The Master Builder, by Henrik Ibsen

ACT FIRST.

A plainly-furnished work-room in the house of HALVARD SOLNESS. Folding doors on the left lead out to the hall. On the right is the door leading to the inner rooms of the house. At the back is an open door into the draughtsmen’s office. In front, on the left, a desk with books, papers and writing materials. Further back than the folding door, a stove. In the right-hand corner, a sofa, a table, and one or two chairs. On the table a water-bottle and glass. A smaller table, with a rocking-chair and arm-chair, in front on the right. Lighted lamps, with shades, on the table in the draughtmen’s office, on the table in the corner, and on the desk.

In the draughtsmen’s office sit KNUT BROVIK and his son RAGNAR, occupied with plans and calculations. At the desk in the outer office stands KAIA FOSLI, writing in the ledger. KNUT BROVICK is a spare old man with white hair and beard. He wears a rather threadbare but well-brushed black coat, with spectacles, and a somewhat discoloured white neckcloth. RAGNAR BROVIK is a well-dressed, light-haired man in his thirties, with a slight stoop. KAIA FOSLI is a slightly built girl, a little over twenty, carefully dressed, and delicate-looking. She has a green shade over her eyes. — All three go on working for some time in silence.

Knut Brovik [Rises suddenly, as if in distress, from the table; breathes heavily and laboriously as he comes forward into the doorway.] No, I can’t bear it much longer!

Kaia [Going up to him.] You are feeling very ill this evening, are you not, Uncle?

Brovik Oh, I seem to get worse every day.

Ragnar [Has risen and advances.] You ought to go home, father. Try to get a little sleep —

Brovik [Impatiently.] Go to bed, I suppose? Would you have me stifled outright?

Kaia Then take a little walk.

Ragnar Yes, do. I will come with you.

Brovik [With warmth.] I will not go till he comes! I and determined to have it out this evening with — [in a tone of suppressed bitterness] — with him — with the chief.

Kaia [Anxiously.] Oh no, uncle, — do wait awhile before doing that!

Ragnar Yes, better wait, father!

Brovik [Draws his breath laboriously.] Ha — ha —! I haven’t much time for waiting.

Kaia [Listening.] Hush! I hear him on the stairs.

[All three go back to their work. A short silence.

HALVARD SOLNESS comes in through the hall door. He is a man no longer young, but healthy and vigorous, with close-cut curly hair, dark moustache and dark thick eyebrows. He wears a greyish-green buttoned jacket with an upstanding collar and broad lapels. On his head he wears a soft grey felt hat, and he has one or two light portfolios under his arm.

Solness [Near the door, points towards the draughtsmen’s office, and asks in a whisper:] Are they gone?

Kaia [Softly, shaking her] No.

[She takes the shade off her eyes. SOLNESS crosses the room, throws his hat on a chair, places the portfolios on the table by the sofa, and approaches the desk again. KAIA goes on writing without intermission, but seems nervous and uneasy.

Solness [Aloud.] What is that you are entering, Miss Fosli?

Kaia [Starts.] Oh, it is only something that —

Solness Let me look at it, Miss Fosli. [Bends over her, pretends to be looking into the ledger, and whispers:] Kaia!

Kaia [Softly, still writing.] Well?

Solness Why do you always take that shade off when I come?

Kaia [As before.] I look so ugly with it on.

Solness [Smiling.] Then you don’t like to look ugly, Kaia?

Kaia [Half glancing up at him.] Not for all the world. Not in your eyes.

Solness [Strokes her hair gently.] Poor, poor little Kaia —

Kaia [Bending her head.] Hush — they can hear you!

[SOLNESS strolls across the room to the right, turns and pauses at the door of the draughtsmen’s office.

Solness Has any one been here for me?

Ragnar [Rising.] Yes, the young couple who want a villa built, out at Lovstrand.

Solness [Growling.] Oh, those two! They must wait. I am not quite clear about the plans yet.

Ragnar [Advancing, with some hesitation.] They were very anxious to have the drawings at once.

Solness [As before.] Yes, of course — so they all are.

Brovik [Looks up.] They say they are longing so to get into a house of their own.

Solness Yes, yes — we know all that! And so they are content to take whatever is offered them. They get a — a roof over their heads — an address — but nothing to call a home. No thank you! In that case, let them apply to somebody else. Tell them that, the next time they call.

Brovik [Pushes his glasses up on to his forehead and looks in astonishment at him.] To somebody else? Are you prepared to give up the commission?

Solness [Impatiently.] Yes, yes, yes, devil take it! If that is to be the way of it — . Rather that, than build away at random. [Vehemently.] Besides, I know very little about these people as yet.

Brovik The people are safe enough. Ragnar knows them. He is a friend of the family.

Solness Oh, safe — safe enough! That is not at all what I mean. Good lord — don’t you understand me either? [Angrily.] I won’t have anything to do with these strangers. They may apply to whom they please, so far as I am concerned.

Brovik [Rising.] Do you really mean that?

Solness [Sulkily.] Yes I do. — For once in a way. [He comes forward.

[BROVIK exchanges a glance with RAGNAR, who makes a warning gesture. Then BROVIK comes into the front room.

Brovik May I have a few words with you?

Solness Certainly.

Brovik [To KAIA.] Just go in there for moment, Kaia.

Kaia [Uneasily.] Oh, but uncle —

Brovik Do as I say, child. And shut the door after you.

[KAIA goes reluctantly into the draughtsmen’s office, glances anxiously and imploringly at SOLNESS, and shuts the door.

Brovik [Lowering his voice a little.] I don’t want the poor children to know how I am.

Solness Yes, you have been looking very poorly of late.

Brovik It will soon be all over with me. My strength is ebbing — from day to day.

Solness Won’t you sit down?

Brovik Thanks — may I?

Solness [Placing the arm-chair more conveniently.] Here — take this chair. — And now?

Brovik [Has seated himself with difficulty.] Well, you see, it’s about Ragnar. That is what weighs most upon me. What is to become of him?

Solness Of course your son will stay with me as long as ever he likes.

Brovik But that is just what he does not like. He feels that he cannot stay here any longer.

Solness Why, I should say he was very well off here. But if he wants more money, I should not mind —

Brovik No, no! It is not that. [Impatiently.] But sooner or later he, too, must have a chance of doing something on his own account.

Solness [Without looking at him.] Do you think that Ragnar has quite talent enough to stand alone?

Brovik No, that is just the heartbreaking part of it — I have begun to have my doubts about the boy. For you have never said so much as — as one encouraging word about him. And yet I cannot but think there must be something in him — he can’t be without talent.

Solness Well, but he has learnt nothing — nothing thoroughly, I mean. Except, of course, to draw.

Brovik [Looks at him with covert hatred, and says hoarsely.] You had learned little enough of the business when you were in my employment. But that did not prevent you from setting to work — [breathing with difficulty] — and pushing your way up, and taking the wind out of my sails — mine, and so may other people’s.

Solness Yes, you see — circumstances favoured me.

Brovik You are right there. Everything favoured you. But then how can you have the heart to let me go to my grave — without having seen what Ragnar is fit for? And of course I am anxious to see them married, too — before I go.

Solness [Sharply.] Is it she who wishes it?

Brovik Not Kaia so much as Ragnar — he talks about it every day. [Appealingly.] You must help him to get some independent work now! I must see something that the lad has done. Do you hear?

Solness [Peevishly.] Hang it, man, you can’t expect me to drag commissions down from the moon for him!

Brovik He has the chance of a capital commission at this very moment. A big bit of work.

Solness [Uneasily, startled.] Has he?

Brovik If you would give your consent.

Solness What sort of work do you mean?

Brovik [With some hesitation.] He can have the building of that villa out at Lovstrand.

Solness That! Why I am going to build that myself.

Brovik Oh you don’t much care about doing it.

Solness [Flaring up.] Don’t care! Who dares to say that?

Brovik You said so yourself just now.

Solness Oh, never mind what I say. — Would they give Ragnar the building of that villa?

Brovik Yes. You see, he knows the family. And then — just for the fun of the thing — he has made drawings and estimates and so forth —

Solness Are they pleased with the drawings? The people who will have to live in the house?

Brovik Yes. If you would only look through them and approve of them —

Solness Then they would let Ragnar build their home for them?

Brovik They were immensely pleased with his idea. They thought it exceedingly original, they said.

Solness Oho! Original! Not the old-fashioned stuff that I am in the habit of turning out!

Brovik It seemed to them different.

Solness [With suppressed irritation.] So it was to see Ragnar that they came here — whilst I was out!

Brovik They came to call upon you — and at the same time to ask whether you would mind retiring —

Solness [Angrily.] Retire? I?

Brovik In case you thought that Ragnar’s drawings —

Solness I! Retire in favour of your son!

Brovik Retire from the agreement, they meant.

Solness Oh, it comes to the same thing. [Laughs angrily.] So that is it, is it? Halvard Solness is to see about retiring now! To make room for younger men! For the very youngest, perhaps! He must make room! Room! Room!

Brovik Why, good heavens! there is surely room for more than one single man —

Solness Oh, there’s not so very much room to spare either. But, be that as it may — I will never retire! I will never give way to anybody! Never of my own free will. Never in this world will I do that!

Brovik [Rise with difficulty.] Then I am to pass out of life without any certainty? Without a gleam of happiness? Without any faith or trust in Ragnar? Without having seen a single piece of work of his doing? Is that to be the way of it?

Solness [Turns half aside, and mutters.] H’m — don’t ask more just now.

Brovik I must have an answer to this one question. Am I to pass out of life in such utter poverty?

Solness [Seems to struggle with himself; finally he says, in a low but firm voice:] You must pass out of life as best you can.

Brovik Then be it so. [He goes up the room.

Solness [Following him, half is desperation.] Don’t you understand that I cannot help it? I am what I am, and I cannot change my nature!

Brovik No; I suppose that you can’t. [Reels and supports himself against the sofa-table.] May I have a glass of water?

Solness By all means. [Fills a glass and hands it to him.

Brovik Thanks. [Drinks and puts the glass down again.

[SOLNESS goes up and opens the door of the draughtsmen’s office.

Solness Ragnar — you must come and take your father home.

Ragnar rises quickly. He and KAIA come into the work-room.

Ragnar What is the matter, father?

Brovik Give me your arm. Now let us go.

Ragnar Very well. You had better put your things on, too, Kaia.

Solness Miss Fosli must stay — just for a moment. There is a letter I want written.

Brovik [Looks at SOLNESS.] Good night. Sleep well — if you can.

Solness Good night.

[BROVIK and RAGNAR go out by the hall-door. KAIA goes to the desk. SOLNESS stands with bent head, to the right, by the arm-chair.

Kaia [Dubiously.] Is there any letter?

Solness [Curtly.] No, of course not. [Looks sternly at her.] Kaia!

Kaia [Anxiously, in a low voice.] Yes!

Solness [Points imperatively to a spot on the floor.] Come here! At once!

Kaia [Hesitatingly.] Yes.

Solness [As before.] Nearer!

Kaia [Obeying.] What do you want with me?

Solness [Looks at her for a while.] Is it you I have to thank for all this?

Kaia No, no, don’t think that!

Solness But confess now — you want to get married!

Kaia [Softly.] Ragnar and I have been engaged for four or five years, and so —

Solness And so you think it time there were an end of it. Is not that so?

Kaia Ragnar and Uncle say I must. So I suppose I shall have to give in.

Solness [More gently.] Kaia, don’t you really care a little bit for Ragnar, too?

Kaia I cared very much for Ragnar once — before I came here to you.

Solness But you don’t now? Not in the least?

Kaia [Passionately, clasping hands and holding them out towards him.] Oh, you know very well there is only one person I care for now! I shall never care for any one else.

Solness Yes, you say that. And yet you go away from me — leave me alone here with everything on my hands.

Kaia But could I not stay with you, even if Ragnar —?

Solness [Repudiating the idea.] No, no, that is quite impossible. If Ragnar leaves me and starts work on his own account, then of course he will need you himself.

Kaia [Wringing her hands.] Oh, I feel as if I could not be separated from you! It’s quite, quite impossible!

Solness Then be sure you get those foolish notions out of Ragnar’s head. Marry him as much as you please — [Alters his tone.] I mean — don’t let him throw up his good situation with me. For then I can keep you too, my dear Kaia.

Kaia Oh yes, how lovely that would be, if it could only be managed!

Solness [Clasps her head with his two hands and whispers.] For I cannot get on without you, you see. I must have you with me every single day.

Kaia [In nervous exaltation.] My God! My God!

Solness [Kisses her hair.] Kaia — Kaia!

Kaia [Sinks down before him.] Oh, how good you are to me! How unspeakably good you are!

Solness [Vehemently.] Get up! For goodness’ sake get up! I think I hear some one.

[He helps her to rise. She staggers over to the desk.

MRS. SOLNESS enters by the door on the right. She looks thin and wasted with grief, but shows traces of bygone beauty. Blonde ringlets. Dressed with good taste, wholly in black. Speaks some-what slowly and in a plaintive voice.

Mrs. Solness [In the doorway.] Halvard!

Solness [Turns.] Oh, are you there, my dear —?

Mrs. Solness [With a glance at KAIA.] I am afraid I am disturbing you.

Solness Not in the least. Miss Fosli has only a short letter to write.

Mrs. Solness Yes, so I see.

Solness What do you want with me, Aline?

Mrs. Solness I merely wanted to tell you that Dr. Herdal is in the drawing-room. Won’t you come and see him, Halvard?

Solness [Looks suspiciously at her.]. H’m — is the doctor so very anxious to see me?

Mrs. Solness Well, not exactly anxious. He really came to see me; but he would like to say how-do-you-do to you at the same time.

Solness [Laughs to himself.] Yes, I daresay. Well, you must ask him to wait a little.

Mrs. Solness Then you will come in presently?

Solness Perhaps I will. Presently, presently, dear. In a little while.

Mrs. Solness [Glancing again at KAIA.] Well now, don’t forget, Halvard.

[Withdraws and closes the door behind her.

Kaia [Softly.] Oh dear, oh dear — I am sure Mrs. Solness thinks ill of me in some way!

Solness Oh, not in the least. Not more than usual at any rate. But all the same, you had better go now, Kaia.

Kaia Yes, yes, now I must go.

Solness [Severely.] And mind you get that matter settled for me. Do you hear?

Kaia Oh, if it only depended on me —

Solness I will have it settled, I say! And tomorrow too — not a day later!

Kaia [Terrified.] If there’s nothing else for it, I am quite willing to break off the engagement.

Solness [Angrily.] Break it off. Are you mad? Would you think of breaking it off?

Kaia [Distracted.] Yes, if necessary. For I must — I must stay here with you! I can’t leave you! That is utterly — utterly impossible!

Solness [With a sudden outburst.] But deuce take it — how about Ragnar then! It’s Ragnar that I—

Kaia [Looks at him with terrified eyes.] It is chiefly on Ragnar’s account, that — that you —?

Solness [Collecting himself.] No, no, of course not! You don’t understand me either. [Gently and softly.] Of course it is you I want to keep. — you above everything, Kaia. But for that very reason, you must prevent Ragnar, too, from throwing up his situation. There, there, — now go home.

Kaia Yes, yes — good-night, then.

Solness Good night. [As she is going.] Oh, stop a moment! Are Ragnar’s drawings in there?

Kaia I did not see him take them with him.

Solness Then just go and find them for me. I might perhaps glance over them, after all.

Kaia [Happy.] Oh yes, please do!

Solness For your sake, Kaia dear. Now, let me have them at once, please.

[KAIA hurries into the draughtsmen’s office, searches anxiously in the table-drawer, finds a portfolio and brings it with her.

Kaia Here are all the drawings.

Solness Good. Put them down there on the table.

Kaia [Putting down the portfolio.] Good night, then. [Beseechingly.] And please, please think kindly of me.

Solness Oh, that I always do. Good-night, my dear little Kaia. [Glances to the right.] Go, go now!

MRS. SOLNESS and DR. HERDAL enter by the door on the right. He is a stoutish, elderly man, with a round, good-humoured face, clean shaven, with thin, light hair, and gold spectacles.

Mrs. Solness [Still in the doorway.] Halvard, I cannot keep the doctor any longer.

Solness Well then, come in here.

Mrs. Solness [To KAIA, who is turning down the desk-lamp.] Have you finished the letter already, Miss Fosli?

Kaia [In confusion.] The letter —?

Solness Yes, it was quite a short one.

Mrs. Solness It must have been very short.

Solness You may go now, Miss Fosli. And please come in good time tomorrow morning.

Kaia I will be sure to. Good-night, Mrs. Solness.

[She goes out by the hall door.

Solness Are you in a hurry, doctor?

Dr. Herdal No, not at all.

Solness May I have a little chat with you?

Dr. Herdal With the greatest of pleasure.

Solness Then let us sit down. [He motions the doctor to take the rocking-chair, and sits down himself in the arm-chair. Looks searchingly at him.] Tell me — did you notice anything odd about Aline?

Dr. Herdal Do you mean just now, when she was here?

Solness Yes, in her manner to me. Did you notice anything?

Dr. Herdal [Smiling.] Well, I admit — one couldn’t well avoid noticing that your wife — h’m —

Dr. Herdal — that your wife is not particularly fond of this Miss Fosli.

Solness Is that all? I have noticed that myself.

Dr. Herdal And I must say I am scarcely surprised at it.

Solness At what?

Dr. Herdal That she should not exactly approve of your seeing so much of another woman, all day and every day.

Solness No, no, I suppose you are right there — and Aline too. But it’s impossible to make any change.

Dr. Herdal Could you not engage a clerk?

Solness The first man that came to hand? No, thank you — that would never do for me.

Dr. Herdal But now, if your wife —? Suppose, with her delicate health, all this tries her too much?

Solness Even then — I might almost say — it can make no difference. I must keep Kaia Fosli. No one else could fill her place.

Dr. Herdal No one else?

Solness [Curtly.] No, no one.

Dr. Herdal [Drawing his chair closer.] Now listen to me, my dear Mr. Solness. May I ask you a question, quite between ourselves?

Solness By all means.

Dr. Herdal Women, you see — in certain matters, they have a deucedly keen intuition —

Solness They have, indeed. There is not the least doubt of that. But —?

Dr. Herdal Well, tell me now — if your wife can’t endure this Kaia Fosli —?

Solness Well, what then?

Dr. Herdal — may she not have just — just the least little bit of reason for this instinctive dislike?

Solness [Looks at him and rises.] Oho!

Dr. Herdal Now don’t be offended — but hasn’t she?

Solness [With curt decision.] No.

Dr. Herdal No reason of any sort?

Solness No other than her own suspicious nature.

Dr. Herdal I know you have known a good many women in your time.

Solness Yes, I have.

Dr. Herdal And have been a good deal taken with some of them, too.

Solness Oh yes, I don’t deny it.

Dr. Herdal But as regards Miss Fosli, then? There is nothing of that sort in this case?

Solness No; nothing at all — on my side.

Dr. Herdal But on her side?

Solness I don’t think you have any right to ask that question, doctor.

Dr. Herdal Well, you know, we were discussing your wife’s intuition.

Solness So we were. And for that matter — [lowers his voice] — Aline’s intuition, as you call it — in a certain sense, it has not been so far astray.

Dr. Herdal Aha! there we have it!

Solness [Sits down.] Doctor Herdal — I am going to tell you a strange story — if you care to listen to it.

Dr. Herdal I like listening to strange stories.

Solness Very well then. I daresay you recollect that I took Knut Brovik and his son into my employment — after the old man’s business had gone to the dogs.

Dr. Herdal Yes, so I have understood.

Solness You see, they really are clever fellows, these two. Each of them has talent in his own way. But then the son took it into his head to get engaged; and the next thing, of course, was that he wanted to get married — and begin to build on his own account. That is the way with all these young people.

Dr. Herdal [Laughing.] Yes, they have a bad habit of wanting to marry.

Solness Just so. But of course that did not suit my plans; for I needed Ragnar myself — and the old man too. He is exceedingly good at calculating bearing strains and cubic contents — and all that sort of devilry, you know.

Dr. Herdal Oh yes, no doubt that’s indispensable.

Solness Yes, it is. But Ragnar was absolutely bent on setting to work for himself. He would hear of nothing else.

Dr. Herdal But he has stayed with you all the same.

Solness Yes, I’ll tell you how that came about. One day this girl, Kaia Fosli, came to see them on some errand or other. She had never been here before. And when I saw how utterly infatuated they were with each other, the thought occurred to me: if I cold only get her into the office here, then perhaps Ragnar too would stay where he is.

Dr. Herdal That was not at all a bad idea.

Solness Yes, but at the time I did not breathe a word of what was in my mind. I merely stood and looked at her — and kept on wishing intently that I could have her here. Then I talked to her a little, in a friendly way — about one thing and another. And then she went away.

Dr. Herdal Well?

Solness Well then, next day, pretty late in the evening, when old Brovik and Ragnar had gone home, she came here again, and behaved as if I had made an arrangement with her.

Dr. Herdal An arrangement? What about?

Solness About the very thing my mind had been fixed on. But I hadn’t said one single word about it.

Dr. Herdal That was most extraordinary.

Solness Yes, was it not? And now she wanted to know what she was to do here — whether she could begin the very next morning, and so forth.

Dr. Herdal Don’t you think she did it in order to be with her sweetheart?

Solness That was what occurred to me at first. But no, that was not it. She seemed to drift quite away from him — when once she had come here to me.

Dr. Herdal She drifted over to you, then?

Solness Yes, entirely. If I happen to look at her when her back is turned, I can tell that she feels it. She quivers and trembles the moment I come near her. What do you think of that?

Dr. Herdal H’m — that’s not very hard to explain.

Solness Well, but what about the other thing? That she believed I had said to her what I had only wished and willed — silently — inwardly — to myself? What do you say to that? Can you explain that, Dr. Herdal?

Dr. Herdal No, I won’t undertake to do that.

Solness I felt sure you would not; and so I have never cared to talk about it till now. — But it’s a cursed nuisance to me in the long run, you understand. Here have I got to go on day after day, pretending — . And it’s a shame to treat her so, too, poor girl. [Vehemently.] But I cannot do anything else. For if she runs away from me — then Ragnar will be off too.

Dr. Herdal And you have not told your wife the rights of the story?

Solness No.

Dr. Herdal The why on earth don’t you?

Solness [Looks fixedly at him, and says in a low voice:] Because I seem to find a sort of — of salutary self-torture in allowing Aline to do me an injustice.

Dr. Herdal [Shakes his head.] I don’t in the least understand what you mean.

Solness Well, you see — it is like paying off a little bit of a huge, immeasurable debt —

Dr. Herdal To your wife?

Solness Yes; and that always helps to relieve one’s mind a little. One can breathe more freely for a while, you understand.

Dr. Herdal No, goodness knows, I don’t understand at all —

Solness [Breaking off, rises again.] Well, well, well — then we won’t talk any more about it. [He saunters across the room, returns, and stops beside the table. Looks at the doctor with a sly smile.] I suppose you think you have drawn me out nicely now, doctor?

Dr. Herdal [With some irritation.] Drawn you out? Again I have not the faintest notion of what you mean, Mr. Solness.

Solness Oh come, out with it; I have seen it quite clearly, you know.

Dr. Herdal What have you seen?

Solness [In a low voice, slowly.] That you have been quietly keeping an eye upon me.

Dr. Herdal That I have! And why in all the world should I do that?

Solness Because you think that I— [Passionately.] Well devil take it — you think the same of me as Aline does.

Dr. Herdal And what does she think about you?

Solness [Having recovered his self-control.] She has begun to think that I am — that I am — ill.

Dr. Herdal Ill! You! She has never hinted such a thing to me. Why, what can she think is the matter with you?

Solness [Leans over the back of the chair and whispers.] Aline has made up her mind that I am mad. That is what she thinks.

Dr. Herdal [Rising.] Why, my dear fellow —!

Solness Yes, on my soul she does! I tell you it is so. And she has got you to think the same! Oh, I can assure you, doctor, I see it in your face as clearly as possible. You don’t take me in so easily, I can tell you.

Dr. Herdal [Looks at him in amazement.] Never, Mr. Solness — never has such a thought entered my mind.

Solness [With and incredulous smile.] Really? Has it not?

Dr. Herdal No, never! Nor your wife’s mind either, I am convinced. I could almost swear to that.

Solness Well, I wouldn’t advise you to. For, in a certain sense, you see, perhaps — perhaps she is not so far wrong in thinking something of the kind.

Dr. Herdal Come now, I really must say —

Solness [Interrupting, with a sweep of his hand.] Well, well, my dear doctor — don’t let us discuss this any further. We had better agree to differ. [Changes to a tone of quiet amusement.] But look here now, doctor — h’m —

Dr. Herdal Well?

Solness Since you don’t believe that I am — ill — and crazy — and mad, and so forth —

Dr. Herdal What then?

Solness Then I daresay you fancy that I am an extremely happy man.

Dr. Herdal Is that mere fancy?

Solness [Laughs.] No, no — of course not! Heaven forbid! Only think — to be Solness the master builder! Halvard Solness! What could be more delightful?

Dr. Herdal Yes, I must say it seems to me you have had the luck on your side to an astounding degree.

Solness [Suppresses a gloomy smile.] So I have. I can’t complain on that score.

Dr. Herdal First of all that grim old robbers’ castle was burnt down for you. And that was certainly a great piece of luck.

Solness [Seriously.] It was the home of Aline’s family. Remember that.

Dr. Herdal Yes, it must have been a great grief to her.

Solness She has not got over it to this day — not in all these twelve or thirteen years.

Dr. Herdal But you — yourself — you rose upon the ruins. You began as a poor boy from a country village — and now you are at the head of your profession. Ah, yes, Mr. Solness, you have undoubtedly had the luck on your side.

Solness [Looking at him with embarrassment.] Yes, but that is just what makes me so horribly afraid.

Dr. Herdal Afraid? Because you have the luck on your side!

Solness It terrifies me — terrifies me every hour of the day. For sooner or later the luck must turn, you see.

Dr. Herdal Oh nonsense! What should make the luck turn?

Solness [With firm assurance.] The younger generation!

Dr. Herdal Pooh! The younger generation! You are not laid on the shelf yet, I should hope. Oh no — your position here is probably firmer now than it has ever been.

Solness The luck will turn. I know it — I feel the day approaching. Some one or other will take it into his head to say: Give me a chance! And then all the rest will come clamouring after him, and shake their fists at me and shout: Make room — make room —! Yes, just you see, doctor — presently the younger generation will come knocking at my door —

Dr. Herdal [Laughing.] Well, and what if they do?

Solness What if they do? Then there’s an end of Halvard Solness.

[There is a knock at the door on the left.

Solness [Starts.] What’s that? Did you not hear something?

Dr. Herdal Some one is knocking at the door.

Solness [Loudly.] Come in.

HILDA WANGEL enters by the hall door. She is of middle height, supple, and delicately built. Somewhat sunburnt. Dressed in a tourist costume, with skirt caught up for walking, a sailor’s collar open at the throat, and a small sailor hat on her head. Knapsack on back, plaid in strap, and alpenstock.

Hilda [Goes straight up to SOLNESS, her eyes sparkling with happiness.] Good evening!

Solness [Looks doubtfully at her.] Good evening —

Hilda [Laughs.] I almost believe you don’t recognise me!

Solness No — I must admit that — just for the moment —

Dr. Herdal [Approaching.] But I recognise you, my dear young lady —

Hilda [Pleased.] Oh, is it you that —

Dr. Herdal Of course it is. [To SOLNESS.] We met at one of the mountain stations this summer. [To HILDA.] What became of the other ladies?

Hilda Oh, they went westward.

Dr. Herdal They didn’t much like all the fun we used to have in the evenings.

Hilda No, I believe they didn’t.

Dr. Herdal [Holds up his finger at her.] And I am afraid it can’t be denied that you flirted a little with us.

Hilda Well, that was better fun than to sit there knitting stockings with all those old women.

Dr. Herdal [Laughs.] There I entirely agree with you!

Solness Have you come to town this evening?

Hilda Yes, I have just arrived.

Dr. Herdal Quite alone, Miss Wangel?

Hilda Oh yes!

Solness Wangel? Is your name Wangel?

Hilda [Looks in amused surprise at him.] Yes, of course it is.

Solness Then you must be a daughter of the district doctor up at Lysanger?

Hilda [As before.] Yes, who else’s daughter should I be?

Solness Oh, then I suppose we met up there, that summer when I was building a tower on the old church.

Hilda [More seriously.] Yes, of course it was then we met.

Solness Well, that is a long time ago.

Hilda [Looks hard at him.] It is exactly ten years.

Solness You must have been a mere child then, I should think.

Hilda [Carelessly.] Well, I was twelve or thirteen.

Dr. Herdal Is this the first time you have ever been up to town, Miss Wangel?

Hilda Yes, it is indeed.

Solness And don’t you know any one here?

Hilda Nobody but you. And of course, your wife.

Solness So you know her, too?

Hilda Only a little. We spent a few days together at the sanatorium.

Solness Ah, up there?

Hilda She said I might come and pay her a visit if ever I came up to town. [Smiles.] Not that that was necessary.

Solness Odd that she should never have mentioned it.

[HILDA puts her stick down by the stove, takes off the knapsack and lays it and the plaid on the sofa. DR. HERDAL offers to help her. SOLNESS stands and gazes at her.

Hilda [Going towards him.] Well, now I must ask you to let me stay the night here.

Solness I am sure there will be no difficulty about that.

Hilda For I have no other clothes than those I stand in, except a change of linen in my knapsack. And that has to go to the wash, for it’s very dirty.

Solness Oh yes, that can be managed. Now I’ll just let my wife know —

Dr. Herdal Meanwhile I will go and see my patient.

Solness Yes, do; and come again later on.

Dr. Herdal [Playfully, with a glance at HILDA.] Oh that I will, you may be very certain! [Laughs.] So your prediction has come true, Mr. Solness!

Solness How so?

Dr. Herdal The younger generation did come knocking at your door.

Solness [Cheerfully.] Yes, but in a very different way from what I meant.

Dr. Herdal Very different, yes. That’s undeniable.

[He goes out by the hall-door. SOLNESS opens the door on the right and speaks into the side room.

Solness Aline! Will you come in here, please. Here is a friend of yours — Miss Wangel.

Mrs. Solness [Appears in the doorway.] Who do you say it is? [Sees HILDA.]. Oh, is it you, Miss Wangel?

Solness Miss Wangel has this moment arrived; and she would like to stay the night here.

Mrs. Solness Here with us? Oh yes, certainly.

Solness Till she can get her things a little in order, you know.

Mrs. Solness I will do the best I can for you. It’s no more than my duty. I suppose your trunk is coming on later?

Hilda I have no trunk.

Mrs. Solness Well, it will be all right, I daresay. In the meantime, you must excuse my leaving you here with my husband, until I can get a room made a little more comfortable for you.

Solness Can we not give her one of the nurseries? They are all ready as it is.

Mrs. Solness Oh yes. There we have room and to spare. [To HILDA.] Sit down now, and rest a little. [She goes out to the right.

[HILDA, with her hands behind her back, strolls about the room and looks at various objects. SOLNESS stands in front, beside the table, also with his hands behind his back, and follows her with his eyes.

Hilda [Stops and looks at him.] Have you several nurseries?

Solness There are three nurseries in the house.

Hilda That’s a lot. Then I suppose you have a great many children?

Solness No. We have no child. But now you can be the child here, for the time being.

Hilda For to-night, yes. I shall not cry. I mean to sleep as sound as a stone.

Solness Yes, you must be very tired, I should think.

Hilda Oh no! But all the same — . It’s so delicious to lie and dream.

Solness Do you dream much of nights?

Hilda Oh yes! Almost always.

Solness What do you dream about most?

Hilda I sha’n’t tell you to-night. Another time perhaps.

[She again strolls about the room, stops at the desk and turns over the books and papers a little.

Solness [Approaching.] Are you searching for anything?

Hilda No, I am merely looking at all these things. [Turns.] Perhaps I mustn’t?

Solness Oh, by all means.

Hilda Is it you that writes in this great ledger?

Solness No, it’s my book-keeper.

Hilda Is it a woman?

Solness [Smiles.] Yes.

Hilda One you employ here, in your office?

Solness Yes.

Hilda Is she married?

Solness No, she is single.

Hilda Oh, indeed!

Solness But I believe she is soon going to be married.

Hilda That’s a good thing for her.

Solness But not such a good thing for me. For then I shall have nobody to help me.

Hilda Can’t you get hold of some one else who will do just as well?

Solness Perhaps you would stay here and — and write in the ledger?

Hilda [Measures him with a glance.] Yes, I daresay! No, thank you — nothing of that sort for me.

[She again strolls across the room, and sits down on the rocking-chair. SOLNESS too goes to the table.

Hilda [Continuing.] For there must surely be plenty of other thing to be done here. [Looks smilingly at him.] Don’t you think so, too?

Solness Of course. First of all, I suppose, you want to make a round of the shops, and get yourself up in the height of fashion.

Hilda [Amused.] No, I think I shall let that alone!

Solness Indeed?

Hilda For you must know I have run through all my money.

Solness [Laughs.] Neither trunk nor money, then?

Hilda Neither one nor the other. But never mind — it doesn’t matter now.

Solness Come now, I like you for that.

Hilda Only for that?

Solness For that among other things. [Sits in the arm-chair.] Is your father alive still?

Hilda Yes, father’s alive.

Solness Perhaps you are thinking of studying here?

Hilda No, that hadn’t occurred to me.

Solness But I suppose you will be staying for some time?

Hilda That must depend upon circumstances.

[She sits awhile rocking herself and looking at him, half seriously, half with a suppressed smile. Then she takes off her hat and puts it on the table in front of her.

Hilda Mr. Solness!

Solness Well?

Hilda Have you a very bad memory?

Solness A bad memory? No, not that I am aware of.

Hilda Then have you nothing to say to me about what happened up there?

Solness [In momentary surprise.] Up at Lysanger? [Indifferently.] Why, it was nothing much to talk about it seems to me.

Hilda [Looks reproachfully at him.] How can you sit there and say such things?

Solness Well, then, you talk to me about it.

Hilda When the tower was finished, we had grand doings in the town.

Solness Yes, I shall not easily forget that day.

Hilda [Smiles.] Will you not? That comes well from you.

Solness Comes well?

Hilda There was music in the churchyard — and many, many hundreds of people. We school-girls were dressed in white; and we all carried flags.

Solness Ah yes, those flags — I can tell you I remember them!

Hilda Then you climbed right up the scaffolding, straight to the very top; and you had a great wreath with you; and you hung that wreath right away up on the weather-vane.

Solness [Curtly interrupting.] I always did that in those days. It is an old custom.

Hilda It was so wonderfully thrilling to stand below and look up at you. Fancy, if he should fall over! He — the master builder himself!

Solness [As if to divert her from the subject.] Yes, yes, yes, that might very will have happened, too. For one of those white-frocked little devils, — she went on in such a way, and screamed up at me so —

Hilda [Sparkling with pleasure.] “Hurrah for Master Builder Solness!” Yes!

Solness — and waved and flourished with her flag, so that I— so that it almost made me giddy to look at it.

Hilda [In a lower voice, seriously.] That little devil — that was I.

Solness [Fixes his eyes steadily upon her.] I am sure of that now. It must have been you.

Hilda [Lively again.] Oh, it was so gloriously thrilling! I could not have believed there was a builder in the whole world that could build such a tremendously high tower. And then, that you yourself should stand at the very top of it, as large as life! And that you should not be the least bit dizzy! It was that above everything that made one — made one dizzy to think of.

Solness How could you be so certain that I was not?

Hilda [Scouting the idea.] No indeed! Oh no! I knew that instinctively. For if you had been, you could never have stood up there and sung.

Solness [Looks at her in astonishment.] Sung? Did I sing?

Hilda Yes, I should think you did.

Solness [Shakes his head.] I have never sung a note in my life.

Hilda Yes, indeed, you sang then. It sounded like harps in the air.

Solness [Thoughtfully.] This is very strange — all this.

Hilda [Is silent awhile, looks at him and says in a low voice:] But then, — it was after that — that the real thing happened.

Solness The real thing?

Hilda [Sparking with vivacity.] Yes, I surely don’t need to remind you of that?

Solness Oh yes do remind me a little of that, too.

Hilda Don’t you remember that a great dinner was given in your honour at the Club?

Solness Yes, to be sure. It must have been the same afternoon, for I left the place next morning.

Hilda And from the Club you were invited to come round to our house to supper.

Solness Quite right, Miss Wangel. It is wonderful how all these trifles have impressed themselves on your mind.

Hilda Trifles! I like that! Perhaps it was a trifle, too, that I was alone in the room when you came in?

Solness Were you alone?

Hilda [Without answering him.] You didn’t call me a little devil then?

Solness No, I suppose I did not.

Hilda You said I was lovely in my white dress, and that I looked like a little princess.

Solness I have no doubt you did, Miss Wangel. — And besides — I was feeling so buoyant and free that day —

Hilda And then you said that when I grew up I should be your princess.

Solness [Laughing a little.] Dear, dear — did I say that too?

Hilda Yes, you did. And when I asked how long I should have to wait, you said that you would come again in ten years — like a troll — and carry me off — to Spain or some such place. And you promised you would buy me a kingdom there.

Solness [As before.] Yes, after a good dinner one doesn’t haggle about the halfpence. But did I really say all that?

Hilda [Laughs to herself.] Yes. And you told me, too, what the kingdom was to be called.

Solness Well, what was it?

Hilda It was to be called the kingdom of Orangia,* you said.

* In the original “Appelsinia,” “appelsin” meaning “orange.”

Solness Well, that was an appetising name.

Hilda No, I didn’t like it a bit; for it seemed as though you wanted to make game of me.

Solness I am sure that cannot have been my intention.

Hilda No, I should hope not — considering what you did next —

Solness What in the world did I do next?

Hilda Well, that’s the finishing touch, if you have forgotten that too. I should have thought no one could help remembering such a thing as that.

Solness Yes, yes, just give me a hint, and then perhaps — Well?

Hilda [Looks fixedly at him.] You came and kissed me, Mr. Solness.

Solness [Open-mouthed.] I did!

Hilda Yes, indeed you did. You took me in both your arms, and bent my head back, and kissed me — many times.

Solness Now really, my dear Miss Wangel —!

Hilda [Rises.] You surely cannot mean to deny it?

Solness Yes, I do. I deny it altogether!

Hilda [Looks scornfully at him.] Oh, indeed!

[She turns and goes slowly up to the stove, where she remains standing motionless, her face averted from him, her hands behind her back. Short pause.

Solness [Goes cautiously up behind her.] Miss Wangel —!

Hilda [Is silent and does not move.]

Solness Don’t stand there like a statue. You must have dreamt all this. [Lays his hand on her arm.] Now just listen —

Hilda [Makes an impatient movement with her arm.]

Solness [As a thought flashes upon him.] Or —! Wait a moment! There is something under all this, you may depend!

Hilda [Does not move.]

Solness [In a low voice, but with emphasis.] I must have thought all that. I must have wished it — have willed it — have longed to do it. And then — . May not that be the explanation.

Hilda [Is still silent.]

Solness [Impatiently.] Oh very well, deuce take it all — then I did do it, I suppose.

Hilda [Turns her head a little, but without looking at him.] Then you admit it now?

Solness Yes — whatever you like.

Hilda You came and put your arms round me?

Solness Oh yes!

Hilda And bent my head back?

Solness Very far back.

Hilda And kissed me?

Solness Yes, I did.

Hilda Many times?

Solness As many as ever you like.

Hilda [Turns quickly toward him and has once more the sparkling expression of gladness in her eyes.] Well, you see, I got it out of you at last!

Solness [With a slight smile.] Yes — just think of my forgetting such a thing as that.

Hilda [Again a little sulky, retreats from him.] Oh, you have kissed so many people in your time, I suppose.

Solness No, you mustn’t think that of me. [HILDA seats herself in the arm-chair. SOLNESS stands and leans against the rocking-chair. Looks observantly at her.] Miss Wangel!

Hilda Yes!

Solness How was it now? What came of all this — between us two.

Hilda Why, nothing more came of it. You know that quite well. For then the other guests came in, and then — bah!

Solness Quite so! The others came in. To think of my forgetting that too!

Hilda Oh, you haven’t really forgotten anything: you are only a little ashamed of it all. I am sure one doesn’t forget things of that kind.

Solness No, one would suppose not.

Hilda [Lively again, looks at him.] Perhaps you have even forgotten what day it was?

Solness What day —?

Hilda Yes, on what day did you hang the wreath on the tower? Well? Tell me at once!

Solness H’m — I confess I have forgotten the particular day. I only know it was ten years ago. Some time in autumn.

Hilda [Nods her head slowly several times.] It was ten years ago — on the 19th of September.

Solness Yes, it must have been about that time. Fancy your remembering that too! [Stops.] But wait a moment —! Yes — it’s the 19th of September today.

Hilda Yes, it is; and the ten years are gone. And you didn’t come — as you had promised me.

Solness Promised you? Threatened, I suppose you mean?

Hilda I don’t think there was any sort of threat in that.

Solness Well then, a little bit of fun.

Hilda Was that all you wanted? To make fun of me?

Solness Well, or to have a little joke with you. Upon my soul, I don’t recollect. But it must have been something of that kind; for you were a mere child then.

Hilda Oh, perhaps I wasn’t quite such a child either. Not such a mere chit as you imagine.

Solness [Looks searchingly at her.] Did you really and seriously expect me to come again?

Hilda [Conceals a half-teasing smile.] Yes, indeed! I did expect that of you.

Solness That I should come back to your home, and take you away with me?

Hilda Just like a troll — yes.

Solness And make a princess of you?

Hilda That’s what you promised.

Solness And give you a kingdom as well?

Hilda [Looks up at the ceiling.] Why not? Of course it need not have been an actual, every-day sort of a kingdom.

Solness But something else just as good?

Hilda Yes, at least as good. [Looks at him a moment.] I thought, if you could build the highest church-towers in the world, you could surely manage to raise a kingdom of one sort or another as well.

Solness [Shakes his head.] I can’t quite make you out, Miss Wangel.

Hilda Can you not? To me it seems all so simple.

Solness No, I can’t make up my mind whether you mean all you say, or are simply having a joke with me.

Hilda [Smiles.] Making fun of you, perhaps? I, too?

Solness Yes, exactly. Making fun — of both of us. [Looks at her.] Is it long since you found out that I was married?

Hilda I have know it all along. Why do you ask me that?

Solness [Lightly.] Oh, well, it just occurred to me. [Looks earnestly at her, and says in a low voice.] What have you come for?

Hilda I want my kingdom. The time is up.

Solness [Laughs involuntarily.] What a girl you are!

Hilda [Gaily.] Out with my kingdom, Mr. Solness! [Raps with her fingers.] The kingdom on the table!

Solness [Pushing the rocking-chair nearer and sitting down.] Now, seriously speaking — what have you come for? What do you really want to do here?

Hilda Oh, first of all, I want to go round and look at all the things that you have built.

Solness That will give you plenty of exercise.

Hilda Yes, I know you have built a tremendous lot.

Solness I have indeed — especially of late years.

Hilda Many church-towers among the rest? Immensely high ones?

Solness No. I build no more church-towers now. Nor churches either.

Hilda What do you build then?

Solness Homes for human beings.

Hilda [Reflectively.] Couldn’t you build a little — a little bit of a church-tower over these homes as well?

Solness [Starting.] What do you mean by that?

Hilda I mean — something that points — points up into the free air. With the vane at a dizzy height.

Solness [Pondering a little.] Strange that you should say that — for that is just what I am most anxious to do.

Hilda [Impatiently.] Why don’t you do it, then?

Solness [Shakes his head.] No, the people will not have it.

Hilda Fancy their not wanting it!

Solness [More lightly.] But now I am building a new home for myself — just opposite here.

Hilda For yourself?

Solness Yes. It is almost finished. And on that there is a tower.

Hilda A high tower?

Solness Yes.

Hilda Very high?

Solness No doubt people will say it is too high — too high for a dwelling-house.

Hilda I’ll go out to look at that tower first thing tomorrow morning.

Solness [Sits resting his cheek on his hand, and gazes at her.] Tell me, Miss Wangel — what is your name? Your Christian name, I mean.

Hilda Why, Hilda, of course.

Solness [As before.] Hilda? Indeed?

Hilda Don’t you remember that? You called me Hilda yourself — that day when you misbehaved.

Solness Did I really.

Hilda But then you said “little Hilda”; and I didn’t like that.

Solness Oh, you didn’t like that, Miss Hilda?

Hilda No, not at such a time as that. But — “Princess Hilda” — that will sound very well, I think.

Solness Very well indeed. Princess Hilda of — of — what was to be the name of the kingdom?

Hilda Pooh! I won’t have anything to do with that stupid kingdom. I have set my heart upon quite a different one!

Solness [Has leaned back in the chair, still gazing at her.] Isn’t it strange —? The more I think of it now, the more it seems to me as though I had gone about all these years torturing myself with — h’m —

Hilda With what?

Solness With the effort to recover something — some experience, which I seemed to have forgotten. But I never had the least inkling of what it could be.

Hilda You should have tied a knot in your pocket-handkerchief, Mr. Solness.

Solness In that case, I should simply have had to go racking my brains to discover what the knot could mean.

Hilda Oh yes, I suppose there are trolls of that kind in the world, too.

Solness [Rises slowly.] What a good thing it is that you have come to me now.

Hilda [Looks deeply into his eyes.] Is it a good thing!

Solness For I have been so lonely here. I have been gazing so helplessly at it all. [In a lower voice.] I must tell you — I have begun to be afraid of the younger generation.

Hilda [With a little snort of contempt.] Pooh — is the younger generation something to be afraid of?

Solness It is indeed. And that is why I have locked and barred myself in. [Mysteriously.] I tell you the younger generation will one day come and thunder at my door! They will break in upon me!

Hilda Then I should say you ought to go out and open the door to the younger generation.

Solness Open the door?

Hilda Yes. Let them come in to you on friendly terms, as it were.

Solness No, no, no! The younger generation — it means retribution, you see. It comes, as if under a new banner, heralding the turn of fortune.

Hilda [Rises, looks at him, and says with a quivering twitch of her lips.] Can I be of any use to you, Mr. Solness?

Solness Yes, you can indeed! For you, too, come — under a new banner it seems to me. You marshalled against youth —!

DR. HERDAL comes in by the hall-door.

Dr. Herdal What — you and Miss Wangel here still?

Solness Yes. We have had no end of things to talk about.

Hilda Both old and new.

Dr. Herdal Have you really?

Hilda Oh, it has been the greatest fun. For Mr. Solness — he has such a miraculous memory. All the least little details he remembers instantly.

MRS. SOLNESS enters by the door on the right.

Mrs. Solness Well, Miss Wangel, your room is quite ready for you now.

Hilda Oh, how kind you are to me!

Solness [To MRS. SOLNESS.] The nursery?

Mrs. Solness Yes, the middle one. But first let us go in to supper.

Solness [Nods to HILDA.] Hilda shall sleep in the nursery, she shall.

Mrs. Solness [Looks at him.] Hilda?

Solness Yes, Miss Wangel’s name is Hilda. I knew her when she was a child.

Mrs. Solness Did you really, Halvard? Well, shall we go?

[She takes DR. HERDAL’s arm and goes out with him to the right. HILDA has meanwhile been collecting her travelling things.

Hilda [Softly and rapidly to SOLNESS.] Is it true, what you said? Can I be of use to you?

Solness [Takes the things from her.] You are the very being I have needed most.

Hilda [Looks at him with happy, wondering eyes and clasps her hands.] But then, great heavens —!

Solness [Eagerly.] What —?

Hilda Then I have my kingdom!

Solness [Involuntarily.] Hilda —!

Hilda [Again with the quivering twitch of her lips.] Almost — I was going to say.

[She goes out to the right, SOLNESS follows her.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/i/ibsen/henrik/master/act1.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38