[SCENE-The sitting-room at Rosmersholm. The window and the hall door are open. The morning sun is seen shining outside. REBECCA, dressed as in Act I., is standing by the window, watering and arranging the flowers. Her work is lying on the armchair. MRS. HELSETH is going round the room with a feather brush, dusting the furniture.]
Rebecca [after a short pause]. I wonder why Mr. Rosmer is so late in coming down today?
Mrs. Helseth. Oh, he is often as late as this, miss. He is sure to be down directly.
Rebecca. Have you seen anything of him?
Mrs. Helseth. No, miss, except that as I took his coffee into his study he went into his bedroom to finish dressing.
Rebecca. The reason I ask is that he was not very well yesterday.
Mrs. Helseth. No, he did not look well. It made me wonder whether something had gone amiss between him and his brother-inlaw.
Rebecca. What do you suppose could go amiss between them?
Mrs. Helseth. I can’t say, miss. Perhaps it was that fellow Mortensgaard set them at loggerheads.
Rebecca. It is quite possible. Do you know anything of this Peter Mortensgaard?
Mrs. Helseth. Not I! How could you think so, miss — a man like that!
Rebecca. Because of that horrid paper he edits, you mean?
Mrs. Helseth. Not only because of that, miss. I suppose you have heard that a certain married woman, whose husband had deserted her, had a child by him?
Rebecca. I have heard it; but of course that was long before I came here.
Mrs. Helseth. Bless me, yes — he was quite a young man then. But she might have had more sense than he had. He wanted to marry her, too, but that could not be done; and so he had to pay heavily for it. But since then — my word! — Mortensgaard has risen in the world. There are lots of people who run after him now.
Rebecca. I believe most of the poor people turn to him first when they are in any trouble.
Mrs. Helseth. Oh, not only the poor people, miss —
Rebecca [glancing at her unobserved]. Indeed?
Mrs. Helseth [standing at the sofa, dusting vigorously]. People you would least expect, sometimes, miss.
Rebecca [arranging the flowers]. Yes, but that is only an idea of yours, Mrs. Helseth. You cannot know that for certain.
Mrs. Helseth. You think I don’t know anything about that for certain, do you, miss? Indeed I do. Because — if I must let out the secret at last — I carried a letter to Mortensgaard myself once.
Rebecca [turns round]. No — did you!
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, that I did. And that letter, let me tell you, was written here — at Rosmersholm.
Rebecca. Really, Mrs. Helseth?
Mrs. Helseth. I give you my word it was, miss. And it was written on good note-paper — and sealed with beautiful red sealing-wax.
Rebecca. And you were entrusted with the delivery of it? Dear Mrs. Helseth, it is not very difficult to guess whom it was from.
Mrs. Helseth. Who, then?
Rebecca. Naturally, it was something that poor Mrs. Rosmer in her invalid state
Mrs. Helseth. Well, you have mentioned her name, miss — not I.
Rebecca. But what was in the letter? — No, of course, you cannot know that.
Mrs. Helseth. Hm! — it is just possible I may know, all the same.
Rebecca. Did she tell you what she was writing about, then?
Mrs. Helseth. No, she did not do that. But when Mortensgaard had read it, he set to work and cross-questioned me, so that I got a very good idea of what was in it.
Rebecca. What do you think was in it, then? Oh, dear, good Mrs. Helseth, do tell me!
Mrs. Helseth. Certainly not, miss. Not for worlds.
Rebecca. Oh, you can tell me. You and I are such friends, you know.
Mrs. Helseth. Heaven forbid I should tell you anything about that, miss. I shall not tell you anything, except that it was some dreadful idea that they had gone and put into my poor sick mistress’s head.
Rebecca. Who had put it into her head?
Mrs. Helseth. Wicked people, miss. Wicked people.
Rebecca. Wicked —?
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, I say it again — very wicked people, they must have been.
Rebecca. And what do you think it could be?
Mrs. Helseth. Oh, I know what I think — but, please Heaven, I’ll keep my mouth shut. At the same time, there is a certain lady in the town — hm!
Rebecca. I can see you mean Mrs. Kroll.
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, she is a queer one, she is. She has always been very much on the high horse with me. And she has never looked with any friendly eye on you, either, miss.
Rebecca. Do you think Mrs. Rosmer was quite in her right mind when she wrote that letter to Mortensgaard?
Mrs. Helseth. It is so difficult to tell, miss. I certainly don’t think she was quite out of her mind.
Rebecca. But you know she seemed to go quite distracted when she learnt that she would never be able to have a child. That was when her madness first showed itself.
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, that had a terrible effect on her, poor lady.
Rebecca [taking up her work, and sitting down on a chair by the window]. But, in other respects, do you not think that was really a good thing for Mr. Rosmer, Mrs. Helseth?
Mrs. Helseth. What, miss?
Rebecca. That there were no children?
Mrs. Helseth. Hm! — I really do not know what to say to that.
Rebecca. Believe me, it was best for him. Mr. Rosmer was never meant to be surrounded by crying children.
Mrs. Helseth. Little children do not cry at Rosmersholm, Miss West.
Rebecca [looking at her]. Not cry?
Mrs. Helseth. No. In this house, little children have never been known to cry, as long as any one can remember.
Rebecca. That is very strange.
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, isn’t it, miss? But it runs in the family. And there is another thing that is just as strange; when they grow up they never laugh — never laugh, all their lives.
Rebecca. But that would be extraordinary
Mrs. Helseth. Have you ever once heard or seen Mr. Rosmer laugh, miss?
Rebecca. No — now that I think of it, I almost believe you are right. But I fancy most of the folk hereabouts laugh very little.
Mrs. Helseth. That is quite true. People say it began at Rosmersholm, and I expect it spread like a sort of infection.
Rebecca. You are a sagacious woman, Mrs. Helseth!
Mrs. Helseth. Oh, you mustn’t sit there and make game of me, miss. [Listens.] Hush, hush — Mr. Rosmer is coming down. He doesn’t like to see brooms about. [Goes out by the door on the right. ROSMER, with his stick and hat in his hand, comes in from the lobby.]
Rosmer. Good-morning, Rebecca.
Rebecca. Good-morning, dear. [She goes on working for a little while in silence.] Are you going out?
Rebecca. It is such a lovely day.
Rosmer. You did not come up to see me this morning.
Rebecca. No — I didn’t. Not today.
Rosmer. Don’t you mean to do so in future, either? Rebecca. I cannot say yet, dear.
Rosmer. Has anything come for me?
Rebecca. The “County News” has come.
Rosmer. The “County News”!
Rebecca. There it is, on the table.
Rosmer [putting down his hat and stick]. Is there anything — ?
Rosmer. And you did not send it up to me
Rebecca. You will read it quite soon enough.
Rosmer. Well, let us see. [Takes up the paper and stands by the table reading it.] What! — “cannot pronounce too emphatic a warning against unprincipled deserters.” [Looks at her.] They call me a deserter, Rebecca.
Rebecca. They mention no names at all.
Rosmer. It comes to the same thing. [Goes on reading.] “Secret traitors to the good cause.” — “Judas-like creatures, who shamelessly confess their apostasy as soon as they think the most opportune and most profitable moment has arrived.” — “A reckless outrage on the fair fame of honoured ancestors” — “in the expectation that those who are enjoying a brief spell of authority will not disappoint them of a suitable reward.” [Lays the paper down on the table.] And they write that of me — these men who have known me so long and so intimately — write a thing that they do not even believe themselves! They know there is not a single word of truth in it — and yet they write it.
Rebecca. There is more of it yet.
Rosmer [taking up the paper again]. “Make some allowance for inexperience and want of judgment” — “a pernicious influence which, very possibly, has extended even to matters which for the present we will refrain from publicly discussing or condemning.” [Looks at her.] What does that mean?
Rebecca. That is a hit at me, obviously.
Rosmer [laying down the paper]. Rebecca, this is the conduct of dishonourable men.
Rebecca. Yes, it seems to me they have no right to talk about Mortensgaard.
Rosmer [walking up and down the room]. They must be saved from this sort of thing. All the good that is in men is destroyed, if it is allowed to go on. But it shall not be so! How happy — how happy I should feel if I could succeed in bringing a little light into all this murky ugliness.
Rebecca [getting up]. I am sure of it. There is something great, something splendid, for you to live for!
Rosmer. Just think of it — if I could wake them to a real knowledge of themselves — bring them to be angry with and ashamed of themselves — induce them to be at one with each other in toleration, in love, Rebecca!
Rebecca. Yes! Give yourself up entirely to that task, and you will see that you will succeed.
Rosmer. I think it might be done. What happiness it would be to live one’s life, then! No more hateful strife — only emulation; every eye fixed on the same goal; every man’s will, every man’s thoughts moving forward-upward — each in its own inevitable path Happiness for all — and through the efforts of all! [Looks out of the window as he speaks, then gives a start and says gloomily:] Ah! not through me.
Rebecca. Not — not through you?
Rosmer. Nor for me, either.
Rebecca. Oh, John, have no such doubts.
Rosmer. Happiness, dear Rebecca, means first and foremost the calm, joyous sense of innocence.
Rebecca [staring in front of her]. Ah, innocence —
Rosmer. You need fear nothing on that score. But I—
Rebecca. You least of all men!
Rosmer [pointing out of the window]. The mill-race.
Rebecca. Oh, John! — [MRS. HELSETH looks in in through the door on the left.]
Mrs. Helseth. Miss West!
Rebecca. Presently, presently. Not now.
Mrs. Helseth. Just a word, miss! [REBECCA goes to the door. MRS. HELSETH tells her something, and they whisper together for a moment; then MRS. HELSETH nods and goes away.]
Rosmer [uneasily]. Was it anything for me?
Rebecca. No, only something about the housekeeping. You ought to go out into the open air now, John dear. You should go for a good long walk.
Rosmer [taking up his hat]. Yes, come along; we will go together.
Rebecca. No, dear, I can’t just now. You must go by yourself. But shake off all these gloomy thoughts — promise me that!
Rosmer. I shall never be able to shake them quite off, I am afraid.
Rebecca. Oh, but how can you let such groundless fancies take such a hold on you!
Rosmer. Unfortunately they are not so groundless as you think, dear. I have lain, thinking them over, all night. Perhaps Beata saw things truly after all.
Rebecca. In what way do you mean?
Rosmer. Saw things truly when she believed I loved you, Rebecca.
Rebecca. Truly in THAT respect?
Rosmer [laying his hat down on the table]. This is the question I have been wrestling with — whether we two have deluded ourselves the whole time, when we have been calling the tie between us merely friendship.
Rebecca. Do you mean, then, that the right name for it would have been —?
Rosmer. Love. Yes, dear, that is what I mean. Even while Beata was alive, it was you that I gave all my thoughts to. It was you alone I yearned for. It was with you that I experienced peaceful, joyful, passionless happiness. When we consider it rightly, Rebecca, our life together began like the sweet, mysterious love of two children for one another — free from desire or any thought of anything more. Did you not feel it in that way too? Tell me.
Rebecca [struggling with herself]. Oh, I do not know what to answer.
Rosmer. And it was this life of intimacy, with one another and for one another, that we took to be friendship. No, dear — the tie between us has been a spiritual marriage — perhaps from the very first day. That is why I am guilty. I had no right to it — no right to it for Beata’s sake.
Rebecca. No right to a happy life? Do you believe that, John?
Rosmer. She looked at the relations between us through the eyes of HER love — judged them after the nature of HER love. And it was only natural. She could not have judged them otherwise than she did.
Rebecca. But how can you so accuse yourself for Beata’s delusions?
Rosmer. It was for love of me — in her own way that — she threw herself into the mill-race. That fact is certain, Rebecca. I can never get beyond that.
Rebecca. Oh, do not think of anything else but the great, splendid task that you are going to devote your life to!
Rosmer [shaking his head]. It can never be carried through. Not by me. Not after what I know now.
Rebecca. Why not by you?
Rosmer. Because no cause can ever triumph which has its beginnings in guilt.
Rebecca [impetuously]. Oh, these are nothing but prejudices you have inherited — these doubts, these fears, these scruples! You have a legend here that your dead return to haunt you in the form of white horses. This seems to me to be something of that sort.
Rosmer. Be that as it may, what difference does it make if I cannot shake it off? Believe me, Rebecca, it is as I say — any cause which is to win a lasting victory must be championed by a man who is joyous and innocent.
Rebecca. But is joy so absolutely indispensable to you, John?
Rosmer. Joy? Yes, indeed it is.
Rebecca. To you, who never laugh?
Rosmer. Yes, in spite of that. Believe me, I have a great capacity for joy.
Rebecca. Now you really must go out, dear — for a long walk — a really long one, do you hear? There is your hat, and there is your stick.
Rosmer [taking them from her]. Thank you. And you won’t come too?
Rebecca. No, no, I can’t come now.
Rosmer. Very well. You are none the less always with me now. [Goes out by the entrance hall. After a moment REBECCA peeps out from behind the door which he has left open. Then she goes to the door on the right, which she opens.]
Rebecca [in a whisper]. Now, Mrs. Helseth. You can let him come in now. [Crosses to the window. A moment later, KROLL comes in from the right. He bows to her silently and formally and keeps his hat in his hand.]
Kroll. Has he gone, then?
Kroll. Does he generally stay out long?
Rebecca. Yes. But today he is in a very uncertain mood — so, if you do not want to meet him —
Kroll. Certainly not. It is you I wish to speak to — and quite alone.
Rebecca. Then we had better make the best of our time. Please sit down. [She sits down in an easy-chair by the window. KROLL takes a chair beside her.]
Kroll. Miss West, you can scarcely have any idea how deeply pained and unhappy I am over this revolution that has taken place in John Rosmer’s ideas.
Rebecca. We were prepared for that being so — at first.
Kroll. Only at first?
Rosmer. Mr. Rosmer hoped confidently that sooner or later you would take your place beside him.
Rebecca. You and all his other friends.
Kroll. That should convince you how feeble his judgment is on any matter concerning his fellow-creatures and the affairs of real life.
Rebecca. In any case, now that he feels the absolute necessity of cutting himself free on all sides
Kroll. Yes; but, let me tell you, that is exactly what I do not believe.
Rebecca. What do you believe, then?
Kroll. I believe it is you that are at the bottom of the whole thing.
Rebecca. Your wife put that into your head, Mr. Kroll.
Kroll. It does not matter who put it into my head. The point is this, that I feel grave doubts — exceedingly grave doubts — when I recall and think over the whole of your behaviour since you came here.
Rebecca [looking at him]. I have a notion that there was a time when you had an exceedingly strong BELIEF in me, dear Mr. Kroll — I might almost say, a warm belief.
Kroll [in a subdued voice]. I believe you could bewitch any one — if you set yourself to do it.
Rebecca. And you say I set myself to do it!
Kroll. Yes, you did. I am no longer such a simpleton as to suppose that sentiment entered into your little game at all. You simply wanted to secure yourself admission to Rosmersholm — to establish yourself here. That was what I was to help you to. I see it now.
Rebecca. Then you have completely forgotten that it was Beata that begged and entreated me to come and live here.
Kroll. Yes, because you had bewitched her too. Are you going to pretend that friendship is the name for what she came to feel towards you? It was idolatry — adoration. It degenerated into a — what shall I call, it? — a sort of desperate passion. Yes, that is just the word for it.
Rebecca. Have the goodness to remember the condition your sister was in. As far as I am concerned I do not think I can be said to be particularly emotional in any way.
Kroll. No, you certainly are not. But that makes you all the more dangerous to those whom you wish to get into your power. It comes easy to you to act with deliberation and careful calculation, just because you have a cold heart.
Rebecca. Cold? Are you so sure of that?
Kroll. I am certain of it now. Otherwise you could not have pursued your object here so unswervingly, year after year. Yes, yes — you have gained what you wanted. You have got him and everything else here into your power. But, to carry out your schemes, you have not scrupled to make him unhappy.
Rebecca. That is not true. It is not I; it is you yourself that have made him unhappy.
Rebecca. Yes, by leading him to imagine that he was responsible for the terrible end that overtook Beata.
Kroll. Did that affect him so deeply, then?
Rebecca. Of course. A man of such gentle disposition as he —
Kroll. I imagined that one of your so-called “emancipated” men would know how to overcome any scruples. But there it is! Oh, yes — as a matter of fact it turned out just as I expected. The descendant of the men who are looking at us from these walls need not think he can break loose from what has been handed down as an inviolable inheritance from generation to generation.
Rebecca [looking thoughtfully in front of her]. John Rosmer’s nature is deeply rooted in his ancestors. That is certainly very true.
Kroll. Yes, and you ought to have taken that into consideration, if you had had any sympathy for him. But I dare say you were incapable of that sort of consideration. Your starting-point is so very widely-removed from his, you see.
Rebecca. What do you mean by my starting-point?
Kroll. I mean the starting-point of origin — of parentage, Miss West.
Rebecca. I see. Yes, it is quite true that my origin is very humble. But nevertheless —
Kroll. I am not alluding to rank or position. I am thinking of the moral aspect of your origin.
Rebecca. Of my origin? In what respect?
Kroll. In respect of your birth generally.
Rebecca. What are you saying!
Kroll. I am only saying it because it explains the whole of your conduct.
Rebecca. I do not understand. Be so good as to tell me exactly what you mean.
Kroll. I really thought you did not need telling. Otherwise it would seem a very strange thing that you let yourself be adopted by Dr. West.
Rebecca [getting up]. Oh, that is it! Now I understand.
Kroll. And took his name. Your mother’s name was Gamvik.
Rebecca [crossing the room]. My father’s name was Gamvik, Mr. Kroll.
Kroll. Your mother’s occupation must, of course, have brought her continually into contact with the district physician.
Rebecca. You are quite right.
Kroll. And then he takes you to live with him, immediately upon your mother’s death. He treats you harshly, and yet you stay with him. You know that he will not leave you a single penny — as a matter of fact you only got a box of books — and yet you endure living with him, put up with his behaviour, and nurse him to the end.
Rebecca [comes to the table and looks at him scornfully]. And my doing all that makes it clear to you that there was something immoral — something criminal about my birth!
Kroll. What you did for him, I attributed to an unconscious filial instinct. And, as far as the rest of it goes, I consider that the whole of your conduct has been the outcome of your origin.
Rebecca [hotly]. But there is not a single word of truth in what you say! And I can prove it! Dr. West had not come to Finmark when I was born.
Kroll. Excuse me, Miss West. He went there a year before you were born. I have ascertained that.
Rebecca. You are mistaken, I tell you! You are absolutely mistaken!
Kroll. You said here, the day before yesterday, that you were twenty-nine — going on for thirty.
Rebecca. Really? Did I say that?
Kroll. Yes, you did. And from that I can calculate —
Rebecca. Stop! That will not help you to calculate. For, I may as well tell you at once, I am a year older than I give myself out to be.
Kroll [smiling incredulously]. Really? That is something new. How is that?
Rebecca. When I had passed my twenty-fifth birthday, I thought I was getting altogether too old for an unmarried girl, so I resolved to tell a lie and take a year off my age.
Kroll. You — an emancipated woman — cherishing prejudices as to the marriageable age!
Rebecca. I know it was a silly thing to do — and ridiculous, too. But every one has some prejudice or another that they cannot get quite rid of. We are like that.
Kroll. Maybe. But my calculation may be quite correct, all the same; because Dr. West was up in Finmark for a flying visit the year before he was appointed.
Rebecca [impetuously]. That is not true
Kroll. Isn’t it?
Rebecca. No. My mother never mentioned it.
Kroll. Didn’t she, really!
Rebecca. No, never. Nor Dr. West, either. Never a word of it.
Kroll. Might that not be because they both had good reason to jump over a year? — @just as you have done yourself, Miss West? Perhaps it is a family failing.
Rebecca [walking about, wringing her hands]. It is impossible. It is only something you want to make me believe. Nothing in the world will make me believe it. It cannot be true! Nothing in the world —
Kroll [getting up]. But, my dear Miss West, why in Heaven’s name do you take it in this way? You quite alarm me! What am I to believe and think?
Rebecca. Nothing. Neither believe nor think anything.
Kroll. Then you really must give me some explanation of your taking this matter — this possibility — so much to heart.
Rebecca [controlling herself]. It is quite obvious, I should think, Mr. Kroll. I have no desire for people here to think me an illegitimate child.
Kroll. Quite so. Well, well, let us be content with your explanation, for the present. But you see that is another point on which you have cherished a certain prejudice.
Rebecca. Yes, that is quite true.
Kroll. And it seems to me that very much the same applies to most of this “emancipation” of yours, as you call it. Your reading has introduced you to a hotch-potch of new ideas and opinions; you have made a certain acquaintance with researches that are going on in various directions — researches that seem to you to upset a good many ideas that people have hitherto considered incontrovertible and unassailable. But all this has never gone any further than knowledge in your case, Miss West — a mere matter of the intellect. It has not got into your blood.
Rebecca [thoughtfully]. Perhaps you are right.
Kroll. Yes, only test yourself, and you will see! And if it is true in your case, it is easy to recognise how true it must be in John Rosmer’s. Of course it is madness, pure and simple. He will be running headlong to his ruin if he persists in coming openly forward and proclaiming himself an apostate! Just think of it — he, with his shy disposition! Think of HIM disowned — hounded out of the circle to which he has always belonged — exposed to the uncompromising attacks of all the best people in the place. Nothing would ever make him the man to endure that.
Rebecca. He MUST endure it! It is too late now for him to draw back.
Kroll. Not a bit too late — not by any means too late. What has happened can be hushed up — or at any rate can be explained away as a purely temporary, though regrettable, aberration. But — there is one step that it is absolutely essential he should take.
Rebecca. And that is?
Kroll. You must get him to legalise his position, Miss West.
Rebecca. The position in which he stands to me?
Kroll. Yes. You must see that you get him to do that.
Rebecca. Then you can’t rid yourself of the conviction that the relations between us need “legalising,” as you say?
Kroll. I do not wish to go any more precisely into the question. But I certainly have observed that the conditions under which it always seems easiest for people to abandon all their so-called prejudices are when — ahem!
Rebecca. When it is a question of the relations between a man and a woman, I suppose you mean?
Kroll. Yes — to speak candidly — that is what I mean.
Rebecca [walks across the room and looks out of the window]. I was on the point of saying that I wish you had been right, Mr. Kroll.
Kroll. What do you mean by that? You say it so strangely!
Rebecca. Oh, nothing! Do not let us talk any more about it. Ah, there he is!
Kroll. Already! I will go, then.
Rebecca [turning to him]. No — stay here, and you will hear something.
Kroll. Not now. I do not think I could bear to see him.
Rebecca. I beg you to stay. Please do, or you will regret it later. It is the last time I shall ever ask you to do anything.
Kroll [looks at her in surprise, and lays his hat down]. Very well, Miss West. It shall be as you wish. [A short pause. Then ROSMER comes in from the hall.]
Rosmer [stops at the door, as he sees KROLL]. What! you here?
Rebecca. He wanted to avoid meeting you, John.
Kroll [involuntarily]. “John?”
Rebecca. Yes, Mr. Kroll. John and I call each other by our Christian names. That is a natural consequence of the relations between us.
Kroll. Was that what I was to hear if I stayed?
Rebecca. Yes, that and something else.
Rosmer [coming into the room]. What is the object of your visit here today?
Kroll. I wanted to make one more effort to stop you, and win you back.
Rosmer [pointing to the newspaper]. After that?
Kroll. I did not write it.
Rosmer. Did you take any steps to prevent its appearing?
Kroll. That would have been acting unjustifiably towards the cause I serve. And, besides that, I had no power to prevent it.
Rebecca [tears the newspaper into pieces, which she crumples up and throws into the back of the stove]. There! Now it is out of sight; let it be out of mind too. Because there will be no more of that sort of thing, John.
Kroll. Indeed, I wish you could ensure that.
Rebecca. Come, and let us sit down, dear — all three of us. Then I will tell you all about it.
Rosmer [sitting down involuntarily]. What has come over you, Rebecca? You are so unnaturally calm — What is it?
Rebecca. The calmness of determination. [Sits down.] Please sit down too, Mr. Kroll. [He takes a seat on the couch.]
Rosmer. Determination, you say. Determination to do what?
Rebecca. I want to give you back what you need in order to live your life. You shall have your happy innocence back, dear friend.
Rosmer. But what do you mean?
Rebecca. I will just tell you what happened. That is all that is necessary.
Rebecca. When I came down here from Finmark with Dr. West, it seemed to me that a new, great, wide world was opened to me. Dr. West had given me an erratic sort of education — had taught me all the odds and ends that I knew about life then. [Has an evident struggle with herself, and speaks in barely audible tones.] And then —
Kroll. And then?
Rosmer. But, Rebecca — I know all this.
Rebecca [collecting herself]. Yes — that is true enough. You know it only too well.
Kroll [looking fixedly at her]. Perhaps it would be better if I left you.
Rebecca. No, stay where you are, dear Mr. Kroll. [To ROSMER.] Well, this was how it was. I wanted to play my part in the new day that was dawning — to have a share in all the new ideas. Mr. Kroll told me one day that Ulrik Brendel had had a great influence over you once, when you were a boy. I thought it might be possible for me to resume that influence here.
Rosmer. Did you come here with a covert design?
Rebecca. What I wanted was that we two should go forward together on the road towards freedom — always forward, and further forward! But there was that gloomy, insurmountable barrier between you and a full, complete emancipation.
Rosmer. What barrier do you mean?
Rebecca. I mean, John, that you could never have attained freedom except in the full glory of the sunshine. And, instead of that, here you were — ailing and languishing in the gloom of such a marriage as yours.
Rosmer. You have never spoken to me of my marriage in that way, before today.
Rebecca. No, I did not dare, for fear of frightening you.
Kroll [nodding to ROSMER]. You hear that!
Rebecca [resuming]. But I saw quite well where your salvation lay — your only salvation. And so I acted.
Rosmer. How do you mean — you acted?
Kroll. Do you mean that?
Rebecca. Yes, John. [Gets up.] No, do not get up. Nor you either, Mr. Kroll. But we must let in. the daylight now. It was not you, John. You are innocent. It was I that lured — that ended by luring — Beata into the tortuous path —
Rosmer [springing up]. Rebecca!
Kroll [getting up]. Into the tortuous path!
Rebecca. Into the path that — led to the mill-race. Now you know it, both of you.
Rosmer [as if stunned]. But I do not understand — What is she standing there saying? I do not understand a word —
Kroll. Yes, yes. I begin to understand.
Rosmer. But what did you do? What did you find to tell her? Because there was nothing — absolutely nothing!
Rebecca. She got to know that you were determined to emancipate yourself from all your old prejudices.
Rosmer. Yes, but at that time I had come to no decision.
Rebecca. I knew that you soon would come to one.
Kroll [nodding to ROSMER]. Aha!
Rosmer. Well — and what more? I want to know everything now.
Rebecca. Some time afterwards, I begged and implored her to let me leave Rosmersholm.
Rosmer. Why did you want to leave here — then?
Rebecca. I did not want to. I wanted to remain where I was. But I told her that it would be best for us all if I went away in time. I let her infer that if I remained here any longer I could not tell what-what-might happen.
Rosmer. That is what you said and did, then?
Rebecca. Yes, John.
Rosmer. That is what you referred to when you said that you “acted”?
Rebecca [in a broken voice]. Yes, that was it.
Rosmer [after a pause]. Have you confessed everything now, Rebecca?
Kroll. Not everything.
Rebecca [looking at him in terror]. What else can there be?
Kroll. Did you not eventually lead Beata to believe that it was necessary — not merely that it should be best — but that it was necessary, both for your own sake and for John’s, that you should go away somewhere else as soon as possible? — Well?
Rebecca [speaking low and indistinctly]. Perhaps I did say something of the sort.
Rosmer [sinking into a chair by the window]. And she, poor sick creature, believed in this tissue of lies and deceit! Believed in it so completely — so absolutely! [Looks up at REBECCA.] And she never came to me about it — never said a word! Ah, Rebecca — I see it in your face — YOU dissuaded her from doing so.
Rebecca. You know she had taken it into her head that she, a childless wife, had no right to be here. And so she persuaded herself that her duty to you was to give place to another.
Rosmer. And you — you did nothing to rid her mind of such an idea?
Kroll. Perhaps you encouraged her in the idea? Answer! Did you not do so?
Rebecca. That was how she understood me, I believe.
Rosmer. Yes, yes — and she bowed to your will in everything. And so she gave place. [Springs up.] How could you — how could you go on with this terrible tragedy!
Rebecca. I thought there were two lives here to choose between, John.
Kroll [severely and with authority]. You had no right to make any such choice.
Rebecca [impetuously]. Surely you do not think I acted with cold and calculating composure! I am a different woman now, when I am telling you this, from what I was then. And I believe two different kinds of will can exist at the same time in one person. I wanted Beata away — in one way or the other; but I never thought it would happen, all the same. At every step I ventured and risked, I seemed to hear a voice in me crying: “No further! Not a step further!” And yet, at the same time, I COULD not stop. I HAD to venture a little bit further — just one step. And then another — and always another — and at last it happened. That is how such things go of themselves. [A short silence.]
Rosmer [to REBECCA]. And how do you think it will go with YOU in the future? — after this?
Rebecca. Things must go with me as they can. It is of very little consequence.
Kroll. Not a word suggestive of remorse! Perhaps you feel none?
Rebecca [dismissing his remark coldly]. Excuse me, Mr. Kroll, that is a matter that is no concern of any one else’s. That is an account I must settle with myself.
Kroll [to ROSMER]. And this is the woman you have been living under the same roof with — in relations of the completest confidence. [Looks up at the portraits on the walls.] If only those that are gone could look down now!
Rosmer. Are you going into the town?
Kroll [taking up his hat]. Yes. The sooner the better.
Rosmer [taking his hat also]. Then I will go with you.
Kroll. You will! Ah, I thought we had not quite lost you.
Rosmer. Come, then, Kroll. Come! [They both go out into the hall without looking at REBECCA. After a minute REBECCA goes cautiously to the window and peeps out between the flowers.]
Rebecca [speaking to herself, half aloud]. Not over the bridge today either. He is going round. Never over the millrace — never. [Comes away from the window.] As I thought! [She goes over to the bell, and rings it. Soon afterwards MRS. HELSETH comes in from the right.]
Mrs. Helseth. What is it, miss?
Rebecca. Mrs. Helseth, will you be so good as to fetch my travelling trunk down from the loft?
Mrs. Helseth. Your trunk?
Rebecca. Yes, the brown hair-trunk, you know.
Mrs. Helseth. Certainly, miss. But, bless my soul, are you going away on a journey, miss?
Rebecca. Yes — I am going away on a journey, Mrs. Helseth.
Mrs. Helseth. And immediately!
Rebecca. As soon as I have packed.
Mrs. Helseth. I never heard of such a thing! But you are coming back again soon, I suppose, miss?
Rebecca. I am never coming back again.
Mrs. Helseth. Never! But, my goodness, what is to become of us at Rosmersholm if Miss West is not here any longer? Just as everything was making poor Mr. Rosmer so happy and comfortable!
Rebecca. Yes, but today I have had a fright, Mrs. Helseth.
Mrs. Helseth. A fright! Good heavens-how?
Rebecca. I fancy I have had a glimpse of the White Horse.
Mrs. Helseth. Of the White Horse! In broad daylight!
Rebecca. Ah! they are out both early and late, the White Horses of Rosmersholm. [Crosses the room.] Well — we were speaking of my trunk, Mrs. Helseth.
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, miss. Your trunk.
[They both go out to the right.]
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10