits]. Thanks.

CAPTAIN. Is it true that you obtain striped foals if you cross a zebra and a mare?

DOCTOR [Astonished]. Perfectly true.

CAPTAIN. Is it true that the foals continue to be striped if the breed is continued with a stallion?

DOCTOR. Yes, that is true, too.

CAPTAIN. That is to say, under certain conditions a stallion can be sire to striped foals or the opposite?

DOCTOR. Yes, so it seems.

CAPTAIN. Therefore an offspring’s likeness to the father proves nothing?

DOCTOR. Well– — —

CAPTAIN. That is to say, paternity cannot be proven.

DOCTOR. H’m– –well– —

CAPTAIN. You are a widower, aren’t you, and have had children?

DOCTOR. Ye-es.

CAPTAIN. Didn’t you ever feel ridiculous as a. father? I know of nothing so ludicrous as to see a father leading his children by the hand around the streets, or to hear it father talk about his children. “My wife’s children,” he ought to say. Did you ever feel how false your position was? Weren’t you ever afflicted with doubts, I won’t say suspicions, for, as a gentleman, I assume that your wife was above suspicion.

DOCTOR. No, really, I never was; but, Captain, I believe Goethe says a man must take his children on good faith.

CAPTAIN. It’s risky to take anything on good faith where a woman is concerned.

DOCTOR. Oh, there are so many kinds of women.

CAPTAIN. Modern investigations have pronounced that there is only one kind! Lately I have recalled two instances in my life that make me believe this. When I was young I was strong and, if I may boast, handsome. Once when I was making a trip on a steamer and sitting with a few friends in the saloon, the young stewardess came and flung herself down by me, burst into tears, and told us that her sweetheart was drowned. We sympathized with her, and I ordered some champagne. After the second glass I touched her foot; after the fourth her knee, and before morning I had consoled her.

DOCTOR. That was just a winter fly.

CAPTAIN. Now comes the second instance–and that was a real summer fly. I was at Lyskil. There was a young married woman stopping there with her children, but her husband was in town. She was religious, had extremely strict principles, preached morals to me, and was, I believe, entirely honorable. I lent her a book, two books, and when she was leaving, she returned them, strange to say! Three months later, in those very books I found her card with a declaration on it. It was innocent, as innocent its it declaration of love can be from a married woman to a strange man who never made any advances. Now comes the moral: Just don’t have too much faith.

DOCTOR. Don’t have too little faith either.

CAPTAIN. No, but just enough. But, you see, Doctor, that woman was so unconsciously dishonest that she talked to her husband about the fancy she had taken to me. That’s what makes it dangerous, this very unconsciousness of their instinctive dishonesty. That is a mitigating circumstance, I admit, but it cannot nullify judgment, only soften it.

DOCTOR. Captain, your thoughts are taking a morbid turn, and you ought to control them.

CAPTAIN. You must not use the word morbid. Steam boilers, as you know, explode at it certain pressure, but the same pressure is not needed for all boiler explosions. You understand? However, you are here to watch me. If I were not a man I should have the right to make accusations or complaints, as they are so cleverly called, and perhaps I should be able to give you the whole diagnosis, and, what is more, the history of my disease. But unfortunately, I am a man, and there is nothing for me to do but, like a Roman, fold my arms across my breast and hold my breath till I die.

DOCTOR. Captain, if you are ill, it will not reflect upon your honor as a man to tell me all. In fact, I ought to hear the other side.

CAPTAIN. You have had enough in hearing the one, I imagine. Do you know when I heard Mrs. Alving eulogizing her dead husband, I thought to myself what a damned pity it was the fellow was dead. Do you suppose that he would have spoken if he had been alive? And do you suppose that if any of the dead husbands came back they would be believed? Good night, Doctor. You see that I am calm, and you can retire without fear.

DOCTOR. Good night, then, Captain. I’m afraid. I can be of no further use in this case.

CAPTAIN. Are we enemies?

DOCTOR. Far from it. But it is too bad we cannot be friends. Good night.

[Goes. The Captain follows the Doctor to the door at back and then