The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. IX
Part 2 out of 13
The theft of some jewelry? Where?
Over at Wolfram's.
At--impossible! Carl polished a desk there a few days ago!
They were taken from a desk. Right!
MOTHER (_to Master_ ANTONY).
May God forgive you for saying that!
You are right--it was a vile thought!
To your son you are only half a father! I must tell you that!
Wife! We'll not discuss that today!
He is not like you--but is that any reason why he must be bad?
Then where is he now? The noon hour struck long ago! I'll wager the
dinner is burning and spoiling, because Clara has secret orders not to
set the table until he is here!
Where do you think he is? At the worst he is only bowling, and he has to
go the longest way about so that you won't see him. Naturally it takes
him a long time to get back!--I cannot see what you have against the
Against the game? Nothing whatever! Noble men must have some way to pass
the time. Without the king of hearts, the real kings would often find
life tedious; and if bowling balls had not been invented, who knows
whether princes and barons would not be using our heads for the purpose?
But an ordinary workingman cannot do anything worse than spend his
hard-earned money on games. We must respect that which we have
laboriously earned in the sweat of our brows; we must hold it high and
precious, unless we are to lose our bearings and regard all our works
and doings with contempt. How can I strain all my nerves to earn a
thaler which I intend to throw away?
[_The door-bell is heard outside._]
_Enter_ ADAM, _a Bailiff; another Bailiff._
ADAM (_to Master_ ANTONY).
Now, you just go ahead and pay your wager! No people in red coats with
blue trimmings [_with emphasis_] shall ever enter your house, eh?--Well,
here are two of us!
[_To the other bailiff._]
Why don't you keep your hat on, as I do? Who is going to observe
formalities among people of his own class?
Your own class? You blackguard!
You are right--we are not among our own class! Scoundrels and thieves
are not of our class! [_Points to the dresser._] Open that up! And then
three steps away--so that you can't sneak anything out of it!
CLARA (_enters with things to set the table_).
Shall I--[_She stops, speechless._]
ADAM (_exhibits a paper_).
Can you read writing?
Should I be able to do what even my schoolmaster could not do?
Then listen! Your son has stolen some jewelry! We have the thief
already! Now we are here to search the house!
MOTHER (_falls down and dies_).
Mother! Mother! How her eyes roll!
I will fetch a doctor!
Not necessary! That is the last look! I have seen it a hundred times!
Good night, Theresa! You died when you heard it! Let them write that on
But perhaps it is [_starts to go_]--awful! But lucky for me!
ANTONY (_pulls a bunch of keys from his pocket and throws them down_).
There! Unlock everything! Drawer after drawer! Bring the ax! The key to
the trunk is lost! Ha! Scoundrels and thieves! [_He turns his pockets
inside out._] I find nothing here!
Master Antony, calm yourself! Everybody knows that you are the most
honest man in town!
I have used up all the honesty in the family! There, poor boy! There was
none left for him! She too [_points to the dead body_] was much too
virtuous!--Who knows whether or not the daughter--[_Suddenly to CLARA_]
What do you think, my innocent child?
SECOND BAILIFF (_to ADAM_).
Have you no pity?
Pity? Am I prying into the old fellow's pockets? Am I forcing him to
take off his stockings and turn his shoes inside out? I meant to start
out with doing that--for I hate him like poison, ever since that time in
the tavern when he--you know what I refer to, and you would feel
insulted too, if you had any self respect about you!
Where is your brother's room?
[_Both Bailiffs, exeunt._]
Father, he is innocent! He must be innocent! He is your son, my brother!
Innocent, and a matricide?
A MAID (_enters with a letter to CLARA_).
From the cashier, Mr. Leonard.
You need not read it! He declares himself free of you!
[_Claps his hands._]
CLARA (_reads it_).
Yes! Yes! Oh, my God
Let him go!
Father, father, I cannot--
You cannot? Cannot? What do you mean? Are you?--
Both BAILIFFS reenter.
Seek and ye shall find!
SECOND BAILIFF (_to ADAM_).
What do you mean by that? Did it turn out so today?
Hold your tongue!
He is innocent--and you--you--
Father, you are terrible!
ANTONY (_grasps her hand very gently_).
Dear daughter, Carl is only a bungler. He has killed his mother, and
what does it mean? His father remains alive! So, come to his aid--you
cannot ask him to do everything alone. You must make an end of me! The
old trunk still looks rugged, doesn't it? But it has begun to totter
already--it will not cost you much trouble to fell it! You need not
reach for the ax. You have a pretty face--I have never praised you, but
today I will tell you, so that you may acquire courage and confidence.
Your eyes, nose, mouth are surely admired! Become--You understand
me?--Or tell me, I have an idea that you are already--
CLARA (_almost crazy, throws herself with uplifted arms at the feet of
her mother, and cries out like a child_).
Take your mother's hand and swear to me that you are what you should be!
[_He puts on his hat._]
It is beautiful weather! We will go out and run the gauntlet! Up the
street! Down the street!
_A Room in the Master Joiner's House._
ANTONY (_rises from the table_).
CLARA (_starts to clear off the dishes_).
Have you lost your appetite again?
Father, I have had enough.
But you have taken nothing!
I ate out in the kitchen.
A bad appetite means a guilty conscience. Oh, well, we shall see--or was
there poison in the soup, as I dreamt yesterday? Perhaps some wild
hemlock got in with the other vegetables by mistake, when they were
gathered?--In that case you did well!
CLARA. Great Heavens!
Forgive me! I--Away with your pale sad look, which you stole from our
Savior's Mother! One should look ruddy when one is young! There is but
one who might show such a face, and he does not do it! Hey! A box on the
ear for every man who says "ouch!" when he cuts his finger! No man has
any right to do that now, for here stands a man who--ugh!--self-praise
stinks!--But what did I do when our neighbor started to nail down the
cover of your mother's coffin?
You wrenched the hammer away from him and did it yourself, and said:
"This is my masterpiece!" The preceptor, who was just then leading the
choir boys in the dirge over by the door, thought you had gone crazy.
Crazy. Yes, yes, it is a wise head that cuts itself off at the right
time. Mine must be too firmly fastened on, or else--We squat down in the
world and imagine ourselves sitting behind the stove in a good inn.
Suddenly a light is placed on the table and, behold! we find ourselves
sitting in a den of thieves! There is a bing! bang! on all sides, but no
harm it done--fortunately we have hearts of stone!
Yes, father, so it is.
What do you know about it? Do you think you have a right to curse with
me because your clerk has deserted you? There will be another to take
you walking Suliday afternoons, another to tell you that your cheeks are
rosy and your eyes blue, and still another to take you as his wife, if
you deserve it! Wait until you have borne the burdens of life in
chastity and honor for thirty years, and have endured sorrow and death
and every human adversity with uncomplaining patience; then let your
son, who ought to stuff a soft pillow for your old head, come and so
overwhelm you with disgrace that you would like to cry out to the earth:
Swallow me, if it does not sicken thee, for I am muddier than thou! Then
you may utter all the curses that I suppress in my bosom, then you may
tear your hair and beat your breasts!--You have that advantage over me,
for you are not a man!
I wonder what I shall do when I see him again before me, when he comes
home some evening before candlelight with his hair shaved off--for
hair-dressing is not allowed in the penitentiary--and stammers out a
good evening, keeping his hand on the door-knob? I shall do something,
that is certain--but what?
[_Gnashes his teeth._]
And if they keep him locked up for ten years, he shall find me, for I
shall live until then--that much I know! Mark you, Death, what I say:
From now on I am a stone in front of your scythe! It shall fly to pieces
before it shall budge me!
CLARA (_grasps his hand_).
Father, you ought to lie down and rest for half an hour!
To dream that you are about to be confined? And then to fly into a
passion and seize you, and afterward bethink myself too late and say:
"Dear daughter, I did not know what I was doing!" Thank you! My sleep
has dismissed the magician and employed a prophet, who points out
loathsome things to me with his bloody finger! I don't know how it
is--everything seems possible to me now. Ugh! I shudder at the future as
at a glass of water seen under the microscope--is that the right word,
Mr. Precentor? You have spelled it out for me often enough! I looked
through one once in Nuremburg at the fair, and couldn't drink any more
water all day long. Last night I saw my dear Carl with a pistol in his
hand; when I looked closer into his eyes he pulled the trigger. I heard
a cry, but could see nothing on account of the smoke. When it cleared
away, I saw no shattered skull--but my fine son had in the mean time
come to be a rich man; he was standing and counting gold pieces from one
hand into the other. His face--the Devil take me!--a man could have no
calmer one after working all day and closing the door of his workshop
behind him at night! Well, that's a thing one might prevent! One might
take the law into one's own hands, and afterward present one's self
before the supreme Judge!
Get well again you mean to say! Why am I sick? Yes, doctor, hand me the
drink that shall make me well! Your brother is the worst of sons; be you
the best of daughters! Like a worthless bankrupt I stand before the eyes
of the world! I owed it a fine man to take the place of this weak
invalid, and I cheated it with a scoundrel! Be you such a woman as your
mother was, and then people will say: It does not come from his parents
that the boy went wrong, for the daughter treads the path of
righteousness and excels all others.
[_With terrible coldness._]
And I will do my part in the matter; I will make it easier for you than
it is for others. The moment I see anybody point his fingers at you, I
shall [with a motion toward his neck_] shave myself, and then, I swear
to you, I shall shave off head and all. Then you may say I did it from
fright, because a horse ran away in the street, or because the cat
overturned a chair on the floor, or because a mouse ran up my legs.
Anybody that knows me, to be sure, will shake his head at that, for I
am not easily frightened--but what difference does that make? I could
not endure to live in a world where the people would refrain from
spitting at me simply out of pity.
Merciful God! What shall I do?
Nothing, nothing, dear child! I am too severe with you--I realize it. Do
nothing--be just as you are, and it is all right. Oh, I have suffered
such rank injustice that I myself must do injustice in order not to
succumb to it when it grips me so hard! Listen! Not long ago I was going
across the street when I met that pock-marked thief, Fritz, whom I had
thrown into jail a few years ago because for the third time he had shown
himself light-fingered in my house. Formerly the scoundrel never even
dared to look at me; now he walked boldly up and offered me his hand. I
felt like boxing his ears, but I bethought myself and did not even spit.
We have been cousins for a week now, and it is proper for relatives to
greet each other! The minister, the sympathetic man who visited me
yesterday, said that no man had anybody to look out for but himself, and
that it was unchristian pride for me to hold myself responsible for the
sins of my son; otherwise Adam would have to take it just as much to
heart as I. Sir, I verily believe that it no longer troubles our first
ancestor in Paradise when one of his descendants begins to rob and
murder.--But did not he himself tear his hair over Cain? No, no, it is
too much! Sometimes I find myself looking around at my shadow to see if
it too has not grown blacker. For I can endure anything and everything,
and have given proof of it, but not disgrace! Put on my back what
burdens you choose, but do not sever the nerve that holds me together!
Father, Carl has not yet confessed anything, and they have found nothing
What difference does that make to me? I have gone around the town and
inquired at the different drinking-places about his debts. They amount
to more than he could have earned under me in a quarter of a year even
were he three times as industrious as he is! Now I know why he always
left off work two hours later than I every evening, and why, in spite of
that, he got up before me in the morning. But he soon saw that it all
did no good, or else that it was too much trouble for him and took too
long; so he embraced the opportunity when it presented itself!
You always believe the worst things you can of Carl! You have always
done so! I wonder if you still remember how--
You talk as your mother would, and I will answer you as I used to answer
her--I will keep quiet!
And supposing Carl is acquitted? Supposing the jewels are found again?
Then I would employ a lawyer and stake my last shirt to find out whether
or not the burgomaster was justified in throwing the son of an honest
citizen into prison. If he was, then I would submit; for a thing that
can befall anybody I also must accept with resignation. And if to my
misfortune it cost me a thousand times as much as it does others, I
would attribute it to fate. And if God struck me down for it, I would
fold my hands and say: "Lord, Thou knowest why!" If he was not
justified, if it should appear that the man with the gold chain around
his neck acted too hastily, because be thought of nothing except the
fact that the merchant who missed his jewels was his brother-in-law,
then people would find out whether the law has anywhere a gap in it,
whether the king, who doubtless knows that justice is the one demand his
subjects make in return for loyalty and obedience, and who least of all
would wish to remain under obligation to one of the humblest of them,
would allow that gap to remain unfilled. But all this is useless talk!
The boy has no more chance of coming through this trial unscathed, than
your mother has of rising from her grave alive! From him, neither now
nor ever shall I have any consolation! And for that reason do you not
forget what you owe me--keep your oath to me so that I shall not have to
keep mine to you! [_goes out, but returns again._] I shall come home
late tonight, for I am going out in the mountains to the old
lumber-dealer's. He is the only man who still looks me in the eye as he
used to, because he knows nothing of my disgrace. He is deaf; nobody can
tell him anything without yelling himself hoarse, and even then he hears
it all wrong.--So he finds out nothing!
Oh, God! God! Have pity on me I Have pity on the old man! Take me to
Thee! There is no other way to help him! The sunlight lies like a golden
blanket on the street, and the children try to seize it with their
hands. The birds fly hither and thither, and the flowers and weeds do
not tire of growing higher. Everything is alive, everything wishes to be
alive! Oh, Death! Thousands of sick people are at this moment shuddering
with fear of thee! He who called for thee in the restless night, because
he could no longer endure his sufferings, now finds his bed soft and
downy again. I call upon thee! Spare him whose soul shrinks most
fearsomely from thee, and let him live until the beautiful world
becomes again gray and desolate! Take me in his stead! I shall not
shudder when thou givest me thy cold hand; I shall grasp it and follow
thee more bravely than ever yet a child of God has followed thee!
_Enter the Merchant,_ WOLFRAM.
Good day, Miss Clara! Is your father at home?
He has just gone out.
I have come--my jewels have been found!
Oh, father! Why are you not here?--He has forgotten his
spectacles--there they lie! Oh, if he only notices it and returns for
them!--How then? Where Who had them?
My wife--tell me frankly, Miss: Have you ever heard anything strange
about my wife?
That she--[_Points to his brow._] Is that it?
That she is not altogether in her right mind, to be sure!
WOLFRAM (_bursting out_).
My God! My God! All in vain! Not a single
servant that I have ever taken into my house have I allowed to leave me;
to each one I have paid double wages and closed my eyes to all
remissness, in order to buy their silence! And yet--the false,
ungrateful creatures! Oh, my poor children! Only for your sake did I
seek to conceal it!
Do not blame your servants! Surely it is not their fault! Ever since
your neighbor's house burned down, and your wife stood at the open
window laughing and clapping her hands at the fire, yes, and even
puffing out her cheeks and blowing at it, as if she wanted to make it
burn more furiously, people have had to choose between taking her for
the devil himself or for a lunatic. And there were hundreds who saw
That is true. And now, since the whole town knows about my misfortune,
it would be foolish for me to exact a promise of you to keep still about
it! So listen! The theft for which your brother is in prison was
committed by a lunatic!
Your own wife!
That she, who was once the noblest and most sympathetic soul in the
world, has become malicious and mischievous; that she shouts and screams
with joy when an accident happens before her eyes, when a maid breaks a
glass or cuts her finger--I knew that long ago; but that she also takes
things in the house and puts them out of sight, hides money and tears up
papers--that, alas! I found out too late--only this noon! I had laid
myself down on the bed and was just about to fall asleep, when I became
conscious that she had tiptoed noiselessly up beside me, and was
watching me intently to see if I were yet asleep. I closed my eyes
tighter. Then she took the key from the pocket of my vest, which was
hanging over a chair, unlocked my desk, took out a roll of gold pieces,
locked the desk again and put back the key. I was horrified! But I
restrained myself, so as not to disturb her. She went out of the room
and I crept after her on tiptoe. She climbed up to the attic and threw
the gold into an old chest, which has been standing there empty since
the days of my grandfather. Then she glanced timidly around the room,
and, without seeing me, hurried out again. I lighted a taper and
searched the chest; in it I found my youngest daughter's doll, a pair of
the maid's slippers, a ledger, several letters, and, alas! or, God be
praised!--which shall I say?--away down underneath, the jewels!
Oh, my poor mother! It is too terrible!
God knows I would gladly sacrifice the jewelry if, by so doing, I could
undo what has already been done! But the fault is not mine! That my
suspicions, in spite of my profound respect for your father, fell on
your brother, was natural; he had polished the desk, and with him the
jewels had disappeared. I noticed it almost immediately, for I had
occasion to take some papers out of the drawer in which they lay. Still
it did not occur to me to take stringent measures to arrest him
immediately. Merely as a preliminary, I told Adam, the bailiff, about
the matter, and besought him to keep his investigations absolutely
secret. But he would not listen to the idea of sparing anybody; he
declared he must and would bring the case to court at once, for, he
said, your brother was a drunkard and a debt-contractor. And he has,
alas, so much influence with the burgomaster that he can put through
anything he wants to. The man seems to bear a bitter grudge against your
father--I do not know why, but it was impossible to soothe him; he held
his hands over his ears and called out, as he was hurrying away: "If you
had given me the jewelry, it would not have made me as happy as this!"
Once in the tavern the bailiff put his glass down on the table by my
father's and nodded to him as if he wanted to touch glasses with him. My
father then took his away, and said: "People in red coats and blue
trimmings used to have to drink out of glasses with wooden feet. Also
they used to have to wait out in front of the window, or, if it was
raining, by the door, and respectfully remove their hats when the
landlord handed them the drink. Moreover, if they felt a desire to touch
glasses with anybody, they waited until neighbor Hangman happened in."
Oh, God! What is not possible in this world! My mother had to pay for
that with an untimely death!
One should never anger anybody, and least of all bad people! Where is
In the mountains at the lumber-dealer's.
I'll ride out and hunt him up. I have already been at the burgomaster's,
but unfortunately found him out. Otherwise your brother would be here
now. But the Secretary has already dispatched a messenger! You will see
him before evening! [_Exit._]
Now I should rejoice! Oh, God! And I can think of nothing except: Now it
is you alone! And yet I have a feeling as though something must occur to
me at once that would set everything right again!
_Enter, the_ SECRETARY.
CLARA (_seizes a chair to keep from falling_).
He! Oh, if only _he_ had not come back!
SECRETARY. Your father is not at home?
I bring you good news. Your brother--No, Clara, I cannot talk to you in
this formal way. All these tables, chairs, and cupboards that I know so
well--Good day, old friend!
[_He nods to a cup-board._]
How are you? You have not changed a bit!--around which we used to romp
as children--it seems to me they will put their heads together and
deride me as a fool, unless I quickly assume another tone. I must "thou"
you, as I used to do! If you do not like it, just say to yourself: The
big boy is dreaming, I will awaken him, I will step in front of him and
draw myself up to my full height [_With gestures_], and let him see that
it is no longer a little child that stands before him--[_He points to a
scratch on the door_]--that shows how big you were at eleven!--but a
very proper, grown-up girl, who could reach the sugar when it is upon
the sideboard! Surely you remember! That was the place, the firm
fortress, where it was safe from us even without being locked up. We
used to amuse ourselves by slapping flies, when it stood there, because
we could not endure to see them flying around happily and enjoying what
we ourselves were unable to reach.
I should think people would forget about such things when they had
hundreds and thousands of books to study.
Indeed they do forget it! To be sure, what does one not forget over
Justinian and Gaius? Small boys who persistently resist their A B C's
know very well why they do it; they have a presentiment that if they do
not apply themselves too hard to the primer they will never have to
struggle with the Bible. But it is a downright shame! People deceive the
innocent souls! They are shown the red rooster with the basket full of
eggs on the last page, so that of their own accord they say: "Ah!" And
then there is no more holding back; they go tearing down the hill to Z,
and so forth and so forth, until all of a sudden they find themselves in
the midst of the _Corpus Juris_, and are horrified when they realize
what a wilderness the accursed twenty-four letters have enticed them
into--the letters, which, in the beginning, formed themselves, in a
merry dance, only into nice-tasting and nice-smelling words such as
"cherry" and "rose."
And [_Absent-mindedly, and without interest_]--what happens then?
That depends upon the difference of temperament. Some work themselves
through. Those usually come forth into daylight again after three or
four years, but looking somewhat thin and pale; however, one must not
blame them for that; I myself am one of that kind. Others lie down in
the middle of the forest; they intend merely to rest themselves, but
they seldom get up again. I myself have a friend who has been drinking
his beer for three years already in the shade of the _Lex Julia_; he
selected the place on account of its name--it recalls pleasant memories.
Still others give up in despair and turn back; those are the stupid
ones; people let them out of one thicket only on condition that they
will run at full speed into another. And then there are some who are
still worse, and who don't get anywhere!
How one chatters when one has something in his mind and does not know
how to bring it out!
Everything is bright and cheerful today; that's because it is such
Yes, in weather like this the owls fall out of their nests, the bats
kill themselves because they feel the devil has created them, the mole
burrows so deep into the earth that he cannot find his way out again and
must pitifully suffocate unless he bores through to the other side and
emerges again in America. Today every ear of corn shoots up twice as
high, and every poppy grows twice as red as usual, even if only out of
shame at not having been so at first. Shall man remain behind? Shall he
defraud the dear Lord of the only reward which His world offers Him--a
happy face and a bright eye, which mirrors and at the same time
transfigures all this gloriousness? Truly, when I see one of these
recluses sneaking out of his door in the morning, his brow furrowed with
wrinkles, and staring at the sky as if it were a vault of
blotting-paper, I often think to myself: It is going to rain soon; God
will have to let down the curtain of clouds, so that that sour face will
not irritate Him. They ought to take legal action against fellows like
that on the ground that they are thwarters of merry parties and
destroyers of harvest weather. How are you going to render thanks for
your life if not by living? Sing joyously, bird, or else you will not
deserve your voice!
Oh, that is true, so true! It almost makes me cry!
It was not meant for you. That for eight days you have been breathing
more heavily than you used to, I well understand--I know your father.
But, God be praised! I can make your heart free again, and for that very
purpose I am here. You shall see your brother again this very evening,
and people shall point their fingers, not at him, but at those who cast
him into prison. Does that deserve a kiss, a sisterly kiss, if it cannot
be any other kind? Or shall we play blindman's buff for it?--If I do not
catch you in ten minutes, I am to go away without the kiss and take a
box on the ear into the bargain.
CLARA (_to herself_).
I feel as if I had suddenly grown to be a thousand years old, and time
were standing still with me. I can go neither backwards nor forwards!
Oh, all this brazen sunshine and cheerfulness round about me!
You do not answer me. To be sure, I forgot--you are engaged. Oh, girl!
Why did you do that to me? And yet have I any right to complain? She is
like all that is dear and good, and all that is dear and good should
have made me think of her. And yet to me she was for years as if she no
longer existed in the world! For that reason she--If it only were a
fellow before whom one had to cast down one's eyes! But this Leonard--
CLARA (_suddenly, when she hears the name_).
I must go to him. That is just it--I am no longer the sister of a
thief!--Oh, God! what shall I do? Leonard will, he must! He needs only
not to be a fiend! Everything will be as it used to be [_Shudders_]--as
it used to be!
[_To the SECRETARY._]
Do not be offended, Frederick!--Why are my legs so heavy all of a
To Leonard! Where else should I go? Only that one road lies before me in
You love him, then! Well--
Love him? It is either he or death! Does anybody wonder that I choose
him? I would not do it had I only myself to consider!
He or death? Girl, thus speaks Despair, or--
Do not make me frantic! Do not mention that word again! You! It is you I
love! There! I cry it out to you as if I were already wandering on the
other side of the grave, where no one blushes any more, where cold and
naked forms glide past one another, because the fearful, holy presence
of God has entirely consumed in every one all thought of others.
Me? Still me? Clara, I divined it when I saw you out in the garden.
Did you? Oh, the other too!
[_Gloomily, as if she were alone._]
He stepped up in front of me--he or I!--Oh, my heart, my accursed heart!
In order to prove to him, prove to myself, that it was not so, or to
stifle it if it were so, I did what now [_Breaks out into tears_]--God
in Heaven! I would have pity on myself, were I Thou, and Thou I!
Clara, be my wife! I came to look once more into your eyes in the old
way. Had you not understood the look I should have gone away again
without speaking. Everything that I am and have I now offer to you. It
is little, but it may grow to be more. I should have been here long ago,
but your mother was sick, and then she died.
[Illustration: Alfred Rethel DEATH PLAYING THE FINALE]
CLARA (_laughs crazily_).
Take courage, girl! The fellow has your word--that worries you. And, to
be sure, it is a damnable thing! How could you--
Oh, ask me everything that conspires to drive a poor girl crazy! Scorn
and derision from all sides when you went to the University, and did not
let me hear from you.--"She still thinks of him!" "She thinks that
child's play was meant seriously!" "Does she receive any letters from
him?"--And then, too, my mother: "Stay with people of your class!"
"Pride never succeeds!" "Leonard is a very nice fellow; everybody is
surprised that you look at him over your shoulder so!" And added to all
the rest, my own heart: "If he has forgotten you, show him that you
too--" Oh, God!
I am to blame. I realize it. Well, what is difficult is not necessarily
impossible. I will get him to release you. Perhaps--
Release me? There!
[_Throws LEONARD'S letter to him._]
As cashier, I--your brother--thief--very sorry--but out of consideration
for my office, I cannot help it--[_To CLARA._] He wrote you that on the
very day your mother died? For he adds his condolence on her sudden
I suppose so!
The Devil take him! Great God, the cats, snakes and other monsters
which, so to speak, slipped through Thy fingers at Creation, so
delighted Beelzebub that he imitated Thy patterns--but he finished them
off better than Thou didst; he put them in a human skin, and now they
stand in rank and file with the rest of Thy humanity, and one does not
recognize them until they begin to scratch and sting!
But it is well, indeed it is fine!
[_He tries to embrace her._]
Come! Forever! With this kiss--
CLARA (_sinks into his arms_).
No, not forever! Only to keep me from falling--but no kiss!
Girl, you do not love him, you have your release--
CLARA (_gloomily, straightening herself up again_).
And yet I must go to him, I must throw myself on my knees before him and
cry out: "Behold my father's white hairs! Take me!"
Unhappy girl! Do I understand you?
No man can overlook that! Think of having to cast down one's eyes before
a man into whose face one would like to spit!
[_He presses CLARA wildly to him._]
Poor, poor girl!
Go now, go!
SECRETARY (_to himself, brooding_).
Or else one would have to shoot the dog who knows of it. Oh, that he had
some courage about him! That he would stand up and fight! That one could
force him to it! I should not be afraid of missing him!
I beg of you!
As soon as it grows dark!
[_He returns and grasps CLARA's hand._]
Girl, you stand before me--[_He turns away._]
Thousands of your sex would have kept it a secret with shrewd cunning,
and only in an hour of sweet forgetfulness would have confided it
coaxingly to the ear and soul of their husbands. I feel what I owe you!
Oh, my heart, lock yourself up! Crush yourself together so that not
another drop of that blood may escape which would kindle again the
congealing life in my veins! For a moment a feeling akin to hope arose
in you again! Now for the first time I am conscious of it!
No! No man can, overlook that! And if--could you yourself overlook it?
Would you have had the courage to grasp a hand that--No! no! Such evil
courage you would not have! You would with your own hands have to lock
yourself into your hell, if any one tried to open the door from the
outside. You are forever--Oh, alas, that the pain is intermittent, that
the piercing agony sometimes ceases! That is the reason why it lasts so
long! The tortured man imagines he is resting when the torturer merely
pauses to get his breath. It is like a drowning man's catching his
breath on the waves, when the current that has drawn him under spews him
forth again only to seize him once more and draw him down. He has
nothing but a double, futile fight for life!--
Well, Clara?--Yes, father, I am going! Your daughter will not drive you
to self-destruction! Soon I shall be the wife of that man, or--God! No!
I do not go begging for happiness--it is misery, the deepest misery that
I beg for! You will give me my misery!--Away! Where is the letter?
[_She takes it._]
Three wells you pass on your way to him! You must not halt at any of
them, Clara--you have not yet the right to do that!
LEONARD (_at a table covered with documents, writing_).
That makes the sixth sheet since dinner! How good a man feels when he is
doing his duty! Now anybody that wanted to could come through the door,
even the king himself! I should rise, but I should not feel embarrassed!
I make just one exception--that is the old joiner! But, after all, he
cannot do much to me! Poor Clara! I am sorry for her. I cannot think of
her without uneasiness! If only it were not for that one cursed evening!
It was really more jealousy than love that made me so frantic, and she
must have yielded to me only to silence my reproaches--for she was as
cold as death toward me! She has some bad days ahead of her! Oh, well, I
too shall suffer considerable annoyance! Let everybody bear his own
burden! Above all things I must make the affair with the little humpback
secure, so that she cannot escape me when the storm breaks out! Then I
shall have the burgomaster on my side, and shall have nothing to fear!
Good evening, Leonard!
Clara! [_To himself._]
This is something I did not expect!
Did you not receive my letter? Surely--Perhaps you are coming for your
father to pay the taxes! How much is it?
[_He fumbles in a ledger._]
I really ought to have it in my head!
I have come to give back your letter! Read it again!
LEONARD (_reads it with great seriousness_).
It is a perfectly sensible letter! How can a man who has public money in
trust marry into a family to which [_he swallows a word_]--to which your
But perhaps the whole town is mistaken! Your brother is not in prison?
He never was in prison? You are not the sister of a--of your brother?
Leonard, I am my father's daughter! Not as the sister of an accused,
innocent man, who has been set free--for my brother is at liberty--not
as a girl who trembles before undeserved disgrace, for [_in a low
voice_] I tremble still more before you, only as the daughter of the old
man who gave me life, do I stand here!
And you wish?--
Can you ask? Oh, that I might go away! My father will cut his throat,
He has sworn it! Marry me!
Hand and neck are near cousins--they never do harm to each other! Don't
He has sworn it! Marry me! And, afterward, kill me! I will thank you
even more for the latter than for the former!
Do you love me? Did your heart prompt you to come here? Am I the man
without whom you cannot live and die?
Answer that yourself!
Can you swear that you love me? That you love me as a girl loves a man
to whom she is to bind herself forever?
No, that I cannot swear! But this I can swear Whether I love you or do
not love you, that you shall never know! I will wait on you, I will work
for you, you need give me nothing to eat, I will support myself, I will
do sewing and spinning for other people at night, I will go hungry when
I have nothing to do, I will rather bite a piece out of my own arm than
go to my father and let him suspect anything! When you beat me, because
your dog is not at hand, or because you have kicked him out, I will
rather swallow my own tongue than emit a cry which will betray to the
neighbors what is going on. I cannot promise that my skin will not show
the welts caused by your whip, for that is not in my power. But I will
lie about it, I will say that I fell head foremost against the cupboard,
or that I slipped on the floor because it was too smooth--that I will do
before anybody has time to ask me where the black and blue marks came
from!--Marry me! I shall not live long! And if it lasts too long for
you, if you do not care to meet the expenses of the divorce proceedings
necessary to get rid of me, them buy some poison of the apothecary and
put it somewhere as if it were for your rats. I will take it without
your even nodding to me, and tell the neighbors with my dying breath
that I took it for pulverized sugar!
A man of whom you expect all this will certainly not surprise you if he
Then may God not frown too severely on me if I come before he calls me!
If I had myself alone to consider I would endure it patiently. If the
world kicked me in my misery, instead of standing by me, I would bear it
submissively and regard it as just punishment for I know not what! I
would love my child, even if it had your features, and I would cry so
much before the poor innocent thing that, when it grew older and wiser,
it would certainly not despise and curse its mother. But it is not
myself alone; and on Judgement Day I shall much more easily find an
answer to the Judge's question: why did you drive your father to it?
You talk as if you were the first woman and the last to find herself in
your predicament! Thousands have gone through it before you and
submitted to their fate. Thousands after you will be confronted with the
same situation and accept their fate. Are all these others strumpets,
that you are so anxious to stand in the corner by yourself? They also
had fathers who invented a score of new oaths when they first heard of
it, and talked about murder and homicide! Afterward they were ashamed of
themselves and repented their oaths and blasphemies; they sat down and
rocked the child, or fanned the flies away!
I readily believe that you fail to understand why anybody in the world
should keep an oath.
_Enter a boy_
Here are some flowers! I am not to say from whom they come!
Oh, what pretty flowers!
[_He beats his brow._]
The devil! How stupid of me! I should have sent Some! How can I get out
of it? I do not understand such things, and the little girl will take it
to heart! She has nothing else to think about!
[_He takes the flowers._]
But I shall not keep all of them.
[_To_ Clara] How about it? These here signify repentance and shame,
don't they? Did you not say that to me once?
LEANARD (_To the boy_).
See here, boy, these are for me. I fasten them on me here, you
see--where my heart is. These, these dark red ones, which burn like a
dismal fire, you may take back. Do you understand? As soon as my apples
are ripe, you may come for some!
That is a long time off!
Yes, you see, Clara; you spoke about keeping one's word. Just because I
am a man of my word I must answer you again as I have already answered
once before. A week ago I wrote you a letter--you cannot deny it--there
it lies! [_He hands her the letter, which she takes mechanically_.] I
had reason--your brother--you say he is acquitted--I am glad of that!
But during these eight days I have entered into a new relation. I had a
right to do it, for you did not protest against my letter at the right
time! I was free in my own conscience, as well as before the law. Now
you come to me--but I have already given my promise and received
another's! [_To himself._] I would it were so!--The other girl is
already in the same predicament as you are! I am sorry for you, but [_He
strokes her hair, and she permits it, as if she were absolutely
unconscious of it_]--you understand?--One cannot trifle with the
Trifle with him!
See! You are getting sensible! And as far as your father is concerned,
you can say it boldly to his face that he alone is to blame. Do not
stare at me so; do not shake your head! It is so, girl, it is so! Just
tell him that! He'll understand it all right, and repent! I'll vouch
for that! [_To himself._] Any man who gives away his daughter's dowry
must not be surprised if she remains an old maid. When I think of that
my back gets stiff, and I could wish that the old fellow were here to
receive a lecture. Why must I be such a monster?--Only because he was a
fool! Whatever happens as a result of that, he is to blame for it! That
Or would you prefer to have me talk with him myself? For your sake I
will risk a black eye and go to him. He may be rough with me, he may
throw the boot-jack at my head, but he will have to swallow the truth in
spite of the stomach-ache it gives him, and let you rest in peace!--Is
he at home?
CLARA (_stands up straight_).
I thank you!
[_Starts to go._]
Shall I go over with you? I have the courage!
I thank you as I would thank a serpent which had wound itself around me
and unwound itself and sprung away again, because another prey enticed
it. I know that I have been bitten, I know that it deserts me only
because it does not seem worth the trouble to suck out what little
marrow there is left in my bones. But still I thank the snake, for now I
shall have a quiet death. Yes, man, I am not mocking; to me it is as if
I had seen through your breast down into the abyss of hell, and whatever
may be my lot in the awful eternity to come, I shall never have anything
more to do with you, and that is a consolation! And just as the
unfortunate person whom a viper has stung cannot be blamed for opening
his veins in terror and disgust, in order that his poisoned blood may
stream swiftly forth, so perhaps God in His everlasting mercy will take
pity on me when He looks down upon you and me and sees what you have
made of me! For how _could_ I do it, when I never, never _should_ have
done it?--One thing more: My father knows nothing, he does not even
suspect anything! And that he may never find out I shall quit the world
this very day! If I thought for one moment that you [_she takes a step,
wildly, toward him_]--oh, but that is foolishness! You would be only all
the better pleased to see them all stand and shake their heads and
inquire in vain of one another why it happened!
Things will happen--what is one to do, Clara?
Away from here! The man can talk!
[_She starts to go._]
Do you think that I believe you?
Thank God, you cannot be a suicide without being an infanticide as well!
Better both than a parricide! Oh, I know that one cannot atone for one
sin with another! But what I now do affects me alone! If I hand the
knife to my father the blow strikes him as well as me! It strikes me in
any case! That gives me courage and strength in all my distress! Things
will go well with you on earth!
"I must, I must marry her!" And why must I? She is going to do a crazy
thing in order to keep her father from doing one. Where lies the
necessity of my doing a still crazier thing in order to ward off hers? I
cannot admit the necessity--at least not until I see before me the man
who wants to get ahead of me with the most insane act of all! And if he
thinks as I do about it there will be no end! That sounds quite
sensible, and yet--I must follow her! Here comes somebody! Thank
God!--Nothing is more ignominious than to have to be at variance with
one's own thoughts! A rebellion in the head, in which one brings forth
viper after viper and each one tries to eat the other or bite his tail,
is the worst of all!
_Enter the SECRETARY._
Mr. Secretary? To what do I owe the honor--
Leonard, you will see at once!
You say Leonard to me?--To be sure, we used to be schoolmates!
And we may perhaps be death-mates too!
[_He draws forth two pistols._]
Do you know how to handle these?
I do not understand you!
SECRETARY (_cocks one of them_).
Do you see?--This is how it is done! Then you aim at me, as I am now
doing at you, and pull the trigger! So!
What are you talking about?
One of us two must die! Die! And immediately!
You know why!
By God, no!
No matter--it will occur to you all right when you are dying!
I have no idea--
Bethink yourself! Otherwise I might take you for a mad dog that has
unwittingly bitten the one I love most on earth, and shoot you down as
such! But for half an hour more I must let you pass as my equal!
But don't talk so loud! If anybody should hear you--
If anybody could hear me you would have called him long ago! Well?
If it is about the girl--I can marry her, you know! I had, in fact, half
made up my mind to do it, when she herself was here!
She was here! And has gone away again without having seen you contrite
and repentant at her feet? Come! Come!
I beg of you! You see before you a man who is ready to do anything that
you dictate. This very evening I will betroth myself to her.
That I shall do, no one else. If the world itself hung on it you should
not even touch the hem of her dress again! Come! Into the woods with me!
But mark this! I shall take you by the arm, and if on the way you emit a
single cry--[_He holds up a pistol._] I trust you believe me!
Nevertheless, that you may not feel tempted, we will take the road
through the garden behind the house!
One of them is for me--give it to me!
So that you can throw it away and compel me to murder you or let you
escape! Is that why you want it? Be patient, until we are on the spot!
Then I shall divide with you honestly!
LEONARD (_goes, and accidentally knocks his drinking-glass from the
Shall I never take another drink?
Courage, my lad! Perhaps it will go well with you! God and the devil
seem to be forever fighting for the world! Who knows which is master
[_Seizes him by the arm; exeunt both._]
_A Room in the Joiner's House; enter CARL._
Nobody at home! Had I not known about the rat-hole under the threshold
where they always hide the key when they all go out, I could not have
got in! Well, that would not have made any difference! I could run
around the city twenty times now and imagine to myself that there was no
greater pleasure in the world than that of using one's legs! Let's have
[_He strikes a light._]
I'll bet the tinder-box is in the same old place, for we have twice ten
commandments in this house! The hat belongs on the third nail, not on
the fourth! At half past nine one has to be tired! Before Martinmas one
must not shiver; after Martinmas one must not sweat! That stands on a
line with: Thou shalt love and fear God! I am thirsty!
Mother! Fie! As if I had forgotten that she lies where even the
innkeeper's boots no longer has to open his nut-cracker mouth with a
"Yes, sir!" when he is called! I did not weep when I heard the funeral
bell in my dark cell, but--Redcoat, you would not even let me roll the
last ball at the bowling alley, although I already had it in my hand.
Well, I shall not leave you time for a last breath when I meet you
alone, and that may happen this very evening! I know where you are to be
found about ten o'clock! Afterward, aboard ship!--I wonder where Clara
is? I am as hungry as I am thirsty! Today is Thursday--they have veal
broth for dinner. If it were winter, they would have had cabbage--before
Shrove-Tuesday white cabbage--after Shrove-Tuesday, green cabbage! That
is as fixed as Thursday's having to come when Wednesday has passed, so
that it cannot say to Friday: You go in my place--my feet are sore!
At last!--You should not kiss so much! Whenever four red lips meet a
bridge for the devil is built!--What have you there?
Where? What?--In your hand!
Nothing? Is it a secret?
[_He snatches LEONARD'S letter._]
Give me that! When the father is not here the brother is guardian!
I held fast to the scrap of paper, and yet the evening wind is so strong
that it blows the tiles off the roofs. As I was passing the church one
fell right in front of me, so that my foot struck against it. Oh, God! I
thought--one more! And I stood still. That would have been fine; they
would have buried me and said: "She met with an accident!"--But I waited
in vain for the second.
CARL (_has read the letter_).
Thunder and--I'll lame the hand that wrote that!--Bring me a bottle of
wine! Or is your savings box empty?
There is one more in the house. I had bought it secretly for mother's
birthday and put it aside. Tomorrow would have been the day--[_She turns
Give it to me!
CLARA (_brings the wine_).
CARL (_drinks quickly_).
Now we can start in again--planing, sawing,
hammering, and, in between, eating, drinking, and sleeping, so that we
can go on planing, sawing, and hammering, and on Sundays do a bit of
praying into the bargain! I thank Thee, O Lord, that I may plane, saw,
Long live every good dog that is tied to a chain, and yet does not snap
at everything around him!
[_He drinks again._]
And once more: Here's to his health!
Carl, do not drink so much! Father says the devil lurks in wine!
And the priest says God lurks in wine! [_He drinks._] Let us see who is
right! The bailiff was here at the house--how did he behave himself?
As if he had been in a den of thieves. No sooner had he opened his mouth
than mother fell over and was dead!
Good! If you hear tomorrow that the fellow has been found dead, then do
not curse the murderer!
Surely you are not going to--
Am I his only enemy? Has he not been often attacked already? Among so
many it might be difficult to find the right man to attribute the deed
to, unless he left his cane or hat on the spot! [_He drinks._] Whoever
it is: Good success to him!
Brother, you talk--
Don't you like it? Never mind! You will not see me very much longer!
CLARA (_shudders with terror_).
No? So you know already that I am going to sea? Do my thoughts crawl
around on my forehead, that you can read them so easily? Or did the old
man fly into a passion in his old way and threaten to shut me out of the
house? Bah! That would be very much the same thing as if the jailer had
sworn to me: You shall not stay in prison any longer--I am going to
shove you out into the open again!
You do not understand me!
A ship lies in the offing,
A-sporting with the winds.
Yes indeed, there is nothing to bind me to the bench here any longer!
Mother is dead, there is no longer any one to stop eating fish after
every storm, and that has been my wish from boyhood. Away! I shall not
prosper here--at least not until I know for sure that luck no longer
favors the brave fellow who stakes his life on the game, who throws back
onto the table the copper coin that he has received from the great
treasure, in order to see whether luck will pocket it or return it to
And are you going away to leave your father all alone? He is sixty years
Alone? Aren't you going to be left?
You! His pet child! What sort of weeds are growing in your head
that you ask me that? By going, I leave his joy with him and free him of
his everlasting annoyance! Why shouldn't I do it? Once and for all we
cannot get along together. He can't get things contracted enough to suit
him. He would like to close his fist and creep inside it. I would like
to strip off my skin like a baby's coat--if it were only practicable!
The anchor they are heaving,
I trow they'll soon be leaving,
Now look! Away she spins.
Tell me yourself: Did he doubt my guilt for a single instant? And did he
not find the usual consolation in his over-wise: "Just as I expected!"
"I have always thought so!" "It could not end in any other way!" If it
had been you, he would have killed himself! I should like to see him if
you were to suffer a woman's fate! It would be to him as if he himself
had become pregnant--and by the devil besides!
Oh, what anguish! Yes, I must go! Away!
What do you mean by that?
I must go into the kitchen! What else should I mean?
[_Clasping her forehead._]
Yes! That too! Just to hear that I came home again!
She acts very strangely!
A bold and saucy sea-gull
Sweeps round, as if possessed--
The last thing is done! Father's supper is on the fire! As I closed the
kitchen door behind me, I thought to myself: You are never to enter
there again! I shuddered in my very soul! Thus I shall go out of the
room too, thus out of the house, thus out of the world!
CARL. [_Sings; he continues to walk back and forth; CLARA remains in the
Aloft the sun is burning,
The fishes, glancing, turning,
Circle about their guest.
Why do I not do it then? Shall I never do it? Am I going to continue
putting it off from day to day, as I am now doing from one minute to the
next, until--certainly! Then, away! Away! And yet I stand still! I have
a feeling as if imploring hands were raised in my womb, as if
eyes--[_She sits down on a chair._] What does it mean? Am I too weak to
do it? Then ask yourself if you are strong enough to see your father
with his throat cut!--[_She rises._] No! No!--Our Father, Who art in
Heaven, hallowed be Thy name--God! God! My poor head! I cannot even
pray! Brother! Brother! Help me!
What's the matter with you
The Lord's Prayer!
[_She bethinks herself._]
It seemed to me as if I were already lying in the water and sinking, and
had not yet prayed! I [_suddenly_]--Forgive us our trespasses, as we
forgive those that trespass against us! That is it! Yes! Yes! Certainly
I forgive him! I shall think no more of him!--Good night, Carl!
Are you going to bed so soon? Good night!
CLARA. [_Like a child, repeating the Lord's Prayer._]
You might bring me a glass of water first--but it must be absolutely
I will bring it to you from the well!
All right! If you want to. It is not far, you know.
Thank you! Thank you! That was the last thing that still troubled me!
The deed itself would have betrayed me! Now people will say: She had an
accident! She fell in!
Be careful of yourself! The board has probably not been nailed down
It is bright moonlight!--Oh, God, I am coming only because otherwise my
father would come! Forgive me, as I--have mercy on me--mercy--[_Exit._]
I fain would be aboard her,
My kingdom's on the sea.
Yes, but first [_He looks at the clock._]--What time is it?--Nine
A lad that's young and growing
Must e'en be up and going,
No matter where, says he.
_Enter, Master ANTONY._
I should have an apology to make to you, but if I forgive you for
contracting secret debts and pay them off for you into the bargain, you
will probably allow me to omit the apology?
The one is good, the other is not necessary. As soon as I sell my
Sunday clothes I shall myself be able to satisfy the people who have a
claim of a few thalers against me. And that I shall do tomorrow, for as
a sailor [_To himself_]--There, it is out! [_Aloud_]--I shall no longer
What kind of talk is that again?
This is not the first time you have heard it, but today you may answer
me as you will! My mind is made up!
You are of age, that is true!
And just because I am of age I am not defiant about it! For in my
opinion birds and fishes should not quarrel over the question whether it
is better in the water or in the air. Just one thing--either you will
never see me again, or else you will clap me on the shoulder and say:
We'll wait and see! I shall not have to pay off the fellow that I have
taken on in your place. That's all.
I thank you.
Tell me: Did the bailiff, instead of taking you by the shortest way to
the burgomaster, really lead you around through the whole town and--
Up the street, down the street, across the marketplace like a carnival
ox! But do not doubt it--I shall settle up with him too before I go!
I do not blame you for that, but I forbid you to do it! CARL.
I'll not let you out of my sight! I myself would run to the man's aid,
if you tried to attack him!
I thought that you loved my mother too!
I shall prove it!
SECRETARY (_staggers in; he is pale, and is holding a handkerchief
against his breast_). Where is Clara? [_He falls into a chair_.]
God!--Good evening! Thank Heaven that I had time to get here!--Where is
She went to--Where is she? Her talk--I am afraid--[_Exit_.]
[Illustration: DEATH AS FRIEND _From a Drawing by Alfred Rethel_]
She is avenged! The scoundrel is done for! But I too am--Oh, why did it
have to be?--God! Now I cannot--
What's the matter with you? What ails you?
It is nearly up with me! Give me your hand on it, that you will not cast
off your daughter--do you hear?--will not cast her off, if she--
That is strange talk! Why should I, pray--Ha! My eyes are opening!--Was
I right after all in suspecting?--
Give me your hand!
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