Ellida. Are you busy?
Wangel. Yes, I must go down to the office. And then I must
change. But I won't be long.
Arnholm (sitting down in arbour). Now, don't hurry, dear doctor.
Your wife and I will manage to kill the time.
Wangel (nodding). Oh, yes! I'm sure you will. Well, goodbye for
the present. (He goes out through the garden.)
Ellida (after a short pause). Don't you think it's pleasant
sitting out here?
Arnholm. I think I've a pleasant seat now.
Ellida. They call this my arbour, because I had it fitted up, or
rather Wangel did, for me.
Arnholm. And you usually sit here?
Ellida. Yes, I pass most of the day here.
Arnholm. With the girls, I suppose?
Ellida. No, the girls--usually sit on the verandah.
Arnholm. And Wangel himself?
Ellida. Oh! Wangel goes to and fro--now he comes to me, and then
he goes to his children.
Arnholm. And is it you who wish this?
Ellida. I think all parties feel most comfortable in this way.
You know we can talk across to one another--if we happen to find
there is anything to say.
Arnholm (after thinking awhile). When I last crossed your path--
out at Skjoldviken, I mean--Hm! That is long ago now.
Ellida. It's quite ten years since you were there with us.
Arnholm. Yes, about that. But when I think of you out there in
the lighthouse! The heathen, as the old clergyman called you,
because your father had named you, as he said, after an old ship,
and hadn't given you a name fit for a Christian.
Ellida. Well, what then?
Arnholm. The last thing I should then have believed was that I
should see you again down here as the wife of Wangel.
Ellida. No; at that time Wangel wasn't--at that time the girls'
first mother was still living. Their real mother, so-
Arnholm. Of course, of course! But even if that had not been-
even if he had been free--still, I could never have believed this
would come about.
Ellida. Nor I. Never on earth--then.
Arnholm. Wangel is such a good fellow. So honourable. So
thoroughly good and kind to all men.
Ellida (warmly and heartily). Yes, he is indeed.
Arnholm. But he must be so absolutely different from you, I
Ellida. You are right there. So he is.
Arnholm. Well, but how did it happen? How did it come about?
Ellida. Ah! dear Arnholm, you mustn't ask me about that. I
couldn't explain it to you, and even if I could, you would never
be able to understand, in the least.
Arnholm. Hm! (In lower tone.) Have you ever confided anything
about me to your husband? Of course, I meant about the useless
step--I allowed myself to be moved to.
Ellida. No. You may be sure of that. I've not said a word to him
about--about what you speak of.
Arnholm. I am glad. I felt rather awkward at the thought that--
Ellida. There was no need. I have only told him what is true--
that I liked you very much, and that you were the truest and best
friend I had out there.
Arnholm. Thanks for that. But tell me--why did you never write to
me after I had gone away?
Ellida. I thought that perhaps it would pain you to hear from one
who--who could not respond as you desired. It seemed like re-
opening a painful subject.
Arnholm. Hm. Yes, yes, perhaps you were right.
Ellida. But why didn't you write?
Arnholm (looks at her and smiles, half reproachfully). I make the
first advance? Perhaps expose myself to the suspicion of wanting
to begin all over again? After such a repulse as I had had?
Ellida. Oh no! I understand very well. Have you never since
thought of forming any other tie?
Arnholm. Never! I have been faithful to my first memories.
Ellida (half jestingly). Nonsense! Let the sad old memories
alone. You'd better think of becoming a happy husband, I should
Arnholm. I should have to be quick about it, then, Mrs. Wangel.
Remember, I'm already--I'm ashamed to say--I'm past thirty-seven.
Ellida. Well, all the more reason for being quick. (She is silent
for a moment, and then says, earnestly, in a low voice.) But
listen, dear Arnholm; now I am going to tell you something that I
could not have told you then, to save my life.
Arnholm. What is it?
Ellida. When you took the--the useless step you were just
speaking of--I could not answer you otherwise than I did.
Arnholm. I know that you had nothing but friendship to give me; I
know that well enough.
Ellida. But you did not know that all my mind and soul were then
Arnholm. At that time!
Arnholm. But it is impossible. You are mistaken about the time. I
hardly think you knew Wangel then.
Ellida. It is not Wangel of whom I speak.
Arnholm. Not Wangel? But at that time, out there at Skjoldviken--
I can't remember a single person whom I can imagine the
possibility of your caring for.
Ellida. No, no, I quite believe that; for it was all such
bewildering madness--all of it.
Arnholm. But tell me more of this.
Ellida. Oh! it's enough if you know I was bound then; and you
know it now.