An open space outside the main building, which lies to the right. A projecting corner of it is visible, with a door approached by a flight of low stone steps. The background consists of steep fir-clad slopes, quite close at hand. On the left are small scattered trees, forming the margin of a wood. The snowstorm has ceased; but the newly fallen snow lies deep around. The fir-branches droop under heavy loads of snow. The night is dark, with drifting clouds. Now and then the moon gleams out faintly. Only a dim light is reflected from the snow.
BORKMAN, MRS. BORKMAN and ELLA RENTHEIM are standing upon the steps, BORKMAN leaning wearily against the wall of the house. He has an old-fashioned cape thrown over his shoulders, holds a soft grey felt hat in one hand and a thick knotted stick in the other. ELLA RENTHEIM carries her cloak over her arm. MRS. BORKMAN's great shawl has slipped down over her shoulders, so that her hair is uncovered.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Barring the way for MRS. BORKMAN.) Don't go after him, Gunhild!
MRS. BORKMAN. (In fear and agitation.) Let me go! He must not leave me!
ELLA RENTHEIM. It's no use! You'd never catch up to him.
MRS. BORKMAN. I don't care--let me go, Ella! I'm going to run down the road and scream after him. He has to hear his mother's screams!
ELLA RENTHEIM. He won't hear you. He's already in the sleigh.
MRS. BORKMAN. No, no; he can't be in the sleigh yet!
ELLA RENTHEIM. He's been in the sleigh for some time, believe me.
MRS. BORKMAN. (In despair.) If he is in the sleigh, then he's there with her, with her!
BORKMAN. (Laughing gloomily.) Then he probably won't hear his mother's screams.
MRS. BORKMAN. No, he won't hear them. (Listening.) Shh! What's that?
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Also listening.) It sounds like sleigh-bells.
MRS. BORKMAN. (With a suppressed scream.) It's her sleigh!
ELLA RENTHEIM. It might be someone elses.
MRS. BORKMAN. No, no, it's Mrs. Wilton's covered sleigh! I know those silver bells! Listen! They're driving right past--at the foot of the hill!
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Quickly.) Gunhild, if you want call to him, do it now! He might still----! (The tinkle of the bells sounds close at hand, in the wood.) Hurry, Gunhild! They're right below us!
MRS. BORKMAN. (Stands for a moment undecided.) No. I will not call out to him. Let Erhart Borkman go from me--far, far away--to what he calls life and happiness. (The sound dies away in the distance.)
ELLA RENTHEIM. (After a moment.) You can't hear the bells anymore.
MRS. BORKMAN. They sounded like funeral bells.
BORKMAN. (With a dry suppressed laugh.) Oho--at least they're not ringing for me yet!
MRS. BORKMAN. No, they're for me--and for him who left me.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Nodding thoughtfully.) Who knows, they could be ringing in life and happiness for him after all, Gunhild.
MRS. BORKMAN. (With sudden animation, looking hard at her.) Life and happiness...!
ELLA RENTHEIM. For a little while, at least.
MRS. BORKMAN. Could you endure letting him know life and happiness, with her?
ELLA RENTHEIM. (With warmth and feeling.) Yes, I could, with all my heart and soul!
MRS. BORKMAN. (Coldly.) Then the power of love in you must be richer than mine.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Looking far away.) Perhaps it's the lack of love that keeps it alive.
MRS. BORKMAN. (Fixing her eyes on her.) If that's so, then I'll soon be as rich as you, Ella. (She turns and goes into the house.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Stands for a time looking with a troubled expression at BORKMAN; then lays her hand cautiously on his shoulder.) John--you should come in, too.
BORKMAN. (As if wakening.) Me?
ELLA RENTHEIM. Yes, you're showing the cold, John. Come now--come in with me--inside where it's warm.
BORKMAN. (His anger flaming forth.) I will never set foot in that house again!
ELLA RENTHEIM. Where will you go? So late, and in the dark, John?
BORKMAN. (Putting on his hat.) First of all, I'll go out and see to all my buried treasures.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Looking anxiously at him.) I don't understand.
BORKMAN. (With laughter, interrupted by coughing.) Oh, not any hidden booty; don't worry about that, Ella. (Stopping, and pointing outwards.) Do you see that man there? Who is it?
(VILHELM FOLDAL, in an old cape, covered with snow, with his hat-brim turned down, and a large umbrella in his hand, advances towards the corner of the house, laboriously stumbling through the snow. He is noticeably lame in his left foot.
BORKMAN. Vilhelm! What are doing back here?
FOLDAL. (Looking up.) Good heavens, are you out on the steps, John Gabriel? (Bowing.) And Mrs. Borkman, too, I see.
BORKMAN. (Shortly.) This is not Mrs. Borkman.
FOLDAL. Excuse me. You see, I've lost my glasses in the snow. But how is it that you--? You never go out of doors.
BORKMAN. (Carelessly and gaily.) It is high time I took to the open air again, don't you think? Nearly three years in detention--five in the cell--eight years up there in the salon ---
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Distressed.) John Gabriel, please----
FOLDAL. Ah yes, yes, yes!
BORKMAN. But what do you want with me.
FOLDAL. (Still standing at the foot of the steps.) I wanted to come up to you, John Gabriel. I felt I must see you, in the salon. Dear me, that salon----!
BORKMAN. You wanted to see me, after I had showed you the door?
FOLDAL. Oh, I couldn't let that stand in the way.
BORKMAN. What have you done to your foot? You're limping?
FOLDAL. Yes, I've been run over.
ELLA RENTHEIM. Run over!
FOLDAL. Yes, by a covered sleigh.
FOLDAL. With two horses. They came tearing down the hill. I couldn't get out of the way quick enough; and so----
ELLA RENTHEIM. And so they ran you over?
FOLDAL. They came straight at me, ma'am--or miss. They came right at me and sent me rolling in the snow--I lost my glasses and my umbrella got broken. (Rubbing his leg.) And my ankle hurts a little too.
BORKMAN. (Laughing inwardly.) Do you know who was in that sleigh, Vilhelm?
FOLDAL. No, how could I? It was a covered sleigh, and the curtains drawn. And the driver didn't stop a for a minute after he'd sent me spinning. But it doesn't matter at all, because---- (With an outburst.) Oh, I'm so happy, so happy!
FOLDAL. Well, I really don't know what to call it. But the nearest word for it is happy. Something wonderful has happened! And that's why I couldn't help--I had to come and share my happiness, John Gabriel.
BORKMAN. (Harshly.) Well, share away then!
ELLA RENTHEIM. Oh, but first take your friend indoors with you, John Gabriel.
BORKMAN. (Sternly.) I told you I'm not going into the house.
ELLA RENTHEIM. But he's been run over!
BORKMAN. Oh, we are all run over, sometime or other in life. The thing is to jump up again, and let no one see you are hurt.
FOLDAL. Those are wise words, John Gabriel. But I can easily tell you my story out here, in a few words.
BORKMAN. (More mildly.) Yes, please do, Vilhelm.
FOLDAL. Well, listen to this! When I got home this evening, what did I find but a letter. Can you guess who it was from?
BORKMAN. Possibly from your little Frida?
FOLDAL. Precisely! You guessed it right off! Yes, it was a long letter from Frida. And can you imagine what she wrote?
BORKMAN. Perhaps it was to say good-bye to her mother and you?
FOLDAL. Exactly John Gabriel! You're remarkable! Yes, she wrote that Mrs. Wilton has taken a great interest in her, and Frida's going abroad with her to study music. Mrs. Wilton has found a excellent tutor to go with them and give Frida private instruction. Her education has been a little neglected, you see.
BORKMAN. (Shaken with inward laughter.) Of course, of course--I see it all quite clearly, Vilhelm.
FOLDAL. (Eagerly continuing.) And to think, she only found out about it this evening; at that party, you know, h'm! And still she took the time to write me. And the letter is so beautiful--so warm and affectionate. Not a trace of contempt for her father. And so thoughtful to say good-bye to us in writing before she goes. (Laughing.) But of course I can't let her leave me like that.
BORKMAN. (Looks inquiringly at him.) What do you mean?
FOLDAL. She wrote that they leave early tomorrow morning; quite early.
BORKMAN. Oh really--tomorrow? Is that what she says?
FOLDAL. (Laughing and rubbing his hands.) Yes; but I'm too smart for that! I am going straight up to Mrs. Wilton's----
FOLDAL. Oh, it's not so late. And even if the house is shut up, I'll ring; no hesitation. For I must and will see Frida before she leaves. Good-night! (Makes a movement to go.)
BORKMAN. Wait, my poor Vilhelm; you can spare yourself the long walk.
FOLDAL. Oh, you are thinking of my ankle----
BORKMAN. Well yes; and also you won't get in at Mrs. Wilton's.
FOLDAL. Oh yes I will. I'll keep ringing and knocking till someone comes. For I must see Frida.
ELLA RENTHEIM. Your daughter's already gone, Mr. Foldal.
FOLDAL. (Stands as though thunderstruck.) Frida's gone already! How do you know?
BORKMAN. Her future tutor.
FOLDAL. Oh? And who is he?
BORKMAN. A certain Mr. Erhart Borkman.
FOLDAL. (Beaming with joy.) Your son, John Gabriel? Is he going with them?
BORKMAN. Yes; he's the one that'll help Mrs. Wilton with little Frida's education.
FOLDAL. Oh, Heaven be praised! Then my child is in the best of hands. But are you certain they've left already with her?
BORKMAN. They drove off in that sleigh which just ran you over.
FOLDAL. To think that my little Frida was in that magnificent sleigh!
BORKMAN. (Nodding.) Yes, yes, Vilhelm, your daughter is riding high these days. And (young) Tutor Erhart, too. Did you notice the silver bells?
FOLDAL. Were they silver? Genuine silver bells?
BORKMAN. You can be sure of that. Everything genuine -- Outside and in.
FOLDAL. (In quiet emotion.) Isn't it strange how fate can unfold? It is my--my little gift for poetry that has transmuted itself into music in Frida. So after all, it's not for nothing that I was born a poet. For now she is going forth into the great wide world, that I once yearned so passionately to see. Little Frida sets out in a splendid covered sleigh with silver bells on the harness----
BORKMAN. And runs over her father.
FOLDAL. (Happily.) Oh, that! What does it matter about me, as long as the child... So, I'm too late after all. I'll go back home and comfort her mother. I left her crying in the kitchen.
FOLDAL. (Smiling.) Yes, can you believe it, she was crying her eyes out when I left.
BORKMAN. And you're laughing, Vilhelm?
FOLDAL. Yes I am. But poor thing, she doesn't know any better. Well, good-bye! It's a good thing that the streetcar's so near. Good-bye, good-bye, John Gabriel. Good-bye, Madam.
(He bows and limps laboriously out by the way he came.)
BORKMAN. (Stands silent for a moment, gazing before him.) Good-bye, Vilhelm! It's not the first time in your life you've been run over, old friend.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Looking at him with suppressed anxiety.) You're so pale, John.
BORKMAN. That's because of the prison air upstairs.
ELLA RENTHEIM. I've never seen you like this before.
BORKMAN. Because you've never seen an escaped convict before.
ELLA RENTHEIM. Come into the house with me, John!
BORKMAN. It's no use trying to lure me in. I've told you----
(THE MAID opens the door, and stands in the doorway.)
THE MAID. Excuse me. Mrs. Borkman told me to lock the front door now.
BORKMAN. (In a low voice, to ELLA.) You see, they want to lock me up again!
ELLA RENTHEIM. (To THE MAID.) Mr. Borkman isn't feeling well. He wants a little fresh air before coming in.
THE MAID. But Mrs. Borkman told me to----
ELLA RENTHEIM. I'll lock the door. Just leave the key in--
THE MAID. Oh, very well; I'll leave it. (She goes into the house again.)
BORKMAN. (Stands silent for a moment, and listens; then goes hastily down the steps and out into the open space.) Now I'm outside the walls, Ella! They'll never get hold of me again!
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Who has gone down to him.) But you're a free man in there, too, John. You can come and go as you please.
BORKMAN. (Softly, as though in terror.) Never under a roof again! If I went up in that room now, ceiling and walls would close in and crush me--crush me flat as a fly.
ELLA RENTHEIM. But where will you go?
BORKMAN. I will simply go on, and on, and on.(walk and walk and walk) See if I can't find my way to freedom, and life, and people again. Will you go with me, Ella?
ELLA RENTHEIM. Me? Now?
BORKMAN. Yes, right now!
ELLA RENTHEIM. But how far?
BORKMAN. As far as I can.
ELLA RENTHEIM. Think what you're doing! A bitter, cold winter night like this----
BORKMAN. (Speaking very hoarsely.) Oho--my lady is worried about her health? Of course,--I know it's fragile.
ELLA RENTHEIM. It's your health I'm worried about.
BORKMAN. Ha Ha! A dead man's health! You make me laugh, Ella! (He moves onwards.)
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Following him: holding him back.) What did you call yourself?
BORKMAN. A dead man, I said. Don't you remember, Gunhild telling me to lie quietly where I was?
ELLA RENTHEIM. (With resolution, throwing her cloak around her.) I'll go with you, John.
BORKMAN. Yes, we two belong to each other, Ella. You and I. (Advancing.) So come!
(They have gradually passed into the low wood on the left. It conceals them little by little, until they are quite lost to sight. The house and the open space disappear. The landscape, consisting of wooded slopes and ridges, slowly changes and grows wilder and wilder.
ELLA RENTHEIM's VOICE. (Is heard in the wood to the right.) Where are we going, John? I don't know where I am.
BORKMAN's VOICE. (Higher up.) Just follow my footprints in the snow!
ELLA RENTHEIM's VOICE. But why do we have to climb so high?
BORKMAN's VOICE. (Nearer at hand.) We go up the winding path.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Still hidden.) I can't go much further.
BORKMAN. (On the verge of the wood to the right.) Come! We're not far from the look-out now. There used to be a bench there once...
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Appearing among the trees.) You remember it?
BORKMAN. You can rest there.
(They have emerged upon a small high-lying, open plateau in the wood. The mountain rises abruptly behind them. To the left, far below, an extensive fiord landscape, with high ranges in the distance, towering one above the other. On the plateau, to the left, a dead fir-tree with a bench under it. The snow lies deep upon the plateau.
(BORKMAN and, after him, ELLA RENTHEIM enter from the right and wade with difficulty through the snow.
BORKMAN. (Stopping at the verge of the steep declivity on the left.) Come here, Ella, and you'll see...
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Coming up to him.) What do you want to show me, John?
BORKMAN. (Pointing outwards.) You see how free and open the land lies before us--far away into the distance?
ELLA RENTHEIM. We often sat on this bench before, and looked out into a much, much further distance.
BORKMAN. It was a dreamland we were looking out to then.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Nodding sadly.) The dreamland of our life, yes. And now it's buried in snow. And the old tree is dead.
BORKMAN. (Not listening to her.) Can you see the smoke of the great steamships out on the fjord?
ELLA RENTHEIM. No.
BORKMAN. I can. They come and they go. They weave a network of fellowship throughout the whole world... They shed light and warmth into the hearts of men in many thousands of homes. That was what I dreamed of doing.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Softly.) And it remained a dream.
BORKMAN. It remained a dream, yes. (Listening.) Hear that... down there by the river -- The factories are working! My factories! All those I would have created! Listen! Do you hear them humming? The night shift is on. They are working day and night. Listen! The wheels are whirling and the rollers are turning --round and round and round. Can't you hear, Ella?
ELLA RENTHEIM. No.
BORKMAN. I can.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Anxiously.) I think you're mistaken, John.
BORKMAN. (More and more fired up.) Oh, but all of this, you know -- is only a kind of outworks surrounding the kingdom.
ELLA RENTHEIM. The kingdom? What kingdom?
BORKMAN. My kingdom, of course! The kingdom I was on the verge of possessing when I--when I died.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Shaken, in a low voice.) Oh, John, John!
BORKMAN. And now there it lies--defenceless, masterless--exposed to all the thieving and plundering. Ella, do you see the mountains there--far off in the distance -- One behind the other, soaring up to the heavens ... That is my vast, my infinite, inexhaustible kingdom!
ELLA RENTHEIM. There's a cold icy wind from that kingdom, John!
BORKMAN. That wind is the breath of life to me. It comes like a greeting from my subjects, the captive spirits that serve me. I can sense them, the buried millions; I can see the veins of metal stretch out their winding, branching, alluring (beckoning) arms to me. That night I stood in the bank vault with a lantern in my hand, I saw them before me like living phantoms (shadows). You begged for your freedom, and I tried to set you free. But my strength failed me; and the treasure sank back into the deep again. (With outstretched hands.) But I will whisper it to you here in the stillness of the night: I love you; you who lie in a trance of death in the darkness and the deep. I love you; you treasures, longing to come alive with all your shining aura of power and glory! I love you, love you, love you!
ELLA RENTHEIM. (In suppressed but rising agitation.) Yes, your love is still down there, John. It has always been rooted there. But here, in the light of day, here there was a living, warm, human heart that beat for you. And this heart you crushed. Worse than that! Ten times worse! You sold it for--
BORKMAN. (Trembles; a cold shudder seems to go through him.) For the kingdom--and the power--and the glory--you mean?
ELLA RENTHEIM. Yes, that's what I mean. I have said it once before to-night: you have murdered the love in the woman who loved you. And that you loved in return, so far as you could love any one. (With uplifted arm.) And therefore I prophesy to you, John Gabriel Borkman--you will never win the prize that you murdered for. You will never ride in triumph into your cold, dark kingdom!
BORKMAN. (Staggers to the bench and seats himself heavily.) I am almost afraid that your prophecy will come true, Ella.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Going up to him.) You shouldn't fear it, John. It would be the best thing that could happen to you.
BORKMAN. (With a shriek; clutching at his breast.) Ah----! (Feebly.) Now it's let me go.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Shaking him.) What was it, John?
BORKMAN. (Sinking down against the back of the seat.) A hand of ice clutched (gripped) my heart.
ELLA RENTHEIM. John! Do you feel it now - the hand of ice?
BORKMAN. (Murmurs.) No. No ice-hand. It was a hand of metal. (He sinks right down upon the bench.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Tears off her cloak and throws it over him.) Lie still and rest where you are! I'll go for help.
(She goes a step or two towards the right; then she stops, returns, and carefully feels his pulse and touches his face.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Softly and firmly.) No. It's best, John Borkman. Best like this for you.
(She spreads the cloak closer around him, and sinks down in the snow in front of the bench. A short silence.
(MRS. BORKMAN, wrapped in a mantle, comes through the wood on the right. THE MAID goes before her carrying a lantern.
THE MAID. (Throwing the light upon the snow.) Yes, yes, ma'am, here are their footprints.
MRS. BORKMAN. (Peering around.) Yes, here they are! Over there on the bench. (Calls.) Ella!
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Rising.) Are you looking for us?
MRS. BORKMAN. (Sternly.) Yes, what else could I do.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Pointing.) Look, there he lies, Gunhild.
MRS. BORKMAN. Sleeping?
ELLA RENTHEIM. A long, deep sleep, I think.
MRS. BORKMAN. (With an outburst.) Ella! (Controls herself and asks in a low voice.) Did he... was it deliberate?
ELLA RENTHEIM. No.
MRS. BORKMAN. (Relieved.) Not by his own hand then?
ELLA RENTHEIM. No. It was a freezing hand of metal that siezed his heart.
MRS. BORKMAN. (To THE MAID.) Go for help. Get the men from the farm.
THE MAID. Yes, I will, ma'am. (To herself.) Lord save us! (She goes out through the wood to the right.)
MRS. BORKMAN. (Standing behind the bench.) So the night air killed him---- ELLA RENTHEIM. So it seems.
MRS. BORKMAN. ----the strong man.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Coming in front of the bench.) Won't you look at him, Gunhild?
MRS. BORKMAN. (With a gesture of repulsion.) No, no. (Lowering her voice.) He was a mountain miner's son, John Gabriel Borkman. He couldn't survive in the fresh air.
ELLA RENTHEIM. It was more likely the cold that killed him.
MRS. BORKMAN. (Shakes her head.) The cold, you say? The cold-- that killed him a long time ago.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (Nodding to her.) Yes--and turned the two of us into shadows.
MRS. BORKMAN. You're right about that.
ELLA RENTHEIM. (With a painful smile.) A dead man and two shadows--that's what the cold has made of us.
MRS. BORKMAN. Yes, a coldness in the heart.--And so, at last, we two can reach out our hands to each other.
ELLA RENTHEIM. I think we can, now.
MRS. BORKMAN. We twin sisters--over the man we both loved.
ELLA RENTHEIM. We two shadows--over the dead man.
(MRS. BORKMAN behind the bench, and ELLA RENTHEIM in front of it, take each other's hand.