Ghosts by David Muncaster from Henrik Ibsen

This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent

A spacious garden-room. There is a table and chairs and a small sofa. On the table lie several books. At the rear of the room there is a door leading to the garden. Through the window next to the door the gloomy outline of the fjord can be seen. REGINA is standing at the table folding the table cloth. ENGSTRAND enters through the garden door. He walks with the aid of a stick.

REGINA: (Quietly.) What do you want? Stop where you are. You're positively dripping.

ENGSTRAND: It's the Lord's own rain, my girl.

REGINA: It's the devil's rain, if you ask me.

ENGSTRAND: Child, the things you say! (Limps a step or two forward into the room.) I came to talk to you...

REGINA: Don't clatter about with that stick of yours! The young master's asleep upstairs.

ENGSTRAND: Asleep? In the middle of the day?

REGINA: It's no business of yours.

ENGSTRAND: I was out on the booze last night...

REGINA: No surprise there.

ENGSTRAND: We are feeble creatures, all of us...

REGINA: So it seems.

ENGSTRAND:...and temptations are many. But all the same, I was hard at work at half-past five this morning.

REGINA: Yes, yes, but be gone. I don’t wish to rendezvous with you.

ENGSTRAND: You don’t wish to what?

REGINA: I don’t want anyone to see you here, now get out.

ENGSTRAND: Not before I have a word with you. This afternoon I shall have finished my work at the orphanage, and then I shall be on the boat back to town.

REGINA: I hope you have a pleasant journey.

ENGSTRAND: Thank you. Tomorrow the orphanage is to be opened. There will be lots of high spirits and intoxicating liquor but I shall stay away. No one will be able to say that Jacob Engstrand cannot resist temptation when he puts his mind to it.

REGINA: Is that so?

ENGSTRAND: There will be lots of influential people here tomorrow. Pastor Manders, himself, is coming from town.

REGINA: He's coming today.

ENGSTRAND: Well, there you are. I shall have to be careful not to put my foot in it with him.

REGINA: (Glancing at her father’s bad leg.) Oh. So, that’s your game.

ENGSTRAND: What’s my game?

REGINA: What are you going to fool Pastor Manders into doing, this time?

ENGSTRAND: Are you crazy? Fool Pastor Manders? Oh no! Pastor Manders has been good a friend to me. He is my Guardian Angel. I just wanted to say that I will be getting the ferry later...

REGINA: The sooner the better.

ENGSTRAND: Yes, but I want you to come home with me, Regina.

REGINA: What? Are you mad? Never in this world will I go home with you.

ENGSTRAND: Oh, we'll see about that.

REGINA: No, we will not. Mrs Alving has taught me how to behave like a lady. I am treated like I am a member of the family and you want me to live with you in that dump you call home? You are out of your mind.

ENGSTRAND: How dare you? Is that any way for a girl to speak to her poor father?

REGINA: You've said often enough I was no concern of yours.


REGINA: How many times have you called me a bastard child?

ENGSTRAND: I would never use such a word.

REGINA: I remember it well.

ENGSTRAND: All right, but only after I’d had a few drinks. Besides, it was whenever your mother was nagging. Taking on heirs and graces just because she’d worked for Captain Alving. I had to find some way to bring her down.

REGINA: My poor mother! You drove her to her grave.

ENGSTRAND: That’s right. Blame everything on me.

REGINA: Nothing is ever your fault is it? (ENGSTRAND looks hurt. A beat.) What is it you want with me?

ENGSTRAND: Only what any poor widowed father would want from his only child.

REGINA: Don’t try that nonsense with me. What do you want?

ENGSTRAND: It’s like this. I've been thinking of setting up in a new line of business.

REGINA: Another disaster, no doubt.

ENGSTRAND: Hear me out. I've managed to put aside quite a bit of the money I have earned from this orphanage job.

REGINA: Congratulations.

ENGSTRAND: There’s nothing to spend money on this Godforsaken island. So, I thought I’d invest it in a sailor’s tavern in the town.

REGINA: There are enough of those already.

ENGSTRAND: This will be a high-class establishment. Exclusively for captains and first mates.

REGINA: And what would be my role in this “high class establishment”?

ENGSTRAND: Oh, you wouldn’t have to do very much, but you know what sailors are like. They like to have a bit of skirt around in the evenings. A bit of singing and dancing after their weary life at sea. What’s to become of you stuck out here? Do you want to spend the rest of your life looking after snotty little kids in the orphanage?

REGINA: It needn’t be so. If things go my way.

ENGSTRAND: What do you mean by that?

REGINA: Never you mind. How much money have you saved?

ENGSTRAND: It's enough to make a start with.

REGINA: Aren't you thinking of giving me any?

ENGSTRAND: Christ, no!

REGINA: Not even enough for a new dress?

ENGSTRAND: Come home with me and you can have all the new dresses you want.

REGINA: No, thanks. I will manage on my own.

ENGSTRAND: No, what you need is a father’s guiding hand, Regina. I've got my eye on a house in Little Harbour Street. They don't want much deposit and it is just perfect for a sailor’s home from home.

REGINA: I will not live with you! I will have nothing whatever to do with you. Now be off!

ENGSTRAND: You wouldn't stay with me for very long if you play your cards right. You’ve a fine figure. Yes, you have filled out very nicely.

REGINA: What are you trying to say?

ENGSTRAND: You wouldn’t have to wait long until a mate, or maybe even a captain...

REGINA: I would never marry a sailor.

ENGSTRAND: I never said anything about marrying them. You can still do pretty well. That Englishman, the one with the yacht, he paid a small fortune, and she wasn’t even as pretty as you.

REGINA: (Going for him) Out!

ENGSTRAND: You wouldn’t strike your poor father, I hope?

REGINA: Yes, I would, if you dare talk about my mother in that way. Get out and don't slam the doors. Young Mr. Alving...

ENGSTRAND: He's asleep, I know. You're very concerned about him. Oh. I see. It’s him...

REGINA: Out! Now! Not that way. Here comes Pastor Manders. Go out through the kitchen.

ENGSTRAND: (As he exits.) I'm going, I’m going. But mind you speak to him about a child’s duty to her father. And I am your father. I can prove it in the parish register.

PASTOR MANDERS enters from the garden wearing an overcoat and carrying a briefcase.

MANDERS: Good morning, Miss Engstrand.

REGINA: Oh, Pastor Manders. Is the steamer in already?

MANDERS: Just arrived. Terrible weather we’re having.

REGINA: Good for the farmers.

MANDERS: You are right. We townsfolk never think of that. (He takes off his overcoat.)

REGINA: I’ll hang that in the hall.

She exits with the overcoat. The conversation continues.

MANDERS: It’s good to get out of the rain. I trust everything is well?

REGINA: (Off.) Yes, thank you, sir.

MANDERS: You have your hands full, I suppose, getting ready for tomorrow?

REGINA: (Off.) There is plenty to do.

MANDERS: Is Mrs. Alving is at home?

REGINA: (Returning) Oh, yes. She's just upstairs, waiting for the young master to wake up.

MANDERS: I heard that Oswald had arrived.

REGINA: Yes, he came the day before yesterday. We didn't expect until today.

MANDERS: He’s not ill, I hope?

REGINA: Just tired, I think. He came all the way from Paris in one go. We had better be quiet whilst he sleeps.

MANDERS: We shall be like mice.

REGINA: Do sit down, Pastor Manders.

MANDERS: Thank you. (He sits.) Do you know, Miss Engstrand, I believe you have grown since I last saw you.

REGINA: (Pleased that he has noticed.) I’m told that I have filled out.

MANDERS: (Embarrased. That wasn’t what he meant.) Oh. Well, perhaps.

A beat

REGINA: Shall I tell Mrs. Alving that you are here?

MANDERS: No hurry. Oh, by the way, your father called on me last time he was in town.

REGINA: He's always pleased to have the opportunity to talk to you.

MANDERS: Do you visit him often?

REGINA: Well, when I have time, I...

MANDERS: Your father is not a man of strong character, Miss Engstrand. He often needs a guiding hand.

REGINA: I daresay he does.

MANDERS: He needs someone with him whom he loves and trusts. He told me, himself.

REGINA: But I don’t think Mrs. Alving could spare me; especially with the new orphanage. And she has always been so kind to me.

MANDERS: We would have to get your mistress's consent, but a daughter’s duty...

REGINA: But I don't know whether it would be proper for me, at my age, to keep house for a single man.

MANDERS: But he is your father!

REGINA: Yes, but all the same. Now, if it were a nice house, and with a real gentleman...

MANDERS: Regina...

REGINA: One I could love and respect...

MANDERS: Dear child...

REGINA: Then I should be happy to go to town. It can get very lonely out here and you know, yourself, what it is like to be alone in the world. Can you think of any such place for me, sir?

MANDERS: Me? No, I...

REGINA: But you would think of me if...

MANDERS: (Standing.) Would you be so kind as to tell your mistress I am here?

REGINA: (Defeated.) At once, sir. (She exits.)

MANDERS walks over the table, places his briefcase at the side, picks up a couple of books and grunts, disapprovingly. MRS. ALVING enters followed by REGINA who crosses the room and exits from the opposite door.

MRS. ALVING: Welcome, Pastor.

MANDERS: How do you do, Mrs. Alving? Here I am as promised.

MRS. ALVING: Punctual, as always.

MANDERS: It isn’t always easy to get away, what with all the boards and committees...

MRS. ALVING: How kind of you to come so early. Now we can finish our business before lunch. But where is your suitcase?

MANDERS: I left it in the village. I shall sleep at the inn tonight.

MRS. ALVING: Can I still not persuade you to spend the night in my house?

MANDERS: Thank you, but the inn is so convenient for the ferry tomorrow.

MRS. ALVING: Have your way. But I really would have thought that two old cronies like us...

MANDERS: Now you are making fun of me. I see that you are in high spirits with Oswald’s return.

MRS. ALVING: It is such a joy. It is two years since he was last home, and he has promised to stay the whole winter!

MANDERS: He is very dutiful. The attractions of Paris and Rome must be great.

MRS. ALVING: Yes, but he loves his mother.

MANDERS: Of course. It would be sad if his fondness for art interfered with his natural instincts.

MRS. ALVING: There is no danger of that, as you will see for yourself. I am curious to see if you recognise him, but we will have to wait for him to come down. He is having a little nap after his travels. Shall we? (She indicates the table and the two of them sit.)

MANDERS: Tell me, Mrs. Alving, how do these books come to be here?

MRS. ALVING: These books? They are books I am reading.

MANDERS: You read this sort of thing? Books that question the sanctity of marriage or promote the emancipation of women?

MRS. ALVING: Certainly, I do.

MANDERS: Do they make you happy?

MRS. ALVING: They make me feel more confident.


MRS. ALVING: Well, they explain and confirm things that I was thinking. The great thing is that there is nothing new in these books. They just put into words what most people already believe.

MANDERS: Most people?


MANDERS: But not people like us, surely.

MRS. ALVING: Why do you object?

MANDERS: Object? You don’t believe I waste my time reading things like this?

MRS. ALVING: If you haven’t read them, how can you condemn them?

MANDERS: I have heard enough about them.

MRS. ALVING: Yes, but what about having an opinion of your own.

MANDERS: Mrs. Alving, there are times when we must rely on the opinions of others. That is how society works.

MRS. ALVING: I can’t argue with that.

MANDERS: I don’t blame you for wanting to know what the so-called intellectuals are talking about, especially as your son has strayed into that world, but...


MANDERS: Keep it to yourself. Don’t allow your views to become public.

MRS. ALVING: Of course not; I quite agree with you.

MANDERS: Think of the orphanage. I believe that the idea came to you when your views were quite different to what they are now...

MRS. ALVING: Yes. We are here to talk about the orphanage.

MANDERS: Er. Yes. The orphanage.

MRS. ALVING: You have the documents?

MANDERS: Yes, and in perfect order. It was a struggle to get them in time. The authorities seem to delight in dragging their feet, but here they are at last. (He takes them out of his briefcase.) Here we are. The formal deed for the gift of the land, with all the newly constructed buildings, schoolrooms, master's house, and chapel. And here the legal document for the Children's Home to be known as 'Captain Alving's Foundation.'" I thought "Captain" rather than "Chamberlain.", "Captain" looks less pretentious.

MRS. ALVING: Whichever you think is best.

MANDERS: And here are the details for the bank account.

MRS. ALVING: Thank you. I think it best you keep all that.

MANDERS: With pleasure. But there is one thing more which I have several times been intending to ask you.

MRS. ALVING: And what is that?

MANDERS: Shall the orphanage buildings be insured or not?

MRS. ALVING: Of course, they must be insured.

MANDERS: Well, wait a moment, Mrs. Alving. Let us look into the matter a little more closely.

MRS. ALVING: I have everything insured; buildings, stock, crops. Everything.

MANDERS: Yes, of course. Your own estate must be insured but the orphanage is different. You see, the orphanage is to be consecrated, as it were, to a higher purpose.

MRS. ALVING: Yes, but that's no reason...

MANDERS: For my own part, I see no reason why you shouldn’t take every precaution but what is the general feeling in the neighbourhood? Are there influential people whose opinion must be acknowledged?

MRS. ALVING: Well, yes. There are several people of that sort around here.

MANDERS: There you are, you see! In town we have many such people. People would be only too ready to interpret our action as a sign that neither you nor I had faith in the Lord to protect us.

MRS. ALVING: That is ridiculous!

MANDERS: Yes, I know, But I have to be conscious of the difficult position I might find myself in, as your business advisor, should any of the more fanatical ones decide to take offence.


MANDERS: Not to mention what might be printed in the newspapers.

MRS. ALVING: Enough. We cannot allow that to happen.

MANDERS: You do not wish the orphanage to be insured?

MRS. ALVING: No. We shall have to leave it.

MANDERS: But if disaster were to strike would you be able to pay to make good the damage?

MRS. ALVING: No, of course not.

MANDERS: Then we are taking on a great responsibility.

MRS. ALVING: Do we have a choice?

MANDERS: No, that is the point; we have no choice. And we should trust that such an institution has
fortune on its side.

MRS. ALVING: Let us hope so, Pastor Manders.

MANDERS: Then the matter is settled?


MANDERS: Very well. If that is your choice, no insurance.

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