A Doll's House By Henrik Ibsen Act II

HELMER.
(looking among his papers). Settle it. (Enter MAID.) Look here; take this letter and go downstairs with it at once. Find a messenger and tell him to deliver it, and be quick. The address is on it, and here is the money.

MAID.
Very well, sir. (Exit with the letter.)

HELMER.
(putting his papers together). Now, then, little Miss Obstinate.

NORA.
(breathlessly). Torvald — what was that letter?

HELMER.
Krogstad's dismissal.

NORA.
Call her back, Torvald! There is still time. Oh Torvald, call her back! Do it for my sake — for your own sake, for the children's sake! Do you hear me, Torvald? Call her back! You don't know what that letter can bring upon us.

HELMER.
It's too late.

NORA.
Yes, it's too late.

HELMER.
My dear Nora, I can forgive the anxiety you are in, although really it is an insult to me. It is, indeed. Isn't it an insult to think that I should be afraid of a starving quill-driver's vengeance? But I forgive you, nevertheless, because it is such eloquent witness to your great love for me. (Takes her in his arms.) And that is as it should be, my own darling Nora. Come what will, you may be sure I shall have both courage and strength if they be needed. You will see I am man enough to take everything upon myself.

NORA.
(in a horror-stricken voice). What do you mean by that?

HELMER.
Everything I say —

NORA.
(recovering herself). You will never have to do that.

HELMER.
That's right. Well, we will share it, Nora, as man and wife should. That is how it shall be. (Caressing her.) Are you content now? There! There! — not these frightened dove's eyes! The whole thing is only the wildest fancy! — Now, you must go and play through the Tarantella and practice with your tambourine. I shall go into the inner office and shut the door, and I shall hear nothing; you can make as much noise as you please. (Turns back at the door.) And when Rank comes, tell him where he will find me. (Nods to her, takes his papers and goes into his room, and shuts the door after him.)

NORA.
(bewildered with anxiety, stands as if rooted to the spot, and whispers). He was capable of doing it. He will do it. He will do it in spite of everything. — No, not that! Never, never! Anything rather than that! Oh, for some help, some way out of it. (The door-bell rings.) Doctor Rank! Anything rather than that — anything, whatever it is! (She puts her hands over her face, pulls herself together, goes to the door and opens it. RANK is standing without, hanging up his coat. During the following dialogue it begins to grow dark.)

NORA.
Good-day, Doctor Rank. I knew your ring. But you mustn't go into Torvald now; I think he is busy with something.

RANK.
And you?

NORA.
(brings him in and shuts the door after him). Oh, you know very well I always have time for you.

RANK.
Thank you. I shall make use of as much of it as I can.

NORA.
What do you mean by that? As much of it as you can.

RANK.
Well, does that alarm you?

NORA.
It was such a strange way of putting it. Is anything likely to happen?

RANK.
Nothing but what I have long been prepared for. But I certainly didn't expect it to happen so soon.

NORA.
(gripping him by the arm). What have you found out? Doctor Rank, you must tell me.

RANK.
(sitting down by the stove). It is all up with me. And it can't be helped.

NORA.
(with a sigh of relief). Is it about yourself?

RANK.
Who else? It is no use lying to one's self. I am the most wretched of all my patients, Mrs. Helmer. Lately I have been taking stock of my internal economy. Bankrupt! Probably within a month I shall lie rotting in the church-yard.

NORA.
What an ugly thing to say!

RANK.
The thing itself is cursedly ugly, and the worst of it is that I shall have to face so much more that is ugly before that. I shall only make one more examination of myself; when I have done that, I shall know pretty certainly when it will be that the horrors of dissolution will begin. There is something I want to tell you. Helmer's refined nature gives him an unconquerable disgust of everything that is ugly; I won't have him in my sick-room.

NORA.
Oh, but, Doctor Rank —

RANK.
I won't have him there. Not on any account. I bar my door to him. As soon as I am quite certain that the worst has come, I shall send you my card with a black cross on it, and then you will know that the loathsome end has begun.

NORA.
You are quite absurd to-day. And I wanted you so much to be in a really good humour.

RANK.
With death stalking beside me? — To have to pay this penalty for another man's sin! Is there any justice in that? And in every single family, in one way or another, some such inexorable retribution is being exacted —

NORA.
(putting her hands over her ears). Rubbish! Do talk of something cheerful.

RANK.
Oh, it's a mere laughing matter, the whole thing. My poor innocent spine has to suffer for my father's youthful amusements.

NORA.
(sitting at the table on the left). I suppose you mean that he was too partial to asparagus and pate de foie gras, don't you?

RANK.
Yes, and to truffles.

NORA.
Truffles, yes. And oysters too, I suppose?

RANK.
Oysters, of course, that goes without saying.

NORA.
And heaps of port and champagne. It is sad that all these nice things should take their revenge on our bones.

RANK.
Especially that they should revenge themselves on the unlucky bones of those who have not had the satisfaction of enjoying them.

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