Morten Kiil (weighing the pocket-book in his hand). If you stick to your mad idea, this won't be worth much, you know. (Puts the pocket-book in his pocket.)
Dr. Stockmann. But, hang it all! It might be possible for science to discover some prophylactic, I should think — or some antidote of some kind —
Morten Kiil. To kill these animals, do you mean?
Dr. Stockmann. Yes, or to make them innocuous.
Morten Kiil. Couldn't you try some rat's-bane?
Dr. Stockmann. Don't talk nonsense! They all say it is only imagination, you know. Well, let it go at that! Let them have their own way about it! Haven't the ignorant, narrow-minded curs reviled me as an enemy of the people? — and haven't they been ready to tear the clothes off my back too?
Morten Kiil. And broken all your windows to pieces!
Dr. Stockmann. And then there is my duty to my family. I must talk it over with Katherine; she is great on those things.
Morten Kiil. That is right; be guided by a reasonable woman's advice.
Dr. Stockmann (advancing towards him). To think you could do such a preposterous thing! Risking Katherine's money in this way, and putting me in such a horribly painful dilemma! When I look at you, I think I see the devil himself — .
Morten Kiil. Then I had better go. But I must have an answer from you before two o'clock — yes or no. If it is no, the shares go to a charity, and that this very day.
Dr. Stockmann. And what does Katherine get?
Morten Kiil. Not a halfpenny. (The door leading to the hall opens, and HOVSTAD and ASLAKSEN make their appearance.) Look at those two!
Dr. Stockmann (staring at them). What the devil! — have YOU actually the face to come into my house?
Aslaksen. We have something to say to you, you see.
Morten Kiil (in a whisper). Yes or no — before two o'clock.
Aslaksen (glancing at HOVSTAD). Aha! (MORTEN KIIL goes out.)
Dr. Stockmann. Well, what do you want with me? Be brief.
Hovstad. I can quite understand that you are annoyed with us for our attitude at the meeting yesterday.
Dr. Stockmann. Attitude, do you call it? Yes, it was a charming attitude! I call it weak, womanish — damnably shameful!
Hovstad. Call it what you like, we could not do otherwise.
Dr. Stockmann. You DARED not do otherwise — isn't that it?
Hovstad. Well, if you like to put it that way.
Aslaksen. But why did you not let us have word of it beforehand? — just a hint to Mr. Hovstad or to me?
Dr. Stockmann. A hint? Of what?
Aslaksen. Of what was behind it all.
Dr. Stockmann. I don't understand you in the least —
Aslaksen (with a confidential nod). Oh yes, you do, Dr. Stockmann.
Hovstad. It is no good making a mystery of it any longer.
Dr. Stockmann (looking first at one of them and then at the other). What the devil do you both mean?
Aslaksen. May I ask if your father-in-law is not going round the town buying up all the shares in the Baths?
Dr. Stockmann. Yes, he has been buying Baths shares today; but —
Aslaksen. It would have been more prudent to get someone else to do it — someone less nearly related to you.
Hovstad. And you should not have let your name appear in the affair. There was no need for anyone to know that the attack on the Baths came from you. You ought to have consulted me, Dr. Stockmann.
Dr. Stockmann (looks in front of him; then a light seems to dawn on him and he says in amazement.) Are such things conceivable? Are such things possible?
Aslaksen (with a smile). Evidently they are. But it is better to use a little finesse, you know.
Hovstad. And it is much better to have several persons in a thing of that sort; because the responsibility of each individual is lessened, when there are others with him.
Dr. Stockmann (composedly). Come to the point, gentlemen. What do you want?
Aslaksen. Perhaps Mr. Hovstad had better —
Hovstad. No, you tell him, Aslaksen.
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 you.
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' Association?
Aslaksen. Yes, and for the Temperance Society. You may rely on that.
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 hare.
Hovstad. It is a natural law; every animal must fight for its own livelihood.
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 — !