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  • 1886
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branded me, once for all–branded me for life. I do not suppose you can fully realise what such a thing means. But it is possible that you may soon feel the smart of it yourself now, Mr. Rosmer.

Rosmer. I?

Mortensgaard. Yes. You surely do not suppose that Mr. Kroll and his gang will be inclined to forgive a rupture such as yours? And the “County News” is going to be pretty bloodthirsty, I hear. It may very well come to pass that you will be a marked man, too.

Rosmer. On personal grounds, Mr. Mortensgaard, I feel myself to be invulnerable. My conduct does not offer any point of attack.

Mortensgaard (with a quiet smile). That is saying a good deal, Mr. Rosmer.

Rosmer. Perhaps it is. But I have the right to say as much.

Mortensgaard. Even if you were inclined to overhaul your conduct as thoroughly as you once overhauled mine?

Rosmer. You say that very strangely. What are you driving at?–is it anything definite?

Mortensgaard. Yes, there is one definite thing–no more than a single one. But it might be quite awkward enough if malicious opponents got a hint of it.

Rosmer. Will you have the kindness to tell me what on earth it is?

Mortensgaard. Can you not guess, Mr. Rosmer?

Rosmer. No, not for a moment.

Mortensgaard. All right. I must come out with it, then. I have in my possession a remarkable letter, that was written here at Rosmersholm.

Rosmer. Miss West’s letter, you mean? Is it so remarkable?

Mortensgaard. No, that letter is not remarkable. But I received a letter from this house on another occasion.

Rosmer. From Miss West?

Mortensgaard. No, Mr. Rosmer.

Rosmer. Well, from whom, then? From whom?

Mortensgaard. From your late wife.

Rosmer. From my wife? You had a letter from my wife?

Mortensgaard. Yes, I did.

Rosmer. When?

Mortensgaard. It was during the poor lady’s last days. It must be about a year and a half ago now. And that is the letter that is so remarkable.

Rosmer. Surely you know that my wife’s mind was affected at that time?

Mortensgaard. I know there were a great many people who thought so. But, in my opinion, no one would have imagined anything of the kind from the letter. When I say the letter is a remarkable one, I mean remarkable in quite another way.

Rosmer. And what in the world did my poor wife find to write to you about?

Mortensgaard. I have the letter at home. It begins more or less to the effect that she is living in perpetual terror and dread, because of the fact that there are so many evilly disposed people about her whose only desire is to do you harm and mischief.

Rosmer. Me?

Mortensgaard. Yes, so she says. And then follows the most remarkable part of it all. Shall I tell you, Mr. Rosmer?

Rosmer. Of course! Tell me everything, without any reserve.

Mortensgaard. The poor lady begs and entreats me to be magnanimous. She says that she knows it was you, who got me dismissed from my post as schoolmaster, and implores me most earnestly not to revenge myself upon you.

Rosmer. What way did she think you could revenge yourself, then?

Mortensgaard. The letter goes on to say that if I should hear that anything sinful was going on at Rosmersholm, I was not to believe a word of it; that it would be only the work of wicked folk who were spreading the rumours on purpose to do you harm.

Rosmer. Does the letter say that?

Mortensgaard. You may read it at your convenience, Mr. Rosmer.

Rosmer. But I cannot understand–? What did she imagine there could be any wicked rumours about?

Mortensgaard. In the first place, that you had broken away from the faith of your childhood. Mrs. Rosmer denied that absolutely– at that time. And, in the next place–ahem !

Rosmer. In the next place?

Mortensgaard. Well, in the next place she writes–though rather confusedly–that she has no knowledge of any sinful relations existing at Rosmersholm; that she has never been wronged in any way; and that if any rumours of that sort should get about, she entreats me not to allude to them in the “Searchlight”.

Rosmer. Does she mention any names?

Mortensgaard. No.

Rosmer. Who brought you the letter?

Mortensgaard. I promised not to tell that. It was brought to me one evening after dark.

Rosmer. If you had made inquiries at the time, you would have learnt that my poor unhappy wife was not fully accountable for her actions.

Mortensgaard. I did make inquiries, Mr. Rosmer; but I must say I did not get exactly that impression.

Rosmer. Not?–But why have you chosen this moment to enlighten me as to the existence of this old crazy letter?

Mortensgaard. With the object of advising you to be extremely cautious, Mr. Rosmer.

Rosmer. As to my way of life, do you mean?

Mortensgaard. Yes. You must remember that for the future you will not be unassailable.

Rosmer. So you persist in thinking that I have something to conceal here?

Mortensgaard. I do not see any reason why a man of emancipated ideas should refrain from living his life as fully as possible. Only, as I have already said, you should be cautious in future. If rumours should get about of anything that offends people’s prejudices, you may be quite certain that the whole cause of freedom of thought will suffer for it. Good-bye, Mr. Rosmer.

Rosmer. Good-bye.

Mortensgaard. I shall go straight to the printing-office now and have the great piece of news inserted in the “Searchlight”.

Rosmer. Put it all in.

Mortensgaard. I will put in as much as there is any need for the public to know. (Bows, and goes out. ROSMER stands at the door, while MORTENSGAARD goes downstairs. The front door is heard shutting.)

Rosmer (still standing in the doorway, calls softly). Rebecca! Reb–ahem! (Calls loudly.) Mrs. Helseth–is Miss West downstairs?

Mrs. Helseth (from below). No, sir, she is not here.

(The curtain at the end of the room is drawn back, disclosing REBECCA standing in the doorway.)

Rebecca. John!

Rosmer (turning round). What! Were you in there, in my bedroom! My dear, what were you doing there?

Rebecca (going up to him). I have been listening.

Rosmer. Rebecca! Could you do a thing like that?

Rebecca. Indeed I could. It was so horrid the way he said that– about my morning wrapper.

Rosmer. Ah, so you were in there too when Kroll–?

Rebecca. Yes. I wanted to know what was at the bottom of his mind.

Rosmer. You know I would have told you.

Rebecca. I scarcely think you would have told me everything– certainly not in his own words.

Rosmer. Did you hear everything, then?

Rebecca. Most of it, I think. I had to go down for a moment when Mortensgaard came.

Rosmer. And then came up again?

Rebecca. Do not take it ill of me, dear friend.

Rosmer. Do anything that you think right and proper. You have full freedom of action.–But what do you say to it all, Rebecca? Ah, I do not think I have ever stood so much in need of you as I do to-day.

Rebecca. Surely both you and I have been prepared for what would happen some day.

Rosmer. No, no–not for this.

Rebecca. Not for this?

Rosmer. It is true that I used to think that sooner or later our beautiful pure friendship would come to be attacked by calumny and suspicion–not on Kroll’s part, for I never would have believed such a thing of him–but on the part of the coarse-minded and ignoble-eyed crowd. Yes, indeed; I had good reason enough for so jealously drawing a veil of concealment over our compact. It was a dangerous secret.

Rebecca. Why should we pay any heed to what all these other people think? You and I know that we have nothing to reproach ourselves with.

Rosmer. I? Nothing to reproach myself with? It is true enough that I thought so until to-day. But now, now, Rebecca–

Rebecca. Yes? Now?

Rosmer. How am I to account to myself for Beata’s horrible accusation?

Rebecca (impetuously). Oh, don’t talk about Beata! Don’t think about Beata any more! She is dead, and you seemed at last to have been able to get away from the thought of her.

Rosmer. Since I have learnt of this, it seems just as if she had come to life again in some uncanny fashion.

Rebecca. Oh no–you must not say that, John! You must not!

Rosmer. I tell you it is so. We must try and get to the bottom of it. How can she have strayed into such a woeful misunderstanding of me?

Rebecca. Surely you too are not beginning to doubt that she was very nearly insane?

Rosmer. Well, I cannot deny it is just of that fact that I feel I cannot be so altogether certain any longer. And besides if it were so–

Rebecca. If it were so? What then?

Rosmer. What I mean is–where are we to look for the actual cause of her sick woman’s fancies turning into insanity?

Rebecca. What good can it possibly do for you to indulge in such speculations!

Rosmer. I cannot do otherwise, Rebecca. I cannot let this doubt go on gnawing at my heart, however unwilling I may be to face it.

Rebecca. But it may become a real danger to you to be perpetually dwelling on this one lugubrious topic.

Rosmer (walking about restlessly and absorbed in the idea). I must have betrayed myself in some way or other. She must have noticed how happy I began to feel from the day you came to us.

Rebecca. Yes; but dear, even if that were so–

Rosmer. You may be sure she did not fail to notice that we read the same books; that we sought one another’s company, and discussed every new topic together. But I cannot understand it– because I was always so careful to spare her. When I look back, it seems to me that I did everything I could to keep her apart from our lives. Or did I not, Rebecca?

Rebecca. Yes, yes–undoubtedly you did.

Rosmer. And so did you, too. And notwithstanding that–! Oh, it is horrible to think of! To think that here she was–with her affection all distorted by illness –never saying a word–watching us–noticing everything and–and–misconstruing everything.

Rebecca (wringing her hands). Oh, I never ought to have come to Rosmersholm.

Rosmer. Just think what she must have suffered in silence! Think of all the horrible things her poor diseased brain must have led her to believe about us and store up in her mind about us! Did she never speak to you of anything that could give you any kind of clue?

Rebecca (as if startled). To me! Do you suppose I should have remained here a day longer, if she had?

Rosmer. No, no–that is obvious. What a fight she must have fought–and fought alone, Rebecca! In despair, and all alone. And then, in the end, the poignant misery of her victory–which was also her accusation of us–in the mill-race! (Throws himself into a chair, rests his elbows on the table, and hides his face in his hands.)

Rebecca (coming quietly up behind him). Listen to me, John. If it were in your power to call Beata back–to you–to Rosmersholm–would you do it?

Rosmer. How can I tell what I would do or what I would not do! I have no thoughts for anything but the one thing which is irrevocable.

Rebecca. You ought to be beginning to live now, John. You were beginning. You had freed yourself completely on all sides. You were feeling so happy and so light–hearted

Rosmer. I know–that is true enough. And then comes this overwhelming blow.

Rebecca (standing behind him, with her arms on the back of his chair). How beautiful it was when we used to sit there downstairs in the dusk–and helped each other to plan our lives out afresh. You wanted to catch hold of actual life–the actual life of the day, as you used to say. You wanted to pass from house to house like a guest who brought emancipation with him–to win over men’s thoughts and wills to your own –to fashion noble men all around you, in a wider and wider circle–noble men!

Rosmer. Noble men and happy men.

Rebecca. Yes, happy men.

Rosmer. Because it is happiness that gives the soul nobility, Rebecca.

Rebecca. Do you not think suffering too? The deepest suffering?

Rosmer. Yes, if one can win through it–conquer it–conquer it completely.

Rebecca. That is what you must do.

Rosmer (shaking his head sadly). I shall never conquer this completely. There will always be a doubt confronting me–a question. I shall never again be able to lose myself in the enjoyment of what makes life so wonderfully beautiful.

Rebecca (speaking over the back of his chair, softly). What do you mean, John?

Rosmer (looking up at her). Calm and happy innocence.

Rebecca (taking a step backwards). Of course. Innocence. (A short silence.)

Rosmer (resting his head on his hands with his elbows on the table, and looking straight in front of him). How ingeniously–how systematically–she must have put one thing together with another! First of all she begins to have a suspicion as to my orthodoxy. How on earth did she get that idea in her mind? Any way, she did; and the idea grew into a certainty. And then–then, of course, it was easy for her to think everything else possible. (Sits up in his chair and, runs his hands through his hair.) The wild fancies I am haunted with! I shall never get quit of them. I am certain of that–certain. They will always be starting up before me to remind me of the dead.

Rebecca. Like the White Horse of Rosmersholm.

Rosmer. Yes, like that. Rushing at me out of the dark–out of the silence.

Rebecca. And, because of this morbid fancy of yours, you are going to give up the hold you had just gained upon real life?

Rosmer. You are right, it seems hard–hard, Rebecca. But I have no power of choice in the matter. How do you think I could ever get the mastery over it?

Rebecca (standing behind his chair). By making new ties for yourself.

Rosmer (starts, and looks up). New ties?

Rebecca. Yes, new ties with the outside world. Live, work, do something! Do not sit here musing and brooding over insoluble conundrums.

Rosmer (getting up). New ties! (Walks across the room, turns at the door and comes back again.) A question occurs to my mind. Has it not occurred to you too, Rebecca?

Rebecca (catching her breath). Let me hear what it is.

Rosmer. What do you suppose will become of the tie between us, after to-day?

Rebecca. I think surely our friendship can endure, come what may.

Rosmer. Yes, but that is not exactly what I meant. I was thinking of what brought us together from the first, what links us so closely to one another–our common belief in the possibility of a man and a woman living together in chastity.

Rebecca. Yes, yes–what of it?

Rosmer. What I mean is–does not such a tie as that–such a tie as ours–seem to belong properly to a life lived in quiet, happy peacefulness?

Rebecca. Well?

Rosmer. But now I see stretching before me a life of strife and unrest and violent emotions. For I mean to live my life, Rebecca! I am not going to let myself be beaten to the ground by the dread of what may happen. I am not going to have my course of life prescribed for me, either by any living soul or by another.

Rebecca. No, no–do not! Be a free man in everything, John!

Rosmer. Do you understand what is in my Mind, then? Do you not know? Do you not see how I could best win my freedom from all these harrowing memories from the whole sad past?

Rebecca. Tell me!

Rosmer. By setting up, in opposition to them, a new and living reality.

Rebecca (feeling for the back of the chair). A living–? What do you mean?

Rosmer (coming closer to her). Rebecca–suppose I asked you now– will you be my second wife?

Rebecca (is speechless for a moment, then gives a cry of joy). Your wife! Yours–! I!

Rosmer. Yes–let us try what that will do. We two shall be one. There must no longer be any empty place left by the dead in this house.

Rebecca. I–in Beata’s place–?

Rosmer. And then that chapter of my life will be closed– completely closed, never to be reopened.

Rebecca (in a low, trembling voice). Do you think so, John?

Rosmer. It must be so! It must! I cannot–I will not–go through life with a dead body on my back. Help me to throw it off, Rebecca; and then let us stifle all memories in our sense of freedom, in joy, in passion. You shall be to me the only wife I have ever had.

Rebecca (controlling herself). Never speak of this, again. I will never be your wife.

Rosmer. What! Never? Do you think, then, that you could not learn to love me? Is not our friendship already tinged with love?

Rebecca (stopping her ears, as if in fear). Don’t speak like that, John! Don’t say such things!

Rosmer (catching her by the arm). It is true! There is a growing possibility in the tie that is between us. I can see that you feel that, as well as I–do you not, Rebecca?

Rebecca (controlling herself completely). Listen. Let me tell you this–if you persist in this, I shall leave Rosmersholm.

Rosmer. Leave Rosmersholm! You! You cannot do that. It is impossible.

Rebecca. It is still more impossible for me to become your wife. Never, as long as I live, can I be that.

Rosmer (looks at her in surprise). You say “can” –and you say it so strangely. Why can you not?

Rebecca (taking both his hands in hers). Dear friend –for your own sake, as well as for mine, do not ask me why. (Lets go of his hands.) So, John. (Goes towards the door on the left.)

Rosmer. For the future the world will hold only one question for me–why?

Rebecca (turns and looks at him). In that case everything is at an end.

Rosmer. Between you and me?

Rebecca. Yes.

Rosmer. Things can never be at an end between us two. You shall never leave Rosmersholm.

Rebecca (with her hand on the door-handle). No, I dare say I shall not. But, all the same, if you question me again, it will mean the end of everything.

Rosmer. The end of everything, all the same? How–?

Rebecca. Because then I shall go the way Beata went. Now you know, John.

Rosmer. Rebecca–!

Rebecca (stops at the door and nods: slowly). Now you know. (Goes out.)

Rosmer (stares in bewilderment at the shut door, and says to himself): What can it mean?


(SCENE-The sitting-room at Rosmersholm. The window and the hall- door are open. The morning sun is seen shining outside. REBECCA, dressed as in ACT I., is standing by the window, watering and arranging the flowers. Her work is lying on the armchair. MRS. HELSETH is going round the room with a feather brush, dusting the furniture.)

Rebecca (after a short pause). I wonder why Mr. Rosmer is so late in coming down to-day?

Mrs. Helseth. Oh, he is often as late as this, miss. He is sure to be down directly.

Rebecca. Have you seen anything of him?

Mrs. Helseth. No, miss, except that as I took his coffee into his study he went into his bedroom to finish dressing.

Rebecca. The reason I ask is that he was not very well yesterday.

Mrs. Helseth. No, he did not look well. It made me wonder whether something had gone amiss between him and his brother-in-law.

Rebecca. What do you suppose could go amiss between them?

Mrs. Helseth. I can’t say, miss. Perhaps it was that fellow Mortensgaard set them at loggerheads.

Rebecca. It is quite possible. Do you know anything of this Peter Mortensgaard?

Mrs. Helseth. Not I! How could you think so, miss–a man like that!

Rebecca. Because of that horrid paper he edits, you mean?

Mrs. Helseth. Not only because of that, miss. I suppose you have heard that a certain married woman, whose husband had deserted her, had a child by him?

Rebecca. I have heard it; but of course that was long before I came here.

Mrs. Helseth. Bless me, yes–he was quite a young man then. But she might have had more sense than he had. He wanted to marry her, too, but that could not be done; and so he had to pay heavily for it. But since then–my word!–Mortensgaard has risen in the world. There are lots of people who run after him now.

Rebecca. I believe most of the poor people turn to him first when they are in any trouble.

Mrs. Helseth. Oh, not only the poor people, miss–

Rebecca (glancing at her unobserved). Indeed?

Mrs. Helseth (standing at the sofa, dusting vigorously). People you would least expect, sometimes, miss.

Rebecca (arranging the flowers). Yes, but that is only an idea of yours, Mrs. Helseth. You cannot know that for certain.

Mrs. Helseth. You think I don’t know anything about that for certain, do you, miss? Indeed I do. Because–if I must let out the secret at last–I carried a letter to Mortensgaard myself once.

Rebecca (turns round). No–did you!

Mrs. Helseth. Yes, that I did. And that letter, let me tell you, was written here–at Rosmersholm.

Rebecca. Really, Mrs. Helseth?

Mrs. Helseth. I give you my word it was, miss. And it was written on good note-paper–and sealed with beautiful red sealing-wax.

Rebecca. And you were entrusted with the delivery of it? Dear Mrs. Helseth, it is not very difficult to guess whom it was from.

Mrs. Helseth. Who, then?

Rebecca. Naturally, it was something that poor Mrs. Rosmer in her invalid state

Mrs. Helseth. Well, you have mentioned her name, miss–not I.

Rebecca. But what was in the letter?–No, of course, you cannot know that.

Mrs. Helseth. Hm!–it is just possible I may know, all the same.

Rebecca. Did she tell you what she was writing about, then?

Mrs. Helseth. No, she did not do that. But when Mortensgaard had read it, he set to work and cross-questioned me, so that I got a very good idea of what was in it.

Rebecca. What do you think was in it, then? Oh, dear, good Mrs. Helseth, do tell me!

Mrs. Helseth. Certainly not, miss. Not for worlds.

Rebecca. Oh, you can tell me. You and I are such friends, you know.

Mrs. Helseth. Heaven forbid I should tell you anything about that, miss. I shall not tell you anything, except that it was some dreadful idea that they had gone and put into my poor sick mistress’s head.

Rebecca. Who had put it into her head?

Mrs. Helseth. Wicked people, miss. Wicked people.

Rebecca. Wicked–?

Mrs. Helseth. Yes, I say it again–very wicked people, they must have been.

Rebecca. And what do you think it could be?

Mrs. Helseth. Oh, I know what I think–but, please Heaven, I’ll keep my mouth shut. At the same time, there is a certain lady in the town–hm!

Rebecca. I can see you mean Mrs. Kroll.

Mrs. Helseth. Yes, she is a queer one, she is. She has always been very much on the high horse with me. And she has never looked with any friendly eye on you, either, miss.

Rebecca. Do you think Mrs. Rosmer was quite in her right mind when she wrote that letter to Mortensgaard?

Mrs. Helseth. It is so difficult to tell, miss. I certainly don’t think she was quite out of her mind.

Rebecca. But you know she seemed to go quite distracted when she learnt that she would never be able to have a child. That was when her madness first showed itself.

Mrs. Helseth. Yes, that had a terrible effect on her, poor lady.

Rebecca (taking up her work, and sitting down on a chair by the window). But, in other respects, do you not think that was really a good thing for Mr. Rosmer, Mrs. Helseth?

Mrs. Helseth. What, miss?

Rebecca. That there were no children?

Mrs. Helseth. Hm!–I really do not know what to say to that.

Rebecca. Believe me, it was best for him. Mr. Rosmer was never meant to be surrounded by crying children.

Mrs. Helseth. Little children do not cry at Rosmersholm, Miss West.

Rebecca (looking at her). Not cry?

Mrs. Helseth. No. In this house, little children have never been known to cry, as long as any one can remember.

Rebecca. That is very strange.

Mrs. Helseth. Yes, isn’t it, miss? But it runs in the family. And there is another thing that is just as strange; when they grow up they never laugh–never laugh, all their lives.

Rebecca. But that would be extraordinary

Mrs. Helseth. Have you ever once heard or seen Mr. Rosmer laugh, miss?

Rebecca. No–now that I think of it, I almost believe you are right. But I fancy most of the folk hereabouts laugh very little.

Mrs. Helseth. That is quite true. People say it began at Rosmersholm, and I expect it spread like a sort of infection.

Rebecca. You are a sagacious woman, Mrs. Helseth!

Mrs. Helseth. Oh, you mustn’t sit there and make game of me, miss. (Listens.) Hush, hush–Mr. Rosmer is coming down. He doesn’t like to see brooms about. (Goes out by the door on the right. ROSMER, with his stick and hat in his hand, comes in from the lobby.)

Rosmer. Good-morning, Rebecca.

Rebecca. Good-morning, dear. (She goes on working for a little while in silence.) Are you going out?

Rosmer. Yes.

Rebecca. It is such a lovely day.

Rosmer. You did not come up to see me this morning.

Rebecca. No–I didn’t. Not to-day.

Rosmer. Don’t you mean to do so in future, either? Rebecca. I cannot say yet, dear.

Rosmer. Has anything come for me?

Rebecca. The “County News” has come.

Rosmer. The “County News”!

Rebecca. There it is, on the table.

Rosmer (putting down his hat and stick). Is there anything–?

Rebecca. Yes.

Rosmer. And you did not send it up to me

Rebecca. You will read it quite soon enough.

Rosmer. Well, let us see. (Takes up the paper and stands by the table reading it.) What!–“cannot pronounce too emphatic a warning against unprincipled deserters.” (Looks at her.) They call me a deserter, Rebecca.

Rebecca. They mention no names at all.

Rosmer. It comes to the same thing. (Goes on reading.) “Secret traitors to the good cause.”–“Judas-like creatures, who shamelessly confess their apostasy as soon as they think the most opportune and most profitable moment has arrived.”–“A reckless outrage on the fair fame of honoured ancestors”–“in the expectation that those who are enjoying a brief spell of authority will not disappoint them of a suitable reward.” (Lays the paper down on the table.) And they write that of me–these men who have known me so long and so intimately–write a thing that they do not even believe themselves! They know there is not a single word of truth in it–and yet they write it.

Rebecca. There is more of it yet.

Rosmer (taking up the paper again). “Make some allowance for inexperience and want of judgment”–“a pernicious influence which, very possibly, has extended even to matters which for the present we will refrain from publicly discussing or condemning.” (Looks at her.) What does that mean?

Rebecca. That is a hit at me, obviously.

Rosmer (laying down the paper). Rebecca, this is the conduct of dishonourable men.

Rebecca. Yes, it seems to me they have no right to talk about Mortensgaard.

Rosmer (walking up and down the room). They must be saved from this sort of thing. All the good that is in men is destroyed, if it is allowed to go on. But it shall not be so! How happy–how happy I should feel if I could succeed in bringing a little light into all this murky ugliness.

Rebecca (getting up). I am sure of it. There is something great, something splendid, for you to live for!

Rosmer. Just think of it–if I could wake them to a real knowledge of themselves–bring them to be angry with and ashamed of themselves–induce them to be at one with each other in toleration, in love, Rebecca!

Rebecca. Yes! Give yourself up entirely to that task, and you will see that you will succeed.

Rosmer. I think it might be done. What happiness it would be to live one’s life, then! No more hateful strife–only emulation; every eye fixed on the same goal; every man’s will, every man’s thoughts moving forward-upward–each in its own inevitable path Happiness for all–and through the efforts of all! (Looks out of the window as he speaks, then gives a start and says gloomily:) Ah! not through me.

Rebecca. Not–not through you?

Rosmer. Nor for me, either.

Rebecca. Oh, John, have no such doubts.

Rosmer. Happiness, dear Rebecca, means first and foremost the calm, joyous sense of innocence.

Rebecca (staring in front of her). Ah, innocence–

Rosmer. You need fear nothing on that score. But I–

Rebecca. You least of all men!

Rosmer (pointing out of the window). The mill-race.

Rebecca. Oh, John!–(MRS. HELSETH looks in in through the door on the left.)

Mrs. Helseth. Miss West!

Rebecca. Presently, presently. Not now.

Mrs. Helseth. Just a word, miss! (REBECCA goes to the door. MRS. HELSETH tells her something, and they whisper together for a moment; then MRS. HELSETH nods and goes away.)

Rosmer (uneasily). Was it anything for me?

Rebecca. No, only something about the housekeeping. You ought to go out into the open air now, John dear. You should go for a good long walk.

Rosmer (taking up his hat). Yes, come along; we will go together.

Rebecca. No, dear, I can’t just now. You must go by yourself. But shake off all these gloomy thoughts–promise me that!

Rosmer. I shall never be able to shake them quite off, I am afraid.

Rebecca. Oh, but how can you let such groundless fancies take such a hold on you!

Rosmer. Unfortunately they are not so groundless as you think, dear. I have lain, thinking them over, all night. Perhaps Beata saw things truly after all.

Rebecca. In what way do you mean?

Rosmer. Saw things truly when she believed I loved you, Rebecca.

Rebecca. Truly in THAT respect?

Rosmer (laying his hat down on the table). This is the question I have been wrestling with–whether we two have deluded ourselves the whole time, when we have been calling the tie between us merely friendship.

Rebecca. Do you mean, then, that the right name for it would have been–?

Rosmer. Love. Yes, dear, that is what I mean. Even while Beata was alive, it was you that I gave all my thoughts to. It was you alone I yearned for. It was with you that I experienced peaceful, joyful, passionless happiness. When we consider it rightly, Rebecca, our life together began like the sweet, mysterious love of two children for one another–free from desire or any thought of anything more. Did you not feel it in that way too? Tell me.

Rebecca (struggling with herself). Oh, I do not know what to answer.

Rosmer. And it was this life of intimacy, with one another and for one another, that we took to be friendship. No, dear–the tie between us has been a spiritual marriage–perhaps from the very first day. That is why I am guilty. I had no right to it–no right to it for Beata’s sake.

Rebecca. No right to a happy life? Do you believe that, John?

Rosmer. She looked at the relations between us through the eyes of HER love–judged them after the nature of HER love. And it was only natural. She could not have judged them otherwise than she did.

Rebecca. But how can you so accuse yourself for Beata’s delusions?

Rosmer. It was for love of me–in her own way that–she threw herself into the mill-race. That fact is certain, Rebecca. I can never get beyond that.

Rebecca. Oh, do not think of anything else but the great, splendid task that you are going to devote your life to!

Rosmer (shaking his head). It can never be carried through. Not by me. Not after what I know now.

Rebecca. Why not by you?

Rosmer. Because no cause can ever triumph which has its beginnings in guilt.

Rebecca (impetuously). Oh, these are nothing but prejudices you have inherited–these doubts, these fears, these scruples! You have a legend here that your dead return to haunt you in the form of white horses. This seems to me to be something of that sort.

Rosmer. Be that as it may, what difference does it make if I cannot shake it off? Believe me, Rebecca, it is as I say–any cause which is to win a lasting victory must be championed by a man who is joyous and innocent.

Rebecca. But is joy so absolutely indispensable to you, John?

Rosmer. Joy? Yes, indeed it is.

Rebecca. To you, who never laugh?

Rosmer. Yes, in spite of that. Believe me, I have a great capacity for joy.

Rebecca. Now you really must go out, dear–for a long walk–a really long one, do you hear? There is your hat, and there is your stick.

Rosmer (taking them from her). Thank you. And you won’t come too?

Rebecca. No, no, I can’t come now.

Rosmer. Very well. You are none the less always with me now. (Goes out by the entrance hall. After a moment REBECCA peeps out from behind the door which he has left open. Then she goes to the door on the right, which she opens.)

Rebecca (in a whisper). Now, Mrs. Helseth. You can let him come in now. (Crosses to the window. A moment later, KROLL comes in from the right. He bows to her silently and formally and keeps his hat in his hand.)

Kroll. Has he gone, then?

Rebecca. Yes.

Kroll. Does he generally stay out long?

Rebecca. Yes. But to-day he is in a very uncertain mood–so, if you do not want to meet him–

Kroll. Certainly not. It is you I wish to speak to–and quite alone.

Rebecca. Then we had better make the best of our time. Please sit down. (She sits down in an easy-chair by the window. KROLL takes a chair beside her.)

Kroll. Miss West, you can scarcely have any idea how deeply pained and unhappy I am over this revolution that has taken place in John Rosmer’s ideas.

Rebecca. We were prepared for that being so–at first.

Kroll. Only at first?

Rosmer. Mr. Rosmer hoped confidently that sooner or later you would take your place beside him.

Kroll. I?

Rebecca. You and all his other friends.

Kroll. That should convince you how feeble his judgment is on any matter concerning his fellow-creatures and the affairs of real life.

Rebecca. In any case, now that he feels the absolute necessity of cutting himself free on all sides

Kroll. Yes; but, let me tell you, that is exactly what I do not believe.

Rebecca. What do you believe, then?

Kroll. I believe it is you that are at the bottom of the whole thing.

Rebecca. Your wife put that into your head, Mr. Kroll.

Kroll. It does not matter who put it into my head. The point is this, that I feel grave doubts–exceedingly grave doubts–when I recall and think over the whole of your behaviour since you came here.

Rebecca (looking at him). I have a notion that there was a time when you had an exceedingly strong BELIEF in me, dear Mr. Kroll–I might almost say, a warm belief.

Kroll (in a subdued voice). I believe you could bewitch any one– if you set yourself to do it.

Rebecca. And you say I set myself to do it!

Kroll. Yes, you did. I am no longer such a simpleton as to suppose that sentiment entered into your little game at all. You simply wanted to secure yourself admission to Rosmersholm–to establish yourself here. That was what I was to help you to. I see it now.

Rebecca. Then you have completely forgotten that it was Beata that begged and entreated me to come and live here.

Kroll. Yes, because you had bewitched her too. Are you going to pretend that friendship is the name for what she came to feel towards you? It was idolatry–adoration. It degenerated into a– what shall I call, it?–a sort of desperate passion. Yes, that is just the word for it.

Rebecca. Have the goodness to remember the condition your sister was in. As far as I am concerned I do not think I can be said to be particularly emotional in any way.

Kroll. No, you certainly are not. But that makes you all the more dangerous to those whom you wish to get into your power. It comes easy to you to act with deliberation and careful calculation, just because you have a cold heart.

Rebecca. Cold? Are you so sure of that?

Kroll. I am certain of it now. Otherwise you could not have pursued your object here so unswervingly, year after year. Yes, yes–you have gained what you wanted. You have got him and everything else here into your power. But, to carry out your schemes, you have not scrupled to make him unhappy.

Rebecca. That is not true. It is not I; it is you yourself that have made him unhappy.

Kroll. I!

Rebecca. Yes, by leading him to imagine that he was responsible for the terrible end that overtook Beata.

Kroll. Did that affect him so deeply, then?

Rebecca. Of course. A man of such gentle disposition as he–

Kroll. I imagined that one of your so-called “emancipated” men would know how to overcome any scruples. But there it is! Oh, yes–as a matter of fact it turned out just as I expected. The descendant of the men who are looking at us from these walls need not think he can break loose from what has been handed down as an inviolable inheritance from generation to generation.

Rebecca (looking thoughtfully in front of her). John Rosmer’s nature is deeply rooted in his ancestors. That is certainly very true.

Kroll. Yes, and you ought to have taken that into consideration, if you had had any sympathy for him. But I dare say you were incapable of that sort of consideration. Your starting-point is so very widely-removed from his, you see.

Rebecca. What do you mean by my starting-point?

Kroll. I mean the starting-point of origin–of parentage, Miss West.

Rebecca. I see. Yes, it is quite true that my origin is very humble. But nevertheless–

Kroll. I am not alluding to rank or position. I am thinking of the moral aspect of your origin.

Rebecca. Of my origin? In what respect?

Kroll. In respect of your birth generally.

Rebecca. What are you saying!

Kroll. I am only saying it because it explains the whole of your conduct.

Rebecca. I do not understand. Be so good as to tell me exactly what you mean.

Kroll. I really thought you did not need telling. Otherwise it would seem a very strange thing that you let yourself be adopted by Dr. West.

Rebecca (getting up). Oh, that is it! Now I understand.

Kroll. And took his name. Your mother’s name was Gamvik.

Rebecca (crossing the room). My father’s name was Gamvik, Mr. Kroll.

Kroll. Your mother’s occupation must, of course, have brought her continually into contact with the district physician.

Rebecca. You are quite right.

Kroll. And then he takes you to live with him, immediately upon your mother’s death. He treats you harshly, and yet you stay with him. You know that he will not leave you a single penny–as a matter of fact you only got a box of books–and yet you endure living with him, put up with his behaviour, and nurse him to the end.

Rebecca (comes to the table and looks at him scornfully). And my doing all that makes it clear to you that there was something immoral–something criminal about my birth!

Kroll. What you did for him, I attributed to an unconscious filial instinct. And, as far as the rest of it goes, I consider that the whole of your conduct has been the outcome of your origin.

Rebecca (hotly). But there is not a single word of truth in what you say! And I can prove it! Dr. West had not come to Finmark when I was born.

Kroll. Excuse me, Miss West. He went there a year before you were born. I have ascertained that.

Rebecca. You are mistaken, I tell you! You are absolutely mistaken!

Kroll. You said here, the day before yesterday, that you were twenty-nine–going on for thirty.

Rebecca. Really? Did I say that?

Kroll. Yes, you did. And from that I can calculate–

Rebecca. Stop! That will not help you to calculate. For, I may as well tell you at once, I am a year older than I give myself out to be.

Kroll (smiling incredulously). Really? That is something new. How is that?

Rebecca. When I had passed my twenty-fifth birthday, I thought I was getting altogether too old for an unmarried girl, so I resolved to tell a lie and take a year off my age.

Kroll. You–an emancipated woman–cherishing prejudices as to the marriageable age!

Rebecca. I know it was a silly thing to do–and ridiculous, too. But every one has some prejudice or another that they cannot get quite rid of. We are like that.

Kroll. Maybe. But my calculation may be quite correct, all the same; because Dr. West was up in Finmark for a flying visit the year before he was appointed.

Rebecca (impetuously). That is not true

Kroll. Isn’t it?

Rebecca. No. My mother never mentioned it.

Kroll. Didn’t she, really!

Rebecca. No, never. Nor Dr. West, either. Never a word of it.

Kroll. Might that not be because they both had good reason to jump over a year?–@just as you have done yourself, Miss West? Perhaps it is a family failing.

Rebecca (walking about, wringing her hands). It is impossible. It is only something you want to make me believe. Nothing in the world will make me believe it. It cannot be true! Nothing in the world–

Kroll (getting up). But, my dear Miss West, why in Heaven’s name do you take it in this way? You quite alarm me! What am I to believe and think?

Rebecca. Nothing. Neither believe nor think anything.

Kroll. Then you really must give me some explanation of your taking this matter–this possibility–so much to heart.

Rebecca (controlling herself). It is quite obvious, I should think, Mr. Kroll. I have no desire for people here to think me an illegitimate child.

Kroll. Quite so. Well, well, let us be content with your explanation, for the present. But you see that is another point on which you have cherished a certain prejudice.

Rebecca. Yes, that is quite true.

Kroll. And it seems to me that very much the same applies to most of this “emancipation” of yours, as you call it. Your reading has introduced you to a hotch-potch of new ideas and opinions; you have made a certain acquaintance with researches that are going on in various directions–researches that seem to you to upset a good many ideas that people have hitherto considered incontrovertible and unassailable. But all this has never gone any further than knowledge in your case, Miss West–a mere matter of the intellect. It has not got into your blood.

Rebecca (thoughtfully). Perhaps you are right.

Kroll. Yes, only test yourself, and you will see! And if it is true in your case, it is easy to recognise how true it must be in John Rosmer’s. Of course it is madness, pure and simple. He will be running headlong to his ruin if he persists in coming openly forward and proclaiming himself an apostate! Just think of it–he, with his shy disposition! Think of HIM disowned–hounded out of the circle to which he has always belonged–exposed to the uncompromising attacks of all the best people in the place. Nothing would ever make him the man to endure that.

Rebecca. He MUST endure it! It is too late now for him to draw back.

Kroll. Not a bit too late–not by any means too late. What has happened can be hushed up–or at any rate can be explained away as a purely temporary, though regrettable, aberration. But–there is one step that it is absolutely essential he should take.

Rebecca. And that is?

Kroll. You must get him to legalise his position, Miss West.

Rebecca. The position in which he stands to me?

Kroll. Yes. You must see that you get him to do that.

Rebecca. Then you can’t rid yourself of the conviction that the relations between us need “legalising,” as you say?

Kroll. I do not wish to go any more precisely into the question. But I certainly have observed that the conditions under which it always seems easiest for people to abandon all their so-called prejudices are when–ahem!

Rebecca. When it is a question of the relations between a man and a woman, I suppose you mean?

Kroll. Yes–to speak candidly–that is what I mean.

Rebecca (walks across the room and looks out of the window). I was on the point of saying that I wish you had been right, Mr. Kroll.

Kroll. What do you mean by that? You say it so strangely!

Rebecca. Oh, nothing! Do not let us talk any more about it. Ah, there he is!

Kroll. Already! I will go, then.

Rebecca (turning to him). No–stay here, and you will hear something.

Kroll. Not now. I do not think I could bear to see him.

Rebecca. I beg you to stay. Please do, or you will regret it later. It is the last time I shall ever ask you to do anything.

Kroll (looks at her in surprise, and lays his hat down). Very well, Miss West. It shall be as you wish. (A short pause. Then ROSMER comes in from the hall.)

Rosmer (stops at the door, as he sees KROLL). What! you here?

Rebecca. He wanted to avoid meeting you, John.

Kroll (involuntarily). “John?”

Rebecca. Yes, Mr. Kroll. John and I call each other by our Christian names. That is a natural consequence of the relations between us.

Kroll. Was that what I was to hear if I stayed?

Rebecca. Yes, that and something else.

Rosmer (coming into the room). What is the object of your visit here to-day?

Kroll. I wanted to make one more effort to stop you, and win you back.

Rosmer (pointing to the newspaper). After that?

Kroll. I did not write it.

Rosmer. Did you take any steps to prevent its appearing?

Kroll. That would have been acting unjustifiably towards the cause I serve. And, besides that, I had no power to prevent it.

Rebecca (tears the newspaper into pieces, which she crumples up and throws into the back of the stove). There! Now it is out of sight; let it be out of mind too. Because there will be no more of that sort of thing, John.

Kroll. Indeed, I wish you could ensure that.

Rebecca. Come, and let us sit down, dear–all three of us. Then I will tell you all about it.

Rosmer (sitting down involuntarily). What has come over you, Rebecca? You are so unnaturally calm–What is it?

Rebecca. The calmness of determination. (Sits down.) Please sit down too, Mr. Kroll. (He takes a seat on the couch.)

Rosmer. Determination, you say. Determination to do what?

Rebecca. I want to give you back what you need in order to live your life. You shall have your happy innocence back, dear friend.

Rosmer. But what do you mean?

Rebecca. I will just tell you what happened. That is all that is necessary.

Rosmer. Well?

Rebecca. When I came down here from Finmark with Dr. West, it seemed to me that a new, great, wide world was opened to me. Dr. West had given me an erratic sort of education–had taught me all the odds and ends that I knew about life then. (Has an evident struggle with herself, and speaks in barely audible tones.) And then–

Kroll. And then?

Rosmer. But, Rebecca–I know all this.

Rebecca (collecting herself). Yes–that is true enough. You know it only too well.

Kroll (looking fixedly at her). Perhaps it would be better if I left you.

Rebecca. No, stay where you are, dear Mr. Kroll. (To ROSMER.) Well, this was how it was. I wanted to play my part in the new day that was dawning–to have a share in all the new ideas. Mr. Kroll told me one day that Ulrik Brendel had had a great influence over you once, when you were a boy. I thought it might be possible for me to resume that influence here.

Rosmer. Did you come here with a covert design?

Rebecca. What I wanted was that we two should go forward together on the road towards freedom–always forward, and further forward! But there was that gloomy, insurmountable barrier between you and a full, complete emancipation.

Rosmer. What barrier do you mean?

Rebecca. I mean, John, that you could never have attained freedom except in the full glory of the sunshine. And, instead of that, here you were–ailing and languishing in the gloom of such a marriage as yours.

Rosmer. You have never spoken to me of my marriage in that way, before to-day.

Rebecca. No, I did not dare, for fear of frightening you.

Kroll (nodding to ROSMER). You hear that!

Rebecca (resuming). But I saw quite well where your salvation lay–your only salvation. And so I acted.

Rosmer. How do you mean–you acted?

Kroll. Do you mean that?

Rebecca. Yes, John. (Gets up.) No, do not get up. Nor you either, Mr. Kroll. But we must let in. the daylight now. It was not you, John. You are innocent. It was I that lured–that ended by luring– Beata into the tortuous path–

Rosmer (springing up). Rebecca!

Kroll (getting up). Into the tortuous path!

Rebecca. Into the path that–led to the mill-race. Now you know it, both of you.

Rosmer (as if stunned). But I do not understand–What is she standing there saying? I do not understand a word–

Kroll. Yes, yes. I begin to understand.

Rosmer. But what did you do? What did you find to tell her? Because there was nothing–absolutely nothing!

Rebecca. She got to know that you were determined to emancipate yourself from all your old prejudices.

Rosmer. Yes, but at that time I had come to no decision.

Rebecca. I knew that you soon would come to one.

Kroll (nodding to ROSMER). Aha!

Rosmer. Well–and what more? I want to know everything now.

Rebecca. Some time afterwards, I begged and implored her to let me leave Rosmersholm.

Rosmer. Why did you want to leave here–then?

Rebecca. I did not want to. I wanted to remain where I was. But I told her that it would be best for us all if I went away in time. I let her infer that if I remained here any longer I could not tell what-what-might happen.

Rosmer. That is what you said and did, then?

Rebecca. Yes, John.

Rosmer. That is what you referred to when you said that you “acted”?

Rebecca (in a broken voice). Yes, that was it.

Rosmer (after a pause). Have you confessed everything now, Rebecca?

Rebecca. Yes.

Kroll. Not everything.

Rebecca (looking at him in terror). What else can there be?

Kroll. Did you not eventually lead Beata to believe that it was necessary–not merely that it should be best–but that it was necessary, both for your own sake and for John’s, that you should go away somewhere else as soon as possible?–Well?

Rebecca (speaking low and indistinctly). Perhaps I did say something of the sort.

Rosmer (sinking into a chair by the window). And she, poor sick creature, believed in this tissue of lies and deceit! Believed in it so completely–so absolutely! (Looks up at REBECCA.) And she never came to me about it–never said a word! Ah, Rebecca–I see it in your face–YOU dissuaded her from doing so.

Rebecca. You know she had taken it into her head that she, a childless wife, had no right to be here. And so she persuaded herself that her duty to you was to give place to another.

Rosmer. And you–you did nothing to rid her mind of such an idea?

Rebecca. No.

Kroll. Perhaps you encouraged her in the idea? Answer! Did you not do so?

Rebecca. That was how she understood me, I believe.

Rosmer. Yes, yes–and she bowed to your will in everything. And so she gave place. (Springs up.) How could you–how could you go on with this terrible tragedy!

Rebecca. I thought there were two lives here to choose between, John.

Kroll (severely and with authority). You had no right to make any such choice.

Rebecca (impetuously). Surely you do not think I acted with cold and calculating composure! I am a different woman now, when I am telling you this, from what I was then. And I believe two different kinds of will can exist at the same time in one person. I wanted Beata away–in one way or the other; but I never thought it would happen, all the same. At every step I ventured and risked, I seemed to hear a voice in me crying: “No further! Not a step further!” And yet, at the same time, I COULD not stop. I HAD to venture a little bit further–just one step. And then another–and always another–and at last it happened. That is how such things go of themselves. (A short silence.)

Rosmer (to REBECCA). And how do you think it will go with YOU in the future?–after this?

Rebecca. Things must go with me as they can. It is of very little consequence.

Kroll. Not a word suggestive of remorse! Perhaps you feel none?

Rebecca (dismissing his remark coldly). Excuse me, Mr. Kroll, that is a matter that is no concern of any one else’s. That is an account I must settle with myself.

Kroll (to ROSMER). And this is the woman you have been living under the same roof with–in relations of the completest confidence. (Looks up at the portraits on the walls.) If only those that are gone could look down now!

Rosmer. Are you going into the town?

Kroll (taking up his hat). Yes. The sooner the better.

Rosmer (taking his hat also). Then I will go with you.

Kroll. You will! Ah, I thought we had not quite lost you.

Rosmer. Come, then, Kroll. Come! (They both go out into the hall without looking at REBECCA. After a minute REBECCA goes cautiously to the window and peeps out between the flowers.)

Rebecca (speaking to herself, half aloud). Not over the bridge to-day either. He is going round. Never over the millrace–never. (Comes away from the window.) As I thought! (She goes over to the bell, and rings it. Soon afterwards MRS. HELSETH comes in from the right.)

Mrs. Helseth. What is it, miss?

Rebecca. Mrs. Helseth, will you be so good as to fetch my travelling trunk down from the loft?

Mrs. Helseth. Your trunk?

Rebecca. Yes, the brown hair-trunk, you know.

Mrs. Helseth. Certainly, miss. But, bless my soul, are you going away on a journey, miss?

Rebecca. Yes–I am going away on a journey, Mrs. Helseth.

Mrs. Helseth. And immediately!

Rebecca. As soon as I have packed.

Mrs. Helseth. I never heard of such a thing! But you are coming back again soon, I suppose, miss?

Rebecca. I am never coming back again.

Mrs. Helseth. Never! But, my goodness, what is to become of us at Rosmersholm if Miss West is not here any longer? Just as everything was making poor Mr. Rosmer so happy and comfortable!

Rebecca. Yes, but to-day I have had a fright, Mrs. Helseth.

Mrs. Helseth. A fright! Good heavens-how?

Rebecca. I fancy I have had a glimpse of the White Horse.

Mrs. Helseth. Of the White Horse! In broad daylight!

Rebecca. Ah! they are out both early and late, the White Horses of Rosmersholm. (Crosses the room.) Well–we were speaking of my trunk, Mrs. Helseth.

Mrs. Helseth. Yes, miss. Your trunk.

(They both go out to the right.)


(SCENE.-The same room in the late evening. The lamp, with a shade on it, is burning on the table. REBECCA is standing by the table, packing some small articles in a travelling-bag. Her cloak, hat, and the white crochetted shawl are hanging on the back of the couch. MRS. HELSETH comes in from the right.)

Mrs. Helseth (speaking in low tones and with a reserved manner). Yes, all your things have been taken down, miss. They are in the kitchen passage.

Rebecca. Thank you. You have ordered the carriage?

Mrs. Helseth. Yes, miss. The coachman wants to know what time he shall bring it round.

Rebecca. I think at about eleven o’clock. The boat goes at midnight.

Mrs. Helseth (with a little hesitation). But what about Mr. Rosmer? Suppose he is not back by that time?

Rebecca. I shall start, all the same. If I should not see him, you can tell him I will write to him–a long letter, say that.

Mrs. Helseth. Yes, I dare say it will be all right to write. But, poor dear, I really think that you ought to try and have a talk with him once more.

Rebecca. Perhaps I ought–Or perhaps not, after all.

Mrs. Helseth. Dear, dear! I never thought I should, live to see such a thing as this!

Rebecca. What did you think, then, Mrs. Helseth?

Mrs. Helseth. To tell the truth, miss, I thought Mr. Rosmer was an honester man than that.

Rebecca. Honester?

Mrs. Helseth. Yes, miss, that is the truth.

Rebecca. But, my dear Mrs. Helseth, what do you mean by that?

Mrs. Helseth. I mean what is true and right, miss. He should not get out of it in this way–that he shouldn’t.

Rebecca (looking at her). Now look here, Mrs. Helseth. Tell me, honestly and frankly, why you think I am going away.

Mrs. Helseth. Good Lord, miss–because it is necessary, I suppose. Well, well!–Still, I certainly do not think Mr. Rosmer has behaved well. There was some excuse in Mortensgaard’s case, because the woman’s husband was still alive; so that it was impossible for them to marry, however much they wished it. But Mr. Rosmer, he could–ahem!

Rebecca (with a faint smile). Is it possible that you could think such things about me and Mr. Rosmer?

Mrs. Helseth. Not for a moment–until to-day, I mean.

Rebecca. But why to-day?

Mrs. Helseth. Well, after all the horrible things they tell me one may see in the papers about Mr. Rosmer

Rebecca. Ah!

Mrs. Helseth. What I mean is this–if a man can go over to Mortensgaard’s religion, you may believe him capable of anything. And that’s the truth.

Rebecca. Yes, very likely. But about me? What have you got to say about me?

Mrs. Helseth. Well, I am sure, miss–I do not think you are so greatly to be blamed. It is not always so easy for a lone woman to resist, I dare say. We are all human after all, Miss West.

Rebecca. That is very true, Mrs. Helseth. We are all human, after all.–What are you listening to?

Mrs. Helseth (in a low voice). Good Lord!–I believe that is him coming now.

Rebecca (with a start). In spite of everything, then–! (Speaks with determination.) Very well. So be it. (ROSMER comes in from the hall. He sees the luggage, and turns to REBECCA.)

Rosmer. What does this mean?

Rebecca. I am going away.

Rosmer. At once?

Rebecca. Yes. (To MRS. HELSETH.) Eleven o’clock, then.

Mrs. Helseth. Very well, miss. (Goes out to the right.)

Rosmer (after a short pause). Where are you going, Rebecca?

Rebecca. I am taking the boat for the north.

Rosmer. North? What are you going there for?

Rebecca. It is where I came from.

Rosmer. But you have no more ties there now.

Rebecca. I have none here, either.

Rosmer. What do you propose to do?

Rebecca. I do not know. I only want to make an end of it.

Rosmer. Make an end of what?

Rebecca. Rosmersholm has broken me.

Rosmer (more attentively). What is that?

Rebecca. Broken me utterly. I had a will of my own, and some courage, when I came here. Now I am crushed under the law of strangers. I do not think I shall have the courage to begin anything else in the world after this.

Rosmer. Why not? What do you mean by being crushed under a law–?

Rebecca. Dear friend, do not let us talk about that now–Tell me what passed between you and Mr. Kroll.

Rosmer. We have made our peace.

Rebecca. Quite so. So it came to that.

Rosmer. He got together all our old circle of friends at his house. They convinced me that the work of ennobling men’s souls was not in my line at all. Besides, it is such a hopeless task, any way. I shall let it alone.

Rebecca. Well, perhaps it is better so.

Rosmer. Do you say THAT now? Is that what your opinion is now?

Rebecca. I have come to that opinion–in the last day or two.

Rosmer. You are lying, Rebecca.

Rebecca. Lying–?

Rosmer. Yes, lying. You have never believed in me. You have never believed me to be the man to lead the cause to victory.

Rebecca. I have believed that we two together would be equal to it.

Rosmer. That is not true. You have believed that you could accomplish something big in life yourself–that you could use me to further your plans–that I might be useful to you in the pursuit of your object. That is what you have believed.

Rebecca. Listen to me, John

Rosmer (sitting down wearily on the couch). Oh, let me be! I see the whole thing clearly now. I have been like a glove in your hands.

Rebecca. Listen to me, John. Let us talk this thing over. It will be for the last time. (Sits down in a chair by the couch.) I had intended to write to you about it all–when I had gone back north. But it is much better that you should hear it at once.

Rosmer. Have you something more to tell, then?

Rebecca. The most important part of it all.

Rosmer. What do you mean?

Rebecca. Something that you have never suspected. Something that puts all the rest in its true light.

Rosmer (shaking his head). I do not understand, at all.

Rebecca. It is quite true that at one time I did play my cards so as to secure admission to Rosmersholm. My idea was that I should succeed in doing well for myself here–either in one way or in another, you understand.

Rosmer. Well, you succeeded in carrying your scheme through, too.

Rebecca. I believe I could have carried anything through–at that time. For then I still had the courage of a free will. I had no one else to consider, nothing to turn me from my path. But then began what has broken down my will and filled the whole of my life with dread and wretchedness.

Rosmer. What–began? Speak so that I can understand you.

Rebecca. There came over me–a wild, uncontrollable passion–Oh, John–!

Rosmer. Passion? You–! For what?

Rebecca. For you.

Rosmer (getting up). What does this mean!

Rebecca (preventing him). Sit still, dear. I will tell you more about it.

Rosmer. And you mean to say–that you have loved me–in that way!

Rebecca. I thought I might call it loving you–then. I thought it was love. But it was not. It was what I have said–a wild, uncontrollable passion.

Rosmer (speaking with difficulty). Rebecca–is it really you-you- who are sitting here telling me this?

Rebecca. Yes, indeed it is, John.

Rosmer. Then it was as the outcome of this–and under the influence of this–that you “acted,” as you called it.

Rebecca. It swept over me like a storm over the sea–like one of the storms we have in winter in the north. They catch you up and rush you along with them, you know, until their fury is expended. There is no withstanding them.

Rosmer. So it swept poor unhappy Beata into the mill-race.

Rebecca. Yes–it was like a fight for life between Beata and me at that time.

Rosmer. You proved the strongest of us all at Rosmersholm– stronger than both Beata and me put together.

Rebecca. I knew you well enough to know that I could not get at you in any way until you were set free–both in actual circumstances and in your soul.

Rosmer. But I do not understand you, Rebecca. You–you yourself and your whole conduct–are an insoluble riddle to me. I am free now–both in my soul and my circumstances. You are absolutely in touch with the goal you set before yourself from the beginning. And nevertheless–

Rebecca. I have never stood farther from my goal than I do now.

Rosmer. And nevertheless, I say, when yesterday I asked you–urged you–to become my wife, you cried out that it never could be.

Rebecca. I cried out in despair, John.

Rosmer. Why?

Rebecca. Because Rosmersholm has unnerved me. All the courage has been sapped out of my will here–crushed out! The time has gone for me to dare risk anything whatever. I have lost all power of action, John.

Rosmer. Tell me how that has come about.

Rebecca. It has come about through my living with you.

Rosmer. But how? How?

Rebecca. When I was alone with you here–and you had really found yourself–

Rosmer. Yes, yes?

Rebecca. For you never really found yourself as long as Beata was Alive–

Rosmer. Alas, you are right in that.

Rebecca. When it came about that I was living together with you here, in peace and solitude–when you exchanged all your thoughts with me unreservedly–your every mood, however tender or intimate– then the great change happened in me. Little by little, you understand. Almost imperceptibly–but overwhelmingly in the end, till it reached the uttermost depths of my soul.

Rosmer. What does this mean, Rebecca?

Rebecca. All the other feeling–all that horrible passion that had drowned my better self–left me entirely. All the violent emotions that had been roused in me were quelled and silenced. A peace stole over my soul–a quiet like that of one of our mountain peaks up under the midnight sun.

Rosmer. Tell me more of it–all that you can.

Rebecca. There is not much more to tell. Only that this was how love grew up in my heart–a great, self-denying love–content with such a union of hearts as there has been between us two.

Rosmer. Oh, if only I had had the slightest suspicion of all this!

Rebecca. It is best as it is. Yesterday, when you asked me if I would be your wife, I gave a cry of joy–

Rosmer. Yes, it was that, Rebecca, was it not! I thought that was what it meant.

Rebecca. For a moment, yes-I forgot myself for a moment. It was my dauntless will of the old days that was struggling to be free again. But now it has no more strength–it has lost it for ever.

Rosmer. How do you explain what has taken place in you?

Rebecca. It is the Rosmer attitude towards life- or your attitude towards life, at any rate–that has infected my will.

Rosmer. Infected?

Rebecca. Yes, and made it sickly–bound it captive under laws that formerly had no meaning for me. You–my life together with you–have ennobled my soul–

Rosmer. Ah, if I dared believe that to be true!

Rebecca. You may believe it confidently. The Rosmer attitude towards life ennobles. But-(shakes her head)-but-but–

Rosmer. But? Well?

Rebecca. But it kills joy, you know.

Rosmer. Do you say that, Rebecca?

Rebecca. For me, at all events.

Rosmer. Yes, but are you so sure of that? If I asked you again now–? Implored you–?

Rebecca. Oh, my dear–never go back to that again! It is impossible. Yes, impossible–because I must tell you this, John. I have a–past behind me.

Rosmer. Something more than you have told me?

Rebecca. Yes, something more and something different.

Rosmer (with a faint smile). It is very strange, Rebecca, but– do you know–the idea of such a thing has occurred to me more than once.

Rebecca. It has? And yet–notwithstanding that, you–?

Rosmer. I never believed in it. I only played with the idea- nothing more.

Rebecca. If you wish, I will tell you all about it at once.

Rosmer (stopping her). No, no! I do not want to hear a word aabout it. Whatever it is, it shall be forgotten, as far as I am concerned.

Rebecca. But I cannot forget it.

Rosmer. Oh, Rebecca–!

Rebecca. Yes, dear–that is just the dreadful part of it-that now, when all the happiness of life is freely and fully offered to me, all I can feel is that I am barred out from it by my past.

Rosmer. Your past is dead, Rebecca. It has no longer any hold on you–has nothing to do with you–as you are now.

Rebecca. Ah, my dear, those are mere words, you know. What about innocence, then? Where am I to get that from?

Rosmer (gloomily). Ah, yes–innocence.

Rebecca. Yes, innocence–which is at the root of all joy and happiness. That was the teaching, you know, that you wanted to see realised by all the men you were going to raise up to nobility and happiness.

Rosmer. Ah, do not remind me of that. It was nothing but a half-dreamt dream, Rebecca–a rash suggestion that I have no longer any faith in. Human nature cannot be ennobled by outside influences, believe me.

Rebecca (gently). Not by a tranquil love, do you think?

Rosmer (thoughtfully). Yes, that would be a splendid thing- almost the most glorious thing in life, I think if it were so. (Moves restlessly.) But how am I ever to clear up the question?- how am I to get to the bottom of it?

Rebecca. Do you not believe in me, John?

Rosmer. Ah, Rebecca, how can I believe you entirely–you whose life here has been nothing but continual concealment and secrecy!–And now you have this new tale to tell. If it is cloaking some design of yours, tell me so–openly. Perhaps there is something or other that you hope to gain by that means? I will gladly do anything that I can for you.

Rebecca (wringing her hands). Oh, this killing doubt! John, John–!

Rosmer. Yes, I know, dear–it is horrible–but I cannot help it. I shall never be able to free myself from it–never be able to feel certain that your love for me is genuine and pure.

Rebecca. But is there nothing in your own heart that bears witness to the transformation that has taken place in me–and taken place through your influence, and yours alone!

Rosmer. Ah, my dear, I do not believe any longer in my power to transform people. I have no belief in myself left at all. I do not believe either in myself or in you.

Rebecca (looking darkly at him). How are you going to live out your life, then?

Rosmer. That is just what I do not know–and cannot imagine. I do not believe I can live it out. And, moreover, I do not know anything in the world that would be worth living for.

Rebecca. Life carries a perpetual rebirth with it. Let us hold fast to it, dear. We shall be finished with it quite soon enough.