Aslaksen. Quite so. (Goes into the printing-room.)
Peter Stockmann. You did not expect to see me here, Mr. Hovstad?
Hovstad. No, I confess I did not.
Peter Stockmann (looking round). You are very snug in here — very nice indeed.
Hovstad. Oh —
Peter Stockmann. And here I come, without any notice, to take up your time!
Hovstad. By all means, Mr. Mayor. I am at your service. But let me relieve you of your — (takes STOCKMANN's hat and stick and puts them on a chair). Won't you sit down?
Peter Stockmann (sitting down by the table). Thank you. (HOVSTAD sits down.) I have had an extremely annoying experience to-day, Mr. Hovstad.
Hovstad. Really? Ah well, I expect with all the various business you have to attend to —
Peter Stockmann. The Medical Officer of the Baths is responsible for what happened today.
Hovstad. Indeed? The Doctor?
Peter Stockmann. He has addressed a kind of report to the Baths Committee on the subject of certain supposed defects in the Baths.
Hovstad. Has he indeed?
Peter Stockmann. Yes — has he not told you? I thought he said —
Hovstad. Ah, yes — it is true he did mention something about —
Aslaksen (coming from the printing-room). I ought to have that copy.
Hovstad (angrily). Ahem! — there it is on the desk.
Aslaksen (taking it). Right.
Peter Stockmann. But look there — that is the thing I was speaking of!
Aslaksen. Yes, that is the Doctor's article, Mr. Mayor.
Hovstad. Oh, is THAT what you were speaking about?
Peter Stockmann. Yes, that is it. What do you think of it?
Hovstad. Oh, I am only a layman — and I have only taken a very cursory glance at it.
Peter Stockmann. But you are going to print it?
Hovstad. I cannot very well refuse a distinguished man.
Aslaksen. I have nothing to do with editing the paper, Mr. Mayor —
Peter Stockmann. I understand.
Aslaksen. I merely print what is put into my hands.
Peter Stockmann. Quite so.
Aslaksen. And so I must — (moves off towards the printing-room).
Peter Stockmann. No, but wait a moment, Mr. Aslaksen. You will allow me, Mr. Hovstad?
Hovstad. If you please, Mr. Mayor.
Peter Stockmann. You are a discreet and thoughtful man, Mr. Aslaksen.
Aslaksen. I am delighted to hear you think so, sir.
Peter Stockmann. And a man of very considerable influence.
Aslaksen. Chiefly among the small tradesmen, sir.
Peter Stockmann. The small tax-payers are the majority — here as everywhere else.
Aslaksen. That is true.
Peter Stockmann. And I have no doubt you know the general trend of opinion among them, don't you?
Aslaksen. Yes I think I may say I do, Mr. Mayor.
Peter Stockmann. Yes. Well, since there is such a praiseworthy spirit of self-sacrifice among the less wealthy citizens of our town —
Peter Stockmann. It is pleasing evidence of a public-spirited feeling, extremely pleasing evidence. I might almost say I hardly expected it. But you have a closer knowledge of public opinion than I.
Aslaksen. But, Mr. Mayor —
Peter Stockmann. And indeed it is no small sacrifice that the town is going to make.
Hovstad. The town?
Aslaksen. But I don't understand. Is it the Baths — ?
Peter Stockmann. At a provisional estimate, the alterations that the Medical Officer asserts to be desirable will cost somewhere about twenty thousand pounds.
Aslaksen. That is a lot of money, but —
Peter Stockmann. Of course it will be necessary to raise a municipal loan.
Hovstad (getting up). Surely you never mean that the town must pay — ?
Aslaksen. Do you mean that it must come out of the municipal funds? — out of the ill-filled pockets of the small tradesmen?
Peter Stockmann. Well, my dear Mr. Aslaksen, where else is the money to come from?
Aslaksen. The gentlemen who own the Baths ought to provide that.
Peter Stockmann. The proprietors of the Baths are not in a position to incur any further expense.
Aslaksen. Is that absolutely certain, Mr. Mayor?
Peter Stockmann. I have satisfied myself that it is so. If the town wants these very extensive alterations, it will have to pay for them.
Aslaksen. But, damn it all — I beg your pardon — this is quite another matter, Mr. Hovstad!
Hovstad. It is, indeed.
Peter Stockmann. The most fatal part of it is that we shall be obliged to shut the Baths for a couple of years.
Hovstad. Shut them? Shut them altogether?
Aslaksen. For two years?
Peter Stockmann. Yes, the work will take as long as that — at least.
Aslaksen. I'm damned if we will stand that, Mr. Mayor! What are we householders to live upon in the meantime?
Peter Stockmann. Unfortunately, that is an extremely difficult question to answer, Mr. Aslaksen. But what would you have us do? Do you suppose we shall have a single visitor in the town, if we go about proclaiming that our water is polluted, that we are living over a plague spot, that the entire town —
Aslaksen. And the whole thing is merely imagination?
Peter Stockmann. With the best will in the world, I have not been able to come to any other conclusion.
Aslaksen. Well then I must say it is absolutely unjustifiable of Dr. Stockmann — I beg your pardon, Mr. Mayor.
Peter Stockmann. What you say is lamentably true, Mr. Aslaksen. My brother has unfortunately always been a headstrong man.
Aslaksen. After this, do you mean to give him your support, Mr. Hovstad?
Hovstad. Can you suppose for a moment that I — ?