SCENE. — The distant part of DOCTOR WANGEL’S garden, and the carp pond. The summer night gradually darkens.
ARNHOLM, BOLETTE, LYNGSTRAND and HILDE are in a boat, punting along the shore to the left.
Hilde. See! We can jump ashore easily here.
Arnholm. No, no; don’t!
Lyngstrand. I can’t jump, Miss Hilde.
Hilde. Can’t you jump either, Arnholm?
Arnholm. I’d rather not try.
Bolette. Then let’s land down there, by the bathing steps.
[They push off. At the same moment BALLESTED comes along the footpath, carrying music-books and a French horn. He bows to those in the boat, turns and speaks to them. The answers are heard farther and farther away.]
Ballested. What do you say? Yes, of course it’s on account of the English steamer; for this is her last visit here this year. But if you want to enjoy the pleasures of melody, you mustn’t wait too long. [Calling out.] What? [Shaking his head.] Can’t hear what you say!
[ELLIDA, with a shawl over her head, enters, followed by DOCTOR WANGEL.]
Wangel. But, dear Ellida, I assure you there’s plenty of time.
Ellida. No, no, there is not! He may come any moment.
Ballested [outside the fence]. Hallo! Good-evening, doctor. Good-evening, Mrs. Wangel.
Wangel [noticing him]. Oh! is it you? Is there to be music tonight?
Ballested. Yes; the Wind Band Society thought of making themselves heard. We’ve no dearth of festive occasions nowadays. Tonight it’s in honour of the English ship.
Ellida. The English ship! Is she in sight already?
Ballested. Not yet. But you know she comes from between the islands. You can’t see anything of her, and then she’s alongside of you.
Ellida. Yes, that is so.
Wangel [half to ELLIDA]. Tonight is the last voyage, then she will not come again.
Ballested. A sad thought, doctor, and that’s why we’re going to give them an ovation, as the saying is. Ah! Yes — ah! yes. The glad summertime will soon be over now. Soon all ways will be barred, as they say in the tragedy.
Ellida. All ways barred — yes!
Ballested. It’s sad to think of. We have been the joyous children of summer for weeks and months now. It’s hard to reconcile yourself to the dark days — just at first, I mean. For men can accli — a — acclimatise themselves, Mrs. Wangel. Ay, indeed they can. [Bows, and goes off to the left.]
Ellida [looking out at the fjord]. Oh, this terrible suspense! This torturing last half-hour before the decision!
Wangel. You are determined, then, to speak to him yourself?
Ellida. I must speak to him myself; for it is freely that I must make my choice.
Wangel. You have no choice, Ellida. You have no right to choose — no right without my permission.
Ellida. You can never prevent the choice, neither you nor anyone. You can forbid me to go away with him — to follow him — in case I should choose to do that. You can keep me here by force — against my will. That you can do. But that I should choose, choose from my very soul — choose him, and not you — in case I would and did choose thus — this you cannot prevent.
Wangel. No; you are right. I cannot prevent that.
Ellida. And so I have nothing to help me to resist. Here, at home, there is no single thing that attracts me and binds me. I am so absolutely rootless in your house, Wangel. The children are not mine — their hearts, I mean — never have been. When I go, if I do go, either with him tonight, or to Skjoldviken tomorrow, I haven’t a key to give up, an order to give about anything whatsoever. I am absolutely rootless in your house — I have been absolutely outside everything from the very first.
Wangel. You yourself wished it.
Ellida. No, no, I did not. I neither wished nor did not wish it. I simply left things just as I found them the day I came here. It is you, and no one else, who wished it.
Wangel. I thought to do all for the best for you.
Ellida. Yes, Wangel, I know it so well! But there is retribution in that, a something that avenges itself. For now I find no binding power here-nothing to strengthen me — nothing to help me — nothing to draw me towards what should have been the strongest possession of us both.
Wangel. I see it, Ellida. And that is why from t-morrow you shall have back your freedom. Henceforth, you shall live your own life.
Ellida. And you call that my own life! No! My own true life lost its bearings when I agreed to live with you. [Clenches her hand in fear and unrest.] And now — tonight — in half an hour, he whom I forsook is coming — he to whom I should have cleaved forever, even as he has cleaved to me! Now he is coming to offer me — for the last and only time — the chance of living my life over again, of living my own true life — the life that terrifies and attracts — and I can not forgo that — not freely.
Wangel. That is why it is necessary your husband — and your doctor — should take the power of acting from you, and act on your behalf.
Ellida. Yes, Wangel, I quite understand. Believe me, there are times when I think it would be peace and deliverance if with all my soul I could be bound to you — and try to brave all that terrifies — and attracts. But I cannot! No, no, I cannot do that!
Wangel. Come, Ellida, let us walk up and down together for awhile.
Ellida. I would gladly — but I dare not. For he said I was to wait for him here.
Wangel. Come! There is time enough.
Ellida. Do you think so?
Wangel. Plenty of time, I tell you.
Ellida. Then let us go, for a little while.
[They pass out in the foreground. At the same time ARNHOLM and BOLETTE appear by the upper bank of the pond.]
Bolette [noticing the two as they go out]. See there —
Arnholm [in low voice]. Hush! Let them go. Bolette. Can you understand what has been going on between them these last few days?
Arnholm. Have you noticed anything?
Bolette. Have I not!
Arnholm. Anything peculiar?
Bolette. Yes, one thing and another. Haven’t you?
Arnholm. Well — I don’t exactly know.
Bolette. Yes, you have; only you won’t speak out about it.
Arnholm. I think it will do your stepmother good to go on this little journey.
Bolette. Do you think so?
Arnholm. I should say it would be well for all parties that she should get away every now and then.
Bolette. If she does go home to Skjoldviken tomorrow, she will never come back here again!
Arnholm. My dear Bolette, whatever makes you think that?
Bolette. I am quite convinced of it. Just you wait; you’ll see that she’ll not come back again; not anyhow as long as I and Hilde are in the house here.
Arnholm. Hilde, too?
Bolette. Well, it might perhaps be all right with Hilde. For she is scarcely more than a child. And I believe that at bottom she worships Ellida. But, you see, it’s different with me — a stepmother who isn’t so very much older than oneself!
Arnholm. Dear Bolette, perhaps it might, after all, not be so very long before you left.
Bolette [eagerly]. Really! Have you spoken to father about it?
Arnholm. Yes, I have.
Bolette. Well, what does he say?
Arnholm. Hm! Well, your father’s so thoroughly taken up with other matters just now —
Bolette. Yes, yes! that’s how I knew it would be.
Arnholm. But I got this much out of him. You mustn’t reckon upon any help from him.
Arnholm. He explained his circumstances to me clearly; he thought that such a thing was absolutely out of the question, impossible for him.
Bolette [reproachfully]. And you had the heart to come and mock me?
Arnholm. I’ve certainly not done that, dear Bolette. It depends wholly and solely upon yourself whether you go away or not.
Bolette. What depends upon me?
Arnholm. Whether you are to go out into the world — learn all you most care for — take part in all you are hungering after here at home — live your life under brighter conditions, Bolette.
Bolette [clasping her hands together]. Good God! But it’s impossible! If father neither can nor will — and I have no one else on earth to whom I could turn — Arnholm. Couldn’t you make up your mind to accept a little help from your old — from your former teacher?
Bolette. From you, Mr. Arnholm! Would you be willing to —
Arnholm. Stand by you! Yes — with all my heart. Both with word and in deed. You may count upon it. Then you accept? Well? Do you agree?
Bolette. Do I agree! To get away — to see the world — to learn something thoroughly! All that seemed to be a great, beautiful impossibility!
Arnholm. All that may now become a reality to you, if only you yourself wish it.
Bolette. And to all this unspeakable happiness you will help me! Oh, no! Tell me, can I accept such an offer from a stranger?
Arnholm. You can from me, Bolette. From me you can accept anything.
Bolette [seizing his hands]. Yes, I almost think I can! I don’t know how it is, but — [bursting out] Oh! I could both laugh and cry for joy, for happiness! Then I should know life really after all. I began to be so afraid life would pass me by.
Arnholm. You need not fear that, Bolette. But now you must tell me quite frankly — if there is anything — anything you are bound to here.
Bolette. Bound to? Nothing.
Arnholm. Nothing whatever?
Bolette. No, nothing at all. That is — I am bound to father to some extent. And to Hilde, too. But —
Arnholm. Well, you’ll have to leave your father sooner or later. And some time Hilde also will go her own way in life. That is only a question of time. Nothing more. And so there is nothing else that binds you, Bolette? Not any kind of connection?
Bolette. Nothing whatever. As far as that goes, I could leave at any moment.
Arnholm. Well, if that is so, dear Bolette, you shall go away with me!
Bolette [clapping her hands]. 0h God! What joy to think of it!
Arnholm. For I hope you trust me fully?
Bolette. Indeed, I do!
Arnholm. And you dare to trust yourself and your future fully and confidently into my hands, Bolette? Is that true? You will dare to do this?
Bolette. Of course; how could I not do so? Could you believe anything else? You, who have been my old teacher — my teacher in the old days, I mean.
Arnholm. Not because of that. I will not consider that side of the matter; but — well, so you are free, Bolette! There is nothing that binds you, and so I ask you, if you could — if you could — bind yourself to me for life?
Bolette [steps back frightened]. What are you saying?
Arnholm. For all your life, Bolette. Will you be my wife?
Bolette [half to herself]. No, no, no! That is impossible, utterly impossible!
Arnholm. It is really so absolutely impossible for you to —
Bolette. But, surely, you cannot mean what you are saying, Mr. Arnholm! [Looking at him.] Or — yet — was that what you meant when you offered to do so much for me?
Arnholm. You must listen to me one moment, Bolette. I suppose I have greatly surprised you!
Bolette. Oh! how could such a thing from you — how could it but — but surprise me!
Arnholm. Perhaps you are right. Of course, you didn’t — you could not know it was for your sake I made this journey.
Bolette. Did you come here for — for my sake?
Arnholm. I did, Bolette. In the spring I received a letter from your father, and in it there was a passage that made me think — hm — that you held your former teacher in-in a little more than friendly remembrance.
Bolette. How could father write such a thing?
Arnholm. He did not mean it so. But I worked myself into the belief that here was a young girl longing for me to come again — No, you mustn’t interrupt me, dear Bolette! And — you see, when a man like myself, who is no longer quite young, has such a belief — or fancy, it makes an overwhelming impression. There grew within me a living, a grateful affection for you; I thought I must come to you, see you again, and tell you I shared the feelings that I fancied you had for me.
Bolette. And now you know it is not so! — that it was a mistake!
Arnholm. It can’t be helped, Bolette. Your image, as I bear it within myself, will always be coloured and stamped with the impression that this mistake gave me. Perhaps you cannot understand this; but still it is so.
Bolette. I never thought such a thing possible.
Arnholm. But now you have seen that it is possible, what do you say now, Bolette? Couldn’t you make up your mind to be — yes — to be my wife?
Bolette. Oh! it seems so utterly impossible, Mr. Arnholm. You, who have been my teacher! I can’t imagine ever standing in any other relation towards you.
Arnholm. Well, well, if you think you really cannot — Then our old relations remain unchanged, dear Bolette.
Bolette. What do you mean?
Arnholm. Of course, to keep my promise all the same. I will take care you get out into the world and see something of it. Learn some things you really want to know; live safe and independent. Your future I shall provide for also, Bolette. For in me you will always have a good, faithful, trustworthy friend. Be sure of that.
Bolette. Good heavens! Mr. Arnholm, all that is so utterly impossible now.
Arnholm. Is that impossible too?
Bolette. Surely you can see that! After what you have just said to me, and after my answer — Oh! you yourself must see that it is impossible for me now to accept so very much from you. I can accept nothing from you — nothing after this.
Arnholm. So you would rather stay at home here, and let life pass you by?
Bolette. Oh! it is such dreadful misery to think of that.
Arnholm. Will you renounce knowing something of the outer world? Renounce bearing your part in all that you yourself say you are hungering for? To know there is so infinitely much, and yet never really to understand anything of it? Think carefully, Bolette.
Bolette. Yes, yes! You are right, Mr. Arnholm.
Arnholm. And then, when one day your father is no longer here, then perhaps to be left helpless and alone in the world; or live to give yourself to another man — whom you, perhaps, will also feel no affection for —
Bolette. Oh, yes! I see how true all you say is. But still — and yet perhaps —
Arnholm [quickly]. Well?
Bolette [looking at him hesitatingly]. Perhaps it might not be so impossible after all.
Arnholm. What, Bolette?
Bolette. Perhaps it might be possible — to accept — what you proposed to me.
Arnholm. Do you mean that, after all, you might be willing to — that at all events you could give me the happiness of helping you as a steadfast friend?
Bolette. No, no, no! Never that, for that would be utterly impossible now. No — Mr. Arnholm — rather take me.
Arnholm. Bolette! You will?
Bolette. Yes, I believe I will.
Arnholm. And after all you will be my wife?
Bolette. Yes; if you still think that — that you will have me.
Arnholm. Think! [Seizing her hand.] Oh, thanks, thanks, Bolette. All else that you said — your former doubts — these do not frighten me. If I do not yet possess your whole heart, I shall know how to conquer it. Oh, Bolette, I will wait upon you hand and foot!
Bolette. And then I shall see something of the world? Shall live! You have promised me that?
Arnholm. And will keep my promise.
Bolette. And I may learn everything I want to?
Arnholm. I, myself, will be your teacher as formerly, Bolette. Do you remember the last school year?
Bolette [quietly and absently]. To think — to know — one’s self free, and to get out into the strange world, and then, not to need to be anxious for the future — not to be harassed about one’s stupid livelihood!
Arnholm. No, you will never need to waste a thought upon such matters. And that’s a good thing, too, in its way, dear Bolette, isn’t it? Eh?
Bolette. Indeed it is. That is certain.
Arnholm [putting his arms about her]. Oh, you will see how comfortably and easily we shall settle down together! And how well and safely and trustfully we two shall get on with one another, Bolette.
Bolette. Yes. I also begin to — I believe really — it will answer. [Looks out to the right, and hurriedly frees herself.] Oh, don’t say anything about this.
Arnholm. What is it, dear?
Bolette. Oh! it’s that poor [pointing] — see out there.
Arnholm. Is it your father?
Bolette. No. It’s the young sculptor. He’s down there with Hilde.
Arnholm. Oh, Lyngstrand! What’s really the matter with him?
Bolette. Why, you know how weak and delicate he is.
Arnholm. Yes. Unless it’s simply imaginary.
Bolette. No, it’s real enough! He’ll not last long. But perhaps that’s best for him.
Arnholm. Dear, why should that be best?
Bolette. Because — because — nothing would come of his art anyhow. Let’s go before they come.
Arnholm. Gladly, my dear Bolette.
[HILDE and LYNGSTRAND appear by the pond.]
Hilde. Hi, hi! Won’t your honours wait for us?
Arnholm. Bolette and I would rather go on a little in advance. [He and BOLETTE go out to the Left.]
Lyngstrand [laughs quietly]. It’s very delightful here now. Everybody goes about in pairs — always two and two together.
Hilde [looking after them]. I could almost swear he’s proposing to her.
Lyngstrand. Really? Have you noticed anything?
Hilde. Yes. It’s not very difficult — if you keep your eyes open.
Lyngstrand. But Miss Bolette won’t have him. I’m certain of that.
Hilde. No. For she thinks he’s got so dreadfully old-looking, and she thinks he’ll soon get bald.
Lyngstrand. It’s not only because of that. She’d not have him anyhow.
Hilde. How can you know?
Lyngstrand. Well, because there’s someone else she’s promised to think of.
Hilde. Only to think of?
Lyngstrand. While he is away, yes.
Hilde. Oh! then I suppose it’s you she’s to think of.
Lyngstrand. Perhaps it might be.
Hilde. She promised you that?
Lyngstrand. Yes — think — she promised me that! But mind you don’t tell her you know.
Hilde. Oh! I’ll be mum! I’m as secret as the grave.
Lyngstrand. I think it’s awfully kind of her.
Hilde. And when you come home again — are you going to be engaged to her, and then marry her?
Lyngstrand. No, that wouldn’t very well do. For I daren’t think of such a thing during the first years. And when I shall be able to, she’ll be rather too old for me, I fancy.
Hilde. And yet you wish her to think of you?
Lyngstrand. Yes; that’s so useful to me. You see, I’m an artist. And she can very well do it, because she herself has no real calling. But all the same, it’s kind of her.
Hilde. Do you think you’ll be able to get on more quickly with your work if you know that Bolette is here thinking of you?
Lyngstrand. Yes, I fancy so. To know there is a spot on earth where a young, gentle, reserved woman is quietly dreaming about you — I fancy it must be so — so-well, I really don’t exactly know what to call it.
Hilde. Perhaps you mean — fascinating?
Lyngstrand. Fascinating! Oh, yes! Fascinating was what I meant, or something like it. [Looks at her for a moment.] You are so clever, Miss Hilde. Really you are very clever. When I come home again you’ll be about the same age as your sister is now. Perhaps, too, you’ll look like your sister looks now. And perhaps, too, you’ll be of the same mind she is now. Then, perhaps, you’ll be both yourself and your sister — in one form, so to say.
Hilde. Would you like that?
Lyngstrand. I hardly know. Yes; I almost think I should. But now, for this summer, I would rather you were like yourself alone, and exactly as you are.
Hilde. Do you like me best as I am?
Lyngstrand. Yes, I like you immensely as you are.
Hilde. Hm. Tell me, you who are an artist, do you think I’m right always to wear bright-coloured summer dresses?
Lyngstrand. Yes; I think you’re quite right!
Hilde. You think bright colours suit me, then?
Lyngstrand. They suit you charmingly — to my taste.
Hilde. But tell me, as an artist, how do you think I should look in black?
Lyngstrand. In black, Miss Hilde?
Hilde. Yes, all in black. Do you think I should look well?
Lyngstrand. Black’s hardly suitable for the summer. However, you’d probably look remarkably well in black, especially with your appearance.
Hilde [looking straight in front of her]. All in black, up to the throat; black frilling round that, black gloves, and a long black veil hanging down behind.
Lyngstrand. If you were dressed so, Miss Hilde, I should wish I were a painter, and I’d paint you as a young, beautiful, sorrowing widow!
Hilde. Or as a young, sorrowing, betrothed girl!
Lyngstrand. Yes, that would be better still. But you can’t wish to be dressed like that?
Hilde. I hardly know; but I think it’s fascinating.
Hilde. Fascinating to think of, yes. [Suddenly pointing to the left.] Oh, just look there!
Lyngstrand [looking]. The great English steamer; and right by the pier!
[WANGEL and ELLIDA come in past the pond.]
Wangel. No; I assure you, dear Ellida, you are mistaken. [Seeing the others.] What, are you two here? It’s not in sight yet; is it, Mr. Lyngstrand?
Lyngstrand. The great English ship?
Lyngstrand [pointing]. There she is already, doctor.
Ellida. I knew it.
Lyngstrand. Come like a thief in the night, as one might say, so quietly and noiselessly.
Wangel. You must go to the pier with Hilde. Be quick! I’m sure she wants to hear the music.
Lyngstrand. Yes; we were just going there, doctor.
Wangel. Perhaps we’ll follow you. We’ll come directly.
Hilde [whispering to LYNGSTRAND]. They’re hunting in couples, too!
[HILDE and LYNGSTRAND go out through the garden. Music is heard in the distance out at the fiord during the following.]
Ellida. Come! He is here! Yes, yes — I feel it.
Wangel. You’d better go in, Ellida. Let me talk with him alone.
Ellida. Oh! that’s impossible — impossible, I say. [With a cry.] Ah! do you see him, Wangel?
[The STRANGER enters from the left, and remains on the pathway outside the fence.]
The Stranger [bowing]. Good-evening. You see I am here again, Ellida.
Ellida. Yes, yes. The time has come now.
The Stranger. And are you ready to start, or not?
Wangel. You can see for yourself that she is not.
The Stranger. I’m not asking about a travelling dress, or anything of that kind, nor about packed trunks. All that is needed for a journey I have with me on board. I’ve also secured a cabin for her. [To ELLIDA.] So I ask you if you are ready to go with me, to go with me — freely?
Ellida. Oh! do not ask me! Do not tempt me!
[A ship’s bell is heard in the distance.]
The Stranger. That is the first bell for going on board. Now you must say “Yes” or “No.”
Ellida [wringing her hands]. To decide — decide for one’s whole life! Never to be able to undo it again!
The Stranger. Never. In half an hour it will be too late.
Ellida [looking shyly and searchingly at him]. Why is it you hold to me so resolutely?
The Stranger. Don’t you feel, as I do, that we two belong together?
Ellida. Do you mean because of the vow?
The Stranger. Vows bind no one, neither man nor woman. If I hold so steadfastly to you, it is because I cannot do otherwise.
Ellida [in a low, trembling voice]. Why didn’t you come before?
Ellida [bursting out]. Ah! All that attracts, and tempts, and lures into the unknown! All the strength of the sea concentrated in this one thing!
[The STRANGER climbs over the fence.]
Ellida [stepping back to WANGEL]. What is it? What do you want?
The Stranger. I see it and I hear it in you, Ellida. After all, you will choose me in the end.
Wangel [going towards him]. My wife has no choice here, I am here both to choose for her and to defend her. Yes, defend! If you do not go away from here — away from this land — and never come back again — Do you know to what you are exposing yourself?
Ellida. No, no, Wangel, not that!
The Stranger. What will you do to me?
Wangel. I will have you arrested as a criminal, at once, before you go on board; for I know all about the murder at Skjoldviken.
Ellida. Ah! Wangel, how can you?
The Stranger. I was prepared for that, and so — [takes a revolver from his breast pocket] — I provided myself with this.
Ellida [throwing herself in front of him]. No, no; do not kill him! Better kill me!
The Stranger. Neither you nor him, don’t fear that. This is for myself, for I will live and die a free man.
Ellida [with growing excitement]. Wangel, let me tell you this — tell it you so that he may hear it. You can indeed keep me here! You have the means and the power to do it. And you intend to do it. But my mind — all my thoughts, all the longings and desires of my soul — these you cannot bind! These will rush and press out into the unknown that I was created for, and that you have kept from me!
Wangel [in quiet sorrow]. I see it, Ellida. Step by step you are slipping from me. The craving for the boundless, the infinite, the unattainable will drive your soul into the darkness of night at last.
Ellida. Yes! I feel it hovering over me like black noiseless wings.
Wangel. It shall not come to that. No other deliverance is possible for you. I at least can see no other. And so — so I cry off our bargain at once. Now you can choose your own path in perfect — perfect freedom.
Ellida [stares at him a while as if stricken dumb]. Is it true — true what you say? Do you mean that — mean it with all your heart?
Wangel. Yes — with all my sorrowing heart — I mean it.
Ellida. And can you do it? Can you let it be so?
Wangel. Yes, I can. Because I love you so dearly.
Ellida [in a low, trembling voice]. And have I come so near — so close to you?
Wangel. The years and the living together have done that.
Ellida [clasping her hands together]. And I— who so little understood this!
Wangel. Your thoughts went elsewhere. And now — now you are completely free of me and mine — and — and mine. Now your own true life may resume its real bent again, for now you can choose in freedom, and on your own responsibility, Ellida.
Ellida [clasps her head with her hands, and stares at WANGEL]. In freedom, and on my own responsibility! Responsibility, too? That changes everything.
[The ship bell rings again.]
The Stranger. Do you hear, Ellida? It has rung now for the last time. Come.
Ellida [turns towards him, looks firmly at him, and speaks in a resolute voice]. I shall never go with you after this!
The Stranger. You will not!
Ellida [clinging to WANGEL]. I shall never go away from you after this.
The Stranger. So it is over?
Ellida. Yes. Over for all time.
The Stranger. I see. There is something here stronger than my will.
Ellida. Your will has not a shadow of power over me any longer. To me you are as one dead — who has come home from the sea, and who returns to it again. I no longer dread you. And I am no longer drawn to you.
The Stranger. Goodbye, Mrs. Wangel! [He swings himself over the fence.] Henceforth, you are nothing but a shipwreck in my life that I have tided over. [He goes out.]
Wangel [looks at her for a while]. Ellida, your mind is like the sea — it has ebb and flow. Whence came the change?
Ellida. Ah! don’t you understand that the change came — was bound to come when I could choose in freedom?
Wangel. And the unknown? — It no longer lures you?
Ellida. Neither lures nor frightens me. I could have seen it — gone out into it, if only I myself had willed it. I could have chosen it. And that is why I could also renounce it.
Wangel. I begin to understand little by little. You think and conceive in pictures — in visible figures. Your longing and aching for the sea, your attraction towards this strange man, these were the expression of an awakening and growing desire for freedom; nothing else.
Ellida. I don’t know about that. But you have been a good physician for me. You found, and you dared to use the right remedy — the only one that could help me.
Wangel. Yes, in utmost need and danger we doctors dare much. And now you are coming back to me again, Ellida?
Ellida. Yes, dear, faithful Wangel — now I am coming back to you again. Now I can. For now I come to you freely, and on my own responsibility.
Wangel [looks lovingly at her]. Ellida! Ellida! To think that now we can live wholly for one another —
Ellida. And with common memories. Yours, as well as mine.
Wangel. Yes, indeed, dear.
Ellida. And for our children, Wangel?
Wangel. You call them ours!
Ellida. They who are not mine yet, but whom I shall win.
Wangel. Ours! [Gladly and quickly kisses her hands.] I cannot speak my thanks for those words!
[HILDE, BALLESTED, LYNGSTRAND, ARNHOLM, and BOLETTE come into the garden. At the same time a number of young townspeople and visitors pass along the footpath.]
Hilde [aside to LYNGSTRAND]. See! Why, she and father look exactly as if they were a betrothed couple!
Ballested [who has overheard]. It is summertime, little Missie.
Arnholm [looking at WANGEL and ELLIDA]. The English steamer is putting off.
Bolette [going to the fence]. You can see her best from here.
Lyngstrand. The last voyage this year.
Ballested. Soon all the sea-highways will be closed, as the poet says. It is sad, Mrs. Wangel. And now we’re to lose you also for a time. Tomorrow you’re off to Skjoldviken, I hear.
Wangel. No; nothing will come of that. We two have changed our mind — tonight.
Arnholm [looking from one to the other]. Oh! — really!
Bolette [coming forward]. Father, is that true?
Hilde [going towards ELLIDA]. Are you going to stay with us after all?
Ellida. Yes, dear Hilde, if you’ll have me.
Hilde [struggling between tears and laughter]. Fancy! Have you!
Arnholm [to ELLIDA]. But this is quite a surprise —!
Ellida [smiling earnestly]. Well, you see, Mr. Arnholm — Do you remember we talked about it yesterday? When you have once become a land-creature you can no longer find your way back again to the sea, nor to the sea-life either.
Ballested. Why, that’s exactly the case with my mermaid.
Ellida. Something like — yes.
Ballested. Only with this difference — that the mermaid dies of it, it, while human beings can acclam — acclimatise themselves. Yes yes. I assure you, Mrs. Wangel, they can ac-climatise themselves.
Ellida. In freedom they can, Mr. Ballested.
Wangel. And when they act on their own responsibility, dear Ellida.
Ellida [quickly holding out her hand to him]. Exactly. [The great steamer glides noiselessly out beyond the fjord. The music is heard nearer land.]
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10