Act 1 ( cont 1)
Krogstad. It would have been better for you if you had given up your trip abroad.
Nora. No, that was impossible. That trip was to save my husband’s life; I couldn’t give that up.
Krogstad. But did it never occur to you that you were committing a fraud on me?
Nora. I couldn’t take that into account; I didn’t trouble myself about you at all. I couldn’t bear you, because you put so many heartless difficulties in my way, although you knew what a dangerous condition my husband was in.
Krogstad. Mrs. Helmer, you evidently do not realise clearly what it is that you have been guilty of. But I can assure you that my one false step, which lost me all my reputation, was nothing more or nothing worse than what you have done.
Nora. You? Do you ask me to believe that you were brave enough to run a risk to save your wife’s life.
Krogstad. The law cares nothing about motives.
Nora. Then it must be a very foolish law.
Krogstad. Foolish or not, it is the law by which you will be judged, if I produce this paper in court.
Nora. I don’t believe it. Is a daughter not to be allowed to spare her dying father anxiety and care? Is a wife not to be allowed to save her husband’s life? I don’t know much about law; but I am certain that there must be laws permitting such things as that. Have you no knowledge of such laws — you who are a lawyer? You must be a very poor lawyer, Mr. Krogstad.
Krogstad. Maybe. But matters of business — such business as you and I have had together — do you think I don’t understand that? Very well. Do as you please. But let me tell you this — if I lose my position a second time, you shall lose yours with me. (He bows, and goes out through the hall.)
Nora (appears buried in thought for a short time, then tosses her head). Nonsense! Trying to frighten me like that! — I am not so silly as he thinks. (Begins to busy herself putting the children’s things in order.) And yet —? No, it’s impossible! I did it for love’s sake.
The Children (in the doorway on the left.) Mother, the stranger man has gone out through the gate.
Nora. Yes, dears, I know. But, don’t tell anyone about the stranger man. Do you hear? Not even papa.
Children. No, mother; but will you come and play again?
Nora. No no — not now.
Children. But, mother, you promised us.
Nora. Yes, but I can’t now. Run away in; I have such a lot to do. Run away in, sweet little darlings. (She gets them into the room by degrees and shuts the door on them; then sits down on the sofa, takes up a piece of needlework and sews a few stitches, but soon stops.) No! (Throws down the work, gets up, goes to the hall door and calls out.) Helen, bring the Tree in. (Goes to the table on the left, opens a drawer, and stops again.) No, no! it is quite impossible!
Maid (coming in with the Tree). Where shall I put it, ma’am?
Nora. Here, in the middle of the floor.
Maid. Shall I get you anything else?
Nora. No, thank you. I have all I want.
Nora (begins dressing the tree). A candle here — and flowers here —. The horrible man! It’s all nonsense — there’s nothing wrong. The Tree shall be splendid! I will do everything I can think of to please you, Torvald! — I will sing for you, dance for you —(HELMER comes in with some papers under his arm.) Oh! are you back already?
Helmer. Yes. Has anyone been here?
Nora. Here? No.
Helmer. That is strange. I saw Krogstad going out of the gate.
Nora. Did you? Oh yes, I forgot Krogstad was here for a moment.
Helmer. Nora, I can see from your manner that he has been here begging you to say a good word for him.
Helmer. And you were to appear to do it of your own accord; you were to conceal from me the fact of his having been here; didn’t he beg that of you too?
Nora. Yes, Torvald, but —
Helmer. Nora, Nora, and you would be a party to that sort of thing? To have any talk with a man like that, and give him any sort of promise? And to tell me a lie into the bargain?
Nora. A lie —?
Helmer. Didn’t you tell me no one had been here? (Shakes his finger at her.) My little song-bird must never do that again. A song-bird must have a clean beak to chirp with — no false notes! (Puts his arm round her waist.) That is so, isn’t it? Yes, I am sure it is. (Lets her go.) We will say no more about it. (Sits down by the stove.) How warm and snug it is here! (Turns over his papers.)
Nora (after a short pause, during which she busies herself with the Christmas Tree). Torvald!
Nora: I am looking forward tremendously to the fancy dress ball at the Stensborgs’ the day after tomorrow.
Helmer. And I am tremendously curious to see what you are going to surprise me with.
Nora. It was very silly of me to want to do that.
Helmer. What do you mean?
Nora. I can’t hit upon anything that will do; everything I think of seems so silly and insignificant.
Helmer. Does my little Nora acknowledge that at last?
Nora (standing behind his chair with her arms on the back of it). Are you very busy, Torvald?
Helmer. Well —
Nora. What are all those papers?
Helmer. Bank business.
Helmer. I have got authority from the retiring manager to undertake the necessary changes in the staff and in the rearrangement of the work; and I must make use of the Christmas week for that, so as to have everything in order for the new year.
Nora. Then that was why this poor Krogstad —
Nora (leans against the back of his chair and strokes his hair). If you hadn’t been so busy I should have asked you a tremendously big favour, Torvald.
Helmer. What is that? Tell me.
Nora. There is no one has such good taste as you. And I do so want to look nice at the fancy-dress ball. Torvald, couldn’t you take me in hand and decide what I shall go as, and what sort of a dress I shall wear?
Helmer. Aha! so my obstinate little woman is obliged to get someone to come to her rescue?
Nora. Yes, Torvald, I can’t get along a bit without your help.
Helmer Very well, I will think it over, we shall manage to hit upon something.
Nora. That is nice of you. (Goes to the Christmas Tree. A short pause.) How pretty the red flowers look —. But, tell me, was it really something very bad that this Krogstad was guilty of?
Helmer. He forged someone’s name. Have you any idea what that means?
Nora. Isn’t it possible that he was driven to do it by necessity?
Helmer. Yes; or, as in so many cases, by imprudence. I am not so heartless as to condemn a man altogether because of a single false step of that kind.
Nora. No you wouldn’t, would you, Torvald?
Helmer. Many a man has been able to retrieve his character, if he has openly confessed his fault and taken his punishment.
Nora. Punishment —?
Helmer. But Krogstad did nothing of that sort; he got himself out of it by a cunning trick, and that is why he has gone under altogether.
Nora. But do you think it would —?
Helmer. Just think how a guilty man like that has to lie and play the hypocrite with everyone, how he has to wear a mask in the presence of those near and dear to him, even before his own wife and children. And about the children — that is the most terrible part of it all, Nora.
Helmer. Because such an atmosphere of lies infects and poisons the whole life of a home. Each breath the children take in such a house is full of the germs of evil.
Nora (coming nearer him). Are you sure of that?
Helmer. My dear, I have often seen it in the course of my life as a lawyer. Almost everyone who has gone to the bad early in life has had a deceitful mother.
Nora. Why do you only say — mother?
Helmer. It seems most commonly to be the mother’s influence, though naturally a bad father’s would have the same result. Every lawyer is familiar with the fact. This Krogstad, now, has been persistently poisoning his own children with lies and dissimulation; that is why I say he has lost all moral character. (Holds out his hands to her.) That is why my sweet little Nora must promise me not to plead his cause. Give me your hand on it. Come, come, what is this? Give me your hand. There now, that’s settled. I assure you it would be quite impossible for me to work with him; I literally feel physically ill when I am in the company of such people.
Nora (takes her hand out of his and goes to the opposite side of the Christmas Tree). How hot it is in here; and I have such a lot to do.
Helmer (getting up and putting his papers in order). Yes, and I must try and read through some of these before dinner; and I must think about your costume, too. And it is just possible I may have something ready in gold paper to hang up on the Tree. (Puts his hand on her head.) My precious little singing-bird! (He goes into his room and shuts the door after him.)
Nora (after a pause, whispers). No, no — it isn’t true. It’s impossible; it must be impossible.
(The NURSE opens the door on the left.)
Nurse. The little ones are begging so hard to be allowed to come in to mamma.
Nora. No, no, no! Don’t let them come in to me! You stay with them, Anne.
Nurse. Very well, ma’am. (Shuts the door.)
Nora (pale with terror). Deprave my little children? Poison my home? (A short pause. Then she tosses her head.) It’s not true. It can’t possibly be true.