Act 3 ( cont)
Rank. The best possible, for both doctor and patient — certainty.
Nora (quickly and searchingly). Certainty?
Rank. Absolute certainty. So wasn’t I entitled to make a merry evening of it after that?
Nora. Yes, you certainly were, Doctor Rank.
Helmer. I think so too, so long as you don’t have to pay for it in the morning.
Rank. Oh well, one can’t have anything in this life without paying for it.
Nora. Doctor Rank — are you fond of fancy-dress balls?
Rank. Yes, if there is a fine lot of pretty costumes.
Nora. Tell me — what shall we two wear at the next?
Helmer. Little featherbrain! — are you thinking of the next already?
Rank. We two? Yes, I can tell you. You shall go as a good fairy —
Helmer. Yes, but what do you suggest as an appropriate costume for that?
Rank. Let your wife go dressed just as she is in every-day life.
Helmer. That was really very prettily turned. But can’t you tell us what you will be?
Rank. Yes, my dear friend, I have quite made up my mind about that.
Rank. At the next fancy-dress ball I shall be invisible.
Helmer That’s a good joke!
Rank. There is a big black hat — have you never heard of hats that make you invisible? If you put one on, no one can see you.
Helmer (suppressing a smile). Yes, you are quite right.
Rank. But I am clean forgetting what I came for. Helmer, give me a cigar — one of the dark Havanas.
Helmer. With the greatest pleasure. (Offers him his case.)
Rank (takes a cigar and cuts off the end). Thanks.
Nora (striking a match). Let me give you a light.
Rank. Thank you. (She holds the match for him to light his cigar.) And now good-bye!
Helmer. Good-bye, good-bye, dear old man!
Nora. Sleep well, Doctor Rank.
Rank. Thank you for that wish.
Nora. Wish me the same.
Rank. You? Well, if you want me to sleep well! And thanks for the light. (He nods to them both and goes out.)
Helmer (in a subdued voice). He has drunk more than he ought.
Nora (absently). Maybe. (HELMER takes a bunch of keys out of his pocket and goes into the hall.) Torvald! what are you going to do there?
Helmer. Empty the letter-box; it is quite full; there will be no room to put the newspaper in to-morrow morning.
Nora. Are you going to work to-night?
Helmer. You know quite well I’m not. What is this? Some one has been at the lock.
Nora. At the lock?
Helmer. Yes, someone has. What can it mean? I should never have thought the maid —. Here is a broken hairpin. Nora, it is one of yours.
Nora (quickly). Then it must have been the children —
Helmer. Then you must get them out of those ways. There, at last I have got it open. (Takes out the contents of the letter-box, and calls to the kitchen.) Helen! — Helen, put out the light over the front door. (Goes back into the room and shuts the door into the hall. He holds out his hand full of letters.) Look at that — look what a heap of them there are. (Turning them over.) What on earth is that?
Nora (at the window). The letter — No! Torvald, no!
Helmer. Two cards — of Rank’s .
Nora. Of Doctor Rank’s?
Helmer (looking at them). Doctor Rank. They were on the top. He must have put them in when he went out.
Nora. Is there anything written on them?
Helmer. There is a black cross over the name. Look there — what an uncomfortable idea! It looks as If he were announcing his own death.
Nora. It is just what he is doing.
Helmer. What? Do you know anything about it? Has he said anything to you?
Nora. Yes. He told me that when the cards came it would be his leave-taking from us. He means to shut himself up and die.
Helmer. My poor old friend. Certainly I knew we should not have him very long with us. But so soon! And so he hides himself away like a wounded animal.
Nora. If it has to happen, it is best it should be without a word — don’t you think so, Torvald?
Helmer (walking up and down). He has so grown into our lives. I can’t think of him as having gone out of them. He, with his sufferings and his loneliness, was like a cloudy background to our sunlit happiness. Well, perhaps it is best so. For him, anyway. (Standing still.) And perhaps for us too, Nora. We two are thrown quite upon each other now. (Puts his arms around her.) My darling wife, I don’t feel as if I could hold you tight enough. Do you know, Nora, I have often wished that you might be threatened by some great danger, so that I might risk my life’s blood, and everything, for your sake.
Nora (disengages herself, and says firmly and decidedly). Now you must read your letters, Torvald.
Helmer. No, no; not tonight. I want to be with you, my darling wife.
Nora. With the thought of your friend’s death —
Helmer. You are right, it has affected us both. Something ugly has come between us — the thought of the horrors of death. We must try and rid our minds of that. Until then — we will each go to our own room.
Nora (hanging on his neck). Good-night, Torvald — Good-night!
Helmer (kissing her on the forehead). Good-night, my little singing-bird. Sleep sound, Nora. Now I will read my letters through. (He takes his letters and goes into his room, shutting the door after him.)
Nora (gropes distractedly about, seizes HELMER’S domino, throws it round her, while she says in quick, hoarse, spasmodic whispers). Never to see him again. Never! Never! (Puts her shawl over her head.) Never to see my children again either — never again. Never! Never! — Ah! the icy, black water — the unfathomable depths — If only it were over! He has got it now — now he is reading it. Good-bye, Torvald and my children! (She is about to rush out through the hall, when HELMER opens his door hurriedly and stands with an open letter in his hand.)
Nora. Ah! —
Helmer. What is this? Do you know what is in this letter?
Nora. Yes, I know. Let me go! Let me get out!
Helmer (holding her back). Where are you going?
Nora (trying to get free). You shan’t save me, Torvald!
Helmer (reeling). True? Is this true, that I read here? Horrible! No, no — it is impossible that it can be true.
Nora. It is true. I have loved you above everything else in the world.
Helmer. Oh, don’t let us have any silly excuses.
Nora (taking a step towards him). Torvald —!
Helmer. Miserable creature — what have you done?
Nora. Let me go. You shall not suffer for my sake. You shall not take it upon yourself.
Helmer. No tragedy airs, please. (Locks the hall door.) Here you shall stay and give me an explanation. Do you understand what you have done? Answer me? Do you understand what you have done?
Nora (looks steadily at him and says with a growing look of coldness in her face). Yes, now I am beginning to understand thoroughly.
Helmer (walking about the room). What a horrible awakening! All these eight years — she who was my joy and pride — a hypocrite, a liar — worse, worse — a criminal! The unutterable ugliness of it all! — For shame! For shame! (NORA is silent and looks steadily at him. He stops in front of her.) I ought to have suspected that something of the sort would happen. I ought to have foreseen it. All your father’s want of principle — be silent! — all your father’s want of principle has come out in you. No religion, no morality, no sense of duty — How I am punished for having winked at what he did! I did it for your sake, and this is how you repay me.
Nora. Yes, that’s just it.
Helmer. Now you have destroyed all my happiness. You have ruined all my future. It is horrible to think of! I am in the power of an unscrupulous man; he can do what he likes with me, ask anything he likes of me, give me any orders he pleases — I dare not refuse. And I must sink to such miserable depths because of a thoughtless woman!
Nora. When I am out of the way, you will be free.
Helmer. No fine speeches, please. Your father had always plenty of those ready, too. What good would it be to me if you were out of the way, as you say? Not the slightest. He can make the affair known everywhere; and if he does, I may be falsely suspected of having been a party to your criminal action. Very likely people will think I was behind it all — that it was I who prompted you! And I have to thank you for all this — you whom I have cherished during the whole of our married life. Do you understand now what it is you have done for me?
Nora (coldly and quietly). Yes.
Helmer. It is so incredible that I can’t take it in. But we must come to some understanding. Take off that shawl. Take it off, I tell you. I must try and appease him some way or another. The matter must be hushed up at any cost. And as for you and me, it must appear as if everything between us were as before — but naturally only in the eyes of the world. You will still remain in my house, that is a matter of course. But I shall not allow you to bring up the children; I dare not trust them to you. To think that I should be obliged to say so to one whom I have loved so dearly, and whom I still —. No, that is all over. From this moment happiness is not the question; all that concerns us is to save the remains, the fragments, the appearance —
(A ring is heard at the front-door bell.)
Helmer (with a start). What is that? So late! Can the worst —? Can he —? Hide yourself, Nora. Say you are ill.
(NORA stands motionless. HELMER goes and unlocks the hall door.)
Maid (half-dressed, comes to the door). A letter for the mistress.
Helmer. Give it to me. (Takes the letter, and shuts the door.) Yes, it is from him. You shall not have it; I will read it myself.
Nora. Yes, read it.
Helmer (standing by the lamp). I scarcely have the courage to do it. It may mean ruin for both of us. No, I must know. (Tears open the letter, runs his eye over a few lines, looks at a paper enclosed, and gives a shout of joy.) Nora! (She looks at him, questioningly.) Nora! No, I must read it once again —. Yes, it is true! I am saved! Nora, I am saved!
Nora. And I?
Helmer. You too, of course; we are both saved, both saved, both you and I. Look, he sends you your bond back. He says he regrets and repents — that a happy change in his life — never mind what he says! We are saved, Nora! No one can do anything to you. Oh, Nora, Nora! — no, first I must destroy these hateful things. Let me see —. (Takes a look at the bond.) No, no, I won’t look at it. The whole thing shall be nothing but a bad dream to me. (Tears up the bond and both letters, throws them all into the stove, and watches them burn.) There — now it doesn’t exist any longer. He says that since Christmas Eve you —. These must have been three dreadful days for you, Nora.
Nora. I have fought a hard fight these three days.
Helmer. And suffered agonies, and seen no way out but —. No, we won’t call any of the horrors to mind. We will only shout with joy, and keep saying, “It’s all over! It’s all over!” Listen to me, Nora. You don’t seem to realise that it is all over. What is this? — such a cold, set face! My poor little Nora, I quite understand; you don’t feel as if you could believe that I have forgiven you. But it is true, Nora, I swear it; I have forgiven you everything. I know that what you did, you did out of love for me.
Nora. That is true.
Helmer. You have loved me as a wife ought to love her husband. Only you had not sufficient knowledge to judge of the means you used. But do you suppose you are any the less dear to me, because you don’t understand how to act on your own responsibility? No, no; only lean on me; I will advise you and direct you. I should not be a man if this womanly helplessness did not just give you a double attractiveness in my eyes. You must not think any more about the hard things I said in my first moment of consternation, when I thought everything was going to overwhelm me. I have forgiven you, Nora; I swear to you I have forgiven you.
Nora. Thank you for your forgiveness. (She goes out through the door to the right.)
Helmer. No, don’t go —. (Looks in.) What are you doing in there?
Nora (from within). Taking off my fancy dress.
Helmer (standing at the open door). Yes, do. Try and calm yourself, and make your mind easy again, my frightened little singing-bird. Be at rest, and feel secure; I have broad wings to shelter you under. (Walks up and down by the door.) How warm and cosy our home is, Nora. Here is shelter for you; here I will protect you like a hunted dove that I have saved from a hawk’s claws; I will bring peace to your poor beating heart. It will come, little by little, Nora, believe me. To-morrow morning you will look upon it all quite differently; soon everything will be just as it was before. Very soon you won’t need me to assure you that I have forgiven you; you will yourself feel the certainty that I have done so. Can you suppose I should ever think of such a thing as repudiating you, or even reproaching you? You have no idea what a true man’s heart is like, Nora. There is something so indescribably sweet and satisfying, to a man, in the knowledge that he has forgiven his wife — forgiven her freely, and with all his heart. It seems as if that had made her, as it were, doubly his own; he has given her a new life, so to speak; and she is in a way become both wife and child to him. So you shall be for me after this, my little scared, helpless darling. Have no anxiety about anything, Nora; only be frank and open with me, and I will serve as will and conscience both to you —. What is this? Not gone to bed? Have you changed your things?
Nora (in everyday dress). Yes, Torvald, I have changed my things now.
Helmer. But what for? — so late as this.
Nora. I shall not sleep tonight.
Helmer. But, my dear Nora —
Nora (looking at her watch). It is not so very late. Sit down here, Torvald. You and I have much to say to one another. (She sits down at one side of the table.)
Helmer. Nora — what is this? — this cold, set face?
Nora. Sit down. It will take some time; I have a lot to talk over with you.
Helmer (sits down at the opposite side of the table). You alarm me, Nora! — and I don’t understand you.
Nora. No, that is just it. You don’t understand me, and I have never understood you either — before tonight. No, you mustn’t interrupt me. You must simply listen to what I say. Torvald, this is a settling of accounts.
Helmer. What do you mean by that?
Nora (after a short silence). Isn’t there one thing that strikes you as strange in our sitting here like this?
Helmer. What is that?
Nora. We have been married now eight years. Does it not occur to you that this is the first time we two, you and I, husband and wife, have had a serious conversation?
Helmer. What do you mean by serious?
Nora. In all these eight years — longer than that — from the very beginning of our acquaintance, we have never exchanged a word on any serious subject.
Helmer. Was it likely that I would be continually and forever telling you about worries that you could not help me to bear?
Nora. I am not speaking about business matters. I say that we have never sat down in earnest together to try and get at the bottom of anything.
Helmer. But, dearest Nora, would it have been any good to you?
Nora. That is just it; you have never understood me. I have been greatly wronged, Torvald — first by papa and then by you.
Helmer. What! By us two — by us two, who have loved you better than anyone else in in the world?
Nora (shaking her head). You have never loved me. You have only thought it pleasant to be in love with me.
Helmer. Nora, what do I hear you saying?
Nora. It is perfectly true, Torvald. When I was at home with papa, he told me his opinion about everything, and so I had the same opinions; and if I differed from him I concealed the fact, because he would not have liked it. He called me his doll-child, and he played with me just as I used to play with my dolls. And when I came to live with you —
Helmer. What sort of an expression is that to use about our marriage?
Nora (undisturbed). I mean that I was simply transferred from papa’s hands into yours. You arranged everything according to your own taste, and so I got the same tastes as you — or else I pretended to, I am really not quite sure which — I think sometimes the one and sometimes the other. When I look back on it, it seems to me as if I had been living here like a poor woman — just from hand to mouth. I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and papa have committed a great sin against me. It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life.
Helmer. How unreasonable and how ungrateful you are, Nora! Have you not been happy here?
Nora. No, I have never been happy. I thought I was, but it has never really been so.
Helmer. Not — not happy!
Nora. No, only merry. And you have always been so kind to me. But our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was papa’s doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls. I thought it great fun when you played with me, just as they thought it great fun when I played with them. That is what our marriage has been, Torvald.
Helmer. There is some truth in what you say — exaggerated and strained as your view of it is. But for the future it shall be different. Playtime shall be over, and lesson-time shall begin.
Nora. Whose lessons? Mine, or the children’s?
Helmer. Both yours and the children’s, my darling Nora.
Nora. Alas, Torvald, you are not the man to educate me into being a proper wife for you.
Helmer. And you can say that!
Nora. And I— how am I fitted to bring up the children?