The Wild Duck

by Henrik Ibsen


HIALMAR EKDAL'S studio. A photograph has just been taken; a camera with the cloth over it, a pedestal, two chairs, a folding table, etc., are standing out in the room. Afternoon light; the sun is going down; a little later it begins to grow dusk.

GINA stands in the passage doorway, with a little box and a wet glass plate in her hand, and is speaking to somebody outside.)

GINA. Yes, certainly. When I make a promise I keep it. The first dozen shall be ready on Monday. Good afternoon.

(Someone is heard going downstairs. GINA shuts the door, slips the plate into the box, and puts it into the covered camera.)

HEDVIG. (comes in from the kitchen) Are they gone?

GINA. (tidying up) Yes, thank goodness, I've got rid of them at last.

HEDVIG. But can you imagine why father hasn't come home yet?

GINA. Are you sure he's not down in Relling's room?

HEDVIG. No, he's not; I ran down the kitchen stair just now and asked.

GINA. And his dinner standing and getting cold, too.

HEDVIG. Yes, I can't understand it. Father's always so careful to be home to dinner!

GINA. Oh, he'll be here directly, you'll see.

HEDVIG. I wish he would come; everything seems so queer to-day.

GINA. (calls out) Here he is!

(HIALMAR EKDAL comes in at the passage door.)

HEDVIG. (going to him) Father! Oh, what a time we've been waiting for you!

GINA. (glancing sidelong at him) You've been out a long time, Ekdal.

HIALMAR. (without looking at her) Rather long, yes.

(He takes off his overcoat; GINA and HEDVIG go to help him; he motions them away.)

GINA. Perhaps you've had dinner with Werle?

HIALMAR. (hanging up his coat) No.

GINA. (going towards the kitchen door) Then I'll bring some in for you.

HIALMAR. No; let the dinner alone. I want nothing to eat.

HEDVIG. (going nearer to him) Are you not well, father?

HIALMAR. Well? Oh, yes, well enough. We have had a tiring walk, Gregers and I.

GINA. You didn't ought to have gone so far, Ekdal; you're not used to it.

HIALMAR. H'm; there's many a thing a man must get used to in this world. (Wanders about the room.) Has any one been here whilst I was out?

GINA. Nobody but the two sweethearts.

HIALMAR. No new orders?

GINA. No, not to-day.

HEDVIG. There will be some to-morrow, father, you'll see.

HIALMAR. I hope there will; for to-morrow I am going to set to work in real earnest.

HEDVIG. To-morrow! Don't you remember what day it is to-morrow?

HIALMAR. Oh, yes, by-the-bye — . Well, the day after, then. Henceforth I mean to do everything myself; I shall take all the work into my own hands.

GINA. Why, what can be the good of that, Ekdal? It'll only make your life a burden to you. I can manage the photography all right; and you can go on working at your invention.

HEDVIG. And think of the wild duck, father, — and all the hens and rabbits and — !

HIALMAR. Don't talk to me of all that trash! From to-morrow I will never set foot in the garret again.

HEDVIG. Oh, but father, you promised that we should have a little party —

HIALMAR. H'm, true. Well, then, from the day after to-morrow. I should almost like to wring that cursed wild duck's neck!

HEDVIG. (shrieks) The wild duck!

GINA. Well I never!

HEDVIG. (shaking him) Oh, no, father; you know it's my wild duck!

HIALMAR. That is why I don't do it. I haven't the heart to — for your sake, Hedvig. But in my inmost soul I feel that I ought to do it. I ought not to tolerate under my roof a creature that has been through those hands.

GINA. Why, good gracious, even if grandfather did get it from that poor creature, Pettersen —

HIALMAR. (wandering about) There are certain claims — what shall I call them? — let me say claims of the ideal — certain obligations, which a man cannot disregard without injury to his soul.

HEDVIG. (going after him) But think of the wild duck, — the poor wild duck!

HIALMAR. (stops) I tell you I will spare it — for your sake. Not a hair of its head shall be — I mean, it shall be spared. There are greater problems than that to be dealt with. But you should go out a little now, Hedvig, as usual; it is getting dusk enough for you now.

HEDVIG. No, I don't care about going out now.

HIALMAR. Yes, do; it seems to me your eyes are blinking a great deal; all these vapours in here are bad for you. The air is heavy under this roof.

HEDVIG. Very well, then, I'll run down the kitchen stair and go for a little walk. My cloak and hat? — oh, they're in my own room. Father — be sure you don't do the wild duck any harm whilst I'm out.

HIALMAR. Not a feather of its head shall be touched. (Draws her to him.) You and I, Hedvig — we two — ! Well, go along.

(HEDVIG nods to her parents and goes out through the kitchen.)

HIALMAR. (walks about without looking up) Gina.

GINA. Yes?

HIALMAR. From to-morrow — or, say, from the day after to-morrow — I should like to keep the household account-book myself.

GINA. Do you want to keep the accounts too, now?

HIALMAR. Yes; or to check the receipts at any rate.

GINA. Lord help us! that's soon done.

HIALMAR. One would hardly think so; at any rate you seem to make the money go a very long way. (Stops and looks at her.) How do you manage it?

GINA. It's because me and Hedvig, we need so little.

HIALMAR. Is it the case that father is very liberally paid for the copying he does for Mr. Werle?

GINA. I don't know as he gets anything out of the way. I don't know the rates for that sort of work.

HIALMAR. Well, what does he get, about? Let me hear!

GINA. Oh, it varies; I daresay it'll come to about as much as he costs us, with a little pocket-money over.

HIALMAR. As much as he costs us! And you have never told me this before!

GINA. No, how could I tell you? It pleased you so much to think he got everything from you.

HIALMAR. And he gets it from Mr. Werle.

GINA. Oh, well, he has plenty and to spare, he has.

HIALMAR. Light the lamp for me, please!

GINA. (lighting the lamp) And, of course, we don't know as it's Mr. Werle himself; it may be Graberg —

HIALMAR. Why attempt such an evasion?

GINA. I don't know; I only thought —


GINA. It wasn't me that got grandfather that copying. It was Bertha, when she used to come about us.

HIALMAR. It seems to me your voice is trembling.

GINA. (putting the lamp-shade on) Is it?

HIALMAR. And your hands are shaking, are they not?

GINA. (firmly) Come right out with it, Ekdal. What has he been saying about me?

HIALMAR. Is it true — can it be true that — that there was an — an understanding between you and Mr. Werle, while you were in service there?

GINA. That's not true. Not at that time. Mr. Werle did come after me, that's a fact. And his wife thought there was something in it, and then she made such a hocus-pocus and hurly-burly, and she hustled me and bustled me about so that I left her service.

HIALMAR. But afterwards, then?

GINA. Well, then I went home. And mother — well, she wasn't the woman you took her for, Ekdal; she kept on worrying and worrying at me about one thing and another — for Mr. Werle was a widower by that time.

HIALMAR. Well, and then?

GINA. I suppose you've got to know it. He gave me no peace until he'd had his way.

HIALMAR. (striking his hands together) And this is the mother of my child! How could you hide this from me?

GINA. Yes, it was wrong of me; I ought certainly to have told you long ago.

HIALMAR. You should have told me at the very first; — then I should have known the sort of woman you were.

GINA. But would you have married me all the same?

HIALMAR. How can you dream that I would?

GINA. That's just why I didn't dare tell you anything, then. For I'd come to care for you so much, you see; and I couldn't go and make myself utterly miserable —

HIALMAR. (walks about) And this is my Hedvig's mother. And to know that all I see before me — (kicks at a chair) — all that I call my home — I owe to a favoured predecessor! Oh, that scoundrel Werle!

GINA. Do you repent of the fourteen — the fifteen years we've lived together?

HIALMAR. (placing himself in front of her) Have you not every day, every hour, repented of the spider's-web of deceit you have spun around me? Answer me that! How could you help writhing with penitence and remorse? Gina Oh, my dear Ekdal, I've had all I could do to look after the house and get through the day's work —

HIALMAR. Then you never think of reviewing your past?

GINA. No; Heaven knows I'd almost forgotten those old stories.

HIALMAR. Oh, this dull, callous contentment! To me there is something revolting about it. Think of it — never so much as a twinge of remorse!

GINA. But tell me, Ekdal — what would have become of you if you hadn't had a wife like me?

HIALMAR. Like you — !

GINA. Yes; for you know I've always been a bit more practical and wide-awake than you. Of course I'm a year or two older.

HIALMAR. What would have become of me!

GINA. You'd got into all sorts of bad ways when first you met me; that you can't deny.

HIALMAR. "Bad ways" do you call them? Little do you know what a man goes through when he is in grief and despair — especially a man of my fiery temperament.

GINA. Well, well, that may be so. And I've no reason to crow over you, neither; for you turned a moral of a husband, that you did, as soon as ever you had a house and home of your own. — And now we'd got everything so nice and cosy about us; and me and Hedvig was just thinking we'd soon be able to let ourselves go a bit, in the way of both food and clothes.

HIALMAR. In the swamp of deceit, yes.

GINA. I wish to goodness that detestable thing had never set his foot inside our doors!

HIALMAR. And I, too, thought my home such a pleasant one. That was a delusion. Where shall I now find the elasticity of spirit to bring my invention into the world of reality? Perhaps it will die with me; and then it will be your past, Gina, that will have killed it.

GINA. (nearly crying) You mustn't say such things, Ekdal. Me, that has only wanted to do the best I could for you, all my days!

HIALMAR. I ask you, what becomes of the breadwinner's dream? When I used to lie in there on the sofa and brood over my invention, I had a clear enough presentiment that it would sap my vitality to the last drop. I felt even then that the day when I held the patent in my hand — that day — would bring my — release. And then it was my dream that you should live on after me, the dead inventor's well-to-do widow.

GINA. (drying her tears) No, you mustn't talk like that, Ekdal. May the Lord never let me see the day I am left a widow!

HIALMAR. Oh, the whole dream has vanished. It is all over now. All over!

GREGERS WERLE opens the passage door cautiously and looks in.)

GREGERS. May I come in?

HIALMAR. Yes, come in.

GREGERS. (comes forward, his face beaming with satisfaction, and holds out both his hands to them) Well, dear friends — ! (Looks from one to the other, and whispers to HIALMAR.) Have you not done it yet?

HIALMAR. (aloud) It is done.


HIALMAR. I have passed through the bitterest moments of my life.

GREGERS. But also, I trust, the most ennobling.

HIALMAR. Well, at any rate, we have got through it for the present.

GINA. God forgive you, Mr. Werle.

GREGERS. (in great surprise) But I don't understand this.

HIALMAR. What don't you understand?

GREGERS. After so great a crisis — a crisis that is to be the starting-point of an entirely new life — of a communion founded on truth, and free from all taint of deception —

HIALMAR. Yes, yes, I know; I know that quite well.

GREGERS. I confidently expected, when I entered the room, to find the light of transfiguration shining upon me from both husband and wife. And now I see nothing but dulness, oppression, gloom —

GINA. Oh, is that it?

(Takes off the lamp-shade.

GREGERS. You will not understand me, Mrs. Ekdal. Ah, well, you, I suppose, need time to — . But you, Hialmar? Surely you feel a new consecration after the great crisis.

HIALMAR. Yes, of course I do. That is — in a sort of way.

GREGERS. For surely nothing in the world can compare with the joy of forgiving one who has erred, and raising her up to oneself in love.

HIALMAR. Do you think a man can so easily throw off the bitter cup I have drained?

GREGERS. No, not a common man, perhaps. But a man like you — !

HIALMAR. Good God! I know that well enough. But you must keep me up to it, Gregers. It takes time, you know.

GREGERS. You have much of the wild duck in you, Hialmar.

(RELLING has come in at the passage door.

RELLING. Oho! is the wild duck to the fore again?

HIALMAR. Yes; Mr. Werle's wing-broken victim.

RELLING. Mr. Werle's — ? So it's him you are talking about?

HIALMAR. Him and — ourselves.

RELLING. (in an undertone to GREGERS) May the devil fly away with you!

HIALMAR. What is that you are saying?

RELLING. Only uttering a heartfelt wish that this quacksalver would take himself off. If he stays here, he is quite equal to making an utter mess of life, for both of you.

GREGERS. These two will not make a mess of life, Mr. Relling. Of course I won't speak of Hialmar — him we know. But she, too, in her innermost heart, has certainly something loyal and sincere —

GINA. (almost crying) You might have let me alone for what I was, then.

RELLING. (to GREGERS) Is it rude to ask what you really want in this house?

GREGERS. To lay the foundations of a true marriage.

RELLING. So you don't think Ekdal's marriage is good enough as it is?

GREGERS. No doubt it is as good a marriage as most others, worse luck. But a true marriage it has yet to become.

HIALMAR. You have never had eyes for the claims of the ideal, Relling.

RELLING. Rubbish, my boy! — but excuse me, Mr. Werle: how many — in round numbers — how many true marriages have you seen in the course of your life?

GREGERS. Scarcely a single one.

RELLING. Nor I either.

GREGERS. But I have seen innumerable marriages of the opposite kind. And it has been my fate to see at close quarters what ruin such a marriage can work in two human souls.

HIALMAR. A man's whole moral basis may give away beneath his feet; that is the terrible part of it.

RELLING. Well, I can't say I've ever been exactly married, so I don't pretend to speak with authority. But this I know, that the child enters into the marriage problem. And you must leave the child in peace.

HIALMAR. Oh — Hedvig! my poor Hedvig!

RELLING. Yes, you must be good enough to keep Hedvig outside of all this. You two are grown-up people; you are free, in God's name, to make what mess and muddle you please of your life. But you must deal cautiously with Hedvig, I tell you; else you may do her a great injury.

HIALMAR. An injury!

RELLING. Yes, or she may do herself an injury — and perhaps others, too.

GINA. How can you know that, Relling?

HIALMAR. Her sight is in no immediate danger, is it?

RELLING. I am not talking about her sight. Hedvig is at a critical age. She may be getting all sorts of mischief into her head.

GINA. That's true — I've noticed it already! She's taken to carrying on with the fire, out in the kitchen. She calls it playing at house-on-fire. I'm often scared for fear she really sets fire to the house.

RELLING. You see; I thought as much.

GREGERS. (to RELLING) But how do you account for that?

RELLING. (sullenly) Her constitution's changing, sir.

HIALMAR. So long as the child has me — ! So long as I am above ground — !

(A knock at the door.

GINA. Hush, Ekdal; there's some one in the passage. (Calls out.) Come in!

(MRS. SORBY, in walking dress, comes in.)

MRS. SORBY. Good evening.

GINA. (going towards her) Is it really you, Bertha?

MRS. SORBY. Yes, of course it is. But I'm disturbing you, I'm afraid?

HIALMAR. No, not at all; an emissary from that house —

MRS. SORBY. (to GINA) To tell the truth, I hoped your men-folk would be out at this time. I just ran up to have a little chat with you, and to say good-bye.

GINA. Good-bye? Are you going away, then?

MRS. SORBY. Yes, to-morrow morning, — up to Hoidal. Mr. Werle started this afternoon. (Lightly to GREGERS.) He asked me to say good-bye for him.

GINA. Only fancy — !

HIALMAR. So Mr. Werle has gone? And now you are going after him?

MRS. SORBY. Yes, what do you say to that, Ekdal?

HIALMAR. I say: beware!

GREGERS. I must explain the situation. My father and Mrs. Sorby are going to be married.

HIALMAR. Going to be married!

GINA. Oh, Bertha! So it's come to that at last!

RELLING. (his voice quivering a little) This is surely not true?

MRS. SORBY. Yes, my dear Relling, it's true enough.

RELLING. You are going to marry again?

MRS. SORBY. Yes, it looks like it. Werle has got a special licence, and we are going to be married quite quietly, up at the works.

GREGERS. Then I must wish you all happiness, like a dutiful stepson.

MRS. SORBY. Thank you very much — if you mean what you say. I certainly hope it will lead to happiness, both for Werle and for me.

RELLING. You have every reason to hope that. Mr. Werle never gets drunk — so far as I know; and I don't suppose he's in the habit of thrashing his wives, like the late lamented horse-doctor.

MRS. SORBY. Come now, let Sorby rest in peace. He had his good points, too.

RELLING. Mr. Werle has better ones, I have no doubt. Mrs. Sorby. He hasn't frittered away all that was good in him, at any rate. The man who does that must take the consequences.

RELLING. I shall go out with Molvik this evening.

MRS. SORBY. You mustn't do that, Relling. Don't do it — for my sake.

RELLING. There's nothing else for it. (To HIALMAR.) If you're going with us, come along.

GINA. No, thank you. Ekdal doesn't go in for that sort of dissertation.

HIALMAR. (half aloud, in vexation) Oh, do hold your tongue!

RELLING. Good-bye, Mrs. — Werle.

(Goes out through the passage door.)

GREGERS. (to MRS. SORBY) You seem to know Dr. Relling pretty intimately.

MRS. SORBY. Yes, we have known each other for many years. At one time it seemed as if things might have gone further between us.

GREGERS. It was surely lucky for you that they did not.

MRS. SORBY. You may well say that. But I have always been wary of acting on impulse. A woman can't afford absolutely to throw herself away.

GREGERS. Are you not in the least afraid that I may let my father know about this old friendship?

MRS. SORBY. Why, of course, I have told him all about it myself.

GREGERS. Indeed?

MRS. SORBY. Your father knows every single thing that can, with any truth, be said about me. I have told him all; it was the first thing I did when I saw what was in his mind.

GREGERS. Then you have been franker than most people, I think.

MRS. SORBY. I have always been frank. We women find that the best policy.

HIALMAR. What do you say to that, Gina?

GINA. Oh, we're not all alike, us women aren't. Some are made one way, some another.

MRS. SORBY. Well, for my part, Gina, I believe it's wisest to do as I've done. And Werle has no secrets either, on his side. That's really the great bond between us, you see. Now he can talk to me as openly as a child. He has never had the chance to do that before. Fancy a man like him, full of health and vigour, passing his whole youth and the best years of his life in listening to nothing but penitential sermons! And very often the sermons had for their text the most imaginary offences — at least so I understand.

GINA. That's true enough.

GREGERS. If you ladies are going to follow up this topic, I had better withdraw.

MRS. SORBY. You can stay as far as that's concerned. I shan't say a word more. But I wanted you to know that I had done nothing secretly or in an underhand way. I may seem to have come in for a great piece of luck; and so I have, in a sense. But after all, I don't think I am getting any more than I am giving. I shall stand by him always, and I can tend and care for him as no one else can, now that he is getting helpless.

HIALMAR. Getting helpless?

GREGERS. (to MRS. SORBY) Hush, don't speak of that here.

MRS. SORBY. There is no disguising it any longer, however much he would like to. He is going blind.

HIALMAR. (starts) Going blind? That's strange. He, too, going blind!

GINA. Lots of people do.

MRS. SORBY. And you can imagine what that means to a business man. Well, I shall try as well as I can to make my eyes take the place of his. But I mustn't stay any longer; I have heaps of things to do. — Oh, by-the-bye, Ekdal, I was to tell you that if there is anything Werle can do for you, you must just apply to Graberg.

GREGERS. That offer I am sure Hialmar Ekdal will decline with thanks.

MRS. SORBY. Indeed? I don't think he used to be so —

GINA. No, Bertha, Ekdal doesn't need anything from Mr. Werle now.

HIALMAR. (slowly, and with emphasis) Will you present my compliments to your future husband, and say that I intend very shortly to call upon Mr. Graberg —

GREGERS. What! You don't really mean that?

HIALMAR. To call upon Mr. Graberg, I say, and obtain an account of the sum I owe his principal. I will pay that debt of honour — ha ha ha! a debt of honour, let us call it! In any case, I will pay the whole with five per cent. interest.

GINA. But, my dear Ekdal, God knows we haven't got the money to do it.

HIALMAR. Be good enough to tell your future husband that I am working assiduously at my invention. Please tell him that what sustains me in this laborious task is the wish to free myself from a torturing burden of debt. That is my reason for proceeding with the invention. The entire profits shall be devoted to releasing me from my pecuniary obligations to your future husband.

MRS. SORBY. Something has happened here.

HIALMAR. Yes, you are right.

MRS. SORBY. Well, good-bye. I had something else to speak to you about, Gina; but it must keep till another time. Good-bye.

(HIALMAR and GREGERS bow silently. GINA follows MRS. SORBY to the door.)

HIALMAR. Not beyond the threshold, Gina!

(MRS. SORBY goes; GINA shuts the door after her.

HIALMAR. There now, Gregers; I have got that burden of debt off my mind.

GREGERS. You soon will, at all events.

HIALMAR. I think my attitude may be called correct.

GREGERS. You are the man I have always taken you for.

HIALMAR. In certain cases, it is impossible to disregard the claim of the ideal. Yet, as the breadwinner of a family, I cannot but writhe and groan under it. I can tell you it is no joke for a man without capital to attempt the repayment of a long-standing obligation, over which, so to speak, the dust of oblivion had gathered. But it cannot be helped: the Man in me demands his rights.

GREGERS. (laying his hand on HIALMAR'S shoulder) My dear Hialmar — was it not a good thing I came?


GREGERS. Are you not glad to have had your true position made clear to you?

HIALMAR. (somewhat impatiently) Yes, of course I am. But there is one thing that is revolting to my sense of justice.

GREGERS. And what is that?

HIALMAR. It is that — but I don't know, whether I ought to express myself so unreservedly about your father.

GREGERS. Say what you please, so far as I am concerned.

HIALMAR. Well, then, is it not exasperating to think that it is not I, but he, who will realise the true marriage?

GREGERS. How can you say such a thing?

HIALMAR. Because it is clearly the case. Isn't the marriage between your father and Mrs. Sorby founded upon complete confidence, upon entire and unreserved candour on both sides? They hide nothing from each other, they keep no secrets in the background; their relation is based, if I may put it so, on mutual confession and absolution.

GREGERS. Well, what then?

HIALMAR. Well, is not that the whole thing? Did you not yourself say that this was precisely the difficulty that had to be overcome in order to found a true marriage?

GREGERS. But this is a totally different matter, Hialmar. You surely don't compare either yourself or your wife with those two — ? Oh, you understand me well enough.

HIALMAR. Say what you like, there is something in all this that hurts and offends my sense of justice. It really looks as if there were no just providence to rule the world.

GINA. Oh, no, Ekdal; for God's sake don't say such things.

GREGERS. H'm; don't let us get upon those questions.

HIALMAR. And yet, after all, I cannot but recognise the guiding finger of fate. He is going blind.

GINA. Oh, you can't be sure of that.

HIALMAR. There is no doubt about it. At all events there ought not to be; for in that very fact lies the righteous retribution. He has hoodwinked a confiding fellow creature in days gone by —

GREGERS. I fear he has hoodwinked many.

HIALMAR. And now comes inexorable, mysterious Fate, and demands Werle's own eyes.

GINA. Oh, how dare you say such dreadful things! You make me quite scared.

HIALMAR. It is profitable, now and then, to plunge deep into the night side of existence.

HEDVIG, in her hat and cloak, comes in by the passage door. She is pleasurably excited and out of breath.)

GINA. Are you back already?

HEDVIG. Yes, I didn't care to go any farther. It was a good thing, too; for I've just met some one at the door.

HIALMAR. It must have been that Mrs. Sorby.


HIALMAR. (walks up and down) I hope you have seen her for the last time.

(Silence. HEDVIG, discouraged, looks first at one and then at the other, trying to divine their frame of mind.)

HEDVIG. (approaching, coaxingly) Father.

HIALMAR. Well — what is it, Hedvig?

HEDVIG. Mrs. Sorby had something with her for me,

HIALMAR. (stops) For you?

HEDVIG. Yes. Something for to-morrow.

GINA. Bertha has always given you some little thing on your birthday.

HIALMAR. What is it?

HEDVIG. Oh, you mustn't see it now. Mother is to give it to me to-morrow morning before I'm up.

HIALMAR. What is all this hocus-pocus that I am to be in the dark about!

HEDVIG. (quickly) Oh, no, you may see it if you like. It's a big letter.

(Takes the letter out of her cloak pocket.

HIALMAR. A letter, too?

HEDVIG. Yes, it is only a letter. The rest will come afterwards, I suppose. But fancy — a letter! I've never had a letter before. And there's "Miss" written upon it. (Reads.) "Miss Hedvig Ekdal." Only fancy — that's me!

HIALMAR. Let me see that letter.

HEDVIG. (hands it to him) There it is.

HIALMAR. That is Mr. Werle's hand.

GINA. Are you sure of that, Ekdal?

HIALMAR. Look for yourself.

GINA. Oh, what do I know about such-like things?

HIALMAR. Hedvig, may I open the letter — and read it?

HEDVIG. Yes, of course you may, if you want to.

GINA. No, not to-night, Ekdal; it's to be kept till to-morrow.

HEDVIG. (softly) Oh, can't you let him read it! It's sure to be something good; and then father will be glad, and everything will be nice again.

HIALMAR. I may open it then?

HEDVIG. Yes, do, father. I'm so anxious to know what it is.

HIALMAR. Well and good. (Opens the letter, takes out a paper, reads it through, and appears bewildered.) What is this — !

GINA. What does it say?

HEDVIG. Oh, yes, father — tell us!

HIALMAR. Be quiet. (Reads it through again; he has turned pale, but says with self-control:) It is a deed of gift, Hedvig.

HEDVIG. Is it? What sort of gift am I to have?

HIALMAR. Read for yourself.

(HEDVIG goes over and reads for a time by the lamp.)

HIALMAR. (half-aloud, clenching his hands) The eyes! The eyes — and then that letter!

HEDVIG. (leaves off reading) Yes, but it seems to me that it's grandfather that's to have it.

HIALMAR. (takes letter from her) Gina — can you understand this?

GINA. I know nothing whatever about it; tell me what's the matter.

HIALMAR. Mr. Werle writes to Hedvig that her old grandfather need not trouble himself any longer with the copying, but that he can henceforth draw on the office for a hundred crowns a month


HEDVIG. A hundred crowns, mother! I read that.

GINA. What a good thing for grandfather!

HIALMAR. — a hundred crowns a month so long as he needs it — that means, of course, so long as he lives.

GINA. Well, so he's provided for, poor dear.

HIALMAR. But there is more to come. You didn't read that, Hedvig. Afterwards this gift is to pass on to you.

HEDVIG. To me! The whole of it?

HIALMAR. He says that the same amount is assured to you for the whole of your life. Do you hear that, Gina?

GINA. Yes, I hear.

HEDVIG. Fancy — all that money for me! (Shakes him.) Father, father, aren't you glad — ?

HIALMAR. (eluding her) Glad! (Walks about.) Oh what vistas — what perspectives open up before me! It is Hedvig, Hedvig that he showers these benefactions upon!

GINA. Yes, because it's Hedvig's birthday —

HEDVIG. And you'll get it all the same, father! You know quite well I shall give all the money to you and mother.

HIALMAR. To mother, yes! There we have it.

GREGERS. Hialmar, this is a trap he is setting for you.

HIALMAR. Do you think it's another trap?

GREGERS. When he was here this morning he said: Hialmar Ekdal is not the man you imagine him to be.

HIALMAR. Not the man — !

GREGERS. That you shall see, he said.

HIALMAR. He meant you should see that I would let myself be bought off — !

HEDVIG. Oh mother, what does all this mean?

GINA. Go and take off your things.

(HEDVIG goes out by the kitchen door, half-crying.)

GREGERS. Yes, Hialmar — now is the time to show who was right, he or I.

HIALMAR. (slowly tears the paper across, lays both pieces on the table, and says): Here is my answer.

GREGERS. Just what I expected.

HIALMAR. (goes over to GINA, who stands by the stove, and says in a low voice): Now please make a clean breast of it. If the connection between you and him was quite over when you — came to care for me, as you call it — why did he place us in a position to marry?

GINA. I suppose he thought as he could come and go in our house.

HIALMAR. Only that? Was not he afraid of a possible contingency?

GINA. I don't know what you mean.

HIALMAR. I want to know whether — your child has the right to live under my roof.

GINA. (draws herself up; her eyes flash) You ask that!

HIALMAR. You shall answer me this one question: Does Hedvig belong to me — or — ? Well!

GINA. (looking at him with cold defiance) I don't know.

HIALMAR. (quivering a little) You don't know!

GINA. How should I know. A creature like me —

HIALMAR. (quietly turning away from her) Then I have nothing more to do in this house.

GREGERS. Take care, Hialmar! Think what you are doing!

HIALMAR. (puts on his overcoat) In this case, there is nothing for a man like me to think twice about.

GREGERS. Yes indeed, there are endless things to be considered. You three must be together if you are to attain the true frame of mind for self-sacrifice and forgiveness.

HIALMAR. I don't want to attain it. Never, never! My hat! (Takes his hat.) My home has fallen in ruins about me. (Bursts into tears.) Gregers, I have no child!

HEDVIG. (who has opened the kitchen door) What is that you're saying? (Coming to him.) Father, father!

GINA. There, you see!

HIALMAR. Don't come near me, Hedvig! Keep far away. I cannot bear to see you. Oh! those eyes — ! Good-bye.

(Makes for the door.)

HEDVIG. (clinging close to him and screaming loudly) No! no! Don't leave me!

GINA. (cries out) Look at the child, Ekdal! Look at the child!

HIALMAR. I will not! I cannot! I must get out — away from all this!

(He tears himself away from HEDVIG, and goes out by the passage door.)

HEDVIG. (with despairing eyes) He is going away from us, mother! He is going away from us! He will never come back again!

GINA. Don't cry, Hedvig. Father's sure to come back again.

HEDVIG. (throws herself sobbing on the sofa) No, no, he'll never come home to us any more.

GREGERS. Do you believe I meant all for the best, Mrs. Ekdal?

GINA. Yes, I daresay you did; but God forgive you, all the same.

HEDVIG. (lying on the sofa) Oh, this will kill me! What have I done to him? Mother, you must fetch him home again!

GINA. Yes yes yes; only be quiet, and I'll go out and look for him. (Puts on her outdoor things.) Perhaps he's gone in to Relling's. But you mustn't lie there and cry. Promise me!

HEDVIG. (weeping convulsively) Yes, I'll stop, I'll stop; if only father comes back!

GREGERS. (to GINA, who is going) After all, had you not better leave him to fight out his bitter fight to the end?

GINA. Oh, he can do that afterwards. First of all, we must get the child quieted.

HEDVIG. (sits up and dries her tears) Now you must tell me what all this means. Why doesn't father want me any more?

GREGERS. You mustn't ask that till you are a big girl — quite grown-up.

HEDVIG. (sobs) But I can't go on being as miserable as this till I'm grown-up. — I think I know what it is. — Perhaps I'm not really father's child.

GREGERS. (uneasily) How could that be?

HEDVIG. Mother might have found me. And perhaps father has just got to know it; I've read of such things.

GREGERS. Well, but if it were so —

HEDVIG. I think he might be just as fond of me for all that. Yes, fonder almost. We got the wild duck in a present, you know, and I love it so dearly all the same.

GREGERS. (turning the conversation) Ah, the wild duck, by-tbe-bye! Let us talk about the wild duck a little, Hedvig.

HEDVIG. The poor wild duck! He doesn't want to see it any more either. Only think, he wanted to wring its neck!

GREGERS. Oh, he won't do that.

HEDVIG. No; but he said he would like to. And I think it was horrid of father to say it; for I pray for the wild duck every night, and ask that it may be preserved from death and all that is evil.

GREGERS. (looking at her) Do you say your prayers every night?


GREGERS. Who taught you to do that?

HEDVIG. I myself; one time when father was very ill, and had leeches on his neck, and said that death was staring him in the face.


HEDVIG. Then I prayed for him as I lay in bed; and since then I have always kept it up.

GREGERS. And now you pray for the wild duck too?

HEDVIG. I thought it was best to bring in the wild duck; for she was so weakly at first.

GREGERS. Do you pray in the morning, too?

HEDVIG. No, of course not.

GREGERS. Why not in the morning as well?

HEDVIG. In the morning it's light, you know, and there's nothing in particular to be afraid of.

GREGERS. And your father was going to wring the neck of the wild duck that you love so dearly?

HEDVIG. No; he said he ought to wring its neck, but he would spare it for my sake; and that was kind of father.

GREGERS. (coming a little nearer) But suppose you were to sacrifice the wild duck of your own free will for his sake.

HEDVIG. (rising) The wild duck!

GREGERS. Suppose you were to make a free-will offering, for his sake, of the dearest treasure you have in the world!

HEDVIG. Do you think that would do any good?

GREGERS. Try it, Hedvig.

HEDVIG. (softly, with flashing eyes) Yes, I will try it.

GREGERS. Have you really the courage for it, do you think?

HEDVIG. I'll ask grandfather to shoot the wild duck for me.

GREGERS. Yes, do. — But not a word to your mother about it.

HEDVIG. Why not?

GREGERS. She doesn't understand us.

HEDVIG. The wild duck! I'll try it to-morrow morning.

(GINA comes in by the passage door.)

HEDVIG. (going towards her) Did you find him, mother?

GINA. No, but I heard as he had called and taken Relling with him.

GREGERS. Are you sure of that?

GINA. Yes, the porter's wife said so. Molvik went with them,too, she said.

GREGERS. This evening, when his mind so sorely needs to wrestle in solitude — !

GINA. (takes off her things) Yes, men are strange creatures, so they are. The Lord only knows where Relling has dragged him to! I ran over to Madam Eriksen's, but they weren't there.

HEDVIG. (struggling to keep back her tears) Oh, if he should never come home any more!

GREGERS. He will come home again. I shall have news to give him to-morrow; and then you shall see how he comes home. You may rely upon that, Hedvig, and sleep in peace. Good-night.

(He goes out by the passage door.)

HEDVIG. (throws herself sobbing on GINA'S neck) Mother, mother!

GINA. (pats her shoulder and sighs) Ah yes; Relling was right, he was. That's what comes of it when crazy creatures go about presenting the claims of the — what-you-may-call-it.


Monadnock Valley Press > Ibsen > The Wild Duck