(SCENE.--DR. STOCKMANN'S sitting-room. It is evening. The room is
plainly but neatly appointed and furnished. In the right-hand
wall are two doors; the farther leads out to the hall, the nearer
to the doctor's study. In the left-hand wall, opposite the door
leading to the hall, is a door leading to the other rooms
occupied by the family. In the middle of the same wall stands the
stove, and, further forward, a couch with a looking-glass hanging
over it and an oval table in front of it. On the table, a lighted
lamp, with a lampshade. At the back of the room, an open door
leads to the dining-room. BILLING is seen sitting at the dining
table, on which a lamp is burning. He has a napkin tucked under
his chin, and MRS. STOCKMANN is standing by the table handing him
a large plate-full of roast beef. The other places at the table
are empty, and the table somewhat in disorder, evidently a meal
having recently been finished.)
Mrs. Stockmann. You see, if you come an hour late, Mr. Billing,
you have to put up with cold meat.
Billing (as he eats). It is uncommonly good, thank you--
Mrs. Stockmann. My husband makes such a point of having his meals
punctually, you know.
Billing. That doesn't affect me a bit. Indeed, I almost think I
enjoy a meal all the better when I can sit down and eat all by
myself, and undisturbed.
Mrs. Stockmann. Oh well, as long as you are enjoying it--. (Turns
to the hall door, listening.) I expect that is Mr. Hovstad coming
Billing. Very likely.
(PETER STOCKMANN comes in. He wears an overcoat and his official
hat, and carries a stick.)
Peter Stockmann. Good evening, Katherine.
Mrs. Stockmann (coming forward into the sitting-room). Ah, good
evening--is it you? How good of you to come up and see us!
Peter Stockmann. I happened to be passing, and so--(looks into
the dining-room). But you have company with you, I see.
Mrs. Stockmann (a little embarrassed). Oh, no--it was quite by
chance he came in. (Hurriedly.) Won't you come in and have
Peter Stockmann. I! No, thank you. Good gracious--hot meat at
night! Not with my digestion,
Mrs. Stockmann. Oh, but just once in a way--
Peter Stockmann. No, no, my dear lady; I stick to my tea and
bread and butter. It is much more wholesome in the long run--and
a little more economical, too.
Mrs. Stockmann (smiling). Now you mustn't think that Thomas and I
Peter Stockmann. Not you, my dear; I would never think that of
you. (Points to the Doctor's study.) Is he not at home?
Mrs. Stockmann. No, he went out for a little turn after supper--
he and the boys.
Peter Stockmann. I doubt if that is a wise thing to do.
(Listens.) I fancy I hear him coming now.
Mrs. Stockmann. No, I don't think it is he. (A knock is heard at
the door.) Come in! (HOVSTAD comes in from the hall.) Oh, it is
you, Mr. Hovstad!
Hovstad. Yes, I hope you will forgive me, but I was delayed at
the printers. Good evening, Mr. Mayor.
Peter Stockmann (bowing a little distantly). Good evening. You
have come on business, no doubt.
Hovstad. Partly. It's about an article for the paper.
Peter Stockmann. So I imagined. I hear my brother has become a
prolific contributor to the "People's Messenger."
Hovstad. Yes, he is good enough to write in the "People's
Messenger" when he has any home truths to tell.
Mrs, Stockmann (to HOVSTAD). But won't you--? (Points to the
Peter Stockmann. Quite so, quite so. I don't blame him in the
least, as a writer, for addressing himself to the quarters where
he will find the readiest sympathy. And, besides that, I
personally have no reason to bear any ill will to your paper, Mr.
Hovstad. I quite agree with you.
Peter Stockmann. Taking one thing with another, there is an
excellent spirit of toleration in the town--an admirable
municipal spirit. And it all springs from the fact of our having
a great common interest to unite us--an interest that is in an
equally high degree the concern of every right-minded citizen
Hovstad. The Baths, yes.