The Lady from the Sea, by Henrik Ibsen

ACT II

SCENE. — At the “View,” a shrub-covered hill behind the town. A little in the background, a beacon and a vane. Great stones arranged as seats around the beacon, and in the foreground. Farther back the outer fjord is seen, with islands and outstanding headlands. The open sea is not visible. It is a summer’s evening, and twilight. A golden-red shimmer is in the air and over the mountain-tops in the far distance. A quartette is faintly heard singing below in the background. Young townsfolk, ladies and gentlemen, come up in pairs, from the right, and, talking familiarly, pass out beyond the beacon. A little after, BALLESTED enters, as guide to a party of foreign tourists with their ladies. He is laden with shawls and travelling bags.

Ballested [pointing upwards with a stick]. Sehen Sie, meine Herrschaften, dort, out there, liegt eine andere mountain, That wollen wir also besteigen, and so herunter. [He goes on with the conversation in French, and leads the party off to the left. HILDE comes quickly along the uphill path, stands still, and looks back. Soon after BOLETTE comes up the same way.]

Bolette. But, dear, why should we run away from Lyngstrand?

Hilde. Because I can’t bear going uphill so slowly. Look — look at him crawling up!

Bolette. Ah! But you know how delicate he is.

Hilde. Do you think it’s very — dangerous?

Bolette. I certainly do.

Hilde. He went to consult father this afternoon. I should like to know what father thinks about him.

Bolette. Father told me it was a thickening of the lungs, or something of the sort. He won’t live to be old, father says.

Hilde. No! Did he say it? Fancy — that’s exactly what I thought.

Bolette. For heaven’s sake don’t show it!

Hilde. How can you imagine such a thing? [In an undertone.] Look, here comes Hans crawling up. Don’t you think you can see by the look of him that he’s called Hans?

Bolette [whispering]. Now do behave! You’d better!

[LYNGSTRAND comes in from the right, a parasol in his hand.]

Lyngstrand. I must beg the young ladies to excuse me for not getting along as quickly as they did.

Hilde. Have you got a parasol too, now?

Lyngstrand. It’s your mother’s. She said I was to use it as a stick. I hadn’t mine with me.

Bolette. Are they down there still — father and the others?

Lyngstrand. Yes; your father looked in at the restaurant for a moment, and the others are sitting out there listening to the music. But they were coming up here presently, your mother said.

Hilde [stands looking at him]. I suppose you’re thoroughly tired out now?

Lyngstrand. Yes; I almost think I’m a little tired now. I really believe I shall have to sit down a moment. [He sits on one of the stones in the foreground.]

Hilde [standing in front of him]. Do you know there’s to be dancing down there on the parade?

Lyngstrand. Yes; I heard there was some talk about it.

Hilde. I suppose you think dancing’s great fun?

Bolette [who begins gathering small flowers among the heather]. Oh, Hilde! Now do let Mr. Lyngstrand get his breath.

Lyngstrand [to HILDE]. Yes, Miss Hilde; I should very much like to dance — if only I could.

Hilde. Oh, I see! Haven’t you ever learnt?

Lyngstrand. No, I’ve not. But it wasn’t that I meant. I meant I couldn’t because of my chest.

Hilde. Because of that weakness you said you suffered from?

Lyngstrand. Yes; because of that.

Hilde. Aren’t you very sorry you’ve that — weakness?

Lyngstrand. Oh, no! I can’t say I am [smiling], for I think it’s because of it that everyone is so good, and friendly, and kind to me.

Hilde. Yes. And then, besides, it’s not dangerous.

Lyngstrand. No; it’s not at all dangerous. So I gathered from what your father said to me.

Hilde. And then it will pass away as soon as ever you begin travelling.

Lyngstrand. Of course it will pass away.

Bolette [with flowers]. Look here, Mr. Lyngstrand, you are to put this in your button-hole.

Lyngstrand. Oh! A thousand thanks, Miss Wangel. It’s really too good of you.

Hilde [looking down the path]. There they are, coming along the road.

Bolette [also looking down]. If only they know where to turn off. No; now they’re going wrong.

Lyngstrand [rising]. I’ll run down to the turning and call out to them.

Hilde. You’ll have to call out pretty loud.

Bolette. No; it’s not worth while. You’ll only tire yourself again.

Lyngstrand. Oh, it’s so easy going downhill. [Goes off to the right.]

Hilde. Down-hill — yes. [Looking after him.] Why, he’s actually jumping! And he never remembers he’ll have to come up again.

Bolette. Poor fellow!

Hilde. If Lyngstrand were to propose, would you accept him?

Bolette. Are you quite mad?

Hilde. Of course, I mean if he weren’t troubled with that “weakness.” And if he weren’t to die so soon, would you have him then?

Bolette. I think you’d better have him yourself!

Hilde. No, that I wouldn’t! Why, he hasn’t a farthing. He hasn’t enough even to keep himself.

Bolette. Then why are you always going about with him?

Hilde. Oh, I only do that because of the weakness.

Bolette. I’ve never noticed that you in the least pity him for it!

Hilde. No, I don’t. But I think it so interesting.

Bolette. What is?

Hilde. To look at him and make him tell you it isn’t dangerous; and that he’s going abroad, and is to be an artist. He really believes it all, and is so thoroughly happy about it. And yet nothing will ever come of it; nothing whatever. For he won’t live long enough. I feel that’s so fascinating to think of.

Bolette. Fascinating!

Hilde. Yes, I think it’s most fascinating. I take that liberty.

Bolette. Hilde, you really are a dreadful child!

Hilde. That’s just what I want to be — out of spite. [Looking down.] At last! I shouldn’t think Arnholm liked coming up-hill. [Turns round.] By the way, do you know what I noticed about Arnholm at dinner?

Bolette. Well?

Hilde. Just think — his hair’s beginning to come off — right on the top of his head.

Bolette. Nonsense! I’m sure that’s not true.

Hilde. It is! And then he has wrinkles round both his eyes. Good gracious, Bolette, how could you be so much in love with him when he used to read with you?

Bolette [smiling]. Yes. Can you believe it? I remember I once shed bitter tears because he thought Bolette was an ugly name.

Hilde. Only to think! [Looking down.] No! I say, do just look down here! There’s the “Mermaid” walking along and chatting with him. Not with father. I wonder if those two aren’t making eyes at one another.

Bolette. You ought to be ashamed of yourself! How can you stand there and say such a thing of her? Now, when everything was beginning to be so pleasant between us.

Hilde. Of course — just try and persuade yourself of that, my child! Oh, no! It will never be pleasant between us and her. For she doesn’t belong to us at all. And we don’t belong to her either. Goodness knows what father dragged her into the house for! I shouldn’t wonder if some fine day she went mad under our very eyes.

Bolette. Mad! How can you think such a thing?

Hilde. Oh! it wouldn’t be so extraordinary. Her mother went mad, too. She died mad — I know that.

Bolette. Yes, heaven only knows what you don’t poke your nose into. But now don’t go chattering about this. Do be good — for father’s sake. Do you hear, Hilde?

[WANGEL, ELLIDA, ARNHOLM and LYNGSTRAND come up from the right.]

Ellida [pointing to the background]. Out there it lies.

Arnholm. Quite right. It must be in that direction.

Ellida. Out there is the sea.

Bolette [to ARNHOLM]. Don’t you think it is delightful up here?

Arnholm. It’s magnificent, I think. Glorious view!

Wangel. I suppose you never used to come up here?

Arnholm. No, never. In my time I think it was hardly accessible; there wasn’t any path even.

Wangel. And no grounds. All this has been done during the last few years.

Bolette. And there, at the “Pilot’s Mount,” it’s even grander than here.

Wangel. Shall we go there, Ellida?

Ellida [sitting down on one of the stones]. Thanks, not I; but you others can. I’ll sit here meanwhile.

Wangel. Then I’ll stay with you. The girls can show Arnholm about.

Bolette. Would you like to go with us, Mr. Arnholm?

Arnholm. I should like to, very much. Does a path lead up there too?

Bolette. Oh yes. There’s a nice broad path.

Hilde. The path is so broad that two people can walk along it comfortably, arm in arm.

Arnholm [jestingly]. Is that really so, little Missie? [To BOLETTE.] Shall we two see if she is right?

Bolette [suppressing a smile]. Very well, let’s go. [They go out to the left, arm in arm.]

Hilde [to LYNGSTRAND]. Shall we go too?

Lyngstrand. Arm in arm?

Hilde. Oh, why not? For aught I care!

Lyngstrand [taking her arm, laughing contentedly]. This is a jolly lark.

Hilde. Lark?

Lyngstrand. Yes; because it looks exactly as if we were engaged.

Hilde. I’m sure you’ve never walked out arm in arm with a lady before, Mr. Lyngstrand. [They go off.]

Wangel [who is standing beside the beacon]. Dear Ellida, now we have a moment to ourselves.

Ellida. Yes; come and sit down here, by me.

Wangel [sitting down]. It is so free and quiet. Now we can have a little talk together.

Ellida. What about?

Wangel. About yourself, and then about us both. Ellida, I see very well that it can’t go on like this.

Ellida. What do you propose instead?

Wangel. Perfect confidence, dear. A true life together — as before.

Ellida. Oh, if that could be! But it is so absolutely impossible!

Wangel. I think I understand you, from certain things you have let fall now and again.

Ellida [passionately]. Oh, you do not! Don’t say you understand!

Wangel. Yes. Yours is an honest nature, Ellida — yours is a faithful mind.

Ellida. It is.

Wangel. Any position in which you could feel safe and happy must be a completely true and real one.

Ellida [looking eagerly at him]. Well, and then?

Wangel. You are not suited to be a man’s second wife.

Ellida. What makes you think that?

Wangel. It has often flashed across me like a foreboding. Today it was clear to me. The children’s memorial feast — you saw in me a kind of accomplice. Well, yes; a man’s memories, after all, cannot be wiped out — not so mine, anyhow. It isn’t in me.

Ellida. I know that. Oh! I know that so well.

Wangel. But you are mistaken all the same. To you it is almost as if the children’s mother were still living — as if she were still here invisible amongst us. You think my heart is equally divided between you and her. It is this thought that shocks you. You see something immoral in our relation, and that is why you no longer can or will live with me as my wife.

Ellida [rising]. Have you seen all that, Wangel — seen into all this?

Wangel. Yes; today I have at last seen to the very heart of it — to its utmost depths.

Ellida. To its very heart, you say? Oh, do not think that!

Wangel [rising]. I see very well that there is more than this, dear Ellida.

Ellida [anxiously]. You know there is more?

Wangel. Yes. You cannot bear your surroundings here. The mountains crush you, and weigh upon your heart. Nothing is open enough for you here. The heavens above you are not spacious enough. The air is not strong and bracing enough.

Ellida. You are right. Night and day, winter and summer, it weighs upon me — this irresistible home-sickness for the sea.

Wangel. I know it well, dear Ellida [laying his hands upon her head]. And that is why the poor sick child shall go home to her own again.

Ellida. What do you mean?

Wangel. Something quite simple. We are going away.

Ellida. Going away?

Wangel. Yes. Somewhere by the open sea — a place where you can find a true home, after your own heart.

Ellida. Oh, dear, do not think of that! That is quite impossible. You can live happily nowhere on earth but here!

Wangel. That must be as it may. And, besides, do you think I can live happily here — without you?

Ellida. But I am here. And I will stay here. You have me.

Wangel. Have I, Ellida?

Ellida. Oh! don’t speak of all this. Why, here you have all that you love and strive for. All your life’s work lies here.

Wangel. That must be as it may, I tell you. We are going away from here — are going somewhere — out there. That is quite settled now, dear Ellida.

Ellida. What do you think we should gain by that?

Wangel. You would regain your health and peace of mind.

Ellida. Hardly. And then you, yourself! Think of yourself, too! What of you?

Wangel. I would win you back again, my dearest.

Ellida. But you cannot do that! No, no, you can’t do that, Wangel! That is the terrible part of it — heart-breaking to think of.

Wangel. That remains to be proved. If you are harbouring such thoughts, truly there is no other salvation for you than to go hence. And the sooner the better. Now this is irrevocably settled, do you hear?

Ellida. No! Then in heaven’s name I had better tell you everything straight out. Everything just as it is.

Wangel. Yes, yes! Do.

Ellida. For you shall not ruin your happiness for my sake, especially as it can’t help us in any way.

Wangel. I have your word now that you will tell me everything just as it is.

Ellida. I’ll tell you everything as well as I can, and as far as I understand it. Come here and sit by me. [They sit down on the stones.]

Wangel. Well, Ellida, so —

Ellida. That day when you came out there and asked me if I would be yours, you spoke so frankly and honestly to me about your first marriage. It had been so happy, you said.

Wangel. And so it was.

Ellida. Yes, yes! I am sure of that, dear! It is not for that I am referring to it now. I only want to remind you that I, on my side, was frank with you. I told you quite openly that once in my life I had cared for another. That there had been a — a kind of engagement between us.

Wangel. A kind of —

Ellida. Yes, something of the sort. Well, it only lasted such a very short time. He went away; and after that I put an end to it. I told you all that.

Wangel. Why rake up all this now? It really didn’t concern me; nor have I once asked you who he was!

Ellida. No, you have not. You are always so thoughtful for me.

Wangel [smiling]. Oh, in this case I could guess the name well enough for myself.

Ellida. The name?

Wangel. Out in Skjoldviken and thereabouts there weren’t many to choose from; or, rather, there was only a single one.

Ellida. You believe it was Arnholm!

Wangel. Well, wasn’t it?

Ellida. No!

Wangel. Not he? Then I don’t in the least understand.

Ellida. Can you remember that late in the autumn a large American ship once put into Skjoldviken for repairs?

Wangel. Yes, I remember it very well. It was on board that ship that the captain was found one morning in his cabin — murdered. I myself went out to make the post-mortem.

Ellida. Yes, it was you.

Wangel. It was the second mate who had murdered him.

Ellida. No one can say that. For it was never proved.

Wangel. There was enough against him anyhow, or why should he have drowned himself as he did?

Ellida. He did not drown himself. He sailed in a ship to the north.

Wangel [startled]. How do you know?

Ellida [with an effort]. Well, Wangel — it was this second mate to whom I was — betrothed.

Wangel [springing up]. What! Is it possible!

Ellida. Yes, it is so. It was to him!

Wangel. But how on earth, Ellida! How did you come to betroth yourself to such a man? To an absolute stranger! What is his name?

Ellida. At that time he called himself Friman. Later, in his letters he signed himself Alfred Johnston.

Wangel. And where did he come from?

Ellida. From Finmark, he said. For the rest, he was born in Finland, had come to Norway there as a child with his father, I think.

Wangel. A Finlander, then?

Ellida. Yes, so he called himself.

Wangel. What else do you know about him?

Ellida. Only that he went to sea very young. And that he had been on long voyages.

Wangel. Nothing more?

Ellida. No. We never spoke of such things.

Wangel. Of what did you speak, then?

Ellida. We spoke mostly about the sea.

Wangel. Ah! About the sea —

Ellida. About storms and calm. Of dark nights at sea. And of the sea in the glittering sunshiny days we spoke also. But we spoke most of the whales, and the dolphins, and the seals who lie out there on the rocks in the midday sun. And then we spoke of the gulls, and the eagles, and all the other sea birds. I think — isn’t it wonderful? — when we talked of such things it seemed to me as if both the sea beasts and sea birds were one with him.

Wangel. And with you?

Ellida. Yes; I almost thought I belonged to them all, too.

Wangel. Well, well! And so it was that you betrothed yourself to him?

Ellida. Yes. He said I must.

Wangel. You must? Had you no will of your own, then?

Ellida. Not when he was near. Ah! afterwards I thought it all so inexplicable.

Wangel. Were you often together?

Ellida. No; not very often. One day he came out to our place, and looked over the lighthouse. After that I got to know him, and we met now and again. But then that happened about the captain, and so he had to go away.

Wangel. Yes, yes. Tell me more about that.

Ellida. It was just daybreak when I had a note from him. He said in it I was to go out to him at the Bratthammer. You know the headland there between the lighthouse and Skjoldviken?

Wangel. I know, I know!

Ellida. I was to go out there at once, he wrote, because he wanted to speak to me.

Wangel. And you went?

Ellida. Yes. I could not do otherwise. Well, then he told me he had stabbed the captain in the night.

Wangel. He said that himself! Actually said so!

Ellida. Yes. But he had only acted rightly and justly, he said.

Wangel. Rightly and justly! Why did he stab him then?

Ellida. He wouldn’t speak out about that. He said it was not fit for me to hear.

Wangel. And you believed his naked, bare word?

Ellida. Yes. It never occurred to me to do otherwise. Well, anyhow, he had to go away. But now, when he was to bid me farewell — . No; you never could imagine what he thought of —

Wangel. Well? Tell me.

Ellida. He took from his pocket a key-ring — and drew a ring that he always wore from his finger, and he took a small ring I had. These two he put on the key-ring. And then he said we should wed ourselves to the sea.

Wangel. Wed?

Ellida. Yes, so he said. And with that he threw the key-ring, and our rings, with all his might, as far as he could into the deep.

Wangel. And you, Ellida, you did all this?

Ellida. Yes — only think — it then seemed to me as if it must be so. But, thank God I— he went away.

Wangel. And when he was gone?

Ellida. Oh! You can surely understand that I soon came to my senses again — that I saw how absolutely mad and meaningless it had all been.

Wangel. But you spoke just now of letters. So you have heard from him since?

Ellida. Yes, I have heard from him. First I had a few short lines from Archangel. He only wrote he was going to America. And then he told me where to send an answer.

Wangel. And did you?

Ellida. At once. I wrote him, of course, that all must be at an end between us; and that he must no longer think of me, just as I should no longer think of him.

Wangel. But did he write again?

Ellida. Yes, he wrote again.

Wangel. And what was his answer to your communication?

Ellida. He took no notice of it. It was exactly as if I had never broken with him. He wrote quite composedly and calmly that I must wait for him. When he could have me he would let me know, and then I was to go to him at once.

Wangel. So he would not release you?

Ellida. No. Then I wrote again, almost word for word as I had before; or perhaps more firmly.

Wangel. And he gave in?

Ellida. Oh, no! Don’t think that! He wrote quietly, as before — not a word of my having broken with him. Then I knew it was useless, and so I never wrote to him again.

Wangel. And you never heard from him?

Ellida. Oh, yes! I have had three letters since then. Once he wrote to me from California, and a second time from China. The last letter I had from him was from Australia. He wrote he was going to the gold-mines; but since then he has made no sign.

Wangel. This man has had a strange power over you, Ellida.

Ellida. Yes, yes! The terrible man!

Wangel. But you mustn’t think of that any more. Never again — never! Promise me that, my dear, beloved Ellida. Now we must try another treatment for you. Fresher air than here within the fjords. The salt, fresh air of the sea! Dear, what say you to that?

Ellida. Oh! don’t speak of it! Don’t think of it! There is no help in this for me. I feel that so well. I can’t shake it off — not even there.

Wangel. What, dear? — What do you really mean?

Ellida. I mean the horror of it, this incomprehensible power over the mind.

Wangel. But you have shaken it off — long since — when you broke with him. Why, all this is long past now.

Ellida [springing up]. No; that it is not — it is not!

Wangel. Not past?

Ellida. No, Wangel, it is not past; and I fear it never will be — never, in all our life.

Wangel [in a pained voice]. Do you mean to say that in your innermost heart you have never been able to forget this strange man?

Ellida. I had forgotten him; but then it was as if he had suddenly come back again.

Wangel. How long ago is that?

Ellida. It’s about three years ago, now, or a little longer. It was just when I expected the child.

Wangel. Ah! at that time? Yes, Ellida — now I begin to understand many things.

Ellida. You are mistaken, dear. What has come to me? Oh! I believe nothing on earth will ever make it clear.

Wangel [looking sadly at her]. Only to think that all these three years you have cared for another man. Cared for another. Not for me — but for another!

Ellida. Oh! you are so utterly mistaken! I care for no one but you.

Wangel [in a subdued voice]. Why, then, in all this time have you not lived with me as my wife?

Ellida. Because of the horror that comes from the strange man.

Wangel. The horror?

Ellida. Yes, the horror. A horror so terrible — such as only the sea could hold. For now you shall hear, Wangel.

[The young townsfolk come back, bow, and pass out to the right. Together with them come ARNHOLM, BOLETTE, HILDE, and LYNGSTRAND.]

Bolette [as she passes by]. Well, are you still walking about up here?

Ellida. Yes, it is so cool and pleasant up here on the heights.

Arnholm. We, for our part, are going down for a dance.

Wangel. All right. We’ll soon come down — we also.

Hilde. Goodbye, for the present!

Ellida. Mr. Lyngstrand, will you wait one moment? [LYNGSTRAND Stops. ARNHOLM, BOLETTE and HILDE go out. To LYNGSTRAND.] Are you going to dance too?

Lyngstrand. No, Mrs. Wangel. I don’t think I dare.

Ellida. No, you should be careful, you know — your chest. You’re not quite well yet, you see.

Lyngstrand. Not quite.

Ellida [with some hesitation]. How long may it be now since you went on that voyage?

Lyngstrand. That time when I contracted this weakness?

Ellida. Yes, that voyage you told me about this morning?

Lyngstrand. Oh! it’s about — wait a moment — yes, it’s a good three years now.

Ellida. Three years, then.

Lyngstrand. Perhaps a little more. We left America in February, and we were wrecked in March. It was the equinoctial gales we came in for.

Ellida [looking at WANGEL]. So it was at that time —

Wangel. But, dear Ellida —

Ellida. Well, don’t let me detain you, Mr. Lyngstrand. Now go down, but don’t dance.

Lyngstrand. No, I’ll only look on. [He goes out.]

Ellida. Johnston was on board too, I am quite certain of it.

Wangel. What makes you think so?

Ellida [without answering]. He learnt on board that I had married another while he was away. And so that very hour this came over me.

Wangel. The horror?

Ellida. Yes, all of a sudden I see him alive right in front of me; or, rather a little in profile. He never looks at me, only he is there.

Wangel. How do you think he looks?

Ellida. Exactly as when I saw him last.

Wangel. Ten years ago?

Ellida. Yes; out there at Bratthammeren. Most distinctly of all I see his breastpin, with a large bluish-white pearl in it. The pearl is like a dead fish’s eye, and it seems to glare at me.

Wangel. Good God! You are more ill than I thought. More ill than you yourself know, Ellida.

Ellida. Yes, yes! Help me if you can, for I feel how it is drawing closer and more close.

Wangel. And you have gone about in this state three whole years, bearing for yourself this secret suffering, without confiding in me.

Ellida. But I could not; not till it became necessary for your own sake. If I had confided in you I should also have had to confide to you the unutterable.

Wangel. Unutterable?

Ellida. No, no, no! Do not ask. Only one thing, nothing more. Wangel, when shall we understand that mystery of the boy’s eyes?

Wangel. My dear love, Ellida, I assure you it was only your own fancy. The child had exactly the same eyes as other normal children have.

Ellida. No, he had not. And you could not see it! The child’s eyes changed colour with the sea. When the fjord lay bathed in sunshine, so were his eyes. And so in storm. Oh, I saw it, if you did not!

Wangel [humouring her]. Maybe. But even if it were true, what then?

Ellida [in lower voice, and coming nearer]. I have seen such eyes before.

Wangel. Well? Where?

Ellida. Out at Bratthammeren, ten years ago.

Wangel [stepping back]. What does it mean?

Ellida [whispers, trembling]. The child had the strange man’s eyes.

Wangel [cries out reluctantly]. Ellida!

Ellida [clasps her hands despairingly about her head]. Now you understand why I would not, why I dared not, live with you as your wife. [She turns suddenly and rushes off over the heights.]

Wangel [hurrying after her and calling]. Ellida, Ellida! My poor unhappy Ellida!

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