Synopsis

When Steinberg returns home, he wants Hannah to hold a séance for him and his new society friends.  Ricardo tries to forbid it, but Hannah warns him that Leonora will not appear to him unless he consents.  He leaves the room defeated.  Steinberg upbraids Hannah for having challenged her husband, but she is unrepentant.  Steinberg, against his better judgement, finds himself admiring the new Hannah.  He remarks that she seems much sharper and more articulate.  He is appalled when she starts flirting with him, but can’t help feeling attracted to the alluring woman before him.

Steinberg fears that Hannah’s “coarseness” might show him up in front of his new friends at the séance, but the Marchesa di Sorrento appears looking sophisticated and glamorous.  He again marvels at the transformation, remarking that she is even starting to sound slightly foreign.  The séance is a triumph, and the Marchesa is hailed as a celebrated medium.

After the guests have departed, Steinberg complements Hannah on her appearance and performance.  He offers to provide her with financial support, declaring that she should look upon him as a brother.  He hands her a £20 note and suddenly steals a kiss, apologising immediately for his solecism.  Hannah agrees not to tell Ricardo, regarding the money as a fair price for her silence.  Steinberg is bewildered by the magnetism that led him to kiss the low-born wife of his friend.  He resolves to keep his distance, but is inexorably drawn back to the cottage the very next morning.

Ricardo confronts Steinberg and insists that Hannah will no longer hold séances at his home.  He believes the attention is making her unruly and unreasonable, and is distraught at her refusal to raise the spirit of Leonora at his command.  He remarks that she has “altered in every way” and nothing like the girl he married.  She also keeps alluding to his past with Leonora, which is distressing him.

Steinberg remonstrates with Hannah, begging her to be more gentle with her husband.  He reminds her that he is old and weak, and expresses his fear that he might attempt his own life.  Steinberg urges Hannah to ensure that any poisons are kept out of his sight. Hannah agrees to be kinder to her husband for his friend’s sake.  Steinberg articulates his wish that he had married Hannah.  She takes his hand in hers and he is overwhelmed by sexual attraction.  He wonders whether she has cast a spell over him.  Much to his astonishment, her parting words are an Italian proverb.  Hannah vows to herself that Steinberg will one day be hers, then she can enjoy his wealth and status.

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