(SCENE.--The editorial office of the "People's Messenger." The
entrance door is on the left-hand side of the back wall; on the
right-hand side is another door with glass panels through which
the printing room can be seen. Another door in the right-hand
wall. In the middle of the room is a large table covered with
papers, newspapers and books. In the foreground on the left a
window, before which stands a desk and a high stool. There are a
couple of easy chairs by the table, and other chairs standing
along the wall. The room is dingy and uncomfortable; the
furniture is old, the chairs stained and torn. In the printing
room the compositors are seen at work, and a printer is working a
handpress. HOVSTAD is sitting at the desk, writing. BILLING
comes in from the right with DR. STOCKMANN'S manuscript in his
Billing. Well, I must say!
Hovstad (still writing). Have you read it through?
Billing (laying the MS. on the desk). Yes, indeed I have.
Hovstad. Don't you think the Doctor hits them pretty hard?
Billing. Hard? Bless my soul, he's crushing! Every word falls
like--how shall I put it?--like the blow of a sledgehammer.
Hovstad. Yes, but they are not the people to throw up the sponge
at the first blow.
Billing. That is true; and for that reason we must strike blow
upon blow until the whole of this aristocracy tumbles to pieces.
As I sat in there reading this, I almost seemed to see a
revolution in being.
Hovstad (turning round). Hush!--Speak so that Aslaksen cannot
Billing (lowering his voice). Aslaksen is a chicken-hearted chap,
a coward; there is nothing of the man in him. But this time you
will insist on your own way, won't you? You will put the Doctor's
Hovstad. Yes, and if the Mayor doesn't like it--
Billing. That will be the devil of a nuisance.
Hovstad. Well, fortunately we can turn the situation to good
account, whatever happens. If the Mayor will not fall in with the
Doctor's project, he will have all the small tradesmen down on
him--the whole of the Householders' Association and the rest of
them. And if he does fall in with it, he will fall out with the
whole crowd of large shareholders in the Baths, who up to now
have been his most valuable supporters--
Billing. Yes, because they will certainly have to fork out a
Hovstad. Yes, you may be sure they will. And in this way the ring
will be broken up, you see, and then in every issue of the paper
we will enlighten the public on the Mayor's incapability on one
point and another, and make it clear that all the positions of
trust in the town, the whole control of municipal affairs, ought
to be put in the hands of the Liberals.
Billing. That is perfectly true! I see it coming--I see it
coming; we are on the threshold of a revolution!
(A knock is heard at the door.)
Hovstad. Hush! (Calls out.) Come in! (DR. STOCKMANN comes in by
the street door. HOVSTAD goes to meet him.) Ah, it is you,
Dr. Stockmann. You may set to work and print it, Mr. Hovstad!
Hovstad. Has it come to that, then?
Dr. Stockmann. Yes, print away. Undoubtedly it has come to that.
Now they must take what they get. There is going to be a fight in
the town, Mr. Billing!
Billing. War to the knife, I hope! We will get our knives to
their throats, Doctor!
Dr. Stockmann. This article is only a beginning. I have already
got four or five more sketched out in my head. Where is Aslaksen?
Billing (calls into the printing-room). Aslaksen, just come here
for a minute!
Hovstad. Four or five more articles, did you say? On the same
Dr. Stockmann. No--far from it, my dear fellow. No, they are
about quite another matter. But they all spring from the question
of the water supply and the drainage. One thing leads to another,
you know. It is like beginning to pull down an old house,
Billing. Upon my soul, it's true; you find you are not done till
you have pulled all the old rubbish down.
Aslaksen (coming in). Pulled down? You are not thinking of
pulling down the Baths surely, Doctor?
Hovstad. Far from it, don't be afraid.