Act 2 ( cont 1)
Nora. When I was at home, of course I loved papa best. But I always thought it tremendous fun if I could steal down into the maids’ room, because they never moralized at all, and talked to each other about such entertaining things.
Rank. I see — it is their place I have taken.
Nora (jumping-up and going to him). Oh, dear, nice Doctor Rank, I never meant that at all. But surely you can understand that being with Torvald is a little like being with papa —(Enter MAID from the hall.)
Maid. If you please, ma’am. (Whispers and hands her a card.)
Nora (glancing at the card). Oh! (Puts it in her pocket.)
Rank. Is there anything wrong?
Nora. No, no, not in the least. It is only something — It is my new dress —
Rank. What? Your dress is lying there.
Nora. Oh, yes, that one; but this is another. I ordered it. Torvald mustn’t know about it —
Rank. Oho! Then that was the great secret.
Nora. Of course. Just go in to him; he is sitting in the inner room. Keep him as long as —
Rank. Make your mind easy; I won’t let him escape. (Goes into HELMER’S room.)
Nora (to the MAID). And he is standing waiting in the kitchen?
Maid. Yes; he came up the back stairs.
Nora. But didn’t you tell him no one was in?
Maid. Yes, but it was no good.
Nora. He won’t go away?
Maid. No; he says he won’t until he has seen you, ma’am.
Nora. Well, let him come in — but quietly. Helen, you mustn’t say anything about it to any one. It is a surprise for my husband.
Maid. Yes, ma’am, I quite understand. (Exit.)
Nora. This dreadful thing is going to happen. It will happen in spite of me! No, no, no, it can’t happen — it shan’t happen! (She bolts the door of HELMER’S room. The MAID opens the hall door for KROGSTAD and shuts it after him. He is wearing a fur coat, high boots and a fur cap.)
Nora (advancing towards him). Speak low — my husband is at home.
Krogstad. No matter about that.
Nora. What do you want of me?
Krogstad. An explanation of something.
Nora. Make haste then. What is it?
Krogstad. You know, I suppose, that I have got my dismissal.
Nora. I couldn’t prevent it, Mr. Krogstad. I fought as hard as I could on your side, but it was no good.
Krogstad. Does your husband love you so little, then? He knows what I can expose you to, and yet he ventures —
Nora. How can you suppose that he has any knowledge of the sort?
Krogstad. I didn’t suppose so at all. It would not be the least like our dear Torvald Helmer to show so much courage —
Nora. Mr. Krogstad, a little respect for my husband, please.
Krogstad. Certainly — all the respect he deserves. But since you have kept the matter so carefully to yourself, I make bold to suppose that you have a little clearer idea than you had yesterday, of what it actually is that you have done?
Nora. More than you could ever teach me.
Krogstad. Yes, such a bad lawyer as I am.
Nora. What is it you want of me?
Krogstad. Only to see how you were, Mrs. Helmer. I have been thinking about you all day long. A mere cashier — a quill-driver, a — well, a man like me — even he has a little of what is called feeling, you know.
Nora. Show it, then; think of my little children.
Krogstad. Have you and your husband thought of mine? But never mind about that. I only wanted to tell you that you need not take this matter too seriously. In the first place there will be no accusation made on my part.
Nora. No, of course not; I was sure of that.
Krogstad. The whole thing can be arranged amicably; there is no reason why anyone should know anything about it. It will remain a secret between us three.
Nora. My husband must never get to know anything about it.
Krogstad. How will you be able to prevent it? Am I to understand that you can pay the balance that is owing?
Nora. No, not just at present.
Krogstad. Or perhaps that you have some expedient for raising the money soon?
Nora. No expedient that I mean to make use of.
Krogstad. Well, in any case, it would have been of no use to you now. If you stood there with ever so much money in your hand, I would never part with your bond.
Nora. Tell me what purpose you mean to put it to.
Krogstad. I shall only preserve it — keep it in my possession. No one who is not concerned in the matter shall have the slightest hint of it. So that if the thought of it has driven you to any desperate resolution —
Nora. It has.
Krogstad. If you had it in your mind to run away from your home —
Nora. I had.
Krogstad. Or even something worse —
Nora. How could you know that?
Krogstad. Give up the idea.
Nora. How did you know I had thought of that?
Krogstad. Most of us think of that at first. I did, too — but I hadn’t the courage.
Nora (faintly). No more had I.
Krogstad (in a tone of relief). No, that’s it, isn’t it — you hadn’t the courage either?
Nora. No, I haven’t — I haven’t.
Krogstad. Besides, it would have been a great piece of folly. Once the first storm at home is over —. I have a letter for your husband in my pocket.
Nora. Telling him everything?
Krogstad. In as lenient a manner as I possibly could.
Nora (quickly). He mustn’t get the letter. Tear it up. I will find some means of getting money.
Krogstad. Excuse me, Mrs. Helmer, but I think I told you just how —
Nora. I am not speaking of what I owe you. Tell me what sum you are asking my husband for, and I will get the money.
Krogstad. I am not asking your husband for a penny.
Nora. What do you want, then?
Krogstad. I will tell you. I want to rehabilitate myself, Mrs. Helmer; I want to get on; and in that your husband must help me. For the last year and a half I have not had a hand in anything dishonourable, and all that time I have been struggling in most restricted circumstances. I was content to work my way up step by step. Now I am turned out, and I am not going to be satisfied with merely being taken into favour again. I want to get on, I tell you. I want to get into the Bank again, in a higher position. Your husband must make a place for me —
Nora. That he will never do!
Krogstad. He will; I know him; he dare not protest. And as soon as I am in there again with him, then you will see! Within a year I shall be the manager’s right hand. It will be Nils Krogstad and not Torvald Helmer who manages the Bank.
Nora. That’s a thing you will never see!
Krogstad. Do you mean that you will —?
Nora. I have courage enough for it now.
Krogstad. Oh, you can’t frighten me. A fine, spoilt lady like you —
Nora. You will see, you will see.
Krogstad. Under the ice, perhaps? Down into the cold, coal-black water? And then, in the spring, to float up to the surface, all horrible and unrecognizable, with your hair fallen out —
Nora. You can’t frighten me.
Krogstad. Nor you me. People don’t do such things, Mrs. Helmer. Besides, what use would it be? I should have him completely in my power all the same.
Nora. Afterwards? When I am no longer —
Krogstad. Have you forgot that it is I who have the keeping of your reputation? (Nora stands speechlessly looking at him.) Well, now, I have warned you. Do not do anything foolish. When Helmer has had my letter, I shall expect a message from him. And be sure you remember that it is your husband himself who has forced me into such ways as this again. I will never forgive him for that. Good-bye, Mrs. Helmer. (Exit through the hall.)
Nora (goes to the hall door, opens it slightly and listens). He is going. He is not putting the letter in the box. Oh, no, no, that’s impossible! (Opens the door by degrees.) What is that? He is standing outside. He is not going downstairs. Is he hesitating? Can he —? (A letter drops into the box; then KROGSTAD’S footsteps are heard, till they die away as he goes downstairs. NORA utters a stifled cry, and runs across the room to the table by the sofa. A short pause.)
Nora. In the letter-box. (Steals across to the hall-door.) There it lies — Torvald, Torvald, there is no hope for us now!
(MRS. LINDE comes in from the room on the left, carrying the dress.)
Mrs. Linde. There, I can’t see anything more to mend now. Would you like to try it on —?
Nora (in a hoarse whisper). Christine, come here.
Mrs. Linde (throwing the dress down on the sofa). What is the matter with you? You look so agitated!
Nora. Come here. Do you see that letter? There, look — you can see it through the glass in the letter-box.
Mrs. Linde. Yes, I see it.
Nora. That letter is from Krogstad.
Mrs. Linde. Nora — it was Krogstad who lent you the money!
Nora. Yes, and now Torvald will know all about it.
Mrs. Linde. Believe me, Nora, that’s the best thing for both of you.
Nora. You don’t know all. I forged a name.
Mrs. Linde. Good heavens —!
Nora. I only want to say this to you, Christine — you must be my witness.
Mrs. Linde. Your witness! What do you mean? What am I to —?
Nora. If I should go out of my mind — and it might easily happen —
Mrs. Linde. Nora!
Nora. Or if anything else should happen to me — anything, for instance, that might prevent my being here —
Mrs. Linde. Nora! Nora! you are quite out of your mind.
Nora. And if it should happen that there were someone who wanted to take all the responsibility, all the blame, you understand —
Mrs. Linde. Yes, yes — but how can you suppose —?
Nora. Then you must be my witness, that it is not true, Christine. I am not out of my mind at all; I am in my right senses now, and I tell you no one else has known anything about it; I and I alone, did the whole thing. Remember that.
Mrs. Linde. I will, indeed. But I don’t understand all this.
Nora. How should you understand it? A wonderful thing is going to happen.
Mrs. Linde. A wonderful thing?
Nora. Yes, a wonderful thing! — But it is so terrible, Christine; it mustn’t happen, not for all the world.
Mrs. Linde. I will go at once and see Krogstad.
Nora. Don’t go to him; he will do you some harm.
Mrs. Linde. There was a time when he would gladly do anything for my sake.
Mrs. Linde. Where does he live?
Nora. How should I know —? Yes (feeling in her pocket) here is his card. But the letter, the letter —!
Helmer (calls from his room, knocking at the door). Nora.
Nora (cries out anxiously). Oh, what’s that? What do you want?
Helmer. Don’t be so frightened. We are not coming in; you have locked the door. Are you trying on your dress?
Nora. Yes, that’s it. I look so nice, Torvald.
Mrs. Linde (who has read the card) I see he lives at the corner here.
Nora. Yes, but it’s no use. It is hopeless. The letter is lying there in the box.
Mrs. Linde. And your husband keeps the key?
Nora. Yes, always.
Mrs. Linde. Krogstad must ask for his letter back unread, he must find some pretence —
Nora. But it is just at this time that Torvald generally —
Mrs. Linde. You must delay him. Go in to him in the meantime. I will come back as soon as I can. (She goes out hurriedly through the hall door.)
Nora (goes to HELMER’S door, opens it and peeps in). Torvald!
Helmer (from the inner room). Well? May I venture at last to come into my own room again? Come along, Rank, now you will see —( Halting in the doorway.) But what is this?
Nora. What is what, dear?
Helmer. Rank led me to expect a splendid transformation.
Rank (in the doorway). I understood so, but evidently I was mistaken.
Nora. Yes, nobody is to have the chance of admiring me in my dress until to-morrow.
Helmer. But, my dear Nora, you look so worn out. Have you been practising too much?
Nora. No, I have not practised at all.
Helmer. But you will need to —
Nora. Yes, indeed I shall, Torvald. But I can’t get on a bit without you to help me; I have absolutely forgotten the whole thing.
Helmer. Oh, we will soon work it up again.
Nora. Yes, help me, Torvald. Promise that you will! I am so nervous about it — all the people —. You must give yourself up to me entirely this evening. Not the tiniest bit of business — you mustn’t even take a pen in your hand. Will you promise, Torvald dear?
Helmer. I promise. This evening I will be wholly and absolutely at your service, you helpless little mortal. Ah, by the way, first of all I will just —(Goes toward the hall-door.)
Nora. What are you going to do there?
Helmer. Only see if any letters have come.
Nora. No, no! don’t do that, Torvald!
Helmer. Why not?
Nora. Torvald, please don’t. There is nothing there.
Helmer. Well, let me look. (Turns to go to the letter-box. NORA, at the piano, plays the first bars of the Tarantella. HELMER stops in the doorway.) Aha!
Nora. I can’t dance to-morrow if I don’t practise with you.
Helmer (going up to her). Are you really so afraid of it, dear?
Nora. Yes, so dreadfully afraid of it. Let me practise at once; there is time now, before we go to dinner. Sit down and play for me, Torvald dear; criticise me, and correct me as you play.
Helmer. With great pleasure, if you wish me to. (Sits down at the piano.)
Nora (takes out of the box a tambourine and a long variegated shawl. She hastily drapes the shawl round her. Then she springs to the front of the stage and calls out). Now play for me! I am going to dance!
(HELMER plays and NORA dances. RANK stands by the piano behind HELMER, and looks on.)
Helmer (as he plays). Slower, slower!
Nora. I can’t do it any other way.
Helmer. Not so violently, Nora!
Nora. This is the way.
Helmer (stops playing). No, no — that is not a bit right.
Nora (laughing and swinging the tambourine). Didn’t I tell you so?
Rank. Let me play for her.
Helmer (getting up). Yes, do. I can correct her better then.
(RANK sits down at the piano and plays. Nora dances more and more wildly. HELMER has taken up a position beside the stove, and during her dance gives her frequent instructions. She does not seem to hear him; her hair comes down and falls over her shoulders; she pays no attention to it, but goes on dancing. Enter MRS. LINDE.)
Mrs. Linde (standing as if spell-bound in the doorway). Oh! —
Nora (as she dances). Such fun, Christine!
Helmer. My dear darling Nora, you are dancing as if your life depended on it.
Nora. So it does.
Helmer. Stop, Rank; this is sheer madness. Stop, I tell you. (RANK stops playing, and, NORA suddenly stands still. HELMER goes up to her.) I could never have believed it. You have forgotten everything I taught you.
Nora (throwing away the tambourine). There, you see.
Helmer. You will want a lot of coaching.
Nora. Yes, you see how much I need it. You must coach me up to the last minute. Promise me that, Torvald!
Helmer. You can depend on me.
Nora. You must not think of anything but me, either to-day or to-morrow; you mustn’t open a single letter — not even open the letter-box —
Helmer. Ah, you are still afraid of that fellow ——
Nora. Yes, indeed I am.
Helmer. Nora, I can tell from your looks that there is a letter from him lying there.
Nora. I don’t know; I think there is; but you must not read anything of that kind now. Nothing horrid must come between us till this is all over.
Rank (whispers to HELMER). You mustn’t contradict her.
Helmer (taking her in his arms). The child shall have her way. But to-morrow night, after you have danced —
Nora. Then you will be free. (The MAID appears in the doorway to the right.)
Maid. Dinner is served, ma’am.
Nora. We will have champagne, Helen.
Maid. Very good, ma’am.
Helmer. Hullo! — are we going to have a banquet? (Exit.)
Nora. Yes, a champagne banquet till the small hours. (Calls out.) And a few macaroons, Helen — lots, just for once!
Helmer. Come, come, don’t be so wild and nervous. Be my own little skylark, as you used.
Nora. Yes, dear, I will. But go in now and you too, Doctor Rank. Christine, you must, help me to do up my hair.
Rank (whispers to HELMER as they go out). I suppose there is nothing — she is not expecting anything?
Helmer. Far from it, my dear fellow; it is simply nothing more than this childish nervousness I was telling you of. (They go into the right-hand room.)
Mrs. Linde. Gone out of town.
Nora. I could tell from your face.
Mrs. Linde. He is coming home tomorrow evening. I wrote a note for him.
Nora. You should have let it alone; you must prevent nothing. After all, it is splendid to be waiting for a wonderful thing to happen.
Mrs. Linde. What is it that you are waiting for?
Nora, Oh, you wouldn’t understand. Go in to them. I will come in a moment. (MRS. LINDE goes into the dining-room. NORA stands still for a little while, as if to compose herself. Then she looks at her watch.) Five o’clock. Seven hours till midnight; and then four-and-twenty hours till the next midnight. Then the Tarantella will be over. Twenty-four and seven? Thirty-one hours to live.
Helmer (from the doorway on the right). Where’s my little skylark?
Nora (going to him with her arms out-stretched). Here she is!