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The Lady From The Sea by Henrik Ibsen

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Bolette. Do I agree! To get away--to see the world--to learn
something thoroughly! All that seemed to be a great, beautiful

Arnholm. All that may now become a reality to you, if only you
yourself wish it.

Bolette. And to all this unspeakable happiness you will help me!
Oh, no! Tell me, can I accept such an offer from a stranger?

Arnholm. You can from me, Bolette. From me you can accept

Bolette (seizing his hands). Yes, I almost think I can! I don't
know how it is, but--(bursting out) Oh! I could both laugh and
cry for joy, for happiness! Then I should know life really after
all. I began to be so afraid life would pass me by.

Arnholm. You need not fear that, Bolette. But now you must
tell me quite frankly--if there is anything--anything you
are bound to here.

Bolette. Bound to? Nothing.

Arnholm. Nothing whatever?

Bolette. No, nothing at all. That is--I am bound to father to
some extent. And to Hilde, too. But--

Arnholm. Well, you'll have to leave your father sooner or later.
And some time Hilde also will go her own way in life. That is
a question of time. Nothing more. And so there is nothing else
that binds you, Bolette? Not any kind of connection?

Bolette. Nothing whatever. As far as that goes, I could leave at
any moment.

Arnholm. Well, if that is so, dear Bolette, you shall go away
with me!

Bolette (clapping her hands). 0h God! What joy to think of it!

Arnholm. For I hope you trust me fully?

Bolette. Indeed, I do!

Arnholm. And you dare to trust yourself and your future fully and
confidently into my hands, Bolette? Is that true? You will dare
to do this?

Bolette. Of course; how could I not do so? Could you believe
anything else? You, who have been my old teacher--my teacher in
the old days,
I mean.

Arnholm. Not because of that. I will not consider that side of
the matter; but--well, so you are free, Bolette! There is nothing
that binds you, and so I ask you, if you could--if you could--
bind yourself to me for life?

Bolette (steps back frightened). What are you saying?

Arnholm. For all your life, Bolette. Will you be my wife?

Bolette (half to herself). No, no, no! That is impossible,

Arnholm. It is really so absolutely impossible for you to--

Bolette. But, surely, you cannot mean what you are saying, Mr.
Arnholm! (Looking at him.) Or--yet--was that what you meant when
you offered to do so much for me?

Arnholm. You must listen to me one moment, Bolette. I suppose I
have greatly surprised you!

Bolette. Oh! how could such a thing from you--how could it but--
but surprise me!

Arnholm. Perhaps you are right. Of course, you didn't--you could
not know it was for your sake I made this journey.

Bolette. Did you come here for--for my sake?

Arnholm. I did, Bolette. In the spring I received a letter from
your father, and in it there was a passage that made me think--
that you held your former teacher in--in a little more than

Bolette. How could father write such a thing?

Arnholm. He did not mean it so. But I worked myself into the
that here was a young girl longing for me to come again--
No, you mustn't interrupt me, dear Bolette! And--you see, when a
man like myself, who is no longer quite young, has such a belief-
or fancy, it makes an overwhelming impression. There grew within
me a living, a grateful affection for you; I thought I must come
to you, see you again, and tell you I shared the feelings that I
fancied you had for me.

Bolette. And now you know it is not so!--that it was a mistake!

Arnholm. It can't be helped, Bolette. Your image, as I bear it
within myself, will always be coloured and stamped with the
impression that this mistake gave me. Perhaps you cannot
this; but still it is so.

Bolette. I never thought such a thing possible.

Arnholm. But now you have seen that it is possible, what do you
say now, Bolette? Couldn't you make up your mind to
be--yes--to be my wife?

Bolette. Oh! it seems so utterly impossible, Mr. Arnholm.
You, who have been my teacher! I can't imagine ever standing
in any other relation towards you.

Arnholm. Well, well, if you think you really cannot--Then
our old relations remain unchanged, dear Bolette.

Bolette. What do you mean?

Arnholm. Of course, to keep my promise all the same. I will take
care you get out into the world and see something of it. Learn
some things you really want to know; live safe and independent.
Your future I shall provide for also, Bolette. For in me you will
always have a good, faithful, trustworthy friend. Be sure of

Bolette. Good heavens! Mr. Arnholm, all that is so utterly
impossible now.

Arnholm. Is that impossible too?

Bolette. Surely you can see that! After what you have just said
to me, and after my answer--Oh! you yourself must see that it is
impossible for me now to accept so very much from you. I can
accept nothing from you--nothing after this.

Arnholm. So you would rather stay at home here, and let life pass
you by?

Bolette. Oh! it is such dreadful misery to think of that.

Arnholm. Will you renounce knowing something of the outer world?
Renounce bearing your part in all that you yourself say you are
hungering for? To know there is so infinitely much, and yet never
really to understand anything of it? Think carefully, Bolette.

Bolette. Yes, yes! You are right, Mr. Arnholm.

Arnholm. And then, when one day your father is no longer here,
then perhaps to be left helpless and alone in the world; or live
to give yourself to another man--whom you, perhaps, will also
feel no affection for--

Bolette. Oh, yes! I see how true all you say is. But still--and
yet perhaps--

Arnholm (quickly). Well?

Bolette (looking at him hesitatingly). Perhaps it might not be so
impossible after all.

Arnholm. What, Bolette?

Bolette. Perhaps it might be possible--to accept--what you
proposed to me.

Arnholm. Do you mean that, after all, you might be willing to--
that at all events you could give me the happiness of helping you
as a steadfast friend?

Bolette. No, no, no! Never that, for that would be utterly
impossible now. No--Mr. Arnholm--rather take me.

Arnholm. Bolette! You will?

Bolette. Yes, I believe I will.

Arnholm. And after all you will be my wife?

Bolette. Yes; if you still think that--that you will have me.

Arnholm. Think! (Seizing her hand.) Oh, thanks, thanks, Bolette.
All else that you said--your former doubts--these do not frighten
me. If I do not yet possess your whole heart, I shall know how to
conquer it. Oh, Bolette, I will wait upon you hand and foot!

Bolette. And then I shall see something of the world? Shall live!
You have promised me that?

Arnholm. And will keep my promise.

Bolette. And I may learn everything I want to?

Arnholm. I, myself, will be your teacher as formerly, Bolette. Do
you remember the last school year?

Bolette (quietly and absently). To think--to know--one's self
free, and to get out into the strange world, and then, not to
need to be anxious for the future--not to be harassed about one's
stupid livelihood!

Arnholm. No, you will never need to waste a thought upon such
matters. And that's a good thing, too, in its way, dear Bolette,
isn't it? Eh?

Bolette. Indeed it is. That is certain.

Arnholm (putting his arms about her). Oh, you will see how
comfortably and easily we shall settle down together! And how
well and safely and trustfully we two shall get on with one
another, Bolette.

Bolette. Yes. I also begin to--I believe really--it will answer.
(Looks out to the right, and hurriedly frees herself.) Oh, don't
say anything about this.

Arnholm. What is it, dear?

Bolette. Oh! it's that poor (pointing}--see out there.

Arnholm. Is it your father?

Bolette. No. It's the young sculptor. He's down there with Hilde.

Arnholm. Oh, Lyngstrand! What's really the matter with him?

Bolette. Why, you know how weak and delicate he is.

Arnholm. Yes. Unless it's simply imaginary.

Bolette. No, it's real enough! He'll not last long. But perhaps
that's best for him.

Arnholm. Dear, why should that be best?

Bolette. Because--because--nothing would come of his art anyhow.
Let's go before they come.

Arnholm. Gladly, my dear Bolette.

(HILDE and LYNGSTRAND appear by the pond.)

Hilde. Hi, hi! Won't your honours wait for us?

Arnholm. Bolette and I would rather go on a little in advance.
(He and BOLETTE go out to the Left.)

Lyngstrand (laughs quietly). It's very delightful here now.
Everybody goes about in pairs--always two and two together.

Hilde (looking after them). I could almost swear he's proposing
to her.

Lyngstrand. Really? Have you noticed anything?

Hilde. Yes. It's not very difficult--if you keep your eyes open.

Lyngstrand. But Miss Bolette won't have him. I'm certain of that.

Hilde. No. For she thinks he's got so dreadfully old-looking, and
she thinks he'll soon get bald.

Lyngstrand. It's not only because of that. She'd not have him

Hilde. How can you know?

Lyngstrand. Well, because there's someone else she's promised to
think of.

Hilde. Only to think of?

Lyngstrand. While he is away, yes.

Hilde. Oh! then I suppose it's you she's to think of.

Lyngstrand. Perhaps it might be.

Hilde. She promised you that?

Lyngstrand. Yes--think--she promised me that! But mind you don't
tell her you know.

Hilde. Oh! I'll be mum! I'm as secret as the grave.

Lyngstrand. I think it's awfully kind of her.

Hilde. And when you come home again--are you going to be engaged
to her, and then marry her?

Lyngstrand. No, that wouldn't very well do. For I daren't think
of such a thing during the first years. And when I shall be able
to, she'll be rather too old for me, I fancy.

Hilde. And yet you wish her to think of you?

Lyngstrand. Yes; that's so useful to me. You see, I'm an artist.
And she can very well do it, because she herself has no real
calling. But all the same, it's kind of her.

Hilde. Do you think you'll be able to get on more quickly with
your work if you know that Bolette is here thinking of you?

Lyngstrand. Yes, I fancy so. To know there is a spot on earth
where a young, gentle, reserved woman is quietly dreaming about
you--I fancy it must be so--so-well, I really don't exactly know
what to call it.

Hilde. Perhaps you mean--fascinating?

Lyngstrand. Fascinating! Oh, yes! Fascinating was what I meant,
or something like it. (Looks at her for a moment.) You are so
clever, Miss Hilde. Really you are very clever. When I come home
again you'll be about the same age as your sister is now.
Perhaps, too, you'll look like your sister looks now. And
perhaps, too, you'll be of the same mind she is now. Then,
perhaps, you'll be both yourself and your sister--in one form, so
to say.

Hilde. Would you like that?

Lyngstrand. I hardly know. Yes; I almost think I should. But now,
for this summer, I would rather you were like yourself alone, and
exactly as you are.

Hilde. Do you like me best as I am?

Lyngstrand. Yes, I like you immensely as you are.

Hilde. Hm. Tell me, you who are an artist, do you think I'm right
always to wear bright-coloured summer dresses?

Lyngstrand. Yes; I think you're quite right!

Hilde. You think bright colours suit me, then?

Lyngstrand. They suit you charmingly--to my taste.

Hilde. But tell me, as an artist, how do you think I should look
in black?

Lyngstrand. In black, Miss Hilde?

Hilde. Yes, all in black. Do you think I should look well?

Lyngstrand. Black's hardly suitable for the summer. However,
you'd probably look remarkably well in black, especially with
your appearance.

Hilde (looking straight in front of her). All in black, up to the
throat; black frilling round that, black gloves, and a long black
veil hanging down behind.

Lyngstrand. If you were dressed so, Miss Hilde, I should wish I
were a painter, and I'd paint you as a young, beautiful,
sorrowing widow!

Hilde. Or as a young, sorrowing, betrothed girl!

Lyngstrand. Yes, that would be better still. But you can't wish
to be dressed like that?

Hilde. I hardly know; but I think it's fascinating.

Lyngstrand. Fascinating?

Hilde. Fascinating to think of, yes. (Suddenly pointing to the
left.) Oh, just look there!

Lyngstrand (looking). The great English steamer; and right by the

(WANGEL and ELLIDA come in past the pond.)

Wangel. No; I assure you, dear Ellida, you are mistaken. (Seeing
the others.) What, are you two here? It's not in sight yet; is
Mr. Lyngstrand?

Lyngstrand. The great English ship?

Wangel. Yes.

Lyngstrand (pointing). There she is already, doctor.

Ellida. I knew it.

Wangel. Come!

Lyngstrand. Come like a thief in the night, as one might say, so
quietly and noiselessly.

Wangel. You must go to the pier with Hilde. Be quick! I'm sure
she wants to hear the music.

Lyngstrand. Yes; we were just going there, doctor.

Wangel. Perhaps we'll follow you. We'll come directly.

Hilde (whispering to LYNGSTRAND). They're hunting in couples,

(HILDE and LYNGSTRAND go out through the garden. Music is heard
in the distance out at the fiord during the following.)

Ellida. Come! He is here! Yes, yes--I feel it.

Wangel. You'd better go in, Ellida. Let me talk with him alone.

Ellida. Oh! that's impossible--impossible, I say. (With a cry.)
Ah! do you see him, Wangel?

(The STRANGER enters from the left, and remains on the pathway
outside the fence.)

The Stranger (bowing). Good-evening. You see I am here again,

Ellida. Yes, yes. The time has come now.

The Stranger. And are you ready to start, or not?

Wangel. You can see for yourself that she is not.

The Stranger. I'm not asking about a travelling dress, or
anything of that kind, nor about packed trunks. All that is
needed for a journey I have with me on board. I've also secured a
cabin for her. (To ELLIDA.) So I ask you if you are ready to go
with me, to go with me--freely?

Ellida. Oh! do not ask me! Do not tempt me!

(A ship's bell is heard in the distance.)

The Stranger. That is the first bell for going on board. Now you
must say "Yes" or "No."

Ellida (wringing her hands). To decide--decide for one's whole
life! Never to be able to undo it again!

The Stranger. Never. In half an hour it will be too late.

Ellida (looking shyly and searchingly at him). Why is it you hold
to me so resolutely?

The Stranger. Don't you feel, as I do, that we two belong

Ellida. Do you mean because of the vow?

The Stranger. Vows bind no one, neither man nor woman. If I hold
so steadfastly to you, it is because I cannot do otherwise.

Ellida (in a low, trembling voice). Why didn't you come before?

Wangel. Ellida!

Ellida (bursting out). Ah! All that attracts, and tempts, and
lures into the unknown! All the strength of the sea concentrated
in this one thing!

(The STRANGER climbs over the fence.)

Ellida (stepping back to WANGEL). What is it? What do you want?

The Stranger. I see it and I hear it in you, Ellida. After all,
you will choose me in the end.

Wangel (going towards him). My wife has no choice here, I am here
both to choose for her and to defend her. Yes, defend! If you do
go away from here--away from this land--and never come back
Do you know to what you are exposing yourself?

Ellida. No, no, Wangel, not that!

The Stranger. What will you do to me?

Wangel. I will have you arrested as a criminal, at once, before
go on board; for I know all about the murder at Skjoldviken.

Ellida. Ah! Wangel, how can you?

The Stranger. I was prepared for that, and so--(takes a revolver
from his breast pocket)--I provided myself with this.

Ellida (throwing herself in front of him). No, no; do not kill
him! Better kill me!

The Stranger. Neither you nor him, don't fear that. This is for
myself, for I will live and die a free man.

Ellida (with growing excitement). Wangel, let me tell you this--
tell it you so that he may hear it. You can indeed keep me here!
You have the means and the power to do it. And you intend to do
it. But my mind--all my thoughts, all the longings and desires of
my soul--these you cannot bind! These will rush and press out
into the unknown that I was created for, and that you have kept
from me!

Wangel (in quiet sorrow). I see it, Ellida. Step by step you are
slipping from me. The craving for the boundless, the infinite,
the unattainable will drive your soul into the darkness of night
at last.

Ellida. Yes! I feel it hovering over me like black noiseless

Wangel. It shall not come to that. No other deliverance is
possible for you. I at least can see no other. And so--so I cry
off our bargain at once. Now you can choose your own path in
perfect--perfect freedom.

Ellida (stares at him a while as if stricken dumb). Is it true--
true what you say? Do you mean that--mean it with all your heart?

Wangel. Yes--with all my sorrowing heart--I mean it.

Ellida. And can you do it? Can you let it be so?

Wangel. Yes, I can. Because I love you so dearly.

Ellida (in a low, trembling voice). And have I come so near--so
close to you?

Wangel. The years and the living together have done that.

Ellida (clasping her hands together). And I--who so little
understood this!

Wangel. Your thoughts went elsewhere. And now--now you are
completely free of me and mine--and--and mine. Now your own true
life may resume its real bent again, for now you can choose in
freedom, and on your own responsibility, Ellida.

Ellida (clasps her head with her hands, and stares at WANGEL). In
freedom, and on my own responsibility! Responsibility, too? That
changes everything.

(The ship bell rings again.)

The Stranger. Do you hear, Ellida? It has rung now for the last
time. Come.

Ellida (turns towards him, looks firmly at him, and speaks in a
resolute voice). I shall never go with you after this!

The Stranger. You will not!

Ellida (clinging to WANGEL). I shall never go away from you after

The Stranger. So it is over?

Ellida. Yes. Over for all time.

The Stranger. I see. There is something here stronger than my

Ellida. Your will has not a shadow of power over me any longer.
To me you are as one dead--who has come home from the sea, and
who returns to it again. I no longer dread you. And I am no
longer drawn to you.

The Stranger. Goodbye, Mrs. Wangel! (He swings himself over the
fence.) Henceforth, you are nothing but a shipwreck in my life
that I have tided over. (He goes out.)

Wangel (looks at her for a while). Ellida, your mind is like the
sea-- it has ebb and flow. Whence came the change?

Ellida. Ah! don't you understand that the change came--was bound
to come when I could choose in freedom?

Wangel. And the unknown?--It no longer lures you?

Ellida. Neither lures nor frightens me. I could have seen it--
gone out into it, if only I myself had willed it. I could have
chosen it. And that is why I could also renounce it.

Wangel. I begin to understand little by little. You think and
conceive in pictures--in visible figures. Your longing and aching
for the sea, your attraction towards this strange man, these were
the expression of an awakening and growing desire for freedom;
nothing else.

Ellida. I don't know about that. But you have been a good
physician for me. You found, and you dared to use the right
remedy--the only one that could help me.

Wangel. Yes, in utmost need and danger we doctors dare much. And
now you are coming back to me again, Ellida?

Ellida. Yes, dear, faithful Wangel--now I am coming back to you
again. Now I can. For now I come to you freely, and on my own

Wangel (looks lovingly at her). Ellida! Ellida! To think that now
we can live wholly for one another--

Ellida. And with common memories. Yours, as well as mine.

Wangel. Yes, indeed, dear.

Ellida. And for our children, Wangel?

Wangel. You call them ours!

Ellida. They who are not mine yet, but whom I shall win.

Wangel. Ours! (Gladly and quickly kisses her hands.) I cannot
speak my thanks for those words!

garden. At the same time a number of young townspeople and
visitors pass along the footpath.)

Hilde (aside to LYNGSTRAND). See! Why, she and father look
exactly as if they were a betrothed couple!

Ballested (who has overheard). It is summertime, little Missie.

Arnholm (looking at WANGEL and ELLIDA). The English steamer is
putting off.

Bolette (going to the fence). You can see her best from here.

Lyngstrand. The last voyage this year.

Ballested. Soon all the sea-highways will be closed, as the poet
says. It is sad, Mrs. Wangel. And now we're to lose you also for
a time. Tomorrow you're off to Skjoldviken, I hear.

Wangel. No; nothing will come of that. We two have changed our

Arnholm (looking from one to the other). Oh!--really!

Bolette (coming forward). Father, is that true?

Hilde (going towards ELLIDA). Are you going to stay with us after

Ellida. Yes, dear Hilde, if you'll have me.

Hilde (struggling between tears and laughter). Fancy! Have you!

Arnholm (to ELLIDA). But this is quite a surprise--!

Ellida (smiling earnestly). Well, you see, Mr. Arnholm--Do you remember
we talked about it yesterday? When you have once become a land-
creature you can no longer find your way back again to the sea,
nor to the sea-life either.

Ballested. Why, that's exactly the case with my mermaid.

Ellida. Something like--yes.

Ballested. Only with this difference--that the mermaid dies of it,
it, while human beings can acclam--acclimatise themselves. Yes yes.
I assure you, Mrs. Wangel, they can ac-climatise themselves.

Ellida. In freedom they can, Mr. Ballested.

Wangel. And when they act on their own responsibility, dear Ellida.

Ellida (quickly holding out her hand to him). Exactly. (The great
steamer glides noiselessly out beyond the fjord. The music is
heard nearer land.)

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