Tesman* leaves and Hedda locks the manuscript in the writing desk. Brack visits and proceeds to tell Hedda about the previous night in greater detail. Apparently, after Ejlert's group parted ways with Tesman, Ejlert went to the rooms of a Mademoiselle Diana, who was throwing a boisterous party. A fight ensued when Ejlert began raving about some lost parcel, and when the police came, he resisted arrest. Hedda stares in front of her, murmuring about vine leaves in Ejlert's hair. She then changes her tone and asks Brack why he is being so informative. He says that he doesn't want to get implicated in the investigation and warns Hedda that she and Tesman should close their doors to Ejlert. He also hints that he doesn't want anyone interceding in the "triangle" he has formed with Hedda and Tesman. Hedda says that he wants to be "the only cock in the yard."
Brack leaves and Ejlert arrives. Hedda admonishes him for coming so "late" to pick up Mrs. Elvsted, and he apologizes for coming so early in the morning. He asks what Hedda has heard about the party, but she replies that she knows only that it was very merry. Mrs. Elvsted enters. She is relieved to see him, but Ejlert tells her that their paths must part, as he has stopped work on his writing and is, thus, no longer of any use to her. Mrs. Elvsted protests passionately, but he explains that he has destroyed his manuscript. He claims to have torn it into a thousand pieces and thrown it into the fjord. Mrs. Elvsted says that this is tantamount to killing a little child, and he has to agree. Mrs. Elvsted is bewildered and leaves immediately. Ejlert doesn't want her to be seen with him, for her sake, so he doesn't escort her. He then tells Hedda the truth--that he has lost the manuscript. He also says that he no longer has the courage to face life. He leaves, intending to commit suicide, and Hedda makes him promise to do so beautifully, giving him one of her pistols. After he leaves, Hedda is alone in the room. She takes the manuscript over to the fire, sits down, and begins to burn it, page by page, saying that she is burning the child of Ejlert Lövborg and Thea Elvsted.
When Hedda murmurs to herself about Ejlert's vine leaves, it is clear that she is disappointed and surprised. When she kept telling Mrs. Elvsted that Ejlert would return with vine leaves in his hair, she was reassuring not only Mrs. Elvsted but also herself. This is one of the few moments of weakness she shows throughout the play. The speed with which she comes to her senses and changes her tone is evidence of her vigilance in maintaining a calm, controlled exterior, even when she is feeling confused on the inside.
Her exchange with Brack also sheds light upon Hedda's character. She asks Brack why he is so forthcoming with information, as if she does not see friendship alone as grounds for confidences. Also, her earlier comment about not wanting to be controlled makes more sense once she describes Brack as being someone who wants to be the "only cock in the yard": although she makes light of it, she is clearly threatened by Brack.
As Act 3 comes to a close, the audience comes to understand more clearly Hedda's ability to deceive those around her, in complete disregard of their thoughts and feelings. At one moment she seeks to comfort Ejlert. By seeming to understanding his desire to kill himself, she at least seems to sympathize with him. Yet she does not seek to prevent his death by returning the manuscript; instead, she burns it, thinking only of venting her own frustrations at the relationship between Ejlert and Mrs. Elvsted. Further, while her willingness to give him one of her father's pistols shows that she takes him seriously, it also shows that she thinks of Ejlert more as an object than as a person; she wants him to die beautifully.
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