MANDERS. But I'm not talking of bachelors' quarters. By a "home" I understand the home of a family, where a man lives with his wife and children.
OSWALD. Yes; or with his children and his children's mother.
MANDERS. [Starts; clasps his hands.] But, good heavens —
MANDERS. Lives with — his children's mother!
OSWALD. Yes. Would you have him turn his children's mother out of doors?
MANDERS. Then it is illicit relations you are talking of! Irregular marriages, as people call them!
OSWALD. I have never noticed anything particularly irregular about the life these people lead.
MANDERS. But how is it possible that a — a young man or young woman with any decency of feeling can endure to live in that way? — in the eyes of all the world!
OSWALD. What are they to do? A poor young artist — a poor girl — marriage costs a great deal. What are they to do?
MANDERS. What are they to do? Let me tell you, Mr. Alving, what they ought to do. They ought to exercise self-restraint from the first; that is what they ought to do.
OSWALD. That doctrine will scarcely go down with warm-blooded young people who love each other.
MRS. ALVING. No, scarcely!
MANDERS. [Continuing.] How can the authorities tolerate such things! Allow them to go on in the light of day! [Confronting MRS. ALVING.] Had I not cause to be deeply concerned about your son? In circles where open immorality prevails, and has even a sort of recognised position — !
OSWALD. Let me tell you, sir, that I have been in the habit of spending nearly all my Sundays in one or two such irregular homes —
MANDERS. Sunday of all days!
OSWALD. Isn't that the day to enjoy one's self? Well, never have I heard an offensive word, and still less have I witnessed anything that could be called immoral. No; do you know when and where I have come across immorality in artistic circles?
MANDERS. No, thank heaven, I don't!
OSWALD. Well, then, allow me to inform you. I have met with it when one or other of our pattern husbands and fathers has come to Paris to have a look round on his own account, and has done the artists the honour of visiting their humble haunts. They knew what was what. These gentlemen could tell us all about places and things we had never dreamt of.
MANDERS. What! Do you mean to say that respectable men from home here would — ?
OSWALD. Have you never heard these respectable men, when they got home again, talking about the way in which immorality runs rampant abroad?
MANDERS. Yes, no doubt —
MRS. ALVING. I have too.
OSWALD. Well, you may take their word for it. They know what they are talking about! [Presses has hands to his head.] Oh! that that great, free, glorious life out there should be defiled in such a way!
MRS. ALVING. You mustn't get excited, Oswald. It's not good for you.
OSWALD. Yes; you're quite right, mother. It's bad for me, I know. You see, I'm wretchedly worn out. I shall go for a little turn before dinner. Excuse me, Pastor: I know you can't take my point of view; but I couldn't help speaking out. [He goes out by the second door to the right.]
MRS. ALVING. My poor boy!
MANDERS. You may well say so. Then this is what he has come to!
[MRS. ALVING looks at him silently.]
MANDERS. [Walking up and down.] He called himself the Prodigal Son. Alas! alas!
[MRS. ALVING continues looking at him.]
MANDERS. And what do you say to all this?
MRS. ALVING. I say that Oswald was right in every word.
MANDERS. [Stands still.] Right? Right! In such principles?
MRS. ALVING. Here, in my loneliness, I have come to the same way of thinking, Pastor Manders. But I have never dared to say anything. Well! now my boy shall speak for me.
MANDERS. You are greatly to be pitied, Mrs. Alving. But now I must speak seriously to you. And now it is no longer your business manager and adviser, your own and your husband's early friend, who stands before you. It is the priest — the priest who stood before you in the moment of your life when you had gone farthest astray.
MRS. ALVING. And what has the priest to say to me?
MANDERS. I will first stir up your memory a little. The moment is well chosen. To-morrow will be the tenth anniversary of your husband's death. To-morrow the memorial in his honour will be unveiled. To-morrow I shall have to speak to the whole assembled multitude. But to-day I will speak to you alone.
MRS. ALVING. Very well, Pastor Manders. Speak.
MANDERS. Do you remember that after less than a year of married life you stood on the verge of an abyss? That you forsook your house and home? That you fled from your husband? Yes, Mrs. Alving — fled, fled, and refused to return to him, however much he begged and prayed you?
MRS. ALVING. Have you forgotten how infinitely miserable I was in that first year?
MANDERS. It is the very mark of the spirit of rebellion to crave for happiness in this life. What right have we human beings to happiness? We have simply to do our duty, Mrs. Alving! And your duty was to hold firmly to the man you had once chosen, and to whom you were bound by the holiest ties.
MRS. ALVING. You know very well what sort of life Alving was leading — what excesses he was guilty of.
MANDERS. I know very well what rumours there were about him; and I am the last to approve the life he led in his young days, if report did not wrong him. But a wife is not appointed to be her husband's judge. It was your duty to bear with humility the cross which a Higher Power had, in its wisdom, laid upon you. But instead of that you rebelliously throw away the cross, desert the backslider whom you should have supported, go and risk your good name and reputation, and — nearly succeed in ruining other people's reputation into the bargain.
MRS. ALVING. Other people's? One other person's, you mean.
MANDERS. It was incredibly reckless of you to seek refuge with me.
MRS. ALVING. With our clergyman? With our intimate friend?
MANDERS. Just on that account. Yes, you may thank God that I possessed the necessary firmness; that I succeeded in dissuading you from your wild designs; and that it was vouchsafed me to lead you back to the path of duty, and home to your lawful husband.
MRS. ALVING. Yes, Pastor Manders, that was certainly your work.