Plays: Comrades; Facing Death; Pariah; Easter
Part 2 out of 4
AXEL. It was the only way to tear myself loose.
BERTHA [Collecting herself]. Who was she?
AXEL. A woman--[Pause.]
BERTHA. How did she look?
AXEL. Like a woman! With long hair and high breasts, et cetera.--
BERTHA. Do you think I am jealous of one of that kind?
AXEL. One of that kind, two of that kind, many of that kind!
BERTHA [Gasping]. And tomorrow our friends are invited here! Do you
want to create a scandal and call in the invitations?
AXEL. No, I don't want to be mean in my revenge. Tomorrow we'll
have our friends, and the day after our ways will part.
BERTHA. Yes, our ways must part now. Good night! [Goes to door
AXEL [Going to door right]. Good night!
BERTHA [Stops]. Axel!
BERTHA. Oh, it wasn't anything!--Yes, wait. [Goes toward Axel with
clasped hands.] Love me, Axel! Love me!
AXEL. Would you share with another?
BERTHA [Pause]. If only you loved me!
AXEL. No, I cannot. You can't draw me to you as you used to do.
BERTHA. Love me, be merciful! I am honest now, I believe, otherwise
I would never humiliate myself as--as I am doing now, before a man.
AXEL. Even if I had compassion for you, I cannot call forth any
love. It has come to an end. It is dead.
BERTHA. I beg for a man's love, I, a woman, and he shoves me away
AXEL. Why not? _We_ should also have leave to say no for once,
although we are not always very hard to please.
BERTHA. A woman offers herself to a man and is refused!
AXEL. Feel now how millions have felt, when they have begged on
their knees for the mercy of being allowed to give what the other
accepts. Feel it for your whole sex, and then tell them how it
BERTHA [Rising]. Good night. The day after tomorrow, then.
AXEL. You still want the party tomorrow, then?
BERTHA. Yes, I want the party tomorrow.
AXEL. Good. The day after tomorrow, then.
[They go out, each their own way right and left.]
[SCENE.--Same. But the glass doors leading to orchard are open. The
sun is still shining outside and the studio is brightly lighted.
The side doors are open. A serving table is seen out in the
orchard; on it are glasses and bottles, et cetera. Axel wears
cutaway, but without the decoration, and is wearing a standing
collar with four-in-hand scarf. His hair is brushed straight back.
Bertha wears a dark gown, cut square, with frilled fichu. She has a
flower on the left shoulder. The Misses Hall are extravagantly and
expensively dressed. Bertha enters from orchard. She is pale and
has dark shadows under her eyes. Abel enters from door at back.
They embrace and kiss each other.]
BERTHA. Good afternoon, and welcome.
ABEL. Good afternoon.
BERTHA. And Gaga promised to come?
ABEL. Absolutely certain. He was in a regretful spirit and begged
forgiveness. [Bertha straightens out her fichu.] But what is the
matter with you today? Has anything happened?
BERTHA. How so? What?
ABEL. You are not like yourself. Have you--? Bertha! Have you--
BERTHA. Don't talk.
ABEL. Your eyes are so full of color and brilliancy! What? Is is
possible--? And so pale? Bertha!
BERTHA. I must go out to my guests.
ABEL. Tell me, are Carl and Oestermark here?
BERTHA. Both are out in the orchard.
ABEL. And Mrs. Hall and the girls?
BERTHA. Mrs. Hall will come litter, but the girls are in my room.
ABEL. I'm afraid that our scheme of revenge will fall as flat as a
BERTHA. No, not this--not this one!
[Willmer enters with a bouquet of flowers. He goes to Bertha,
kisses her hand, and gives her the bouquet.]
WILLMER. Forgive me! For my love's sake!
BERTHA. No, not on that account, but--it doesn't matter. I don't
know why, but today I don't want any enemies.
[Axel comes in. Bertha and Willmer look distressed.]
AXEL [To Bertha, not noticing Willmer]. Pardon--if I disturb--
BERTHA. Not at all.
AXEL. I only wanted to ask if you had ordered the supper?
BERTHA. Yes, of course--as you wished.
AXEL. Very well. I only wanted to know. [Pause.]
ABEL. How festive you two look! [Bertha and Axel are silent.
Willmer breaks the embarrassment by starting for the orchard.]
[She hastens out after Willmer.]
AXEL. What have you ordered for the supper?
BERTHA [Looks at him and smiles]. Lobsters and poulet.
AXEL [Uncertain]. What are you smiling at?
BERTHA. My thoughts.
AXEL. What are you thinking then?
BERTHA. I am thinking--no, I really don't know--unless it was about
the betrothal supper we had together in the Gardens that spring
evening when you had wooed--
AXEL. You had wooed--
BERTHA. Axel!--And now it is the last, last time. It was a short
AXEL. Quite short, but the sun will come again.
BERTHA. Yes, for you who can find sunshine in every street.
AXEL. What is there to hinder you from seeking warmth at the same
BERTHA. And so we shall meet again, perhaps--some evening by street
light, you mean?
AXEL. I didn't mean that--but _a la bonne heure_! That at least
will be a free relation.
BERTHA. Yes, very free, especially for you.
AXEL. For you, too, but pleasanter for me.
BERTHA. That's a noble thought.
AXEL. Now, now--don't tear open the old wounds! We were talking
about the supper. And we must not forget our guests. So! [Goes
toward his room right.]
BERTHA. About the supper--yes, of course! That's what we were
[She flies toward her room left, stirred and agitated. They both go
out. The scene is empty for a moment. Then the Misses Hall come in
from the orchard.]
MISS AMELIE. How very dull it is here!
MISS THERESE. Insufferably stupid, and our hosts are not altogether
MISS AMELIE. The hostess is especially unpleasant. And the
short-hair kind, too.
MISS THERESE. Yes, but I understand that a lieutenant is coming--
MISS AMELIE. Well, that's good, for these artists are a lot of free
traders. Hush, here is a diplomat surely.--He looks so distinguished.
[They sit on couch. Doctor Oestermark comes in from the orchard; he
discovers the Misses Hall and looks at them through his pince-nez.]
DR. OESTERMARK. I am honored, ladies. H'm, one meets so many of
one's countrywomen here. Are you artists, too? You paint, I suppose?
MISS AMELIE. No, we don't paint.
DR. OESTERMARK. Oh, but just a little, perhaps. Here in Paris all
MISS THERESE. We don't have to.
DR. OESTERMARK. Oh, well, you play then?
MISS AMELIE. Play?
DR. OESTERMARK. Oh, I don't mean playing at cards. But all ladies
play a little.
MISS AMELIE. Evidently you are just from the country.
DR. OESTERMARK. Yes, just from the country. Can I be of any slight
service to you?
MISS THERESE. Pardon, but we don't know with whom we have the honor--?
DR. OESTERMARK. You ladies have evidently just come from Stockholm.
In this country we can talk to each other without asking for
MISS AMELIE. We haven't asked for references.
DR. OESTERMARK. What do you ask, then? To have your curiosity
satisfied? Well, I'm an old family physician and my name is
Anderson. Perhaps I may know your names now?--Character not needed.
MISS THERESE. We are the Misses Hall, if that can be of any
interest to the doctor.
DR. OESTERMARK. Hall? H'm! I've surely heard that name before.
Pardon, pardon me a question, a somewhat countrified question--
MISS AMELIE.--Don't be bashful!
DR. OESTERMARK. Is your father still living?
MISS AMELIE. No, he is dead.
DR. OESTERMARK. Oh, yes. Well, now that I have gone so far, there is
nothing to do but continue. Mr. Hall was--
MISS THERESE. Our father was a director of the Fire Insurance
Company of Goeteborg.
DR. OESTERMARK. Oh, well, then I beg your pardon. Do you find Paris
to your liking?
MISS AMELIE. Very! Therese, do you remember what I did with my
shawl? Such a cold draught here! [Rises.]
MISS THERESE. You left it in the orchard, no doubt.
DR. OESTERMARK [Rising]. No, don't go out. Allow me to find it for
you--no--sit still--just sit still.
[Goes out into orchard. After a moment Mrs. Hall comes in from
left, quite comfortable with drink; her cheeks are flaming red and
her voice is uncertain.]
MISS AMELIE. Look, there's mother! And in that condition again!
Heavens, why does she come here? Why did you come here, mother?
MRS. HALL. Keep quiet! I have as much right here as you.
MISS THERESE. Why have you been drinking again? Think if some one
MRS. HALL. I haven't been drinking. What nonsense!
MISS AMELIE. We will be ruined if the doctor should come back and
see you. Come, let's go in here and you can get a glass of water.
MRS. HALL. It's nice of you to treat your mother like this and say
that she has been drinking, to say such a thing to your own mother!
MISS THERESE. Don't talk, but go in, immediately.
[They lead her in right. Axel and Carl come in from the orchard.]
CARL. Well, you're looking fine, my dear Axel, and you have a
manlier bearing than you used to have.
AXEL. Yes, I have emancipated myself.
CARL. You should have done that at the start, as I did.
AXEL. As you did?
CARL. As I did. Immediately I took my position as head of the
family, to which place I found myself called both because of my
superior mind and my natural abilities.
AXEL. And how did your wife like that?
CARL. Do you know, I forgot to ask her! But to judge by appearances,
I should say that she found things as they should be. They only
need real men--and human beings can be made even out of women.
AXEL. But at least the power should be divided?
CARL. Power cannot be divided! Either obey or command. Either you
or I. I preferred myself to her, and she had to adjust herself to
AXEL. Yes, but didn't she have money?
CARL. Not at all. She didn't bring more than a silver soup-spoon to
our nest. But she demanded an accounting of it; and she got it. She
was a woman of principle, you see!--She is so good, so good, but so
am I good to her. I think it's really great sport to be married,
what? And besides, she's such a splendid cook!
[The Misses Hall come in from right.]
AXEL. Let me introduce you to the Misses Hall, Lieutenant Starck.
CARL. I am very happy to make your [Carl gives them a look of
[The young ladies seem surprised and embarrassed; they nod and go
out to the orchard somewhat excited.]
CARL. How did they get in here?
AXEL. What do you mean? They are friends of my wife's and this is
the first time that they have been here. Do you know them?
CARL. Yes, somewhat!
AXEL. What do you mean to imply?
CARL. H'm, I met them in St. Petersburg late one night!
AXEL. Late one night?
AXEL. Isn't there some mistake?
CARL. No-o! There is no mistake. They were very well known ladies
in St. Petersburg.
AXEL. And Bertha allows that kind in my house!
[Bertha comes rushing in from orchard.]
BERTHA. What does this mean? Have you insulted the young ladies?
BERTHA. They came out of here crying and declared that they
couldn't stay in the company of you gentlemen any longer! What has
AXEL. Do you know these young ladies?
BERTHA. They are my friends! Isn't that enough?
AXEL. Not quite enough.
BERTHA. Not quite? Well, but if--
[Dr. Oestermark comes in from the orchard.]
DR. OESTERMARK. What does this mean? What have you done to the
little girls who ran away? I offered to help them with their wraps,
but they refused to be helped and had tears in their eyes.
CARL [To Bertha]. I must ask you, are they your friends?
BERTHA. Yes, they are! But if my protection is not sufficient, then
perhaps Doctor Oestermark will take them under his wing, considering
that he has a certain claim to them.
CARL. But a mistake has been made here. You mean that I, who have
had certain relations with these girls, should appear as their
BERTHA. What sort of relations?
CARL. Chance, such as one has with such women!
BERTHA. Such women? That's a lie!
CARL. I'm not in the habit of lying.
DR. OESTERMARK. But I don't understand what _I_ have got to do with
these young ladies.
BERTHA. _You_ would prefer to have nothing to do with your deserted
DR. OESTERMARK. My children! But I don't understand.
BERTHA. They are your two daughters--daughters of your divorced
DR. OESTERMARK. Since you consider that you have the right to be
personal and make my affairs the subject of public discussion, I
will answer you publicly. You seem to have taken the trouble to
find out that I am not a widower. Good! My marriage, which was
childless, was dissolved twenty years ago. Since then I have
entered into another relation, and we have a child that is just
five years old. These grown girls, therefore, cannot be my
children. Now you know the whole matter.
BERTHA. But your wife--whom you threw out upon the world--
DR. OESTERMARK.--No, that wasn't the case either. She walked out, or
staggered, if you prefer it, and then she received half my income
until at last I found out that--enough said. If you could conceive
what it cost me of work and self-denial to support two establishments,
you would have spared me this unpleasant moment, but your kind
wouldn't consider anything like that. You needn't know any more, as
it really doesn't concern you.
BERTHA. But it would amuse me to know why your first wife left you.
DR. OESTERMARK. I don't think it would amuse you to know that she
was ugly, narrow, paltry, and that I was too good for her! Think
now, you tender-hearted, sensitive Bertha, think if they really had
been my daughters, these friends of yours and Carl's; imagine how
my old heart would have been gladdened to see, after eighteen
years, these children that I had borne in my arms during the long
night of illness. And imagine if she, my first love, my wife, with
whom life the first time became life, had accepted your invitation
and come here? What a fifth act in the melodrama you wished to
offer us, what a noble revenge on one who is guiltless! Thanks,
old friend. Thank you for your reward for the friendship I have
BERTHA. Reward! Yes, I know that I owe you--a fee. [Axel, Carl and
the doctor make protestations of "Oh," "Now," "Really," et cetera.]
I know that, I know it very well.
[Axel, Carl and doctor say "No," "Fie," "This is going too far."]
DR. OESTERMARK. No, but I'm going to get out of here. Horrors! Yes,
you are the right sort! Pardon me, Axel, but I can't help it!
BERTHA [To Axel]. You're a fine man, to allow your wife to be
AXEL. I can understand neither your allowing yourself to insult, or
to be insulted! [Music is heard from the orchard; guitar and an
Italian song.] The singers have arrived; perhaps you would all like
to step out and have a bit of harmony on top of all this.
[They all go out except the doctor, who goes over to look at some
drawings on wall right near door to Axel's room. The music outside
is played softly. Mrs. Hall comes in and walks unsteadily across
the scene and sits in a chair. The doctor, who does not recognize
her, bows deeply.]
MRS. HALL. What music is that out there?
DR. OESTERMARK. They are some Italians, dear lady.
MRS. HALL. Yes? No doubt the ones I heard at Monte Carlo.
DR. OESTERMARK. Oh, perhaps there are other Italians.
MRS. HALL. Well, I believe it's none other than Oestermark! No one
could be as quick as he in his retorts.
DR. OESTERMARK [Stares at her]. Ah--think--there are things--that--
are less dreadful than dread! It is you, Carolina! And this is the
moment that for eighteen years I have been running away from,
dreamed about, sought, feared, wished for; wished for that I might
receive the shock and afterward have nothing to dread! [He takes
out a vial and wets his upper lip with a few drops.] Don't be
afraid; it's not poison, in such little doses. It's for the heart,
MRS. HALL. Ugh, your heart! Yes, you have so much!
DR. OESTERMARK. It's strange that two people cannot meet once every
eighteen years without quarreling.
MRS. HALL. It was always you who quarreled!
DR. OESTERMARK. Alone? What!--Shall we stop now?--I must try to look
at you. [He takes a chair and sits down opposite Mrs. Hall.]
MRS. HALL. I've become old!
DR. OESTERMARK. That's what happens; one has read about it, seen it,
felt it one's self, but nevertheless it is horrifying. I am old,
MRS. HALL. Are you happy in your new life?
DR. OESTERMARK. To tell the truth, it's one and the same thing;
different, but quite the same.
MRS. HALL. Perhaps the old life was better, then?
DR. OESTERMARK. No, it wasn't better, as it was about the same,
but it's a question if it wouldn't have seemed better now, just
because it was the old life. One doesn't blossom but once, and then
one goes to seed; what comes afterward is only a little aftermath.
And you, how are you getting along?
MRS. HALL [Offended]. What do you mean?
DR. OESTERMARK. Don't misunderstand me. Are you contented with--
your--lot? I mean--oh, that it should be so difficult to make one's
self understood by women!
MRS. HALL. Contented? H'm!
DR. OESTERMARK. Well, you were never contented. But when one is
young, one always demands the first class, and then one gets the
third class when one is old. Now, I understand that you told Mrs.
Alberg here that your girls are my children!
MRS. HALL. I did? That is a lie.
DR. OESTERMARK. Still untruthful, eh? In the old days, when I was
foolish, I looked upon lying as a vice; but now I know it to be a
natural defect. You actually believe in your lies, and that is
dangerous. But never mind about that now. Are you leaving, or do
you wish me to leave?
MRS. HALL [Rising]. I will go.
[She falls back into the chair and gropes about.]
DR. OESTERMARK. What, drunk too?--I really pity you. Oh, this is
most unpleasant! Dear me, I believe I'm ready to cry!--Carolina!
No, I can't bear this!
MRS. HALL. I am ill.
DR. OESTERMARK. Yes, that's what happens when one drinks too much.
But this is more bitter than I ever thought it could be. I have
killed little unborn children to be able to save the mother, and I
have felt them tremble in their fight against death. I have cut
living muscles, and have seen the marrow flow like butter from
healthy bones, but never has anything hurt me so much as this since
the day you left me. Then it was as if you had gone away with one
of my lungs, so I could only gasp with the other!--Oh, I feel as if
I were suffocating now!
MRS. HALL. Help me out of here. It's too noisy. I don't know why we
came here, anyway. Give me your hand.
DR. OESTERMARK [Leading her to door]. Before it was I who asked for
your hand; and it rested so heavily on me, the little delicate
hand! Once it struck my face, the little delicate hand, but I
kissed it nevertheless.--Oh, now it is withered, and will never
strike again.--Ah, dolce Napoli! Joy of life, what became of it?
You who were the bride of my youth!
MRS. HALL [In the hall door]. Where is my wrap?
DR. OESTERMARK [Closing door]. In the hall, probably. This is
horrible! [Lights a cigar]. Oh, dolce Napoli! I wonder if it is as
delightful as it's said to be in that cholera breeding fishing
harbor. _Blague_, no doubt! _Blague! Blague_! Naples--bridal
couples, love, joy of life, antiquities, modernity, liberalism,
conservatism, idealism, realism, naturalism,--_blague, blague_, the
[Axel, Abel, Willmer, Mrs. Starck and Bertha come in from orchard.]
MRS. STARCK. What is happening to the doctor?
DR. OESTERMARK. Pardon, it was only a little _qui pro quo_. Two
strangers sneaked in here and we had to identify them.
MRS. STARCK. The girls?
CARL. Well, that has nothing to do with you. I don't know why, but
I seem to feel "the enemy in the air."
MRS. STARCK. Ah, you're always seeing the enemy, you dear Carl.
CARL. No, I don't see them, but I feel them.
MRS. STARCK. Well, come to your friend, then, and she will defend
CARL. Oh, you're always so good to me.
MRS. STARCK. Why shouldn't I be, when you are so good to me?
[The door at back is opened and the maid and two men come in
carrying a picture.]
AXEL. What's this?
MAID. The porter said that it must be carried into the studio, as
he didn't have any room for it.
AXEL. What foolishness is this? Take it out.
MAID. The mistress sent for the picture herself.
BERTHA. That's not true. For that matter, it's not my picture,
anyway. It's your master's. Put it down there. [The maid and the
man go out.] Perhaps it isn't yours, Axel? let's see. [Axel places
himself in front of picture.] Move a little so we can see.
AXEL [Gives way]. It's a mistake.
BERTHA [Shrieks]. What! What is this! It's a mistake! What does it
mean? It's my picture, but it's Axel's number! Oh!
[She falls in a faint. The doctor and Carl carry her into her room
left, the women follow.]
ABEL. She is dying!
MRS. STARCK. Heaven help us, what is this! The poor little dear!
Doctor Oestermark, do something, say something--and Axel stands
[Axel and Willmer are alone.]
AXEL. This is your doing.
WILLMER. My doing?
[Axel takes him by the ear.]
AXEL. Yes, yours, but not altogether. But I am going to give you
your share. [He leads hunt to the door, which he opens with one
foot, and kicks out Willmer with the other.] Out with you!
WILLMER. I'll get even for this!
AXEL. I shall be waiting for it!
[Doctor and Carl come in.]
DR. OESTERMARK. What's the trouble with the picture, anyway?
AXEL. Nothing--only that it seemed to represent sulphuric acid.
CARL. Now tell us, are you refused, or is she?
AXEL. I am refused on her picture. I wanted to help her a bit, as a
good comrade, and that's why I changed the numbers.
DR. OESTERMARK. Yes, but there is something else too. She says that
you don't love her any more.
AXEL. She is right in that. That's how it is, and tomorrow we part.
DR. OESTERMARK and CARL. Part?
AXEL. Yes, when there are no ties to bind things, they loosen of
themselves. This wasn't a marriage; it was only living together, or
something even worse.
DR. OESTERMARK. There is bad air here. Come, let's go.
AXEL. Yes, I want to get out--out of here. [They start for the
door. Abel comes in.]
ABEL. What, are you leaving?
AXEL. Does that astonish you?
ABEL. Let me have a word with you.
AXEL. Go on.
ABEL. Don't you want to go in and see Bertha?
ABEL. What have you done to her?
AXEL. I have bent her.
ABEL. I noticed that--she is black and blue around the wrists! Look
at me! I didn't think that of you. Well, conqueror, triumph now!
AXEL. It's an uncertain conquest, and I don't even wish for it.
ABEL. Are you sure of that? [She leans over to Axel, in low voice.]
Bertha loves you now--now that you have bent her.
AXEL. I know it. But I don't love her any longer.
ABEL. Won't you go in and see her?
AXEL. No, it's all over. [Takes doctor's arm.] Come!
ABEL. May I take a message to Bertha?
AXEL. No! Yes! Tell her, that I despise and abhor her.
ABEL. Good-bye, my friend.
AXEL. Good-bye, my enemy.
AXEL. Are you my friend?
ABEL. I don't know. Both and neither. I am a bastard--
AXEL. We are all that, as we are crocheted out of man and woman!
Perhaps you have loved me in your way, as you wanted to separate
Bertha and me.
ABEL [Rolling a cigarette]. Loved! I wonder how it seems to love?
No, I cannot love; I must be deformed--for it made me happy to see
you two until the envy of deformity set me on fire. Perhaps you
AXEL. No, on my honor! You have been an agreeable comrade who
happened to be dressed like a woman; you have never impressed me as
belonging to another sex; and love, you see, can and should exist
only between individuals of opposite sexes--
ABEL. Sex love, yes!
AXEL. Is there any other, then?
ABEL. I don't know! But I am to be pitied. And this hate, this
terrible hate! Perhaps that would disappear if you men were not so
afraid to love us, if you were not so--how shall I express it--so
moral, as it's called.
AXEL. But in heaven's name, be a little more lovable, then, and
don't get yourselves up so that one is forced to think of the penal
law whenever one looks at you.
ABEL. Do you think I'm such a fright, then?
AXEL. Well, you know, you must pardon me, but you are awful.
[Bertha comes in.]
BERTHA [To Axel]. Are you going?
AXEL. Yes, I was just about to go, but now I'll stay.
BERTHA [Softly]. What? You--
AXEL. I shall stay in _my_ home.
BERTHA. In _our_--home.
AXEL. No, in _mine_. In my studio with my furniture.
BERTHA. And I?
AXEL. You may do what you please, but you must know what you risk.
You see in my suit I have applied for one year's separation in bed
and board. Should you stay, that is to say, if you should seek me
during this time, you would have to choose between imprisonment, or
being considered my mistress. Do you feel like staying?
BERTHA. Oh, is that the law?
AXEL. That's the law.
BERTHA. You drive me out, then?
AXEL. No, but the law does.
BERTHA. And you think I'll be satisfied with that?
AXEL. No, I don't, for you won't be satisfied until you have taken
all the life out of me.
BERTHA. Axel! How you talk! If you knew how I--love you!
AXEL. That doesn't sound irrational, but I don't love you.
BERTHA [Flaring up and pointing to Abel]. Because you love her!
AXEL. No, indeed, I don't. Have never loved her, and never will.
What incredible imagining! As if there were not other women and
more fascinating than you two!
BERTHA. But Abel loves you!
AXEL. That is possible. I even believe that she suggested something
of the kind. Yes, she said so distinctly; let's see, how was it--
BERTHA [Changing]. You are really the most shameless creature I
have ever met!
AXEL. Yes, I can well believe that.
BERTHA [Puts on her hat and wrap]. Now you expect to put me out on
the street? That is final?
AXEL. On the street, or where you please.
BERTHA [Angry]. Do you think a woman will allow herself to be
treated like this?
AXEL. Once you asked me to forget that you were a woman. Very well,
I have forgotten it.
BERTHA. But do you know that you have liabilities to the one who
has been your wife?
AXEL. You mean the pay for good comradeship? What? A life annuity!
AXEL [Putting a few bills on the table]. Here is a month in
BERTHA [Takes money and counts it]. You still have a little honor
ABEL. Good-bye, Bertha. Now I am off.
BERTHA. Wait and you can go along with me.
ABEL. No, I won't go any further with you.
BERTHA. What? Why not?
ABEL. I am ashamed to.
BERTHA [Astonished]. Ashamed?
ABEL. Yes, ashamed. Good-bye. [Abel goes out.]
BERTHA. I don't understand. Good-bye, Axel! Thanks for the money.
Are we friends? [Taking his hand.]
AXEL. I am not, at least.--Let go of my hand, or I will believe
that you wish to seduce me again. [Bertha goes toward door.]
AXEL [With a sigh of relief]. Pleasant comrades! Oh!
[The maid enters from the orchard.]
MAID [To Axel]. There is it lady waiting for you.
AXEL. I'll soon be free.
BERTHA. Is that the new comrade?
AXEL. No, not comrade, but sweetheart.
BERTHA. And your wife to be?
AXEL, Perhaps. Because I want to meet, my comrades at the cafe, but
at home I want a wife. [Starts as if to go.] Pardon me!
BERTHA. Farewell, then! Are we never to meet again?
AXEL. Yes, of course! But at the cafe. Good-bye!
MONSIEUR DURAND, a pension proprietor, formerly connected with the
ADELE, his daughter, twenty-seven
ANNETTE, his daughter, twenty-four
THERESE, his daughter, twenty-four
ANTONIO, a lieutenant in an Italian cavalry regiment in French
Switzerland in the eighties
PIERRE, an errand boy
[SCENE--A dining-room with a long table. Through the open door is
seen, over the tops of churchyard cypress trees, Lake Leman, with
the Savoy Alps and the French bathing-resort Evian. To left is a
door to the kitchen. To right a door to inner rooms. Monsieur
Durand stands in doorway looking over the lake with a pair of field
ADELE [Comes in from kitchen wearing apron and turned-up sleeves.
She carries a tray with coffee things]. Haven't you been for the
DURAND. No, I sent Pierre. My chest has been bad for the last few
drays, and it affects me to walk the steep hill.
ADELE. Pierre again, eh? That costs three sous. Where are they to
come from, with only one tourist in the house for over two months?
DURAND. That's true enough, but it seems to me Annette might get
ADELE. That would ruin the credit of the house entirely, but you
have never done anything else.
DURAND. Even you, Adele?
ADELE. Even I am tired, though I have held out longest!
DURAND. Yes, you have, and you were still human when Therese and
Annette cautioned me. You and I have pulled this house through
since mother died. You have had to sit in the kitchen like
Cinderella; I have had to take care of the service, the fires,
sweep and clean, and do the errands. You are tired; how should it
be with me, then?
ADELE. But you mustn't be tired. You have three daughters who are
unprovided for and whose dowry you have wasted.
DURAND [Listening without]. Doesn't it seem as if you heard the
sound of clanging and rumbling down toward Cully? If fire has
broken out they are lost, because the wind is going to blow soon,
the lake tells me that.
ADELE. Have you paid the fire insurance on our house?
DURAND. Yes, I have. Otherwise I would never have got that last
ADELE. How much is there left unmortgaged?
DURAND. A fifth of the fire insurance policy. But you know how
property dropped in value when the railroad passed our gates and
went to the east instead.
ADELE. So much the better.
DURAND [Sternly]. Adele! [Pause.] Will you put out the fire in the
ADELE. Impossible. I can't till the coffee-bread comes.
DURAND. Well, here it is.
[Pierre comes in with basket. Adele looks in the basket.]
ADELE. No bread! But a bill--two, three--
PIERRE.--Well, the baker said he wouldn't send any more bread until
he was paid. And then, when I was going by the butcher's and the
grocer's, they shoved these bills at me. [Goes out.]
ADELE. Oh, God in heaven, this is the end for us! But what's this?
[Opens a package.]
DURAND. Some candles that I bought for the mass for my dear little
Rene. Today is the anniversary of his death.
ADELE. You can afford to buy such things!
DURAND. With my tips, yes. Don't you think it is humiliating to
stretch out my hand whenever a traveller leaves us? Can't you grant
me the only contentment I possess--let me enjoy my sorrow one time
each year? To be able to live in memory of the most beautiful thing
life ever gave me?
ADELE. If he had only lived until mow, you'd see how beautiful he'd
DURAND. It's very possible that there's truth in your irony--as I
remember him, however, he was not as you all are now.
ADELE. Will you be good enough to receive Monsieur Antonio
yourself? He is coming now to have his coffee _without_ bread! Oh,
if mother were only living! She always found a way when you stood
DURAND. Your mother had her good qualities.
ADELE. Although you saw only her faults.
DURAND. Monsieur Antonio is coming. If you leave me now, I'll have
a talk with him.
ADELE. You would do better to go out and borrow some money, so that
the scandal would be averted.
DURAND. I can't borrow a sou. After borrowing for ten years! Let
everything crash at once, everything, everything, if it would only
be the end!
ADELE. The end for you, yes. But you never think of us!
DURAND. No, I have never thought of you, never!
ADELE. Do you begrudge us our bringing-up?
DURAND. I am only answering an unjust reproach. Go now, and I'll
meet the storm--as usual.
ADELE. As usual--h'm!
[Goes. Antonio comes in from back.]
ANTONIO. Good morning, Monsieur Durand.
DURAND. Monsieur Lieutenant has already been out for a walk?
ANTONIO. Yes, I've been down toward Cully and saw them put out a
chimney fire. Now, some coffee will taste particularly good.
DURAND. It's needless to say how it pains me to have to tell you
that on account of insufficient supplies our house can no longer
continue to do business.
ANTONIO. How is that?
DURAND. To speak plainly, we are bankrupt.
ANTONIO. But, my good Monsieur Durand, is there no way of helping
you out of what I hope is just a temporary embarrassment?
DURAND. No, there is no possible way out. The condition of the
house has been so completely undermined for many years that I had
rather the crash would come than live in a state of anxiety day and
night, expecting what must come.
ANTONIO. Nevertheless I believe you are looking at the dark side of
DURAND. I can't see what makes you doubt my statement.
ANTONIO. Because I want to help you.
DURAND. I don't wish any help. Privation must come and teach my
children to lead a different life from this which is all play. With
the exception of Adele, who really does take care of the kitchen,
what do the others do? Play, and sing, and promenade, and flirt;
and as long as there is a crust of bread in the house, they'll
never do anything useful.
ANTONIO. Granting that, but until the finances are straightened out
we must have bread in the house. Allow me to stay a month longer
and I will pay my bill in advance.
DURAND. No, thank you, we must stick to this course even if it
leads us into the lake! And I don't want to continue in this
business, which doesn't bring bread--nothing but humiliations. Just
think how it was last spring, when the house had been empty for
three months. Then at last an American family came and saved us.
The morning after their arrival I ran across the son catching hold
of my daughter on the stairs. It was Therese,--he was trying to
kiss her. What would you have done in my case?
ANTONIO [Confused]. I don't know--
DURAND. I know what I, as a father, should have done, but--
father-like--I didn't do it. But I know what to do the next time.
ANTONIO. On account of that very thing it seems to me that you
should think very carefully about what you do, and not leave your
daughters to chance.
DURAND. Monsieur Antonio, you are a young man who, for some
inexplicable reason, has won my regard. Whether you grant it, or
not, I am going to ask one thing of you. Don't form any opinions
about me as an individual, or about my conduct.
ANTONIO. Monsieur Durand, I promise it if you will answer me one
question; are you Swiss born, or not?
DURAND. I am a Swiss citizen.
ANTONIO. Yes, I know that, but I ask if you were born in Switzerland.
DURAND [Uncertainly]. Yes.
ANTONIO. I asked only--because it interested me. Nevertheless--as I
must believe you that your pension must be closed, I want to pay
what I owe. To be sure it's only ten francs, but I can't go away
and leave an unpaid bill.
DURAND. I can't be sure that this is really a debt, as I don't keep
the accounts, but if you have deceived me you shall hear from me.
Now I'll go and get the bread. Afterward we'll find out.
[Goes out. Antonio alone. Afterward Therese comes in, carrying a
rat-trap. She wears a morning negligee and her hair is down.]
THERESE. Oh, there you are, Antonio! I thought I heard the old man.
ANTONIO. Yes, he went to get the coffee-bread, he said.
THERESE. Hadn't he done that already? No, do you know, we can't
stand him any longer.
ANTONIO. How beautiful you are today, Therese! But that rat-trap
THERESE. And such a trap into the bargain! I have set it for a
whole month, but never, never get a live one, although the bait is
eaten every morning. Have you seen Mimi around?
ANTONIO. That damned cat? It's usually around early and late, but
today I've been spared it.
THERESE. You must speak beautifully about the absent, and remember,
he who loves me, loves my cat. [She puts rat-trap on table and
picks up an empty saucer from under table.] Adele, Adele!
ADELE [In the kitchen door]. What does Her Highness demand so
THERESE. Her Highness demands milk for her cat and a piece of
cheese for your rats.
ADELE. Go get them yourself.
THERESE. Is that the way to answer Her Highness?
ADELE. The answer fits such talk. And besides, you deserve it for
showing yourself before a stranger with your hair not combed.
THERESE. Aren't we all old friends here, and--Antonio, go and speak
nicely to Aunt Adele, and then you'll get some milk for Mimi.
[Antonio hesitates.] Well, aren't you going to mind?
ANTONIO [Sharply]. No.
THERESE. What kind of a way to speak is that? Do you want a taste
of my riding whip?
THERESE. [Amazed]. What's that? What's that? Are you trying to
remind me of my position, my debt, my weakness?
ANTONIO. No, I only want to remind you of my position, my debt, my
ADELE [Getting the saucer]. Now listen, good friends. What's all
this foolishness for? Be friends--and then I'll give you some very
nice coffee. [Goes into the kitchen.]
THERESE [Crying]. You are tired of me, Antonio, and you are
thinking of giving me up.
ANTONIO. You mustn't cry, it will make your eyes so ugly.
THERESE. Oh, if they are not as beautiful as Annette's--
ANTONIO.--So, it's Annette now? But now look here; all fooling
aside, isn't it about time we had our coffee?
THERESE. You'd make a charming married man--not able to wait a
moment for your coffee.
ANTONIO. And what a lovable married lady you would be, who growls
at her husband because she has made a blunder.
[Annette comes in fully dressed and hair done up.]
ANNETTE. You seem to be quarreling this morning.
ANTONIO. See, there's Annette, and dressed already.
THERESE. Yes, Annette is so extraordinary in every respect, and she
also has the prerogative of being older than I am.
ANNETTE. If you don't hold your tongue--
ANTONIO.--Oh, now, now, be good, now, Therese!
[He puts his arm around her and kisses her. Monsieur Durand appears
in the doorway as he does so.]
DURAND [Astonished]. What's this?
THERESE [Freeing herself]. What?
DURAND. Did my eyes see right?
THERESE. What did you see?
DURAND. I saw that you allowed a strange gentleman to kiss you.
THERESE. That's a lie!
DURAND. Have I lost my sight, or do you dare lie to my face?
THERESE. Is it for you to talk about lying, you who lie to us and
the whole world by saying that you were born a Swiss although you
are a Frenchman?
DURAND. Who said that?
THERESE. Mother said so.
DURAND [To Antonio]. Monsieur Lieutenant, as our account is
settled, I'll ask you to leave this house immediately, or else--
ANTONIO. Or else?
DURAND. Choose your weapon.
ANTONIO. I wonder what sort of defense you would put up other than
DURAND. If I didn't prefer my stick, I should take the gun that I
used in the last war.
THERESE. You have surely been at war--you who deserted!
DURAND. Mother said that, too. I can't fight the dead, but I can
fight the living.
[Lifts his walking-stick and goes toward Antonio. Therese and
Annette throw themselves between the men.]
ANNETTE. Think what you are doing!
THERESE. This will end on the scaffold!
ANTONIO [Backing away]. Good-bye, Monsieur Durand. Keep my
contempt--and my ten francs.
DURAND [Takes a gold piece from his vest pocket and throws it
toward Antonio]. My curses follow your gold, scamp!
[Therese and Annette following Antonio.]
THERESE and ANNETTE. Don't go, don't leave us! Father will kill us!
DURAND [Breaks his stick in two]. He who cannot kill must die.
ANTONIO. Good-bye, and I hope you'll miss the last rat from your
sinking ship. [He goes.]
THERESE [To Durand]. That's the way you treat your guests! Is it
any wonder the house has gone to pieces!
DURAND. Yes--that's the way--such guests! But tell me, Therese, my
child--[Takes her head between his hands] tell me, my beloved
child, tell me if I saw wrong just now, or if you told a falsehood.
THERESE [Peevishly]. What?
DURAND. You know what I mean. It isn't the thing itself, which can
be quite innocent--but it is a matter of whether I can trust my
senses that interests me.
THERESE. Oh, talk about something else.--Tell us rather what we are
going to eat and drink today. For that matter, it's a lie; he
didn't kiss me.
DURAND. It isn't a lie. In Heaven's name, didn't I see it happen?
THERESE. Prove it.
DURAND. Prove it? With two witnesses or--a policeman! [To Annette.]
Annette, my child, will you tell me the truth?
ANNETTE. I didn't see anything.
DURAND. That's a proper answer. For one should never accuse one's
sister. How like your mother you are today, Annette!
ANNETTE. Don't you say anything about mother! She should be living
such a day as this!
[Adele comes in with a glass of milk, which she puts on table.]
ADELE [To Durand]. There's your milk. What happened to the bread?
DURAND. Nothing, my children. It will continue to come as it always
has up to the present.
THERESE [Grabs the glass of milk from her father]. You shall not
have anything, you who throw away money, so that your children are
compelled to starve.
ADELE. Did he throw away money, the wretch? He should have been put
in the lunatic asylum the time mother said he was ripe for it. See,
here's another bill that came by way of the kitchen.
[Durand takes the bill and starts as he looks at it. Pours a glass
of water and drinks. Sits down and lights his briar pipe.]
ANNETTE. But he can afford to smoke tobacco.
DURAND [Tired and submissively]. Dear children, this tobacco didn't
cost me any more than that water, for it was given to me six months
ago. Don't vex yourselves needlessly.
THERESE [Takes matches away]. Well, at least you sha'n't waste the
DURAND. If you knew, Therese, how many matches I have wasted on you
when I used to get up nights to see if you had thrown off the
bedclothes! If you knew, Annette, how many times I have secretly
given you water when you cried from thirst, because your mother
believed that it was harmful for children to drink!
THERESE. Well, all that was so long ago that I can't bother about
it. For that matter, it was only your duty, as you have said
DURAND. It was, and I fulfilled my duty and a little more too.
ADELE. Well, continue to do so, or no one knows what will become of
us. Three young girls left homeless and friendless, without
anything to live on! Do you know what want can drive one to?
DURAND. That's what I said ten years ago, but no one would heed me;
and twenty years ago I predicted that this moment would come, and I
haven't been able to prevent its coming. I have been sitting like a
lone brakeman on an express train, seeing it go toward an abyss,
but I haven't, been able to get to the engine valves to stop it.
THERESE. And now you want thanks for landing in the abyss with us.
DURAND. No, my child, I only ask that you be a little less unkind
to me. You have cream fur the cat, but you begrudge milk to your
father, who has not eaten for--so long.
THERESE. Oh, it's you, then, who has begrudged milk for my cat!
DURAND. Yes, it's I.
ANNETTE. And perhaps it is he who has eaten the rats' bait, too.
DURAND. It is he.
ADELE. Such a pig!
THERESE [Laughing]. Think if it had been poisoned!
DURAND. Alas, if only it had been, you mean!
THERESE. Yes, you surely wouldn't have minded that, you who have so
often talked about shooting yourself--but have never done it!
DURAND. Why didn't you shoot me? That's a direct reproach. Do you
know why I haven't done it? To keep you from going into the lake,
my dear children.--Say something else unkind now. It's like hearing
music--tunes that I recognize--from the good old times--
ADELE. Stop such useless talk now and do something. Do something.
THERESE. Do you know what the consequences may be if you leave us
in this shape?
DURAND. You will go and prostitute yourselves. That's what your
mother always said she'd do when she had spent the housekeeping
money on lottery tickets.
ADELE. Silence! Not a word about our dear, beloved mother!
DURAND [Half humming to himself].
In this house a candle burns,
When it burns out the goal he earns,
The goal once won, the storm will come
With a great crash. Yes! No!
[It has begun to blow outside and grown cloudy. Durand rises
quickly and says to Adele] Put out the fire in the stove. The wind
storm is coming.
ADELE [Looking Durand in the eyes]. No, the wind is not coming.
DURAND. Put out the fire. If it catches fire here, we'll get
nothing from the insurance. Put out the fire, I say, put it out.
ADELE. I don't understand you.
DURAND [Looks in her eyes, taking her hand]. Just obey me, do as I
say. [Adele goes into kitchen, leaving the door open. To Therese
and Annette.] Go up and shut the windows, children, and look after
the draughts. But come and give me a kiss first, for I am going
away to get money for you.
THERESE. Can you get money?
DURAND. I have a life insurance that I think I am going to realize
THERESE. How much can yon get for it?
DURAND. Six hundred francs if I sell it, and five thousand if I
die. [Therese concerned.] Now, tell me, my child,--we mustn't be
needlessly cruel,--tell me, Therese, are you so attached to Antonio
that you would be quite unhappy if you didn't get him?
THERESE. Oh, yes!
DURAND. Then you must marry him if he really loves you. But you
mustn't be unkind to him, for then you'll be unhappy. Good-bye, my
dear beloved child. [Takes her in his arms and kisses her cheeks.]
THERESE. But you mustn't die, father, you mustn't.
DURAND. Would you grudge me going to my peace?
THERESE. No, not if you wish it yourself. Forgive me, father, the
many, many times I've been unkind to you.
DURAND. Nonsense, my child.
THERESE. But no one was so unkind to you as I.
DURAND. I felt it less because I loved you most. Why, I don't know.
But run and shut the windows.
THERESE. Here are your matches, papa--and there's your milk.
DURAND [Smiling]. Ah, you child!
THERESE. Well, what can I do? I haven't anything else to give you.
DURAND. You gave me so much joy as a child that you owe me nothing.
Go now, and just give me a loving look as you used to do. [Therese
turns and throws herself into his arms.] So, so, my child, now all
is well. [Therese runs out.] Farewell, Annette.
ANNETTE. Are you going away? I don't understand all this.
DURAND. Yes, I'm going.
ANNETTE. But of course you're coming back, papa.
DURAND. Who knows whether he will live through the morrow? Anyway,
we'll say farewell.
ANNETTE. Adieu, then, father--and a good journey to you. And you
won't forget to bring something home to us just as you used to do,
DURAND. And you remember that, though it's so long since I've
bought anything for you children? Adieu, Annette.
[Annette goes. Durand hums to himself.]
Through good and evil, great and small,
Where you have sown, others gather all.
[Adele comes in.] Adele, come, now you shall hear and understand.
If I speak in veiled terms, it is only to spare your conscience in
having you know too much. Be quiet. I've got the children up in
their rooms. First you are to ask me this question, "Have you a
life insurance policy?" Well?
ADELE [Questioningly and uncertain]. "Have you a life insurance
DURAND. No, I had one, but I sold it long ago, because I thought I
noticed that some one became irritable when it was due. But I have
a fire insurance. Here are the papers. Hide them well. Now, I'm
going to ask you something; do you know how many candles there are
in a pound, mass candles at seventy-five centimes?
ADELE. There are six.
DURAND [Indicating the package of candles]. How many candles are
ADELE. Only five.
DURAND. Because the sixth is placed very high up and very near--
DURAND [Looking at his watch]. In five minutes or so, it will be
DURAND. Yes! Can you see dawn any other way in this darkness?
DURAND. Well, then. That takes care of the business. Now about
another matter. If Monsieur Durand passes out of the world as an
[Whispers] incendiary, it doesn't matter much, but his children
shall know that he lived as a man of honor up to that time. Well,
then, I was born in France, but I didn't have to admit that to the
first scamp that came along. Just before I reached the age of
conscription I fell in love with the one who later became my wife.
To be able to marry, we came here and were naturalized. When the
last war broke out, and it looked as if I was going to carry a
weapon against my own country, I went out as a sharpshooter against
the Germans. I never deserted, as you have heard that I did--your
mother invented that story.
ADELE. Mother never lied--
DURAND.--So, so. Now the ghost has risen and stands between us
again. I cannot enter an action against the dead, but I swear I am
speaking the truth. Do you hear? And as far as your dowry is
concerned, that is to say your maternal inheritance, these are the
facts: first, your mother through carelessness and foolish
speculations ruined your paternal inheritance so completely that I
had to give up my business and start this pension. After that, part
of her inheritance had to be used in the bringing-up of you
children, which of course cannot be looked upon as thrown away. So
it was also untrue that--
ADELE. No, that's not what mother said on her death-bed--
DURAND.--Then your mother lied on her death-bed, just as she had
done all through her life. And that's the curse that has been
following me like a spook. Think how you have innocently tortured
me with these two lies for so many years! I didn't want to put
disquiet into your young lives which would result in your doubting
your mother's goodness. That's why I kept silent. I was the bearer
of her cross throughout our married life; carried all her faults on
my back, took all the consequences of her mistakes on myself until
at last I believed that I was the guilty one. And she was not slow,
first to believe herself to be blameless, and then later the
victim. "Blame it on me," I used to say, when she had become
terribly involved in some tangle. And she blamed and I bore! But
the more she became indebted to me, the more she hated me, with the
limitless hatred of her indebtedness. And in the end she despised
me, trying to strengthen herself by imagining she had deceived me.
And last of all she taught you children to despise me, because she
wanted support in her weakness. I hoped and believed that this evil
but weak spirit would die when she died; but evil lives and grows
like disease, while soundness stops at a certain point and then
retrogrades. And when I wanted to change what was wrong in the
habits of this household, I was always met with "But mother said,"
and therefore it was true; "Mother used to do this way," and
therefore it was right. And to you I became a good-for-nothing when
I was kind, a miserable creature when I was sensitive, and a scamp
when I let you all have your way and ruin the house.
ADELE. It's honorable to accuse the dead who can't defend
DURAND [Fast and exalted]. I am not dead yet, but I will be soon.
Will you defend me then? No, you need not. But defend your sisters.
Think only of my children, Adele. Take a motherly care of Therese;
she is the youngest and liveliest, quick for good and bad,
thoughtless but weak. See to it that she marries soon, if it can be
arranged. Now, I can smell burning straw.
ADELE. Lord protect us!
DURAND [Drinks from glass]. He will. And for Annette you must try
to find a place as teacher, so that she can get up in the world and
into good company. You must manage the money when it falls due.
Don't be close, but fix up your sisters so that they will be
presentable to the right kind of people. Don't save anything but
the family papers, which are in the top drawer of my chiffonier in
the middle room. Here is the key. The fire insurance papers you
have. [Smoke is seen forcing its way through the ceiling.] It will
soon be accomplished now. In a moment you will hear the clanging
from St. Francois. Promise me one thing. Never divulge this to your
sisters. It would only disturb their peace for the rest of their
lives. [He sits by table.] And one thing more, never a hard word
against their mother. Her portrait is also in the chiffonier; none
of you knew that, because I found it was enough that her spirit
walked unseen in the home. Greet Therese, and ask her to forgive
me. Don't forget that she must have the best when you buy her
clothes; you know her weakness for such things and to what her
weakness can bring her. Tell Annette--
[A distant clanging of bells is heard; the smoke increases.
Monsieur Durand drops his head in his hands on the table.]
ADELE. It's burning, it's burning! Father, what's the matter with
you? You'll be burned up! [Durand lifts his head, takes the water
glass up and puts it down with a meaningful gesture.] You have--
DURAND [Nods affirmatively]. Have you the insurance papers? Tell
[His head falls. The bell in distance strikes again. Rumbling and
murmur of voices outside.]
PARIAH, OR THE OUTCAST
MR. X., an archeologist
MR. Y., a traveller from America
PARIAH, OR THE OUTCAST
[SCENE--Simple room in a country house; door and window at back,
through which one sees a country landscape. In the middle of the
room a large dining table; on one side of it books and writing
materials and on the other side some antiques, a microscope, insect
boxes, alcohol jars. To the left of scene a book-shelf, and all the
other furnishings are those of a country gentleman. Mr. Y. enters
in his shirt-sleeves, carrying an insect net and a botanical tin
box. He goes directly to the book-shelf, takes down a book and
reads stealthily from it. The after-service bell of a country
church rings. The landscape and room are flooded with sunshine. Now
and then one hears the clucking of hens outside. Mr. X. comes in
also in shirt-sleeves. Mr. Y. starts nervously, returns the book to
its place, and pretends to look for another book on the shelf.]
MR. X. What oppressive heat! We'll surely have a thunder-shower.
MR. Y. Yes? What makes you think so?
MR. X. The bells sound like it, the flies bite so, and the hens are
cackling. I wanted to go fishing, but I couldn't find a single
worm. Don't you feel rather nervous?
MR. Y. [Reflectively]. I? Well, yes.
MR. X. But you always look as if you expected a thunder-shower.
MR. Y. Do I?
MR. X. Well, as you are to start off on your travels again
tomorrow, it's not to be wondered at if you have the knapsack
fever. What's the news? Here's the post. [Takes up letters from the
table.] Oh, I have palpitation of the heart every time I open a
letter. Nothing but debts, debts! Did you ever have any debts?
MR. Y. [Reflecting]. No-o-o.
MR. X. Well, then, of course you can't understand how it feels to
have unpaid bills come in. [He reads a letter.] The rent owing--the
landlord clamoring--and my wife in despair. And I, I sitting up to
my elbows in gold. [Opens an iron-mounted case, which stands on the
table. They both sit down, one on each side of the case.] Here is
six thousand crowns' worth of gold that I've dug up in two weeks.
This bracelet alone would bring the three hundred and fifty crowns
I need. And with all of it I should be able to make a brilliant
career for myself. The first thing I should do would be to have
drawings made and cuts of the figures for my treatises. After that
I would print--and then clear out. Why do you suppose I don't do
MR. Y. It must be because you are afraid of being found out.
MR. X. Perhaps that, too. But don't you think that a man of my
intelligence should be able to manage it so that it wouldn't be
found out? I always go alone to dig out there on the hills--without
witnesses. Would it be remarkable to put a little something in
MR. Y. Yes, but disposing of it, they say, is the dangerous part.
MR. X. Humph, I should of course have the whole thing smelted, and
then I should have it cast into ducats--full weight, of course--
MR. Y. Of course!
MR. X. That goes without saying. If I wanted to make counterfeit
money--well, it wouldn't be necessary to dig the gold first.
[Pause.] It's remarkable, nevertheless, that if some one were to do
what I can't bring myself to do, I should acquit him. But I should
not be able to acquit myself. I should be able to put up a
brilliant defense for the thief; prove that this gold was _res
nullius_, or no one's, and that it got into the earth before there
were any land rights; that even now it belongs to no one but the
first comer, as the owner had never accounted it part of his
property, and so on.
MR. Y. And you would not be able to do this if--h'm!--the thief had
stolen through need, but rather as an instance of a collector's
mania, of scientific interest, of the ambition to make a
discovery,--isn't that so?
MR. X. You mean that I wouldn't be able to acquit him if he had
stolen through need? No, that is the only instance the law does not
pardon. That is simple theft, that is!
MR. Y. And that you would not pardon?
MR. X. H'm! Pardon! No, I could hardly pardon what the law does
not, and I must confess that it would be hard for me to accuse a
collector for taking an antique that he did not have in his
collection, which he had dug up on some one else's property.
MR. Y. That is to say, vanity, ambition, could gain pardon where
need could not?
MR. X. Yes, that's the way it is. And nevertheless need should be
the strongest motive, the only one to be pardoned. But I can change
that as little as I can change my will not to steal under any
MR. Y. And you count it a great virtue that you cannot--h'm--steal?
MR. X. With me not to steal is just as irresistible as stealing is
to some, and, therefore, no virtue. I cannot do it and they cannot
help doing it. You understand, of course, that the idea of wanting
to possess this gold is not lacking in me. Why don't I take it
then? I cannot; it's an inability, and a lack is not a virtue. And
there you are!
[Closes the case with a bang. At times stray clouds have dimmed the
light in the room and now it darkens with the approaching storm.]
MR. X. How close it is! I think we'll have some thunder.
[Mr. Y. rises and shuts the door and window.]
MR. X. Are you afraid of thunder?
MR. Y. One should be careful.
[They sit again at table.]
MR. X. You are a queer fellow. You struck here like a bomb two
weeks ago, and you introduced yourself as a Swedish-American who
travels, collecting insects for a little museum.
MR. Y. Oh, don't bother about me.
MR. X. That's what you always say when I get tired of talking about
myself and want to devote a little attention to you. Perhaps it was
because you let me talk so much about myself that you won my
sympathy. We were soon old acquaintances; there were no corners
about you for me to knock against, no needles or pins to prick.
There was something so mellow about your whole personality; you
were so considerate, a characteristic which only the most
cultivated can display; you were never noisy when you came home
late, never made any disturbance when you got up in the morning;
you overlooked trifles, drew aside when ideas became conflicting;
in a word, you were the perfect companion; but you were altogether
too submissive, too negative, too quiet, not to have me reflect
about it in the course of time. And you are fearful and timid; you
look as if you led a double life. Do you know, as you sit there
before the mirror and I see your back, it's as if I were looking at
another person. [Mr. Y. turns and looks in the mirror.] Oh, you
can't see your back in the mirror. Front view, you look like a
frank, fearless man who goes to meet his fate with open heart, but
back view,--well, I don't wish to be discourteous, but you look as
if you carried a burden, as if you were shrinking from a lash; and
when I see your red suspenders across your white shirt--it looks
like--like a big brand, a trade mark on a packing box.
MR. Y. [Rising]. I believe I will suffocate--if the shower doesn't
break and come soon.
MR. X. It will come soon. Just be quiet. And the back of your neck,
too, it looks as if there were another head on it, with the face of
another type than you. You are so terribly narrow between the ears
that I sometimes wonder if you don't belong to another race. [There
is flash of lightning.] That one looked as if it struck at the
MR. Y. [Worried]. At the--sh-sheriff's!
MR. X. Yes, but it only looked so. But this thunder won't amount to
anything. Sit down now and let's have a talk, as you are off again
tomorrow.--It's queer that, although I became intimate with you so
soon, you are one of those people whose likeness I cannot recall
when they are out of my sight. When you are out in the fields and I
try to recall your face, another acquaintance always comes to mind--
some one who doesn't really look like you, but whom you resemble
MR. Y. Who is that?
MR. X. I won't mention the name. However, I used to have dinner at
the same place for many years, and there at the lunch counter I met
a little blond man with pale, worried eyes. He had an extraordinary
faculty of getting about in a crowded room without shoving or being
shoved. Standing at the door, he could reach a slice of bread two
yards away; he always looked as if he was happy to be among people,
and whenever he ran into an acquaintance he would fall into
rapturous laughter, embrace him, and do the figure eight around
him, and carry on as if he hadn't met a human being for years; if
any one stepped on his toes he would smile as if he were asking
pardon for being in the way. For two years I used to see him, and I
used to amuse myself trying to figure out his business and
character, but I never asked any one who he was,--I didn't want to
know, as that would have put an end to my amusement. That man had
the same indefinable characteristics as you; sometimes I would make
him out an undergraduate teacher, an under officer, a druggist, a
government clerk, or a detective, and like you, he seemed to be
made up of two different pieces and the front didn't fit the back.
One day I happened to read in the paper about a big forgery by a
well-known civil official. After that I found out that my
indefinable acquaintance had been the companion of the forger's
brother, and that his name was Straman; and then I was informed
that the afore-mentioned Straman had been connected with a free
library, but that he was then a police reporter on a big newspaper.
How could I then get any connection between the forgery, the
police, and the indefinable man's appearance? I don't know, but
when I asked a man if Straman had ever been convicted, he answered
neither yes nor no--he didn't know. [Pause.]
MR. Y. Well, was he ever--convicted?
MR. X. No, he had not been convicted.
MR. Y. You mean that was why keeping close to the police had such
attraction for him, and why he was so afraid of bumping into people?
MR. X. Yes.
MR. Y. Did you get to know him afterward?
MR. X. No, I didn't want to.
MR. Y. Would you have allowed yourself to know him if he had been
MR. X. Yes, indeed.
[Mr. Y. rises and walks up and down.]
MR. X. Sit still. Why can't you sit quietly.
MR. Y. How did you get such a liberal attitude towards people's
conduct? Are you a Christian?
MR. X. No,--of course I couldn't be,--as you've just heard. The
Christians demand forgiveness, but I demand punishment for the
restoration of balance, or whatever you like to call it, and you,
who have served time, ought to understand that.
MR. Y. [Stops as if transfixed. Regards Mr. X. at first with wild
hatred, them with surprise and wonderment.] How--do--you--know--
MR. X. It's plain to be seen.
MR. Y. How? How can you see it?
MR. X. I have taught myself. That's an art, too. But we won't talk
about that matter. [Looks at his watch. Takes out a paper for
signing. Dips a pen and offers it to Mr. Y.] I must think about my
muddled affairs. Now be so kind as to witness my signature on this
note, which I must leave at the bank at Malmoe when I go there with
you tomorrow morning.
MR. Y. I don't intend to go by way of Malmoe.
MR. X. No?
MR. Y. No.
MR. X. But you can witness my signature nevertheless.
MR. Y. No-o. I never sign my name to papers--
MR. X. --Any more! That's the fifth time that you have refused to
write your name. The first time was on a postal receipt,--and it
was then that I began to observe you; and now, I see that you have
a horror of touching pen and ink. You haven't sent a letter since
you've been here. Just one postal-card, and that you wrote with a
blue pencil. Do you see now how I have figured out your mis-step?
Furthermore, this is the seventh time that you have refused to go
to Malmoe, where you have not gone since you have been here.
Nevertheless you came here from America just to see Malmoe; and
every morning you have walked southward three miles and a half to
the windmill hill just to see the roofs of Malmoe; also, when you
stand at the right-hand window, through the third window-pane to
the left, counting from the bottom up, you can see the turrets of
the castle, and the chimneys on the _state prison_. Do you see now
that it is not that I am so clever but that you are so stupid?
MR. Y. Now you hate me.
MR. X. No.
MR. Y. Yes, you do, you must.
MR. X. No--see, here's my hand.
MR. Y. [Kisses the proffered hand].
MR. X. [Drawing back his hand]. What dog's trick is that?
MR. Y. Pardon! But thou art the first to offer me his hand after
MR. X. --And now you are "thou-ing" me! It alarms me that, after
serving your time, you do not feel your honor retrieved, that you
do not feel on equal footing,--in fact, just as good as any one.
Will you tell me how it happened? Will you?
MR. Y. [Dubiously]. Yes, but you won't believe what I say. I'm
going to tell you, though, and you shall see that I was not a
common criminal. You shall be convinced that mis-steps are made, as
one might say, involuntarily--[Shakily] as if they came of their
own accord, spontaneously, without intention, blamelessly!--Let me
open the window a little. I think the thunder shower-has passed
MR. X. Go ahead.
MR. Y. [Goes and opens the window, then comes and sits by the table
again and tells the following with great enthusiasm, theatrical
gestures and false accents]. Well, you see I was a student at Lund,
and once I needed a loan. I had no dangerously big debts, my father
had some means--not very much, to be sure; however, I had sent away
a note of hand to a man whom I wanted to have sign it as second
security, and contrary to all expectations, it was returned to me
with a refusal. I sat for a while benumbed by the blow, because it
was a disagreeable surprise, very disagreeable. The note lay before
me on the table, and beside it the letter of refusal. My eyes
glanced hopelessly over the fatal lines which contained my
sentence. To be sure it wasn't a death-sentence, as I could easily
have got some other man to stand as security; as many as I wanted,
for that matter--but, as I've said, it was very unpleasant; and as
I sat there in my innocence, my glance rested gradually on the
signature, which, had it been in the right place, would have made
my future. That signature was most unusual calligraphy--you know
how, as one sits thinking, one can scribble a whole blotter full of
meaningless words. I had the pen in my hand--[He takes up the pen]
like this, and before I knew what I was doing it started to write,--
of course I don't want to imply that there was anything mystical
spiritualistic, behind it--because I don't believe in such things!--
it was purely a thoughtless, mechanical action--when I sat and
copied the beautiful autograph time after time--without, of course,
any prospect of gain. When the letter was scribbled all over, I had
acquired skill enough to reproduce the signature remarkably well
[Throws the pen down with violence] and then I forgot the whole
thing. That night my sleep was deep and heavy, and when I awakened
I felt that I had been dreaming, but I could not recall the dream;
however, it seemed as though the door to my dream opened a little
when I saw the writing table and the note in memory--and when I got
up I was driven to the table absolutely, as if, after ripe
consideration, I had made the irrevocable resolution to write that
name on the fateful paper. All thought of risk, of consequence, had
disappeared--there was no wavering--it was almost as if I were
fulfilling a precious duty--and I wrote. [Springs to his feet.]
What can such a thing be? Is it inspiration, hypnotic suggestion,
as it is called? But from whom? I slept alone in my room. Could it
have been my uncivilized ego, the barbarian that does not recognize
conventions, but who emerged with his criminal will and his
inability to calculate the consequences of his deed? Tell me, what
do you think about such a case?
MR. X. [Bored]. To be honest, your story does not quite convince
me. There are holes in it,--but that may be clue to your not being
able to remember all the details,--and I have read a few things
about criminal inspirations--and I recall--h'm--but never mind. You
have had your punishment, you have had character enough to admit
your error, and we won't discuss it further.
MR. Y. Yes, yes, yes, we will discuss it; we must talk, so that I
can have complete consciousness of my unswerving honesty.
MR. X. But haven't you that?
MR. Y. No, I haven't.
MR. X. Well, you see, that's what bothers me, that's what bothers
me. Don't you suppose that each one of us has a skeleton in his
closet? Yes, indeed! Well, there are people who continue to be
children all their lives, so that they cannot control their lawless
desires. Whenever the opportunity comes, the criminal is ready. But
I cannot understand why you do not feel innocent. As the child is
considered irresponsible, the criminal should be considered so too.
It's strange--well, it doesn't matter; I'll regret it later.
[Pause.] I killed a man once, and I never had any scruples.
MR. Y. [Very interested]. You--did?
MR. X. Yes--I did. Perhaps you wouldn't like to take a murderer's
MR. Y. [Cheerily]. Oh, what nonsense!
MR. X. Yes, but I have not been punished for it.
MR. Y. [Intimate, superior]. So much the better for you. How did
you get out of it?
MR. X. There were no accusers, no suspicions, no witnesses. It
happened this way: one Christmas a friend of mine had invited me
for a few days' hunting just outside of Upsala; he sent an old
drunken servant to meet me, who fell asleep on the coach-box and
drove into a gate-post, which landed us in the ditch. It was not
because my life had been in danger, but in a fit of anger I struck
him a blow to wake him, with the result that he never awakened
again--he died on the spot.
MR. Y. [Cunningly]. And you didn't give yourself up?
MR. X. No, and for the following reasons. The man had no relatives
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