Bolette (staring at him in quiet amazement). Yes; I almost think--
(ARNHOLM, in elegant morning dress, with gold spectacles, and a
thin cane, comes along the road. He looks overworked. He looks in
at the garden, bows in friendly fashion, and enters by the garden
Wangel (going to meet him). Welcome, dear Arnholm! Heartily
welcome back to your old quarters again!
Arnholm. Thanks, thanks, Doctor Wangel. A thousand thanks. (They
shake hands and walk up the garden together.) And there are the
children! (Holds out his hands and looks at them.) I should
hardly have known these two again.
Wangel. No, I believe you.
Arnholm. And yet--perhaps Bolette--yes, I should have known
Wangel. Hardly, I think. Why, it is eight--nine years since you
saw her. Ah, yes! Many a thing has changed here meanwhile.
Arnholm (looking round). I really don't see it; except that the
trees have grown remarkably, and that you've set up that arbour.
Wangel. Oh! no--outwardly.
Arnholm (smiling). And then, of course, you've two grown-up
daughters here now.
Wangel. Grown up! Well, there's only one grown up.
Hilde (aside). Just listen to father!
Wangel. But now let's sit down up there on the verandah. It's
cooler than here. Won't you?
Arnholm. Thanks, thanks, dear doctor.
(They go up. WANGEL motions him to the rocking-chair.)
Wangel. That's right! Now make yourself comfortable, and rest,
for you seem rather tired after your journey.
Arnholm. Oh, that's nothing. Here, amid these surroundings-
Bolette (to WANGEL). Hadn't we better have some soda and syrup in
the sitting-room? It's sure to be too hot out here soon.
Wangel. Yes, girls. Let's have some soda and syrup, and perhaps a
drop of Cognac, too.
Bolette. Cognac, too!
Wangel. Just a little, in case anyone should like some.
Bolette. All right. Hilde, go down to the office with the bag.
(BOLETTE goes into the room, and closes the door after her.
HILDE takes the bag, and goes through the garden to the back of
Arnholm (who has followed BOLETTE with his eyes). What a
splendid--. They are both splendid girls, who've grown up here
Wangel (sitting down). Yes; you think so, too?
Arnholm. Why, it's simply amazing, how Bolette!--and Hilde, too!
But now, you yourself, dear doctor. Do you think of staying here
all your life?
Wangel. Yes; I suppose so. Why, I've been born and bred here, so
to say. I lived here so very happily with--her who left us so
early--she whom you knew when you were here before, Arnholm.
Arnholm. Yes, yes!
Wangel. And now I live here so happily with her who has taken her
place. Ah! On the whole, fate has been very good to me.
Arnholm. You have no children by your second marriage? Wangel. We
had a little boy, two--two and a half years ago. But he didn't
stay long. He died when he was four--five months old.
Arnholm. Isn't your wife at home today?
Wangel. Oh, yes. She's sure to be here soon. She's down there
bathing. She does so every blessed day no matter what the
Arnholm. Is she ill, then?
Wangel. Not exactly ill, although she has been extremely nervous
for the last few years--that is to say, she is now and then. I
can't make out what really ails her. But to plunge into the sea
is her joy and delight.
Arnholm. Yes; I remember that of old.
Wangel (with an almost imperceptible smile). To be sure! You knew
Ellida when you were teacher out there at Skjoldviken.
Arnholm. Certainly. She used often to visit at the Parsonage. But
I mostly met her when I went to the lighthouse to see her father.
Wangel. Those times out there, you may believe me, have set deep
marks upon her. The people in the town here can't understand her
at all. They call her the "Lady from the Sea."
Arnholm. Do they?
Wangel. Yes. And so--now, you see, speak to her of the old days,
dear Arnholm, it will do her good.
Arnholm (looks at him in doubt). Have you any reason for thinking
Wangel. Assuredly I have.
Ellida (her voice is heard outside the garden). Are you there,
Wangel (rising). Yes, dear.
(Mrs. ELLIDA WANGEL, in a large, light wrap, and with wet hair
hanging loose over her shoulders, comes from between the trees of
the arbour. ARNHOLM rises.)
Wangel (smiling, and holding out his hands to her). Ah! So now we
have our Mermaid!
Ellida (goes quickly up the verandah, and seizes his hands).
Thank God that I see you again! When did you come?
Wangel. Just now; a little while since. (Pointing to ARNHOLM.)
But won't you greet an old acquaintance?
Ellida (holding out her hand to ARNHOLM). So here you are!
Welcome! And forgive me for not being at home--
Arnholm. Don't mention it--don't stand on any ceremony.
Wangel. Was the water nice and fresh today?
Ellida. Fresh! Oh! The water here never is fresh. It is so tepid
and lifeless. Ugh! The water in the fjord here is sick.
Ellida. Yes, sick. And I believe it makes one sick, too.
Wangel (smiling). You're giving our bathing resort a good name!
Arnholm. I should rather believe, Mrs. Wangel, that you have a
peculiar relation to the sea, and to all that belongs to it.
Ellida. Perhaps; I almost think so myself. But do you see how
festively the girls have arranged everything in your honour?
Wangel (embarrassed). Hm! (Looks at his watch.) Well, I suppose I
must be quick and--
Arnholm. Is it really for me?
Ellida. Yes. You may be sure we don't decorate like this every
day. Ugh! How suffocatingly hot it is under this roof. (Goes down
into the garden.) Come over here. Here at least there is a little
air. (Sits down in arbour.)
Arnholm (going thither). I think the air quite fresh here.
Ellida. Yes, you--who are used to the stifling air of the town!
It's terrible there in the summer, I hear.
Wangel (who has also gone into the garden). Hm, dear Ellida, you
must just entertain our friend alone for a little while.