Hovstad. Yes, provided the press takes up the question.
Dr. Stockmann. I don't think that will be necessary, my dear
fellow, I am certain my brother--
Hovstad. Excuse me, doctor; I feel bound to tell you I am
inclined to take the matter up.
Dr. Stockmann. In the paper?
Hovstad. Yes. When I took over the "People's Messenger" my idea
was to break up this ring of self-opinionated old fossils who had
got hold of all the influence.
Dr. Stockmann. But you know you told me yourself what the result
had been; you nearly ruined your paper.
Hovstad. Yes, at the time we were obliged to climb down a peg or
two, it is quite true-- because there was a danger of the whole
project of the Baths coming to nothing if they failed us. But now
the scheme has been carried through, and we can dispense with
these grand gentlemen.
Dr. Stockmann. Dispense with them, yes; but, we owe them a great
debt of gratitude.
Hovstad. That shall be recognised ungrudgingly, But a journalist
of my democratic tendencies cannot let such an opportunity as
this slip. The bubble of official infallibility must be pricked.
This superstition must be destroyed, like any other.
Dr. Stockmann. I am whole-heartedly with you in that, Mr.
Hovstad; if it is a superstition, away with it!
Hovstad. I should be very reluctant to bring the Mayor into it,
because he is your brother. But I am sure you will agree with me
that truth should be the first consideration.
Dr. Stockmann. That goes without saying. (With sudden emphasis.)
Hovstad. You must not misjudge me. I am neither more self-
interested nor more ambitious than most men.
Dr. Stockmann. My dear fellow--who suggests anything of the kind?
Hovstad. I am of humble origin, as you know; and that has given
me opportunities of knowing what is the most crying need in the
humbler ranks of life. It is that they should be allowed some
part in the direction of public affairs, Doctor. That is what
will develop their faculties and intelligence and self respect--
Dr. Stockmann. I quite appreciate that.
Hovstad. Yes--and in my opinion a journalist incurs a heavy
responsibility if he neglects a favourable opportunity of
emancipating the masses--the humble and oppressed. I know well
enough that in exalted circles I shall be called an agitator, and
all that sort of thing; but they may call what they like. If only
my conscience doesn't reproach me, then--
Dr. Stockmann. Quite right! Quite right, Mr. Hovstad. But all the
same--devil take it! (A knock is heard at the door.) Come in!
(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,