MANDERS. No doubt. I think it would be desirable for her in every respect. Regina is now at the age when — Of course I don't know much about these things, but —
MRS. ALVING. Regina matured very early.
MANDERS. Yes, I thought so. I have an impression that she was remarkably well developed, physically, when I prepared her for confirmation. But in the meantime, she ought to be at home, under her father's eye — Ah! but Engstrand is not — That he — that he — could so hide the truth from me! [A knock at the door into the hall.]
MRS. ALVING. Who can this be? Come in!
ENGSTRAND. [In his Sunday clothes, in the doorway.] I humbly beg your pardon, but —
MANDERS. Aha! H'm —
MRS. ALVING. Is that you, Engstrand?
ENGSTRAND. — there was none of the servants about, so I took the great liberty of just knocking.
MRS. ALVING. Oh, very well. Come in. Do you want to speak to me?
ENGSTRAND. [Comes in.] No, I'm obliged to you, ma'am; it was with his Reverence I wanted to have a word or two.
MANDERS. [Walking up and down the room.] Ah — indeed! You want to speak to me, do you?
ENGSTRAND. Yes, I'd like so terrible much to —
MANDERS. [Stops in front of him.] Well; may I ask what you want?
ENGSTRAND. Well, it was just this, your Reverence: we've been paid off down yonder — my grateful thanks to you, ma'am, — and now everything's finished, I've been thinking it would be but right and proper if we, that have been working so honestly together all this time — well, I was thinking we ought to end up with a little prayer-meeting to-night.
MANDERS. A prayer-meeting? Down at the Orphanage?
ENGSTRAND. Oh, if your Reverence doesn't think it proper —
MANDERS. Oh yes, I do; but — h'm —
ENGSTRAND. I've been in the habit of offering up a little prayer in the evenings, myself —
MRS. ALVING. Have you?
ENGSTRAND. Yes, every now and then just a little edification, in a manner of speaking. But I'm a poor, common man, and have little enough gift, God help me! — and so I thought, as the Reverend Mr. Manders happened to be here, I'd —
MANDERS. Well, you see, Engstrand, I have a question to put to you first. Are you in the right frame of mind for such a meeting! Do you feel your conscience clear and at ease?
ENGSTRAND. Oh, God help us, your Reverence! we'd better not talk about conscience.
MANDERS. Yes, that is just what we must talk about. What have you to answer?
ENGSTRAND. Why — a man's conscience — it can be bad enough now and then.
MANDERS. Ah, you admit that. Then perhaps you will make a clean breast of it, and tell me — the real truth about Regina?
MRS. ALVING. [Quickly.] Mr. Manders!
MANDERS. [Reassuringly.] Please allow me —
ENGSTRAND. About Regina! Lord, what a turn you gave me! [Looks at MRS. ALVING.] There's nothing wrong about Regina, is there?
MANDERS. We will hope not. But I mean, what is the truth about you and Regina? You pass for her father, eh!
ENGSTRAND. [Uncertain.] Well — h'm — your Reverence knows all about me and poor Johanna.
MANDERS. Come now, no more prevarication! Your wife told Mrs. Alving the whole story before quitting her service.
ENGSTRAND. Well, then, may — ! Now, did she really?
MANDERS. You see we know you now, Engstrand.
ENGSTRAND. And she swore and took her Bible oath —
MANDERS. Did she take her Bible oath?
ENGSTRAND. No; she only swore; but she did it that solemn-like.
MANDERS. And you have hidden the truth from me all these years? Hidden it from me, who have trusted you without reserve, in everything.
ENGSTRAND. Well, I can't deny it.
MANDERS. Have I deserved this of you, Engstrand? Have I not always been ready to help you in word and deed, so far as it lay in my power? Answer me. Have I not?
ENGSTRAND. It would have been a poor look-out for me many a time but for the Reverend Mr. Manders.
MANDERS. And this is how you reward me! You cause me to enter falsehoods in the Church Register, and you withhold from me, year after year, the explanations you owed alike to me and to the truth. Your conduct has been wholly inexcusable, Engstrand; and from this time forward I have done with you!
ENGSTRAND. [With a sigh.] Yes! I suppose there's no help for it.
MANDERS. How can you possibly justify yourself?
ENGSTRAND. Who could ever have thought she'd have gone and made bad worse by talking about it? Will your Reverence just fancy yourself in the same trouble as poor Johanna —
ENGSTRAND. Lord bless you, I don't mean just exactly the same. But I mean, if your Reverence had anything to be ashamed of in the eyes of the world, as the saying goes. We menfolk oughtn't to judge a poor woman too hardly, your Reverence.
MANDERS. I am not doing so. It is you I am reproaching.
ENGSTRAND. Might I make so bold as to ask your Reverence a bit of a question?
MANDERS. Yes, if you want to.
ENGSTRAND. Isn't it right and proper for a man to raise up the fallen?
MANDERS. Most certainly it is.
ENGSTRAND. And isn't a man bound to keep his sacred word?
MANDERS. Why, of course he is; but —
ENGSTRAND. When Johanna had got into trouble through that Englishman — or it might have been an American or a Russian, as they call them — well, you see, she came down into the town. Poor thing, she'd sent me about my business once or twice before: for she couldn't bear the sight of anything as wasn't handsome; and I'd got this damaged leg of mine. Your Reverence recollects how I ventured up into a dancing saloon, where seafaring men was carrying on with drink and devilry, as the saying goes. And then, when I was for giving them a bit of an admonition to lead a new life —
MRS. ALVING. [At the window.] H'm —
MANDERS. I know all about that, Engstrand; the ruffians threw you downstairs. You have told me of the affair already. Your infirmity is an honour to you.
ENGSTRAND. I'm not puffed up about it, your Reverence. But what I wanted to say was, that when she cane and confessed all to me, with weeping and gnashing of teeth, I can tell your Reverence I was sore at heart to hear it.
MANDERS. Were you indeed, Engstrand? Well, go on.