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´╗┐Title: War Brides: A Play in One Act
Author: Wentworth, Marion Craig, 1872-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "War Brides: A Play in One Act" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: Good-by! good-by!]



WAR BRIDES

_A Play in One Act_

BY

MARION CRAIG WENTWORTH

ILLUSTRATED WITH PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE
PLAY AS PRESENTED BY MME. NAZIMOVA


NEW YORK

THE CENTURY CO.

1915



Copyright, 1915, by

THE CENTURY CO.


Acting rights controlled by

DRAMATISTS' PLAY AGENCY,

145 West 45th Street,

NEW YORK CITY


_Published, February 1915_



TO
MY LITTLE BOY
BRANDON



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

            Good-by! good-by!       _Frontispiece_
                                       FACING PAGE
    Arno:   You are wanted                      42

    Hedwig: Franz?     }
    Amelia: Franz, too }                        62

    Amelia: No, you must not! You have too
            much to live for                    66



This play was first produced
on January 25, 1915, at
B.F. KEITH'S PALACE THEATRE,
NEW YORK CITY,
with the following cast:

    Hedwig (Joan)                  Mme. Nazimova
    Amelia (Amy)                      Mary Alden
    Mother                     Gertrude Berkeley
    Hoffman (Joseph Kerman)       Charles Bryant
    Minna                           Edith Speare
    Arno                                C. Brown
    Hertz (Captain Bragg)         William Hasson

    Peasants, Women and Soldiers.

    Time--Present.    Place--A War-Ridden Country.

    Personal Manager for Madame Nazimova
    William F. Muenster



WAR BRIDES

    The war brides were cheered with enthusiasm and the churches were
    crowded when the wedding parties spoke the ceremony in
    concert.--PRESS CLIPPING.


SCENE: _A room in a peasant's cottage in a war-ridden country. A large
fireplace at the right. Near it a high-backed settle. On the left a
heavy oak table and benches. Woven mats on the floor. A door at left
leads into a bedroom. In the corner a cupboard. At the back a wide
window with scarlet geraniums and an open door. A few firearms are
stacked near the fireplace. There is an air of homely color and neatness
about the room._

_Through the open door may be seen women stacking grain. Others go by
carrying huge baskets of grapes or loads of wood, and gradually it
penetrates the mind that all these workers are women, aristocrats and
peasants side by side. Now and then a bugle blows or a drum beats in the
distance. A squad of soldiers marches quickly by. There is everywhere
the tense atmosphere of unusual circumstance, the anxiety and excitement
of war._

_Amelia, a slight, flaxen-haired girl of nineteen, comes in. She brushes
off the hay with which she is covered, and goes to packing a bag with a
secret, but determined, air. The Mother passes the window and appears in
the doorway. She is old and work-worn, but sturdy and stoical. Now she
carries a heavy load of wood, and is weary. She casts a sharp eye at
Amelia._


_Mother:_

What are you doing, girl? [_Amelia starts and puts the bag in the
cupboard._] Who's going away? They haven't sent for Arno?


_Amelia:_

No.


_Mother:_ [_Sighs, and drops her load on the hearth._]

Is the hay all in?


_Amelia:_

Yes. I put in the last load. All the big work on our place is done, and
so--[_Looks at her mother and hesitates. Her mother begins to chop the
wood into kindling._] I'll do that, Mother.


_Mother:_

Let be, girl. It keeps me from worrying. Get a bite to eat. What were
you doing with that bag? Who were you packing it for?


_Amelia:_ [_With downcast eyes._]

Myself.


_Mother:_ [_Anxious._]

What for?


_Amelia:_

Sit down, Mother, and be still while I tell you--

[_Pushes her mother into a chair._]


_Mother:_ [_Starts._]

Is there any news? Quick! Tell me!


_Amelia:_

Not since yesterday. Only they say Franz is at the front. We don't know
where Emil and Otto are, and there's been a battle; but--


_Mother:_ [_Murmurs, with closed eyes._]

My boys! my boys!


_Amelia:_

Don't, Mother! They may come back. [_A cheer is heard._]


_Mother:_ [_Starting._]

What's that?


_Amelia:_ [_Running to the door and looking out._]

They are cheering the war brides, that's all.


_Mother:_

Aye. There's been another wedding ceremony.


_Amelia:_

Yes.


_Mother:_

How many war brides to-day?


_Amelia:_

Ten, they said.


_Mother:_ [_Nodding._]

Aye, that is good. Has any one asked you, Amelia? [_Amelia looks
embarrassed._] Some one should ask you. You are a good-looking girl.


_Amelia:_ [_In a low voice._]

Hans Hoffman asked me last night.


_Mother:_

The young and handsome lieutenant? You are lucky. You said yes?


_Amelia:_ [_Shakes her head._]

No.


_Mother:_

Ah, well.


_Amelia:_

I hardly know him. I've only spoken to him once before. O Mother--that
isn't what I want to do.


_Mother:_

What did you tell him?


_Amelia:_ [_Timidly._]

That I was going away to join the Red Cross.


_Mother:_

Amelia!


_Amelia:_

He didn't believe me. He kissed me--and I ran away.


_Mother:_

The Red Cross!


_Amelia:_ [_Eagerly._]

Yes; that is what I was going to tell you just now. That is why I was
packing the bag. [_Gets it._] I--I want to go. I want to go to-night. I
can't stand this waiting.


_Mother:_

You leave me, too?


_Amelia:_

I want to go to the front with Franz and Otto and Emil, to nurse them,
to take care of them if they are wounded--and all the others. Let me,
Mother! I, too, must do something for my country. The grapes are
plucked, and the hay is stacked. Hedwig is gathering the wheat. You can
spare me. I have been dreaming of it night and day.


_Mother:_ [_Setting her lips decisively._]

No, Amelia!


_Amelia:_

O Mother, why?


_Mother:_

You must help me with Hedwig. I can't manage her alone.


_Amelia:_

Hedwig!


_Mother:_

She is strange; she broods. Hadn't you noticed?


_Amelia:_

Why, yes; but I thought she was worrying about Franz. She adores him,
and any day she may hear that he is killed. It's the waiting that's so
awful.


_Mother:_

But it's more than the waiting with Hedwig. Aye, you will help Franz
more by staying home to take care of his wife, Amelia, especially now.


_Amelia:_ [_Puzzled._]

_Now?_


_Mother:_ [_Goes to her work-basket._]

Hedwig has told you nothing?


_Amelia:_

No.


_Mother:_

Ah, she is a strange girl! She asked me to keep it a secret,--I don't
know why,--but now I think you should know. See! [_Very proudly she
holds up the tiny baby garments she is knitting._]


_Amelia:_ [_Pleased and astonished._]

So Franz and Hedwig--


_Mother:_ [_Nods._]

For their child. In six months now. My first grandchild, Amelia. Franz's
boy, perhaps. I shall hear a little one's voice in this house again.


_Amelia:_ [_Uncertainly, as she looks at the little things._]

Still--I want to go.


_Mother_: [_Firmly._]

We must take care of Hedwig, Amelia. She is to be a mother. That is our
first duty. It is our only hope of an heir if you won't marry soon--and
if--if the boys don't come back.


_Amelia:_

Arno is left.


_Mother:_

Ah, but they'll be calling him next. It is his birthday to-day, too,
poor lad. He's on the jump to be off. I see him gone, too. God knows I
may never see one of them again. I sit here in the long evenings and
think how death may take my boys,--even this minute they may be
breathing their last,--and then I knit this baby sock and think of the
precious little life that's coming. It's my one comfort, Amelia. Nothing
must happen now.


_Amelia:_ [_With a touch of impatience._]

What's the matter with Hedwig?


_Mother:_

I don't know what it is. She acts as if she didn't want to bring her
child into the world. She talks wild. I tell you I must have that child,
Amelia! I cannot live else. Hedwig frightens me. The other night I found
her sitting on the edge of her bed staring,--when she should have been
asleep,--as if she saw visions, and whispering, "I will send a message
to the emperor." What message? I had to shake her out of it. She refuses
to make a thing for her baby. Says, "Wait till I see what they do to
Franz." It's unnatural.


_Amelia:_

I can't understand her. I never could. I always thought it was because
she was a factory-town girl.


_Mother:_

If anything should happen to Franz in the state she's in now, Hedwig
might go out of her mind entirely. So you had best stay by, Amelia. We
must keep a close eye on her.

[_There is a knock at the door._]

Who's that?


_Amelia:_ [_Looks out of the windows, and then whispers._]

It's Hans Hoffman.

[_The knock is repeated._]


_Mother:_

Open, girl! Don't stand there!

[_Enter Hoffman, gay, familiar, inclined to stoutness, but
good-looking. Accustomed to having the women bow down to him._]


_Hoffman:_

[_To Amelia._] Ah, ha! You gave me the slip yesterday!


_Amelia:_

My mother.


_Hoffman:_ [_Nodding._]

Good day, Mother. [_She curtsies._]

[_Coming closer to Amelia._]

Where did you run to? Here she as good as promised me she would wed me
to-day, Mother, and then--


_Amelia:_

Oh, no!


_Hoffman:_

Yes, you did. You let me kiss you.


_Amelia:_ [_Taken aback._]

Oh, sir!


_Hoffman:_

And when I got to the church square to-day, no bride for Hans Hoffman.
Well, I must say, they had the laugh on me; for I had told them I had
found the girl for me--the prettiest bride of the lot. But to-morrow--


_Amelia:_

I can't.


_Hoffman:_ [_Taking hold of her._]

Oh, yes, you can. I won't bother you long. I'm off to the front any day
now. Come, promise me! What do you say, Mother?


_Mother:_ [_Slowly._]

I should like to see her wed.


_Hoffman:_

There!


_Amelia:_ [_Shrinking from both him and the idea._]

But I don't know you well enough yet.


_Hoffman:_

Well, look me over. Don't you think I am good enough for her, Mother?
Besides, we can't stop to think of such things now, Amelia. It is
war-time. This is an emergency measure. And, then, I'm a soldier--like
to die for my country. That ought to count for something--a good deal, I
should say--if you love your country, and you do, don't you, Amelia?


_Amelia:_

Oh, yes!


_Hoffman:_

Well, then, we can get married and get acquainted afterward.


_Amelia:_ [_Faintly._]

I wanted to be a nurse.


_Hoffman:_

Nonsense! Pretty girls like you should marry. The priests and the
generals have commanded it. It's for the fatherland. Ought she not to
wed me, Mother?


_Mother:_ [_Nodding impersonally._]

Aye, it is for the fatherland they ask it.


_Hoffman:_

Of course. It is your patriotic duty, Amelia. You're funny. All the
young women are tickled at the chance. But you are the one I have picked
out, and I am going to have you. Now, there's a good girl--promise!

[_A hubbub of voices and a cheer are heard outside side. Enter Minna,
flushed, pretty, light headed._]


_Amelia:_

Minna!


_Minna:_ [_Holding out her hand._]

Amelia, see! My wedding-ring!


_Amelia:_

Iron!


_Minna:_ [_Triumphantly._]

Yes; a war bride!


_Amelia:_

You?


_Minna:_

That's what I am. [_Whirling gaily about._]


_Hoffman:_ [_Shaking her hand._]

Good for you! Congratulations!


_Minna:_

Didn't you hear them cheer? That was for me!


_Hoffman:_

There's patriotism for you, Amelia!


_Amelia:_

When were you married, Minna?


_Minna:_

Just now. There were ten of us. We all answered in chorus. It was
fun--just like a theater. Then the priest made a speech, and the
burgomaster and the captain. The people cheered, and then our husbands
had to go to drill for an hour. Oh, I never was so thrilled! It was
grand! They told us we were the true patriots.


_Hoffman:_

Hurrah! And so you are.


_Minna:_

Our names will go down in history, honored by a whole people, they said.

[_They are all carried away by Minna's enthusiasm; even Amelia warms
up._]


_Amelia:_

But whom did you marry, Minna?


_Minna:_

Heinrich Berg.


_Amelia:_ [_Dubious._]

That loafer!


_Minna:_

He's all right. He's a soldier now. Why, he may be a hero, fighting for
the fatherland; and that makes a lot of difference, Amelia.


_Hoffman:_

What did I tell you?


_Minna:_

I probably wouldn't have picked him out in peace-times, but it is
different now. He only asked me last night. Of course he may get killed.
They said we'd have a widow's pension fund,--us and our
children,--forever and ever, if the boys didn't come back. So, you see,
I won't be out anything. Anyway, it's for the country. We'll be famous,
as war brides. Even the name sounds glorious, doesn't it? War bride!
Isn't that fine?


_Hoffman:_

Here's a little lady who will hear herself called that to-morrow.
[_Takes Amelia's hand._]


_Minna:_ [_Clapping her hands._]

Amelia a war bride, too! Good!


_Hoffman:_

You'll be proud to hear her called that, won't you, Mother? Give us your
blessing.


_Minna:_

I'd rather be a wife or a widow any day than be an old maid; and to be a
war bride--oh!

[_Amelia is blushing and tremulous._]


_Mother:_ [_With a far-away look._]

It is for the fatherland, Amelia. Aye, aye, the masters have said so. It
is the will and judgment of those higher than us. They are wise. Our
country will need children. Aye. Say yes, my daughter. You will not say
no when your country bids you! It is your emperor, your country, who
asks, more than Hans Hoffman.


_Amelia:_ [_Impressed, and questions herself to see if her patriotism
is strong enough to stand the test, while Hoffman, charmed by Amelia's
gentleness, is moved by more personal feeling._]


_Hoffman:_ [_Kissing Amelia on both cheeks._]

There, it's all settled. [_A faint cheer is heard without._] To-morrow
they will cheer you like that; and when I go, I shall have a bride to
wave me good-by instead of--

[_Enter Hedwig._

_She stands in the doorway, looking out on the distant crowds. She is
tall, well built, and carries herself proudly. Strong, intelligent
features, but pale. Her eyes are large with anxiety. She has soft, wavy
black hair. An inward flame seems to be consuming her.

The sounds continue in the distance, cheering, disputing mingled with
far bugle-calls and marching feet._]


_Hedwig:_ [_Contemptuously._]

Ha!

[_The sound startles the others. They turn._]


_All:_

Hedwig!


_Hedwig:_

[_Still in the doorway, looking out._]

War brides!


_Minna:_ [_Pertly._]

You're a war bride yourself, Hedwig.


_Hedwig:_ [_Turns quickly, locates Minna, almost springs at her._]

Don't you dare to call me a war bride! My ring is gold. See. [_Seizes
Minna's hand, and then throws it from her._] Not iron, like yours.


_Minna:_

[_Boldly taunting._]

They even call you the first war bride.


_Hedwig:_ [_Furious, towering over her, her hand on her shoulder._]

Say why, why?


_Minna:_ [_Weakening._]

Because you were the first one to be married when the war broke out.


_Hedwig:_ [_Both hands on her shoulders._]

Because the Government commanded? Because they bribed me with the
promise of a widow's pension? Tell the truth.


_Minna:_ [_Faintly._]

No. Let me go.


_Hedwig:_

So! And how long had Franz and I been engaged? Now say.


_Minna:_ [_Beginning to be frightened._]

Two years.


_Hedwig:_ [_Flinging her off._]

Of course. Everybody knows it. Every village this side the river knew we
were to be married this summer. We've dreamed and worked for nothing
else all these months. It had nothing to do with the war--our love, our
marriage. So, you see, I am no war bride. [_Walks scornfully away._] Not
like you, anyway.

[_They all stare at her._]


_Hoffman:_ [_Stepping forward indignantly._]

I don't know why you should have this contempt for our war brides, and
speak like that.


_Hedwig:_ [_Sits down, half turned away. She shrugs her shoulders, and
her lips curl in a little smile._]


_Hoffman:_

They are coming to the rescue of their country. Saving it; else it will
perish.


_Hedwig:_ [_Bitterly._]

Ha!


_Hoffman:_ [_Waxing warmer._]

They are the saviors of the future.


_Hedwig:_ [_Sadly._]

The future!


_Mother:_ [_Softly, laying her hand on Hedwig's shoulder._]

Hedwig, be more respectful. Herr Hoffman is a lieutenant.


_Hoffman:_

When we are gone,--the best of us,--what will the country do if it has
no children?


_Hedwig:_

Why didn't you think of that before--before you started this wicked war?


_Hoffman:_

I tell you it is a glory to be a war bride. There!


_Hedwig:_ [_With a shrug._]

A breeding-machine! [_They all draw back._] Why not call it what it is?
Speak the naked truth for once.


_Hoffman:_

You'll take that back to-morrow, when your sister stands up in the
church with me.


_Hedwig:_ [_Starting up._]

Amelia? Marry you? No! Amelia, is this true?


_Amelia:_ [_Hesitating, troubled, and uncertain._]

They tell me I must--for the fatherland.


_Hedwig:_

Marry this man, whom you scarcely know, whom surely you cannot love!
Why, you make a mock of marriage! It isn't that they have tempted you
with the widow's pension? It is so tiny; it's next to nothing. Surely
you wouldn't yield to that?


_Amelia:_ [_Frightened._]

I did want to go as a nurse, but the priests and the generals--they say
we must marry--to--for the fatherland, Hedwig.


_Hoffman:_ [_To Hedwig._]

I command you to be silent!


_Hedwig:_

Not when my sister's happiness is at stake. If you come back, she will
have to live with you the rest of her life.


_Hoffman:_

That isn't the question now. We are going away--the best of us--to be
shot, most likely. Don't you suppose we want to send some part of
ourselves into the future, since we can't live ourselves? There, that's
straight; and right, too.


_Hedwig:_ [_Nodding slowly._]

What I said--to breed a soldier for the empire; to restock the land.
[_Fiercely._] And for what? For food for the next generation's cannon.
Oh, it is an insult to our womanhood! You violate all that makes
marriage sacred! [_Agitated, she walks about the room._] Are we women
never to get up out of the dust? You never asked us if we wanted this
war, yet you ask us to gather in the crops, cut the wood, keep the world
going, drudge and slave, and wait, and agonize, lose our all, and go on
bearing more men--and more--to be shot down! If we breed the men for
you, why don't you let us say what is to become of them? Do we want them
shot--the very breath of our life?


_Hoffman:_

It is for the fatherland.


_Hedwig:_

You use us, and use us--dolls, beasts of burden, and you expect us to
bear it forever dumbly; but I won't! I shall cry out till I die. And now
you say it almost out loud, "Go and breed for the empire." War brides!
Pah! [_Minna gasps, beginning to be terrified. Hoffman rages. Mother
gazes with anxious concern. Amelia turns pale._]


_Hoffman:_

I never would dream of speaking of Amelia like that. She is the sweetest
girl I have seen for many a day.


_Hedwig:_

What will happen to Amelia? Have you thought of that? No; I warrant you
haven't. Well, look. A few kisses and sweet words, the excitement of
the ceremony, the cheers of the crowd, some days of living together,--I
won't call it marriage, for Franz and I are the ones who know what real
marriage is, and how sacred it is,--then what? Before you know it, an
order to march. Amelia left to wait for her child. No husband to wait
with her, to watch over her. Think of her anxiety, if she learns to love
you! What kind of child will it be? Look at me. What kind of child would
_I_ have, do you think? I can hardly breathe for thinking of my Franz,
waiting, never knowing from minute to minute. From the way I feel, I
should think my child would be born mad, I'm that wild with worrying.
And then for Amelia to go through the agony alone! No husband to help
her through the terrible hour. What solace can the state give then? And
after that, if you don't come back, who is going to earn the bread for
her child? Struggle and struggle to feed herself and her child; and the
fine-sounding name you trick us with--war bride! Humph! that will all be
forgotten then. Only one thing can make it worth while, and do you know
what that is? Love. We'll struggle through fire and water for that; but
without it--[_Gesture._]


_Hoffman:_ [_Drawing Amelia to him._]

Don't listen to her, Amelia.


_Amelia:_ [_Pushing Hoffman violently from her, runs from the room._]

No, no, I can't marry you! I won't! I won't!

[_She shuts the door in his face._]


_Hedwig:_ [_Triumphantly._]

She will never be your war bride, Hans Hoffman!


_Hoffman:_ [_Suddenly, angrily._]

By thunder! I've made a discovery. You're the woman! You're the woman!


_Hedwig:_

What woman?


_Hoffman:_

Yesterday there were twenty war brides. The day before there were nearly
thirty. To-day there were only ten. There are rumors--[_Excitedly._]
I'll report you. They'll find you guilty. I myself can prove it.


_Hedwig:_

Well?


_Hoffman:_

I heard them say at the barracks that some one was talking the women out
of marrying. They didn't know who; but they said if they caught
her--caught any one talking as you have just now, daring to question the
wisdom of the emperor and his generals, the church, too,--she'd be
guilty of treason. You are working against the emperor, against the
fatherland. Here you have done it right before my very eyes; you have
taken Amelia right out of my arms. You're the woman who's been upsetting
the others, and don't you deny it.


_Hedwig:_

Deny it? I am proud of it.


_Hoffman:_

Then the place for you is in jail. Do you know what will be the end of
you?


_Hedwig:_ [_Suddenly far away._]

Yes, I know, if Franz does not come back. I know; but first [_Clenching
her hands_] I must get my message to the emperor.


_Hoffman:_ [_Very angry._]

You will be shot for treason.


_Hedwig:_ [_Coming back, laughing slightly._]

Shot? Oh, no, Herr Hans, you'd never shoot me!


_Hoffman:_

Why not?


_Hedwig:_

Do I have to tell you, stupid? I am a woman: I can get in the crops; I
can keep the country going while you are away fighting, and, most
important, I might give you a soldier for your next army--for the
kingdom. Don't you see my value? [_Laughs strangely._] Oh, no, you'd
never shoot me!


_Mother:_

There, there, don't excite her, sir.


_Hedwig:_ [_Her head in her hands, on the table._]

God! I wish you would shoot me! If you don't give me back my Franz! I've
no mind to bring a son into the world for this bloody thing you call
war.


_Hoffman:_

I am going straight to headquarters to report you.

[_Starts to go.

Enter Arno excitedly. He is boyish and fair, in his early twenties, and
looks even younger than he really is._]


_Arno:_ [_To Hoffman._]

There's an order to march at once--your regiment.


_Hoffman:_

Now?


_Arno:_

At once. You are wanted. They told me to tell you.

[Illustration: ARNO: You are wanted.]

[_Hoffman moves with military precision to the door; then turns to
Hedwig._]


_Hoffman:_

I shall take the time to report you.

[_Goes._]


_Minna:_ [_To Arno._]

Does Heinrich's regiment go, too?


_Arno:_

Heinrich who?


_Minna:_

Heinrich Berg.


_Arno:_

No. To-morrow.

[_Minna, now thoroughly scared, is slinking to the door when Hedwig
stops her._]


_Hedwig:_

Ha! little Minna, why do you run so fast? Heinrich does not go until
to-morrow. [_Looks at her thoughtfully._] Are you going to be able to
fight it through, little Minna, when the hard days come? If you do give
the empire a soldier, will it be any comfort to know you are helping the
falling birth-rate?


_Minna:_ [_Shivering._]

Oh, I am afraid of you!


_Hedwig:_

Afraid of the truth, you mean. You see it at last in all its brutal
bareness. Poor little Minna! [_She puts her arm around Minna with
sudden tenderness._] But you need not be afraid of me, little Minna. Oh,
no. The trouble with me is I want no more war. Franz is at the war. I'm
half mad with dreaming they have killed him. Any moment I may hear. If
you loved your man as I do mine, little Minna, you'd understand.' Well,
go now, and to-morrow say good-by to your husband--of a day.

[_Minna, with a frightened backward glance, runs out the door.

Arno, who has been talking in low tones to his mother, now rises._]


_Arno:_

Well, Mother, I haven't much time.

[_She clings to his hand._]


_Hedwig:_ [_Starting._]

Arno!


_Arno:_

I am going, too. Get those little things for me, Mother, will you?


_Mother:_ [_Goes to door and calls._]

Amelia! Come. Arno has been called. [_Amelia comes in. Each in turn
embraces him, sadly, but bravely. Then the mother and sister gather
together handkerchiefs, linen, writing-pad and pencil, and small
necessaries._]


_Arno:_

I have only a few minutes.


_Hedwig:_ [_Tenderly._]

Arno, my little brother, oh, why--why must you go? You seem so young.


_Arno:_

I'm a man, like the others; don't forget that, Hedwig. Be brave--to
help me to be brave.

[_They sit on the settle._]


_Hedwig:_ [_Sighing._]

Yes, it cannot be helped. Will you see my Franz, Arno? You look so like
him to-day--the day I first saw him in the fields, the day of the
factory picnic. It seems long ago. Tell him how happy he made me, and
how I loved him. He didn't believe in this war no more than I, yet he
had to go. He dreaded lest he meet his friends on the other side. You
remember those two young men from across the border? They worked all one
winter side by side in the factory with Franz. They went home to join
their regiments when the war was let loose on us. He never could stand
it, Franz couldn't, if he were ordered to drive his bayonet into them.
[_Gets up, full of emotion that is past expression._] Oh, it is too
monstrous! And for what--for what?


_Arno:_

It is our duty. We belong to the fatherland. I would willingly give my
life for my country.


_Hedwig:_

I would willingly give mine for peace.


_Arno:_

I must go. Good-by, Hedwig.


_Hedwig:_ [_Controlling her emotion as she kisses him._]

Good-by, my brave, splendid little brother.


_Amelia:_

I may come to the front, too.

[_They embrace tenderly._]


_Mother:_ [_Strong and quiet, unable to speak, holds his head against
her breast for a moment._]

Fight well, my son.


_Arno:_

Yes, Mother.

[_He tears himself away. The silent suffering of the mother is pitiful.
Her hands are crossed on her breast, her lips are seen to move in
prayer. It is Hedwig who takes her in her arms and comforts her._]


_Hedwig:_

And this is war--to tear our hearts out like this! Make mother some tea,
Amelia, can't you?

[_Amelia prepares the cup of tea for her mother._]


_Mother:_ [_After a few moments composes herself._]

There, I am right now. I must remember--and you must help me, my
daughters--it is for the fatherland.


_Hedwig:_ [_On her knees by the fire, shakes her head slowly._]

I wonder, I wonder. O Mother, I'm not patient like you. I couldn't stand
it. To have a darling little baby and see him grow into a man, and then
lose him like this! I'd rather never see the face of my child.


_Mother:_

We have them for a little while. I am thankful to God for what I have
had.


_Hedwig:_

Then I must be very wicked.


_Mother:_

Are you sleeping better now, child?


_Hedwig:_


No; I am thinking of Franz. He may be lying there alone on the
battle-field, with none to help, and I here longing to put my arms
around him.

[_Buries her face on the mother's knees and sobs._]


_Mother:_

Hush, Hedwig! Be brave! Take care of yourself! We must see that Franz's
child is well born.


_Hedwig:_

If Franz returns, yes; if not--I--

[_Gets up impulsively, as if to run out of the house._]


_Amelia:_

Don't you want your tea, Hedwig?

[_Hedwig throws open the door, and suddenly confronts a man who
apparently was about to enter the house. He is an official, the military
head of the town, known as Captain Hertz. He is well along in years,
rheumatic, but tremendously self-important._]


_Hertz:_ [_Stopping Hedwig._]

Wait one moment. You are the young woman I wish to see. You don't get
away from me like that.


_Hedwig:_ [_Drawing herself up, moves back a step or two._]

What is it?


_Hertz:_ [_Turning to the old mother._]

Well, Maria, another son must go--Arno. You are an honored woman, a
noble example to the state. [_Turns to Amelia._] You have lost a very
good husband, I understand. Well, you are a foolish girl. As for you
[_Turning to Hedwig, and eyeing her critically and severely_], I hear
pretty bad things. Yes, you have been talking to the women--telling them
not to marry, not to multiply. In so doing you are working directly
against the Government. It is the express request and command that our
soldiers about to be called to the front and our young women should
marry. You deliberately set yourself in opposition to that command. Are
you aware that that is treason?


_Hedwig:_

Why are they asking this, Herr Captain?


_Hertz:_

Our statesmen are wise. They are thinking of the future state. The
nation is fast being depopulated. We must take precautionary measures.
We must have men for the future. I warn you, that to do or say anything
which subverts the plan of the empire for its own welfare, especially at
a time when our national existence is in peril--well, it is treason.
Were it not that you are the daughter-in-law of my old friend
[_Indicating the Mother_], I should not take the trouble to warn you,
but pack you off to jail at once. Not another word from you, you
understand?


_Hedwig:_ [_Calmly, even sweetly, but with fire in her eye._]

If I say I will keep quiet, will you promise me something in return?


_Hertz:_

What do you mean? Quiet? Of course you'll keep quiet. Quiet as a
tombstone, if I have anything to say about it.


_Hedwig:_ [_Calm and tense._]

I mean what I say. Promise to see to it that if we bear you the men for
your nation, there shall be no more war. See to it that they shall not
go forth to murder and be murdered. That is fair. We will do our
part,--we always have,--will you do yours? Promise.


_Hertz:_

I--I--ridiculous! There will always be war.


_Hedwig:_

Then one day we will stop giving you men. Look at mother. Four sons torn
from her in one month, and none of you ever asked her if she wanted
war. You keep us here helpless. We don't want dreadnoughts and armies
and fighting, we women. You tear our husbands, our sons, from us,--you
never ask us to help you find a better way,--and haven't we anything to
say?


_Hertz:_

No. War is man's business.


_Hedwig:_

Who gives you the men? We women. We bear and rear and agonize. Well, if
we are fit for that, we are fit to have a voice in the fate of the men
we bear. If we can bring forth the men for the nation, we can sit with
you in your councils and shape the destiny of the nation, and say
whether it is to war or peace we give the sons we bear.


_Hertz:_ [_Chuckling._]

Sit in the councils? That would be a joke. I see. Mother, she's a
little--[_Touches his forehead suggestively._] Sit in the councils with
the men and shape the destiny of the nation! Ha! ha!


_Hedwig:_

Laugh, Herr Captain, but the day will come; and then there will be no
more war. No, you will not always keep us here, dumb, silent drudges. We
will find a way.


_Hertz:_ [_Turning to the mother._]

That is what comes of letting Franz go to a factory town, Maria. That is
where he met this girl. Factory towns breed these ideas. [_To Hedwig._]
Well, we'll have none of that here. [_Authoritatively._] Another word
of this kind of insurrection, another word to the women of your
treason, and you will be locked up and take your just punishment. You
remember I had to look out for you in the beginning when you talked
against this war. You're a firebrand, and you know how we handle the
like of you. [_Goes to door, turns to the mother._] I am sorry you have
to have this trouble, Maria, on top of everything else. You don't
deserve it. [_To Hedwig._] You have been warned. Look out for yourself.

[_Hedwig is standing rigid, with difficulty repressing the torrent of
her feelings. Drums are heard coming nearer, and singing voices of men._]


_Amelia:_ [_At door._]

They are passing this way.


_Hedwig:_

Wave to Arno. Come, Mother. Ah, how quickly they go!

[_The official steps out of the door. There is quick rhythm of marching
feet as the departing regiment passes not very far from the house._]

There he is! Wave, Mother. Good-by! good-by!

[_The women stand in the doorway, waving their sad farewells, smiling
bravely. The sounds grow less and less, until there is the usual
silence._]

In another month, in another week, perhaps, all the men will be gone. We
will be a village of women. Not a man left.

[_She leads the old mother into the house once more._]


_Hertz:_ [_In the door._]

What did you say?


_Hedwig:_

Not a man left, I said.


_Hertz:_

You forget. _I_ shall be here.


_Hedwig:_

You are old. You don't count. They think you are only a woman, Herr
Captain.


_Hertz:_ [_Insulted._]

You--you--


_Hedwig:_

Oh, don't take it badly, sir. You are honored. Is the name of woman
always to be despised? Look out in those fields. Who cleared them, and
plucked the vineyards clean? You think we are left at home because we
are weak. Ah, no; we are strong. That is why. Strong to keep the world
going, to keep sacred the greatest things in life--love and home and
work. To remind men of--peace. [_With a quick change._] If only you
really were a woman, Herr Captain, that you might breed soldiers for the
empire, your glory would be complete.

[_The old captain is about to make an angry reply when there is a
commotion outside. The words "News from the front" are distinguished,
growing more distinct. The captain rushes out. The women are paralyzed
with apprehension for a moment._]


_Mother:_

Amelia, go and see. Hedwig, come here.

[_Hedwig crouches on the floor close to the mother, her eyes wide with
dread. In a few moments Amelia returns, dragging her feet, woe in her
face, and unable to deal the blow which must fall on the two women, who
stare at her with blanched faces._]


_Amelia:_ [_Falling at her mother's knee._]

Mother!


_Mother:_ [_Scarcely breathing._]

Which one?


_Amelia:_

All of them.


_Mother:_ [_Dazed._]

All? All my boys?


_Amelia:_

Emil, Otto--be thankful Arno is left.

[_The Mother drops her head back against the chair and silently prays.
Hedwig creeps nearer Amelia and holds her face between her hands,
looking into her eyes._]


_Hedwig:_ [_Whispering._]

Franz?


_Amelia:_

Franz, too.

[Illustration: HEDWIG: Franz?

AMELIA: Franz, too.]

[_Hedwig lies prostrate on the floor. Their grief is very silent;
terrible because it is so dumb and stoical. The Mother is the first to
rouse herself. She bends over Hedwig._]


_Mother:_

Hedwig. [_Hedwig sobs convulsively._] Don't, child. Be careful for the
little one's sake. [_Hedwig sits up._] For your child be quiet, be
brave.


_Hedwig:_

I loved him so, Mother!


_Mother:_

Yes, he was my boy--my first-born.


_Hedwig:_

Your first-born, and this is the end.

[_She rises up in unutterable wrath and despair._]

O God!


_Mother:_ [_Anxious for her._]

Promise me you will be careful, Hedwig. For the sake of your child,
_your_ first-born, that is to be--


_Hedwig:_

_My child_? For this end? For the empire--the war that is to be? No!


_Mother:_ [_Half to herself._]

He may look like Franz.

[_Hedwig quickly seizes the pistol from the mantel-shelf and moves to
the bedroom door._

_Amelia, watching her, sees her do it, and cries out in alarm and
rushes to take it from her._]


_Amelia:_ [_In horror._]

Hedwig! What are you doing? Give it to me! No, you must not! You have
too much to live for.

[Illustration: AMELIA: No, you must not! You have too much to live for.]


_Hedwig:_ [_Dazed._]

To live for? Me?


_Amelia:_

Why, yes, you are going to be a mother.


_Hedwig:_

A mother? Like her? [_Looks sadly at the bereaved old mother._] Look at
her! Poor Mother! And they never asked her if she wanted this thing to
be! Oh, no! I shall never take it like that--never! But you are right,
Amelia. I have something to do first.

[_Lets Amelia put the pistol away in the cupboard._] I must send a
message to the emperor. [_The others are more alarmed for her in this
mood than in her grief._]

You said you were going to the front to be a nurse, Amelia. Can you take
this message for me? I might take it myself, perhaps.


_Amelia:_ [_Hesitating, not knowing what to say or do._]

Let me give you some tea, Hedwig.

[_Voices are heard outside, and the sounds of sorrow. Some one near the
house is weeping. A wild look and a fierce resolve light Hedwig's
face._]


_Hedwig:_ [_Rushing from the house._]

They have taken my Franz!


_Mother:_

Get her back! I feared it. Grief has made her mad.

[_Amelia runs out. A clamor of voices outside. Hedwig can be heard
indistinctly speaking to the women. Finally her voice alone is heard,
and in a moment she appears, backing into the doorway, still talking to
the women._]


_Hedwig:_ [_A tragic light in her face, and hand uplifted._]

I shall send a message to the emperor. If ten thousand women send one
like it, there will be peace and no more war. Then they will hear our
tears.


_A Voice:_

What is the message? Tell us!


_Hedwig:_

Soon you will know. [_Loudly._] But I tell you now, _don't bear any more
children_ until they promise you there will be no more war.


_Hertz:_ [_Suddenly appearing. Amelia follows._]

I heard you. I declare you under arrest. Come with me. You will be shot
for treason.


_Mother:_ [_Fearfully, drawing him aside._]

Don't say that, sir. Wait. Oh, no, you can't do that!

[_She gets out her work-basket, and shows him the baby things she has
been knitting, and glances significantly at Hedwig. A horrid smile comes
into the man's face. Hedwig, snatches the things and crushes them to her
breast as if sacrilege had been committed._]


_Hertz:_

Is this true? You expect--


_Hedwig:_ [_Proudly, scornfully._]

You will not shoot me if I give you a soldier for your empire and your
armies and your guns, will you, Herr Captain?


_Hertz:_

Why--eh, no. Every child counts these times. But we will put you under
lock and key. You are a firebrand. I warned you. Come along.


_Hedwig:_

You want my child, but still you will not promise me what I asked you.
Well, we shall see.


_Hertz:_

Come along.


_Hedwig:_

Give me just a moment. I want to send a message to the emperor. Will you
take it for me, Herr Captain?


_Mother:_ [_Signing._]

Humor her.


_Hertz:_

Well, well, hurry up!

[_Hedwig sits at table and writes a brief note._]


_Mother:_ [_Whispering._]

She has lost Franz. She is crazed.


_Hedwig:_ [_Rising._]

There. See that it is placed in the hands of the emperor. [_Gives him
the note._] Good-by, Amelia! Never be a war bride, Amelia.

[_Kisses her three times_,] Good-by, Mother.

[_Embraces her tenderly._] Thank you for these.

[_She gathers the baby things in her hands, crosses the room, pressing a
little sock to her lips. As she passes the cupboard she deftly seizes
the pistol, and moves into the bedroom. On the threshold she looks over
her shoulder._]


_Hedwig:_ [_Firmly._]

You may read the message out loud.

[_She disappears into the room, still pressing the little sock to her
lips._]


_Hertz:_ [_Reading the note._]

"A Message to the Emperor: I refuse to bear my child until you promise
there shall be no more war."

[_A shot is fired in the bedroom. They rush into the room. The Mother
stands trembling by the table._]


_Hertz:_ [_Awed, coming out of the room with the baby things, which he
places on the table._]

Dead! Tcha! tcha! she was mad. I will hush it up, Maria.

[_He tears up Hedwig's message to the emperor, and goes out of the
house, shaking his head. Amelia is kneeling in the doorway of the
bedroom, bending over something, and softly crying. The Mother slowly
gathers up the pieces of Hedwig's message and the baby garments, now
dashed with blood, and, sitting on the bench, holds them tight against
her breast, staring straight in front of her, her lips moving
inaudibly. She closes her eyes and rocks to and fro, still muttering and
praying._]



CURTAIN





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