Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen

Act First

A spacious, handsome, and tastefully furnished drawing room, decorated in dark colours. In the back, a wide doorway with curtains drawn back, leading into a smaller room decorated in the same style as the drawing-room. In the right-hand wall of the front room, a folding door leading out to the hall. In the opposite wall, on the left, a glass door, also with curtains drawn back. Through the panes can be seen part of a verandah outside, and trees covered with autumn foliage. An oval table, with a cover on it, and surrounded by chairs, stands well forward. In front, by the wall on the right, a wide stove of dark porcelain, a high-backed arm-chair, a cushioned foot-rest, and two footstools. A settee, with a small round table in front of it, fills the upper right-hand corner. In front, on the left, a little way from the wall, a sofa. Further back than the glass door, a piano. On either side of the doorway at the back a whatnot with terra-cotta and majolica ornaments. — Against the back wall of the inner room a sofa, with a table, and one or two chairs. Over the sofa hangs the portrait of a handsome elderly man in a General’s uniform. Over the table a hanging lamp, with an opal glass shade. — A number of bouquets are arranged about the drawing-room, in vases and glasses. Others lie upon the tables. The floors in both rooms are covered with thick carpets. — Morning light. The sun shines in through the glass door.

Miss Juliana Tesman, with her bonnet on a carrying a parasol, comes in from the hall, followed by Berta, who carries a bouquet wrapped in paper. Miss Tesman is a comely and pleasant-looking lady of about sixty-five. She is nicely but simply dressed in a grey walking-costume. Berta is a middle-aged woman of plain and rather countrified appearance.

Miss Tesman. [Stops close to the door, listens, and says softly:] Upon my word, I don’t believe they are stirring yet!

Berta. [Also softly.] I told you so, Miss. Remember how late the steamboat got in last night. And then, when they got home! — good Lord, what a lot the young mistress had to unpack before she could get to bed.

Miss Tesman. Well well — let them have their sleep out. But let us see that they get a good breath of the fresh morning air when they do appear.

She goes to the glass door and throws it open.

Berta. [Beside the table, at a loss what to do with the bouquet in her hand.] I declare there isn’t a bit of room left. I think I’ll put it down here, Miss. [She places it on the piano.

Miss Tesman. So you’ve got a new mistress now, my dear Berta. Heaven knows it was a wrench to me to part with you.

Berta. [On the point of weeping.] And do you think it wasn’t hard for me, too, Miss? After all the blessed years I’ve been with you and Miss Rina.6

Miss Tesman. We must make the best of it, Berta. There was nothing else to be done. George can’t do without you, you see-he absolutely can’t. He has had you to look after him ever since he was a little boy.

Berta. Ah but, Miss Julia, I can’t help thinking of Miss Rina lying helpless at home there, poor thing. And with only that new girl too! She’ll never learn to take proper care of an invalid.

Miss Tesman. Oh, I shall manage to train her. And of course, you know, I shall take most of it upon myself. You needn’t be uneasy about my poor sister, my dear Berta.

Berta. Well, but there’s another thing, Miss. I’m so mortally afraid I shan’t be able to suit the young mistress.

Miss Tesman. Oh well — just at first there may be one or two things —

Berta. Most like she’ll be terrible grand in her ways.

Miss Tesman. Well, you can’t wonder at that — General Gabler’s daughter! Think of the sort of life she was accustomed to in her father’s time. Don’t you remember how we used to see her riding down the road along with the General? In that long black habit — and with feathers in her hat?

Berta. Yes, indeed — I remember well enough! — But, good Lord, I should never have dreamt in those days that she and Master George would make a match of it.

Miss Tesman. Nor I. — But by-the-bye, Berta — while I think of it: in future you mustn’t say Master George. You must say Dr. Tesman.

Berta. Yes, the young mistress spoke of that too — last night — the moment they set foot in the house. Is it true then, Miss?

Miss Tesman. Yes, indeed it is. Only think, Berta — some foreign university has made him a doctor — while he has been abroad, you understand. I hadn’t heard a word about it, until he told me himself upon the pier.

Berta. Well well, he’s clever enough for anything, he is. But I didn’t think he’d have gone in for doctoring people.

Miss Tesman. No no, it’s not that sort of doctor he is. [Nods significantly.] But let me tell you, we may have to call him something still grander before long.

Berta. You don’t day so! What can that be, Miss?

Miss Tesman. [Smiling.] H’m — wouldn’t you like to know! [With emotion.] Ah, dear dear — if my poor brother could only look up from his grave now, and see what his little boy has grown into! [Looks around.] But bless me, Berta — why have you done this? Taken the chintz covers off all the furniture.

Berta. The mistress told me to. She can’t abide covers on the chairs, she says.

Miss Tesman. Are they going to make this their everyday sitting-room then?

Berta. Yes, that’s what I understood — from the mistress. Master George — the doctor — he said nothing.

George Tesman comes from the right into the inner room, humming to himself, and carrying an unstrapped empty portmanteau. He is a middle-sized, young-looking man of thirty-three, rather stout, with a round, open, cheerful face, fair hair and beard. He wears spectacles, and is somewhat carelessly dressed in comfortable indoor clothes.

Miss Tesman. Good morning, good morning, George.

Tesman. [In the doorway between the rooms.] Aunt Julia! Dear Aunt Julia! [Goes up to her and shakes hands warmly.] Come all this way — so early! Eh?

Miss Tesman. Why, of course I had to come and see how you were getting on.

Tesman. In spite of your having had no proper night’s rest?

Miss Tesman. Oh, that makes no difference to me.

Tesman. Well, I suppose you got home all right from the pier? Eh?

Miss Tesman. Yes, quite safely, thank goodness. Judge Brack was good enough to see me right to my door.

Tesman. We were so sorry we couldn’t give you a seat in the carriage. But you saw what a pile of boxes Hedda had to bring with her.

Miss Tesman. Yes, she had certainly plenty of boxes.

Berta. [To Tesman.] Shall I go in and see if there’s anything I can do for the mistress?

Tesman. No thank you, Berta — you needn’t. She said she would ring if she wanted anything.

Berta. [Going towards the right.] Very well.

Tesman. But look here — take this portmanteau with you.

Berta. [Taking it.] I’ll put it in the attic.

She goes out by the hall door.

Tesman. Fancy, Auntie — I had the whole of that portmanteau chock full of copies of the documents. You wouldn’t believe how much I have picked up from all the archives I have been examining — curious old details that no one has had any idea of —

Miss Tesman. Yes, you don’t seem to have wasted you time on your wedding trip, George.

Tesman. No, that I haven’t. But do take off your bonnet, Auntie. Look here! Let me untie the strings — eh?

Miss Tesman. [While he does so.] Well well — this is just as if you were still at home with us.

Tesman. [With the bonnet in his hand, looks at it from all sides.] Why, what a gorgeous bonnet you’ve been investing in!

Miss Tesman. I bought it on Hedda’s account.

Tesman. On Hedda’s account? Eh?

Miss Tesman. Yes, so that Hedda needn’t be ashamed of me if we happened to go out together.

Tesman. [Patting her cheek.] You always think of everything, Aunt Julia. [Lays the bonnet on a chair beside the table.] And now, look here — suppose we sit comfortably on the sofa and have a little chat, till Hedda comes.

They seat themselves. She places her parasol in the corner of the sofa.

Miss Tesman. [Takes both his hands and looks at him.] What a delight it is to have you again, as large as life, before my very eyes, George! My George — my poor brother’s own boy!

Tesman. And it’s a delight for me, too, to see you again, Aunt Julia! You, who have been father and mother in one to me.

Miss Tesman. Oh yes, I know you will always keep a place in your heart for your old aunts.

Tesman. And what about Aunt Rina? No improvement — eh?

Miss Tesman. Oh, no — we can scarcely look for any improvement in her case, poor thing. There she lies, helpless, as she has lain for all these years. But heaven grant I may not lose her yet awhile! For if I did, I don’t know what I should make of my life, George — especially now that I haven’t you to look after any more.

Tesman. [Patting her back.] There there there —!

Miss Tesman. [Suddenly changing her tone.] And to think that here are you a married man, George! — And that you should be the one to carry off Hedda Gabler — the beautiful Hedda Gabler! Only think of it — she, that was so beset with admirers!

Tesman. [Hums a little and smiles complacently.] Yes, I fancy I have several good friends about town who would like to stand in my shoes — eh?

Miss Tesman. And then this fine long wedding-tour you have had! More than five — nearly six months —

Tesman. Well, for me it has been a sort of tour of research as well. I have had to do so much grubbing among old records — and to read no end of books too, Auntie.

Miss Tesman. Oh yes, I suppose so. [More confidentially, and lowering her voice a little.] But listen now, George — have you nothing — nothing special to tell me?

Tesman. As to our journey?

Miss Tesman. Yes.

Tesman. No, I don’t know of anything except what I have told you in my letters. I had a doctor’s degree conferred on me — but that I told you yesterday.

Miss Tesman. Yes, yes, you did. But what I mean is — haven’t you any — any — expectations —?

Tesman. Expectations?

Miss Tesman. Why you know, George — I’m your old auntie!

Tesman. Why, of course I have expectations.

Miss Tesman. Ah!

Tesman. I have every expectation of being a professor one of these days.

Miss Tesman. Oh yes, a professor —

Tesman. Indeed, I may say I am certain of it. But my dear Auntie — you know all about that already!

Miss Tesman. [Laughing to herself.] Yes, of course I do. You are quite right there. [Changing the subject.] But we were talking about your journey. It must have cost a great deal of money, George?


Well, you see — my handsome travelling-scholarship went a good way.

Miss Tesman. But I can’t understand how you can have made it go far enough for two.

Tesman. No, that’s not easy to understand — eh?

Miss Tesman. And especially travelling with a lady — they tell me that makes it ever so much more expensive.

Tesman. Yes, of course — it makes it a little more expensive. But Hedda had to have this trip, Auntie! She really had to. Nothing else would have done.

Miss Tesman. No no, I suppose not. A wedding-tour seems to be quite indispensable nowadays. — But tell me now — have you gone thoroughly over the house yet?

Tesman. Yes, you may be sure I have. I have been afoot ever since daylight.

Miss Tesman. And what do you think of it all?

Tesman. I’m delighted! Quite delighted! Only I can’t think what we are to do with the two empty rooms between this inner parlour and Hedda’s bedroom.

Miss Tesman. [Laughing.] Oh my dear George, I daresay you may find some use for them — in the course of time.

Tesman. Why of course you are quite right, Aunt Julia! You mean as my library increases — eh?

Miss Tesman. Yes, quite so, my dear boy. It was your library I was thinking of.

Tesman. I am specially pleased on Hedda’s account. Often and often, before we were engaged, she said that she would never care to live anywhere but in Secretary Falk’s villa.7

Miss Tesman. Yes, it was lucky that this very house should come into the market, just after you had started.

Tesman. Yes, Aunt Julia, the luck was on our side, wasn’t it — eh?

Miss Tesman. But the expense, my dear George! You will find it very expensive, all this.

Tesman. [Looks at her, a little cast down.] Yes, I suppose I shall, Aunt!

Miss Tesman. Oh, frightfully!

Tesman. How much do you think? In round numbers? — Eh?

Miss Tesman. Oh, I can’t even guess until all the accounts come in.

Tesman. Well, fortunately, Judge Brack has secured the most favourable terms for me, so he said in a letter to Hedda.

Miss Tesman. Yes, don’t be uneasy, my dear boy. — Besides, I have given security for the furniture and all the carpets.

Tesman. Security? You? My dear Aunt Julia — what sort of security could you give?

Miss Tesman. I have given a mortgage on our annuity.

Tesman. [Jumps up.] What! On your — and Aunt Rina’s annuity!

Miss Tesman. Yes, I knew of no other plan, you see.

Tesman. [Placing himself before her.] Have you gone out of your senses, Auntie? Your annuity — it’s all that you and Aunt Rina have to live upon.

Miss Tesman. Well well — don’t get so excited about it. It’s only a matter of form you know — Judge Brack assured me of that. It was he that was kind enough to arrange the whole affair for me. A mere matter of form, he said.

Tesman. Yes, that may be all very well. But nevertheless —

Miss Tesman. You will have your own salary to depend upon now. And, good heavens, even if we did have to pay up a little —! To eke things out a bit at the start —! Why, it would be nothing but a pleasure to us.

Tesman. Oh Auntie — will you never be tired of making sacrifices for me!

Miss Tesman. [Rises and lays her hand on his shoulders.] Have I any other happiness in this world except to smooth your way for you, my dear boy. You, who have had neither father nor mother to depend on. And now we have reached the goal, George! Things have looked black enough for us, sometimes; but, thank heaven, now you have nothing to fear.

Tesman. Yes, it is really marvellous how every thing has turned out for the best.

Miss Tesman. And the people who opposed you — who wanted to bar the way for you — now you have them at your feet. They have fallen, George. Your most dangerous rival — his fall was the worst. — And now he has to lie on the bed he has made for himself — poor misguided creature.

Tesman. Have you heard anything of Eilert? Since I went away, I mean.

Miss Tesman. Only that he is said to have published a new book.

Tesman. What! Eilert Lovborg! Recently — eh?

Miss Tesman. Yes, so they say. Heaven knows whether it can be worth anything! Ah, when your new book appears — that will be another story, George! What is it to be about?

Tesman. It will deal with the domestic industries of Brabant during the Middle Ages.

Miss Tesman. Fancy — to be able to write on such a subject as that!

Tesman. However, it may be some time before the book is ready. I have all these collections to arrange first, you see.

Miss Tesman. Yes, collecting and arranging — no one can beat you at that. There you are my poor brother’s own son.

Tesman. I am looking forward eagerly to setting to work at it; especially now that I have my own delightful home to work in.

Miss Tesman. And, most of all, now that you have got the wife of your heart, my dear George.

Tesman. [Embracing her.] Oh yes, yes, Aunt Julia! Hedda — she is the best part of it all! I believe I hear her coming — eh?

Hedda enters from the left through the inner room. Her face and figure show refinement and distinction. Her complexion is pale and opaque. Her steel-grey eyes express a cold, unruffled repose. Her hair is of an agreeable brown, but not particularly abundant. She is dressed in a tasteful, somewhat loose-fitting morning gown.

Miss Tesman. [Going to meet Hedda.] Good morning, my dear Hedda! Good morning, and a hearty welcome!

Hedda. [Holds out her hand.] Good morning, dear Miss Tesman! So early a call! That is kind of you.

Miss Tesman. [With some embarrassment.] Well — has the bride slept well in her new home?

Hedda. Oh yes, thanks. Passably.

Tesman. [Laughing.] Passably! Come, that’s good, Hedda! You were sleeping like a stone when I got up.

Hedda. Fortunately. Of course one has always to accustom one’s self to new surroundings, Miss Tesman — little by little. [Looking towards the left.] Oh, there the servant has gone and opened the veranda door, and let in a whole flood of sunshine.

Miss Tesman. [Going towards the door.] Well, then we will shut it.

Hedda. No no, not that! Tesman, please draw the curtains. That will give a softer light.

Tesman. [At the door.] All right — all right. — There now, Hedda, now you have both shade and fresh air.

Hedda. Yes, fresh air we certainly must have, with all these stacks of flowers —. But — won’t you sit down, Miss Tesman?

Miss Tesman. No, thank you. Now that I have seen that everything is all right here — thank heaven! — I must be getting home again. My sister is lying longing for me, poor thing.

Tesman. Give her my very best love, Auntie; and say I shall look in and see her later in the day.

Miss Tesman. Yes, yes, I’ll be sure to tell her. But by-the-bye, George —[Feeling in her dress pocket]— I had almost forgotten — I have something for you here.

Tesman. What is it, Auntie? Eh?

Miss Tesman. [Produces a flat parcel wrapped in newspaper and hands it to him.] Look here, my dear boy.

Tesman. [Opening the parcel.] Well, I declare! — Have you really saved them for me, Aunt Julia! Hedda! isn’t this touching — eh?

Hedda. [Beside the whatnot on the right.] Well, what is it?

Tesman. My old morning-shoes! My slippers.

Hedda. Indeed. I remember you often spoke of them while we were abroad.

Tesman. Yes, I missed them terribly. [Goes up to her.] Now you shall see them, Hedda!

Hedda. [Going towards the stove.] Thanks, I really don’t care about it.

Tesman. [Following her.] Only think — ill as she was, Aunt Rina embroidered these for me. Oh you can’t think how many associations cling to them.

Hedda. [At the table.] Scarcely for me.

Miss Tesman. Of course not for Hedda, George.

Tesman. Well, but now that she belongs to the family, I thought —

Hedda. [Interrupting.] We shall never get on with this servant, Tesman.

Miss Tesman. Not get on with Berta?

Tesman. Why, dear, what puts that in your head? Eh?

Hedda. [Pointing.] Look there! She has left her old bonnet lying about on a chair.

Tesman. [In consternation, drops the slippers on the floor.] Why, Hedda —

Hedda. Just fancy, if any one should come in and see it!

Tesman. But Hedda — that’s Aunt Julia’s bonnet.

Hedda. Is it!

Miss Tesman. [Taking up the bonnet.] Yes, indeed it’s mine. And, what’s more, it’s not old, Madam Hedda.

Hedda. I really did not look closely at it, Miss Tesman.

Miss Tesman. [Trying on the bonnet.] Let me tell you it’s the first time I have worn it — the very first time.

Tesman. And a very nice bonnet it is too — quite a beauty!

Miss Tesman. Oh, it’s no such great things, George. [Looks around her.] My parasol —? Ah, here. [Takes it.] For this is mine too —[mutters] — not Berta’s.

Tesman. A new bonnet and a new parasol! Only think, Hedda.

Hedda. Very handsome indeed.

Tesman. Yes, isn’t it? Eh? But Auntie, take a good look at Hedda before you go! See how handsome she is!

Miss Tesman. Oh, my dear boy, there’s nothing new in that. Hedda was always lovely.

She nods and goes toward the right.

Tesman. [Following.] Yes, but have you noticed what splendid condition she is in? How she has filled out on the journey?

Hedda. [Crossing the room.] Oh, do be quiet —!

Miss Tesman. [Who has stopped and turned.] Filled out?

Tesman. Of course you don’t notice it so much now that she has that dress on. But I, who can see —

Hedda. [At the glass door, impatiently.] Oh, you can’t see anything.

Tesman. It must be the mountain air in the Tyrol —

Hedda. [Curtly, interrupting.] I am exactly as I was when I started.

Tesman. So you insist; but I’m quite certain you are not. Don’t you agree with me, Auntie?

Miss Tesman. [Who has been gazing at her with folded hands.] Hedda is lovely — lovely — lovely. [Goes up to her, takes her head between both hands, draws it downwards, and kisses her hair.] God bless and preserve Hedda Tesman — for George’s sake.

Hedda. [Gently freeing herself.] Oh —! Let me go.

Miss Tesman. [In quiet emotion.] I shall not let a day pass without coming to see you.

Tesman. No you won’t, will you, Auntie? Eh?

Miss Tesman. Good-bye — good-bye!

She goes out by the hall door. Tesman accompanies her. The door remains half open. Tesman can be heard repeating his message to Aunt Rina and his thanks for the slippers.

In the meantime, Hedda walks about the room, raising her arms and clenching her hands as if in desperation. Then she flings back the curtains from the glass door, and stands there looking out.

Presently, Tesman returns and closes the door behind him.

Tesman. [Picks up the slippers from the floor.] What are you looking at, Hedda?

Hedda. [Once more calm and mistress of herself.] I am only looking at the leaves. They are so yellow — so withered.

Tesman. [Wraps up the slippers and lays them on the table.] Well, you see, we are well into September now.

Hedda. [Again restless.] Yes, to think of it! — already in-in September.

Tesman. Don’t you think Aunt Julia’s manner was strange, dear? Almost solemn? Can you imagine what was the matter with her? Eh?

Hedda. I scarcely know her, you see. Is she not often like that?

Tesman. No, not as she was today.

Hedda. [Leaving the glass door.] Do you think she was annoyed about the bonnet?

Tesman. Oh, scarcely at all. Perhaps a little, just at the moment —

Hedda. But what an idea, to pitch her bonnet about in the drawing-room! No one does that sort of thing.

Tesman. Well you may be sure Aunt Julia won’t do it again.

Hedda. In any case, I shall manage to make my peace with her.

Tesman. Yes, my dear, good Hedda, if you only would.

Hedda. When you call this afternoon, you might invite her to spend the evening here.

Tesman. Yes, that I will. And there’s one thing more you could do that would delight her heart.

Hedda. What is it?

Tesman. If you could only prevail on yourself to say du8 to her. For my sake, Hedda? Eh?

Hedda. No, no, Tesman — you really mustn’t ask that of me. I have told you so already. I shall try to call her “Aunt”; and you must be satisfied with that.

Tesman. Well well. Only I think now that you belong to the family, you —

Hedda. H’m — I can’t in the least see why —

She goes up towards the middle doorway.

Tesman. [After a pause.] Is there anything the matter with you, Hedda? Eh?

Hedda. I’m only looking at my old piano. It doesn’t go at all well with all the other things.

Tesman. The first time I draw my salary, we’ll see about exchanging it.

Hedda. No, no — no exchanging. I don’t want to part with it. Suppose we put it there in the inner room, and then get another here in its place. When it’s convenient, I mean.

Tesman. [A little taken aback.] Yes — of course we could do that.

Hedda. [Takes up the bouquet from the piano.] These flowers were not here last night when we arrived.

Tesman. Aunt Julia must have brought them for you.

Hedda. [Examining the bouquet.] A visiting-card. [Takes it out and reads:] “Shall return later in the day.” Can you guess whose card it is?

Tesman. No. Whose? Eh?

Hedda. The name is “Mrs. Elvsted.”

Tesman. Is it really? Sheriff Elvsted’s wife? Miss Rysing that was.

Hedda. Exactly. The girl with the irritating hair, that she was always showing off. An old flame of yours I’ve been told.

Tesman. [Laughing.] Oh, that didn’t last long; and it was before I met you, Hedda. But fancy her being in town!

Hedda. It’s odd that she should call upon us. I have scarcely seen her since we left school.

Tesman. I haven’t see her either for — heaven knows how long. I wonder how she can endure to live in such an out-of-the way hole — eh?

Hedda. [After a moment’s thought, says suddenly.] Tell me, Tesman — isn’t it somewhere near there that he — that — Eilert Lovborg is living?

Tesman. Yes, he is somewhere in that part of the country.

Berta enters by the hall door.

Berta. That lady, ma’am, that brought some flowers a little while ago, is here again. [Pointing.] The flowers you have in your hand, ma’am.

Hedda. Ah, is she? Well, please show her in.

Berta opens the door for Mrs. Elvsted, and goes out herself. — Mrs. Elvsted is a woman of fragile figure, with pretty, soft features. Her eyes are light blue, large, round, and somewhat prominent, with a startled, inquiring expression. Her hair is remarkably light, almost flaxen, and unusually abundant and wavy. She is a couple of years younger than Hedda. She wears a dark visiting dress, tasteful, but not quite in the latest fashion.

Hedda. [Receives her warmly.] How do you do, my dear Mrs. Elvsted? It’s delightful to see you again.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Nervously, struggling for self-control.] Yes, it’s a very long time since we met.

Tesman. [Gives her his hand.] And we too — eh?

Hedda. Thanks for your lovely flowers —

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh, not at all —. I would have come straight here yesterday afternoon; but I heard that you were away —

Tesman. Have you just come to town? Eh?

Mrs. Elvsted. I arrived yesterday, about midday. Oh, I was quite in despair when I heard that you were not at home.

Hedda. In despair! How so?

Tesman. Why, my dear Mrs. Rysing — I mean Mrs. Elvsted —

Hedda. I hope that you are not in any trouble?

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, I am. And I don’t know another living creature here that I can turn to.

Hedda. [Laying the bouquet on the table.] Come — let us sit here on the sofa —

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh, I am too restless to sit down.

Hedda. Oh no, you’re not. Come here.

She draws Mrs. Elvsted down upon the sofa and sits at her side.

Tesman. Well? What is it, Mrs. Elvsted —?

Hedda. Has anything particular happened to you at home?

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes — and no. Oh — I am so anxious you should not misunderstand me —

Hedda. Then your best plan is to tell us the whole story, Mrs. Elvsted.

Tesman. I suppose that’s what you have come for — eh?

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, yes — of course it is. Well then, I must tell you — if you don’t already know — that Eilert Lovborg is in town, too.

Hedda. Lovborg —!

Tesman. What! Has Eilert Lovborg come back? Fancy that, Hedda!

Hedda. Well well — I hear it.

Mrs. Elvsted. He has been here a week already. Just fancy — a whole week! In this terrible town, alone! With so many temptations on all sides.

Hedda. But, my dear Mrs. Elvsted — how does he concern you so much?

Mrs. Elvsted. [Looks at her with a startled air, and says rapidly.] He was the children’s tutor.

Hedda. Your children’s?

Mrs. Elvsted. My husband’s. I have none.

Hedda. Your step-children’s, then?

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes.

Tesman. [Somewhat hesitatingly.] Then was he — I don’t know how to express it — was he — regular enough in his habits to be fit for the post? Eh?

Mrs. Elvsted. For the last two years his conduct has been irreproachable.

Tesman. Has it indeed? Fancy that, Hedda!

Hedda. I hear it.

Mrs. Elvsted. Perfectly irreproachable, I assure you! In every respect. But all the same — now that I know he is here — in this great town — and with a large sum of money in his hands — I can’t help being in mortal fear for him.

Tesman. Why did he not remain where he was? With you and your husband? Eh?

Mrs. Elvsted. After his book was published he was too restless and unsettled to remain with us.

Tesman. Yes, by-the-bye, Aunt Julia told me he had published a new book.

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, a big book, dealing with the march of civilisation — in broad outline, as it were. It came out about a fortnight ago. And since it has sold so well, and been so much read — and made such a sensation —

Tesman. Has it indeed? It must be something he has had lying by since his better days.

Mrs. Elvsted. Long ago, you mean?

Tesman. Yes.

Mrs. Elvsted. No, he has written it all since he has been with us — within the last year.

Tesman. Isn’t that good news, Hedda? Think of that.

Mrs. Elvsted. Ah yes, if only it would last!

Hedda. Have you seen him here in town?

Mrs. Elvsted. No, not yet. I have had the greatest difficulty in finding out his address. But this morning I discovered it at last.

Hedda. [Looks searchingly at her.] Do you know, it seems to me a little odd of your husband — h’m —

Mrs. Elvsted. [Starting nervously.] Of my husband! What?

Hedda. That he should send you to town on such an errand — that he does not come himself and look after his friend.

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh no, no — my husband has no time. And besides, i — i had some shopping to do.

Hedda. [With a slight smile.] Ah, that is a different matter.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Rising quickly and uneasily.] And now I beg and implore you, Mr. Tesman — receive Eilert Lovborg kindly if he comes to you! And that he is sure to do. You see you were such great friends in the old days. And then you are interested in the same studies — the same branch of science — so far as I can understand.

Tesman. We used to be at any rate.

Mrs. Elvsted. That is why I beg so earnestly that you — you too — will keep a sharp eye upon him. Oh, you will promise me that, Mr. Tesman — won’t you?

Tesman. With the greatest of pleasure, Mrs. Rysing —

Hedda. Elvsted.

Tesman. I assure you I shall do all I possibly can for Eilert. You may rely upon me.

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh, how very, very kind of you! [Presses his hands.] Thanks, thanks, thanks! [Frightened.] You see, my husband is so very fond of him!

Hedda. [Rising.] You ought to write to him, Tesman. Perhaps he may not care to come to you of his own accord.

Tesman. Well, perhaps it would be the right thing to do, Hedda? Eh?

Hedda. And the sooner the better. Why not at once?

Mrs. Elvsted. [Imploringly.] Oh, if you only would!

Tesman. I’ll write this moment. Have you his address, Mrs. — Mrs. Elvsted.

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes. [Takes a slip of paper from her pocket, and hands it to him.] Here it is.

Tesman. Good, good. Then I’ll go in — [Looks about him.] By-the-bye — my slippers? Oh, here. [Takes the packet and is about to go.

Hedda. Be sure you write him a cordial, friendly letter. And a good long one too.

Tesman. Yes, I will.

Mrs. Elvsted. But please, please don’t say a word to show that I have suggested it.

Tesman. No, how could you think I would? Eh?

He goes out to the right, through the inner room.

Hedda. [Goes up to Mrs. Elvsted, smiles, and says in a low voice.] There! We have killed two birds with one stone.

Mrs. Elvsted. What do you mean?

Hedda. Could you not see that I wanted him to go?

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, to write the letter —

Hedda. And that I might speak to you alone.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Confused.] About the same thing?

Hedda. Precisely.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Apprehensively.] But there is nothing more, Mrs. Tesman! Absolutely nothing!

Hedda. Oh yes, but there is. There is a great deal more — I can see that. Sit here — and we’ll have a cosy, confidential chat.

She forces Mrs. Elvsted to sit in the easy-chair beside the stove, and seats herself on one of the footstools.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Anxiously, looking at her watch.] But, my dear Mrs. Tesman — I was really on the point of going.

Hedda. Oh, you can’t be in such a hurry. — Well? Now tell me something about your life at home.

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh, that is just what I care least to speak about.

Hedda. But to me, dear —? Why, weren’t we schoolfellows?

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, but you were in the class above me. Oh, how dreadfully afraid of you I was then!

Hedda. Afraid of me?

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, dreadfully. For when we met on the stairs you used always to pull my hair.

Hedda. Did I, really?

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, and once you said you would burn it off my head.

Hedda. Oh that was all nonsense, of course.

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, but I was so silly in those days. — And since then, too — we have drifted so far — far apart from each other. Our circles have been so entirely different.

Hedda. Well then, we must try to drift together again. Now listen. At school we said du9 to each other; and we called each other by our Christian names —

Mrs. Elvsted. No, I am sure you must be mistaken.

Hedda. No, not at all! I can remember quite distinctly. So now we are going to renew our old friendship. [Draws the footstool closer to Mrs. Elvsted.] There now! [Kisses her cheek.] You must say du to me and call me Hedda.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Presses and pats her hands.] Oh, how good and kind you are! I am not used to such kindness.

Hedda. There, there, there! And I shall say du to you, as in the old days, and call you my dear Thora.

Mrs. Elvsted. My name is Thea.10

Hedda. Why, of course! I meant Thea. [Looks at her compassionately.] So you are not accustomed to goodness and kindness, Thea? Not in your own home?

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh, if I only had a home! But I haven’t any; I have never had a home.

Hedda. [Looks at her for a moment.] I almost suspected as much.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Gazing helplessly before her.] Yes — yes — yes.

Hedda. I don’t quite remember — was it not as housekeeper that you first went to Mr. Elvsted’s?

Mrs. Elvsted. I really went as governess. But his wife — his late wife — was an invalid — and rarely left her room. So I had to look after the housekeeping as well.

Hedda. And then — at last — you became mistress of the house.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Sadly.] Yes, I did.

Hedda. Let me see — about how long ago was that?

Mrs. Elvsted. My marriage?

Hedda. Yes.

Mrs. Elvsted. Five years ago.

Hedda. To be sure; it must be that.

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh those five years —! Or at all events the last two or three of them! Oh, if you11 could only imagine —

Hedda. [Giving her a little slap on the hand.] De? Fie, Thea!

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, yes, I will try —. Well, if — you could only imagine and understand —

Hedda. [Lightly.] Eilert Lovborg has been in your neighbourhood about three years, hasn’t he?

Mrs. Elvsted. [Looks at here doubtfully.] Eilert Lovborg? Yes — he has.

Hedda. Had you known him before, in town here?

Mrs. Elvsted. Scarcely at all. I mean — I knew him by name of course.

Hedda. But you saw a good deal of him in the country?

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, he came to us every day. You see, he gave the children lessons; for in the long run I couldn’t manage it all myself.

Hedda. No, that’s clear. — And your husband —? I suppose he is often away from home?

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes. Being sheriff, you know, he has to travel about a good deal in his district.

Hedda. [Leaning against the arm of the chair.] Thea — my poor, sweet Thea — now you must tell me everything — exactly as it stands.

Mrs. Elvsted. Well, then you must question me.

Hedda. What sort of a man is your husband, Thea? I mean — you know — in everyday life. Is he kind to you?

Mrs. Elvsted. [Evasively.] I am sure he means well in everything.

Hedda. I should think he must be altogether too old for you. There is at least twenty years’ difference between you, is there not?

Mrs. Elvsted. [Irritably.] Yes, that is true, too. Everything about him is repellent to me! We have not a thought in common. We have no single point of sympathy — he and I.

Hedda. But is he not fond of you all the same? In his own way?

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh I really don’t know. I think he regards me simply as a useful property. And then it doesn’t cost much to keep me. I am not expensive.

Hedda. That is stupid of you.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Shakes her head.] It cannot be otherwise — not with him. I don’t think he really cares for any one but himself — and perhaps a little for the children.

Hedda. And for Eilert Lovborg, Thea?

Mrs. Elvsted. [Looking at her.] For Eilert Lovborg? What puts that into your head?

Hedda. Well, my dear — I should say, when he sends you after him all the way to town —— [Smiling almost imperceptibly.] And besides, you said so yourself, to Tesman.

Mrs. Elvsted. [With a little nervous twitch.] Did I? Yes, I suppose I did. [Vehemently, but not loudly.] No — I may just as well make a clean breast of it at once! For it must all come out in any case.

Hedda. Why, my dear Thea —?

Mrs. Elvsted. Well, to make a long story short: My husband did not know that I was coming.

Hedda. What! Your husband didn’t know it!

Mrs. Elvsted. No, of course not. For that matter, he was away from home himself — he was travelling. Oh, I could bear it no longer, Hedda! I couldn’t indeed — so utterly alone as I should have been in future.

Hedda. Well? And then?

Mrs. Elvsted. So I put together some of my things — what I needed most — as quietly as possible. And then I left the house.

Hedda. Without a word?

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes — and took the train to town.

Hedda. Why, my dear, good Thea — to think of you daring to do it!

Mrs. Elvsted. [Rises and moves about the room.] What else could I possibly do?

Hedda. But what do you think your husband will say when you go home again?

Mrs. Elvsted. [At the table, looks at her.] Back to him?

Hedda. Of course.

Mrs. Elvsted. I shall never go back to him again.

Hedda. [Rising and going towards her.] Then you have left your home — for good and all?

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes. There was nothing else to be done.

Hedda. But then — to take flight so openly.

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh, it’s impossible to keep things of that sort secret.

Hedda. But what do you think people will say of you, Thea?

Mrs. Elvsted. They may say what they like, for aught I care. [Seats herself wearily and sadly on the sofa.] I have done nothing but what I had to do.

Hedda. [After a short silence.] And what are your plans now? What do you think of doing.

Mrs. Elvsted. I don’t know yet. I only know this, that I must live here, where Eilert Lovborg is — if I am to live at all.

Hedda. [Takes a chair from the table, seats herself beside her, and strokes her hands.] My dear Thea — how did this — this friendship — between you and Eilert Lovborg come about?

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh it grew up gradually. I gained a sort of influence over him.

Hedda. Indeed?

Mrs. Elvsted. He gave up his old habits. Not because I asked him to, for I never dared do that. But of course he saw how repulsive they were to me; and so he dropped them.

Hedda. [Concealing an involuntary smile of scorn.] Then you have reclaimed him — as the saying goes — my little Thea.

Mrs. Elvsted. So he says himself, at any rate. And he, on his side, has made a real human being of me — taught me to think, and to understand so many things.

Hedda. Did he give you lessons too, then?

Mrs. Elvsted. No, not exactly lessons. But he talked to me — talked about such an infinity of things. And then came the lovely, happy time when I began to share in his work — when he allowed me to help him!

Hedda. Oh he did, did he?

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes! He never wrote anything without my assistance.

Hedda. You were two good comrades, in fact?

Mrs. Elvsted. [Eagerly.] Comrades! Yes, fancy, Hedda — that is the very word he used! — Oh, I ought to feel perfectly happy; and yet I cannot; for I don’t know how long it will last.

Hedda. Are you no surer of him than that?

Mrs. Elvsted. [Gloomily.] A woman’s shadow stands between Eilert Lovborg and me.

Hedda. [Looks at her anxiously.] Who can that be?

Mrs. Elvsted. I don’t know. Some one he knew in his — in his past. Some one he has never been able wholly to forget.

Hedda. What has he told you — about this?

Mrs. Elvsted. He has only once — quite vaguely — alluded to it.

Hedda. Well! And what did he say?

Mrs. Elvsted. He said that when they parted, she threatened to shoot him with a pistol.

Hedda. [With cold composure.] Oh nonsense! No one does that sort of thing here.

Mrs. Elvsted. No. And that is why I think it must have been that red-haired singing-woman whom he once —

Hedda. Yes, very likely.

Mrs. Elvsted. For I remember they used to say of her that she carried loaded firearms.

Hedda. Oh — then of course it must have been she.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Wringing her hands.] And now just fancy, Hedda — I hear that this singing-woman — that she is in town again! Oh, I don’t know what to do —

Hedda. [Glancing towards the inner room.] Hush! Here comes Tesman. [Rises and whispers.] Thea — all this must remain between you and me.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Springing up.] Oh yes — yes! For heaven’s sake —!

George Tesman, with a letter in his hand, comes from the right through the inner room.

Tesman. There now — the epistle is finished.

Hedda. That’s right. And now Mrs. Elvsted is just going. Wait a moment — I’ll go with you to the garden gate.

Tesman. Do you think Berta could post the letter, Hedda dear?

Hedda. [Takes it.] I will tell her to.

Berta enters from the hall.

Berta. Judge Brack wishes to know if Mrs. Tesman will receive him.

Hedda. Yes, ask Judge Brack to come in. And look here — put this letter in the post.

Berta. [Taking the letter.] Yes, ma’am.

She opens the door for Judge Brack and goes out herself. Brack is a main of forty-five; thick set, but well-built and elastic in his movements. His face is roundish with an aristocratic profile. His hair is short, still almost black, and carefully dressed. His eyebrows thick. His moustaches are also thick, with short-cut ends. He wears a well-cut walking-suit, a little too youthful for his age. He uses an eye-glass, which he now and then lets drop.

Judge Brack. [With his hat in his hand, bowing.] May one venture to call so early in the day?

Hedda. Of course one may.

Tesman. [Presses his hand.] You are welcome at any time. [Introducing him.] Judge Brack — Miss Rysing —

Hedda. Oh —!

Brack. [Bowing.] Ah — delighted —

Hedda. [Looks at him and laughs.] It’s nice to have a look at you by daylight, Judge!

Brack. So you find me — altered?

Hedda. A little younger, I think.

Brack. Thank you so much.

Tesman. But what do you think of Hedda — eh? Doesn’t she look flourishing? She has actually —

Hedda. Oh, do leave me alone. You haven’t thanked Judge Brack for all the trouble he has taken —

Brack. Oh, nonsense — it was a pleasure to me —

Hedda. Yes, you are a friend indeed. But here stands Thea all impatience to be off — so au revoir Judge. I shall be back again presently.

Mutual salutations. Mrs. Elvsted and Hedda go out by the hall door.

Brack. Well — is your wife tolerably satisfied —

Tesman. Yes, we can’t thank you sufficiently. Of course she talks of a little re-arrangement here and there; and one or two things are still wanting. We shall have to buy some additional trifles.

Brack. Indeed!

Tesman. But we won’t trouble you about these things. Hedda say she herself will look after what is wanting. — Shan’t we sit down? Eh?

Brack. Thanks, for a moment. [Seats himself beside the table.] There is something I wanted to speak to about, my dear Tesman.

Tesman. Indeed? Ah, I understand! [Seating himself.] I suppose it’s the serious part of the frolic that is coming now. Eh?

Brack. Oh, the money question is not so very pressing; though, for that matter, I wish we had gone a little more economically to work.

Tesman. But that would never have done, you know! Think of Hedda, my dear fellow! You, who know her so well —! I couldn’t possibly ask her to put up with a shabby style of living!

Brack. No, no — that is just the difficulty.

Tesman. And then — fortunately — it can’t be long before I receive my appointment.

Brack. Well, you see — such things are often apt to hang fire for a long time.

Tesman. Have you heard anything definite? Eh?

Brack. Nothing exactly definite —. [Interrupting himself.] But by-the-bye — I have one piece of news for you.

Tesman. Well?

Brack. Your old friend, Eilert Lovborg, has returned to town.

Tesman. I know that already.

Brack. Indeed! How did you learn it?

Tesman. From that lady who went out with Hedda.

Brack. Really? What was her name? I didn’t quite catch it.

Tesman. Mrs. Elvsted.

Brack. Aha — Sheriff Elvsted’s wife? Of course — he has been living up in their regions.

Tesman. And fancy — I’m delighted to hear that he is quite a reformed character.

Brack. So they say.

Tesman. And then he has published a new book — eh?

Brack. Yes, indeed he has.

Tesman. And I hear it has made some sensation!

Brack. Quite an unusual sensation.

Tesman. Fancy — isn’t that good news! A man of such extraordinary talents —. I felt so grieved to think that he had gone irretrievably to ruin.

Brack. That was what everybody thought.

Tesman. But I cannot imagine what he will take to now! How in the world will he be able to make his living? Eh?

During the last words, Hedda has entered by the hall door.

Hedda. [To Brack, laughing with a touch of scorn.] Tesman is for ever worrying about how people are to make their living.

Tesman. Well you see, dear — we were talking about poor Eilert Lovborg.

Hedda. [Glancing at him rapidly.] Oh, indeed? [Sets herself in the arm-chair beside the stove and asks indifferently:] What is the matter with him?

Tesman. Well — no doubt he has run through all his property long ago; and he can scarcely write a new book every year — eh? So I really can’t see what is to become of him.

Brack. Perhaps I can give you some information on that point.

Tesman. Indeed!

Brack. You must remember that his relations have a good deal of influence.

Tesman. Oh, his relations, unfortunately, have entirely washed their hands of him.

Brack. At one time they called him the hope of the family.

Tesman. At one time, yes! But he has put an end to all that.

Hedda. Who knows? [With a slight smile.] I hear they have reclaimed him up at Sheriff Elvsted’s —

Brack. And then this book that he has published —

Tesman. Well well, I hope to goodness they may find something for him to do. I have just written to him. I asked him to come and see us this evening, Hedda dear.

Brack. But my dear fellow, you are booked for my bachelor’s party this evening. You promised on the pier last night.

Hedda. Had you forgotten, Tesman?

Tesman. Yes, I had utterly forgotten.

Brack. But it doesn’t matter, for you may be sure he won’t come.

Tesman. What makes you think that? Eh?

Brack. [With a little hesitation, rising and resting his hands on the back of his chair.] My dear Tesman — and you too, Mrs. Tesman — I think I ought not to keep you in the dark about something that — that —

Tesman. That concerns Eilert —?

Brack. Both you and him.

Tesman. Well, my dear Judge, out with it.

Brack. You must be prepared to find your appointment deferred longer than you desired or expected.

Tesman. [Jumping up uneasily.] Is there some hitch about it? Eh?

Brack. The nomination may perhaps be made conditional on the result of a competition —

Tesman. Competition! Think of that, Hedda!

Hedda. [Leans further back in the chair.] Aha — aha!

Tesman. But who can my competitor be? Surely not —?

Brack. Yes, precisely — Eilert Lovborg.

Tesman. [Clasping his hands.] No, no — it’s quite impossible! Eh?

Brack. H’m — that is what it may come to, all the same.

Tesman. Well but, Judge Brack — it would show the most incredible lack of consideration for me. [Gesticulates with his arms.] For — just think — I’m a married man! We have married on the strength of these prospects, Hedda and I; and run deep into debt; and borrowed money from Aunt Julia too. Good heavens, they had as good as promised me the appointment. Eh?

Brack. Well, well, well — no doubt you will get it in the end; only after a contest.

Hedda. [Immovable in her arm-chair.] Fancy, Tesman, there will be a sort of sporting interest in that.

Tesman. Why, my dearest Hedda, how can you be so indifferent about it?

Hedda. [As before.] I am not at all indifferent. I am most eager to see who wins.

Brack. In any case, Mrs. Tesman, it is best that you should know how matters stand. I mean — before you set about the little purchases I hear you are threatening.

Hedda. This can make no difference.

Brack. Indeed! Then I have no more to say. Good-bye! [To Tesman.] I shall look in on my way back from my afternoon walk, and take you home with me.

Tesman. Oh yes, yes — your news has quite upset me.

Hedda. [Reclining, holds out her hand.] Good-bye, Judge; and be sure you call in the afternoon.

Brack. Many thanks. Good-bye, good-bye!

Tesman. [Accompanying him to the door.] Good-bye my dear Judge! You must really excuse me —— [Judge Brack goes out by the hall door.

Tesman. [Crosses the room.] Oh Hedda — one should never rush into adventures. Eh?

Hedda. [Looks at him, smiling.] Do you do that?

Tesman. Yes, dear — there is no denying — it was adventurous to go and marry and set up house upon mere expectations.

Hedda. Perhaps you are right there.

Tesman. Well — at all events, we have our delightful home, Hedda! Fancy, the home we both dreamed of — the home we were in love with, I may almost say. Eh?

Hedda. [Rising slowly and wearily.] It was part of our compact that we were to go into society — to keep open house.

Tesman. Yes, if you only knew how I had been looking forward to it! Fancy — to see you as hostess — in a select circle! Eh? Well, well, well — for the present we shall have to get on without society, Hedda — only to invite Aunt Julia now and then. — Oh, I intended you to lead such an utterly different life, dear —!

Hedda. Of course I cannot have my man in livery just yet.

Tesman. Oh, no, unfortunately. It would be out of the question for us to keep a footman, you know.

Hedda. And the saddle-horse I was to have had —

Tesman. [Aghast.] The saddle-horse!

Hedda. — I suppose I must not think of that now.

Tesman. Good heavens, no! — that’s as clear as daylight!

Hedda. [Goes up the room.] Well, I shall have one thing at least to kill time with in the meanwhile.

Tesman. [Beaming.] Oh thank heaven for that! What is it, Hedda. Eh?

Hedda. [In the middle doorway, looks at him with covert scorn.] My pistols, George.

Tesman. [In alarm.] Your pistols!

Hedda. [With cold eyes.] General Gabler’s pistols.

She goes out through the inner room, to the left.

Tesman. [Rushes up to the middle doorway and calls after her:] No, for heaven’s sake, Hedda darling — don’t touch those dangerous things! For my sake Hedda! Eh?

6Pronounce Reena.

7In the original “Statsradinde Falks villa”— showing that it had belonged to the widow of a cabinet minister.

8Du equals thou: Tesman means, “If you could persuade yourself to tutoyer her.”

9See previous note.

10Pronounce Tora and Taya.

11Mrs. Elvsted here uses the formal pronoun De, whereupon Hedda rebukes her. In her next speech Mrs. Elvsted says du.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56