HIALMAR EKDAL'S studio. It is morning: the daylight shines through the large window in the slanting roof; the curtain is drawn back.
HIALMAR is sitting at the table, busy retouching a photograph; several others lie before him. Presently GINA, wearing her hat and cloak, enters by the passage door; she has a covered basket on her arm.]
Hialmar. Back already, Gina?
Gina. Oh, yes, one can't let the grass grow under one's feet.
[Sets her basket on a chair, and takes off her things.]
Hialmar. Did you look in at Gregers' room?
Gina. Yes, that I did. It's a rare sight, I can tell you; he's made a pretty mess to start off with.
Hialmar. How so?
Gina. He was determined to do everything for himself, he said; so he sets to work to light the stove, and what must he do but screw down the damper till the whole room is full of smoke. Ugh! There was a smell fit to —
Hialmar. Well, really!
Gina. But that's not the worst of it; for then he thinks he'll put out the fire, and goes and empties his water-jug into the stove, and so makes the whole floor one filthy puddle.
Hialmar. How annoying!
Gina. I've got the porter's wife to clear up after him, pig that he is! But the room won't be fit to live in till the afternoon.
Hialmar. What's he doing with himself in the meantime?
Gina. He said he was going out for a little while.
Hialmar. I looked in upon him, too, for a moment — after you had gone.
Gina. So I heard. You've asked him to lunch.
Hialmar. Just to a little bit of early lunch, you know. It's his first day — we can hardly do less. You've got something in the house, I suppose?
Gina. I shall have to find something or other.
Hialmar. And don't cut it too fine, for I fancy Relling and Molvik are coming up, too. I just happened to meet Relling on the stairs, you see; so I had to —
Gina. Oh, are we to have those two as well?
Hialmar. Good Lord — a couple more or less can't make any difference. Old Ekdal [opens his door and looks in]. I say, Hialmar — [Sees GINA.] Oh!
Gina. Do you want anything, grandfather?
Ekdal. Oh, no, it doesn't matter. H'm!
Gina [takes up the basket.] Be sure you see that he doesn't go out.
Hialmar. All right, all right. And, Gina, a little herring-salad wouldn't be a bad idea; Relling and Molvik were out on the loose again last night.
Gina. If only they don't come before I'm ready for them —
Hialmar. No, of course they won't; take your own time.
Gina. Very well; and meanwhile you can be working a bit.
Hialmar. Well, I am working! I am working as hard as I can!
Gina. Then you'll have that job off your hands, you see.
[She goes out to the kitchen with her basket. HIALMAR sits for a time pencilling away at the photograph, in an indolent and listless manner.]
Ekdal [peeps in, looks round the studio, and says softly:] Are you busy?
Hialmar. Yes, I'm toiling at these wretched pictures —
Ekdal. Well, well, never mind, — since you're so busy — h'm!
[He goes out again; the door stands open.]
Hialmar [continues for some time in silence then he lays down his brush and goes over to the door.] Are you busy, father?
Ekdal [in a grumbling tone, within.] If you're busy, I'm busy, too. H'm!
Hialmar. Oh, very well, then.
[Goes to his work again.]
Ekdal [presently, coming to the door again.] H'm; I say, Hialmar, I'm not so very busy, you know.
Hialmar. I thought you were writing.
Ekdal. Oh, devil take it! can't Graberg wait a day or two? After all, it's not a matter of life and death.
Hialmar. No; and you're not his slave either.
Ekdal. And about that other business in there —
Hialmar. Just what I was thinking of. Do you want to go in? Shall I open the door for you?
Ekdal. Well, it wouldn't be a bad notion.
Hialmar [rises.] Then we'd have that off our hands.
Ekdal. Yes, exactly. It's got to be ready first thing to-morrow. It is to-morrow, isn't it? H'm?
Hialmar. Yes, of course it's to-morrow.
[HIALMAR and EKDAL push aside each his half of the sliding door. The morning sun is shining in through the skylights; some doves are flying about; others sit cooing, upon the perches; the hens are heard clucking now and then, further back in the garret.]
Hialmar. There; now you can get to work, father.
Ekdal [goes in.] Aren't you coming, too?
Hialmar. Well, really, do you know —; I almost think — [Sees GINA at the kitchen door.] I? No; I haven't time; I must work. — But now for our new contrivance —
[He pulls a cord, a curtain slips down inside, the lower part consisting of a piece of old sailcloth, the upper part of a stretched fishing net. The floor of the garret is thus no longer visible.]
Hialmar [goes to the table.] So! Now, perhaps I can sit in peace for a little while.
Gina. Is he rampaging in there again?
Hialmar. Would you rather have had him slip down to Madam Eriksen's? [Seats himself.] Do you want anything? You know you said —
Gina. I only wanted to ask if you think we can lay the table for lunch here?
Hialmar. Yes; we have no early appointment, I suppose?
Gina. No, I expect no one to-day except those two sweethearts that are to be taken together.
Hialmar. Why the deuce couldn't they be taken together another day!
Gina. Don't you know, I told them to come in the afternoon, when you are having your nap.
Hialmar. Oh, that's capital. Very well, let us have lunch here then.
Gina. All right; but there's no hurry about laying the cloth; you can have the table for a good while yet.
Hialmar. Do you think I am not sticking at my work? I'm at it as hard as I can!
Gina. Then you'll be free later on, you know.
[Goes out into the kitchen again. Short pause.]
Ekdal [in the garret doorway, behind the net.] Hialmar!
Ekdal. Afraid we shall have to move the water-trough, after all.
Hialmar. What else have I been saying all along?
Ekdal. H'm — h'm — h'm.
[Goes away from the door again. HIALMAR goes on working a little; glances towards the garret and half rises. HEDVIG comes in from the kitchen.]
Hialmar [sits down again hurriedly.] What do you want?
Hedvig. I only wanted to come in beside you, father.
Hialmar [after a pause]. What makes you go prying around like that? Perhaps you are told off to watch me?
Hedvig. No, no.
Hialmar. What is your mother doing out there?
Hedvig. Oh, mother's in the middle of making the herring-salad. [Goes to the table]. Isn't there any little thing I could help you with, father?
Hialmar. Oh, no. It is right that I should bear the whole burden — so long as my strength holds out. Set your mind at rest, Hedvig; if only your father keeps his health —
Hedvig. Oh, no, father! You mustn't talk in that horrid way.
[She wanders about a little, stops by the doorway and looks into the garret.]
Hialmar. Tell me, what is he doing?
Hedvig. I think he's making a new path to the water-trough.
Hialmar. He can never manage that by himself! And here am I doomed to sit —!
Hedvig [goes to him.] Let me take the brush, father; I can do it, quite well.
Hialmar. Oh, nonsense; you will only hurt your eyes.
Hedvig. Not a bit. Give me the brush.
Hialmar [rising.] Well, it won't take more than a minute or two.
Hedvig. Pooh, what harm can it do then? [Takes the brush.] There! [Seats herself.] I can begin upon this one.
Hialmar. But mind you don't hurt your eyes! Do you hear? I won't be answerable; you do it on your own responsibility — understand that.
Hedvig [retouching.] Yes, yes, I understand.
Hialmar. You are quite clever at it, Hedvig. Only a minute or two, you know.
[He slips through by the edge of the curtain into the garret. HEDVIG sits at her work. HIALMAR and EKDAL are heard disputing inside.]
Hialmar [appears behind the net.] I say, Hedvig — give me those pincers that are lying on the shelf. And the chisel. [Turns away inside.] Now you shall see, father. Just let me show you first what I mean!
[HEDVIG has fetched the required tools from the shelf, and hands them to him through the net.]
Hialmar. Ah, thanks. I didn't come a moment too soon.
[Goes back from the curtain again; they are heard carpentering and talking inside. HEDVIG stands looking in at them. A moment later there is a knock at the passage door; she does not notice it.]
Gregers Werle [bareheaded, in indoor dress, enters and stops near the door.] H'm —!
Hedvig [turns and goes towards him.] Good morning. Please come in.
Gregers. Thank you. [Looking towards the garret.] You seem to have workpeople in the house.
Hedvig. No, it is only father and grandfather. I'll tell them you are here.
Gregers. No, no, don't do that; I would rather wait a little.
[Seats himself on the sofa.]
Hedvig. It looks so untidy here —
[Begins to clear away the photographs.]
Gregers. Oh, don't take them away. Are those prints that have to be finished off?
Hedvig. Yes, they are a few I was helping father with.
Gregers. Please don't let me disturb you.
Hedvig. Oh, no.
[She gathers the things to her and sits down to work; GREGERS looks at her, meanwhile, in silence.]
Gregers. Did the wild duck sleep well last night?
Hedvig. Yes, I think so, thanks.
Gregers [turning towards the garret.] It looks quite different by day from what it did last night in the moonlight.
Hedvig. Yes, it changes ever so much. It looks different in the morning and in the afternoon; and it's different on rainy days from what it is in fine weather.
Gregers. Have you noticed that?
Hedvig. Yes, how could I help it?
Gregers. Are you, too, fond of being in there with the wild duck?
Hedvig. Yes, when I can manage it —
Gregers. But I suppose you haven't much spare time; you go to school, no doubt.
Hedvig. No, not now; father is afraid of my hurting my eyes.
Gregers. Oh; then he reads with you himself?
Hedvig. Father has promised to read with me; but he has never had time yet.
Gregers. Then is there nobody else to give you a little help?
Hedvig. Yes, there is Mr. Molvik; but he is not always exactly — quite —
Hedvig. Yes, I suppose that's it!
Gregers. Why, then you must have any amount of time on your hands. And in there I suppose it is a sort world by itself?
Hedvig. Oh, yes, quite. And there are such lots of wonderful things.
Hedvig. Yes, there are big cupboards full of books; and a great many of the books have pictures in them.
Hedvig. And there's an old bureau with drawers and flaps, and a big clock with figures that go out and in. But the clock isn't going now.
Gregers. So time has come to a standstill in there — in the wild duck's domain.
Hedvig. Yes. And then there's an old paint-box and things of that sort; and all the books.
Gregers. And you read the books, I suppose?
Hedvig. Oh, yes, when I get the chance. Most of them are English though, and I don't understand English. But then I look at the pictures. — There is one great big book called "Harrison's History of London."* It must be a hundred years old; and there are such heaps of pictures in it. At the beginning there is Death with an hour-glass and a woman. I think that is horrid. But then there are all the other pictures of churches, and castles, and streets, and great ships sailing on the sea.
* A New and Universal History of the Cities of London and Westminster, by Walter Harrison. London, 1775, folio.
Gregers. But tell me, where did all those wonderful things come from?
Hedvig. Oh, an old sea captain once lived here, and he brought them home with him. They used to call him "The Flying Dutchman." That was curious, because he wasn't a Dutchman at all.
Gregers. Was he not?
Hedvig. No. But at last he was drowned at sea; and so he left all those things behind him.
Gregers. Tell me now — when you are sitting in there looking at the pictures, don't you wish you could travel and see the real world for yourself?
Hedvig. Oh, no! I mean always to stay at home and help father and mother.
Gregers. To retouch photographs?
Hedvig. No, not only that. I should love above everything to learn to engrave pictures like those in the English books.
Gregers. H'm. What does your father say to that?
Hedvig. I don't think father likes it; father is strange about such things. Only think, he talks of my learning basket-making, and straw-plaiting! But I don't think that would be much good.
Gregers. Oh, no, I don't think so either.
Hedvig. But father was right in saying that if I had learnt basket-making I could have made the new basket for the wild duck.
Gregers. So you could; and it was you that ought to have done it, wasn't it?
Hedvig. Yes, for it's my wild duck.
Gregers. Of course it is.
Hedvig. Yes, it belongs to me. But I lend it to father and grandfather as often as they please.
Gregers. Indeed? What do they do with it?
Hedvig. Oh, they look after it, and build places for it, and so on.
Gregers. I see; for no doubt the wild duck is by far the most distinguished inhabitant of the garret?
Hedvig. Yes, indeed she is; for she is a real wild fowl, you know. And then she is so much to be pitied; she has no one to care for, poor thing.
Gregers. She has no family, as the rabbits have —
Hedvig. No. The hens too, many of them, were chickens together; but she has been taken right away from all her friends. And then there is so much that is strange about the wild duck. Nobody knows her, and nobody knows where she came from either.
Gregers. And she has been down in the depths of the sea.
Hedvig [with a quick glance at him, represses a smile and asks:] Why do you say "depths of the sea"?
Gregers. What else should I say?
Hedvig. You could say "the bottom of the sea."*
* Gregers here uses the old-fashioned expression "havsens bund," while Hedvig would have him use the more commonplace "havets bund" or "havbunden."
Gregers. Oh, mayn't I just as well say the depths of the sea?
Hedvig. Yes; but it sounds so strange to me when other people speak of the depths of the sea.
Gregers. Why so? Tell me why?
Hedvig. No, I won't; it's so stupid.
Gregers. Oh, no, I am sure it's not. Do tell me why you smiled.
Hedvig. Well, this is the reason: whenever I come to realise suddenly — in a flash — what is in there, it always seems to me that the whole room and everything in it should be called "the depths of the sea." But that is so stupid.
Gregers. You mustn't say that.
Hedvig. Oh, yes, for you know it is only a garret.
Gregers [looks fixedly at her.] Are you so sure of that?
Hedvig [astonished.] That it's a garret?
Gregers. Are you quite certain of it?
[HEDVIG is silent, and looks at him open-mouthed. GINA comes in from the kitchen with the table things.]
Gregers [rising.] I have come in upon you too early.
Gina. Oh, you must be somewhere; and we're nearly ready now, any way. Clear the table, Hedvig.
[HEDVIG clears away her things; she and GINA lay the cloth during what follows. GREGERS seats himself in the arm-chair, and turns over an album.]
Gregers. I hear you can retouch, Mrs. Ekdal.
Gina [with a side glance.] Yes, I can.
Gregers. That was exceedingly lucky.
Gina. How — lucky?
Gregers. Since Ekdal took to photography, I mean.
Hedvig. Mother can take photographs, too.
Gina. Oh, yes; I was bound to learn that.
Gregers. So it is really you that carry on the business, I suppose?
Gina. Yes, when Ekdal hasn't time himself —
Gregers. He is a great deal taken up with his old father, I daresay.
Gina. Yes; and then you can't expect a man like Ekdal to do nothing but take car-de-visits of Dick, Tom and Harry.
Gregers. I quite agree with you; but having once gone in for the thing —
Gina. You can surely understand, Mr. Werle, that Ekdal's not like one of your common photographers.
Gregers. Of course not; but still —
[A shot is fired within the garret.]
Gregers [starting up.] What's that?
Gina. Ugh! now they're firing again!
Gregers. Have they firearms in there?
Hedvig. They are out shooting.
Gregers. What! [At the door of the garret.] Are you shooting, Hialmar?
Hialmar [inside the net.] Are you there? I didn't know;
I was so taken up — [To HEDVIG.] Why did you not let us know? [Comes into the studio.]
Gregers. Do you go shooting in the garret?
Hialmar [showing a double-barrelled pistol.] Oh, only with this thing.
Gina. Yes, you and grandfather will do yourselves a mischief some day with that there pigstol.
Hialmar [with irritation.] I believe I have told you that this kind of firearm is called a pistol.
Gina. Oh, that doesn't make it much better, that I can see.
Gregers. So you have become a sportsman, too, Hialmar?
Hialmar. Only a little rabbit-shooting now and then. Mostly to please father, you understand.
Gina. Men are strange beings; they must always have something to pervert theirselves with.
Hialmar [snappishly.] Just so; we must always have something to divert ourselves with.
Gina. Yes, that's just what I say.
Hialmar. H'm. [To GREGERS.] You see the garret is fortunately so situated that no one can hear us shooting. [Lays the pistol on the top shelf of the bookcase.] Don't touch the pistol, Hedvig! One of the barrels is loaded; remember that.
Gregers [looking through the net.] You have a fowling-piece too, I see.
Hialmar. That is father's old gun. It's of no use now; something has gone wrong with the lock. But it's fun to have it all the same; for we can take it to pieces now and then, and clean and grease it, and screw it together again. — Of course, it's mostly father that fiddle-faddles with all that sort of thing.
Hedvig [beside GREGERS.] Now you can see the wild duck properly.
Gregers. I was just looking at her. One of her wings seems to me to droop a bit.
Hedvig. Well, no wonder; her wing was broken, you know.
Gregers. And she trails one foot a little. Isn't that so?
Hialmar. Perhaps a very little bit.
Hedvig. Yes, it was by that foot the dog took hold of her.
Hialmar. But otherwise she hasn't the least thing the matter with her; and that is simply marvellous for a creature that has a charge of shot in her body, and has been between a dog's teeth —
Gregers [with a glance at HEDVIG] — and that has lain in the depths of the sea — so long.
Hedvig [smiling.] Yes.
Gina [laying the table.] That blessed wild duck! What a lot of fuss you do make over her.
Hialmar. H'm; — will lunch soon be ready?
Gina. Yes, directly. Hedvig, you must come and help me now.
[GINA and HEDVIG go out into the kitchen.]
Hialmar [in a low voice.] I think you had better not stand there looking in at father; he doesn't like it. [GREGERS moves away from the garret door.] Besides, I may as well shut up before the others come. [Claps his hands to drive the fowls back.] Shh — shh, in with you! [Draws up the curtain and pulls the doors together.] All the contrivances are my own invention. It's really quite amusing to have things of this sort to potter with, and to put to rights when they get out of order. And it's absolutely necessary, too; for Gina objects to having rabbits and fowls in the studio.
Gregers. To be sure; and I suppose the studio is your wife's special department?
Hialmar. As a rule, I leave the everyday details of business to her; for then I can take refuge in the parlour and give my mind to more important things.
Gregers. What things may they be, Hialmar?
Hialmar. I wonder you have not asked that question sooner. But perhaps you haven't heard of the invention?
Gregers. The invention? No.
Hialmar. Really? Have you not? Oh, no, out there in the wilds —
Gregers. So you have invented something, have you?
Hialmar. It is not quite completed yet; but I am working at it. You can easily imagine that when I resolved to devote myself to photography, it wasn't simply with the idea of taking likenesses of all sorts of commonplace people.
Gregers. No; your wife was saying the same thing just now.
Hialmar. I swore that if I consecrated my powers to this handicraft, I would so exalt it that it should become both an art and a science. And to that end I determined to make this great invention.
Gregers. And what is the nature of the invention? What purpose does it serve?
Hialmar. Oh, my dear fellow, you mustn't ask for details yet. It takes time, you see. And you must not think that my motive is vanity. It is not for my own sake that I am working. Oh, no; it is my life's mission that stands before me night and day.
Gregers. What is your life's mission?
Hialmar. Do you forget the old man with the silver hair?
Gregers. Your poor father? Well, but what can you do for him?
Hialmar. I can raise up his self-respect from the dead, by restoring the name of Ekdal to honour and dignity.
Gregers. Then that is your life's mission?
Hialmar. Yes. I will rescue the shipwrecked man. For shipwrecked he was, by the very first blast of the storm. Even while those terrible investigations were going on, he was no longer himself. That pistol there — the one we use to shoot rabbits with — has played its part in the tragedy of the house of Ekdal.
Gregers. The pistol? Indeed?
Hialmar. When the sentence of imprisonment was passed — he had the pistol in his hand —
Gregers. Had he —?
Hialmar. Yes; but he dared not use it. His courage failed him. So broken, so demoralised was he even then! Oh, can you understand it? He, a soldier; he, who had shot nine bears, and who was descended from two lieutenant-colonels — one after the other, of course. Can you understand it, Gregers?
Gregers. Yes, I understand it well enough.
Hialmar. I cannot. And once more the pistol played a part in the history of our house. When he had put on the grey clothes and was under lock and key — oh, that was a terrible time for me, I can tell you. I kept the blinds drawn down over both my windows. When I peeped out, I saw the sun shining as if nothing had happened. I could not understand it. I saw people going along the street, laughing and talking about indifferent things. I could not understand it. It seemed to me that the whole of existence must be at a standstill — as if under an eclipse.
Gregers. I felt that, too, when my mother died.
Hialmar. It was in such an hour that Hialmar Ekdal pointed the pistol at his own breast.
Gregers. You, too, thought of —!
Gregers. But you did not fire?
Hialmar. No. At the decisive moment I won the victory over myself. I remained in life. But I can assure you it takes some courage to choose life under circumstances like those.
Gregers. Well, that depends on how you look at it.
Hialmar. Yes, indeed, it takes courage. But I am glad I was firm: for now I shall soon perfect my invention; and Dr. Relling thinks, as I do myself, that father may be allowed to wear his uniform again. I will demand that as my sole reward.
Gregers. So that is what he meant about his uniform —?
Hialmar. Yes, that is what he most yearns for. You can't think how my heart bleeds for him. Every time we celebrate any little family festival — Gina's and my wedding-day, or whatever it may be — in comes the old man in the lieutenant's uniform of happier days. But if he only hears a knock at the door — for he daren't show himself to strangers, you know — he hurries back to his room again as fast as his old legs can carry him. Oh, it's heart-rending for a son to see such things!
Gregers. How long do you think it will take you to finish your invention?
Hialmar. Come now, you mustn't expect me to enter into particulars like that. An invention is not a thing completely under one's own control. It depends largely on inspiration — on intuition — and it is almost impossible to predict when the inspiration may come.
Gregers. But it's advancing?
Hialmar. Yes, certainly, it is advancing. I turn it over in my mind every day; I am full of it. Every afternoon, when I have had my dinner, I shut myself up in the parlour, where I can ponder undisturbed. But I can't be goaded to it; it's not a bit of good; Relling says so, too.
Gregers. And you don't think that all that business in the garret draws you off and distracts you too much?
Hialmar. No, no, no; quite the contrary. You mustn't say that. I cannot be everlastingly absorbed in the same laborious train of thought. I must have something alongside of it to fill up the time of waiting. The inspiration, the intuition, you see — when it comes, it comes, and there's an end of it.
Gregers. My dear Hialmar, I almost think you have something of the wild duck in you.
Hialmar. Something of the wild duck? How do you mean?
Gregers. You have dived down and bitten yourself fast in the undergrowth.
Hialmar. Are you alluding to the well-nigh fatal shot that has broken my father's wing — and mine, too?
Gregers. Not exactly to that. I don't say that your wing has been broken; but you have strayed into a poisonous marsh, Hialmar; an insidious disease has taken hold of you, and you have sunk down to die in the dark.
Hialmar. I? To die in the dark? Look here, Gregers, you must really leave off talking such nonsense.
Gregers. Don't be afraid; I shall find a way to help you up again. I, too, have a mission in life now; I found it yesterday.
Hialmar. That's all very well; but you will please leave me out of it. I can assure you that — apart from my very natural melancholy, of course — I am as contented as any one can wish to be.
Gregers. Your contentment is an effect of the marsh poison.
Hialmar. Now, my dear Gregers, pray do not go on about disease and poison; I am not used to that sort of talk. In my house nobody ever speaks to me about unpleasant things.
Gregers. Ah, that I can easily believe.
Hialmar. It's not good for me, you see. And there are no marsh poisons here, as you express it. The poor photographer's roof is lowly, I know — and my circumstances are narrow. But I am an inventor, and I am the bread-winner of a family. That exalts me above my mean surroundings. — Ah, here comes lunch!
GINA and HEDVIG bring bottles of ale, a decanter of brandy, glasses, etc. At the same time, RELLING and MOLVIK enter from the passage; they are both without hat or overcoat. MOLVIK is dressed in black.]
Gina [placing the things upon the table.] Ah, you two have come in the nick of time.
Relling. Molvik got it into his head that he could smell herring-salad, and then there was no holding him. — Good morning again, Ekdal.
Hialmar. Gregers, let me introduce you to Mr. Molvik. Doctor — Oh, you know Relling, don't you?
Gregers. Yes, slightly.
Relling. Oh, Mr. Werle, junior! Yes, we two have had one or two little skirmishes up at the Hoidal works. You've just moved in?
Gregers. I moved in this morning.
Relling. Molvik and I live right under you; so you haven't far to go for the doctor and the clergyman, if you should need anything in that line.
Gregers. Thanks, it's not quite unlikely; for yesterday we were thirteen at table.
Hialmar. Oh, come now, don't let us get upon unpleasant subjects again!
Relling. You may make your mind easy, Ekdal; I'll be hanged if the finger of fate points to you.
Hialmar. I should hope not, for the sake of my family. But let us sit down now, and eat and drink and be merry.
Gregers. Shall we not wait for your father?
Hialmar. No, his lunch will be taken in to him later. Come along!
[The men seat themselves at table, and eat and drink. GINA and HEDVIG go in and out and wait upon them.]
Relling. Molvik was frightfully screwed yesterday, Mrs. Ekdal.
Gina. Really? Yesterday again?
Relling. Didn't you hear him when I brought him home last night?
Gina. No, I can't say I did.
Relling. That was a good thing, for Molvik was disgusting last night.
Gina. Is that true, Molvik?
Molvik. Let us draw a veil over last night's proceedings. That sort of thing is totally foreign to my better self.
Relling [to GREGERS.] It comes over him like a sort of possession, and then I have to go out on the loose with him. Mr. Molvik is daemonic, you see.
Relling. Molvik is daemonic, yes.
Relling. And daemonic natures are not made to walk straight through the world; they must meander a little now and then. — Well, so you still stick up there at those horrible grimy works?
Gregers. I have stuck there until now.
Relling. And did you ever manage to collect that claim you went about presenting?
Gregers. Claim? [Understands him.] Ah, I see.
Hialmar. Have you been presenting claims, Gregers?
Gregers. Oh, nonsense.
Relling. Faith, but he has, though! He went round to all the cotters' cabins presenting something he called "the claim of the ideal."
Gregers. I was young then.
Relling. You're right; you were very young. And as for the claim of the ideal — you never got it honoured while I was up there.
Gregers. Nor since either.
Relling. Ah, then you've learnt to knock a little discount off, I expect.
Gregers. Never, when I have a true man to deal with.
Hialmar. No, I should think not, indeed. A little butter, Gina.
Relling. And a slice of bacon for Molvik.
Molvik. Ugh; not bacon!
[A knock at the garret door.]
Hialmar. Open the door, Hedvig; father wants to come out.
[HEDVIG goes over and opens the door a little way; EKDAL enters with a fresh rabbit-skin; she closes the door after him.]
Ekdal. Good morning, gentlemen! Good sport to-day. Shot a big one.
Hialmar. And you've gone and skinned it without waiting for me —!
Ekdal. Salted it, too. It's good tender meat, is rabbit; it's sweet; it tastes like sugar. Good appetite to you, gentlemen!
[Goes into his room.]
Molvik [rising.] Excuse me —; I can't —; I must get downstairs immediately —
Relling. Drink some soda water, man!
Molvik [hurrying away.] Ugh — ugh!
[Goes out by the passage door.]
Relling [to HIALMAR.] Let us drain a glass to the old hunter.
Hialmar [clinks glasses with him.] To the undaunted sportsman who has looked death in the face!
Relling. To the grey-haired — [Drinks.] By-the-bye, is his hair grey or white?
Hialmar. Something between the two, I fancy; for that matter, he has very few hairs left of any colour.
Relling. Well, well, one can get through the world with a wig. After all, you are a happy man, Ekdal; you have your noble mission to labour for —
Hialmar. And I do labour, I can tell you.
Relling. And then you have your excellent wife, shuffling quietly in and out in her felt slippers, with that see-saw walk of hers, and making everything cosy and comfortable about you —
Hialmar. Yes, Gina — [nods to her] — you were a good helpmate on the path of life.
Gina. Oh, don't sit there cricketising me.
Relling. And your Hedvig, too, Ekdal!
Hialmar [affected.] The child, yes! The child before everything! Hedvig, come here to me. [Strokes her hair.] What day is it to-morrow, eh?
Hedvig [shaking him.] Oh, no, you're not to say anything, father.
Hialmar. It cuts me to the heart when I think what a poor affair it will be; only a little festivity in the garret —
Hedvig. Oh, but that's just what I like!
Relling. Just you wait till the wonderful invention sees the light, Hedvig!
Hialmar. Yes, indeed — then you shall see —! Hedvig, I have resolved to make your future secure. You shall live in comfort all your days. I will demand — something or other — on your behalf. That shall be the poor inventor's sole reward.
Hedvig [whispering, with her arms round his neck.] Oh, you dear, kind father!
Relling [to GREGERS.] Come now, don't you find it pleasant, for once in a way, to sit at a well-spread table in a happy family circle?
Hialmar. Ah, yes, I really prize these social hours.
Gregers. For my part, I don't thrive in marsh vapours.
Relling. Marsh vapours?
Hialmar. Oh, don't begin with that stuff again!
Gina. Goodness knows there's no vapours in this house, Mr. Werle; I give the place a good airing every blessed day.
Gregers [leaves the table.] No airing you can give will drive out the taint I mean.
Gina. Yes, what do you say to that, Ekdal!
Relling. Excuse me — may it not be you yourself that have brought the taint from those mines up there?
Gregers. It is like you to call what I bring into this house a taint.
Relling [goes up to him.] Look here, Mr. Werle, junior: I have a strong suspicion that you are still carrying about that "claim of the ideal" large as life, in your coat-tail pocket.
Gregers. I carry it in my breast.
Relling. Well, wherever you carry it, I advise you not to come dunning us with it here, so long as I am on the premises.
Gregers. And if I do so none the less?
Relling. Then you'll go head-foremost down the stairs; now I've warned you.
Hialmar [rising.] Oh, but Relling —!
Gregers. Yes, you may turn me out —
Gina [interposing between them.] We can't have that,
Relling. But I must say, Mr. Werle, it ill becomes you to talk about vapours and taints, after all the mess you made with your stove.
[A knock at the passage door.]
Hedvig. Mother, there's somebody knocking.
Hialmar. There now, we're going to have a whole lot of people!
Gina. I'll go [Goes over and opens the door, starts, and draws back.] Oh — oh, dear!
[WERLE, in a fur coat, advances one step into the room.]
Werle. Excuse me; but I think my son is staying here.
Gina [with a gulp.] Yes.
Hialmar [approaching him.] Won't you do us the honour to —?
Werle. Thank you, I merely wish to speak to my son.
Gregers. What is it? Here I am.
Werle. I want a few words with you, in your room.
Gregers. In my room? Very well — [About to go.
Gina. No, no, your room's not in a fit state —
Werle. Well then, out in the passage here; I want to have a few words with you alone.
Hialmar. You can have them here, sir. Come into the parlour, Relling.
[HIALMAR and RELLING go off to the right. GINA takes HEDVIG with her into the kitchen.]
Gregers [after a short pause.] Well, now we are alone.
Werle. From something you let fall last evening, and from your coming to lodge with the Ekdals, I can't help inferring that you intend to make yourself unpleasant to me, in one way or another.
Gregers. I intend to open Hialmar Ekdal's eyes. He shall see his position as it really is — that is all.
Werle. Is that the mission in life you spoke of yesterday?
Gregers. Yes. You have left me no other.
Werle. Is it I, then, that have crippled your mind, Gregers?
Gregers. You have crippled my whole life. I am not thinking of all that about mother — But it's thanks to you that I am continually haunted and harassed by a guilty conscience.
Werle. Indeed! It is your conscience that troubles you, is it?
Gregers. I ought to have taken a stand against you when the trap was set for Lieutenant Ekdal. I ought to have cautioned him; for I had a misgiving as to what was in the wind.
Werle. Yes, that was the time to have spoken.
Gregers. I did not dare to, I was so cowed and spiritless. I was mortally afraid of you — not only then, but long afterwards.
Werle. You have got over that fear now, it appears.
Gregers. Yes, fortunately. The wrong done to old Ekdal, both by me and by — others, can never be undone; but Hialmar I can rescue from all the falsehood and deception that are bringing him to ruin.
Werle. Do you think that will be doing him a kindness?
Gregers. I have not the least doubt of it.
Werle. You think our worthy photographer is the sort of man to appreciate such friendly offices?
Gregers. Yes, I do.
Werle. H'm — we shall see.
Gregers. Besides, if I am to go on living, I must try to find some cure for my sick conscience.
Werle. It will never be sound. Your conscience has been sickly from childhood. That is a legacy from your mother, Gregers — the only one she left you.
Gregers [with a scornful half-smile.] Have you not yet forgiven her for the mistake you made in supposing she would bring you a fortune?
Werle. Don't let us wander from the point. — Then you hold to your purpose of setting young Ekdal upon what you imagine to be the right scent?
Gregers. Yes, that is my fixed resolve.
Werle. Well, in that case I might have spared myself this visit; for, of course, it is useless to ask whether you will return home with me?
Gregers. Quite useless.
Werle. And I suppose you won't enter the firm either?
Werle. Very good. But as I am thinking of marrying again, your share in the property will fall to you at once.*
* By Norwegian law, before a widower can marry again, a certain proportion of his property must be settled on his children by his former marriage.
Gregers [quickly.] No, I do not want that.
Werle. You don't want it?
Gregers. No, I dare not take it, for conscience' sake.
Werle [after a pause.] Are you going up to the works again?
Gregers. No; I consider myself released from your service.
Werle. But what are you going to do?
Gregers. Only to fulfil my mission; nothing more.
Werle. Well but afterwards? What are you going to live upon?
Gregers. I have laid by a little out of my salary.
Werle. How long will that last?
Gregers. I think it will last my time.
Werle. What do you mean?
Gregers. I shall answer no more questions.
Werle. Good-bye then, Gregers.
Hialmar [peeping in.] He's gone, isn't he?
HIALMAR and RELLING enter; also GINA and HEDVIG from the kitchen.]
Relling. That luncheon-party was a failure.
Gregers. Put on your coat, Hialmar; I want you to come for a long walk with me.
Hialmar. With pleasure. What was it your father wanted? Had it anything to do with me?
Gregers. Come along. We must have a talk. I'll go and put on my overcoat.
[Goes out by the passage door.]
Gina. You shouldn't go out with him, Ekdal.
Relling. No, don't you do it. Stay where you are.
Hialmar [gets his hat and overcoat.] Oh, nonsense! When a friend of my youth feels impelled to open his mind to me in private —
Relling. But devil take it — don't you see that the fellow's mad, cracked, demented!
Gina. There, what did I tell you! His mother before him had crazy fits like that sometimes.
Hialmar. The more need for a friend's watchful eye. [To GINA.] Be sure you have dinner ready in good time. Good-bye for the present.
[Goes out by the passage door.]
Relling. It's a thousand pities the fellow didn't go to hell through one of the Hoidal mines.
Gina. Good Lord! what makes you say that?
Relling [muttering.] Oh, I have my own reasons.
Gina. Do you think young Werle is really mad?
Relling. No, worse luck; he's no madder than most other people. But one disease he has certainly got in his system.
Gina. What is it that's the matter with him?
Relling. Well, I'll tell you, Mrs. Ekdal. He is suffering from an acute attack of integrity.
Hedvig. Is that a kind of disease?
Relling. Yes, it's a national disease; but it only appears sporadically. [Nods to GINA.] Thanks for your hospitality.
[He goes out by the passage door.]
Gina [moving restlessly to and fro.] Ugh, that Gregers Werle — he was always a wretched creature.
Hedvig [standing by the table, and looking searchingly at her.] I think all this is very strange.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10