The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen
A prettily furnished small drawing-room in SOLNESS'S house. In the back, a glass-door leading out to the verandah and garden. The right-hand corner is cut off transversely by a large bay-window, in which are flower-stands. The left- hand corner is similarly cut off by a transverse wall, in which is a small door papered like the wall. On each side, an ordinary door. In front, on the right, a console table with a large mirror over it. Well-filled stands of plants and flowers. In front, on the left, a sofa with a table and chairs. Further back, a bookcase. Well forward in the room, before the bay window, a small table and some chairs. It is early in the day.
SOLNESS sits by the little table with RAGNAR BROVIK'S portfolio open in front of him. He is turning the drawings over and closely examining some of them. MRS. SOLNESS moves about noiselessly with a small watering-pot, attending to her flowers. She is dressed in black as before. Her hat, cloak and parasol lie on a chair near the mirror. Unobserved by her, SOLNESS now and again follows her with his eyes. Neither of them speaks.
KAIA FOSLI enters quietly by the door on the left.
SOLNESS. [Turns his head, and says in an off-hand tone of indifference:] Well, is that you?
KAIA. I merely wished to let you know that I have come.
SOLNESS. Yes, yes, that's all right. Hasn't Ragnar come too?
KAIA. No, not yet. He had to wait a little while to see the doctor. But he is coming presently to hear---
SOLNESS. How is the old man to-day?
KAIA. Not well. He begs you to excuse him; he is obliged to keep his bed to-day.
SOLNESS. Why, of course; by all means let him rest. But now, get to your work.
KAIA. Yes. [Pauses at the door.] Do you wish to speak to Ragnar when he comes?
No--I don't know that I have anything particular to say to him.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Over beside the plants.] I wonder if he isn't going to die now, as well?
SOLNESS. [Looks up at her.] As well as who?
MRS. SOLNESS. [Without answering.] Yes, yes--depend upon it, Halvard, old Brovik is going to die too. You'll see that he will.
SOLNESS. My dear Aline, ought you not to go out for a little walk?
Yes, I suppose I ought to.
SOLNESS. [Bending over the drawings.] Is she still asleep?
MRS. SOLNESS. [Looking at him.] Is it Miss Wangel you are sitting there thinking about?
SOLNESS. [Indifferently.] I just happened to recollect her.
MRS. SOLNESS. Miss Wangle was up long ago.
SOLNESS. Oh, was she?
When I went in to see her, she was busy putting her things in order.
SOLNESS. [After a short pause.] So we have found a use for one our nurseries after all, Aline.
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes, we have.
SOLNESS. That seems to me better than to have them all standing empty.
MRS. SOLNESS. That emptiness is dreadful; you are right there.
SOLNESS. [Closes the portfolio, rises and approaches her.] You will find that we shall get on far better after this, Aline. Things will be more comfortable. Life will be easier--especially for you.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Looks at him.] After this?
SOLNESS. Yes, believe me, Aline---
MRS. SOLNESS. Do you mean--because she has come here?
SOLNESS. [Checking himself.] I mean, of course--when once we have moved into the new home.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Takes her cloak.] Ah, do you think so, Halvard? Will it be better then?
SOLNESS. I can't think otherwise. And surely you think so too?
MRS. SOLNESS. I think nothing at all about the new house.
[Cast down.] It's hard for me to hear you say that; for you know it
is mainly for your sake that I have built it.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Evades him.] The fact is, you do far too much for my sake.
SOLNESS. [With a certain vehemence.] No, no, you really mustn't say that, Aline! I cannot bear to hear you say such things!
MRS. SOLNESS. Very well, then I won't say it, Halvard.
SOLNESS. But I stick to what I said. You'll see that things will be easier for you in the new place.
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh, heavens--easier for me---!
SOLNESS. [Eagerly.] Yes, indeed they will! You may be quite sure of that! For you see--there will be so very, very much there that will remind you of your own home---
MRS. SOLNESS. The home that used to be father's and mother's--and that was burnt to the ground---
SOLNESS. [In a low voice.] Yes, yes, my poor Aline. That was a terrible blow for you.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Breaking out in lamentation.] You may build as much as ever you like, Halvard--you can never build up again a real home for me!
SOLNESS. [Crosses the room.] Well, in Heaven's name, let us talk no more about it then.
MRS. SOLNESS. We are not in the habit of talking about it. For you always put the thought away from you---
SOLNESS. [Stops suddenly and looks at her.] Do I? And why should I do that? Put the thought away from me?
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh yes, Halvard, I understand you very well. You are so anxious to spare me--and to find excuses for me too--as much as ever you can.
SOLNESS. [With astonishment in his eyes.] You! Is it you--yourself, that your are talking about, Aline?
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes, who else should it be but myself?
SOLNESS. [Involuntarily to himself.] That too!
MRS. SOLNESS. As for the old house, I wouldn't mind so much about that. When once misfortune was in the air--why---
SOLNESS. Ah, you are right there. Misfortune will have its way--as the saying goes.
MRS. SOLNESS. But it's what came of the fire--the dreadful thing that followed---! That is the thing! That, that, that!
SOLNESS. [Vehemently.] Don't think about that, Aline!
MRS. SOLNESS. Ah, that is exactly what I cannot help thinking about. And now, at last, I must speak about it, too; for I don't seem to be able to bear it any longer. And then never to be able to forgive myself---
SOLNESS. [Exclaiming.] Yourself---!
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes, for I had duties on both sides--both towards you and towards the little ones. I ought to have hardened myself--not to have let the horror take such hold upon me--nor the grief for the burning of my home. [Wrings her hands.] Oh, Halvard, if I had only had the strength!
SOLNESS. [Softly, much moved, comes closer.] Aline--you must promise me never to think these thoughts any more.--Promise me that, dear!
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh, promise, promise! One can promise anything.
SOLNESS. [Clenches his hands and crosses the room.] Oh, but this is hopeless, hopeless! Never a ray of sunlight! Not so much as a gleam of brightness to light up our home!
MRS. SOLNESS. This is no home, Halvard.
SOLNESS. Oh no, you may well say that. [Gloomily.] And God knows whether you are not right in saying that it will be no better for us in the new house, either.
MRS. SOLNESS. It will never be any better. Just as empty--just as desolate--there as here.
SOLNESS. [Vehemently.] Why in all the world have we built it then? Can you tell me that?
MRS. SOLNESS. No; you must answer that question for yourself.
SOLNESS. [Glances suspiciously at her.] What do you mean by that, Aline?
MRS. SOLNESS. What do I mean?
SOLNESS. Yes, in the devil's name! You said it so strangely--as if you had some hidden meaning in it.
MRS. SOLNESS. No, indeed, I assure you---
SOLNESS. [Comes closer.] Oh, come now--I know what I know. I have both my eyes and my ears about me, Aline--you may depend upon that!
MRS. SOLNESS. Why, what are you talking about? What is it?
SOLNESS. [Places himself in front of her.] Do you mean to say you don't find a kind of lurking, hidden meaning in the most innocent word I happen to say?
MRS. SOLNESS. I do you say? I do that?
SOLNESS. [Laughs.] Ho-ho-ho! It's natural enough, Aline! When you have a sick man on your hands---
MRS. SOLNESS. [Anxiously.] Sick? Are you ill, Halvard?
SOLNESS. [Violently.] A half-mad man then! A crazy man! Call me what you will.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Feels blindly for a chair and sits down.] Halvard--for God's sake---
But you are wrong, both you and the doctor. I am not in the state
that you imagine.
SOLNESS. [Calmly.] In reality there is nothing whatever the matter with me.
MRS. SOLNESS. No, there isn't, is there? But then what is it that troubles you so?
SOLNESS. Why this, that I often feel ready to sink under this terrible burden of debt---
MRS. SOLNESS. Debt, do you say? But you owe no one anything, Halvard!
SOLNESS. [Softly, with emotion.] I owe a boundless debt to you--to you--to you, Aline.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Rises slowly.] What is behind all this? You may just as well tell me at once.
SOLNESS. But there is nothing behind it! I have never done you any wrong-- not wittingly and willfully, at any rate. And yet--and yet it seems as though a crushing debt rested upon me and weighed me down.
MRS. SOLNESS. A debt to me?
SOLNESS. Chiefly to you.
MRS. SOLNESS. Then you are--ill after all, Halvard.
SOLNESS. [Gloomily.] I suppose I must be--or not far from it. [Looks towards the door to the right, which is opened at this moment.] Ah! now it grows light.
HILDA WANGEL comes in. She has made some alteration in her dress, and let down her skirt.
HILDA. Good morning, Mr. Solness!
SOLNESS. [Nods.] Slept well?
HILDA. Quite deliciously! Like a child in a cradle. Oh--I lay and stretched myself like--like a princess!
SOLNESS. [Smiles a little.] You were thoroughly comfortable then?
HILDA. I should think so.
SOLNESS. And no doubt you dreamed, too.
HILDA. Yes, I did. But that was horrid.
SOLNESS. Was it?
HILDA. Yes, for I dreamed I was falling over a frightfully high, sheer precipice. Do you never have that kind of dream?
SOLNESS. Oh yes--now and then---
HILDA. It's tremendously thrilling--when you fall and fall---
SOLNESS. It seems to make one's blood run cold.
HILDA. Do you draw your legs up under you while you are falling?
SOLNESS. Yes, as high as ever I can.
HILDA. So do I.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Takes her parasol.] I must go into town now, Halvard. [To HILDA.] And I'll try to get one or two things that you may require.
HILDA. [Making a motion to throw her arms round her neck.] Oh, you dear, Mrs. Solness! You are really much too kind to me! Frightfully kind---
MRS. SOLNESS. [Deprecatingly, freeing herself.] Oh, not at all. It's only my duty, so I am very glad to do it.
HILDA. [Offended, pouts.] But really, I think I am quite fit to be seen in the streets--now that I've put my dress to rights. Or do you think I am not?
MRS. SOLNESS. To tell you the truth, I think people would stare at you a little.
HILDA. [Contemptuously.] Pooh! Is that all? That only amuses me.
SOLNESS. [With suppressed ill-humour.] Yes, but people might take it into their heads that you were mad too, you see.
HILDA. Mad? Are there so many mad people here in town, then?
SOLNESS. [Points to his own forehead.] Here you see one at all events.
HILDA. You--Mr. Solness!
SOLNESS. Have you not noticed that yet?
HILDA. No, I certainly have not. [Reflects and laughs a little.] And yet-- perhaps in one single thing.
SOLNESS. Ah, do you hear that, Aline?
MRS. SOLNESS. What is that one single thing, Miss Wangel?
HILDA. No, I won't say.
SOLNESS. Oh yes, do!
HILDA. No thank you--I am not so mad as that.
MRS. SOLNESS. When you and Miss Wangel are alone, I daresay she will tell you, Halvard.
SOLNESS. Ah--you think she will?
Oh yes, certainly. For you have known her so well in the past. Ever
since she was a child--you tell me.
HILDA. [After a little while.] Does your wife dislike me very much?
SOLNESS. Did you think you noticed anything of the kind?
HILDA. Did you notice it yourself?
SOLNESS. [Evasively.] Aline has become exceedingly shy with strangers of late years.
HILDA. Has she really?
SOLNESS. But if only you could get to know her thoroughly---! Ah, she is so good--so kind--so excellent a creature---
HILDA. [Impatiently.] But if she is all that--what made her say that about her duty?
SOLNESS. Her duty?
HILDA. She said that she would go out and buy something for me, because it was her duty. Oh, I can't bear that ugly, horrid word!
SOLNESS. Why not?
HILDA. It sounds so could and sharp, and stinging. Duty--duty--duty. Don't you think so, too? Doesn't it seem to sting you?
SOLNESS. H'm--haven't thought much about it.
HILDA. Yes, it does. And if she is so good--as you say she is--why should she talk in that way?
SOLNESS. But, good Lord, what would you have had her say, then?
HILDA. She might have said she would do it because she had taken a tremendous fancy to me. She might have said something like that-- something really warm and cordial, you understand.
SOLNESS. [Looks at her.] Is that how you would like to have it?
HILDA. Yes, precisely. [She wanders about the room, stops at the bookcase and looks at the books.] What a lot of books you have.
SOLNESS. Yes, I have got together a good many.
HILDA. Do you read them all, too?
SOLNESS. I used to try to. Do you read much?
HILDA. No, never! I have given it up. For it all seems so irrelevant.
That is just my feeling.
HILDA. Are all these your drawings yours?
SOLNESS. No, they are drawn by a young man whom I employ to help me.
HILDA. Some one you have taught?
SOLNESS. Oh yes, no doubt he has learnt something from me, too.
HILDA. [Sits down.] Then I suppose he is very clever. [Looks at a drawing.] Isn't he?
SOLNESS. Oh, he might be worse. For my purpose---
HILDA. Oh yes--I'm sure he is frightfully clever.
SOLNESS. Do you think you can see that in the drawings?
HILDA. Pooh--these scrawlings! But if he has been learning from you---
SOLNESS. Oh, so far as that goes---there are plenty of people here that have learnt from me, and have come to little enough for all that.
HILDA. [Looks at him and shakes her head.] No, I can't for the life of me understand how you can be so stupid.
SOLNESS. Stupid? Do you think I am so very stupid?
HILDA. Yes, I do indeed. If you are content to go about here teaching all these people---
SOLNESS. [With a slight start.] Well, and why not?
HILDA. [Rises, half serious, half laughing.] No indeed, Mr. Solness! What can be the good of that? No one but you should be allowed to build. You should stand quite alone--do it all yourself. Now you know it.
SOLNESS. [Involuntarily.] Hilda---!
SOLNESS. How in the world did that come into your head?
HILDA. Do you think I am so very far wrong then?
SOLNESS. No, that's not what I mean. But now I'll tell you something.
SOLNESS. I keep on--incessantly--in silence and alone--brooding on that very thought.
HILDA. Yes, that seems to me perfectly natural.
SOLNESS. [Looks somewhat searchingly at her.] Perhaps you have noticed it already?
HILDA. No, indeed I haven't.
SOLNESS. But just now--when you said you thought I was--off my balance? In one thing, you said---
HILDA. Oh, I was thinking of something quite different.
SOLNESS. What was it?
HILDA. I am not going to tell you.
SOLNESS. [Crosses the room.] Well, well--as you please. [Stops at the bow- window.] Come here, and I will show you something.
HILDA. [Approaching.] What is it?
SOLNESS. Do you see over here in the garden---?
SOLNESS. [Points.] Right above the great quarry---?
HILDA. That new house, you mean?
SOLNESS. The one that is being built, yes. Almost finished.
HILDA. It seems to have a very high tower.
SOLNESS. The scaffolding is still up.
HILDA. Is that your new house?
HILDA. The house you are soon going to move into?
HILDA. [Looks at him.] Are there nurseries in that house, too?
SOLNESS. Three, as there are here.
HILDA. And no child.
SOLNESS. And there never will be one.
HILDA. [With a half-smile.] Well, isn't it just as I said---?
HILDA. That you are a little--a little mad after all.
SOLNESS. Was that what you were thinking of?
HILDA. Yes, of all the empty nurseries I slept in.
SOLNESS. [Lowers his voice.] We have had children--Aline and I.
HILDA. [Looks eagerly at him.] Have you---?
SOLNESS. Two little boys. They were of the same age.
HILDA. Twins, then.
SOLNESS. Yes, twins. It's eleven or twelve years ago now.
HILDA. [Cautiously.] And so both of them---? You have lost both the twins, then?
SOLNESS. [With quiet emotion.] We kept them only about three weeks. Or scarcely so much. [Bursts forth.] Oh, Hilda, I can't tell you what a good thing it is for me that you have come! For now at last I have some one to talk to!
HILDA. Can you not talk to--her, too?
SOLNESS. Not about this. Not as I want to talk and must talk. [Gloomily.] And not about so many other things, either.
HILDA. [In a subdued voice.] Was that all you meant when you said you need me?
SOLNESS. That was mainly what I meant--at all events, yesterday. For to-day I am not so sure--[Breaking off.] Come here and let us sit down, Hilda. Sit there on the sofa--so that you can look into the garden. [HILDA seats herself in the corner of the sofa. SOLNESS brings a chair closer.] Should you like to hear about it?
HILDA. Yes, I shall love to sit and listen to you.
SOLNESS. [Sits down.] Then I will tell you all about it.
HILDA. Now I can see both the garden and you, Mr. Solness. So now, tell away! Begin!
SOLNESS. [Points towards the bow-window.] Out there on the rising ground-- where you see the new house---
SOLNESS. Aline and I lived there in the first years of our married life. There was an old house up there that had belonged to her mother; and we inherited it, and the whole of the great garden with it.
HILDA. Was there a tower on that house, too?
SOLNESS. No, nothing of the kind. From the outside it looked like a great, dark, ugly wooden box; but all the same, it was snug and comfortable enough inside.
HILDA. Then did you pull down the ramshackle old place?
SOLNESS. No, it was burnt down.
HILDA. The whole of it?
HILDA. Was that a great misfortune for you?
SOLNESS. That depends on how you look at it. As a builder, the fire was the making of me---
HILDA. Well, but---
SOLNESS. It was just after the birth of the two little boys---
HILDA. The poor little twins, yes.
SOLNESS. They came healthy and bonny into the world. And they were growing too--you could see the difference day to day.
HILDA. Little children do grow quickly at first.
SOLNESS. It was the prettiest sight in the world to see Aline lying with the two of them in her arms.--But then came the night of the fire---
HILDA. [Excitedly.] What happened? Do tell me! Was any one burnt?
SOLNESS. No, not that. Every one got safe and sound out of the house---
HILDA. Well, and what then---?
SOLNESS. The fright had shaken Aline terribly. The alarm--the escape--the break-neck hurry--and then the ice-cold night air--for they had to be carried out just as they lay--both she and the little ones.
HILDA. Was it too much for them?
SOLNESS. Oh no, they stood it well enough. But Aline fell into a fever, and it affected her milk. She would insist on nursing them herself; because it was her duty, she said. And both our little boys, they-- [Clenching his hands.]--they--oh!
HILDA. They did not get over that?
SOLNESS. No, that they did not get over. That was how we lost them.
HILDA. It must have been terribly hard for you.
SOLNESS. Hard enough for me; but ten time harder for Aline. [Clenching his hands in suppressed fury.] Oh, that such things should be allowed to happen here the world! [Shortly and firmly.] From the day I lost them, I had no heart for building churches.
HILDA. Did you not like building the church-tower in our town?
SOLNESS. I didn't like it. I know how free and happy I felt when that tower was finished.
HILDA. I know that, too.
SOLNESS. And now I shall never--never build anything of that sort again! Neither churches nor church-towers.
HILDA. [Nods slowly.] Nothing but houses for people to live in.
SOLNESS. Homes for human beings, Hilda.
HILDA. But homes with high towers and pinnacles upon them.
SOLNESS. If possible. [Adopts a lighter tone.] But, as I said before, that fire was the making of me--as a builder, I mean.
HILDA. Why don't you call yourself an architect, like the others?
SOLNESS. I have not been systematically enough taught for that. Most of what I know I have found out for myself.
HILDA. But you succeeded all the same.
SOLNESS. Yes, thanks to the fire. I laid out almost the whole of the garden in villa lots; and there I was able to build after my own heart. So I came to the front with a rush.
HILDA. [Looks keenly at him.] You must surely be a very happy man, as matters stand with you.
SOLNESS. [Gloomily.] Happy? Do you say that, too--like all the rest of them?
HILDA. Yes, I should say you must be. If you could only cease thing about the two little children---
SOLNESS. [Slowly.] The two little children--they are not so easy to forget, Hilda.
HILDA. [Somewhat uncertainly.] Do you still feel their loss so much--after all these years?
SOLNESS. [Looks fixedly at her, without replying.] A happy man you said---
HILDA. Well, now, are you not happy--in other respects?
SOLNESS. [Continues to look at her.] When I told you all this about the fire-- h'm---
SOLNESS. Was there not one special thought that you--that you seized upon?
HILDA. [Reflects in vain.] No. What thought should that be?
SOLNESS. [With subdued emphasis.] It was simply and solely by that fire that I was enabled to build homes for human beings. Cosy, comfortable, bright homes, where father and mother and the whole troop of children can live in safety and gladness, feeling what a happy thing it is to be alive in the world--and most of all to belong to each other--in great things and in small.
HILDA. [Ardently.] Well, and is it not a great happiness for you to be able to build such beautiful homes?
SOLNESS. The price, Hilda! The terrible price I had to pay for the opportunity!
HILDA. But can you never get over that?
SOLNESS. No. That I might build homes for others, I had to forego--to forego for all time--the home that might have been my own. I mean a home for a troop of children--and for father and mother, too.
HILDA. [Cautiously.] But need you have done that? For all time, you say?
SOLNESS. [Nods slowly.] That was the price of this happiness that people talk about. [Breathes heavily.] This happiness--h'm--this happiness was not to be bought any cheaper, Hilda.
HILDA. [As before.] But may it not come right even yet?
SOLNESS. Never in this world--never. That is another consequence of the fire-- and of Aline's illness afterwards.
HILDA. [Looks at him with an indefinable expression.] And yet you build all these nurseries.
SOLNESS. [Seriously.] Have you never noticed, Hilda, how the impossible--how it seems to beckon and cry aloud to one?
HILDA. [Reflecting.] The impossible? [With animation.] Yes, indeed! Is that how you feel too?
SOLNESS. Yes, I do.
HILDA. Then there must be--a little of the troll in you too.
SOLNESS. Why of the troll?
HILDA. What would you call it, then?
SOLNESS. [Rises.] Well, well, perhaps you are right. [Vehemently.] But how can I help turning into a troll, when this is how it always goes with me in everything--in everything!
HILDA. How do you mean?
SOLNESS. [Speaking low, with inward emotion.] Mark what I say to you, Hilda. All that I have succeeded in doing, building, creating--all the beauty, security, cheerful comfort--ay, and magnificence too-- [Clenches his hands.] Oh, is it not terrible even to think of---?
HILDA. What is so terrible?
SOLNESS. That all this I have to make up for, to pay for--not in money, but in human happiness. And not with my own happiness only, but with other people's too. Yes, yes, do you see that, Hilda? That is the price which my position as an artist has cost me--and others. And every single day I have to look on while the price is paid for me anew. Over again, and over again--and over again for ever!
HILDA. [Rises and looks steadily at him.] Now I can see that you are thinking of--of her.
SOLNESS. Yes, mainly of Aline. For Aline--she, too, had her vocation in life, just as much as I had mine. [His voice quivers.] But her vocation has had to be stunted, and crushed, and shattered--in order that mine might force its way to--to a sort of great victory. For you must know that Aline--she, too, had a talent for building.
HILDA. She! For building?
SOLNESS. [Shakes his head.] Not houses and towers, and spires--not such things as I work away at---
HILDA. Well, but what then?
SOLNESS. [Softly, with emotion.] For building up the souls of little children, Hilda. For building up children's souls in perfect balance, and in noble and beautiful forms. For enabling them to soar up into erect and full-grown human souls. That was Aline's talent. And there it all lies now--unused and unusable for ever--of no earthly service to any one--just like the ruins left by a fire.
HILDA. Yes, but even if this were so---?
SOLNESS. It is so! It is so! I know it!
HILDA. Well, but in any case it is not your fault.
SOLNESS. [Fixes his eyes on her, and nods slowly.] Ah, that is the great, the terrible question. That is the doubt that is gnawing me--night and day.
SOLNESS. Yes. Suppose the fault was mine--in a certain sense.
HILDA. Your fault! The fire!
SOLNESS. All of it; the whole thing. And yet, perhaps--I may not have had anything to do with it.
HILDA. [Looks at him with a troubled expression.] Oh, Mr. Solness--if you can talk like that, I am afraid you must be--ill after all.
SOLNESS. H'm--I don't think I shall ever be of quite sound mind on that point.
RAGNAR BROVIK cautiously opens the little door in the left- hand corner. HILDA comes forward.
RAGNAR. [When he sees Hilda.] Oh. I beg pardon, Mr. Solness--- [He makes a movement to withdraw.
SOLNESS. No, no, don't go. Let us get it over.
RAGNAR. Oh, yes--if only we could.
SOLNESS. I hear your father is no better?
RAGNAR. Father is fast growing weaker--and therefore I beg and implore you to write a few kind words for me on one of the plans! Something for father to read before he---
SOLNESS. [Vehemently.] I won't hear anything more about those drawings of yours!
RAGNAR. Have you looked at them?
SOLNESS. Yes--I have.
RAGNAR. And they are good for nothing? And I am good for nothing, too?
SOLNESS. [Evasively.] Stay here with me, Ragnar. You shall have everything your own way. And then you can marry Kaia, and live at your ease-- and happily too, who knows? Only don't think of building on your own account.
RAGNAR. Well, well, then I must go home and tell father what you say--I promised I would.--Is this what I am to tell father--before he dies?
SOLNESS. [With a groan.] Oh tell him--tell him what you will, for me. Best to say nothing at all to him! [With a sudden outburst.] I cannot do anything else, Ragnar!
RAGNAR. May I have the drawings to take with me?
SOLNESS. Yes, take them--take them by all means! They are lying there on the table.
RAGNAR. [Goes to the table.] Thanks.
HILDA. [Puts her hand on the portfolio.] No, no; leave them here.
HILDA. Because I want to look at them, too.
SOLNESS. But you have been--- [To RAGNAR.] Well, leave them here, then.
RAGNAR. Very well.
SOLNESS. And go home at once to your father.
RAGNAR. Yes, I suppose I must.
SOLNESS. [As if in desperation.] Ragnar--you must not ask me to do what is beyond my power! Do you hear, Ragnar? You must not!
No, no. I beg you pardon---
HILDA. [Looks angrily at SOLNESS.] That was a very ugly thing to do.
SOLNESS. Do you think so, too?
HILDA. Yes, it was horribly ugly--and hard and bad and cruel as well.
SOLNESS. Oh, you don't understand my position.
HILDA. No matter---. I say you ought not to be like that.
SOLNESS. You said yourself, only just now, that no one but I ought to be allowed to build.
HILDA. I may say such things--but you must not.
SOLNESS. I most of all, surely, who have paid so dear for my position.
HILDA. Oh yes--with what you call domestic comfort--and that sort of thing.
SOLNESS. And with my peace of soul into the bargain.
HILDA. [Rising.] Peace of soul! [With feeling.] Yes, yes, you are right in that! Poor Mr. Solness--you fancy that---
SOLNESS. [With a quiet, chuckling laugh.] Just sit down again, Hilda, and I'll tell you something funny.
HILDA. [Sits down; with intent interest.] Well?
SOLNESS. It sounds such a ludicrous little thing; for, you see, the whole story turns upon nothing but a crack in the chimney.
HILDA. No more than that?
No, not to begin with.
HILDA. [Impatiently, taps on her knee.] Well, now for the crack in the chimney!
SOLNESS. I had noticed the split in the flue long, long before the fire. Every time I went up into the attic, I looked to see if it was still there.
HILDA. And it was?
SOLNESS. Yes; for no one else knew about it.
HILDA. And you said nothing?
HILDA. And did not think of repairing the flue either?
SOLNESS. Oh yes, I thought about it--but never got any further. Every time I intended to set to work, it seemed just as if a hand held me back. Not to-day, I thought--to-morrow; and nothing ever came of it.
HILDA. But why did you keep putting it off like that?
SOLNESS. Because I was revolving something in my mind. [Slowly, and in a low voice.] Through that little black crack in the chimney, I might, perhaps, force my way upwards--as a builder.
HILDA. [Looking straight in front of her.] That must have been thrilling.
SOLNESS. Almost irresistible--quite irresistible. For at that time it appeared to me a perfectly simple and straightforward matter. I would have had it happen in the winter-time--a little before midday. I was to be out driving Aline in the sleigh. The servants at home would have made huge fires in the stoves.
HILDA. For, of course, it was to be bitterly cold that day?
SOLNESS. Rather biting, yes--and they would want Aline to find it thoroughly snug and warm when she came home.
HILDA. I suppose she is very chilly by nature?
SOLNESS. She is. And as we drove home, we were to see the smoke.
HILDA. Only the smoke?
SOLNESS. The smoke first. But when we came up to the garden gate, the whole of the old timber-box was to be a rolling mass of flames.--That is how I wanted it to be, you see.
HILDA. Oh, why, why could it not have happened so!
SOLNESS. You may well say that, Hilda.
HILDA. Well, but now listen, Mr. Solness. Are you perfectly certain that the fire was caused by that little crack in the chimney!
SOLNESS. No, on the contrary--I am perfectly certain that the crack in the chimney had nothing whatever to do with the fire.
SOLNESS. It has been clearly ascertained that the fire broke out in a clothes- cupboard--in a totally different part of the house.
HILDA. Then what is all this nonsense you are talking about the crack in the chimney!
SOLNESS. May I go on talking to you a little, Hilda?
HILDA. Yes, if you'll only talk sensibly---
SOLNESS. I will try to. [He moves his chair nearer.
HILDA. Out with it, then, Mr. Solness.
SOLNESS. [Confidentially.] Don't you agree with me, Hilda, that there exist special, chosen people who have been endowed with the power and faculty if desiring a thing, craving for a thing, willing a thing-- so persistently and so--so inexorably--that at last it has to happen? Don't you believe that?
HILDA. [With an indefinable expression in her eyes.] If that is so, we shall see, one of these days, whether I am one of the chosen.
SOLNESS. It is not one's self alone that can do such great things. Oh, no-- the helpers and the servers--they must do their part too, if it is to be of any good. But they never come of themselves. One has to call upon them very persistently--inwardly, you understand.
HILDA. What are these helpers and servers?
SOLNESS. Oh, we can talk about that some other time. For the present, let us keep to this business of the fire.
HILDA. Don't you think that fire would have happened all the same--even without your wishing for it?
SOLNESS. If the house had been old Knut Brovik's, it would never have burnt down so conveniently for him. I am sure of that; for he does not know how to call for the helpers--no, nor for the servers, either. [Rises in unrest.] So you see, Hilda--it is my fault, after all, that the lives of the two little boys had to be sacrificed. And do you think it is not my fault, too, that Aline has never been the woman she should and might have been--and that she most longed to be?
HILDA. Yes, but if it is all the work of these helpers and servers---?
SOLNESS. Who called for the helpers and servers? It was I! And they came and obeyed my will. [In increasing excitement.] That is what people call having the luck on your side; but I must tell you what this sort of luck feels like! It feels like a great raw place here on my breast. And the helpers and servers keep on flaying pieces of skin off other people in order to close my sore!--But still the sore is not healed--never, never! Oh, if you knew how it can sometimes gnaw and burn!
HILDA. [Looks attentively at him.] You are ill, Mr. Solness. Very ill, I almost think.
SOLNESS. Say mad; for that is what you mean.
HILDA. No, I don't think there is much amiss with your intellect.
SOLNESS. With what then? Out with it!
HILDA. I wonder whether you were not sent into the world with a sickly conscience.
SOLNESS. A sickly conscience? What devilry is that?
HILDA. I mean that your conscience is feeble--too delicately built, as it were--hasn't strength to take a grip of things--to lift and bear what is heavy.
SOLNESS. [Growls.] H'm! May I ask, then, what sort of a conscience one ought to have?
HILDA. I should like your conscience to be--to be thoroughly robust.
SOLNESS. Indeed? Robust, eh? Is your own conscience robust, may I ask?
HILDA. Yes, I think it is. I have never noticed that it wasn't.
SOLNESS. It has not been put very severely to the test, I should think.
HILDA. [With a quivering of the lips.] Oh, it was no such simple matter to leave father--I am so awfully fond of him.
SOLNESS. Dear me! for a month or two---
HILDA. I think I shall never go home again.
SOLNESS. Never? Then why did you leave him?
HILDA. [Half-seriously, half-banteringly.] Have you forgotten again that the ten year are up?
SOLNESS. Oh nonsense. Was anything wrong at home? Eh?
HILDA. [Quite seriously.] It was this impulse within me that urged and goaded me to come--and lured and drew me on, as well.
SOLNESS. [Eagerly.] There we have it! There we have it, Hilda! There is the troll in you too, as in me. For it's the troll in one, you see--it is that that calls to the powers outside us. And then you must give in--whether you will or no.
HILDA. I almost think you are right, Mr. Solness.
SOLNESS. [Walks about the room.] Oh, there are devils innumerable abroad in the world, Hilda, that one never sees.
HILDA. Devils, too?
SOLNESS. [Stops.] Good devils and bad devils; light-haired devils and black- haired devils. If only you could always tell whether it is the light or dark ones that have got hold of you! [Paces about.] Ho-ho! Then it would be simple enough!
HILDA. [Follows him with her eyes.] Or if one had a really vigorous, radiantly healthy conscience--so that one dared to do what one would.
SOLNESS. [Stops beside the console table.] I believe, now, that most people are just as puny creatures as I am in that respect.
HILDA. I shouldn't wonder.
SOLNESS. [Leaning against the table.] In the sagas---. Have you read any of the old sagas?
HILDA. Oh yes! When I used to read books, I---
SOLNESS. In the sagas you read about vikings, who sailed to foreign lands, and plundered and burned and killed men---
HILDA. And carried off women---
SOLNESS. ---and kept them in captivity---
HILDA. ---took them home in their ships---
SOLNESS. ---and behaved to them like--like the very worst of trolls.
HILDA. [Looks straight before her, with a half-veiled look.] I think that must have been thrilling.
SOLNESS. [With a short, deep laugh.] To carry off women, eh?
HILDA. To be carried off.
SOLNESS. [Looks at her a moment.] Oh, indeed.
HILDA. [As if breaking the thread of the conversation.] But what made you speak of these vikings, Mr. Solness?
SOLNESS. Why, those fellows must have had robust consciences, if you like! When they got home again, they could eat and drink, and be as happy as children. And the women, too! They often would not leave them on any account. Can you understand that, Hilda?
HILDA. Those women I can understand exceedingly well.
SOLNESS. Oho! Perhaps you could do the same yourself?
HILDA. Why not?
SOLNESS. Live--of your own free will--with a ruffian like that?
HILDA. If it was a ruffian I had come to love---
SOLNESS. Could you come to love a man like that?
HILDA. Good heavens, you know very well one can't choose whom one is going to love.
SOLNESS. [Looks meditatively at her.] Oh no, I suppose it is the troll within one that's responsible for that.
HILDA. [Half-laughing.] And all those blessed devils, that you know so well--both the light-haired and the dark-haired ones.
SOLNESS. [Quietly and warmly.] Then I hope with all my heart that the devils will choose carefully for you, Hilda.
HILDA. For me they have chosen already--once and for all.
SOLNESS. [Looks earnestly at her.] Hilda--you are like a wild bird of the woods.
HILDA. Far from it. I don't hide myself away under the bushes.
SOLNESS. No, no. There is rather something of the bird of prey in you.
HILDA. That is nearer it--perhaps. [Very vehemently.] And why not a bird of prey? Why should not I go a-hunting--I, as well as the rest? Carry off the prey I want--if only I can get my claws into it, and do with it as I will.
SOLNESS. Hilda--do you know what you are?
HILDA. Yes, I suppose I am a strange sort of bird.
SOLNESS. No. You are like a dawning day. When I look at you--I seem to be looking towards the sunrise.
HILDA. Tell me, Mr. Solness--are you certain that you have never called me to you? Inwardly, you know?
SOLNESS. [Softly and slowly.] I almost think I must have.
HILDA. What did you want with me?
SOLNESS. You are the younger generation, Hilda.
HILDA. [Smiles.] That younger generation that you are so afraid of?
[Nods slowly.] And which, in my heart, I yearn towards so deeply.
HILDA. [Holds out the portfolio to him.] We were talking of these drawings---
SOLNESS. [Shortly, waving them away.] Put those things away! I have seen enough of them.
HILDA. Yes, but you have to write your approval on them.
SOLNESS. Write my approval on them? Never!
HILDA. But the poor old man is lying at death's door! Can't you give him and his son this pleasure before they are parted? And perhaps he might get the commission to carry them out, too.
SOLNESS. Yes, that is just what he would get. He has made sure of that--has my fine gentleman!
HILDA. Then, good heavens--if that is so--can't you tell the least little bit of a lie for once in a way?
SOLNESS. A lie? [Raging.] Hilda--take those devil's drawings out of my sight!
HILDA. [Draws the portfolio a little nearer to herself.] Well, well, well --don't bite me.--You talk of trolls--but I think you go on like a troll yourself. [Looks round.] Where do you keep your pen and ink?
SOLNESS. There is nothing of the sort in here.
HILDA. [Goes towards the door.] But in the office where that young lady is---
SOLNESS. Stay where you are, Hilda!--I ought to tell a lie, you say. Oh yes, for the sake of his old father I might well do that--for in my time I have crushed him, trodden him under foot---
HILDA. Him, too?
SOLNESS. I needed room for myself. But this Ragnar--he must on no account be allowed to come to the front.
HILDA. Poor fellow, there is surely no fear of that. If he has nothing in him---
SOLNESS. [Comes closer, looks at her, and whispers.] If Ragnar Brovik gets his chance, he will strike me to the earth. Crush me--as I crushed his father.
HILDA. Crush you? Has he the ability for that?
SOLNESS. Yes, you may depend upon it he has the ability! He is the younger generation that stands ready to knock at my door--to make an end of Halvard Solness.
HILDA. [Looks at him with quiet reproach.] And yet you would bar him out. Fie, Mr. Solness!
SOLNESS. The fight I have been fighting has cost heart's blood enough.--And I am afraid, too, that the helpers and servers will not obey me any longer.
HILDA. Then you must go ahead without them. There is nothing else for it.
SOLNESS. It is hopeless, Hilda. The luck is bound to turn. A little sooner or a little later. Retribution is inexorable.
HILDA. [In distress, putting her hands over her ears.] Don't talk like that! Do you want to kill me? To take from me what is more than my life?
SOLNESS. And what is that?
HILDA. The longing to see you great. To see you, with a wreath in your hand, high, high up upon a church-tower. [Calm again.] Come, out with your pencil now. You must have a pencil about you?
SOLNESS. [Takes out his pocket-book.] I have one here.
HILDA. [Lays the portfolio on the sofa-table.] Very well. Now let us two sit down here, Mr. Solness. [SOLNESS seats himself at the table. HILDA stands behind him, leaning over the back of the chair.] And now we well write on the drawings. We must write very, very nicely and cordially--for this horrid Ruar--or whatever his name is.
SOLNESS. [Writes a few words, turns his head and looks at her.] Tell me one thing, Hilda.
SOLNESS. If you have been waiting for me all these ten years---
HILDA. What then?
SOLNESS. Why have you never written to me? Then I could have answered you.
HILDA. [Hastily.] No, no, no! That was just what I did not want.
SOLNESS. Why not?
HILDA. I was afraid the whole thing might fall to pieces.--But we were going to write on the drawings, Mr. Solness.
SOLNESS. So we were.
HILDA. [Bends forward and looks over his shoulder while he writes.] Mind now, kindly and cordially! Oh how I hate--how I hate this Ruald---
SOLNESS. [Writing.] Have you never really cared for any one, Hilda?
HILDA. For any one else, I suppose you mean?
SOLNESS. [Looks up at her.] For any one else, yes. Have you never? In all these ten years? Never?
HILDA. Oh yes, now and then. When I was perfectly furious with you for not coming.
SOLNESS. Then you did take an interest in other people, too?
HILDA. A little bit--for a week or so. Good heavens, Mr. Solness, you surely know how such things come about.
SOLNESS. Hilda--what is it you have come for?
HILDA. Don't waste time talking. The poor old man might go and die in the meantime.
SOLNESS. Answer me, Hilda. What do you want of me?
HILDA. I want my kingdom.
He gives a rapid glance toward the door on the left, and then goes on writing on the drawings. At the same moment MRS. SOLNESS enters.
MRS. SOLNESS. Here are a few things I have got for you, Miss Wangel. The large parcels will be sent later on.
HILDA. Oh, how very, very kind of you!
MRS. SOLNESS. Only my simple duty. Nothing more than that.
SOLNESS. [Reading over what he has written.] Aline!
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes?
SOLNESS. Did you notice whether the--the book-keeper was out there?
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes, of course, she was there.
SOLNESS. [Puts the drawings in the portfolio.] H'm---
MRS. SOLNESS. She was standing at the desk, as she always is--when I go through the room.
SOLNESS. [Rises.] Then I'll give this to her and tell her that---
HILDA. [Takes the portfolio from him.] Oh, no, let me have the pleasure of doing that! [Goes to the door, but turns.] What is her name?
SOLNESS. Her name is Miss Fosli.
HILDA. Pooh, that sounds so cold! Her Christian name, I mean?
SOLNESS. Kaia--I believe.
HILDA. [Opens the door and calls out.] Kaia, come in here! Make haste! Mr. Solness wants to speak to you.
KAIA FOSLI appears at the door.
KAIA. [Looking at him in alarm.] Here I am---?
HILDA. [Handing her the portfolio.] See her, Kaia! You can take this home; Mr. Solness was written on them now.
KAIA. Oh, at last!
SOLNESS. Give them to the old man as soon as you can.
KAIA. I will go straight home with them.
SOLNESS. Yes, do. Now Ragnar will have a chance of building for himself.
KAIA. Oh, may he come and thank you for all---?
SOLNESS. [Harshly.] I won't have any thanks! Tell him that from me.
KAIA. Yes, I will---
SOLNESS. And tell him at the same time that henceforward I do not require his services--nor yours either.
KAIA. [Softly and quiveringly.] Not mine either?
SOLNESS. You will have other things to think of now, and to attend to; and that is a very good thing for you. Well, go home with the drawings now, Miss Fosli. At once! Do you hear?
KAIA. [As before.] Yes, Mr. Solness. [She goes out.
MRS. SOLNESS. Heavens! what deceitful eyes she has.
SOLNESS. She? That poor little creature?
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh--I can see what I can see, Halvard.--- Are you really dismissing them?
MRS. SOLNESS. Her as well?
SOLNESS. Was not that what you wished?
MRS. SOLNESS. But how can you get on without her---? Oh well, no doubt you have some one else in reserve, Halvard.
HILDA. [Playfully.] Well, I for one am not the person to stand at a desk.
SOLNESS. Never mind, never mind--it will be all right, Aline. Now all you have to do is think about moving into our new home--as quickly as you can. This evening we will hang up the wreath--[Turns to HILDA.] What do you say to that, Miss Hilda?
HILDA. [Looks at him with sparkling eyes.] It will be splendid to see you so high up once more.
MRS. SOLNESS. For Heaven's sake, Miss Wangel, don't imagine such a thing! My husband!--when he always gets so dizzy!
HILDA. He get dizzy! No, I know quite well he does not!
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh yes, indeed he does.
HILDA. But I have seen him with my own eyes right up at the top of a high church-tower!
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes, I hear people talk of that; but it is utterly impossible---
SOLNESS. [Vehemently.] Impossible--impossible, yes! But there I stood all the same!
MRS. SOLNESS. O, how can you say so, Halvard? Why, you can't even bear to go out on the second-storey balcony here. You have always been like that.
SOLNESS. You may perhaps see something different this evening.
MRS. SOLNESS. [In alarm.] No, no, no! Please God I shall never see that. I will write at once to the doctor--and I am sure he won't let you do it.
SOLNESS. Why, Aline---!
Oh, you know you're ill, Halvard. This proves it! Oh God--Oh God!
HILDA. [Looks intently at him.] Is it so, or is it not?
SOLNESS. That I turn dizzy?
HILDA. That my master builder dares not--cannot--climb as high as he builds?
SOLNESS. Is that the way you look at it?
SOLNESS. I believe there is scarcely a corner in me that is safe from you.
HILDA. [Looks towards the bow-window.] Up there, then. Right up there---
SOLNESS. [Approaches her.] You might have the topmost room in the tower, Hilda--there you might live like a princess.
HILDA. [Indefinably, between earnest and jest.] Yes, that is what you promised me.
SOLNESS. Did I really?
HILDA. Fie, Mr. Solness! You said I should be a princess, and that you would give me a kingdom. And then you went and---Well!
SOLNESS. [Cautiously.] Are you quite certain that this is not a dream--a fancy, that has fixed itself in your mind?
HILDA. [Sharply.] Do you mean that you did not do it?
SOLNESS. I scarcely know myself. [More softly.] But now I know so much for certain, that I---
HILDA. That you---? Say it at once!
SOLNESS. ---that I ought to have done it.
HILDA. [Exclaims with animation.] Don't tell me you can ever be dizzy!
SOLNESS. This evening, then, we will hang up the wreath--Princess Hilda.
HILDA. [With a bitter curve of the lips.] Over your new home, yes.
Over the new house, which will never be a home for me.
HILDA. [Looks straight in front of her with a far-away expression, and whispers to herself. The only words audible are:]---frightfully thrilling---