[A spacious garden-room, with one door to the left, and two doors to the right. In the middle of the room a round table, with chairs about it. On the table lie books, periodicals, and newspapers. In the foreground to the left a window, and by it a small sofa, with a worktable in front of it. In the background, the room is continued into a somewhat narrower conservatory, the walls of which are formed by large panes of glass. In the right-hand wall of the conservatory is a door leading down into the garden. Through the glass wall a gloomy fjord landscape is faintly visible, veiled by steady rain.]
[ENGSTRAND, the carpenter, stands by the garden door. His left leg is somewhat bent; he has a clump of wood under the sole of his boot. REGINA, with an empty garden syringe in her hand, hinders him from advancing.]
REGINA. [In a low voice.] What do you want? Stop where you are. You're positively dripping.
ENGSTRAND. It's the Lord's own rain, my girl.
REGINA. It's the devil's rain, I say.
ENGSTRAND. Lord, how you talk, Regina. [Limps a step or two forward into the room.] It's just this as I wanted to say--
REGINA. Don't clatter so with that foot of yours, I tell you! The young master's asleep upstairs.
ENGSTRAND. Asleep? In the middle of the day?
REGINA. It's no business of yours.
ENGSTRAND. I was out on the loose last night--
REGINA. I can quite believe that.
ENGSTRAND. Yes, we're weak vessels, we poor mortals, my girl--
REGINA. So it seems.
ENGSTRAND. --and temptations are manifold in this world, you see. But all the same, I was hard at work, God knows, at half-past five this morning.
REGINA. Very well; only be off now. I won't stop here and have rendezvous's [Note: This and other French words by Regina are in that language in the original] with you.
ENGSTRAND. What do you say you won't have?
REGINA. I won't have any one find you here; so just you go about your business.
ENGSTRAND. [Advances a step or two.] Blest if I go before I've had a talk with you. This afternoon I shall have finished my work at the school house, and then I shall take to-night's boat and be off home to the town.
REGINA. [Mutters.] Pleasant journey to you!
ENGSTRAND. Thank you, my child. To-morrow the Orphanage is to be opened, and then there'll be fine doings, no doubt, and plenty of intoxicating drink going, you know. And nobody shall say of Jacob Engstrand that he can't keep out of temptation's way.
ENGSTRAND. You see, there's to be heaps of grand folks here to-morrow. Pastor Manders is expected from town, too.
REGINA. He's coming to-day.
ENGSTRAND. There, you see! And I should be cursedly sorry if he found out anything against me, don't you understand?
REGINA. Oho! is that your game?
ENGSTRAND. Is what my game?
REGINA. [Looking hard at him.] What are you going to fool Pastor Manders into doing, this time?
ENGSTRAND. Sh! sh! Are you crazy? Do I want to fool Pastor Manders? Oh no! Pastor Manders has been far too good a friend to me for that. But I just wanted to say, you know--that I mean to be off home again to-night.
REGINA. The sooner the better, say I.
ENGSTRAND. Yes, but I want you with me, Regina.
REGINA. [Open-mouthed.] You want me--? What are you talking about?
ENGSTRAND. I want you to come home with me, I say.
REGINA. [Scornfully.] Never in this world shall you get me home with you.
ENGSTRAND. Oh, we'll see about that.
REGINA. Yes, you may be sure we'll see about it! Me, that have been brought up by a lady like Mrs Alving! Me, that am treated almost as a daughter here! Is it me you want to go home with you?--to a house like yours? For shame!
ENGSTRAND. What the devil do you mean? Do you set yourself up against your father, you hussy?
REGINA. [Mutters without looking at him.] You've sail often enough I was no concern of yours.
ENGSTRAND. Pooh! Why should you bother about that--
REGINA. Haven't you many a time sworn at me and called me a--? Fi donc!
ENGSTRAND. Curse me, now, if ever I used such an ugly word.
REGINA. Oh, I remember very well what word you used.
ENGSTRAND. Well, but that was only when I was a bit on, don't you know? Temptations are manifold in this world, Regina.
ENGSTRAND. And besides, it was when your mother was that aggravating--I had to find something to twit her with, my child. She was always setting up for a fine lady. [Mimics.] "Let me go, Engstrand; let me be. Remember I was three years in Chamberlain Alving's family at Rosenvold." [Laughs.] Mercy on us! She could never forget that the Captain was made a Chamberlain while she was in service here.
REGINA. Poor mother! you very soon tormented her into her grave.
ENGSTRAND. [With a twist of his shoulders.] Oh, of course! I'm to have the blame for everything.
REGINA. [Turns away; half aloud.] Ugh--! And that leg too!
ENGSTRAND. What do you say, my child?
REGINA. Pied de mouton.
ENGSTRAND. Is that English, eh?
ENGSTRAND. Ay, ay; you've picked up some learning out here; and that may come in useful now, Regina.
REGINA. [After a short silence.] What do you want with me in town?
ENGSTRAND. Can you ask what a father wants with his only child? A'n't I a lonely, forlorn widower?
REGINA. Oh, don't try on any nonsense like that with me! Why do you want me?
ENGSTRAND. Well, let me tell you, I've been thinking of setting up in a new line of business.
REGINA. [Contemptuously.] You've tried that often enough, and much good you've done with it.
ENGSTRAND. Yes, but this time you shall see, Regina! Devil take me--
REGINA. [Stamps.] Stop your swearing!
ENGSTRAND. Hush, hush; you're right enough there, my girl. What I wanted to say was just this--I've laid by a very tidy pile from this Orphanage job.
REGINA. Have you? That's a good thing for you.
ENGSTRAND. What can a man spend his ha'pence on here in this country hole?
REGINA. Well, what then?
ENGSTRAND. Why, you see, I thought of putting the money into some paying speculation. I thought of a sort of a sailor's tavern--
ENGSTRAND. A regular high-class affair, of course; not any sort of pig-sty for common sailors. No! damn it! it would be for captains and mates, and--and--regular swells, you know.
REGINA. And I was to--?
ENGSTRAND. You were to help, to be sure. Only for the look of the thing, you understand. Devil a bit of hard work shall you have, my girl. You shall do exactly what you like.
REGINA. Oh, indeed!
ENGSTRAND. But there must be a petticoat in the house; that's as clear as daylight. For I want to have it a bit lively like in the evenings, with singing and dancing, and so on. You must remember they're weary wanderers on the ocean of life. [Nearer.] Now don't be a fool and stand in your own light, Regina. What's to become of you out here? Your mistress has given you a lot of learning; but what good is that to you? You're to look after the children at the new Orphanage, I hear. Is that the sort of thing for you, eh? Are you so dead set on wearing your life out for a pack of dirty brats?
REGINA. No; if things go as I want them to--Well there's no saying-- there's no saying.
ENGSTRAND. What do you mean by "there's no saying"?
REGINA. Never you mind.--How much money have you saved?
ENGSTRAND. What with one thing and another, a matter of seven or eight hundred crowns. [A "krone" is equal to one shilling and three-halfpence.]
REGINA. That's not so bad.
ENGSTRAND. It's enough to make a start with, my girl.
REGINA. Aren't you thinking of giving me any?
ENGSTRAND. No, I'm blest if I am!
REGINA. Not even of sending me a scrap of stuff for a new dress?
ENGSTRAND. Come to town with me, my lass, and you'll soon get dresses enough.
REGINA. Pooh! I can do that on my own account, if I want to.
ENGSTRAND. No, a father's guiding hand is what you want, Regina. Now, I've got my eye on a capital house in Little Harbour Street. They don't want much ready-money; and it could be a sort of a Sailors' Home, you know.
REGINA. But I will not live with you! I have nothing whatever to do with you. Be off!
ENGSTRAND. You wouldn't stop long with me, my girl. No such luck! If you knew how to play your cards, such a fine figure of a girl as you've grown in the last year or two--
ENGSTRAND. You'd soon get hold of some mate--or maybe even a captain--
REGINA. I won't marry any one of that sort. Sailors have no savoir vivre.
ENGSTRAND. What's that they haven't got?
REGINA. I know what sailors are, I tell you. They're not the sort of people to marry.
ENGSTRAND. Then never mind about marrying them. You can make it pay all the same. [More confidentially.] He--the Englishman--the man with the yacht--he came down with three hundred dollars, he did; and she wasn't a bit handsomer than you.
REGINA. [Making for him.] Out you go!
ENGSTRAND. [Falling back.] Come, come! You're not going to hit me, I hope.
REGINA. Yes, if you begin talking about mother I shall hit you. Get away with you, I say! [Drives him back towards the garden door.] And don't slam the doors. Young Mr. Alving--
ENGSTRAND. He's asleep; I know. You're mightily taken up about young Mr. Alving--[More softly.] Oho! you don't mean to say it's him as--?
REGINA. Be off this minute! You're crazy, I tell you! No, not that way. There comes Pastor Manders. Down the kitchen stairs with you.
ENGSTRAND. [Towards the right.] Yes, yes, I'm going. But just you talk to him as is coming there. He's the man to tell you what a child owes its father. For I am your father all the same, you know. I can prove it from the church register.
[He goes out through the second door to the right, which REGINA has opened, and closes again after him. REGINA glances hastily at herself in the mirror, dusts herself with her pocket handkerchief; and settles her necktie; then she busies herself with the flowers.]
[PASTOR MANDERS, wearing an overcoat, carrying an umbrella, and with a small travelling-bag on a strap over his shoulder, comes through the garden door into the conservatory.]
MANDERS. Good-morning, Miss Engstrand.
REGINA. [Turning round, surprised and pleased.] No, really! Good morning, Pastor Manders. Is the steamer in already?
MANDERS. It is just in. [Enters the sitting-room.] Terrible weather we have been having lately.
REGINA. [Follows him.] It's such blessed weather for the country, sir.
MANDERS. No doubt; you are quite right. We townspeople give too little thought to that. [He begins to take of his overcoat.]
REGINA. Oh, mayn't I help you?--There! Why, how wet it is? I'll just hang it up in the hall. And your umbrella, too--I'll open it and let it dry.
[She goes out with the things through the second door on the right. PASTOR MANDERS takes off his travelling bag and lays it and his hat on a chair. Meanwhile REGINA comes in again.]
MANDERS. Ah, it's a comfort to get safe under cover. I hope everything is going on well here?
REGINA. Yes, thank you, sir.
MANDERS. You have your hands full, I suppose, in preparation for to-morrow?
REGINA. Yes, there's plenty to do, of course.
MANDERS. And Mrs. Alving is at home, I trust?
REGINA. Oh dear, yes. She's just upstairs, looking after the young master's chocolate.
MANDERS. Yes, by-the-bye--I heard down at the pier that Oswald had arrived.
REGINA. Yes, he came the day before yesterday. We didn't expect him before to-day.
MANDERS. Quite strong and well, I hope?
REGINA. Yes, thank you, quite; but dreadfully tired with the journey. He has made one rush right through from Paris--the whole way in one train, I believe. He's sleeping a little now, I think; so perhaps we'd better talk a little quietly.
MANDERS. Sh!--as quietly as you please.
REGINA. [Arranging an arm-chair beside the table.] Now, do sit down, Pastor Manders, and make yourself comfortable. [He sits down; she places a footstool under his feet.] There! Are you comfortable now, sir?
MANDERS. Thanks, thanks, extremely so. [Looks at her.] Do you know, Miss Engstrand, I positively believe you have grown since I last saw you.
REGINA. Do you think so, Sir? Mrs. Alving says I've filled out too.
MANDERS. Filled out? Well, perhaps a little; just enough.
REGINA. Shall I tell Mrs. Alving you are here?
MANDERS. Thanks, thanks, there is no hurry, my dear child.-- By-the-bye, Regina, my good girl, tell me: how is your father getting on out here?
REGINA. Oh, thank you, sir, he's getting on well enough.
MANDERS. He called upon me last time he was in town.
REGINA. Did he, indeed? He's always so glad of a chance of talking to you, sir.
MANDERS. And you often look in upon him at his work, I daresay?
REGINA. I? Oh, of course, when I have time, I--
MANDERS. Your father is not a man of strong character, Miss Engstrand. He stands terribly in need of a guiding hand.
REGINA. Oh, yes; I daresay he does.
MANDERS. He requires some one near him whom he cares for, and whose judgment he respects. He frankly admitted as much when he last came to see me.
REGINA. Yes, he mentioned something of the sort to me. But I don't know whether Mrs. Alving can spare me; especially now that we've got the new Orphanage to attend to. And then I should be so sorry to leave Mrs. Alving; she has always been so kind to me.
MANDERS. But a daughter's duty, my good girl--Of course, we should first have to get your mistress's consent.
REGINA. But I don't know whether it would be quite proper for me, at my age, to keep house for a single man.
MANDERS. What! My dear Miss Engstrand! When the man is your own father!
REGINA. Yes, that may be; but all the same--Now, if it were in a thoroughly nice house, and with a real gentleman--
MANDERS. Why, my dear Regina--
REGINA. --one I could love and respect, and be a daughter to--
MANDERS. Yes, but my dear, good child--
REGINA. Then I should be glad to go to town. It's very lonely out here; you know yourself, sir, what it is to be alone in the world. And I can assure you I'm both quick and willing. Don't you know of any such place for me, sir?
MANDERS. I? No, certainly not.
REGINA. But, dear, dear Sir, do remember me if--
MANDERS. [Rising.] Yes, yes, certainly, Miss Engstrand.
REGINA. For if I--
MANDERS. Will you be so good as to tell your mistress I am here?
REGINA. I will, at once, sir. [She goes out to the left.]
MANDERS. [Paces the room two or three times, stands a moment in the background with his hands behind his back, and looks out over the garden. Then he returns to the table, takes up a book, and looks at the title-page; starts, and looks at several books.] Ha--indeed!
[MRS. ALVING enters by the door on the left; she is followed by REGINA, who immediately goes out by the first door on the right.]
MRS. ALVING. [Holds out her hand.] Welcome, my dear Pastor.
MANDERS. How do you do, Mrs. Alving? Here I am as I promised.
MRS. ALVING. Always punctual to the minute.
MANDERS. You may believe it was not so easy for me to get away. With all the Boards and Committees I belong to--
MRS. ALVING. That makes it all the kinder of you to come so early. Now we can get through our business before dinner. But where is your portmanteau?
MANDERS. [Quickly.] I left it down at the inn. I shall sleep there to-night.
MRS. ALVING. [Suppressing a smile.] Are you really not to be persuaded, even now, to pass the night under my roof?
MANDERS. No, no, Mrs. Alving; many thanks. I shall stay at the inn, as usual. It is so conveniently near the landing-stage.
MRS. ALVING. Well, you must have your own way. But I really should have thought we two old people--
MANDERS. Now you are making fun of me. Ah, you're naturally in great spirits to-day--what with to-morrow's festival and Oswald's return.
MRS. ALVING. Yes; you can think what a delight it is to me! It's more than two years since he was home last. And now he has promised to stay with me all the winter.
MANDERS. Has he really? That is very nice and dutiful of him. For I can well believe that life in Rome and Paris has very different attractions from any we can offer here.
MRS. ALVING. Ah, but here he has his mother, you see. My own darling boy--he hasn't forgotten his old mother!
MANDERS. It would be grievous indeed, if absence and absorption in art and that sort of thing were to blunt his natural feelings.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, you may well say so. But there's nothing of that sort to fear with him. I'm quite curious to see whether you know him again. He'll be down presently; he's upstairs just now, resting a little on the sofa. But do sit down, my dear Pastor.
MANDERS. Thank you. Are you quite at liberty--?
MRS. ALVING. Certainly. [She sits by the table.]
MANDERS. Very well. Then let me show you--[He goes to the chair where his travelling-bag lies, takes out a packet of papers, sits down on the opposite side of the table, and tries to find a clear space for the papers.] Now, to begin with, here is--[Breaking off.] Tell me, Mrs. Alving, how do these books come to be here?
MRS. ALVING. These books? They are books I am reading.
MANDERS. Do you read this sort of literature?
MRS. ALVING. Certainly I do.
MANDERS. Do you feel better or happier for such reading?
MRS. ALVING. I feel, so to speak, more secure.
MANDERS. That is strange. How do you mean?
MRS. ALVING. Well, I seem to find explanation and confirmation of all sorts of things I myself have been thinking. For that is the wonderful part of it, Pastor Minders--there is really nothing new in these books, nothing but what most people think and believe. Only most people either don't formulate it to themselves, or else keep quiet about it.
MANDERS. Great heavens! Do you really believe that most people--?
MRS. ALVING. I do, indeed.
MANDERS. But surely not in this country? Not here among us?
MRS. ALVING. Yes, certainly; here as elsewhere.
MANDERS. Well, I really must say--!
MRS. ALVING. For the rest, what do you object to in these books?
MANDERS. Object to in them? You surely do not suppose that I have nothing better to do than to study such publications as these?
MRS. ALVING. That is to say, you know nothing of what you are condemning?
MANDERS. I have read enough about these writings to disapprove of them.
MRS. ALVING. Yes; but your own judgment--
MANDERS. My dear Mrs. Alving, there are many occasions in life when one must rely upon others. Things are so ordered in this world; and it is well that they are. Otherwise, what would become of society?
MRS. ALVING. Well, well, I daresay you're right there.
MANDERS. Besides, I of course do not deny that there may be much that is attractive in such books. Nor can I blame you for wishing to keep up with the intellectual movements that are said to be going on in the great world-where you have let your son pass so much of his life. But--
MRS. ALVING. But?
MANDERS. [Lowering his voice.] But one should not talk about it, Mrs. Alving. One is certainly not bound to account to everybody for what one reads and thinks within one's own four walls.
MRS. ALVING. Of course not; I quite agree with you.
MANDERS. Only think, now, how you are bound to consider the interests of this Orphanage, which you decided on founding at a time when--if I understand you rightly--you thought very differently on spiritual matters.
MRS. ALVING. Oh, yes; I quite admit that. But it was about the Orphanage--
MANDERS. It was about the Orphanage we were to speak; yes. All I say is: prudence, my dear lady! And now let us get to business. [Opens the packet, and takes out a number of papers.] Do you see these?
MRS. ALVING. The documents?
MANDERS. All--and in perfect order. I can tell you it was hard work to get them in time. I had to put on strong pressure. The authorities are almost morbidly scrupulous when there is any decisive step to be taken. But here they are at last. [Looks through the bundle.] See! here is the formal deed of gift of the parcel of ground known as Solvik in the Manor of Rosenvold, with all the newly constructed buildings, schoolrooms, master's house, and chapel. And here is the legal fiat for the endowment and for the Bye-laws of the Institution. Will you look at them? [Reads.] "Bye-laws for the Children's Home to be known as 'Captain Alving's Foundation.'"
MRS. ALVING. (Looks long at the paper.) So there it is.
MANDERS. I have chosen the designation "Captain" rather than "Chamberlain." "Captain" looks less pretentious.
MRS. ALVING. Oh, yes; just as you think best.
MANDERS. And here you have the Bank Account of the capital lying at interest to cover the current expenses of the Orphanage.
MRS. ALVING. Thank you; but please keep it--it will be more convenient.
MANDERS. With pleasure. I think we will leave the money in the Bank for the present. The interest is certainly not what we could wish-- four per cent. and six months' notice of withdrawal. If a good mortgage could be found later on--of course it must be a first mortgage and an unimpeachable security--then we could consider the matter.
MRS. ALVING. Certainly, my dear Pastor Manders. You are the best judge in these things.
MANDERS. I will keep my eyes open at any rate.--But now there is one thing more which I have several times been intending to ask you.
MRS. ALVING. And what is that?
MANDERS. Shall the Orphanage buildings be insured or not?
MRS. ALVING. Of course they must be insured.
MANDERS. Well, wait a moment, Mrs. Alving. Let us look into the matter a little more closely.
MRS. ALVING. I have everything insured; buildings and movables and stock and crops.
MANDERS. Of course you have--on your own estate. And so have I--of course. But here, you see, it is quite another matter. The Orphanage is to be consecrated, as it were, to a higher purpose.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, but that's no reason--
MANDERS. For my own part, I should certainly not see the smallest impropriety in guarding against all contingencies--
MRS. ALVING. No, I should think not.
MANDERS. But what is the general feeling in the neighbourhood? You, of course, know better than I.
MRS. ALVING. Well--the general feeling--
MANDERS. Is there any considerable number of people--really responsible people--who might be scandalised?
MRS. ALVING. What do you mean by "really responsible people"?
MANDERS. Well, I mean people in such independent and influential positions that one cannot help attaching some weight to their opinions.
MRS. ALVING. There are several people of that sort here, who would very likely be shocked if--
MANDERS. There, you see! In town we have many such people. Think of all my colleague's adherents! People would be only too ready to interpret our action as a sign that neither you nor I had the right faith in a Higher Providence.
MRS. ALVING. But for your own part, my dear Pastor, you can at least tell yourself that--
MANDERS. Yes, I know--I know; my conscience would be quite easy, that is true enough. But nevertheless we should not escape grave misinterpretation; and that might very likely react unfavourably upon the Orphanage.
MRS. ALVING. Well, in that case--
MANDERS. Nor can I entirely lose sight of the difficult--I may even say painful--position in which I might perhaps be placed. In the leading circles of the town, people take a lively interest in this Orphanage. It is, of course, founded partly for the benefit of the town, as well; and it is to be hoped it will, to a considerable extent, result in lightening our Poor Rates. Now, as I have been your adviser, and have had the business arrangements in my hands, I cannot but fear that I may have to bear the brunt of fanaticism--
MRS. ALVING. Oh, you mustn't run the risk of that.
MANDERS. To say nothing of the attacks that would assuredly be made upon me in certain papers and periodicals, which--
MRS. ALVING. Enough, my dear Pastor Manders. That consideration is quite decisive.
MANDERS. Then you do not wish the Orphanage to be insured?
MRS. ALVING. No. We will let it alone.
MANDERS. [Leaning hack in his chair.] But if, now, a disaster were to happen? One can never tell--Should you be able to make good the damage?
MRS. ALVING. No; I tell you plainly I should do nothing of the kind.
MANDERS. Then I must tell you, Mrs. Alving--we are taking no small responsibility upon ourselves.
MRS. ALVING. Do you think we can do otherwise?
MANDERS. No, that is just the point; we really cannot do otherwise. We ought not to expose ourselves to misinterpretation; and we have no right whatever to give offence to the weaker brethren.
MRS. ALVING. You, as a clergyman, certainly should not.
MANDERS. I really think, too, we may trust that such an institution has fortune on its side; in fact, that it stands under a special providence.
MRS. ALVING. Let us hope so, Pastor Manders.
MANDERS. Then we will let it take its chance?
MRS. ALVING. Yes, certainly.
MANDERS. Very well. So be it. [Makes a note.] Then--no insurance.
MRS. ALVING. It's odd that you should just happen to mention the matter to-day--
MANDERS. I have often thought of asking you about it--
MRS. ALVING. --for we very nearly had a fire down there yesterday.
MANDERS. You don't say so!
MRS. ALVING. Oh, it was a trifling matter. A heap of shavings had caught fire in the carpenter's workshop.
MANDERS. Where Engstrand works?
MRS. ALVING. Yes. They say he's often very careless with matches.
MANDERS. He has so much on his mind, that man--so many things to fight against. Thank God, he is now striving to lead a decent life, I hear.
MRS. ALVING. Indeed! Who says so?
MANDERS. He himself assures me of it. And he is certainly a capital workman.
MRS. ALVING. Oh, yes; so long as he's sober--
MANDERS. Ah, that melancholy weakness! But, a is often driven to it by his injured leg, lie says,' Last time he was in town I was really touched by him. He came and thanked me so warmly for having got him work here, so that he might be near Regina.
MRS. ALVING. He doesn't see much of her.
MANDERS. Oh, yes; he has a talk with her every day. He told me so himself.
MRS. ALVING. Well, it may be so.
MANDERS. He feels so acutely that he needs some one to keep a firm hold on him when temptation comes. That is what I cannot help liking about Jacob Engstrand: he comes to you so helplessly, accusing himself and confessing his own weakness. The last time he was talking to me--Believe me, Mrs. Alving, supposing it were a real necessity for him to have Regina home again--
MRS. ALVING. [Rising hastily.] Regina!
MANDERS. --you must not set yourself against it.
MRS. ALVING. Indeed I shall set myself against it. And besides-- Regina is to have a position in the Orphanage.
MANDERS. But, after all, remember he is her father--
MRS. ALVING. Oh, I know very well what sort of a father he has been to her. No! She shall never go to him with my goodwill.
MANDERS. [Rising.] My dear lady, don't take the matter so warmly. You sadly misjudge poor Engstrand. You seem to be quite terrified--
MRS. ALVING. [More quietly.] It makes no difference. I have taken Regina into my house, and there she shall stay. [Listens.] Hush, my dear Mr. Manders; say no more about it. [Her face lights up with gladness.] Listen! there is Oswald coming downstairs. Now we'll think of no one but him.
[OSWALD ALVING, in a light overcoat, hat in hand, and smoking a large meerschaum, enters by the door on the left; he stops in the doorway.]
OSWALD. Oh, I beg your pardon; I thought you were in the study. [Comes forward.] Good-morning, Pastor Manders.
MANDERS. [Staring.] Ah--! How strange--!
MRS. ALVING. Well now, what do you think of him, Mr. Manders?
MANDERS. I--I--can it really be--?
OSWALD. Yes, it's really the Prodigal Son, sir.
MANDERS. [Protesting.] My dear young friend--
OSWALD. Well, then, the Lost Sheep Found.
MRS. ALVING. Oswald is thinking of the time when you were so much opposed to his becoming a painter.
MANDERS. To our human eyes many a step seems dubious, which afterwards proves--[Wrings his hand.] But first of all, welcome, welcome home! Do not think, my dear Oswald--I suppose I may call you by your Christian name?
OSWALD. What else should you call me?
MANDERS. Very good. What I wanted to say was this, my dear Oswald you must not think that I utterly condemn the artist's calling. I have no doubt there are many who can keep their inner self unharmed in that profession, as in any other.
OSWALD. Let us hope so.
MRS. ALVING. [Beaming with delight.] I know one who has kept both his inner and his outer self unharmed. Just look at him, Mr. Manders.
OSWALD. [Moves restlessly about the room.] Yes, yes, my dear mother; let's say no more about it.
MANDERS. Why, certainly--that is undeniable. And you have begun to make a name for yourself already. The newspapers have often spoken of you, most favourably. Just lately, by-the-bye, I fancy I haven't seen your name quite so often.
OSWALD. [Up in the conservatory.] I haven't been able to paint so much lately.
MRS. ALVING. Even a painter needs a little rest now and then.
MANDERS. No doubt, no doubt. And meanwhile he can be preparing himself and mustering his forces for some great work.
OSWALD. Yes.--Mother, will dinner soon be ready?
MRS. ALVING. In less than half an hour. He has a capital appetite, thank God.
MANDERS. And a taste for tobacco, too.
OSWALD. I found my father's pipe in my room--
MANDERS. Aha--then that accounts for it!
MRS. ALVING. For what?
MANDERS. When Oswald appeared there, in the doorway, with the pipe in his mouth, I could have sworn I saw his father, large as life.
OSWALD. No, really?
MRS. ALVING. Oh, how can you say so? Oswald takes after me.
MANDERS. Yes, but there is an expression about the corners of the mouth--something about the lips--that reminds one exactly of Alving: at any rate, now that he is smoking.
MRS. ALVING. Not in the least. Oswald has rather a clerical curve about his mouth, I think.
MANDERS. Yes, yes; some of my colleagues have much the same expression.
MRS. ALVING. But put your pipe away, my dear boy; I won't have smoking in here.
OSWALD. [Does so.] By all means. I only wanted to try it; for I once smoked it when I was a child.
MRS. ALVING. You?
OSWALD. Yes. I was quite small at the time. I recollect I came up to father's room one evening when he was in great spirits.
MRS. ALVING. Oh, you can't recollect anything of those times.
OSWALD. Yes, I recollect it distinctly. He took me on his knee, and gave me the pipe. "Smoke, boy," he said; "smoke away, boy!" And I smoked as hard as I could, until I felt I was growing quite pale, and the perspiration stood in great drops on my forehead. Then he burst out laughing heartily--
MANDERS. That was most extraordinary.
MRS. ALVING. My dear friend, it's only something Oswald has dreamt.
OSWALD. No, mother, I assure you I didn't dream it. For--don't you remember this?--you came and carried me out into the nursery. Then I was sick, and I saw that you were crying.--Did father often play such practical jokes?
MANDERS. In his youth he overflowed with the joy of life--
OSWALD. And yet he managed to do so much in the world; so much that was good and useful; although he died so early.
MANDERS. Yes, you have inherited the name of an energetic and admirable man, my dear Oswald Alving. No doubt it will be an incentive to you--
OSWALD. It ought to, indeed.
MANDERS. It was good of you to come home for the ceremony in his honour.
OSWALD. I could do no less for my father.
MRS. ALVING. And I am to keep him so long! That is the best of all.
MANDERS. You are going to pass the winter at home, I hear.
OSWALD. My stay is indefinite, sir.-But, ah! it is good to be at home!
MRS. ALVING. [Beaming.] Yes, isn't it, dear?
MANDERS. [Looking sympathetically at him.] You went out into the world early, my dear Oswald.
OSWALD. I did. I sometimes wonder whether it wasn't too early.
MRS. ALVING. Oh, not at all. A healthy lad is all the better for it; especially when he's an only child. He oughtn't to hang on at home with his mother and father, and get spoilt.
MANDERS. That is a very disputable point, Mrs. Alving. A child's proper place is, and must be, the home of his fathers.
OSWALD. There I quite agree with you, Pastor Manders.
MANDERS. Only look at your own son--there is no reason why we should not say it in his presence--what has the consequence been for him? He is six or seven and twenty, and has never had the opportunity of learning what a well-ordered home really is.
OSWALD. I beg your pardon, Pastor; there you're quite mistaken.
MANDERS. Indeed? I thought you had lived almost exclusively in artistic circles.
OSWALD. So I have.
MANDERS. And chiefly among the younger artists?
OSWALD. Yes, certainly.
MANDERS. But I thought few of those young fellows could afford to set up house and support a family.
OSWALD. There are many who cannot afford to marry, sir.
MANDERS. Yes, that is just what I say.
OSWALD. But they may have a home for all that. And several of them have, as a matter of fact; and very pleasant, well-ordered homes they are, too.
[MRS. ALVING follows with breathless interest; nods, but says nothing.]
MANDERS. But I'm not talking of bachelors' quarters. By a "home" I understand the home of a family, where a man lives with his wife and children.
OSWALD. Yes; or with his children and his children's mother.
MANDERS. [Starts; clasps his hands.] But, good heavens--
MANDERS. Lives with--his children's mother!
OSWALD. Yes. Would you have him turn his children's mother out of doors?
MANDERS. Then it is illicit relations you are talking of! Irregular marriages, as people call them!
OSWALD. I have never noticed anything particularly irregular about the life these people lead.
MANDERS. But how is it possible that a--a young man or young woman with any decency of feeling can endure to live in that way?--in the eyes of all the world!
OSWALD. What are they to do? A poor young artist--a poor girl-- marriage costs a great deal. What are they to do?
MANDERS. What are they to do? Let me tell you, Mr. Alving, what they ought to do. They ought to exercise self-restraint from the first; that is what they ought to do.
OSWALD. That doctrine will scarcely go down with warm-blooded young people who love each other.
MRS. ALVING. No, scarcely!
MANDERS. [Continuing.] How can the authorities tolerate such things! Allow them to go on in the light of day! [Confronting MRS. ALVING.] Had I not cause to be deeply concerned about your son? In circles where open immorality prevails, and has even a sort of recognised position--!
OSWALD. Let me tell you, sir, that I have been in the habit of spending nearly all my Sundays in one or two such irregular homes--
MANDERS. Sunday of all days!
OSWALD. Isn't that the day to enjoy one's self? Well, never have I heard an offensive word, and still less have I witnessed anything that could be called immoral. No; do you know when and where I have come across immorality in artistic circles?
MANDERS. No, thank heaven, I don't!
OSWALD. Well, then, allow me to inform you. I have met with it when one or other of our pattern husbands and fathers has come to Paris to have a look round on his own account, and has done the artists the honour of visiting their humble haunts. They knew what was what. These gentlemen could tell us all about places and things we had never dreamt of.
MANDERS. What! Do you mean to say that respectable men from home here would--?
OSWALD. Have you never heard these respectable men, when they got home again, talking about the way in which immorality runs rampant abroad?
MANDERS. Yes, no doubt--
MRS. ALVING. I have too.
OSWALD. Well, you may take their word for it. They know what they are talking about! [Presses has hands to his head.] Oh! that that great, free, glorious life out there should be defiled in such a way!
MRS. ALVING. You mustn't get excited, Oswald. It's not good for you.
OSWALD. Yes; you're quite right, mother. It's bad for me, I know. You see, I'm wretchedly worn out. I shall go for a little turn before dinner. Excuse me, Pastor: I know you can't take my point of view; but I couldn't help speaking out. [He goes out by the second door to the right.]
MRS. ALVING. My poor boy!
MANDERS. You may well say so. Then this is what he has come to!
[MRS. ALVING looks at him silently.]
MANDERS. [Walking up and down.] He called himself the Prodigal Son. Alas! alas!
[MRS. ALVING continues looking at him.]
MANDERS. And what do you say to all this?
MRS. ALVING. I say that Oswald was right in every word.
MANDERS. [Stands still.] Right? Right! In such principles?
MRS. ALVING. Here, in my loneliness, I have come to the same way of thinking, Pastor Manders. But I have never dared to say anything. Well! now my boy shall speak for me.
MANDERS. You are greatly to be pitied, Mrs. Alving. But now I must speak seriously to you. And now it is no longer your business manager and adviser, your own and your husband's early friend, who stands before you. It is the priest--the priest who stood before you in the moment of your life when you had gone farthest astray.
MRS. ALVING. And what has the priest to say to me?
MANDERS. I will first stir up your memory a little. The moment is well chosen. To-morrow will be the tenth anniversary of your husband's death. To-morrow the memorial in his honour will be unveiled. To-morrow I shall have to speak to the whole assembled multitude. But to-day I will speak to you alone.
MRS. ALVING. Very well, Pastor Manders. Speak.
MANDERS. Do you remember that after less than a year of married life you stood on the verge of an abyss? That you forsook your house and home? That you fled from your husband? Yes, Mrs. Alving--fled, fled, and refused to return to him, however much he begged and prayed you?
MRS. ALVING. Have you forgotten how infinitely miserable I was in that first year?
MANDERS. It is the very mark of the spirit of rebellion to crave for happiness in this life. What right have we human beings to happiness? We have simply to do our duty, Mrs. Alving! And your duty was to hold firmly to the man you had once chosen, and to whom you were bound by the holiest ties.
MRS. ALVING. You know very well what sort of life Alving was leading--what excesses he was guilty of.
MANDERS. I know very well what rumours there were about him; and I am the last to approve the life he led in his young days, if report did not wrong him. But a wife is not appointed to be her husband's judge. It was your duty to bear with humility the cross which a Higher Power had, in its wisdom, laid upon you. But instead of that you rebelliously throw away the cross, desert the backslider whom you should have supported, go and risk your good name and reputation, and--nearly succeed in ruining other people's reputation into the bargain.
MRS. ALVING. Other people's? One other person's, you mean.
MANDERS. It was incredibly reckless of you to seek refuge with me.
MRS. ALVING. With our clergyman? With our intimate friend?
MANDERS. Just on that account. Yes, you may thank God that I possessed the necessary firmness; that I succeeded in dissuading you from your wild designs; and that it was vouchsafed me to lead you back to the path of duty, and home to your lawful husband.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, Pastor Manders, that was certainly your work.
MANDERS. I was but a poor instrument in a Higher Hand. And what a blessing has it not proved to you, all the days of your life, that I induced you to resume the yoke of duty and obedience! Did not everything happen as I foretold? Did not Alving turn his back on his errors, as a man should? Did he not live with you from that time, lovingly and blamelessly, all his days? Did he not become a benefactor to the whole district? And did he not help you to rise to his own level, so that you, little by little, became his assistant in all his undertakings? And a capital assistant, too--oh, I know, Mrs. Alving, that praise is due to you.--But now I come to the next great error in your life.
MRS. ALVING. What do you mean?
MANDERS. Just as you once disowned a wife's duty, so you have since disowned a mother's.
MRS. ALVING. Ah--!
MANDERS. You have been all your life under the dominion of a pestilent spirit of self-will. The whole bias of your mind has been towards insubordination and lawlessness. You have never known how to endure any bond. Everything that has weighed upon you in life you have cast away without care or conscience, like a burden you were free to throw off at will. It did not please you to be a wife any longer, and you left your husband. You found it troublesome to be a mother, and you sent your child forth among strangers.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, that is true. I did so.
MANDERS. And thus you have become a stranger to him.
MRS. ALVING. No! no! I am not.
MANDERS. Yes, you are; you must be. And in what state of mind has he returned to you? Bethink yourself well, Mrs. Alving. You sinned greatly against your husband;--that you recognise by raising yonder memorial to him. Recognise now, also, how you have sinned against your son--there may yet be time to lead him back from the paths of error. Turn back yourself, and save what may yet be saved in him. For [With uplifted forefinger] verily, Mrs. Alving, you are a guilt-laden mother! This I have thought it my duty to say to you.
MRS. ALVING. [Slowly and with self-control.] You have now spoken out, Pastor Manders; and to-morrow you are to speak publicly in memory of my husband. I shall not speak to-morrow. But now I will speak frankly to you, as you have spoken to me.
MANDERS. To be sure; you will plead excuses for your conduct--
MRS. ALVING. No. I will only tell you a story.
MRS. ALVING. All that you have just said about my husband and me, and our life after you had brought me back to the path of duty--as you called it--about all that you know nothing from personal observation. From that moment you, who had been our intimate friend, never set foot in our house gain.
MANDERS. You and your husband left the town immediately after.
MRS. ALVING. Yes; and in my husband's lifetime you never came to see us. It was business that forced you to visit me when you undertook the affairs of the Orphanage.
MANDERS. [Softly and hesitatingly.] Helen--if that is meant as a reproach, I would beg you to bear in mind--
MRS. ALVING. --the regard you owed to your position, yes; and that I was a runaway wife. One can never be too cautious with such unprincipled creatures.
MANDERS. My dear--Mrs. Alving, you know that is an absurd exaggeration--
MRS. ALVING. Well well, suppose it is. My point is that your judgment as to my married life is founded upon nothing but common knowledge and report.
MANDERS. I admit that. What then?
MRS. ALVING. Well, then, Pastor Manders--I will tell you the truth. I have sworn to myself that one day you should know it--you alone!
MANDERS. What is the truth, then?
MRS. ALVING. The truth is that my husband died just as dissolute as he had lived all his days.
MANDERS. [Feeling after a chair.] What do you say?
MRS. ALVING. After nineteen years of marriage, as dissolute--in his desires at any rate--as he was before you married us.
MANDERS. And those-those wild oats--those irregularities--those excesses, if you like--you call "a dissolute life"?
MRS. ALVING. Our doctor used the expression.
MANDERS. I do not understand you.
MRS. ALVING. You need not.
MANDERS. It almost makes me dizzy. Your whole married life, the seeming union of all these years, was nothing more than a hidden abyss!
MRS. ALVING. Neither more nor less. Now you know it.
MANDERS. This is--this is inconceivable to me. I cannot grasp it! I cannot realise it! But how was it possible to--? How could such a state of things be kept secret?
MRS. ALVING. That has been my ceaseless struggle, day after day. After Oswald's birth, I thought Alving seemed to be a little better. But it did not last long. And then I had to struggle twice as hard, fighting as though for life or death, so that nobody should know what sort of man my child's father was. And you know what power Alving had of winning people's hearts. Nobody seemed able to believe anything but good of him. He was one of those people whose life does not bite upon their reputation. But at last, Mr. Manders--for you must know the whole story--the most repulsive thing of all happened.
MANDERS. More repulsive than what you have told me?
MRS. ALVING. I had gone on bearing with him, although I knew very well the secrets of his life out of doors. But when he brought the scandal within our own walls--
MANDERS. Impossible! Here!
MRS. ALVING. Yes; here in our own home. It was there [Pointing towards the first door on the right], in the dining-room, that I first came to know of it. I was busy with something in there, and the door was standing ajar. I heard our housemaid come up from the garden, with water for those flowers.
MRS. ALVING. Soon after, I heard Alving come in too. I heard him say something softly to her. And then I heard--[With a short laugh]--oh! it still sounds in my ears, so hateful and yet so ludicrous--I heard my own servant-maid whisper, "Let me go, Mr. Alving! Let me be!"
MANDERS. What unseemly levity on his part'! But it cannot have been more than levity, Mrs. Alving; believe me, it cannot.
MRS. ALVING. I soon knew what to believe. Mr. Alving had his way with the girl; and that connection had consequences, Mr. Manders.
MANDERS. [As though petrified.] Such things in this house--in this house!
MRS. ALVING. I had borne a great deal in this house. To keep him at home in the evenings, and at night, I had to make myself his boon companion in his secret orgies up in his room. There I have had to sit alone with him, to clink glasses and drink with him, and to listen to his ribald, silly talk. I have had to fight with him to get him dragged to bed--
MANDERS. [Moved.] And you were able to bear all this!
MRS. ALVING. I had to bear it for my little boy's sake. But when the last insult was added; when my own servant-maid--; then I swore to myself: This shall come to an end! And so I took the reins into my own hand--the whole control--over him and everything else. For now I had a weapon against him, you see; he dared not oppose me. It was then I sent Oswald away from home. He was nearly seven years old, and was beginning to observe and ask questions, as children do. That I could not bear. It seemed to me the child must be poisoned by merely breathing the air of this polluted home. That was why I sent him away. And now you can see, too, why he was never allowed to set foot inside his home so long as his father lived. No one knows what that cost me.
MANDERS. You have indeed had a life of trial.
MRS. ALVING. I could never have borne it if I had not had my work. For I may truly say that I have worked! All the additions to the estate--all the improvements--all the labour-saving appliances, that Alving was so much praised for having introduced--do you suppose he had energy for anything of the sort?--he, who lay all day on the sofa, reading an old Court Guide! No; but I may tell you this too: when he had his better intervals, it was I who urged him on; it was I who had to drag the whole load when he relapsed into his evil ways, or sank into querulous wretchedness.
MANDERS. And it is to this man that you raise a memorial?
MRS. ALVING. There you see the power of an evil conscience.
MANDERS. Evil--? What do you mean?
MRS. ALVING. It always seemed to me impossible but that the truth must come out and be believed. So the Orphanage was to deaden all rumours and set every doubt at rest.
MANDERS. In that you have certainly not missed your aim, Mrs. Alving.
MRS. ALVING. And besides, I had one other reason. I was determined that Oswald, my own boy, should inherit nothing whatever from his father.
MANDERS. Then it is Alving's fortune that--?
MRS. ALVING. Yes. The sums I have spent upon the Orphanage, year by year, make up the amount--I have reckoned it up precisely--the amount which made Lieutenant Alving "a good match" in his day.
MANDERS. I don't understand--
MRS. ALVING. It was my purchase-money. I do not choose that that money should pass into Oswald's hands. My son shall have everything from me--everything.
[OSWALD ALVING enters through the second door to the right; he has taken of his hat and overcoat in the hall.]
MRS. ALVING. [Going towards him.] Are you back again already? My dear, dear boy!
OSWALD. Yes. What can a fellow do out of doors in this eternal rain? But I hear dinner is ready. That's capital!
REGINA. [With a parcel, from the dining-room.] A parcel has come for you, Mrs. Alving. [Hands it to her.]
MRS. ALVING. [With a glance at MR. MANDERS.] No doubt copies of the ode for to-morrow's ceremony.
REGINA. And dinner is ready.
MRS. ALVING. Very well. We will come directly. I will just--[Begins to open the parcel.]
REGINA. [To OSWALD.] Would Mr. Alving like red or white wine?
OSWALD. Both, if you please.
REGINA. Bien. Very well, sir. [She goes into the dining-room.]
OSWALD. I may as well help to uncork it. [He also goes into the dining room, the door of which swings half open behind him.]
MRS. ALVING. [Who has opened the parcel.] Yes, I thought so. Here is the Ceremonial Ode, Pastor Manders.
MANDERS. [With folded hands.] With what countenance I am to deliver my discourse to-morrow--!
MRS. ALVING. Oh, you will get through it somehow.
MANDERS. [Softly, so as not to be heard in the dining-room.] Yes; it would not do to provoke scandal.
MRS. ALVING. [Under her breath, but firmly.] No. But then this long, hateful comedy will be ended. From the day after to-morrow, I shall act in every way as though he who is dead had never lived in this house. There shall be no one here but my boy and his mother.
[From the dining-room comes the noise of a chair overturned, and at the same moment is heard:]
REGINA. [Sharply, but in a whisper.] Oswald! take care! are you mad? Let me go!
MRS. ALVING. [Starts in terror.] Ah--!
[She stares wildly towards the half-open door. OSWALD is heard laughing and humming. A bottle is uncorked.]
MANDERS. [Agitated.] What can be the matter? What is it, Mrs. Alving?
MRS. ALVING. [Hoarsely.] Ghosts! The couple from the conservatory-- risen again!
MANDERS. Is it possible! Regina--? Is she--?
MRS. ALVING. Yes. Come. Not a word--!
[She seizes PASTOR MANDERS by the arm, and walks unsteadily towards the dining-room.]