Aslaksen. Well, the fact is that, now we know the bearings of the
whole affair, we think we might venture to put the "People's
Messenger" at your disposal.
Dr. Stockmann. Do you dare do that now? What about public
opinion? Are you not afraid of a storm breaking upon our heads?
Hovstad. We will try to weather it.
Aslaksen. And you must be ready to go off quickly on a new tack,
Doctor. As soon as your invective has done its work--
Dr. Stockmann. Do you mean, as soon as my father-in-law and I
have got hold of the shares at a low figure?
Hovstad. Your reasons for wishing to get the control of the Baths
are mainly scientific, I take it.
Dr. Stockmann. Of course; it was for scientific reasons that I
persuaded the old "Badger" to stand in with me in the matter. So
we will tinker at the conduit-pipes a little, and dig up a little
bit of the shore, and it shan't cost the town a sixpence. That
will be all right--eh?
Hovstad. I think so--if you have the "People's Messenger" behind
Aslaksen. The Press is a power in a free community. Doctor.
Dr. Stockmann. Quite so. And so is public opinion. And you, Mr.
Aslaksen--I suppose you will be answerable for the Householders'
Aslaksen. Yes, and for the Temperance Society. You may rely on
Dr. Stockmann. But, gentlemen--I really am ashamed to ask the
question--but, what return do you--?
Hovstad. We should prefer to help you without any return
whatever, believe me. But the "People's Messenger" is in rather a
shaky condition; it doesn't go really well; and I should be very
unwilling to suspend the paper now, when there is so much work to
do here in the political way.
Dr. Stockmann. Quite so; that would be a great trial to such a
friend of the people as you are. (Flares up.) But I am an enemy
of the people, remember! (Walks about the room.) Where have I put
my stick? Where the devil is my stick?
Hovstad. What's that?
Aslaksen. Surely you never mean--
Dr. Stockmann (standing still.) And suppose I don't give you a
single penny of all I get out of it? Money is not very easy to
get out of us rich folk, please to remember!
Hovstad. And you please to remember that this affair of the
shares can be represented in two ways!
Dr. Stockmann. Yes, and you are just the man to do it. If I don't
come to the rescue of the "People's Messenger," you will
certainly take an evil view of the affair; you will hunt me down,
I can well imagine--pursue me--try to throttle me as a dog does a
Hovstad. It is a natural law; every animal must fight for its own
Aslaksen. And get its food where it can, you know.
Dr. Stockmann (walking about the room). Then you go and look for
yours in the gutter; because I am going to show you which is the
strongest animal of us three! (Finds an umbrella and brandishes
it above his head.) Ah, now--!
Hovstad. You are surely not going to use violence!
Aslaksen. Take care what you are doing with that umbrella.
Dr. Stockmann. Out of the window with you, Mr. Hovstad!
Hovstad (edging to the door). Are you quite mad!
Dr. Stockmann. Out of the window, Mr. Aslaksen! Jump, I tell you!
You will have to do it, sooner or later.
Aslaksen (running round the writing-table). Moderation, Doctor--I
am a delicate man--I can stand so little--(calls out) help, help!
(MRS. STOCKMANN, PETRA and HORSTER come in from the sitting-
Mrs. Stockmann. Good gracious, Thomas! What is happening?
Dr. Stockmann (brandishing the umbrella). Jump out, I tell you!
Out into the gutter!
Hovstad. An assault on an unoffending man! I call you to witness,
Captain Horster. (Hurries out through the hall.)
Aslaksen (irresolutely). If only I knew the way about here--.
(Steals out through the sitting-room.)
Mrs. Stockmann (holding her husband back). Control yourself,
Dr. Stockmann (throwing down the umbrella). Upon my soul, they
have escaped after all.
Mrs. Stockmann. What did they want you to do?
Dr. Stockmann. I will tell you later on; I have something else to
think about now. (Goes to the table and writes something on a
calling-card.) Look there, Katherine; what is written there?
Mrs. Stockmann. Three big Noes; what does that mean.
Dr. Stockmann. I will tell you that too, later on. (Holds out the
card to PETRA.) There, Petra; tell sooty-face to run over to the
"Badger's" with that, as quick as she can. Hurry up! (PETRA takes
the card and goes out to the hall.)
Dr. Stockmann. Well, I think I have had a visit from every one of
the devil's messengers to-day! But now I am going to sharpen my
pen till they can feel its point; I shall dip it in venom and
gall; I shall hurl my inkpot at their heads!
Mrs. Stockmann. Yes, but we are going away, you know, Thomas.
(PETRA comes back.)
Dr. Stockmann. Well?
Petra. She has gone with it.