[The same room. The mist still lies heavy over the landscape.]
[MANDERS and MRS. ALVING enter from the dining-room.]
MRS. ALVING. [Still in the doorway.] Velbekomme [Note: A phrase equivalent to the German Prosit die Mahlzeit — May good digestion wait on appetite.], Mr. Manders. [Turns back towards the dining-room.] Aren't you coming too, Oswald?
OSWALD. [From within.] No, thank you. I think I shall go out a little.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, do. The weather seems a little brighter now. [She shuts the dining-room door, goes to the hall door, and calls:] Regina!
REGINA. [Outside.] Yes, Mrs. Alving?
MRS. ALVING. Go down to the laundry, and help with the garlands.
REGINA. Yes, Mrs. Alving.
[MRS. ALVING assures herself that REGINA goes; then shuts the door.]
MANDERS. I suppose he cannot overhear us in there?
MRS. ALVING. Not when the door is shut. Besides, he's just going out.
MANDERS. I am still quite upset. I don't know how I could swallow a morsel of dinner.
MRS. ALVING. [Controlling her nervousness, walks up and down.] Nor I. But what is to be done now?
MANDERS. Yes; what is to be done? I am really quite at a loss. I am so utterly without experience in matters of this sort.
MRS. ALVING. I feel sure that, so far, no mischief has been done.
MANDERS. No; heaven forbid! But it is an unseemly state of things, nevertheless.
MRS. ALVING. It is only an idle fancy on Oswald's part; you may be sure of that.
MANDERS. Well, as I say, I am not accustomed to affairs of the kind. But I should certainly think —
MRS. ALVING. Out of the house she must go, and that immediately. That is as clear as daylight —
MANDERS. Yes, of course she must.
MRS. ALVING. But where to? It would not be right to —
MANDERS. Where to? Home to her father, of course.
MRS. ALVING. To whom did you say?
MANDERS. To her — But then, Engstrand is not — ? Good God, Mrs. Alving, it's impossible! You must be mistaken after all.
MRS. ALVING. Unfortunately there is no possibility of mistake. Johanna confessed everything to me; and Alving could not deny it. So there was nothing to be done but to get the matter hushed up.
MANDERS. No, you could do nothing else.
MRS. ALVING. The girl left our service at once, and got a good sum of money to hold her tongue for the time. The rest she managed for herself when she got to town. She renewed her old acquaintance with Engstrand, no doubt let him see that she had money in her purse, and told him some tale about a foreigner who put in here with a yacht that summer. So she and Engstrand got married in hot haste. Why, you married them yourself.
MANDERS. But then how to account for — ? I recollect distinctly Engstrand coming to give notice of the marriage. He was quite overwhelmed with contrition, and bitterly reproached himself for the misbehaviour he and his sweetheart had been guilty of.
MRS. ALVING. Yes; of course he had to take the blame upon himself.
MANDERS. But such a piece of duplicity on his part! And towards me too! I never could have believed it of Jacob Engstrand. I shall not fail to take him seriously to task; he may be sure of that. — And then the immorality of such a connection! For money — ! How much did the girl receive?
MRS. ALVING. Three hundred dollars.
MANDERS. Just think of it — for a miserable three hundred dollars, to go and marry a fallen woman!
MRS. ALVING. Then what have you to say of me? I went and married a fallen man.
MANDERS. Why — good heavens! — what are you talking about! A fallen man!
MRS. ALVING. Do you think Alving was any purer when I went with him to the altar than Johanna was when Engstrand married her?
MANDERS. Well, but there is a world of difference between the two cases —
MRS. ALVING. Not so much difference after all — except in the price: — a miserable three hundred dollars and a whole fortune.
MANDERS. How can you compare such absolutely dissimilar cases? You had taken counsel with your own heart and with your natural advisers.
MRS. ALVING. [Without looking at him.] I thought you understood where what you call my heart had strayed to at the time.
MANDERS. [Distantly.] Had I understood anything of the kind, I should not have been a daily guest in your husband's house.
MRS. ALVING. At any rate, the fact remains that with myself I took no counsel whatever.
MANDERS. Well then, with your nearest relatives — as your duty bade you — with your mother and your two aunts.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, that is true. Those three cast up the account for me. Oh, it's marvellous how clearly they made out that it would be downright madness to refuse such an offer. If mother could only see me now, and know what all that grandeur has come to!
MANDERS. Nobody can be held responsible for the result. This, at least, remains clear: your marriage was in full accordance with law and order.
MRS. ALVING. [At the window.] Oh, that perpetual law and order! I often think that is what does all the mischief in this world of ours.
MANDERS. Mrs. Alving, that is a sinful way of talking.
MRS. ALVING. Well, I can't help it; I must have done with all this constraint and insincerity. I can endure it no longer. I must work my way out to freedom.
MANDERS. What do you mean by that?
MRS. ALVING. [Drumming on the window frame.] I ought never to have concealed the facts of Alving's life. But at that time I dared not do anything else-I was afraid, partly on my own account. I was such a coward.
MANDERS. A coward?
MRS. ALVING. If people had come to know anything, they would have said — "Poor man! with a runaway wife, no wonder he kicks over the traces."
MANDERS. Such remarks might have been made with a certain show of right.
MRS. ALVING. [Looking steadily at him.] If I were what I ought to be, I should go to Oswald and say, "Listen, my boy: your father led a vicious life — "