MANDERS. Is there any considerable number of people — really responsible people — who might be scandalised?
MRS. ALVING. What do you mean by "really responsible people"?
MANDERS. Well, I mean people in such independent and influential positions that one cannot help attaching some weight to their opinions.
MRS. ALVING. There are several people of that sort here, who would very likely be shocked if —
MANDERS. There, you see! In town we have many such people. Think of all my colleague's adherents! People would be only too ready to interpret our action as a sign that neither you nor I had the right faith in a Higher Providence.
MRS. ALVING. But for your own part, my dear Pastor, you can at least tell yourself that —
MANDERS. Yes, I know — I know; my conscience would be quite easy, that is true enough. But nevertheless we should not escape grave misinterpretation; and that might very likely react unfavourably upon the Orphanage.
MRS. ALVING. Well, in that case —
MANDERS. Nor can I entirely lose sight of the difficult — I may even say painful — position in which I might perhaps be placed. In the leading circles of the town, people take a lively interest in this Orphanage. It is, of course, founded partly for the benefit of the town, as well; and it is to be hoped it will, to a considerable extent, result in lightening our Poor Rates. Now, as I have been your adviser, and have had the business arrangements in my hands, I cannot but fear that I may have to bear the brunt of fanaticism —
MRS. ALVING. Oh, you mustn't run the risk of that.
MANDERS. To say nothing of the attacks that would assuredly be made upon me in certain papers and periodicals, which —
MRS. ALVING. Enough, my dear Pastor Manders. That consideration is quite decisive.
MANDERS. Then you do not wish the Orphanage to be insured?
MRS. ALVING. No. We will let it alone.
MANDERS. [Leaning hack in his chair.] But if, now, a disaster were to happen? One can never tell — Should you be able to make good the damage?
MRS. ALVING. No; I tell you plainly I should do nothing of the kind.
MANDERS. Then I must tell you, Mrs. Alving — we are taking no small responsibility upon ourselves.
MRS. ALVING. Do you think we can do otherwise?
MANDERS. No, that is just the point; we really cannot do otherwise. We ought not to expose ourselves to misinterpretation; and we have no right whatever to give offence to the weaker brethren.
MRS. ALVING. You, as a clergyman, certainly should not.
MANDERS. I really think, too, we may trust that such an institution has fortune on its side; in fact, that it stands under a special providence.
MRS. ALVING. Let us hope so, Pastor Manders.
MANDERS. Then we will let it take its chance?
MRS. ALVING. Yes, certainly.
MANDERS. Very well. So be it. [Makes a note.] Then — no insurance.
MRS. ALVING. It's odd that you should just happen to mention the matter to-day —
MANDERS. I have often thought of asking you about it —
MRS. ALVING. — for we very nearly had a fire down there yesterday.
MANDERS. You don't say so!
MRS. ALVING. Oh, it was a trifling matter. A heap of shavings had caught fire in the carpenter's workshop.
MANDERS. Where Engstrand works?
MRS. ALVING. Yes. They say he's often very careless with matches.
MANDERS. He has so much on his mind, that man — so many things to fight against. Thank God, he is now striving to lead a decent life, I hear.
MRS. ALVING. Indeed! Who says so?
MANDERS. He himself assures me of it. And he is certainly a capital workman.
MRS. ALVING. Oh, yes; so long as he's sober —
MANDERS. Ah, that melancholy weakness! But, a is often driven to it by his injured leg, lie says,' Last time he was in town I was really touched by him. He came and thanked me so warmly for having got him work here, so that he might be near Regina.
MRS. ALVING. He doesn't see much of her.
MANDERS. Oh, yes; he has a talk with her every day. He told me so himself.
MRS. ALVING. Well, it may be so.
MANDERS. He feels so acutely that he needs some one to keep a firm hold on him when temptation comes. That is what I cannot help liking about Jacob Engstrand: he comes to you so helplessly, accusing himself and confessing his own weakness. The last time he was talking to me — Believe me, Mrs. Alving, supposing it were a real necessity for him to have Regina home again —
MRS. ALVING. [Rising hastily.] Regina!
MANDERS. — you must not set yourself against it.
MRS. ALVING. Indeed I shall set myself against it. And besides — Regina is to have a position in the Orphanage.
MANDERS. But, after all, remember he is her father —
MRS. ALVING. Oh, I know very well what sort of a father he has been to her. No! She shall never go to him with my goodwill.
MANDERS. [Rising.] My dear lady, don't take the matter so warmly. You sadly misjudge poor Engstrand. You seem to be quite terrified —
MRS. ALVING. [More quietly.] It makes no difference. I have taken Regina into my house, and there she shall stay. [Listens.] Hush, my dear Mr. Manders; say no more about it. [Her face lights up with gladness.] Listen! there is Oswald coming downstairs. Now we'll think of no one but him.
[OSWALD ALVING, in a light overcoat, hat in hand, and smoking a large meerschaum, enters by the door on the left; he stops in the doorway.]
OSWALD. Oh, I beg your pardon; I thought you were in the study. [Comes forward.] Good-morning, Pastor Manders.
MANDERS. [Staring.] Ah — ! How strange — !
MRS. ALVING. Well now, what do you think of him, Mr. Manders?
MANDERS. I — I — can it really be — ?
OSWALD. Yes, it's really the Prodigal Son, sir.
MANDERS. [Protesting.] My dear young friend —