- An Enemy of the People
Hovstad. He may prove an invaluably useful man to us.
Aslaksen. Yes, so long as he confines himself to this matter of
the Baths. But if he goes farther afield, I don't think it would
be advisable to follow him.
Hovstad. Hm!--that all depends-
Billing. You are so infernally timid, Aslaksen!
Aslaksen. Timid? Yes, when it is a question of the local
authorities, I am timid, Mr. Billing; it is a lesson I have
learned in the school of experience, let me tell you. But try me
in higher politics, in matters that concern the government
itself, and then see if I am timid.
Billing. No, you aren't, I admit. But this is simply
Aslaksen. I am a man with a conscience, and that is the whole
matter. If you attack the government, you don't do the community
any harm, anyway; those fellows pay no attention to attacks, you
see--they go on just as they are, in spite of them. But local
authorities are different; they can be turned out, and then
perhaps you may get an ignorant lot into office who may do
irreparable harm to the householders and everybody else.
Hovstad. But what of the education of citizens by self
government--don't you attach any importance to that?
Aslaksen. When a man has interests of his own to protect, he
cannot think of everything, Mr. Hovstad.
Hovstad. Then I hope I shall never have interests of my own to
Billing. Hear, hear!
Aslaksen (with a smile). Hm! (Points to the desk.) Mr. Sheriff
Stensgaard was your predecessor at that editorial desk.
Billing (spitting). Bah! That turncoat.
Hovstad. I am not a weathercock--and never will be.
Aslaksen. A politician should never be too certain of anything,
Mr. Hovstad. And as for you, Mr. Billing, I should think it is
time for you to be taking in a reef or two in your sails, seeing
that you are applying for the post of secretary to the Bench.
Hovstad. Are you, Billing?
Billing. Well, yes--but you must clearly understand I am only
doing it to annoy the bigwigs.
Aslaksen. Anyhow, it is no business of mine. But if I am to be
accused of timidity and of inconsistency in my principles, this
is what I want to point out: my political past is an open book. I
have never changed, except perhaps to become a little more
moderate, you see. My heart is still with the people; but I don't
deny that my reason has a certain bias towards the authorities--
the local ones, I mean. (Goes into the printing room.)
Billing. Oughtn't we to try and get rid of him, Hovstad?
Hovstad. Do you know anyone else who will advance the money for
our paper and printing bill?
Billing. It is an infernal nuisance that we don't possess some
capital to trade on.
Hovstad (sitting down at his desk). Yes, if we only had that,
Billing. Suppose you were to apply to Dr. Stockmann?
Hovstad (turning over some papers). What is the use? He has got
Billing. No, but he has got a warm man in the background, old
Morten Kiil--"the Badger," as they call him.
Hovstad (writing). Are you so sure he has got anything?
Billing. Good Lord, of course he has! And some of it must come to
the Stockmanns. Most probably he will do something for the
children, at all events.
Hovstad (turning half round). Are you counting on that?
Billing. Counting on it? Of course I am not counting on anything.
Hovstad. That is right. And I should not count on the
secretaryship to the Bench either, if I were you; for I can
assure you--you won't get it.
Billing. Do you think I am not quite aware of that? My object is
precisely not to get it. A slight of that kind stimulates a man's
fighting power--it is like getting a supply of fresh bile--and I
am sure one needs that badly enough in a hole-and-corner place
like this, where it is so seldom anything happens to stir one up.
Hovstad (writing). Quite so, quite so.
Billing. Ah, I shall be heard of yet!--Now I shall go and write
the appeal to the Householders' Association. (Goes into the room
on the right.)
Hovstad (sitting al his desk, biting his penholder, says slowly).
Hm!--that's it, is it. (A knock is heard.) Come in! (PETRA comes
in by the outer door. HOVSTAD gets up.) What, you!--here?
Petra. Yes, you must forgive me--
Hovstad (pulling a chair forward). Won't you sit down?
Petra. No, thank you; I must go again in a moment.
Hovstad. Have you come with a message from your father, by any
Petra. No, I have come on my own account. (Takes a book out of
her coat pocket.) Here is the English story.
Hovstad. Why have you brought it back?
Petra. Because I am not going to translate it.
Hovstad. But you promised me faithfully.
Petra. Yes, but then I had not read it, I don't suppose you have
read it either?
Hovstad. No, you know quite well I don't understand English;
Petra. Quite so. That is why I wanted to tell you that you must
find something else. (Lays the book on the table.) You can't use
this for the "People's Messenger."
Hovstad. Why not?
Petra. Because it conflicts with all your opinions.
Hovstad. Oh, for that matter--
Petra. You don't understand me. The burden of this story is that
there is a supernatural power that looks after the so-called good
people in this world and makes everything happen for the best in
their case--while all the so-called bad people are punished.
Hovstad. Well, but that is all right. That is just what our
Petra. And are you going to be the one to give it to them? For
myself, I do not believe a word of it. You know quite well that
things do not happen so in reality.
Hovstad. You are perfectly right; but an editor cannot always act
as he would prefer. He is often obliged to bow to the wishes of
the public in unimportant matters. Politics are the most
important thing in life--for a newspaper, anyway; and if I want
to carry my public with me on the path that leads to liberty and
progress, I must not frighten them away. If they find a moral
tale of this sort in the serial at the bottom of the page, they
will be all the more ready to read what is printed above it; they
feel more secure, as it were.
Petra. For shame! You would never go and set a snare like that
for your readers; you are not a spider!
Hovstad (smiling). Thank you for having such a good opinion of
me. No; as a matter of fact that is Billing's idea and not mine.
Hovstad. Yes; anyway, he propounded that theory here one day. And
it is Billing who is so anxious to have that story in the paper;
I don't know anything about the book.
Petra. But how can Billing, with his emancipated views--
Hovstad. Oh, Billing is a many-sided man. He is applying for the
post of secretary to the Bench, too, I hear.
Petra. I don't believe it, Mr. Hovstad. How could he possibly
bring himself to do such a thing?
Hovstad. Ah, you must ask him that.
Petra. I should never have thought it of him.
Hovstad (looking more closely at her). No? Does it really
surprise you so much?
Petra. Yes. Or perhaps not altogether. Really, I don't quite know
Hovstad. We journalists are not much worth, Miss Stockmann.
Petra. Do you really mean that?
Hovstad. I think so sometimes.
Petra. Yes, in the ordinary affairs of everyday life, perhaps; I
can understand that. But now, when you have taken a weighty
matter in hand--
Hovstad. This matter of your father's, you mean?
Petra. Exactly. It seems to me that now you must feel you are a
man worth more than most.
Hovstad. Yes, today I do feel something of that sort.
Petra. Of course you do, don't you? It is a splendid vocation you
have chosen--to smooth the way for the march of unappreciated
truths, and new and courageous lines of thought. If it were
nothing more than because you stand fearlessly in the open and
take up the cause of an injured man--
Hovstad. Especially when that injured man is--ahem!--I don't
rightly know how to--
Petra. When that man is so upright and so honest, you mean?
Hovstad (more gently). Especially when he is your father I meant.
Petra (suddenly checked). That?
Hovstad. Yes, Petra--Miss Petra.
Petra. Is it that, that is first and foremost with you? Not the
matter itself? Not the truth?--not my father's big generous
Hovstad. Certainly--of course--that too.
Petra. No, thank you; you have betrayed yourself, Mr. Hovstad,
and now I shall never trust you again in anything.
Hovstad. Can you really take it so amiss in me that it is mostly
for your sake--?
Petra. What I am angry with you for, is for not having been
honest with my father. You talked to him as if the truth and the
good of the community were what lay nearest to your heart. You
have made fools of both my father and me. You are not the man you
made yourself out to be. And that I shall never forgive you-
Hovstad. You ought not to speak so bitterly, Miss Petra--least of
Petra. Why not now, especially?
Hovstad. Because your father cannot do without my help.
Petra (looking him up and down). Are you that sort of man too?
Hovstad. No, no, I am not. This came upon me so unexpectedly--you
must believe that.
Petra. I know what to believe. Goodbye.
Aslaksen (coming from the printing room, hurriedly and with an
air of mystery). Damnation, Hovstad!--(Sees PETRA.) Oh, this is
Petra. There is the book; you must give it to some one else.
(Goes towards the door.)
Hovstad (following her). But, Miss Stockmann--
Petra. Goodbye. (Goes out.)
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