The Wild Duck, by Henrik Ibsen

Act 1

[At WERLE'S house. A richly and comfortably furnished study; bookcases and upholstered furniture; a writing-table, with papers and documents, in the centre of the room; lighted lamps with green shades, giving a subdued light. At the back, open folding-doors with curtains drawn back. Within is seen a large and handsome room, brilliantly lighted with lamps and branching candle-sticks. In front, on the right (in the study), a small baize door leads into WERLE'S Office. On the left, in front, a fireplace with a glowing coal fire, and farther back a double door leading into the dining-room.]

[WERLE'S servant, PETTERSEN, in livery, and JENSEN, the hired waiter, in black, are putting the study in order. In the large room, two or three other hired waiters are moving about, arranging things and lighting more candles. From the dining-room, the hum of conversation and laughter of many voices are heard; a glass is tapped with a knife; silence follows, and a toast is proposed; shouts of "Bravo!" and then again a buzz of conversation.]

Pettersen. [lights a lamp on the chimney-place and places a shade over it.] Hark to them, Jensen! now the old man's on his legs holding a long palaver about Mrs. Sorby.

Jensen [pushing forward an arm-chair.] Is it true, what folks say, that they're — very good friends, eh?

Pettersen. Lord knows.

Jensen. I've heard tell as he's been a lively customer in his day.

Pettersen. May be.

Jensen. And he's giving this spread in honour of his son, they say.

Pettersen. Yes. His son came home yesterday.

Jensen. This is the first time I ever heard as Mr. Werle had a son.

Pettersen. Oh yes, he has a son, right enough. But he's a fixture, as you might say, up at the Hoidal works. He's never once come to town all the years I've been in service here.

A Waiter [in the doorway of the other room.] Pettersen, here's an old fellow wanting —

Pettersen [mutters.] The devil — who's this now?

[OLD EKDAL appears from the right, in the inner room. He is dressed in a threadbare overcoat with a high collar; he wears woollen mittens, and carries in his hand a stick and a fur cap. Under his arm, a brown paper parcel. Dirty red-brown wig and small grey moustache.]

Pettersen [goes towards him.] Good Lord — what do you want here?

Ekdal [in the doorway.] Must get into the office, Pettersen.

Pettersen. The office was closed an hour ago, and —

Ekdal. So they told me at the front door. But Graberg's in there still. Let me slip in this way, Pettersen; there's a good fellow. [Points towards the baize door.] It's not the first time I've come this way.

Pettersen. Well, you may pass. [Opens the door.] But mind you go out again the proper way, for we've got company.

Ekdal. I know, I know — h'm! Thanks, Pettersen, good old friend! Thanks! [Mutters softly.] Ass!

[He goes into the Office; PETTERSEN shuts the door after him.]

Jensen. Is he one of the office people?

Pettersen. No he's only an outside hand that does odd jobs of copying. But he's been a tip-topper in his day, has old Ekdal.

Jensen. You can see he's been through a lot.

Pettersen. Yes; he was an army officer, you know.

Jensen. You don't say so?

Pettersen. No mistake about it. But then he went into the timber trade or something of the sort. They say he once played Mr. Werle a very nasty trick. They were partners in the Hoidal works at the time. Oh, I know old Ekdal well, I do. Many a nip of bitters and bottle of ale we two have drunk at Madam Eriksen's.

Jensen. He don't look as if held much to stand treat with.

Pettersen. Why, bless you, Jensen, it's me that stands treat. I always think there's no harm in being a bit civil to folks that have seen better days.

Jensen. Did he go bankrupt then?

Pettersen. Worse than that. He went to prison.

Jensen. To prison!

Pettersen. Or perhaps it was the Penitentiary. [Listens.] Sh! They're leaving the table.

[The dining-room door is thrown open from within, by a couple of waiters. MRS. SORBY comes out conversing with two gentlemen. Gradually the whole company follows, amongst them WERLE. Last come HIALMAR EKDAL and GREGERS WERLE.]

Mrs. Sorby [in passing, to the servant.] Tell them to serve the coffee in the music-room, Pettersen.

Pettersen. Very well, Madam.

[She goes with the two Gentlemen into the inner room, and thence out to the right. PETTERSEN and JENSEN go out the same way.]

A Flabby Gentleman [to a THIN-HAIRED GENTLEMAN.] Whew! What a dinner! — It was no joke to do it justice!

The Thin-haired Gentleman. Oh, with a little good-will one can get through a lot in three hours.

The Flabby Gentleman. Yes, but afterwards, afterwards, my dear Chamberlain!

A Third Gentleman. I hear the coffee and maraschino are to be served in the music-room.

The Flabby Gentleman. Bravo! Then perhaps Mrs. Sorby will play us something.

The Thin-haired Gentleman [in a low voice.] I hope Mrs. Sorby mayn't play us a tune we don't like, one of these days!

The Flabby Gentleman. Oh no, not she! Bertha will never turn against her old friends.

[They laugh and pass into the inner room. ]

Werle [in a low voice, dejectedly.] I don't think anybody noticed it, Gregers.

Gregers [looks at him.] Noticed what?

Werle. Did you not notice it either?

Gregers. What do you mean?

Werle. We were thirteen at table.

Gregers. Indeed? Were there thirteen of us?

Werle [glances towards HIALMAR EKDAL.] Our usual party is twelve. [To the others.] This way, gentlemen!

[WERLE and the others, all except HIALMAR and GREGERS, go out by the back, to the right.]

Hialmar [who has overheard the conversation.] You ought not to have invited me, Gregers.

Gregers. What! Not ask my best and only friend to a party supposed to be in my honour — ?

Hialmar. But I don't think your father likes it. You see I am quite outside his circle.

Gregers. So I hear. But I wanted to see you and have a talk with you, and I certainly shan't be staying long. — Ah, we two old schoolfellows have drifted far apart from each other. It must be sixteen or seventeen years since we met.

Hialmar. Is it so long?

Gregers. It is indeed. Well, how goes it with you? You look well. You have put on flesh, and grown almost stout.

Hialmar. Well, "stout" is scarcely the word; but I daresay I look a little more of a man than I used to.

Gregers. Yes, you do; your outer man is in first-rate condition.

Hialmar [in a tone of gloom.] Ah, but the inner man! That is a very different matter, I can tell you! Of course you know of the terrible catastrophe that has befallen me and mine since last we met.

Gregers [more softly.] How are things going with your father now?

Hialmar. Don't let us talk of it, old fellow. Of course my poor unhappy father lives with me. He hasn't another soul in the world to care for him. But you can understand that this is a miserable subject for me. — Tell me, rather, how you have been getting on up at the works.

Gregers. I have had a delightfully lonely time of it — plenty of leisure to think and think about things. Come over here; we may as well make ourselves comfortable.

[He seats himself in an arm-chair by the fire and draws HIALMAR down into another alongside of it.]

Hialmar [sentimentally.] After all, Gregers, I thank you for inviting me to your father's table; for I take it as a sign that you have got over your feeling against me.

Gregers [surprised.] How could you imagine I had any feeling against you?

Hialmar. You had at first, you know.

Gregers. How at first?

Hialmar. After the great misfortune. It was natural enough that you should. Your father was within an ace of being drawn into that — well, that terrible business.

Gregers. Why should that give me any feeling against you? Who can have put that into your head?

Hialmar. I know it did, Gregers; your father told me so himself.

Gregers [starts.] My father! Oh indeed. H'm. — Was that why you never let me hear from you? — not a single word.

Hialmar. Yes.

Gregers. Not even when you made up your mind to become a photographer?

Hialmar. Your father said I had better not write to you at all, about anything.

Gregers [looking straight before him.] Well well, perhaps he was right. — But tell me now, Hialmar: are you pretty well satisfied with your present position?

Hialmar [with a little sigh.] Oh yes, I am; I have really no cause to complain. At first, as you may guess, I felt it a little strange. It was such a totally new state of things for me. But of course my whole circumstances were totally changed. Father's utter, irretrievable ruin, — the shame and disgrace of it, Gregers

Gregers [affected.] Yes, yes; I understand.

Hialmar. I couldn't think of remaining at college; there wasn't a shilling to spare; on the contrary, there were debts — mainly to your father I believe —

Gregers. H'm — -

Hialmar. In short, I thought it best to break, once for all, with my old surroundings and associations. It was your father that specially urged me to it; and since he interested himself so much in me

Gregers. My father did?

Hialmar. Yes, you surely knew that, didn't you? Where do you suppose I found the money to learn photography, and to furnish a studio and make a start? All that costs a pretty penny, I can tell you.

Gregers. And my father provided the money?

Hialmar. Yes, my dear fellow, didn't you know? I understood him to say he had written to you about it.

Gregers. Not a word about his part in the business. He must have forgotten it. Our correspondence has always been purely a business one. So it was my father that —!

Hialmar. Yes, certainly. He didn't wish it to be generally known; but he it was. And of course it was he, too, that put me in a position to marry. Don't you — don't you know about that either?

Gregers. No, I haven't heard a word of it. [Shakes him by the arm.] But, my dear Hialmar, I can't tell you what pleasure all this gives me — pleasure, and self-reproach. I have perhaps done my father injustice after all — in some things. This proves that he has a heart. It shows a sort of compunction —

Hialmar. Compunction —?

Gregers. Yes, yes — whatever you like to call it. Oh, I can't tell you how glad I am to hear this of father. — So you are a married man, Hialmar! That is further than I shall ever get. Well, I hope you are happy in your married life?

Hialmar. Yes, thoroughly happy. She is as good and capable a wife as any man could wish for. And she is by no means without culture.

Gregers [rather surprised.] No, of course not.

Hialmar. You see, life is itself an education. Her daily intercourse with me — And then we know one or two rather remarkable men, who come a good deal about us. I assure you, you would hardly know Gina again.

Gregers. Gina?

Hialmar. Yes; had you forgotten that her name was Gina?

Gregers. Whose name? I haven't the slightest idea —

Hialmar. Don't you remember that she used to be in service here?

Gregers [looks at him.] Is it Gina Hansen —?

Hialmar. Yes, of course it is Gina Hansen.

Gregers. — -who kept house for us during the last year of my mother's illness?

Hialmar. Yes, exactly. But, my dear friend, I'm quite sure your father told you that I was married.

Gregers [who has risen.] Oh yes, he mentioned it; but not that — [Walking about the room.] Stay — perhaps he did — now that I think of it. My father always writes such short letters. [Half seats himself on the arm of the chair.] Now, tell me, Hialmar — this is interesting — how did you come to know Gina — your wife?

Hialmar. The simplest thing in the world. You know Gina did not stay here long, everything was so much upset at that time, owing to your mother's illness and so forth, that Gina was not equal to it all; so she gave notice and left. That was the year before your mother died — or it may have been the same year.

Gregers. It was the same year. I was up at the works then. But afterwards —?

Hialmar. Well, Gina lived at home with her mother, Madam Hansen, an excellent hard-working woman, who kept a little eating-house. She had a room to let too; a very nice comfortable room.

Gregers. And I suppose you were lucky enough to secure it?

Hialmar. Yes; in fact, it was your father that recommended it to me. So it was there, you see, that I really came to know Gina.

Gregers. And then you got engaged?

Hialmar. Yes. It doesn't take young people long to fall in love —; h'm —

Gregers [rises and moves about a little.] Tell me: was it after your engagement — was it then that my father — I mean was it then that you began to take up photography?

Hialmar. Yes, precisely. I wanted to make a start, and to set up house as soon as possible; and your father and I agreed that this photography business was the readiest way. Gina thought so too. Oh, and there was another thing in its favour, by-the-bye: it happened, luckily, that Gina had learnt to retouch.

Gregers. That chimed in marvellously.

Hialmar [pleased, rises.] Yes, didn't it? Don't you think it was a marvellous piece of luck?

Gregers. Oh, unquestionably. My father seems to have been almost a kind of providence for you.

Hialmar [with emotion.] He did not forsake his old friend's son in the hour of his need. For he has a heart. you see.

Mrs. Sorby [enters, arm-in-arm with WERLE.] Nonsense, my dear Mr. Werle; you mustn't stop there any longer staring at all the lights. It's very bad for you.

Werle [lets go her arm and passes his hand over his eyes.] I daresay you are right.

[PETTERSEN and JENSEN carry round refreshment trays.]

Mrs. Sorby [to the Guests in the other room.] This way, if you please, gentlemen. Whoever wants a glass of punch must be so good as to come in here.

The Flabby Gentleman [comes up to MRS. SORBY.] Surely, it isn't possible that you have suspended our cherished right to smoke?

Mrs. Sorby. Yes. No smoking here, in Mr. Werle's sanctum, Chamberlain.

The Thin-haired Gentleman. When did you enact these stringent amendments on the cigar law, Mrs. Sorby?

Mrs. Sorby. After the last dinner, Chamberlain, when certain persons permitted themselves to overstep the mark.

The Thin-haired Gentleman. And may one never overstep the mark a little bit, Madame Bertha? Not the least little bit?

Mrs. Sorby. Not in any respect whatsoever, Mr. Balle.

[Most of the Guests have assembled in the study; servants hand round glasses of Punch.]

Werle [to HIALMAR, who is standing beside a table.] What are you studying so intently, Ekdal?

Hialmar. Only an album, Mr. Werle.

The Thin-haired Gentleman [who is wandering about.] Ah, photographs! They are quite in your line of course.

The Flabby Gentleman [in an arm-chair.] Haven't you brought any of your own with you?

Hialmar. No, I haven't.

The Flabby Gentleman. You ought to have; it's very good for the digestion to sit and look at pictures.

The Thin-haired Gentleman. And it contributes to the entertainment, you know.

The Short-sighted Gentleman. And all contributions are thankfully received.

Mrs. Sorby. The Chamberlains think that when one is invited out to dinner, one ought to exert oneself a little in return, Mr. Ekdal.

The Flabby Gentleman. Where one dines so well, that duty becomes a pleasure.

The Thin-haired Gentleman. And when it's a case of the struggle for existence, you know —

Mrs. Sorby. I quite agree with you!

[They continue the conversation, with laughter and joking.]

Gregers [softly.] You must join in, Hialmar.

Hialmar [writhing.] What am I to talk about?

The Flabby Gentleman. Don't you think, Mr. Werle, that Tokay may be considered one of the more wholesome sorts of wine?

Werle [by the fire.] I can answer for the Tokay you had to-day, at any rate; it's one of the very finest seasons. Of course you would notice that.

The Flabby Gentleman. Yes, it had a remarkably delicate flavour.

Hialmar [shyly.] Is there any difference between the seasons?

The Flabby Gentleman [laughs.] Come! That's good!

Werle [smiles.] It really doesn't pay to set fine wine before you.

The Thin-haired Gentleman. Tokay is like photographs, Mr. Ekdal: they both need sunshine. Am I not right?

Hialmar. Yes, light is important no doubt.

Mrs. Sorby. And it's exactly the same with Chamberlains — they, too, depend very much on sunshine,* as the saying is.

* The "sunshine" of Court favour.

The Thin-haired Gentleman. Oh fie! That's a very threadbare sarcasm!

The Short-sighted Gentleman. Mrs. Sorby is coming out —

The Flabby Gentleman. — and at our expense, too. [Holds up his finger reprovingly.] Oh, Madame Bertha, Madame Bertha!

Mrs. Sorby. Yes, and there's not the least doubt that the seasons differ greatly. The old vintages are the finest.

The Short-sighted Gentleman. Do you reckon me among the old vintages?

Mrs. Sorby. Oh, far from it.

The Thin-haired Gentleman. There now! But me, dear Mrs. Sorby —?

The Flabby Gentleman. Yes, and me? What vintage should you say that we belong to?

Mrs. Sorby. Why, to the sweet vintages, gentlemen.

[She sips a glass of punch. The gentlemen laugh and flirt with her.]

Werle. Mrs. Sorby can always find a loop-hole — when she wants to. Fill your glasses, gentlemen! Pettersen, will you see to it —! Gregers, suppose we have a glass together. [Gregers does not move.] Won't you join us, Ekdal? I found no opportunity of drinking with you at table.

[GRABERG, the Bookkeeper, looks in at the baize door.]

Graberg. Excuse me, sir, but I can't get out.

Werle. Have you been locked in again?

Graberg. Yes, and Flakstad has carried off the keys.

Werle. Well, you can pass out this way.

Graberg. But there's some one else —

Werle. All right; come through, both of you. Don't be afraid.

[GRABERG and OLD EKDAL come out of the office.]

Werle [involuntarily.] Ugh!

[The laughter and talk among the Guests cease. HIALMAR starts at the sight of his father, puts down his glass, and turns towards the fireplace.]

Ekdal [does not look up, but makes little bows to both sides as he passes, murmuring.] Beg pardon, come the wrong way. Door locked — door locked. Beg pardon.

[He and GRABERG go out by the back, to the right.]

Werle [between his teeth.] That idiot Graberg.

Gregers [open-mouthed and staring, to HIALMAR.] Why surely that wasn't —!

The Flabby Gentleman. What's the matter? Who was it?

Gregers. Oh, nobody, only the bookkeeper and some one with him.

The Short-sighted Gentleman [to HIALMAR.]

Did you know that man?

Hialmar. I don't know — I didn't notice —

The Flabby Gentleman. What the deuce has come over every one?

[He joins another group who are talking softly.]

Mrs. Sorby [whispers to the Servant.] Give him something to take with him; — something good, mind.

Pettersen [nods.] I'll see to it.

[Goes out.]

Gregers [softly and with emotion, to HIALMAR.] So that was really he!

Hialmar. Yes.

Gregers. And you could stand there and deny that you knew him!

Hialmar [whispers vehemently.] But how could I—!

Gregers. — acknowledge your own father?

Hialmar [with pain.] Oh, if you were in my place —

[The conversation amongst the Guests, which has been carried on in a low tone, now swells into constrained joviality.]

The Thin-haired Gentleman [approaching HIALMAR and GREGERS in a friendly manner.] Aha! Reviving old college memories, eh? Don't you smoke, Mr. Ekdal? May I give you a light? Oh, by-the-bye, we mustn't —

Hialmar. No, thank you, I won't —

The Flabby Gentleman. Haven't you a nice little poem you could recite to us, Mr. Ekdal? You used to recite so charmingly.

Hialmar. I am sorry I can't remember anything.

The Flabby Gentleman. Oh, that's a pity. Well, what shall we do, Balle?

[Both Gentlemen move away and pass into the other room.]

Hialmar [gloomily.] Gregers — I am going! When a man has felt the crushing hand of Fate, you see — Say good-bye to your father for me.

Gregers. Yes, yes. Are you going straight home?

Hialmar. Yes. Why?

Gregers. Oh, because I may perhaps look in on you later.

Hialmar. No, you mustn't do that. You must not come to my home. Mine is a melancholy abode, Gregers; especially after a splendid banquet like this. We can always arrange to meet somewhere in the town.

Mrs. Sorby [who has quietly approached.] Are you going, Ekdal?

Hialmar. Yes.

Mrs. Sorby. Remember me to Gina.

Hialmar. Thanks.

Mrs. Sorby. And say I am coming up to see her one of these days.

Hialmar. Yes, thank you. [To GREGERS.] Stay here; I will slip out unobserved.

[He saunters away, then into the other room, and so out to the right.]

Mrs. Sorby [softly to the Servant, who has come back.] Well, did you give the old man something?

Pettersen. Yes; I sent him off with a bottle of cognac.

Mrs. Sorby. Oh, you might have thought of something better than that.

Pettersen. Oh no, Mrs. Sorby; cognac is what he likes best in the world.

The Flabby Gentleman [in the doorway with a sheet of music in his hand.] Shall we play a duet, Mrs. Sorby?

Mrs. Sorby. Yes, suppose we do.

The Guests. Bravo, bravo!

[She goes with all the Guests through the back room, out to the right. GREGERS remains standing by the fire. WERLE is looking for Something on the writing-table, and appears to wish that GREGERS would go; as GREGERS does not move, WERLE goes towards the door.]

Gregers. Father, won't you stay a moment?

Werle [stops.] What is it?

Gregers. I must have a word with you.

Werle. Can it not wait till we are alone?

Gregers. No, it cannot; for perhaps we shall never be alone together.

Werle [drawing nearer.] What do you mean by that?

[During what follows, the pianoforte is faintly heard from the distant music-room.]

Gregers. How has that family been allowed to go so miserably to the wall?

Werle. You mean the Ekdals, I suppose.

Gregers. Yes, I mean the Ekdals. Lieutenant Ekdal was once so closely associated with you.

Werle. Much too closely; I have felt that to my cost for many a year. It is thanks to him that I— yes I— have had a kind of slur cast upon my reputation.

Gregers [softly.] Are you sure that he alone was to blame?

Werle. Who else do you suppose —?

Gregers. You and he acted together in that affair of the forests —

Werle. But was it not Ekdal that drew the map of the tracts we had bought — that fraudulent map! It was he who felled all that timber illegally on Government ground. In fact, the whole management was in his hands. I was quite in the dark as to what Lieutenant Ekdal was doing.

Gregers. Lieutenant Ekdal himself seems to have been very much in the dark as to what he was doing.

Werle. That may be. But the fact remains that he was found guilty and I acquitted.

Gregers. Yes, I know that nothing was proved against you.

Werle. Acquittal is acquittal. Why do you rake up these old miseries that turned my hair grey before its time? Is that the sort of thing you have been brooding over up there, all these years? I can assure you, Gregers, here in the town the whole story has been forgotten long ago — so far as I am concerned.

Gregers. But that unhappy Ekdal family —

Werle. What would you have had me do for the people? When Ekdal came out of prison he was a broken-down being, past all help. There are people in the world who dive to the bottom the moment they get a couple of slugs in their body, and never come to the surface again. You may take my word for it, Gregers, I have done all I could without positively laying myself open to all sorts of suspicion and gossip —

Gregers. Suspicion —? Oh, I see.

Werle. I have given Ekdal copying to do for the office, and I pay him far, far more for it than his work is worth —

Gregers [without looking at him.] H'm; that I don't doubt.

Werle. You laugh? Do you think I am not telling you the truth? Well, I certainly can't refer you to my books, for I never enter payments of that sort.

Gregers [smiles coldly.] No, there are certain payments it is best to keep no account of.

Werle [taken aback.] What do you mean by that?

Gregers [mustering up courage.] Have you entered what it cost you to have Hialmar Ekdal taught photography?

Werle. I? How "entered" it?

Gregers. I have learnt that it was you who paid for his training. And I have learnt, too, that it was you who enabled him to set up house so comfortably.

Werle. Well, and yet you talk as though I had done nothing for the Ekdals! I can assure you these people have cost me enough in all conscience.

Gregers. Have you entered any of these expenses in your books?

Werle. Why do you ask?

Gregers. Oh, I have my reasons. Now tell me: when you interested yourself so warmly in your old friend's son — it was just before his marriage, was it not?

Werle. Why, deuce take it — after all these years, how can I—?

Gregers. You wrote me a letter about that time — a business letter, of course; and in a postscript you mentioned — quite briefly — that Hialmar Ekdal had married a Miss Hansen.

Werle. Yes, that was quite right. That was her name.

Gregers. But you did not mention that this Miss Hansen was Gina Hansen — our former housekeeper.

Werle [with a forced laugh of derision.] No; to tell the truth, it didn't occur to me that you were so particularly interested in our former housekeeper.

Gregers. No more I was. But [lowers his voice] there were others in this house who were particularly interested in her.

Werle. What do you mean by that? [Flaring up.] You are not alluding to me, I hope?

Gregers [softly but firmly.] Yes, I am alluding to you.

Werle. And you dare —! You presume to —! How can that ungrateful hound — that photographer fellow — how dare he go making such insinuations!

Gregers. Hialmar has never breathed a word about this. I don't believe he has the faintest suspicion of such a thing.

Werle. Then where have you got it from? Who can have put such notions in your head?

Gregers. My poor unhappy mother told me; and that the very last time I saw her.

Werle. Your mother! I might have known as much! You and she — you always held together. It was she who turned you against me, from the first.

Gregers. No, it was all that she had to suffer and submit to, until she broke down and came to such a pitiful end.

Werle. Oh, she had nothing to suffer or submit to; not more than most people, at all events. But there's no getting on with morbid, overstrained creatures — that I have learnt to my cost. — And you could go on nursing such a suspicion — burrowing into all sorts of old rumours and slanders against your own father! I must say, Gregers, I really think that at your age you might find something more useful to do.

Gregers. Yes, it is high time.

Werle. Then perhaps your mind would be easier than it seems to be now. What can be your object in remaining up at the works, year out and year in, drudging away like a common clerk, and not drawing a farthing more than the ordinary monthly wage? It is downright folly.

Gregers. Ah, if I were only sure of that.

Werle. I understand you well enough. You want to be independent; you won't be beholden to me for anything. Well, now there happens to be an opportunity for you to become independent, your own master in everything.

Gregers. Indeed? In what way —?

Werle. When I wrote you insisting on your coming to town at once — h'm —

Gregers. Yes, what is it you really want of me? I have been waiting all day to know.

Werle. I want to propose that you should enter the firm, as partner.

Gregers. I! Join your firm? As partner?

Werle. Yes. It would not involve our being constantly together. You could take over the business here in town, and I should move up to the works.

Gregers. You would?

Werle. The fact is, I am not so fit for work as I once was. I am obliged to spare my eyes, Gregers; they have begun to trouble me.

Gregers. They have always been weak.

Werle. Not as they are now. And, besides, circumstances might possibly make it desirable for me to live up there — for a time, at any rate.

Gregers. That is certainly quite a new idea to me.

Werle. Listen, Gregers: there are many things that stand between us; but we are father and son after all. We ought surely to be able to come to some sort of understanding with each other.

Gregers. Outwardly, you mean, of course?

Werle. Well, even that would be something. Think it over, Gregers. Don't you think it ought to be possible? Eh?

Gregers [looking at him coldly.] There is something behind all this.

Werle. How so?

Gregers. You want to make use of me in some way.

Werle. In such a close relationship as ours, the one can always be useful to the other.

Gregers. Yes, so people say.

Werle. I want very much to have you at home with me for a time. I am a lonely man, Gregers; I have always felt lonely, all my life through; but most of all now that I am getting up in years. I feel the need of some one about me —

Gregers. You have Mrs. Sorby.

Werle. Yes, I have her; and she has become, I may say, almost indispensable to me. She is lively and even-tempered; she brightens up the house; and that is a very great thing for me.

Gregers. Well then, you have everything just as you wish it.

Werle. Yes, but I am afraid it can't last. A woman so situated may easily find herself in a false position, in the eyes of the world. For that matter it does a man no good, either.

Gregers. Oh, when a man gives such dinners as you give, he can risk a great deal.

Werle. Yes, but how about the woman, Gregers? I fear she won't accept the situation much longer; and even if she did — even if, out of attachment to me, she were to take her chance of gossip and scandal and all that —? Do you think, Gregers — you with your strong sense of justice —

Gregers [interrupts him.] Tell me in one word: are you thinking of marrying her?

Werle. Suppose I were thinking of it? What then?

Gregers. That's what I say: what then?

Werle. Should you be inflexibly opposed to it!

Gregers. — Not at all. Not by any means.

Werle. I was not sure whether your devotion to your mother's memory —

Gregers. I am not overstrained.

Werle. Well, whatever you may or may not be, at all events you have lifted a great weight from my mind. I am extremely pleased that I can reckon on your concurrence in this matter.

Gregers [looking intently at him.] Now I see the use you want to put me to.

Werle. Use to put you to? What an expression!

Gregers. Oh, don't let us be nice in our choice of words — not when we are alone together, at any rate. [With a short laugh.] Well well. So this is what made it absolutely essential that I should come to town in person. For the sake of Mrs. Sorby, we are to get up a pretence at family life in the house — a tableau of filial affection! That will be something new indeed.

Werle. How dare you speak in that tone!

Gregers. Was there ever any family life here? Never since I can remember. But now, forsooth, your plans demand something of the sort. No doubt it will have an excellent effect when it is reported that the son has hastened home, on the wings of filial piety, to the grey-haired father's wedding-feast. What will then remain of all the rumours as to the wrongs the poor dead mother had to submit to? Not a vestige. Her son annihilates them at one stroke.

Werle. Gregers — I believe there is no one in the world you detest as you do me.

Gregers [softly.] I have seen you at too close quarters.

Werle. You have seen me with your mother's eyes. [Lowers his voice a little.] But you should remember that her eyes were — clouded now and then.

Gregers [quivering.] I see what you are hinting at. But who was to blame for mother's unfortunate weakness? Why you, and all those —! The last of them was this woman that you palmed off upon Hialmar Ekdal, when you were — Ugh!

Werle [shrugs his shoulders.] Word for word as if it were your mother speaking!

Gregers [without heeding.] And there he is now, with his great, confiding, childlike mind, compassed about with all this treachery — living under the same roof with such a creature, and never dreaming that what he calls his home is built upon a lie! [Comes a step nearer.] When I look back upon your past, I seem to see a battle-field with shattered lives on every hand.

Werle. I begin to think the chasm that divides us is too wide.

Gregers [bowing, with self-command.] So I have observed; and therefore I take my hat and go.

Werle. You are going! Out of the house?

Gregers. Yes. For at last I see my mission in life.

Werle. What mission?

Gregers. You would only laugh if I told you.

Werle. A lonely man doesn't laugh so easily, Gregers.

Gregers [pointing towards the background.] Look, father, — the Chamberlains are playing blind-man's-buff with Mrs. Sorby. — Good-night and good-bye.

He goes out by the back to the right. Sounds of laughter and merriment from the Company, who are now visible in the outer room.]

Werle [muttering contemptuously after GREGERS.] Ha —! Poor wretch — and he says he is not overstrained!

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