Part 2 out of 2
MRS. ALVING. Ghosts! When I heard Regina and Oswald in there, it was
as though ghosts rose up before me. But I almost think we are all of
us ghosts, Pastor Manders. It is not only what we have inherited
from our father and mother that "walks" in us. It is all sorts of
dead ideas, and lifeless old beliefs, and so forth. They have no
vitality, but they cling to us all the same, and we cannot shake
them off. Whenever I take up a newspaper, I seem to see ghosts
gliding between the lines. There must be ghosts all the country
over, as thick as the sands of the sea. And then we are, one and
all, so pitifully afraid of the light.
MANDERS. Aha--here we have the fruits of your reading. And pretty
fruits they are, upon my word! Oh, those horrible, revolutionary,
MRS. ALVING. You are mistaken, my dear Pastor. It was you yourself
who set me thinking; and I thank you for it with all my heart.
MRS. ALVING. Yes--when you forced me under the yoke of what you
called duty and obligation; when you lauded as right and proper what
my whole soul rebelled against as something loathsome. It was then
that I began to look into the seams of your doctrines. I wanted only
to pick at a single knot; but when I had got that undone, the whole
thing ravelled out. And then I understood that it was all machine-sewn.
MANDERS. [Softly, with emotion.] And was that the upshot of my
life's hardest battle?
MRS. ALVING. Call it rather your most pitiful defeat.
MANDERS. It was my greatest victory, Helen--the victory over myself.
MRS. ALVING. It was a crime against us both.
MANDERS. When you went astray, and came to me crying, "Here I am;
take me!" I commanded you, saying, "Woman, go home to your lawful
husband." Was that a crime?
MRS. ALVING. Yes, I think so.
MANDERS. We two do not understand each other.
MRS. ALVING. Not now, at any rate.
MANDERS. Never--never in my most secret thoughts have I regarded you
otherwise than as another's wife.
MRS. ALVING. Oh--indeed?
MRS. ALVING. People so easily forget their past selves.
MANDERS. I do not. I am what I always was.
MRS. ALVING. [Changing the subject.] Well well well; don't let us
talk of old times any longer. You are now over head and ears in
Boards and Committees, and I am fighting my battle with ghosts, both
within me and without.
MANDERS. Those without I shall help you to lay. After all the
terrible things I have heard from you today, I cannot in conscience
permit an unprotected girl to remain in your house.
MRS. ALVING. Don't you think the best plan would be to get her
provided for?--I mean, by a good marriage.
MANDERS. No doubt. I think it would be desirable for her in every
respect. Regina is now at the age when--Of course I don't know much
about these things, but--
MRS. ALVING. Regina matured very early.
MANDERS. Yes, I thought so. I have an impression that she was
remarkably well developed, physically, when I prepared her for
confirmation. But in the meantime, she ought to be at home, under
her father's eye--Ah! but Engstrand is not--That he--that he--could
so hide the truth from me! [A knock at the door into the hall.]
MRS. ALVING. Who can this be? Come in!
ENGSTRAND. [In his Sunday clothes, in the doorway.] I humbly beg
your pardon, but--
MANDERS. Aha! H'm--
MRS. ALVING. Is that you, Engstrand?
ENGSTRAND. --there was none of the servants about, so I took the
great liberty of just knocking.
MRS. ALVING. Oh, very well. Come in. Do you want to speak to me?
ENGSTRAND. [Comes in.] No, I'm obliged to you, ma'am; it was with
his Reverence I wanted to have a word or two.
MANDERS. [Walking up and down the room.] Ah--indeed! You want to
speak to me, do you?
ENGSTRAND. Yes, I'd like so terrible much to--
MANDERS. [Stops in front of him.] Well; may I ask what you want?
ENGSTRAND. Well, it was just this, your Reverence: we've been paid
off down yonder--my grateful thanks to you, ma'am,--and now
everything's finished, I've been thinking it would be but right and
proper if we, that have been working so honestly together all this
time--well, I was thinking we ought to end up with a little
MANDERS. A prayer-meeting? Down at the Orphanage?
ENGSTRAND. Oh, if your Reverence doesn't think it proper--
MANDERS. Oh yes, I do; but--h'm--
ENGSTRAND. I've been in the habit of offering up a little prayer in
the evenings, myself--
MRS. ALVING. Have you?
ENGSTRAND. Yes, every now and then just a little edification, in a
manner of speaking. But I'm a poor, common man, and have little
enough gift, God help me!--and so I thought, as the Reverend Mr.
Manders happened to be here, I'd--
MANDERS. Well, you see, Engstrand, I have a question to put to you
first. Are you in the right frame of mind for such a meeting! Do you
feel your conscience clear and at ease?
ENGSTRAND. Oh, God help us, your Reverence! we'd better not talk
MANDERS. Yes, that is just what we must talk about. What have you to
ENGSTRAND. Why--a man's conscience--it can be bad enough now and
MANDERS. Ah, you admit that. Then perhaps you will make a clean
breast of it, and tell me--the real truth about Regina?
MRS. ALVING. [Quickly.] Mr. Manders!
MANDERS. [Reassuringly.] Please allow me--
ENGSTRAND. About Regina! Lord, what a turn you gave me! [Looks at
MRS. ALVING.] There's nothing wrong about Regina, is there?
MANDERS. We will hope not. But I mean, what is the truth about you
and Regina? You pass for her father, eh!
ENGSTRAND. [Uncertain.] Well--h'm--your Reverence knows all about me
and poor Johanna.
MANDERS. Come now, no more prevarication! Your wife told Mrs. Alving
the whole story before quitting her service.
ENGSTRAND. Well, then, may--! Now, did she really?
MANDERS. You see we know you now, Engstrand.
ENGSTRAND. And she swore and took her Bible oath--
MANDERS. Did she take her Bible oath?
ENGSTRAND. No; she only swore; but she did it that solemn-like.
MANDERS. And you have hidden the truth from me all these years?
Hidden it from me, who have trusted you without reserve, in
ENGSTRAND. Well, I can't deny it.
MANDERS. Have I deserved this of you, Engstrand? Have I not always
been ready to help you in word and deed, so far as it lay in my
power? Answer me. Have I not?
ENGSTRAND. It would have been a poor look-out for me many a time
but for the Reverend Mr. Manders.
MANDERS. And this is how you reward me! You cause me to enter
falsehoods in the Church Register, and you withhold from me, year
after year, the explanations you owed alike to me and to the truth.
Your conduct has been wholly inexcusable, Engstrand; and from this
time forward I have done with you!
ENGSTRAND. [With a sigh.] Yes! I suppose there's no help for it.
MANDERS. How can you possibly justify yourself?
ENGSTRAND. Who could ever have thought she'd have gone and made bad
worse by talking about it? Will your Reverence just fancy yourself
in the same trouble as poor Johanna--
ENGSTRAND. Lord bless you, I don't mean just exactly the same. But
I mean, if your Reverence had anything to be ashamed of in the eyes
of the world, as the saying goes. We menfolk oughtn't to judge a
poor woman too hardly, your Reverence.
MANDERS. I am not doing so. It is you I am reproaching.
ENGSTRAND. Might I make so bold as to ask your Reverence a bit of a
MANDERS. Yes, if you want to.
ENGSTRAND. Isn't it right and proper for a man to raise up the
MANDERS. Most certainly it is.
ENGSTRAND. And isn't a man bound to keep his sacred word?
MANDERS. Why, of course he is; but--
ENGSTRAND. When Johanna had got into trouble through that
Englishman--or it might have been an American or a Russian, as they
call them--well, you see, she came down into the town. Poor thing,
she'd sent me about my business once or twice before: for she
couldn't bear the sight of anything as wasn't handsome; and I'd got
this damaged leg of mine. Your Reverence recollects how I ventured
up into a dancing saloon, where seafaring men was carrying on with
drink and devilry, as the saying goes. And then, when I was for
giving them a bit of an admonition to lead a new life--
MRS. ALVING. [At the window.] H'm--
MANDERS. I know all about that, Engstrand; the ruffians threw you
downstairs. You have told me of the affair already. Your infirmity
is an honour to you.
ENGSTRAND. I'm not puffed up about it, your Reverence. But what I
wanted to say was, that when she cane and confessed all to me, with
weeping and gnashing of teeth, I can tell your Reverence I was sore
at heart to hear it.
MANDERS. Were you indeed, Engstrand? Well, go on.
ENGSTRAND. So I says to her, "The American, he's sailing about on
the boundless sea. And as for you, Johanna," says I, "you've
committed a grievous sin, and you're a fallen creature. But Jacob
Engstrand," says I, "he's got two good legs to stand upon, he has--"
You see, your Reverence, I was speaking figurative-like.
MANDERS. I understand quite well. Go on.
ENGSTRAND. Well, that was how I raised her up and made an honest
woman of her, so as folks shouldn't get to know how as she'd gone
astray with foreigners.
MANDERS. In all that you acted very well. Only I cannot approve of
your stooping to take money--
ENGSTRAND. Money? I? Not a farthing!
MANDERS. [Inquiringly to MRS. ALVING.] But--
ENGSTRAND. Oh, wait a minute!--now I recollect. Johanna did have a
trifle of money. But I would have nothing to do with that. "No,"
says I, "that's mammon; that's the wages of sin. This dirty gold--
or notes, or whatever it was--we'll just flint, that back in the
American's face," says I. But he was off and away, over the stormy
sea, your Reverence.
MANDERS. Was he really, my good fellow?
ENGSTRAND. He was indeed, sir. So Johanna and I, we agreed that the
money should go to the child's education; and so it did, and I can
account for every blessed farthing of it.
MANDERS. Why, this alters the case considerably.
ENGSTRAND. That's just how it stands, your Reverence. And I make so
bold as to say as I've been an honest father to Regina, so far as
my poor strength went; for I'm but a weak vessel, worse luck!
MANDERS. Well, well, my good fellow--
ENGSTRAND. All the same, I bear myself witness as I've brought up
the child, and lived kindly with poor Johanna, and ruled over my
own house, as the Scripture has it. But it couldn't never enter my
head to go to your Reverence and puff myself up and boast because
even the likes of me had done some good in the world. No, sir; when
anything of that sort happens to Jacob Engstrand, he holds his
tongue about it. It don't happen so terrible often, I daresay. And
when I do come to see your Reverence, I find a mortal deal that's
wicked and weak to talk about. For I said it before, and I says it
again--a man's conscience isn't always as clean as it might be.
MANDERS. Give me your hand, Jacob Engstrand.
ENGSTRAND. Oh, Lord! your Reverence--
MANDERS. Come, no nonsense [wrings his hand]. There we are!
ENGSTRAND. And if I might humbly beg your Reverence's pardon--
MANDERS. You? On the contrary, it is I who ought to beg your pardon--
ENGSTRAND. Lord, no, Sir!
MANDERS. Yes, assuredly. And I do it with all my heart. Forgive me
for misunderstanding you. I only wish I could give you some proof
of my hearty regret, and of my good-will towards you--
ENGSTRAND. Would your Reverence do it?
MANDERS. With the greatest pleasure.
ENGSTRAND. Well then, here's the very chance. With the bit of money
I've saved here, I was thinking I might set up a Sailors' Home down
in the town.
MRS. ALVING. You?
ENGSTRAND. Yes; it might be a sort of Orphanage, too, in a manner
of speaking. There's such a many temptations for seafaring folk
ashore. But in this Home of mine, a man might feel like as he was
under a father's eye, I was thinking.
MANDERS. What do you say to this, Mrs. Alving?
ENGSTRAND. It isn't much as I've got to start with, Lord help me!
But if I could only find a helping hand, why--
MANDERS. Yes, yes; we will look into the matter more closely. I
entirely approve of your plan. But now, go before me and make
everything ready, and get the candles lighted, so as to give the
place an air of festivity. And then we will pass an edifying hour
together, my good fellow; for now I quite believe you are in the
right frame of mind.
ENGSTRAND. Yes, I trust I am. And so I'll say good-bye, ma'am, and
thank you kindly; and take good care of Regina for me--[Wipes a
tear from his eye]--poor Johanna's child. Well, it's a queer thing,
now; but it's just like as if she'd growd into the very apple of my
eye. It is, indeed. [He bows and goes out through the hall.]
MANDERS. Well, what do you say of that man now, Mrs. Alving? That
was a very different account of matters, was it not?
MRS. ALVING. Yes, it certainly was.
MANDERS. It only shows how excessively careful one ought to be in
judging one's fellow creatures. But what a heartfelt joy it is to
ascertain that one has been mistaken! Don't you think so?
MRS. ALVING. I think you are, and will always be, a great baby,
MRS. ALVING. [Laying her two hands upon his shoulders.] And I say
that I have half a mind to put my arms round your neck, and kiss
MANDERS. [Stepping hastily back.] No, no! God bless me! What an
MRS. ALVING. [With a smile.] Oh, you needn't be afraid of me.
MANDERS. [By the table.] You have sometimes such an exaggerated way
of expressing yourself. Now, let me just collect all the documents,
and put them in my bag. [He does so.] There, that's all right. And
now, good-bye for the present. Keep your eyes open when Oswald
comes back. I shall look in again later. [He takes his hat and goes
out through the hall door.]
MRS. ALVING. [Sighs, looks for a moment out of the window, sets the
room in order a little, and is about to go into the dining-room,
but stops at the door with a half-suppressed cry.] Oswald, are you
still at table?
OSWALD. [In the dining room.] I'm only finishing my cigar.
MRS. ALVING. I thought you had gone for a little walk.
OSWALD. In such weather as this?
[A glass clinks. MRS. ALVING leaves the door open, and sits down
with her knitting on the sofa by the window.]
OSWALD. Wasn't that Pastor Manders that went out just now?
MRS. ALVING. Yes; he went down to the Orphanage.
OSWALD. H'm. [The glass and decanter clink again.]
MRS. ALVING. [With a troubled glance.] Dear Oswald, you should take
care of that liqueur. It is strong.
OSWALD. It keeps out the damp.
MRS. ALVING. Wouldn't you rather come in here, to me?
OSWALD. I mayn't smoke in there.
MRS. ALVING. You know quite well you may smoke cigars.
OSWALD. Oh, all right then; I'll come in. Just a tiny drop more
first. There! [He comes into the room with his cigar, and shuts
the door after him. A short silence.] Where has the pastor gone to?
MRS. ALVING. I have just told you; he went down to the Orphanage.
OSWALD. Oh, yes; so you did.
MRS. ALVING. You shouldn't sit so long at table, Oswald.
OSWALD. [Holding his cigar behind him.] But I find it so pleasant,
mother. [Strokes and caresses her.] Just think what it is for me to
come home and sit at mother's own table, in mother's room, and eat
mother's delicious dishes.
MRS. ALVING. My dear, dear boy!
OSWALD. [Somewhat impatiently, walks about and smokes.] And what
else can I do with myself here? I can't set to work at anything.
MRS. ALVING. Why can't you?
OSWALD. In such weather as this? Without a single ray of sunshine
the whole day? [Walks up the room.] Oh, not to be able to work--!
MRS. ALVING. Perhaps it was not quite wise of you to come home?
OSWALD. Oh, yes, mother; I had to.
MRS. ALVING. You know I would ten times rather forgo the joy of
having you here, than let you--
OSWALD. [Stops beside the table.] Now just tell me, mother: does it
really make you so very happy to have me home again?
MRS. ALVING. Does it make me happy!
OSWALD. [Crumpling up a newspaper.] I should have thought it must
be pretty much the same to you whether I was in existence or not.
MRS. ALVING. Have you the heart to say that to your mother, Oswald?
OSWALD. But you've got on very well without me all this time.
MRS. ALVING. Yes; I have got on without you. That is true.
[A silence. Twilight slowly begins to fall. OSWALD paces to and fro
across the room. He has laid his cigar down.]
OSWALD. [Stops beside MRS. ALVING.] Mother, may I sit on the sofa
MRS. ALVING. [Makes room for him.] Yes, do, my dear boy.
OSWALD. [Sits down.] There is something I must tell you, mother.
MRS. ALVING. [Anxiously.] Well?
OSWALD. [Looks fixedly before him.] For I can't go on hiding it any
MRS. ALVING. Hiding what? What is it?
OSWALD. [As before.] I could never bring myself to write to you
about it; and since I've come home--
MRS. ALVING. [Seizes him by the arm.] Oswald, what is the matter?
OSWALD. Both yesterday and to-day I have tried to put the thoughts
away from me--to cast them off; but it's no use.
MRS. ALVING. [Rising.] Now you must tell me everything, Oswald!
OSWALD. [Draws her down to the sofa again.] Sit still; and then I
will try to tell you.--I complained of fatigue after my journey--
MRS. ALVING. Well? What then?
OSWALD. But it isn't that that is the matter with me; not any
MRS. ALVING. [Tries to jump up.] You are not ill, Oswald?
OSWALD. [Draws her down again.] Sit still, mother. Do take it
quietly. I'm not downright ill, either; not what is commonly called
"ill." [Clasps his hands above his head.] Mother, my mind is broken
down--ruined--I shall never be able to work again! [With his hands
before his face, he buries his head in her lap, and breaks into
MRS. ALVING. [White and trembling.] Oswald! Look at me! No, no;
it's not true.
OSWALD. [Looks up with despair in his eyes.] Never to be able to
work again! Never!--never! A living death! Mother, can you imagine
anything so horrible?
MRS. ALVING. My poor boy! How has this horrible thing come upon you?
OSWALD. [Sitting upright again.] That's just what I cannot possibly
grasp or understand. I have never led a dissipated life never, in
any respect. You mustn't believe that of me, mother! I've never
MRS. ALVING. I am sure you haven't, Oswald.
OSWALD. And yet this has come upon me just the same--this awful
MRS. ALVING. Oh, but it will pass over, my dear, blessed boy.
It's nothing but over-work. Trust me, I am right.
OSWALD. [Sadly.] I thought so too, at first; but it isn't so.
MRS. ALVING. Tell me everything, from beginning to end.
OSWALD. Yes, I will.
MRS. ALVING. When did you first notice it?
OSWALD. It was directly after I had been home last time, and had
got back to Paris again. I began to feel the most violent pains in
my head--chiefly in the back of my head, they seemed to come. It
was as though a tight iron ring was being screwed round my neck and
MRS. ALVING. Well, and then?
OSWALD. At first I thought it was nothing but the ordinary headache
I had been so plagued with while I was growing up--
MRS. ALVING. Yes, yes--
OSWALD. But it wasn't that. I soon found that out. I couldn't work
any more. I wanted to begin upon a big new picture, but my powers
seemed to fail me; all my strength was crippled; I could form no
definite images; everything swam before me--whirling round and
round. Oh, it was an awful state! At last I sent for a doctor--and
from him I learned the truth.
MRS. ALVING. How do you mean?
OSWALD. He was one of the first doctors in Paris. I told him my
symptoms; and then he set to work asking me a string of questions
which I thought had nothing to do with the matter. I couldn't
imagine what the man was after--
MRS. ALVING. Well?
OSWALD. At last he said: "There has been something worm-eaten in
you from your birth." He used that very word--_vermoulu_.
MRS. ALVING. [Breathlessly.] What did he mean by that?
OSWALD. I didn't understand either, and begged him to explain
himself more clearly. And then the old cynic said--[Clenching his
MRS. ALVING. What did he say?
OSWALD. He said, "The sins of the fathers are visited upon the
MRS. ALVING. [Rising slowly.] The sins of the fathers--!
OSWALD. I very nearly struck him in the face--
MRS. ALVING. [Walks away across the room.] The sins of the fathers--
OSWALD. [Smiles sadly.] Yes; what do you think of that? Of course I
assured him that such a thing was out of the question. But do you
think he gave in? No, he stuck to it; and it was only when I
produced your letters and translated the passages relating to
MRS. ALVING. But then--?
OSWALD. Then of course he had to admit that he was on the wrong
track; and so I learned the truth--the incomprehensible truth! I
ought not to have taken part with my comrades in that lighthearted,
glorious life of theirs. It had been too much for my strength. So I
had brought it upon myself!
MRS. ALVING. Oswald! No, no; do not believe it!
OSWALD. No other explanation was possible, he said. That's the
awful part of it. Incurably ruined for life--by my own heedlessness!
All that I meant to have done in the world--I never dare think of
it again--I'm not able to think of it. Oh! if I could only live over
again, and undo all I have done! [He buries his face in the sofa.]
MRS. ALVING. [Wrings her hands and walks, in silent struggle,
backwards and forwards.]
OSWALD. [After a while, looks up and remains resting upon his
elbow.] If it had only been something inherited--something one
wasn't responsible for! But this! To have thrown away so
shamefully, thoughtlessly, recklessly, one's own happiness,
one's own health, everything in the world--one's future,
one's very life--!
MRS. ALVING. No, no, my dear, darling boy; this is impossible!
[Bends over him.] Things are not so desperate as you think.
OSWALD. Oh, you don't know--[Springs up.] And then, mother, to
cause you all this sorrow! Many a time I have almost wished and
hoped that at bottom you didn't care so very much about me.
MRS. ALVING. I, Oswald? My only boy! You are all I have in the
world! The only thing I care about!
OSWALD. [Seizes both her hands and kisses them.] Yes, yes, I see
it. When I'm at home, I see it, of course; and that's almost the
hardest part for me.--But now you know the whole story and now we
won't talk any more about it to-day. I daren't think of it for long
together. [Goes up the room.] Get me something to drink, mother.
MRS. ALVING. To drink? What do you want to drink now?
OSWALD. Oh, anything you like. You have some cold punch in the
MRS. ALVING. Yes, but my dear Oswald--
OSWALD. Don't refuse me, mother. Do be kind, now! I must have
something to wash down all these gnawing thoughts. [Goes into the
conservatory.] And then--it's so dark here! [MRS. ALVING pulls a
bell-rope on the right.] And this ceaseless rain! It may go on week
after week, for months together. Never to get a glimpse of the sun!
I can't recollect ever having seen the sun shine all the times I've
been at home.
MRS. ALVING. Oswald--you are thinking of going away from me.
OSWALD. H'm--[Drawing a heavy breath.]--I'm not thinking of
anything. I cannot think of anything! [In a low voice.] I let
REGINA. [From the dining-room.] Did you ring, ma'am?
MRS. ALVING. Yes; let us have the lamp in.
REGINA. Yes, ma'am. It's ready lighted. [Goes out.]
MRS. ALVING. [Goes across to OSWALD.] Oswald, be frank with me.
OSWALD. Well, so I am, mother. [Goes to the table.] I think I have
told you enough.
[REGINA brings the lamp and sets it upon the table.]
MRS. ALVING. Regina, you may bring us a small bottle of champagne.
REGINA. Very well, ma'am. [Goes out.]
OSWALD. [Puts his arm round MRS. ALVING's neck.] That's just what I
wanted. I knew mother wouldn't let her boy go thirsty.
MRS. ALVING. My own, poor, darling Oswald; how could I deny you
OSWALD. [Eagerly.] Is that true, mother? Do you mean it?
MRS. ALVING. How? What?
OSWALD. That you couldn't deny me anything.
MRS. ALVING. My dear Oswald--
REGINA. [Brings a tray with a half-bottle of champagne and two
glasses, which she sets on the table.] Shall I open it?
OSWALD. No, thanks. I will do it myself.
[REGINA goes out again.]
MRS. ALVING. [Sits down by the table.] What was it you meant--that
I musn't deny you?
OSWALD. [Busy opening the bottle.] First let us have a glass--or
[The cork pops; he pours wine into one glass, and is about
to pour it into the other.]
MRS. ALVING. [Holding her hand over it.] Thanks; not for me.
OSWALD. Oh! won't you? Then I will!
[He empties the glass, fells, and empties it again; then he
sits down by the table.]
MRS. ALVING. [In expectancy.] Well?
OSWALD. [Without looking at her.] Tell me--I thought you and Pastor
Manders seemed so odd--so quiet--at dinner to-day.
MRS. ALVING. Did you notice it?
OSWALD. Yes. H'm--[After a short silence.] Tell me: what do you
think of Regina?
MRS. ALVING. What do I think?
OSWALD. Yes; isn't she splendid?
MRS. ALVING. My dear Oswald, you don't know her as I do--
MRS. ALVING. Regina, unfortunately, was allowed to stay at home
too long. I ought to have taken her earlier into my house.
OSWALD. Yes, but isn't she splendid to look at, mother?
[He fills his glass.]
MRS. ALVING. Regina has many serious faults--
OSWALD. Oh, what does that matter? [He drinks again.]
MRS. ALVING. But I am fond of her, nevertheless, and I am
responsible for her. I wouldn't for all the world have any harm
happen to her.
OSWALD. [Springs up.] Mother, Regina is my only salvation!
MRS. ALVING. [Rising.] What do you mean by that?
OSWALD. I cannot go on bearing all this anguish of soul alone.
MRS. ALVING. Have you not your mother to share it with you?
OSWALD. Yes; that's what I thought; and so I came home to you. But
that will not do. I see it won't do. I cannot endure my life here.
MRS. ALVING. Oswald!
OSWALD. I must live differently, mother. That is why I must leave
you. I will not have you looking on at it.
MRS. ALVING. My unhappy boy! But, Oswald, while you are so ill as
OSWALD. If it were only the illness, I should stay with you,
mother, you may be sure; for you are the best friend I have in the
MRS. ALVING. Yes, indeed I am, Oswald; am I not?
OSWALD. [Wanders restlessly about.] But it's all the torment, the
gnawing remorse--and then, the great, killing dread. Oh--that awful
MRS. ALVING. [Walking after him.] Dread? What dread? What do you
OSWALD. Oh, you mustn't ask me any more. I don't know. I can't
MRS. ALVING. [Goes over to the right and pulls the bell.]
OSWALD. What is it you want?
MRS. ALVING. I want my boy to be happy--that is what I want. He
sha'n't go on brooding over things [To REGINA, who appears at the
door:] More champagne--a large bottle. [REGINA goes.]
MRS. ALVING. Do you think we don't know how to live here at home?
OSWALD. Isn't she splendid to look at? How beautifully she's built!
And so thoroughly healthy!
MRS. ALVING. [Sits by the table.] Sit down, Oswald; let us talk
OSWALD. [Sits.] I daresay you don't know, mother, that I owe Regina
MRS. ALVING. You!
OSWALD. For a bit of thoughtlessness, or whatever you like to call
it--very innocent, at any rate. When I was home last time--
MRS. ALVING. Well?
OSWALD. She used often to ask me about Paris, and I used to tell
her one thing and another. Then I recollect I happened to say to
her one day, "Shouldn't you like to go there yourself?"
MRS. ALVING. Well?
OSWALD. I saw her face flush, and then she said, "Yes, I should
like it of all things." "Ah, well," I replied, "it might perhaps be
managed"--or something like that.
MRS. ALVING. And then?
OSWALD. Of course I had forgotten all about it; but the day before
yesterday I happened to ask her whether she was glad I was to stay
at home so long--
MRS. ALVING. Yes?
OSWALD. And then she gave me such a strange look, and asked, "But
what's to become of my trip to Paris?"
MRS. ALVING. Her trip!
OSWALD. And so it came out that she had taken the thing seriously;
that she had been thinking of me the whole time, and had set to
work to learn French--
MRS. ALVING. So that was why--!
OSWALD. Mother--when I saw that fresh, lovely, splendid girl
standing there before me--till then I had hardly noticed her--but
when she stood there as though with open arms ready to receive me--
MRS. ALVING. Oswald!
OSWALD. --then it flashed upon me that in her lay my salvation; for
I saw that she was full of the joy of life.
MRS. ALVING. [Starts.] The joy of life? Can there be salvation in
REGINA. [From the dining room, with a bottle of champagne.] I'm
sorry to have been so long, but I had to go to the cellar. [Places
the bottle on the table.]
OSWALD. And now bring another glass.
REGINA. [Looks at him in surprise.] There is Mrs. Alving's glass,
OSWALD. Yes, but bring one for yourself, Regina. [REGINA starts and
gives a lightning-like side glance at MRS. ALVING.] Why do you
REGINA. [Softly and hesitatingly.] Is it Mrs. Alving's wish?
MRS. ALVING. Bring the glass, Regina.
[REGINA goes out into the dining-room.]
OSWALD. [Follows her with his eyes.] Have you noticed how she
walks?--so firmly and lightly!
MRS. ALVING. This can never be, Oswald!
OSWALD. It's a settled thing. Can't you see that? It's no use
saying anything against it.
[REGINA enters with an empty glass, which she keeps in her hand.]
OSWALD. Sit down, Regina.
[REGINA looks inquiringly at MRS. ALVING.]
MRS. ALVING. Sit down. [REGINA sits on a chair by the dining room
door, still holding the empty glass in her hand.] Oswald--what were
you saying about the joy of life?
OSWALD. Ah, the joy of life, mother--that's a thing you don't know
much about in these parts. I have never felt it here.
MRS. ALVING. Not when you are with me?
OSWALD. Not when I'm at home. But you don't understand that.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, yes; I think I almost understand it--now.
OSWALD. And then, too, the joy of work! At bottom, it's the same
thing. But that, too, you know nothing about.
MRS. ALVING. Perhaps you are right. Tell me more about it, Oswald.
OSWALD. I only mean that here people are brought up to believe that
work is a curse and a punishment for sin, and that life is
something miserable, something; it would be best to have done with,
the sooner the better.
MRS. ALVING. "A vale of tears," yes; and we certainly do our best
to make it one.
OSWALD. But in the great world people won't hear of such things.
There, nobody really believes such doctrines any longer. There, you
feel it a positive bliss and ecstasy merely to draw the breath of
life. Mother, have you noticed that everything I have painted has
turned upon the joy of life?--always, always upon the joy of life?--
light and sunshine and glorious air-and faces radiant with
happiness. That is why I'm afraid of remaining at home with you.
MRS. ALVING. Afraid? What are you afraid of here, with me?
OSWALD. I'm afraid lest all my instincts should be warped into
MRS. ALVING. [Looks steadily at him.] Do you think that is what
OSWALD. I know it. You may live the same life here as there, and
yet it won't be the same life.
MRS. ALVING. [Who has been listening eagerly, rises, her eyes big
with thought, and says:] Now I see the sequence of things.
OSWALD. What is it you see?
MRS. ALVING. I see it now for the first time. And now I can speak.
OSWALD. [Rising.] Mother, I don't understand you.
REGINA. [Who has also risen.] Perhaps I ought to go?
MRS. ALVING. No. Stay here. Now I can speak. Now, my boy, you shall
know the whole truth. And then you can choose. Oswald! Regina!
OSWALD. Hush! The Pastor--
MANDERS. [Enters by the hall door.] There! We have had a most
edifying time down there.
OSWALD. So have we.
MANDERS. We must stand by Engstrand and his Sailors' Home. Regina
must go to him and help him--
REGINA. No thank you, sir.
MANDERS. [Noticing her for the first tine.] What--? You here? And
with a glass in your hand!
REGINA. [Hastily putting the glass down.] Pardon!
OSWALD. Regina is going with me, Mr. Manders.
MANDERS. Going! With you!
OSWALD. Yes; as my wife--if she wishes it.
MANDERS. But, merciful God--!
REGINA. I can't help it, sir.
OSWALD. Or she'll stay here, if I stay.
REGINA. [Involuntarily.] Here!
MANDERS. I am thunderstruck at your conduct, Mrs. Alving.
MRS. ALVING. They will do neither one thing nor the other; for now
I can speak out plainly.
MANDERS. You surely will not do that! No, no, no!
MRS. ALVING. Yes, I can speak and I will. And no ideals shall
suffer after all.
OSWALD. Mother--what is it you are hiding from me?
REGINA. [Listening.] Oh, ma'am, listen! Don't you hear shouts
outside. [She goes into the conservatory and looks out.]
OSWALD. [At the window on the left.] What's going on? Where does
that light come from?
REGINA. [Cries out.] The Orphanage is on fire!
MRS. ALVING. [Rushing to the window.] On fire!
MANDERS. On fire! Impossible! I've just come from there.
OSWALD. Where's my hat? Oh, never mind it--Father's Orphanage--!
[He rushes out through the garden door.]
MRS. ALVING. My shawl, Regina! The whole place is in a blaze!
MANDERS. Terrible! Mrs. Alving, it is a judgment upon this abode of
MRS. ALVING. Yes, of course. Come, Regina. [She and REGINA hasten
out through the hall.]
MANDERS. [Clasps his hands together.] And we left it uninsured! [He
goes out the same way.]
[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
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
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,
MANDERS. [Continuing to walk up and down.] No, no, no; I have told
ENGSTRAND. [Following him.] Not insured! And then to go straight
away down and set light to the whole thing! Lord, Lord, what a
MANDERS. [Wipes the sweat from his forehead.] Ay, you may well say
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. 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,
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
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
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 MANGERS 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
MRS. ALVING. [In a low voice.] I shall be patient and easily
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
MRS. ALVING. I don't understand you. What is this about dread--and
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
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,
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
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
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 blessed 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
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.