(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 hand.)
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 hear you.
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 article in?
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 pretty penny —
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, Doctor! Well?
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 subject?
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, exactly.
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.
Dr. Stockmann. No, we meant something quite different. Well, what do you think of my article, Mr. Hovstad?
Hovstad. I think it is simply a masterpiece.
Dr. Stockmann. Do you really think so? Well, I am very pleased, very pleased.
Hovstad. It is so clear and intelligible. One need have no special knowledge to understand the bearing of it. You will have every enlightened man on your side.
Aslaksen. And every prudent man too, I hope?
Billing. The prudent and the imprudent — almost the whole town.
Aslaksen. In that case we may venture to print it.
Dr. Stockmann. I should think so!
Hovstad. We will put it in tomorrow morning.
Dr. Stockmann. Of course — you must not lose a single day. What I wanted to ask you, Mr. Aslaksen, was if you would supervise the printing of it yourself.
Aslaksen. With pleasure.
Dr. Stockmann. Take care of it as if it were a treasure! No misprints — every word is important. I will look in again a little later; perhaps you will be able to let me see a proof. I can't tell you how eager I am to see it in print, and see it burst upon the public —
Billing. Burst upon them — yes, like a flash of lightning!
Dr. Stockmann. — and to have it submitted to the judgment of my intelligent fellow townsmen. You cannot imagine what I have gone through today. I have been threatened first with one thing and then with another; they have tried to rob me of my most elementary rights as a man —
Billing. What! Your rights as a man!
Dr. Stockmann. — they have tried to degrade me, to make a coward of me, to force me to put personal interests before my most sacred convictions.
Billing. That is too much — I'm damned if it isn't.
Hovstad. Oh, you mustn't be surprised at anything from that quarter.
Dr. Stockmann. Well, they will get the worst of it with me; they may assure themselves of that. I shall consider the "People's Messenger" my sheet-anchor now, and every single day I will bombard them with one article after another, like bombshells —
Aslaksen. Yes, but
Billing. Hurrah! — it is war, it is war!
Dr. Stockmann. I shall smite them to the ground — I shall crush them — I shall break down all their defenses, before the eyes of the honest public! That is what I shall do!