ACT 1
 

(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?

ROSMER
Certainly.

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.

REBECCA
Really?

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--

KROLL
Ahem!

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?

ROSMER
Yes.

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!

ROSMER
Beata's?

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!