Act 2 ( cont)
Nora. Your squirrel would run about and do all her tricks if you would be nice, and do what she wants.
Helmer. Speak plainly.
Nora. Your skylark would chirp about in every room, with her song rising and falling —
Helmer. Well, my skylark does that anyhow.
Nora. I would play the fairy and dance for you in the moonlight, Torvald.
Helmer. Nora — you surely don’t mean that request you made of me this morning?
Nora (going near him). Yes, Torvald, I beg you so earnestly —
Helmer. Have you really the courage to open up that question again?
Nora. Yes, dear, you must do as I ask; you must let Krogstad keep his post in the bank.
Helmer. My dear Nora, it is his post that I have arranged Mrs. Linde shall have.
Nora. Yes, you have been awfully kind about that; but you could just as well dismiss some other clerk instead of Krogstad.
Helmer. This is simply incredible obstinacy! Because you chose to give him a thoughtless promise that you would speak for him, I am expected to —
Nora. That isn’t the reason, Torvald. It is for your own sake. This fellow writes in the most scurrilous newspapers; you have told me so yourself. He can do you an unspeakable amount of harm. I am frightened to death of him —
Helmer. Ah, I understand; it is recollections of the past that scare you.
Nora. What do you mean?
Helmer. Naturally you are thinking of your father.
Nora. Yes — yes, of course. Just recall to your mind what these malicious creatures wrote in the papers about papa, and how horribly they slandered him. I believe they would have procured his dismissal if the Department had not sent you over to inquire into it, and if you had not been so kindly disposed and helpful to him.
Helmer. My little Nora, there is an important difference between your father and me. Your father’s reputation as a public official was not above suspicion. Mine is, and I hope it will continue to be so, as long as I hold my office.
Nora. You never can tell what mischief these men may contrive. We ought to be so well off, so snug and happy here in our peaceful home, and have no cares — you and I and the children, Torvald! That is why I beg you so earnestly —
Helmer. And it is just by interceding for him that you make it impossible for me to keep him. It is already known at the Bank that I mean to dismiss Krogstad. Is it to get about now that the new manager has changed his mind at his wife’s bidding —
Nora. And what if it did?
Helmer. Of course! — if only this obstinate little person can get her way! Do you suppose I am going to make myself ridiculous before my whole staff, to let people think that I am a man to be swayed by all sorts of outside influence? I should very soon feel the consequences of it, I can tell you. And besides, there is one thing that makes it quite impossible for me to have Krogstad in the bank as long as I am manager.
Nora. Whatever is that?
Helmer. His moral failings I might perhaps have overlooked, if necessary —
Nora. Yes, you could — couldn’t you?
Helmer. And, I hear he is a good worker, too. But I knew him when we were boys. It was one of those rash friendships that so often prove an incubus in after life. I may as well tell you plainly, we were once on very intimate terms with one another. But this tactless fellow lays no restraint upon himself when other people are present. On the contrary, he thinks it gives him the right to adopt a familiar tone with me, and every minute it is “I say, Helmer, old fellow!” and that sort of thing. I assure you it is extremely painful to me. He would make my position in the bank intolerable.
Nora. Torvald, I don’t believe you mean that.
Helmer. Don’t you? Why not?
Nora. Because it is such a narrow-minded way of looking at things.
Helmer. What are you saying? Narrow-minded? Do you think I am narrow-minded?
Nora. No, just the opposite, dear — and it is exactly for that reason.
Helmer. It’s the same thing. You say my point of view is narrow-minded, so I must be so, too. Narrow-minded! Very well — I must put an end to this. (Goes to the hall door and calls.) Helen!
Nora. What are you going to do?
Helmer (looking among his papers). Settle it. (Enter MAID.) Look here; take this letter and go downstairs with it at once. Find a messenger and tell him to deliver it, and be quick. The address is on it, and here is the money.
Maid. Very well, sir. (Exit with the letter.)
Helmer (putting his papers together). Now, then, little Miss Obstinate.
Nora (breathlessly). Torvald — what was that letter?
Helmer. Krogstad’s dismissal.
Nora. Call her back, Torvald! There is still time. Oh Torvald, call her back! Do it for my sake — for your own sake, for the children’s sake! Do you hear me, Torvald? Call her back! You don’t know what that letter can bring upon us.
Helmer. It’s too late.
Nora. Yes, it’s too late.
Helmer. My dear Nora, I can forgive the anxiety you are in, although really it is an insult to me. It is, indeed. Isn’t it an insult to think that I should be afraid of a starving quill-driver’s vengeance? But I forgive you, nevertheless, because it is such eloquent witness to your great love for me. (Takes her in his arms.) And that is as it should be, my own darling Nora. Come what will, you may be sure I shall have both courage and strength if they be needed. You will see I am man enough to take everything upon myself.
Nora (in a horror-stricken voice). What do you mean by that?
Helmer. Everything I say —
Nora (recovering herself). You will never have to do that.
Helmer. That’s right. Well, we will share it, Nora, as man and wife should. That is how it shall be. (Caressing her.) Are you content now? There! There! — not these frightened dove’s eyes! The whole thing is only the wildest fancy! — Now, you must go and play through the Tarantella and practice with your tambourine. I shall go into the inner office and shut the door, and I shall hear nothing; you can make as much noise as you please. (Turns back at the door.) And when Rank comes, tell him where he will find me. (Nods to her, takes his papers and goes into his room, and shuts the door after him.)
Nora (bewildered with anxiety, stands as if rooted to the spot, and whispers). He was capable of doing it. He will do it. He will do it in spite of everything. — No, not that! Never, never! Anything rather than that! Oh, for some help, some way out of it. (The door-bell rings.) Doctor Rank! Anything rather than that — anything, whatever it is! (She puts her hands over her face, pulls herself together, goes to the door and opens it. RANK is standing without, hanging up his coat. During the following dialogue it begins to grow dark.)
Nora. Good-day, Doctor Rank. I knew your ring. But you mustn’t go into Torvald now; I think he is busy with something.
Rank. And you?
Nora (brings him in and shuts the door after him). Oh, you know very well I always have time for you.
Rank. Thank you. I shall make use of as much of it as I can.
Nora. What do you mean by that? As much of it as you can.
Rank. Well, does that alarm you?
Nora. It was such a strange way of putting it. Is anything likely to happen?
Rank. Nothing but what I have long been prepared for. But I certainly didn’t expect it to happen so soon.
Nora (gripping him by the arm). What have you found out? Doctor Rank, you must tell me.
Rank (sitting down by the stove). It is all up with me. And it can’t be helped.
Nora (with a sigh of relief). Is it about yourself?
Rank. Who else? It is no use lying to one’s self. I am the most wretched of all my patients, Mrs. Helmer. Lately I have been taking stock of my internal economy. Bankrupt! Probably within a month I shall lie rotting in the church-yard.
Nora. What an ugly thing to say!
Rank. The thing itself is cursedly ugly, and the worst of it is that I shall have to face so much more that is ugly before that. I shall only make one more examination of myself; when I have done that, I shall know pretty certainly when it will be that the horrors of dissolution will begin. There is something I want to tell you. Helmer’s refined nature gives him an unconquerable disgust of everything that is ugly; I won’t have him in my sick-room.
Nora. Oh, but, Doctor Rank —
Rank. I won’t have him there. Not on any account. I bar my door to him. As soon as I am quite certain that the worst has come, I shall send you my card with a black cross on it, and then you will know that the loathsome end has begun.
Nora. You are quite absurd to-day. And I wanted you so much to be in a really good humour.
Rank. With death stalking beside me? — To have to pay this penalty for another man’s sin! Is there any justice in that? And in every single family, in one way or another, some such inexorable retribution is being exacted —
Nora (putting her hands over her ears). Rubbish! Do talk of something cheerful.
Rank. Oh, it’s a mere laughing matter, the whole thing. My poor innocent spine has to suffer for my father’s youthful amusements.
Nora (sitting at the table on the left). I suppose you mean that he was too partial to asparagus and pate de foie gras, don’t you?
Rank. Yes, and to truffles.
Nora. Truffles, yes. And oysters too, I suppose?
Rank. Oysters, of course, that goes without saying.
Nora. And heaps of port and champagne. It is sad that all these nice things should take their revenge on our bones.
Rank. Especially that they should revenge themselves on the unlucky bones of those who have not had the satisfaction of enjoying them.
Nora. Yes, that’s the saddest part of it all.
Rank (with a searching look at her). Hm! —
Nora (after a short pause). Why did you smile?
Rand. No, it was you that laughed.
Nora. No, it was you that smiled, Doctor Rank!
Rank (rising). You are a greater rascal than I thought.
Nora. I am in a silly mood today.
Rank. So it seems.
Nora (putting her hands on his shoulders). Dear, dear Doctor Rank, death mustn’t take you away from Torvald and me.
Rank. It is a loss you would easily recover from. Those who are gone are soon forgotten.
Nora (looking at him anxiously). Do you believe that?
Rank. People form new ties, and then —
Nora. Who will form new ties?
Rank. Both you and Helmer, when I am gone. You yourself are already on the high road to it, I think. What did that Mrs. Linde want here last night?
Nora. Oho! — you don’t mean to say you are jealous of poor Christine?
Rank. Yes, I am. She will be my successor in this house. When I am done for, this woman will —
Nora. Hush! don’t speak so loud. She is in that room.
Rank. To-day again. There, you see.
Nora. She has only come to sew my dress for me. Bless my soul, how unreasonable you are! (Sits down on the sofa.) Be nice now, Doctor Rank, and to-morrow you will see how beautifully I shall dance, and you can imagine I am doing it all for you — and for Torvald too, of course. (Takes various things out of the box.) Doctor Rank, come and sit down here, and I will show you something.
Rank (sitting down). What is it?
Nora. Just look at those.
Rank. Silk stockings.
Nora. Flesh-coloured. Aren’t they lovely? It is so dark here now, but to-morrow —. No, no, no! you must only look at the feet. Oh, well, you may have leave to look at the legs too.
Rank. Hm! —
Nora. Why are you looking so critical? Don’t you think they will fit me?
Rank. I have no means of forming an opinion about that.
Nora (looks at him for a moment). For shame! (Hits him lightly on the ear with the stockings.) That’s to punish you. (Folds them up again.)
Rank. And what other nice things am I to be allowed to see?
Nora. Not a single thing more, for being so naughty. (She looks among the things, humming to herself.)
Rank (after a short silence). When I am sitting here, talking to you as intimately as this, I cannot imagine for a moment what would have become of me if I had never come into this house.
Nora (smiling). I believe you do feel thoroughly at home with us.
Rank (in a lower voice, looking straight in front of him). And to be obliged to leave it all —
Nora. Nonsense, you are not going to leave it.
Rank (as before). And not be able to leave behind one the slightest token of one’s gratitude, scarcely even a fleeting regret — nothing but an empty place which the first comer can fill as well as any other.
Nora. And if I asked you now for a —? No!
Rank. For what?
Nora. For a big proof of your friendship —
Rank. Yes, yes.
Nora. I mean a tremendously big favour —
Rank. Would you really make me so happy for once?
Nora. Ah, but you don’t know what it is yet.
Rank. No — but tell me.
Nora. I really can’t, Doctor Rank. It is something out of all reason; it means advice, and help, and a favour —
Rank. The bigger a thing it is the better. I can’t conceive what it is you mean. Do tell me. Haven’t I your confidence?
Nora. More than anyone else. I know you are my truest and best friend, and so I will tell you what it is. Well, Doctor Rank, it is something you must help me to prevent. You know how devotedly, how inexpressibly deeply Torvald loves me; he would never for a moment hesitate to give his life for me.
Rank (leaning toward her). Nora — do you think he is the only one —?
Nora (with a slight start). The only one —?
Rank. The only one who would gladly give his life for your sake.
Nora (sadly). Is that it?
Rank. I was determined you should know it before I went away, and there will never be a better opportunity than this. Now you know it, Nora. And now you know, too, that you can trust me as you would trust no one else.
Nora (rises deliberately and quietly). Let me pass.
Rank (makes room for her to pass him, but sits still). Nora!
Nora (at the hall door). Helen, bring in the lamp. (Goes over to the stove.) Dear Doctor Rank, that was really horrid of you.
Rank. To have loved you as much as anyone else does? Was that horrid?
Nora. No, but to go and tell me so. There was really no need —
Rank. What do you mean? Did you know —? (MAID enters with lamp, puts it down on the table, and goes out.) Nora — Mrs. Helmer — tell me, had you any idea of this?
Nora. Oh, how do I know whether I had or whether I hadn’t. I really can’t tell you — To think you could be so clumsy, Doctor Rank! We were getting on so nicely.
Bank. Well, at all events you know now that you can command me, body and soul. So won’t you speak out?
Nora (looking at him). After what happened?
Rank. I beg you to let me know what it is.
Nora. I can’t tell you anything now.
Rank. Yes, yes. You mustn’t punish me in that way. Let me have permission to do for you whatever a man may do.
Nora. You can do nothing for me now. Besides, I really don’t need any help at all. You will find that the whole thing is merely fancy on my part. It really is so — of course it is! (Sits down in the rocking-chair, and looks at him with a smile.) You are a nice sort of man, Doctor Rank! — don’t you feel ashamed of yourself, now the lamp has come?
Rank. Not a bit. But perhaps I had better go — forever?
Nora. No, indeed, you shall not. Of course you must come here just as before. You know very well Torvald can’t do without you.
Rank. Yes, but you?
Nora. Oh, I am always tremendously pleased when you come.
Rank. It is just that, that put me on the wrong track. You are a riddle to me. I have often thought that you would almost as soon be in my company as in Helmer’s .
Nora. Yes — you see there are some people one loves best, and others whom one would almost always rather have as companions.
Rank. Yes, there is something in that.