Hovstad. You are perfectly right; but an editor cannot always act
as he would prefer. He is often obliged to bow to the wishes of
the public in unimportant matters. Politics are the most
important thing in life--for a newspaper, anyway; and if I want
to carry my public with me on the path that leads to liberty and
progress, I must not frighten them away. If they find a moral
tale of this sort in the serial at the bottom of the page, they
will be all the more ready to read what is printed above it; they
feel more secure, as it were.
Petra. For shame! You would never go and set a snare like that
for your readers; you are not a spider!
Hovstad (smiling). Thank you for having such a good opinion of
me. No; as a matter of fact that is Billing's idea and not mine.
Hovstad. Yes; anyway, he propounded that theory here one day. And
it is Billing who is so anxious to have that story in the paper;
I don't know anything about the book.
Petra. But how can Billing, with his emancipated views--
Hovstad. Oh, Billing is a many-sided man. He is applying for the
post of secretary to the Bench, too, I hear.
Petra. I don't believe it, Mr. Hovstad. How could he possibly
bring himself to do such a thing?
Hovstad. Ah, you must ask him that.
Petra. I should never have thought it of him.
Hovstad (looking more closely at her). No? Does it really
surprise you so much?
Petra. Yes. Or perhaps not altogether. Really, I don't quite know
Hovstad. We journalists are not much worth, Miss Stockmann.
Petra. Do you really mean that?
Hovstad. I think so sometimes.
Petra. Yes, in the ordinary affairs of everyday life, perhaps; I
can understand that. But now, when you have taken a weighty
matter in hand--
Hovstad. This matter of your father's, you mean?
Petra. Exactly. It seems to me that now you must feel you are a
man worth more than most.
Hovstad. Yes, today I do feel something of that sort.
Petra. Of course you do, don't you? It is a splendid vocation you
have chosen--to smooth the way for the march of unappreciated
truths, and new and courageous lines of thought. If it were
nothing more than because you stand fearlessly in the open and
take up the cause of an injured man--
Hovstad. Especially when that injured man is--ahem!--I don't
rightly know how to--
Petra. When that man is so upright and so honest, you mean?
Hovstad (more gently). Especially when he is your father I meant.
Petra (suddenly checked). That?
Hovstad. Yes, Petra--Miss Petra.
Petra. Is it that, that is first and foremost with you? Not the
matter itself? Not the truth?--not my father's big generous
Hovstad. Certainly--of course--that too.
Petra. No, thank you; you have betrayed yourself, Mr. Hovstad,
and now I shall never trust you again in anything.
Hovstad. Can you really take it so amiss in me that it is mostly
for your sake--?
Petra. What I am angry with you for, is for not having been
honest with my father. You talked to him as if the truth and the
good of the community were what lay nearest to your heart. You
have made fools of both my father and me. You are not the man you
made yourself out to be. And that I shall never forgive you-
Hovstad. You ought not to speak so bitterly, Miss Petra--least of
Petra. Why not now, especially?
Hovstad. Because your father cannot do without my help.
Petra (looking him up and down). Are you that sort of man too?
Hovstad. No, no, I am not. This came upon me so unexpectedly--you
must believe that.
Petra. I know what to believe. Goodbye.
Aslaksen (coming from the printing room, hurriedly and with an
air of mystery). Damnation, Hovstad!--(Sees PETRA.) Oh, this is
Petra. There is the book; you must give it to some one else.
(Goes towards the door.)
Hovstad (following her). But, Miss Stockmann--
Petra. Goodbye. (Goes out.)