Pillars of Society, by Henrik Ibsen


[SCENE— The same room. BERNICK, with a cane in his hand and evidently in a great rage, comes out of the farther room on the left, leaving the door half-open behind him.]

Bernick [speaking to his wife, who is in the other room]: There! I have given it him in earnest now; I don’t think he will forget that thrashing! What do you say? — And I say that you are an injudicious mother! You make excuses for him, and countenance any sort of rascality on his part — Not rascality? What do you call it, then? Slipping out of the house at night, going out in a fishing boat, staying away till well on in the day, and giving me such a horrible fright when I have so much to worry me! And then the young scamp has the audacity to threaten that he will run away! Just let him try it! — You? No, very likely; you don’t trouble yourself much about what happens to him. I really believe that if he were to get killed —! Oh, really? Well, I have work to leave behind me in the world; I have no fancy for being left childless — Now, do not raise objections, Betty; it shall be as I say — he is confined to the house. [Listens.] Hush; do not let any one notice anything. [KRAP comes in from the right.]

Krap: Can you spare me a moment, Mr. Bernick?

Bernick [throwing away the cane]: Certainly, certainly. Have you come from the yard?

Krap: Yes. Ahem —!

Bernick: Well? Nothing wrong with the “Palm Tree,” I hope?

Krap: The “Palm Tree “ can sail tomorrow, but

Bernick: It is the “Indian Girl,” then? I had a suspicion that that obstinate fellow —

Krap: The “Indian Girl” can sail tomorrow, too; but I am sure she will not get very far.

Bernick: What do you mean?

Krap: Excuse me, sir; that door is standing ajar, and I think there is some one in the other room —

Bernick [shutting the door]: There, then! But what is this that no one else must hear?

Krap: Just this — that I believe Aune intends to let the “Indian Girl” go to the bottom with every mother’s son on board.

Bernick: Good God! — what makes you think that?

Krap: I cannot account for it any other way, sir.

Bernick: Well, tell me as briefly as you can

Krap: I will. You know yourself how slowly the work has gone on in the yard since we got the new machines and the new inexperienced hands?

Bernick: Yes, yes.

Krap: But this morning, when I went down there, I noticed that the repairs to the American boat had made extraordinary progress; the great hole in the bottom — the rotten patch, you know —

Bernick: Yes, yes — what about it?

Krap: Was completely repaired — to all appearance at any rate, covered up — looked as good as new. I heard that Aune himself had been working at it by lantern light the whole night.

Bernick: Yes, yes — well?

Krap: I turned it over in my head for a bit; the hands were away at their breakfast, so I found an opportunity to have a look around the boat, both outside and in, without anyone seeing me. I had a job to get down to the bottom through the cargo, but I learned the truth. There is something very suspicious going on, Mr. Bernick.

Bernick: I cannot believe it, Krap. I cannot and will not believe such a thing of Aune.

Krap: I am very sorry — but it is the simple truth. Something very suspicious is going on. No new timbers put in, as far as I could see, only stopped up and tinkered at, and covered over with sailcloth and tarpaulins and that sort of thing — an absolute fraud. The “Indian Girl” will never get to New York; she will go to the bottom like a cracked pot.

Bernick: This is most horrible! But what can be his object, do you suppose?

Krap: Probably he wants to bring the machines into discredit — wants to take his revenge — wants to force you to take the old hands on again.

Bernick: And to do this he is willing to sacrifice the lives of all on board.

Krap: He said the other day that there were no men on board the “Indian Girl” — only wild beasts.

Bernick: Yes, but — apart from that — has he no regard for the great loss of capital it would mean?

Krap: Aune does not look upon capital with a very friendly eye, Mr. Bernick.

Bernick: That is perfectly true; he is an agitator and a fomenter of discontent; but such an unscrupulous thing as this — Look here, Krap; you must look into the matter once more. Not a word of it to any one. The blame will fall on our yard if any one hears anything of it.

Krap: Of course, but —

Bernick: When the hands are away at their dinner you must manage to get down there again; I must have absolute certainty about it.

Krap: You shall, sir; but, excuse me, what do you propose to do?

Bernick: Report the affair, naturally. We cannot, of course, let ourselves become accomplices in such a crime. I could not have such a thing on my conscience. Moreover, it will make a good impression, both on the press and on the public in general, if it is seen that I set all personal interests aside and let justice take its course.

Krap: Quite true, Mr. Bernick.

Bernick: But first of all I must be absolutely certain. And meanwhile, do not breathe a word of it.

Krap: Not a word, sir. And you shall have your certainty. [Goes out through the garden and down the street.]

Bernick [half aloud]: Shocking! — But no, it is impossible! Inconceivable!

[As he turns to go into his room, HILMAR comes in from the right.]

Hilmar: Good morning, Karsten. Let me congratulate you on your triumph at the Commercial Association yesterday.

Bernick: Thank you.

Hilmar: It was a brilliant triumph, I hear; the triumph of intelligent public spirit over selfishness and prejudice — something like a raid of French troops on the Kabyles. It is astonishing that after that unpleasant scene here, you could —

Bernick: Yes, yes — quite so.

Hilmar: But the decisive battle has not been fought yet.

Bernick: In the matter of the railway, do you mean?

Hilmar: Yes; I suppose you know the trouble that Hammer is brewing?

Bernick [anxiously]: No, what is that?

Hilmar: Oh, he is greatly taken up with the rumour that is going around, and is preparing to dish up an article about it.

Bernick: What rumour?

Hilmar: About the extensive purchase of property along the branch line, of course.

Bernick: What? Is there such a rumour as that going about?

Hilmar: It is all over the town. I heard it at the club when I looked in there. They say that one of our lawyers has quietly bought up, on commission, all the forest land, all the mining land, all the waterfalls —

Bernick: Don’t they say whom it was for?

Hilmar: At the club they thought it must be for some company, not connected with this town, that has got a hint of the scheme you have in hand, and has made haste to buy before the price of these properties went up. Isn’t it villainous? — ugh!

Bernick: Villainous?

Hilmar: Yes, to have strangers putting their fingers into our pie — and one of our own local lawyers lending himself to such a thing! And now it will be outsiders that will get all the profits!

Bernick: But, after all, it is only an idle rumour.

Hilmar: Meanwhile people are believing it, and tomorrow or the next day, I have no doubt Hammer will nail it to the counter as a fact. There is a general sense of exasperation in the town already. I heard several people say that if the rumour were confirmed they would take their names off the subscription lists.

Bernick: Impossible!

Hilmar: Is it? Why do you suppose these mercenary-minded creatures were so willing to go into the undertaking with you? Don’t you suppose they have scented profit for themselves —

Bernick: It is impossible, I am sure; there is so much public spirit in our little community —

Hilmar: In our community? Of course you are a confirmed optimist, and so you judge others by yourself. But I, who am a tolerably experienced observer —! There isn’t a single soul in the place — excepting ourselves, of course — not a single soul in the place who holds up the banner of the Ideal. [Goes towards the verandah.] Ugh, I can see them there —

Bernick: See whom?

Hilmar: Our two friends from America. [Looks out to the right.] And who is that they are walking with? As I am alive, if it is not the captain of the “Indian Girl.” Ugh!

Bernick: What can they want with him?

Hilmar. Oh, he is just the right company for them. He looks as if he had been a slave-dealer or a pirate; and who knows what the other two may have been doing all these years.

Bernick: Let me tell you that it is grossly unjust to think such things about them.

Hilmar: Yes — you are an optimist. But here they are, bearing down upon us again; so I will get away while there is time. [Goes towards the door on the left. LONA comes in from the right.]

Lona: Oh, Hilmar, am I driving you away?

Hilmar: Not at all; I am in rather a hurry; I want to have a word with Betty. [Goes into the farthest room on the left.]

Bernick [after a moment’s silence]: Well, Lona?

Lona: Yes?

Bernick: What do you think of me today?

Lona: The same as I did yesterday. A lie more or less —

Bernick: I must enlighten you about it. Where has Johan gone?

Lona: He is coming; he had to see a man first.

Bernick: After what you heard yesterday, you will understand that my whole life will be ruined if the truth comes to light.

Lona: I can understand that.

Bernick: Of course, it stands to reason that I was not guilty of the crime there was so much talk about here.

Lona: That stands to reason. But who was the thief?

Bernick: There was no thief. There was no money stolen — not a penny.

Lona: How is that?

Bernick: Not a penny, I tell you.

Lona: But those rumours? How did that shameful rumour get about that Johan —

Bernick: Lona, I think I can speak to you as I could to no one else. I will conceal nothing from you. I was partly to blame for spreading the rumour.

Lona: You? You could act in that way towards a man who for your sake —!

Bernick: Do not condemn me without bearing in mind how things stood at that time. I told you about it yesterday. I came home and found my mother involved in a mesh of injudicious undertakings; we had all manner of bad luck — it seemed as if misfortunes were raining upon us, and our house was on the verge of ruin. I was half reckless and half in despair. Lona, I believe it was mainly to deaden my thoughts that I let myself drift into that entanglement that ended in Johan’s going away.

Lona: Hm —

Bernick: You can well imagine how every kind of rumour was set on foot after you and he had gone. People began to say that it was not his first piece of folly — that Dorf had received a large sum of money to hold his tongue and go away; other people said that she had received it. At the same time it was obvious that our house was finding it difficult to meet its obligations. What was more natural than that scandal-mongers should find some connection between these two rumours? And as the woman remained here, living in poverty, people declared that he had taken the money with him to America; and every time rumour mentioned the sum, it grew larger.

Lona: And you, Karsten —?

Bernick: I grasped at the rumour like a drowning man at a straw.

Lona: You helped to spread it?

Bernick: I did not contradict it. Our creditors had begun to be pressing, and I had the task of keeping them quiet. The result was the dissipating of any suspicion as to the stability of the firm; people said that we had been hit by a temporary piece of ill-luck — that all that was necessary was that they should not press us — only give us time and every creditor would be paid in full.

Lona: And every creditor was paid in full?

Bernick: Yes, Lona, that rumour saved our house and made me the man I now am.

Lona: That is to say, a lie has made you the man you now are.

Bernick: Whom did it injure at the time? It was Johan’s intention never to come back.

Lona: You ask whom it injured. Look into your own heart, and tell me if it has not injured you.

Bernick: Look into any man’s heart you please, and you will always find, in every one, at least one black spot which he has to keep concealed.

Lona: And you call yourselves pillars of society!

Bernick: Society has none better.

Lona: And of what consequence is it whether such a society be propped up or not? What does it all consist of? Show and lies — and nothing else. Here are you, the first man in the town, living in grandeur and luxury, powerful and respected — you, who have branded an innocent man as a criminal.

Bernick: Do you suppose I am not deeply conscious of the wrong I have done him? And do you suppose I am not ready to make amends to him for it?

Lona: How? By speaking out?

Bernick: Would you have the heart to insist on that?

Lona: What else can make amends for such a wrong?

Bernick: I am rich, Lona; Johan can demand any sum he pleases.

Lona: Yes, offer him money, and you will hear what he will say.

Bernick: Do you know what he intends to do?

Lona: No; since yesterday he has been dumb. He looks as if this had made a grown man of him all at once.

Bernick: I must talk to him.

Lona: Here he comes. [JOHAN comes in from the right.]

Bernick [going towards hint]: Johan —!

Johan [motioning him away]: Listen to me first. Yesterday morning I gave you my word that I would hold my tongue.

Bernick: You did.

Johan: But then I did not know —

Bernick: Johan, only let me say a word or two to explain the circumstances —

Johan: It is unnecessary; I understand the circumstances perfectly. The firm was in a dangerous position at the time; I had gone off, and you had my defenceless name and reputation at your mercy. Well, I do not blame you so very much for what you did; we were young and thoughtless in those days. But now I have need of the truth, and now you must speak.

Bernick: And just now I have need of all my reputation for morality, and therefore I cannot speak.

Johan: I don’t take much account of the false reports you spread about me; it is the other thing that you must take the blame of. I shall make Dina my wife, and here — here in your town — I mean to settle down and live with her.

Lona: Is that what you mean to do?

Bernick: With Dina? Dina as your wife? — in this town?

Johan: Yes, here and nowhere else. I mean to stay here to defy all these liars and slanderers. But before I can win her, you must exonerate me.

Bernick: Have you considered that, if I confess to the one thing, it will inevitably mean making myself responsible for the other as well? You will say that I can show by our books that nothing dishonest happened? But I cannot; our books were not so accurately kept in those days. And even if I could, what good would it do? Should I not in any case be pointed at as the man who had once saved himself by an untruth, and for fifteen years had allowed that untruth and all its consequences to stand without having raised a finger to demolish it? You do not know our community very much, or you would realise that it would ruin me utterly.

Johan: I can only tell you that I mean to make Mrs. Dorf’s daughter my wife, and live with her in this town.

Bernick [wiping the perspiration from his forehead]: Listen to me, Johan — and you too, Lona. The circumstances I am in just now are quite exceptional. I am situated in such a way that if you aim this blow at me you will not only destroy me, but will also destroy a great future, rich in blessings, that lies before the community which, after all, was the home of your childhood.

Johan: And if I do not aim this blow at you, I shall be destroying all my future happiness with my own hand.

Lona: Go on, Karsten.

Bernick: I will tell you, then. It is mixed up with the railway project, and the whole thing is not quite so simple as you think. I suppose you have heard that last year there was some talk of a railway line along the coast? Many influential people backed up the idea — people in the town and the suburbs, and especially the press; but I managed to get the proposal quashed, on the ground that it would have injured our steamboat trade along the coast.

Lona: Have you any interest in the steamboat trade?

Bernick: Yes. But no one ventured to suspect me on that account; my honoured name fully protected me from that. For the matter of that, I could have stood the loss; but the place could not have stood it. So the inland line was decided upon. As soon as that was done, I assured myself — without saying anything about it — that a branch line could be laid to the town.

Lona: Why did you say nothing about it, Karsten?

Bernick: Have you heard the rumours of extensive buying up of forest lands, mines and waterfalls —?

Johan: Yes, apparently it is some company from another part of the country.

Bernick: As these properties are situated at present, they are as good as valueless to their owners, who are scattered about the neighbourhood; they have therefore been sold comparatively cheap. If the purchaser had waited till the branch line began to be talked of, the proprietors would have asked exorbitant prices.

Lona: Well — what then?

Bernick: Now I am going to tell you something that can be construed in different ways — a thing to which, in our community, a man could only confess provided he had an untarnished and honoured name to take his stand upon.

Lona: Well?

Bernick: It is I that have bought up the whole of them.

Lona: You?

Johan: On your own account?

Bernick: On my own account. If the branch line becomes an accomplished fact, I am a millionaire; if it does not, I am ruined.

Lona: It is a big risk, Karsten.

Bernick: I have risked my whole fortune on it.

Lona: I am not thinking of your fortune; but if it comes to light that —

Bernick. Yes, that is the critical part of it. With the unblemished and honoured name I have hitherto borne, I can take the whole thing upon my shoulders, carry it through, and say to my fellow-citizens: “See, I have taken this risk for the good of the community.”

Lona: Of the community?

Bernick: Yes; and not a soul will doubt my motives.

Lona: Then some of those concerned in it have acted more openly — without any secret motives or considerations.

Bernick: Who?

Lona: Why, of course, Rummel and Sandstad and Vigeland.

Bernick: To get them on my side I was obliged to let them into the secret.

Lona: And they?

Bernick: They have stipulated for a fifth part of the profits as their share.

Lona: Oh, these pillars of society.

Bernick: And isn’t it society itself that forces us to use these underhanded means? What would have happened if I had not acted secretly? Everybody would have wanted to have a hand in the undertaking; the whole thing would have been divided up, mismanaged and bungled. There is not a single man in the town except myself who is capable of directing so big an affair as this will be. In this country, almost without exception, it is only foreigners who have settled here who have the aptitude for big business schemes. That is the reason why my conscience acquits me in the matter. It is only in my hands that these properties can become a real blessing to the many who have to make their daily bread.

Lona: I believe you are right there, Karsten.

Johan: But I have no concern with the many, and my life’s happiness is at stake.

Bernick: The welfare of your native place is also at stake. If things come out which cast reflections on my earlier conduct, then all my opponents will fall upon me with united vigour. A youthful folly is never allowed to be forgotten in our community. They would go through the whole of my previous life, bring up a thousand little incidents in it, interpret and explain them in the light of what has been revealed; they would crush me under the weight of rumours and slanders. I should be obliged to abandon the railway scheme; and, if I take my hand off that, it will come to nothing, and I shall be ruined and my life as a citizen will be over.

Lona: Johan, after what we have just heard, you must go away from here and hold your tongue.

Bernick: Yes, yes, Johan — you must!

Johan: Yes, I will go away, and I will hold my tongue; but I shall come back, and then I shall speak.

Bernick: Stay over there, Johan; hold your tongue, and I am willing to share with you —

Johan: Keep your money, but give me back my name and reputation.

Bernick: And sacrifice my own!

Johan: You and your community must get out of that the best way you can. I must and shall win Dina for my wife. And therefore, I am going to sail tomorrow in the “Indian Girl” —

Bernick: In the “Indian Girl”?

Johan: Yes. The captain has promised to take me. I shall go over to America, as I say; I shall sell my farm, and set my affairs in order. In two months I shall be back.

Bernick: And then you will speak?

Johan: Then the guilty man must take his guilt on himself.

Bernick: Have you forgotten that, if I do that, I must also take on myself guilt that is not mine?

Johan: Who is it that for the last fifteen years has benefited by that shameful rumour?

Bernick: You will drive me to desperation! Well, if you speak, I shall deny everything! I shall say it is a plot against me — that you have come here to blackmail me!

Lona: For shame, Karsten!

Bernick: I am a desperate man, I tell you, and I shall fight for my life. I shall deny everything — everything!

Johan: I have your two letters. I found them in my box among my other papers. This morning I read them again; they are plain enough.

Bernick: And will you make them public?

Johan: If it becomes necessary.

Bernick: And you will be back here in two months?

Johan: I hope so. The wind is fair. In three weeks I shall be in New York — if the “Indian Girl” does not go to the bottom.

Bernick [with a start]: Go to the bottom? Why should the “Indian Girl” go to the bottom?

Johan: Quite so — why should she?

Bernick [scarcely audibly]: Go to the bottom?

Johan: Well, Karsten, now you know what is before you. You must find your own way out. Good-bye! You can say good-bye to Betty for me, although she has not treated me like a sister. But I must see Martha. She shall tell Dina —; she shall promise me — [Goes out through the farther door on the left.]

Bernick [to himself]: The “Indian Girl” —? [Quickly.] Lona, you must prevent that!

Lona: You see for yourself, Karsten — I have no influence over him any longer. [Follows JOHAN into the other room.]

Bernick [a prey to uneasy thoughts]: Go to the bottom —?

[AUNE comes in from the right.]

Aune: Excuse me, sir, but if it is convenient —

Bernick [turning round angrily]: What do you want?

Aune: To know if I may ask you a question, sir.

Bernick: Be quick about it, then. What is it?

Aune: I wanted to ask if I am to consider it as certain — absolutely certain — that I should be dismissed from the yard if the “Indian Girl” were not ready to sail tomorrow?

Bernick: What do you mean? The ship is ready to sail?

Aune: Yes — it is. But suppose it were not, should I be discharged?

Bernick: What is the use of asking such idle questions?

Aune: Only that I should like to know, sir. Will you answer me that? — should I be discharged?

Bernick: Am I in the habit of keeping my word or not?

Aune: Then tomorrow I should have lost the position I hold in my house and among those near and dear to me — lost my influence over men of my own class — lost all opportunity of doing anything for the cause of the poorer and needier members of the community?

Bernick: Aune, we have discussed all that before.

Aune: Quite so — then the “Indian Girl” will sail.

[A short silence.]

Bernick: Look here — it is impossible for me to have my eyes everywhere — I cannot be answerable for everything. You can give me your assurance, I suppose, that the repairs have been satisfactorily carried out?

Aune: You gave me very short grace, Mr. Bernick.

Bernick: But I understand you to warrant the repairs?

Aune: The weather is fine, and it is summer.

[Another pause.]

Bernick: Have you anything else to say to me?

Aune: I think not, sir.

Bernick: Then — the “Indian Girl” will sail . . .

Aune: Tomorrow?

Bernick: Yes.

Aune: Very good. [Bows and goes out. BERNICK stands for a moment irresolute; then walks quickly towards the door, as if to call AUNE back; but stops, hesitatingly, with his hand on the door-handle. At that moment the door is opened from without, and KRAP comes in.]

Krap [in a low voice]: Aha, he has been here. Has he confessed?

Bernick: Hm —; have you discovered anything?

Krap: What need of that, sir? Could you not see the evil conscience looking out of the man’s eyes?

Bernick: Nonsense — such things don’t show. Have you discovered anything, I want to know?

Krap: I could not manage it; I was too late. They had already begun hauling the ship out of the dock. But their very haste in doing that plainly shows that —

Bernick: It shows nothing. Has the inspection taken place, then?

Krap: Of course; but —

Bernick: There, you see! And of course they found nothing to complain of?

Krap: Mr. Bernick, you know very well how much this inspection means, especially in a yard that has such a good name as ours has.

Bernick: No matter — it takes all responsibility off us.

Krap: But, sir, could you really not tell from Aune’s manner that —?

Bernick: Aune has completely reassured me, let me tell you.

Krap: And let me tell you, sir, that I am morally certain that —

Bernick: What does this mean, Krap? I see plainly enough that you want to get your knife into this man; but if you want to attack him, you must find some other occasion. You know how important it is to me — or, I should say, to the owners — that the “Indian Girl” should sail tomorrow.

Krap: Very well — so be it; but if ever we hear of that ship again — hm!

[VIGELAND comes in from the right.]

Vigeland: I wish you a very good morning, Mr. Bernick. Have you a moment to spare?

Bernick: At your service, Mr. Vigeland.

Vigeland: I only want to know if you are also of opinion that the “Palm Tree” should sail tomorrow?

Bernick: Certainly; I thought that was quite settled.

Vigeland: Well, the captain came to me just now and told me that storm signals have been hoisted.

Bernick: Oh! Are we to expect a storm?

Vigeland: A stiff breeze, at all events; but not a contrary wind — just the opposite.

Bernick: Hm — well, what do you say?

Vigeland: I say, as I said to the captain, that the “Palm Tree” is in the hands of Providence. Besides, they are only going across the North Sea at first; and in England, freights are running tolerably high just now, so that —

Bernick: Yes, it would probably mean a loss for us if we waited.

Vigeland: Besides, she is a stout ship, and fully insured as well. It is more risky, now, for the “Indian Girl” —

Bernick: What do you mean?

Vigeland: She sails tomorrow, too.

Bernick: Yes, the owners have been in such a hurry, and, besides —

Vigeland: Well, if that old hulk can venture out — and with such a crew, into the bargain — it would be a disgrace to us if we —

Bernick: Quite so. I presume you have the ship’s papers with you.

Vigeland: Yes, here they are.

Bernick: Good; then will you go in with Mr. Krap?

Krap: Will you come in here, sir, and we will dispose of them at once.

Vigeland: Thank you. — And the issue we leave in the hands of the Almighty, Mr. Bernick. [Goes with KRAP into BERNICK’S room. RORLUND comes up from the garden.]

Rorlund: At home at this time of day, Mr. Bernick?

Bernick [lost in thought]: As you see.

Rorlund: It was really on your wife’s account I came. I thought she might be in need of a word of comfort.

Bernick: Very likely she is. But I want to have a little talk with you, too.

Rorlund: With the greatest of pleasure, Mr. Bernick. But what is the matter with you? You look quite pale and upset.

Bernick: Really? Do I? Well, what else could you expect — a man so loaded with responsibilities as I am? There is all my own big business — and now the planning of this railway. — But tell me something, Mr. Rorlund, let me put a question to you.

Rorlund: With pleasure, Mr. Bernick.

Bernick: It is about a thought that has occurred to me. Suppose a man is face to face with an undertaking which will concern the welfare of thousands, and suppose it should be necessary to make a sacrifice of one —?

Rorlund: What do you mean?

Bernick: For example, suppose a man were thinking of starting a large factory. He knows for certain — because all his experience has taught him so — that sooner or later a toll of human life will be exacted in the working of that factory.

Rorlund: Yes, that is only too probable.

Bernick: Or, say a man embarks on a mining enterprise. He takes into his service fathers of families and young men in the first flush of their youth. Is it not quite safe to predict that all of them will not come out of it alive?

Rorlund: Yes, unhappily that is quite true.

Bernick: Well — a man in that position will know beforehand that the undertaking he proposes to start must undoubtedly, at some time or other, mean a loss of human life. But the undertaking itself is for the public good; for every man’s life that it costs, it will undoubtedly promote the welfare of many hundreds.

Rorlund: Ah, you are thinking of the railway — of all the dangerous excavating and blasting, and that sort of thing —

Bernick: Yes — quite so — I am thinking of the railway. And, besides, the coming of the railway will mean the starting of factories and mines. But do not think, nevertheless —

Rorlund: My dear Mr. Bernick, you are almost over-conscientious. What I think is that, if you place the affair in the hands of Providence —

Bernick: Yes — exactly; Providence —

Rorlund: You are blameless in the matter. Go on and build your railway hopefully.

Bernick: Yes, but now I will put a special instance to you. Suppose a charge of blasting-powder had to be exploded in a dangerous place, and that unless it were exploded the line could not be constructed? Suppose the engineer knew that it would cost the life of the workman who lit the fuse, but that it had to be lit, and that it was the engineer’s duty to send a workman to do it?

Rorlund: Hm —

Bernick: I know what you will say. It would be a splendid thing if the engineer took the match himself and went and lit the fuse. But that is out of the question, so he must sacrifice a workman.

Rorlund: That is a thing no engineer here would ever do.

Bernick: No engineer in the bigger countries would think twice about doing it.

Rorlund: In the bigger countries? No, I can quite believe it. In those depraved and unprincipled communities.

Bernick: Oh, there is a good deal to be said for those communities.

Rorlund: Can you say that? — you, who yourself —

Bernick: In the bigger communities a man finds space to carry out a valuable project — finds the courage to make some sacrifice in a great cause; but here, a man is cramped by all kinds of petty considerations and scruples.

Rorlund: Is human life a petty consideration?

Bernick: When that human life threatens the welfare of thousands.

Rorlund: But you are suggesting cases that are quite inconceivable, Mr. Bernick! I do not understand you at all today. And you quote the bigger countries — well, what do they think of human life there? They look upon it simply as part of the capital they have to use. But we look at things from a somewhat different moral standpoint, I should hope. Look at our respected shipping industry! Can you name a single one of our ship-owners who would sacrifice a human life for the sake of paltry gain? And then think of those scoundrels in the bigger countries, who for the sake of profit send out freights in one unseaworthy ship after another —

Bernick: I am not talking of unseaworthy ships!

Rorlund: But I am, Mr. Bernick.

Bernick: Yes, but to what purpose? They have nothing to do with the question — Oh, these small, timid considerations! If a General from this country were to take his men under fire and some of them were shot, I suppose he would have sleepless nights after it! It is not so in other countries. You should bear what that fellow in there says —

Rorlund: He? Who? The American —?

Bernick: Yes. You should hear how in America —

Rorlund: He, in there? And you did not tell me? I shall at once —

Bernick: It is no use; you won’t be able to do anything with him.

Rorlund: We shall see. Ah, here he comes. [JOHAN comes in from the other room.]

Johan [talking back through the open door]: Yes, yes, Dina — as you please; but I do not mean to give you up, all the same. I shall come back, and then everything will come right between us.

Rorlund: Excuse me, but what did you mean by that? What is it you propose to do?

Johan: I propose that that young girl, before whom you blackened my character yesterday, shall become my wife.

Rorlund: Your wife? And can you really suppose that —?

Johan: I mean to marry her.

Rorlund: Well, then you shall know the truth. [Goes to the half-open door.] Mrs. Bernick, will you be so kind as to come and be a witness — and you too, Miss Martha. And let Dina come. [Sees LONA at the door.] Ah, you here too?

Lona: Shall I come too?

Rorlund: As many as you please — the more the better.

Bernick: What are you going to do? [LONA, MRS. BERNICK, MARTHA, DINA and HILMAR come in from the other room.]

Mrs. Bernick: Mr. Rorlund, I have tried my hardest, but I cannot prevent him . . .

Rorlund: I shall prevent him, Mrs. Bernick. Dina, you are a thoughtless girl, but I do not blame you so greatly. You have too long lacked the necessary moral support that should have sustained you. I blame myself for not having afforded you that support.

Dina: You mustn’t speak now!

Mrs. Bernick: What is it?

Rorlund: It is now that I must speak, Dina, although your conduct yesterday and today has made it ten times more difficult for me. But all other considerations must give way to the necessity for saving you. You remember that I gave you my word; you remember what you promised you would answer when I judged that the right time had come. Now I dare not hesitate any longer, and therefore — . [Turns to JOHAN.] This young girl, whom you are persecuting, is my betrothed.

Mrs. Bernick: What?

Bernick: Dina!

Johan: She? Your —?

Martha: No, no, Dina!

Lona: It is a lie!

Johan: Dina — is this man speaking the truth?

Dina [after a short pause]: Yes.

Rorlund: I hope this has rendered all your arts of seduction powerless. The step I have determined to take for Dina’s good, I now wish openly proclaimed to every one. I cherish the certain hope that it will not be misinterpreted. And now, Mrs. Bernick, I think it will be best for us to take her away from here, and try to bring back peace and tranquillity to her mind.

Mrs. Bernick: Yes, come with me. Oh, Dina — what a lucky girl you are! [Takes DINA Out to the left; RORLUND follows them.]

Martha: Good-bye, Johan! [Goes out.]

Hilmar [at the verandah door]: Hm — I really must say . . .

Lona [who has followed DINA with her eyes, to JOHAN]: Don’t be downhearted, my boy! I shall stay here and keep my eye on the parson. [Goes out to the right.]

Bernick: Johan, you won’t sail in the “Indian Girl” now?

Johan: Indeed I shall.

Bernick: But you won’t come back?

Johan: I am coming back.

Bernick: After this? What have you to do here after this?

Johan: Revenge myself on you all; crush as many of you as I can. [Goes out to the right. VIGELAND and KRAP come in from BERNICK’S room.]

Vigeland: There, now the papers are in order, Mr. Bernick.

Bernick: Good, good.

Krap [in a low voice]: And I suppose it is settled that the “Indian Girl” is to sail tomorrow?

Bernick: Yes. [Goes into his room. VIGELAND and KRAP go out to the right. HILMAR is just going after them, when OLAF puts his head carefully out of the door on the left.]

Olaf: Uncle! Uncle Hilmar!

Hilmar: Ugh, is it you? Why don’t you stay upstairs? You know you are confined to the house.

Olaf [coming a step or two nearer]: Hush! Uncle Hilmar, have you heard the news?

Hilmar: Yes, I have heard that you got a thrashing today.

Olaf [looking threateningly towards his father’s room]: He shan’t thrash me any more. But have you heard that Uncle Johan is going to sail tomorrow with the Americans?

Hilmar: What has that got to do with you? You had better run upstairs again.

Olaf: Perhaps I shall be going for a buffalo hunt, too, one of these days, uncle.

Hilmar: Rubbish! A coward like you —

Olaf: Yes — just you wait! You will learn something tomorrow!

Hilmar: Duffer! [Goes out through the garden. OLAF runs into the room again and shuts the door, as he sees KRAP coming in from the right.]

Krap [going to the door of BERNICK’S room and opening it slightly]: Excuse my bothering you again, Mr. Bernick; but there is a tremendous storm blowing up. [Waits a moment, but there is no answer.] Is the “Indian Girl” to sail, for all that? [After a short pause, the following answer is heard.]

Bernick [from his room]: The “Indian Girl” is to sail, for all that.

[KRAP Shuts the door and goes out again to the right.]


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