MRS. BORKMAN's drawing-room, furnished with old-fashioned, faded splendour. At the back, an open sliding-door leads into a garden-room, with windows and a glass door. Through it a view over the garden; twilight with driving snow. On the right, a door leading from the hall. Further forward, a large old-fashioned iron stove, with the fire lighted. On the left, towards the back, a single smaller door. In front, on the same side, a window, covered with thick curtains. Between the window and the door a horsehair sofa, with a table in front of it covered with a cloth. On the table, a lighted lamp with a shade. Beside the stove a high-backed armchair.
MRS. GUNHILD BORKMAN sits on the sofa, crocheting. She is an elderly lady, of cold, distinguished appearance, with stiff carriage and immobile features. Her abundant hair is very grey. Delicate transparent hands. Dressed in a gown of heavy dark silk, which has originally been handsome, but is now somewhat worn and shabby. A woollen shawl over her shoulders.
She sits for a time erect and immovable at her crochet. Then the bells of a passing sleigh are heard.
GUNHILD. [Listens; her eyes sparkle with gladness and she involuntarily whispers]. Erhart! At last!
[She rises and draws the curtain a little aside to look out. Appears disappointed, and sits down to her work again, on the sofa. Presently THE MAID enters from the hall with a visiting card on a small tray.
%% GUNHILD. [Quickly.] Has Mr. Erhart come after all?
THE MAID. No, ma'am. There's a lady here----
GUNHILD. [Laying aside her crochet.] Oh, Mrs. Wilton, I suppose----
THE MAID. [Approaching.] No, it's a strange lady---
GUNHILD. [Taking the card.] Let me see---- [Reads it; rises hastily and looks intently at the girl.] Are you sure this is for me?
THE MAID. Yes, I understood it was for you, ma'am.
GUNHILD. Did she say she wanted to see Mrs. Borkman?
%% THE MAID. Yes, ma'am.
GUNHILD. [Shortly, resolutely.] Let her know I'm here.
[THE MAID opens the door for the strange lady and goes out. MISS ELLA RENTHEIM enters. She resembles her sister; but her face has rather a suffering than a hard expression. It still shows signs of great beauty, combined with strong character. She has a great deal of hair, which is drawn back from the forehead in natural ripples, and is snow-white. She is dressed in black velvet, with a hat and a fur-lined cloak of the same material.
[The two sisters stand silent for a time, and look searchingly at each other. Each is evidently waiting for the other to speak first.
ELLA. [Who has remained near the door.] You're surprised to see me, Gunhild.
GUNHILD. [Standing erect and immovable between the sofa and the table, resting her finger-tips upon the cloth.] Aren't you mistaken? The estate manager lives in the side wing, you know.
ELLA. It is not the manager I want to see to-day.
GUNHILD. Is it me you want, then?
ELLA. Yes. I have a few words to say to you.
GUNHILD. [Coming forward into the middle of the room.] Well--then sit down.
ELLA. Thank you, but I'll stand.
GUNHILD. Just as you please. But at least loosen your cloak (%% coat).
ELLA. [Unbuttoning her cloak.] Yes, it is very warm in here.
GUNHILD. I am always cold.
ELLA. [Stands looking at her for a time with her arms resting on the back of the armchair.] Well, Gunhild, it's nearly eight years since we last saw each other.
GUNHILD. [Coldly.] GUNHILD. [Coldly.] Since we last spoke to each other, at least.
ELLA. True, since we last spoke to each other. Because you must see me, now and again, when I make my yearly visit to the estate manager.
GUNHILD. Once or twice, I believe.
ELLA. I've caught a few glimpses of you, too--there, at the window.
GUNHILD. You would've seen me through the curtains then. You have good eyes (%% sharp eyes), Ella. [Harshly and cuttingly.] But the last time we spoke--it was here, in this room--
ELLA. [Trying to stop her.] Yes, yes; I know, Gunhild!
GUNHILD. --the week before he--before he was released.
ELLA. [Moving towards the back.] Don't start on that!
GUNHILD. [Firmly, but in a low voice.] It was the week before he--the banker was set free.
ELLA. [Coming down.] Oh yes, yes, yes! I'll never forget that time. But it's too terrible to think about.
GUNHILD. [Gloomily.] And yet it's not possible to think of anything else. [Vehemently; clenching her hands together.] No, I can't understand it. I never will. I can't understand how such a thing--how anything so horrible can came happen to one family! To our family! So old a family as ours!
ELLA. There were many, besides our family, struck down by that blow.
GUNHILD. Yes; but those others don't trouble me very much. For in their case it was only a matter of a little money--or some papers. But for us----! For me! And Erhart! My little boy--he was just a child! [In rising excitement.] The shame he caused us, the innocent ones! The disgrace! The terrible, disgrace! And then the total ruin!
ELLA. [Cautiously.] Tell me, Gunhild, how does he bear it?
GUNHILD. Erhart, you mean?
ELLA. No--he himself. How does he bear it?
GUNHILD. Do you think I ask him?
ELLA. Ask? Surely you don't need to ask him - ?
GUNHILD. [Looks at her in surprise.] Do you think I talk to him? Or see him?
ELLA. Not even see him---?
GUNHILD. [As before.] The man was in prison, in prison for five years! [Covers her face with her hands.] The crushing shame of it! [With increased vehemence.] And to think what the name John Gabriel Borkman once meant! No, no, no--I never want to see him again! Never!
ELLA. [Looks at her for a while.] You have a hard heart, Gunhild.
GUNHILD. Towards him, yes.
ELLA. He's still your husband.
GUNHILD. Didn't he tell the court that I began his ruin? That I spent money recklessly?
ELLA. [Tentatively.] But wasn't that true?
GUNHILD. But he's the one who wanted it like that! He insisted we live in an impossibly lavish style----
ELLA. I know. But you should've held him back; and you didn't.
GUNHILD. How was I to know that it wasn't his, the money he gave me to squander? Or that he squandered--ten times what I what spent!
ELLA. [Quietly.] Well, I suppose his position forced him to do that-- to some extent anyway.
GUNHILD. [Scornfully.] Yes, it always the same story--we were to "set the style." And he "set the style" alright! He used to drive around in a four horse carriage as if he were a king. He had people bowing and scraping to him just as to a king [With a laugh.] And they always called him by his Christian names--all over the country--as if he'd been the king himself. "John Gabriel," "John Gabriel." Every one knew what a great man "John Gabriel" was!
ELLA. [Warmly and emphatically.] He -was- a great man then, Gunhild.
GUNHILD. So it seemed. But never a word to me about his real position--never a hint as to where to got his funds.
ELLA. No, no; and the others didn't dream of it either.
GUNHILD. Never-mind the others. It was his duty to tell _me_ the truth. And he never did! He simply lied--lied to me endlessly----
ELLA. [Interrupting.] Certainly not, Gunhild. Concealed things, perhaps. But he didn't lie.
GUNHILD. Well call it what you like; it makes no difference. And then it all collapsed (%%shattered) --everything--all that glory, gone.
ELLA. [To herself.] Yes, everything collapsed (%%shattered) --for him--and for the others.
GUNHILD. [Drawing herself up menacingly.] But I tell you, Ella, I'm not giving in! I'll redeem myself yet--you can be sure of that!
ELLA. [Eagerly.] Redeem yourself! What do you mean by that?
GUNHILD. Redeem my name, and honour, and fortune! Redeem my ruined life-- that is what I mean! There is an avenger living, Ella! One who'll make up for all his fathers wrongs (%% sins) against me!
ELLA. Erhart, you mean.
GUNHILD. Yes, Erhart, my son! He'll find the way to restore the family, the house, our name. Everything that can be restored--and perhaps more.
ELLA. And how do you think that will happen?
GUNHILD. I don't know exactly how. But I know it will and must happen someday. [Looks searchingly at her.] But Ella; isn't that, more or less, what you've had in mind too, ever since he was a child?
ELLA. No, I wouldn't say that.
GUNHILD. No? Then why did you take him in when the storm broke over--over this house?
ELLA. You couldn't look after him yourself at that time, Gunhild.
GUNHILD. No, no, I couldn't. And you? How could you bring yourself to take in the child of -- of John Gabriel! Just as if he had been your own? Take the child away from me--home with you--and keep him with you until he was nearly grown up. [Looking suspiciously at her.] What was your real reason, Ella? Why did you do it?
ELLA. I came to love him so dearly----
GUNHILD. More than I--his mother?
ELLA. [Evasively.] I don't know about that. And then, you know, Erhart was rather delicate as a child----
ELLA. Yes, I thought so--at that time. And you know the air of the west coast is so much milder than here.
GUNHILD. [Smiling bitterly.] H'm--is it? [Breaking off.] Yes, it is true you have done a great deal for Erhart. [With a change of tone.] Well, of course, you could afford it. [Smiling.] You were so lucky, Ella; you got back everything of yours untouched.
ELLA. [Hurt.] I had nothing to do with that, I assure you. I had no idea--until long, long afterwards--that the money and securities belonging to me--that they had been spared--
GUNHILD. Well, I don't understand anything about these things! I'm only saying that you were lucky. [Looking inquiringly at her.] But when you decided to take in Erhart --what was your motive?
ELLA. [Looking at her.] My motive?
GUNHILD. Yes, you must have had some motive. What did you want to make of him, Make out of him, I mean?
ELLA. [Slowly.] I wanted to give Erhart every chance of happiness in life.
GUNHILD. [Contemptuously.] Pah--people in our position have other things than happiness to think about.
ELLA. Meaning what?
GUNHILD. [Looking steadily and earnestly at her.] Meaning that Erhart's first obligation is to achieve brilliance, such brilliance, that no trace will be left of the shadow his father has cast over me --and over my son.
ELLA. [Searchingly.] Tell me, Gunhild, is this what Erhart wants from life?
GUNHILD. [Slightly taken aback.] Yes, I should hope so!
ELLA. Is it not rather what you want of him?
GUNHILD. [Curtly.] We want the same things.
ELLA. [Sadly and slowly.] You are so very certain of your boy, then, Gunhild?
GUNHILD. [With veiled triumph.] Yes, thank god I am!
ELLA. Then you must be happy after all; in spite of everything.
GUNHILD. So I am--so far as that goes. But then, at any moment, all the rest of it comes rushing in on me like a storm.
ELLA. [With a change of tone.] Tell me Gunhild--I might as well get to the point--Erhart doesn't live out here with--with the family? (%% with you and-- with you)
GUNHILD. Erhart can't live out here with me. He has to live in town----
ELLA. So he wrote to me.
GUNHILD. He has to, for his studies. But he stops by and visits me every evening.
ELLA. Well, may I see him? May I speak to him right now?
GUNHILD. He hasn't come yet; but I expect him any moment.
ELLA. Well, Gunhild, I can hear his footsteps overhead. (%% hear him upstairs).
GUNHILD. [With a rapid upward glance.] Up in the salon?
ELLA. Yes. I have heard him walking up there ever since I arrived.
GUNHILD. [Looking away from her.] That's not Erhart, Ella.
ELLA. [Surprised.] Not Erhart? [Divining.] Who is it then?
GUNHILD. It is he.
ELLA. [Softly, with suppressed pain.] Borkman? John Gabriel?
GUNHILD. He walks up and down like that--from morning till night--day in and day out.
ELLA. I have heard something of this----
GUNHILD. People find plenty to say about us, no doubt.
ELLA. Erhart has hinted at it in his letters. He said that his father generally remained by himself--up there--and you alone down here.
GUNHILD. Yes; that is how it has been, Ella, ever since they let him out, and sent him home to me. All these eight long years.
ELLA. But I didn't think it could really be possible.
GUNHILD. [Nods.] It can never be otherwise.
ELLA. [Looking at her.] This must be a terrible life, Gunhild.
GUNHILD. Worse than terrible--I can't bear it much longer.
ELLA. I can imagine.
GUNHILD. Always hearing his footsteps up there--from early morning till far into the night. I often feel as if I had a sick wolf pacing his cage up there, right over my head. [Listens and whispers.] Listen! Do you hear! Backwards and forwards, up and down, goes the wolf.
ELLA. [Tentatively.] Can't things change, Gunhild?
GUNHILD. [With a gesture of repulsion.] He has never made a move to change anything.
ELLA. Couldn't you make the first move, then?
GUNHILD. [Indignantly.] Me! After all that he's done to me! No thank you! Let the wolf go on prowling up there (%% in his cage).
ELLA. This room is too hot for me. You must let me take off my things after all.
GUNHILD. Yes, I asked you to.
[ELLA RENTHEIM takes off her hat and cloak and lays them on a chair beside the door leading to the hall.
ELLA. Don't you ever happen to meet him, outside the house-
GUNHILD.[laughs bitterly] At parties, you mean?
ELLA. I mean when he goes out for a walk.
GUNHILD. He never goes out.
ELLA. Not even after dark?
ELLA. [With emotion.] He can't bring himself to go out?
GUNHILD. I suppose not. He has his great cloak and his hat hanging in the cupboard--the cupboard in the hall, you know----
ELLA. [To herself.] The cupboard we used to hide (%% play) in when we were little.
GUNHILD. [Nods.] Now and then--late in the evening--I hear him come down as if to go out. But he always stops when he's halfway downstairs, and turns --straight back to his room.
ELLA. [Quietly.] Do none of his old friends ever go up to see him?
GUNHILD. He has no old friends.
ELLA. He had so many--once.
GUNHILD. H'm! He certainly found a way to get rid of them, didn't he. He was a dear friend to his friends---John Gabriel.
ELLA. [Not answering her.] So he lives up there--completely by himself.
GUNHILD. Yes, practically so. I have heard there's an old clerk or copyist who goes up to see him now and then. But only after dark.
ELLA. Oh yes, that must be Foldal. They were friends from boyhood.
GUNHILD. I know nothing about him. He was quite outside our circle--when we had a circle----
ELLA. Foldal--he was one of those that suffered losses when the bank failed?
GUNHILD. [Carelessly.] Yes, I believe I heard he had lost some money. But no doubt it wasn't very much.
ELLA. [With slight emphasis.] It was all he had.
GUNHILD. [Smiling.] Oh, well; not worth mentioning.
ELLA. And he didn't mention it--Foldal I mean--during the investigation.
GUNHILD. Anyway, I can assure you Erhart has made ample amends for any little loss he may have suffered.
ELLA. [With surprise.] Erhart! How has Erhart done that?
GUNHILD. He has taken an interest in Foldal's youngest daughter. Tutored her a little so that she can become something, provide for herself. That's a great deal more than her father could ever have done for her.
ELLA. Her father must be having a hard time of it now.
GUNHILD. And then Erhart has arranged for her to study music. She's made progress already-- good enough to play for --for him up there. On the piano you sent -- when he was expected back.
ELLA. She plays for him?
GUNHILD. Yes, now and then--in the evenings. Thanks to Erhart too. He's arranged for her to stay with a lady who lives near us--a Mrs. Wilton----
ELLA. I have heard her name. Mrs. Fanny Wilton, is it not----?
GUNHILD. Yes, that's right.
ELLA. Erhart has mentioned her several times in his letters. Does she live out here now?
GUNHILD. She has taken a villa here; she moved out from town some time ago.
ELLA. [With a slight hesitation.] They say she is divorced from her husband.
GUNHILD. Her husband has been dead for several years. He deserted her, actually. I am sure the fault wasn't hers.
ELLA. Do you know her well, Gunhild?
GUNHILD. Yes, quite well. She lives close by; and looks in every now and then.
ELLA. And do you like her?
GUNHILD. She is unusually intelligent; remarkably clear in her judgements (%% perceptions).
ELLA. Of people, you mean?
GUNHILD. Yes, particularly of people. She has made quite a study of Erhart; looked deep into his character--his soul. And the result is she thinks the world of him, as of course she would.
ELLA. [With a touch of finesse.] Then perhaps she knows Erhart better than she knows you?
GUNHILD. Yes, Erhart used to meet her quite often in town, before she came out here.
ELLA. [Without thinking.] And yet, she moved from town-?
GUNHILD. [Taken aback, looking keenly at her.] And yet-! What do you mean?
ELLA. [Evasively.] Oh, nothing in particular.
GUNHILD. You said it strangely--you did mean something by it, Ella!
ELLA. [Looking her straight in the eyes.] Yes, it's true, Gunhild! I did mean something by it.
GUNHILD. Well, say it then.
ELLA. First let me say that I think I too have a certain claim on Erhart. Or perhaps you don't agree?
GUNHILD. [Glancing round the room.] No doubt--after all the money you've spent on him.
ELLA. Oh, not because of that, Gunhild. But because I love him.
GUNHILD. [Smiling scornfully.] Can you love my son? In spite of everything?
ELLA. Yes, I can--in spite of everything. I love Erhart--as much as I can love any one--now--at this time of life. (%% at my age) That is why, I'm troubled when I see anything threatening him.
GUNHILD. Threatening Erhart! What should threaten him? Or who?
ELLA. You in the first place--in your way.
GUNHILD. [Vehemently.] Me!
ELLA. And then this Mrs. Wilton, too, I'm afraid of her.
GUNHILD. [Looks at her for a moment in speechless surprise.] And you think these things of Erhart! Of my own boy! He, with his great mission to fulfil!
ELLA. Oh, his mission!
GUNHILD. [Indignantly.] How dare you say that with such scorn?
ELLA. Do you think a young man of Erhart's age, full of health and spirits--do you think he is going to sacrifice himself for--for some so called "mission"?
GUNHILD. [Firmly and emphatically.] Erhart will! I know he will.
ELLA. [Shaking her head.] You neither know it nor believe it, Gunhild.
GUNHILD. Don't believe it?
ELLA. It is only something you dream of. For if you hadn't that to cling to, you know that you would give in to utter despair.
GUNHILD. Yes, indeed I would despair. And perhaps that's what you'd prefer, Ella!
ELLA. [With head erect.] Yes, I would -if you can't "redeem" yourself except by doing it through Erhart.
GUNHILD. [Threateningly.] You want to come between us. Between mother and son. Don't you?
ELLA. I want to free him from your power (%% I want to get him out of your clutches!)--your will--your influence (%% domination).
GUNHILD. [Triumphantly.] You're too late. You had him in your net --until he was fifteen. But I've won him back, you see!
ELLA. Then I will win him back from you! [Hoarsely, half whispering.] It won't be the first time we've fought over a man, Gunhild-a life and death struggle--
GUNHILD. [Looking at her in triumph.] Yes, and I won the victory.
ELLA. [With a smile of scorn.] Do you still think that victory was worth the winning?
GUNHILD. [Darkly.] No; that's god's own truth.
ELLA. And you won't have a victory worth winning this time either.
GUNHILD. Not worth winning? To hold onto my son!
ELLA. No; for it's only power over him that you want.
GUNHILD. And you?
ELLA. [Warmly.] I want his affection--his soul--his whole heart!
GUNHILD. [With an outburst.] You'll never get that again - not in this world! [Looking at her.] Can't you see that from his letters?
ELLA. [Nods slowly.] Yes. And I've recognized your handiwork in our recent correspondence.[Controlling herself.] What have you told Erhart about me?
GUNHILD. I merely told him the truth.
GUNHILD. Every day of his life I remind him that we have you to thank for our comfortable living--for our being able to live at all.
ELLA. And that's all?
GUNHILD. Oh, that sort of knowledge festers; it does in me.
ELLA. But it's no different from what Erhart already knew.
GUNHILD. When he came back to me, he imagined that you'd done it all out the kindness of your heart. [Looks malignly at her.] He doesn't think that anymore, Ella.
ELLA. What does he think now, then?
GUNHILD. He knows the truth. I asked him if he could explain why Aunt Ella never came here to visit us----
ELLA. [Interrupting.] He already knew my reasons!
GUNHILD. He knows them better now. You convinced him that it was to spare my feelings--and him up there----
ELLA. It was. What have you put in his head?
GUNHILD. The truth--that you're ashamed of us, that you despise us. Do you pretend that you don't? Didn't you scheme to take him from me altogether? Surely you haven't forgotten.
%% ELLA. [With a gesture of negation.] That was at the height of the scandal--the case was before the courts. I don't want that anymore.
GUNHILD. It wouldn't matter if you did. Then what would become of his mission? No, thank you. It is me Erhart needs-- not you. And so he's as good as dead to you now--and you to him.
%% ELLA. [Coldly, with resolution.] We'll see. Anyway, I have decided to stay here.
GUNHILD. [Stares at her.] Here? In this house?
ELLA. Yes, here.
GUNHILD. Here--with us? For the night?
ELLA. I'll stay here for the rest of my days if need be.
GUNHILD. [Collecting herself.] Very well, Ella; the house is yours----
ELLA. Oh, stop----
GUNHILD. Everything in it is yours. The chair I'm sitting on. The bed I lie and toss in at night belongs to you. The food we eat...
ELLA. You know it can't be done any other way. Borkman can't own anything in his own name; someone would lay claim to it immediately.
GUNHILD. Yes, I know. We must submit to living on your pity and charity.
ELLA. [Coldly.] I can't stop you from seeing it that way, Gunhild.
GUNHILD. No, you can't. When do you want us to move out?
ELLA. Move out?
GUNHILD. Yes; you don't imagine that I'll remain living here, under the same roof with you! I'd rather go to the poorhouse or take to the roads!
ELLA. Fine. Then let me have Erhart----
GUNHILD. Erhart? My child?
ELLA. Yes; then I'll go with him straight home again.
GUNHILD. [After reflecting a moment, firmly.] Erhart himself can choose between us.
ELLA. [Looking doubtfully and hesitatingly at her.] Let him choose? Do you dare risk that, Gunhild?
GUNHILD. [With a hard laugh.] Do I dare? My boy choosing between his mother and you? Yes, I most certainly dare!
ELLA. [Listening.] Is some one coming? I thought I heard----
GUNHILD. Then it must be Erhart.
[There is a sharp knock at the door leading in from the hall, which is immediately opened. MRS. WILTON enters, in evening dress, and with outer wraps. She is followed by THE MAID, who has not had time to announce her, and looks bewildered. The door remains half open. MRS. WILTON is a strikingly handsome, well-developed woman in the thirties. Broad, red, smiling lips, sparkling eyes. Luxuriant dark hair.
MRS. WILTON Mrs. Borkman my dear, good evening!
%% GUNHILD. [Rather drily.] Good evening, FANNY. [To THE MAID, pointing toward the garden-room.] Take the lamp that's in there and light it.
[THE MAID takes the lamp and goes out with it.
FANNY. [Observing ELLA.] Oh, I'm sorry--you have a visitor.
GUNHILD. It's just my sister, she's just arrived from----
[ERHART BORKMAN flings the half-open door wide open and rushes in. He is a young man with bright cheerful eyes. He is well dressed; his moustache is beginning to grow.
ERHART. [Radiant with joy; on the threshold.] What's this! Is that Aunt Ella? [Rushing up to her and seizing her hands.] It's not possible. You? Here?
ELLA. [Throws her arms round his neck.] Erhart! My dear, sweet boy! Look how big you've grown! Oh, it's so good to see you again!
GUNHILD. [Sharply.] Erhart... Were you hiding out in the hallway?
FANNY. [Quickly.] Erhart--Mr. Borkman came in with me.
GUNHILD. [Looking hard at him.] Really! You visit others before your mother?
ERHART. I just has to stop by Mrs. Wilton's for a minute--to pick up little Frida.
GUNHILD. Miss Foldal's with you too?
FANNY. Yes, she's out in the hall.
ERHART. [Addressing some one through the open door.] Go right on up, Frida.
[Pause. ELLA RENTHEIM observes ERHART. He seems embarrassed and a little impatient; his face has assumed a nervous and colder expression.
[THE MAID brings the lighted lamp into the garden-room, goes out again and closes the door behind her.
GUNHILD. [With forced politeness.] Well, Mrs. Wilton, if you care to join us this evening, you----
FANNY. Many thanks, my dear, but I really can't. We've another engagement. We're going down to the Hinkels'.
GUNHILD. [Looking at her.] We? What do you mean, we?
FANNY. [Laughing.] Oh, I should have said I. But I was commissioned by the ladies of the house to bring Mr. Borkman along--if I happened to see him.
GUNHILD. And it would appear that you did.
FANNY. As luck would have it he stopped in at my house-- for little Frida.
GUNHILD. [Drily.] But, Erhart, I didn't realize that you knew those people-- the Hinkels?
ERHART. [Irritated.] Well no, I don't really know them. [Adds rather impatiently.] You know better than anyone, mother, the people I do know and don't.
FANNY. Don't you worry! No one is a stranger for long in that house. It's always gay and welcoming--and swarming with young ladies.
GUNHILD. [With emphasis.] Well, if I know my son, Mrs. Wilton, that's hardly the right company for him.
ERHART. [Concealing his impatience.] Yes, yes, mother. I obviously have no business at the Hinkels' tonight. I'll stay here with you and Aunt Ella.
GUNHILD. I knew you would, my dear Erhart.
ELLA. No, Erhart, you won't stay in on my account----
ERHART. Nonsense, my dear Aunt; I wouldn't have it any other way. [Looking doubtfully at FANNY.] Will it be alright? You've already said "Yes" for me, haven't you?
FANNY. [Gaily.] Don't be silly! Why wouldn't it be alright! When I make my entrance into the ballroom--just imagine it!--deserted and forlorn (%% lonely and abandoned)--Why, then I'll simply say "No" on your behalf.
ERHART. [Hesitatingly.] Well, if you're sure it will be alright...
FANNY. [Putting the matter lightly aside.] I am quite used to saying both yes and no--on my own behalf. How could you consider abandoning your aunt, when she's only just arrived! Shame on you, Monsieur Erhart! Is that any way for a good son to behave?
GUNHILD. [Annoyed.] Son?
FANNY. Well, foster son then, GUNHILD.
GUNHILD. Yes, that's better.
FANNY. Oh, I think a foster mother often deserves more thanks than a real one.
GUNHILD. Has that been your experience?
FANNY. Regrettably. I scarcely knew my own mother. But if I'd had a good foster-mother, then I might not have become the wicked woman people say I am. [Turning towards ERHART.] Now you stay snug at home like a good boy, and drink tea with your mother and your aunt! [To the ladies.] Good-bye, good-bye Mrs. Borkman! Good-bye Miss Rentheim.
[The ladies bow silently. She goes toward the door.
ERHART. [Following her.] Should I walk you part-way?
FANNY. [In the doorway, motioning him back.] Not a step. I'm quite used to making my way alone. [Stops on the threshold, looks at him and nods.] But I warn you, Mr. Borkman--beware!
ERHART. And why should I beware?
FANNY. [Gaily.] Because, when I'm making my way down the road--deserted and forlorn (%% lonely and abandoned), as I said--I'll be casting a spell on you.
ERHART. [Laughing.] Oh, I see! You're going to try that again?
FANNY. [Half seriously.] Yes, so you'd better beware! As I'm walking, I'll say in my mind--right from my innermost, secret will-- I'll say: "Mr. Erhart Borkman, take your hat immediately!"
GUNHILD. And you think he will?
FANNY. [Laughing.] Absolutely, he'll take it at once. And then I will say: "Put on your overcoat, like a good boy, Erhart Borkman! And your galoshes! Don't you dare forget your galoshes! And then, follow after me! Follow after me, Follow after me!"
ERHART. [With forced gaiety.] Oh yes, you can count on that.
FANNY. [Raising her forefinger.] Follow after me! Follow after me! Goodnight!
[She laughs and nods to the ladies, and closes the door behind her.
GUNHILD. Does she really practice tricks like that?
ERHART. Of course not, how could you believe that? She's only joking. [Breaking off.] But that's enough of FANNY. [He forces ELLA RENTHEIM to seat herself at the armchair beside the stove, then stands and looks at her.] Imagine you taking the long trip here, Aunt Ella, and in the dead of winter!
ELLA. I couldn't postpone it any longer, Erhart.
ERHART. Why not?
ELLA. I had to consult the doctors.
ERHART. Oh, well that's good!
ELLA. [Smiling.] You think that's good.?
ERHART. Well, that you've finally decided to, I mean.
GUNHILD. [On the sofa, coldly.] Are you ill, Ella?
ELLA. [Looking hardly at her.] You know very well I'm ill.
GUNHILD. I knew that you haven't been well for years.
ERHART. When I lived with you I told you over and over that you should see a doctor.
ELLA. There's no one I trust out there. And, besides, I didn't feel so bad at the time.
ERHART. Is it worse now?
ELLA. Yes, my boy; It's worse now.
ERHART. Nothing dangerous though?
ELLA. Oh, that depends how you look at it.
ERHART. Well then, you must stay in town because you can choose from all the best doctors.
ELLA. That was my thinking when I left home.
ERHART. And you must find some excellent accommodation, something comfortable and quiet.
ELLA. I thought that too, but I changed my mind after coming here.
ERHART. [Surprised.] Really? Changed you mind?
GUNHILD. [Crocheting; without looking up.] Your aunt will live here, in her own house, Erhart.
ERHART. [Looking from one to the other alternately.] Here, with us? Is this true, Aunt?
ELLA. Yes, that's what I decided.
GUNHILD. [As before.] Everything here belongs to your aunt, you know.
ELLA. I'll stay here, Erhart, at first anyway. I'll set up a little space of my own, over in the manager's wing.
ERHART. Oh, that's a good idea. There's always lots of extra space there. [With sudden vivacity.] But actually, Aunt Ella--you must be tired after your long trip.
ELLA. Yes, I am a little tired.
ERHART. Well, then, why don't you turn in early this evening.
ELLA. [Looks at him smilingly.] I mean to.
ERHART. [Eagerly.] And we'll have a good, long talk tomorrow--or some other time--about everything--about things in general--you and mother and I. Wouldn't that be the best plan, Aunt Ella?
GUNHILD. Oh Erhart, You want to leave me don't you?
ERHART. What do you mean?
GUNHILD. You're going on to--to the Hinkels' place!
ERHART. [Involuntarily.] Oh, that! [Collecting himself.] Well, you wouldn't want me keeping Aunt Ella up all night? She's ill, mother.
GUNHILD. You want to go to the Hinkels', Erhart!
ERHART. [Impatiently.] Well, really, mother, I don't think I can get out of it. What do you think, Aunt Ella?
ELLA. It's up to you Erhart.
GUNHILD. [Goes up to her menacingly.] You want to take him away from me!
ELLA. [Rising.] Yes, Gunhild, if only I could! [Music is heard from above.]
ERHART. [Writhing as if in pain.] Oh, I can't take it anymore! [Looking round.] What did I do with my hat? [To ELLA] Do you know what she's playing up there?
ELLA. No. What is it?
ERHART. It's the "Danse Macabre"--the Dance of Death! Don't you know the Dance of Death, Aunt?
ELLA. [Smiling sadly.] Not yet, Erhart.
ERHART. [To GUNHILD.] Mother--please--let me go! I'll be by again -- tomorrow maybe.
GUNHILD. [With passionate emotion.] You want to leave me! You'd rather be with those strange people! With--with--no, I can't even think about it!
ERHART. There are bright lights over there, and young, happy faces. And there's music there, mother!
GUNHILD. [Pointing upwards.] There's music here, too, Erhart.
ERHART. Yes, and it's driving me out of the house.
GUNHILD. [Looking solemnly at him.] Be strong, Erhart! Be strong, my son! Don't forget that you have a great mission.
ERHART. Oh, mother--spare me the sermon! I wasn't born to be a missionary. Goodnight, Aunt Ella! Goodnight, mother. [He goes hastily out through the hall.
GUNHILD. [After a short silence.] It would seem you won him back quickly enough, Ella.
ELLA. I wish I dared believe it.
GUNHILD. But you won't hold him long.
ELLA. Because of you?
GUNHILD. Me, or--because of her, that other one----
ELLA. Better her than you.
GUNHILD. [Nodding slowly.] That I understand. And I say the same. Better her than you.
ELLA. [Taking her outdoor things upon her arm.] For the first time in our lives, we two twin sisters are of one mind. Goodnight, Gunhild.
[She goes out by the hall. The music sounds louder from above.
GUNHILD. [Stands still for a moment, starts, shrinks together, and whispers involuntarily.] The wolf is whining again--the sick wolf. [She stands still for a moment, then flings herself down on the floor, writhing in agony and whispering:] Erhart! Erhart!--be true to me! Oh, come home and help your mother! I can't bear this life any longer!