(SCENE.—A large room looking upon a garden door in the left-hand wall, and two in the right. In the middle of the room, a round table with chairs set about it, and books, magazines and newspapers upon it. In the foreground on the left, a window, by which is a small sofa with a work-table in front of it. At the back the room opens into a conservatory rather smaller than the room. From the right-hand side of this, a door leads to the garden. Through the large panes of glass that form the outer wall of the conservatory, a gloomy fjord landscape can be discerned, half-obscured by steady rain.
ENGSTRAND is standing close to the garden door. His left leg is slightly deformed, and he wears a boot with a clump of wood under the sole. REGINA, with an empty garden-syringe in her hand, is trying to prevent his coming in.)
Regina (below her breath). What is it you want? Stay where you are. The rain is dripping off you.
Engstrand. God’s good rain, my girl.
Regina. The Devil’s own rain, that’s what it is!
Engstrand. Lord, how you talk, Regina. (Takes a few limping steps forward.) What I wanted to tell you was this—
Regina. Don’t clump about like that, stupid! The young master is lying asleep upstairs.
Engstrand. Asleep still? In the middle of the day?
Regina. Well, it’s no business of yours.
Engstrand. I was out on a spree last night—
Regina. I don’t doubt it.
Engstrand. Yes, we are poor weak mortals, my girl—
Regina. We are indeed.
Engstrand. —and the temptations of the world are manifold, you know—but, for all that, here I was at my work at half-past five this morning.
Regina. Yes, yes, but make yourself scarce now. I am not going to stand here as if I had a rendezvous with you.
Engstrand. As if you had a what?
Regina. I am not going to have anyone find you here; so now you know, and you can go.
Engstrand (coming a few steps nearer). Not a bit of it! Not before we have had a little chat. This afternoon I shall have finished my job down at the school house, and I shall be off home to town by tonight’s boat.
Regina (mutters). Pleasant journey to you!
Engstrand. Thanks, my girl. Tomorrow is the opening of the Orphanage, and I expect there will be a fine kick-up here and plenty of good strong drink, don’t you know. And no one shall say of Jacob Engstrand that he can’t hold off when temptation comes in his way.
Engstrand. Yes, because there will be a lot of fine folk here tomorrow. Parson Manders is expected from town, too.
Regina: What’s more, he’s coming today.
Engstrand. There you are! And I’m going to be precious careful he doesn’t have anything to say against me, do you see?
Regina. Oh, that’s your game, is it?
Engstrand. What do you mean?
Regina (with a significant look at him). What is it you want to humbug Mr. Manders out of this time?
Engstrand. Sh! Sh! Are you crazy? Do you suppose I would want to humbug Mr. Manders? No, no—Mr. Manders has always been too kind a friend for me to do that. But what I wanted to talk to you about, was my going back home tonight.
Regina. The sooner you go, the better I shall be pleased.
Engstrand. Yes, only I want to take you with me, Regina.
Regina (open-mouthed). You want to take me—? What did you say?
Engstrand. I want to take you home with me, I said.
Regina (contemptuously). You will never get me home with you.
Engstrand. Ah, we shall see about that.
Regina. Yes, you can be quite certain we shall see about that. I, who have been brought up by a lady like Mrs. Alving?—I, who have been treated almost as if I were her own child?—do you suppose I am going home with you?—to such a house as yours? Not likely!
Engstrand. What the devil do you mean? Are you setting yourself up against your father, you hussy?
Regina (mutters, without looking at him). You have often told me I was none of yours.
Engstrand. Bah!—why do you want to pay any attention to that?
Regina. Haven’t you many and many a time abused me and called me a —? For shame?
Engstrand. I’ll swear I never used such an ugly word.
Regina. Oh, it doesn’t matter what word you used.
Engstrand. Besides, that was only when I was a bit fuddled…hm! Temptations are manifold in this world, Regina.
Engstrand. And it was when your mother was in a nasty temper. I had to find some way of getting my knife into her, my girl. She was always so precious gentile. (Mimicking her.) “Let go, Jacob! Let me be! Please to remember that I was three years with the Alvings at Rosenvold, and they were people who went to Court!” (Laughs.) Bless my soul, she never could forget that Captain Alving got a Court appointment while she was in service here.
Regina. Poor mother—you worried her into her grave pretty soon.
Engstrand (shrugging his shoulders). Of course, of course; I have got to take the blame for everything.
Regina (beneath her breath, as she turns away). Ugh—that leg, too!
Engstrand. What are you saying, my girl?
Regina. Pied de mouton.
Engstrand. Is that English?
Engstrand. You have had a good education out here, and no mistake; and it may stand you in good stead now, Regina.
Regina (after a short silence). And what was it you wanted me to come to town for?
Engstrand. Need you ask why a father wants his only child? Ain’t I a poor lonely widower?
Regina. Oh, don’t come to me with that tale. Why do you want me to go?
Engstrand. Well, I must tell you I am thinking of taking up a new line now.
Regina (whistles). You have tried that so often—but it has always proved a fool’s errand.
Engstrand. Ah, but this time you will just see, Regina! Strike me dead if—
Regina (stamping her foot). Stop swearing!
Engstrand. Sh! Sh!—you’re quite right, my girl, quite right! What I wanted to say was only this, that I have put by a tidy penny out of what I have made by working at this new Orphanage up here.
Regina. Have you? All the better for you.
Engstrand. What is there for a man to spend his money on, out here in the country?
Regina. Well, what then?
Engstrand. Well, you see, I thought of putting the money into something that would pay. I thought of some kind of an eating-house for seafaring folk—
Engstrand. Oh, a high-class eating-house, of course—not a pigsty for common sailors. Damn it, no; it would be a place ships’ captains and first mates would come to; really good sort of people, you know.
Regina. And what should I—?
Engstrand. You would help there: But only to make show, you know. You wouldn’t find it hard work, I can promise you, my girl. You should do exactly as you liked.
Regina. Oh, yes, quite so!
Engstrand. But we must have some women in the house; that is as clear as daylight. Because in the evening we must make the place a little attractive—some singing and dancing, and that sort of thing. Remember they are seafolk—wayfarers on the waters of life! (Coming nearer to her.) Now don’t be a fool and stand in your own way, Regina. What good are you going to do here? Will this education, that your mistress has paid for, be of any use? You are to look after the children in the new Home, I hear. Is that the sort of work for you? Are you so frightfully anxious to go and wear out your health and strength for the sake of these dirty brats?
Regina. No, if things were to go as I want them to, then—. Well, it may happen; who knows? It may happen!
Engstrand. What may happen?
Regina. Never you mind. Is it much that you have put by, up here?
Engstrand. Taking it all round, I should say about forty or fifty pounds.
Regina. That’s not so bad.
Engstrand. It’s enough to make a start with, my girl.
Regina. Don’t you mean to give me any of the money?
Engstrand. No, I’m hanged if I do.
Regina. Don’t you mean to send me as much as a dress-length of stuff, just for once?
Engstrand. Come and live in the town with me and you shall have plenty of dresses.
Regina: Pooh!—I can get that much for myself, if I have a mind to.
Engstrand. But it’s far better to have a father’s guiding hand, Regina. Just now I can get a nice house in Little Harbour Street. They don’t want much money down for it—and we could make it like a sort of seamen’s home, don’t you know.
Regina. But I have no intention of living with you! I’ll have nothing whatever to do with you: So now, be off!
Engstrand. You wouldn’t be living with me long, my girl. No such luck—not if you knew how to play your cards. Such a fine wench as you have grown this last year or two…
Engstrand. It wouldn’t be very long before some first mate came along—or perhaps a captain.
Regina. I don’t mean to marry a man of that sort. Sailors have no savoir-vivre.
Engstrand. What haven’t they got?
Regina. I know what sailors are, I tell you. They aren’t the sort of people to marry.
Engstrand. Well, don’t bother about marrying them. You can make it pay just as well. (More confidentially.) That fellow—the Englishman—the one with the yacht—he gave seventy pounds, he did; and she wasn’t a bit prettier than you.
Regina (advancing towards him). Get out!
Engstrand (stepping back). Here! here!—you’re not going to hit me, I suppose?
Regina. Yes! If you talk like that of mother, I will hit you. Get out, I tell. You! (Pushes him up to the garden door.) And don’t bang the doors. Young Mr. Alving—
Engstrand. Is asleep—I know. It’s funny how anxious you are about young Mr. Alving. (In a lower tone.) Oho! is it possible that it is he that—?
Regina. Get out, and be quick about it! Your wits are wandering, my good man. No, don’t go that way; Mr. Manders is just coming along. Be off down the kitchen stairs.
Engstrand (moving towards the right). Yes, yes—all right. But have a bit of a chat with him that’s coming along. He’s the chap to tell you what a child owes to its father. For I am your father, anyway, you know, I can prove it by the Register. (He goes out through the farther door which REGINA has opened. She shuts it after him, looks hastily at herself in the mirror, fans herself with her handkerchief and sets her collar straight; then busies herself with the flowers. MANDERS enters the conservatory through the garden door. He wears an overcoat, carries an umbrella, and has a small travelling-bag slung over his shoulder on a strap.)
Manders. Good morning, Miss Engstrand.
Regina (turning round with a look of pleased surprise), Oh, Mr. Manders, good morning. The boat is in, then?
Manders. Just in. (Comes into the room.) It is most tiresome, this rain every day.
Regina (following him in). It’s a splendid rain for the farmers, Mr. Manders.
Manders. Yes, you are quite right. We townfolk think so little about that. (Begins to take off his overcoat.)
Regina. Oh, let me help you. That’s it. Why, how wet it is! I will hang it up in the hall. Give me your umbrella, too; I will leave it open, so that it will dry.
(She goes out with the things by the farther door on the right. MANDERS lays his bag and his hat down on a chair. REGINA re-enters.)
Manders. Ah, it’s very pleasant to get indoors. Well, is everything going on well here?
Regina. Yes, thanks.
Manders. Properly busy, though, I expect, getting ready for tomorrow?
Regina. Oh, yes, there is plenty to do.
Manders. And Mrs. Alving is at home, I hope?
Regina. Yes, she is. She has just gone upstairs to take the young master his chocolate.
Manders. Tell me—I heard down at the pier that Oswald had come back.
Regina. Yes, he came the day before yesterday. We didn’t expect him until today.
Manders. Strong and well, I hope?
Regina. Yes, thank you, well enough. But dreadfully tired after his journey. He came straight from Paris without a stop—I mean, he came all the way without breaking his journey. I fancy he is having a sleep now, so we must talk a little bit more quietly, if you don’t mind.
Manders. All right, we will be very quiet.
Regina (while she moves an armchair up to the table), Please sit down, Mr. Manders, and make yourself at home. (He sits down; she puts a footstool under his feet.) There! Is that comfortable?
Manders. Thank you, thank you. That is most comfortable; (Looks at her.) I’ll tell you what, Miss Engstrand, I certainly think you have grown since I saw you last.
Regina. Do you think so? Mrs. Alving says, too—that I have developed.
Manders. Developed? Well, perhaps a little—just suitably. (A short pause.)
Regina. Shall I tell Mrs. Alving you are here?
Manders. Thanks, there is no hurry, my dear child. Now tell me, Regina my dear, how has your father been getting on here?
Regina. Thank you, Mr. Manders, he is getting on pretty well.
Manders. He came to see me the last time he was in town.
Regina. Did he? He is always so glad when he can have a chat with you.
Manders. And I suppose you have seen him pretty regularly every day?
Regina. I? Oh, yes, I do—whenever I have time, that is to say.
Manders. Your father has not a very strong character, Miss Engstrand. He sadly needs a guiding hand.
Regina. Yes, I can quite believe that.
Manders. He needs someone with him that he can cling to, someone whose judgment he can rely on. He acknowledged that freely himself, the last time he came up to see me.
Regina. Yes, he has said something of the same sort to me. But I don’t know whether Mrs. Alving could do without me—most of all just now, when we have the new Orphanage to see about. And I should be dreadfully unwilling to leave Mrs. Alving, too; she has always been so good to me.
Manders. But a daughter’s duty, my good child—. Naturally we should have to get your mistress’ consent first.
Regina. Still I don’t know whether it would be quite the thing, at my age, to keep house for a single man.
Manders. What! My dear Miss Engstrand, it is your own father we are speaking of!
Regina. Yes, I dare say, but still—. Now, if it were in a good house and with a real gentleman—
Manders. But, my dear Regina!
Regina. —one whom I could feel an affection for, and really feel in the position of a daughter to…
Manders. Come, come—my dear good child—
Regina. I should like very much to live in town. Out here it is terribly lonely; and you know yourself, Mr. Manders, what it is to be alone in the world. And, though I say it, I really am both capable and willing. Don’t you know any place that would be suitable for me, Mr. Manders?
Manders. I? No, indeed I don’t.
Regina. But, dear Mr. Manders—at any rate don’t forget me, in case—
Manders (getting up). No, I won’t forget you, Miss Engstrand.
Regina. Because, if I—
Manders. Perhaps you will be so kind as to let Mrs. Alving know I am here?
Regina. I will fetch her at once, Mr. Manders. (Goes out to the left. MANDERS walks up and down the room once or twice, stands for a moment at the farther end of the room with his hands behind his back and looks out into the garden. Then he comes back to the table, takes up a book and looks at the title page, gives a start, and looks at some of the others.)
(MRS. ALVING comes in by the door on the left. She is followed by REGINA, who goes out again at once through the nearer door on the right.)
Mrs. Alving (holding out her hand). I am very glad to see you, Mr. Manders.
Manders. How do you do, Mrs. Alving. Here I am, as I promised.
Mrs. Alving. Always punctual!
Manders. Indeed, I was hard put to it to get away. What with vestry meetings and committees.
Mrs. Alving. It was all the kinder of you to come in such good time; we can settle our business before dinner. But where is your luggage?
Manders (quickly). My things are down at the village shop. I am going to sleep there tonight.
Mrs. Alving (repressing a smile). Can’t I really persuade you to stay the night here this time?
Manders. No, no; many thanks all the same; I will put up there, as usual. It is so handy for getting on board the boat again.
Mrs. Alving. Of course, you shall do as you please. But it seems to me quite another thing, now we are two old people—
Manders. Ha! ha! You will have your joke! And it’s natural you should be in high spirits today—first of all there is the great event tomorrow, and also you have got Oswald home.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, am I not a lucky woman! It is more than two years since he was home last, and he has promised to stay the whole winter with me.
Manders, Has he, really? That is very nice and filial of him; because there must be many more attractions in his life in Rome or in Paris, I should think.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, but he has his mother here, you see. Bless the dear boy, he has got a corner in his heart for his mother still.
Manders. Oh, it would be very sad if absence and preoccupation with such a thing as Art were to dull the natural affections.
Mrs. Alving. It would, indeed. But there is no fear of that with him, I am glad to say. I am quite curious to see if you recognise him again. He will be down directly; he is just lying down for a little on the sofa upstairs. But do sit down, my dear friend.
Manders. Thank you. You are sure I am not disturbing you?
Mrs. Alving. Of course not. (She sits down at the table.)
Manders. Good. Then I will show you—. (He goes to the chair where his bag is lying and takes a packet of papers from it; then sits down at the opposite side of the table and looks for a clear space to put the papers down.) Now first of all, here is—(breaks off). Tell me, Mrs. Alving, what are these books doing here?
Mrs. Alving. These books? I am reading them,
Manders. Do you read this sort of thing?
Mrs. Alving. Certainly I do.
Manders. Do you feel any the better or the happier for reading books of this kind?
Mrs. Alving. I think it makes me, as it were, more self-reliant.
Manders. That is remarkable. But why?
Mrs. Alving. Well, they give me an explanation or a confirmation of lots of different ideas that have come into my own mind. But what surprises me, Mr. Manders, is that, properly speaking, there is nothing at all new in these books. There is nothing more in them than what most people think and believe. The only thing is, that most people either take no account of it or won’t admit it to themselves.
Manders. But, good heavens, do you seriously think that most people—?
Mrs. Alving. Yes, indeed, I do.
Manders. But not here in the country at any rate? Not here amongst people like ourselves?
Mrs. Alving. Yes, amongst people like ourselves too.
Manders. Well, really, I must say—!
Mrs. Alving. But what is the particular objection that you have to these books?
Manders. What objection? You surely don’t suppose that I take any particular interest in such productions?
Mrs. Alving. In fact, you don’t know anything about what you are denouncing?
Manders. I have read quite enough about these books to disapprove of them:
Mrs. Alving. Yes, but your own opinion—
Manders. My dear Mrs. Alving, there are many occasions in life when one has to rely on the opinion of others. That is the way in this world, and it is quite right that it should be so. What would become of society, otherwise?
Mrs. Alving. Well, you may be right.
Manders. Apart from that, naturally I don’t deny that literature of this kind may have a considerable attraction. And I cannot blame you, either, for wishing to make yourself acquainted with the intellectual tendencies which I am told are at work in the wider world in which you have allowed your son to wander for so long but—
Mrs. Alving. But—?
Manders (lowering his voice). But one doesn’t talk about it, Mrs. Alving. One certainly is not called upon to account to everyone for what one reads or thinks in the privacy of one’s own room.
Mrs. Alving. Certainly not. I quite agree with you.
Manders. Just think of the consideration you owe to this Orphanage, which you decided to build at a time when your thoughts on such subjects were very different from what they are now—as far as I am able to judge.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, I freely admit that. But it was about the Orphanage…
Manders. It was about the Orphanage we were going to talk; quite so. Well—walk warily, dear Mrs. Alving! And now let us turn to the business in hand. (Opens an envelope and takes out some papers.) You see these?
Mrs. Alving. The deeds?
Manders. Yes, the whole lot—and everything in order; I can tell you it has been no easy matter to get them in time. I had positively to put pressure on the authorities; they are almost painfully conscientious when it is a question of settling property. But here they are at last. (Turns over the papers.) Here is the deed of conveyance of that part of the Rosenvold estate known as the Solvik property, together with the buildings newly erected thereon—the school, the masters’ houses and the chapel. And here is the legal sanction for the statutes of the institution. Here, you see—(reads) “Statutes for the Captain Alving Orphanage.”
Mrs. Alving (after a long look at the papers). That seems all in order.
Manders. I thought “Captain” was the better title to use, rather than your husband’s Court title of “Chamberlain.” “Captain” seems less ostentatious.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, yes; just as you think best.
Manders. And here is the certificate for the investment of the capital in the bank, the interest being earmarked for the current expenses of the Orphanage.
Mrs. Alving. Many thanks; but I think it will be most convenient if you will kindly take charge of them.
Manders. With pleasure. I think it will be best to leave the money in the bank for the present. The interest is not very high, it is true; four per cent at six months’ call; later on, if we can find some good mortgage—of course it must be a first mortgage and on unexceptionable security—we can consider the matter further.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, yes, my dear Mr. Manders, you know best about all that.
Manders. I will keep my eye on it, anyway. But there is one thing in connection with it that I have often meant to ask you about.
Mrs. Alving. What is that?
Manders. Shall we insure the buildings, or not?
Mrs. Alving. Of course we must insure them.
Manders. Ah, but wait a moment, dear lady. Let us look into the matter a little more closely.
Mrs. Alving. Everything of mine is insured—the house and its contents, my livestock—everything.
Manders. Naturally. They are your own property. I do exactly the same, of course. But this, you see, is quite a different case. The Orphanage is, so to speak, dedicated to higher uses.
Mrs. Alving. Certainly, but—
Manders. As far as I am personally concerned, I can conscientiously say that I don’t see the smallest objection to our insuring ourselves against all risks.
Mrs. Alving. That is exactly what I think.
Manders. But what about the opinion of the people hereabouts?
Mrs. Alving. Their opinion—?
Manders. Is there any considerable body of opinion here—opinion of some account, I mean—that might take exception to it?
Mrs. Alving. What, exactly, do you mean by opinion of some account?
Manders. Well, I was thinking particularly of persons of such independent and influential position that one could hardly refuse to attach weight to their opinion.
Mrs. Alving. There are a certain number of such people here, who might perhaps take exception to it if we—
Manders. That’s just it, you see. In town there are lots of them. All my fellow-clergymen’s congregations, for instance! It would be so extremely easy for them to interpret it as meaning that neither you nor I had a proper reliance on Divine protection.
Mrs. Alving. But as far as you are concerned, my dear friend, you have at all events the consciousness that—
Manders. Yes I know I know; my own mind is quite easy about it, it is true. But we should not be able to prevent a wrong and injurious interpretation of our action. And that sort of thing, moreover, might very easily end in exercising a hampering influence on the work of the Orphanage.
Mrs. Alving. Oh, well, if that is likely to be the effect of it—
Manders. Nor can I entirely overlook the difficult—indeed, I may say, painful—position I might possibly be placed in. In the best circles in town the matter of this Orphanage is attracting a great deal of attention. Indeed the Orphanage is to some extent built for the benefit of the town too, and it is to be hoped that it may result in the lowering of our poor-rate by a considerable amount. But as I have been your adviser in the matter and have taken charge of the business side of it, I should be afraid that it would be I that spiteful persons would attack first of all.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, you ought not to expose yourself to that.
Manders. Not to mention the attacks that would undoubtedly be made upon me in certain newspapers and reviews.
Mrs. Alving. Say no more about it, dear Mr. Manders; that quite decides it.
Manders. Then you don’t wish it to be insured?
Mrs. Alving. No, we will give up the idea.
Manders (leaning back in his chair). But suppose, now, that some accident happened?—one can never tell—would you be prepared to make good the damage?
Mrs. Alving. No; I tell you quite plainly I would not do so under any circumstances.
Manders. Still, you know, Mrs. Alving—after all, it is a serious responsibility that we are taking upon ourselves.
Mrs. Alving. But do you think we can do otherwise?
Manders. No, that’s just it. We really can’t do otherwise. We ought not to expose ourselves to a mistaken judgment; and we have no right to do anything that will scandalise the community.
Mrs. Alving. You ought not to, as a clergyman, at any rate.
Manders. And, what is more, I certainly think that we may count upon our enterprise being attended by good fortune—indeed, that it will be under a special protection.
Mrs. Alving. Let us hope so, Mr. Manders.
Manders. Then we will leave it alone?
Mrs. Alving. Certainly.
Manders. Very good. As you wish. (Makes a note.) No insurance, then.
Mrs. Alving. It’s a funny thing that you should just have happened to speak about that today—
Manders. I have often meant to ask you about it.
Mrs. Alving. —because yesterday we very nearly had a fire up there.
Manders. Do you mean it!
Mrs. Alving. Oh, as a matter of fact it was nothing of any consequence. Some shavings in the carpenter’s shop caught fire.
Manders. Where Engstrand works?
Mrs. Alving. Yes. They say he is often so careless with matches.
Manders. He has so many things on his mind, poor fellow—so many anxieties. Heaven be thanked, I am told he is really making an effort to live a blameless life.
Mrs. Alving. Really? Who told you so?
Manders. He assured me himself that it is so. He’s good workman, too.
Mrs. Alving. Oh, yes, when he is sober.
Manders. Ah, that sad weakness of his! But the pain in his poor leg often drives him to it, he tells me. The last time he was in town, I was really quite touched by him. He came to my house and thanked me so gratefully for getting him work here, where he could have the chance of being with Regina.
Mrs. Alving. He doesn’t see very much of her.
Manders. But he assured me that he saw her every day.
Mrs. Alving. Oh well, perhaps he does.
Manders. He feels so strongly that he needs someone who can keep a hold on him when temptations assail him. That is the most winning thing about Jacob Engstrand; he comes to one like a helpless child and accuses himself and confesses his frailty. The last time he came and had a talk with me… Suppose now, Mrs. Alving, that it were really a necessity of his existence to have Regina at home with him again—
Mrs. Alving (standing up suddenly). Regina!
Manders. —you ought not to set yourself against him.
Mrs. Alving. Indeed, I set myself very definitely against that. And, besides, you know Regina is to have a post in the Orphanage.
Manders. But consider, after all he is her father—
Mrs. Alving. I know best what sort of a father he has been to her. No, she shall never go to him with my consent.
Manders (getting up). My dear lady, don’t judge so hastily. It is very sad how you misjudge poor Engstrand. One would really think you were afraid…
Mrs. Alving (more calmly). That is not the question. I have taken Regina into my charge, and in my charge she remains. (Listens.) Hush, dear Mr. Manders, don’t say any more about it. (Her face brightens with pleasure.) Listen! Oswald is coming downstairs. We will only think about him now.
(OSWALD ALVING, in a light overcoat, hat in hand and smoking a big meerschaum pipe, comes in by the door on the left.)
Oswald (standing in the doorway). Oh, I beg your pardon, I thought you were in the office. (Comes in.) Good morning, Mr. Manders.
Manders (staring at him). Well! It’s most extraordinary.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, what do you think of him, Mr. Manders?
Manders. I-I-no, can it possibly be—?
Oswald. Yes, it really is the prodigal son, Mr. Manders.
Manders. Oh, my dear young friend—
Oswald. Well, the son came home, then.
Mrs. Alving. Oswald is thinking of the time when you were so opposed to the idea of his being a painter.
Manders. We are only fallible, and many steps seem to us hazardous at first, that afterwards—(grasps his hand). Welcome, welcome! Really, my dear Oswald—may I still call you Oswald?
Oswald. What else would you think of calling me?
Manders. Thank you. What I mean, my dear Oswald, is that you must not imagine that I have any unqualified disapproval of the artist’s life. I admit that there are many who, even in that career, can keep the inner man free from harm.
Oswald. Let us hope so.
Mrs. Alving (beaming with pleasure). I know one who has kept both the inner and the outer man free from harm. Just take a look at him, Mr. Manders.
Oswald (walks across the room). Yes, yes, mother dear, of course.
Manders. Undoubtedly—no one can deny it. And I hear you have begun to make a name for yourself. I have often seen mention of you in the papers—and extremely favourable mention, too. Although, I must admit, lately I have not seen your name so often.
Oswald (going towards the conservatory). I haven’t done so much painting just lately.
Mrs. Alving. An artist must take a rest sometimes, like other people.
Manders. Of course, of course. At those times the artist is preparing and strengthening himself for a greater effort.
Oswald. Yes. Mother, will dinner soon be ready?
Mrs. Alving. In half an hour. He has a fine appetite, thank goodness.
Manders. And a liking for tobacco too.
Oswald. I found father’s pipe in the room upstairs, and—
Manders. Ah, that is what it was!
Mrs. Alving. What?
Manders. When Oswald came in at that door with the pipe in his mouth, I thought for the moment it was his father in the flesh.
Mrs. Alving. How can you say so! Oswald takes after me.
Manders. Yes, but there is an expression about the corners of his mouth—something about the lips—that reminds me so exactly of Mr. Alving—especially when he smokes.
Mrs. Alving. I don’t think so at all. To my mind, Oswald has much more of a clergyman’s mouth.
Menders. Well, yes—a good many of my colleagues in the church have a similar expression.
Mrs. Alving. But put your pipe down, my dear boy. I don’t allow any smoking in here.
Oswald (puts down his pipe). All right, I only wanted to try it, because I smoked it once when I was a child.
Mrs. Alving. You?
Oswald. Yes; it was when I was quite a little chap. And I can remember going upstairs to father’s room one evening when he was in very good spirits.
Mrs. Alving. Oh, you can’t remember anything about those days.
Oswald. Yes, I remember plainly that he took me on his knee and let me smoke his pipe. “Smoke, my boy,” he said, “have a good smoke, boy!” And I smoked as hard as I could, until I felt I was turning quite pale and the perspiration was standing in great drops on my forehead. Then he laughed—such a hearty laugh.
Manders. It was an extremely odd thing to do.
Mrs. Alving. Dear Mr. Manders, Oswald only dreamt it.
Oswald. No indeed, mother, it was no dream. Because—don’t you remember—you came into the room and carried me off to the nursery, where I was sick, and I saw that you were crying. Did father often play such tricks?
Manders. In his young days he was full of fun—
Oswald. And, for all that, he did so much with his life—so much that was good and useful, I mean—short as his life was.
Manders. Yes, my dear Oswald Alving, you have inherited the name of a man who undoubtedly was both energetic and worthy. Let us hope it will be a spur to your energies.
Oswald. It ought to be, certainly.
Manders. In any case it was nice of you to come home for the day that is to honour his memory.
Oswald. I could do no less for my father.
Mrs. Alving. And to let me keep him so long here—that’s the nicest part of what he has done.
Manders. Yes, I hear you are going to spend the winter at home.
Oswald. I am here for an indefinite time, Mr. Manders.—Oh, it’s good to be at home again!
Mrs. Alving (beaming). Yes, isn’t it?
Manders (looking sympathetically at him). You went out into the world very young, my dear Oswald.
Oswald. I did. Sometimes I wonder if I wasn’t too young.
Mrs. Alving. Not a bit of it. It is the best thing for an active boy, and especially for an only child. It’s a pity when they are kept at home with their parents and get spoiled.
Manders. That is a very debatable question, Mrs. Alving. A child’s own home is, and always must be, his proper place.
Oswald. There I agree entirely with Mr. Manders.
Manders. Take the case of your own son. Oh yes, we can talk about it before him. What has the result been in his case? He is six or seven and twenty, and has never yet had the opportunity of learning what a well-regulated home means.
Oswald. Excuse me, Mr. Manders, you are quite wrong there.
Manders. Indeed? I imagined that your life abroad had practically been spent entirely in artistic circles.
Oswald. So it has.
Manders. And chiefly amongst the younger artists.
Manders. But I imagined that those gentry, as a rule, had not the means necessary for family life and the support of a home.
Oswald. There are a considerable number of them who have not the means to marry, Mr. Manders.
Manders. That is exactly my point.
Oswald. But they can have a home of their own, all the same; a good many of them have. And they are very well-regulated and very comfortable homes, too.
(MRS. ALVING, who has listened to him attentively, nods assent, but says nothing.)
Manders. Oh, but I am not talking of bachelor establishments. By a home I mean family life—the life a man lives with his wife and children.
Oswald. Exactly, or with his children and his children’s mother.
Manders (starts and clasps his hands). Good heavens!
Oswald. What is the matter?
Manders. Lives with-with-his children’s mother.
Oswald. Well, would you rather he should repudiate his children’s mother?
Manders. Then what you are speaking of are those unprincipled conditions known as irregular unions!
Oswald. I have never noticed anything particularly unprincipled about these people’s lives.
Manders. But do you mean to say that it is possible for a man of any sort of bringing up, and a young woman, to reconcile themselves to such a way of living—and to make no secret of it, either!
Oswald. What else are they to do? A poor artist, and a poor girl—it costs a good deal to get married. What else are they to do?
Manders. What are they to do? Well, Mr. Alving, I will tell you what they ought to do. They ought to keep away from each other from the very beginning—that is what they ought to do!
Oswald. That advice wouldn’t have much effect upon hot-blooded young folk who are in love.
Mrs. Alving. No, indeed it wouldn’t.
Manders (persistently). And to think that the authorities tolerate such things! That they are allowed to go on, openly! (Turns to MRS. ALVING.) Had I so little reason, then, to be sadly concerned about your son? In circles where open immorality is rampant—where, one may say, it is honoured—
Oswald. Let me tell you this, Mr. Manders. I have been a constant Sunday guest at one or two of these “irregular” households.
Manders. On Sunday, too!
Oswald. Yes, that is the day of leisure. But never have I heard one objectionable word there, still less have I ever seen anything that could be called immoral. No; but do you know when and where I have met with immorality in artists’ circles?
Manders. No, thank heaven, I don’t!
Oswald. Well, then, I shall have the pleasure of telling you. I have met with it when someone or other of your model husbands and fathers have come out there to have a bit of a look round on their own account, and have done the artists the honour of looking them up in their humble quarters. Then we had a chance of learning something, I can tell you. These gentlemen were able to instruct us about places and things that we had never so much as dreamt of.
Manders. What? Do you want me to believe that honourable men when they get away from home will—
Oswald. Have you never, when these same honourable men come home again, heard them deliver themselves on the subject of the prevalence of immorality abroad?
Manders. Yes, of course, but—
Mrs. Alving. I have heard them, too.
Oswald. Well, you can take their word for it, unhesitatingly. Some of them are experts in the matter. (Putting his hands to his head.) To think that the glorious freedom of the beautiful life over there should be so besmirched!
Mrs. Alving. You mustn’t get too heated, Oswald; you gain nothing by that.
Oswald. No, you are quite right, mother. Besides, it isn’t good for me. It’s because I am so infernally tired, you know. I will go out and take a turn before dinner. I beg your pardon, Mr. Manders. It is impossible for you to realise the feeling; but it takes me that way (Goes out by the farther door on the right.)
Mrs. Alving. My poor boy!
Manders. You may well say so. This is what it has brought him to! (MRS. ALVING looks at him, but does not speak.) He called himself the prodigal son. It’s only too true, alas—only too true! (MRS. ALVING looks steadily at him.) And what do you say to all this?
Mrs. Alving. I say that Oswald was right in every single word he said.
Manders. Right? Right? To hold such principles as that?
Mrs. Alving. In my loneliness here I have come to just the same opinions as he, Mr. Manders. But I have never presumed to venture upon such topics in conversation. Now there is no need; my boy shall speak for me.
Manders. You deserve the deepest pity, Mrs. Alving. It is my duty to say an earnest word to you. It is no longer your businessman and adviser, no longer your old friend and your dead husband’s old friend, that stands before you now. It is your priest that stands before you, just as he did once at the most critical moment of your life.
Mrs. Alving. And what is it that my priest has to say to me?
Manders. First of all I must stir your memory. The moment is well chosen. Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of your husband’s death; tomorrow the memorial to the departed will be unveiled; tomorrow I shall speak to the whole assembly that will be met together, But today I want to speak to you alone.
Mrs. Alving, Very well, Mr. Manders, speak!
Manders. Have you forgotten that after barely a year of married life you were standing at the very edge of a precipice?—that you forsook your house and home? that you ran away from your husband—yes, Mrs. Alving, ran away, ran away-=and refused to return to him in spite of his requests and entreaties?
Mrs. Alving. Have you forgotten how unspeakably unhappy I was during that first year?
Manders. To crave for happiness in this world is simply to be possessed by a spirit of revolt. What right have we to happiness? No! we must do our duty, Mrs. Alving. And your duty was to cleave to the man you had chosen and to whom you were bound by a sacred bond.
Mrs. Alving. You know quite well what sort of a life my husband was living at that time—what excesses he was guilty of.
Menders. I know only too well what rumour used to say of him; and I should be the last person to approve of his conduct as a young man, supposing that rumour spoke the truth. But it is not a wife’s part to be her husband’s judge. You should have considered it your bounden duty humbly to have borne the cross that a higher will had laid upon you. But, instead of that, you rebelliously cast off your cross, you deserted the man whose stumbling footsteps you should have supported, you did what was bound to imperil your good name and reputation, and came very near to imperilling the reputation of others into the bargain.
Mrs. Alving. Of others? Of one other, you mean.
Manders. It was the height of imprudence, your seeking refuge with me.
Mrs. Alving. With our priest? With our intimate friend?
Manders. All the more on that account; you should thank God that I possessed the necessary strength of mind—that I was able to turn you from your outrageous intention, and that it was vouchsafed to me to succeed in leading you back into the path of duty, and back to your lawful husband.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, Mr. Manders, that certainly was your doing.
Manders. I was but the humble instrument of a higher power. And is it not true that my having been able to bring you again under the yoke of duty and obedience sowed the seeds of a rich blessing on all the rest of your life? Did things not turn out as I foretold to you? Did not your husband turn from straying in the wrong path, as a man should? Did he not, after that, live a life of love and good report with you all his days? Did he not become a benefactor to the neighbourhood? Did he not so raise you up to his level, so that by degree you became his fellow-worker in all his undertakings—and a noble fellow-worker, too. I know, Mrs. Alving; that praise I will give you. But now I come to the second serious false step in your life.
Mrs. Alving. What do you mean?
Manders, Just as once you forsook your duty as a wife, so, since then, you have forsaken your duty as a mother.
Mrs. Alving. Oh—!
Manders. You have been overmastered all your life by a disastrous spirit of willfulness. All your impulses have led you towards what is undisciplined and lawless. You have never been willing to submit to any restraint. Anything in life that has seemed irksome to you, you have thrown aside recklessly and unscrupulously, as if it were a burden that you were free to rid yourself of if you would. It did not please you to be a wife any longer, and so you left your husband. Your duties as a mother were irksome to you, so you sent your child away among strangers.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, that is true; I did that.
Menders. And that is why you have become a stranger to him.
Mrs. Alving. No, no, I am not that!
Manders. You are; you must be. And what sort of a son is it that you have got back? Think over it seriously, Mrs. Alving. You erred grievously in your husband’s case—you acknowledge as much, by erecting this memorial to him. Now you are bound to acknowledge how much you have erred in your son’s case; possibly there may still be time to reclaim him from the path of wickedness. Turn over a new leaf, and set yourself to reform what there may still be that is capable of reformation in him. Because (with uplifted forefinger) in very truth, Mrs. Alving, you are a guilty mother!—That is what I have thought it my duty to say to you.
(A short silence.)
Mrs. Alving (speaking slowly and with self-control). You have had your say, Mr. Manders, and tomorrow you will be making a public speech in memory of my husband. I shall not speak tomorrow. But now I wish to speak to you for a little, just as you have been speaking to me.
Manders. By all means; no doubt you wish to bring forward some excuses for your behaviour.
Mrs. Alving. No. I only want to tell you something—
Mrs. Alving. In all that you said just now about me and my husband, and about our life together after you had, as you put it, led me back into the path of duty—there was nothing that you knew at first hand. From that moment you never again set foot in our house—you, who had been our daily companion before that.
Manders. Remember that you and your husband moved out of town immediately afterwards.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, and you never once came out here to see us in my husband’s lifetime. It was only the business in connection with the Orphanage that obliged you to come and see me.
Manders (in a low and uncertain voice). Helen—if that is a reproach, I can only beg you to consider—
Mrs. Alving. —the respect you owed by your calling?—yes. All the more as I was a wife who had tried to run away from her husband. One can never be too careful to have nothing to do with such reckless women.
Manders. My dear—Mrs. Alving, you are exaggerating dreadfully.
Mrs. Alving. Yes, yes,—very well. What I mean is this, that when you condemn my conduct as a wife you have nothing more to go upon than ordinary public opinion.
Manders. I admit it. What then?
Mrs. Alving. Well now, Mr. Manders, now I am going to tell you the truth. I had sworn to myself that you should know it one day—you, and you only!
Manders. And what may the truth be?
Mrs. Alving. The truth is this, that my husband died just as great a profligate as he had been all his life.
Manders (feeling for a chair). What are you saying?
Mrs. Alving. After nineteen years of married life, just as profligate—in his desires at all events—as he was before you married us.
Manders. And can you talk of his youthful indiscretions—his irregularities—his excesses, if you like—as a profligate life!
Mrs. Alving. That was what the doctor who attended him called it.
Manders. I don’t understand what you mean.
Mrs. Alving. It is not necessary that you should.
Manders. It makes my brain reel. To think that your marriage—all the years of wedded life you spent with your husband—were nothing but a hidden abyss of misery.
Mrs. Alving. That and nothing else. Now you know.
Manders. This—this bewilders me. I can’t understand it! I can’t grasp it! How in the world was it possible? How could such a state of things remain concealed?
Mrs. Alving. That was just what I had to fight for incessantly, day after day. When Oswald was born, I thought I saw a slight improvement. But it didn’t last long. And after that I had to fight doubly hard—fight a desperate fight so that no one should know what sort of a man my child’s father was. You know quite well what an attractive manner he had; it seemed as if people could believe nothing but good of him. He was one of those men whose mode of life seems to have no effect upon their reputations. But at last, Mr. Manders—you must hear this too—at last something happened more abominable than everything else.
Manders. More abominable than what you have told me!
Mrs. Alving. I had borne with it all, though I knew only too well what he indulged in in secret, when he was out of the house. But when it came to the point of the scandal coming within our four walls—
Manders. Can you mean it! Here?
Mrs. Alving. Yes, here, in our own home. It was in there (pointing to the nearer door on the right) in the dining-room that I got the first hint of it. I had something to do in there and the door was standing ajar. I heard our maid come up from the garden with water for the flowers in the conservatory.
Mrs. Alving. Shortly afterwards I heard my husband come in too. I heard him say something to her in a low voice. And then I heard—(with a short laugh)—oh, it rings in my ears still, with its mixture of what was heartbreaking and what was so ridiculous—I heard my own servant whisper: “Let me go, Mr. Alving! Let me be!”
Manders. What unseemly levity on his part! But surely nothing more than levity, Mrs. Alving, believe me.
Mrs. Alving. I soon knew what to believe. My husband had his will of the girl—and that intimacy had consequences, Mr. Manders.
Manders (as if turned to stone). And all that in this house! In this house!
Mrs. Alving. I have suffered a good deal in this house. To keep him at home in the evening—and at night—I have had to play the part of boon companion in his secret drinking-bouts in his room up there. I have had to sit there alone with him, have had to hobnob and drink with him, have had to listen to his ribald senseless talk, have had to fight with brute force to get him to bed—
Manders (trembling). And you were able to endure all this!
Mrs. Alving. I had my little boy, and endured it for his sake. But when the crowning insult came—when my own servant—then I made up my mind that there should be an end of it. I took the upper hand in the house, absolutely—both with him and all the others. I had a weapon to use against him, you see; he didn’t dare to speak. It was then that Oswald was sent away. He was about seven then, and was beginning to notice things and ask questions as children will. I could endure all that, my friend. It seemed to me that the child would be poisoned if he breathed the air of this polluted house. That was why I sent him away. And now you understand, too, why he never set foot here as long as his father was alive. No one knows what it meant to me.
Manders. You have indeed had a pitiable experience.
Mrs. Alving. I could never have gone through with it, if I had not had my work. Indeed, I can boast that I have worked. All the increase in the value of the property, all the improvements, all the useful arrangements that my husband got the honour and glory of—do you suppose that he troubled himself about any of them? He, who used to lie the whole day on the sofa reading old official lists! No, you may as well know that too. It was I that kept him up to the mark when he had his lucid intervals; it was I that had to bear the whole burden of it when he began his excesses again or took to whining about his miserable condition.
Manders. And this is the man you are building a memorial to!
Mrs. Alving. There you see the power of an uneasy conscience.
Manders. An uneasy conscience? What do you mean?
Mrs. Alving. I had always before me the fear that it was impossible that the truth should not come out and be believed. That is why the Orphanage is to exist, to silence all rumours and clear away all doubt.
Manders. You certainly have not fallen short of the mark in that, Mrs. Alving.
Mrs. Alving. I had another very good reason. I did not wish Oswald, my own son, to inherit a penny that belonged to his father.
Manders. Then it is with Mr. Alving’s property.
Mrs. Alving. Yes. The sums of money that, year after year, I have given towards this Orphanage, make up the amount of property—I have reckoned it carefully—which in the old days made Lieutenant Alving a catch.
Manders. I understand.
Mrs. Alving. That was my purchase money. I don’t wish it to pass into Oswald’s hands. My son shall have everything from me, I am determined.
(OSWALD comes in by the farther door on the right. He has left his hat and coat outside.)
Mrs. Alving. Back again, my own dear boy?
Oswald. Yes, what can one do outside in this everlasting rain? I hear dinner is nearly ready. That’s good!
(REGINA comes in front the dining-room, carrying a parcel.)
Regina. This parcel has come for you, ma’am. (Gives it to her.)
Mrs. Alving (glancing at MANDERS). The ode to be sung tomorrow, I expect.
Regina. And dinner is ready.
Mrs. Alving. Good. We will come in a moment. I will just—(begins to open the parcel).
Regina (to OSWALD). Will you drink white or red wine, sir?
Oswald. Both, Miss Engstrand.
Regina. Bien—very good, Mr. Alving. (Goes into the dining-room.)
Oswald. I may as well help you to uncork it—. (Follows her into the dining-room, leaving the door ajar after him.)
Mrs. Alving. Yes, I thought so. Here is the ode, Mr Manders.
Manders (clasping his hands). How shall I ever have the courage tomorrow to speak the address that—
Mrs. Alving. Oh, you will get through it.
Manders (in a low voice, fearing to be heard in the dining room). Yes, we must raise no suspicions.
Mrs. Alving (quietly but firmly). No; and then this long dreadful comedy will be at an end. After tomorrow, I shall feel as if my dead husband had never lived in this house. There will be no one else here then but my boy and his mother.
(From the dining-room is heard the noise of a chair falling; then REGINA’S voice is heard in a loud whisper: Oswald! Are you mad? Let me go!)
Mrs. Alving (starting in horror). Oh—!
(She stares wildly at the half-open door. OSWALD is heard coughing and humming, then the sound of a bottle being uncorked.)
Manders (in an agitated manner). What’s the matter? What is it, Mrs. Alving?
Mrs. Alving (hoarsely). Ghosts. The couple in the conservatory—over again.
Manders. What are you saying! Regina—? Is SHE—!
Mrs. Alving. Yes, Come. Not a word—!
(Grips MANDERS by the arm and walks unsteadily with him into the dining-room.)