Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen

Act Second

The room at the Tesmans’ as in the first Act, except that the piano has been removed, and an elegant little writing-table with the book-shelves put in its place. A smaller table stands near the sofa on the left. Most of the bouquets have been taken away. Mrs. Elvsted’s bouquet is upon the large table in front. — It is afternoon.

Hedda, dressed to receive callers, is alone in the room. She stands by the open glass door, loading a revolver. The fellow to it lies in an open pistol-case on the writing-table.

Hedda. [Looks down the garden, and calls:] So you are here again, Judge!

Brack. [Is heard calling from a distance.] As you see, Mrs. Tesman!

Hedda. [Raises the pistol and points.] Now I’ll shoot you, Judge Brack!

Brack. [Calling unseen.] No, no, no! Don’t stand aiming at me!

Hedda. This is what comes of sneaking in by the back way.12 [She fires.

Brack. [Nearer.] Are you out of your senses —!

Hedda. Dear me — did I happen to hit you?

Brack. [Still outside.] I wish you would let these pranks alone!

Hedda. Come in then, Judge.

Judge Brack, dressed as though for a men’s party, enters by the glass door. He carries a light overcoat over his arm.

Brack. What the deuce — haven’t you tired of that sport, yet? What are you shooting at?

Hedda. Oh, I am only firing in the air.

Brack. [Gently takes the pistol out of her hand.] Allow me, madam! [Looks at it.] Ah — I know this pistol well! [Looks around.] Where is the case? Ah, here it is. [Lays the pistol in it, and shuts it.] Now we won’t play at that game any more today.

Hedda. Then what in heaven’s name would you have me do with myself?

Brack. Have you had no visitors?

Hedda. [Closing the glass door.] Not one. I suppose all our set are still out of town.

Brack. And is Tesman not at home either?

Hedda. [At the writing-table, putting the pistol-case in a drawer which she shuts.] No. He rushed off to his aunt’s directly after lunch; he didn’t expect you so early.

Brack. H’m — how stupid of me not to have thought of that!

Hedda. [Turning her head to look at him.] Why stupid?

Brack. Because if I had thought of it I should have come a little — earlier.

Hedda. [Crossing the room.] Then you would have found no one to receive you; for I have been in my room changing my dress ever since lunch.

Brack. And is there no sort of little chink that we could hold a parley through?

Hedda. You have forgotten to arrange one.

Brack. That was another piece of stupidity.

Hedda. Well, we must just settle down here — and wait. Tesman is not likely to be back for some time yet.

Brack. Never mind; I shall not be impatient.

Hedda seats herself in the corner of the sofa. Brack lays his overcoat over the back of the nearest chair, and sits down, but keeps his hat in his hand. A short silence. They look at each other.

Hedda. Well?

Brack. [In the same tone.] Well?

Hedda. I spoke first.

Brack. [Bending a little forward.] Come, let us have a cosy little chat, Mrs. Hedda.13

Hedda. [Leaning further back in the sofa.] Does it not seem like a whole eternity since our last talk? Of course I don’t count those few words yesterday evening and this morning.

Brack. You mean since out last confidential talk? Our last tete-a-tete?

Hedda. Well yes — since you put it so.

Brack. Not a day passed but I have wished that you were home again.

Hedda. And I have done nothing but wish the same thing.

Brack. You? Really, Mrs. Hedda? And I thought you had been enjoying your tour so much!

Hedda. Oh yes, you may be sure of that!

Brack. But Tesman’s letters spoke of nothing but happiness.

Hedda. Oh, Tesman! You see, he thinks nothing is so delightful as grubbing in libraries and making copies of old parchments, or whatever you call them.

Brack. [With a smile of malice.] Well, that is his vocation in life — or part of it at any rate.

Hedda. Yes, of course; and no doubt when it’s your vocation —. But I! Oh, my dear Mr. Brack, how mortally bored I have been.

Brack. [Sympathetically.] Do you really say so? In downright earnest?

Hedda. Yes, you can surely understand it —! To go for six whole months without meeting a soul that knew anything of our circle, or could talk about things we were interested in.

Brack. Yes, yes — I too should feel that a deprivation.

Hedda. And then, what I found most intolerable of all —

Brack. Well?

Hedda. — was being everlastingly in the company of — one and the same person —

Brack. [With a nod of assent.] Morning, noon, and night, yes — at all possible times and seasons.

Hedda. I said “everlastingly.”

Brack. Just so. But I should have thought, with our excellent Tesman, one could —

Hedda. Tesman is — a specialist, my dear Judge.

Brack. Undeniable.

Hedda. And specialists are not at all amusing to travel with. Not in the long run at any rate.

Brack. Not even — the specialist one happens to love?

Hedda. Faugh — don’t use that sickening word!

Brack. [Taken aback.] What do you say, Mrs. Hedda?

Hedda. [Half laughing, half irritated.] You should just try it! To hear of nothing but the history of civilisation, morning, noon, and night —

Brack. Everlastingly.

Hedda. Yes yes yes! And then all this about the domestic industry of the middle ages —! That’s the most disgusting part of it!

Brack. [Looks searchingly at her.] But tell me — in that case, how am I to understand your —? H’m —

Hedda. My accepting George Tesman, you mean?

Brack. Well, let us put it so.

Hedda. Good heavens, do you see anything so wonderful in that?

Brack. Yes and no — Mrs. Hedda.

Hedda. I had positively danced myself tired, my dear Judge. My day was done —— [With a slight shudder.] Oh no — I won’t say that; nor think it either!

Brack. You have assuredly no reason to.

Hedda. Oh, reasons —— [Watching him closely.] And George Tesman — after all, you must admit that he is correctness itself.

Brack. His correctness and respectability are beyond all question.

Hedda. And I don’t see anything absolutely ridiculous about him. — Do you?

Brack. Ridiculous? N— no — I shouldn’t exactly say so —

Hedda. Well — and his powers of research, at all events, are untiring. — I see no reason why he should not one day come to the front, after all.

Brack. [Looks at her hesitatingly.] I thought that you, like every one else, expected him to attain the highest distinction.

Hedda. [With an expression of fatigue.] Yes, so I did. — And then, since he was bent, at all hazards, on being allowed to provide for me — I really don’t know why I should not have accepted his offer?

Brack. No — if you look at it in that light —

Hedda. It was more than my other adorers were prepared to do for me, my dear Judge.

Brack. [Laughing.] Well, I can’t answer for all the rest; but as for myself, you know quite well that I have always entertained a — a certain respect for the marriage tie — for marriage as an institution, Mrs. Hedda.

Hedda. [Jestingly.] Oh, I assure you I have never cherished any hopes with respect to you.

Brack. All I require is a pleasant and intimate interior, where I can make myself useful in every way, and am free to come and go as — as a trusted friend —

Hedda. Of the master of the house, do you mean?

Brack. [Bowing.] Frankly — of the mistress first of all; but of course of the master too, in the second place. Such a triangular friendship — if I may call it so — is really a great convenience for all the parties, let me tell you.

Hedda. Yes, I have many a time longed for some one to make a third on our travels. Oh — those railway-carriage tete-a-tetes —!

Brack. Fortunately your wedding journey is over now.

Hedda. [Shaking her head.] Not by a long — long way. I have only arrived at a station on the line.

Brack. Well, then the passengers jump out and move about a little, Mrs. Hedda.

Hedda. I never jump out.

Brack. Really?

Hedda. No — because there is always some one standing by to —

Brack. [Laughing.] To look at your ankles, do you mean?

Hedda. Precisely.

Brack. Well but, dear me —

Hedda. [With a gesture of repulsion.] I won’t have it. I would rather keep my seat where I happen to be — and continue the tete-a-tete.

Brack. But suppose a third person were to jump in and join the couple.

Hedda. Ah — that is quite another matter!

Brack. A trusted, sympathetic friend —

Hedda. — with a fund of conversation on all sorts of lively topics —

Brack. — and not the least bit of a specialist!

Hedda. [With an audible sigh.] Yes, that would be a relief indeed.

Brack. [Hears the front door open, and glances in that direction.] The triangle is completed.

Hedda. [Half aloud.] And on goes the train.

George Tesman, in a grey walking-suit, with a soft felt hat, enters from the hall. He has a number of unbound books under his arm and in his pockets.

Tesman. [Goes up to the table beside the corner settee.] Ouf — what a load for a warm day — all these books. [Lays them on the table.] I’m positively perspiring, Hedda. Hallo — are you there already, my dear Judge? Eh? Berta didn’t tell me.

Brack. [Rising.] I came in through the garden.

Hedda. What books have you got there?

Tesman. [Stands looking them through.] Some new books on my special subjects — quite indispensable to me.

Hedda. Your special subjects?

Brack. Yes, books on his special subjects, Mrs. Tesman.

Brack and Hedda exchange a confidential smile.

Hedda. Do you need still more books on your special subjects?

Tesman. Yes, my dear Hedda, one can never have too many of them. Of course one must keep up with all that is written and published.

Hedda. Yes, I suppose one must.

Tesman. [Searching among his books.] And look here — I have got hold of Eilert Lovborg’s new book too. [Offering it to her.] Perhaps you would like to glance through it, Hedda? Eh?

Hedda. No, thank you. Or rather — afterwards perhaps.

Tesman. I looked into it a little on the way home.

Brack. Well, what do you think of it — as a specialist?

Tesman. I think it shows quite remarkable soundness of judgment. He never wrote like that before. [Putting the books together.] Now I shall take all these into my study. I’m longing to cut the leaves —! And then I must change my clothes. [To Brack.] I suppose we needn’t start just yet? Eh?

Brack. Oh, dear no — there is not the slightest hurry.

Tesman. Well then, I will take my time. [Is going with his books, but stops in the doorway and turns.] By-the-bye, Hedda — Aunt Julia is not coming this evening.

Hedda. Not coming? Is it that affair of the bonnet that keeps her away?

Tesman. Oh, not at all. How could you think such a thing of Aunt Julia? Just fancy —! The fact is, Aunt Rina is very ill.

Hedda. She always is.

Tesman. Yes, but today she is much worse than usual, poor dear.

Hedda. Oh, then it’s only natural that her sister should remain with her. I must bear my disappointment.

Tesman. And you can’t imagine, dear, how delighted Aunt Julia seemed to be — because you had come home looking so flourishing!

Hedda. [Half aloud, rising.] Oh, those everlasting Aunts!

Tesman. What?

Hedda. [Going to the glass door.] Nothing.

Tesman. Oh, all right. [He goes through the inner room, out to the right.

Brack. What bonnet were you talking about?

Hedda. Oh, it was a little episode with Miss Tesman this morning. She had laid down her bonnet on the chair there —[Looks at him and smiles.]— and I pretended to think it was the servant’s.

Brack. [Shaking his head.] Now my dear Mrs. Hedda, how could you do such a thing? To the excellent old lady, too!

Hedda. [Nervously crossing the room.] Well, you see — these impulses come over me all of a sudden; and I cannot resist them. [Throws herself down in the easy-chair by the stove.] Oh, I don’t know how to explain it.

Brack. [Behind the easy-chair.] You are not really happy — that is at the bottom of it.

Hedda. [Looking straight before her.] I know of no reason why I should be — happy. Perhaps you can give me one?

Brack. Well-amongst other things, because you have got exactly the home you had set your heart on.

Hedda. [Looks up at him and laughs.] Do you too believe in that legend?

Brack. Is there nothing in it, then?

Hedda. Oh yes, there is something in it.

Brack. Well?

Hedda. There is this in it, that I made use of Tesman to see me home from evening parties last summer —

Brack. I, unfortunately, had to go quite a different way.

Hedda. That’s true. I know you were going a different way last summer.

Brack. [Laughing.] Oh fie, Mrs. Hedda! Well, then — you and Tesman —?

Hedda. Well, we happened to pass here one evening; Tesman, poor fellow, was writhing in the agony of having to find conversation; so I took pity on the learned man —

Brack. [Smiles doubtfully.] You took pity? H’m —

Hedda. Yes, I really did. And so — to help him out of his torment — I happened to say, in pure thoughtlessness, that I should like to live in this villa.

Brack. No more than that?

Hedda. Not that evening.

Brack. But afterwards?

Hedda. Yes, my thoughtlessness had consequences, my dear Judge.

Brack. Unfortunately that too often happens, Mrs. Hedda.

Hedda. Thanks! So you see it was this enthusiasm for Secretary Falk’s villa that first constituted a bond of sympathy between George Tesman and me. From that came our engagement and our marriage, and our wedding journey, and all the rest of it. Well, well, my dear Judge — as you make your bed so you must lie, I could almost say.

Brack. This is exquisite! And you really cared not a rap about it all the time?

Hedda. No, heaven knows I didn’t.

Brack. But now? Now that we have made it so homelike for you?

Hedda. Uh — the rooms all seem to smell of lavender and dried rose-leaves. — But perhaps it’s Aunt Julia that has brought that scent with her.

Brack. [Laughing.] No, I think it must be a legacy from the late Mrs. Secretary Falk.

Hedda. Yes, there is an odour of mortality about it. It reminds me of a bouquet — the day after the ball. [Clasps her hands behind her head, leans back in her chair and looks at him.] Oh, my dear Judge — you cannot imagine how horribly I shall bore myself here.

Brack. Why should not you, too, find some sort of vocation in life, Mrs. Hedda?

Hedda. A vocation — that should attract me?

Brack. If possible, of course.

Hedda. Heaven knows what sort of a vocation that could be. I often wonder whether —— [Breaking off.] But that would never do either.

Brack. Who can tell? Let me hear what it is.

Hedda. Whether I might not get Tesman to go into politics, I mean.

Brack. [Laughing.] Tesman? No really now, political life is not the thing for him — not at all in his line.

Hedda. No, I daresay not. — But if I could get him into it all the same?

Brack. Why — what satisfaction could you find in that? If he is not fitted for that sort of thing, why should you want to drive him into it?

Hedda. Because I am bored, I tell you! [After a pause.] So you think it quite out of the question that Tesman should ever get into the ministry?

Brack. H’m — you see, my dear Mrs. Hedda — to get into the ministry, he would have to be a tolerably rich man.

Hedda. [Rising impatiently.] Yes, there we have it! It is this genteel poverty I have managed to drop into —! [Crosses the room.] That is what makes life so pitiable! So utterly ludicrous! — For that’s what it is.

Brack. Now I should say the fault lay elsewhere.

Hedda. Where, then?

Brack. You have never gone through any really stimulating experience.

Hedda. Anything serious, you mean?

Brack. Yes, you may call it so. But now you may perhaps have one in store.

Hedda. [Tossing her head.] Oh, you’re thinking of the annoyances about this wretched professorship! But that must be Tesman’s own affair. I assure you I shall not waste a thought upon it.

Brack. No, no, I daresay not. But suppose now that what people call — in elegant language — a solemn responsibility were to come upon you? [Smiling.] A new responsibility, Mrs. Hedda?

Hedda. [Angrily.] Be quiet! Nothing of that sort will ever happen!

Brack. [Warily.] We will speak of this again a year hence — at the very outside.

Hedda. [Curtly.] I have no turn for anything of the sort, Judge Brack. No responsibilities for me!

Brack. Are you so unlike the generality of women as to have no turn for duties which —?

Hedda. [Beside the glass door.] Oh, be quiet, I tell you! — I often think there is only one thing in the world I have any turn for.

Brack. [Drawing near to her.] And what is that, if I may ask?

Hedda. [Stands looking out.] Boring myself to death. Now you know it. [Turns, looks towards the inner room, and laughs.] Yes, as I thought! Here comes the Professor.

Brack. [Softly, in a tone of warning.] Come, come, come, Mrs. Hedda!

George Tesman, dressed for the party, with his gloves and hat in his hand, enters from the right through the inner room.

Tesman. Hedda, has no message come from Eilert Lovborg? Eh?

Hedda. No.

Tesman. Then you’ll see he’ll be here presently.

Brack. Do you really think he will come?

Tesman. Yes, I am almost sure of it. For what you were telling us this morning must have been a mere floating rumour.

Brack. You think so?

Tesman. At any rate, Aunt Julia said she did not believe for a moment that he would ever stand in my way again. Fancy that!

Brack. Well then, that’s all right.

Tesman. [Placing his hat and gloves on a chair on the right.] Yes, but you must really let me wait for him as long as possible.

Brack. We have plenty of time yet. None of my guests will arrive before seven or half-past.

Tesman. Then meanwhile we can keep Hedda company, and see what happens. Eh?

Hedda. [Placing Brack’s hat and overcoat upon the corner settee.] And at the worst Mr. Lovborg can remain here with me.

Brack. [Offering to take his things.] Oh, allow me, Mrs. Tesman! — What do you mean by “At the worst”?

Hedda. If he won’t go with you and Tesman.

Tesman. [Looks dubiously at her.] But, Hedda dear — do you think it would quite do for him to remain here with you? Eh? Remember, Aunt Julia can’t come.

Hedda. No, but Mrs. Elvsted is coming. We three can have a cup of tea together.

Tesman. Oh yes, that will be all right.

Brack. [Smiling.] And that would perhaps be the safest plan for him.

Hedda. Why so?

Brack. Well, you know, Mrs. Tesman, how you used to gird at my little bachelor parties. You declared they were adapted only for men of the strictest principles.

Hedda. But no doubt Mr. Lovborg’s principles are strict enough now. A converted sinner —— [Berta appears at the hall door.

Berta. There’s a gentleman asking if you are at home, ma’am —

Hedda. Well, show him in.

Tesman. [Softly.] I’m sure it is he! Fancy that!

Eilert Lovborg enters from the hall. He is slim and lean; of the same age as Tesman, but looks older and somewhat worn-out. His hair and beard are of a blackish brown, his face long and pale, but with patches of colour on the cheeks. He is dressed in a well-cut black visiting suit, quite new. He has dark gloves and a silk hat. He stops near the door, and makes a rapid bow, seeming somewhat embarrassed.

Tesman. [Goes up to him and shakes him warmly by the hand.] Well, my dear Eilert — so at last we meet again!

Eilert Lovborg. [Speaks in a subdued voice.] Thanks for your letter, Tesman. [Approaching Hedda.] Will you too shake hands with me, Mrs. Tesman?

Hedda. [Taking his hand.] I am glad to see you, Mr. Lovborg. [With a motion of her hand.] I don’t know whether you two gentlemen —?

Lovborg. [Bowing slightly.] Judge Brack, I think.

Brack. [Doing likewise.] Oh yes — in the old days —

Tesman. [To Lovborg, with his hands on his shoulders.] And now you must make yourself entirely at home, Eilert! Mustn’t he, Hedda? — For I hear you are going to settle in town again? Eh?

Lovborg. Yes, I am.

Tesman. Quite right, quite right. Let me tell you, I have got hold of your new book; but I haven’t had time to read it yet.

Lovborg. You may spare yourself the trouble.

Tesman. Why so?

Lovborg. Because there is very little in it.

Tesman. Just fancy — how can you say so?

Brack. But it has been very much praised, I hear.

Lovborg. That was what I wanted; so I put nothing into the book but what every one would agree with.

Brack. Very wise of you.

Tesman. Well but, my dear Eilert —!

Lovborg. For now I mean to win myself a position again — to make a fresh start.

Tesman. [A little embarrassed.] Ah, that is what you wish to do? Eh?

Lovborg. [Smiling, lays down his hat, and draws a packet wrapped in paper, from his coat pocket.] But when this one appears, George Tesman, you will have to read it. For this is the real book — the book I have put my true self into.

Tesman. Indeed? And what is it?

Lovborg. It is the continuation.

Tesman. The continuation? Of what?

Lovborg. Of the book.

Tesman. Of the new book?

Lovborg. Of course.

Tesman. Why, my dear Eilert — does it not come down to our own days?

Lovborg. Yes, it does; and this one deals with the future.

Tesman. With the future! But, good heavens, we know nothing of the future!

Lovborg. No; but there is a thing or two to be said about it all the same. [Opens the packet.] Look here —

Tesman. Why, that’s not your handwriting.

Lovborg. I dictated it. [Turning over the pages.] It falls into two sections. The first deals with the civilising forces of the future. And here is the second —[running through the pages towards the end]— forecasting the probable line of development.

Tesman. How odd now! I should never have thought of writing anything of that sort.

Hedda. [At the glass door, drumming on the pane.] H’m —. I daresay not.

Lovborg. [Replacing the manuscript in its paper and laying the packet on the table.] I brought it, thinking I might read you a little of it this evening.

Tesman. That was very good of you, Eilert. But this evening —? [Looking back at Brack.] I don’t see how we can manage it —

Lovborg. Well then, some other time. There is no hurry.

Brack. I must tell you, Mr. Lovborg — there is a little gathering at my house this evening — mainly in honour of Tesman, you know —

Lovborg. [Looking for his hat.] Oh — then I won’t detain you —

Brack. No, but listen — will you not do me the favour of joining us?

Lovborg. [Curtly and decidedly.] No, I can’t — thank you very much.

Brack. Oh, nonsense — do! We shall be quite a select little circle. And I assure you we shall have a “lively time,” as Mrs. Hed — as Mrs. Tesman says.

Lovborg. I have no doubt of it. But nevertheless —

Brack. And then you might bring your manuscript with you, and read it to Tesman at my house. I could give you a room to yourselves.

Tesman. Yes, think of that, Eilert — why shouldn’t you? Eh?

Hedda. [Interposing.] But, Tesman, if Mr. Lovborg would really rather not! I am sure Mr. Lovborg is much more inclined to remain here and have supper with me.

Lovborg. [Looking at her.] With you, Mrs. Tesman?

Hedda. And with Mrs. Elvsted.

Lovborg. Ah —— [Lightly.] I saw her for a moment this morning.

Hedda. Did you? Well, she is coming this evening. So you see you are almost bound to remain, Mr. Lovborg, or she will have no one to see her home.

Lovborg. That’s true. Many thanks, Mrs. Tesman — in that case I will remain.

Hedda. Then I have one or two orders to give the servant —

She goes to the hall door and rings. Berta enters. Hedda talks to her in a whisper, and points towards the inner room. Berta nods and goes out again.

Tesman. [At the same time, to Lovborg.] Tell me, Eilert — is it this new subject — the future — that you are going to lecture about?

Lovborg. Yes.

Tesman. They told me at the bookseller’s that you are going to deliver a course of lectures this autumn.

Lovborg. That is my intention. I hope you won’t take it ill, Tesman.

Tesman. Oh no, not in the least! But —?

Lovborg. I can quite understand that it must be very disagreeable to you.

Tesman. [Cast down.] Oh, I can’t expect you, out of consideration for me, to —

Lovborg. But I shall wait till you have received your appointment.

Tesman. Will you wait? Yes but — yes but — are you not going to compete with me? Eh?

Lovborg. No; it is only the moral victory I care for.

Tesman. Why, bless me — then Aunt Julia was right after all! Oh yes — I knew it! Hedda! Just fancy — Eilert Lovborg is not going to stand in our way!

Hedda. [Curtly.] Our way? Pray leave me out of the question.

She goes up towards the inner room, where Berta is placing a tray with decanters and glasses on the table. Hedda nods approval, and comes forward again. Berta goes out.

Tesman. [At the same time.] And you, Judge Brack — what do you say to this? Eh?

Brack. Well, I say that a moral victory — h’m — may be all very fine —

Tesman. Yes, certainly. But all the same —

Hedda. [Looking at Tesman with a cold smile.] You stand there looking as if you were thunderstruck —

Tesman. Yes — so I am — I almost think —

Brack. Don’t you see, Mrs. Tesman, a thunderstorm has just passed over?

Hedda. [Pointing towards the room.] Will you not take a glass of cold punch, gentlemen?

Brack. [Looking at his watch.] A stirrup-cup? Yes, it wouldn’t come amiss.

Tesman. A capital idea, Hedda! Just the thing! Now that the weight has been taken off my mind —

Hedda. Will you not join them, Mr. Lovborg?

Lovborg. [With a gesture of refusal.] No, thank you. Nothing for me.

Brack. Why bless me — cold punch is surely not poison.

Lovborg. Perhaps not for everyone.

Hedda. I will deep Mr. Lovborg company in the meantime.

Tesman. Yes, yes, Hedda dear, do.

He and Brack go into the inner room, seat themselves, drink punch, smoke cigarettes, and carry on a lively conversation during what follows. Eilert Lovborg remains standing beside the stove. Hedda goes to the writing-table.

Hedda. [Raising he voice a little.] Do you care to look at some photographs, Mr. Lovborg? You know Tesman and I made a tour in they Tyrol on our way home?

She takes up an album, and places it on the table beside the sofa, in the further corner of which she seats herself. Eilert Lovborg approaches, stops, and looks at her. Then he takes a chair and seats himself to her left.

Hedda. [Opening the album.] Do you see this range of mountains, Mr. Lovborg? It’s the Ortler group. Tesman has written the name underneath. Here it is: “The Ortler group near Meran.”

Lovborg. [Who has never taken his eyes off her, says softly and slowly:] Hedda — Gabler!

Hedda. [Glancing hastily at him.] Ah! Hush!

Lovborg. [Repeats softly.] Hedda Gabler!

Hedda. [Looking at the album.] That was my name in the old days — when we two knew each other.

Lovborg. And I must teach myself never to say Hedda Gabler again — never, as long as I live.

Hedda. [Still turning over the pages.] Yes, you must. And I think you ought to practise in time. The sooner the better, I should say.

Lovborg. [In a tone of indignation.] Hedda Gabler married? And married to — George Tesman!

Hedda. Yes — so the world goes.

Lovborg. Oh, Hedda, Hedda — how could you14 throw yourself away!

Hedda. [Looks sharply at him.] What? I can’t allow this!

Lovborg. What do you mean?

Tesman comes into the room and goes towards the sofa.

Hedda. [Hears him coming and says in an indifferent tone.] And this is a view from the Val d’Ampezzo, Mr. Lovborg. Just look at these peaks! [Looks affectionately up at Tesman.] What’s the name of these curious peaks, dear?

Tesman. Let me see. Oh, those are the Dolomites.

Hedda. Yes, that’s it! — Those are the Dolomites, Mr. Lovborg.

Tesman. Hedda, dear — I only wanted to ask whether I shouldn’t bring you a little punch after all? For yourself at any rate — eh?

Hedda. Yes, do, please; and perhaps a few biscuits.

Tesman. No cigarettes?

Hedda. No.

Tesman. Very well.

He goes into the inner room and out to the right. Brack sits in the inner room, and keeps an eye from time to time on Hedda and Lovborg.

Lovborg. [Softly, as before.] Answer me, Hedda — how could you go and do this?

Hedda. [Apparently absorbed in the album.] If you continue to say du to me I won’t talk to you.

Lovborg. May I not say du even when we are alone?

Hedda. No. You may think it; but you mustn’t say it.

Lovborg. Ah, I understand. It is an offence against George Tesman, whom you15 — love.

Hedda. [Glances at him and smiles.] Love? What an idea!

Lovborg. You don’t love him then!

Hedda. But I won’t hear of any sort of unfaithfulness! Remember that.

Lovborg. Hedda — answer me one thing —

Hedda. Hush! [Tesman enters with a small tray from the inner room.

Tesman. Here you are! Isn’t this tempting? [He puts the tray on the table.

Hedda. Why do you bring it yourself?

Tesman. [Filling the glasses.] Because I think it’s such fun to wait upon you, Hedda.

Hedda. But you have poured out two glasses. Mr. Lovborg said he wouldn’t have any —

Tesman. No, but Mrs. Elvsted will soon be here, won’t she?

Hedda. Yes, by-the-bye — Mrs. Elvsted —

Tesman. Had you forgotten her? Eh?

Hedda. We were so absorbed in these photographs. [Shows him a picture.] Do you remember this little village?

Tesman. Oh, it’s that one just below the Brenner Pass. It was there we passed the night —

Hedda. — and met that lively party of tourists.

Tesman. Yes, that was the place. Fancy — if we could only have had you with us, Eilert! Eh?

He returns to the inner room and sits beside Brack.

Lovborg. Answer me one thing, Hedda —

Hedda. Well?

Lovborg. Was there no love in your friendship for me either? Not a spark — not a tinge of love in it?

Hedda. I wonder if there was? To me it seems as though we were two good comrades — two thoroughly intimate friends. [Smilingly.] You especially were frankness itself.

Lovborg. It was you that made me so.

Hedda. As I look back upon it all, I think there was really something beautiful, something fascinating — something daring — in-in that secret intimacy — that comradeship which no living creature so much as dreamed of.

Lovborg. Yes, yes, Hedda! Was there not? — When I used to come to your father’s in the afternoon — and the General sat over at the window reading his papers — with his back towards us —

Hedda. And we two on the corner sofa —

Lovborg. Always with the same illustrated paper before us —

Hedda. For want of an album, yes.

Lovborg. Yes, Hedda, and when I made my confessions to you — told you about myself, things that at that time no one else knew! There I would sit and tell you of my escapades — my days and nights of devilment. Oh, Hedda — what was the power in you that forced me to confess these things?

Hedda. Do you think it was any power in me?

Lovborg. How else can I explain it? And all those — those roundabout questions you used to put to me —

Hedda. Which you understood so particularly well —

Lovborg. How could you sit and question me like that? Question me quite frankly —

Hedda. In roundabout terms, please observe.

Lovborg. Yes, but frankly nevertheless. Cross-question me about — all that sort of thing?

Hedda. And how could you answer, Mr. Lovborg?

Lovborg. Yes, that is just what I can’t understand — in looking back upon it. But tell me now, Hedda — was there not love at the bottom of our friendship? On your side, did you not feel as though you might purge my stains away — if I made you my confessor? Was it not so?

Hedda. No, not quite.

Lovborg. What was you motive, then?

Hedda. Do think it quite incomprehensible that a young girl — when it can be done — without any one knowing —

Lovborg. Well?

Hedda. — should be glad to have a peep, now and then, into a world which —?

Lovborg. Which —?

Hedda. — which she is forbidden to know anything about?

Lovborg. So that was it?

Hedda. Partly. Partly — I almost think.

Lovborg. Comradeship in the thirst for life. But why should not that, at any rate, have continued?

Hedda. The fault was yours.

Lovborg. It was you that broke with me.

Hedda. Yes, when our friendship threatened to develop into something more serious. Shame upon you, Eilert Lovborg! How could you think of wronging your — your frank comrade.

Lovborg. [Clenches his hands.] Oh, why did you not carry out your threat? Why did you not shoot me down?

Hedda. Because I have such a dread of scandal.

Lovborg. Yes, Hedda, you are a coward at heart.

Hedda. A terrible coward. [Changing her tone.] But it was a lucky thing for you. And now you have found ample consolation at the Elvsteds’.

Lovborg. I know what Thea has confided to you.

Hedda. And perhaps you have confided to her something about us?

Lovborg. Not a word. She is too stupid to understand anything of that sort.

Hedda. Stupid?

Lovborg. She is stupid about matters of that sort.

Hedda. And I am cowardly. [Bends over towards him, without looking him in the face, and says more softly:] But now I will confide something to you.

Lovborg. [Eagerly.] Well?

Hedda. The fact that I dared not shoot you down —

Lovborg. Yes!

Hedda. — that was not my arrant cowardice — that evening.

Lovborg. [Looks at her a moment, understands, and whispers passionately.] Oh, Hedda! Hedda Gabler! Now I begin to see a hidden reason beneath our comradeship! You16 and I—! After all, then, it was your craving for life —

Hedda. [Softly, with a sharp glance.] Take care! Believe nothing of the sort!

Twilight has begun to fall. The hall door is opened from without by Berta.

Hedda. [Closes the album with a bang and calls smilingly:] Ah, at last! My darling Thea — come along!

Mrs. Elvsted enters from the hall. She is in evening dress. The door is closed behind her.

Hedda. [On the sofa, stretches out her arms towards her.] My sweet Thea — you can’t think how I have been longing for you!

Mrs. Elvsted, in passing, exchanges slight salutations with the gentlemen in the inner room, then goes up to the table and gives Hedda her hand. Eilert Lovborg has risen. He and Mrs. Elvsted greet each other with a silent nod.

Mrs. Elvsted. Ought I to go in and talk to your husband for a moment?

Hedda. Oh, not at all. Leave those two alone. They will soon be going.

Mrs. Elvsted. Are they going out?

Hedda. Yes, to a supper-party.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Quickly, to Lovborg.] Not you?

Lovborg. No.

Hedda. Mr. Lovborg remains with us.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Takes a chair and is about to seat herself at his side.] Oh, how nice it is here!

Hedda. No, thank you, my little Thea! Not there! You’ll be good enough to come over here to me. I will sit between you.

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, just as you please.

She goes round the table and seats herself on the sofa on Hedda’s right. Lovborg re-seats himself on his chair.

Lovborg. [After a short pause, to Hedda.] Is not she lovely to look at?

Hedda. [Lightly stroking her hair.] Only to look at!

Lovborg. Yes. For we two — she and I— we are two real comrades. We have absolute faith in each other; so we can sit and talk with perfect frankness —

Hedda. Not round about, Mr. Lovborg?

Lovborg. Well —

Mrs. Elvsted. [Softly clinging close to Hedda.] Oh, how happy I am, Hedda! For only think, he says I have inspired him too.

Hedda. [Looks at her with a smile.] Ah! Does he say that, dear?

Lovborg. And then she is so brave, Mrs. Tesman!

Mrs. Elvsted. Good heavens — am I brave?

Lovborg. Exceedingly — where your comrade is concerned.

Hedda. Exceedingly — where your comrade is concerned.

Hedda. Ah, yes — courage! If one only had that!

Lovborg. What then? What do you mean?

Hedda. Then life would perhaps be liveable, after all. [With a sudden change of tone.] But now, my dearest Thea, you really must have a glass of cold punch.

Mrs. Elvsted. No, thanks — I never take anything of that kind.

Hedda. Well then, you, Mr. Lovborg.

Lovborg. Nor I, thank you.

Mrs. Elvsted. No, he doesn’t either.

Hedda. [Looks fixedly at him.] But if I say you shall?

Lovborg. It would be of no use.

Hedda. [Laughing.] Then I, poor creature, have no sort of power over you?

Lovborg. Not in that respect.

Hedda. But seriously, I think you ought to — for your own sake.

Mrs. Elvsted. Why, Hedda —!

Lovborg. How so?

Hedda. Or rather on account of other people.

Lovborg. Indeed?

Hedda. Otherwise people might be apt to suspect that — in your heart of hearts — you did not feel quite secure — quite confident in yourself.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Softly.] Oh please, Hedda —!

Lovborg. People may suspect what they like — for the present.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Joyfully.] Yes, let them!

Hedda. I saw it plainly in Judge Brack’s face a moment ago.

Lovborg. What did you see?

Hedda. His contemptuous smile, when you dared not go with them into the inner room.

Lovborg. Dared not? Of course I preferred to stop here and talk to you.

Mrs. Elvsted. What could be more natural, Hedda?

Hedda. But the Judge could not guess that. And I say, too, the way he smiled and glanced at Tesman when you dared not accept his invitation to this wretched little supper-party of his.

Lovborg. Dared not! Do you say I dared not?

Hedda. I don’t say so. But that was how Judge Brack understood it.

Lovborg. Well, let him.

Hedda. Then you are not going with them?

Lovborg. I will stay here with you and Thea.

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, Hedda — how can you doubt that?

Hedda. [Smiles and nods approvingly to Lovborg.] Firm as a rock! Faithful to your principles, now and for ever! Ah, that is how a man should be! [Turns to Mrs. Elvsted and caresses her.] Well now, what did I tell you, when you came to us this morning in such a state of distraction —

Lovborg. [Surprised.] Distraction!

Mrs. Elvsted. [Terrified.] Hedda — oh Hedda —!

Hedda. You can see for yourself! You haven’t the slightest reason to be in such mortal terror —— [Interrupting herself.] There! Now we can all three enjoy ourselves!

Lovborg. [Who has given a start.] Ah — what is all this, Mrs. Tesman?

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh my God, Hedda! What are you saying? What are you doing?

Hedda. Don’t get excited! That horrid Judge Brack is sitting watching you.

Lovborg. So she was in mortal terror! On my account!

Mrs. Elvsted. [Softly and piteously.] Oh, Hedda — now you have ruined everything!

Lovborg. [Looks fixedly at her for a moment. His face is distorted.] So that was my comrade’s frank confidence in me?

Mrs. Elvsted. [Imploringly.] Oh, my dearest friend — only let me tell you —

Lovborg. [Takes one of the glasses of punch, raises it to his lips, and says in a low, husky voice.] Your health, Thea!

He empties the glass, puts it down, and takes the second.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Softly.] Oh, Hedda, Hedda — how could you do this?

Hedda. I do it? I? Are you crazy?

Lovborg. Here’s to your health too, Mrs. Tesman. Thanks for the truth. Hurrah for the truth!

He empties the glass and is about to re-fill it.

Hedda. [Lays her hand on his arm.] Come, come — no more for the present. Remember you are going out to supper.

Mrs. Elvsted. No, no, no!

Hedda. Hush! They are sitting watching you.

Lovborg. [Putting down the glass.] Now, Thea — tell me the truth —

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes.

Lovborg. Did your husband know that you had come after me?

Mrs. Elvsted. [Wringing her hands.] Oh, Hedda — do you hear what his is asking?

Lovborg. Was it arranged between you and him that you were to come to town and look after me? Perhaps it was the Sheriff himself that urged you to come? Aha, my dear — no doubt he wanted my help in his office! Or was it at the card-table that he missed me?

Mrs. Elvsted. [Softly, in agony.] Oh, Lovborg, Lovborg —!

Lovborg. [Seizes a glass and is on the point of filling it.] Here’s a glass for the old Sheriff too!

Hedda. [Preventing him.] No more just now. Remember, you have to read your manuscript to Tesman.

Lovborg. [Calmly, putting down the glass.] It was stupid of me all this. Thea — to take it in this way, I mean. Don’t be angry with me, my dear, dear comrade. You shall see — both you and the others — that if I was fallen once — now I have risen again! Thanks to you, Thea.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Radiant with joy.] Oh, heaven be praised —!

Brack has in the meantime looked at his watch. He and Tesman rise and come into the drawing-room.

Brack. [Takes his hat and overcoat.] Well, Mrs. Tesman, our time has come.

Hedda. I suppose it has.

Lovborg. [Rising.] Mine too, Judge Brack.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Softly and imploringly.] Oh, Lovborg, don’t do it!

Hedda. [Pinching her arm.] They can hear you!

Mrs. Elvsted. [With a suppressed shriek.] Ow!

Lovborg. [To Brack.] You were good enough to invite me.

Judge Brack. Well, are you coming after all?

Lovborg. Yes, many thanks.

Brack. I’m delighted —

Lovborg. [To Tesman, putting the parcel of MS. in his pocket.] I should like to show you one or two things before I send it to the printers.

Tesman. Fancy — that will be delightful. But, Hedda dear, how is Mrs. Elvsted to get home? Eh?

Hedda. Oh, that can be managed somehow.

Lovborg. [Looking towards the ladies.] Mrs. Elvsted? Of course, I’ll come again and fetch her. [Approaching.] At ten or thereabouts, Mrs. Tesman? Will that do?

Hedda. Certainly. That will do capitally.

Tesman. Well, then, that’s all right. But you must not expect me so early, Hedda.

Hedda. Oh, you may stop as long — as long as every you please.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Trying to conceal her anxiety.] Well then, Mr. Lovborg — I shall remain here until you come.

Lovborg. [With his hat in his hand.] Pray do, Mrs. Elvsted.

Brack. And now off goes the excursion train, gentlemen! I hope we shall have a lively time, as a certain fair lady puts it.

Hedda. Ah, if only the fair lady could be present unseen —!

Brack. Why unseen?

Hedda. In order to hear a little of your liveliness at first hand, Judge Brack.

Brack. [Laughing.] I should not advise the fair lady to try it.

Tesman. [Also laughing.] Come, you’re a nice one Hedda! Fancy that!

Brack. Well, good-bye, good-bye, ladies.

Lovborg. [Bowing.] About ten o’clock, then,

Brack, Lovborg, and Tesman go out by the hall door. At the same time, Berta enters from the inner room with a lighted lamp, which she places on the drawing-room table; she goes out by the way she came.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Who has risen and is wandering restlessly about the room.] Hedda — Hedda — what will come of all this?

Hedda. At ten o’clock — he will be here. I can see him already — with vine-leaves in his hair — flushed and fearless —

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh, I hope he may.

Hedda. And then, you see — then he will have regained control over himself. Then he will be a free man for all his days.

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh God! — if he would only come as you see him now!

Hedda. He will come as I see him — so, and not otherwise! [Rises and approaches thea.] You may doubt him as long as you please; I believe in him. And now we will try —

Mrs. Elvsted. You have some hidden motive in this, Hedda!

Hedda. Yes, I have. I want for once in my life to have power to mould a human destiny.

Mrs. Elvsted. Have you not the power?

Hedda. I have not — and have never had it.

Mrs. Elvsted. Not your husband’s?

Hedda. Do you think that is worth the trouble? Oh, if you could only understand how poor I am. And fate has made you so rich! [Clasps her passionately in her arms.] I think I must burn your hair off after all.

Mrs. Elvsted. Let me go! Let me go! I am afraid of you, Hedda!

Berta. [In the middle doorway.] Tea is laid in the dining-room, ma’am.

Hedda. Very well. We are coming

Mrs. Elvsted. No, no, no! I would rather go home alone! At once!

Hedda. Nonsense! First you shall have a cup of tea, you little stupid. And then — at ten o’clock — Eilert Lovborg will be here — with vine-leaves in his hair.

She drags Mrs. Elvsted almost by force to the middle doorway.

12“Bagveje” means both “back ways” and “underhand courses.”

13As this form of address is contrary to English usage, and as the note of familiarity would be lacking in “Mrs. Tesman,” Brack may, in stage representation, say “Miss Hedda,” thus ignoring her marriage and reverting to the form of address no doubt customarry between them of old.

14He uses the familiar du.

15From this point onward Lovborg use the formal De.

16In this speech he once more says du. Hedda addresses him throughout as De.


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