- An Enemy of the People
(ASLAKSEN appears at the door. He is poorly but decently dressed,
in black, with a slightly crumpled white neckcloth; he wears
gloves and has a felt hat in his hand.)
Aslaksen (bowing). Excuse my taking the liberty, Doctor--
Dr. Stockmann (getting up). Ah, it is you, Aslaksen!
Aslaksen. Yes, Doctor.
Hovstad (standing up). Is it me you want, Aslaksen?
Aslaksen. No; I didn't know I should find you here. No, it was
the Doctor I--
Dr. Stockmann. I am quite at your service. What is it?
Aslaksen. Is what I heard from Mr. Billing true, sir--that you
mean to improve our water supply?
Dr. Stockmann. Yes, for the Baths.
Aslaksen. Quite so, I understand. Well, I have come to say that I
will back that up by every means in my power.
Hovstad (to the DOCTOR). You see!
Dr. Stockmann. I shall be very grateful to you, but--
Aslaksen. Because it may be no bad thing to have us small
tradesmen at your back. We form, as it were, a compact majority
in the town--if we choose. And it is always a good thing to have
the majority with you, Doctor.
Dr. Stockmann. That is undeniably true; but I confess I don't see
why such unusual precautions should be necessary in this case. It
seems to me that such a plain, straightforward thing.
Aslaksen. Oh, it may be very desirable, all the same. I know our
local authorities so well; officials are not generally very ready
to act on proposals that come from other people. That is why I
think it would not be at all amiss if we made a little
Hovstad. That's right.
Dr. Stockmann. Demonstration, did you say? What on earth are you
going to make a demonstration about?
Aslaksen. We shall proceed with the greatest moderation, Doctor.
Moderation is always my aim; it is the greatest virtue in a
citizen--at least, I think so.
Dr. Stockmann. It is well known to be a characteristic of yours,
Aslaksen. Yes, I think I may pride myself on that. And this
matter of the water supply is of the greatest importance to us
small tradesmen. The Baths promise to be a regular gold-mine for
the town. We shall all make our living out of them, especially
those of us who are householders. That is why we will back up the
project as strongly as possible. And as I am at present Chairman
of the Householders' Association.
Dr. Stockmann. Yes--?
Aslaksen. And, what is more, local secretary of the Temperance
Society--you know, sir, I suppose, that I am a worker in the
Dr, Stockmann. Of course, of course.
Aslaksen. Well, you can understand that I come into contact with
a great many people. And as I have the reputation of a temperate
and law-abiding citizen--like yourself, Doctor--I have a certain
influence in the town, a little bit of power, if I may be allowed
to say so.
Dr. Stockmann. I know that quite well, Mr. Aslaksen.
Aslaksen. So you see it would be an easy matter for me to set on
foot some testimonial, if necessary.
Dr. Stockmann. A testimonial?
Aslaksen. Yes, some kind of an address of thanks from the
townsmen for your share in a matter of such importance to the
community. I need scarcely say that it would have to be drawn up
with the greatest regard to moderation, so as not to offend the
authorities--who, after all, have the reins in their hands. If we
pay strict attention to that, no one can take it amiss, I should
Hovstad. Well, and even supposing they didn't like it--
Aslaksen. No, no, no; there must be no discourtesy to the
authorities, Mr. Hovstad. It is no use falling foul of those upon
whom our welfare so closely depends. I have done that in my time,
and no good ever comes of it. But no one can take exception to a
reasonable and frank expression of a citizen's views.
Dr. Stockmann (shaking him by the hand). I can't tell you, dear
Mr. Aslaksen, how extremely pleased I am to find such hearty
support among my fellow-citizens. I am delighted--delighted! Now,
you will take a small glass of sherry, eh?
Aslaksen. No, thank you; I never drink alcohol of that kind.
Dr. Stockmann. Well, what do you say to a glass of beer, then?
Aslaksen. Nor that either, thank you, Doctor. I never drink
anything as early as this. I am going into town now to talk this
over with one or two householders, and prepare the ground.
Dr. Stockmann. It is tremendously kind of you, Mr. Aslaksen; but
I really cannot understand the necessity for all these
precautions. It seems to me that the thing should go of itself.
Aslaksen. The authorities are somewhat slow to move, Doctor. Far
be it from me to seem to blame them--
Hovstad. We are going to stir them up in the paper tomorrow,
Aslaksen. But not violently, I trust, Mr. Hovstad. Proceed with
moderation, or you will do nothing with them. You may take my
advice; I have gathered my experience in the school of life.
Well, I must say goodbye, Doctor. You know now that we small
tradesmen are at your back at all events, like a solid wall. You
have the compact majority on your side Doctor.
Dr. Stockmann. I am very much obliged, dear Mr. Aslaksen, (Shakes
hands with him.) Goodbye, goodbye.
Aslaksen. Are you going my way, towards the printing-office. Mr.
Hovstad, I will come later; I have something to settle up first.
Aslaksen. Very well. (Bows and goes out; STOCKMANN follows him
into the hall.)
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