Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen

Act Third

The room at the Tesmans’. The curtains are drawn over the middle doorway, and also over the glass door. The lamp, half turned down, and with a shade over it, is burning on the table. In the stove, the door of which stands open, there has been a fire, which is now nearly burnt out.

Mrs. Elvsted, wrapped in a large shawl, and with her feet upon a foot-rest, sits close to the stove, sunk back in the arm-chair. Hedda, fully dressed, lies sleeping upon the sofa, with a sofa-blanket over her.

Mrs. Elvsted. [After a pause, suddenly sits up in her chair, and listens eagerly. Then she sinks back again wearily, moaning to herself.] Not yet! — Oh God — oh God — not yet!

Berta slips cautiously in by the hall door. She has a letter in her hand.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Turns and whispers eagerly.] Well — has any one come?

Berta. [Softly.] Yes, a girl has just brought this letter.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Quickly, holding out her hand.] A letter! Give it to me!

Berta. No, it’s for Dr. Tesman, ma’am.

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh, indeed.

Berta. It was Miss Tesman’s servant that brought it. I’ll lay it here on the table.

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, do.

Berta. [Laying down the letter.] I think I had better put out the lamp. It’s smoking.

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, put it out. It must soon be daylight now.

Berta. [Putting out the lamp.] It is daylight already, ma’am.

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, broad day! And no one come back yet —!

Berta. Lord bless you, ma’am — I guessed how it would be.

Mrs. Elvsted. You guessed?

Berta. Yes, when I saw that a certain person had come back to town — and that he went off with them. For we’ve heard enough about that gentleman before now.

Mrs. Elvsted. Don’t speak so loud. You will waken Mrs. Tesman.

Berta. [Looks towards the sofa and sighs.] No, no — let her sleep, poor thing. Shan’t I put some wood on the fire?

Mrs. Elvsted. Thanks, not for me.

Berta. Oh, very well. [She goes softly out by the hall door.

Hedda. [Is wakened by the shutting of the door, and looks up.] What’s that —?

Mrs. Elvsted. It was only the servant.

Hedda. [Looking about her.] Oh, we’re here —! Yes, now I remember. [Sits erect upon the sofa, stretches herself, and rubs her eyes.] What o’clock is it, Thea?

Mrs. Elvsted. [Looks at her watch.] It’s past seven.

Hedda. When did Tesman come home?

Mrs. Elvsted. He has not come.

Hedda. Not come home yet?

Mrs. Elvsted. [Rising.] No one has come.

Hedda. Think of our watching and waiting here till four in the morning —

Mrs. Elvsted. [Wringing her hands.] And how I watched and waited for him!

Hedda. [Yawns, and says with her hand before her mouth.] Well well — we might have spared ourselves the trouble.

Mrs. Elvsted. Did you get a little sleep?

Hedda. Oh yes; I believe I have slept pretty well. Have you not?

Mrs. Elvsted. Not for a moment. I couldn’t, Hedda! — not to save my life.

Hedda. [Rises and goes towards her.] There there there! There’s nothing to be so alarmed about. I understand quite well what has happened.

Mrs. Elvsted. Well, what do you think? Won’t you tell me?

Hedda. Why, of course it has been a very late affair at Judge Brack’s —

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, yes — that is clear enough. But all the same —

Hedda. And then, you see, Tesman hasn’t cared to come home and ring us up in the middle of the night. [Laughing.] Perhaps he wasn’t inclined to show himself either — immediately after a jollification.

Mrs. Elvsted. But in that case — where can he have gone?

Hedda. Of course he has gone to his Aunts’ and slept there. They have his old room ready for him.

Mrs. Elvsted. No, he can’t be with them for a letter has just come for him from Miss Tesman. There it lies.

Hedda. Indeed? [Looks at the address.] Why yes, it’s addressed in Aunt Julia’s hand. Well then, he has remained at Judge Brack’s. And as for Eilert Lovborg — he is sitting, with vine leaves in his hair, reading his manuscript.

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh, Hedda, you are just saying things you don’t believe a bit.

Hedda. You really are a little blockhead, Thea.

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh yes, I suppose I am.

Hedda. And how mortally tired you look.

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, I am mortally tired.

Hedda. Well then, you must do as I tell you. You must go into my room and lie down for a little while.

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh no, no — I shouldn’t be able to sleep.

Hedda. I am sure you would.

Mrs. Elvsted. Well, but you husband is certain to come soon now; and then I want to know at once —

Hedda. I shall take care to let you know when he comes.

Mrs. Elvsted. Do you promise me, Hedda?

Hedda. Yes, rely upon me. Just you go in and have a sleep in the meantime.

Mrs. Elvsted. Thanks; then I’ll try. [She goes off to the inner room.

Hedda goes up to the glass door and draws back the curtains. The broad daylight streams into the room. Then she takes a little hand-glass from the writing-table, looks at herself in it, and arranges her hair. Next she goes to the hall door and presses the bell-button.

Berta presently appears at the hall door.

Berta. Did you want anything, ma’am?

Hedda. Yes; you must put some more wood in the stove. I am shivering.

Berta. Bless me — I’ll make up the fire at once. [She rakes the embers together and lays a piece of wood upon them; then stops and listens.] That was a ring at the front door, ma’am.

Hedda. Then go to the door. I will look after the fire.

Berta. It’ll soon burn up. [She goes out by the hall door.

Hedda kneels on the foot-rest and lays some more pieces of wood in the stove.

After a short pause, George Tesman enters from the hall. He steals on tiptoe towards the middle doorway and is about to slip through the curtains.

Hedda. [At the stove, without looking up.] Good morning.

Tesman. [Turns.] Hedda! [Approaching her.] Good heavens — are you up so early? Eh?

Hedda. Yes, I am up very early this morning.

Tesman. And I never doubted you were still sound asleep! Fancy that, Hedda!

Hedda. Don’t speak so loud. Mrs. Elvsted is resting in my room.

Tesman. Has Mrs. Elvsted been here all night?

Hedda. Yes, since no one came to fetch her.

Tesman. Ah, to be sure.

Hedda. [Closes the door of the stove and rises.] Well, did you enjoy yourselves at Judge Brack’s?

Tesman. Have you been anxious about me? Eh?

Hedda. No, I should never think of being anxious. But I asked if you had enjoyed yourself.

Tesman. Oh yes — for once in a way. Especially the beginning of the evening; for then Eilert read me part of his book. We arrived more than an hour too early — fancy that! And Brack had all sorts of arrangements to make — so Eilert read to me.

Hedda. [Seating herself by the table on the right.] Well? Tell me then —

Tesman. [Sitting on a footstool near the stove.] Oh, Hedda, you can’t conceive what a book that is going to be! I believe it is one of the most remarkable things that have ever been written. Fancy that!

Hedda. Yes yes; I don’t care about that —

Tesman. I must make a confession to you, Hedda. When he had finished reading — a horrid feeling came over me.

Hedda. A horrid feeling?

Tesman. I felt jealous of Eilert for having had it in him to write such a book. Only think, Hedda!

Hedda. Yes, yes, I am thinking!

Tesman. And then how pitiful to think that he — with all his gifts — should be irreclaimable, after all.

Hedda. I suppose you mean that he has more courage than the rest?

Tesman. No, not at all — I mean that he is incapable of taking his pleasure in moderation.

Hedda. And what came of it all — in the end?

Tesman. Well, to tell the truth, I think it might best be described as an orgie, Hedda.

Hedda. Had he vine-leaves in his hair?

Tesman. Vine-leaves? No, I saw nothing of the sort. But he made a long, rambling speech in honour of the woman who had inspired him in his work — that was the phrase he used.

Hedda. Did he name her?

Tesman. No, he didn’t; but I can’t help thinking he meant Mrs. Elvsted. You may be sure he did.

Hedda. Well — where did you part from him?

Tesman. On the way to town. We broke up — the last of us at any rate — all together; and Brack came with us to get a breath of fresh air. And then, you see, we agreed to take Eilert home; for he had had far more than was good for him.

Hedda. I daresay.

Tesman. But now comes the strange part of it, Hedda; or, I should rather say, the melancholy part of it. I declare I am almost ashamed — on Eilert’s account — to tell you —

Hedda. Oh, go on —!

Tesman. Well, as we were getting near town, you see, I happened to drop a little behind the others. Only for a minute or two — fancy that!

Hedda. Yes yes yes, but —?

Tesman. And then, as I hurried after them — what do you think I found by the wayside? Eh?

Hedda. Oh, how should I know!

Tesman. You mustn’t speak of it to a soul, Hedda! Do you hear! Promise me, for Eilert’s sake. [Draws a parcel, wrapped in paper, from his coat pocket.] Fancy, dear — I found this.

Hedda. Is not that the parcel he had with him yesterday?

Tesman. Yes, it is the whole of his precious, irreplaceable manuscript! And he had gone and lost it, and knew nothing about it. Only fancy, Hedda! So deplorably —

Hedda. But why did you not give him back the parcel at once?

Tesman. I didn’t dare to — in the state he was then in —

Hedda. Did you not tell any of the others that you had found it?

Tesman. Oh, far from it! You can surely understand that, for Eilert’s sake, I wouldn’t do that.

Hedda. So no one knows that Eilert Lovborg’s manuscript is in your possession?

Tesman. No. And no one must know it.

Hedda. Then what did you say to him afterwards?

Tesman. I didn’t talk to him again at all; for when we got in among the streets, he and two or three of the others gave us the slip and disappeared. Fancy that!

Hedda. Indeed! They must have taken him home then.

Tesman. Yes, so it would appear. And Brack, too, left us.

Hedda. And what have you been doing with yourself since?

Tesman. Well, I and some of the others went home with one of the party, a jolly fellow, and took our morning coffee with him; or perhaps I should rather call it our night coffee — eh? But now, when I have rested a little, and given Eilert, poor fellow, time to have his sleep out, I must take this back to him.

Hedda. [Holds out her hand for the packet.] No — don’t give it to him! Not in such a hurry, I mean. Let me read it first.

Tesman. No, my dearest Hedda, I mustn’t, I really mustn’t.

Hedda. You must not?

Tesman. No — for you can imagine what a state of despair he will be in when he wakens and misses the manuscript. He has no copy of it, you must know! He told me so.

Hedda. [Looking searchingly at him.] Can such a thing not be reproduced? Written over again?

Tesman. No, I don’t think that would be possible. For the inspiration, you see —

Hedda. Yes, yes — I suppose it depends on that —[Lightly.] But, by-the-bye — here is a letter for you.

Tesman. Fancy —!

Hedda. [Handing it to him.] It came early this morning.

Tesman. It’s from Aunt Julia! What can it be? [He lays the packet on the other footstool, opens the letter, runs his eye through it, and jumps up.] Oh, Hedda — she says that poor Aunt Rina is dying!

Hedda. Well, we were prepared for that.

Tesman. And that if I want to see her again, I must make haste. I’ll run in to them at once.

Hedda. [Suppressing a smile.] Will you run?

Tesman. Oh, my dearest Hedda — if you could only make up your mind to come with me! Just think!

Hedda. [Rises and says wearily, repelling the idea.] No, no don’t ask me. I will not look upon sickness and death. I loathe all sorts of ugliness.

Tesman. Well, well, then —! [Bustling around.] My hat —? My overcoat —? Oh, in the hall —. I do hope I mayn’t come too late, Hedda! Eh?

Hedda. Oh, if you run —— [Berta appears at the hall door.

Berta. Judge Brack is at the door, and wishes to know if he may come in.

Tesman. At this time! No, I can’t possibly see him.

Hedda. But I can. [To Berta.] Ask Judge Brack to come in. [Berta goes out.

Hedda. [Quickly, whispering.] The parcel, Tesman!

She snatches it up from the stool.

Tesman. Yes, give it to me!

Hedda. No, no, I will keep it till you come back.

She goes to the writing-table and places it in the bookcase. Tesman stands in a flurry of haste, and cannot get his gloves on.

Judge Brack enters from the hall.

Hedda. [Nodding to him.] You are an early bird, I must say.

Brack. Yes, don’t you think so! [To Tesman.] Are you on the move, too?

Tesman. Yes, I must rush of to my aunts’. Fancy — the invalid one is lying at death’s door, poor creature.

Brack. Dear me, is she indeed? Then on no account let me detain you. At such a critical moment —

Tesman. Yes, I must really rush —— Good-bye! Good-bye!

He hastens out by the hall door.

Hedda. [Approaching.] You seem to have made a particularly lively night of it at your rooms, Judge Brack.

Brack. I assure you I have not had my clothes off, Mrs. Hedda.

Hedda. Not you, either?

Brack. No, as you may see. But what has Tesman been telling you of the night’s adventures?

Hedda. Oh, some tiresome story. Only that they went and had coffee somewhere or other.

Brack. I have heard about that coffee-party already. Eilert Lovborg was not with them, I fancy?

Hedda. No, they had taken him home before that.

Brack. Tesman too?

Hedda. No, but some of the others, he said.

Brack. [Smiling.] George Tesman is really an ingenuous creature, Mrs. Hedda.

Hedda. Yes, heaven knows he is. Then is there something behind all this?

Brack. Yes, perhaps there may be.

Hedda. Well then, sit down, my dear Judge, and tell your story in comfort.

She seats herself to the left of the table. Brack sits near her, at the long side of the table.

Hedda. Now then?

Brack. I had special reasons for keeping track of my guests — last night.

Hedda. Of Eilert Lovborg among the rest, perhaps?

Brack. Frankly, yes.

Hedda. Now you make me really curious —

Brack. Do you know where he and one or two of the others finished the night, Mrs. Hedda?

Hedda. If it is not quite unmentionable, tell me.

Brack. Oh no, it’s not at all unmentionable. Well, they put in an appearance at a particularly animated soiree.

Hedda. Of the lively kind?

Brack. Of the very liveliest —

Hedda. Tell me more of this, Judge Brack —

Brack. Lovborg, as well as the others, had been invited in advance. I knew all about it. But he had declined the invitation; for now, as you know, he has become a new man.

Hedda. Up at the Elvsteds’, yes. But he went after all, then?

Brack. Well, you see, Mrs. Hedda — unhappily the spirit moved him at my rooms last evening —

Hedda. Yes, I hear he found inspiration.

Brack. Pretty violent inspiration. Well, I fancy that altered his purpose; for we menfolk are unfortunately not always so firm in our principles as we ought to be.

Hedda. Oh, I am sure you are an exception, Judge Brack. But as to Lovborg —?

Brack. To make a long story short — he landed at last in Mademoiselle Diana’s rooms.

Hedda. Mademoiselle Diana’s?

Brack. It was Mademoiselle Diana that was giving the soiree, to a select circle of her admirers and her lady friends.

Hedda. Is she a red-haired woman?

Brack. Precisely.

Hedda. A sort of a — singer?

Brack. Oh yes — in her leisure moments. And moreover a mighty huntress — of men — Mrs. Hedda. You have no doubt heard of her. Eilert Lovborg was one of her most enthusiastic protectors — in the days of his glory.

Hedda. And how did all this end?

Brack. Far from amicably, it appears. After a most tender meeting, they seem to have come to blows —

Hedda. Lovborg and she?

Brack. Yes. He accused her or her friends of having robbed him. He declared that his pocket-book had disappeared — and other things as well. In short, he seems to have made a furious disturbance.

Hedda. And what came of it all?

Brack. It came to a general scrimmage, in which the ladies as well as the gentlemen took part. Fortunately the police at last appeared on the scene.

Hedda. The police too?

Brack. Yes. I fancy it will prove a costly frolic for Eilert Lovborg, crazy being that he is.

Hedda. How so?

Brack. He seems to have made a violent resistance — to have hit one of the constables on the head and torn the coat off his back. So they had to march him off to the police-station with the rest.

Hedda. How have you learnt all this?

Brack. From the police themselves.

Hedda. [Gazing straight before her.] So that is what happened. Then he had no vine-leaves in his hair.

Brack. Vine-leaves, Mrs. Hedda?

Hedda. [Changing her tone.] But tell me now, Judge — what is your real reason for tracking out Eilert Lovborg’s movements so carefully?

Brack. In the first place, it could not be entirely indifferent to me if it should appear in the police-court that he came straight from my house.

Hedda. Will the matter come into court then?

Brack. Of course. However, I should scarcely have troubled so much about that. But I thought that, as a friend of the family, it was my duty to supply you and Tesman with a full account of his nocturnal exploits.

Hedda. Why so, Judge Brack?

Brack. Why, because I have a shrewd suspicion that he intends to use you as a sort of blind.

Hedda. Oh, how can you think such a thing!

Brack. Good heavens, Mrs. Hedda — we have eyes in our head. Mark my words! This Mrs. Elvsted will be in no hurry to leave town again.

Hedda. Well, even if there should be anything between them, I suppose there are plenty of other places where they could meet.

Brack. Not a single home. Henceforth, as before, every respectable house will be closed against Eilert Lovborg.

Hedda. And so ought mine to be, you mean?

Brack. Yes. I confess it would be more than painful to me if this personage were to be made free of your house. How superfluous, how intrusive, he would be, if he were to force his way into —

Hedda. — into the triangle?

Brack. Precisely. It would simply mean that I should find myself homeless.

Hedda. [Looks at him with a smile.] So you want to be the one cock in the basket17 — that is your aim.

Brack. [Nods slowly and lowers his voice.] Yes, that is my aim. And for that I will fight — with every weapon I can command.

Hedda. [Her smile vanishing.] I see you are a dangerous person — when it comes to the point.

Brack. Do you think so?

Hedda. I am beginning to think so. And I am exceedingly glad to think — that you have no sort of hold over me.

Brack. [Laughing equivocally.] Well well, Mrs. Hedda — perhaps you are right there. If I had, who knows what I might be capable of?

Hedda. Come come now, Judge Brack! That sounds almost like a threat.

Brack. [Rising.] Oh, not at all! The triangle, you know, ought, if possible, to be spontaneously constructed.

Hedda. There I agree with you.

Brack. Well, now I have said all I had to say; and I had better be getting back to town. Good-bye, Mrs. Hedda. [He goes towards the glass door.

Hedda. [Rising.] Are you going through the garden?

Brack. Yes, it’s a short cut for me.

Hedda. And then it is a back way, too.

Brack. Quite so. I have no objection to back ways. They may be piquant enough at times.

Hedda. When there is ball practice going on, you mean?

Brack. [In the doorway, laughing to her.] Oh, people don’t shoot their tame poultry, I fancy.

Hedda. [Also laughing.] Oh no, when there is only one cock in the basket —

They exchange laughing nods of farewell. He goes. She closes the door behind him.

Hedda, who has become quite serious, stands for a moment looking out. Presently she goes and peeps through the curtain over the middle doorway. Then she goes to the writing-table, takes Lovborg’s packet out of the bookcase, and is on the point of looking through its contents. Berta is heard speaking loudly in the hall. Hedda turns and listens. Then she hastily locks up the packet in the drawer, and lays the key on the inkstand.

Eilert Lovborg, with his greatcoat on and his hat in his hand, tears open the hall door. He looks somewhat confused and irritated.

Lovborg. [Looking towards the hall.] and I tell you I must and will come in! There!

He closes the door, turns, sees Hedda, at once regains his self-control, and bows.

Hedda. [At the writing-table.] Well, Mr Lovborg, this is rather a late hour to call for Thea.

Lovborg. You mean rather an early hour to call on you. Pray pardon me.

Hedda. How do you know that she is still here?

Lovborg. They told me at her lodgings that she had been out all night.

Hedda. [Going to the oval table.] Did you notice anything about the people of the house when they said that?

Lovborg. [Looks inquiringly at her.] Notice anything about them?

Hedda. I mean, did they seem to think it odd?

Lovborg. [Suddenly understanding.] Oh yes, of course! I am dragging her down with me! However, I didn’t notice anything. — I suppose Tesman is not up yet.

Hedda. No — I think not —

Lovborg. When did he come home?

Hedda. Very late.

Lovborg. Did he tell you anything?

Hedda. Yes, I gathered that you had had an exceedingly jolly evening at Judge Brack’s.

Lovborg. Nothing more?

Hedda. I don’t think so. However, I was so dreadfully sleepy —

Mrs. Elvsted enters through the curtains of the middle doorway.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Going towards him.] Ah, Lovborg! At last —!

Lovborg. Yes, at last. And too late!

Mrs. Elvsted. [Looks anxiously at him.] What is too late?

Lovborg. Everything is too late now. It is all over with me.

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh no, no — don’t say that!

Lovborg. You will say the same when you hear —

Mrs. Elvsted. I won’t hear anything!

Hedda. Perhaps you would prefer to talk to her alone? If so, I will leave you.

Lovborg. No, stay — you too. I beg you to stay.

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, but I won’t hear anything, I tell you.

Lovborg. It is not last night’s adventures that I want to talk about.

Mrs. Elvsted. What is it then —?

Lovborg. I want to say that now our ways must part.

Mrs. Elvsted. Part!

Hedda. [Involuntarily.] I knew it!

Lovborg. You can be of no more service to me, Thea.

Mrs. Elvsted. How can you stand there and say that! No more service to you! Am I not to help you now, as before? Are we not to go on working together?

Lovborg. Henceforward I shall do no work.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Despairingly.] Then what am I to do with my life?

Lovborg. You must try to live your life as if you had never know me.

Mrs. Elvsted. But you know I cannot do that!

Lovborg. Try if you cannot, Thea. You must go home again —

Mrs. Elvsted. [In vehement protest.] Never in this world! Where you are, there will I be also! I will not let myself be driven away like this! I will remain here! I will be with you when the book appears.

Hedda. [Half aloud, in suspense.] Ah yes — the book!

Lovborg. [Looks at her.] My book and Thea’s; for that is what it is.

Mrs. Elvsted. Yes, I feel that it is. And that is why I have a right to be with you when it appears! I will see with my own eyes how respect and honour pour in upon you afresh. And the happiness — the happiness — oh, I must share it with you!

Lovborg. Thea — our book will never appear.

Hedda. Ah!

Mrs. Elvsted. Never appear!

Lovborg. Can never appear.

Mrs. Elvsted. [In agonised foreboding.] Lovborg — what have you done with the manuscript?

Hedda. [Looks anxiously at him.] Yes, the manuscript —?

Mrs. Elvsted. Where is it?

Lovborg. The manuscript —. Well then — I have torn the manuscript into a thousand pieces.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Shrieks.] Oh no, no —!

Hedda. [Involuntarily.] But that’s not —

Lovborg. [Looks at her.] Not true, you think?

Hedda. [Collecting herself.] Oh well, of course — since you say so. But it sounded so improbable —

Lovborg. It is true, all the same.

Mrs. Elvsted. [Wringing her hands.] Oh God — oh God, Hedda — torn his own work to pieces!

Lovborg. I have torn my own life to pieces. So why should I not tear my life-work too —?

Mrs. Elvsted. And you did this last night?

Lovborg. Yes, I tell you! Tore it into a thousand pieces — and scattered them on the fiord — far out. There there is cool sea-water at any rate — let them drift upon it — drift with the current and the wind. And then presently they will sink — deeper and deeper — as I shall, Thea.

Mrs. Elvsted. Do you know, Lovborg, that what you have done with the book — I shall think of it to my dying day as though you had killed a little child.

Lovborg. Yes, you are right. It is a sort of child-murder.

Mrs. Elvsted. How could you, then —! Did not the child belong to me too?

Hedda. [Almost inaudibly.] Ah, the child —

Mrs. Elvsted. [Breathing heavily.] It is all over then. Well well, now I will go, Hedda.

Hedda. But you are not going away from town?

Mrs. Elvsted. Oh, I don’t know what I shall do. I see nothing but darkness before me. [She goes out by the hall door.

Hedda. [Stands waiting for a moment.] So you are not going to see her home, Mr. Lovborg?

Lovborg. I? Through the streets? Would you have people see her walking with me?

Hedda. Of course I don’t know what else may have happened last night. But is it so utterly irretrievable?

Lovborg. It will not end with last night — I know that perfectly well. And the thing is that now I have no taste for that sort of life either. I won’t begin it anew. She has broken my courage and my power of braving life out.

Hedda. [Looking straight before her.] So that pretty little fool has had her fingers in a man’s destiny. [Looks at him.] But all the same, how could you treat her so heartlessly.

Lovborg. Oh, don’t say that I was heartless!

Hedda. To go and destroy what has filled her whole soul for months and years! You do not call that heartless!

Lovborg. To you I can tell the truth, Hedda.

Hedda. The truth?

Lovborg. First promise me — give me your word — that what I now confide in you Thea shall never know.

Hedda. I give you my word.

Lovborg. Good. Then let me tell you that what I said just now was untrue.

Hedda. About the manuscript?

Lovborg. Yes. I have not torn it to pieces — nor thrown it into the fiord.

Hedda. No, no —. But — where is it then?

Lovborg. I have destroyed it none the less — utterly destroyed it, Hedda!

Hedda. I don’t understand.

Lovborg. Thea said that what I had done seemed to her like a child-murder.

Hedda. Yes, so she said.

Lovborg. But to kill his child — that is not the worst thing a father can do to it.

Hedda. Not the worst?

Lovborg. Suppose now, Hedda, that a man — in the small hours of the morning — came home to his child’s mother after a night of riot and debauchery, and said: “Listen — I have been here and there — in this place and in that. And I have taken our child with — to this place and to that. And I have lost the child — utterly lost it. The devil knows into what hands it may have fallen — who may have had their clutches on it.”

Hedda. Well — but when all is said and done, you know — this was only a book —

Lovborg. Thea’s pure soul was in that book.

Hedda. Yes, so I understand.

Lovborg. And you can understand, too, that for her and me together no future is possible.

Hedda. What path do you mean to take then?

Lovborg. None. I will only try to make an end of it all — the sooner the better.

Hedda. [A step nearer him.] Eilert Lovborg — listen to me. — Will you not try to — to do it beautifully?

Lovborg. Beautifully? [Smiling.] With vine-leaves in my hair, as you used to dream in the old days —?

Hedda. No, no. I have lost my faith in the vine-leaves. But beautifully nevertheless! For once in a way! — Good-bye! You must go now — and do not come here any more.

Lovborg. Good-bye, Mrs. Tesman. And give George Tesman my love.

He is on the point of going.

Hedda. No, wait! I must give you a memento to take with you.

She goes to the writing-table and opens the drawer and the pistol-case; then returns to Lovborg with one of the pistols.

Lovborg. [Looks at her.] This? Is this the memento?

Hedda. [Nodding slowly.] Do you recognise it? It was aimed at you once.

Lovborg. You should have used it then.

Hedda. Take it — and do you use it now.

Lovborg. [Puts the pistol in his breast pocket.] Thanks!

Hedda. And beautifully, Eilert Lovborg. Promise me that!

Lovborg. Good-bye, Hedda Gabler. [He goes out by the hall door.

Hedda listens for a moment at the door. Then she goes up to the writing-table, takes out the packet of manuscript, peeps under the cover, draws a few of the sheets half out, and looks at them. Next she goes over and seats herself in the arm-chair beside the stove, with the packet in her lap. Presently she opens the stove door, and then the packet.

Hedda. [Throws one of the quires into the fire and whispers to herself.] Now I am burning your child, Thea! — Burning it, curly-locks! [Throwing one or two more quires into the stove.] Your child and Eilert Lovborg’s. [Throws the rest in.] I am burning — I am burning your child.

17“Enest hane i kurven”— a proverbial saying.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/i/ibsen/henrik/hedda/act3.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38