A play in four acts
Translated by R. FARQUHARSON SHARP
John Rosmer, of Rosmersholm, an ex-clergyman. Rebecca West, one of his household, originally engaged as companion to the late Mrs. Rosmer. Kroll, headmaster of the local grammar school, Rosmer's brother-in-law. Ulrik Brendel. Peter Mortensgaard. Mrs. Helseth, Rosmer's housekeeper.
(The action takes place at Rosmersholm, an old manor-house in the neighbourhood of a small town on a fjord in western Norway.)
(SCENE—The sitting-room at Rosmersholm; a spacious room, comfortably furnished in old-fashioned style. In the foreground, against the right-hand wall, is a stove decorated with sprigs of fresh birch and wild flowers. Farther back, a door. In the back wall folding doors leading into the entrance hall. In the left-hand wall a window, in front of which is a stand filled with flowers and plants. Near the stove stand a table, a couch and an easy-chair. The walls are hung round with portraits, dating from various periods, of clergymen, military officers and other officials in uniform. The window is open, and so are the doors into the lobby and the outer door. Through the latter is seen an avenue of old trees leading to a courtyard. It is a summer evening, after sunset. REBECCA WEST is sitting by the window crocheting a large white woollen shawl, which is nearly completed. From time to time she peeps out of window through the flowers. MRS. HELSETH comes in from the right.)
Mrs. Helseth. Hadn't I better begin and lay the table for supper, miss?
Rebecca. Yes, do. Mr. Rosmer ought to be in directly.
Mrs. Helseth. Isn't there a draught where you are sitting, miss?
Rebecca. There is a little. Will you shut up, please? (MRS. HELSETH goes to the hall door and shuts it. Then she goes to the window, to shut it, and looks out.)
Mrs. Helseth. Isn't that Mr. Rosmer coming there?
Rebecca. Where? (Gets up.) Yes, it is he. (Stands behind the window-curtain.) Stand on one side. Don't let him catch sight of us.
Mrs. Helseth (stepping back). Look, miss—he is beginning to use the mill path again.
Rebecca. He came by the mill path the day before yesterday too. (Peeps out between the curtain and the window-frame). Now we shall see whether—
Mrs. Helseth. Is he going over the wooden bridge?
Rebecca. That is just what I want to see. (After a moment.) No. He has turned aside. He is coming the other way round to-day too. (Comes away from the window.) It is a long way round.
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, of course. One can well understand his shrinking from going over that bridge. The spot where such a thing has happened is—
Rebecca (folding up her work). They cling to their dead a long time at Rosmersholm.
Mrs. Helseth. If you ask me, miss, I should say it is the dead that cling to Rosmersholm a long time.
Rebecca (looking at her). The dead?
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, one might almost say that they don't seem to be able to tear themselves away from those they have left behind.
Rebecca. What puts that idea into your head?
Mrs. Helseth. Well, otherwise I know the White Horses would not be seen here.
Rebecca. Tell me, Mrs. Helseth—what is this superstition about the White Horses?
Mrs. Helseth. Oh, it is not worth talking about. I am sure you don't believe in such things, either.
Rebecca. Do you believe in them?
Mrs. Helseth (goes to the window and shuts it). Oh, I am not going to give you a chance of laughing at me, miss. (Looks out.) See—is that not Mr. Rosmer out on the mill path again?
Rebecca (looking out). That man out there? (Goes to the window.) Why, that is Mr. Kroll, of course!
Mrs. Helseth. So it is, to be sure.
Rebecca. That is delightful, because he is certain to be coming here.
Mrs. Helseth. He actually comes straight over the wooden bridge, he does for all that she was his own sister. Well, I will go in and get the supper laid, miss. (Goes out to the right. REBECCA stands still for a moment, then waves her hand out of the window, nodding and smiling. Darkness is beginning to fall.)
Rebecca (going to the door on the right and calling through it). Mrs. Helseth, I am sure you won't mind preparing something extra nice for supper? You know what dishes Mr. Kroll is especially fond of.
Mrs. Helseth. Certainly, miss. I will.
Rebecca (opening the door into the lobby). At last, Mr. Kroll! I am so glad to see you!
Kroll (coming into the lobby and putting down his stick). Thank you. Are you sure I am not disturbing you?
Rebecca. You? How can you say such a thing?
Kroll (coming into the room). You are always so kind. (Looks round the room.) Is John up in his room?
Rebecca. No, he has gone out for a walk. He is later than usual of coming in, but he is sure to be back directly. (Points to the sofa.) Do sit down and wait for him.
Kroll (putting down his hat). Thank you. (Sits down and looks about him.) How charmingly pretty you have made the old room look! Flowers everywhere!
Rebecca. Mr. Rosmer is so fond of having fresh flowers about him.
Kroll. And so are you, I should say.
Rebecca. Yes, I am. I think their scent has such a delicious effect on one—and till lately we had to deny ourselves that pleasure, you know.
Kroll (nodding slowly). Poor Beata could not stand the scent of them.
Rebecca. Nor their colours either. They made her feel dazed.
Kroll. Yes, I remember. (Continues in a more cheerful tone of voice). Well, and how are things going here?
Rebecca. Oh, everything goes on in the same quiet, placid way. One day is exactly like another. And how are things with you? Is your wife—?
Kroll. Oh, my dear Miss West, don't let us talk about my affairs. In a family there is always something or other going awry—especially in such times as we live in now.
Rebecca (after a short pause, sitting down in an easy-chair near the sofa). Why have you never once been near us during the whole of your holidays?
Kroll. Oh, it doesn't do to be importunate, you know.
Rebecca. If you only knew how we have missed you.
Kroll. And, besides, I have been away, you know.
Rebecca. Yes, for a fortnight or so. I suppose you have been going the round of the public meetings?
Kroll (nods). Yes, what do you say to that? Would you ever have thought I would become a political agitator in my old age—eh?
Rebecca (smilingly). You have always been a little bit of an agitator, Mr. Kroll.
Kroll. Oh, yes; just for my own amusement. But for the future it is going to be in real earnest. Do you ever read the Radical newspapers?
Rebecca. Yes, I won't deny that!
Kroll. My dear Miss West, there is no objection to that—not as far as you are concerned.
Rebecca. No, that is just what I think. I must follow the course of events—keep up with what is happening.
Kroll. Well, under any circumstances, I should never expect you, as a woman, to side actively with either party in the civic dispute—indeed one might more properly call it the civil war—that is raging here. I dare say you have read, then, the abuse these "nature's gentlemen" are pleased to shower upon me, and the scandalous coarseness they consider they are entitled to make use of?
Rebecca. Yes, but I think you have held your own pretty forcibly.
Kroll. That I have—though I say it. I have tasted blood now, and I will make them realise that I am not the sort of man to take it lying down—. (Checks himself.) No, no, do not let us get upon that sad and distressing topic this evening.
Rebecca. No, my dear Mr. Kroll, certainly not.
Kroll. Tell me, instead, how you find you get on at Rosmersholm, now that you are alone here—I mean, since our poor Beata—
Rebecca. Oh, thanks—I get on very well here. Her death has made a great gap in the house in many ways, of course—and one misses her and grieves for her, naturally. But in other respects—
Kroll. Do you think you will remain here?—permanently, I mean?
Rebecca. Dear Mr. Kroll, I really never think about it at all. The fact is that I have become so thoroughly domesticated here that I almost feel as if I belonged to the place too.
Kroll. You? I should think you did!
Rebecca. And as long as Mr. Rosmer finds I can be any comfort or any use to him, I will gladly remain here, undoubtedly.
Kroll (looking at her, with some emotion). You know, there is something splendid about a woman's sacrificing the whole of her youth for others.
Rebecca. What else have I had to live for?
Kroll. At first when you came here there was your perpetual worry with that unreasonable cripple of a foster-father of yours—
Rebecca. You mustn't think that Dr. West was as unreasonable as that when we lived in Finmark. It was the trying journeys by sea that broke him up. But it is quite true that after we had moved here there were one or two hard years before his sufferings were over.
Kroll. Were not the years that followed even harder for you?
Rebecca. No; how can you say such a thing! I, who was so genuinely fond of Beata—! And she, poor soul was so sadly in need of care and sympathetic companionship.
Kroll. You deserve to be thanked and rewarded for the forbearance with which you speak of her.
Rebecca (moving a little nearer to him). Dear Mr. Kroll, you say that so kindly and so sincerely that I feel sure you really bear me no ill-will.
Kroll. Ill-will? What do you mean?
Rebecca. Well, it would not be so very surprising if it were rather painful for you to see me, a stranger, doing just as I like here at Rosmersholm.
Kroll. How in the world could you think—!
Rebecca. Then it is not so? (Holds out her hand to, him.) Thank you, Mr. Kroll; thank you for that.
Kroll. But what on earth could make you take such an idea into your head?
Rebecca. I began to be afraid it might be so, as you have so seldom been out here to see us lately.
Kroll. I can assure you, you have been on the wrong scent entirely, Miss West. And, in any case, the situation of affairs is unchanged in any essential point; because during the last sad years of poor Beata's life it was you and you alone, even then, that looked after everything here.
Rebecca. But it was more like a kind of regency in the wife's name.
Kroll. Whatever it was, I—. I will tell you what, Miss West; as far as I am concerned I should have nothing whatever to say against it if you. But it doesn't do to say such things.
Rebecca. What things?
Kroll. Well, if it so happened that you were to step into the empty place—
Rebecca. I have the place I want, already, Mr. Kroll.
Kroll. Yes, as far as material benefits go; but not—
Rebecca (interrupting him, in a serious voice). For shame, Mr. Kroll! How can you sit there and jest about such things!
Kroll. Oh, well, I dare say our good John Rosmer thinks he has had more than enough of married life. But, all the same—
Rebecca. Really, you almost make me feel inclined to laugh at you.
Kroll. All the same—Tell me, Miss West, if I may be allowed the question, how old are you?
Rebecca. I am ashamed to say I was twenty-nine on my last birthday, Mr. Kroll. I am nearly thirty.
Kroll. Quite so. And Rosmer—how old is he? Let me see. He is five years younger than me, so he must be just about forty-three. It seems to me it would be very suitable.
Rebecca. No doubt, no doubt. It would be remarkably suitable—Will you stop and have supper with us?
Kroll. Thank you. I had meant to pay you a good long visit, because there is a matter I want to talk over with our excellent friend—Well, then, Miss West, to prevent your taking foolish ideas into your head again, I will come out here again from time to time, as in the old days.
Rebecca. Yes, please do. (Holds out her hand to, him.) Thank you, thank you! You are really uncommonly good-natured.
Kroll (with a little grumble). Am I? I can tell you that is more than they say at home. (ROSMER comes in by the door on the right.)
Rebecca. Mr. Rosmer, do you see who is sitting here?
Rosmer. Mrs. Helseth told me. (KROLL gets up.) I am so glad to see you here again, my dear fellow. (Puts his hands on KROLL'S shoulders and looks him in the face.) Dear old friend! I knew that one day we should be on our old footing again.
Kroll. My dear fellow, have you that insane idea in your head too, that any thing could come between us?
Rebecca (to ROSMER). Isn't it delightful to think it was all our imagination!
Rosmer. Is that really true, Kroll? But why have you kept so obstinately away from us?
Kroll (seriously, and in, a subdued voice). Because I did not want to come here like a living reminder of the unhappy time that is past—and of her who met her death in the mill-race.
Rosmer. It was a very kind thought on your part. You are always so considerate. But it was altogether unnecessary to keep away from us on that account. Come along, let us sit down on the sofa. (They sit down.) I can assure you it is not in the least painful for me to think about Beata. We talk about her every day. She seems to us to have a part in the house still.
Kroll. Does she really?
Rebecca (lighting the lamp). Yes, it is really quite true.
Rosmer. She really does. We both think so affectionately of her. And both Rebecca—both Miss West and I know in our hearts that we did all that lay in our power for the poor afflicted creature. We have nothing to reproach ourselves with. That is why I feel there is something sweet and peaceful in the way we can think of Beata now.
Kroll. You dear good people! In future I am coming out to see you every day.
Rebecca (sitting down in an arm-chair). Yes, let us see that you keep your word.
Rosmer (with a slight hesitation). I assure you, my dear fellow, my dearest wish would be that our intimacy should never suffer in any way. You know, you have seemed to be my natural adviser as long as we have known one another, even from my student days.
Kroll. I know, and I am very proud of the privilege. Is there by any chance anything in particular just now—?
Rosmer. There are a great many things that I want very much to talk over with you frankly—things that lie very near my heart.
Rebecca. I feel that is so, too, Mr. Rosmer. It seems to me it would be such a good thing if you two old friends—
Kroll. Well, I can assure you I have even more to talk over with you—because I have become an active politician, as I dare say you know.
Rosmer. Yes, I know you have. How did that come about?
Kroll. I had to, you see, whether I liked it or not. It became impossible for me to remain an idle spectator any longer. Now that the Radicals have become so distressingly powerful, it was high time. And that is also why I have induced our little circle of friends in the town to bind themselves more definitely together. It was high time, I can tell you!
Rebecca (with a slight smile). As a matter of fact, isn't it really rather late now?
Kroll. There is no denying it would have been more fortunate if we had succeeded in checking the stream at an earlier point. But who could really foresee what was coming? I am sure I could not. (Gets up and walks up and down.) Anyway, my eyes are completely opened now; for the spirit of revolt has spread even into my school.
Rosmer. Into the school? Surely not into your school?
Kroll. Indeed it has. Into my own school. What do you think of this? I have got wind of the fact that the boys in the top class—or rather, a part of the boys in it—have formed themselves into a secret society and have been taking in Mortensgaard's paper!
Rebecca. Ah, the "Searchlight".
Kroll. Yes, don't you think that is a nice sort of intellectual pabulum for future public servants? But the saddest part of it is that it is all the most promising boys in the class that have conspired together and hatched this plot against me. It is only the duffers and dunces that have held aloof from it.
Rebecca. Do you take it so much to heart, Mr. Kroll?
Kroll. Do I take it to heart, to find myself so hampered and thwarted in my life's work? (Speaking more gently.) I might find it in my heart to say that I could even take that for what it is worth; but I have not told you the worst of it yet. (Looks round the room.) I suppose nobody is likely to be listening at the doors?
Rebecca. Oh, certainly not.
Kroll. Then let me tell you that the revolt and dissension has spread into my own home—into my own peaceful home—and has disturbed the peace of my family life.
Rosmer (getting up). Do you mean it? In your own home?
Rebecca (going up to Kroll). Dear Mr. Kroll, what has happened?
Kroll. Would you believe it that my own children—. To make a long story short, my boy Laurits is the moving spirit of the conspiracy at the school. And Hilda has embroidered a red portfolio to keep the numbers of the "Searchlight" in.
Rosmer. I should never have dreamed of such a thing; in your family—in your own house!
Kroll. No, who would ever have dreamed of such a thing? In my house, where obedience and order have always ruled—where hitherto there has never been anything but one unanimous will—
Rebecca. How does your wife take it?
Kroll. Ah, that is the most incredible part of the whole thing. She, who all her days—in great things and small—has concurred in my opinions and approved of all my views, has actually not refrained from throwing her weight on the children's side on many points. And now she considers I am to blame for what has happened. She says I try to coerce the young people too much. Just as if it were not necessary to—. Well, those are the sort of dissensions I have going on at home. But naturally I talk as little about it as possible; it is better to be silent about such things. (Walks across the floor.) Oh, yes.—Oh, yes. (Stands by the window, with his hands behind his back, and looks out.)
Rebecca (goes up to ROSMER, and speaks in low, hurried tones, unheard by KROLL). Do it!
Rosmer (in the same tone). Not to-night.
Rebecca (as before). Yes, this night of all others. (Goes away from him and adjusts the lamp.)
Kroll (coming back). Yes, my dear John, so now you know the sort of spirit of the age that has cast its shadow both over my home life and my official work. Ought I not to oppose this appalling, destructive, disorganising tendency with all the weapons I can lay my hands upon? Of course it is certainly my duty—and that both with my pen and my tongue.
Rosmer. But have you any hope that you can produce any effect in that way?
Kroll. At all events I mean to take my share in the fight as a citizen. And I consider that it is the duty of every patriotic man, every man who is concerned about what is right, to do the same. And, I may as well tell you, that is really the reason why I have come here to see you to-night.
Rosmer. My dear fellow, what do you mean? What can I—?
Kroll. You are going to help your old friends, and do as we are doing—take your share in it to the best of your ability.
Rebecca. But, Mr. Kroll, you know how little taste Mr. Rosmer has for that sort of thing.
Kroll. Then he has got to overcome that distaste now. You do not keep abreast of the times, John. You sit here and bury yourself in your historical researches. Goodness knows, I have the greatest respect for family pedigrees and all that they imply. But this is not the time for such occupations, unhappily. You have no conception of the state of affairs that is going on all over the country. Every single idea is turned upside down, or very nearly so. It will be a hard fight to get all the errors straightened out again.
Rosmer. I can quite believe it. But that sort of a fight is not in my line at all.
Rebecca. Besides, I rather fancy that Mr. Rosmer has come to look at the affairs of life with wider opened eyes than before.
Kroll (with a start). Wider opened eyes?
Rebecca. Yes, or with an opener mind—with less prejudice.
Kroll. What do you mean by that? John—surely you could never be so weak as to allow yourself to be deluded by the accidental circumstance that the demagogues have scored a temporary success!
Rosmer. My dear fellow, you know very well that I am no judge of politics; but it certainly seems to me that of late years individual thought has become somewhat more independent.
Kroll. Quite so—but do you consider that as a matter of course to be a good thing? In any case you are vastly mistaken, my friend. Just inquire a little into the opinions that are current amongst the Radicals, both out here in the country and in town. You will find them to be nothing else than the words of wisdom that appear in the "Searchlight".
Rebecca. Yes, Mortensgaard has a great deal of influence over the people about here.
Kroll. Yes, just think of it—a man with as dirty a record as his! A fellow that was turned out of his place as a schoolmaster because of his immoral conduct! This is the sort of man that poses as a leader of the people! And successfully, too!—actually successfully! I hear that he means to enlarge his paper now. I know, on reliable authority, that he is looking for a competent assistant.
Rebecca. It seems to me surprising that you and your friends do not start an opposition paper.
Kroll. That is exactly what we intend to do. This very day we have bought the "County News." There was no difficulty about the financial side of the matter; but— (Turns towards ROSMER) Now we have come to the real purport of my visit. It is the Management of it—the editorial management—that is the difficulty, you see. Look here, Rosmer—don't you feel called upon to undertake it, for the sake of the good cause?
Rosmer (in a tone of consternation). I!
Rebecca. How can you think of such a thing!
Kroll. I can quite understand your having a horror of public meetings and being unwilling to expose yourself to the mercies of the rabble that frequents them. But an editor's work, which is carried on in much greater privacy, or rather—
Rosmer. No, no, my dear fellow, you must not ask that of me.
Kroll. It would give me the greatest pleasure to have a try at work of that sort myself—only it would be quite out of the question for me; I am already saddled with such an endless number of duties. You, on the other hand, who are no longer hampered by any official duties, might—. Of course the rest of us would give you all the help in our power.
Rosmer. I cannot do it, Kroll. I am not fitted for it.
Kroll. Not fitted for it? That was just what you said when your father got you your living.
Rosmer. I was quite right; and that was why I resigned it, too.
Kroll. Well, if you only make as good an editor as you did a parson, we shall be quite satisfied.
Rosmer. My dear Kroll—once for all—I cannot do it.
Kroll. Well, then, I suppose you will give us the use of your name, at all events?
Rosmer. My name?
Kroll. Yes, the mere fact of John Rosmer's name being connected with it will be a great advantage to the paper. We others are looked upon as pronounced partisans. I myself even have the reputation of being a wicked fanatic, I am told. Therefore we cannot count upon our own names to give us any particular help in making the paper known to the misguided masses. But you, on the contrary, have always held aloof from this kind of fighting. Your gentle and upright disposition, your polished mind, your unimpeachable honour, are known to and appreciated by every one about here. And then there is the deference and respect that your former position as a clergyman ensures for you—and, besides that, there is the veneration in which your family, name is held!
Rosmer. Oh, my family name.
Kroll (pointing to the portraits). Rosmers of Rosmersholm—clergymen, soldiers, men who have filled high places in the state—men of scrupulous honour, every one of them—a family that has been rooted here, the most influential in the place, for nearly two centuries. (Lays his hand on ROSMER'S shoulder.) John, you owe it to yourself and to the traditions of your race to join us in defence of all that has hitherto been held sacred in our community. (Turning to REBECCA.) What do you say, Miss West?
Rebecca (with a quiet little laugh). my dear Mr. Kroll—it all sounds so absurdly ludicrous to me.
Kroll. What! Ludicrous?
Rebecca. Yes, because it is time you were told plainly—
Rosmer (hurriedly). No, no—don't! Not now!
Kroll (looking from one to the other). But, my dear friends, what on earth—? (Breaks off, as MRS. HELSETH comes in, by the door on the right.) Ahem!
Mrs. Helseth. There is a man at the kitchen door, sir. He says he wants to see you.
Rosmer (in a relieved voice). Is there? Well, ask him to come in.
Mrs. Helseth. Shall I show him in here, sir?
Mrs. Helseth. But he doesn't look the sort of man one ought to allow in here.
Rebecca. What does he look like, Mrs. Helseth?
Mrs. Helseth. Oh, he is not much to look at, Miss.
Rosmer. Did he not give you his name?
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, I think he said it was Hekman, or something like that.
Rosmer. I do not know any one of that name.
Mrs. Helseth. And he said his Christian name was Ulrik.
Rosmer (with a start of surprise). Ulrik Hetman! Was that it?
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, sir, it was Hetman.
Kroll. I am certain I have heard that name before.
Rebecca. Surely it was the name that strange creature used to write under—
Rosmer (to Kroll). It is Ulrik Brendel's pseudonym, you know.
Kroll. That scamp Ulrik Brendel. You are quite right.
Rebecca. So he is alive still.
Rosmer. I thought he was travelling with a theatrical company.
Kroll. The last I heard of him was that he was in the workhouse.
Rosmer. Ask him to come in, Mrs. Helseth.
Mrs. Helseth. Yes, sir. (Goes out.)
Kroll. Do you really mean to allow this fellow into your house?
Rosmer. Oh, well, you know he was my tutor once.
Kroll. I know that what he did was to stuff your head with revolutionary ideas, and that in consequence your father turned him out of the house with a horsewhip.
Rosmer (a little bitterly). Yes, my father was always the commanding officer—even at home.
Kroll. Be grateful to his memory for that, my dear John. Ah!
(MRS. HELSETH shows ULRIK BRENDEL in at the door, then goes out and shuts the door after her. BRENDEL is a good-looking man with grey hair and beard; somewhat emaciated, but active and alert; he is dressed like a common tramp, in a threadbare frock coat, shoes with holes in them, and no visible linen at his neck or wrists. He wears a pair of old black gloves, carries a dirty soft hat under his arm, and has a walking-stick in his hand. He looks puzzled at first, then goes quickly up to KROLL and holds out his hand to him.)
Brendel. Good-evening, John!
Kroll. Excuse me
Brendel. Did you ever expect to see me again? And inside these hated walls, too?
Kroll. Excuse me. (Points to ROSMER.) Over there.
Brendel (turning round). Quite right. There he is. John—my boy—my favourite pupil!
Rosmer (shaking hands with him). My old tutor!
Brendel. In spite of certain recollections, I could not pass by Rosmersholm without paying you a flying visit.
Rosmer. You are very welcome here now. Be sure of that.
Brendel. And this charming lady—? (Bows to Rebecca.) Your wife, of course.
Rosmer. Miss West.
Brendel. A near relation, I presume. And our stranger friend here? A colleague, I can see.
Rosmer. Mr. Kroll, master of the grammar school here.
Brendel. Kroll? Kroll? Wait a moment. Did you take the Philology course in your student days?
Kroll. Certainly I did.
Brendel. By Jove, I used to know you, then
Kroll. Excuse me—
Brendel. Were you not—
Kroll. Excuse me—
Brendel. —one of those champions of all the virtues that got me turned out of the Debating Society?
Kroll. Very possibly. But I disclaim any other acquaintance with you.
Brendel. All right, all right! Nach Belieben, Mr. Kroll. I dare say I shall get over it. Ulrik Brendel will still be himself in spite of it.
Rebecca. Are you on your way to the town, Mr. Brendel?
Brendel. You have hit the nail on the head, ma'am. At certain intervals I am obliged to do something for my living. I do not do it willingly—but, enfin—when needs must—
Rosmer. My dear Mr. Brendel, will you not let me be of assistance to you? In some way or another, I mean—
Brendel. Ah, what a proposal to come from you! Could you wish to soil the tie that binds us together? Never, John—never!
Rosmer. But what do you propose to do in the town, then? I assure you, you won't find it so easy—
Brendel. Leave that to me, my boy. The die is cast. The unworthy individual who stands before you is started on an extensive campaign—more extensive than all his former excursions put together. (To KROLL.) May I venture to ask you, Professor—unter uns—are there in your esteemed town any fairly decent, respectable and spacious assembly-rooms?
Kroll. The most spacious is the hall belonging to the Working Men's Association.
Brendel. May I ask, sir, if you have any special influence with that no doubt most useful Association?
Kroll. I have nothing whatever to do with it.
Rebecca (to BRENDEL). You ought to apply to Peter Mortensgaard.
Brendel. Pardon, madame—what sort of an idiot is he?
Rosmer. Why do you make up your mind he is an idiot?
Brendel. Do you suppose I can't tell, from the sound of the name, that it belongs to a plebeian?
Kroll. I did not expect that answer.
Brendel. But I will conquer my prejudices. There is nothing else for it. When a man stands at a turning-point in his life—as I do—. That is settled. I shall, put myself into communication with this person—commence direct negotiations.
Rosmer. Are you in earnest when you say you are standing at a turning-point in your life?
Brendel. Does my own boy not know that wherever Ulrik Brendel stands he is always in earnest about it? Look here, I mean to become a new man now—to emerge from the cloak of reserve in which I have hitherto shrouded myself.
Rosmer. In what way?
Brendel. I mean to take an active part in life—to step forward—to look higher. The atmosphere we breathe is heavy with storms. I want now to offer my mite upon the altar of emancipation.
Kroll. You too?
Brendel (to them all). Has your public here any intimate acquaintance with my scattered writings?
Kroll. No, I must candidly confess that—
Rebecca. I have read several of them. My foster-father had them.
Brendel. My dear lady, then you have wasted your time. They are simply trash, allow me to tell you.
Brendel. Those you have read, yes. My really important works no man or woman knows anything about. No one—except myself.
Rebecca. How is that?
Brendel. Because they are not yet written.
Rosmer. But, my dear Mr. Brendel—
Brendel. You know, my dear John, that I am a bit of a sybarite—a gourmet. I have always been so. I have a taste for solitary enjoyment, because in that way my enjoyment is twice—ten times—as keen. It is, like this. When I have been wrapped in a haze of golden dreams that have descended on me—when new, intoxicating, momentous thoughts have had their birth in my mind, and I have been fanned by the beat of their wings as they bore me aloft—at such moments I have transformed them into poetry, into visions, into pictures. In general outlines, that is to say.
Rosmer. Quite so.
Brendel. You cannot imagine the luxury of enjoyment I have experienced! The mysterious rapture of creation!—in, general outlines, as I said. Applause, gratitude, eulogies, crowns of laurel!—all these I have culled with full hands trembling with joy. In my secret ecstasies I have steeped myself in a happiness so, intoxicating—
Rosmer. But you have never written anything of it down?
Brendel. Not a word. The thought of the dull clerk's work that it would mean has always moved me to a nauseating sense of disgust. Besides, why should I profane my own ideals when I could enjoy them, in all their purity, by myself? But now they shall be sacrificed. Honestly, I feel as a mother must do when she entrusts her young daughter to the arms of a husband. But I am going to, sacrifice them nevertheless—sacrifice them on the altar of emancipation. A series of carefully thought-out lectures, to be delivered all over the country!
Rebecca (impetuously). That is splendid of you, Mr. Brendel! You are giving up the most precious thing you possess.
Rosmer. The only thing.
Rebecca (looking meaningly at ROSMER). I wonder how many there are who would do as much—who dare do it?
Rosmer (returning her look). Who knows?
Brendel. My audience is moved. That refreshes my heart and strengthens my will—and now I shall proceed upon my task forthwith. There is one other point, though. (To KROLL.) Can you inform me, sir, whether there is an Abstainers' Society in the town? A Total Abstainers' Society? I feel sure there must be.
Kroll. There is one, at your service. I am the president.
Brendel. I could tell that as soon as I saw you! Well, it is not at all impossible that I may come to you and become a member for a week.
Kroll. Excuse me—we do not accept weekly members.
Brendel. A la bonne heure, my good sir. Ulrik Brendel has never been in the habit of forcing himself upon societies of that kind. (Turns to go) But I must not prolong my stay in this house, rich as it is in memories. I must go into the town and find some suitable lodging. I shall find a decent hotel of some kind there, I hope?
Rebecca. Will you not have something hot to drink before you go?
Brendel. Of what nature, dear lady?
Rebecca. A cup of tea, or—
Brendel. A thousand thanks to the most generous of hostesses!—but I do not like trespassing on private hospitality. (Waves his hand.) Good-bye to you all! (Goes to the door, but turns back.) Oh, by the way—John—Mr. Rosmer—will you do your former tutor a service for old friendship's sake?
Rosmer. With the greatest of pleasure.
Brendel. Good. Well, then, lend me—just for a day or two—a starched shirt.
Rosmer. Nothing more than that!
Brendel. Because, you see, I am travelling on foot—on this occasion. My trunk is being sent after me.
Rosmer. Quite so. But, in that case, isn't there anything else?
Brendel. Well, I will tell you what—perhaps you have an old, worn-out summer coat that you could spare?
Rosmer. Certainly I have.
Brendel. And if there happened to be a pair of presentable shoes that would go with the coat.
Rosmer. I am sure we can manage that, too. As soon as you let us know your address, we will send the things to you.
Brendel. Please don't think of it! No one must be put to any inconvenience on my account! I will take the trifles with me.
Rosmer. Very well. Will you come upstairs with me, then?
Rebecca. Let me go. Mrs. Helseth and I will see about it.
Brendel. I could never think of allowing this charming lady—
Rebecca. Nonsense! Come along, Mr. Brendel. (She goes out by the door on the right.)
Rosmer (holding BRENDEL back). Tell me—is there no other way I can be of service to you?
Brendel. I am sure I do not know of any. Yes, perdition seize it!—now that I come to think of it—John, do you happen to have seven or eight shillings on you?
Rosmer. I will see. (Opens his purse.) I have two half-sovereigns here.
Brendel. Oh, well, never mind. I may as well take them. I can always get change in town. Thanks, in the meantime. Remember that it was two half-sovereigns I had. Good-night, my own dear boy! Good-night to you, sir! (Goes out by the door on the right, where ROSMER takes leave of him and shuts the door after him.)
Kroll. Good heavens—and that is the Ulrik Brendel of whom people once thought that he would do great things!
Rosmer. At all events he has had the courage to live his life in his own way. I do not think that is such a small thing, after all.
Kroll. What? A life like his? I almost believe he would have the power, even now, to disturb all your ideas.
Rosmer. No, indeed. I have come to a clear understanding with myself now, upon all points.
Kroll. I wish I could believe it, my dear Rosmer. You are so dreadfully susceptible to impressions from without.
Rosmer. Let us sit down. I want to have a talk with you.
Kroll. By all means. (They sit down on the couch.)
Rosmer (after a short pause). Don't you think everything here looks very pleasant and comfortable?
Kroll. Yes, it looks very pleasant and comfortable now—and peaceful. You have made yourself a real home, Rosmer. And I have lost mine.
Rosmer. My dear fellow, do not say that. There may seem to be a rift just now, but it will heal again.
Kroll. Never, never. The sting will always remain. Things can never be as they were before.
Rosmer. I want to ask you something, Kroll. You and I have been the closest of friends now for so many years—does it seem to you conceivable that anything could destroy our friendship?
Kroll. I cannot imagine anything that could cause a breach between us. What has put that into your head?
Rosmer. Well—your attaching such tremendous importance to similarity of opinions and views.
Kroll. Certainly I do; but then we two hold pretty similar opinions at all events on the most essential points.
Rosmer (gently). No. Not any longer.
Kroll (trying to jump up from his seat). What is this?
Rosmer (restraining him). No, you must sit still. Please, Kroll.
Kroll. What does it all mean? I do not understand you. Tell me, straight out!
Rosmer. A new summer has blossomed in my heart—my eyes have regained the clearness of youth. And, accordingly, I am now standing where—
Kroll. Where? Where are you standing?
Rosmer. Where your children are standing.
Kroll. You? You! The thing is impossible! Where do you say you are standing?
Rosmer. On the same side as Laurits and Hilda.
Kroll (letting his head drop). An apostate. John Rosmer an apostate.
Rosmer. What you are calling apostasy ought to have made me feel sincerely happy and fortunate; but for all that I have suffered keenly, because I knew quite well it would cause you bitter sorrow.
Kroll. Rosmer, Rosmer, I shall never get over this. (Looks at him sadly.) To think that you, too, could bring yourself to sympathise with and join in the work of disorder and ruin that is playing havoc with our unhappy country.
Rosmer. It is the work of emancipation that I sympathise with.
Kroll. Oh yes, I know all about that. That is what it is called, by both those who are leading the people astray and by their misguided victims. But, be sure of this—you need expect no emancipation to be the result of the spirit that relies on the poisoning of the whole of our social life.
Rosmer. I do not give my allegiance to the spirit that is directing this, nor to any of those who are leading the fight. I want to try to bring men of all shades of opinion together—as many as I can reach—and bind them as closely together as I can. I want to live for and devote all the strength that is in me to one end only—to create a real public opinion in the country.
Kroll. So you do not consider that we have sufficient public opinion! I, for my part, consider that the whole lot of us are on the high road to be dragged down into the mire where otherwise only the common people would be wallowing.
Rosmer. It is just for that reason that I have made up my mind as to what should be the real task of public opinion.
Kroll. What task?
Rosmer. The task of making all our fellow-countrymen into men of nobility.
Kroll. All our fellow-countrymen—!
Rosmer. As many as possible, at all events.
Kroll. By what means?
Rosmer. By emancipating their ideas and purifying their aspirations, it seems to me.
Kroll. You are a dreamer, Rosmer. Are you going to emancipate them? Are you going to purify them?
Rosmer. No, my dear fellow—I can only try to awake the desire for it in them. The doing of it rests with themselves.
Kroll. And do you think they are capable of it?
Kroll. Of their own power?
Rosmer. Yes, of their own power. There is no other that can do it.
Kroll (getting up). Is that speaking as befits a clergyman?
Rosmer. I am a clergyman no longer.
Kroll. Yes, but—what of the faith you were brought up in?
Rosmer. I have it no longer.
Kroll. You have it no longer?
Rosmer (getting up). I have given it up. I had to give it up, Kroll.
Kroll (controlling his emotion). I see. Yes, yes. The one thing implies the other. Was that the reason, then, why you left the service of the Church?
Rosmer. Yes. When my mind was clearly made up—when I felt the certainty that it Was not merely a transitory temptation, but that it was something that I would neither have the power nor the desire to dismiss from my mind—then I took that step.
Kroll. So it has been fermenting in your mind as long as that. And we—your friends—have never been allowed to know anything of it. Rosmer, Rosmer—how could you hide the sorrowful truth from us!
Rosmer. Because I considered it was a matter that only concerned myself; and therefore I did not wish to cause you and my other friends any unnecessary pain. I thought I should be able to live my life here as I have done hitherto—peacefully and happily. I wanted to read, and absorb myself in all the works that so far had been sealed books to me—to familiarise myself thoroughly with the great world of truth and freedom that has been disclosed to me now.
Kroll. An apostate. Every word you say bears witness to that. But, for all that, why have you made this confession of your secret apostasy? Or why just at the present moment?
Rosmer. You yourself have compelled me to it, Kroll.
Kroll. I? I have compelled you?
Rosmer. When I heard of your violent behaviour at public meetings—when I read the reports of all the vehement speeches you made there of all your bitter attacks upon those that were on the other side—your scornful censure of your opponents—oh, Kroll, to think that you—you—could be the man to do that!—then my eyes were opened to my imperative duty. Mankind is suffering from the strife that is going on now, and we ought to bring peace and happiness and a spirit of reconciliation into their souls. That is why I step forward now and confess myself openly for what I am—and, besides, I want to put my powers to the test, as well as others. Could not you—from your side—go with me in that, Kroll?
Kroll. Never, as long as I live, will I make any alliance with the forces of disorder in the community.
Rosmer. Well, let us at least fight with honourable weapons, since it seems we must fight.
Kroll. I can have nothing more to do with any one who does not think with me on matters of vital importance, and I owe such a man no consideration.
Rosmer. Does that apply even to me?
Kroll. You yourself have broken with me, Rosmer.
Rosmer. But does this really mean a breach between us?
Kroll. Between us! It is a breach with all those who have hitherto stood shoulder to shoulder with you. And now you must take the consequences.
(REBECCA comes in from the room on the right and opens the door wide.)
Rebecca. Well, that is done! We have started him off on the road to his great sacrifice, and now we can go in to supper. Will you come in, Mr. Kroll?
Kroll (taking his hat). Good-night, Miss West. This is no longer any place for me.
Rebecca (excitedly). What do you mean? (Shuts the door and comes nearer to the two men.) Have you told him—?
Rosmer. He knows now.
Kroll. We shall not let you slip out of our hands, Rosmer. We shall compel you to come back to us again.
Rosmer. I shall never find myself there any more.
Kroll. We shall see. You are not the man to endure standing alone.
Rosmer. I am not so entirely alone, even now. There are two of us to bear the solitude together here.
Kroll. Ah! (A suspicion appears to cross his mind.) That too! Beata's words!
Kroll (dismissing the thought from his mind). No, no—that was odious of me. Forgive me.
Rosmer. What? What do you mean?
Kroll. Think no more about it. I am ashamed of it. Forgive me—and good-bye. (Goes out by the door to the hall.)
Rosmer (following him). Kroll! We cannot end everything between us like this. I will come and see you to-morrow.
Kroll (turning round in the hall). You shall not set your foot in my house. (Takes his stick and goes.)
(ROSMER stands for a while at the open door; then shuts it and comes back into the room.)
Rosmer. That does not matter, Rebecca. We shall be able to go through with it, for all that—we two trusty friends—you and I.
Rebecca. What do you suppose he meant just now when he said he was ashamed of himself?
Rosmer. My dear girl, don't bother your head about that. He didn't even believe what he meant, himself. But I will go and see him tomorrow. Goodnight!
Rebecca. Are you going up so early to-night—after this?
Rosmer. As early to-night as I usually do. I feel such a sense of relief now that it is over. You see, my dear Rebecca, I am perfectly calm—so you take it calmly, too. Good-night.
Rebecca. Good-night, dear friend—and sleep well! (ROSMER goes out by the door to the lobby; then his footsteps are heard as he goes upstairs. REBECCA goes to the wall and rings a bell, which is answered by MRS. HELSETH.) You can clear the table again, Mrs. Helseth. Mr. Rosmer does not want anything, and Mr. Kroll has gone home.
Mrs. Helseth. Gone home? What was wrong with him, miss?
Rebecca (taking up her crochet-work). He prophesied that there was a heavy storm brewing—
Mrs. Helseth. That is very strange, miss, because there isn't a scrap of cloud in the sky.
Rebecca. Let us hope he doesn't meet the White Horse. Because I am afraid it will not be long before we hear something of the family ghost.
Mrs. Helseth. God forgive you, miss—don't talk of such a dreadful thing!
Rebecca. Oh, come, come!
Mrs. Helseth (lowering her voice). Do you really think, miss, that some one here is to go soon?
Rebecca. Not a bit of it. But there are so many sorts of white horses in this world, Mrs. Helseth—Well, good-night. I shall go to my room now.
Mrs. Helseth. Good-night, miss. (Rebecca takes her work and goes out to the right. MRS. HELSETH shakes her head, as she turns down the lamp, and mutters to herself): Lord—Lord!—how queer Miss West does talk sometimes!
(SCENE. ROSMER'S study. The door into it is in the left-hand wall. At the back of the room is a doorway with a curtain drawn back from it, leading to his bedroom. On the right, a window, in front of which is a writing-table strewn with books and papers. Bookshelves and cupboards on the walls. Homely furniture. On the left, an old-fashioned sofa with a table in front of it. ROSMER, wearing a smoking-jacket, is sitting at the writing-table on a high-backed chair. He is cutting and turning over the leaves of a magazine, and dipping into it here and there. A knock is heard at the door on the left.)
Rosmer (without turning round). Come in.
(REBECCA comes in, wearing a morning wrapper.)
Rebecca. Good morning.
Rosmer (still turning over the leaves of his book). Good morning, dear. Do you want anything?
Rebecca. Only to ask if you have slept well?
Rosmer. I went to sleep feeling so secure and happy. I did not even dream. (Turns round.) And you?
Rebecca. Thanks, I got to sleep in the early morning.
Rosmer. I do not think I have felt so light-hearted for a long time as I do to-day. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to say what I did.
Rebecca. Yes, you should not have been silent so long, John.
Rosmer. I cannot understand how I came to be such a coward.
Rebecca. I am sure it was not really from cowardice.
Rosmer. Yes, indeed. I can see that at bottom there was some cowardice about it.
Rebecca. So much the braver of you to face it as you did. (Sits down beside him on a chair by the writing-table.) But now I want to confess something that I have done—something that you must not be vexed with me about.
Rosmer. Vexed? My dear girl, how can you think—?
Rebecca. Yes, because I dare say it was a little presumptuous of me, but—
Rosmer. Well, let me hear what it was.
Rebecca. Last night, when that Ulrick Brendel was going, I wrote him a line or two to take to Mortensgaard.
Rosmer (a little doubtfully). But, my dear Rebecca—What did you write, then?
Rebecca. I wrote that he would be doing you a service if he would interest himself a little in that unfortunate man, and help him in any way he could.
Rosmer. My dear, you should not have done that. You have only done Brendel harm by doing so. And besides, Mortensgaard is a man I particularly wish to have nothing to do with. You know I have been at loggerheads once with him already.
Rebecca. But do you not think that now it might be a very good thing if you got on to good terms with him again?
Rosmer. I? With Mortensgaard? For what reason, do you mean?
Rebecca. Well, because you cannot feel altogether secure now—since this has come between you and your friends.
Rosmer (looking at her and shaking his head). Is it possible that you think either Kroll or any of the others would take a revenge on me—that they could be capable of—
Rebecca. In their first heat of indignation dear. No one can be certain of that. I think, after the way Mr. Kroll took it—
Rosmer. Oh, you ought to know him better than that. Kroll is an honourable man, through and through. I will go into town this afternoon, and have a talk with him. I will have a talk with them all. Oh, you will see how smoothly everything will go. (MRS. HELSETH comes in by the door on the left.)
Rebecca (getting up). What is it, Mrs. Helseth?
Mrs. Helseth. Mr. Kroll is downstairs in the hall, miss.
Rosmer (getting up quickly). Kroll!
Rebecca. Mr. Kroll! What a surprise!
Mrs. Helseth. He asks if he may come up and speak to Mr. Rosmer.
Rosmer (to REBECCA). What did I say! (To MRS. HELSETH). Of course he may. (Goes to the door and calls down the stairs.) Come up, my dear fellow! I am delighted to see you! (He stands holding the door open. MRS. HELSETH goes out. REBECCA draws the curtain over the doorway at the back, and then begins to tidy the room. KROLL comes in with his hat in his hand.)
Rosmer (quietly, and with some emotion). I knew quite well it would not be the last time—
Kroll. To-day I see the matter in quite a different light from yesterday.
Rosmer. Of course you do, Kroll! Of course you do! You have been thinking things over—
Kroll. You misunderstand me altogether. (Puts his hat down on the table.) It is important that I should speak to you alone.
Rosmer. Why may not Miss West—?
Rebecca. No, no, Mr. Rosmer. I will go.
Kroll (looking meaningly at her). And I see I ought to apologise to you, Miss West, for coming here so early in the morning. I see I have taken you by surprise, before you have had time to—
Rebecca (with a start). Why so? Do you find anything out of place in the fact of my wearing a morning wrapper at home here?
Kroll. By no means! Besides, I have no knowledge of what customs may have grown up at Rosmersholm.
Rosmer. Kroll, you are not the least like yourself to-day.
Rebecca. I will wish you good morning, Mr. Kroll. (Goes out to the left.)
Kroll. If. you will allow me— (Sits down on the couch.)
Rosmer. Yes, my dear fellow, let us make ourselves comfortable and have a confidential talk. (Sits down on a chair facing KROLL.)
Kroll. I have not been able to close an eye since yesterday. I lay all night, thinking and thinking.
Rosmer. And what have you got to say to-day?
Kroll. It will take me some time, Rosmer. Let me begin with a sort of introduction. I can give you some news of Ulrick Brendel.
Rosmer. Has he been to see you?
Kroll. No. He took up his quarters in a low-class tavern—in the lowest kind of company, of course; drank, and stood drinks to others, as long as he had any money left; and then began to abuse the whole lot of them as a contemptible rabble—and, indeed, as far as that goes he was quite right. But the result was, that he got a thrashing and was thrown out into the gutter.
Rosmer. I see he is altogether incorrigible.
Kroll. He had pawned the coat you gave him, too, but that is going to be redeemed for him. Can you guess by whom?
Rosmer. By yourself, perhaps?
Kroll. No. By our noble friend Mr. Mortensgaard.
Rosmer. Is that so?
Kroll. I am informed that Mr. Brendel's first visit was paid to the "idiot" and "plebeian".
Rosmer. Well, it was very lucky for him—
Kroll. Indeed it was. (Leans over the table, towards ROSMER.) Now I am coming to a matter of which, for the sake of our old—our former—friendship, it is my duty to warn you.
Rosmer. My dear fellow, what is that?
Kroll. It is this; that certain games are going on behind your back in this house.
Rosmer. How can you think that? Is it Rebec—is it Miss West you are alluding to?
Kroll. Precisely. And I can quite understand it on her part; she has been accustomed, for such a long time now, to do as she likes here. But nevertheless—
Rosmer. My dear Kroll, you are absolutely mistaken. She and I have no secrets from one another about anything whatever.
Kroll. Then has she confessed to you that she has been corresponding with the editor of the "Searchlight"?
Rosmer. Oh, you mean the couple of lines she wrote to him on Ulrik Brendel's behalf?
Kroll. You have found that out, then? And do you approve of her being on terms of this sort with that scurrilous hack, who almost every week tries to pillory me for my attitude in my school and out of it?
Rosmer. My dear fellow, I don't suppose that side of the question has ever occurred to her. And in any case, of course she has entire freedom of action, just as I have myself.
Kroll. Indeed? Well, I suppose that is quite in accordance with the new turn your views have taken—because I suppose Miss West looks at things from the same standpoint as you?
Rosmer. She does. We two have worked our way forward in complete companionship.
Kroll (looking at him and shaking his head slowly). Oh, you blind, deluded man!
Rosmer. I? What makes you say that?
Kroll. Because I dare not—I WILL not—think the worst. No, no, let me finish what I want to say. Am I to believe that you really prize my friendship, Rosmer? And my respect, too? Do you?
Rosmer. Surely I need not answer that question.
Kroll. Well, but there are other things that require answering—that require full explanation on your part. Will you submit to it if I hold a sort of inquiry—?
Rosmer. An inquiry?
Kroll. Yes, if I ask you questions about one or two things that it may be painful for you to recall to mind. For instance, the matter of your apostasy—well, your emancipation, if you choose to call it so—is bound up with so much else for which, for your own sake, you ought to account to me.
Rosmer. My dear fellow, ask me about anything you please. I have nothing to conceal.
Kroll. Well, then, tell me this—what do you yourself believe was the real reason of Beata's making away with herself?
Rosmer. Can you have any doubt? Or perhaps I should rather say, need one look for reasons for what an unhappy sick woman, who is unaccountable for her actions, may do?
Kroll. Are you certain that Beata was so entirely unaccountable for her actions? The doctors, at all events, did not consider that so absolutely certain.
Rosmer. If the doctors had ever seen her in the state in which I have so often seen her, both night and day, they would have had no doubt about it.
Kroll. I did not doubt it either, at the time.
Rosmer. Of course not. It was impossible to doubt it, unfortunately. You remember what I told you of her ungovernable, wild fits of passion—which she expected me to reciprocate. She terrified me! And think how she tortured herself with baseless self-reproaches in the last years of her life!
Kroll. Yes, when she knew that she would always be childless.
Rosmer. Well, think what it meant—to be perpetually in the clutches of such—agony of mind over a thing that she was not in the slightest degree responsible for—! Are you going to suggest that she was accountable for her actions?
Kroll. Hm!—Do you remember whether at that time you had, in the house any books dealing with the purport of marriage—according to the advanced views of to-day?
Rosmer. I remember Miss West's lending me a work of the kind. She inherited Dr. West's library, you know. But, my dear Kroll, you surely do not suppose that we were so imprudent as to let the poor sick creature get wind of any such ideas? I can solemnly swear that we were in no way to blame. It was the overwrought nerves of her own brain that were responsible for these frantic aberrations.
Kroll. There is one thing, at any rate, that I can tell you now, and that is that your poor tortured and overwrought Beata put an end to her own life in order that yours might be happy—and that you might be free to live as you pleased.
Rosmer (starting half up from his chair). What do you mean by that?
Kroll. You must listen to me quietly, Rosmer—because now I can speak of it. During the last year of her life she came twice to see me, to tell me what she suffered from her fears and her despair.
Rosmer. On that point?
Kroll. No. The first time she came she declared that you were on the high road to apostasy—that you were going to desert the faith that your father had taught you.
Rosmer (eagerly). What you say is impossible, Kroll!—absolutely impossible! You must be wrong about that.
Rosmer. Because as long as Beata lived I was still doubting and fighting with myself. And I fought out that fight alone and in the completest secrecy. I do not imagine that even Rebecca—
Rosmer. Oh, well—Miss West. I call her Rebecca for the sake of convenience.
Kroll. So I have observed.
Rosmer. That is why it is so incomprehensible to me that Beata should have had any suspicion of it. Why did she never speak to me about it?—for she never did, by a single word.
Kroll. Poor soul—she begged and implored me to speak to you.
Rosmer. Then why did you never do so?
Kroll. Do you think I had a moment's doubt, at that time, that her mind was unhinged? Such an accusation as that, against a man like you! Well, she came to see me again, about a month later. She seemed calmer then; but, as she was going away, she said: "They may expect to see the White Horse soon at Rosmersholm."
Rosmer. Yes, I know—the White Horse. She often used to talk about that.
Kroll. And then, when I tried to distract her from such unhappy thoughts, she only answered: "I have not much time left; for John must marry Rebecca immediately now."
Rosmer (almost speechless). What are you saying! I marry—!
Kroll. That was on a Thursday afternoon. On the Saturday evening she threw herself from the footbridge into the millrace.
Rosmer. And you never warned us!
Kroll. Well, you know yourself how constantly she used to say that she was sure she would die before long.
Rosmer. Yes, I know. But, all the same, you ought to have warned us!
Kroll. I did think of doing so. But then it was too late.
Rosmer. But since then, why have you not—? Why have you kept all this to yourself?
Kroll. What good would it have done for me to come here and add to your pain and distress? Of course I thought the whole thing was merely wild, empty fancy—until yesterday evening.
Rosmer. Then you do not think so any longer?
Kroll. Did not Beata see clearly enough, when she saw that you were going to fall away from your childhood's faith?
Rosmer (staring in front of him). Yes, I cannot understand that. It is the most incomprehensible thing in the world to me.
Kroll. Incomprehensible or not, the thing is true. And now I ask you, Rosmer, how much truth is there in her other accusation?—the last one, I mean.
Rosmer. Accusation? Was that an accusation, then?
Kroll. Perhaps you did not notice how it was worded. She said she meant to stand out of the way. Why? Well?
Rosmer. In order that I might marry Rebecca, apparently.
Kroll. That was not quite how it was worded. Beata expressed herself differently. She said "I have not much time left; for John must marry Rebecca IMMEDIATELY now."
Rosmer (looks at him for a moment; then gets up). Now I understand you, Kroll.
Kroll. And if you do? What answer have you to make?
Rosmer (in an even voice, controlling himself). To such an unheard-of—? The only fitting answer would be to point to the door.
Kroll (getting up). Very good.
Rosmer (standing face to face with him). Listen to me. For considerably more than a year to be precise, since Beata's death—Rebecca West and I have lived here alone at Rosmersholm. All that time you have known of the charge Beata made against us; but I have never for one moment seen you appear the least scandalised at our living together here.
Kroll. I never knew, till yesterday evening, that it was a case of an apostate man and an "emancipated" woman living together.
Rosmer. Ah! So then you do not believe in any purity of life among apostates or emancipated folk? You do not believe that they may have the instinct of morality ingrained in their natures?
Kroll. I have no particular confidence in the kind of morality that is not rooted in the Church's faith.
Rosmer. And you mean that to apply to Rebecca and myself?—to my relations with Rebecca?
Kroll. I cannot make any departure, in favour of you two, from my opinion that there is certainly no very wide gulf between free thinking and—ahem!
Rosmer. And what?
Kroll. And free love, since you force me to say it.
Rosmer (gently). And you are not ashamed to say that to me!—you, who have known me ever since I was a boy.
Kroll. It is just for that reason. I know how easily you allow yourself to be influenced by those you associate with. And as for your Rebecca—well, your Miss West, then—to tell the truth, we know very little about her. To cut the matter short, Rosmer—I am not going to give you up. And you, on your part, ought to try and save yourself in time.
Rosmer. Save myself? How—? (MRS. HELSETH looks in through the door on the left.) What do you want?
Mrs. Helseth. I wanted to ask Miss West to come down, sir.
Rosmer. Miss West is not up here.
Mrs. Helseth. Indeed, sir? (Looks round the room.) That is very strange. (Goes out.)
Rosmer. You were saying—?
Kroll. Listen to me. As to what may have gone on here in secret while Beata was alive, and as to what may be still going on here, I have no wish to inquire more closely. You were, of course, extremely unhappy in your marriage—and to some extent that may be urged in your excuse—
Rosmer. Oh, how little you really know me!
Kroll. Do not interrupt me. What I want to say is this. If you definitely must continue living with Miss West, it is absolutely necessary that you should conceal the revolution of opinion—I mean the distressing apostasy—that she has beguiled you into. Let me speak! Let me speak! I say that, if you are determined to go on with this folly, for heaven's sake hold any variety of ideas or opinions or beliefs you like—but keep your opinions to yourself. It is a purely personal matter, and there is not the slightest necessity to go proclaiming it all over the countryside.
Rosmer. It is a necessity for me to abandon a false and equivocal position.
Kroll. But you have a duty towards the traditions of your family, Rosmer! Remember that! From time immemorial Rosmersholm has been a stronghold of discipline and order, of respect and esteem for all that the best people in our community have upheld and sanctioned. The whole neighbourhood has taken its tone from Rosmersholm. If the report gets about that you yourself have broken with what I may call the Rosmer family tradition, it will evoke an irreparable state of unrest.
Rosmer. My dear Kroll, I cannot see the matter in that light. It seems to me that it is my imperative duty to bring a little light and happiness into the place where the race of Rosmers has spread darkness and oppression for all these long years.
Kroll (looking severely at him). Yes, that would be a worthy action for the man with whom the race will disappear. Let such things alone, my friend. It is no suitable task for you. You were meant to lead the peaceful life of a student.
Rosmer. Yes, that may be so. But nevertheless I want to try and play my humble part in the struggles of life.
Kroll. The struggles of life! Do you know what that will mean for you? It will mean war to the death with all your friends.
Rosmer (quietly). I do not imagine they are all such fanatics as you.
Kroll. You are a simple-minded creature, Rosmer—an inexperienced creature. You have no suspicion of the violence of the storm that will burst upon you. (MRS. HELSETH slightly opens the door on the left.)
Mrs. Helseth. Miss West wishes me to ask you, sir
Rosmer. What is it?
Mrs. Helseth. There is some one downstairs that wishes to speak to you for a minute, sir.
Rosmer. Is it the gentleman that was here yesterday afternoon, by any chance?
Mrs. Helseth. No, it is that Mr. Mortensgaard.
Kroll. Aha! So matters have got as far as that already, have they!
Rosmer. What does he want with me? Why did you not send him away?
Mrs. Helseth. Miss West told me to ask you if he might come up.
Rosmer. Tell him I am engaged, and—
Kroll (to MRS. HELSETH). No; show him up, please. (MRS. HELSETH goes out. KROLL takes up his hat.) I quit the field—temporarily. But we have not fought the decisive action yet.
Rosmer. As truly as I stand here, Kroll, I have absolutely nothing to do with Mortensgaard.
Kroll. I do not believe you any longer on any point. Under no circumstances shall I have any faith in you after this. It is war to the knife now. We shall try if we cannot make you powerless to do any harm.
Rosmer. Oh, Kroll—how you have sunk! How low you have sunk!
Kroll. I? And a man like you has the face to say so? Remember Beata!
Rosmer. Are you harking back to that again!
Kroll. No. You must solve the riddle of the millrace as your conscience will allow you—if you have any conscience still left. (PETER MORTENSGAARD comes in softly and quietly, by the door on the left. He is a short, slightly built man with sparse reddish hair and beard. KROLL gives him a look of hatred.) The "Searchlight" too, I see. Lighted at Rosmersholm! (Buttons up his coat.) That leaves me no doubt as to the course I should steer.
Mortensgaard (quietly). The "Searchlight" will always be ready burning to light Mr. Kroll home.
Kroll. Yes, you have shown me your goodwill for a long time. To be sure there is a Commandment that forbids us to bear false witness against our neighbour—
Mortensgaard. Mr. Kroll has no need to instruct me in the Commandments.
Kroll. Not even in the sixth?
Mortensgaard. If I needed such instruction, Mr. Rosmer is the most suitable person to give it me.
Kroll (with scarcely concealed scorn). Mr. Rosmer? Oh yes, the Reverend Mr. Rosmer is undoubtedly the most suitable man for that! I hope you will enjoy yourselves, gentlemen. (Goes out and slams the door after him.)
Rosmer (stands looking at the door, and says to himself). Yes, yes—it had to be so. (Turns round.) Will you tell me, Mr. Mortensgaard, what has brought you out here to see me?
Mortensgaard. It was really Miss West I wanted to see. I thought I ought to thank her for the kind letter I received from her yesterday.
Rosmer. I know she has written to you. Have you had a talk with her?
Mortensgaard. Yes, a little. (Smiles slightly.) I hear that there has been a change of views in certain respects at Rosmersholm.
Rosmer. My views have changed to a very considerable extent; I might almost say entirely.
Mortensgaard. That is what Miss West said. And that was why she thought I ought to come up and have a little chat with you about this.
Rosmer. About what, Mr. Mortensgaard?
Mortensgaard. May I have your permission to announce in the "Searchlight" that you have altered your opinions, and are going to devote yourself to the cause of free thought and progress?
Rosmer. By all means. I will go so far as to ask you to make the announcement.
Mortensgaard. Then it shall appear to-morrow. It will be a great and weighty piece of news that the Reverend Mr. Rosmer of Rosmersholm has made up his mind to join the forces of light in that direction too.
Rosmer. I do not quite understand you.
Mortensgaard. What I mean is that it implies the gain of strong moral support for our party every time we win over an earnest, Christian-minded adherent.
Rosmer (with some astonishment). Then you don't know—? Did Miss West not tell you that as well?
Mortensgaard. What, Mr. Rosmer? Miss West was in a considerable hurry. She told me to come up, and that I would hear the rest of it from yourself.
Rosmer. Very well, then; let me tell you that I have cut myself free entirely—on every side. I have now, no connection of any kind with the tenets of the Church. For the future such matters have not the smallest signification for me.
Mortensgaard (looking at him in perplexity). Well, if the moon had fallen down from the sky, I could not be more—! To think that I should ever hear you yourself renounce—!
Rosmer. Yes, I stand now where you have stood for a long time. You can announce that in the "Searchlight" to-morrow too.
Mortensgaard. That, too? No, my dear Mr. Rosmer—you must excuse me—but it is not worth touching on that side of the matter.
Rosmer. Not touch on it?
Mortensgaard. Not at first, I think.
Rosmer. But I do not understand—
Mortensgaard. Well, it is like this, Mr. Rosmer. You are not as familiar with all the circumstances of the case as I am, I expect. But if you, too, have joined the forces of freedom—and if you, as Miss West says you do, mean to take part in the movement—I conclude you do so with the desire to be as useful to the movement as you possibly can, in practice as well as, in theory.
Rosmer. Yes, that is my most sincere wish.
Mortensgaard. Very well. But I must impress on you, Mr. Rosmer, that if you come forward openly with this news about your defection from the Church, you will tie your own hands immediately.
Rosmer. Do you think so?
Mortensgaard. Yes, you may be certain that there is not much that you would be able to do hereabouts. And besides, Mr. Rosmer, we have quite enough freethinkers already—indeed, I was going to say we have too many of those gentry. What the party needs is a Christian element—something that every one must respect. That is what we want badly. And for that reason it is most advisable that you should hold your tongue about any matters that do not concern the public. That is my opinion.
Rosmer. I see. Then you would not risk having anything to do with me if I were to confess my apostasy openly?
Mortensgaard (shaking his head). I should not like to, Mr. Rosmer. Lately I have made it a rule never to support anybody or anything that is opposed to the interests of the Church.
Rosmer. Have you, then, entered the fold of the Church again lately?
Mortensgaard. That is another matter altogether.
Rosmer. Oh, that is how it is. Yes, I understand you now.
Mortensgaard. Mr. Rosmer—you ought to remember that I, of all people, have not absolute freedom of action.
Rosmer. What hampers you?
Mortensgaard. What hampers me is that I am a marked man.
Rosmer. Ah—of course.
Mortensgaard. A marked man, Mr. Rosmer. And you, of all people, ought to remember that—because you were responsible, more than any one else, for my being branded.
Rosmer. If I had stood then where I stand now, I should have handled the affair more judiciously.
Mortensgaard. I think so too. But it is too late now; you have branded me, once for all—branded me for life. I do not suppose you can fully realise what such a thing means. But it is possible that you may soon feel the smart of it yourself now, Mr. Rosmer.
Mortensgaard. Yes. You surely do not suppose that Mr. Kroll and his gang will be inclined to forgive a rupture such as yours? And the "County News" is going to be pretty bloodthirsty, I hear. It may very well come to pass that you will be a marked man, too.
Rosmer. On personal grounds, Mr. Mortensgaard, I feel myself to be invulnerable. My conduct does not offer any point of attack.
Mortensgaard (with a quiet smile). That is saying a good deal, Mr. Rosmer.
Rosmer. Perhaps it is. But I have the right to say as much.
Mortensgaard. Even if you were inclined to overhaul your conduct as thoroughly as you once overhauled mine?
Rosmer. You say that very strangely. What are you driving at?—is it anything definite?
Mortensgaard. Yes, there is one definite thing—no more than a single one. But it might be quite awkward enough if malicious opponents got a hint of it.
Rosmer. Will you have the kindness to tell me what on earth it is?
Mortensgaard. Can you not guess, Mr. Rosmer?
Rosmer. No, not for a moment.
Mortensgaard. All right. I must come out with it, then. I have in my possession a remarkable letter, that was written here at Rosmersholm.
Rosmer. Miss West's letter, you mean? Is it so remarkable?
Mortensgaard. No, that letter is not remarkable. But I received a letter from this house on another occasion.
Rosmer. From Miss West?
Mortensgaard. No, Mr. Rosmer.
Rosmer. Well, from whom, then? From whom?
Mortensgaard. From your late wife.
Rosmer. From my wife? You had a letter from my wife?
Mortensgaard. Yes, I did.
Mortensgaard. It was during the poor lady's last days. It must be about a year and a half ago now. And that is the letter that is so remarkable.
Rosmer. Surely you know that my wife's mind was affected at that time?
Mortensgaard. I know there were a great many people who thought so. But, in my opinion, no one would have imagined anything of the kind from the letter. When I say the letter is a remarkable one, I mean remarkable in quite another way.
Rosmer. And what in the world did my poor wife find to write to you about?
Mortensgaard. I have the letter at home. It begins more or less to the effect that she is living in perpetual terror and dread, because of the fact that there are so many evilly disposed people about her whose only desire is to do you harm and mischief.
Mortensgaard. Yes, so she says. And then follows the most remarkable part of it all. Shall I tell you, Mr. Rosmer?
Rosmer. Of course! Tell me everything, without any reserve.
Mortensgaard. The poor lady begs and entreats me to be magnanimous. She says that she knows it was you, who got me dismissed from my post as schoolmaster, and implores me most earnestly not to revenge myself upon you.
Rosmer. What way did she think you could revenge yourself, then?
Mortensgaard. The letter goes on to say that if I should hear that anything sinful was going on at Rosmersholm, I was not to believe a word of it; that it would be only the work of wicked folk who were spreading the rumours on purpose to do you harm.
Rosmer. Does the letter say that?
Mortensgaard. You may read it at your convenience, Mr. Rosmer.
Rosmer. But I cannot understand—? What did she imagine there could be any wicked rumours about?
Mortensgaard. In the first place, that you had broken away from the faith of your childhood. Mrs. Rosmer denied that absolutely—at that time. And, in the next place—ahem!
Rosmer. In the next place?
Mortensgaard. Well, in the next place she writes—though rather confusedly—that she has no knowledge of any sinful relations existing at Rosmersholm; that she has never been wronged in any way; and that if any rumours of that sort should get about, she entreats me not to allude to them in the "Searchlight".
Rosmer. Does she mention any names?
Rosmer. Who brought you the letter?
Mortensgaard. I promised not to tell that. It was brought to me one evening after dark.
Rosmer. If you had made inquiries at the time, you would have learnt that my poor unhappy wife was not fully accountable for her actions.
Mortensgaard. I did make inquiries, Mr. Rosmer; but I must say I did not get exactly that impression.
Rosmer. Not?—But why have you chosen this moment to enlighten me as to the existence of this old crazy letter?
Mortensgaard. With the object of advising you to be extremely cautious, Mr. Rosmer.
Rosmer. As to my way of life, do you mean?
Mortensgaard. Yes. You must remember that for the future you will not be unassailable.
Rosmer. So you persist in thinking that I have something to conceal here?
Mortensgaard. I do not see any reason why a man of emancipated ideas should refrain from living his life as fully as possible. Only, as I have already said, you should be cautious in future. If rumours should get about of anything that offends people's prejudices, you may be quite certain that the whole cause of freedom of thought will suffer for it. Good-bye, Mr. Rosmer.
Mortensgaard. I shall go straight to the printing-office now and have the great piece of news inserted in the "Searchlight".
Rosmer. Put it all in.
Mortensgaard. I will put in as much as there is any need for the public to know. (Bows, and goes out. ROSMER stands at the door, while MORTENSGAARD goes downstairs. The front door is heard shutting.)
Rosmer (still standing in the doorway, calls softly). Rebecca! Reb—ahem! (Calls loudly.) Mrs. Helseth—is Miss West downstairs?
Mrs. Helseth (from below). No, sir, she is not here.
(The curtain at the end of the room is drawn back, disclosing REBECCA standing in the doorway.)
Rosmer (turning round). What! Were you in there, in my bedroom! My dear, what were you doing there?
Rebecca (going up to him). I have been listening.
Rosmer. Rebecca! Could you do a thing like that?
Rebecca. Indeed I could. It was so horrid the way he said that—about my morning wrapper.
Rosmer. Ah, so you were in there too when Kroll—?
Rebecca. Yes. I wanted to know what was at the bottom of his mind.
Rosmer. You know I would have told you.
Rebecca. I scarcely think you would have told me everything—certainly not in his own words.
Rosmer. Did you hear everything, then?
Rebecca. Most of it, I think. I had to go down for a moment when Mortensgaard came.
Rosmer. And then came up again?
Rebecca. Do not take it ill of me, dear friend.
Rosmer. Do anything that you think right and proper. You have full freedom of action.—But what do you say to it all, Rebecca? Ah, I do not think I have ever stood so much in need of you as I do to-day.
Rebecca. Surely both you and I have been prepared for what would happen some day.
Rosmer. No, no—not for this.
Rebecca. Not for this?
Rosmer. It is true that I used to think that sooner or later our beautiful pure friendship would come to be attacked by calumny and suspicion—not on Kroll's part, for I never would have believed such a thing of him—but on the part of the coarse-minded and ignoble-eyed crowd. Yes, indeed; I had good reason enough for so jealously drawing a veil of concealment over our compact. It was a dangerous secret.
Rebecca. Why should we pay any heed to what all these other people think? You and I know that we have nothing to reproach ourselves with.
Rosmer. I? Nothing to reproach myself with? It is true enough that I thought so until to-day. But now, now, Rebecca—
Rebecca. Yes? Now?
Rosmer. How am I to account to myself for Beata's horrible accusation?
Rebecca (impetuously). Oh, don't talk about Beata! Don't think about Beata any more! She is dead, and you seemed at last to have been able to get away from the thought of her.
Rosmer. Since I have learnt of this, it seems just as if she had come to life again in some uncanny fashion.
Rebecca. Oh no—you must not say that, John! You must not!
Rosmer. I tell you it is so. We must try and get to the bottom of it. How can she have strayed into such a woeful misunderstanding of me?
Rebecca. Surely you too are not beginning to doubt that she was very nearly insane?
Rosmer. Well, I cannot deny it is just of that fact that I feel I cannot be so altogether certain any longer. And besides if it were so—
Rebecca. If it were so? What then?
Rosmer. What I mean is—where are we to look for the actual cause of her sick woman's fancies turning into insanity?
Rebecca. What good can it possibly do for you to indulge in such speculations!
Rosmer. I cannot do otherwise, Rebecca. I cannot let this doubt go on gnawing at my heart, however unwilling I may be to face it.
Rebecca. But it may become a real danger to you to be perpetually dwelling on this one lugubrious topic.
Rosmer (walking about restlessly and absorbed in the idea). I must have betrayed myself in some way or other. She must have noticed how happy I began to feel from the day you came to us.
Rebecca. Yes; but dear, even if that were so—
Rosmer. You may be sure she did not fail to notice that we read the same books; that we sought one another's company, and discussed every new topic together. But I cannot understand it—because I was always so careful to spare her. When I look back, it seems to me that I did everything I could to keep her apart from our lives. Or did I not, Rebecca?
Rebecca. Yes, yes—undoubtedly you did.
Rosmer. And so did you, too. And notwithstanding that—! Oh, it is horrible to think of! To think that here she was—with her affection all distorted by illness—never saying a word—watching us—noticing everything and—and—misconstruing everything.
Rebecca (wringing her hands). Oh, I never ought to have come to Rosmersholm.
Rosmer. Just think what she must have suffered in silence! Think of all the horrible things her poor diseased brain must have led her to believe about us and store up in her mind about us! Did she never speak to you of anything that could give you any kind of clue?
Rebecca (as if startled). To me! Do you suppose I should have remained here a day longer, if she had?
Rosmer. No, no—that is obvious. What a fight she must have fought—and fought alone, Rebecca! In despair, and all alone. And then, in the end, the poignant misery of her victory—which was also her accusation of us—in the mill-race! (Throws himself into a chair, rests his elbows on the table, and hides his face in his hands.)
Rebecca (coming quietly up behind him). Listen to me, John. If it were in your power to call Beata back—to you—to Rosmersholm—would you do it?
Rosmer. How can I tell what I would do or what I would not do! I have no thoughts for anything but the one thing which is irrevocable.
Rebecca. You ought to be beginning to live now, John. You were beginning. You had freed yourself completely on all sides. You were feeling so happy and so light-hearted
Rosmer. I know—that is true enough. And then comes this overwhelming blow.
Rebecca (standing behind him, with her arms on the back of his chair). How beautiful it was when we used to sit there downstairs in the dusk—and helped each other to plan our lives out afresh. You wanted to catch hold of actual life—the actual life of the day, as you used to say. You wanted to pass from house to house like a guest who brought emancipation with him—to win over men's thoughts and wills to your own—to fashion noble men all around you, in a wider and wider circle—noble men!