The Lady from the Sea, by Henrik Ibsen

ACT III

SCENE. — A more remote part of DOCTOR WANGEL’S garden. It is boggy and overshadowed by large old trees. To the right is seen the margin of a dank pond. A low, open fence separates the garden from the footpath, and the fjord in the background. Beyond is the range of mountains, with its peaks. It is afternoon, almost evening. BOLETTE sits on a stone seat, and on the seat lie some books and a work-basket. HILDE and LYNGSTRAND, both with fishing-tackle, walk along the bank of the pond.

Hilde [making a sign to LYNGSTRAND]. I can see a large one.

Lyngstrand [looking]. Where?

Hilde [pointing]. Can’t you see? He’s down there. Good gracious! There’s another! [Looks through the trees.] Out there. Now he’s coming to frighten him away!

Bolette [looking up]. Who’s coming?

Hilde. Your tutor, Miss!

Bolette. Mine?

Hilde. Yes. Goodness knows he never was mine.

[ARNHOLM enters from between the trees.]

Arnholm. Are there fish in the pond now?

Hilde. There are some very ancient carp.

Arnholm. No! Are the old carp still alive?

Hilde. Yes; they’re pretty tough. But now we’re going to try and get rid of some of them.

Arnholm. You’d better try out there at the fjord.

Lyngstrand. No; the pond is — well — so to say — more mysterious.

Hilde. Yes; it’s fascinating here. Have you been in the sea?

Arnholm. Yes; I’ve come straight from the baths.

Hilde. I suppose you kept in the enclosure?

Arnholm. Yes; I’m not much of a swimmer.

Hilde. Can you swim on your back?

Arnholm. No.

Hilde. I can. [To LYNGSTRAND.] Let’s try out there on the other side. [They go off along the pond.]

Arnholm [coming closer to BOLETTE]. Are you sitting all alone here, Bolette?

Bolette. Yes; I generally do.

Arnholm. Isn’t your mother down here in the garden?

Bolette. No — she’s sure to be out with father.

Arnholm. How is she this afternoon?

Bolette. I don’t quite know. I forgot to ask.

Arnholm. What books have you there?

Bolette. The one’s something about botany. And the other’s a geography.

Arnholm. Do you care about such things?

Bolette. Yes, if only I had time for it. But, first of all, I’ve to look after the housekeeping.

Arnholm. Doesn’t your mother help you — your stepmother — doesn’t she help with that?

Bolette. No, that’s my business. Why, I saw to that during the two years father was alone. And so it has been since.

Arnholm. But you’re as fond as ever of reading.

Bolette. Yes, I read all the useful books I can get hold of. One wants to know something about the world. For here we live so completely outside of all that’s going on — or almost.

Arnholm. Now don’t say that, dear Bolette.

Bolette. Yes! I think we live very much as the carp down there in the pond. They have the fjord so near them, where the shoals of wild fishes pass in and out. But the poor, tame house-fishes know nothing, and they can take no part in that.

Arnholm. I don’t think it would fare very well with them if they could get out there.

Bolette. Oh! it would be much the same, I expect.

Arnholm. Moreover, you can’t say that one is so completely out of the world here — not in the summer anyhow. Why, nowadays this is quite a rendezvous for the busy world — almost a terminus for the time being.

Bolette. Ah, yes! you who yourself are only here for the time being — it is easy for you to make fun of us.

Arnholm. I make fun? How can you think that?

Bolette. Well, all that about this being a rendezvous, and a terminus for the busy world — that’s something you’ve heard the townsfolk here saying. Yes — they’re in the habit of saying that sort of thing.

Arnholm. Well, frankly, I’ve noticed that, too.

Bolette. But really there’s not an atom of truth in it. Not for us who always live here. What good is it to us that the great strange world comes hither for a time on its way North to see the midnight sun? We ourselves have no part in that; we see nothing of the midnight sun. No! We’ve got to be good, and live our lives here in our carp pond.

Arnholm [sitting down by her]. Now tell me, dear Bolette, isn’t there something or other — something definite you are longing for?

Bolette. Perhaps.

Arnholm. What is it, really? What is it you are longing for?

Bolette. Chiefly to get away.

Arnholm. That above all, then?

Bolette. Yes; and then to learn more. To really know something about everything.

Arnholm. When I used to teach you, your father often said he would let you go to college.

Bolette. Yes, poor father! He says so many things. But when it comes to the point he — there’s no real stamina in father.

Arnholm. No, unfortunately you’re right there. He has not exactly stamina. But have you ever spoken to him about it — spoken really earnestly and seriously?

Bolette. No, I’ve not quite done that.

Arnholm. But really you ought to. Before it is too late, Bolette, why don’t you?

Bolette. Oh! I suppose it’s because there’s no real stamina in me either. I certainly take after father in that.

Arnholm. Hm — don’t you think you’re unjust to yourself there?

Bolette. No, unfortunately. Besides, father has so little time for thinking of me and my future, and not much desire to either. He prefers to put such things away from him whenever he can. He is so completely taken up with Ellida.

Arnholm. With whom? What?

Bolette. I mean that he and my stepmother — [breaks off]. Father and mother suffice one another, as you see.

Arnholm. Well, so much the better if you were to get away from here.

Bolette. Yes; but I don’t think I’ve a right to; not to forsake father.

Arnholm. But, dear Bolette, you’ll have to do that sometime, anyhow. So it seems to me the sooner the better.

Bolette. I suppose there is nothing else for it. After all, I must think of myself, too. I must try and get occupation of some sort. When once father’s gone, I have no one to hold to. But, poor father! I dread leaving him.

Arnholm. Dread?

Bolette. Yes, for father’s sake.

Arnholm. But, good heavens! Your stepmother? She is left to him.

Bolette. That’s true. But she’s not in the least fit to do all that mother did so well. There is so much she doesn’t see, or that she won’t see, or that she doesn’t care about. I don’t know which it is.

Arnholm. Um, I think I understand what you mean.

Bolette. Poor father! He is weak in some things. Perhaps you’ve noticed that yourself? He hasn’t enough occupation, either, to fill up his time. And then she is so thoroughly incapable of helping him; however, that’s to some extent his own fault.

Arnholm. In what way?

Bolette. Oh! father always likes to see happy faces about him. There must be sunshine and joy in the house, he says. And so I’m afraid he often gives her medicine which will do her little good in the long run.

Arnholm. Do you really think that?

Bolette. Yes; I can’t get rid of the thought. She is so odd at times. [Passionately.] But isn’t it unjust that I should have to stay at home here? Really it’s not of any earthly use to father. Besides, I have a duty towards myself, too, I think.

Arnholm. Do you know what, Bolette? We two must talk these matters over more carefully.

Bolette. Oh! That won’t be much use. I suppose I was created to stay here in the carp pond.

Arnholm. Not a bit of it. It depends entirely upon yourself.

Bolette [quickly]. Do you think so?

Arnholm. Yes, believe me, it lies wholly and solely in your own hands.

Bolette. If only that were true! Will you perhaps put in a good word for me with father?

Arnholm. Certainly. But first of all I must speak frankly and freely with you yourself, dear.

Bolette [looks out to the left]. Hush! don’t let them notice anything. We’ll speak of this later.

[ELLIDA enters from the left. She has no hat on, but a large shawl is thrown over her head and shoulders.]

Ellida [with restless animation]. How pleasant it is here! How delightful it is here!

Arnholm [rising]. Have you been for a walk?

Ellida. Yes, a long, long lovely walk up there with Wangel. And now we’re going for a sail.

Bolette. Won’t you sit down?

Ellida. No, thanks; I won’t sit down.

Bolette [making room on seat]. Here’s a pleasant seat.

Ellida [walking about]. No, no, no! I’ll not sit down — not sit down!

Arnholm. I’m sure your walk has done you good. You look quite refreshed.

Ellida. Oh, I feel so thoroughly well — I feel so unspeakably happy. So safe, so safe! [Looking out to the left.] What great steamer is that coming along there?

Bolette [rising, and also looking out]. It must be the large English ship.

Arnholm. It’s passing the buoy. Does it usually stop here?

Bolette. Only for half an hour. It goes farther up the fjord.

Ellida. And then sails away again tomorrow — away over the great open sea — right over the sea. Only think! to be with them. If one could. If only one could!

Arnholm. Have you never been any long sea voyage, Mrs. Wangel?

Ellida. Never; only those little trips in the fjord here.

Bolette [with a sigh]. Ah, no! I suppose we must put up with the dry land.

Arnholm. Well, after all, that really is our home.

Ellida. No; I don’t think it is.

Arnholm. Not the land?

Ellida. No; I don’t believe so. I think that if only men had from the beginning accustomed themselves to live on the sea, or in the sea perhaps, we should be more perfect than we are — both better and happier.

Arnholm. You really think that?

Ellida. Yes. I should like to know if we should not. I’ve often spoken to Wangel about it.

Arnholm. Well, and he?

Ellida. He thinks it might be so.

Arnholm [jestingly]. Well, perhaps! But it can’t be helped. We’ve once for — all entered upon the wrong path, and have become land beasts instead of sea beasts. Anyhow, I suppose it’s too late to make good the mistake now.

Ellida. Yes, you’ve spoken a sad truth. And I think men instinctively feel something of this themselves. And they bear it about with them as a secret regret and sorrow. Believe me — herein lies the deepest cause for the sadness of men. Yes, believe me, in this.

Arnholm. But, my dearest Mrs. Wangel, I have not observed that men are so extremely sad. It seems to me, on the contrary, that most of them take life easily and pleasantly — and with a great, quiet, unconscious joy.

Ellida. Oh! no, it is not so. The joy is, I suppose, something like our joy at the long pleasant summer days — it has the presentiment of the dark days coming. And it is this presentiment that casts its shadows over the joy of men, just as the driving clouds cast their shadow over the fjords. It lies there so bright and blue — and of a sudden.

Arnholm. You shouldn’t give way to such sad thoughts. Just now you were so glad and so bright.

Ellida. Yes, yes, so I was. Oh, this — this is so stupid of me. [Looking about her uneasily.] If only Wangel would come! He promised me so faithfully he would. And yet he does not come. Dear Mr. Arnholm, won’t you try and find him for me?

Arnholm. Gladly!

Ellida. Tell him he must come here directly now. For now I can’t see him.

Arnholm. Not see him?

Ellida. Oh! you don’t understand. When he is not by me I often can’t remember how he looks. And then it is as if I had quite lost him. That is so terribly painful. But do go, please. [She paces round the pond.]

Bolette [to ARNHOLM]. I will go with you — you don’t know the way.

Arnholm. Nonsense, I shall be all right.

Bolette [aside]. No, no, no. I am anxious. I’m afraid he is on board the steamer.

Arnholm. Afraid?

Bolette. Yes. He usually goes to see if there are any acquaintances of his. And there’s a restaurant on board.

Arnholm. Ah! Come then.

[He and BOLETTE go off. ELLIDA stands still awhile, staring down at the pond. Now and again she speaks to herself in a low voice, and breaks off. Along the footpath beyond the garden fence a STRANGER in travelling dress comes from the left. His hair and beard are bushy and red. He has a Scotch cap on, and a travelling bag with strap across his shoulders.]

The Stranger [goes slowly along by the fence and peeps into the garden. When he catches sight of ELLIDA he stands still, looks at her fixedly and searchingly, and speaks in a low voice]. Good-evening, Ellida!

Ellida [turns round with a cry]. Oh dear! have you come at last!

The Stranger. Yes, at last.

Ellida [looking at him astonished and frightened]. Who are you? Do you seek anyone here?

The Stranger. You surely know that well enough, Ellida.

Ellida [starting]. What is this! How do you address me? Whom are you looking for?

The Stranger. Well, I suppose I’m looking for you.

Ellida [shuddering]. Oh! [She stares at him, totters back, uttering a half-suffocating cry.] The eyes! — the eyes!

The Stranger. Are you beginning to recognise me at last? I knew you at once, Ellida.

Ellida. The eyes! Don’t look at me like that! I shall cry for help!

The Stranger. Hush, hush! Do not fear. I shan’t hurt you.

Ellida [covering her eyes with her hands]. Do not look at me like that, I say!

The Stranger [leaning with his arms on the garden fence]. I came with the English steamer.

Ellida [stealing a frightened look at him]. What do you want with me?

The Stranger. I promised you to come as soon as I could —

Ellida. Go — go away! Never, never come here again! I wrote to you that everything must be over between us — everything! Oh! you know that!

The Stranger [imperturbably, and not answering her]. I would gladly have come to you sooner; but I could not. Now, at last I am able to, and I am here, Ellida.

Ellida. What is it you want with me? What do you mean? Why have you come here?

The Stranger. Surely you know I’ve come to fetch you.

Ellida [recoils in terror]. To fetch me! Is that what you mean?

The Stranger. Of course.

Ellida. But surely you know that I am married?

The Stranger. Yes, I know.

Ellida. And yet — and yet you have come to — to fetch me!

The Stranger. Certainly I have.

Ellida [seizing her head with both her hands]. Oh! this misery — this horror! This horror!

The Stranger. Perhaps you don’t want to come?

Ellida [bewildered]. Don’t look at me like that.

The Stranger. I was asking you if you didn’t want to come.

Ellida. No, no, no! Never in all eternity! I will not, I tell you. I neither can nor will. [In lower tone.] I dare not.

The Stranger [climbs over the fence, and comes into the garden]. Well, Ellida, let me tell you one thing before I go.

Ellida [wishes to fly, but cannot. She stands as one paralysed with terror, and leans for support against the trunk of a tree by the pond]. Don’t touch me! Don’t come near me! No nearer! Don’t touch me, I say!

The Stranger [cautiously coming a few steps nearer]. You need not be so afraid of me, Ellida.

Ellida [covering her eyes with her hands]. Don’t look at me like that.

The Stranger. Do not be afraid — not afraid.

[WANGEL comes through the garden, from the left.]

Wangel [still half-way between the trees]. Well, you’ve had to wait for me a long while.

Ellida [rushes towards him, clings fast to his arm, and cries out]. Oh! Wangel! Save me! You save me — if you can!

Wangel. Ellida! What in heaven’s name!

Ellida. Save me, Wangel! Don’t you see him there? Why, he is standing there!

Wangel [looking thither]. That man? [Coming nearer.] May I ask you who you are, and what you have come into this garden for?

The Stranger [motions with a nod towards ELLIDA]. I want to talk to her.

Wangel. Oh! indeed. So I suppose it was you. [To ELLIDA.] I hear a stranger has been to the house and asked for you?

The Stranger. Yes, it was I.

Wangel. And what do you want with my wife? [Turning round.] Do you know him, Ellida?

Ellida [in a low voice and wringing her hands]. Do I know him! Yes, yes, yes!

Wangel [quickly]. Well!

Ellida. Why, it is he, Wangel! — he himself! He who you know!

Wangel. What! What is it you say? [Turning.] Are you the Johnston who once . . .

The Stranger. You may call me Johnston for aught I care! However, that’s not my name,

Wangel. It is not?

The Stranger. It is — no longer. No!

Wangel. And what may you want with my wife? For I suppose you know the lighthouse-keeper’s daughter has been married this long time, and whom she married, you of course also know.

The Stranger. I’ve known it over three years.

Ellida [eagerly]. How did you come to know it?

The Stranger. I was on my way home to you, Ellida. I came across an old newspaper. It was a paper from these parts, and in it there was that about the marriage.

Ellida [looking straight in front of her]. The marriage! So it was that!

The Stranger. It seemed so wonderful to me. For the rings — why that, too, was a marriage, Ellida.

Ellida [covering her face with her hands]. Oh! — Wangel. How dare you?

The Stranger. Have you forgotten that?

Ellida [feeling his look, suddenly cries out]. Don’t stand there and look at me like that!

Wangel [goes up to him]. You must deal with me, and not with her. In short — now that you know the circumstances — what is it you really want here? Why do you seek my wife?

The Stranger. I promised Ellida to come to her as soon as I could.

Wangel. Ellida, again! —

The Stranger. And Ellida promised faithfully she would wait for me until I came.

Wangel. I notice you call my wife by her first name. This kind of familiarity is not customary with us here.

The Stranger. I know that perfectly. But as she first, and above all, belongs to me —

Wangel. To you, still —

Ellida [draws back behind WANGEL]. Oh! he will never release me!

Wangel. To you? You say she belongs to you?

The Stranger. Has she told you anything about the two rings — my ring and Ellida’s?

Wangel. Certainly. And what then? She put an end to that long ago. You have had her letters, so you know this yourself.

The Stranger. Both Ellida and I agreed that what we did should have all the strength and authority of a real and full marriage.

Ellida. But you hear, I will not! Never on earth do I wish to know anything more of you. Do not look at me like that. I will not, I tell you!

Wangel. You must be mad to think you can come here, and base any claim upon such childish nonsense.

The Stranger. That’s true. A claim, in your sense, I certainly have not.

Wangel. What do you mean to do, then? You surely do not imagine you can take her from me by force, against her own will?

The Stranger. No. What would be the good of that? If Ellida wishes to be with me she must come freely.

Ellida [starts, crying out]. Freely!

Wangel. And you actually believe that —

Ellida [to herself]. Freely!

Wangel. You must have taken leave of your senses! Go your ways. We have nothing more to do with you.

The Stranger [looking at his watch]. It is almost time for me to go on board again. [Coming nearer.] Yes, yes, Ellida, now I have done my duty. [Coming still nearer.] I have kept the word I gave you.

Ellida [beseechingly drawing away]. Oh! don’t touch me!

The Stranger. And so now you must think it over till tomorrow night —

Wangel. There is nothing to think over here. See that you get away.

The Stranger [still to ELLIDA]. Now I’m going with the steamer up the fjord. Tomorrow night I will come again, and then I shall look for you here. You must wait for me here in the garden, for I prefer settling the matter with you alone; you understand?

Ellida [in low, trembling tone]. Do you hear that, Wangel?

Wangel. Only keep calm. We shall know how to prevent this visit.

The Stranger. Goodbye for the present, Ellida. So tomorrow night —

Ellida [imploringly]. Oh! no, no! Do not come tomorrow night! Never come here again!

The Stranger. And should you then have a mind to follow me over the seas —

Ellida. Oh, don’t look at me like that!

The Stranger. I only mean that you must then be ready to set out.

Wangel. Go up to the house, Ellida.

Ellida. I cannot! Oh, help me! Save me, Wangel!

The Stranger. For you must remember that if you do not go with me tomorrow, all is at an end.

Ellida [looks tremblingly at him]. Then all is at an end? Forever?

The Stranger [nodding]. Nothing can change it then, Ellida. I shall never again come to this land. You will never see me again, nor hear from me either. Then I shall be as one dead and gone from you forever.

Ellida [breathing with difficulty]. Oh!

The Stranger. So think carefully what you do. Goodbye! [He goes to the fence and climbs over it, stands still, and says.] Yes, Ellida; be ready for the journey tomorrow night. For then I shall come and fetch you. [He goes slowly and calmly down the footpath to the right.]

Ellida [looking after him for a time]. Freely, he said; think — he said that I must go with him freely!

Wangel. Only keep calm. Why, he’s gone now, and you’ll never see him again.

Ellida. Oh! how can you say that? He’s coming again tomorrow night!

Wangel. Let him come. He shall not meet you again in any case.

Ellida [shaking her head]. Ah, Wangel! Do not believe you can prevent him.

Wangel. I can, dearest; only trust me.

Ellida [pondering, and not listening to him]. Now when he’s been here tomorrow night — and then when he has gone over seas in the steamer —

Wangel. Yes; what then?

Ellida. I should like to know if he will never, never come back again.

Wangel. No, dear Ellida. You may be quite sure of that. What should he do here after this? Now that he has learnt from your own lips that you will have nothing more to do with him. With that the whole thing is over.

Ellida [to herself]. Tomorrow, then, or never!

Wangel. And should it ever occur to him to come here again —

Ellida. Well?

Wangel. Why, then, it is in our power to make him harmless.

Ellida. Oh! do not think that!

Wangel. It is in our power, I tell you. If you can get rid of him in no other way, he must expiate the murder of the captain.

Ellida [passionately]. No, no, no! Never that! We know nothing about the murder of the captain! Nothing whatever!

Wangel. Know nothing? Why, he himself confessed it to you!

Ellida. No, nothing of that. If you say anything of it I shall deny it. He shall not be imprisoned. He belongs out there — to the open sea. He belongs out there!

Wangel [looks at her and says slowly]. Ah! Ellida — Ellida!

Ellida [clinging passionately to him]. Oh! dear, faithful one — save me from this man!

Wangel [disengaging himself gently]. Come, come with me! [LYNGSTRAND and HILDE, both with fishing tackle, come in from the right, along the pond.]

Lyngstrand [going quickly up to ELLIDA]. Now, Mrs. Wangel, you must hear something wonderful.

Wangel. What is it?

Lyngstrand. Fancy! We’ve seen the American!

Wangel. The American?

Hilde. Yes, I saw him, too.

Lyngstrand. He was going round the back of the garden, and thence on board the great English steamer.

Wangel. How do you know the man?

Lyngstrand. Why, I went to sea with him once. I felt so certain he’d been drowned — and now he’s very much alive!

Wangel. Do you know anything more about him?

Lyngstrand. No. But I’m sure he’s come to revenge himself upon his faithless sailor-wife.

Wangel. What do you mean?

Hilde. Lyngstrand’s going to use him for a work of art.

Wangel. I don’t understand one word.

Ellida. You shall hear afterwards.

[ARNHOLM and BOLETTE come from the left along the footpath outside the garden.]

Bolette [to those in the garden]. Do come and see! The great English steamer’s just going up the fjord.

[A large steamer glides slowly past in the distance.]

Lyngstrand [to HILDE behind the garden fence]. Tonight he’s sure to come to her.

Hilde [nods]. To the faithless sailor-wife — yes.

Lyngstrand. Fancy, at midnight!

Hilde. That must be so fascinating.

Ellida [looking after the ship]. Tomorrow, then!

Wangel. And then never again.

Ellida [in a low, imploring tone]. Oh! Wangel, save me from myself!

Wangel [looks anxiously at her]. Ellida — I feel there is something behind this —

Ellida. There is — the temptation!

Wangel. Temptation?

Ellida. The man is like the sea!

[She goes slowly and thoughtfully through the garden, and out to the left. WANGEL walks uneasily by her side, watching her closely.]

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