No. IV.—THE WILD DUCK. ACT I.
At WERLE's house. In front a richly-upholstered study. (R.) a green-baize door leading to WERLE's office. At back, open folding doors, revealing an elegant dining-room, in which a brilliant Norwegian dinner-party is going on. Hired Waiters in profusion. A glass is tapped with a knife. Shouts of "Bravo!" Old Mr. WERLE is heard making a long speech, proposing—according to the custom of Norwegian society on such occasions—the health of his Housekeeper, Mrs. SÖRBY. Presently several short-sighted, flabby, and thin-haired Chamberlains, enter from the dining-room, with HIALMAR EKDAL, who writhes shyly under their remarks.
A Chamberlain. As we are the sole surviving specimens of Norwegian nobility, suppose we sustain our reputation as aristocratic sparklers by enlarging upon the enormous amount we have eaten, and chaffing HIALMAR EKDAL, the friend of our host's son, for being a professional Photographer?"Father, a word with you in private. I loathe you!"
The other Chamberlains. Bravo! We will.
[They do; delight of HIALMAR. Old WERLE comes in, leaning on his Housekeeper's arm, followed by his son, GREGERS WERLE.
Old Werle (dejectedly). Thirteen at table! (To GREGERS, with a meaning glance at HIALMAR.) This is the result of inviting an old College friend who has turned Photographer! Wasting vintage wines on him, indeed!
[He passes on gloomily.
Hialmar (to Gregers). I am almost sorry I came. Your old min is not friendly. Yet he set me up as a Photographer fifteen years ago. Now he takes me down! But for him, I should never have married GINA, who, you may remember, was a servant in your family once.
Gregers. What? my old College friend married fifteen years ago—and to our GINA, of all people! If I had not been up at the works all these years, I suppose I should have heard something of such an event. But my father never mentioned it. Odd!
[He ponders; Old EKDAL comes out through the green-baize door, bowing, and begging pardon, carrying copying work. Old WERLE says "Ugh" and "Puh" involuntarily. HIALMAR shrinks back, and looks another way. A Chamberlain asks him pleasantly if he knows that old man.
Hialmar. I—oh no. Not in the least. No relation!
Gregers (shocked). What, HIALMAR, you, with your great soul, deny your own father!
Hialmar (vehemently). Of course—what else can a Photographer do with a disreputable old parent, who has been in a Penitentiary for making a fraudulent map? I shall leave this splendid banquet. The Chamberlains are not kind to me, and I feel the crushing hand of fate on my head! [Goes out hastily, feeling it.
Mrs. Sörby (archly). Any Nobleman here say "Cold Punch"?
[Every Nobleman says "Cold Punch," and follows her out in search of it with enthusiasm. GREGERS approaches his father, who wishes he would go.
Gregers. Father, a word with you in private. I loathe you. I am nothing if not candid. Old EKDAL was your partner once, and it's my firm belief you deserved a prison quite as much as he did. However, you surely need not have married our GINA to my old friend HIALMAR....