Wangel. And a new mother for the children, Ellida.
Ellida. That too, perhaps, by the way; although you didn't in the
least know if I were fit for the position. Why, you had only seen
me and spoken to me a few times. Then you wanted me, and so--
Wangel. Yes, you may call it as you will.
Ellida. And I, on my side--why, I was so helpless and bewildered,
and so absolutely alone. Oh! it was so natural I should accept
the bargain, when you came and proposed to provide for me all my
Wangel. Assuredly it did not seem to me a providing for you, dear
Ellida. I asked you honestly if you would share with me and the
children the little I could call my own.
Ellida. Yes, you did; but all the same, I should never have
accepted! Never have accepted that at any price! Not sold myself!
Better the meanest work--better the poorest life--after one's own
Wangel (rising). Then have the five--six years that we have lived
together been so utterly worthless to you?
Ellida. Oh! Don't think that, Wangel. I have been as well cared
for here as human being could desire. But I did not enter your
house freely. That is the thing.
Wangel (looking at her). Not freely!
Ellida. No. It was not freely that I went with you.
Wangel (in subdued tone). Ah! I remember your words of yesterday.
Ellida. It all lies in those words. They have enlightened me; and
so I see it all now.
Wangel. What do you see?
Ellida. I see that the life we two live together--is really no
Wangel (bitterly). You have spoken truly there. The life we now
live is not a marriage.
Ellida. Nor was it formerly. Never--not from the very first
(looks straight in front of her). The first--that might have been
a complete and real marriage.
Wangel. The first--what do you mean?
Ellida. Mine--with him.
Wangel (looks at her in astonishment). I do not in the least
Ellida. Ah! dear Wangel, let us not lie to one another, nor to
Wangel. Well--what more?
Ellida. You see--we can never get away from that one thing--that
a freely given promise is fully as binding as a marriage.
Wangel. But what on earth--
Ellida (rising impetuously). Set me free, Wangel!
Wangel. Ellida! Ellida!
Ellida. Yes, yes! Oh! grant me that! Believe me, it will come to
that all the same--after the way we two came together.
Wangel (conquering his pain). It has come to this, then?
Ellida. It has come to this. It could not be otherwise.
Wangel (looking gloomily at her). So I have not won you by our
living together. Never, never possessed you quite.
Ellida. Ah! Wangel--if only I could love you, how gladly I would-
-as dearly as you deserve. But I feel it so well-- that will never
Wangel. Divorce, then? It is a divorce, a complete, legal divorce
that you want?
Ellida. Dear, you understand me so little! I care nothing for
such formalities. Such outer things matter nothing, I think. What
I want is that we should, of our own free will, release each other.
Wangel (bitterly, nods slowly). To cry off the bargain again--yes.
Ellida (quickly). Exactly. To cry off the bargain.
Wangel. And then, Ellida? Afterwards? Have you reflected what life
would be to both of us? What life would be to both you and me?
Ellida. No matter. Things must turn out afterwards as they may.
What I beg and implore of you, Wangel, is the most important.
Only set me free! Give me back my complete freedom!
Wangel. Ellida, it is a fearful thing you ask of me. At least
give me time to collect myself before I come to a decision. Let
us talk it over more carefully. And you yourself--take time to
consider what you are doing.
Ellida. But we have no time to lose with such matters. I must
have my freedom again today.
Wangel. Why today?
Ellida. Because he is coming tonight.
Wangel (starts). Coming! He! What has this stranger to do with it?
Ellida. I want to face him in perfect freedom.
Wangel. And what--what else do you intend to do?
Ellida. I will not hide behind the fact that I am the wife of
another man; nor make the excuse that I have no choice, for then
it would be no decision.
Wangel, You speak of a choice. Choice, Ellida! A choice in such a
Ellida. Yes, I must be free to choose--to choose for either side.
I must be able to let him go away--alone, or to go with him.