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  • 1886
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Rosmer (getting up restlessly). Then give me my faith back again!–my faith in you, Rebecca–my faith in your love! Give me a proof of it! I must have some proof!

Rebecca. Proof? How can I give you a proof–!

Rosmer. You must! (Crosses the room.) I cannot bear this desolate, horrible loneliness–this-this–. (A knock is heard at the hall door.)

Rebecca (getting up from her chair). Did you hear that?

(The door opens, and ULRIK BRENDEL comes in. Except that he wears a white shirt, a black coat and, a good pair of high boots, he is dressed as in the first act. He looks troubled.)

Rosmer. Ah, it is you, Mr. Brendel!

Brendel. John, my boy, I have come to say good-bye to you!

Rosmer. Where are you going, so late as this?

Brendel. Downhill.

Rosmer. How–?

Brendel. I am on my way home, my beloved pupil. I am homesick for the great Nothingness.

Rosmer. Something has happened to you, Mr. Brendel! What is it?

Brendel. Ah, you notice the transformation, then? Well, it is evident enough. The last time I entered your doors I stood before you a man of substance, slapping a well-filled pocket.

Rosmer. Really? I don’t quite understand–

Brendel. And now, as you see me to-night, I am a deposed monarch standing over the ashes of my burnt-out palace.

Rosmer. If there is any way I can help you

Brendel. You have preserved your childlike heart, John–can you let me have a loan?

Rosmer. Yes, most willingly!

Brendel. Can you spare me an ideal or two?

Rosmer. What do you say?

Brendel. One or two cast-off ideals? You will be doing a good deed. I am cleaned out, my dear boy, absolutely and entirely.

Rebecca. Did you not succeed in giving your lecture?

Brendel. No, fair lady. What do you think?–just as I was standing ready to pour out the contents of my horn in plenty, I made the painful discovery that I was bankrupt.

Rebecca. But what of all your unwritten works, then?

Brendel. For five and twenty years I have been like a miser sitting on his locked money-chest. And then to-day, when I opened it to take out my treasure–there was nothing there! The mills of time had ground it into dust. There was not a blessed thing left of the whole lot.

Rosmer. But are you certain of that?

Brendel. There is no room for doubt, my dear boy. The President has convinced me of that.

Rosmer. The President?

Brendel. Oh, well–His Excellency, then. Ganz nach Belieben.

Rosmer. But whom do you mean?

Brendel. Peter Mortensgaard, of course.

Rosmer. What!

Brendel (mysteriously). Hush, hush, hush! Peter Mortensgaard is Lord and Chieftain of the Future. I have never stood in a more august presence. Peter Mortensgaard has the power of omnipotence in him. He can do whatever he wants.

Rosmer. Oh, come–don’t you believe that!

Brendel. It is true, my boy–because Peter Mortensgaard never wants to do more than he can. Peter Mortensgaard is capable of living his life without ideals. And that, believe me, is precisely the great secret of success in life. It sums up all the wisdom of the world. Basta!

Rosmer (in a low voice). Now I see that you are going away from here poorer than you came.

Brendel. Bien! Then take an example from your old tutor. Erase from your mind everything that he imprinted there. Do not build your castle upon the shifting sand. And look well ahead, and be sure of your ground, before you build upon the charming creature who is sweetening your life here.

Rebecca. Do you mean me?

Brendel. Yes, most attractive mermaid!

Rebecca. Why am I not fit to build upon?

Brendel (taking a step nearer to her). I understood that my former pupil had a cause which it was his life’s work to lead to victory.

Rebecca. And if he has–?

Brendel. He is certain of victory–but, be it distinctly understood, on one unalterable condition.

Rebecca. What is that?

Brendel (taking her gently by the wrist). That the woman who loves him shall gladly go out into the kitchen and chop off her dainty, pink and white little finger–here, just at the middle joint. Furthermore, that the aforesaid loving woman shall–also gladly–clip off her incomparably moulded left ear. (Lets her go, and turns to ROSMER.) Good-bye, John the Victorious!

Rosmer. Must you go now–in this dark night?

Brendel. The dark night is best. Peace be with you! (He goes out. Silence in the room for a short time.)

Rebecca (breathing heavily). How close and sultry it is in here! (Goes to the window, opens it and stands by it.)

Rosmer (sitting down on a chair by the stove). There is nothing else for it after all, Rebecca–I can see that. You must go away.

Rebecca. Yes, I do not see that I have any choice.

Rosmer. Let us make use of our last hour together. Come over here and sit beside me.

Rebecca (goes and sits down on the couch). What do you want, John?

Rosmer. In the first place I want to tell you that you need have no anxiety about your future.

Rebecca (with a smile). Hm! My future!

Rosmer. I have foreseen all contingencies–long ago. Whatever may happen, you are provided for.

Rebecca. Have you even done that for me, dear?

Rosmer. You might have known that I should.

Rebecca. It is many a long day since I thought about anything of the kind.

Rosmer. Yes, of course. Naturally, you thought things could never be otherwise between us than as they were.

Rebecca. Yes, that was what I thought.

Rosmer. So did I. But if anything were to happen to me now–

Rebecca. Oh, John, you will live longer than I shall.

Rosmer. I can dispose of my miserable existence as I please, you know.

Rebecca. What do you mean? You surely are never thinking of–!

Rosmer. Do you think it would be so surprising? After the pitiful, lamentable defeat I have suffered? I, who was to have made it my life’s work to lead my cause to victory–! And here I am, a deserter before the fight has even really begun!

Rebecca. Take up the fight again, John! Only try–and you will see that you will conquer. You will ennoble hundreds–thousands–of souls. Only try!

Rosmer. I, Rebecca, who no longer believe even in my having a mission in life?

Rebecca. But your mission has stood the test. You have at all events ennobled one of your fellow-creatures for the rest of her life–I mean myself.

Rosmer. Yes–if I dared believe you about that.

Rebecca (wringing her hands). But, John, do you know of nothing– nothing–that would make you believe that?

Rosmer (starts, as if with fear). Don’t venture on that subject! No further, Rebecca! Not a single word more!

Rebecca. Indeed, that is just the subject we must venture upon. Do you know of anything that would stifle your doubts? For I know of nothing in the world.

Rosmer. It is best for you not to know. Best for us both.

Rebecca. No, no, no–I have no patience with that sort of thing! If you know of anything that would acquit me in your eyes, I claim it as my right that you should name it.

Rosmer (as if impelled against his will). Well, let us see. You say that you have great love in your heart; that your soul has been ennobled through me. Is that so? Have you counted the cost? Shall we try and balance our accounts? Tell me.

Rebecca. I am quite ready.

Rosmer. Then when shall it be?

Rebecca. Whenever you like. The sooner the better.

Rosmer. Then let me see, Rebecca, whether you–for my sake-this very night–. (Breaks off.) Oh, no, no!

Rebecca. Yes, John! Yes, yes! Say it, and you shall see.

Rosmer. Have you the courage–are you willing–gladly, as Ulrik Brendel said–for my sake, to-night–gladly–to go the same way–that Beata went!

Rebecca (gets up slowly from the couch, and says almost inaudibly): John–!

Rosmer. Yes, dear–that is the question I shall never be able to rid my thoughts of, when you have gone away. Every hour of the day I shall come back to it. Ah, I seem to see you bodily before me–standing out on the foot-bridge-right out in the middle. Now you lean out over the railing ! You grow dizzy as you feel drawn down towards the mill-race! No–you recoil. You dare not do–what she dared.

Rebecca. But if I had the courage?–and willingly and gladly? What then?

Rosmer. Then I would believe in you. Then I should get back my faith in my mission in life–my faith in my power to ennoble my fellow men–my faith in mankind’s power to be ennobled.

Rebecca (takes up her shawl slowly, throws it over her head. and says, controlling herself): You shall have your faith back.

Rosmer. Have you the courage and the strength of will for that, Rebecca?

Rebecca. Of that you must judge in the morning–or later–when they take up my body.

Rosmer (burying his head in his hands). There is a horrible temptation in this–!

Rebecca. Because I should not like to be left lying there–any longer than need be. You must take care that they find me.

Rosmer (springing up). But all this is madness, you know. Go away, or stay! I will believe you on your bare word this time too.

Rebecca. Those are mere words, John. No more cowardice or evasion! How can you believe me on my bare word after today?

Rosmer. But I do not want to see your defeat, Rebecca.

Rebecca. There will be no defeat.

Rosmer. There will. You will never have the heart to go Beata’s way.

Rebecca. Do you believe that?

Rosmer. Never. You are not like Beata. You are not under the influence of a distorted view of life.

Rebecca. But I am under the influence of the Rosmersholm view of Life–now. Whatever my offences are–it is right that I should expiate them.

Rosmer (looking at her fixedly). Have you come to that decision?

Rebecca. Yes.

Rosmer. Very well. Then I too am under the influence of our unfettered view of life, Rebecca. There is no one that can judge us. And therefore we must be our own judges.

Rebecca (misunderstanding his meaning). That too. That too. My leaving you will save the best that is in you.

Rosmer. Ah, there is nothing left to save in me.

Rebecca. There is. But I–after this I should only be like some sea-sprite hanging on to the barque you are striving to sail forward in, and, hampering its progress. I must go overboard. Do you think I could go through the world bearing the burden of a spoiled life–brooding for ever over the happiness which I have forfeited by my past? I must throw up the game, John.

Rosmer. If you go–then I go with you.

Rebecca (looks at him with an almost imperceptible smile, and says more gently): Yes, come with me, dear–and be witness–

Rosmer. I go with you, I said.

Rebecca. As far as the bridge–yes. You never dare go out on to it, you know.

Rosmer. Have you noticed that?

Rebecca (in sad and broken tones). Yes. That was what made my love hopeless.

Rosmer. Rebecca–now I lay my hand on your head. (Does as he says.) And I take you for my true and lawful wife.

Rebecca (taking both his hands in hers, and bowing her head on to his breast). Thank you, John. (Lets him go.) And now I am going– gladly.

Rosmer. Man and wife should go together.

Rebecca. Only as far as the bridge, John.

Rosmer. And out on to it, too. As far as you go–so far I go with you. I dare do it now.

Rebecca. Are you absolutely certain that way is the best for you?

Rosmer. I know it is the only way.

Rebecca. But suppose you are only deceiving yourself? Suppose it were only a delusion–one of these White Horses of Rosmersholm?

Rosmer. It may be so. We can never escape from them–we of my race.

Rebecca. Then stay, John!

Rosmer. The man shall cleave to his wife, as the wife to her husband.

Rebecca. Yes, but first tell me this–is it you that go with me, or I that go with you?

Rosmer. We shall never get to the bottom of that.

Rebecca. Yet I should dearly like to know.

Rosmer. We two go with each other, Rebecca. I with you, and you with me.

Rebecca. I almost believe that is true.

Rosmer. For now we two are one.

Rebecca. Yes. We are one now. Come! We can go gladly now. (They go out, hand in hand, through the hall, and are seen to turn to the left. The door stands open after them. The room is empty for a little while. Then MRS. HELSETH opens the door on the right.)

Mrs. Helseth. The carriage, miss, is–. (Looks round the room.) Not here? Out together at this time of night? Well, well–I must say–! Hm! (Goes out into the hall, looks round and comes in again.) Not sitting on the bench–ah, well! (Goes to the window and looks out.) Good heavens! What is that white thing–! As I am a living soul, they are both out on the foot-bridge! God forgive the sinful creatures–if they are not in each other’s arms! (Gives a wild scream.) Ah!–they are over–both of them! Over into the mill-race! Help! help! (Her knees tremble, she holds on shakily to the back of a chair and can scarcely get her words out.) No. No help here. The dead woman has taken them.