(SCENE—The sitting-room at Rosmersholm; a spacious room, comfortably furnished in old-fashioned style. In the foreground, against the right-hand wall, is a stove decorated with sprigs of fresh birch and wild flowers. Farther back, a door. In the back wall folding doors leading into the entrance hall. In the left-hand wall a window, in front of which is a stand filled with flowers and plants. Near the stove stand a table, a couch and an easy-chair. The walls are hung round with portraits, dating from various periods, of clergymen, military officers and other officials in uniform. The window is open, and so are the doors into the lobby and the outer door. Through the latter is seen an avenue of old trees leading to a courtyard. It is a summer evening, after sunset. REBECCA WEST is sitting by the window crocheting a large white woollen shawl, which is nearly completed. From time to time she peeps out of window through the flowers. MRS. HELSETH comes in from the right.)
Mrs. Helseth. Hadn’t I better begin and lay the table for supper, miss?
Rebecca. Yes, do. Mr. Rosmer ought to be in directly.
Mrs. Helseth. Isn’t there a draught where you are sitting, miss?
Rebecca. There is a little. Will you shut up, please? (MRS. HELSETH goes to the hall door and shuts it. Then she goes to the window, to shut it, and looks out.)
Mrs. Helseth. Isn’t that Mr. Rosmer coming there?
Rebecca. Where? (Gets up.) Yes, it is he. (Stands behind the window-curtain.) Stand on one side. Don’t let him catch sight of us.
Mrs. Helseth (stepping back). Look, miss—he is beginning to use the mill path again.
Rebecca. He came by the mill path the day before yesterday too. (Peeps out between the curtain and the window-frame). Now we shall see whether—
Mrs. Helseth. Is he going over the wooden bridge?
Rebecca. That is just what I want to see. (After a moment.) No. He has turned aside. He is coming the other way round to-day too. (Comes away from the window.) It is a long way round.
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, of course. One can well understand his shrinking from going over that bridge. The spot where such a thing has happened is—
Rebecca (folding up her work). They cling to their dead a long time at Rosmersholm.
Mrs. Helseth. If you ask me, miss, I should say it is the dead that cling to Rosmersholm a long time.
Rebecca (looking at her). The dead?
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, one might almost say that they don’t seem to be able to tear themselves away from those they have left behind.
Rebecca. What puts that idea into your head?
Mrs. Helseth. Well, otherwise I know the White Horses would not be seen here.
Rebecca. Tell me, Mrs. Helseth—what is this superstition about the White Horses?
Mrs. Helseth. Oh, it is not worth talking about. I am sure you don’t believe in such things, either.
Rebecca. Do you believe in them?
Mrs. Helseth (goes to the window and shuts it). Oh, I am not going to give you a chance of laughing at me, miss. (Looks out.) See—is that not Mr. Rosmer out on the mill path again?
Rebecca (looking out). That man out there? (Goes to the window.) Why, that is Mr. Kroll, of course!
Mrs. Helseth. So it is, to be sure.
Rebecca. That is delightful, because he is certain to be coming here.
Mrs. Helseth. He actually comes straight over the wooden bridge, he does for all that she was his own sister. Well, I will go in and get the supper laid, miss. (Goes out to the right. REBECCA stands still for a moment, then waves her hand out of the window, nodding and smiling. Darkness is beginning to fall.)
Rebecca (going to the door on the right and calling through it). Mrs. Helseth, I am sure you won’t mind preparing something extra nice for supper? You know what dishes Mr. Kroll is especially fond of.
Mrs. Helseth. Certainly, miss. I will.
Rebecca (opening the door into the lobby). At last, Mr. Kroll! I am so glad to see you!
Kroll (coming into the lobby and putting down his stick). Thank you. Are you sure I am not disturbing you?
Rebecca. You? How can you say such a thing?
Kroll (coming into the room). You are always so kind. (Looks round the room.) Is John up in his room?
Rebecca. No, he has gone out for a walk. He is later than usual of coming in, but he is sure to be back directly. (Points to the sofa.) Do sit down and wait for him.
Kroll (putting down his hat). Thank you. (Sits down and looks about him.) How charmingly pretty you have made the old room look! Flowers everywhere!
Rebecca. Mr. Rosmer is so fond of having fresh flowers about him.
Kroll. And so are you, I should say.
Rebecca. Yes, I am. I think their scent has such a delicious effect on one—and till lately we had to deny ourselves that pleasure, you know.
Kroll (nodding slowly). Poor Beata could not stand the scent of them.
Rebecca. Nor their colours either. They made her feel dazed.
Kroll. Yes, I remember. (Continues in a more cheerful tone of voice). Well, and how are things going here?
Rebecca. Oh, everything goes on in the same quiet, placid way. One day is exactly like another. And how are things with you? Is your wife—?
Kroll. Oh, my dear Miss West, don’t let us talk about my affairs. In a family there is always something or other going awry—especially in such times as we live in now.
Rebecca (after a short pause, sitting down in an easy-chair near the sofa). Why have you never once been near us during the whole of your holidays?
Kroll. Oh, it doesn’t do to be importunate, you know.
Rebecca. If you only knew how we have missed you.
Kroll. And, besides, I have been away, you know.
Rebecca. Yes, for a fortnight or so. I suppose you have been going the round of the public meetings?
Kroll (nods). Yes, what do you say to that? Would you ever have thought I would become a political agitator in my old age—eh?
Rebecca (smilingly). You have always been a little bit of an agitator, Mr. Kroll.
Kroll. Oh, yes; just for my own amusement. But for the future it is going to be in real earnest. Do you ever read the Radical newspapers?
Rebecca. Yes, I won’t deny that!
Kroll. My dear Miss West, there is no objection to that—not as far as you are concerned.
Rebecca. No, that is just what I think. I must follow the course of events—keep up with what is happening.
Kroll. Well, under any circumstances, I should never expect you, as a woman, to side actively with either party in the civic dispute—indeed one might more properly call it the civil war—that is raging here. I dare say you have read, then, the abuse these “nature’s gentlemen” are pleased to shower upon me, and the scandalous coarseness they consider they are entitled to make use of?
Rebecca. Yes, but I think you have held your own pretty forcibly.
Kroll. That I have—though I say it. I have tasted blood now, and I will make them realise that I am not the sort of man to take it lying down—. (Checks himself.) No, no, do not let us get upon that sad and distressing topic this evening.
Rebecca. No, my dear Mr. Kroll, certainly not.
Kroll. Tell me, instead, how you find you get on at Rosmersholm, now that you are alone here—I mean, since our poor Beata—
Rebecca. Oh, thanks—I get on very well here. Her death has made a great gap in the house in many ways, of course—and one misses her and grieves for her, naturally. But in other respects—
Kroll. Do you think you will remain here?—permanently, I mean?
Rebecca. Dear Mr. Kroll, I really never think about it at all. The fact is that I have become so thoroughly domesticated here that I almost feel as if I belonged to the place too.
Kroll. You? I should think you did!
Rebecca. And as long as Mr. Rosmer finds I can be any comfort or any use to him, I will gladly remain here, undoubtedly.
Kroll (looking at her, with some emotion). You know, there is something splendid about a woman’s sacrificing the whole of her youth for others.
Rebecca. What else have I had to live for?
Kroll. At first when you came here there was your perpetual worry with that unreasonable cripple of a foster-father of yours—
Rebecca. You mustn’t think that Dr. West was as unreasonable as that when we lived in Finmark. It was the trying journeys by sea that broke him up. But it is quite true that after we had moved here there were one or two hard years before his sufferings were over.
Kroll. Were not the years that followed even harder for you?
Rebecca. No; how can you say such a thing! I, who was so genuinely fond of Beata—! And she, poor soul was so sadly in need of care and sympathetic companionship.
Kroll. You deserve to be thanked and rewarded for the forbearance with which you speak of her.
Rebecca (moving a little nearer to him). Dear Mr. Kroll, you say that so kindly and so sincerely that I feel sure you really bear me no ill-will.
Kroll. Ill-will? What do you mean?
Rebecca. Well, it would not be so very surprising if it were rather painful for you to see me, a stranger, doing just as I like here at Rosmersholm.
Kroll. How in the world could you think—!
Rebecca. Then it is not so? (Holds out her hand to, him.) Thank you, Mr. Kroll; thank you for that.
Kroll. But what on earth could make you take such an idea into your head?
Rebecca. I began to be afraid it might be so, as you have so seldom been out here to see us lately.
Kroll. I can assure you, you have been on the wrong scent entirely, Miss West. And, in any case, the situation of affairs is unchanged in any essential point; because during the last sad years of poor Beata’s life it was you and you alone, even then, that looked after everything here.
Rebecca. But it was more like a kind of regency in the wife’s name.
Kroll. Whatever it was, I—. I will tell you what, Miss West; as far as I am concerned I should have nothing whatever to say against it if you. But it doesn’t do to say such things.
Rebecca. What things?
Kroll. Well, if it so happened that you were to step into the empty place—
Rebecca. I have the place I want, already, Mr. Kroll.
Kroll. Yes, as far as material benefits go; but not—
Rebecca (interrupting him, in a serious voice). For shame, Mr. Kroll! How can you sit there and jest about such things!
Kroll. Oh, well, I dare say our good John Rosmer thinks he has had more than enough of married life. But, all the same—
Rebecca. Really, you almost make me feel inclined to laugh at you.
Kroll. All the same—Tell me, Miss West, if I may be allowed the question, how old are you?
Rebecca. I am ashamed to say I was twenty-nine on my last birthday, Mr. Kroll. I am nearly thirty.
Kroll. Quite so. And Rosmer—how old is he? Let me see. He is five years younger than me, so he must be just about forty-three. It seems to me it would be very suitable.
Rebecca. No doubt, no doubt. It would be remarkably suitable—Will you stop and have supper with us?
Kroll. Thank you. I had meant to pay you a good long visit, because there is a matter I want to talk over with our excellent friend—Well, then, Miss West, to prevent your taking foolish ideas into your head again, I will come out here again from time to time, as in the old days.
Rebecca. Yes, please do. (Holds out her hand to, him.) Thank you, thank you! You are really uncommonly good-natured.
Kroll (with a little grumble). Am I? I can tell you that is more than they say at home. (ROSMER comes in by the door on the right.)
Rebecca. Mr. Rosmer, do you see who is sitting here?
Rosmer. Mrs. Helseth told me. (KROLL gets up.) I am so glad to see you here again, my dear fellow. (Puts his hands on KROLL’S shoulders and looks him in the face.) Dear old friend! I knew that one day we should be on our old footing again.
Kroll. My dear fellow, have you that insane idea in your head too, that any thing could come between us?
Rebecca (to ROSMER). Isn’t it delightful to think it was all our imagination!
Rosmer. Is that really true, Kroll? But why have you kept so obstinately away from us?
Kroll (seriously, and in, a subdued voice). Because I did not want to come here like a living reminder of the unhappy time that is past—and of her who met her death in the mill-race.
Rosmer. It was a very kind thought on your part. You are always so considerate. But it was altogether unnecessary to keep away from us on that account. Come along, let us sit down on the sofa. (They sit down.) I can assure you it is not in the least painful for me to think about Beata. We talk about her every day. She seems to us to have a part in the house still.
Kroll. Does she really?
Rebecca (lighting the lamp). Yes, it is really quite true.
Rosmer. She really does. We both think so affectionately of her. And both Rebecca—both Miss West and I know in our hearts that we did all that lay in our power for the poor afflicted creature. We have nothing to reproach ourselves with. That is why I feel there is something sweet and peaceful in the way we can think of Beata now.
Kroll. You dear good people! In future I am coming out to see you every day.
Rebecca (sitting down in an arm-chair). Yes, let us see that you keep your word.
Rosmer (with a slight hesitation). I assure you, my dear fellow, my dearest wish would be that our intimacy should never suffer in any way. You know, you have seemed to be my natural adviser as long as we have known one another, even from my student days.
Kroll. I know, and I am very proud of the privilege. Is there by any chance anything in particular just now—?
Rosmer. There are a great many things that I want very much to talk over with you frankly—things that lie very near my heart.
Rebecca. I feel that is so, too, Mr. Rosmer. It seems to me it would be such a good thing if you two old friends—
Kroll. Well, I can assure you I have even more to talk over with you—because I have become an active politician, as I dare say you know.
Rosmer. Yes, I know you have. How did that come about?
Kroll. I had to, you see, whether I liked it or not. It became impossible for me to remain an idle spectator any longer. Now that the Radicals have become so distressingly powerful, it was high time. And that is also why I have induced our little circle of friends in the town to bind themselves more definitely together. It was high time, I can tell you!
Rebecca (with a slight smile). As a matter of fact, isn’t it really rather late now?
Kroll. There is no denying it would have been more fortunate if we had succeeded in checking the stream at an earlier point. But who could really foresee what was coming? I am sure I could not. (Gets up and walks up and down.) Anyway, my eyes are completely opened now; for the spirit of revolt has spread even into my school.
Rosmer. Into the school? Surely not into your school?
Kroll. Indeed it has. Into my own school. What do you think of this? I have got wind of the fact that the boys in the top class—or rather, a part of the boys in it—have formed themselves into a secret society and have been taking in Mortensgaard’s paper!
Rebecca. Ah, the “Searchlight”.
Kroll. Yes, don’t you think that is a nice sort of intellectual pabulum for future public servants? But the saddest part of it is that it is all the most promising boys in the class that have conspired together and hatched this plot against me. It is only the duffers and dunces that have held aloof from it.
Rebecca. Do you take it so much to heart, Mr. Kroll?
Kroll. Do I take it to heart, to find myself so hampered and thwarted in my life’s work? (Speaking more gently.) I might find it in my heart to say that I could even take that for what it is worth; but I have not told you the worst of it yet. (Looks round the room.) I suppose nobody is likely to be listening at the doors?
Rebecca. Oh, certainly not.
Kroll. Then let me tell you that the revolt and dissension has spread into my own home—into my own peaceful home—and has disturbed the peace of my family life.
Rosmer (getting up). Do you mean it? In your own home?
Rebecca (going up to Kroll). Dear Mr. Kroll, what has happened?
Kroll. Would you believe it that my own children—. To make a long story short, my boy Laurits is the moving spirit of the conspiracy at the school. And Hilda has embroidered a red portfolio to keep the numbers of the “Searchlight” in.
Rosmer. I should never have dreamed of such a thing; in your family—in your own house!
Kroll. No, who would ever have dreamed of such a thing? In my house, where obedience and order have always ruled—where hitherto there has never been anything but one unanimous will—
Rebecca. How does your wife take it?
Kroll. Ah, that is the most incredible part of the whole thing. She, who all her days—in great things and small—has concurred in my opinions and approved of all my views, has actually not refrained from throwing her weight on the children’s side on many points. And now she considers I am to blame for what has happened. She says I try to coerce the young people too much. Just as if it were not necessary to—. Well, those are the sort of dissensions I have going on at home. But naturally I talk as little about it as possible; it is better to be silent about such things. (Walks across the floor.) Oh, yes.—Oh, yes. (Stands by the window, with his hands behind his back, and looks out.)
Rebecca (goes up to ROSMER, and speaks in low, hurried tones, unheard by KROLL). Do it!
Rosmer (in the same tone). Not to-night.
Rebecca (as before). Yes, this night of all others. (Goes away from him and adjusts the lamp.)
Kroll (coming back). Yes, my dear John, so now you know the sort of spirit of the age that has cast its shadow both over my home life and my official work. Ought I not to oppose this appalling, destructive, disorganising tendency with all the weapons I can lay my hands upon? Of course it is certainly my duty—and that both with my pen and my tongue.
Rosmer. But have you any hope that you can produce any effect in that way?
Kroll. At all events I mean to take my share in the fight as a citizen. And I consider that it is the duty of every patriotic man, every man who is concerned about what is right, to do the same. And, I may as well tell you, that is really the reason why I have come here to see you to-night.
Rosmer. My dear fellow, what do you mean? What can I—?
Kroll. You are going to help your old friends, and do as we are doing—take your share in it to the best of your ability.
Rebecca. But, Mr. Kroll, you know how little taste Mr. Rosmer has for that sort of thing.
Kroll. Then he has got to overcome that distaste now. You do not keep abreast of the times, John. You sit here and bury yourself in your historical researches. Goodness knows, I have the greatest respect for family pedigrees and all that they imply. But this is not the time for such occupations, unhappily. You have no conception of the state of affairs that is going on all over the country. Every single idea is turned upside down, or very nearly so. It will be a hard fight to get all the errors straightened out again.
Rosmer. I can quite believe it. But that sort of a fight is not in my line at all.
Rebecca. Besides, I rather fancy that Mr. Rosmer has come to look at the affairs of life with wider opened eyes than before.
Kroll (with a start). Wider opened eyes?
Rebecca. Yes, or with an opener mind—with less prejudice.
Kroll. What do you mean by that? John—surely you could never be so weak as to allow yourself to be deluded by the accidental circumstance that the demagogues have scored a temporary success!
Rosmer. My dear fellow, you know very well that I am no judge of politics; but it certainly seems to me that of late years individual thought has become somewhat more independent.
Kroll. Quite so—but do you consider that as a matter of course to be a good thing? In any case you are vastly mistaken, my friend. Just inquire a little into the opinions that are current amongst the Radicals, both out here in the country and in town. You will find them to be nothing else than the words of wisdom that appear in the “Searchlight”.
Rebecca. Yes, Mortensgaard has a great deal of influence over the people about here.
Kroll. Yes, just think of it—a man with as dirty a record as his! A fellow that was turned out of his place as a schoolmaster because of his immoral conduct! This is the sort of man that poses as a leader of the people! And successfully, too!—actually successfully! I hear that he means to enlarge his paper now. I know, on reliable authority, that he is looking for a competent assistant.
Rebecca. It seems to me surprising that you and your friends do not start an opposition paper.
Kroll. That is exactly what we intend to do. This very day we have bought the “County News.” There was no difficulty about the financial side of the matter; but— (Turns towards ROSMER) Now we have come to the real purport of my visit. It is the Management of it—the editorial management—that is the difficulty, you see. Look here, Rosmer—don’t you feel called upon to undertake it, for the sake of the good cause?
Rosmer (in a tone of consternation). I!
Rebecca. How can you think of such a thing!
Kroll. I can quite understand your having a horror of public meetings and being unwilling to expose yourself to the mercies of the rabble that frequents them. But an editor’s work, which is carried on in much greater privacy, or rather—
Rosmer. No, no, my dear fellow, you must not ask that of me.
Kroll. It would give me the greatest pleasure to have a try at work of that sort myself—only it would be quite out of the question for me; I am already saddled with such an endless number of duties. You, on the other hand, who are no longer hampered by any official duties, might—. Of course the rest of us would give you all the help in our power.
Rosmer. I cannot do it, Kroll. I am not fitted for it.
Kroll. Not fitted for it? That was just what you said when your father got you your living.
Rosmer. I was quite right; and that was why I resigned it, too.
Kroll. Well, if you only make as good an editor as you did a parson, we shall be quite satisfied.
Rosmer. My dear Kroll—once for all—I cannot do it.
Kroll. Well, then, I suppose you will give us the use of your name, at all events?
Rosmer. My name?
Kroll. Yes, the mere fact of John Rosmer’s name being connected with it will be a great advantage to the paper. We others are looked upon as pronounced partisans. I myself even have the reputation of being a wicked fanatic, I am told. Therefore we cannot count upon our own names to give us any particular help in making the paper known to the misguided masses. But you, on the contrary, have always held aloof from this kind of fighting. Your gentle and upright disposition, your polished mind, your unimpeachable honour, are known to and appreciated by every one about here. And then there is the deference and respect that your former position as a clergyman ensures for you—and, besides that, there is the veneration in which your family, name is held!
Rosmer. Oh, my family name.
Kroll (pointing to the portraits). Rosmers of Rosmersholm—clergymen, soldiers, men who have filled high places in the state—men of scrupulous honour, every one of them—a family that has been rooted here, the most influential in the place, for nearly two centuries. (Lays his hand on ROSMER’S shoulder.) John, you owe it to yourself and to the traditions of your race to join us in defence of all that has hitherto been held sacred in our community. (Turning to REBECCA.) What do you say, Miss West?
Rebecca (with a quiet little laugh). my dear Mr. Kroll—it all sounds so absurdly ludicrous to me.
Kroll. What! Ludicrous?
Rebecca. Yes, because it is time you were told plainly—
Rosmer (hurriedly). No, no—don’t! Not now!
Kroll (looking from one to the other). But, my dear friends, what on earth—? (Breaks off, as MRS. HELSETH comes in, by the door on the right.) Ahem!
Mrs. Helseth. There is a man at the kitchen door, sir. He says he wants to see you.
Rosmer (in a relieved voice). Is there? Well, ask him to come in.
Mrs. Helseth. Shall I show him in here, sir?
Mrs. Helseth. But he doesn’t look the sort of man one ought to allow in here.
Rebecca. What does he look like, Mrs. Helseth?
Mrs. Helseth. Oh, he is not much to look at, Miss.
Rosmer. Did he not give you his name?
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, I think he said it was Hekman, or something like that.
Rosmer. I do not know any one of that name.
Mrs. Helseth. And he said his Christian name was Ulrik.
Rosmer (with a start of surprise). Ulrik Hetman! Was that it?
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, sir, it was Hetman.
Kroll. I am certain I have heard that name before.
Rebecca. Surely it was the name that strange creature used to write under—
Rosmer (to Kroll). It is Ulrik Brendel’s pseudonym, you know.
Kroll. That scamp Ulrik Brendel. You are quite right.
Rebecca. So he is alive still.
Rosmer. I thought he was travelling with a theatrical company.
Kroll. The last I heard of him was that he was in the workhouse.
Rosmer. Ask him to come in, Mrs. Helseth.
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, sir. (Goes out.)
Kroll. Do you really mean to allow this fellow into your house?
Rosmer. Oh, well, you know he was my tutor once.
Kroll. I know that what he did was to stuff your head with revolutionary ideas, and that in consequence your father turned him out of the house with a horsewhip.
Rosmer (a little bitterly). Yes, my father was always the commanding officer—even at home.
Kroll. Be grateful to his memory for that, my dear John. Ah!
(MRS. HELSETH shows ULRIK BRENDEL in at the door, then goes out and shuts the door after her. BRENDEL is a good-looking man with grey hair and beard; somewhat emaciated, but active and alert; he is dressed like a common tramp, in a threadbare frock coat, shoes with holes in them, and no visible linen at his neck or wrists. He wears a pair of old black gloves, carries a dirty soft hat under his arm, and has a walking-stick in his hand. He looks puzzled at first, then goes quickly up to KROLL and holds out his hand to him.)
Brendel. Good-evening, John!
Kroll. Excuse me
Brendel. Did you ever expect to see me again? And inside these hated walls, too?
Kroll. Excuse me. (Points to ROSMER.) Over there.
Brendel (turning round). Quite right. There he is. John—my boy—my favourite pupil!
Rosmer (shaking hands with him). My old tutor!
Brendel. In spite of certain recollections, I could not pass by Rosmersholm without paying you a flying visit.
Rosmer. You are very welcome here now. Be sure of that.
Brendel. And this charming lady—? (Bows to Rebecca.) Your wife, of course.
Rosmer. Miss West.
Brendel. A near relation, I presume. And our stranger friend here? A colleague, I can see.
Rosmer. Mr. Kroll, master of the grammar school here.
Brendel. Kroll? Kroll? Wait a moment. Did you take the Philology course in your student days?
Kroll. Certainly I did.
Brendel. By Jove, I used to know you, then
Kroll. Excuse me—
Brendel. Were you not—
Kroll. Excuse me—
Brendel. —one of those champions of all the virtues that got me turned out of the Debating Society?
Kroll. Very possibly. But I disclaim any other acquaintance with you.
Brendel. All right, all right! Nach Belieben, Mr. Kroll. I dare say I shall get over it. Ulrik Brendel will still be himself in spite of it.
Rebecca. Are you on your way to the town, Mr. Brendel?
Brendel. You have hit the nail on the head, ma’am. At certain intervals I am obliged to do something for my living. I do not do it willingly—but, enfin—when needs must—
Rosmer. My dear Mr. Brendel, will you not let me be of assistance to you? In some way or another, I mean—
Brendel. Ah, what a proposal to come from you! Could you wish to soil the tie that binds us together? Never, John—never!
Rosmer. But what do you propose to do in the town, then? I assure you, you won’t find it so easy—
Brendel. Leave that to me, my boy. The die is cast. The unworthy individual who stands before you is started on an extensive campaign—more extensive than all his former excursions put together. (To KROLL.) May I venture to ask you, Professor—unter uns—are there in your esteemed town any fairly decent, respectable and spacious assembly-rooms?
Kroll. The most spacious is the hall belonging to the Working Men’s Association.
Brendel. May I ask, sir, if you have any special influence with that no doubt most useful Association?
Kroll. I have nothing whatever to do with it.
Rebecca (to BRENDEL). You ought to apply to Peter Mortensgaard.
Brendel. Pardon, madame—what sort of an idiot is he?
Rosmer. Why do you make up your mind he is an idiot?
Brendel. Do you suppose I can’t tell, from the sound of the name, that it belongs to a plebeian?
Kroll. I did not expect that answer.
Brendel. But I will conquer my prejudices. There is nothing else for it. When a man stands at a turning-point in his life—as I do—. That is settled. I shall, put myself into communication with this person—commence direct negotiations.
Rosmer. Are you in earnest when you say you are standing at a turning-point in your life?
Brendel. Does my own boy not know that wherever Ulrik Brendel stands he is always in earnest about it? Look here, I mean to become a new man now—to emerge from the cloak of reserve in which I have hitherto shrouded myself.
Rosmer. In what way?
Brendel. I mean to take an active part in life—to step forward—to look higher. The atmosphere we breathe is heavy with storms. I want now to offer my mite upon the altar of emancipation.
Kroll. You too?
Brendel (to them all). Has your public here any intimate acquaintance with my scattered writings?
Kroll. No, I must candidly confess that—
Rebecca. I have read several of them. My foster-father had them.
Brendel. My dear lady, then you have wasted your time. They are simply trash, allow me to tell you.
Brendel. Those you have read, yes. My really important works no man or woman knows anything about. No one—except myself.
Rebecca. How is that?
Brendel. Because they are not yet written.
Rosmer. But, my dear Mr. Brendel—
Brendel. You know, my dear John, that I am a bit of a sybarite—a gourmet. I have always been so. I have a taste for solitary enjoyment, because in that way my enjoyment is twice—ten times—as keen. It is, like this. When I have been wrapped in a haze of golden dreams that have descended on me—when new, intoxicating, momentous thoughts have had their birth in my mind, and I have been fanned by the beat of their wings as they bore me aloft—at such moments I have transformed them into poetry, into visions, into pictures. In general outlines, that is to say.
Rosmer. Quite so.
Brendel. You cannot imagine the luxury of enjoyment I have experienced! The mysterious rapture of creation!—in, general outlines, as I said. Applause, gratitude, eulogies, crowns of laurel!—all these I have culled with full hands trembling with joy. In my secret ecstasies I have steeped myself in a happiness so, intoxicating—
Rosmer. But you have never written anything of it down?
Brendel. Not a word. The thought of the dull clerk’s work that it would mean has always moved me to a nauseating sense of disgust. Besides, why should I profane my own ideals when I could enjoy them, in all their purity, by myself? But now they shall be sacrificed. Honestly, I feel as a mother must do when she entrusts her young daughter to the arms of a husband. But I am going to, sacrifice them nevertheless—sacrifice them on the altar of emancipation. A series of carefully thought-out lectures, to be delivered all over the country!
Rebecca (impetuously). That is splendid of you, Mr. Brendel! You are giving up the most precious thing you possess.
Rosmer. The only thing.
Rebecca (looking meaningly at ROSMER). I wonder how many there are who would do as much—who dare do it?
Rosmer (returning her look). Who knows?
Brendel. My audience is moved. That refreshes my heart and strengthens my will—and now I shall proceed upon my task forthwith. There is one other point, though. (To KROLL.) Can you inform me, sir, whether there is an Abstainers’ Society in the town? A Total Abstainers’ Society? I feel sure there must be.
Kroll. There is one, at your service. I am the president.
Brendel. I could tell that as soon as I saw you! Well, it is not at all impossible that I may come to you and become a member for a week.
Kroll. Excuse me—we do not accept weekly members.
Brendel. A la bonne heure, my good sir. Ulrik Brendel has never been in the habit of forcing himself upon societies of that kind. (Turns to go) But I must not prolong my stay in this house, rich as it is in memories. I must go into the town and find some suitable lodging. I shall find a decent hotel of some kind there, I hope?
Rebecca. Will you not have something hot to drink before you go?
Brendel. Of what nature, dear lady?
Rebecca. A cup of tea, or—
Brendel. A thousand thanks to the most generous of hostesses!—but I do not like trespassing on private hospitality. (Waves his hand.) Good-bye to you all! (Goes to the door, but turns back.) Oh, by the way—John—Mr. Rosmer—will you do your former tutor a service for old friendship’s sake?
Rosmer. With the greatest of pleasure.
Brendel. Good. Well, then, lend me—just for a day or two—a starched shirt.
Rosmer. Nothing more than that!
Brendel. Because, you see, I am travelling on foot—on this occasion. My trunk is being sent after me.
Rosmer. Quite so. But, in that case, isn’t there anything else?
Brendel. Well, I will tell you what—perhaps you have an old, worn-out summer coat that you could spare?
Rosmer. Certainly I have.
Brendel. And if there happened to be a pair of presentable shoes that would go with the coat.
Rosmer. I am sure we can manage that, too. As soon as you let us know your address, we will send the things to you.
Brendel. Please don’t think of it! No one must be put to any inconvenience on my account! I will take the trifles with me.
Rosmer. Very well. Will you come upstairs with me, then?
Rebecca. Let me go. Mrs. Helseth and I will see about it.
Brendel. I could never think of allowing this charming lady—
Rebecca. Nonsense! Come along, Mr. Brendel. (She goes out by the door on the right.)
Rosmer (holding BRENDEL back). Tell me—is there no other way I can be of service to you?
Brendel. I am sure I do not know of any. Yes, perdition seize it!—now that I come to think of it—John, do you happen to have seven or eight shillings on you?
Rosmer. I will see. (Opens his purse.) I have two half-sovereigns here.
Brendel. Oh, well, never mind. I may as well take them. I can always get change in town. Thanks, in the meantime. Remember that it was two half-sovereigns I had. Good-night, my own dear boy! Good-night to you, sir! (Goes out by the door on the right, where ROSMER takes leave of him and shuts the door after him.)
Kroll. Good heavens—and that is the Ulrik Brendel of whom people once thought that he would do great things!
Rosmer. At all events he has had the courage to live his life in his own way. I do not think that is such a small thing, after all.
Kroll. What? A life like his? I almost believe he would have the power, even now, to disturb all your ideas.
Rosmer. No, indeed. I have come to a clear understanding with myself now, upon all points.
Kroll. I wish I could believe it, my dear Rosmer. You are so dreadfully susceptible to impressions from without.
Rosmer. Let us sit down. I want to have a talk with you.
Kroll. By all means. (They sit down on the couch.)
Rosmer (after a short pause). Don’t you think everything here looks very pleasant and comfortable?
Kroll. Yes, it looks very pleasant and comfortable now—and peaceful. You have made yourself a real home, Rosmer. And I have lost mine.
Rosmer. My dear fellow, do not say that. There may seem to be a rift just now, but it will heal again.
Kroll. Never, never. The sting will always remain. Things can never be as they were before.
Rosmer. I want to ask you something, Kroll. You and I have been the closest of friends now for so many years—does it seem to you conceivable that anything could destroy our friendship?
Kroll. I cannot imagine anything that could cause a breach between us. What has put that into your head?
Rosmer. Well—your attaching such tremendous importance to similarity of opinions and views.
Kroll. Certainly I do; but then we two hold pretty similar opinions at all events on the most essential points.
Rosmer (gently). No. Not any longer.
Kroll (trying to jump up from his seat). What is this?
Rosmer (restraining him). No, you must sit still. Please, Kroll.
Kroll. What does it all mean? I do not understand you. Tell me, straight out!
Rosmer. A new summer has blossomed in my heart—my eyes have regained the clearness of youth. And, accordingly, I am now standing where—
Kroll. Where? Where are you standing?
Rosmer. Where your children are standing.
Kroll. You? You! The thing is impossible! Where do you say you are standing?
Rosmer. On the same side as Laurits and Hilda.
Kroll (letting his head drop). An apostate. John Rosmer an apostate.
Rosmer. What you are calling apostasy ought to have made me feel sincerely happy and fortunate; but for all that I have suffered keenly, because I knew quite well it would cause you bitter sorrow.
Kroll. Rosmer, Rosmer, I shall never get over this. (Looks at him sadly.) To think that you, too, could bring yourself to sympathise with and join in the work of disorder and ruin that is playing havoc with our unhappy country.
Rosmer. It is the work of emancipation that I sympathise with.
Kroll. Oh yes, I know all about that. That is what it is called, by both those who are leading the people astray and by their misguided victims. But, be sure of this—you need expect no emancipation to be the result of the spirit that relies on the poisoning of the whole of our social life.
Rosmer. I do not give my allegiance to the spirit that is directing this, nor to any of those who are leading the fight. I want to try to bring men of all shades of opinion together—as many as I can reach—and bind them as closely together as I can. I want to live for and devote all the strength that is in me to one end only—to create a real public opinion in the country.
Kroll. So you do not consider that we have sufficient public opinion! I, for my part, consider that the whole lot of us are on the high road to be dragged down into the mire where otherwise only the common people would be wallowing.
Rosmer. It is just for that reason that I have made up my mind as to what should be the real task of public opinion.
Kroll. What task?
Rosmer. The task of making all our fellow-countrymen into men of nobility.
Kroll. All our fellow-countrymen—!
Rosmer. As many as possible, at all events.
Kroll. By what means?
Rosmer. By emancipating their ideas and purifying their aspirations, it seems to me.
Kroll. You are a dreamer, Rosmer. Are you going to emancipate them? Are you going to purify them?
Rosmer. No, my dear fellow—I can only try to awake the desire for it in them. The doing of it rests with themselves.
Kroll. And do you think they are capable of it?
Kroll. Of their own power?
Rosmer. Yes, of their own power. There is no other that can do it.
Kroll (getting up). Is that speaking as befits a clergyman?
Rosmer. I am a clergyman no longer.
Kroll. Yes, but—what of the faith you were brought up in?
Rosmer. I have it no longer.
Kroll. You have it no longer?
Rosmer (getting up). I have given it up. I had to give it up, Kroll.
Kroll (controlling his emotion). I see. Yes, yes. The one thing implies the other. Was that the reason, then, why you left the service of the Church?
Rosmer. Yes. When my mind was clearly made up—when I felt the certainty that it Was not merely a transitory temptation, but that it was something that I would neither have the power nor the desire to dismiss from my mind—then I took that step.
Kroll. So it has been fermenting in your mind as long as that. And we—your friends—have never been allowed to know anything of it. Rosmer, Rosmer—how could you hide the sorrowful truth from us!
Rosmer. Because I considered it was a matter that only concerned myself; and therefore I did not wish to cause you and my other friends any unnecessary pain. I thought I should be able to live my life here as I have done hitherto—peacefully and happily. I wanted to read, and absorb myself in all the works that so far had been sealed books to me—to familiarise myself thoroughly with the great world of truth and freedom that has been disclosed to me now.
Kroll. An apostate. Every word you say bears witness to that. But, for all that, why have you made this confession of your secret apostasy? Or why just at the present moment?
Rosmer. You yourself have compelled me to it, Kroll.
Kroll. I? I have compelled you?
Rosmer. When I heard of your violent behaviour at public meetings—when I read the reports of all the vehement speeches you made there of all your bitter attacks upon those that were on the other side—your scornful censure of your opponents—oh, Kroll, to think that you—you—could be the man to do that!—then my eyes were opened to my imperative duty. Mankind is suffering from the strife that is going on now, and we ought to bring peace and happiness and a spirit of reconciliation into their souls. That is why I step forward now and confess myself openly for what I am—and, besides, I want to put my powers to the test, as well as others. Could not you—from your side—go with me in that, Kroll?
Kroll. Never, as long as I live, will I make any alliance with the forces of disorder in the community.
Rosmer. Well, let us at least fight with honourable weapons, since it seems we must fight.
Kroll. I can have nothing more to do with any one who does not think with me on matters of vital importance, and I owe such a man no consideration.
Rosmer. Does that apply even to me?
Kroll. You yourself have broken with me, Rosmer.
Rosmer. But does this really mean a breach between us?
Kroll. Between us! It is a breach with all those who have hitherto stood shoulder to shoulder with you. And now you must take the consequences.
(REBECCA comes in from the room on the right and opens the door wide.)
Rebecca. Well, that is done! We have started him off on the road to his great sacrifice, and now we can go in to supper. Will you come in, Mr. Kroll?
Kroll (taking his hat). Good-night, Miss West. This is no longer any place for me.
Rebecca (excitedly). What do you mean? (Shuts the door and comes nearer to the two men.) Have you told him—?
Rosmer. He knows now.
Kroll. We shall not let you slip out of our hands, Rosmer. We shall compel you to come back to us again.
Rosmer. I shall never find myself there any more.
Kroll. We shall see. You are not the man to endure standing alone.
Rosmer. I am not so entirely alone, even now. There are two of us to bear the solitude together here.
Kroll. Ah! (A suspicion appears to cross his mind.) That too! Beata’s words!
Kroll (dismissing the thought from his mind). No, no—that was odious of me. Forgive me.
Rosmer. What? What do you mean?
Kroll. Think no more about it. I am ashamed of it. Forgive me—and good-bye. (Goes out by the door to the hall.)
Rosmer (following him). Kroll! We cannot end everything between us like this. I will come and see you to-morrow.
Kroll (turning round in the hall). You shall not set your foot in my house. (Takes his stick and goes.)
(ROSMER stands for a while at the open door; then shuts it and comes back into the room.)
Rosmer. That does not matter, Rebecca. We shall be able to go through with it, for all that—we two trusty friends—you and I.
Rebecca. What do you suppose he meant just now when he said he was ashamed of himself?
Rosmer. My dear girl, don’t bother your head about that. He didn’t even believe what he meant, himself. But I will go and see him tomorrow. Goodnight!
Rebecca. Are you going up so early to-night—after this?
Rosmer. As early to-night as I usually do. I feel such a sense of relief now that it is over. You see, my dear Rebecca, I am perfectly calm—so you take it calmly, too. Good-night.
Rebecca. Good-night, dear friend—and sleep well! (ROSMER goes out by the door to the lobby; then his footsteps are heard as he goes upstairs. REBECCA goes to the wall and rings a bell, which is answered by MRS. HELSETH.) You can clear the table again, Mrs. Helseth. Mr. Rosmer does not want anything, and Mr. Kroll has gone home.
Mrs. Helseth. Gone home? What was wrong with him, miss?
Rebecca (taking up her crochet-work). He prophesied that there was a heavy storm brewing—
Mrs. Helseth. That is very strange, miss, because there isn’t a scrap of cloud in the sky.
Rebecca. Let us hope he doesn’t meet the White Horse. Because I am afraid it will not be long before we hear something of the family ghost.
Mrs. Helseth. God forgive you, miss—don’t talk of such a dreadful thing!
Rebecca. Oh, come, come!
Mrs. Helseth (lowering her voice). Do you really think, miss, that some one here is to go soon?
Rebecca. Not a bit of it. But there are so many sorts of white horses in this world, Mrs. Helseth—Well, good-night. I shall go to my room now.
Mrs. Helseth. Good-night, miss. (Rebecca takes her work and goes out to the right. MRS. HELSETH shakes her head, as she turns down the lamp, and mutters to herself): Lord—Lord!—how queer Miss West does talk sometimes!