(SCENE--The same room. BERNICK, with a cane in his hand and
evidently in a great rage, comes out of the farther room on the
left, leaving the door half-open behind him.)
BERNICK(speaking to his wife, who is in the other room)
I have given it him in earnest now; I don't think he will forget
that thrashing! What do you say?--And I say that you are an
injudicious mother! You make excuses for him, and countenance any
sort of rascality on his part--Not rascality? What do you call
it, then? Slipping out of the house at night, going out in a
fishing boat, staying away till well on in the day, and giving me
such a horrible fright when I have so much to worry me! And then
the young scamp has the audacity to threaten that he will run
away! Just let him try it!--You? No, very likely; you don't
trouble yourself much about what happens to him. I really believe
that if he were to get killed--! Oh, really? Well, I have work to
leave behind me in the world; I have no fancy for being left
childless--Now, do not raise objections, Betty; it shall be as I
say--he is confined to the house. (Listens.) Hush; do not let any
one notice anything. (KRAP comes in from the right.)
I turned it over in my head for a bit; the hands were away
at their breakfast, so I found an opportunity to have a look
around the boat, both outside and in, without anyone seeing me.
I had a job to get down to the bottom through the cargo, but I
learned the truth. There is something very suspicious going on,
I cannot believe it, Krap. I cannot and will not believe
such a thing of Aune.
I am very sorry--but it is the simple truth. Something very
suspicious is going on. No new timbers put in, as far as I could
see, only stopped up and tinkered at, and covered over with
sailcloth and tarpaulins and that sort of thing--an absolute
fraud. The "Indian Girl" will never get to New York; she will go
to the bottom like a cracked pot.
This is most horrible! But what can be his object, do
Probably he wants to bring the machines into discredit--
wants to take his revenge--wants to force you to take the old
hands on again.
And to do this he is willing to sacrifice the lives of
all on board.
He said the other day that there were no men on board the
"Indian Girl"--only wild beasts.
Yes, but--apart from that--has he no regard for the
great loss of capital it would mean?
Aune does not look upon capital with a very friendly eye,
That is perfectly true; he is an agitator and a fomenter
of discontent; but such an unscrupulous thing as this--Look here,
Krap; you must look into the matter once more. Not a word of it
to any one. The blame will fall on our yard if any one hears
anything of it.
When the hands are away at their dinner you must manage
to get down there again; I must have absolute certainty about it.
You shall, sir; but, excuse me, what do you propose to do?
Report the affair, naturally. We cannot, of course, let
ourselves become accomplices in such a crime. I could not have
such a thing on my conscience. Moreover, it will make a good
impression, both on the press and on the public in general, if it
is seen that I set all personal interests aside and let justice
take its course.
It was a brilliant triumph, I hear; the triumph of
intelligent public spirit over selfishness and prejudice--
something like a raid of French troops on the Kabyles. It is
astonishing that after that unpleasant scene here, you could--
About the extensive purchase of property along the branch
line, of course.
What? Is there such a rumour as that going about?
It is all over the town. I heard it at the club when I
looked in there. They say that one of our lawyers has quietly
bought up, on commission, all the forest land, all the mining
land, all the waterfalls--
At the club they thought it must be for some company, not
connected with this town, that has got a hint of the scheme you
have in hand, and has made haste to buy before the price of these
properties went up. Isn't it villainous?--ugh!
Yes, to have strangers putting their fingers into our
pie--and one of our own local lawyers lending himself to such a
thing! And now it will be outsiders that will get all the
But, after all, it is only an idle rumour.
Meanwhile people are believing it, and tomorrow or the next
day, I have no doubt Hammer will nail it to the counter as a fact.
There is a general sense of exasperation in the town already. I
heard several people say that if the rumour were confirmed they
would take their names off the subscription lists.
Is it? Why do you suppose these mercenary-minded
creatures were so willing to go into the undertaking with you?
Don't you suppose they have scented profit for themselves--
It is impossible, I am sure; there is so much public
spirit in our little community--
In our community? Of course you are a confirmed optimist,
and so you judge others by yourself. But I, who am a tolerably
experienced observer--! There isn't a single soul in the place--
excepting ourselves, of course--not a single soul in the place
who holds up the banner of the Ideal. (Goes towards the
verandah.) Ugh, I can see them there--
But those rumours? How did that shameful rumour get about
Lona, I think I can speak to you as I could to no one
else. I will conceal nothing from you. I was partly to blame for
spreading the rumour.
You? You could act in that way towards a man who for your
Do not condemn me without bearing in mind how things
stood at that time. I told you about it yesterday. I came home
and found my mother involved in a mesh of injudicious
undertakings; we had all manner of bad luck--it seemed as if
misfortunes were raining upon us, and our house was on the verge
of ruin. I was half reckless and half in despair. Lona, I believe
it was mainly to deaden my thoughts that I let myself drift into
that entanglement that ended in Johan's going away.
You can well imagine how every kind of rumour was set on
foot after you and he had gone. People began to say that it was
not his first piece of folly--that Dorf had received a large sum
of money to hold his tongue and go away; other people said that
she had received it. At the same time it was obvious that our
house was finding it difficult to meet its obligations. What was
more natural than that scandal-mongers should find some
connection between these two rumours? And as the woman remained
here, living in poverty, people declared that he had taken the
money with him to America; and every time rumour mentioned the
sum, it grew larger.
I did not contradict it. Our creditors had begun to be
pressing, and I had the task of keeping them quiet. The result
was the dissipating of any suspicion as to the stability of the
firm; people said that we had been hit by a temporary piece of
ill-luck--that all that was necessary was that they should not
press us--only give us time and every creditor would be paid in
And of what consequence is it whether such a society be
propped up or not? What does it all consist of? Show and lies--
and nothing else. Here are you, the first man in the town, living
in grandeur and luxury, powerful and respected--you, who have
branded an innocent man as a criminal.
Do you suppose I am not deeply conscious of the wrong I
have done him? And do you suppose I am not ready to make amends
to him for it?
Johan, only let me say a word or two to explain the
It is unnecessary; I understand the circumstances
perfectly. The firm was in a dangerous position at the time; I
had gone off, and you had my defenceless name and reputation at
your mercy. Well, I do not blame you so very much for what you
did; we were young and thoughtless in those days. But now I have
need of the truth, and now you must speak.
And just now I have need of all my reputation for
morality, and therefore I cannot speak.
I don't take much account of the false reports you spread
about me; it is the other thing that you must take the blame of.
I shall make Dina my wife, and here--here in your town--I mean to
settle down and live with her.
With Dina? Dina as your wife?--in this town?
Yes, here and nowhere else. I mean to stay here to defy
all these liars and slanderers. But before I can win her, you must
Have you considered that, if I confess to the one thing,
it will inevitably mean making myself responsible for the other
as well? You will say that I can show by our books that nothing
dishonest happened? But I cannot; our books were not so
accurately kept in those days. And even if I could, what good
would it do? Should I not in any case be pointed at as the man
who had once saved himself by an untruth, and for fifteen years
had allowed that untruth and all its consequences to stand
without having raised a finger to demolish it? You do not know
our community very much, or you would realise that it would ruin
I can only tell you that I mean to make Mrs. Dorf's
daughter my wife, and live with her in this town.
BERNICK(wiping the perspiration from his forehead)
me, Johan--and you too, Lona. The circumstances I am in just now
are quite exceptional. I am situated in such a way that if you
aim this blow at me you will not only destroy me, but will also
destroy a great future, rich in blessings, that lies before the
community which, after all, was the home of your childhood.
And if I do not aim this blow at you, I shall be
destroying all my future happiness with my own hand.
I will tell you, then. It is mixed up with the railway
project, and the whole thing is not quite so simple as you think.
I suppose you have heard that last year there was some talk of a
railway line along the coast? Many influential people backed up
the idea--people in the town and the suburbs, and especially the
press; but I managed to get the proposal quashed, on the ground
that it would have injured our steamboat trade along the coast.
Have you any interest in the steamboat trade?
Yes. But no one ventured to suspect me on that account;
my honoured name fully protected me from that. For the matter of
that, I could have stood the loss; but the place could not have
stood it. So the inland line was decided upon. As soon as that
was done, I assured myself--without saying anything about it--
that a branch line could be laid to the town.
Have you heard the rumours of extensive buying up of
forest lands, mines and waterfalls--?
Yes, apparently it is some company from another part of
As these properties are situated at present, they are as
good as valueless to their owners, who are scattered about the
neighbourhood; they have therefore been sold comparatively cheap.
If the purchaser had waited till the branch line began to be
talked of, the proprietors would have asked exorbitant prices.
Now I am going to tell you something that can be
construed in different ways--a thing to which, in our community,
a man could only confess provided he had an untarnished and
honoured name to take his stand upon.
I am not thinking of your fortune; but if it comes to light
Bernick. Yes, that is the critical part of it. With the
unblemished and honoured name I have hitherto borne, I can take
the whole thing upon my shoulders, carry it through, and say to
my fellow-citizens: "See, I have taken this risk for the good of
And isn't it society itself that forces us to use these
underhanded means? What would have happened if I had not acted
secretly? Everybody would have wanted to have a hand in the
undertaking; the whole thing would have been divided up,
mismanaged and bungled. There is not a single man in the town
except myself who is capable of directing so big an affair as
this will be. In this country, almost without exception, it is
only foreigners who have settled here who have the aptitude for
big business schemes. That is the reason why my conscience
acquits me in the matter. It is only in my hands that these
properties can become a real blessing to the many who have to
make their daily bread.
But I have no concern with the many, and my life's
happiness is at stake.
The welfare of your native place is also at stake. If
things come out which cast reflections on my earlier conduct,
then all my opponents will fall upon me with united vigour. A
youthful folly is never allowed to be forgotten in our community.
They would go through the whole of my previous life, bring up a
thousand little incidents in it, interpret and explain
them in the light of what has been revealed; they would crush me
under the weight of rumours and slanders. I should be obliged to
abandon the railway scheme; and, if I take my hand off that, it
will come to nothing, and I shall be ruined and my life as a
citizen will be over.
Johan, after what we have just heard, you must go away from
here and hold your tongue.
Well, Karsten, now you know what is before you. You must
find your own way out. Good-bye! You can say good-bye to Betty
for me, although she has not treated me like a sister. But I must
see Martha. She shall tell Dina---; she shall promise me--(Goes
out through the farther door on the left.)
The "Indian Girl"--? (Quickly.) Lona, you
must prevent that!
You see for yourself, Karsten--I have no influence over him
any longer. (Follows JOHAN into the other room.)
BERNICK(a prey to uneasy thoughts)
Go to the bottom--?
I wanted to ask if I am to consider it as certain--
absolutely certain--that I should be dismissed from the yard if
the "Indian Girl" were not ready to sail tomorrow?
What do you mean? The ship is ready to sail?
Yes--it is. But suppose it were not, should I be
What is the use of asking such idle questions?
Only that I should like to know, sir. Will you answer me
that?--should I be discharged?
Am I in the habit of keeping my word or not?
Then tomorrow I should have lost the position I hold in my
house and among those near and dear to me--lost my influence over
men of my own class--lost all opportunity of doing anything for
the cause of the poorer and needier members of the community?
Look here--it is impossible for me to have my eyes
everywhere--I cannot be answerable for everything. You can give
me your assurance, I suppose, that the repairs have been
satisfactorily carried out?
Very good. (Bows and goes out. BERNICK stands for a moment
irresolute; then walks quickly towards the door, as if to call
AUNE back; but stops, hesitatingly, with his hand on the door-
handle. At that moment the door is opened from without, and KRAP
KRAP(in a low voice)
Aha, he has been here. Has he confessed?
There, you see! And of course they found nothing to
Mr. Bernick, you know very well how much this inspection
means, especially in a yard that has such a good name as ours
No matter--it takes all responsibility off us.
But, sir, could you really not tell from Aune's manner
Aune has completely reassured me, let me tell you.
And let me tell you, sir, that I am morally certain that--
What does this mean, Krap? I see plainly enough that you
want to get your knife into this man; but if you want to attack
him, you must find some other occasion. You know how important it
is to me--or, I should say, to the owners--that the "Indian Girl"
should sail to-morrow.
Very well--so be it; but if ever we hear of that ship
I say, as I said to the captain, that the "Palm Tree"
is in the hands of Providence. Besides, they are only going
across the North Sea at first; and in England, freights are
running tolerably high just now, so that--
Yes, it would probably mean a loss for us if we waited.
Besides, she is a stout ship, and fully insured as
well. It is more risky, now, for the "Indian Girl"--
It was really on your wife's account I came. I thought
she might be in need of a word of comfort.
Very likely she is. But I want to have a little talk
with you, too.
With the greatest of pleasure, Mr. Bernick. But what is
the matter with you? You look quite pale and upset.
Really? Do I? Well, what else could you expect--a man so
loaded with responsibilities as I am? There is all my own big
business--and now the planning of this railway.--But tell me
something, Mr. Rorlund, let me put a question to you.
It is about a thought that has occurred to me. Suppose a
man is face to face with an undertaking which will concern the
welfare of thousands, and suppose it should be necessary to make
a sacrifice of one--?
For example, suppose a man were thinking of starting a
large factory. He knows for certain--because all his experience
has taught him so--that sooner or later a toll of human life will
be exacted in the working of that factory.
Or, say a man embarks on a mining enterprise. He takes
into his service fathers of families and young men in the first
flush of their youth. Is it not quite safe to predict that all of
them will not come out of it alive?
Well--a man in that position will know beforehand that
the undertaking he proposes to start must undoubtedly, at some
time or other, mean a loss of human life. But the undertaking
itself is for the public good; for every man's life that it
costs, it will undoubtedly promote the welfare of many hundreds.
Ah, you are thinking of the railway--of all the
dangerous excavating and blasting, and that sort of thing--
Yes--quite so--I am thinking of the railway. And,
besides, the coming of the railway will mean the starting of
factories and mines. But do not think, nevertheless--
My dear Mr. Bernick, you are almost over-conscientious.
What I think is that, if you place the affair in the hands of
You are blameless in the matter. Go on and build your
Yes, but now I will put a special instance to you.
Suppose a charge of blasting-powder had to be exploded in a
dangerous place, and that unless it were exploded the line could
not be constructed? Suppose the engineer knew that it would cost
the life of the workman who lit the fuse, but that it had to be
lit, and that it was the engineer's duty to send a workman to do
In the bigger communities a man finds space to carry out
a valuable project--finds the courage to make some sacrifice in a
great cause; but here, a man is cramped by all kinds of petty
considerations and scruples.
When that human life threatens the welfare of thousands.
But you are suggesting cases that are quite
inconceivable, Mr. Bernick! I do not understand you at all today.
And you quote the bigger countries--well, what do they
think of human life there? They look upon it simply as part of
the capital they have to use. But we look at things from a
somewhat different moral standpoint, I should hope. Look at our
respected shipping industry! Can you name a single one of our
ship-owners who would sacrifice a human life for the sake of
paltry gain? And then think of those scoundrels in the bigger
countries, who for the sake of profit send out freights in one
unseaworthy ship after another--
Yes, but to what purpose? They have nothing to do with
the question--Oh, these small, timid considerations! If a General
from this country were to take his men under fire and some of
them were shot, I suppose he would have sleepless nights after
it! It is not so in other countries. You should bear what that
fellow in there says--
Well, then you shall know the truth. (Goes to the half-
open door.) Mrs. Bernick, will you be so kind as to come and be a
witness--and you too, Miss Martha. And let Dina come. (Sees LONA
at the door.) Ah, you here too?
As many as you please--the more the better.
What are you going to do? (LONA, MRS. BERNICK, MARTHA,
DINA and HILMAR come in from the other room.)
Mr. Rorlund, I have tried my hardest, but I cannot
I shall prevent him, Mrs. Bernick. Dina, you are a
thoughtless girl, but I do not blame you so greatly. You have too
long lacked the necessary moral support that should have
sustained you. I blame myself for not having afforded you that
It is now that I must speak, Dina, although your conduct
yesterday and today has made it ten times more difficult for me.
But all other considerations must give way to the necessity for
saving you. You remember that I gave you my word; you remember
what you promised you would answer when I judged that the right
time had come. Now I dare not hesitate any longer, and therefore-
-. (Turns to JOHAN.) This young girl, whom you are persecuting,
is my betrothed.
I hope this has rendered all your arts of seduction
powerless. The step I have determined to take for Dina's good, I
now wish openly proclaimed to every one. I cherish the certain
hope that it will not be misinterpreted. And now, Mrs. Bernick, I
think it will be best for us to take her away from here, and try
to bring back peace and tranquillity to her mind.
Yes, come with me. Oh, Dina--what a lucky girl you
are! (Takes DINA Out to the left; RORLUND follows them.)
Yes--just you wait! You will learn something tomorrow!
Duffer! (Goes out through the garden. OLAF runs into the
room again and shuts the door, as he sees KRAP coming in from the
Krap (going to the door of BERNICK'S room and opening it
slightly): Excuse my bothering you again, Mr. Bernick; but there
is a tremendous storm blowing up. (Waits a moment, but there is
no answer.) Is the "Indian Girl" to sail, for all that? (After a
short pause, the following answer is heard.)
BERNICK(from his room)
The "Indian Girl" is to sail, for all
(KRAP Shuts the door and goes out again to the right.)