The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen
The large broad verandah of SOLNESS'S dwelling-house. Part of the house, with outer door leading to the verandah, is seen to the left. A railing along the verandah to the right. At the back, from the end of the verandah, a flight of steps leads down to the garden below. Tall old trees in the garden spread their branches over the verandah and towards the house. Far to the right, in among the trees, a glimpse is caught of the lower part of the new villa, with scaffolding round so much as is seen of the tower. In the background the garden is bounded by an old wooden fence. Outside the fence, a street with low, tumble-down cottages.
Evening sky with sun-lit clouds.
On the verandah, a garden bench stands along the wall of the house, and in front of the bench a long table. On the other side of the table, an arm-chair and some stools. All the furniture is of wicker-work.
MRS. SOLNESS, wrapped in a large white crepe shawl, sits resting in the arm-chair and gazes over to the right. Shortly after, HILDA WANGEL comes up the flight of steps from the garden. She is dressed as in the last act, and wears her hat. She has in her bodice a little nosegay of small common flowers.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Turning her head a little.] Have you been round the garden, Miss Wangel?
HILDA. Yes, I have been taking a look at it.
MRS. SOLNESS. And found some flowers too, I see.
HILDA. Yes, indeed! There are such heaps of them in among the bushes.
MRS. SOLNESS. Are there, really? Still? You see I scarcely ever go there.
HILDA. [Closer.] What! Don't you take a run down into the garden every day, then?
MRS. SOLNESS. [With a faint smile.] I don't "run" anywhere, nowadays.
HILDA. Well, but do you not go down now and then to look at all the lovely things there?
MRS. SOLNESS. It has all become so strange to me. I am almost afraid to see it again.
HILDA. Your own garden!
MRS. SOLNESS. I don't feel that it is mine any longer.
HILDA. What do you mean---?
MRS. SOLNESS. No, no, it is not--not as it was in my mother's and father's time. They have taken away so much--so much of the garden, Miss Wangel. Fancy--they have parcelled it out--and built houses for strangers-- people that I don't know. And they can sit and look in upon me from their windows.
HILDA. [With a bright expression.] Mrs. Solness!
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes?
HILDA. May I stay here with you a little?
Yes, by all means, if you care to.
HILDA. Ah--here one can sit and sun oneself like a cat.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Lays her hand softly on HILDA'S neck.] It is nice of you to be willing to sit with me. I thought you wanted to go in to my husband.
HILDA. What should I want with him?
MRS. SOLNESS. To help him, I thought.
HILDA. No, thank you. And besides, he is not in. He is over there with his workmen. But he looked so fierce that I did not dare to talk to him.
MRS. SOLNESS. He is so kind and gentle in reality.
MRS. SOLNESS. You do not really know him yet, Miss Wangel.
HILDA. [Looks affectionately at her.] Are you pleased at the thought of moving over to the new house?
MRS. SOLNESS. I ought to be pleased; for it is what Halvard wants---
HILDA. Oh, not just on that account, surely?
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes, yes, Miss Wangel; for it is only my duty to submit myself to him. But very often it is dreadfully difficult to force one's mind to obedience.
HILDA. Yes, that must be difficult indeed.
MRS. SOLNESS. I can tell you it is--when one has so many faults as I have---
HILDA. When one has gone through so much trouble as you have---
MRS. SOLNESS. How do you know about that?
HILDA. Your husband told me.
MRS. SOLNESS. To me he very seldom mentions these things.--Yes, I can tell you I have gone through more than enough trouble in my life, Miss Wangel.
HILDA. [Looks sympathetically at her and nods slowly.] Poor Mrs. Solness. First of all there was the fire---
MRS. SOLNESS. [With a sigh.] Yes, everything that was mine was burnt.
HILDA. And then came what was worse.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Looking inquiringly at her.] Worse?
HILDA. The worst of all.
MRS. SOLNESS. What do you mean?
HILDA. [Softly.] You lost the two little boys.
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh, yes, the boys. But, you see, that was a thing apart. That was a dispensation of Providence; and in such things one can only bow in submission--yes, and be thankful, too.
HILDA. Then you are so?
MRS. SOLNESS. Not always, I am sorry to say. I know well enough that it is my duty--but all the same I cannot.
HILDA. No, no, I think that is only natural.
MRS. SOLNESS. And often and often I have to remind myself that it was a righteous punishment for me---
MRS. SOLNESS. Because I had not fortitude enough in misfortune.
HILDA. But I don't see that---
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh, no, no, Miss Wangel--do not talk to me any more about the two little boys. We ought to feel nothing but joy in thinking of them; for they are so happy--so happy now. No, it is the small losses in life that cut one to the heart--the loss of all that other people look upon as almost nothing.
HILDA. [Lays her arms on MRS. SOLNESS'S knees, and looks up at her affectionately.] Dear Mrs. Solness--tell me what things you mean!
MRS. SOLNESS. As I say, only little things. All the old portraits were burnt on the walls. And all the old silk dresses were burnt, what had belonged to the family for generations and generations. And all mother's and grandmother's lace--that was burnt, too. And only think--the jewels, too! [Sadly.] And then all the dolls.
HILDA. The dolls?
MRS. SOLNESS. [Choking with tears.] I had nine lovely dolls.
HILDA. And they were burnt too?
MRS. SOLNESS. All of them. Oh, it was hard--so hard for me.
HILDA. Had you put by all these dolls, then? Ever since you were little?
MRS. SOLNESS. I had not put them by. The dolls and I had gone on living together.
HILDA. After you were grown up?
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes, long after that.
HILDA. After you were married, too?
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh yes, indeed. So long as he did not see it---. But they were all burnt up, poor things. No one thought of saving them. Oh, it is so miserable to think of. You mustn't laugh at me, Miss Wangel.
HILDA. I am not laughing in the least.
MRS. SOLNESS. For you see, in a certain sense, there was life in them, too. I carried them under my heart--like little unborn children.
DR. HERDAL, with his hat in his hand, comes out through the door, and observes MRS. SOLNESS. and HILDA.
DR. HERDAL. Well, Mrs. Solness, so you are sitting out here catching cold?
MRS. SOLNESS. I find it so pleasant and warm here to-day.
DR. HERDAL. Yes, yes. But is there anything going on here? I got a note from you.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Rises.] Yes, there is something I must talk to you about.
DR. HERDAL. Very well; then perhaps we better go in. [To HILDA.] Still in your mountaineering dress, Miss Wangel?
HILDA. [Gaily, rising.] Yes--in full uniform! But to-day I am not going climbing and breaking my neck. We two will stop quietly below and look on, doctor.
DR. HERDAL. What are we to look on at?
MRS. SOLNESS. [Softly, in alarm, to HILDA.] Hush, hush--for God's sake! He is coming! Try to get that idea out of his head. And let us be friends, Miss Wangel. Don't you think we can?
HILDA. [Throws her arms impetuously round MRS. SOLNESS'S neck.] Oh, if we only could!
MRS. SOLNESS. [Gently disengages herself.] There, there, there! There he comes, doctor. Let me have a word with you.
DR. HERDAL. Is it about him?
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes, to be sure it's about him. Do come in.
She and the doctor enter the house. Next moment SOLNESS comes up from the garden by the flight of steps. A serious look comes over HILDA'S face.
SOLNESS. [Glances at the house-door, which is closed cautiously from within.] Have you noticed, Hilda, that as soon as I come, she goes?
HILDA. I have noticed that as soon as you come, you make her go.
SOLNESS. Perhaps so. But I cannot help it. [Looks observantly at her.] Are you cold, Hilda? I think you look cold.
HILDA. I have just come up out of a tomb.
SOLNESS. What do you mean by that?
HILDA. That I have got chilled through and through, Mr. Solness.
SOLNESS. [Slowly.] I believe I understand---
HILDA. What brings you up here just now?
SOLNESS. I caught sight of you from over there.
HILDA. But then you must have seen her too?
SOLNESS. I knew she would go at once if I came.
HILDA. Is it very painful for you that she should avoid you in this way?
SOLNESS. In one sense, it's a relief as well.
HILDA. Not to have her before your eyes?
HILDA. Not to be always seeing how heavily the loss of the little boys weighs upon her?
Yes. Chiefly that.
[After a short pause.] Did you have a long talk with her?
SOLNESS. Had you a long talk, I asked? [HILDA is silent as before.
SOLNESS. What was she talking about, Hilda? [HILDA continues silent.
SOLNESS. Poor Aline! I suppose it was about the little boys.
SOLNESS. She will never get over it--never in this world. [Approaches her.] Now you are standing there again like a statue; just as you stood last night.
HILDA. [Turns and looks at him, with great serious eyes.] I am going away.
SOLNESS. [Sharply.] Going away!
SOLNESS. But I won't allow you to!
HILDA. What am I to do here now?
SOLNESS. Simply to be here, Hilda!
HILDA. [Measures him with a look.] Oh, thank you. You know it wouldn't end there.
SOLNESS. [Heedlessly.] So much the better!
HILDA. [Vehemently.] I cannot do any harm to one whom I know! I can't take away anything that belongs to her.
SOLNESS. Who wants you to do that?
HILDA. [Continuing.] A stranger, yes! for that is quite a different thing! A person I have never set eyes on. But one that I have come into close contact with---! Oh no! Oh no! Ugh!
SOLNESS. Yes, but I never proposed you should.
HILDA. Oh, Mr. Solness, you know quite well what the end of it would be. And that is why I am going away.
SOLNESS. And what is to become of me when you are gone? What shall I have to live for then?--After that?
HILDA. [With the indefinable look in her eyes.] It is surely not so hard for you. You have your duties to her. Live for those duties.
SOLNESS. Too late. These powers--these--these---
Yes, these devils! And the troll within me as well--they have drawn
all the life-blood out of her. [Laughs in desperation.] They did it
for my happiness! Yes, yes! [Sadly.] And now she is dead--for my
sake. And I am chained alive to a dead woman. [In wild anguish.]
I--I who cannot live without joy in life!
HILDA. [Sits and looks at him awhile.] What will you build next?
SOLNESS. [Shakes his head.] I don't believe I shall build much more.
HILDA. Not those cosy, happy homes for mother and father, and for the troop of children?
SOLNESS. I wonder whether there will be any use for such homes in the coming time.
HILDA. Poor Mr. Solness! And you have gone all these ten years--and staked your whole life--on that alone.
SOLNESS. Yes, you may well say so, Hilda.
HILDA. [With an outburst.] Oh, it all seems to me so foolish--so foolish!
SOLNESS. All what?
HILDA. Not to be able to grasp at your own happiness--at your own life! Merely because some one you know happens to stand in the way!
SOLNESS. One whom you have no right to set aside.
I wonder whether one really has not the right! And yet, and yet---.
Oh! if one could only sleep the whole thing away!
SOLNESS. [Turns the arm-chair and sits down at the table.] Had you a cosy, happy home--up there with your father, Hilda?
HILDA. [Without stirring, answers as if half asleep.] I had only a cage.
SOLNESS. And you are determined not to go back to it?
HILDA. [As before.] The wild bird never wants to go back to the cage.
SOLNESS. Rather range through the free air---
HILDA. [Still as before.] The bird of prey loves to range---
SOLNESS. [Lets his eyes rest on her.] If only one had the viking-spirit in life---
HILDA. [In her usual voice; opens her eyes but does not move.] And the other thing? Say what that was!
A robust conscience.
HILDA. [Nods to him.] I know what you are going to build next!
SOLNESS. Then you know more than I do, Hilda.
HILDA. Yes, builders are such stupid people.
SOLNESS. What is it to be then?
HILDA. [Nods again.] The castle.
SOLNESS. What castle?
HILDA. My castle, of course.
SOLNESS. Do you want a castle now?
HILDA. Don't you owe me a kingdom, I should like to know?
SOLNESS. You say I do.
HILDA. Well--you admit you owe me this kingdom. And you can't have a kingdom without a royal castle, I should think.
SOLNESS. [More and more animated.] Yes, they usually go together.
HILDA. Good! Then build it for me! This moment!
SOLNESS. [Laughing.] Must you have that on the instant, too?
HILDA. Yes, to be sure! For the ten years are up now, and I am not going to wait any longer. So--out with the castle, Mr. Solness!
SOLNESS. It's no light matter to owe you anything, Hilda.
HILDA. You should have thought of that before. It is too late now. So-- [tapping the table]--the castle on the table! It is my castle! I will have it at once!
[More seriously, leans over towards her, with his arms on the table.]
What sort of castle have you imagined, Hilda?
HILDA. [Slowly.] My castle shall stand on a height--on a very great height-- with a clear outlook on all sides, so that I can see far--far around.
SOLNESS. And no doubt it is to have a high tower!
HILDA. A tremendously high tower. And at the very top of the tower there shall be a balcony. And I will stand out upon it---
SOLNESS. [Involuntarily clutches at his forehead.] How can you like to stand at such a dizzy height---?
HILDA. Yes, I will! Right up there will I stand and look down on the other people--on those that are building churches, and homes for mother and father and the troop of children. And you may come up and look on at it, too.
SOLNESS. [In a low tone.] Is the builder to be allowed to come up beside the princess?
HILDA. If the builder will.
SOLNESS. [More softly.] Then I think the builder will come.
HILDA. [Nods.] The builder--he will come.
SOLNESS. But he will never be able to build any more. Poor builder!
HILDA. [Animated.] Oh, yes, he will! We two will set to work together. And then we will build the loveliest--the very loveliest--thing in all the world.
SOLNESS. [Intently.] Hilda--tell me what that is!
HILDA. [Looks smilingly at him, shakes her head a little, pouts, and speaks as if to a child.] Builders--they are such very--very stupid people.
SOLNESS. Yes, no doubt they are stupid. But now tell me what it is--the loveliest thing in the world--that we two are to build together?
HILDA. [Is silent a little while, then says with an indefinable expression in her eyes.] Castles in the air.
SOLNESS. Castles in the air?
HILDA. [Nods.] Castles in the air, yes! Do you know what sort of thing a castle in the air is?
SOLNESS. It is the loveliest thing in the world, you say.
HILDA. [Rises with vehemence, and makes a gesture of repulsion with her hand.] Yes, to be sure it is! Castles in the air--they are so easy to build, too--[looks scornfully at him]--especially for the builders who have a--a dizzy conscience.
SOLNESS. [Rises.] After this day we two will build together, Hilda.
HILDA. [With a half-dubious smile.] A real castle in the air?
SOLNESS. Yes. One with a firm foundation under it.
RAGNAR BROVIK comes out from the house. He is carrying a large green wreath with flowers and silk ribbons.
HILDA. [With an outburst of pleasure.] The wreath! Oh, that will be glorious!
SOLNESS. [In surprise.] Have you brought the wreath Ragnar?
RAGNAR. I promised the foreman I would.
SOLNESS. [Relieved.] Ah, then I suppose you father is better?
SOLNESS. Was he not cheered by what I wrote?
RAGNAR. It came too late.
SOLNESS. Too late!
RAGNAR. When she came with it he was unconscious. He had had a stroke.
SOLNESS. Why, then, you must go home to him! You must attend to your father!
RAGNAR. He does not need me any more.
SOLNESS. But surely you ought to be with him.
RAGNAR. She is sitting by his bed.
SOLNESS. [Rather uncertainly.] Kaia?
RAGNAR. [Looking darkly at him.] Yes--Kaia.
SOLNESS. Go home, Ragnar--both to him and to her. Give me the wreath.
RAGNAR. [Suppresses a mocking smile.] You don't mean that you yourself---?
SOLNESS. I will take it down to them myself [Takes the wreath from him.] And now you go home; we don't require you to-day.
RAGNAR. I know you do not require me any more; but to-day I shall remain.
SOLNESS. Well, remain then, since you are bent upon it.
HILDA. [At the railing.] Mr. Solness, I will stand here and look on at you.
SOLNESS. At me!
HILDA. It will be fearfully thrilling.
[In a low tone.] We will talk about that presently, Hilda.
HILDA. [Looks after him, then turns to RAGNAR.] I think you might at least have thanked him
RAGNAR. Thanked him? Ought I to have thanked him?
HILDA. Yes, of course you ought!
RAGNAR. I think it is rather you I ought to thank.
HILDA. How can you say such a thing?
RAGNAR. [Without answering her.] But I advise you to take care, Miss Wangel! For you don't know him rightly yet.
HILDA. [Ardently.] Oh, no one knows him as I do!
RAGNAR. [Laughs in exasperation.] Thank him, when he has held me down year after year! When he made father disbelieve in me--made me disbelieve in myself! And all merely that he might---!
HILDA. [As if divining something.] That he might---? Tell me at once!
RAGNAR. That he might keep her with him.
HILDA. [With a start towards him.] The girl at the desk.
HILDA. [Threateningly, clenching her hands.] That is not true! You are telling falsehoods about him!
RAGNAR. I would not believe it either until to-day--when she said so herself.
HILDA. [As if beside herself.] What did she say? I will know! At once! at once!
RAGNAR. She said that he had taken possession of her mind--her whole mind-- centred all her thoughts upon himself alone. She says that she can never leave him--that she will remain here, where he is---
HILDA. [With flashing eyes.] She will not be allowed to!
RAGNAR. [As if feeling his way.] Who will not allow her?
HILDA. [Rapidly.] He will not either!
RAGNAR. Oh no--I understand the whole thing now. After this, she would merely be--in the way.
HILDA. You understand nothing--since you can talk like that! No, I will tell you why he kept hold of her.
RAGNAR. Well then, why?
HILDA. In order to keep hold of you.
RAGNAR. Has he told you so?
HILDA. No, but it is so. It must be so! [Wildly.] I will--I will have it so!
RAGNAR. And at the very moment when you came--he let her go.
HILDA. It was you--you that he let go! What do you suppose he cares about strange women like her?
RAGNAR. [Reflects.] Is it possible that all this time he has been afraid of me?
HILDA. He afraid! I would not be so conceited if I were you.
RAGNAR. Oh, he must have seen long ago that I had something in me, too. Besides--cowardly--that is just what he is, you see.
HILDA. He! Oh yes, I am likely to believe that!
RAGNAR. In a certain sense he is cowardly--he, the great master builder. He is not afraid of robbing others of their happiness--as he has done both for my father and me. But when it comes to climbing up a paltry bit of scaffolding--he will do anything rather than that.
HILDA. Oh, you should just have seen him high, high up--at the dizzy height where I once saw him.
RAGNAR. Did you see that?
HILDA. Yes, indeed I did. How free and great he looked as he stood and fastened the wreath to the church vane!
RAGNAR. I know that he ventured that, once in his life--one solitary time. It is a legend among us younger men. But no power on earth would induce him to do it again.
HILDA. To-day he will do it again!
RAGNAR. [Scornfully.] Yes, I daresay!
HILDA. We shall see it!
RAGNAR. That neither you nor I will see.
HILDA. [With uncontrollable vehemence.] I will se it! I will and I must see it!
RAGNAR. But he will not do it. He simply dare not do it. For you see he cannot get over this infirmity--master builder though he be.
MRS. SOLNESS comes from the house on to the verandah.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Looks around.] Is he not here? Where has he gone to?
RAGNAR. Mr. Solness is down with the men.
HILDA. He took the wreath with him.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Terrified.] Took the wreath with him! Oh God! oh God! Brovik-- you must go down to him! Get him to come back here!
RAGNAR. Shall I say you want to speak to him, Mrs. Solness?
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh yes, do!--No, no--don't say that I want anything! You can say that somebody is here, and that he must come at once.
Good. I will do so, Mrs. Solness.
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh, Miss Wangel, you can't think how anxious I feel about him.
HILDA. Is there anything in this to be terribly frightened about?
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh yes; surely you can understand. Just think, if he were really to do it! If he should take it into his head to climb up the scaffolding!
HILDA. [Eagerly.] Do you think he will?
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh, one can never tell what he might take into his head. I am afraid there is nothing he mightn't think of doing.
HILDA. Aha! Perhaps you too think he is--well---?
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh, I don't know what to think about him now. The doctor has been telling me all sorts of things; and putting it all together with several things I have heard him say---
DR. HERDAL looks out, at the door.
DR. HERDAL. Is he not coming soon?
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes, I think so. I have sent for him at any rate.
DR. HERDAL. [Advancing.] I am afraid you will have to go in, my dear lady---
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh no! Oh no! I shall stay out here and wait for Halvard.
DR. HERDAL. But some ladies have just come to call on you---
MRS. SOLNESS. Good heavens, that too! And just at this moment!
DR. HERDAL. They say they positively must see the ceremony.
MRS. SOLNESS. Well, well, I suppose I must go to them after all. It is my duty.
HILDA. Can't you ask the ladies to go away?
MRS. SOLNESS. No, that would never do. Now that they are here, it is my duty to see them. But do you stay out here in the meantime--and receive him when he comes.
DR. HERDAL. And try to occupy his attention as long as possible---
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes, do, dear Miss Wangel. Keep as firm hold of him as ever you can.
HILDA. Would it not be best for you to do that?
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes; God knows that is my duty. But when one has duties in so many directions---
DR. HERDAL. [Looks towards the garden.] There he is coming.
MRS. SOLNESS. And I have to go in!
DR. HERDAL. [To HILDA.] Don't say anything about my being here.
HILDA. Oh no! I daresay I shall find something else to talk to Mr. Solness about.
And be sure you keep firm hold of him. I believe you can do it best.
SOLNESS. Somebody wants me, I hear.
HILDA. Yes; it is I, Mr. Solness.
SOLNESS. Oh, is it you, Hilda? I was afraid it might be Aline or the Doctor.
HILDA. You are very easily frightened, it seems!
SOLNESS. Do you think so?
HILDA. Yes; people say that you are afraid to climb about--on the scaffoldings, you know.
SOLNESS. Well, that is quite a special thing.
HILDA. Then it is true that you are afraid to do it?
SOLNESS. Yes, I am.
HILDA. Afraid of falling down and killing yourself?
SOLNESS. No, not of that.
HILDA. Of what, then?
SOLNESS. I am afraid of retribution, Hilda.
HILDA. Of retribution? [Shakes her head.] I don't understand that.
SOLNESS. Sit down, and I will tell you something.
Yes, do! At once!
SOLNESS. [Throws his hat on the table.] You know that I began by building churches.
HILDA. [Nods.] I know that well.
SOLNESS. For, you see, I came as a boy from a pious home in the country; and so it seemed to me that this church-building was the noblest task I could set myself.
HILDA. Yes, yes.
SOLNESS. And I venture to say that I built those poor little churches with such honest and warm and heartfelt devotion that--that---
HILDA. That---? Well?
SOLNESS. Well, that I think that he ought to have been pleased with me.
HILDA. He? What he?
SOLNESS. He who was to have the churches, of course! He to whose honour and glory they were dedicated.
HILDA. Oh, indeed! But are you certain, then, that--that he was not--pleased with you?
SOLNESS. [Scornfully.] He pleased with me! How can you talk so, Hilda? He who gave the troll in me leave to lord it just as it pleased. He who bade them be at hand to serve me, both day and might--all these-- all these---
SOLNESS. Yes, of both kinds. Oh no, he mad me feel clearly enough that he was not pleased with me. [Mysteriously.] You see, that was really the reason why he made the old house burn down.
HILDA. Was that why?
SOLNESS. Yes, don't you understand? He wanted to give me the chance of becoming an accomplished master in my own sphere--so that I might build all the more glorious churches for him. At first I did not understand what he was driving at; but all of a sudden it flashed upon me.
HILDA. When was that?
SOLNESS. It was when I was building the church-tower up at Lysanger.
HILDA. I thought so.
SOLNESS. For you see, Hilda--up there, amidst those new surroundings, I used to go about musing and pondering within myself. Then I saw plainly why he had taken my little children from me. It was that I should have nothing else to attach myself to. No such thing as love and happiness, you understand. I was to be only a master builder-- nothing else. and all my life long I was to go on building for him. [Laughs.] But I can tell you nothing came of that!
HILDA. What did you do then?
SOLNESS. First of all, I searched and tried my own heart---
HILDA. And then?
SOLNESS. The I did the impossible--I, no less than he.
HILDA. The impossible?
SOLNESS. I had never before been able to climb up to a great, free height. But that day I did it.
HILDA. [Leaping up.] Yes, yes, you did!
SOLNESS. And when I stood there, high over everything, and was hanging the wreath over the vane, I said to him: Hear me now, thou Mighty One! From this day forward I will be a free builder--I too, in my sphere-- just as thou in thine. I will never more build churches for thee-- only homes for human beings.
HILDA. [With great sparkling eyes.] That was the song that I heard through the air!
SOLNESS. But afterwards his turn came.
HILDA. What do you mean by that?
SOLNESS. [Looks despondently at her.] Building homes for human beings--is not worth a rap, Hilda.
HILDA. Do you say that now?
SOLNESS. Yes, for now I see it. Men have no use for these homes of theirs-- to be happy in. And I should not have had any use for such a home, if I had had one. [With a quiet, bitter laugh.] See, that is the upshot of the whole affair, however far back I look. Nothing really built; nor anything sacrificed for the chance of building. Nothing, nothing! the whole is nothing!
HILDA. Then you will never build anything more?
SOLNESS. [With animation.] On the contrary, I am just going to begin!
HILDA. What, then? What will you build? Tell me at once!
SOLNESS. I believe there is only one possible dwelling-place for human happiness--and that is what I am going to build now.
HILDA. [Looks fixedly at him.] Mr. Solness--you mean our castles in the air.
SOLNESS. The castles in the air--yes.
HILDA. I am afraid you would turn dizzy before we got half-way up.
SOLNESS. Not if I can mount hand in hand with you, Hilda.
HILDA. [With an expression of suppressed resentment.] Only with me? Will there be no others of the party?
SOLNESS. Who else should there be?
HILDA. Oh--that girl--that Kaia at the desk. Poor thing--don't you want to take her with you too?
SOLNESS. Oho! Was it about her that Aline was talking to you?
HILDA. Is it so--or is it not?
SOLNESS. [Vehemently.] I will not answer such a question. You must believe in me, wholly and entirely!
HILDA. All these ten years I have believed in you so utterly--so utterly.
SOLNESS. You must go on believing in me!
HILDA. Then let me see you stand free and high up!
SOLNESS. [Sadly.] Oh Hilda--it is not every day that I can do that.
HILDA. [Passionately.] I will have you do it! I will have it! [Imploringly.] Just once more, Mr. Solness! Do the impossible once again!
SOLNESS. [Stands and looks deep into her eyes.] If I try it, Hilda, I will stand up there and talk to him as I did that time before.
HILDA. [In rising excitement.] What will you say to him?
SOLNESS. I will say to him: Hear me, Mighty Lord--thou may'st judge me as seems best to thee. But hereafter I will build nothing but the loveliest thing in the world---
HILDA. [Carried away.] Yes--yes--yes!
SOLNESS. ---build it together with a princess, whom I love---
HILDA. Yes, tell him that! Tell him that!
SOLNESS. Yes. And then I will say to him: Now I shall go down and throw my arms round her and kiss her---
HILDA. --many times! Say that!
SOLNESS. --many, many times, I will say it!
HILDA. And then---?
SOLNESS. Then I will wave my hat--and come down to the earth--and do as I said to him.
HILDA. [With outstretched arms.] Now I see you again as I did when there was song in the air!
SOLNESS. [Looks at here with his head bowed.] How have you become what you are, Hilda?
HILDA. How have you made me what I am?
SOLNESS. [Shortly and firmly.] The princess shall have her castle.
HILDA. [Jubilant, clapping her hands.] Oh, Mr. Solness---! My lovely, lovely castle. Our castle in the air!
On a firm foundation.
MRS. SOLNESS, with a fur collar round her neck, DOCTOR HERDAL with her white shawl on his arm, and some ladies, come out on the verandah. RAGNAR BROVIK comes at the same time up from the garden.
MRS. SOLNESS. [To RAGNAR.] Are we to have music, too?
RAGNAR. Yes. It's the band of the Mason's Union. [To SOLNESS.] The foreman asked me to tell you that he is ready now to go up with the wreath.
SOLNESS. [Takes his hat.] Good. I will go down to him myself.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Anxiously.] What have you to do down there, Halvard?
SOLNESS. [Curtly.] I must be down below with the men.
MRS. SOLNESS. Yes, down below--only down below.
That is where I always stand--on everyday occasions.
MRS. SOLNESS. [Calls after him over the railing.] But do beg the man to be careful when he goes up! Promise me that, Halvard!
DR. HERDAL. [To MRS. SOLNESS.] Don't you see that I was right? He has given up all thought of that folly.
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh, what a relief! Twice workmen have fallen, and each time they were killed on the spot. [Turns to HILDA.] Thank you, Miss Wangel, for having kept such a firm hold upon him. I should never have been able to manage him.
[Playfully.] Yes, yes, Miss Wangel, you know how to keep firm hold
on a man, when you give your mind to it.
RAGNAR. [With suppressed laughter, half whispering.] Miss Wangel--do you see all those young fellows down in the street?
RAGNAR. They are my fellow students, come to look at the master.
HILDA. What do they want to look at him for?
RAGNAR. They want to see how he daren't climb to the top of his own house.
HILDA. Oh, that is what those boys want, is it?
RAGNAR. [Spitefully and scornfully.] He has kept us down so long--now we are going to see him keep quietly down below himself.
HILDA. You will not see that--not this time.
RAGNAR. [Smiles.] Indeed! Then where shall we see him?
HILDA. High--high up by the vane! That is where you will see him!
RAGNAR. [Laughs.] Him! Oh yes, I daresay!
HILDA. His will is to reach the top--so at the top you shall see him.
RAGNAR. His will, yes; that I can easily believe. But he simply cannot do it. His head would swim round, long, long before he got half-way. He would have to crawl down again on his hands and knees.
DR. HERDAL. [Points across.] Look! There goes the foreman up the ladders.
MRS. SOLNESS. And of course he has the wreath to carry too. Oh, I do hope he will be careful!
RAGNAR. [Stares incredulously and shouts.] Why, but it's---
HILDA. [Breaking out in jubilation.] It is the master builder himself?
MRS. SOLNESS. [Screams with terror.] Yes, it is Halvard! Oh my great God---! Halvard! Halvard!
DR. HERDAL. Hush! Don't shout to him!
MRS. SOLNESS. [Half beside herself.] I must go to him! I must get him to come down again!
DR. HERDAL. [Holds her.] Don't move, any of you! Not a sound!
HILDA. [Immovable, follows SOLNESS with her eyes.] He climbs and climbs. Higher and higher! Higher and higher! Look! Just look!
RAGNAR. [Breathless.] He must turn now. He can't possibly help it.
HILDA. He climbs and climbs. He will soon be at the top now.
MRS. SOLNESS. Oh, I shall die of terror. I cannot bear to see it.
DR. HERDAL. Then don't look up at him.
HILDA. There he is standing on the topmost planks! Right at the top!
DR. HERDAL. Nobody must move! Do you dear?
HILDA. [Exulting, with quiet intensity.] At last! At last! Now I see him great and free again!
RAGNAR. [Almost voiceless.] But this is im---
HILDA. So I have seen him all through these ten years. How secure he stands! Frightfully thrilling all the same. Look at him! Now he is hanging the wreath round the vane!
RAGNAR. I feel as if I were looking at something utterly impossible.
HILDA. Yes, it is the impossible that he is doing now! [With the indefinable expression in her eyes.] Can you see any one else up there with him?
RAGNAR. There is no one else.
HILDA. Yes, there is one he is striving with.
RAGNAR. You are mistaken.
HILDA. Then do you hear no song in the air, either?
RAGNAR. It must be the wind in the tree-tops.
HILDA. I hear a song--a mighty song! [Shouts in wild jubilation and glee.] Look, look! Now he is waving his hat! He is waving it to us down here! Oh, wave, wave back to him! For now it is finished! [Snatches the white shawl from the Doctor, waves it, and shouts up to SOLNESS.] Hurrah for Master Builder Solness!
Stop! Stop! For God's sake---!
MRS. SOLNESS AND THE LADIES.
[At the same time.] He is falling! He is falling!
HILDA. [Stares fixedly upwards and says, as if petrified.] My Master Builder.
RAGNAR. [Supports himself, trembling, against the railing.] He must be dashed to pieces--killed on the spot.
ONE OF THE LADIES. [Whilst MRS. SOLNESS is carried into the house.] Run down for the doctor---
RAGNAR. I can't stir a root---
ANOTHER LADY. Then call to some one!
RAGNAR. [Tries to call out.] How is it? Is he alive?
A VOICE. [Below, in the garden.] Mr. Solness is dead!
OTHER VOICES. [Nearer.] The head is all crushed.--he fell right into the quarry.
HILDA. [Turns to RAGNAR, and says quietly.] I can't see him up there now.
RAGNAR. This is terrible. So, after all, he could not do it.
HILDA. [As if in quiet spell-bound triumph.] But he mounted right to the top. And I heard harps in the air. [Waves her shawl in the air, and shrieks with wild intensity.] My--my Master Builder!