Wangel. No, naturally. For I was on an altogether false track. I
thought Ellida's heart had at one time gone out to you, and that
she still secretly cared for you a little--that perhaps it would
do her good to see you again, and talk of her home and the old
Arnholm. So it was your wife you meant when you wrote that she
expected me, and--and perhaps longed for me.
Wangel. Yes, who else?
Arnholm (hurriedly). No, no. You're right. But I didn't
Wangel. Naturally, as I said, for I was on an absolutely wrong
Arnholm. And you call yourself selfish!
Wangel. Ah! but I had such a great sin to atone for. I felt I
dared not neglect any means that might give the slightest relief
to her mind.
Arnholm. How do you really explain the power this stranger
exercises over her?
Wangel. Hm--dear friend--there may be sides to the matter that
cannot be explained.
Arnholm. Do you mean anything inexplicable in itself--absolutely
Wangel. In any case not explicable as far as we know.
Arnholm. Do you believe there is something in it, then?
Wangel. I neither believe nor deny; I simply don't know. That's
why I leave it alone.
Arnholm. Yes. But just one thing: her extraordinary, weird
assertion about the child's eyes--
Wangel (eagerly). I don't believe a word about the eyes. I will
not believe such a thing. It must be purely fancy on her part,
Arnholm. Did you notice the man's eyes when you saw him
Wangel. Of course I did.
Arnholm. And you saw no sort of resemblance?
Wangel (evasively). Hm--good heavens! What shall I say? It wasn't
quite light when I saw him; and, besides, Ellida had been saying
so much about this resemblance, I really don't know if I was
capable of observing quite impartially.
Arnholm. Well, well, may be. But that other matter? All this
terror and unrest coming upon her at the very time, as it seems,
this strange man was on his way home.
Wangel. That--oh! that's something she must have persuaded and
dreamed herself into since it happened. She was not seized with
this so suddenly--all at once--as she now maintains. But since
she heard from young Lyngstrand that Johnston--or Friman, or
whatever his name is--was on his way hither, three years ago, in
the month of March, she now evidently believes her unrest of mind
came upon her at that very time.
Arnholm. It was not so, then?
Wangel. By no means. There were signs and symptoms of it before
this time, though it did happen, by chance, that in that month of
March, three years ago, she had a rather severe attack.
Arnholm. After all, then--?
Wangel. Yes, but that is easily accounted for by the
circumstances--the condition she happened to be in at the time.
Arnholm. So, symptom for symptom, then.
Wangel (wringing his hands). And not to be able to help her! Not
to know how to counsel her! To see no way!
Arnholm. Now if you could make up your mind to leave this place,
to go somewhere else, so that she could live amid surroundings
that would seem more homelike to her?
Wangel. Ah, dear friend! Do you think I haven't offered her that,
too? I suggested moving out to Skjoldviken, but she will not.
Arnholm. Not that either?
Wangel. No, for she doesn't think it would be any good; and
perhaps she's right.
Arnholm. Hm. Do you say that?
Wangel. Moreover, when I think it all over carefully, I really
don't know how I could manage it. I don't think I should be
justified, for the sake of the girls, in going away to such a
desolate place. After all, they must live where there is at least
a prospect of their being provided for someday.
Arnholm. Provided for! Are you thinking about that already?
Wangel. Heaven knows, I must think of that too! But then, on the
other hand, again, my poor sick Ellida! Oh, dear Arnholm! in many
respects I seem to be standing between fire and water!
Arnholm. Perhaps you've no need to worry on Bolette's account.
(Breaking off.) I should like to know where she--where they have
gone. (Goes up to the open door and looks out.)
Wangel. Oh, I would so gladly make any sacrifice for all three of
them, if only I knew what!
(ELLIDA enters from the door on the left.)
Ellida (quickly to WANGEL). Be sure you don't go out this
Wangel. No, no! of course not. I will stay at home with you.
(Pointing to ARNHOLM, who is coming towards them.) But won't you
speak to our friend?
Ellida (turning). Oh, are you here, Mr. Arnholm? (Holding out her
hand to him.) Good-morning.
Arnholm. Good-morning, Mrs. Wangel. So you've not been bathing as
Ellida. No, no, no! That is out of the question today. But won't
you sit down a moment?
Arnholm. No, thanks, not now. (Looks at WANGEL.) I promised the
girls to go down to them in the garden.
Ellida. Goodness knows if you'll find them there. I never know
where they may be rambling.
Wangel. They're sure to be down by the pond.
Arnholm. Oh! I shall find them right enough. (Nods, and goes out
across the verandah into the garden.)
Ellida. What time is it, Wangel?
Wangel (looking at his watch). A little past eleven.