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Full Online Book HomePlaysJohn Gabriel Borkman - Act 4
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John Gabriel Borkman - Act 4 Post by :win_thomas Category :Plays Author :Henrik Ibsen Date :May 2012 Read :924

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John Gabriel Borkman - Act 4

ACT FOURTH

(An open space outside the main building, which lies to the right. A projecting corner of it is visible, with a door approached by a flight of low stone steps. The background consists of steep fir-clad slopes, quite close at hand. On the left are small scattered trees, forming the margin of a wood. The snowstorm has ceased; but the newly fallen snow lies deep around. The fir-branches droop under heavy loads of snow. The night is dark, with drifting clouds. Now and then the moon gleams out faintly. Only a dim light is reflected from the snow.

BORKMAN, MRS. BORKMAN and ELLA RENTHEIM are standing upon the steps, BORKMAN leaning wearily against the wall of the house. He has an old-fashioned cape thrown over his shoulders, holds a soft grey felt hat in one hand and a thick knotted stick in the other. ELLA RENTHEIM carries her cloak over her arm. MRS. BORKMAN's great shawl has slipped down over her shoulders, so that her hair is uncovered.)


ELLA RENTHEIM. (Barring the way for MRS. BORKMAN.) Don't go after him, Gunhild!

MRS. BORKMAN. (In fear and agitation.) Let me pass, I say! He must not go away from me!

ELLA RENTHEIM. It is utterly useless, I tell you! You will never overtake him.

MRS. BORKMAN. Let me go, Ella! I will cry aloud after him all down the road. And he must hear his mother's cry!

ELLA RENTHEIM. He cannot hear you. You may be sure he is in the sledge already.

MRS. BORKMAN. No, no; he can't be in the sledge yet!

ELLA RENTHEIM. The doors are closed upon him long ago, believe me.

MRS. BORKMAN. (In despair.) If he is in the sledge, then he is there with her, with her--her!

BORKMAN. (Laughing gloomily.) Then he probably won't hear his mother's cry.

MRS. BORKMAN. No, he will not hear it. (Listening.) Hark! what is that?

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Also listening.) It sounds like sledge-bells.

MRS. BORKMAN. (With a suppressed scream.) It is her sledge!

ELLA RENTHEIM. Perhaps it's another.

MRS. BORKMAN. No, no, it is Mrs. Wilton's covered sledge! I know the silver bells! Hark! Now they are driving right past here, at the foot of the hill!

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Quickly.) Gunhild, if you want to cry out to him, now is the time! Perhaps after all----! (The tinkle of the bells sounds close at hand, in the wood.) Make haste, Gunhild! Now they are right under us!

MRS. BORKMAN. (Stands for a moment undecided, then she stiffens and says sternly and coldly.) No. I will not cry out to him. Let Erhart Borkman pass away from me--far, far away--to what he calls life and happiness.

(The sound dies away in the distance.)

ELLA RENTHEIM. (After a moment.) Now the bells are out of hearing.

MRS. BORKMAN. They sounded like funeral bells.

BORKMAN. (With a dry suppressed laugh.) Oho--it is not for me they are ringing to-night!

MRS. BORKMAN. No, but for me--and for him who has gone from me.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Nodding thoughtfully.) Who knows if, after all, they may not be ringing in life and happiness for him, Gunhild.

MRS. BORKMAN. (With sudden animation, looking hard at her.) Life and happiness, you say!

ELLA RENTHEIM. For a little while at any rate.

MRS. BORKMAN. Could you endure to let him know life and happiness, with her?

ELLA RENTHEIM. (With warmth and feeling.) Indeed, I could, with all my heart and soul!

MRS. BORKMAN. (Coldly.) Then you must be richer than I am in the power of love.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Looking far away.) Perhaps it is the lack of love that keeps the power alive.

MRS. BORKMAN. (Fixing her eyes on her.) If that is so, then I shall soon be as rich as you, Ella. (She turns and goes into the house.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Stands for a time looking with a troubled expression at BORKMAN; then lays her hand cautiously on his shoulder.) Come, John--you must come in, too.

BORKMAN. (As if wakening.) I?

ELLA RENTHEIM. Yes, this winter air is too keen for you; I can see that, John. So come--come in with me--into the house, into the warmth.

BORKMAN. (Angrily.) Up to the gallery again, I suppose.

ELLA RENTHEIM. No, rather into the room below.

BORKMAN. (His anger flaming forth.) Never will I set foot under that roof again!

ELLA RENTHEIM. Where will you go then? So late, and in the dark, John?

BORKMAN. (Putting on his hat.) First of all, I will go out and see to all my buried treasures.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Looking anxiously at him.) John--I don't understand you.

BORKMAN. (With laughter, interrupted by coughing.) Oh, it is not hidden plunder I mean; don't be afraid of that, Ella. (Stopping, and pointing outwards.) Do you see that man there? Who is it?

(VILHELM FOLDAL, in an old cape, covered with snow, with his hat-brim turned down, and a large umbrella in his hand, advances towards the corner of the house, laboriously stumbling through the snow. He is noticeably lame in his left foot.)

BORKMAN. Vilhelm! What do you want with me again?

FOLDAL. (Looking up.) Good heavens, are you out on the steps, John Gabriel? (Bowing.) And Mrs. Borkman, too, I see.

BORKMAN. (Shortly.) This is not Mrs. Borkman.

FOLDAL. Oh, I beg pardon. You see, I have lost my spectacles in the snow. But how is it that you, who never put your foot out of doors----?

BORKMAN. (Carelessly and gaily.) It is high time I should come out into the open air again, don't you see? Nearly three years in detention--five years in prison--eight years in the gallery up there----

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Distressed.) Borkman, I beg you----

FOLDAL. Ah yes, yes, yes!

BORKMAN. But I want to know what has brought you here.

FOLDAL. (Still standing at the foot of the steps.) I wanted to come up to you, John Gabriel. I felt I must come to you, in the gallery. Ah me, that gallery----!

BORKMAN. Did you want to come up to me after I had shown you the door?

FOLDAL. Oh, I couldn't let that stand in the way.

BORKMAN. What have you done to your foot? I see you are limping?

FOLDAL. Yes, what do you think--I have been run over.

ELLA RENTHEIM. Run over!

FOLDAL. Yes, by a covered sledge.

BORKMAN. Oho!

FOLDAL. With two horses. They came down the hill at a tearing gallop. I couldn't get out of the way quick enough; and so----

ELLA RENTHEIM. And so they ran over you?

FOLDAL. They came right down upon me, madam--or miss. They came right upon me and sent me rolling over and over in the snow--so that I lost my spectacles and got my umbrella broken. (Rubbing his leg.) And my ankle a little hurt too.

BORKMAN. (Laughing inwardly.) Do you know who were in that sledge, Vilhelm?

FOLDAL. No, how could I see? It was a covered sledge, and the curtains were down. And the driver didn't stop a moment after he had sent me spinning. But it doesn't matter a bit, for---- (With an outburst.) Oh, I am so happy, so happy!

BORKMAN. Happy?

FOLDAL. Well, I don't exactly know what to call it. But I think happy is the nearest word. For something wonderful has happened! And that is why I couldn't help--I had to come out and share my happiness with you, John Gabriel.

BORKMAN. (Harshly.) Well, share away then!

ELLA RENTHEIM. Oh, but first take your friend indoors with you, Borkman.

BORKMAN. (Sternly.) I have told you I will not go into the house.

ELLA RENTHEIM. But don't you hear, he has been run over!

BORKMAN. Oh, we are all of us run over, sometime or other in life. The thing is to jump up again, and let no one see you are hurt.

FOLDAL. That is a profound saying, John Gabriel. But I can easily tell you my story out here, in a few words.

BORKMAN. (More mildly.) Yes, please do, Vilhelm.

FOLDAL. Well, now you shall hear! Only think, when I got home this evening after I had been with you, what did I find but a letter. Can you guess who it was from?

BORKMAN. Possibly from your little Frida?

FOLDAL. Precisely! Think of your hitting on it at once! Yes, it was a long letter from Frida. A footman had brought it. And can you imagine what was in it?

BORKMAN. Perhaps it was to say good-bye to her mother and you?

FOLDAL. Exactly! How good you are at guessing, John Gabriel! Yes, she tells me that Mrs. Wilton has taken such a fancy to her, and she is to go abroad with her and study music. And Mrs. Wilton has engaged a first-rate teacher who is to accompany them on the journey--and to read with Frida. For unfortunately she has been a good deal neglected in some branches, you see.

BORKMAN. (Shaken with inward laughter.) Of course, of course--I see it all quite clearly, Vilhelm.

FOLDAL. (Eagerly continuing.) And only think, she knew nothing about the arrangement until this evening; at that party, you know, h'm! And yet she found time to write to me. And the letter is such a beautiful one--so warm and affectionate, I assure you. There is not a trace of contempt for her father in it. And then what a delicate thought it was to say good-bye to us by letter--before she started. (Laughing.) But of course I can't let her go like that.

BORKMAN. (Looks inquiringly at him.) How so?

FOLDAL. She tells me that they start early to-morrow morning; quite early.

BORKMAN. Oh indeed--to-morrow? Does she tell you that?

FOLDAL. (Laughing and rubbing his hands.) Yes; but I know a trick worth two of that, you see! I am going straight up to Mrs. Wilton's----

BORKMAN. This evening?

FOLDAL. Oh, it's not so very late yet. And even if the house is shut up, I shall ring; without hesitation. For I must and will see Frida before she starts. Good-night, good-night!

(Makes a movement to go.)

BORKMAN. Stop a moment, my poor Vilhelm; you may spare yourself that heavy bit of road.

FOLDAL. Oh, you are thinking of my ankle----

BORKMAN. Yes; and in any case you won't get in at Mrs. Wilton's.

FOLDAL. Yes, indeed I will. I'll go on ringing and knocking till some one comes and lets me in. For I must and will see Frida.

ELLA RENTHEIM. Your daughter has gone already, Mr. Foldal.

FOLDAL. (Stands as though thunderstruck.) Has Frida gone already! Are you quite sure? Who told you?

BORKMAN. We had it from her future teacher.

FOLDAL. Indeed? And who is he?

BORKMAN. A certain Mr. Erhart Borkman.

FOLDAL. (Beaming with joy.) Your son, John Gabriel? Is he going with them?

BORKMAN. Yes; it is he that is to help Mrs. Wilton with little Frida's education.

FOLDAL. Oh, Heaven be praised! Then the child is in the best of hands. But is it quite certain that they have started with her already?

BORKMAN. They took her away in that sledge which ran you over in the road.

FOLDAL. (Clasping his hands.) To think that my little Frida was in that magnificent sledge!

BORKMAN. (Nodding.) Yes, yes, Vilhelm, your daughter has come to drive in her carriage. And Master Erhart, too. Tell me, did you notice the silver bells?

FOLDAL. Yes, indeed. Silver bells did you say? Were they silver? Real, genuine silver bells?

BORKMAN. You may be quite sure of that. Everything was genuine--both outside and in.

FOLDAL. (In quiet emotion.) Isn't it strange how fortune can sometimes befriend one? It is my--my little gift of song that has transmuted itself into music in Frida. So after all, it is not for nothing that I was born a poet. For now she is going forth into the great wide world, that I once yearned so passionately to see. Little Frida sets out in a splendid covered sledge with silver bells on the harness----

BORKMAN. And runs over her father.

FOLDAL. (Happily.) Oh, pooh! What does it matter about me, if only the child----! Well, so I am too late, then, after all. I must go home again and comfort her mother. I left her crying in the kitchen.

BORKMAN. Crying?

FOLDAL. (Smiling.) Yes, would you believe it, she was crying her eyes out when I came away.

BORKMAN. And you are laughing, Vilhelm?

FOLDAL. Yes, _I am, of course. But she, poor thing, she doesn't know any better, you see. Well, good-bye! It's a good thing I have the tramway so handy. Good-bye, good-bye, John Gabriel. Good-bye, Madam.

(He bows and limps laboriously out by the way he came.)

BORKMAN. (Stands silent for a moment, gazing before him.) Good-bye, Vilhelm! It is not the first time in your life that you've been run over, old friend.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Looking at him with suppressed anxiety.) You are so pale, John, so very pale.

BORKMAN. That is the effect of the prison air up yonder.

ELLA RENTHEIM. I have never seen you like this before.

BORKMAN. No, for I suppose you have never seen an escaped convict before.

ELLA RENTHEIM. Oh, do come into the house with me, John!

BORKMAN. It is no use trying to lure me in. I have told you----

ELLA RENTHEIM. But when I beg and implore you----? For your own sake----

(THE MAID opens the door, and stands in the doorway.)

THE MAID. I beg your pardon. Mrs. Borkman told me to lock the front door now.

BORKMAN. (In a low voice, to ELLA.) You see, they want to lock me up again!

ELLA RENTHEIM. (To THE MAID.) Mr. Borkman is not quite well. He wants to have a little fresh air before coming in.

THE MAID. But Mrs. Borkman told me to----

ELLA RENTHEIM. I shall lock the door. Just leave the key in the lock.

THE MAID. Oh, very well; I'll leave it. (She goes into the house again.

BORKMAN. (Stands silent for a moment, and listens; then goes hastily down the steps and out into the open space.) Now I am outside the walls, Ella! Now they will never get hold of me again!

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Who has gone down to him.) But you are a free man in there, too, John. You can come and go just as you please.

BORKMAN. (Softly, as though in terror.) Never under a roof again! It is so good to be out here in the night. If I went up into the gallery now, ceiling and walls would shrink together and crush me--crush me flat as a fly.

ELLA RENTHEIM. But where will you go, then?

BORKMAN. I will simply go on, and on, and on. I will try if I cannot make my way to freedom, and life, and human beings again. Will you go with me, Ella?

ELLA RENTHEIM. I? Now?

BORKMAN. Yes, at once!

ELLA RENTHEIM. But how far?

BORKMAN. As far as ever I can.

ELLA RENTHEIM. Oh, but think what you are doing! Out in this raw, cold winter night----

BORKMAN. (Speaking very hoarsely.) Oho--my lady is concerned about her health? Yes, yes--I know it is delicate.

ELLA RENTHEIM. It is your health I am concerned about.

BORKMAN. Hohoho! A dead man's health! I can't help laughing at you, Ella! (He moves onwards.)

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Following him: holding him back.) What did you call yourself?

BORKMAN. A dead man, I said. Don't you remember, Gunhild told me to lie quiet where I was?

ELLA RENTHEIM. (With resolution, throwing her cloak around her.) I will go with you, John.

BORKMAN. Yes, we two belong to each other, Ella. (Advancing.) So come!

(They have gradually passed into the low wood on the left. It conceals them little by little, until they are quite lost to sight. The house and the open space disappear. The landscape, consisting of wooded slopes and ridges, slowly changes and grows wilder and wilder.)

ELLA RENTHEIM's VOICE. (Is heard in the wood to the right.) Where are we going, John? I don't recognise this place.

BORKMAN's VOICE. (Higher up.) Just follow my footprints in the snow!

ELLA RENTHEIM's VOICE. But why need we climb so high?

BORKMAN's VOICE. (Nearer at hand.) We must go up the winding path.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Still hidden.) Oh, but I can't go much further.

BORKMAN. (On the verge of the wood to the right.) Come, come! We are not far from the view now. There used to be a seat there.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Appearing among the trees.) Do you remember it?

BORKMAN. You can rest there.

(They have emerged upon a small high-lying, open plateau in the wood. The mountain rises abruptly behind them. To the left, far below, an extensive fiord landscape, with high ranges in the distance, towering one above the other. On the plateau, to the left, a dead fir-tree with a bench under it. The snow lies deep upon the plateau.)

(BORKMAN and, after him, ELLA RENTHEIM enter from the right and wade with difficulty through the snow.)

BORKMAN. (Stopping at the verge of the steep declivity on the left.) Come here, Ella, and you shall see.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Coming up to him.) What do you want to show me, John?

BORKMAN. (Pointing outwards.) Do you see how free and open the country lies before us--away to the far horizon?

ELLA RENTHEIM. We have often sat on this bench before, and looked out into a much, much further distance.

BORKMAN. It was a dreamland we then looked out over.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Nodding sadly.) It was the dreamland of our life, yes. And now that land is buried in snow. And the old tree is dead.

BORKMAN. (Not listening to her.) Can you see the smoke of the great steamships out on the fiord?

ELLA RENTHEIM. No.

BORKMAN. I can. They come and they go. They weave a network of fellowship all round the world. They shed light and warmth over the souls of men in many thousands of homes. That was what I dreamed of doing.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Softly.) And it remained a dream.

BORKMAN. It remained a dream, yes. (Listening.) And hark, down by the river, dear! The factories are working! My factories! All those that I would have created! Listen! Do you hear them humming? The night shift is on--so they are working night and day. Hark! hark! the wheels are whirling and the bands are flashing--round and round and round. Can't you hear, Ella?

ELLA RENTHEIM. No.

BORKMAN. I can hear it.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Anxiously.) I think you are mistaken, John.

BORKMAN. (More and more fired up.) Oh, but all these--they are only like the outworks around the kingdom, I tell you!

ELLA RENTHEIM. The kingdom, you say? What kingdom?

BORKMAN. My kingdom, of course! The kingdom I was on the point of conquering when I--when I died.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Shaken, in a low voice.) Oh, John, John!

BORKMAN. And now there it lies--defenceless, masterless--exposed to all the robbers and plunderers. Ella, do you see the mountain chains there--far away? They soar, they tower aloft, one behind the other! That is my vast, my infinite, inexhaustible kingdom!

ELLA RENTHEIM. Oh, but there comes an icy blast from that kingdom, John!

BORKMAN. That blast is the breath of life to me. That blast comes to me like a greeting from subject spirits. I seem to touch them, the prisoned millions; I can see the veins of metal stretch out their winding, branching, luring arms to me. I saw them before my eyes like living shapes, that night when I stood in the strong-room with the candle in my hand. You begged to be liberated, and I tried to free you. But my strength failed me; and the treasure sank back into the deep again. (With outstretched hands.) But I will whisper it to you here in the stillness of the night: I love you, as you lie there spellbound in the deeps and the darkness! I love you, unborn treasures, yearning for the light! I love you, with all your shining train of power and glory! I love you, love you, love you!

ELLA RENTHEIM. (In suppressed but rising agitation.) Yes, your love is still down there, John. It has always been rooted there. But here, in the light of day, here there was a living, warm, human heart that throbbed and glowed for you. And this heart you crushed. Oh worse than that! Ten times worse! You sold it for--for----

BORKMAN. (Trembles; a cold shudder seems to go through him.) For the kingdom--and the power--and the glory--you mean?

ELLA RENTHEIM. Yes, that is what I mean. I have said it once before to-night: you have murdered the love-life in the woman who loved you. And whom you loved in return, so far as you could love any one. (With uplifted arm.) And therefore I prophesy to you, John Gabriel Borkman--you will never touch the price you demanded for the murder. You will never enter in triumph into your cold, dark kingdom!

BORKMAN. (Staggers to the bench and seats himself heavily.) I almost fear your prophecy will come true, Ella.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Going up to him.) You must not fear it, John. That is the best thing that can happen to you.

BORKMAN. (With a shriek; clutching at his breast.) Ah----! (Feebly.) Now it let me go again.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Shaking him.) What was it, John?

BORKMAN. (Sinking down against the back of the seat.) It was a hand of ice that clutched at my heart.

ELLA RENTHEIM. John! Did you feel the ice-hand again!

BORKMAN. (Murmurs.) No. No ice-hand. It was a metal hand. (He sinks right down upon the bench.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Tears off her cloak and throws it over him.) Lie still where you are! I will go and bring help for you.

(She goes a step or two towards the right; then she stops, returns, and carefully feels his pulse and touches his face.)

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Softly and firmly.) No. It is best so, John Borkman. Best for you.

(She spreads the cloak closer around him, and sinks down in the snow in front of the bench. A short silence.)

(MRS. BORKMAN, wrapped in a mantle, comes through the wood on the right. THE MAID goes before her carrying a lantern.)

THE MAID. (Throwing the light upon the snow.) Yes, yes, ma'am, here are their tracks.

MRS. BORKMAN. (Peering around.) Yes, here they are! They are sitting there on the bench. (Calls.) Ella!

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Rising.) Are you looking for us?

MRS. BORKMAN. (Sternly.) Yes, you see I have to.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Pointing.) Look, there he lies, Gunhild.

MRS. BORKMAN. Sleeping?

ELLA RENTHEIM. A long, deep sleep, I think.

MRS. BORKMAN. (With an outburst.) Ella! (Controls herself and asks in a low voice.) Did he do it--of his own accord?

ELLA RENTHEIM. No.

MRS. BORKMAN. (Relieved.) Not by his own hand then?

ELLA RENTHEIM. No. It was an ice-cold metal hand that gripped him by the heart.

MRS. BORKMAN. (To THE MAID.) Go for help. Get the men to come up from the farm.

THE MAID. Yes, I will, ma'am. (To herself.) Lord save us! (She goes out through the wood to the right.

MRS. BORKMAN. (Standing behind the bench.) So the night air has killed him----

ELLA RENTHEIM. So it appears.

MRS. BORKMAN. ----strong man that he was.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Coming in front of the bench.) Will you not look at him, Gunhild?

MRS. BORKMAN. (With a gesture of repulsion.) No, no, no. (Lowering her voice.) He was a miner's son, John Gabriel Borkman. He could not live in the fresh air.

ELLA RENTHEIM. It was rather the cold that killed him.

MRS. BORKMAN. (Shakes her head.) The cold, you say? The cold--that had killed him long ago.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (Nodding to her.) Yes--and changed us two into shadows.

MRS. BORKMAN. You are right there.

ELLA RENTHEIM. (With a painful smile.) A dead man and two shadows--that is what the cold has made of us.

MRS. BORKMAN. Yes, the coldness of heart.--And now I think we two may hold out our hands to each other, Ella.

ELLA RENTHEIM. I think we may, now.

MRS. BORKMAN. We twin sisters--over him we have both loved.

ELLA RENTHEIM. We two shadows--over the dead man.

(MRS. BORKMAN behind the bench, and ELLA RENTHEIM in front of it, take each other's hand.)

 

(THE END)
Henrik Ibsen's play: John Gabriel Borkman

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