The Wild Duck

by Henrik Ibsen


HIALMAR EKDAL'S studio. Cold, grey morning light. Wet snow lies upon the large panes of the sloping roof-window.

GINA comes from the kitchen with an apron and bib on, and carrying a dusting-brush and a duster; she goes towards the sitting-room door. At the same moment HEDVIG comes hurriedly in from the passage.)

GINA. (stops) Well?

HEDVIG. Oh, mother, I almost think he's down at Relling's —

GINA. There, you see!

HEDVIG. — because the porter's wife says she could hear that Relling had two people with him when he came home last night.

GINA. That's just what I thought.

HEDVIG. But it's no use his being there, if he won't come up to us.

GINA. I'll go down and speak to him at all events.

OLD EKDAL, in dressing-gown and slippers, and with a lighted pipe, appears at the door of his room.)

EKDAL. Hialmar — Isn't Hialmar at home?

GINA. No, he's gone out.

EKDAL. So early? And in such a tearing snowstorm? Well well; just as he pleases; I can take my morning walk alone.

(He slides the garret door aside; HEDVIG helps him; he goes in; she closes it after him.)

HEDVIG. (in an undertone) Only think, mother, when poor grandfather hears that father is going to leave us.

GINA. Oh, nonsense; grandfather mustn't hear anything about it. It was a heaven's mercy he wasn't at home yesterday in all that hurly-burly.

HEDVIG. Yes, but —

(GREGERS comes in by the passage door.)

GREGERS. Well, have you any news of him?

GINA. They say he's down at Relling's.

GREGERS. At Relling's! Has he really been out with those creatures?

GINA. Yes, like enough.

GREGERS. When he ought to have been yearning for solitude, to collect and clear his thoughts —

GINA. Yes, you may well say so.

(RELLING enters from the passage.)

HEDVIG. (going to him) Is father in your room?

GINA. (at the same time) Is he there?

RELLING. Yes, to be sure he is.

HEDVIG. And you never let us know!

RELLING. Yes; I'm a brute. But in the first place I had to look after the other brute; I mean our daemonic friend, of course; and then I fell so dead asleep that —

GINA. What does Ekdal say to-day?

RELLING. He says nothing whatever.

HEDVIG. Doesn't he speak?

RELLING. Not a blessed word.

GREGERS. No no,; I can understand that very well.

GINA. But what's he doing then?

RELLING. He's lying on the sofa, snoring.

GINA. Oh is he? Yes, Ekdal's a rare one to snore.

HEDVIG. Asleep? Can he sleep?

RELLING. Well, it certainly looks like it.

GREGERS. No wonder, after the spiritual conflict that has rent him —

GINA. And then he's never been used to gadding about out of doors at night.

HEDVIG. Perhaps it's a good thing that he's getting sleep, mother.

GINA. Of course it is; and we must take care we don't wake him up too early. Thank you, Relling. I must get the house cleaned up a bit now, and then — Come and help me, Hedvig.

(GINA and HEDVIG go into the sitting-room.)

GREGERS. (turning to RELLING) What is your explanation of the spiritual tumult that is now going on in Hialmar Ekdal?

RELLING. Devil a bit of a spiritual tumult have I noticed in him.

GREGERS. What! Not at such a crisis, when his whole life has been placed on a new foundation — ? How can you think that such an individuality as Hialmar's — ?

RELLING. Oh, individuality — he! If he ever had any tendency to the abnormal developments you call individuality, I can assure you it was rooted out of him while he was still in his teens.

GREGERS. That would be strange indeed, — considering the loving care with which he was brought up.

RELLING. By those two high-flown, hysterical maiden aunts, you mean?

GREGERS. Let me tell you that they were women who never forgot the claim of the ideal — but of course you will only jeer at me again.

RELLING. No, I'm in no humour for that. I know all about those ladies; for he has ladled out no end of rhetoric on the subject of his "two soul-mothers." But I don't think he has much to thank them for. Ekdal's misfortune is that in his own circle he has always been looked upon as a shining light —

GREGERS. Not without reason, surely. Look at the depth of his mind!

RELLING. I have never discovered it. That his father believed in it I don't so much wonder; the old lieutenant has been an ass all his days.

GREGERS. He has had a child-like mind all his days; that is what you cannot understand.

RELLING. Well, so be it. But then, when our dear, sweet Hialmar went to college, he at once passed for the great light of the future amongst his comrades too. He was handsome, the rascal — red and white — a shop-girl's dream of manly beauty; and with his superficially emotional temperament, and his sympathetic voice, and his talent for declaiming other people's verses and other people's thoughts —

GREGERS. (indignantly) Is it Hialmar Ekdal you are talking about in this strain?

RELLING. Yes, with your permission; I am simply giving you an inside view of the idol you are grovelling before.

GREGERS. I should hardly have thought I was quite stone blind.

RELLING. Yes you are — or not far from it. You are a sick man, too, you see.

GREGERS. You are right there.

RELLING. Yes. Yours is a complicated case. First of all, there is that plaguy integrity-fever; and then — what's worse — you are always in a delirium of hero-worship; you must always have something to adore, outside yourself.

GREGERS. Yes, I must certainly seek it outside myself.

RELLING. But you make such shocking mistakes about every new phoenix you think you have discovered. Here again you have come to a cotter's cabin with your claim of the ideal; and the people of the house are insolvent.

GREGERS. If you don't think better than that of Hialmar Ekdal, what pleasure can you find in being everlastingly with him?

RELLING. Well, you see, I'm supposed to be a sort of a doctor — save the mark! I can't but give a hand to the poor sick folk who live under the same roof with me.

GREGERS. Oh, indeed! Hialmar Ekdal is sick too, is he!

RELLING. Most people are, worse luck.

GREGERS. And what remedy are you applying in Hialmar's case?

RELLING. My usual one. I am cultivating the life-illusion in him.

GREGERS. Life-illusion? I didn't catch what you said.

RELLING. Yes, I said illusion. For illusion, you know, is the stimulating principle.

GREGERS. May I ask with what illusion Hialmar is inoculated?

RELLING. No, thank you; I don't betray professional secrets to quacksalvers. You would probably go and muddle his case still more than you have already. But my method is infallible. I have applied it to Molvik as well. I have made him "daemonic." That's the blister I have to put on his neck.

GREGERS. Is he not really daemonic then?

RELLING. What the devil do you mean by daemonic! It's only a piece of gibberish I've invented to keep up a spark of life in him. But for that, the poor harmless creature would have succumbed to self-contempt and despair many a long year ago. And then the old lieutenant! But he has hit upon his own cure, you see.

GREGERS. Lieutenant Ekdal? What of him?

RELLING. Just think of the old bear-hunter shutting himself up in that dark garret to shoot rabbits! I tell you there is not a happier sportsman in the world than that old man pottering about in there among all that rubbish. The four or five withered Christmas-trees he has saved up are the same to him as the whole great fresh Hoidal forest; the cock and the hens are big game-birds in the fir-tops; and the rabbits that flop about the garret floor are the bears he has to battle with — the mighty hunter of the mountains!

GREGERS. Poor unfortunate old man! Yes; he has indeed had to narrow the ideals of his youth.

RELLING. While I think of it, Mr. Werle, junior — don't use that foreign word: ideals. We have the excellent native word: lies.

GREGERS. Do you think the two things are related?

RELLING. Yes, just about as closely as typhus and putrid fever.

GREGERS. Dr. Relling, I shall not give up the struggle until I have rescued Hialmar from your clutches!

RELLING. So much the worse for him. Rob the average man of his life-illusion, and you rob him of his happiness at the same stroke. (To HEDVIG, who comes in from the sitting-room.) Well, little wild-duck-mother, I'm just going down to see whether papa is still lying meditating upon that wonderful invention of his.

(Goes out by passage door.)

GREGERS. (approaches HEDVIG) I can see by your face that you have not yet done it.

HEDVIG. What? Oh, that about the wild duck! No.

GREGERS. I suppose your courage failed when the time came.

HEDVIG. No, that wasn't it. But when I awoke this morning and remembered what we had been talking about, it seemed so strange.

GREGERS. Strange?

HEDVIG. Yes, I don't know — Yesterday evening, at the moment, I thought there was something so delightful about it; but since I have slept and thought of it again, it somehow doesn't seem worth while.

GREGERS. Ah, I thought you could not have grown up quite unharmed in this house.

HEDVIG. I don't care about that, if only father would come up —

GREGERS. Oh, if only your eyes had been opened to that which gives life its value — if you possessed the true, joyous, fearless spirit of sacrifice, you would soon see how he would come up to you. — But I believe in you still, Hedvig.

(He goes out by the passage door. HEDVIG wanders about the room for a time; she is on the point of going into the kitchen when a knock is heard at the garret door. HEDVIG goes over and opens it a little; old EKDAL comes out; she pushes the door to again.)

EKDAL. H'm, it's not much fun to take one's morning walk alone.

HEDVIG. Wouldn't you like to go shooting, grandfather?

EKDAL. It's not the weather for it to-day. It's so dark there, you can scarcely see where you're going.

HEDVIG. Do you never want to shoot anything besides the rabbits?

EKDAL. Do you think the rabbits aren't good enough?

HEDVIG. Yes, but what about the wild duck?

EKDAL. Ho-ho! are you afraid I shall shoot your wild duck? Never in the world. Never.

HEDVIG. No, I suppose you couldn't; they say it's very difficult to shoot wild ducks.

EKDAL. Couldn't! Should rather think I could.

HEDVIG. How would you set about it, grandfather? — I don't mean with my wild duck, but with others?

EKDAL. I should take care to shoot them in the breast, you know; that's the surest place. And then you must shoot against the feathers, you see — not the way of the feathers.

HEDVIG. Do they die then, grandfather?

EKDAL. Yes, they die right enough — when you shoot properly. — Well, I must go and brush up a bit. H'm — understand — h'm.

(Goes into his room.)

(HEDVIG waits a little, glances towards the sitting-room door, goes over to the book-case, stands on tip-toe, takes the double-barrelled pistol down from the shelf, and looks at it. GINA, with brush and duster, comes from the sitting-room. HEDVIG hastily lays down the pistol, unobserved.)

GINA. Don't stand raking amongst father's things, Hedvig.

HEDVIG. (goes away from the bookcase) I was only going to tidy up a little.

GINA. You'd better go into the kitchen, and see if the coffee's keeping hot; I'll take his breakfast on a tray, when I go down to him.

(HEDVIG goes out. GINA begins to sweep and clean up the studio. Presently the passage door is opened with hesitation, and HIALMAR EKDAL looks in. He has on his overcoat, but not his hat; he is unwashed, and his hair is dishevelled and unkempt. His eyes are dull and heavy.)

GINA. (standing with the brush in her hand, and looking at him) Oh, there now, Ekdal — so you've come after all?

HIALMAR. (comes in and answers in a toneless voice) I come only to depart again immediately.

GINA. Yes, yes, I suppose so. But, Lord help us! what a sight you are!

HIALMAR. A sight?

GINA. And your nice winter coat too! Well, that's done for.

HEDVIG. (at the kitchen door) Mother, hadn't I better — ? (Sees HIALMAR, gives a loud scream of joy, and runs to him.) Oh, father, father!

HIALMAR. (turns away and makes a gesture of repulsion). Away, away, away! (To GINA.) Keep her away from me, I say!

GINA. (in a low tone) Go into the sitting-room, Hedvig.

(HEDVIG does so without a word.)

HIALMAR. (fussily pulls out the table-drawer) I must have my books with me. Where are my books?

GINA. Which books?

HIALMAR. My scientific books, of course; the technical magazines I require for my invention.

GINA. (searches in the bookcase) Is it these here paper-covered ones?

HIALMAR. Yes, of course.

GINA. (lays a heap of magazines on the table) Shan't I get Hedvig to cut them for you?

HIALMAR. I don't require to have them cut for me.

(Short silence.)

GINA. Then you're still set on leaving us, Ekdal?

HIALMAR. (rummaging amongst the books) Yes, that is a matter of course, I should think.

GINA. Well, well.

HIALMAR. (vehemently) How can I live here, to be stabbed to the heart every hour of the day?

GINA. God forgive you for thinking such vile things of me.

HIALMAR. Prove — !

GINA. I think it's you as has got to prove.

HIALMAR. After a past like yours? There are certain claims — I may almost call them claims of the ideal —

GINA. But what about grandfather? What's to become of him, poor dear?

HIALMAR. I know my duty; my helpless father will come with me. I am going out into the town to make arrangements — H'm — (hesitatingly) — has any one found my hat on the stairs?

GINA. No. Have you lost your hat?

HIALMAR. Of course I had it on when I came in last night; there's no doubt about that; but I couldn't find it this morning.

GINA. Lord help us! where have you been to with those two ne'er-do-weels?

HIALMAR. Oh, don't bother me about trifles. Do you suppose I am in the mood to remember details?

GINA. If only you haven't caught cold, Ekdal — —

(Goes out into the kitchen.)

HIALMAR. (talks to himself in a low tone of irritation, whilst he empties the table-drawer) You're a scoundrel, Relling! — You're a low fellow! — Ah, you shameless tempter! — I wish I could get some one to stick a knife into you!

(He lays some old letters on one side, finds the torn document of yesterday, takes it up and looks at the pieces; puts it down hurriedly as GINA enters.)

GINA. (sets a tray with coffee, etc., on the table) Here's a drop of something hot, if you'd fancy it. And there's some bread and butter and a snack of salt meat.

HIALMAR. (glancing at the tray) Salt meat? Never under this roof! It's true I have not had a mouthful of solid food for nearly twenty-four hours; but no matter. — My memoranda! The commencement of my autobiography! What has become of my diary, and all my important papers? (Opens the sitting-room door but draws back.) She is there too!

GINA. Good Lord! the child must be somewhere!

HIALMAR. Come out.

(He makes room, HEDVIG comes, scared, into the studio.)

HIALMAR. (With his hand upon the door-handle, says to GINA): In these, the last moments I spend in my former home, I wish to be spared from interlopers — —

(Goes into the room.)

HEDVIG. (with a bound towards her mother, asks softly, trembling) Does that mean me?

GINA. Stay out in the kitchen, Hedvig; or, no — you'd best go into your own room. (Speaks to HIALMAR as she goes in to him.) Wait a bit, Ekdal; don't rummage so in the drawers; I know where everything is.

HEDVIG. (stands a moment immovable, in terror and perplexity, biting her lips to keep back the tears; then she clenches her hands convulsively, and says softly): The wild duck.

(She steals over and takes the pistol from the shelf, opens the garret door a little way, creeps in, and draws the door to after her. (HIALMAR and GINA can be heard disputing in the sitting-room.)

HIALMAR. (comes in with some manuscript books and old loose papers, which he lays upon the table) That portmanteau is of no use! There are a thousand and one things I must drag with me.

GINA. (following with the portmanteau) Why not leave all the rest for the present, and only take a shirt and a pair of woollen drawers with you?

HIALMAR. Whew! — all these exhausting preparations — !

(Pulls off his overcoat and throws it upon the sofa.)

GINA. And there's the coffee getting cold.


(Drinks a mouthful without thinking of it, and then another.)

GINA. (dusting the backs of the chairs) A nice job you'll have to find such another big garret for the rabbits.

HIALMAR. What! Am I to drag all those rabbits with me too?

GINA. You don't suppose grandfather can get on without his rabbits.

HIALMAR. He must just get used to doing without them. Have not I to sacrifice very much greater things than rabbits!

GINA. (dusting the bookcase) Shall I put the flute in the portmanteau for you?

HIALMAR. No. No flute for me. But give me the pistol!

GINA. Do you want to take the pigstol with you?

HIALMAR. Yes. My loaded pistol.

GINA. (searching for it) It's gone. He must have taken it in with him.

HIALMAR. Is he in the garret?

GINA. Yes, of course he's in the garret.

HIALMAR. H'm — poor lonely old man.

(He takes a piece of bread and butter, eats it, and finishes his cup of coffee.)

GINA. If we hadn't have let that room, you could have moved in there.

HIALMAR. And continued to live under the same roof with — ! Never, — never!

GINA. But couldn't you put up with the sitting-room for a day or two? You could have it all to yourself.

HIALMAR. Never within these walls!

GINA. Well then, down with Relling and Molvik.

HIALMAR. Don't mention those wretches' names to me! The very thought of them almost takes away my appetite. — Oh no, I must go out into the storm and the snow-drift, — go from house to house and seek shelter for my father and myself.

GINA. But you've got no hat, Ekdal! You've been and lost your hat, you know.

HIALMAR. Oh those two brutes, those slaves of all the vices! A hat must be procured. (Takes another piece of bread and butter.) Some arrangements must be made. For I have no mind to throw away my life, either.

(Looks for something on the tray.)

GINA. What are you looking for?

HIALMAR. Butter.

GINA. I'll get some at once.

(Goes out into the kitchen.)

HIALMAR. (calls after her) Oh it doesn't matter; dry bread is good enough for me.

GINA. (brings a dish of butter) Look here; this is fresh churned.

(She pours out another cup of coffee for him; he seats himself on the sofa, spreads more butter on the already buttered bread, and eats and drinks awhile in silence.)

HIALMAR. Could I, without being subject to intrusion — intrusion of any sort — could I live in the sitting-room there for a day or two?

GINA. Yes, to be sure you could, if you only would.

HIALMAR. For I see no possibility of getting all father's things out in such a hurry.

GINA. And, besides, you've surely got to tell him first as you don't mean to live with us others no more.

HIALMAR. (pushes away his coffee cup) Yes, there is that too; I shall have to lay bare the whole tangled story to him — I must turn matters over; I must have breathing-time; I cannot take all these burdens on my shoulders in a single day.

GINA. No, especially in such horrible weather as it is outside.

HIALMAR. (touching WERLE'S letter) I see that paper is still lying about here.

GINA. Yes, I haven't touched it.

HIALMAR. So far as I am concerned it is mere waste paper —

GINA. Well, I have certainly no notion of making any use of it.

HIALMAR. — but we had better not let it get lost all the same; — in all the upset when I move, it might easily —

GINA. I'll take good care of it, Ekdal.

HIALMAR. The donation is in the first instance made to father, and it rests with him to accept or decline it.

GINA. (sighs) Yes, poor old father —

HIALMAR. To make quite safe — Where shall I find some gum?

GINA. (goes to the bookcase) Here's the gum-pot.

HIALMAR. And a brush?

GINA. The brush is here too.

(Brings him the things.)

HIALMAR. (takes a pair of scissors) Just a strip of paper at the back — (Clips and gums.) Far be it from me to lay hands upon what it not my own — and least of all upon what belongs to a destitute old man — and to — the other as well. — There now. Let it lie there for a time; and when it is dry, take it away. I wish never to see that document again. Never!

(GREGERS WERLE enters from the passage.)

GREGERS. (somewhat surprised) What, — are you sitting here, Hialmar?

HIALMAR. (rises hurriedly) I had sunk down from fatigue.

GREGERS. You have been having breakfast, I see.

HIALMAR. The body sometimes makes its claims felt too.

GREGERS. What have you decided to do?

HIALMAR. For a man like me, there is only one course possible. I am just putting my most important things together. But it takes time, you know.

GINA. (with a touch of impatience) Am I to get the room ready for you, or am I to pack your portmanteau?

HIALMAR. (after a glance of annoyance at GREGERS) Pack — and get the room ready!

GINA. (takes the portmanteau) Very well; then I'll put in the shirt and the other things.

(Goes into the sitting-room and draws the door to after her.)

GREGERS. (after a short silence) I never dreamed that this would be the end of it. Do you really feel it a necessity to leave house and home?

HIALMAR. (wanders about restlessly) What would you have me do? — I am not fitted to bear unhappiness, Gregers. I must feel secure and at peace in my surroundings.

GREGERS. But can you not feel that here? Just try it. I should have thought you had firm ground to build upon now — if only you start afresh. And, remember, you have your invention to live for.

HIALMAR. Oh don't talk about my invention. It's perhaps still in the dim distance.

GREGERS. Indeed!

HIALMAR. Why, great heavens, what would you have me invent? Other people have invented almost everything already. It becomes more and more dffficult every day —

GREGERS. And you have devoted so much labour to it.

HIALMAR. It was that blackguard Relling that urged me to it.

GREGERS. Relling?

HIALMAR. Yes, it was he that first made me realise my aptitude for making some notable discovery in photography.

GREGERS. Aha — it was Relling!

HIALMAR. Oh, I have been so truly happy over it! Not so much for the sake of the invention itself, as because Hedvig believed in it — believed in it with a child's whole eagerness of faith. — At least, I have been fool enough to go and imagine that she believed in it.

GREGERS. Can you really think Hedvig has been false towards you?

HIALMAR. I can think anything now. It is Hedvig that stands in my way. She will blot out the sunlight from my whole life.

GREGERS. Hedvig! Is it Hedvig you are talking of? How should she blot out your sunlight?

HIALMAR. (without answering) How unutterably I have loved that child! How unutterably happy I have felt every time I came home to my humble room, and she flew to meet me, with her sweet little blinking eyes. Oh, confiding fool that I have been! I loved her unutterably; — and I yielded myself up to the dream, the delusion, that she loved me unutterably in return.

GREGERS. Do you call that a delusion?

HIALMAR. How should I know? I can get nothing out of Gina; and besides, she is totally blind to the ideal side of these complications. But to you I feel impelled to open my mind, Gregers. I cannot shake off this frightful doubt — perhaps Hedvig has never really and honestly loved me.

GREGERS. What would you say if she were to give you a proof of her love? (Listens.) What's that? I thought I heard the wild duck — ?

HIALMAR. It's the wild duck quacking. Father's in the garret.

GREGERS. Is he? (His face lights up with joy.) I say you may yet have proof that your poor misunderstood Hedvig loves you!

HIALMAR. Oh, what proof can she give me? I dare not believe in any assurance from that quarter.

GREGERS. Hedvig does not know what deceit means.

HIALMAR. Oh Gregers, that is just what I cannot be sure of. Who knows what Gina and that Mrs. Sorby may many a time have sat here whispering and tattling about? And Hedvig usually has her ears open, I can tell you. Perhaps the deed of gift was not such a surprise to her, after all. In fact, I'm not sure but that I noticed something of the sort.

GREGERS. What spirit is this that has taken possession of you?

HIALMAR. I have had my eyes opened. Just you notice; — you'll see, the deed of gift is only a beginning. Mrs. Sorby has always been a good deal taken up with Hedvig; and now she has the power to do whatever she likes for the child. They can take her from me whenever they please.

GREGERS. Hedvig will never, never leave you.

HIALMAR. Don't be so sure of that. If only they beckon to her and throw out a golden bait — ! And oh! I have loved her so unspeakably! I would have counted it my highest happiness to take her tenderly by the hand and lead her, as one leads a timid child through a great dark empty room! — I am cruelly certain now that the poor photographer in his humble attic has never really and truly been anything to her. She has only cunningly contrived to keep on a good footing with him until the time came.

GREGERS. You don't believe that yourself, Hialmar.

HIALMAR. That is just the terrible part of it — I don't know what to believe, — I never can know it. But can you really doubt that it must be as I say? Ho-ho, you have far too much faith in the claim of the ideal, my good Gregers! If those others came, with the glamour of wealth about them, and called to the child: — "Leave him: come to us: here life awaits you — !"

GREGERS. (quickly) Well, what then?

HIALMAR. If I then asked her: Hedvig, are you willing to renounce that life for me? (Laughs scornfully.) No thank you! You would soon hear what answer I should get.

(A pistol shot is heard from within the garret.)

GREGERS. (loudly and joyfully) Hialmar!

HIALMAR. There now; he must needs go shooting too.

GINA. (comes in) Oh Ekdal, I can hear grandfather blazing away in the garret by himself.

HIALMAR. I'll look in —

GREGERS. (eagerly, with emotion) Wait a moment! Do you know what that was?

HIALMAR. Yes, of course I know.

GREGERS. No you don't know. But I do. That was the proof!

HIALMAR. What proof?

GREGERS. It was a child's free-will offering. She has got your father to shoot the wild duck.

HIALMAR. To shoot the wild duck!

GINA. Oh, think of that — !

HIALMAR. What was that for?

GREGERS. She wanted to sacrifice to you her most cherished possession; for then she thought you would surely come to love her again.

HIALMAR. (tenderly, with emotion) Oh, poor child!

GINA. What things she does think of!

GREGERS. She only wanted your love again, Hialmar. She could not live without it.

GINA. (struggling with her tears) There, you can see for yourself, Ekdal.

HIALMAR. Gina, where is she?

GINA. (sniffs) Poor dear, she's sitting out in the kitchen, I dare say.

HIALMAR. (goes over, tears open the kitchen door, and says): Hedvig, come, come in to me! (Looks around.) No, she's not here.

GINA. Then she must be in her own little room.

HIALMAR. (without) No, she's not here either. (Comes in.) She must have gone out.

GINA. Yes, you wouldn't have her anywheres in the house.

HIALMAR. Oh, if she would only come home quickly, so that I can tell her — Everything will come right now, Gregers; now I believe we can begin life afresh.

GREGERS. (quietly) I knew it; I knew the child would make amends.

OLD EKDAL appears at the door of his room; he is in full uniform, and is busy buckling on his sword.)

HIALMAR. (astonished) Father! Are you there?

GINA. Have you been firing in your room?

EKDAL. (resentfully, approaching) So you go shooting alone, do you, Hialmar?

HIALMAR. (excited and confused) Then it wasn't you that fired that shot in the garret?

EKDAL. Me that fired? H'm.

GREGERS. (calls out to HIALMAR) She has shot the wild duck herself!

HIALMAR. What can it mean? (Hastens to the garret door, tears it aside, looks in and calls loudly): Hedvig!

GINA. (runs to the door) Good God, what's that!

HIALMAR. (goes in) She's lying on the floor!

GREGERS. Hedvig! lying on the floor!

(Goes in to HIALMAR.)

GINA. (at the same time) Hedvig! (Inside the garret, No, no, no!

EKDAL. Ho-ho! does she go shooting, too, now?

(HIALMAR, GINA and GREGERS carry HEDVIG into the studio; in her dangling right hand she holds the pistol fast clasped in her fingers.)

HIALMAR. (distracted) The pistol has gone off. She has wounded herself. Call for help! Help!

GINA. (runs into the passage and calls down) Relling! Relling! Doctor Relling; come up as quick as you can!

(HIALMAR and GREGERS lay HEDVIG down on the sofa.)

EKDAL. (quietly) The woods avenge themselves.

HIALMAR. (on his knees beside HEDVIG) She'll soon come to now. She's coming to — ; yes, yes, yes.

GINA. (who has come in again) Where has she hurt herself? I can't see anything —

(RELLING comes hurriedly, and immediately after him MOLVIK; the latter without his waistcoat and necktie, and with his coat open.)

RELLING. What's the matter here?

GINA. They say Hedvig has shot herself.

HIALMAR. Come and help us!

RELLING. Shot herself!

(He pushes the table aside and begins to examine her.)

HIALMAR. (kneeling and looking anxiously up at him) It can't be dangerous? Speak, Relling! She is scarcely bleeding at all. It can't be dangerous?

RELLING. How did it happen?

HIALMAR. Oh, we don't know —

GINA. She wanted to shoot the wild duck.

RELLING. The wild duck?

HIALMAR. The pistol must have gone off.

RELLING. H'm. Indeed.

EKDAL. The woods avenge themselves. But I'm not afraid, all the same.

(Goes into the garret and closes the door after him.)

HIALMAR. Well, Relling, — why don't you say something?

RELLING. The ball has entered the breast.

HIALMAR. Yes, but she's coming to!

RELLING. Surely you can see that Hedvig is dead.

GINA. (bursts into tears) Oh my child, my child —

GREGERS. (huskily) In the depths of the sea —

HIALMAR. (jumps up) No, no, she must live! Oh, for God's sake, Relling — only a moment — only just till I can tell her how unspeakably I loved her all the time!

RELLING. The bullet has gone through her heart. Internal hemorrhage. Death must have been instantaneous.

HIALMAR. And I! I hunted her from me like an animal! And she crept terrified into the garret and died for love of me! (Sobbing.) I can never atone to her! I can never tell her — ! (Clenches his hands and cries, upwards.) O thou above — ! If thou be indeed! Why hast thou done this thing to me?

GINA. Hush, hush, you mustn't go on that awful way. We had no right to keep her, I suppose.

MOLVIK. The child is not dead, but sleepeth.


HIALMAR. (becomes calm, goes over to the sofa, folds his arms, and looks at HEDVIG.) There she lies so stiff and still.

RELLING. (tries to loosen the pistol) She's holding it so tight, so tight.

GINA. No, no, Relling, don't break her fingers; let the pigstol be.

HIALMAR. She shall take it with her.

GINA. Yes, let her. But the child mustn't lie here for a show. She shall go to her own room, so she shall. Help me, Ekdal.

(HIALMAR and GINA take HEDVIG between them.)

HIALMAR. (as they are carrying her) Oh, Gina, Gina, can you survive this!

GINA. We must help each other to bear it. For now at least she belongs to both of us.

MOLVIK. (stretches out his arms and mumbles) Blessed be the Lord; to earth thou shalt return; to earth thou shalt return —

RELLING. (whispers) Hold your tongue, you fool; you're drunk.

(HIALMAR and GINA carry the body out through the kitchen door. RELLING shuts it after them. MOLVIK slinks out into the passage.)

RELLING. (goes over to GREGERS and says): No one shall ever convince me that the pistol went off by accident.

GREGERS. (who has stood terrified, with convulsive twitchings) Who can say how the dreadful thing happened?

RELLING. The powder has burnt the body of her dress. She must have pressed the pistol right against her breast and fired.

GREGERS. Hedvig has not died in vain. Did you not see how sorrow set free what is noble in him?

RELLING. Most people are ennobled by the actual presence of death. But how long do you suppose this nobility will last in him?

GREGERS. Why should it not endure and increase throughout his life?

RELLING. Before a year is over, little Hedvig will be nothing to him but a pretty theme for declamation.

GREGERS. How dare you say that of Hialmar Ekdal?

RELLING. We will talk of this again, when the grass has first withered on her grave. Then you'll hear him spouting about "the child too early torn from her father's heart;" then you'll see him steep himself in a syrup of sentiment and self-admiration and self-pity. Just you wait!

GREGERS. If you are right and I am wrong, then life is not worth living.

RELLING. Oh, life would be quite tolerable, after all, if only we could be rid of the confounded duns that keep on pestering us, in our poverty, with the claim of the ideal.

GREGERS. (looking straight before him) In that case, I am glad that my destiny is what is.

RELLING. May I inquire, — what is your destiny?

GREGERS. (going) To be the thirteenth at table.

RELLING. The devil it is.


Monadnock Valley Press > Ibsen > The Wild Duck