Plays: Comrades; Facing Death; Pariah; Easter
Part 3 out of 4
or other connections who were dependent on him. He had lived out
his period of vegetation and his place could soon be filled by some
one who was needed more, while I, on the other hand, was
indispensable to the happiness of my parents, my own happiness, and
perhaps to science. Through the outcome of the affair I was cured
of the desire to strike any more blows, and to satisfy an abstract
justice I did not care to ruin the lives of my parents as well as
my own life.
MR. Y. So? That's the way you value human life?
MR. X. In that instance, yes.
MR. Y. But the feeling of guilt, the "restoration of balance?"
MR. X. I had no guilty feeling, its I had committed no crime. I had
received and given blows as a boy, and it was only ignorance of the
effect of blows on old people that caused the fatality.
MR. Y. Yes, but it is two years' hard labor for homicide--just as
much as for--forgery.
MR. X. You may believe I have thought of that too, and many a night
have I dreamed that I was in prison. Ugh! is it as terrible as it's
said to be behind bolts and bars?
MR. Y. Yes, it is terrible. First they disfigure your exterior by
cutting off your hair, so if you did not look like a criminal
before, you do afterward, and when you look at yourself in the
mirror, you become convinced that you are a desperado.
MR. X. It's the mask that they pull off; that's not a bad idea.
MR. Y. You jest! Then they cut down your rations, so that every
day, every hour you feel a distinct difference between life and
death; all life's functions are repressed; you feel yourself
grovelling, and your soul, which should be bettered and uplifted
there, is put on a starvation cure, driven back a thousand years in
time; you are only allowed to read what was written for the
barbarians of the migratory period; you are allowed to hear about
nothing but that which can never come to pass in heaven, but what
happens on earth remains a secret; you are torn from your own
environment, moved down out of your class; you come under those who
come under you; you have visions of living in the bronze age, feel
as if you went about in an animal's skin, lived in a cave, and ate
out of a trough! Ugh!
MR. X. That's quite rational. Any one who behaves as if he belonged
to the bronze age ought to live in the historic costume.
MR. Y. [Spitefully]. You scoff, you, you who have behaved like a
man of the stone age! And you are allowed to live in the gold age!
MR. X. [Searchingly and sharp]. What do you mean by that last
expression--the gold age?
MR. Y. [Insidiously]. Nothing at all.
MR. X. That's a lie; you are too cowardly to state your whole
MR. Y. Am I cowardly? Do you think that? I wasn't cowardly when I
dared to show myself in this neighborhood, where I have suffered
what I have.--Do you know what one suffers from most when one sits
in there? It is from the fact that the others are not sitting in
MR. X. What others?
MR. Y. The unpunished.
MR. X. Do you allude to me?
MR. Y. Yes.
MR. X. I haven't committed any crime.
MR. Y. No? Haven't you?
MR. X. No. An accident is not a crime.
MR. Y. So, it's an accident to commit murder?
MR. X. I haven't committal any murder.
MR. Y. So? Isn't it murder to slay a man?
MR. X. No, not always. There is manslaughter, homicide, assault
resulting in death, with the subdivisions, with or without intent.
However, now I am really afraid of you, for you belong in the most
dangerous category of human beings, the stupid.
MR. Y. So you think that I am stupid? Now listen! Do you want me
to prove that I am very shrewd?
MR. X. Let me hear.
MR. Y. Will you admit that I reason shrewdly and logically when I
say this? You met with an accident which might have brought you two
years of hard labor. You have escaped the ignominious penalty
altogether. Here sits a man who also has been the victim of an
accident, an unconscious suggestion, and forced to suffer two
years of hard labor. This man can wipe out the stain he has
unwittingly brought upon himself only through scientific
achievement; but for the attainment of this he must have money--
much money, and that immediately. Doesn't it seem to you that the
other man, the unpunished one, would restore the balance of human
relations if he were sentenced to a tolerable fine? Don't you think
MR. X. [Quietly]. Yes.
MR. Y. Well, we understand each other.--H'm! How much do you
MR. X. Legitimate? The law decrees that a man's life is worth at
the minimum fifty crowns. But as the deceased had no relatives,
there's nothing to be said on that score.
MR. Y. Humph, you will not understand? Then I must speak more
plainly. It is to me that you are to pay the fine.
MR. X. I've never heard that a homicide should pay a fine to a
forger, and there is also no accuser.
MR. Y. No? Yes, you have me.
MR. X. Ah, now things are beginning to clear up. How much do you
ask to become accomplice to the homicide?
MR. Y. Six thousand crowns.
Mr. X. That's too much. Where am I to get it? [Mr. Y. points to the
case.] I don't want to do that, I don't want to become a thief.
MR. Y. Don't pretend. Do you want me to believe that you haven't
dipped into that case before now?
MR. X. [As to himself]. To think that I could make such a big
mistake! But that's the way it always is with bland people. One is
fond of gentle people, and then one believes so easily that he is
liked; and just on account of that I have been a little watchful of
those of whom I've been fond. So you are fully convinced that I
have helped myself from that case?
MR. Y. Yes, I'm sure of it.
MR. X. And you will accuse me if you do not receive the six
MR. Y. Absolutely. You can't get out of it, so it's not worth while
trying to do so.
MR. X. Do you think I would give my father a thief for son, my wife
a thief for husband, my children a thief for father, and my
confreres a thief for comrade? That shall never happen. Now I'll go
to the sheriff and give myself up.
MR. Y. [Springs up and gets his things together]. Wait a moment.
MR. X. What for?
M$. Y. [Stammering]. I only thought--that as I'm not needed--I
wouldn't need to be present--and could go.
MR. X. You cannot. Sit down at your place at the table, where
you've been sitting, and we will talk a little.
MR. Y. [Sits, after putting on a dark coat]. What's going to happen
MR. X. [Looking into mirror]. Now everything is clear to me! Ah!
MR. Y. [Worried]. What do you see now that's so remarkable?
MR. X. I see in the mirror that you are a thief, a simple, common
thief. Just now, when you sat there in your shirt-sleeves, I
noticed that something was wrong about my book-shelf, but I
couldn't make out what it was, as I wanted to listen to you and
observe you. Now, since you have become my antagonist, my sight is
keener, and since you have put on that black coat, that acts as a
color contrast against the red backs of the books, which were not
noticeable before against your red suspenders, I see that you have
been there and read your forgery story in Bernheim's essay on
hypnotic suggestion, and returned the book upside down. So you
stole that story too! In consequence of all this I consider that I
have the right to conclude that you committed your crime through
need, or because you were addicted to pleasures.
MR. Y. Through need. If you knew--
MR. X. If _you_ knew in what need I have lived, and lived, and
still live! But this is no time for that. To continue, that you
have served time is almost certain, but that was in America, for it
was American prison life that you described; another thing is
almost as certain--that you have not served out your sentence here.
MR. Y. How can you say that?
MR. X. Wait until the sheriff comes and you will know. [Mr. Y.
rises.] Do you see? The first time I mentioned the sheriff in
connection with the thunderbolt, you wanted to run then, too; and
when a man has been in that prison he never wants to go to the
windmill hill every day to look at it, or put himself behind a
window-pane to--to conclude, you have served one sentence, but not
another. That's why you were so difficult to get at. [Pause.]
MR. Y. [Completely defeated]. May I go now?
MR. X. Yes, you may go now.
MR. Y. [Getting his things together]. Are you angry with me?
MR. X. Yes. Would you like it better if I pitied you?
MR. Y. [Wrathfully]. Pity! Do you consider yourself better than I
MR. X. Of course I do, as I _am_ better. I am more intelligent than
you are, and of more worth to the common weal.
MR. Y. You are pretty crafty, but not so crafty as I am. I stand in
check myself, but, nevertheless, the next move you can be
MR. X. [Fixing Mr. Y. with his eye]. Shall we have another bout?
What evil do you intend to do now?
MR. Y. That is my secret.
MR. X. May I look at you?--You think of writing an anonymous letter
to my wife, disclosing my secret.
MR. Y. Yes, and you cannot prevent it. You dare not have me
imprisoned, so you must let me go; and when I have gone I can do
what I please.
MR. X. Ah, you devil! You've struck my Achilles heel--will you
force me to become a murderer?
MR. Y. You couldn't become one! You timid creature!
MR. X. You see, then, there is a difference in people after all,
and you feel within you that I cannot commit such deeds as you, and
that is your advantage. But think if you forced me to deal with you
as I did with the coachman!
[Lifts his hand as if to strike. Mr. Y. looks hard at Mr. X.]
MR. Y. You can't do it. He who dared not take his salvation out of
the case couldn't do that.
MR. X. Then you don't believe that I ever took from the case?
MR. Y. You were too cowardly, just as you were too cowardly to tell
your wife that she is married to a murderer.
MR. X. You are a different kind of being from me--whether stronger
or weaker I do not know--more criminal or not--that doesn't concern
me. But you are the stupider, that's proven. Because you were
stupid when you forged a man's name instead of begging as I have
had to do; you were stupid when you stole out of my book--didn't
you realize that I read my books? You were stupid when you thought
that you were more intelligent than I am and that you could fool me
into becoming a thief; you were stupid when you thought, that the
restoration of balance would be accomplished by the world's having
two thieves instead of one, and you were most stupid when you
believed that I have built my life's happiness without having laid
the cornerstone securely. Go and write your anonymous letter to my
wife about her husband being a homicide--that she knew as my
fiancee. Do you give up now?
MR. Y. Can I go?
MR. X. Now you _shall_ go--immediately. Your things will follow
ELIS, her son. Instructor in a preparatory school
ELEONORA, her daughter
CHRISTINE, Elis' fiancee
BENJAMIN, a freshman
[Scene for the entire play.--The interior of a glass-enclosed
piazza, furnished like a living-room. A large door at the middle
back leading out into the garden with fence and garden gate
visible. Beyond one sees the tops of trees (indicating that the
house is situated on a height), and in the distance the cathedral
and another high building loom against the sky. The glass windows
which extend across the entire back of scene are hung with flowered
yellow cretonne, which can be drawn open. A mirror hangs on the
panel between door and window on the left. Below the mirror is a
calendar. To the right of door a writing table covered with books
and writing materials. A telephone is also on it. To L. of door is
a dining table, stove and bureau. At R. in foreground it small
sewing table with lamp on it. Near it are two arm-chairs. A
hanging lamp at center. Outside in the street an electric light. At
L. there is a door leading from piazza to the house, at R. a door
leading to the kitchen. Time, the present.]
[Thursday before Easter. The music before curtain is: Haydn: Sieben
Worte des Erloesers. Introduction: Maestoso Adagio.]
[A ray of sunlight falls across the room and strikes one of the
chairs near the sewing table. In the other chair, untouched by the
sunshine, sits Christine, running strings thro' muslin sash-curtains.
Elis enters wearing a winter overcoat, unbuttoned. He carries a
bundle of legal documents which he puts on the writing table.
After that he takes off his overcoat and hangs it at L.]
ELIS. Hello, sweetheart.
CHRISTINE. Hello, Elis.
ELIS [Looks around]. The double windows are off, the floor scoured,
fresh curtains at the windows--yes, it is spring again! The ice has
gone out of the river, and the willows are beginning to bud on the
banks--yes, spring has come and I can put away my winter overcoat.
[Weighs his overcoat in his hand and hangs it up.] You know, it's
so heavy--just as tho' it had absorbed the weight of the whole
winter's worries, the sweat and dust of the school-room.
CHRISTINE. But you have a vacation now.
ELIS. Yes, Easter. Five days to enjoy, to breathe, to forget.
[Takes Christine's hand a minute, and then seats himself in
arm-chair.] Yes, the sun has come again. It left us in November.
How well I remember the day it disappeared behind the brewery
across the street. Oh, this winter, this long winter.
CHRISTINE [With a gesture toward kitchen]. Sh! Sh!
ELIS. I'll be quiet--But I'm so happy that it's over with. Oh, the
warm sun! [Rubs his hands as tho' bathing them in the sunshine.] I
want to bathe in the sunshine and light after all the winter gloom--
CHRISTINE. Sh! Sh!
ELIS. Do you know, I believe that good luck is coming our way--that
hard luck is tired of us.
CHRISTINE. What makes you think so?
ELIS. Why, as I was going by the cathedral just now a white dove
flew down and alighted in front of me, and dropped a little branch
it was carrying right at my feet.
CHRISTINE. Did you notice what kind of branch it was?
ELIS. Of course it couldn't have been an olive branch, but I
believe it was a sign of peace--and I felt the life-giving joy of
spring. Where's mother?
CHRISTINE [Points toward kitchen]. In the kitchen.
ELIS [Quietly and closing his eyes]. I hear the spring! I can tell
that the double windows are off, I hear the wheel hubs so plainly.
And what's that?--a robin chirping out in the orchard, and they are
hammering down at the docks and I can smell the fresh paint on the
CHRISTINE. Can you feel all that--here in town?
ELIS. Here? It's true we are _here_, but I was up there, in the
North, where our home lies. Oh, how did we ever get into this
dreadful city where the people all hate each other and where one is
always alone? Yes, it was our daily bread that led the way, but
with the bread came the misfortunes: father's criminal act and
little sister's illness. Tell me, do you know whether mother has
ever been to see father since he's been in prison?
CHRISTINE. Why, I think she's been there this very day.
ELIS. What did she have to say about it?
CHRISTINE. Nothing--she wouldn't talk about it.
ELIS. Well, one thing at least has been gained, and that is the
quiet that followed the verdict after the newspapers had gorged
themselves with the details. One year is over: and then we can make
a fresh start.
CHRISTINE. I admire your patience in this suffering.
ELIS. Don't. Don't admire anything about me. I am full of faults--
you know it.
CHRISTINE. If you were only suffering for your own faults--but to
be suffering for another!
ELIS. What are you sewing on?
CHRISTINE. Curtains for the kitchen, you dear.
ELIS. It looks like a bridal veil. This fall you will be my bride,
won't you, Christine?
CHRISTINE. Yes--but--let's think of summer first.
ELIS. Yes, summer! [Takes out the check book.] You see the money is
already in the bank, and when school is over we will start for the
North, for our home land among the lakes. The cottage stands there
just as it did when we were children, and the linden trees. Oh,
that it were summer already and I could go swimming in the lake! I
feel as if this family dishonor has besmirched me so that I long to
bathe, body and soul, in the clear lake waters.
CHRISTINE. Have you heard anything from Eleonora?
ELIS. Yes--poor little sister! She writes me letters that tear my
heart to pieces. She wants to get out of the asylum--and home, of
course. But the doctor daren't let her go. She would do things that
might lead to prison, he says. Do you know, I feel terribly
CHRISTINE [Starting]. Why?
ELIS. Because I agreed with all the rest of them that it was best
to put her there.
CHRISTINE. My dear, you are always accusing yourself. It was
fortunate she could be taken care of like that--poor little thing!
ELIS. Well, perhaps you're right. It is best so. She is as well off
there as she could be anywhere. When I think of how she used to go
about here casting gloom over every attempt at happiness, how her
fate weighed us down like a nightmare, then I am tempted to feel
almost glad about it. I believe the greatest misfortune that could
happen would be to see her cross this threshold. Selfish brute that
CHRISTINE. Human being that you are!
ELIS. And yet--I suffer--suffer at the thought of her misery and my
CHRISTINE. It seems as tho' some were born to suffer.
ELIS. You poor Christine--to be drawn into this family, which was
cursed from the beginning! Yes, doomed!
CHRISTINE. You don't know whether it's all trial or punishment,
Elis. Perhaps I can help you through the struggles.
ELIS. Do you think mother has a clean dress tie for me?
CHRISTINE [Anxiously]. Are you going out?
ELIS. I'm going out to dinner. Peter won the debate last night, you
know, and he's giving a dinner tonight.
CHRISTINE. And you're going to that dinner?
ELIS. You mean that perhaps I shouldn't because he has proven such
an unfaithful friend and pupil?
CHRISTINE. I can't deny that I was shocked by his unfaithfulness,
when he promised to quote from your theories and he simply
plundered them without giving you any credit.
ELIS. Ah, that's the way things go, but I am happy in the
consciousness that "this have I done."
CHRISTINE. Has he invited you to the dinner?
ELIS. Why, that's true--come to think of it, he didn't invite me.
That's very strange. Why didn't I think of that before! Why, he's
been talking for years as though I were to be the guest of honor at
that dinner, and he has told others that. But if I am not invited--
then of course it's pretty plain that I'm snubbed, insulted, in
fact. Well, it doesn't matter. It isn't the first time--nor the
CHRISTINE. Benjamin is late. Do you think he will pass his
ELIS. I certainly do--in Latin particularly.
CHRISTINE. Benjamin is a good boy!
ELIS. Yes, but he's somewhat of a grumbler. You know of course why
he is living here with us?
CHRISTINE. IS it because--
ELIS. Because--my father was the boy's guardian and spent his
fortune for him, as he did--for so many others. Can you fancy,
Christine, what agony it is for me as their instructor to see those
fatherless boys, who have been robbed of their inheritance,
suffering the humiliations of free scholars? I have to think
constantly of their misery to be able to forgive them their cruel
CHRISTINE. I believe that your father is truly better off than you.
CHRISTINE. But Elis, we should think of summer, and not of the
ELIS. Yes, of summer! Do you know, I was awakened last night by
some students singing that old song, "Yes, I am coming, glad winds,
take this greeting to the country, to the birds--Say that I love
them, tell birch and linden, lake and mountain, that I am coming
back to them--to behold them again as in my childhood hours--" [He
rises--moved.] Shall I ever go back to them, shall I ever go out
from this dreadful city, from Ebal, accursed mountain, and behold
Gerizim again? [Seats himself near the door.]
CHRISTINE. Aye, aye--that you shall!
ELIS. But do you think my birches and lindens will look as they
used to--don't you think the same dark veil will shroud them that
has been lying over all nature and life for us ever since the day
when father--[Points to the empty arm-chair which is in the
shadow.] Look, the sun has gone.
CHRISTINE. It will come again and stay longer.
ELIS. That's true. As the days lengthen the shadows shorten.
CHRISTINE. Yes, Elis, we are going toward the light, believe me.
ELIS. Sometimes I believe that, and when I think of all that has
happened, all the misery, and compare it with the present--then I
am happy. Last year you were not sitting there, for you had gone
away from me and broken off our betrothal. Do you know, that was
the darkest time of all. I was dying literally bit by bit; but then
you came back to me--and I lived. Why did you go away from me?
CHRISTINE. Oh; I don't know--it seems to me now as if there was no
reason. I had an impulse to go--and I went, as tho' I were walking
in my sleep. When I saw you again I awoke--and was happy.
ELIS. And now we shall go on together forevermore. If you left me
now I should die in earnest.--Here comes mother. Say nothing, let
her live in her imaginary world in which she believes that father
is a martyr and that all those he sacrificed are rascals.
MRS. HEYST [Comes from kitchen. She is paring an apple. She is
simply dressed and speaks in an innocent voice]. Good afternoon,
children. Will you have your apple dumpling hot or cold?
ELIS. Cold, mother dear.
MRS. HEYST. That's right, my boy, you always know what you want and
say so. But you aren't like that, Christine. Elis gets that from
his father; he always knew what he wanted and said so frankly, and
people don't like that--so things went badly with him. But his day
will come, and he'll get his rights and the others will get their
just deserts. Wait now, what was it I had to tell you? Oh, yes,
what do you think? Lindkvist has come here to live! Lindkvist, the
biggest rascal of them all!
ELIS [Rises, disturbed]. Has _he_ come here?
MRS. HEYST. Yes, indeed, he's come to live right across the street
ELIS. So now we must see him coming and going day in and day out.
MRS. HEYST. Just let me have a talk with him, and he'll never show
his face again! For I happen to know a few things about him! Well,
Elis, how did Peter come out?
ELIS. Oh, finely!
MRS. HEYST. I can well believe that! When do you think _you_ will
join the debating club?
ELIS. When I can afford it!
MRS. HEYST. "When I can afford it." Humph, that isn't a very good
answer! And Benjamin--did he get through his examinations all
ELIS. We don't know yet; but he'll soon be here.
MRS. HEYST. Well, I don't quite like the way Benjamin goes around
looking so conscious of his privileges in this house--but we shall
take him down soon enough. But he's a good boy just the same. Oh,
yes, there's a package for you, Elis. [Goes out to kitchen and
comes back directly with a package.]
ELIS. Mother does keep track of everything, doesn't she? I
sometimes believe that she is not so simple minded as she seems to
MRS. HEYST. See, here's the package. Lina received it. Perhaps it
is an Easter present!
ELIS. I'm afraid of presents since the time I received a box of
cobblestones. [Puts the package on the table.]
MRS. HEYST. Now I must go back to my duties in the kitchen. Don't
you think it is too cold with the door open?
ELIS. Not at all, mother.
MRS. HEYST. Elis, you shouldn't hang your overcoat there. It looks
so disorderly. Now, Christine, will my curtains be ready soon?
CHRISTINE. In just a few minutes, mother.
MRS. HEYST [To Elis]. Yes, I like Peter; he is my favorite among
your friends. But aren't you going to his dinner this evening,
ELIS. Yes, I suppose so.
MRS. HEYST. Now, why did you go and say that you wanted your apple
dumpling cold when you are going out to dinner? You're so
undecided, Elis. But Peter isn't like that.--Shut the door when it
gets chilly, so that you won't get sniffles.[Goes out R.]
ELIS. The good old soul--and always Peter. Does she like to tease
you about Peter?
CHRISTINE [Surprised and hurt]. Me?
ELIS [Disconcerted]. Old ladies have such queer notions, you know.
CHRISTINE. What have you received for a present?
ELIS [Opening package]. A birch rod!
CHRISTINE. From whom?
ELIS. It's anonymous. It's just an innocent joke on the
schoolmaster. I shall put it in water--and it will blossom like
Aaron's staff. "Rod of birch, which in my childhood's hour"--And so
Lindkvist has come here to live!
CHRISTINE. Well, what about him?
ELIS. We owe him our biggest debt.
CHRISTINE. _You_ don't owe him anything.
ELIS. Yes, one for all and all for one; the family's name is
disgraced as long as we owe a farthing.
CHRISTINE. Change your name!
CHRISTINE [Puts down work, which is finished]. Thanks, Elis, I was
only testing you.
ELIS. But you must not tempt me. Lindkvist is not a rich man, and
needs what is due him.--When my father got through with it all it
was like a battle-field of dead and wounded--and mother believes
father is a martyr! Shall we go out and take a walk?
CHRISTINE. And try to find the sunshine? Gladly!
ELIS. I can't understand how it can be that our Saviour suffered
for us and yet we must continue to suffer.
CHRISTINE. Here comes Benjamin.
ELIS. Can you see whether he looks happy or not?
CHRISTINE [Looks out door]. He walks so slowly, he's stopped at the
fountain--and bathing his eyes.
ELIS. And this too!
CHRISTINE. Walt until--
ELIS. Tears! Tears!
[Enter Benjamin. He has a kind face and seems very downcast. He
carries several books and a portfolio.]
ELIS. Well, how did you get along in Latin?
ELIS. Let me see your examination paper. What did you do?
BENJAMIN. I used "ut" with the indicative, altbo' I knew it should
be the subjunctive.
ELIS. Then you are lost! But how could you do that?
BENJAMIN [Submissively]. I can't, explain it--I knew how it should
be. I meant to do it right, but some way I wrote it wrong. [Seats
himself dejectedly near dining table.]
ELIS [Sinks dozen near writing desk and opens Benjamin's
portfolio]. Yes, here it is--the indicative, oh!
CHRISTINE [Faintly, with effort]. Well, better luck next time--life
ELIS. Terribly long.
BENJAMIN. Yes, it is.
ELIS [Sadly but without bitterness]. But that everything should
come at the same time! You were my best pupil, so what can I expect
of the others? My reputation as a teacher is lost. I shall not be
allowed to teach any longer and so--complete ruin! [To Benjamin.]
Don't take it to heart so--it is not your fault.
CHRISTINE [With great effort]. Elis, courage, courage, for God's
ELIS. What shall I get it from?
CHRISTINE. What you got it from before.
ELIS. But things are not as they were. I seem to be in complete
CHRISTINE. There is no disgrace in undeserved suffering. Don't be
impatient. Be equal to the test, for it is just another test. I
feel sure of that.
ELIS. Can a year for Benjamin become less than three hundred and
CHRISTINE. Yes, a cheerful spirit makes the days shorter.
ELIS [Smiling]. Blow upon the burn; that heals it, children are
CHRISTINE. Be a child then, and let me tell you that. Think of your
mother, how she bears everything.
ELIS. Give me your hand; I am sinking.
[Christine reaches out her hand to him.]
Your hand trembles.--
CHRISTINE. No, not that I know of--
ELIS. You are not so strong as you seem to be--
CHRISTINE. I do not feel any weakness--
ELIS. Why can't you give me some strength then?
CHRISTINE. I have none to spare!
ELIS [Looking out of the window]. Do you see who that is coming?
[Christine goes and looks out of window, then falls upon her knees,
CHRISTINE. This is too much!
ELIS. Our creditor, he who can take our home and all our belongings
away from us. He, Lindkvist, who has come here and ensconced
himself in the middle of his web like a spider, to watch the flies--
CHRISTINE. Let us run away!
ELIS [At window]. No--no running away! Now when you grow weak I
become strong--now he is coming up the street--and he casts his
evil eye over toward his prey.
CHRISTINE. Stand aside, at least.
ELIS [Straightening himself]. No, he amuses me. His face lights up
with pleasure, as tho' he could already see his victims in his trap.
Come on! He is counting the steps up to our gate and he sees by the
open door that we are at home.--But he has met some one and stands
there talking.--He is talking about us, for he's pointing over here.
CHRISTINE. If only he doesn't meet mother, so that she can't make
him harsh with her angry words!--Oh, prevent that, Elis!
ELIS. Now he is shaking his stick, as if he were protesting that in
our case mercy shall not pass for justice. He buttons his overcoat
to show that at least he hasn't yet had the very clothes on his
back taken from him. I can tell by his mouth what he is saying.
What shall I reply to him? "My dear sir, you are in the right. Take
everything, it belongs to you."
CHRISTINE. There is nothing else you could say.
ELIS. Now he laughs. But it is a kind laugh, not a malicious one!
Perhaps he isn't so mean after all, but he'll see that he gets
every penny coming to him, nevertheless! If he would only come, and
stop his blessed prating.--Now, he is swinging his stick again.--
They always carry a stick, men who have debtors, and they always
wear galoshes that say "Swish, swish," like lashes through the air--
[Christine puts hand against his heart.] Do you hear how my heart
beats? It sounds like an ocean steamer. Now, thank Heaven, he's
taking his leave with his squeaking galoshes! "Swish, swish," like
a switch! Oh, but he wears a watch charm! So he can't be utterly
poverty-stricken. They always have watch charms of carnelian, like
dried flesh that they have cut out of their neighbors' backs.
Listen to the galoshes. "Angry, angrier, angriest, swish, swish."
Watch him! The old wolf! He sees me! He sees me! He bows! He
smiles! He waves his hand--and [Sinks down near the writing table,
weeping] he has gone by!
CHRISTINE. Praise be to God!
ELIS [Rising]. He has gone by--but he will come again. Let's go out
in the sunshine.
CHRISTINE. And what about dining with Peter?
ELIS. As I am not invited, I cannot go. For that matter, what
should I do there in the festivity! Just go and meet an unfaithful
friend! I should only make a pretense of not being hurt by what he
CHRISTINE. I'm glad, for then you will stay here with us.
ELIS. I'd rather do that, as you know. Shall we go?
CHRISTINE. Yes, this way.
[Goes towards left. As Elis passes Benjamin he puts his hand on
ELIS. Courage, boy!
[Benjamin hides his face in his hands.]
ELIS [Takes the birch rod from the dining table and puts it behind
the looking-glass]. It wasn't an olive branch that the dove was
carrying--it was a birch rod!
[They go out.]
[Eleonora comes in from back: she is sixteen, with braids down her
back. She carries an Easter lily in a pot. Without seeing, or
pretending not to see Benjamin, she puts the lily on the dining
table and then goes and gets a water-bottle from the sideboard and
waters the plant. Then seats herself near dining table right
opposite Benjamin and contemplates him and then imitates his
gestures and movements.]
[Benjamin stares at her in astonishment.]
ELEONORA [Points to lily]. Do you know what that is?
BENJAMIN [Boyishly, simply]. It's an Easter lily--that's easy
enough; but who are you?
ELEONORA [Sweetly, sadly]. Well, who are you?
BENJAMIN. My name is Benjamin and I live here with Mrs. Heyst.
ELEONORA. Indeed! My name is Eleonora and I am the daughter of Mrs.
BENJAMIN. How strange no one ever said anything about you!
ELEONORA. People do not talk about the dead!
BENJAMIN. The dead?
ELEONORA. I am dead civilly, for I have committed a very bad deed.
ELEONORA. Yes, I spent a trust fund; but that wasn't so much, for
it was money as ill-gotten as ill-spent--but that my poor old
father should be blamed for it and be put in prison--you see, that
can never be forgiven.
BENJAMIN. So strangely and beautifully you talk! And I never
thought of that--that my inheritance might have been ill-gotten.
ELEONORA. One should not confine human beings, one should free
BENJAMIN. You have freed me from a delusion.
ELEONORA. You are a charity pupil?
BENJAMIN. Yes, it is my sorrowful lot to have to live upon the
charity of this poor family.
ELEONORA. You must not use harsh words or I shall have to go away.
I am so sensitive I cannot bear anything harsh. Nevertheless it's
my fault that you are unhappy.
BENJAMIN. Your father's fault, you mean.
ELEONORA. That is the same thing, for he and I are one and the same
person. [Pause.] Why are you so dejected?
BENJAMIN. I have had a disappointment!
ELEONORA. Should you be downcast on that account? "Rod and
punishment bring wisdom, and he who hates punishment must perish--"
What disappointment have you had?
BENJAMIN. I have failed in my Latin examination--altho' I was so
sure I would pass.
ELEONORA. Just so; you were so sure, so sure, that you would even
have laid a wager that you would get thro' it.
BENJAMIN. I did have a bet on it.
ELEONORA. I thought so. You see that's why it happened--because you
were so sure.
BENJAMIN. Do you think that was the reason?
ELEONORA. Certainly it was! Pride goeth before a fall!
BENJAMIN. I shall remember that the next time.
ELEONORA. That is a worthy thought; those who are pleasing to God
are of humble spirit.
BENJAMIN. Do you read the Bible?
ELEONORA. Yes, I read it!
BENJAMIN. I mean, are you a believer?
ELEONORA. Yes, I mean that I am. So much so that if you should
speak wickedly about God, my benefactor, I would not sit at the
same table with you.
BENJAMIN. How old are you?
ELEONORA. For me there is no time nor space. I am everywhere and
whensoever. I am in my father's prison, and in my brother's
school-room. I am in my mother's kitchen and in my sister's little
shop far away. When all goes well with my sister and she makes good
sales I feel her gladness, and when things go badly with her I
suffer--but I suffer most when she does anything dishonest.
Benjamin, your name is Benjamin, because you are the youngest of my
friends; yes, all human beings are my friends, and if you will let
me adopt you, I will suffer for you too.
BENJAMIN. I don't quite understand the words you use, but I think I
catch the meaning of your thoughts. And I will do whatever you want
ELEONORA. Will you begin then by ceasing to judge human beings,
even when they are convicted criminals--
BENJAMIN. Yes, but I want to have a reason for it. I have read
philosophy, you see.
ELEONORA. Oh, have you! Then you shall help me explain this from a
great philosopher. He said, "Those that hate the righteous, they
shall be sinners."
BENJAMIN. Of course all logic answers that in the same way, that
one can be doomed to commit crime--.
ELEONORA. And that the crime itself is a punishment.
BENJAMIN. That is pretty deep! One would think that that was Kant
ELEONORA. I don't know them.
BENJAMIN. What book did you read that in?
ELEONORA. In the Holy Scripture.
BENJAMIN. Truly? Are there such things in it?
ELEONORA. What an ignorant, neglected child you are! If I could
bring you up!
BENJAMIN. Little you!
ELEONORA. I don't believe there is anything very wicked about you.
You seem to me more good than bad.
BENJAMIN. Thank you.
ELEONORA [Rising]. You must never thank me for anything. Remember
that.--Oh, now my father is suffering. They are unkind to him.
[Stands as tho' listening.] Do you hear what the telephone wires
are humming?--those are harsh words, which the soft red copper does
not like--when people slander each other thro' the telephone the
copper moans and laments--[Severely] and every word is written in
the book--and at the end of time comes the reckoning!
BENJAMIN. You are so severe!
ELEONORA. I? Not I! How should I dare to be? I, I? [She goes to the
stove, opens it, and takes out several torn pieces of white letter
paper and puts them on the dining table.]
BENJAMIN. [Rises and looks at the pieces of paper which Eleonora is
ELEONORA [To herself]. That people should be so thoughtless as to
leave their secrets in the stove! Whenever I come I always go right
to the stove! But I don't do it maliciously--I wouldn't do
anything like that, for then I should feel remorse.
BENJAMIN. It is from Peter, who writes and asks Christine to meet
him. I have been expecting that for a long time.
ELEONORA [Putting her hands over the bits o f paper]. Oh, you, what
have you been expecting? Tell me, you evil minded being, who
believes nothing but bad of people. This letter could not mean
anything wrong to me, for I know Christine, who is going to be my
sister sometime. And that meeting will avert misfortune for brother
Elis. Will you promise me to say nothing of this, Benjamin?
BENJAMIN. I don't exactly think I should like to talk much about
ELEONORA. People who are suspicious become so unjust. They think
they are so wise, and they are so foolish!--But what is all this to
BENJAMIN. Yes, why _are_ you so inquisitive?
ELEONORA. You see that is my illness--that I must know all about
everything or else I become restless--
BENJAMIN. Know about everything?
ELEONORA. That is a fault which I cannot overcome. And I even know
what the birds say.
BENJAMIN. But they can't talk?
ELEONORA. Haven't you heard birds that people have taught to talk?
BENJAMIN. Oh, yes--that people have taught to talk!
ELEONORA. That is to say they can talk. And we find those that have
taught themselves or are like that instinctively--they sit and
listen without our knowing it and then they repeat these things
afterward. Just now as I was coming along I heard two magpies in
the walnut tree, who sat there gossiping.
BENJAMIN. How funny you are! But what were they saying?
ELEONORA. "Peter," said one of them, "Judas," said the other. "The
same thing," said the first one. "Fie, Fie, Fie," said the other.
But have you noticed that the nightingales only sing in the grounds
of the deaf and dumb asylum here?
BENJAMIN. Yes, they do say that's so. Why do they do that?
ELEONORA. Because those who have hearing do not hear what the
nightingales say: but the deaf and dumb hear it!
BENJAMIN. Tell me some more stories.
ELEONORA. Yes, if you are good.
BENJAMIN. How good?
ELEONORA. If you will never be exacting about words with me, never
say that I said so and so, or so and so. Shall I tell you more
about birds? There is a wicked bird that is called a rat-hawk: as
you may know by its name, it lives on rats. But as it is an evil
bird it has hard work to catch the rats. Because it can say only
one single word, and that a noise such as a cat makes when it says
"miau." Now when the rat-hawk says "miau" the rats run and hide
themselves--for the rat-hawk doesn't understand what it is saying
so it is often without food, for it is a wicked bird! Would you
like to hear more? Or shall I tell you something about flowers? Do
you know when I was ill I was made to take henbane, which is a drug
that has the power to make one's eyes magnify like a microscope.
Well, now I see farther than others, and I can see the stars in the
BENJAMIN. But the stars are not up there then, are they?
ELEONORA. How funny you are! The stars are always up there--and
now, as I sit facing the west, I can see Cassiopea like a W up
there in the middle of the Milky Way. Can you see it?
BENJAMIN. No, indeed I can't see it.
ELEONORA. Let me call your attention to this, that some can see
that which others do not do not be too sure of your own eyes
therefore! Now I'm going to tell you about that flower standing on
the table: it is an Easter lily whose home is in Switzerland; it
has a calyx which drinks sunlight, therefore it is yellow and can
soothe pain. When I was passing a florist's, just now, I saw it and
wanted to make a present of it to brother Elis. When I tried to go
into the shop I found the door was locked--because it is
confirmation day. But I must have the flower--I took out my keys
and tried them--can you believe it, my door key worked! I went in.
You know that flowers speak silently! Every fragrance uttered a
multitude of thoughts, and those thoughts reached me: and with my
magnifying eyes I looked into the flowers' workrooms, which no one
else has ever seen. And they told me about their sorrows which the
careless florist causes them--mark you, I did not say cruel, for he
is only thoughtless. Then I put a coin on the desk with my card,
took the Easter lily and went out.
BENJAMIN. How thoughtless! Think if the flower is missed and the
money isn't found?
ELEONORA. That's true! You are right.
BENJAMIN. A coin can easily disappear, and if they find your card
it's all up with you.
ELEONORA. But no one would believe that I wanted to take anything.
BENJAMIN [Looking hard at her]. They wouldn't?
ELEONORA [Rising]. Ah! I know what you mean! Like father, like
child! How thoughtless I have been! Ah! That which must be, must
be! [Sits.] It must be so.
BENJAMIN. Couldn't we say that--
ELEONORA. Hush! Let's talk of other things! Poor Elis! Poor all of
us! But it is Easter, and we ought to suffer. Isn't there a recital
tomorrow? [Benjamin nods his head.] And they give Haydn's Seven
Words on the Cross! "Mother, behold thy son!" [She weeps with face
BENJAMIN. What kind of illness have you had?
ELEONORA. An illness that is not mortal unless it is God's will! I
expected good, and evil came; I expected light, and darkness came.
How was your childhood, Benjamin?
BENJAMIN. Oh, I don't know. Kind of tiresome! And yours?
ELEONORA. I never had any. I was born old. I knew everything when I
was born, and when I was taught anything it was only like
remembering. I knew human weaknesses when I was four years old, and
that's why people were horrid to me.
BENJAMIN. Do you know, I, too, seem to have thought everything that
ELEONORA. I am sure you have. What made you think that the coin I
left at the florist's would be lost?
BENJAMIN. Because what shouldn't happen always does happen.
ELEONORA. Have you noticed that too? Hush, some one is coming.
[Looks toward back.] I hear--Elis, oh, how good! My only friend on
earth! [She darkens.] But--he didn't expect me! And he will not be
glad to see me--no, he won't be, I am sure he won't be. Benjamin,
have a pleasant face and be cheerful when my poor brother comes in.
I am going in here while you prepare him for my being here. But no
matter what he says, don't you say anything that would hurt him,
for that would make me unhappy. Do you promise? [Benjamin nods.]
Give me your hand.
BENJAMIN [Reaches out his hand].
ELEONORA [Kisses him on the top of his head]. So! Now you are my
little brother. God bless and keep you! [Goes toward the left and
as she passes Elis' overcoat she pats it lovingly on the sleeve.]
Poor Elis! [She goes out L.]
ELIS [In from back, troubled].
MRS. HEYST [In from kitchen].
ELIS. Oh, so there you are, mother.
MRS. HEYST. Was it you? I thought I heard a strange voice!
ELIS. I have some news. I met our lawyer in the street.
MRS. HEYST. Well?
ELIS. The case is going to the superior court--and to gain time
I've got to read all the minutes of the case.
MRS. HEYST. Well, that won't take you long.
ELIS [Pointing to the legal documents on the writing desk]. Oh, I
thought that was all over with, and now I must weary myself by
going through all that torture again--all the accusations, all the
testimony and all the evidence, all over again!
MRS. HEYST. Yes, but the superior court will free him!
ELIS. No, mother, he has confessed.
MRS. HEYST. But there may be some mistakes in the trial which
count. When I talked with our lawyer he said there might be some
technical errors--I think that's what he called them.
ELIS. He said that to console you.
MRS. HEYST [Coldly]. Are you going out to dinner?
MRS. HEYST. Oh, so you've changed your mind again.
MRS. HEYST. Oh, you are so changeable!
ELIS. I know it, but I am tossed about like a chip in a high sea.
MRS. HEYST. I surely thought I heard a strange voice that I half
recognized. But I must have been mistaken.[Points to Elis'
overcoat.] That coat ought not to hang there, I said. [Goes out R.]
ELIS [Goes to L. Sees the lily on table]. Where did that plant come
BENJAMIN. There was a young lady here with it.
ELIS. Young lady! What's that? Who was it?
BENJAMIN. It was--
ELIS. Was it--my sister?
ELIS [Sinks down near table]. [Pause.]
Did you talk with her?
BENJAMIN. Yes, indeed!
ELIS. Oh, God, is there more to be endured? Was she angry with me?
BENJAMIN. She? No, she was so sweet, so gentle.
ELIS. How wonderful! Did she talk about me? Was she very vexed with
BENJAMIN. No, on the contrary she said you were her best, her only
friend on earth.
ELIS. What a strange change!
BENJAMIN. And when she went, she patted your coat on the sleeve--
ELIS. Went? Where has she gone?
BENJAMIN [Pointing to the window door]. In there!
ELIS. She is in there then?
ELIS. You look so happy and cheerful, Benjamin.
BENJAMIN. She talked so beautifully to me.
ELIS. What did she talk about?
BENJAMIN. She told me some of her own stories--and a lot about
ELIS [Rising]. Which made you happy?
BENJAMIN. Yes, indeed!
ELIS. Poor Eleonora, who is so unfortunate herself and yet can make
others happy! [Goes to door left, hesitating.] God help us!
[Good Friday evening. The music before and thro' the act, Haydn's
Sieben Worte. Largo No. 1. "Pater dimitte illis." Same scene.
Curtains are drawn, lighted up by electric light in the street. The
hanging lamp is lighted. On dining table a small lamp, also
lighted. There is a glimmer from the lighted stove. Elis and
Christine are sitting at the sewing table. Benjamin and Eleonora
are seated at dining table reading, opposite each other, with the
small lamp between them--Eleonora has a shawl over her shoulders.]
[They are all dressed in black. The papers that Elis brought in the
First Act are on the writing table in a disorderly condition, the
Easter lily stands on sewing table. An old clock stands on the
dining table. Now and then one sees shadows of people passing by in
[The cathedral organ is heard faintly.--The following scene must be
ELIS [Softly to Christine]. Yes--it's Good Friday--Long Friday they
call it in some countries. Ah--yes--it is long. And the snow has
softened the noises in the street like straw spread before the
house of the dying. Not a sound to be heard--[Music louder] only
the cathedral organ-- [A long pause.]
CHRISTINE. Mother must have gone to vespers.
ELIS. Yes.--She never goes to high mass any more. The cold glances
people give her hurt her too much.
CHRISTINE. It's queer about these people they sort of demand that
we should keep out of the way, and they even see fit to--
ELIS. Yes--and perhaps they are right.--
CHRISTINE. On account of the wrong-doing of one, the whole family
ELIS. Yes--that is the way things go.
[Eleonora pushes the lamp over to Benjamin that he may see better.]
ELIS [Noticing them]. Look at them!
CHRISTINE. Isn't it beautiful? How well they get along together.
ELIS. How fortunate it is that Eleonora has grown so calm and
contented. Oh, that it might only last!
CHRISTINE. Why shouldn't it last?
ELIS. Because--happiness doesn't last very long usually.
ELIS. Oh, I am afraid of everything today.
[Benjamin moves the lamp slowly over to Eleonora's side.]
CHRISTINE. Look at them! [Pause.]
ELIS. Have you noticed the change in Benjamin? His fierce defiance
has given way to quiet submissiveness.
CHRISTINE. It's her doing. Her whole being seems to give out
ELIS. She has brought with her the spirit of peace, that goes about
unseen and exhales tranquillity. Even mother seems to be affected
by her. When she saw her a calmness seemed to come over her that
could never have been expected.
CHRISTINE. Do you think that she is really recovered now?
ELIS. Yes. If it weren't for this over-sensitiveness. Now she is
reading the story of the crucifixion and some of the time she is
CHRISTINE. We used to read it at school, I remember, on Wednesdays,
when we fasted.
ELIS. Don't talk so loud--she will hear you.
CHRISTINE. Not now--she is so far away.
ELIS. Have you noticed the quiet dignity that has come into
CHRISTINE. That's on account of suffering. Too much happiness makes
ELIS. Don't you think it may be--love? Don't you think that those
CHRISTINE. Sh--sh--don't touch the wings of the butterfly--or it
will fly away.
ELIS. They must be looking at each other, and only pretending to
read. I haven't heard them turn over any pages.
[Eleonora rises, goes on tip-toe to Benjamin and puts her shawl
over his shoulders. Benjamin protests mildly but gives in to her
wish--Eleonora returns to her seat and pushes the lamp over to
CHRISTINE. She doesn't know how well she wishes. Poor little
ELIS [Rises]. Now I must return to the law papers.
CHRISTINE. Do you think anything will be gained by going over all
ELIS. Only one thing. That is to keep up mother's hope. I only
pretend to read--but a word now and then pricks me like a thorn in
the eye. The evidence of the witnesses, the summaries--father's
confession--like this: "the accused admitted with tears"--tears--
tears--so many tears--and these papers with their official seals
that remind one of false notes and prison bars--the ribbons and red
seals--they are like the five wounds of Christus--and public
opinion that will never change--the endless anguish--this is indeed
fit work for Good Friday! Yesterday the sun was shining--and in our
fancy we went out to the country,--Christine, think if we should
have to stay here all summer.
CHRISTINE. We would save a great deal of money--but it would be
ELIS. I couldn't live thro' it--I have stayed here three summers--
and it's like a dead city to me. The rats come out from the cellars
and alleys--while the cats are out spending the summer in the
country. And all the old women that couldn't get away sit peeking
through the blinds gossiping about their neighbors--"See, he has
his winter suit on"--and sneer at the worn-down heels of the
passers-by. And from the poor quarters wretched beings drag
themselves out of their holes, cripples, creatures without noses or
ears, the wicked and unfortunate--filling the parks and squares as
if they had conquered the city--there where the well-dressed
children just played, while their parents or maids looked on and
encouraged them in their frolics. I remember last summer when I--
CHRISTINE. Oh, Elis--Elis--look forward--look forward.
ELIS. Is it brighter there?
CHRISTINE. Let us hope so.
ELIS [Sits at writing table]. If it would only stop snowing out
there, so we could go out for a walk!
CHRISTINE. Dearest Elis, yesterday you wanted night to come, so
that we might be shielded from the hateful glances of the people.
You said, "Darkness is so kind," and that it's like drawing the
blanket over one's head.
ELIS. That only goes to prove that my misery is as great one way as
the other. [Reading papers.] The worst part of the suit is all the
questioning about father's way of living.--It says here that we
gave big dinner parties.--One witness practically says that my
father was a drunkard--no, that's too much. No. No, I won't--as
tho'--I must go thro' it, I suppose.--Aren't you cold?
CHRISTINE. No. But it isn't warm here. Isn't Lina home?
ELIS. She's gone to church.
CHRISTINE. Oh, yes, that's so. But mother will soon be home.
ELIS. I am always afraid to have her come home. She has had so many
experiences of people's evil and malice.
CHRISTINE. There is a strain of unusual melancholy in your family,
ELIS. And that's why none but the melancholy have ever been our
friends. Light-hearted people have always avoided us--shrunk from
CHRISTINE. There is mother, going in the kitchen door.
ELIS. Don't be impatient with her, Christine.
CHRISTINE. Impatient! Ah, no, it's worse for her than any of us.
But I can't quite understand her.
ELIS. She is always trying to hide our disgrace. That's why she
seems so peculiar. Poor mother!
MRS. HEYST [Enters, dressed in black, psalm book in hand, and
handkerchief]. Good evening, children.
ALL. Good evening, mother dear.
MRS. HEYST. Why are you all in black, as tho' you were in mourning?
ELIS. Is it still snowing, mother?
MRS. HEYST. It's sleeting now. [Goes over to Eleonora.] Aren't you
cold out here? [Eleonora shakes her head.] Well, my little one, you
are reading and studying, I see. [To Benjamin.] And you too? Well,
you won't overdo. [Eleonora takes her mother's hand and carries it
to her lips.]
MRS. HEYST [Hiding her feelings]. So, my child--so--so--
ELIS. Have you been to vespers, mother?
MRS. HEYST. Yes, but they had some visiting pastor, and I didn't
like him, he mumbled his words so.
ELIS. Did you meet any one you knew?
MRS. HEYST. Yes, more is the pity.
ELIS. Then I know whom--
MRS. HEYST. Yes, Lindkvist. And he came up to me and--
ELIS. Oh, how terrible, how terrible--
MRS. HEYST. He asked how things were going--and imagine my fright--
he asked if he might come and see us this evening.
ELIS. On a holy day?
MRS. HEYST. I was speechless--and he, I am afraid, mistook my
silence for consent. So he may be here any moment.
ELIS [Rises]. Here?
MRS. HEYST. He said he wished to leave a paper of some sort which
ELIS. A warrant! He wants to take our furniture.
MRS. HEYST. But he looked so queer. I didn't quite understand him.
ELIS. Well, then--let him come--he has right and might on his side,
and we must bow down to him.--We must receive him when he comes.
MRS. HEYST. If I could only escape seeing him!
ELIS. Yes, you must stay in the house.
MRS. HEYST. But the furniture he cannot take. How could we live if
he took the things away? One cannot live in empty rooms.
ELIS. The foxes have holes, the birds nests there are many homeless
ones who sleep under the sky.
MRS. HEYST. That's the way rogues should be made to live--not
ELIS [By the writing table]. I have been reading it all over again.
MRS. HEYST. Did you find any faults? What was it the lawyer called
them? Oh--technical errors?
ELIS. No. I don't think there are any.
MRS. HEYST. But I met our lawyer just now and he said there must be
some technical errors a challengeable witness, an unproven opinion--
or a contradiction, he said. You should read carefully.
ELIS. Yes, mother dear, but it's somewhat painful reading all this--
MRS. HEYST. But now listen to this. I met our lawyer, as I said,
and he told me also that a burglary had been committed here in town
yesterday, and in broad daylight.
[Eleonora and Benjamin start and listen.]
ELIS. A burglary! Where?
MRS. HEYST. At the florist's on Cloister street. But the whole
thing is very peculiar. It's supposed to have happened this way:
the florist closed his place and went to church where his son--or
was it his daughter?--was being confirmed. When he returned, about
three o'clock--or perhaps it was four, but that doesn't matter--
well, he found the door of the store wide open and his flowers were
gone--at least a whole lot of them. [They all look at her
questioningly.] Well, anyway, a yellow tulip was gone, which he
ELIS. A yellow tulip? Had it been a lily I would have been afraid.
MRS. HEYST. No, it was a tulip, that's sure, well, they say the
police are on the track of the thief anyway.
[Eleonora has risen as if to speak, but is quieted by Benjamin, who
goes to her and whispers something to her.]
MRS. HEYST. Think of it, on Holy Thursday! When young people are
being confirmed at the church, to break into a place and steal! Oh,
the town must be full of rogues, and that's why they throw innocent
people into prison!
ELIS. Do you know who it is they suspect?
MRS. HEYST. No. But it was a peculiar thief. He didn't take any
money from the cash drawer.
CHRISTINE. Oh, that this day were ended!
MRS. HEYST. And if Lina would only return--[Pause.] Oh, I heard
something about the dinner Peter gave last night. What do you
think--the Governor himself was there.
ELIS. The Governor at Peter's--? I'm astonished. Peter has always
avowed himself against the Governor's party.
MRS. HEYST. He must have changed then.
ELIS. He wasn't called Peter for nothing, it seems.
MRS. HEYST. But what have _you_ got against the Governor?
ELIS. He is against progress--he wants to restrict the pleasures of
the people, he tries to dictate to the boards of education--I've
felt his interference in my school.
MRS. HEYST. I can't understand all that--but it doesn't matter.
Anyhow the Governor made a speech, they say, and Peter thanked him
ELIS. And with great feeling, I can fancy, and denied his master,
saying, "I know not this man," and again the cock crew. Wasn't the
Governor's name Pontius and his surname Pilate?
[Eleonora starts as if to speak but Benjamin quiets her again.]
MRS. HEYST. You mustn't be so bitter, Elis. Human beings are weak
and we must come in contact with them.
ELIS. Hush,--I hear Lindkvist coming.
MRS. HEYST. What? Can you hear him in all this snow?
ELIS. Yes, I can hear his stick striking the pavement--and his
squeaking galoshes. Please, mother, go into the house.
MRS. HEYST. No. I shall stay and tell him a few things.
ELIS. Dear, dear mother, you must go in or it will be too painful.
MRS. HEYST [Rising, with scorn]. Oh, may the day that I was born be
CHRISTINE. Don't blaspheme, mother.
MRS. HEYST. Should not the lost have this trouble rather than that
the worthy should suffer torture?
MRS. HEYST. Oh, God! Why have you forsaken me and my children?
[Goes out L.]
ELIS. Oh--do you know that mother's indifference and submission
torture me more than her wrath?
CHRISTINE. Her submission is only pretended or make-believe. There
was something of the roar of the lioness in her last words. Did you
notice how big she became?
ELIS [At window, listening]. He has stopped--perhaps he thinks the
time ill-chosen.--But that can't be it--he who could write such
terrible letters,--and always on that blue paper! I can't look at a
blue paper now without trembling.
CHRISTINE. What will you tell him--what do you mean to propose?
ELIS. I don't know. I have lost all my reasoning powers.--Shall I
fall on my knees to him and beg mercy--can you hear him? I can't
hear anything but the blood beating in my ears.
CHRISTINE. Let us face the worst calmly--he will take everything
ELIS. Then the landlord will come and ask for some other security,
which I cannot furnish.--He will demand security, when the
furniture is no longer here to assure him of the rent.
CHRISTINE [Peeking through the curtain]. He isn't there now.--He is
ELIS [Rushing to window]. He's gone?--Do you know, now that I think
of Lindkvist, I see him as a good-natured giant who only scares
children. How could I have come to think that?
CHRISTINE. Oh, thoughts come and go--
ELIS. How lucky that I was not at that dinner yesterday--I would
surely have made a speech against the Governor, and so I would
have spoiled everything for us.
CHRISTINE. Do you realize that now?
ELIS. Thanks for your advice, Christine. You knew your Peter.
CHRISTINE. My Peter?--
ELIS. I meant--my Peter.--But--look--he is here again, woe unto us!
[One can see the shadow of Lindkvist on the curtain, who is nearing
slowly. The shadow gets larger and larger, until it is giant-like.
They stand in fear and tremble.]
ELIS. Look,--the giant--the giant that wants to swallow us.
CHRISTINE. Now it's time to laugh, as when reading fairy-tales.
ELIS. I can't laugh any more.
[The shadow slowly disappears.]
CHRISTINE. Look at the stick and you must laugh. [Pause.]
ELIS [Brightly]. He's gone--he's gone--yes, I can breathe again
now, as he won't return until tomorrow. Oh, the relief!
CHRISTINE. Yes, and tomorrow the sun will be shining,--the snow
will be gone and the birds will be singing--eve of the resurrection!
ELIS. Yes, tell me more like that--I can see everything you say.
CHRISTINE. If you could but see what is in my heart, if you could
see my thoughts and my good intentions, my inmost prayer, Elis--
Elis--when I now ask--[Hesitates.]
ELIS. What? Tell me.
CHRISTINE. When I beg you now to--
ELIS [Alarmed]. Tell me--
CHRISTINE. It's a test. Will you look at it as a test?
ELIS. A test? Well then.
CHRISTINE. Let me--do let me--No, I daren't. [Eleonora listens.]
ELIS. Why do you torture me?
CHRISTINE. I'll regret it, I know. So be it! Elis, let me go to the
recital this evening.
ELIS. What recital?
CHRISTINE. Haydn's "Seven Words on the Cross," at the cathedral.
ELIS. With whom?
ELIS. With Peter?
CHRISTINE. See, now you frown. I regret telling you, but it's too
ELIS. Yes. It is somewhat late now, but explain--
CHRISTINE. I prepared you, told you that I couldn't explain, and
that's the reason I begged your boundless faith.
ELIS [Mildly]. Go. I trust you. But I suffer to know that you seek
the company of a traitor.
CHRISTINE. I realize that, but this is to be a test.
ELIS. Which I cannot endure.
CHRISTINE. You must.
ELIS. I would like to, but I cannot. But you must go nevertheless.
CHRISTINE. Your hand!
ELIS [Giving his hand]. There-- [The telephone rings; Elis goes to
it.] Hello!--No answer. Hello!--No answer but my own voice.--Who is
it?--That's strange. I only hear the echo of my own words.
CHRISTINE. That might be possible.
ELIS [Still at 'phone]. Hello!--But this is terrible! [Hangs up
receiver.] Go now, Christine, and without any explanations, without
conditions. I shall endure the test.
CHRISTINE. Yes, do that and all will be well.
ELIS. I will.--[Christine starts R.] Why do you go that way?
CHRISTINE. My coat and hat are in there. Good bye for now. [Goes
ELIS. Good-bye, my friend, [Pause] forever. [He rushes out L.]
ELEONORA. God help us, what have I done now? The police are after
the guilty one, and if I am discovered--then--[With a shriek]
they'll send me back there. [Pause.] But I mustn't be selfish. Oh,
poor mother and poor Elis!
BENJAMIN [Childishly]. Eleonora, you must tell them that I did it.
ELEONORA. Could you make another's guilt yours, you child?
BENJAMIN. That's easy, when one knows he's innocent.
ELEONORA. One should never deceive.
BENJAMIN. No, but let me telephone to the florist and explain to
ELEONORA. No, I did wrong, and I must take the consequences. I have
awakened their fear of burglars, and I must be punished.
BENJAMIN. But what if the police come in?
ELEONORA. That would be dreadful--but what must be, must be. Oh,
that this day were ended! [Takes clock from table and puts the
hands forward.] Dear old clock, go a little faster--tick, tick,
tick. [The clock strikes eight.] Now it's eight. [Moves hands
again.] Tick, tick, tick. [Business with clock.] Now it's nine--
ten--eleven--twelve--o'clock. Now it is Easter eve, and the sun
will soon be rising, and then we'll color the Easter eggs.
BENJAMIN. You can make time fly, can't you?
ELEONORA. Think, Benjamin, of all the anemones and violets that had
to stay in the snow all winter and freeze there in the darkness.
BENJAMIN. How they must suffer!
ELEONORA. Night is hardest for them--they are afraid of the
darkness, but they can't run away, and so they must stay there
thro' the long winter night, waiting for spring, which is their
dawn. Everybody and everything must suffer, but the flowers suffer
most. Yes, and the song-birds, they have returned; where are they
to sleep tonight?
BENJAMIN [Childishly]. In the hollow trees.
ELEONORA. There aren't hollow trees enough to hold them all. I have
only noticed two hollow trees in the orchard, and that's where the
owls live, and they kill the song birds. [Elis is heard playing the
piano inside. Eleonora and Benjamin listen for a few moments.]
Poor Elis, who thinks that Christine has gone from him, but I know
that she will return.
BENJAMIN. Why don't you tell him, if you know?
ELEONORA, Because Elis must suffer; every one should suffer on Good
Friday, that they may remember Christ's suffering on the cross.
[The sound of a policeman's whistle is heard off in the distance.]
ELEONORA [Starts up]. What was that?
BENJAMIN. Don't you know?
BENJAMIN. It's the police.
ELEONORA. Ah, yes, that's the way it sounded when they came to take
father away--and then I became ill.--And now they are coming to
BENJAMIN [Rushing to the door and guarding it]. No, no, they must
not take you. I shall defend you, Eleonora.
ELEONORA. That's very beautiful, Benjamin, but you mustn't do that.
BENJAMIN [Looking thro' curtain]. There are two of them. [Eleonora
tries to push Benjamin aside. He protests mildly.] No, no, not you,
then--I don't want to live any longer.
ELEONORA. Benjamin, go and sit down in that chair, child, sit down.
[Benjamin obeys much against his will.]
ELEONORA [Peeps thro' curtain]. Oh! [Laughs.] It's only some boys.
Oh, we doubters! Do you think that God would be angry, when I
didn't do any harm, only acted thoughtlessly? It served me right--I
shouldn't have doubted.
BENJAMIN. But tomorrow that man will come and take the things.
ELEONORA. Let him come. Then we'll go out under the sky, away from
everything--away from all the old home things that father gathered
for us, that I have seen since I was a child. Yes, one should never
own anything that ties one down to earth. Out, out on the stony
ways to wander with bruised feet, for that road leads upward.
That's why it's the hard road.
BENJAMIN. Now you are so serious again!
ELEONORA. We must be today. But do you know what will be hardest to
part with? This dear old clock. We had it when I was born and it
has measured out all my hours and days. [She takes the clock from
table.] Listen, it's like a heart beating,--just like a heart.--
They say it stopped the very hour that grandfather died. We had it
as long ago as that. Good-bye, little timekeeper, perhaps you'll
stop again soon. [Putting clock on table again.] Do you know, it
used to gain time when we had misfortune in the house, as tho' it
wished to hasten thro' the hours of evil, for our sake of course.
But when we were happy it used to slow down so that we might enjoy
longer. That's what this good clock did. But we have another, a
very bad one--and now it has to hang in the kitchen. It couldn't
bear music, and as soon as Elis would play on the piano it would
start to strike. Oh, you needn't smile; we all noticed it, not I
alone, and that's why it has to stay out in the kitchen now,
because it wouldn't behave. But Lina doesn't like it either,
because it won't be quiet at night, and she cannot time eggs by it.
When she does, the eggs are sure to be hard-boiled--so Lina says.
But now you are laughing again.
BENJAMIN. Yes, how can I help--
ELEONORA. You are a good boy, Benjamin, but you must be serious.
Keep the birch rod in mind; it's hanging behind the mirror.
BENJAMIN. But you say such funny things, that I _must_ smile. And
why should we be weeping always?
ELEONORA. Shall we not weep in the vale of tears?
ELEONORA. You would rather laugh all the time, and that's why
trouble comes your way. But it's when you are serious that I like
you best. Remember that. [Pause.]
BENJAMIN. Do you think that we will get out of this trouble,
ELEONORA. Yes, most of it will take care of itself, when Good
Friday is over, but not all of it--today the birch rod, tomorrow
the Easter eggs--today snow--tomorrow thaw. Today death--tomorrow
BENJAMIN. How wise you are!
ELEONORA. Even now I can feel that it is clearing outside--and that
the snow is melting--I can smell the melting snow. And tomorrow
violets will sprout against walls facing south. The clouds are
lifting--I feel it--I can breathe easier. Oh, I know so well when
the heavens are clear and blue.--Go and pull the shades up,
Benjamin. I want God to see us.
[Benjamin rises and obeys. Moonlight streams into the room.]
ELEONORA. The moon is full--Easter moon! But you know it is really
the sun shining, although the moon gives us the light--the light!
[Easter eve. The music before and thro' this act, Haydn's Sieben
Worte. No. 5. Adagio. Scene the same. The curtains are up. The
landscape outside is in a grey light. There is a fire in the stove.
The doors are closed. Eleonora is seated near the stove with a
bunch of crocuses in her hand. Benjamin enters from R.]
ELEONORA. Where have you been all this long time, Benjamin?
BENJAMIN. It hasn't been very long.
ELEONORA. I have wanted you so!
BENJAMIN. Have you? And where have you been, Eleonora?
ELEONORA. I went down street and bought these crocuses, and now I
must warm them. They were frozen. Poor dears!
BENJAMIN. Yes. It's so chilly today, there isn't a bit of sunshine.
ELEONORA. The sun is behind the fog. There aren't any clouds, just
sea-fog. I can smell the salt in the air.--
BENJAMIN. Did you see any birds out there?
ELEONORA. Yes, flocks of them, starting north for their summer
home. And not one will fall to the earth unless God wills it.
ELIS [Enters from R.]. Has the evening paper come yet?
ELEONORA. No, Elis.
[Elis starts to cross the room--when he is at C. Christine enters
CHRISTINE [Without noticing Elis]. Has the paper come?
ELEONORA. No, it hasn't come.
[Christine crosses room and goes out R., passing Elis, who goes out
too. Neither looks at the other.]
ELEONORA. Huh! how cold and chilly! Hate has entered this house. As
long as love reigned one could bear it, but now,--huh! how cold!
BENJAMIN. Why were they so anxious about the evening paper?
ELEONORA. Don't you know? There will be something in it about--
ELEONORA. Everything! The theft, the police, and more too--
MRS. HEYST [From R.]. Has the paper come?
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