[A little narrow glen by the side of the fiord, on ALLMERS'S property. On the left, lofty old trees overarch the spot. Down the slope in the background a brook comes leaping, and loses itself among the stones on the margin of the wood. A path winds along by the brook-side. To the right there are only a few single trees, between which the fiord is visible. In front is seen the corner of a boat-shed with a boat drawn up. Under the old trees on the left stands a table with a bench and one or two chairs, all made of thin birch-staves. It is a heavy, damp day, with driving mist wreaths.]
[ALFRED ALLMERS, dressed as before, sits on the bench, leaning his arms on the table. His hat lies before him. He gazes absently and immovably out over the water.]
[Presently ASTA ALLMERS comes down the woodpath. She is carrying an open umbrella.]
ASTA. [Goes quietly and cautiously up to him.] You ought not to sit down here in this gloomy weather, Alfred.
ALLMERS. [Nods slowly without answering.]
ASTA. [Closing her umbrella.] I have been searching for you such a long time.
ALLMERS. [Without expression.] Thank you.
ASTA. [Moves a chair and seats herself close to him.] Have you been sitting here long? All the time?
ALLMERS. [Does not answer at first. Presently he says.] No, I cannot grasp it. It seems so utterly impossible.
ASTA. [Laying her hand compassionately on his arm.] Poor Alfred!
ALLMERS. [Gazing at her.] Is it really true then, Asta? Or have I gone mad? Or am I only dreaming? Oh, if it were only a dream! Just think, if I were to waken now!
ASTA. Oh, if I could only waken you!
ALLMERS. [Looking out over the water.] How pitiless the fiord looks to-day, lying so heavy and drowsy—leaden-grey—with splashes of yellow—and reflecting the rain-clouds.
ASTA. [Imploringly.] Oh, Alfred, don't sit staring out over the fiord!
ALLMERS. [Not heeding her.] Over the surface, yes. But in the depths—there sweeps the rushing undertow—
ASTA. [In terror.] Oh, for God's sake don't think of the depths!
ALLMERS. [Looking gently at her.] I suppose you think he is lying close outside here? But he is not, Asta. You must not think that. You must remember how fiercely the current sweeps gut here straight to the open sea.
ASTA. [Throws herself forward against the table, and, sobbing, buries her face in her hands.] Oh, God! Oh, God!
ALLMERS. [Heavily.] So you see, little Eyolf has passed so far—far away from us now.
ASTA. [Looks imploringly up at him.] Oh, Alfred, don't say such things!
ALLMERS. Why, you can reckon it out for yourself—you that are so clever. In eight-and-twenty hours—nine-and-twenty hours—Let me see—! Let me see—!
ASTA. [Shrieking and stopping her ears.] Alfred!
ALLMERS. [Clenching his hand firmly upon the table.] Can you conceive the meaning of a thing like this?
ASTA. [Looks at him.] Of what?
ALLMERS. Of this that has been done to Rita and me.
ASTA. The meaning of it?
ALLMERS. [Impatiently.] Yes, the meaning, I say. For, after all, there must be a meaning in it. Life, existence—destiny, cannot be so utterly meaningless.
ASTA. Oh, who can say anything with certainty about these things, my dear Alfred?
ALLMERS. [Laughs bitterly.] No, no; I believe you are right there. Perhaps the whole thing goes simply by hap-hazard—taking its own course, like a drifting wreck without a rudder. I daresay that is how it is. At least, it seems very like it.
ASTA. [Thoughtfully.] What if it only seems—?
ALLMERS. [Vehemently.] Ah? Perhaps you can unravel the mystery for me? I certainly cannot. [More gently.] Here is Eyolf, just entering upon conscious life: full of such infinite possibilities—splendid possibilities perhaps: he would have filled my life with pride and gladness. And then a crazy old woman has only to come this way—and show a cur in a bag—
ASTA. But we don't in the least know how it really happened.
ALLMERS. Yes, we do. The boys saw her row out over the fiord. They saw Eyolf standing alone at the very end of the pier. They saw him gazing after her—and then he seemed to turn giddy. [Quivering.] And that was how he fell over—and disappeared.
ASTA. Yes, yes. But all the same—
ALLMERS. She has drawn him down into the depths—that you may be sure of, dear.
ASTA. But, Alfred, why should she?
ALLMERS. Yes, that is just the question! Why should she? There is no retribution behind it all—no atonement, I mean. Eyolf never did her any harm. He never called names after her; he never threw stones at her dog. Why, he had never set eyes either on her or her dog till yesterday. So there is no retribution; the whole thing is utterly groundless and meaningless, Asta.—And yet the order of the world requires it.
ASTA. Have you spoken to Rita of these things?
ALLMERS. [Shakes his head.] I feel as if I can talk better to you about them. [Drawing a deep breath.] And about everything else as well.
[ASTA takes serving-materials and a little paper parcel out of her pocket. ALLMERS sits looking on absently.]
ALLMERS. What leave you got there, Asta?
ASTA. [Taking his hat.] Some black crap.
ALLMERS. Oh, whet is the use of that?
ASTA. Rita asked me to put it on. May I?
ALLMERS. Oh, yes; as far as I'm concerned—[She sews the crape on his hat.]
ALLMERS. [Sitting and looking at her.] Where is Rita?
ASTA. She is walking about the garden a little, I think. Borgheim is with her.
ALLMERS. [Slightly surprised.] Indeed! Is Borgheim out here to-day again?
ASTA. Yes. He came out by the mid-day train.
ALLMERS. I didn't expect that.
ASTA. [Serving.] He was so fond of Eyolf.
ALLMERS. Borgheim is a faithful soul, Asta.
ASTA. [With quiet warmth.] Yes, faithful he is, indeed. That is certain.
ALLMERS. [Fixing his eyes upon her.] You are really fond of him?
ASTA. Yes, I am.
ALLMERS. And yet you cannot make up your mind to—?
ASTA. [Interrupting.] Oh, my dear Alfred, don't talk of that!
ALLMERS. Yes, yes; tell me why you cannot?
ASTA. Oh, no! Please! You really must not ask me. You see, it's so painful for me.—There now! The hat is done.
ALLMERS. Thank you.
ASTA. And now for the left arm.
ALLMERS. Am I to have crape on it too?
ASTA. Yes, that is the custom.
ALLMERS. Well—as you please.
[She moves close up to him and begins to sew.]
ASTA. Keep your arm still—then I won't prick you.
ALLMERS. [With a half-smile.] This is like the old days.
ASTA. Yes, don't you think so?
ALLMERS. When you were a little girl you used to sit just like this, mending my clothes. The first thing you ever sewed for me—that was black crape, too.
ASTA. Was it?
ALLMERS. Round my student's cap—at the time of father's death.
ASTA. Could I sew then? Fancy, I have forgotten it.
ALLMERS. Oh, you were such a little thing then.
ASTA. Yes, I was little then.
ALLMERS. And then, two years afterwards—when we lost your mother—then again you sewed a big crape band on my sleeve.
ASTA. I thought it was the right thing to do.
ALLMERS. [Patting her hand.] Yes, yes, it was the right thing to do, Asta. And then when we were left alone in the world, we two—. Are you done already?
ASTA. Yes. [Putting together her sewing-materials.] It was really a beautiful time for us, Alfred. We two alone.
ALLMERS. Yes, it was—though we had to toil so hard.
ASTA. You toiled.
ALLMERS. [With more life.] Oh, you toiled too, in your way, I can assure you—[smiling]—my dear, faithful—Eyolf.
ASTA. Oh—you mustn't remind me of that stupid nonsense about the name.
ALLMERS. Well, if you had been a boy, you would have been called Eyolf.
ASTA. Yes, if! But when you began to go to college—. [Smiling involuntarily.] I wonder how you could be so childish.
ALLMERS. Was it I that was childish?
ASTA. Yes, indeed, I think it was, as I look back upon it all. You were ashamed of having no brother—only a sister.
ALLMERS. No, no, it was you, dear—you were ashamed.
ASTA. Oh yes, I too, perhaps—a little. And somehow or other I was sorry for you—
ALLMERS. Yes, I believe you were. And then you hunted up some of my old boy's clothes—
ASTA. Your fine Sunday clothes—yes. Do you remember the blue blouse and knickerbockers?
ALLMERS. [His eyes dwelling upon her.] I remember so well how you looked when you used to wear them.
ASTA. Only when we were at home, alone, though.
ALLMERS. And how serious we were, dear, and how mightily pleased with ourselves. I always called you Eyolf.
ASTA. Oh, Alfred, I hope you have never told Rita this?
ALLMERS. Yes, I believe I did once tell her.
ASTA. Oh, Alfred, how could you do that?
ALLMERS. Well, you see—one tells one's wife everything—very nearly.
ASTA. Yes, I suppose one does.
ALLMERS. [As if awakening, clutches at his forehead and starts up.] Oh, how can I sit here and—
ASTA. [Rising, looks sorrowfully at him.] What is the matter?
ALLMERS. He had almost passed away from me. He had passed quite away.
ALLMERS. Here I sat, living in these recollections—and he had no part in them.
ASTA. Yes, Alfred—little Eyolf was behind it all.
ALLMERS. No, he was not. He slipped out of my memory—out of my thoughts. I did not see him for a moment as we sat here talking. I utterly forgot him all that time.
ASTA. But surely you must take some rest in your sorrow.
ALLMERS. No, no, no; that is just what I will not do! I must not—I have no right—and no heart for it, either. [Going in great excitement towards the right.] All my thoughts must be out there, where he lies drifting in the depths!
ASTA. [Following him and holding him back.] Alfred—Alfred! Don't go to the fiord.
ALLMERS. I must go out to him! Let me go, Asta! I will take the boat.
ASTA. [In terror.] Don't go to the fiord, I say!
ALLMERS. [Yielding.] No, no—I will not. Only let me alone.
ASTA. [Leading him back to the table.] You must rest from your thoughts, Alfred. Come here and sit down.
ALLMERS. [Making as if to seat himself on the bench.] Well, well—as you please.
ASTA. No, I won't let you sit there.
ALLMERS. Yes, let me.
ASTA. No, don't. For then you will only sit looking out—[Forces him down upon a chair, with his back to the right.] There now. Now that's right. [Seats herself upon the bench.] And now we can talk a little again.
ALLMERS. [Drawing a deep breath audibly.] It was good to deaden the sorrow and heartache for a moment.
ASTA. You insist do so, Alfred.
ALLMERS. But don't you think it is terribly weak and unfeeling of me—to be able to do so?
ASTA. Oh, no—I am sure it is impossible to keep circling for ever round one fixed thought.
ALLMERS. Yes, for me it is impossible. Before you came to me, here I sat, torturing myself unspeakably with this crushing, gnawing sorrow—
ALLMERS. And would you believe it, Asta—? H'm—
ALLMERS. In the midst of all the agony, I found myself speculating what we should have for dinner to-day.
ASTA. [Soothingly.] Well, well, if only it rests you to—
ALLMERS. Yes, just fancy, dear—it seemed as if it did give me rest. [Holds out, his hand to her across the table.] How good it is, Asta, that I have you with me. I am so glad of that. Glad, glad—even in my sorrow.
ASTA. [Looking earnestly at him.] You ought most of all to be glad that you have Rita.
ALLMERS. Yes, of course I should. But Rita is no kin to me—it isn't like having a sister.
ASTA. [Eagerly.] Do you say that, Alfred?
ALLMERS. Yes, our family is a thing apart. [Half jestingly.] We have always had vowels for our initials. Don't you remember how often we used to speak of that? And all our relations—all equally poor. And we have all the same colour of eyes.
ASTA. Do you think I have—?
ALLMERS. No, you take entirely after your mother. You are not in the least like the rest of us—not even like father. But all the same—
ASTA. All the same—?
ALLMERS. Well, I believe that living together has, as it were, stamped us in each other's image—mentally, I mean.
ASTA. [With warm emotion.] Oh, you must never say that, Alfred. It is only I that have taken my stamp from you; and it is to you that I owe everything—every good thing in the world.
ALLMERS. [Shaking his head.] You owe me nothing, Asta. On the contrary—
ASTA. I owe you everything! You must never doubt that. No sacrifice has been too great for you—
ALLMERS. [Interrupting.] Oh, nonsense—sacrifice! Don't talk of such a thing.—I have only loved you, Asta, ever since you were a little child. [After a short pause.] And then it always seemed to me that I had so much injustice to make up to you for.
ASTA. [Astonished.] Injustice? You?
ALLMERS. Not precisely on my own account. But—
ASTA. [Eagerly.] But—?
ALLMERS. On father's.
ASTA. [Half rising from the bench.] On—father's! [Sitting down again.] What do you mean by that, Alfred?
ALLMERS. Father was never really kind to you.
ASTA. [Vehemently.] Oh, don't say that!
ALLMERS. Yes, it is true. He did not love you—not as he ought to have.
ASTA. [Evasively.] No, perhaps not as he loved you. That was only natural.
ALLMERS. [Continuing.] And he was often hard to your mother, too—at least in the last years.
ASTA. [Softly.] Mother was so much, much younger than he—remember that.
ALLMERS. Do you think they were not quite suited to each other?
ASTA. Perhaps not.
ALLMERS. Yes, but still—. Father, who in other ways was so gentle and warm-hearted—so kindly towards every one—
ASTA. [Quietly.] Mother, too, was not always as she ought to have been.
ALLMERS. Your mother was not!
ASTA. Perhaps not always.
ALLMERS. Towards father, do you mean?
ALLMERS. I never noticed that.
ASTA. [Struggling with her tears, rises.] Oh, my dear Alfred—let them rest—those who are gone. [She goes towards the right.]
ALLMERS. [Rising.] Yes, let them rest. [Wringing his hands.] But those who are gone—it is they that won't let us rest, Asta. Neither day nor night.
ASTA. [Looks warmly at him.] Time will make it all seem easier, Alfred.
ALLMERS. [Looking helplessly at her.] Yes, don't you think it will?—But how I am to get over these terrible first days [Hoarsely.]—that is what I cannot imagine.
ASTA. [Imploringly, laying her hands on his shoulders.] Go up to Rita. Oh, please do—
ALLMERS. [Vehemently, withdrawing from her.] No, no, no—don't talk to me of that! I cannot, I tell you. [More calmly.] Let me remain here, with you.
ASTA. Well, I will not leave you.
ALLMERS. [Seizing her hand and holding it fast.] Thank you for that! [Looks out for a time over the fiord.] Where is my little Eyolf now? [Smiling sadly to her.] Can you tell me that my big, wise Eyolf? [Shaking his head.] No one in all the world can tell me that. I know only this one terrible thing—that he is gone from me.
ASTA. [Looking up to the left, and withdrawing her hand.] Here they are coming.
[MRS. ALLMERS and Engineer BORGHEIM come down by the wood-path, she leading the way. She wears a dark dress and a black veil over her head. He has an umbrella under his arm.]
ALLMERS. [Going to meet her.] How is it with you, Rita?
RITA. [Passing him.] Oh, don't ask.
ALLMERS. Why do you come here?
RITA. Only to look for you. What are you doing?
ALLMERS. Nothing. Asta came down to me.
RITA. Yes, but before Asta came? You have been away from me all the morning.
ALLMERS. I have been sitting here looking out over the water.
RITA. Ugh,—how can you?
ALLMERS. [Impatiently.] I like best to be alone now.
RITA. [Moving restlessly about.] And then to sit still! To stay in one place!
ALLMERS. I have nothing in the world to move for.
RITA. I cannot bear to be anywhere long. Least of all here—with the fiord at my very feet.
ALLMERS. It is just the nearness of the fiord—
RITA. [To BORGHEIM.] Don't you think he should come back with the rest of us?
BORGHEIM. [To ALLMERS.] I believe it would be better for you.
ALLMERS. No, no; let me stay where I am.
RITA. Then I will stay with you, Alfred.
ALLMERS. Very well; do so, then. You remain too, Asta.
ASTA. [Whispers to BORGHEIM.] Let us leave them alone!
BORGHEIM. [With a glance of comprehension.] Miss Allmers, shall we go a little further—along the shore? For the very last time?
ASTA. [Taking her umbrella.] Yes, come. Let us go a little further.
[ASTA and BORGHEIM go out together behind the boat-shed. ALLMERS wanders about for a little. Then he seats himself on a stone under the trees on the left.]
RITA. [Comes up and stands before him, her hands folded and hanging down.] Can you think the thought, Alfred—that we have lost Eyolf?
ALLMERS. [Looking sadly at the ground.] We must accustom ourselves to think it.
RITA. I cannot. I cannot. And then that horrible sight that will haunt me all my life long.
ALLMERS. [Looking up.] What sight? What have you seen?
RITA. I have seen nothing myself. I have only heard it told. Oh—!
ALLMERS. You may as well tell me at once.
RITA. I got Borgheim to go down with me to the pier—
ALLMERS. What did you want there?
RITA. To question the boys as to how it happened.
ALLMERS. But we know that.
RITA. We got to know more.
RITA. It is not true that he disappeared all at once.
ALLMERS. Do they say that now?
RITA. Yes. They say they saw him lying down on the bottom. Deep down in the clear water.
ALLMERS. [Grinding his teeth.] And they didn't save him!
RITA. I suppose they could not.
ALLMERS. They could swim—every one of them. Did they tell you how he was lying whilst they could see him?
RITA. Yes. They said he was lying on his back. And with great, open eyes.
ALLMERS. Open eyes. But quite still?
RITA. Yes, quite still. And then something came and swept him away. They called it the undertow.
ALLMERS. [Nodding slowly.] So that was the last they saw of him.
RITA. [Suffocated with tears.] Yes.
ALLMERS. [In a dull voice.] And never—never will any one see him again.
RITA. [Wailing.] I shall see him day and night, as he lay down there.
ALLMERS. With great, open eyes.
RITA. [Shuddering.] Yes, with great, open eyes. I see them! I see them now!
ALLMERS. [Rises slowly and looks with quiet menace at her.] Were they evil, those eyes, Rita?
RITA. [Turning pale.] Evil—!
ALLMERS. [Going close up to her.] Were they evil eyes that stared up? Up from the depths?
RITA. [Shrinking from him.] Alfred—!
ALLMERS. [Following her.] Answer me! Were they a child's evil eyes?
RITA. [Shrieks.] Alfred! Alfred!
ALLMERS. Now things have come about—just as you wished, Rita.
RITA. I! What did I wish?
ALLMERS. That Eyolf were not here.
RITA. Never for a moment have I wished that! That Eyolf should not stand between us—that was what I wished.
ALLMERS. Well, well—he does not stand between us any more.
RITA. [Softly, gazing straight before her.] Perhaps now more than ever. [With a sudden shudder.] Oh, that horrible sight!
ALLMERS. [Nods.] The child's evil eyes.
RITA. [In dread, recoiling from him.] Let me be, Alfred! I am afraid of you. I have never seen you like this before.
ALLMERS. [Looks harshly and coldly at her.] Sorrow makes us wicked and hateful.
RITA. [Terrified, and yet defiant.] That is what I feel, too.
[ALLMERS goes towards the right and looks out over the fiord. RITA seats herself at the table. A short pause.]
ALLMERS. [Turning his head towards her.] You never really and truly loved him—never!
RITA. [With cold self-control.] Eyolf would never let me take him really and truly to my heart.
ALLMERS. Because you did not want to.
RITA. Oh yes, I did. I did want to. But some one stood in the way—even from the first.
ALLMERS. [Turning right round.] Do you mean that I stood in the way?
RITA. Oh, no—not at first.
ALLMERS. [Coming nearer her.] Who, then?
RITA. His aunt.
RITA. Yes. Asta stood and barred the way for me.
ALLMERS. Can you say that, Rita?
RITA. Yes. Asta—she took him to her heart—from the moment that happened—that miserable fall.
ALLMERS. If she did so, she did it in love.
RITA. [Vehemently.] That is just it! I cannot endure to share anything with any one! Not in love.
ALLMERS. We two should have shared him between us in love.
RITA. [Looking scornfully at him.] We? Oh, the truth is you have never had any real love for him either.
ALLMERS. [Looks at her in astonishment.] I have not—!
RITA. No, you have not. At first you were so utterly taken up by that book of yours—about Responsibility.
ALLMERS. [Forcibly.] Yes, I was. But my very book—I sacrificed for Eyolf's sake.
RITA. Not out of love for him.
ALLMERS. Why then, do you suppose?
RITA. Because you were consumed with mistrust of yourself. Because you had begun to doubt whether you had any great vocation to live for in the world.
ALLMERS. [Observing her closely.] Could you see that in me?
RITA. Oh, yes—little by little. And then you needed something new to fill up your life.—It seems I was not enough for you any longer.
ALLMERS. That is the law of change, Rita.
RITA. And that was why you wanted to make a prodigy of poor little Eyolf.
ALLMERS. That was not what I wanted. I wanted to make a happy human being of him.—That, and nothing more.
RITA. But not out of love for him. Look into yourself! [With a certain shyness of expression.] Search out all that lies under—and behind your action.
ALLMERS. [Avoiding her eyes.] There is something you shrink from saying.
RITA. And you too.
ALLMERS. [Looks thoughtfully at her.] If it is as you say, then we two have never really possessed our own child.
RITA. No. Not in perfect love.
ALLMERS. And yet we are sorrowing so bitterly for him.
RITA. [With sarcasm.] Yes, isn't it curious that we should grieve like this over a little stranger boy?
ALLMERS. [With an outburst.] Oh, don't call him a stranger!
RITA. [Sadly shaking her head.] We never won the boy, Alfred. Not I—nor you either.
ALLMERS. [Wringing his hands.] And now it is too late! Too late!
RITA. And no consolation anywhere—in anything.
ALLMERS. [With sudden passion.] You are the guilty one in this!
RITA. [Rising.] I!
ALLMERS. Yes, you! It was your fault that he became—what he was! It was your fault that he could not save himself when he fell into the water.
RITA. [With a gesture of repulsion.] Alfred—you shall not throw the blame upon me!
ALLMERS. [More and more beside himself.] Yes, yes, I do! It was you that left the helpless child unwatched upon the table.
RITA. He was lying so comfortably among the cushions, and sleeping so soundly. And you had promised to look after him.
ALLMERS. Yes, I had. [Lowering his voice.] But then you came—you, you, you—and lured me to you.
RITA. [Looking defiantly at him.] Oh, better own at once that you forgot the child and everything else.
ALLMERS. [In suppressed desperation.] Yes, that is true. [Lower.] I forgot the child—in your arms!
RITA. [Exasperated.] Alfred! Alfred—this is intolerable of you!
ALLMERS. [In a low voice, clenching his fists before her face.] In that hour you condemned little Eyolf to death.
RITA. [Wildly.] You, too! You, too—if it is as you say!
ALLMERS. Oh yes—call me to account, too—if you will. We have sinned, both of us. And so, after all, there was retribution in Eyolf's death.
ALLMERS. [With more self-control.] Yes. Judgment upon you and me. Now, as we stand here, we have our deserts. While he lived, we let ourselves shrink away from him in secret, abject remorse. We could not bear to see it—the thing he had to drag with him—
RITA. [Whispers.] The crutch.
ALLMERS. Yes, that. And now, what we now call sorrow and heartache—is really the gnawing of conscience, Rita. Nothing else.
RITA. [Gazing helplessly at him.] I feel as if all this must end in despair—in madness for both of us. For we can never—never make it good again.
ALLMERS. [Passing into a calmer mood.] I dreamed about Eyolf last night. I thought I saw him coming up from the pier. He could run like other boys. So nothing had happened to him—neither the one thing nor the other. And the torturing reality was nothing but a dream, I thought. Oh, how I thanked and blessed—[Checking himself.] H'm!
RITA. [Looking at him.] Whom?
ALLMERS. [Evasively.] Whom—?
RITA. Yes; whom did you thank and bless?
ALLMERS. [Putting aside the question.] I was only dreaming, you know—
RITA. One whom you yourself do not believe in?
ALLMERS. That was how I felt, all the same. Of course, I was sleeping—
RITA. [Reproachfully.] You should not have taught me to doubt, Alfred.
ALLMERS. Would it leave been right of me to let you go through life with your mind full of empty fictions?
RITA. It would have been better for me; for then I should have had something to take refuge in. Now I am utterly at sea.
ALLMERS. [Observing her closely.] If you had the choice now—. If you could follow Eyolf to where he is—?
RITA. Yes? What then?
ALLMERS. If you were fully assured that you would find him again—know him—understand him—?
RITA. Yes, yes; what then?
ALLMERS. Would you, of your own free will, take the leap over to him? Of your own free will leave everything behind you? Renounce your whole earthly life? Would you, Rita?
RITA. [Softly.] Now, at once?
ALLMERS. Yes; to-day. This very hour. Answer me—would you?
RITA. [Hesitating.] Oh, I don't know, Alfred. No! I think I should have to stay here with you, a little while.
ALLMERS. For my sake?
RITA. Yes. Only for your sake.
ALLMERS. And afterwards? Would you then—? Answer!
RITA. Oh, what can I answer? I could not go away from you. Never! Never!
ALLMERS. But suppose now I went to Eyolf? And you had the fullest assurance that you would meet both him and me there. Then would you come over to us?
RITA. I should want to—so much! so much! But—
ALLMERS. Well? I I?
RITA. [Moaning softly.] I could not—I feel it. No, no, I never could! Not for all the glory of heaven!
ALLMERS. Nor I.
RITA. No, you feel it so, too, don't you, Alfred! You could not either, could you?
ALLMERS. No. For it is here, in the life of earth, that we living beings are at home.
RITA. Yes, here lies the kind of happiness that we can understand.
ALLMERS. [Darkly.] Oh, happiness—happiness—
RITA. You mean that happiness—that we can never find it again? [Looks inquiringly at him.] But if—? [Vehemently.] No, no; I dare not say it! Nor even think it!
ALLMERS. Yes, say it—say it, Rita.
RITA. [Hesitatingly.] Could we not try to—? Would it not be possible to forget him?
ALLMERS. Forget Eyolf?
RITA. Forget the anguish and remorse, I mean.
ALLMERS. Can you wish it?
RITA. Yes,—if it were possible. [With an outburst.] For this—I cannot bear this for ever! Oh, can we not think of something that will bring its forgetfulness!
ALLMERS. [Shakes his head.] What could that be?
RITA. Could we not see what travelling would do—far away from here?
ALLMERS. From home? When you know you are never really well anywhere but here.
RITA. Well, then, let us have crowds of people about us! Keep open house! Plunge into something that can deaden and dull our thoughts!
ALLMERS. Such it life would be impossible for me.—No,—rather than that, I would try to take up my work again.
RITA. [Bitingly.] Your work—the work that has always stood like a dead wall between us!
ALLMERS. [Slowly, looking fixedly at her.] There must always be a dead wall between us two, from this time forth.
RITA. Why must there—?
ALLMERS. Who knows but that a child's great, open eyes are watching us day and night.
RITA. [Softly, shuddering.] Alfred—how terrible to think of!
ALLMERS. Our love has been like a consuming fire. Now it must be quenched—
RITA. [With a movement towards him.] Quenched!
ALLMERS. [Hardly.] It is quenched—in one of us.
RITA. [As if petrified.] And you dare say that to me!
ALLMERS. [More gently.] It is dead, Rita. But in what I now feel for you—in our common guilt and need of atonement—I seem to foresee a sort of resurrection—
RITA. [Vehemently.] I don't care a bit about any resurrection!
RITA. I am a warm-blooded being! I don't go drowsing about—with fishes' blood in my veins. [Wringing her hands.] And now to be imprisoned for life—in anguish and remorse! Imprisoned with one who is no longer mine, mine, mine!
ALLMERS. It must have ended so, sometime, Rita.
RITA. Must have ended so! The love that in the beginning rushed forth so eagerly to meet with love!
ALLMERS. My love did not rush forth to you in the beginning.
RITA. What did you feel for me, first of all?
RITA. That I can understand. How was it, then, that I won you after all?
ALLMERS. [In a low voice.] You were so entrancingly beautiful, Rita.
RITA. [Looks searchingly at him.] Then that was the only reason? Say it, Alfred! The only reason?
ALLMERS. [Conquering himself.] No, there was another as well.
RITA. [With an outburst.] I can guess what that was! It was "my gold, and my green forests," as you call it. Was it not so, Alfred?
RITA. [Looks at him with deep reproach.] How could you—how could you!
ALLMERS. I had Asta to think of.
RITA. [Angrily.] Yes, Asta! [Bitterly.] Then it was really Asta that brought us two together?
ALLMERS. She knew nothing about it. She has no suspicion of it, even to this day.
RITA. [Rejecting the plea.] It was Asta, nevertheless! [Smiling, with a sidelong glance of scorn. ] Or, no—it was little Eyolf. Little Eyolf, my dear!
RITA. Yes, you used to call her Eyolf, did you not? I seem to remember your telling me so—once, in a moment of confidence. [Coming up to him.] Do you remember it—that entrancingly beautiful hour, Alfred?
ALLMERS. [Recoiling, as if in horror.] I remember nothing! I will not remember!
RITA. [Following him.] It was in that hour—when your other little Eyolf was crippled for life!
ALLMERS. [In a hollow voice, supporting himself against the table.] Retribution!
RITA. [Menacingly.] Yes, retribution!
[ASTA and BORGHEIM return by way of the boat-shed. She is carrying some water-lilies in her hand.]
RITA. [With self-control.] Well, Asta, have you and Mr. Borgheim talked things thoroughly over?
ASTA. Oh, yes—pretty well.
[She puts down her umbrella and lays the flowers upon a chair.]
BORGHEIM. Miss Allmers has been very silent during our walk.
RITA. Indeed, has she? Well, Alfred and I have talked things out thoroughly enough—
ASTA. [Looking eagerly at both of them.] What is this—?
RITA. Enough to last all our lifetime, I say. [Breaking off.] Come now, let us go up to the house, all four of us. We must have company about us in future. It will never do for Alfred and me to be alone.
ALLMERS. Yes, do you go ahead, you two. [Turning.] I must speak a word to you before we go, Asta.
RITA. [Looking at him.] Indeed? Well then, you come with me, Mr. Borgheim.
[RITA and BORGHEIM go up the wood-path.]
ASTA. [Anxiously.] Alfred, what is the matter?
ALLMERS. [Darkly.] Only that I cannot endure to be here any more.
ASTA. Here! With Rita, do you mean?
ALLMERS. Yes. Rita and I cannot go on living together.
ASTA. [Seizes his arm and shakes it.] Oh, Alfred—don't say anything so terrible!
ALLMERS. It is the truth. I am telling you. We are making each other wicked and hateful.
ASTA. [With painful emotion.] I had never—never dreamt of anything like this!
ALLMERS. I did not realise it either, till to-day.
ASTA. And now you want to—! What is it you really want, Alfred?
ALLMERS. I want to get away from everything here—far, far away from it all.
ASTA. And to stand quite alone in the world?
ALLMERS. [Nods.] As I used to, before, yes.
ASTA. But you are not fitted for living alone!
ALLMERS. Oh, yes. I was so in the old days, at any rate.
ASTA. In the old days, yes; for then you had me with you.
ALLMERS. [Trying to take her hand.] Yes. And it is to you, Asta, that I now want to come home again.
ASTA. [Eluding him.] To me! No, no, Alfred! That is quite impossible.
ALLMERS. [Looks sadly at her.] Then Borgheim stands in the way after all?
ASTA. [Earnestly.] No, no; he does not! That is quite a mistake!
ALLMERS. Good. Then I will come to you—my dear, dear sister. I must come to you again—home to you, to be purified and ennobled after my life with—
ASTA. [Shocked.] Alfred,—you are doing Rita a great wrong!
ALLMERS. I have done her a great wrong. But not in this. Oh, think of it, Asta—think of our life together, yours and mine. Was it not like one long holy-day from first to last?
ASTA. Yes, it was, Alfred. But we can never live it over again.
ALLMERS. [Bitterly.] Do you mean that marriage has so irreparably ruined me?
ASTA. [Quietly.] No, that is not what I mean.
ALLMERS. Well, then we two will live our old life over again.
ASTA. [With decision.] We cannot, Alfred.
ALLMERS. Yes, we can. For the love of a brother and sister—
ASTA. [Eagerly.] What of it?
ALLMERS. That is the only relation in life that is not subject to the law of change.
ASTA. [Softly and tremblingly.] But if that relation were not—
ASTA.—not our relation?
ALLMERS. [Stares at her in astonishment.] Not ours? Why, what can you mean by that?
ASTA. It is best I should tell you at once, Alfred.
ALLMERS. Yes, yes; tell me!
ASTA. The letters to mother—. Those in my portfolio—
ASTA. You must read them—when I am gone.
ALLMERS. Why must I?
ASTA. [Struggling with herself.] For then you will see that—
ASTA.—that I have no right to bear your father's name.
ALLMERS. [Staggering backwards.] Asta! What is this you say!
ASTA. Read the letters. Then you will see—and understand. And perhaps have some forgiveness—for mother, too.
ALLMERS. [Clutching at his forehead.] I cannot grasp this—I cannot realise the thought. You, Asta—you are not—
ASTA. You are not my brother, Alfred.
ALLMERS. [Quickly, half defiantly, looking at her.] Well, but what difference does that really make in our relation? Practically none at all.
ASTA. [Shaking her head.] It makes all the difference, Alfred. Our relation is not that of brother and sister.
ALLMERS. No, no. But it is none the less sacred for that—it will always be equally sacred.
ASTA. Do not forget—that it is subject to the law of change, as you said just now.
ALLMERS. [Looks inquiringly at her.] Do you mean that—
ASTA. [Quietly, but with rearm emotion.] Not a word more—my dear, dear Alfred. [Takes up the flowers from the chair.] Do you see these water-lilies?
ALLMERS. [Nodding slowly.] They are the sort that shoot up—from the very depth.
ASTA. I pulled them in the tarn—where it flows out into the fiord. [Holds them out to him.] Will you take them, Alfred?
ALLMERS. [Taking them.] Thanks.
ASTA. [With tears in her eyes.] They are a last greeting to you, from—from little Eyolf.
ALLMERS. [Looking at her.] From Eyolf out yonder? Or from you?
ASTA. [Softly.] From both of us. [Taking up her umbrella.] Now come with me to Rita.
[She goes up the wood-path.]
ALLMERS. [Takes up his hat from the table, and whispers sadly.] Asta. Eyolf. Little Eyolf—!
[He follows her up the path.]