MANDERS. [Moved.] And you were able to bear all this!
MRS. ALVING. I had to bear it for my little boy's sake. But when the last insult was added; when my own servant-maid — ; then I swore to myself: This shall come to an end! And so I took the reins into my own hand — the whole control — over him and everything else. For now I had a weapon against him, you see; he dared not oppose me. It was then I sent Oswald away from home. He was nearly seven years old, and was beginning to observe and ask questions, as children do. That I could not bear. It seemed to me the child must be poisoned by merely breathing the air of this polluted home. That was why I sent him away. And now you can see, too, why he was never allowed to set foot inside his home so long as his father lived. No one knows what that cost me.
MANDERS. You have indeed had a life of trial.
MRS. ALVING. I could never have borne it if I had not had my work. For I may truly say that I have worked! All the additions to the estate — all the improvements — all the labour-saving appliances, that Alving was so much praised for having introduced — do you suppose he had energy for anything of the sort? — he, who lay all day on the sofa, reading an old Court Guide! No; but I may tell you this too: when he had his better intervals, it was I who urged him on; it was I who had to drag the whole load when he relapsed into his evil ways, or sank into querulous wretchedness.
MANDERS. And it is to this man that you raise a memorial?
MRS. ALVING. There you see the power of an evil conscience.
MANDERS. Evil — ? What do you mean?
MRS. ALVING. It always seemed to me impossible but that the truth must come out and be believed. So the Orphanage was to deaden all rumours and set every doubt at rest.
MANDERS. In that you have certainly not missed your aim, Mrs. Alving.
MRS. ALVING. And besides, I had one other reason. I was determined that Oswald, my own boy, should inherit nothing whatever from his father.
MANDERS. Then it is Alving's fortune that — ?
MRS. ALVING. Yes. The sums I have spent upon the Orphanage, year by year, make up the amount — I have reckoned it up precisely — the amount which made Lieutenant Alving "a good match" in his day.
MANDERS. I don't understand —
MRS. ALVING. It was my purchase-money. I do not choose that that money should pass into Oswald's hands. My son shall have everything from me — everything.
[OSWALD ALVING enters through the second door to the right; he has taken of his hat and overcoat in the hall.]
MRS. ALVING. [Going towards him.] Are you back again already? My dear, dear boy!
OSWALD. Yes. What can a fellow do out of doors in this eternal rain? But I hear dinner is ready. That's capital!
REGINA. [With a parcel, from the dining-room.] A parcel has come for you, Mrs. Alving. [Hands it to her.]
MRS. ALVING. [With a glance at MR. MANDERS.] No doubt copies of the ode for to-morrow's ceremony.
MANDERS. H'm —
REGINA. And dinner is ready.
MRS. ALVING. Very well. We will come directly. I will just — [Begins to open the parcel.]
REGINA. [To OSWALD.] Would Mr. Alving like red or white wine?
OSWALD. Both, if you please.
REGINA. Bien. Very well, sir. [She goes into the dining-room.]
OSWALD. I may as well help to uncork it. [He also goes into the dining room, the door of which swings half open behind him.]
MRS. ALVING. [Who has opened the parcel.] Yes, I thought so. Here is the Ceremonial Ode, Pastor Manders.
MANDERS. [With folded hands.] With what countenance I am to deliver my discourse to-morrow — !
MRS. ALVING. Oh, you will get through it somehow.
MANDERS. [Softly, so as not to be heard in the dining-room.] Yes; it would not do to provoke scandal.
MRS. ALVING. [Under her breath, but firmly.] No. But then this long, hateful comedy will be ended. From the day after to-morrow, I shall act in every way as though he who is dead had never lived in this house. There shall be no one here but my boy and his mother.
[From the dining-room comes the noise of a chair overturned, and at the same moment is heard:]
REGINA. [Sharply, but in a whisper.] Oswald! take care! are you mad? Let me go!
MRS. ALVING. [Starts in terror.] Ah — !
[She stares wildly towards the half-open door. OSWALD is heard laughing and humming. A bottle is uncorked.]
MANDERS. [Agitated.] What can be the matter? What is it, Mrs. Alving?
MRS. ALVING. [Hoarsely.] Ghosts! The couple from the conservatory — risen again!
MANDERS. Is it possible! Regina — ? Is she — ?
MRS. ALVING. Yes. Come. Not a word — !
[She seizes PASTOR MANDERS by the arm, and walks unsteadily towards the dining-room.]