[The room as before. All the doors stand open. The lamp is still burning on the table. It is dark out of doors; there is only a faint glow from the conflagration in the background to the left.]
[MRS. ALVING, with a shawl over her head, stands in the conservatory, looking out. REGINA, also with a shawl on, stands a little behind her.]
MRS. ALVING. The whole thing burnt!—burnt to the ground!
REGINA. The basement is still burning.
MRS. ALVING. How is it Oswald doesn't come home? There's nothing to be saved.
REGINA. Should you like me to take down his hat to him?
MRS. ALVING. Has he not even got his hat on?
REGINA. [Pointing to the hall.] No; there it hangs.
MRS. ALVING. Let it be. He must come up now. I shall go and look for him myself. [She goes out through the garden door.]
MANDERS. [Comes in from the hall.] Is not Mrs. Alving here?
REGINA. She has just gone down the garden.
MANDERS. This is the most terrible night I ever went through.
REGINA. Yes; isn't it a dreadful misfortune, sir?
MANDERS. Oh, don't talk about it! I can hardly bear to think of it.
REGINA. How can it have happened—?
MANDERS. Don't ask me, Miss Engstrand! How should I know? Do you, too—? Is it not enough that your father—?
REGINA. What about him?
MANDERS. Oh, he has driven me distracted—
ENGSTRAND. [Enters through the hall.] Your Reverence—
MANDERS. [Turns round in terror.] Are you after me here, too?
ENGSTRAND. Yes, strike me dead, but I must—! Oh, Lord! what am I saying? But this is a terrible ugly business, your Reverence.
MANDERS. [Walks to and fro.] Alas! alas!
REGINA. What's the matter?
ENGSTRAND. Why, it all came of this here prayer-meeting, you see. [Softly.] The bird's limed, my girl. [Aloud.] And to think it should be my doing that such a thing should be his Reverence's doing!
MANDERS. But I assure you, Engstrand—
ENGSTRAND. There wasn't another soul except your Reverence as ever laid a finger on the candles down there.
MANDERS. [Stops.] So you declare. But I certainly cannot recollect that I ever had a candle in my hand.
ENGSTRAND. And I saw as clear as daylight how your Reverence took the candle and snuffed it with your fingers, and threw away the snuff among the shavings.
MANDERS. And you stood and looked on?
ENGSTRAND. Yes; I saw it as plain as a pike-staff, I did.
MANDERS. It's quite beyond my comprehension. Besides, it has never been my habit to snuff candles with my fingers.
ENGSTRAND. And terrible risky it looked, too, that it did! But is there such a deal of harm done after all, your Reverence?
MANDERS. [Walks restlessly to and fro.] Oh, don't ask me!
ENGSTRAND. [Walks with him.] And your Reverence hadn't insured it, neither?
MANDERS. [Continuing to walk up and down.] No, no, no; I have told you so.
ENGSTRAND. [Following him.] Not insured! And then to go straight away down and set light to the whole thing! Lord, Lord, what a misfortune!
MANDERS. [Wipes the sweat from his forehead.] Ay, you may well say that, Engstrand.
ENGSTRAND. And to think that such a thing should happen to a benevolent Institution, that was to have been a blessing both to town and country, as the saying goes! The newspapers won't be for handling your Reverence very gently, I expect.
MANDERS. No; that is just what I am thinking of. That is almost the worst of the whole matter. All the malignant attacks and imputations—! Oh, it makes me shudder to think of it!
MRS. ALVING. [Comes in from the garden.] He is not to be persuaded to leave the fire.
MANDERS. Ah, there you are, Mrs. Alving.
MRS. ALVING. So you have escaped your Inaugural Address, Pastor Manders.
MANDERS. Oh, I should so gladly—
MRS. ALVING. [In an undertone.] It is all for the best. That Orphanage would have done no one any good.
MANDERS. Do you think not?
MRS. ALVING. Do you think it would?
MANDERS. It is a terrible misfortune, all the same.
MRS. ALVING. Let us speak of it plainly, as a matter of business.—Are you waiting for Mr. Manders, Engstrand?
ENGSTRAND. [At the hall door.] That's just what I'm a-doing of, ma'am.
MRS. ALVING. Then sit down meanwhile.
ENGSTRAND. Thank you, ma'am; I'd as soon stand.
MRS. ALVING. [To MANDERS.] I suppose you are going by the steamer?
MANDERS. Yes; it starts in an hour.
MRS. ALVING. Then be so good as to take all the papers with you. I won't hear another word about this affair. I have other things to think of—
MANDERS. Mrs. Alving—
MRS. ALVING. Later on I shall send you a Power of Attorney to settle everything as you please.
MANDERS. That I will very readily undertake. The original destination of the endowment must now be completely changed, alas!
MRS. ALVING. Of course it must.
MANDERS. I think, first of all, I shall arrange that the Solvik property shall pass to the parish. The land is by no means without value. It can always be turned to account for some purpose or other. And the interest of the money in the Bank I could, perhaps, best apply for the benefit of some undertaking of acknowledged value to the town.
MRS. ALVING. Do just as you please. The whole matter is now completely indifferent to me.
ENGSTRAND. Give a thought to my Sailors' Home, your Reverence.
MANDERS. Upon my word, that is not a bad suggestion. That must be considered.
ENGSTRAND. Oh, devil take considering—Lord forgive me!
MANDERS. [With a sigh.] And unfortunately I cannot tell how long I shall be able to retain control of these things—whether public opinion may not compel me to retire. It entirely depends upon the result of the official inquiry into the fire—
MRS. ALVING. What are you talking about?
MANDERS. And the result can by no means be foretold.
ENGSTRAND. [Comes close to him.] Ay, but it can though. For here stands old Jacob Engstrand.
MANDERS. Well well, but—?
ENGSTRAND. [More softy.] And Jacob Engstrand isn't the man to desert a noble benefactor in the hour of need, as the saying goes.
MANDERS. Yes, but my good fellow—how—?
ENGSTRAND. Jacob Engstrand may be likened to a sort of a guardian angel, he may, your Reverence.
MANDERS. No, no; I really cannot accept that.
ENGSTRAND. Oh, that'll be the way of it, all the same. I know a man as has taken others' sins upon himself before now, I do.
MANDERS. Jacob! [Wrings his hand.] Yours is a rare nature. Well, you shall be helped with your Sailors' Home. That you may rely upon. [ENGSTRAND tries to thank him, but cannot for emotion.]
MANDERS. [Hangs his travelling-bag over his shoulder.] And now let us set out. We two will go together.
ENGSTRAND. [At the dining-room door, softly to REGINA.] You come along too, my lass. You shall live as snug as the yolk in an egg.
REGINA. [Tosses her head.] Merci! [She goes out into the hall and fetches MANDERS' overcoat.]
MANDERS. Good-bye, Mrs. Alving! and may the spirit of Law and Order descend upon this house, and that quickly.
MRS. ALVING. Good-bye, Pastor Manders. [She goes up towards the conservatory, as she sees OSWALD coming in through the garden door.]
ENGSTRAND. [While he and REGINA help MANDERS to get his coat on.] Good-bye, my child. And if any trouble should come to you, you know where Jacob Engstrand is to be found. [Softly.] Little Harbour Street, h'm—! [To MRS. ALVING and OSWALD.] And the refuge for wandering mariners shall be called "Chamberlain Alving's Home," that it shall! And if so be as I'm spared to carry on that house in my own way, I make so bold as to promise that it shall be worthy of the Chamberlain's memory.
MANDERS. [In the doorway.] H'm—h'm!—Come along, my dear Enstrand. Good-bye! Good-bye! [He and ENGSTRAND go out through the hall.]
OSWALD. [Goes towards the table.] What house was he talking about?
MRS. ALVING. Oh, a kind of Home that he and Pastor Manders want to set up.
OSWALD. It will burn down like the other.
MRS. ALVING. What makes you think so?
OSWALD. Everything will burn. All that recalls father's memory is doomed. Here am I, too, burning down. [REGINA starts and looks at him.]
MRS. ALVING. Oswald! You oughtn't to have remained so long down there, my poor boy.
OSWALD. [Sits down by the table.] I almost think you are right.
MRS. ALVING. Let me dry your face, Oswald; you are quite wet. [She dries his face with her pocket-handkerchief.]
OSWALD. [Stares indifferently in front of him.] Thanks, mother.
MRS. ALVING. Are you not tired, Oswald? Should you like to sleep?
OSWALD. [Nervously.] No, no—not to sleep! I never sleep. I only pretend to. [Sadly.] That will come soon enough.
MRS. ALVING. [Looking sorrowfully at him.] Yes, you really are ill, my blessed boy.
REGINA. [Eagerly.] Is Mr. Alving ill?
OSWALD. [Impatiently.] Oh, do shut all the doors! This killing dread—
MRS. ALVING. Close the doors, Regina.
[REGINA shuts them and remains standing by the hall door. MRS. ALVING takes her shawl off: REGINA does the same. MRS. ALVING draws a chair across to OSWALD'S, and sits by him.]
MRS. ALVING. There now! I am going to sit beside you—
OSWALD. Yes, do. And Regina shall stay here too. Regina shall be with me always. You will come to the rescue, Regina, won't you?
REGINA. I don't understand—
MRS. ALVING. To the rescue?
OSWALD. Yes—when the need comes.
MRS. ALVING. Oswald, have you not your mother to come to the rescue?
OSWALD. You? [Smiles.] No, mother; that rescue you will never bring me. [Laughs sadly.] You! ha ha! [Looks earnestly at her.] Though, after all, who ought to do it if not you? [Impetuously.] Why can't you say "thou" to me, Regina? [Note: "Sige du" = Fr. tutoyer] Why do'n't you call me "Oswald"?
REGINA. [Softly.] I don't think Mrs. Alving would like it.
MRS. ALVING. You shall have leave to, presently. And meanwhile sit over here beside us.
[REGINA seats herself demurely and hesitatingly at the other side of the table.]
MRS. ALVING. And now, my poor suffering boy, I am going to take the burden off your mind—
OSWALD. You, mother?
MRS. ALVING.—all the gnawing remorse and self-reproach you speak of.
OSWALD. And you think you can do that?
MRS. ALVING. Yes, now I can, Oswald. A little while ago you spoke of the joy of life; and at that word a new light burst for me over my life and everything connected with it.
OSWALD. [Shakes his head.] I don't understand you.
MRS. ALVING. You ought to have known your father when he was a young lieutenant. He was brimming over with the joy of life!
OSWALD. Yes, I know he was.
MRS. ALVING. It was like a breezy day only to look at him. And what exuberant strength and vitality there was in him!
MRS. ALVING. Well then, child of joy as he was—for he was like a child in those days—he had to live at home here in a half-grown town, which had no joys to offer him—only dissipations. He had no object in life—only an official position. He had no work into which he could throw himself heart and soul; he had only business. He had not a single comrade that could realise what the joy of life meant—only loungers and boon-companions—
MRS. ALVING. So the inevitable happened.
OSWALD. The inevitable?
MRS. ALVING. You told me yourself, this evening, what would become of you if you stayed at home.
OSWALD. Do you mean to say that father—?
MRS. ALVING. Your poor father found no outlet for the overpowering joy of life that was in him. And I brought no brightness into his home.
OSWALD. Not even you?
MRS. ALVING. They had taught me a great deal about duties and so forth, which I went on obstinately believing in. Everything was marked out into duties—into my duties, and his duties, and—I am afraid I made his home intolerable for your poor father, Oswald.
OSWALD. Why have you never spoken of this in writing to me?
MRS. ALVING. I have never before seen it in such a light that I could speak of it to you, his son.
OSWALD. In what light did you see it, then?
MRS. ALVING. [Slowly.] I saw only this one thing: that your father was a broken-down man before you were born.
OSWALD. [Softly.] Ah—! [He rises and walks away to the window.]
MRS. ALVING. And then; day after day, I dwelt on the one thought that by rights Regina should be at home in this house—just like my own boy.
OSWALD. [Turning round quickly.] Regina—!
REGINA. [Springs up and asks, with bated breath.] I—?
MRS. ALVING. Yes, now you know it, both of you.
REGINA. [To herself.] So mother was that kind of woman.
MRS. ALVING. Your mother had many good qualities, Regina.
REGINA. Yes, but she was one of that sort, all the same. Oh, I've often suspected it; but—And now, if you please, ma'am, may I be allowed to go away at once?
MRS. ALVING. Do you really wish it, Regina?
REGINA. Yes, indeed I do.
MRS. ALVING. Of course you can do as you like; but—
OSWALD. [Goes towards REGINA.] Go away now? Your place is here.
REGINA. Merci, Mr. Alving!—or now, I suppose, I may say Oswald. But I can tell you this wasn't at all what I expected.
MRS. ALVING. Regina, I have not been frank with you—
REGINA. No, that you haven't indeed. If I'd known that Oswald was an invalid, why—And now, too, that it can never come to anything serious between us—I really can't stop out here in the country and wear myself out nursing sick people.
OSWALD. Not even one who is so near to you?
REGINA. No, that I can't. A poor girl must make the best of her young days, or she'll be left out in the cold before she knows where she is. And I, too, have the joy of life in me, Mrs. Alving!
MRS. ALVING. Unfortunately, you leave. But don't throw yourself away, Regina.
REGINA. Oh, what must be, must be. If Oswald takes after his father, I take after my mother, I daresay.—May I ask, ma'am, if Pastor Manders knows all this about me?
MRS. ALVING. Pastor Manders knows all about it.
REGINA. [Busied in putting on her shawl.] Well then, I'd better make haste and get away by this steamer. The Pastor is such a nice man to deal with; and I certainly think I've as much right to a little of that money as he has—that brute of a carpenter.
MRS. ALVING. You are heartily welcome to it, Regina.
REGINA. [Looks hard at her.] I think you might have brought me up as a gentleman's daughter, ma'am; it would have suited me better. [Tosses her head.] But pooh—what does it matter! [With a bitter side glance at the corked bottle.] I may come to drink champagne with gentlefolks yet.
MRS. ALVING. And if you ever need a home, Regina, come to me.
REGINA. No, thank you, ma'am. Pastor Manders will look after me, I know. And if the worst comes to the worst, I know of one house where I've every right to a place.
MRS. ALVING. Where is that?
REGINA. "Chamberlain Alving's Home."
MRS. ALVING. Regina—now I see it—you are going to your ruin.
REGINA. Oh, stuff! Good-bye. [She nods and goes out through the hall.]
OSWALD. [Stands at the window and looks out.] Is she gone?
MRS. ALVING. Yes.
OSWALD. [Murmuring aside to himself.] I think it was a mistake, this.
MRS. ALVING. [Goes up behind him and lays her hands on his shoulders.] Oswald, my dear boy—has it shaken you very much?
OSWALD. [Turns his face towards her.] All that about father, do you mean?
MRS. ALVING. Yes, about your unhappy father. I am so afraid it may have been too much for you.
OSWALD. Why should you fancy that? Of course it came upon me as a great surprise; but it can make no real difference to me.
MRS. ALVING. [Draws her hands away.] No difference! That your father was so infinitely unhappy!
OSWALD. Of course I can pity him, as I would anybody else; but—
MRS. ALVING. Nothing more! Your own father!
OSWALD. [Impatiently.]Oh, "father,"—"father"! I never knew anything of father. I remember nothing about him, except that he once made me sick.
MRS. ALVING. This is terrible to think of! Ought not a son to love his father, whatever happens?
OSWALD. When a son has nothing to thank his father for? has never known him? Do you really cling to that old superstition?—you who are so enlightened in other ways?
MRS. ALVING. Can it be only a superstition—?
OSWALD. Yes; surely you can see that, mother. It's one of those notions that are current in the world, and so—
MRS. ALVING. [Deeply moved.] Ghosts!
OSWALD. [Crossing the room.] Yes; you may call them ghosts.
MRS. ALVING. [Wildly.] Oswald—then you don't love me, either!
OSWALD. You I know, at any rate—
MRS. ALVING. Yes, you know me; but is that all!
OSWALD. And, of course, I know how fond you are of me, and I can't but be grateful to you. And then you can be so useful to me, now that I am ill.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, cannot I, Oswald? Oh, I could almost bless the illness that has driven you home to me. For I see very plainly that you are not mine: I have to win you.
OSWALD. [Impatiently.] Yes yes yes; all these are just so many phrases. You must remember that I am a sick man, mother. I can't be much taken up with other people; I have enough to do thinking about myself.
MRS. ALVING. [In a low voice.] I shall be patient and easily satisfied.
OSWALD. And cheerful too, mother!
MRS. ALVING. Yes, my dear boy, you are quite right. [Goes towards him.] Have I relieved you of all remorse and self-reproach now?
OSWALD. Yes, you have. But now who will relieve me of the dread?
MRS. ALVING. The dread?
OSWALD. [Walks across the room.] Regina could have been got to do it.
MRS. ALVING. I don't understand you. What is this about dread—and Regina?
OSWALD. Is it very late, mother?
MRS. ALVING. It is early morning. [She looks out through the conservatory.] The day is dawning over the mountains. And the weather is clearing, Oswald. In a little while you shall see the sun.
OSWALD. I'm glad of that. Oh, I may still have much to rejoice in and live for—
MRS. ALVING. I should think so, indeed!
OSWALD. Even if I can't work—
MRS. ALVING. Oh, you'll soon be able to work again, my dear boy—now that you haven't got all those gnawing and depressing thoughts to brood over any longer.
OSWALD. Yes, I'm glad you were able to rid me of all those fancies. And when I've got over this one thing more—[Sits on the sofa.] Now we will have a little talk, mother—
MRS. ALVING. Yes, let us. [She pushes an arm-chair towards the sofa, and sits down close to him.]
OSWALD. And meantime the sun will be rising. And then you will know all. And then I shall not feel this dread any longer.
MRS. ALVING. What is it that I am to know?
OSWALD. [Not listening to her.] Mother, did you not say a little while ago, that there was nothing in the world you would not do for me, if I asked you?
MRS. ALVING. Yes, indeed I said so!
OSWALD. And you'll stick to it, mother?
MRS. ALVING. You may rely on that, my dear and only boy! I have nothing in the world to live for but you alone.
OSWALD. Very well, then; now you shall hear—Mother, you have a strong, steadfast mind, I know. Now you're to sit quite still when you hear it.
MRS. ALVING. What dreadful thing can it be—?
OSWALD. You're not to scream out. Do you hear? Do you promise me that? We will sit and talk about it quietly. Do you promise me, mother?
MRS. ALVING. Yes, yes; I promise. Only speak!
OSWALD. Well, you must know that all this fatigue—and my inability to think of work—all that is not the illness itself—
MRS. ALVING. Then what is the illness itself?
OSWALD. The disease I have as my birthright—[He points to his forehead and adds very softly]—is seated here.
MRS. ALVING. [Almost voiceless.] Oswald! No—no!
OSWALD. Don't scream. I can't bear it. Yes, mother, it is seated here waiting. And it may break out any day—at any moment.
MRS. ALVING. Oh, what horror—!
OSWALD. Now, quiet, quiet. That is how it stands with me—
MRS. ALVING. [Springs up.] It's not true, Oswald! It's impossible! It cannot be so!
OSWALD. I have had one attack down there already. It was soon over. But when I came to know the state I had been in, then the dread descended upon me, raging and ravening; and so I set off home to you as fast as I could.
MRS. ALVING. Then this is the dread—!
OSWALD. Yes—it's so indescribably loathsome, you know. Oh, if it had only been an ordinary mortal disease—! For I'm not so afraid of death—though I should like to live as long as I can.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, yes, Oswald, you must!
OSWALD. But this is so unutterably loathsome. To become a little baby again! To hive to be fed! To have to—Oh, it's not to be spoken of!
MRS. ALVING. The child has his mother to nurse him.
OSWALD. [Springs up.] No, never that! That is just what I will not have. I can't endure to think that perhaps I should lie in that state for many years—and get old and grey. And in the meantime you might die and leave me. [Sits in MRS. ALVING'S chair.] For the doctor said it wouldn't necessarily prove fatal at once. He called it a sort of softening of the brain—or something like that. [Smiles sadly.] I think that expression sounds so nice. It always sets me thinking of cherry-coloured velvet—something soft and delicate to stroke.
MRS. ALVING. [Shrieks.] Oswald!
OSWALD. [Springs up and paces the room.] And now you have taken Regina from me. If I could only have had her! She would have come to the rescue, I know.
MRS. ALVING. [Goes to him.] What do you mean by that, my darling boy? Is there any help in the world that I would not give you?
OSWALD. When I got over my attack in Paris, the doctor told me that when it comes again—and it will come—there will be no more hope.
MRS. ALVING. He was heartless enough to—
OSWALD. I demanded it of him. I told him I had preparations to make—[He smiles cunningly.] And so I had. [He takes a little box from his inner breast pocket and opens it.] Mother, do you see this?
MRS. ALVING. What is it?
MRS. ALVING. [Looks at him horror-struck.] Oswald—my boy!
OSWALD. I've scraped together twelve pilules—
MRS. ALVING. [Snatches at it.] Give me the box, Oswald.
OSWALD. Not yet, mother. [He hides the box again in his pocket.]
MRS. ALVING. I shall never survive this!
OSWALD. It must be survived. Now if I'd had Regina here, I should have told her how things stood with me—and begged her to come to the rescue at the last. She would have done it. I know she would.
MRS. ALVING. Never!
OSWALD. When the horror had come upon me, and she saw me lying there helpless, like a little new-born baby, impotent, lost, hopeless—past all saving—
MRS. ALVING. Never in all the world would Regina have done this!
OSWALD. Regina would have done it. Regina was so splendidly light-hearted. And she would soon have wearied of nursing an invalid like me.
MRS. ALVING. Then heaven be praised that Regina is not here.
OSWALD. Well then, it is you that must come to the rescue, mother.
MRS. ALVING. [Shrieks aloud.] I!
OSWALD. Who should do it if not you?
MRS. ALVING. I! your mother!
OSWALD. For that very reason.
MRS. ALVING. I, who gave you life!
OSWALD. I never asked you for life. And what sort of a life have you given me? I will not have it! You shall take it back again!
MRS. ALVING. Help! Help! [She runs out into the hall.]
OSWALD. [Going after her.] Do not leave me! Where are you going?
MRS. ALVING. [In the hall.] To fetch the doctor, Oswald! Let me pass!
OSWALD. [Also outside.] You shall not go out. And no one shall come in. [The locking of a door is heard.]
MRS. ALVING. [Comes in again.] Oswald! Oswald—my child!
OSWALD. [Follows her.] Have you a mother's heart for me—and yet can see me suffer from this unutterable dread?
MRS. ALVING. [After a moment's silence, commands herself, and says:] Here is my hand upon it.
OSWALD. Will you—?
MRS. ALVING. If it should ever be necessary. But it will never be necessary. No, no; it is impossible.
OSWALD. Well, let us hope so. And let us live together as long as we can. Thank you, mother. [He seats himself in the arm-chair which MRS. ALVING has moved to the sofa. Day is breaking. The lamp is still burning on the table.]
MRS. ALVING. [Drawing near cautiously.] Do you feel calm now?
MRS. ALVING. [Bending over him.] It has been a dreadful fancy of yours, Oswald—nothing but a fancy. All this excitement has been too much for you. But now you shall have along rest; at home with your mother, my own blessëd boy. Everything you point to you shall have, just as when you were a little child.—There now. The crisis is over. You see how easily it passed! Oh, I was sure it would.—And do you see, Oswald, what a lovely day we are going to have? Brilliant sunshine! Now you can really see your home. [She goes to the table and puts out the lamp. Sunrise. The glacier and the snow-peaks in the background glow in the morning light.]
OSWALD. [Sits in the arm-chair with his back towards the landscape, without moving. Suddenly he says:] Mother, give me the sun.
MRS. ALVING. [By the table, starts and looks at him.] What do you say?
OSWALD. [Repeats, in a dull, toneless voice.] The sun. The sun.
MRS. ALVING. [Goes to him.] Oswald, what is the matter with you?
OSWALD. [Seems to shrink together to the chair; all his muscles relax; his face is expressionless, his eyes have a glassy stare.]
MRS. ALVING. [Quivering with terror.] What is this? [Shrieks.] Oswald! what is the matter with you? [Falls on her knees beside him and shakes him.] Oswald! Oswald! look at me! Don't you know me?
OSWALD. [Tonelessly as before.] The sun.—The sun.
MRS. ALVING. [Springs up in despair, entwines her hands in her hair and shrieks.] I cannot bear it! [Whispers, as though petrified]; I cannot bear it! Never! [Suddenly.] Where has he got them? [Fumbles hastily in his breast.] Here! [Shrinks back a few steps and screams:] No! No; no!—Yes!—No; no!
[She stands a few steps away from him with her hands twisted in her hair, and stares at him in speechless horror.]
OSWALD. [Sits motionless as before and says.] The sun.—The sun.