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Title: Plays by August Strindberg, Third Series
Author: Strindberg, August, 1849-1912
Language: English
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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.

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University of California (L.A.)



PLAYS

BY

AUGUST STRINDBERG

THIRD SERIES


SWANWHITE
SIMOOM
DEBIT AND CREDIT
ADVENT
THE THUNDERSTORM
AFTER THE FIRE



TRANSLATED FROM THE SWEDISH WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

EDWIN BJÖRKMAN



AUTHORIZED EDITION

NEW YORK

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

1921



CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION
SWANWHITE
SIMOOM
DEBIT AND CREDIT
ADVENT
THE THUNDERSTORM
AFTER THE FIRE



INTRODUCTION


The collection of plays contained in this volume is unusually
representative, giving what might be called a cross-section of
Strindberg's development as a dramatist from his naturalistic revolt
in the middle eighties, to his final arrival at resigned mysticism and
Swedenborgian symbolism.

"Swanwhite" was written in the spring of 1901, about the time when
Strindberg was courting and marrying his third wife, the gifted Swedish
actress Harriet Bosse. In the fall of 1902 the play appeared in book
form, together with "The Crown Bride" and "The Dream Play," all of them
being issued simultaneously, at Berlin, in a German translation made by
Emil Schering.

Schering, who at that time was in close correspondence with Strindberg,
says that the figure of _Swanwhite_ had been drawn with direct
reference to Miss Bosse, who had first attracted the attention of
Strindberg by her spirited interpretation of _Biskra_ in "Simoom."
And Schering adds that it was Strindberg's bride who had a little
previously introduced him to the work of Maeterlinck, thereby
furnishing one more of the factors determining the play.

Concerning the influence exerted upon him by the Belgian
playwright-philosopher, Strindberg himself wrote in a pamphlet named
"Open Letters to the Intimate Theatre" (Stockholm, 1909):

"I had long had in mind skimming the cream of our most beautiful
folk-ballads in order to turn them into a picture for the stage.
Then Maeterlinck came across my path, and under the influence of
his puppet-plays, which are not meant for the regular stage, I wrote
my Swedish scenic spectacle, 'Swanwhite.' It is impossible either to
steal or to borrow from Maeterlinck. It is even difficult to become his
pupil, for there are no free passes that give entrance to his world of
beauty. But one may be urged by his example into searching one's own
dross-heaps for gold--and it is in that sense I acknowledge my debt to
the master.

"Pushed ahead by the _impression_ made on me by Maeterlinck, and
borrowing his divining-rod for my purposes, I turned to such sources
[_i.e._, of Swedish folk-lore] as the works of Geijer, Afzelius, and
Dybeck. There I found a superabundance of princes and princesses. The
stepmother theme I had discovered on my own hook as a _constant_--it
figures in twenty-six different Swedish folk-tales. In the same place I
found the resurrection theme, as, for instance, it appears in the story
of _Queen Dagmar_. Then I poured it all into my separator, together
with the _Maids_, the _Green Gardener_ and the _Young King_, and in
a short while the cream began to flow--and for that reason the story
is my own. But it has also been made so by the fact that I have lived
through that tale in my own fancy--a Spring in time of Winter!"

Swedish critics have been unanimous in their praise of this play. John
Landquist, who has since become Strindberg's literary executor, spoke
of it once as "perhaps the most beautiful and most genuine fairy tale
for old or young ever written in the Swedish language." Tor Hedberg
has marvelled at the charm with which _Swanwhite_ herself has been
endowed--"half child, half maid; knowing nothing, yet guessing all;
playing with love as a while ago she was playing with her dolls." On
the stage, too--in Germany as well as in Sweden--little _Swanwhite_
has celebrated great triumphs. Whether that figure, and the play
surrounding it, will also triumph in English-speaking countries,
remains still to be seen. But if, contrary to my hopes, it should fail
to do so, I want, in advance, to shift the blame from the shoulders of
the author to my own. In hardly any other work by Strindberg do form
and style count for so much. The play is, in its original shape, as
poetical in form as in spirit--even to the extent of being strongly
rhythmical in its prose, and containing many of the inversions which
are so characteristic of Swedish verse.

It is not impossible to transfer these qualities into English, but
my efforts to do so have had to be influenced by certain differences
in the very _grain_ of the two languages involved. Like all other
languages, each possesses a natural basic rhythm. This rhythm varies
frequently and easily in Swedish, so that you may pass from iambic to
trochaic metre without giving offence to the ear--or to that subtle
rhythmical susceptibility that seems to be inherent in our very pulses.
But the rhythm dearest and most natural to the genius of the Swedish
language seems to be the falling pulse-beat manifested in the true
trochee. The swing and motion of English, on the other hand, is almost
exclusively, commandingly iambic. And it was not until I made the
iambic _rising_ movement prevail in my translation, that I felt myself
approaching the impression made on me by the original. But for that
very reason--because the genius of the new medium has forced me into
making the movement of my style more monotonous--it is to be feared
that the rhythmical quality of that movement may seem overemphasised.
Should such a criticism be advanced, I can only answer: I have tried
several ways, and this is the only one that will _work_.

"Simoom" seems to have been written in 1888, in close connection with
"Creditors" and "Pariah." And, like these, it shows the unmistakable
influence of Edgar Allan Poe, with whose works Strindberg had become
acquainted a short while before. The play was first printed in one of
the three thin volumes of varied contents put out by Strindberg in 1890
and 1891 under the common title of "Pieces Printed and Unprinted." But,
strange to say, it was not put on the stage (except in a few private
performances) until 1902, although, from a purely theatrical viewpoint,
Strindberg--master of stagecraft though he was--had rarely produced a
more effective piece of work.

"Debit and Credit" belongs to the same general period as the previous
play, but has in it more of Nietzsche than of Poe. Its central figure
is also a sort of superman, but as such he is not taken too seriously
by his creator. The play has humour, but it is of a grim kind--one
seems to be hearing the gritting of teeth through the laughter. Like
"Simoom," however, it should be highly effective on the stage. It was
first published in 1893, with three other one-act plays, the volume
being named "Dramatic Pieces."

"Advent" was published in 1899, together with "There Are Crimes and
Crimes," under the common title of "In a Higher Court." Its name
refers, of course, to the ecclesiastical designation of the four weeks
preceding Christmas. The subtitle, literally rendered, would be "A
Mystery." But as this term has a much wider application in Swedish
than in English, I have deemed it better to observe the distinction
which the latter language makes between mysteries, miracle-plays, and
moralities.

The play belongs to what Strindberg called his "Inferno period," during
which he struggled in a state of semi-madness to rid himself of the
neurasthenic depression which he regarded as a punishment brought about
by his previous attitude of materialistic scepticism. It is full of
Swedenborgian symbolism, which, perhaps, finds its most characteristic
expression in the two scenes laid in "The Waiting Room." The name
selected by Strindberg for the region where dwell the "lost" souls of
men is not a mere euphemism. It signifies his conception of that place
as a station on the road to redemption or annihilation.

In its entirety the play forms a Christmas sermon with a quaint
blending of law and gospel. A prominent Swedish critic, Johan
Mortensen, wrote: "Reading it, one almost gets the feeling that
Strindberg, the dread revolutionist, has, of a sudden, changed into
a nice village school-teacher, seated at his desk, with his rattan
cane laid out in front of him. He has just been delivering a lesson in
Christianity, and he has noticed that the attention of the children
strayed and that they either failed to understand or did not care to
take in the difficult matters he was dealing with. But they must be
made to listen and understand. And so--with serious eyes, but with a
sly smile playing around the corners of his mouth--he begins all over
again, in that fairy-tale style which never grows old: 'Once upon a
time!'"

In November, 1907, a young theatrical manager, August Falck, opened the
Intimate Theatre at Stockholm. From the start Strindberg was closely
connected with the venture, and soon the little theatre, with its tiny
stage and its auditorium seating only one hundred and seventy-five
persons, was turned wholly into a Strindberg stage, where some of the
most interesting and daring theatrical experiments of our own day were
made. With particular reference to the needs and limitations of this
theatre, Strindberg wrote a series of "chamber plays," four of which
were published in 1907--each one of them appearing separately in a
paper-covered duodecimo volume.

The first of these plays to appear in book form--though not the
first one to be staged--was "The Thunder-Storm," designated on the
front cover as "Opus I." Two of the principal ideas underlying its
construction were the abolition of intermissions--which, according to
Strindberg, were put in chiefly for the benefit of the liquor traffic
in the theatre café--and the reduction of the stage-setting to quickly
inter-changeable backgrounds and a few stage-properties. Concerning the
production of "The Thunder-Storm," at the Intimate Theatre, Strindberg
wrote subsequently that, in their decorative effects, the first and
last scenes were rather failures. But he held the lack of space
wholly responsible for this failure. His conclusion was that the most
difficult problem of the small theatre would be to give the illusion of
distance required by a scene laid in the open--particularly in an open
place surrounded or adjoined by buildings. Of the second act he wrote,
on the other hand, that it proved a triumph of artistic simplification.
The only furniture appearing on the stage consisted of a buffet, a
piano, a dinner-table and a few chairs--that is, the pieces expressly
mentioned in the text of the play. And yet the effect of the setting
satisfied equally the demands of the eye and the reason.

"The Thunder-Storm" might be called a drama of old age--nay, _the_
drama of man's inevitable descent through a series of resignations to
the final dissolution. Its subject-matter is largely autobiographical,
embodying the author's experiences in his third and last marriage,
as seen in retrospect--the anticipatory conception appearing in
"Swanwhite." However, justice to Miss Harriet Bosse, who was Mrs.
Strindberg from 1901 to 1904, requires me to point out that echoes
of the dramatist's second marriage also appear, especially in the
references to the postmarital relationship.

"After the Fire" was published as "Opus II" of the chamber-plays,
and staged ahead of "The Thunder-Storm." Its Swedish name is _Brända
Tomten_, meaning literally "the burned-over site." This name has
previously been rendered in English as "The Burned Lot" and "The Fire
Ruins." Both these titles are awkward and ambiguous. The name I have
now chosen embodies more closely the fundamental premise of the play.

The subject-matter is even more autobiographical than that of "The
Thunder-Storm"--almost as much so as "The Bondwoman's Son." The
perished home is Strindberg's own at the North Tollgate Street in
Stockholm, where he spent the larger part of his childhood and youth.
The old _Mason_, the _Gardener_, the _Stone-Cutter_, and other figures
appearing in the play are undoubtedly lifted straight out of real
life--and so are probably also the exploded family reputation and
the cheap table painted to represent ebony--although one may take
for granted that the process has not taken place without a proper
disguising of externals.

There is one passage in this little play which I want to point out as
containing one of the main keys to Strindberg's character and art. It
is the passage where _The Stranger_--who, of course, is none but the
author himself--says to his brother: "I have beheld life from every
quarter, from every standpoint, from above and from below, but always
it has seemed to me like a scene staged for my particular benefit."



SWANWHITE

(SVANEHVIT)

A FAIRY PLAY

1902


        CHARACTERS

        THE DUKE
        THE STEPMOTHER
        SWANWHITE
        THE PRINCE
        SIGNE }
        ELSA  } _Maids_
        TOVA  }
        THE KITCHEN GARDENER
        THE FISHERMAN
        THE MOTHER OF SWANWHITE
        THE MOTHER OF THE PRINCE
        THE GAOLER
        THE EQUERRY
        THE BUTLER
        THE FLOWER GARDENER
        TWO KNIGHTS


        _An apartment in a mediæval stone castle. The walls and the
        cross-vaulted ceiling are whitewashed. In the centre of the
        rear wall is a triple-arched doorway leading to a balcony
        with a stone balustrade. There are draperies of brocade over
        the doorway. Beyond the balcony appear the top branches of a
        rose-garden, laden with white and pink roses. In the background
        there can be seen a white, sandy beach and the blue sea_.

        _To the right of the main doorway is a small door which, when
        left open, discloses a vista of three closets, one beyond the
        other. The first one is stored with vessels of pewter arranged
        on shelves. The walls of the second closet are hung with all
        sorts of costly and ornate garments. The third closet contains
        piles and rows of apples, pears, melons, pumpkins, and so
        forth_.

        _The floors of all the rooms are inlaid with alternating
        squares of black and red. At the centre of the apartment stands
        a gilded dinner-table covered with a cloth; a twig of mistletoe
        is suspended above the table. A clock and a vase filled with
        roses stand on the table, near which are placed two gilded
        tabourets. Two swallows' nests are visible on the rear wall
        above the doorway. A lion skin is spread on the floor near the
        foreground. At the left, well to the front, stands a white bed
        with a rose-coloured canopy supported by two columns at the
        head of the bed (and by none at the foot). The bed-clothing is
        pure white except for a coverlet of pale-blue silk. Across
        the bed is laid a night-dress of finest muslin trimmed with
        lace. Behind the bed stands a huge wardrobe containing linen,
        bathing utensils, and toilet things. A small gilded table in
        Roman style (with round top supported by a single column) is
        placed near the bed; also a lamp-stand containing a Roman lamp
        of gold. At the right is an ornamental chimney-piece. On the
        mantel stands a vase with a white lily in it_.

        _In the left arch of the doorway, a peacock is asleep on a
        perch, with its back turned toward the audience_.

        _In the right arch hangs a huge gilded cage with two white
        doves at rest_.

        _As the curtain rises, the three maids are seen in the doorways
        of the three closets, each one half hidden by the door-post
        against which she leans_. SIGNE, _the false maid, is in the
        pewter-closet_, ELSA _in the clothes-closet, and_ TOVA _in the
        fruit-closet_.

        _The_ DUKE _enters from the rear. After him comes the_
        STEPMOTHER _carrying in her hand a wire-lashed whip_.

        _The stage is darkened when they enter_.

       *       *       *       *       *

STEPMOTHER. Swanwhite is not here?

DUKE. It seems so!

STEPMOTHER. So it seems, but--is it seemly? Maids!--Signe!--Signe,
Elsa, Tova!

        _The maids enter, one after the other, and stand in front of
        the_ STEPMOTHER.

STEPMOTHER. Where is Lady Swanwhite?

        SIGNE _folds her arms across her breast and makes no reply_.

STEPMOTHER. You do not know? What see you in my hand?--Answer, quick!
[_Pause_] Quick! Do you hear the whistling of the falcon? It has claws
of steel, as well as bill! What is it?

SIGNE. The wire-lashed whip!

STEPMOTHER. The wire-lashed whip, indeed! And now, where is Lady Swan
white?

SIGNE. How can I tell what I don't know?

STEPMOTHER. It is a failing to be ignorant, but carelessness is an
offence. Were you not placed as guardian of your young mistress?--Take
off your neckerchief!--Down on your knees!

        _The_ DUKE _turns his back on her in disgust_.

STEPMOTHER. Hold out your neck! And I'll put such a necklace on it that
no youth will ever kiss it after this!--Hold out your neck!--Still more!

SIGNE. For Christ's sake, mercy!

STEPMOTHER. 'Tis mercy that you are alive!

DUKE. [_Pulls out his sword and tries the edge of it, first on one of
his finger-nails, and then on a hair out of his long beard_] Her head
should be cut off--put in a sack--hung on a tree----

STEPMOTHER. So it should!

DUKE. We are agreed! How strange!

STEPMOTHER. It did not happen yesterday.

DUKE. And may not happen once again.

STEPMOTHER. [_To_ Signe, _who, still on her knees, has been moving
farther away_] Stop! Whither? [_She raises the whip and strikes_; Signe
_turns aside so that the lash merely cuts the air_.]

SWANWHITE. [_Comes forward from behind the bed and falls on her knees_]
Stepmother--here I am--the guilty one! She's not at fault.

STEPMOTHER. Say "mother"! You must call me "mother"!

SWANWHITE. I cannot! One mother is as much as any human being ever had.

STEPMOTHER. Your father's wife must be your mother.

SWANWHITE. My father's second wife can only be my stepmother.

STEPMOTHER. You are a stiffnecked daughter, but my whip is pliant and
will make you pliant too.

        [_She raises the whip to strike_ SWANWHITE.

DUKE. [_Raising his sword_] Take heed of the head!

STEPMOTHER. Whose head?

DUKE. Your own!

        _The_ STEPMOTHER _turns pale at first, and then angry; but she
        controls herself and remains silent; long pause_.

STEPMOTHER. [_Beaten for the moment, she changes her tone_] Then will
Your Grace inform your daughter what is now in store for her?

DUKE. [_Sheathing his sword_] Rise up, my darling child, and come into
my arms to calm yourself.

SWANWHITE. [_Throwing herself into the arms of the_ DUKE]
Father!--You're like a royal oak-tree which my arms cannot encircle.
But beneath your leafage there is refuge from all threatening showers.
[_She hides her head beneath his immense beard, which reaches down to
his waist_] And like a bird, I will be swinging on your branches--lift
me up, so I can reach the top.

        _The_ DUKE _holds out his arm_.

SWANWHITE. [_Climbs up on his arm and perches herself on his shoulder_]
Now lies the earth beneath me and the air above--now I can overlook the
rosery, the snowy beach, the deep-blue sea, and all the seven kingdoms
stretched beyond.

DUKE. Then you can also see the youthful king to whom your troth is
promised----

SWANWHITE. No--nor have I ever seen him. Is he handsome?

DUKE. Dear heart, it will depend on your own eyes how he appears to you.

SWANWHITE. [_Rubbing her eyes_] My eyes?--They cannot see what is not
beautiful.

DUKE. [_Kissing her foot_] Poor little foot, that is so black! Poor
little blackamoorish foot!

        _The_ STEPMOTHER _gives a sign to the maids, who resume their
        previous positions in the closet doors; she herself steals
        with panther-like movements out through the middle arch of the
        doorway_.

SWANWHITE. [_Leaps to the floor; the_ DUKE _places her on the table and
sits down on a chair beside it_; SWANWHITE _looks meaningly after the_
STEPMOTHER] Was it the dawn? Or did the wind turn southerly? Or has the
Spring arrived?

DUKE. [_Puts his hand over her mouth_] You little chatter-box! You joy
of my old age--my evening star! Now open wide your rosy ear, and close
your little mouth's crimson shell. Give heed, obey, and all will then
be well with you.

SWANWHITE. [_Putting her fingers in her ears_] With my eyes I hear, and
with my ears I see--and now I cannot see at all, but only hear.

DUKE. My child, when still a cradled babe, your troth was plighted to
the youthful King of Rigalid. You have not seen him yet, such being
courtly usage. But the time to tie the sacred knot is drawing near. To
teach you the deportment of a queen and courtly manners, the king has
sent a prince with whom you are to study reading out of books, gaming
at chess, treading the dance, and playing on the harp.

SWANWHITE. What is the prince's name?

DUKE. That, child, is something you must never ask of him or anybody
else. For it is prophesied that whosoever calls him by his name shall
have to love him.

SWANWHITE. Is he handsome?

DUKE. He is, because your eye sees beauty everywhere.

SWANWHITE. But is he beautiful?

DUKE. Indeed he is. And now be careful of your little heart, and don't
forget that in the cradle you were made a queen.--With this, dear
child, I leave you, for I have war to wage abroad.--Submit obediently
to your stepmother. She's hard, but once your father loved her--and
a sweet temper will find a way to hearts of stone. If, despite of
promises and oaths, her malice should exceed what is permissible, then
you may blow this horn [_he takes a horn of carved ivory from under
his cloak_], and help will come. But do not use it till you are in
danger--not until the danger is extreme.--Have you understood?

SWANWHITE. How is it to be understood?

DUKE. This way: the prince is here, is in the court already. Is it your
wish to see the prince?

SWANWHITE. Is it my wish?

DUKE. Or shall I first bid you farewell?

SWANWHITE. The prince is here already?

DUKE. Already here, and I--already there--far, far away where sleeps
the heron of forgetfulness, with head beneath his wing.

SWANWHITE. [_Leaping into the lap of the_ DUKE _and burying her head in
his beard_] Mustn't speak like that! Baby is ashamed!

DUKE. Baby should be spanked--who forgets her aged father for a little
prince. Fie on her!

        _A trumpet is heard in the distance_.

DUKE. [_Rises quickly, takes_ SWANWHITE _in his arms_, _throws her up
into the air and catches her again_] Fly, little bird, fly high above
the dust, with lots of air beneath your wings!--And then, once more on
solid ground!--I am called by war and glory--you, by love and youth!
[_Girding on his sword_] And now hide your wonder-horn, that it may not
be seen by evil eyes.

SWANWHITE. Where shall I hide it? Where?

DUKE. The bed!

SWANWHITE. [_Hiding the horn in the bed-clothing_] There! Sleep well,
my little tooteroot! When it is time, I'll wake you up. And don't
forget your prayers!

DUKE. And child! Do not forget what I said last: your stepmother must
be obeyed.

SWANWHITE. In all?

DUKE. In all.

SWANWHITE. But not in what is contrary to cleanliness!--Two linen
shifts my mother let me have each sennight; this woman gives but one!
And mother gave me soap and water, which stepmother denies. Look at my
little footies!

DUKE. Keep clean within, my daughter, and clean will be the outside.
You know that holy men, who, for the sake of penance, deny themselves
the purging waters, grow white as swans, while evil ones turn
raven-black.

SWANWHITE. Then I will be as white----!

DUKE. Into my arms! And then, farewell!

SWANWHITE. [_Throwing herself into his arms_] Farewell, my great and
valiant hero, my glorious father! May fortune follow you, and make you
rich in years and friends and victories!

DUKE. Amen--and let your gentle prayers be my protection!

        [_He closes the visor of his golden helmet_.

SWANWHITE. [_Jumps up and plants a kiss on the visor_] The golden gates
are shut, but through the bars I still can see your kindly, watchful
eyes. [_Knocking at the visor_] Let up, let up, for little Red
Riding-hood. No one at home? "Well-away," said the wolf that lay in the
bed!

DUKE. [_Putting her down on the floor_] Sweet flower of mine, grow fair
and fragrant! If I return--well--I return! If not, then from the starry
arch above my eye shall follow you, and never to my sight will you be
lost, for there above all-seeing we become, even as the all-creating
Lord himself.

        _Goes out firmly, with a gesture that bids her not to follow._
        SWANWHITE _falls on her knees in prayer for the_ DUKE; _all the
        rose-trees sway before a wind that passes with the sound of a
        sigh; the peacock shakes its wings and tail_.

SWANWHITE. [_Rises, goes to the peacock and begins to stroke its back
and tail_] Pavo, dear Pavo, what do you see and what do you hear? Is
any one coming? Who is it? A little prince? Is he pretty and nice?
You, with your many blue eyes, should be able to tell. [_She lifts up
one of the bird's tail feathers and gazes intently at its "eye"_.] Are
you to keep your eyes on us, you nasty Argus? Are you to see that the
little hearts of two young people don't beat too loudly?--You stupid
thing--all I have to do is to close the curtain! [_She closes the
curtain, which hides the bird, but not the landscape outside; then she
goes to the doves_] My white doves--oh, so white, white, white--now
you'll see what is whitest of all--Be silent, wind, and roses, and
doves--my prince is coming!

_She looks out for a moment; then she withdraws to the pewter-closet,
leaving the door slightly ajar so that through the opening she can
watch the_ PRINCE; _there she remains standing, visible to the
spectators but not to the_ PRINCE.

PRINCE. [_Enters through the middle arch of the doorway. He wears
armour of steel; what shows of his clothing is black. Having carefully
observed everything in the room, he sits down at the table, takes off
his helmet and begins to study it. His back is turned toward the
door behind which_ SWANWHITE _is hiding_] If anybody be here, let him
answer! [_Silence_] There is somebody here, for I can feel the warmth
of a young body come billowing toward me like a southern wind. I can
hear a breath--it carries the fragrance of roses--and, gentle though
it be, it makes the plume on my helmet move. [_He puts the helmet to
his ear_] 'Tis murmuring as if it were a huge shell. It's the thoughts
within my own head that are crowding each other like a swarm of bees in
a hive. "Zum, zum," say the thoughts--just like bees that are buzzing
around their queen--the little queen of my thoughts and of my dreams!
[_He places the helmet on the table and gazes at it_] Dark and arched
as the sky at night, but starless, for the black plume is spreading
darkness everywhere since my mother's death--[_He turns the helmet
around and gazes at it again_] But there, in the midst of the darkness,
deep down--there, on the other side, I see a rift of light!--Has the
sky been split open?--And there, in the rift, I see--not a star, for it
would look like a diamond--but a blue sapphire, queen of the precious
stones--blue as the sky of summer--set in a cloud white as milk and
curved as the dove's egg. What is it? My ring? And now another feathery
cloud, black as velvet, passes by--and the sapphire is smiling--as
if sapphires could smile! And there, the lightning flashed, but
blue--heat-lightning mild, that brings no thunder!--What are you? Who?
And where? [_He looks at the back of the helmet_] Not here! Not there!
And nowhere else! [_He puts his face close to the helmet_] As I come
nearer, you withdraw.

        SWANWHITE _steals forward on tiptoe_.

PRINCE. And now there are two--two eyes--two little human eyes--I kiss
you! [_He kisses the helmet_.

        SWANWHITE _goes up to the table and seats herself slowly
        opposite the_ PRINCE.

        _The_ PRINCE _rises, bows, with his hand to his heart, and
        gazes steadily at_ SWANWHITE.

SWANWHITE. Are you the little prince?

PRINCE. The faithful servant of the king, and yours!

SWANWHITE. What message does the young king send his bride?

PRINCE. This is his word to Lady Swanwhite--whom lovingly he
greets--that by the thought of coming happiness the long torment of
waiting will be shortened.

SWANWHITE. [_Who has been looking at the_ PRINCE _as if to study him_]
Why not be seated, Prince?

PRINCE. If seated when you sit, then I should have to kneel when you
stand up.

SWANWHITE. Speak to me of the king! How does he look?

PRINCE. How does he look? [_Putting one of his hands up to his eyes_] I
can no longer see him--how strange!

SWANWHITE. What is his name?

PRINCE. He's gone--invisible----

SWANWHITE. And is he tall?

PRINCE. [_Fixing his glance on_ SWANWHITE] Wait!--I see him
now!--Taller than you!

SWANWHITE. And beautiful?

PRINCE. Not in comparison with you!

SWANWHITE. Speak of the king, and not of me!

PRINCE. I do speak of the king!

SWANWHITE. Is his complexion light or dark?

PRINCE. If he were dark, on seeing you he would turn light at once.

SWANWHITE. There's more of flattery than wit in that! His eyes are blue?

PRINCE. [_Glancing at his helmet_] I think I have to look?

SWANWHITE. [_Holding out her hand between them_] Oh, you--you!

PRINCE. You with _t h_ makes youth!

SWANWHITE. Are you to teach me how to spell?

PRINCE. The young king is tall and blond and blue-eyed, with broad
shoulders and hair like a new-grown forest----

SWANWHITE. Why do you carry a black plume?

PRINCE. His lips are red as the ripe currant, his cheeks are white, and
the lion's cub needn't be ashamed of his teeth.

SWANWHITE. Why is your hair wet?

PRINCE. His mind knows no fear, and no evil deed ever made his heart
quake with remorse.

SWANWHITE. Why is your hand trembling?

PRINCE. We were to speak of the young king and not of me!

SWANWHITE. So, you, you are to teach me?

PRINCE. It is my task to teach you how to love the young king whose
throne you are to share.

SWANWHITE. How did you cross the sea?

PRINCE. In my bark and with my sail.

SWANWHITE. And the wind so high?

PRINCE. Without wind there is no sailing.

SWANWHITE. Little boy--how wise you are!--Will you play with me?

PRINCE. What I must do, I will.

SWANWHITE. And now I'll show you what I have in my chest. [_She goes to
the chest and kneels down beside it; then she takes out several dolls,
a rattle, and a hobby-horse_] Here's the doll. It's my child--the child
of sorrow that can never keep its face clean. In my own arms I have
carried her to the lavendrey, and there I have washed her with white
sand--but it only made her worse. I have spanked her--but nothing
helped. Now I have figured out what's worst of all!

PRINCE. And what is that?

SWANWHITE. [_After a glance around the room_] I'll give her a
stepmother!

PRINCE. But how's that to be? She should have a mother first.

SWANWHITE. I am her mother. And if I marry twice, I shall become a
stepmother.

PRINCE. Oh, how you talk! That's not the way!

SWANWHITE. And you shall be her stepfather.

PRINCE. Oh, no!

SWANWHITE. You must be very kind to her, although she cannot wash her
face.--Here, take her--let me see if you have learned to carry children
right.

        _The_ PRINCE _receives the doll unwillingly_.

SWANWHITE. You haven't learned yet, but you will! Now take the rattle,
too, and play with her.

        _The_ PRINCE _receives the rattle_.

SWANWHITE. That's something you don't understand, I see. [_She takes
the doll and the rattle away from him and throws them back into the
chest; then she takes out the hobby-horse_] Here is my steed.--It has
saddle of gold and shoes of silver.--It can run forty miles in an
hour, and on its back I have travelled through Sounding Forest, across
Big Heath and King's Bridge, along High Road and Fearful Alley, all the
way to the Lake of Tears. And there it dropped a golden shoe that fell
into the lake, and then came a fish, and after came a fisherman, and so
I got the golden shoe back. That's all there was to that! [_She throws
the hobby-horse into the chest; instead she takes out a chess-board
with red and white squares, and chess-men made of silver and gold_]
If you will play with me, come here and sit upon the lion skin. [_She
seats herself on the skin and begins to put up the pieces_] Sit down,
won't you--the maids can't see us here!

        _The_ PRINCE _sits down on the skin, looking very embarrassed_.

SWANWHITE. It's like sitting in the grass--not the green grass of the
meadow, but the desert grass which has been burned by the sun.--Now you
must say something about me! Do you like me a little?

PRINCE. Are we to play?

SWANWHITE. To play? What care I for that?--Oh--you were to teach me
something!

PRINCE. Poor me, what can I do but saddle a horse and carry arms--with
which you are but poorly served.

SWANWHITE. You are so sad!

PRINCE. My mother died quite recently.

SWANWHITE. Poor little prince!--My mother, too, has gone to God in
heaven, and she's an angel now. Sometimes in the nights I see her--do
you also see yours?

PRINCE. No-o.

SWANWHITE. And have you got a stepmother?

PRINCE. Not yet. So little time has passed since she was laid to rest.

SWANWHITE. Don't be so sad! There's nothing but will wear away in time,
you see. Now I'll give you a flag to gladden you again--Oh, no, that's
right--this one I sewed for the young king. But now I'll sew another
one for you!--This is the king's, with seven flaming fires--you shall
have one with seven red roses on it--but first of all you have to
hold this skein of yarn for me. [_She takes from the chest a skein of
rose-coloured yarn and hands it to the_ PRINCE] One, two, three, and
now you'll see!--Your hands are trembling--that won't do!--Perhaps you
want a hair of mine among the yarn?--Pull one yourself!

PRINCE. Oh, no, I couldn't----

SWANWHITE. I'll do it, then, myself. [_She pulls a hair from her head
and winds it into the ball of yarn_] What is your name?

PRINCE. You shouldn't ask.

SWANWHITE. Why not?

PRINCE. The duke has told you--hasn't he?

SWANWHITE. No, he hasn't! What could happen if you told your name?
Might something dreadful happen?

PRINCE. The duke has told you, I am sure.

SWANWHITE. I never heard of such a thing before--of one who couldn't
tell his name!

        _The curtain behind which the peacock is hidden moves; a faint
        sound as of castanets is heard_.

PRINCE. What was that?

SWANWHITE. That's Pavo--do you think he knows what we are saying?

PRINCE. It's hard to tell.

SWANWHITE. Well, what's your name?

        _Again the peacock makes the same kind of sound with his bill_.

PRINCE. I am afraid--don't ask again!

SWANWHITE. He snaps his bill, that's all--Keep your hands still!--Did
you ever hear the tale of the little princess that mustn't mention the
name of the prince, lest something happen? And do you know----?

        _The curtain hiding the peacock is pulled aside, and the bird
        is seen spreading out his tail so that it looks as if all the
        "eyes" were staring at_ SWANWHITE _and the_ PRINCE.

PRINCE. Who pulled away the curtain? Who made the bird behold us with
its hundred eyes?--You mustn't ask again!

SWANWHITE. Perhaps I mustn't--Down, Pavo--there!

        _The curtain resumes its previous position_.

PRINCE. Is this place haunted?

SWANWHITE. You mean that things will happen--just like that? Oh, well,
so much is happening here--but I have grown accustomed to it. And then,
besides--they call my stepmother a witch--There, now, I have pricked my
finger!

PRINCE. What did you prick it with?

SWANWHITE. There was a splinter in the yarn. The sheep have been locked
up all winter--and then such things will happen. Please see if you can
get it out.

PRINCE. We must sit at the table then, so I can see.

        [_They rise and take seats at the table_.

SWANWHITE. [_Holding out one of her little fingers_] Can you see
anything?

PRINCE. What do I see? Your hand is red within, and through it all the
world and life itself appear in rosy colouring----

SWANWHITE. Now pull the splinter out--ooh, it hurts!

PRINCE. But I shall have to hurt you, too--and ask your pardon in
advance!

SWANWHITE. Oh, help me, please!

PRINCE. [_Squeezing her little finger and pulling out the splinter with
his nails_] There is the cruel little thing that dared to do you harm.

SWANWHITE. Now you must suck the blood to keep the wound from festering.

PRINCE. [_Sucking the blood from her finger_] I've drunk your
blood--and so I am your foster-brother now.

SWANWHITE. My foster-brother--so you were at once--or how do you think
I could have talked to you as I have done?

PRINCE. If you have talked to me like that, how did I talk to you?

SWANWHITE. Just think, he didn't notice it!--And now I have got a
brother of my own, and that is you!--My little brother--take my hand!

PRINCE. [_Taking her hand_] My little sister! [_Feels her pulse beating
under his thumb_] What have you there, that's ticking--one, and two,
and three, and four----? _Continues to count silently after having
looked at his watch_.

SWANWHITE. Yes, tell me what it is that ticks--so steady, steady,
steady? It cannot be my heart, for that is here, beneath my breast--Put
your hand here, and you can feel it too. [_The doves begin to stir and
coo_] What is it, little white ones?

PRINCE. And sixty! Now I know what makes that ticking--it is the time!
Your little finger is the second-hand that's ticking sixty times for
every minute that goes by. And don't you think there is a heart within
the watch?

SWANWHITE. [_Handling the watch_] We cannot reach the inside of the
watch--no more than of the heart--Just feel my heart!

SIGNE. [_Enters from the pewter-closet carrying a whip, which she puts
down on the table_] Her Grace commands that the children be seated at
opposite sides of the table.

        _The_ PRINCE _sits down at the opposite end of the table. He
        and_ SWANWHITE _look at each other in silence for a while_.

SWANWHITE. Now we are far apart, and yet a little nearer than before.

PRINCE. It's when we part that we come nearest to each other.

SWANWHITE. And you know that?

PRINCE. I have just learned it!

SWANWHITE. Now my instruction has begun.

PRINCE. You're teaching me!

SWANWHITE. [_Pointing to a dish of fruit_] Would you like some fruit?

PRINCE. No, eating is so ugly.

SWANWHITE. Yes, so it is.

PRINCE. Three maids are standing there--one in the pewter-closet, one
among the clothes, and one among the fruits. Why are they standing
there?

SWANWHITE. TO watch us two--lest we do anything that is forbidden.

PRINCE. May we not go into the rosery?

SWANWHITE. The morning is the only time when I can go into the rosery,
for there the bloodhounds of my stepmother are kept. They never let me
reach the shore--and so I get no chance to bathe.

PRINCE. Have you then never seen the shore? And never heard the ocean
wash the sand along the beach?

SWANWHITE. No--never! Here I can only hear the roaring waves in time of
storm.

PRINCE. Then you have never heard the murmur made by winds that sweep
across the waters?

SWANWHITE. It cannot reach me here.

PRINCE. [_Pushing his helmet across the table to_ SWANWHITE] Put it to
your ear and listen.

SWANWHITE. [_With the helmet at her ear_] What is that I hear?

PRINCE. The song of waves, the whispering winds

SWANWHITE. No, I hear human voices--hush! My stepmother is
speaking--speaking to the steward--and mentioning my name--and that of
the young king, too! She's speaking evil words. She's swearing that I
never shall be queen--and vowing that--you--shall take that daughter
of her own--that loathsome Lena----

PRINCE. Indeed!--And you can hear it in the helmet?

SWANWHITE. I can.

PRINCE. I didn't know of that. But my godmother gave me the helmet as a
christening present.

SWANWHITE. Give me a feather, will you?

PRINCE. It is a pleasure--great as life itself.

SWANWHITE. But you must cut it so that it will write.

PRINCE. You know a thing or two!

SWANWHITE. My father taught me----

        _The_ PRINCE _pulls a black feather out of the plume on his
        helmet; then he takes a silver-handled knife from his belt and
        cuts the quill_.

        SWANWHITE _takes out an ink-well and parchment from a drawer in
        the table_.

PRINCE. Who is Lady Lena?

SWANWHITE. You mean, what kind of person? You want her, do you?

PRINCE. Some evil things are brewing in this house----

SWANWHITE. Fear not! My father has bestowed a gift on me that will
bring help in hours of need.

PRINCE. What is it called?

SWANWHITE. It is the horn Stand-By.

PRINCE. Where is it hid?

SWANWHITE. Read in my eye. I dare not let the maids discover it.

PRINCE. [_Gazing at her eyes_] I see!

SWANWHITE. [_Pushing pen, ink and parchment across the table to the_
PRINCE] Write it.

        _The_ PRINCE _writes_.

SWANWHITE. Yes, that's the place. [_She writes again._

PRINCE. What do you write?

SWANWHITE. Names--all pretty names that may be worn by princes!

PRINCE. Except my own!

SWANWHITE. Yours, too!

PRINCE. Leave that alone!

SWANWHITE. Here I have written twenty names--all that I know--and
so your name must be there, too. [_Pushing the parchment across the
table_] Read!

        _The_ PRINCE _reads_.

SWANWHITE. Oh, I have read it in your eye!

PRINCE. Don't utter it! I beg you in the name of God the merciful,
don't utter it!

SWANWHITE. I read it in his eye!

PRINCE. But do not utter it, I beg of you!

SWANWHITE. And if I do? What then?--Can Lena tell, you think? Your
bride! Your love!

PRINCE. Oh, hush, hush, hush!

SWANWHITE. [_Jumps up and begins to dance_] I know his name--the
prettiest name in all the land!

        _The_ PRINCE _runs up to her, catches hold of her and covers
        her mouth with his hand_.

SWANWHITE. I'll bite your hand; I'll suck your blood; and so I'll be
your sister twice--do you know what that can mean?

PRINCE. I'll have two sisters then.

SWANWHITE. [_Throwing back her head_] O-ho! O-ho! Behold, the
ceiling has a hole, and I can see the sky--a tiny piece of sky, a
window-pane--and there's a face behind it. Is it an angel's?--See--but
see, I tell you!--It's your face!

PRINCE. The angels are not boys, but girls.

SWANWHITE. But it is you.

PRINCE. [_Looking up_] 'Tis a mirror.

SWANWHITE. Woe to us then! It is the witching mirror of my stepmother,
and she has seen it all.

PRINCE. And in the mirror I can see the fireplace--there's a pumpkin
hanging in it!

SWANWHITE. [_Takes from the fireplace a mottled, strangely shaped
pumpkin_] What can it be? It has the look of an ear. The witch has
heard us, too!--Alas, alas! [_She throws the pumpkin into the fireplace
and runs across the floor toward the bed; suddenly she stops on one
foot, holding up the other_]

Oh, she has strewn the floor with needles----

        [_She sits down and begins to rub her foot_.

        _The_ PRINCE _kneels in front of_ SWANWHITE _in order to help
        her_.

SWANWHITE. No, you mustn't touch my foot--you mustn't!

PRINCE. Dear heart, you must take off your stocking if I am to help.

SWANWHITE. [_Sobbing_] You mustn't--mustn't see my foot!

PRINCE. But why? Why shouldn't I?

SWANWHITE. I cannot tell; I cannot tell. Go--go away from me! To-morrow
I shall tell you, but I can't to-day.

PRINCE. But then your little foot will suffer--let me pull the needle
out!

SWANWHITE. Go, go, go!--No, no, you mustn't try!--Oh, had my mother
lived, a thing like this could not have happened!--Mother, mother,
mother!

PRINCE. I cannot understand--are you afraid of me----?

SWANWHITE. Don't ask me, please--just leave me--oh!

PRINCE. What have I done?

SWANWHITE. Don't leave me, please--I didn't mean to hurt you--but I
cannot tell--If I could only reach the shore--the white sand of the
beach----

PRINCE. What then?

SWANWHITE. I cannot tell! I cannot tell!

        [_She hides her face in her hands. Once more the peacock makes
        a rattling sound with his bill; the doves begin to stir; the
        three maids enter, one after the other; a gust of wind is
        heard, and the tops of the rose-trees outside swing back and
        forth; the golden clouds that have been hanging over the sea
        disappear, and the blue sea itself turns dark_.

SWANWHITE. Does Heaven itself intend to judge us?--Is ill-luck in the
house?--Oh, that my sorrow had the power to raise my mother from her
grave!

PRINCE. [_.Putting his hand on his sword_] My life for yours!

SWANWHITE. No, don't--she puts the very swords to sleep!--Oh, that my
sorrow could bring back my mother! [_The swallows chirp in their nest_]
What was that?

PRINCE. [_Catching sight of the nest_] A swallow's nest! I didn't
notice it before.

SWANWHITE. Nor I! How did it get there? When?--But all the same it
augurs good--And yet the cold sweat of fear is on my brow--and I
choke--Look, how the rose itself is withering because that evil woman
comes this way--for it is she who comes----

        _The rose on the table is closing its blossom and drooping its
        leaves_.

PRINCE. But whence came the swallows?

SWANWHITE. They were not sent by her, I'm sure, for they are kindly
birds--Now she is here!

STEPMOTHER. [_Enters from the rear with the walk of a panther; the rose
on the table is completely withered_] Signe--take the horn out of the
bed!

        SIGNE _goes up to the bed and takes the horn_.

STEPMOTHER. Where are you going, Prince?

PRINCE. The day is almost done, Your Grace; the sun is setting, and my
bark is longing to get home.

STEPMOTHER. The day is too far gone--the gates are shut, the dogs let
loose--You know my dogs?

PRINCE. Indeed! You know my sword?

STEPMOTHER. What is the matter with your sword?

PRINCE. It bleeds at times.

STEPMOTHER. Well, well! But not with women's blood, I trust?--But
listen, Prince: how would like to sleep in our Blue Room?

PRINCE. By God, it is my will to sleep at home, in my own bed----

STEPMOTHER. Is that the will of anybody else?

PRINCE. Of many more.

STEPMOTHER. How many?--More than these!--One, two, three----

        _As she counts, the members of the household begin to pass by
        in single file across the balcony; all of them look serious;
        some are armed; no one turns his head to look into the room;
        among those that pass are the_ BUTLER, _the_ STEWARD, _the_
        KITCHENER, _the_ GAOLER, _the_ CONSTABLE, _the_ EQUERRY.

PRINCE. I'll sleep in your Blue Room.

STEPMOTHER. That's what I thought.--So you will bid ten thousand
good-nights unto your love--and so will Swanwhite, too, I think!

        _A swan comes flying by above the rosery; from the ceiling a
        poppy flower drops down on the_ STEPMOTHER, _who falls asleep
        at once, as do the maids_.

SWANWHITE. [_Going up to the_ PRINCE] Good-night, my Prince!

PRINCE. [_Takes her hand and says in a low voice_] Good-night!--Oh,
that it's granted me to sleep beneath one roof with you, my
Princess--your dreams by mine shall be enfolded--and then to-morrow we
shall wake for other games and other----

SWANWHITE. [_In the same tone_] You are my all on earth, you are
my parent now--since she has robbed me of my puissant father's
help.--Look, how she sleeps!

PRINCE. You saw the swan?

SWANWHITE. No, but I heard--it was my mother.

PRINCE. Come, fly with me!

SWANWHITE. No, that we mustn't!--Patience! We'll meet in our
dreams!--But this will not be possible unless--you love me more than
anybody else on earth! Oh, love me--you, you, you!

PRINCE. My king, my loyalty----

SWANWHITE. Your queen, your heart--or what am I?

PRINCE. I am a knight!

SWANWHITE. But I am not. And therefore--therefore do I take you--my
Prince----

        _She puts her hands up to her mouth with a gesture as if she
        were throwing a whispered name to him_.

PRINCE. Oh, woe! What have you done?

SWANWHITE. I gave myself to you through your own name--and with me,
carried on _your_ wings, yourself came back to you! Oh---- [_Again she
whispers the name_.

PRINCE. [_With a movement of his hand as if he were catching the name
in the air_] Was that a rose you threw me?

        [_He throws a kiss to her_.

SWANWHITE. A violet you gave me--that was you--your soul! And now I
drink you in--you're in my bosom, in my heart--you're mine!

PRINCE. And you are mine! Who is the rightful owner, then?

SWANWHITE. Both!

PRINCE. Both! You and I!--My rose!

SWANWHITE. My violet!

PRINCE. My rose!

SWANWHITE. My violet!

PRINCE. I _love_ you!

SWANWHITE. _You_ love _me_!

PRINCE. You _love_ me!

SWANWHITE. _I_ love _you_!

        _The stage grows light again. The rose on the table recovers
        and opens. The faces of the_ STEPMOTHER _and the three maids
        are lighted up and appear beautiful, kind, and happy. The_
        STEPMOTHER _lifts up her drowsy head and, while her eyes remain
        closed, she seems to be watching the joy of the two young
        people with a sunny smile_.

SWANWHITE. Look, look! The cruel one is smiling as at some memory from
childhood days. See how Signe the False seems faith and hope embodied,
how the ugly Tova has grown beautiful, the little Elsa tall.

PRINCE. Our love has done it.

SWANWHITE. So that is love? Blessed be it by the Lord! The Lord
Omnipotent who made the world!

        [_She falls on her knees, weeping_.

PRINCE. You weep?

SWANWHITE. Because I am so full of joy.

PRINCE. Come to my arms and you will smile.

SWANWHITE. There I should die, I think.

PRINCE. Well, smile and die!

SWANWHITE. [_Rising_] So be it then!

        [_The_ PRINCE _takes her in his arms._

STEPMOTHER. [_Wakes up; on seeing the_ PRINCE _and_ SWANWHITE
_together, she strikes the table with the whip_] I must have
slept!--Oho! So we have got that far!--The Blue Room did I say?--I
meant the Blue Tower!--There the prince is to sleep with the Duke of
Exeter's daughter!--Maids!

        _The MAIDS wake up_.

STEPMOTHER. Show the prince the shortest way to the Blue Tower. And
should he nevertheless lose his way, you may summon the Castellan and
the Gaoler, the Equerry and the Constable.

PRINCE. No need of that! Wherever leads my course--through fire or
water, up above the clouds or down in the solid earth--there shall I
meet my Swanwhite, for she is with me where I go. So now I go to meet
her--in the tower! Can you beat that for witchcraft, witch?--Too hard,
I think, for one who knows not love!

        [_He goes out followed by the MAIDS_.

STEPMOTHER. [_To_ SWANWHITE] Not many words are needed--tell your
wishes--but be brief!

SWANWHITE. My foremost, highest wish is for some water with which to
lave my feet.

STEPMOTHER. Cold or warm?

SWANWHITE. Warm--if I may.

STEPMOTHER. What more?

SWANWHITE. A comb to ravel out my hair.

STEPMOTHER. Silver or gold?

SWANWHITE. Are you--are you kind?

STEPMOTHER. Silver or gold?

SWANWHITE. Wood or horn will do me well enough.

STEPMOTHER. What more?

SWANWHITE. A shift that's clean.

STEPMOTHER. Linen or silk?

SWANWHITE. Just linen.

STEPMOTHER. Good! So I have heard your wishes. Now listen to mine! I
wish that you may have no water, be it warm or cold! I wish that you
may have no comb, of any kind, not even of wood or horn--much less of
gold or silver. That's how kind I am! I wish that you may wear no linen
--but get you at once into the closet there to cover up your body with
that dingy sark of homespun! Such is my word!--And if you try to leave
these rooms--which you had better not, as there are traps and snares
around--then you are doomed--or with my whip I'll mark your pretty
face so that no prince or king will ever look at you again!--Then get
yourself to bed!

        _She strikes the table with her whip again, rises and goes out
        through the middle arch of the doorway; the gates, which have
        gilded bars, squeak and rattle as she closes and locks them_.

_Curtain_.

        _The same scene as before, but the golden gates at the rear are
        shut. The peacock and the doves are sleeping. The golden clouds
        in the sky are as dull in colour as the sea itself and the land
        that appears in the far distance_.

        SWANWHITE _is lying on the bed; she has on a garment of black
        homespun_.

        _The doors to the three closets are open. In each doorway
        stands one of the maids, her eyes closed and in one of her
        hands a small lighted lamp of Roman pattern_.

        _A swan is seen flying above the rosery, and trumpet-calls are
        heard, like those made by flocks of migrating wild swans_.

        _The_ MOTHER OF SWANWHITE, _all in white, appears outside the
        gates. Over one arm she carries the plumage of a swan and on
        the other one a small harp of gold. She hangs the plumage on
        one of the gates, which opens of its own accord and then closes
        in the same way behind her_.

        _She enters the room and places the harp on the table. Then she
        looks around and becomes aware of_ SWANWHITE. _At once the harp
        begins to play. The lamps carried by the maids go out one by
        one, beginning with that farthest away. Then the three doors
        close one by one, beginning with the innermost_.

        _The golden clouds resume their former radiance_.

        _The_ MOTHER _lights one of the lamps on the stand and goes up
        to the bed, beside which she kneels_.

        _The harp continues to play during the ensuing episode_.

        _The_ MOTHER _rises, takes_ SWANWHITE _in her arms, and places
        her, still sleeping, in a huge arm-chair. Then she kneels down
        and pulls off_ SWANWHITE'S _stockings. Having thrown these
        under the bed, she bends over her daughter's feet as if to
        moisten them with her tears. After a while she wipes them with
        a white linen cloth and covers them with kisses. Finally she
        puts a sandal on each foot which then appears shining white_.

        _Then the_ MOTHER _rises to her feet again, takes out a comb of
        gold, and begins to comb_ SWANWHITE'S _hair. This finished, she
        carries_ SWANWHITE _back to the bed. Beside her she places a
        garment of white linen which she takes out of a bag_.

        _Having kissed_ SWANWHITE _on the forehead, she prepares to
        leave. At that moment a white swan is seen to pass by outside,
        and one hears a trumpet-call like the one heard before. Shortly
        afterward the_ MOTHER OF THE PRINCE, _also in white, enters
        through the gate, having first hung her swan plumage on it_.

SWANWHITE'S MOTHER. Well met, my sister! How long before the cock will
crow?

PRINCE'S MOTHER. Not very long. The dew is rising from the roses, the
corn-crake's call is heard among the grass, the morning breeze is
coming from the sea.

SWANWHITE'S MOTHER. Let us make haste with what we have on hand, my
sister.

PRINCE'S MOTHER. You called me so that we might talk of our children.

SWANWHITE'S MOTHER. Once I was walking in a green field in the land
that knows no sorrow. There I met you, whom I had always known, yet
had not seen before. You were lamenting your poor boy's fate, left to
himself here in the vale of sorrow. You opened up your heart to me, and
my own thoughts, that dwell unwillingly below, were sent in search of
my deserted daughter--destined to marry the young king, who is a cruel
man, and evil.

PRINCE'S MOTHER. Then I spoke, while you listened: "May worth belong to
worth; may love, the powerful, prevail; and let us join these lonely
hearts, in order that they may console each other!"

SWANWHITE'S MOTHER. Since then heart has kissed heart and soul enfolded
soul. May sorrow turn to joy, and may their youthful happiness bring
cheer to all the earth!

PRINCE'S MOTHER. If it be granted by the powers on high!

SWANWHITE'S MOTHER. That must be tested by the fire of suffering.

PRINCE'S MOTHER. [_Taking in her hand the helmet left behind by the_
PRINCE] May sorrow turn to joy--this very day, when he has mourned his
mother one whole year!

        _She exchanges the black feathers on the helmet for white and
        red ones_.

SWANWHITE'S MOTHER. Your hand, my sister--let the test begin!

PRINCE'S MOTHER. Here is my hand, and with it goes my son's! Now we
have pledged them----

SWANWHITE'S MOTHER. In decency and honour!

PRINCE'S MOTHER. I go to open up the tower. And let the young ones fold
each other heart to heart.

SWANWHITE'S MOTHER. In decency and honour!

PRINCE'S MOTHER. And we shall meet again in those green fields where
sorrow is not known.

SWANWHITE'S MOTHER. [_Pointing to_ SWANWHITE] Listen! She dreams
of him!--Oh foolish, cruel woman who thinks that lovers can be
parted!--Now they are walking hand in hand within the land of dreams,
'neath whispering firs and singing lindens--They sport and laugh----

PRINCE'S MOTHER. Hush! Day is dawning--I can hear the robins calling,
and see the stars withdrawing from the sky--Farewell, my sister!

        [_She goes out, taking her swan plumage with her._

SWANWHITE'S MOTHER. Farewell!

        _She passes her hand over_ SWANWHITE _as if blessing her, then
        she takes her plumage and leaves, closing the gate after her_.

        _The clock on the table strikes three. The harp is silent for
        a moment; then it begins to play a new melody of even greater
        sweetness than before_. SWANWHITE _wakes up and looks around;
        listens to the harp; gets up from the bed; draws her hands
        through her hair; looks with pleasure at her own little feet,
        now spotlessly clean, and notices finally the while linen
        garment on the bed. She sits down at the table in the place she
        occupied during the evening. She acts as if she were looking at
        somebody sitting opposite her at the table, where the_ PRINCE
        _was seated the night before. She looks straight into his eyes,
        smiles a smile of recognition, and holds out one of her hands.
        Her lips move at times as if she were speaking, and then again
        she seems to be listening to an answer_.

        _She points meaningly to the white and red feathers on the
        helmet, and leans forward as if whispering. Then she puts her
        head back and breathes deeply as if to fill her nostrils with
        some fragrance. Having caught something in the air with one
        of her hands, she kisses the hand and then pretends to throw
        something back across the table. She picks up the quill and
        caresses it as if it were a bird; then she writes and pushes
        the parchment across the table. Her glances seem to follow
        "his" pen while the reply is being written, and at last she
        takes back the parchment, reads it, and hides it in her bosom_.

        _She strokes her black dress as if commenting on the sad change
        in her appearance. Whereupon she smiles at an inaudible answer,
        and finally bursts into hearty laughter_.

        _By gestures she indicates that her hair has been combed. Then
        she rises, goes a little distance away from the table, and
        turns around with a bashful expression to hold out one of her
        feet. In that attitude she stays for a moment while waiting for
        an answer. On hearing it she becomes embarrassed and hides her
        foot quickly under her dress_.

        _She goes to the chest and takes out the chess-board and the
        chess-men, which she places on the lions skin with a gesture of
        invitation. Then she lies down beside the board, arranges the
        men, and begins to play with an invisible partner_.

        _The harp is silent for a moment before it starts a new melody_.

        _The game of chess ends and_ SWANWHITE _seems to be talking
        with her invisible partner. Suddenly she moves away as if
        he were coming too close to her. With a deprecating gesture
        she leaps lightly to her feet. Then she gazes long and
        reproachfully at him. At last she snatches up the white garment
        and hides herself behind the bed_.

        _At that moment the_ PRINCE _appears outside the gates, which
        he vainly tries to open. Then he raises his eyes toward the sky
        with an expression of sorrow and despair_.

SWANWHITE. [_Coming forward_] Who comes with the morning wind?

PRINCE. Your heart's beloved, your prince, your all!

SWANWHITE. Whence do you come, my heart's beloved?

PRINCE. From dreamland; from the rosy hills that hide the dawn; from
whispering firs and singing lindens.

SWANWHITE. What did you do in dreamland, beyond the hills of dawn, my
heart's beloved?

PRINCE. I sported and laughed; I wrote her name; I sat upon the lion's
skin and played at chess.

SWANWHITE. You sported and you played--with whom?

PRINCE. With Swanwhite.

SWANWHITE. It is he!--Be welcome to my castle, my table, and my arms!

PRINCE. Who opens up the golden gates?

SWANWHITE. Give me your hand!--It is as chilly as your heart is warm.

PRINCE. My body has been sleeping in the tower, while my soul was
wandering in dreamland--In the tower it was cold and dark.

SWANWHITE. In my bosom will I warm your hand--I'll warm it by my
glances, by my kisses!

PRINCE. Oh, let the brightness of your eyes be shed upon my darkness!

SWANWHITE. Are you in darkness?

PRINCE. Within the tower there was no light of sun or moon.

SWANWHITE. Rise up, O sun! Blow, southern wind! And let thy bosom
gently heave, O sea!--Ye golden gates, do you believe that you can part
two hearts, two hands, two lips--that can by nothing be divided?

PRINCE. Indeed, by nothing!

        _Two solid doors glide together in front of the gates so that_
        SWANWHITE _and the_ PRINCE _can no longer see each other_.

SWANWHITE. Alas! What was the word we spoke, who heard it, and who
punished us?

PRINCE. I am not parted from you, my beloved, for still the sound of my
voice can reach you. It goes through copper, steel, and stone to touch
your ear in sweet caress. When in my thoughts you're in my arms. I
kiss you in my dreams. For on this earth there is not anything that can
part us. Swanwhite. Not anything!

PRINCE. I see you, though my eyes cannot behold you. I taste you, too,
because with roses you are filling up my mouth----

SWANWHITE. But in my arms I want you!

PRINCE. I am there.

SWANWHITE. No! Against my heart I want to feel the beat of yours--Upon
your arm I want to sleep--Oh, let us, let us, dearest God--oh, let us
have each other!

        _The swallows chirp. A small white feather falls to the
        ground_. SWANWHITE _picks it up and discovers it to be a key.
        With this she opens gates and doors. The_ PRINCE _comes in_.
        SWANWHITE _leaps into his arms. He kisses her on the mouth_.

SWANWHITE. You do not kiss me!

PRINCE. Yes, I do!

SWANWHITE. I do not feel your kisses!

PRINCE. Then you love me not!

SWANWHITE. Hold me fast!

PRINCE. So fast that life may part!

SWANWHITE. Oh, no, I breathe!

PRINCE. Give me your soul!

SWANWHITE. Here!--Give me yours!

PRINCE. It's here!--So I have yours, and you have mine!

SWANWHITE. I want mine back!

PRINCE. Mine, too, I want!

SWANWHITE. Then you must seek it!

PRINCE. Lost, both of us! For I am you, and you are me!

SWANWHITE. We two are one!

PRINCE. God, who is good, has heard your prayer! We have each other!

SWANWHITE. We have each other, yet I have you not. I cannot feel the
pressure of your hand, your lip's caress--I cannot see your eyes, nor
hear your voice--You are not here!

PRINCE. Yes, I am here!

SWANWHITE. Yes, here below. But up above, in dreamland, I would meet
you.

PRINCE. Then let us fly upon the wings of sleep----

SWANWHITE. Close to your heart!

PRINCE. In my embrace!

SWANWHITE. Within your arms!

PRINCE. This is the promised bliss!

SWANWHITE. Eternal bliss, that has no flaw and knows no end!

PRINCE. No one can part us.

SWANWHITE. No one!

PRINCE. Are you my bride?

SWANWHITE. My bridegroom, you?

PRINCE. In dreamland--but not here!

SWANWHITE. Where are we?

PRINCE. Here below!

SWANWHITE. Here, where the sky is clouded, where the ocean roars, and
where each night the earth sheds tears upon the grass while waiting for
the dawn; where flies are killed by swallows, doves by hawks; where
leaves must fall and turn to dust; where eyes must lose their light and
hands their strength! Yes, here below!

PRINCE. Then let us fly!

SWANWHITE. Yes, let us fly!

        _The_ GREEN GARDENER _appears suddenly behind the table. All
        his clothes are green. He wears a peaked cap, a big apron, and
        knee-breeches. At his belt hang shears and a knife. He carries
        a small watering-can in one hand and is scattering seeds
        everywhere_.

PRINCE. Who are you?

GARDENER. I sow, I sow!

PRINCE. What do you sow?

GARDENER. Seeds, seeds, seeds.

PRINCE. What kind of seeds?

GARDENER. Annuals and biennials. One pulls this way, two pull that.
When the bridal suit is on, the harmony is gone. One and one make one,
but one and one make also three. One and one make two, but two make
three. Then do you understand?

PRINCE. You mole, you earthworm, you who turn your forehead toward the
ground and show the sky your back--what is there you can teach me?

GARDENER. That you are a mole and earthworm, too. And that because you
turn your back on the earth, the earth will turn its back on you. [_He
disappears behind the table_.

SWANWHITE. What was it? Who was he?

PRINCE. That was the green gardener.

SWANWHITE. Green, you say? Was he not blue?

PRINCE. No, he was green, my love.

SWANWHITE. How can you say what is not so?

PRINCE. My heart's beloved, I have not said a thing that was not so.

SWANWHITE. Alas, he does not speak the truth!

PRINCE. Whose voice is this? Not that of Swanwhite!

SWANWHITE. Who is this my eyes behold? Not my Prince, whose very name
attracted me like music of the Neck, or song of mermaids heard among
green waves--Who are you? You stranger with the evil eyes--and with
grey hair!

PRINCE. You did not see it until now--my hair, that turned to grey
within the tower, in a single night, when I was mourning for my
Swanwhite, who is no longer here.

SWANWHITE. Yes, here is Swanwhite.

PRINCE. No, I see a black-clad maid, whose face is black----

SWANWHITE. Have you not seen before that I was clad in black? You do
not love me, then!

PRINCE. You who are standing there, so grim and ugly--no!

SWANWHITE. Then you have spoken falsely.

PRINCE. No--for then another one was here! Now--you are filling up my
mouth with noisome nettles.

SWANWHITE. Your violets smell of henbane now--faugh!

PRINCE. Thus I am punished for my treason to the king!

SWANWHITE. I wish that I had waited for your king!

PRINCE. Just wait, and he will come.

SWANWHITE. I will not wait, but go to meet him.

PRINCE. Then I will stay.

SWANWHITE. [_Going toward the background_] And this is love!

PRINCE. [_Beside himself_] Where is my Swanwhite? Where, where, where?
The kindest, loveliest, most beautiful?

SWANWHITE. Seek her!

PRINCE. 'Twould not avail me here below.

SWANWHITE. Elsewhere then! [_She goes out_.

        _The_ PRINCE _is alone. He sits down at the table, covers his
        face with his hands, and weeps. A gust of wind passes through
        the room and sets draperies and curtains fluttering. A sound as
        of a sigh is heard from the strings of the harp. The_ PRINCE
        _rises, goes to the bed, and stands there lost in contemplation
        of its pillow in which is a depression showing_ SWANWHITE'S
        _head in profile. He picks up the pillow and kisses it. A noise
        is heard outside. He seats himself at the table again_.

        _The doors of the closets fly open. The three_ MAIDS _become
        visible, all with darkened faces. The_ STEPMOTHER _enters from
        the rear. Her face is also dark_.

STEPMOTHER. [_In dulcet tones_] Good morning, my dear Prince! How have
you slept?

PRINCE. Where is Swanwhite?

STEPMOTHER. She has gone to marry her young king. Is there no thought
of things like that in your own mind, my Prince?

PRINCE. I harbour but a single thought----

STEPMOTHER. Of little Swanwhite?

PRINCE. She is too young for me, you mean?

STEPMOTHER. Grey hairs and common sense belong together as a rule--I
have a girl with common sense----

PRINCE. And I grey hairs?

STEPMOTHER. He knows it not, believes it not! Come, maids! Come, Signe,
Elsa, Tova! Let's have a good laugh at the young suitor and his grey
hairs!

        _The_ MAIDS _begin to laugh. The_ STEPMOTHER _joins in_.

PRINCE. Where is Swanwhite?

STEPMOTHER. Follow in her traces--here is one!

        [_She hands him a parchment covered with writing_.

PRINCE. [_Reading_] And she wrote this?

STEPMOTHER. You know her hand--what has it written?

PRINCE. That she hates me, and loves another--that she has played with
me; that she will throw my kisses to the wind, and to the swine my
heart--To die is now my will! Now I am dead!

STEPMOTHER. A knight dies not because a wench has played with him. He
shows himself a man and takes another.

PRINCE. Another? When there is only one?

STEPMOTHER. No, two, at least! My Magdalene possesses seven barrels
full of gold.

PRINCE. Seven?

STEPMOTHER. And more. [_Pause_.

PRINCE. Where is Swanwhite?

STEPMOTHER. My Magdalene is skilled in many crafts----

PRINCE. Including witchcraft?

STEPMOTHER. She knows how to bewitch a princeling.

PRINCE. [_Gazing at the parchment_] And this was written by my
Swanwhite?

STEPMOTHER. My Magdalene would never write like that.

PRINCE. And she is kind?

STEPMOTHER. Kindness itself! She does not play with sacred feelings,
nor seek revenge for little wrongs, and she is faithful to the one she
likes.

PRINCE. Then she must be beautiful.

STEPMOTHER. Not beautiful!

PRINCE. She is not kind then.--Tell me more of her!

STEPMOTHER. See for yourself.

PRINCE. Where?

STEPMOTHER. Here.

PRINCE. And this has Swanwhite written----?

STEPMOTHER. My Magdalene had written with more feeling

PRINCE. What would she have written?

STEPMOTHER. That----

PRINCE. Speak the word! Say "love," if you are able!

STEPMOTHER. Lub!

PRINCE. You cannot speak the word!

STEPMOTHER. Lud!

PRINCE. Oh, no!

STEPMOTHER. My Magdalene can speak it. May she come?

PRINCE. Yes, let her come.

STEPMOTHER. [_Rising and speaking to the_ MAIDS] Blindfold the prince.
Then in his arms we'll place a princess that is without a paragon in
seven kingdoms.

        SIGNE _steps forward and covers the eyes of the_ PRINCE _with a
        bandage_.

STEPMOTHER. [_Clapping her hands_] Well--is she not coming?

_The peacock makes a rattling noise with his bill; the doves begin to
coo_.

STEPMOTHER. What is the matter? Does my art desert me? Where is the
bride?

        _Four_ MAIDS _enter from the rear, carrying baskets of white
        and pink roses. Music is heard from above. The_ MAIDS _go up to
        the bed and scatter roses over it_.

        _Then come_ TWO KNIGHTS _with closed visors. They take the_
        PRINCE _between them toward the rear, where they meet the
        false_ MAGDALENE, _escorted by two ladies. The bride is deeply
        veiled_.

        _With a gesture of her hand the_ STEPMOTHER _bids all depart
        except the bridal couple. She herself leaves last of all, after
        she has closed the curtains and locked the gates_.

PRINCE. Is this my bride?

FALSE MAGDALENE. Who is your bride?

PRINCE. I have forgot her name. Who is your bridegroom?

FALSE MAGDALENE. He whose name may not be mentioned.

PRINCE. Tell, if you can.

FALSE MAGDALENE. I can, but will not.

PRINCE. Tell, if you can!

FALSE MAGDALENE. Tell my name first!

PRINCE. It's seven barrels full of gold, and crooked back, and grim,
and hare-lipped! What's my name? Tell, if you can!

FALSE MAGDALENE. Prince Greyhead!

PRINCE. You're right!

        _The_ FALSE MAGDALENE _throws, off her veil, and_ SWANWHITE
        _stands revealed_.

SWANWHITE. [_Dressed in a white garment, with a wreath of roses on her
hair_] Who am I now?

PRINCE. You are a rose!

SWANWHITE. And you a violet!

PRINCE. [_Taking off the bandage_] You are Swanwhite!

SWANWHITE. And you--are----

PRINCE. Hush!

SWANWHITE. You're mine!

PRINCE. But you--you left me--left my kisses----

SWANWHITE. I have returned--because I love you!

PRINCE. And you wrote cruel words----

SWANWHITE. But cancelled them--because I love you.!

PRINCE. You told me I was false.

SWANWHITE. What matters it, when you are true--and when I love you?

PRINCE. You wished that you were going to the king.

SWANWHITE. But went to you instead, because I love you!

PRINCE. Now let me hear what you reproach me with.

SWANWHITE. I have forgotten it--because I love you!

PRINCE. But if you love me, then you are my bride.

SWANWHITE. I am!

PRINCE. Then may the heavens bestow their blessing on our union!

SWANWHITE. In dreamland!

PRINCE. With your head upon my arm!

        _The_ PRINCE _leads_ SWANWHITE _to the bed, in which he places
        his sword. Then she lies down on one side of the sword, and he
        on the other. The colour of the clouds changes to a rosy red.
        The rose-trees murmur. The harp plays softly and sweetly_.

PRINCE. Good night, my queen!

SWANWHITE. Good morning, O my soul's beloved!--I hear the beating of
your heart--I hear it sigh like billowing waters, like swift-flying
steeds, like wings of eagles--Give me your hand!

PRINCE. And yours!--Now we take wing----

STEPMOTHER. [_Enters with the_ MAIDS, _who carry torches; all four have
become grey-haired_] I have to see that my task is finished ere the
duke returns. My daughter. Magdalene, is plighted to the prince--while
Swanwhite lingers in the tower--[_Goes to the bed_] They sleep already
in each other's arms--you bear me witness, maids!

        _The_ MAIDS _approach the bed_.

STEPMOTHER. What do I see? Each one of you is grey-haired!

SIGNE. And so are you, Your Grace!

STEPMOTHER. Am I? Let me see!

        ELSA _holds a mirror in front of her_.

STEPMOTHER. This is the work of evil powers!--And then, perhaps, the
prince's hair is dark again?--Bring light this way!

        _The_ MAIDS _hold their torches so that the light from them
        falls on the sleeping couple_.

STEPMOTHER. Such is the truth, indeed!--How beautiful they
look!--But--the sword! Who placed it there--the sword that puts at
naught their plighted troth?

        _She tries to take away the sword, but the_ PRINCE _clings to
        it without being wakened_.

SIGNE. Your Grace--here's deviltry abroad!

STEPMOTHER. What is it?

SIGNE. This is not Lady Magdalene.

STEPMOTHER. Who is it, then? My eyes need help.

SIGNE. 'Tis Lady Swanwhite.

STEPMOTHER. Swanwhite?--Can this be some delusion of the devil's
making, or have I done what I least wished?

        _The_ PRINCE _turns his head in his sleep so that his lips meet
        those of_ SWANWHITE.

STEPMOTHER. [_Touched by the beautiful sight_] No sight more beautiful
have I beheld!--Two roses brought together by the wind; two falling
stars that join in downward flight--it is too beautiful!--Youth,
beauty, innocence, and love! What memories, sweet memories--when I was
living in my father's home--when I was loved by _him_, the youth whom
never I called mine--What did I say I was?

SIGNE. That you were loved by him, Your Grace.

STEPMOTHER. Then I did speak the mighty word. Be-loved--so he named me
once--"beloved"--ere he started for the war--[_Lost in thoughts_] It
was the last of him.--And so I had to take the one I couldn't bear.--My
life is drawing to its close, and I must find my joy in happiness
denied myself! I should rejoice--at others' happiness--Some kind of
joy, at least--at other people's love--Some kind of love, at least--But
there's my Magdalene? What joy for her? O, love omnipotent--eternally
creative Lord--how you have rendered soft this lion heart! Where is my
strength? Where is my hatred--my revenge? [_She seats herself and looks
long at the sleeping couple_] A song runs through my mind, a song of
love that _he_ was singing long ago, that final night-- [_She rises as
if waking out of a dream and flies into a rage; her words come with a
roar_] Come hither, men! Here, Steward, Castellan, and Gaoler--all of
you! [_She snatches the sword out of the bed and throws it along the
floor toward the rear_] Come hither, men!

        _Noise is heard outside; the men enter as before_.

STEPMOTHER. Behold! The prince, the young king's vassal, has defiled
his master's bride! You bear me witness to the shameful deed! Put
chains and fetters on the traitor and send him to his rightful lord!
But in the spiked cask put the hussy. [_The_ PRINCE and SWANWHITE _wake
up_] Equerry! Gaoler! Seize the prince!

        _The_ EQUERRY _and the_ GAOLER _lay hands on the_ PRINCE.

PRINCE. Where is my sword? I fight not against evil, but for innocence!

STEPMOTHER. Whose innocence?

PRINCE. My bride's.

STEPMOTHER. The hussy's innocence! Then prove it!

SWANWHITE. Oh, mother, mother!

        _The white swan flies by outside_.

STEPMOTHER. Maids, bring shears! I'll cut the harlot's hair!

        SIGNE _hands her a pair of shears_.

STEPMOTHER. [_Takes hold of_ SWANWHITE _by the hair and starts to cut
it, but she cannot bring the blades of the shears together]_ Now I'll
cut off your beauty and your love! [_Suddenly she is seized with panic,
which quickly spreads to the men and the three_ MAIDS] Is the enemy
upon us? Why are you trembling?

SIGNE. Your Grace, the dogs are barking, horses neighing--it means
that visitors are near.

STEPMOTHER. Quick, to the bridges, all of you! Man the ramparts! Fall
to with flame and water, sword and axe!

        _The_ PRINCE _and_ SWANWHITE _are left alone_.

GARDENER. [_Appears from behind the table; in one hand he carries
a rope, the_ DUKE'S _horn in the other_] Forgiveness for those who
sin; for those who sorrow, consolation; and hope for those who are
distressed!

SWANWHITE. My father's horn! Then help is near! But--the prince?

GARDENER. The prince will follow me. A secret passage, underground,
leads to the shore. There lies his bark. The wind is favourable! Come!

        [_The_ GARDENER _and the_ PRINCE _go out._ SWANWHITE _alone,
        blows the horn. An answering signal is heard in the distance.
        The_ GAOLER _enters with the spiked cask_. SWANWHITE _blows the
        horn again. The answer is heard much nearer_.

        _The_ DUKE _enters. He and_ SWANWHITE _are alone on the stage_.

DUKE. My own beloved heart, what is at stake?

SWANWHITE. Your own child, father!--Look--the spiked cask over there!

DUKE. How has my child transgressed?

SWANWHITE. The prince's name I learned, by love instructed--spoke
it--came to hold him very dear.

DUKE. That was no capital offence. What more?

SWANWHITE. At his side I slept, the sword between us----

DUKE. And still there was no capital offence, though I should hardly
call it wise--And more?

SWANWHITE. No more!

DUKE. [_To the_ GAOLER, _pointing to the spiked cask_] Away with it!
[_To_ SWANWHITE] Well, child, where is the prince?

SWANWHITE. He's sailing homeward in his bark.

DUKE. Now, when the tide is battering the shore?--Alone? Swanwhite.
Alone! What is to happen?

DUKE. The Lord alone can tell!

SWANWHITE. He's in danger?

DUKE. Who greatly dares has sometimes luck.

SWANWHITE. He ought to have!

DUKE. He will, if free from guilt!

SWANWHITE. He is! More than I am!

STEPMOTHER. [_Entering_] How came you here!

DUKE. A shortcut brought me--I could wish it had been shorter still.

STEPMOTHER. Had it been short enough, your child had never come to harm.

DUKE. What kind of harm?

STEPMOTHER. The one for which there is no cure.

DUKE. And you have proofs?

STEPMOTHER. I've valid witnesses.

DUKE. Then call my butler.

STEPMOTHER. He does not know.

DUKE. [_Shaking his sword at her_] Call my butler!

        _The_ STEPMOTHER _trembles. Then she claps her hands four times
        together_.

        _The_ BUTLER _enters_.

DUKE. Have made a pie of venison, richly stuffed with onions, parsley,
fennel, cabbage--and at once!

        _The_ BUTLER _steals a sidelong glance at the_ STEPMOTHER.

DUKE. What are you squinting at? Be quick!

        _The_ BUTLER _goes out_.

DUKE. [_To the_ STEPMOTHER] Now call the master of my pleasure-garden.

STEPMOTHER. He does not know!

DUKE. And never will! But he must come! Call, quick!

        _The_ STEPMOTHER _claps her hands six times_.

        _The_ FLOWER GARDENER _enters_.

DUKE. Three lilies bring: one white, one red, one blue.

        _The_ GARDENER _looks sideways at the_ STEPMOTHER.

DUKE. Your head's at stake!

        _The_ GARDENER _goes out_.

DUKE. Summon your witnesses!

        _The_ STEPMOTHER _claps her hands once_.

        SIGNE _enters_.

DUKE. Tell what you know--but choose your words! What have you seen?

SIGNE. I have seen Lady Swanwhite and the prince together in one bed.

DUKE. With sword between?

SIGNE. Without.

DUKE. I can't believe it!--Other witnesses?

        _The_ TWO KNIGHTS _enter_.

DUKE. Were these the groomsmen?--Tell your tale.

FIRST KNIGHT. The Lady Magdalene I have escorted to her bridal couch.

SECOND KNIGHT. The Lady Magdalene I have escorted to her bridal couch.

DUKE. What's that? A trick, I trow--that caught the trickster!--Other
witnesses?

        ELSA _enters_.

DUKE. Tell what you know.

ELSA. I swear by God, our righteous judge, that I have seen the prince
and Lady Swanwhite fully dressed and with a sword between them.

DUKE. One for, and one against--two not germane.--I leave it to the
judgment of the Lord!--The flowers will speak for him.

TOVA. [_Enters_] My gracious master--noble lord!

DUKE. What do you know?

TOVA. I know my gracious mistress innocent.

DUKE. O, child--so you know that! Then teach us how to know it too.

TOVA. When I am saying only what is true----

DUKE. No one believes it! But when Signe tells untruth, we must
believe!--And what does Swanwhite say herself? Her forehead's purity,
her steady glance, her lips' sweet innocence--do they not speak aloud
of slander? And "slander" is the verdict of a father's eye.--Well
then--Almighty God on high shall give his judgment, so that human
beings may believe!

        _The_ FLOWER GARDENER _enters carrying three lilies placed in
        three tall and narrow vases of glass. The_ DUKE _places the
        flowers in a semicircle on the table. The_ BUTLER _enters with
        a huge dish containing a steaming pie_.

DUKE. [_Placing the dish within the semicircle formed by the three
flowers_] The white one stands for whom?

ALL. [_Except_ SWANWHITE. _and the_ STEPMOTHER] For Swanwhite.

DUKE. The red one stands for whom?

ALL. [As _before_] The prince.

DUKE. For whom the blue one?

ALL. [As _before_] The youthful king.

DUKE. Well, Tova--child who still has faith in innocence because you
too are innocent--interpret now for us the judgment of the Lord--tell
us the gentle secrets of these flowers.

TOVA. The evil part I cannot utter.

DUKE. I will. What's good I'll leave for you.--As the steam from the
blood of the prurient beast rises upward--as upward the smell of the
passionate spices is mounting--what see you?

TOVA. [_Gazing at the three lilies_] The white one folds its blossom to
protect itself against defilement. That is Swanwhite's flower.

ALL. Swanwhite is innocent.

TOVA. The red one, too--the prince's lily--closes its head--but the
blue one, which stands for the king, flings wide its gorge to drink the
lust-filled air.

DUKE. You've told it right! What more is there to see?

TOVA. I see the red flower bend its head in reverent love before the
white one, while the blue one writhes with envious rage.

DUKE. You've spoken true!--For whom is Swanwhite then?

TOVA. For the prince, because more pure is his desire, and therefore
stronger, too.

ALL. [_Except_ SWANWHITE _and the_ STEPMOTHER] Swanwhite for the prince!

SWANWHITE. [_Throwing herself into her father's arms_] O, father!

DUKE. Call back the prince! Let every trump and bugle summon him. Hoist
sail on every bark! But first of all--the spiked cask is for whom?

        _All remain silent_.

DUKE. Then I will say it: for the duchess; for the arch-liar and
bawd!--Know, evil woman, that though nothing else be safe against your
tricks, they cannot conquer love!--Go--quick--begone!

        _The_ STEPMOTHER _makes a gesture which for a moment seems to
        stun the_ DUKE.

DUKE. [_Draws his sword and turns the point of it toward the_
STEPMOTHER, _having first seated_ SWANWHITE _on his left shoulder_]
A-yi, you evil one! My pointed steel will outpoint all your tricks!

        _The_ STEPMOTHER _withdraws backward, dragging her legs behind
        her like a panther_.

DUKE. Now for the prince!

        _The_ STEPMOTHER _stops on the balcony, rigid as a statue. She
        opens her mouth as if she were pouring out venom_.

        _The peacock and the doves fall down dead. Then the_ STEPMOTHER
        _begins to swell. Her clothes become inflated to such an extent
        that they hide her head and bust entirely. They seem to be
        flaming with a pattern of interwoven snakes and branches. The
        sun is beginning to rise outside. The ceiling sinks slowly into
        the room, while smoke and fire burst from the fireplace_.

DUKE. [_Raising the cross-shaped handle of his sword toward the_
STEPMOTHER] Pray, people, pray to Christ, our Saviour!

ALL. Christ have mercy!

        _The ceiling resumes its ordinary place. The smoke and fire
        cease. A noise is heard outside, followed by the hum of many
        voices_.

DUKE. What new event is this?

SWANWHITE. I know! I see!--I hear the water dripping from his hair; I
hear the silence of his heart, the breath that comes no more--I see
that he is dead!

DUKE. Where do you see--and whom?

SWANWHITE. Where?--But I see it!

DUKE. I see nothing.

SWANWHITE. As they must come, let them come quick!

        _Four little girls enter with baskets out of which they scatter
        white lilies and hemlock twigs over the floor. After them come
        four pages ringing silver bells of different pitch. Then comes
        a priest carrying a large crucifix. Then, the golden bier, with
        the body of the_ PRINCE, _covered by a white sheet, on which
        rest white and pink roses. His hair is dark again. His face is
        youthful, rosy, and radiantly beautiful. There is a smile on
        his lips_.

        _The harp begins to play. The sun rises completely. The magic
        bubble around the_ STEPMOTHER _bursts, and she appears once
        more in her customary shape_.

        _The bier is placed in the middle of the floor, so that the
        rays of the rising sun fall on it_.

        SWANWHITE _throws herself on her knees beside the bier and
        covers the_ PRINCE'S _face with kisses_.

        _All present put their hands to their faces and weep_.

        _The_ FISHERMAN _has entered behind the bier_.

DUKE. The brief tale tell us, fisherman----

FISHERMAN. Does it not tell itself, my noble lord?--The young prince
had already crossed the strait, when, seized by violent longing for
his love, he started to swim back, in face of tide and wave and
wind--because his bark seemed rudder-less.--I saw his young head breast
the billows, I heard him cry her name--and then his corpse was gently
dropped upon the white sand at my feet. His hair had turned to grey
that night when he slept in the tower; sorrow and wrath had blanched
his cheeks; his lips had lost their power of smiling.--Now, when
death o'ertook him, beauty and youth came with it. Like wreaths his
darkening locks fell round his rosy cheeks; he smiled--and see!--is
smiling still. The people gathered on the shore, awed by the gentle
spectacle--and man said unto man: lo, this is love!

SWANWHITE. [_Lying down beside the body of the_ PRINCE] He's dead; his
heart will sing no more; his eyes no longer will light up my life;
his breath will shed its dew on me no more. He smiles, but not toward
me--toward heaven he smiles. And on his journey I shall bear him
company.

DUKE. Kiss not a dead man's lips--there's poison in them!

SWANWHITE. Sweet poison if it bring me death--that death in which I
seek my life!

DUKE. They say, my child, the dead cannot gain union by willing it;
and what was loved in life has little worth beyond.

SWANWHITE. And love? Should then its power not extend to the other side
of death?

DUKE. Our wise men have denied it.

SWANWHITE. Then he must come to me--back to this earth. O gracious
Lord, please let him out of heaven again!

DUKE. A foolish prayer!

SWANWHITE. I cannot pray--woe's me! The evil eye still rules this place.

DUKE. You're thinking of the monster which the sunbeams pricked. The
stake for her--let her without delay be burned alive!

SWANWHITE. Burn her?--Alive?--Oh, no! Let her depart in peace!

DUKE. She must be burned alive! You, men, see that the pyre is raised
close to the shore, and let the winds play with her ashes!

SWANWHITE. [_On her knees before the_ DUKE] No, no--I pray you, though
she was my executioner: have mercy on her!

STEPMOTHER. [_Enters, changed, freed from the evil powers that have
held her in their spell_] Mercy! Who spoke the sacred word? Who poured
her heart in prayer for me?

SWANWHITE. I did--your daughter--mother!

STEPMOTHER. O, God in heaven, she called me mother!--Who taught you
that?

SWANWHITE. Love did!

STEPMOTHER. Then blessed be love which can work miracles like
that!--But, child, then it must also have the power to make the dead
return out of the darkling realms of death!--I cannot do it, having not
received the grace of love. But you!

SWANWHITE. Poor me--what can I do?

STEPMOTHER. You can forgive, and you can love--Well, then, my little
Lady Almighty, you can do anything!--Be taught by me who have no power
at all. Go, cry the name of your beloved, and put your hand above his
heart! Then, with the help of the Supreme One--calling none but Him for
helper--your beloved will hear your voice--if you believe!

SWANWHITE. I do believe--I will it--and--I pray for it!

_She goes up to the_ PRINCE, _places one of her hands over his heart,
and raises the other toward the sky. Then she bends down over him
and whispers something into his ear. This she repeats three times in
succession. At the third whisper the_ PRINCE _wakes up_. SWANWHITE
_throws herself at his breast. All kneel in praise and thanksgiving.
Music_.

_Curtain_.



SIMOOM

(SAMUM)

1890


            CHARACTERS

            BISKRA, _an Arabian girl_
            YUSUF, _her lover_
            GUIMARD, _a lieutenant of Zouaves_

            _The action takes place in Algeria at the present time_.



SIMOOM


        _The inside of a marabout, or shrine. In the middle of the
        floor stands a sarcophagus forming the tomb of the Mohammedan
        saint (also called "marabout") who in his lifetime occupied the
        place. Prayer-rugs are scattered over the floor. At the right
        in the rear is an ossuary, or charnel-house._

        _There is a doorway in the middle of the rear wall. It is
        closed with a gate and covered by a curtain. On both sides of
        the doorway are loopholes. Here and there on the floor are seen
        little piles of sand. An aloe plant, a few palm leaves and some
        alfa grass are thrown together on one spot_.

       *       *       *       *       *

FIRST SCENE


        BISKRA _enters. The hood of her burnous is pulled over her head
        so that it almost covers her face. She carries a guitar at her
        back. Throwing herself down in a kneeling position on one of
        the rugs, she begins to pray with her arms crossed over her
        breast. A high wind is blowing outside_.

BISKRA. Lâ ilâhâ illâ 'llâh!

YUSUF. [_Enters quickly_] The Simoom is coming! Where is the Frank?

BISKRA. He'll be here in a moment.

YUSUF. Why didn't you stab him when you had a chance?

BISKRA. Because he is to do it himself. If I were to do it, our whole
tribe would be killed, for I am known to the Franks as Ali, the guide,
though they don't know me as Biskra, the maiden.

YUSUF. He is to do it himself, you say? How is that to happen?

BISKRA. Don't you know that the Simoom makes the brains of the white
people dry as dates, so that they have horrible visions which disgust
them with life and cause them to flee into the great unknown?

YUSUF. I have heard of such things, and in the last battle there were
six Franks who took their own lives before the fighting began. But do
not place your trust in the Simoom to-day, for snow has fallen in the
mountains, and the storm may be all over in half an hour.--Biskra! Do
you still know how to hate?

BISKRA. If I know how to hate?--My hatred is boundless as the desert,
burning as the sun, and stronger than my love. Every hour of joy that
has been stolen from me since the murder of Ali has been stored up
within me like the venom back of a viper's tooth, and what the Simoom
cannot do, that I can do.

YUSUF. Well spoken, Biskra, and the task shall be yours. Ever since my
eyes first fell upon you, my own hatred has been withering like alfa
grass in the autumn. Take strength from me and become the arrow to my
bow.

BISKRA. Embrace me, Yusuf, embrace me!

YUSUF. Not here, within the presence of the Sainted one; not
now--later, afterward, when you have earned your reward!

BISKRA. You proud sheikh! You man of pride!

YUSUF. Yes--the maiden who is to carry my offspring under her heart
must show herself worthy of the honour.

BISKRA. I--no one but I--shall bear the offspring of Yusuf! I,
Biskra--the scorned one, the ugly one, but the strong one, too!

YUSUF. All right! I am now going to sleep beside the spring.--Do I
need to teach you more of the secret arts which you learned from
Sidi-Sheikh, the great marabout, and which you have practised at fairs
ever since you were a child?

BISKRA. Of that there is no need. I know all the secrets needed to
scare the life out of a cowardly Frank.--The dastard who sneaks upon
the enemy and sends the leaden bullet ahead of himself! I know them
all--even the art of letting my voice come out of my belly. And what is
beyond my art, that will be done by the sun, for the sun is on the side
of Yusuf and Biskra.

YUSUF. The sun is a friend of the Moslem, but not to be relied upon.
You may get burned, girl!--Take a drink of water first of all, for I
see that your hands are shrivelled, and----

        _He lifts up one of the rugs and steps down into a sort of
        cellar, from which he brings back a bowl filled with water;
        this he hands to_ BISKRA.

BISKRA. [_Raising the bowl to her mouth_] And my eyes are already
beginning to see red--my lungs are parching--I hear--I hear--do you
see how the sand is sifting through the roof--the strings of my guitar
are crooning--the Simoom is here! But the Frank is not!

YUSUF. Come down here, Biskra, and let the Frank die by himself.

BISKRA. First hell, and then death! Do you think I'll weaken? [_Pours
the water on one of the sand piles_] I'll water the sand, so that
revenge may grow out of it, and I'll dry up my heart. Grow, O hatred!
Burn, O sun! Smother, O wind!

YUSUF. Hail to you, mother of Ben Yusuf--for you are to bear the son of
Yusuf, the avenger--you!


_The wind is increasing. The curtain in front of the door begins to
flap. A red glimmer lights up the room, but changes into yellow during
the ensuing scene_.


BISKRA. The Frank is coming, and--the Simoom is here!--Go!

YUSUF. In half an hour you shall see me again. [_Pointing toward a sand
pile_] There is your hour-glass. Heaven itself is measuring out the
time for the hell of the infidels!

        [_Goes down into the cellar_.



SECOND SCENE


        BISKRA. GUIMARD _enters looking very pale; he stumbles, his
        mind is confused, and he speaks in a low voice_.

GUIMARD. The Simoom is here!--What do you think has become of my men?

BISKRA. I led them west to east.

GUIMARD. West--to east!--Let me see!--That's straight east--and
west!--Oh, put me on a chair and give me some water!

BISKRA. [_Leads_ GUIMARD _to one of the sand piles and makes him lie
down on the floor with his feet on the sand_] Are you comfortable now?

GUIMARD. [_Staring at her_] I feel all twisted up. Put something under
my head.

BISKRA. [_Piling the sand higher under his feet_] There's a pillow for
your head.

GUIMARD. Head? Why, my feet are down there--Isn't that my feet?

BISKRA. Of course!

GUIMARD. I thought so. Give me a stool now--under my head.

BISKRA. [_Pulls out the aloe plant and pushes it under Guimard's legs_]
There's a stool for you.

GUIMARD. And then water!--Water!

BISKRA. [_Fills the empty bowl with sand and hands it to_ GUIMARD]
Drink while it's cold.

GUIMARD. [_Putting his lips to the bowl_] It is cold--and yet it does
not still my thirst! I cannot drink it--I abhor water--take it away!

BISKRA. There's the dog that bit you!

GUIMARD. What dog? I have never been bitten by a dog.

BISKRA. The Simoom has shrivelled up your memory--beware the delusions
of the Simoom! Don't you remember the mad greyhound that bit you during
the last hunt at Bab-el-Wad?

GUIMARD. The hunt at Bab-el-Wad? That's right!--Was it a
beaver-coloured----?

BISKRA. Bitch? Yes.--There you see. And she bit you in the calf. Can't
you feel the sting of the wound?

GUIMARD. [_Reaches out a hand to feel his calf and pricks himself on
the aloe_] Yes, I can feel it.--Water! Water!

BISKRA. [_Handing him the sand-filled bowl_] Drink, drink!

GUIMARD. No, I cannot! Holy Mother of God--I have rabies!

BISKRA. Don't be afraid! I shall cure you, and drive out the demon by
the help of music, which is all-powerful. Listen!

GUIMARD. [_Screaming_] Ali! Ali! No music; I can't stand it! And how
could it help me?

BISKRA. If music can tame the treacherous spirit of the snake, don't
you think it may conquer that of a mad dog? Listen! [_She sings and
accompanies herself on the guitar_] Biskra-biskra, Biskra-biskra,
Biskra-biskra! Simoom! Simoom!

YUSUF. [_Responding from below_] Simoom! Simoom!

GUIMARD. What is that you are singing, Ali?

BISKRA. Have I been singing? Look here--now I'll put a palm-leaf in my
mouth. [_She puts a piece of leaf between her teeth; the song seems to
be coming from above_] Biskra-biskra, Biskra-biskra, Biskra-biskra!

YUSUF. [_From below_] Simoom! Simoom!

GUIMARD. What an infernal jugglery!

BISKRA. Now I'll sing!

BISKRA and YUSUF. [_Together_] Biskra-biskra, Biskra-biskra,
Biskra-biskra! Simoom!

GUIMARD. [_Rising_] What are you, you devil who are singing with two
voices? Are you man or woman? Or both?

BISKRA. I am Ali, the guide. You don't recognise me because your senses
are confused. But if you want to be saved from the tricks played by
sight and thought, you must believe in me--believe what I say and do
what I tell you.

GUIMARD. You don't need to ask me, for I find everything to be as you
say it is.

BISKRA. There you see, you worshipper of idols!

GUIMARD. I, a worshipper of idols?

BISKRA. Yes, take out the idol you carry on your breast.

        GUIMARD _takes out a locket_.

BISKRA. Trample on it now, and then call on the only God, the Merciful
One, the Compassionate One!

GUIMARD. [_Hesitating_] Saint Edward--my patron saint?

BISKRA. Can he protect you? Can he?

GUIMARD. No, he cannot!--[_Waking up_] Yes, he can!

BISKRA. Let us see!

        _She opens the gate; the curtain flaps and the grass on the
        floor moves_.

GUIMARD. [_Covering his mouth_] Close the door!

BISKRA. Throw down the idol!

GUIMARD. No, I cannot.

BISKRA. Do you see? The Simoom does not bend a hair on me, but you, the
infidel one, are killed by it! Throw down the idol!

GUIMARD. [_Throws the locket on the floor_] Water! I die!

BISKRA. Pray to the Only One, the Merciful and Compassionate One!

GUIMARD. How am I to pray?

BISKRA. Repeat after me.

GUIMARD. Speak on!

BISKRA. There is only one God: there is no other God but He, the
Merciful, the Compassionate One!

GUIMARD. "There is only one God: there is no other God but He, the
Merciful, the Compassionate One."

BISKRA. Lie down on the floor.

        GUIMARD _lies down unwillingly_.

BISKRA. What do you hear?

GUIMARD. I hear the murmuring of a spring.

BISKRA. There you see! God is one, and there is no other God but He,
the Merciful and Compassionate One!--What do you see?

GUIMARD. I can hear a spring murmur--I can see the light of a lamp--in
a window with green shutters--on a white street----

BISKRA. Who is sitting at the window?

GUIMARD. My wife--Elise!

BISKRA. Who is standing behind the curtain with his arm around her neck?

GUIMARD. That's my son, George.

BISKRA. How old is your son?

GUIMARD. Four years on the day of Saint Nicholas.

BISKRA. And he can already stand behind the curtain with his arm around
the neck of another man's wife?

GUIMARD. No, he cannot--but it is he!

BISKRA. Four years old, you say, and he has a blond mustache?

GUIMARD. A blond mustache, you say?--Oh, that's--my friend Jules.

BISKRA. Who is standing behind the curtain with his arm around your
wife's neck?

GUIMARD. Oh, you devil!

BISKRA. Do you see your son?

GUIMARD. No, I don't see him any longer.

        BISKRA. [_Imitates the tolling of bells on the guitar_] What do
        you see now?

GUIMARD. I see bells ringing--I taste dead bodies--their smell in my
mouth is like rancid butter--faugh!

BISKRA. Can't you hear the priest chanting the service for a dead child?

GUIMARD. Wait!--I cannot hear--[_Wistfully_] But do you want me
to?--There!--I can hear it!

BISKRA. Do you see the wreath on the coffin they are carrying?

GUIMARD. Yes----

BISKRA. There are violet ribbons on it--and there are letters printed
in silver--"Farewell, my darling George--from your father."

GUIMARD. Yes, that's it! [_He begins to cry_] My George! O George, my
darling boy!--Elise--wife--can't you console me?--Oh, help me! [_He is
groping around_] Elise, where are you? Have you left me? Answer! Call
out the name of your love!

A VOICE. [_Coming from the roof_] Jules! Jules!

GUIMARD. Jules! But my name is--what is my name? It is Charles! And she
is calling Jules! Elise--my beloved wife--answer me--for your spirit
is here--I can feel it--and you promised never to love anybody else----

        _The_ VOICE _is heard laughing_.

GUIMARD. Who is laughing?

BISKRA. Elise--your wife.

GUIMARD. Oh, kill me! I don't want to live any longer! Life sickens
me like sauerkraut at Saint-Doux--You there--do you know what
Saint-Doux is? Lard! [_He tries to spit_] Not a drop of saliva
left!--Water--water--or I'll bite you!

        _The wind outside has risen to a full storm_.

BISKRA. [_Puts her hand to her mouth and coughs_] Now you are dying,
Frank! Write down your last wishes while there is still time--Where is
your note-book?

GUIMARD. [_Takes out a note-book and a pencil_] What am I to write?

BISKRA. When a man is to die, he thinks of his wife--and his child!

GUIMARD. [_Writes_] "Elise--I curse you! Simoom--I die----"

BISKRA. And then sign it, or it will not be valid as a testament.

GUIMARD. What shall I sign?

BISKRA. Write: Lâ ilâha illâ 'llâh.

GUIMARD. [_Writing_] It is written.--And can I die now?

BISKRA. Now you can die--like a craven soldier who has deserted his
people! And I am sure you'll get a handsome burial from the jackals
that will chant the funeral hymn over your corpse. [_She drums the
signal for attack on the guitar_] Can you hear the drums--the attack
has begun--on the Faithful, who have the sun and the Simoom on their
side--they are now advancing--from their hiding-places--[_She makes a
rattling noise on the guitar_] The Franks are firing along the whole
line--they have no chance to load again--the Arabs are firing at their
leisure--the Franks are flying!

GUIMARD. [_Rising_] The Franks never flee!

BISKRA. The Franks will flee when they hear the call to retreat.

        [_She blows the signal for "retreat" on a flute which she has
        produced from under her burnoose_.

GUIMARD. They are retreating--that's the signal--and I am here--[_He
tears off his epaulets_] I am dead!

        [_He falls to the ground_.

BISKRA. Yes, you are dead!--And you don't know that you have been dead
a long time.

        [_She goes to the ossuary and takes from it a human skull_.

GUIMARD. Have I been dead?

        [_He feels his face with his hands_.

BISKRA. Long! Long!--Look at yourself in the mirror here! [_She holds
up the skull before him_.

GUIMARD. Ah! That's me!

BISKRA. Can't you see your own high cheek-bones? Can't you see the eyes
that the vultures have picked out? Don't you know that gap on the right
side of the jaw where you had a tooth pulled? Can't you see the hollow
in the chin where, grew the beard that your Elise was fond of stroking?
Can't you see where used to be the ear that your George kissed at
the breakfast-table? Can't you see the mark of the axe--here in the
neck--which the executioner made when he cut off the deserter's head----

        GUIMARD, _who has been watching her movements and listening to
        her words with evident horror, sinks down dead_.

BISKRA. [_Who has been kneeling, feels his pulse; then she rises and
sings_] Simoom! Simoom! [_She opens both gates; the curtain flutters
like a banner in the wind; she puts her hand up to her mouth and falls
over backward, crying_] Yusuf!



THIRD SCENE


        BISKRA. GUIMARD (_dead_). YUSUF _comes out of the cellar_.


YUSUF. [_Having examined the body of_ GUIMARD, _he looks for_ BISKRA]
Biskra! [_He discovers her and takes her up in his arms_] Are you alive?

BISKRA. Is the Frank dead?

YUSUF. If he is not, he will be. Simoom! Simoom!

BISKRA. Then I live! But give me some water!

YUSUF. [_Carrying her toward the cellar_] Here it is!--And now Yusuf is
yours!

BISKRA. And Biskra will be your son's mother, O Yusuf, great Yusuf!

YUSUF. My strong Biskra! Stronger than the Simoom!

_Curtain_.



DEBIT AND CREDIT

(DEBET OCH KREDIT)

AN ACT

1893


        CHARACTERS

        AXEL, _Doctor of Philosophy and African explorer_
        THURE, _his brother, a gardener_
        ANNA, _the wife of_ THURE
        MISS CECILIA
        THE FIANCÉ _of_ CECILIA
        LINDGREN, _Doctor of Philosophy and former school-teacher_
        MISS MARIE
        THE COURT CHAMBERLAIN
        THE WAITER



DEBIT AND CREDIT

_A well-furnished hotel room. There are doors on both sides_.



FIRST SCENE


        THURE _and his_ WIFE.

THURE. There's some style to this room, isn't there? But then the
fellow who lives here is stylish, too.

WIFE. Yes, so I understand. Of course, I've never seen your brother,
but I've heard a whole lot.

THURE. Oh, gossip! _My_ brother, the doctor, has gone right across
Africa, and that's something everybody can't do. So it doesn't matter
how many drinks he took as a young chap----

WIFE. Yes, your brother, the doctor! Who is nothing but a
school-teacher, for that matter----

THURE. No, he's a doctor of philosophy, I tell you----

WIFE. Well, that's nothing but one who teaches. And that's just what my
brother is doing in the school at Åby.

THURE. Your brother is all right, but he is nothing but a public-school
teacher, and that's not the same as a doctor of philosophy--which isn't
a boast either.

WIFE. Well, no matter what he is or what you call him, he has cost us a
whole lot.

THURE. Of course it has been rather costly, but then he has brought us
a lot of pleasure, too.

WIFE. Fine pleasures! When we've got to lose house and home for his
sake!

THURE. That's so--but then we don't know yet if his slip-up on the loan
had some kind of cause that he couldn't help. I guess it isn't so easy
to send registered letters from darkest Africa.

WIFE. Whether he has any excuses or not doesn't change the matter a
bit. But if he wants to do something for us--it's nothing more than he
owes us.

THURE. Well, we'll see, we'll see!--Anyhow, have you heard they've
already given him four decorations?

WIFE. Well, that doesn't help us any. I guess it'll only make him a
little more stuck-up. Oh, no, it'll be some time before I get over that
the sheriff had to come down on us with the papers--and bring in other
people as witnesses--and then--the auction--and all the neighbours
coming in and turning all we had upside down. And do you know what made
me sorer than all the rest?

THURE. The black----

WIFE. Yes, it was that my sister-in-law should bid in my black silk
dress for fifteen crowns. Think of it--fifteen crowns!

THURE. You just wait--just wait a little! We might get you a new silk
dress----

WIFE. [_Weeping_] But it'll never be the same one--the one my
sister-in-law bid in.

THURE. We'll get another one then!--Now, just look at that gorgeous hat
over there! I guess it must be one of those royal chamberlains who's
talking with Axel now.

WIFE. What do I care about that!

THURE. Why, don't you think it's fun that a fellow who has the same
name as you and I gets to be so respected that the King's own household
people have to visit him? If I remember right, you were happy for a
whole fortnight when your brother, the school-teacher, had been asked
to dine at the bishop's.

WIFE. I can't remember anything of the kind.

THURE. Of course you can't!

WIFE. But I do remember the fifteenth of March, when we had to leave
our place for his sake, and we hadn't been married more than two years,
and I had to carry away the child on my own arm--Oh!--and then, when
the steamer came with all the passengers on board just as we had to get
out--all the cocked hats in the world can't make me forget that! And,
for that matter, what do you think a royal chamberlain cares about a
plain gardener and his wife when they've just been turned out of house
and home?

THURE. Look here! What do you think this is? Look at all his
decorations!--Look at this one, will you!

        _He takes an order out of its case, holds it in the palm of his
        hand, and pats it as if it were a living thing_.

WIFE. Oh, that silly stuff!

THURE. Don't you say anything against them, for you never can tell
where you'll end. The gardener at Staring was made a director and a
knight on the same day.

WIFE. Well, what does that help us?

THURE. No, of course not--it doesn't help us--but these things here
[_pointing to the orders_] may help us a whole lot in getting another
place.--However, I think we've waited quite a while now, so we'd better
sit down and make ourselves at home. Let me help you off with your
coat--come on now!

WIFE. [_After a slight resistance_] So you think we're going to be
welcome, then? I have a feeling that our stay here won't last very long.

THURE. Tut, tut! And I think we're going to have a good dinner, too, if
I know Axel right. If he only knew that we're here--But now you'll
see! [_He presses a button and a_ WAITER _enters_] What do you want--a
sandwich, perhaps? [_To the_ WAITER] Bring us some sandwiches and
beer.--Wait a moment! Get a drink for me--the real stuff, you know!
[_The_ WAITER _goes out_] You've got to take care of yourself, don't
you know.



SECOND SCENE


        THURE _and his_ WIFE. AXEL. The CHAMBERLAIN.

AXEL. [_To the_ CHAMBERLAIN] At five, then--in full dress, I suppose?

CHAMBERLAIN. And your orders!

AXEL. Is it necessary?

CHAMBERLAIN. Absolutely necessary, if you don't want to seem rude, and
that's something which you, as a democrat, want least of all. Good-bye,
doctor!

AXEL. Good-bye.

        _In leaving, the_ CHAMBERLAIN _bows slightly to_ THURE _and
        his_ WIFE, _neither of whom returns the salute_.



THIRD SCENE


        AXEL. THURE _and his_ WIFE.

AXEL. Oh, is that you, old boy?--It seems an eternity since I saw you
last. And this is your wife?--Glad to see you!

THURE. Thanks, brother! And I wish you a happy return after your long
trip.

AXEL. Yes, that was something of a trip--I suppose you have read about
it in the papers----

THURE. Oh, yes, I've read all about it. [_Pause_] And then father sent
you his regards.

AXEL. Oh, is he still sore at me?

THURE. Well, you know the old man and his ways. If only you hadn't been
a member of that expedition, you know, he would have thought it one of
the seven wonders of the world. But as you were along, of course, it
was nothing but humbug.

AXEL. So he's just the same as ever! Simply because I am _his_ son,
nothing I ever do can be of any value. It means he can't think very
much of himself either.--Well, so much for that! And how are you
getting along nowadays?

THURE. Not very well, exactly! There's that old loan from the bank, you
know----

AXEL. Yes, that's right! Well, what happened to it?

THURE. Oh, what happened was that I had to pay it.

AXEL. That's too bad! But we'll settle the matter as soon as we have a
chance.

        _The_ WAITER _comes in with_ THURE's _order on a tray_.

AXEL. What's that?

THURE. Oh, it was only me who took the liberty of ordering a couple of
sandwiches----

AXEL. Right you were! But I think we ought to have some wine, so I
could drink the health of my sister-in-law, as I couldn't get to the
wedding.

THURE. Oh, no--not for us! Not so early in the morning! Thanks very
much!

AXEL. [_Signals to the_ WAITER, _who goes out_] I should have asked you
to stay for dinner, but I have to go out myself. Can you guess where I
am going?

THURE. You don't mean to say you're going to the Palace?

AXEL. Exactly--I am asked to meet the Monarch himself.

THURE. Lord preserve us!--What do you think of that, Anna?

        _His_ WIFE _turns and twists on her chair as if in torment,
        quite unable to answer_.

AXEL. I suppose the old man will turn republican after this, when he
hears that His Majesty cares to associate with me.

THURE. See here, Axel--you'll have to pardon me for getting back to
something that's not very pleasant--but it has to be settled.

AXEL. Is it that blessed old loan?

THURE. Yes, but it isn't only that. To put it plain--we've had to stand
an execution for your sake, and now we're absolutely cleaned out.

AXEL. That's a fine state of affairs! But why in the world didn't you
get the loan renewed?

THURE. Well, that's it! How was I to get any new sureties when you were
away?

AXEL. Couldn't you go to my friends?

THURE. I did. And the result was--what it was. Can you help us out now?

AXEL. How am I going to help you now? Now when all my creditors are
getting after me? And it won't do for me to start borrowing when they
are just about to make a position for me. There's nothing that hurts
you more than to borrow money. Just wait a little while, and we'll get
it all straightened out.

THURE. If we're to wait, then everything's up with us. This is just the
time to get hold of a garden--this is the time to start digging and
sowing, if you are to get anything up in time. Can't you get a place
for us?

AXEL. Where am I to get hold of a garden?

THURE. Among your friends.

AXEL. My friends keep no gardens. Now, don't you hamper me when I try
to get up on firm ground! When I am there I'll pull you up, too.

THURE. [_To his_ WIFE] He doesn't want to help us, Anna!

AXEL. I cannot--not this moment! Do you think it reasonable that I, who
am seeking a job myself, should have to seek one for you, too? What
would people be saying, do you think? "There, now," they would say,
"we've got not only him but his relatives to look after!" And then they
would drop me entirely.

THURE. [_Looks at his watch; then to his wife_] We've got to go.

AXEL. Why must you go so soon?

THURE. We have to take the child to a doctor.

AXEL. For the Lord's sake, have you a child, too?

WIFE. Yes, we have. And a sick child, which lost its health when we had
to move out into the kitchen so that the auction could be held.

AXEL. And all this for my sake! It's enough to drive me crazy! For
my sake! So that I might become a famous man!--And what is there I
can do for you?--Do you think it would have been better if I had
stayed at home?--No, worse--for then I should have been nothing but
a poor teacher, who certainly could not have been of any use to you
whatever.--Listen, now! You go to the doctor, but come back here after
a while. In the meantime I'll think out something.

THURE. [_To his_ WIFE] Do you see now, that he wants to help us?

WIFE. Yes, but can he do it? That's the question.

THURE. He can do anything he wants.

AXEL. Don't rely too much on it--or the last state may prove worse
than the first.--Oh, merciful heavens, to think that you have a sick
child, too! And for my sake!

THURE. Oh, I guess it isn't quite as bad as it sounds.

WIFE. Yes, so you say, who don't know anything about it----

THURE. Well, Axel, we'll see you later then.

LINDGREN _appears in the doorway_.

WIFE. [_To_ THURE] Did you notice he didn't introduce us--to the
chamberlain?

THURE. Oh, shucks, what good would that have been?

[_They go out_.



FOURTH SCENE


        AXEL. LINDGREN, _who is shabbily dressed, unshaved, apparently
        fond of drinking, and looking as if he had just got out of bed_.

AXEL _is startled for a moment at the sight of_ LINDGREN.

LINDGREN. You don't recognise me?

AXEL. Yes, now I do. But you have changed a great deal.

LINDGREN. Oh, you think so?

AXEL. Yes, I do, and I am surprised to find that these years can have
had such an effect----

LINDGREN. Three years may be pretty long.--And you don't ask me to sit
down?

AXEL. Please--but I am rather in a hurry.

LINDGREN. You have always been in a hurry.

        [_He sits down; pause._

AXEL. Why don't you say something unpleasant?

LINDGREN. It's coming, it's coming!

        [_He wipes his spectacles; pause._

AXEL. How much do you need?

LINDGREN. Three hundred and fifty.

AXEL. I haven't got it, and I can't get it.

LINDGREN. Oh, sure!--You don't mind if I help myself to a few drops?

        _He pours out a drink from the bottle brought by the_ Waiter
        _for_ THURE.

AXEL. Won't you have a glass of wine with me instead?

LINDGREN. No--why?

AXEL. Because it looks bad to be swilling whisky like that.

LINDGREN. How very proper you have become!

AXEL. Not at all, but it hurts my reputation and my credit.

LINDGREN. Oh, you have credit? Then you can also give me a lift, after
having brought me down.

AXEL. That is to say: you are making demands?

LINDGREN. I am only reminding you that I am one of your victims.

AXEL. Then, because of the gratitude I owe you, I shall bring these
facts back to your mind: that you helped me through the university at
a time when you had plenty of money; that you helped to get my thesis
printed----

LINDGREN. That I taught you the methods which determined your
scientific career; that I, who then was as straight as anybody,
exercised a favourable influence on your slovenly tendencies; that, in
a word, I made you what you are; and that, finally, when I applied for
an appropriation to undertake this expedition, you stepped in and took
it.

AXEL. No, I got it. Because I, and not you, was held to be the man for
the task.

LINDGREN. And that settled me! Thus, one shall be taken, and the other
left!--Do you think that was treating me fairly?

AXEL. It was what the world calls "ungrateful," but the task was
achieved, and by it science was enriched, the honour of our country
upheld, and new regions opened for the use of coming generations.

LINDGREN. Here's to you!--You have had a lot of oratorical
practice--But have you any idea how unpleasant it feels to play the
part of one used up and cast off?

AXEL. I imagine it must feel very much like being conscious of
ingratitude, and I can only congratulate you at not finding yourself in
a position as unpleasant as my own.--But let us return to reality. What
can I do for you?

LINDGREN. What do you think?

AXEL. For the moment--nothing.

LINDGREN. And in the next moment you are gone again. Which means that
this would be the last I saw of you.

        [_He pours out another drink_.

AXEL. Will you do me the favour of not finishing the bottle? I don't
want the servants to suspect me of it.

LINDGREN. Oh, go to hell!

AXEL. You don't think it's pleasant for me to have to call you down
like this, do you?

LINDGREN. Say--do you want to get me a ticket for the banquet to-night?

AXEL. I am sorry to say that I don't think you would be admitted.

LINDGREN. Because---

AXEL. You are drunk!

LINDGREN. Thanks, old man!--Well, will you let me have a look at your
botanical specimens, then?

AXEL. No, I am going to describe them myself for the Academy.

LINDGREN. How about your ethnographical stuff?

AXEL. No, that's not my own.

LINDGREN. Will you--let me have twenty-five crowns?

AXEL. As I haven't more than twenty myself, I can only give you ten.

LINDGREN. Rotten!

AXEL. Thus stand the affairs of the man everybody envies. Do you think
there is anybody in whose company I might feel happy? Not one! Those
that are still down hate me for climbing up, and those already up fear
one coming from below.

LINDGREN. Yes, you are very unfortunate!

AXEL. I am! And I can tell you that after my experience during the last
half-hour, I wouldn't mind changing place with you. What a peaceful,
unassailable position he holds who has nothing to lose! What a lot
of interest and sympathy those that are obscure and misunderstood
and over-looked always arouse! You have only to hold out your hand
and you get a coin. You have only to open your arms, and there are
friends ready to fall into them. And then what a powerful party behind
you--formed of the millions who are just like you! You enviable man who
don't realise your own good fortune!

LINDGREN. So you think me that far down, and yourself as high up as
all that?--Tell me, you don't happen to have read to-day's paper? [_He
takes a newspaper from his pocket_.

AXEL. No, and I don't care to read it either.

LINDGREN. But you ought to do it for your own sake.

AXEL. No, I am not going to do it--not even for _your_ sake. It is as
if you said: "Come here and let me spit at you." And then you are silly
enough to demand that I shall come, too.--Do you know, during these
last minutes I have become more and more convinced that if I had ever
come across you in the jungle, I should beyond all doubt have picked
you off with my breech-loader?

LINDGREN. I believe it--beast of prey that you are!

AXEL. It isn't safe to settle accounts with one's friends, or with
persons with whom one has been intimate, for it is hard to tell in
advance who has most on the debit side. But as you are bringing in
a bill, I am forced to look it over.--You don't think it took me
long to discover that back of all your generosity lay an unconscious
desire to turn me into the strong arm which you lacked--to make me
do for you what you couldn't do for yourself? I had imagination and
initiative--you had nothing but money and--"pull." So I am to be
congratulated that you didn't eat me, and I may be excused for eating
you--my only choice being to eat or be eaten!

LINDGREN. You beast of prey!

AXEL. You rodent, who couldn't become a beast of prey--although that
was just what you wished! And what you want at this moment is not so
much to rise up to me as to pull me down to where you are.--If you
have anything of importance to add, you had better hurry up, for I am
expecting a visit.

LINDGREN. From your fiancée?

AXEL. So you have snooped that out, too?

LINDGREN. Sure enough! And I know what Marie, the deserted one, thinks
and says--I know what has happened to your brother and his wife----

AXEL. Oh, you know my fiancée? For, you see, it so happens that I am
not yet engaged!

LINDGREN. No, but I know _her_ fiancé.

AXEL. What does that mean?

LINDGREN. Why, she has been running around with another fellow all the
time--So you didn't know that?

AXEL. [_As he listens for something going on outside_] Oh, yes, I knew
of it, but I thought she was done with him--See here, if you'll come
back in a quarter of an hour, I'll try to get things arranged for you
in some way or another.

LINDGREN. Is that a polite way of showing me the door?

AXEL. No, it's an attempt to meet an old obligation. Seriously!

LINDGREN. Well, then I'll go--and come back--Good-bye for a while.



FIFTH SCENE


        AXEL. LINDGREN. _The_ WAITER. _Then the_ FIANCÉ, _dressed in
        black, with a blue ribbon in the lapel of his coat_.

WAITER. There's a gentleman here who wants to see you.

AXEL. Let him come in.

        _The_ WAITER _goes out, leaving the door open behind him. The_
        FIANCÉ _enters_.

LINDGREN. [_Observing the newcomer closely_] Well, good-bye.

AXEL--and good luck! [_He goes out_.

AXEL. Good-bye.



SIXTH SCENE


        AXEL. _The_ FIANCÉ [_much embarrassed_]

AXEL. With whom have I the honour----?

FIANCÉ. My name is not a name in the same way as yours, Doctor, and my
errand concerns a matter of the heart----

AXEL. Oh, do you happen to be--You know Miss Cecilia?

FIANCÉ. I am the man.

AXEL. [_Hesitating for a moment; then with decision_] Please be seated.
[_He opens the door and beckons the_ WAITER.

_The_ WAITER _enters_.

AXEL. [_To the_ WAITER] Have my bill made out, see that my trunk is
packed, and bring me a carriage in half an hour.

WAITER. [_Bowing and leaving_] Yes, Doctor.

AXEL. [_Goes up to the_ FIANCÉ _and sits down on a chair beside him_]
Now let's hear what you have to say?

FIANCÉ. [_After a pause, with unction_] There were two men living in
the same city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had sheep and
cattle in plenty. The poor man owned nothing but one ewe lamb----

AXEL. What does that concern me?

FIANCÉ. [_As before_] One ewe lamb, which he had bought and was trying
to raise.

AXEL. Oh, life's too short. What do you want? Are you and Miss Cecilia
still engaged?

FIANCÉ. [_Changing his tone_] I haven't said a word about Miss Cecilia,
have I?

AXEL. Well, sir, you had better get down to business, or I'll show you
the door. But be quick about it, and get straight to the point, without
any frills----

FIANCÉ. [_Holding out his snuff-box_] May I?

AXEL. No, thanks.

FIANCÉ. A great man like you has no such little weaknesses, I suppose?

AXEL. As you don't seem willing to speak, I shall. Of course, it is
none of your business, but it may do you good to learn of it, as you
don't seem to know it: I am regularly engaged to Miss Cecilia, who
formerly was your fiancée.

FIANCÉ. [_Startled_] Who was?

AXEL. Because she has broken with you.

FIANCÉ. I know nothing about it.

AXEL. [_Taking a ring from the pocket of his waistcoat]_ That's
strange, but now you do know. And here you can see the ring she has
given me.

FIANCÉ. So she has broken with me?

AXEL. Yes, as she couldn't be engaged to two men at the same time, and
as she had ceased to care for you, she had to break with you. I might
have told you all this in a more decent fashion, if you hadn't stepped
on my corns the moment you came in.

FIANCÉ. I didn't do anything of the kind.

AXEL. Cowardly and disingenuous--cringing and arrogant at the same time!

FIANCÉ. [_Gently_] You are a hard man, Doctor.

AXEL. No, but I may become one. You showed no consideration for my
feelings a moment ago. You sneered, which I didn't. And that's the end
of our conversation.

FIANCÉ. [_With genuine emotion_] I feared that you might take away from
me my only lamb--but you wouldn't do that, you who have so many----

AXEL. Suppose I wouldn't--are you sure she would stay with you anyhow?

FIANCÉ. Put yourself in my place, Doctor----

AXEL. Yes, if you'll put yourself in mine.

FIANCÉ. I am a poor man----

AXEL. So am I! But judging by what I see and hear, you have certain
bliss waiting for you in the beyond. That's more than I have.--And,
furthermore, I have taken nothing away from you: I have only received
what was offered me. Just as you did!

FIANCÉ. And I who had been dreaming of a future for this young woman--a
future full of brightness----

AXEL. Pardon me a piece of rudeness, but you began it: are you so sure
that the future of this young woman will not turn out a great deal
brighter by my side?

FIANCÉ. You are now reminding me of my humble position as a worker----

AXEL. No, I am reminding you of that young woman's future, which you
have so much at heart. And as I am told that she has ceased to care
for you, but does care for me, I am only taking the liberty to dream of
a brighter future for her with the man she loves than with the man she
doesn't love.

FIANCÉ. You are a strong man, you are, and we little ones were born to
be your victims!

AXEL. See here, my man, I have been told that you got the better
of another rival for Cecilia's heart, and that you were not very
scrupulous about the means used for the purpose. How do you think that
_victim_ liked you?

FIANCÉ. He was a worthless fellow.

AXEL. From whom you saved the girl! And now I save her from you!
Good-bye!



SEVENTH SCENE


        AXEL. _The_ FIANCÉ. CECILIA.

FIANCÉ. Cecilia!

CECILIA _draws back from him_.

FIANCÉ. You seem to know your way into this place?

AXEL. [_To the_ FIANCÉ] You had better disappear!

CECILIA. I want some water!

FIANCÉ. [_Picking up the whisky bottle from the table_] The bottle
seems to be finished!--Beware of that man, Cecilia!

AXEL. [_Pushing the_ FIANCÉ _out through the door_] Oh, your presence
is wholly superfluous--get out!

FIANCÉ. Beware of that man, Cecilia! [_He goes out_.



EIGHTH SCENE


        AXEL. CECILIA.

AXEL. That was a most unpleasant incident, which you might have spared
me--both by breaking openly with him and by not coming to my room.

CECILIA. [_Weeping_] So I am to be scolded, too?

AXEL. Well, the responsibility had to be fixed, and now, when that's
done--we can talk of something else.--How are you, to begin with?

CECILIA. So, so!

AXEL. Not well, that means?

CECILIA. How are you?

AXEL. Fine--only a little tired.

CECILIA. Are you going with me to see my aunt this after-noon?

AXEL. No, I cannot, for I have to drive out.

CECILIA. And that's more fun, of course. You go out such a lot, and
I--never!

AXEL. Hm!

CECILIA. Why do you say "hm"?

AXEL. Because your remark made an unpleasant impression on me.

CECILIA. One gets so many unpleasant impressions these days----

AXEL. For instance?

CECILIA. By reading the papers.

AXEL. So you have been reading those scandalous stories about me! And
you believe them?

CECILIA. One doesn't know what to believe.

AXEL. So you really suspect me of being the unscrupulous fellow
pictured in those stories? And as you are nevertheless willing to marry
me, I must assume that you are moved by purely practical considerations
and not by any personal attraction.

CECILIA. You speak so harshly, as if you didn't care for me at all!

AXEL. Cecilia--are you willing to leave this place with me in fifteen
minutes?

CECILIA. In fifteen minutes! For where!

AXEL. London.

CECILIA. I am not going with you until we are married.

AXEL. Why?

CECILIA. Why should we leave like that, all of a sudden?

AXEL. Because--it's suffocating here! And if I stay, they'll drag me
down so deep that I'll never get up again.

CECILIA. How strange! Are you as badly off as that?

AXEL. Do you come with me, or do you not?

CECILIA. Not until we are married--for afterward you would never marry
me.

AXEL. So that's your faith in me!--Will you sit down for a moment,
then, while I go in and write a couple of letters?

CECILIA. Am I to sit here alone, with all the doors open?

AXEL. Well, don't lock the door, for then we are utterly lost. [_He
goes out to the left_.

CECILIA. Don't be long!

        _She goes up to the door leading to the hallway and turns the
        key in the lock_.



NINTH SCENE


        CECILIA _alone for a moment. Then_ MARIE _enters_.

CECILIA. Wasn't the door locked?

MARIE. Not as far as I could see!--So it was meant to be locked?

CECILIA. I haven't the honour?

MARIE. Nor have I.

CECILIA. Why should you?

MARIE. How refined! Oh, I see! So it's you! And I am the victim--for a
while!

CECILIA. I don't know you.

MARIE. But I know you pretty well.

CECILIA. [_Rises and goes to the door at the left_] Oh, you do?
[_Opening the door and speaking to_ AXEL] Come out here a moment!



TENTH SCENE


        CECILIA. MARIE. AXEL.

AXEL. [_Entering; to_ MARIE] What do you want here?

MARIE. Oh, one never can tell.

AXEL. Then you had better clear out.

MARIE. Why?

AXEL. Because what there was between us came to an end three years ago.

MARIE. And now there is another one to be thrown on the scrap heap?

AXEL. Did I ever give you any promises that were not kept? Have I ever
owed you anything? Have I ever said a word about marriage? Have we had
any children together? Have I been the only one to receive your favours?

MARIE. But now you mean to be the only one? With that one over there!

CECILIA. [_Goes up to_ MARIE] What do you mean?--I don't know you!

MARIE. No, but there was a time when you did know me. And I remember
that when we met in the streets we called each other by our first
names. [_To_ AXEL] And now you are going to marry her? No, you know,
you are really too good for that!

AXEL. [_To_ CECILIA] Have you known that woman before?

CECILIA. No.

MARIE. You ought to be ashamed of yourself? I simply didn't recognise
you at first because of your swell clothes----

        AXEL _gazes intently at_ CECILIA.

CECILIA. [_To_ AXEL] Come--I'll go with you!

AXEL. [_Preoccupied_] In a moment! Just wait a while! I am only going
in to write another letter--But now we'll close the door first of all.

MARIE. No, thank you, I don't want to be locked in as she was a while
ago.

AXEL. [_Interested_] Was the door locked?

CECILIA. [_To_ MARIE] You don't dare say that the door was locked!

MARIE. As you expected it to be locked, I suppose you had tried to lock
it and had not succeeded----

AXEL. [_Observes_ CECILIA; _then to_ MARIE] It always seemed to me that
you were a nice girl, Marie. Will you let me have my letters back now?

MARIE. No.

AXEL. What are you going to do with them?

MARIE. I hear that I can sell them, now when you have become famous.

AXEL. And get your revenge at the same time?

MARIE. Exactly.

AXEL. Is it Lindgren----?

MARIE. Yes!--And here he is now himself.



ELEVENTH SCENE


        CECILIA. MARIE. AXEL. LINDGREN.

LINDGREN. [_Enters in high spirits_] Well, what a lot of skirts! And
Marie, too--like the cuckoo that's in every nest! Now listen, Axel!

AXEL. I hear you even when I don't see you. You're in a fine
humour--what new misfortune has befallen me?

LINDGREN. I was only a little sour this morning because I hadn't had
a chance to get wound up. But now I've had a bite to eat--Well, you
see--at bottom you don't owe me anything at all. For what I did, I
did out of my heart's goodness, and it has brought me both honour and
pleasure--and what you got was a gift and no loan!

AXEL. Now you are altogether too modest and generous.

LINDGREN. Not at all! However, one favour calls for another. Would you
mind becoming my surety on this note?

        AXEL _hesitates_.

LINDGREN. Well, you needn't be afraid that I'm going to put you in the
same kind of fix as your brother did----

AXEL. What do you mean? It was I who put him----

LINDGREN. Yes, to the tune of two hundred crowns--but he got your name
as surety for five years' rent----

AXEL. [_In a low voice_] Jesus Christ!

LINDGREN. What's that?--Hm--hm!

AXEL. [_Looking at his watch_] Just wait a few minutes--I have only to
write a couple of letters.

        CECILIA _starts to go with him_.

AXEL. [_Holds her back_] Just a few minutes, my dear--[_He kisses her
on the forehead_] Just a few minutes!

        [_He goes toward the left_.

LINDGREN. Here's the note--you might sign it while you are at it.

AXEL. Give it to me!

        [_He goes out with an air of determination_.



TWELFTH SCENE


        CECILIA. MARIE. LINDGREN.

LINDGREN. Well, girls, are you on good terms again?

MARIE. Oh, yes, and before we get away, we'll be on still better terms.

        CECILIA _makes a face_.

MARIE. I should like to have some fun to-day.

LINDGREN. Come along with me! I'll have money!

MARIE. No!

        CECILIA _sits down with evident anxiety near the door through
        which_ AXEL _disappeared--as if seeking support in that
        direction_.

LINDGREN. Let's take in the fireworks to-night--then we can see how a
great man looks in red light--what do you say to that, Cissie dear?

CECILIA. Oh, I'll be sick if I have to stay here longer!

MARIE. Well, it wouldn't be the first time.

LINDGREN. Scrap, girls, and I'll watch you! Fight till the fur
flies--won't you?



THIRTEENTH SCENE


        CECILIA. MARIE. LINDGREN. THURE _and his_ WIFE _enter_.

LINDGREN. Well, well! Old friends! How are you?

THURE. All right.

LINDGREN. And the child?

THURE. The child?

LINDGREN. Oh, you have forgotten it?--Are you equally forgetful about
names?

THURE. Names?

LINDGREN. Signatures!--He must be writing an awful lot in there!

THURE. Is my brother, the doctor, in there?

LINDGREN. I don't know if the doctor is there, but your brother went
in there a while ago.--And, for that matter, we might find out. [_He
knocks at the door_] Silent as the grave! [_Knocks again_] Then I'll
walk right in.

        [_He goes out; everybody appears restless and anxious_.

CECILIA. What can it mean?

MARIE. Well, we'll see now.

THURE. What has happened here?

WIFE. Something is up!--You'll see he doesn't help us!

LINDGREN. [_Returns, carrying in his hand a small bottle and some
letters_] What does it say? [_He reads the label on the bottle_]
Cyanide of potassium!--How stupid! What a sentimental idiot--to kill
himself for so little--[_Everybody cries out_] So you were no beast of
prey, my dear Axel!--But-[_He stares through the open door into the
adjoining room_]--he's not there--and his things are gone, too. So he
has skipped out! And the bottle has never been opened! That means--he
meant to kill himself, but changed his mind!--And these are his
posthumous writings. "To Miss Cecilia"--seems to contain some round
object--probably an engagement ring--there you are!--"To my brother
THURE" [_He holds up the letter to the light_]--with a piece of blue
paper inside--must be a note--for the amount involved! You're welcome!

        _The_ FIANCÉ _appears in the doorway at the right_.

THURE. [_Who has opened his letter_] Do you see that he helped us after
all----

WIFE. Oh, in that way!

LINDGREN. And here's my note--without his name--He's a strong one, all
right! _Diable!_

MARIE. Then the fireworks will be called off, I suppose?

FIANCÉ. Was there nothing for me?

LINDGREN. Yes, I think there was a fiancée--somewhere over there!--I
tell you, that fellow is a wonder at clearing up tangled affairs!--Of
course, it makes me mad to think that I let myself be fooled--but I'll
be darned if I don't think I would have done just as he did!--And so
would you, perhaps?--Or what do you think?

_Curtain_.



ADVENT

(ADVENT)

A MIRACLE PLAY

1899


        CHARACTERS

        _The_ JUDGE
        _The_ OLD LADY, _wife of the Judge_
        AMELIA
        ADOLPH
        _The_ NEIGHBOUR
        ERIC
        THYRA
        _being the same person_
        _The_ OTHER ONE
        _The_ FRANCISCAN
        _The_ PLAYMATE
        _The_ WITCH
        _The_ PRINCE
        _Subordinate characters, shadows, etc._

        ACT   I.  THE VINEYARD WITH THE MAUSOLEUM
        ACT  II.  THE DRAWING-ROOM
        ACT III.  THE WINE-CELLAR
                  THE GARDEN
        ACT  IV.  THE CROSS-ROADS
                  THE "WAITING-ROOM"
                  THE CROSS-ROADS
        ACT   V.  THE DRAWING-ROOM
                  THE "WAITING-ROOM"



ACT I


        _The background represents a vineyard. At the left stands a
        mausoleum. It consists of a small whitewashed brick building
        with a door and a pointed window that lacks mullions and panes.
        The roof is made of red tiles. A cross crowns the gable.
        Clematis vines with purple-coloured, cross-shaped flowers cover
        the front wall, at the foot of which appear a number of other
        flowers_.

        _A peach-tree carrying fruit stands near the foreground.
        Be-neath it sit the_ JUDGE _and the_ OLD LADY.

        _The_ JUDGE _wears a green cap with a peak, yellow
        knee-breeches, and--a blue coat--all dating back to_ 1820.
        _The_ OLD LADY _wears a kerchief on her head and carries
        a stick, spectacles, and snuff-box. She has the general
        appearance of a "witch." At the right is a small expiatory
        chapel containing an image of the Holy Virgin. The fence in
        front of it is hung with wreaths and nosegays. A prie-dieu is
        placed against the fence_.


JUDGE. Life's eve has at last brought the sunshine which its morning
promised us. Early rains and late rains have blessed meadow and field.
And soon the songs of the vintagers will be heard all over the country.

OLD LADY. Don't talk like that; somebody might hear you.

JUDGE. Who could be listening here, and what harm could it do to thank
God for all good gifts?

OLD LADY. It's better not to mention one's good fortune lest misfortune
overhear it.

JUDGE. What of it? Was I not born with a caul?

OLD LADY. Take care, take care! There are many who envy us, and evil
eyes are watching us.

JUDGE. Well, let them! That's the way it has always been. And yet I
have prospered.

OLD LADY. So far, yes. But I don't trust our neighbour. He has been
going around the village saying that we have cheated him out of his
property--and much more of the same kind which I don't care to repeat.
Of course, it doesn't matter when one has a clean conscience and can
point to a spotless life. Slander cannot hurt me. I go to confession
and mass, and I am prepared to close my eyes whenever my hour may
strike in order to open them again when I shall stand face to face with
my Judge. And I know also what I am going to answer then.

JUDGE. What are you going to answer?

OLD LADY. Like this: I was not without fault, O Lord, but even if I was
but a poor, sinful human creature, I was nevertheless a little better
than my neighbour.

JUDGE. I don't know what has brought you to these thoughts just now,
and I don't like them. Perhaps it is the fact that the mausoleum is to
be consecrated in a few days?

OLD LADY. Perhaps that is it, for, as a rule, I don't give much thought
to death. I have still every tooth left in my mouth, and my hair is as
plentiful as when I was a bride.

JUDGE. Yes, yes--you have eternal youth, you as well as I, but just
the same we shall have to pass away. And as fortune has smiled on
us, we have wanted to avail ourselves of the privilege of resting in
ground belonging to ourselves And so we have built this little tomb
for ourselves here, where every tree knows us, where every flower will
whisper of our labours, and our troubles, and our struggles----

OLD LADY. Yes, struggles against envious neighbours and ungrateful
children----

JUDGE. There you said it: ungrateful children.--Have you seen anything
of Adolph?

OLD LADY. No, I haven't seen him since he started out this morning to
raise the money for the rent.

JUDGE. The money which he will never get--and I still less. But he
knows now that the time of grace is up, for this is the third quarter
rent that he has failed to pay.

OLD LADY. Yes, out with him into the world, and let him learn to work
instead of sitting here and playing at son-in-law. I'll keep Amelia and
the children----

JUDGE. Do you think Amelia will let herself be separated from Adolph?

OLD LADY. I think so, when it is a question whether her children are to
inherit anything from us or not--No, look! There it is again!

        _On the wall of the mausoleum appears a spot of sunlight
        like those which children are fond of producing with a small
        mirror_.[1] _It is vibrating as if it were reflected by running
        water_.

JUDGE. What is it? What is it?

OLD LADY. On the mausoleum. Don't you see?

JUDGE. It's the reflection of the sun on the river. It means----

OLD LADY. It means that we'll see the light of the sun for a long time
to come----

JUDGE. On the contrary. But that's all one. The best pillow for one's
head is a good conscience, and the reward of the righteous never
fails.--There's our neighbour now.

NEIGHBOUR. [_Enters_] Good evening, Judge. Good evening, madam.

JUDGE. Good evening, neighbour. How goes it? It wasn't yesterday we had
the pleasure. And how are your vines, I should have asked?

NEIGHBOUR. The vines, yes--there's mildew on them, and the starlings
are after them, too.

JUDGE. Well, well! There's no mildew on my vines, and I have neither
seen nor heard of any starlings.

NEIGHBOUR. Fate does not distribute its gifts evenly: one shall be
taken and the other left.

OLD LADY. I suppose there are good reasons for it?

NEIGHBOUR. I see! The reward of the righteous shall not fail, and the
wicked shall not have to wait for their punishment.

JUDGE. Oh, no malice meant! But you have to admit, anyhow, that it's
queer: two parcels of land lie side by side, and one yields good
harvests, the other poor ones----

NEIGHBOUR. One yields starlings and the other not: that's what I find
queerer still. But, then, everybody wasn't born with a caul, like you,
Judge.

JUDGE. What you say is true, and fortune _has_ favoured me. I am
thankful for it, and there are moments when I feel proud of it as if I
had deserved it.--But listen, neighbour--you came as if you had been
sent for.--That leasehold of mine is vacant, and I wanted to ask you if
you care to take it.


[Footnote 1: In Sweden such spots are called "sun-cats."]

        _The_ OLD LADY _has in the meantime left her seat and gone to
        the mausoleum, where she is busying herself with the flowers_.

NEIGHBOUR. Oh, the leasehold is vacant. Hm! Since when?

JUDGE. Since this morning.

NEIGHBOUR. Hm! So!--That means your son-in-law has got to go?

JUDGE. Yes, that good-for-nothing doesn't know how to manage.

NEIGHBOUR. Tell me something else, Judge. Haven't you heard that the
state intends to build a military road across this property?

JUDGE. Oh, I have heard some rumours to that effect, but I don't think
it's anything but empty talk.

NEIGHBOUR. On the contrary, I have read it in the papers. That would
mean condemnation proceedings, and the loser would be the holder of the
lease.

JUDGE. I cannot think so, and I would never submit to it. I to leave
this spot where I expect to end my days in peace, and where I have
prepared a final resting-place to escape lying with all the rest----

NEIGHBOUR. Wait a minute! One never knows what may prove one's final
resting-place. My father, who used to own this property, also expected
to be laid to rest in his own ground, but it happened otherwise. As far
as the leasehold is concerned, I must let it go.

JUDGE. As you please. On my part the proposition was certainly
disinterested, as you are a man without luck. For it is no secret
that you fail in everything you undertake, and people have their own
thoughts about one who remains as solitary and friendless as you. Isn't
it a fact that you haven't a single friend?

NEIGHBOUR. Yes, it's true. I have not a single friend, and that doesn't
look well. It is something I cannot deny.

JUDGE. But to turn to other matters--is it true, as the legend has it,
that this vineyard once was a battle-field, and that this explains why
the wine from it is so fiery?

NEIGHBOUR. No, that isn't what I have heard. My father told me that
this had been a place of execution, and that the gallows used to stand
where the mausoleum is now.

JUDGE. Oh, how dreadful! Why did you tell me?

NEIGHBOUR. Because you asked, of course.--And the last man to be hanged
on this spot was an unrighteous judge. And now he lies buried here,
together with many others, among them being also an innocent victim of
his iniquity.

JUDGE. What kind of stories are those! [_He calls out_] Caroline!

NEIGHBOUR. And that's why his ghost has to come back here. Have you
never seen him, Judge?

JUDGE. I have never seen anything at all!

NEIGHBOUR. But I have seen him. As a rule, he appears at the time when
the grapes are harvested, and then they hear him around the wine-press
down in the cellar.

JUDGE. [_Calling out_] Caroline!

OLD LADY. What is it?

JUDGE. Come here!

NEIGHBOUR. And he will never be at peace until he has suffered all the
torments his victim had to pass through.

JUDGE. Get away from here! Go!

NEIGHBOUR. Certainly, Judge! I didn't know you were so sensitive. [_He
goes out_.

OLD LADY. What was the matter?

JUDGE. Oh, he told a lot of stories that upset me. But-but--he is
plotting something evil, that fellow!

OLD LADY. Didn't I tell you so! But you always let your tongue run
whenever you see anybody--What kind of foolish superstition was he
giving you?

JUDGE. I don't want to talk of it. The mere thought of it makes me
sick. I'll tell you some other time.--There's Adolph now!

ADOLPH. [_Entering_] Good evening!

JUDGE. [_After a pause_] Well?

ADOLPH. Luck is against me. I have not been able to get any money.

JUDGE. I suppose there are good reasons for it?

ADOLPH. I can see no reason why some people should fare well and others
badly.

JUDGE. Oh, you can't?--Well, look into your own heart; search your own
thoughts and actions, and you'll find that you have yourself to blame
for your misfortunes.

ADOLPH. Perhaps I may not call myself righteous in every respect, but
at least I have no serious crimes on my conscience.

OLD LADY. You had better think well----

ADOLPH. I don't think that's needful, for my conscience is pretty
wakeful----

JUDGE. It can be put to sleep----

ADOLPH. Can it? Of course I have heard of evil-doers growing old in
crime, but as a rule their consciences wake up just before death; and
I have even heard of criminals whose consciences have awakened after
death.

JUDGE. [_Agitated_] So that they had to come back, you mean? Have you
heard that story, too? It's strange that everybody seems to have heard
it except me----

OLD LADY. What are you talking about? Stick to business instead.

ADOLPH. Yes, I think that's wiser, too. And, as the subject has been
broached, I want to tell you what I propose----

JUDGE. Look here, my boy! I think it a good deal more appropriate that
I should tell you what I have decided. It is this: that from this day
you cease to be my tenant, and that before the sun sets you must start
out to look for work.

ADOLPH. Are you in earnest?

JUDGE. You ought to be ashamed! I am not in the habit of joking. And
you have no cause for complaint, as you have been granted respite twice.

ADOLPH. While my crops have failed three times. Can I help that?

JUDGE. Nor have I said so. But I can help it still less. And you are
not being judged by me. Here is the contract--here's the broken
agreement. Was that agreement broken by me? Oh, no! So I am without
responsibility and wash my hands of the matter.

ADOLPH. This may be the law, but I had thought there ought to be some
forbearance among relatives--especially as, in the natural course of
events, this property should pass on to your offspring.

OLD LADY. Well, well: the natural course of events! He's going around
here wishing the life out of us! But you just look at me: I am good for
twenty years more. And I am _going_ to live just to spite you!

JUDGE. [_To_ Adolph] What rudeness--what a lack of all human
feeling--to ask a couple of old people outright: are you not going to
die soon? You ought to be ashamed of yourself, I say! But now you have
broken the last tie, and all I can say is: go your way, and don't let
yourself be seen here any more!

ADOLPH. That's plain talk! Well, I'll go, but not alone----

OLD LADY. So-o--you imagined that Amelia, our own child, should follow
you out on the highways, and that all you would have to do would be to
unload one child after another on us! But we have already thought of
that and put a stop to it----

ADOLPH. Where is Amelia? Where?

OLD LADY. You may just as well know. She has gone on; a visit to the
convent of the Poor Clares--only for a visit. So now you know it's of
no use to look for her here.

ADOLPH. Some time you will have to suffer for your cruelty in depriving
a man in distress of his only support. And if you break up our
marriage, the penalty of that breach will fall on you.

JUDGE. You should be ashamed of putting your own guilt on those that
are innocent! Go now! And may you hunger and thirst, with every door
closed to you, until you have learned gratitude!

ADOLPH. The same to you in double measure!--But let me only bid my
children good-bye, and I will go.

JUDGE. As you don't want to spare your children the pain of
leave-taking, I'll do so--have already done it, in fact.

ADOLPH. That, too! Then I believe you capable of all the evil that has
been rumoured. And now I know what our neighbour meant when he said
that you couldn't--endure the sun!

JUDGE. Not another word! Or you will feel the heavy hand of law and
justice----

        _He raises his right hand so that the absence of its forefinger
        becomes visible_.

ADOLPH. [_Takes hold of the hand and examines it_] The hand of
justice!--The hand of the perjurer whose finger stuck to the Bible when
he took his false oath! Woe unto you! Woe! For the day of retribution
is at hand, and your deeds will rise like corpses out of these
hillsides to accuse you.

OLD LADY. What is that he is saying? It feels as if he were breathing
fire at us!--Go, you lying spirit, and may hell be your reward!

ADOLPH. May Heaven reward you--according to your deserts--and may the
Lord protect my children! [_He goes out_.

JUDGE. What was that? Who was it that spoke? It seemed to me as if the
voice were coming out of some huge underground hall.

OLD LADY. Did you hear it, too?

JUDGE. God help us, then!--Do you remember what he said about the
sun? That struck me as more peculiar than all the rest. How could he
know--that it is so? Ever since my birth the sun has always burned
me, and they have told me this is so because my mother suffered from
sunstroke before I was born--but that you also----

OLD LADY. [_Frightened_] Hush! Talk of the devil, and--Isn't the sun
down?

JUDGE. Of course it is down!

OLD LADY. How can that spot of sunlight remain on the mausoleum, then?

        [_The spot moves around_.

JUDGE. Jesus Maria! That's an omen!

OLD LADY. An omen, you say! And on the grave! That doesn't happen every
day--and only a few chosen people who are full of living faith in the
highest things----

        [_The spot of light disappears_.

JUDGE. There is something weird about the place to-night,
something ghastly.--But what hurt me most keenly was to hear that
good-for-nothing wishing the life out of us in order to get at the
property. Do you know what I--well, I wonder if I dare to speak of
it----

OLD LADY. Go on!

JUDGE. Have you heard the story that this spot here used to be a place
of execution?

OLD LADY. So you have found that out, too?

JUDGE. Yes--and you knew it?--Well, suppose we gave this property
to the convent? That would make the ground sacred, and it would be
possible to rest in peace in it. The income might go to the children
while they are growing up, and it would mean an additional gain, as
Adolph would be fooled in his hope of inheriting from us. I think this
a remarkably happy solution of a difficult problem: how to give away
without losing anything by it.

OLD LADY. Your superior intelligence has again asserted itself, and I
am quite of your opinion. But suppose condemnation proceedings should
be started--what would happen then?

JUDGE. There is plenty of time to consider that when it happens. In
the meantime, let us first of all, and as quietly as possible, get the
mausoleum consecrated----

FRANCISCAN. [_Enters_] The peace of the Lord be with you, Judge, and
with you, madam!

JUDGE. You come most conveniently, Father, to hear something that
concerns the convent----

FRANCISCAN. I am glad of it.

        _The spot of light appears again on the mausoleum_.

OLD LADY. And then we wanted to ask when the consecration of the
mausoleum might take place.

FRANCISCAN. [_Staring at her_] Oh, is that so?

JUDGE. Look, Father--look at that omen----

OLD LADY. Yes, the spot must be sacred, indeed----

FRANCISCAN. That's a will-o'-the-wisp.

OLD LADY. Is it not a good sign? Does it not carry some kind of
message? Does it not prompt a pious mind to stop and consider? Would it
not be possible to turn this place into a refuge for desert wanderers
who are seeking----

FRANCISCAN. Madam, let me speak a word to you in private. [_He moves
over to the right._

OLD LADY. [_Following him_] Father?

FRANCISCAN. [_Speaking in a subdued voice_] You, madam, enjoy a
reputation in this vicinity which you don't deserve, for you are the
worst sinner that I know of. You want to buy your pardon, and you want
to steal heaven itself, you who have already stolen from the Lord.

OLD LADY. What is it I hear?

FRANCISCAN. When you were sick and near death you made a vow to the
Lord that in case of recovery you would give a monstrance of pure gold
to the convent church. Your health was restored and you gave the holy
vessel, but it was of silver--gilded. Not for the sake of the gold, but
because of your broken vow and your deception, you are already damned.

OLD LADY. I didn't know it. The goldsmith has cheated me.

FRANCISCAN. You are lying, for I have the goldsmith's bill.

OLD LADY. Is there no pardon for it?

FRANCISCAN. No! For it is a mortal sin to cheat God.

OLD LADY. Woe is me!

FRANCISCAN. The settlement of your other crimes will have to take place
within yourself. But if you as much as touch a hair on the heads of the
children, then you shall learn who is their protector, and you shall
feel the iron rod.

OLD LADY. The idea--that this infernal monk should dare to say such
things to me! If I am damned--then I want to be damned! Ha, ha!

FRANCISCAN. Well, you may be sure that there will be no blessing for
your house and no peace for yourself until you have suffered every
suffering that you have brought on others.--May I speak a word with
you, Judge?

        _The_ JUDGE _approaches_.

OLD LADY. Yes, give him what he deserves, so that one may be as good as
the other.

FRANCISCAN. [_To the_ Judge] Where did you get the idea of building
your tomb where the gallows used to stand?

JUDGE. I suppose I got it from the devil!

FRANCISCAN. Like the idea of casting off your children and robbing them
of their inheritance? But you have also been an unrighteous judge--you
have violated oaths and accepted bribes.

JUDGE. I?

FRANCISCAN. And now you want to erect a monument to yourself! You
want to build yourself an imperishable house in heaven! But listen to
me: this spot will never be consecrated, and you may consider it a
blessing if you are permitted to rest in common ground among ordinary
little sinners. There is a curse laid on this soil, because blood-guilt
attaches to it and because it is ill-gotten.

JUDGE. What am I to do?

FRANCISCAN. Repent, and restore the stolen property.

JUDGE. I have never stolen. Everything has been legally acquired.

FRANCISCAN. That, you see, is the worst part of all--that you regard
your crimes as lawful. Yes, I know that you even consider yourself
particularly favoured by Heaven because of your righteousness. But now
you will soon see what harvest is in store for you. Thorns and thistles
will grow in your vineyard. Helpless and abandoned you shall be, and
the peace of your old age will turn into struggle and strife.

JUDGE. The devil you say!

FRANCISCAN. Don't call him--he'll come anyhow!

JUDGE. Let him come! Because we believe, we have no fear!

FRANCISCAN. The devils believe also, and tremble!--Farewell! [_He goes
out_.

JUDGE. [_To his wife_] What did he say to you?

OLD LADY. You think I'll tell? What did he have to say to you?

JUDGE. And you think I'll tell?

OLD LADY. Are you going to keep any secrets from me?

JUDGE. And how about you? It's what you have always done, but I'll get
to the bottom of your tricks some time.

OLD LADY. Just wait a little, and I'll figure out where you keep the
money that is missing.

JUDGE. So you are hiding money, too! Now there is no longer any use
in playing the hypocrite--just let yourself be seen in all your
abomination, you witch!

OLD LADY. I think you have lost your reason--not that it was much to
keep! But you might at least preserve an appearance of decency, if you
can----

JUDGE. And you might preserve your beauty--if you can! And your
perennial youth--ha, ha, ha! And your righteousness! You must have
known how to bewitch people, and hoodwink them, for now I see how
horribly ugly and old you are.

OLD LADY. [_On whom the spot of light now appears_] Woe! It is burning
me!

JUDGE. There I see you as you really are! [_The spot jumps to the_
JUDGE] Woe! It is burning me now!

OLD LADY. And how you look! [_Both withdraw to the right_.

        [_The_ NEIGHBOUR _and_ AMELIA _enter from the left_.

NEIGHBOUR. Yes, child, there is justice, both human and divine, but we
must have patience.

AMELIA. I am willing to believe that justice is done, in spite of all
appearances to the contrary. But I cannot love my mother, and I have
never been able to do so. There is something within me that keeps
telling me that she is not only indifferent to me but actually hostile.

NEIGHBOUR. So you have found it out?

AMELIA. Why--she hates me, and a mother couldn't do that!

NEIGHBOUR. Well, well!

AMELIA. And I suffer from not being able to do my duty as a child and
love her.

NEIGHBOUR. Well, as _that_ has made you suffer, then you will soon--in
the hour of retribution--learn the great secret of your life.

AMELIA. And I could stand everything, if she were only kind to my
children.

NEIGHBOUR. Don't fear on that account, for her power is now ended. The
measure of her wickedness has been heaped full and is now overflowing.

AMELIA. Do you think so? But this very day she tore my Adolph away from
me, and now she has humiliated me still further by dressing me as a
servant girl and making me do the work in the kitchen.

NEIGHBOUR. Patience!

AMELIA. Yes, so you say! Oh, I can understand deserved suffering, but
to suffer without cause----

NEIGHBOUR. My dear child, the prisoners in the penitentiary are
suffering justly, so there is no honour in that; but to be permitted to
suffer unjustly, that's a grace and a trial of which steadfast souls
bring home golden fruits.

AMELIA. You speak so beautifully that everything you say seems true
to me.--Hush! There are the children--and I don't want them to see me
dressed like this.

        _She and the_ NEIGHBOUR _take up a position where they are
        hidden by a tall shrub_.

ERIC _and_ THYRA _enter; the spot of light rests now on one of them and
now on the other_.

ERIC. Look at the sun spot!

THYRA. Oh, you beautiful sun! But didn't he go to bed a while ago?

ERIC. Perhaps he is allowed to stay up longer than usual because he has
been very good all day.

THYRA. But how could the sun be good? Now you are stupid, Eric.

ERIC. Of course the sun can be good--doesn't he make the grapes and the
peaches?

THYRA. But if he is so good, then he might also give us a peach.

ERIC. So he will, if we only wait a little. Aren't there any on the
ground at all?

THYRA. [_Looking_] No, but perhaps we might get one from the tree.

ERIC. No, grandmother won't let us.

THYRA. Grandmother has said that we mustn't shake the tree, but I
thought we could play around the tree so that one might fall down
anyhow--of itself.

ERIC. Now you are stupid, Thyra. That would be exactly the same thing.
[_Looking up at the tree_] Oh, if only a peach would fall down!

THYRA. None will fall unless you shake.

ERIC. You mustn't talk like that, Thyra, for that is a sin.

THYRA. Let's pray God to let one fall.

ERIC. One shouldn't pray God for anything nice--that is, to eat!--Oh,
little peach, won't you fall? I want you to fall! [_A peach falls from
the tree, and_ ERIC _picks it up_] There, what a nice tree!

THYRA. But now you must give me half, for it was I who said that the
tree had to be shaken----

OLD LADY. [_Enters with a big birch rod_] So you have been shaking the
tree--now you'll see what you'll get, you nasty children----

ERIC. No, grandmother, we didn't shake the tree!

OLD LADY. So you are lying, too. Didn't I hear Thyra say that the tree
had to be shaken? Come along now, and I'll lock you up in the cellar
where neither sun nor moon is to be seen----

AMELIA. [_Coming forward_] The children are innocent, mother.

OLD LADY. That's a fine thing--to stand behind the bushes listening,
and then to teach one's own children how to lie besides!

NEIGHBOUR. [_Appearing_] Nothing has been spoken here but the truth,
madam.

OLD LADY. Two witnesses behind the bushes--exactly as if we were in
court. But I know the tricks, I tell you, and what I have heard and
seen is sufficient evidence for me.--Come along, you brats!

AMELIA. This is sinful and shameful----

        _The_ NEIGHBOUR _signals to_ AMELIA _by putting his finger
        across his lips_.

AMELIA. [_Goes up to her children_] Don't cry, children! Obey
grandmother now--there is nothing to be afraid of. It is better to
suffer evil than to do it, and I know that you are innocent. May God
preserve you! And don't forget your evening prayer!

        _The_ OLD LADY _goes out with the children_.

AMELIA. Belief comes so hard, but it is sweet if you can achieve it.

NEIGHBOUR. Is it so hard to believe that God is good--at the very
moment when his kind intentions are most apparent?

AMELIA. Give me a great and good word for the night, so that I may
sleep on it as on a soft pillow.

NEIGHBOUR. You shall have it. Let me think a moment.--This is it: Isaac
was to be sacrificed----

AMELIA. Oh, no, no!

NEIGHBOUR. Quiet, now!--Isaac was to _be_ sacrificed, but he never was!

AMELIA. Thank you! Thank you! And good night!

        _She goes out to the right_.

NEIGHBOUR. Good night, my child!

        [_He goes slowly out by a path leading to the rear_.

        THE PROCESSION OF SHADOWS _enters from the mausoleum and moves
        without a sound across the stage toward the right; between
        every two figures there is a distance of five steps_:

        DEATH _with its scythe and hour-glass_.

        THE LADY IN WHITE--_blond, tall, and slender; on one of her
        fingers she wears a ring with a green stone that seems to emit
        rays of light_.

        THE GOLDSMITH, _with the counterfeit monstrance_.

        THE BEHEADED SAILOR, _carrying his head in one hand_.

        THE AUCTIONEER, _with hammer and note-book_.

        THE CHIMNEY-SWEEP, _with rope, scraper, and broom_.

        THE FOOL, _carrying his cap with the ass's ears and bells at
        the top of a pole, across which is placed a signboard with the
        word "Caul" on it_.

        THE SURVEYOR, _with measuring rod and tripod_.

        THE MAGISTRATE, _dressed and made up like the_ JUDGE; _he
        carries a rope around his neck; and his right hand is raised to
        show that the forefinger is missing_.

        _The stage is darkened at the beginning of the procession and
        remains empty while it lasts_.

        _When it is over, the_ JUDGE _enters from the left, followed by
        the_ OLD LADY.

JUDGE. Why are you playing the ghost at this late hour?

OLD LADY. And how about yourself?

JUDGE. I couldn't sleep.

OLD LADY. Why not?

JUDGE. Don't know. Thought I heard children crying in the cellar.

OLD LADY. That's impossible. Oh, no, I suppose you didn't dare to sleep
for fear I might be prying in your hiding-places.

JUDGE. And you feared I might be after yours! A pleasant old age this
will be for Philemon and Baucis!

OLD LADY. At least no gods will come to visit us.

JUDGE. No, I shouldn't call them gods.

        _At this moment the_ PROCESSION _begins all over again,
        starting from the mausoleum as before and moving in silence
        toward the right_.

OLD LADY. O Mary, Mother of God, what is this?

JUDGE. Merciful heavens! [_Pause_]

OLD LADY. Pray! Pray for us!

JUDGE. I have tried, but I cannot.

OLD LADY. Neither can I! The words won't come--and no thoughts!
[_Pause_]

JUDGE. How does the Lord's Prayer begin?

OLD LADY. I can't remember, but I knew it this morning. [_Pause_] Who
is the woman in white?

JUDGE. It is she--Amelia's mother--whose very memory we wanted to kill.

OLD LADY. Are these shadows or ghosts, or nothing but our own sickly
dreams?

JUDGE. [_Takes up his pocket-knife_] They are delusions sent by the
devil. I'll throw cold steel after them.--Open the knife for me,
Caroline! I can't, don't you see?

OLD LADY. Yes, I see--it isn't easy without a forefinger.--But I can't
either! [_She drops the knife_]

JUDGE. Woe to us! Steel won't help here! Woe! There's the beheaded
sailor! Let us get away from here!

OLD LADY. That's easy to say, but I can't move from the spot.

JUDGE. And I seem to be rooted to the ground.--No, I am not going to
look at it any longer!

        [_He covers his eyes with one hand_.

OLD LADY. But what is it? Mists out of the earth, or shadows cast by
the trees?

JUDGE. No, it's our own vision that plays us false. There I go now, and
yet I am standing here. Just let me get a good night's sleep, and I'll
laugh at the whole thing!--The devil! Is this masquerade never going to
end?

OLD LADY. But why do you look at it then?

JUDGE. I see it right through my hand--I see it in the dark, with my
eyelids closed!

OLD LADY. But now it's over.

        _The_ PROCESSION _has passed out_.

JUDGE. Praised be--why, I can't get the word out!--I wonder if it will
be possible to sleep to-night? Perhaps we had better send for the
doctor?

OLD LADY. Or Father Colomba, perhaps?

JUDGE. He can't help, and he who could won't!--Well, let the Other One
do it then!

        THE OTHER ONE _enters from behind the Lady Chapel. He is
        extremely thin and moth-eaten. His thin, snuff-coloured hair is
        parted in the middle. His straggly beard looks as if it were
        made out of tow. His clothes are shabby and outgrown, and he
        seems to wear no linen. A red woollen muffler is wound around
        his neck. He wears spectacles and carries a piece of rattan
        under his arm_.

JUDGE. Who is that?

THE OTHER ONE. [_In a low voice_] I am the Other One!

JUDGE. [_To his wife_] Make the sign of the cross! I can't!

THE OTHER ONE. The sign of the cross does not frighten me, for I am
undergoing my ordeal merely that I may wear it.

JUDGE. Who are you?

THE OTHER ONE. I became the Other One because I wanted to be the First
One. I was a man of evil, and my punishment is to serve the good.

JUDGE. Then you are not the Evil One?

THE OTHER ONE. I am. And it is my task to torment you into finding the
cross, before which we are to meet some time.

OLD LADY. [_To_ JUDGE] Don't listen to him! Tell him to go!

THE OTHER ONE. It won't help. You have called me, and you'll have to
bear with me.

        _The_ JUDGE _and the_ OLD LADY _go out to the left_.

        THE OTHER ONE _goes after them_.

_Curtain_.



ACT II


        _A huge room with whitewashed walls and a ceiling of darkened
        beams. The windows are small and deeply set, with bars on the
        outside. The room is crowded with furniture of every kind:
        wardrobes, chiffoniers, dressers, chests, tables. On the
        furniture are placed silver services, candelabra, candlesticks,
        pitchers, table ware, vases, statues, etc.

        There is a door in the rear. Portraits of the_ JUDGE _and the_
        OLD LADY _hang on the rear wall, one on either side of the door.

        A harp stands beside a small sewing-table with an easy chair
        near it_.

        AMELIA _is standing before a table at the right, trying to
        clean a coffee-set of silver_.

        _The sun is shining in through the windows in the background_.


NEIGHBOUR. [_Enters_] Well, child, how is your patience?

AMELIA. Thank you, neighbour, it might be worse. But I never had a
worse job than this silver service here. I have worked at it for half
an hour and cannot get it clean.

NEIGHBOUR. That's strange, but I suppose there are reasons for it, as
the Judge says. Could you sleep last night?

AMELIA. Thank you, I slept very well. But do you know that father spent
the whole night in the vineyard with his rattle----?

NEIGHBOUR. Yes, I heard him. What kind of foolish idea was that?

AMELIA. He thought he heard the starlings that had come to eat the
grapes.

NEIGHBOUR. Poor fellow! As if the starlings were abroad nights!--And
the children?

AMELIA. Well, the children--she is still keeping them in the cellar,
and I hope she won't forget to give them something to eat.

NEIGHBOUR. He who feeds the birds will not forget your children,
my dear Amelia. And now I'll tell you something which, as a rule,
shouldn't be told. There is a small hole in the wall between the
Judge's wine-cellar and my own. When I was down there this morning to
get the place aired out, I heard voices. And when I looked through the
hole, I saw Eric and Thyra playing with a strange little boy.

AMELIA. You could see them, neighbour? And----

NEIGHBOUR. They were happy and well----

AMELIA. Who was their playmate?

NEIGHBOUR. That's more than I can guess.

AMELIA. This whole dreadful house is nothing but secrets.

NEIGHBOUR. That is true, but it is not for us to inquire into them.

JUDGE. [_Enters, carrying a rattle_] So you are in here conspiring,
neighbour! Is it not enough that your evil eye has brought the
starlings into my vineyard? For you do have the evil eye--but we'll
soon put it out. I know a trick or two myself.

NEIGHBOUR. [_To_ AMELIA] Is it worth while to set him right? One who
doesn't believe what is told him! [_He goes out_.

AMELIA. No, this is beyond us!

JUDGE. Tell me, Amelia, have you noticed where your mother is looking
for things when she believes herself to be alone?

AMELIA. No, father.

JUDGE. I can see by your eyes that you know. You were looking this
way. [_He goes up to a chest of drawers and happens to get into the
sunlight_] Damn the sun that is always burning me! [_He pulls down one
of the shades and returns to the chest of drawers_] This must be the
place!--Now, let me see! The stupidest spot is also the cleverest, so
that's where I must look--as in this box of perfume, for instance--And
right I was! [_He pulls out a number of bank-notes and stocks_] What's
this? Twelve English bills of a pound each. Twelve of them!--Oho! Then
it is easy to imagine the rest. [_Pushes the bills and securities into
his pockets_] But what is it I hear? There are the starlings again!
[_He goes to an open window and begins to play the rattle_] Get away
there!

OLD LADY. [_Enters_] Are you still playing the ghost?

JUDGE. Are you not in the kitchen?

OLD LADY. No, as you see, I am not. [_To_ AMELIA] Are you not done with
the cleaning yet?

AMELIA. No, mother, I'll never get done with it. The silver won't
clean, and I don't think it is real.

OLD LADY. Not real? Let me see!--Why, indeed, it's quite black! [_To
the_ JUDGE, _who in the meantime has pulled down another shade_] Where
did you get this set from?

JUDGE. That one? Why, it came from an estate.

OLD LADY. For your services as executor! What you got was like what you
gave!

JUDGE. You had better not make any defamatory remarks, for they are
punishable under the law.

OLD LADY. Are you crazy, or was there anything crazy about my remark?

JUDGE. And for that matter, it is silver--sterling silver.

OLD LADY. Then it must be Amelia's fault.

A VOICE. [_Coming through the window from the outside_] The Judge can
turn white into black, but he can't turn black into white!

JUDGE. Who said that?

OLD LADY. It seemed as if one of the starlings had been speaking.

JUDGE. [_Pulling down the remaining shade_] Now the sun is here, and a
while ago it seemed to be over there.

OLD LADY. [_To_ AMELIA] Who was it that spoke?

AMELIA. I think it was that strange school-teacher with the red muffler.

JUDGE. Ugh! Let us talk of something else.

SERVANT GIRL. [_Enters_] Dinner is served.

        [_She goes out; a pause follows_.

OLD LADY. You go down and eat, Amelia.

AMELIA. Thank you, mother. [_She goes out_.

_The_ JUDGE _sits down on a chair close to one of the chests_.

OLD LADY. [_Sliding up to the chest of drawers >where the box of
perfume stands_] Are you not going to eat anything?

JUDGE. No, I am not hungry. How about you?

OLD LADY. I have just eaten. [_Pause_.

JUDGE. [_Takes a piece of bread from his pocket_] Then you'll excuse
me, I'm sure.

OLD LADY. There's a roast of venison on the table.

JUDGE. You don't say so!

OLD LADY. Do you think I poison the food?

JUDGE. Yes, it tasted of carbolic acid this morning.

OLD LADY. And what I ate had a sort of metallic taste----

JUDGE. If I assure you that I have put nothing whatever in your food----

OLD LADY. Then I don't believe you. But I can assure you----

JUDGE. And I won't believe it. [_Eating his bread_] Roast of venison
is a good thing--I can smell it from here--but bread isn't bad either.
[_Pause_.

OLD LADY. Why are you sitting there watching that chest?

JUDGE. For the same reason that makes you guard those perfumes.

OLD LADY. So you have been there, you sneak-thief!

JUDGE. Ghoul!

OLD LADY. To think of it--such words between us! _Us_!

        [_She begins to weep_.

JUDGE. Yes, the world is evil and so is man.

OLD LADY. Yes, you may well say so--and ungrateful above all.
Ungrateful children rob you of the rent; ungrateful grandchildren rob
the fruit from the trees. You are right, indeed: the world is evil----

JUDGE. I ought to know, I who have had to witness all the rottenness,
and who have been forced to pass the death sentence. That is why the
mob hates me, just as if I had made the laws----

OLD LADY. It doesn't matter what the people say, if you have only a
clean conscience--[_Three loud knocks are heard from the inside of the
biggest wardrobe_] What was that? Who is there?

JUDGE. Oh, it was that wardrobe. It always cracks when there is rain
coming. [_Three distinct knocks are heard again_.

OLD LADY. It's some kind of performance started by that strolling
charlatan.

        _The cover of the coffee-pot which_ AMELIA _was cleaning, opens
        and drops down again with a bang; this happens several times in
        succession_.

JUDGE. What was _that_, then?

OLD LADY. Oh, yes, it's that same juggler. He can play tricks, but he
can't scare me. [_The coffee-pot acts as before._

JUDGE. Do you think he is one of those mesmerists?

OLD LADY. Well, whatever it happens to be called----

JUDGE. If that's so, how can he know our private secrets?

OLD LADY. Secrets? What do you mean by that?

        _A clock begins to strike and keeps it up as if it never meant
        to stop_.

JUDGE. Now I am getting scared.

OLD LADY. Then Old Nick himself may take me if I stay here another
minute! [_The spot of sunlight appears suddenly on the portrait of the_
OLD LADY] Look! He knows that secret, too!

JUDGE. You mean that there is a portrait of _her_ behind yours?

OLD LADY. Come away from here and let us go down and eat. And let us
see whether we can't sell off the house and all the rest at auction----

JUDGE. You are right--sell off the whole caboodle and start a new
life!--And now let us go down and eat.

        THE OTHER ONE _appears in the doorway_.

        _The_ JUDGE _and the_ OLD LADY _draw back from him_.

JUDGE. That's an ordinary human being!

OLD LADY. Speak to him!

JUDGE. [_To_ THE OTHER ONE] Who are you, sir?

THE OTHER ONE. I have told you twice. That you don't believe me is a
part of your punishment, for if you could believe, your sufferings
would be shortened by it.

JUDGE. [_To his wife_] It's--_him_--sure enough! For I feel as if I
were turning into ice. How are we to get rid of him?--Why, they say
that the unclean spirits cannot bear the sound of music. Play something
on the harp, Caroline.

        _Though badly frightened, the_ OLD LADY _sits down at the table
        on which the harp stands and begins to play a slow prelude in a
        minor key_.

        THE OTHER ONE _listens reverently and with evident emotion_.

OLD LADY. [_To the_ JUDGE] Is he gone?

THE OTHER ONE. I thank you for the music, madam. It lulls the pain
and awakens memories of better things even in a lost soul--Thank you,
madam!--Speaking of the auction, I think you are doing right, although,
in my opinion, an honest declaration of bankruptcy would be still
better--Yes, surrender your goods, and let every one get back his own.

JUDGE. Bankruptcy? I have no debts----

THE OTHER ONE. No debts!

OLD LADY. My husband _has_ no debts!

THE OTHER ONE. No debts! That would be happiness, indeed!

JUDGE. Well, that's the truth! But other people are in debt to me----

THE OTHER ONE. Forgive them then!

JUDGE. This is not a question of pardon, but of payment----

THE OTHER ONE. All right! Then you'll be made to pay!--For the
moment--farewell! But we'll meet frequently, and the last time at the
great auction! [_He goes out backward_.

JUDGE. He's afraid of the sun--he, too! Ha-ha!

THE OTHER ONE. Yes, for some time yet. But once I have accustomed
myself to the light, I shall hate darkness.

        [_He disappears_.

OLD LADY. [_To the_ JUDGE] Do you really think he is--the Other One?

JUDGE. Of course, that's not the way he is supposed to look but then
times are changing and we with them. They used to say that he had gold
and fame to give away, but this fellow goes around dunning----

OLD LADY. Oh, he's a sorry lot, and a charlatan--that's all! A milksop
who doesn't dare to bite, no matter how much he would like to!

THE OTHER ONE. [_Standing in the doorway again_] Take care, I tell you!
Take care!

JUDGE. [_Raising his right hand_] Take care yourself!

THE OTHER ONE. [_Pointing at the_ JUDGE _with one hand as if it were a
revolver_] Shame!

JUDGE. [_Unable to move_] Woe is me!

THE OTHER ONE. You have never believed in anything good. Now you shall
have to believe in the Evil One. He who is _all goodness_ can harm
nobody, you see, and so he leaves that to such villains as myself. But
for the sake of greater effectiveness, you two must torture yourselves
and each other.

OLD LADY. [_Kneeling before_ THE OTHER ONE] Spare us! Help us! Mercy!

THE OTHER ONE. [_With a gesture as if he were tearing his clothes_]
Get up, woman! Woe is me! There is One, and One only, to whom you may
pray! Get up now, or--Yes, now you believe, although I don't wear
a red cloak, and don't carry sword or purse, and don't crack any
jokes--but beware of taking me in jest! I am serious as sin and stern
as retribution! I have not come to tempt you with gold and fame, but
to chastise you with rods and scorpions--[_The clock begins to strike
again; the stage turns dark_] Your time is nearly up. Therefore, put
your house in order--because die you must! [_A noise as of thunder is
heard_] Whose voice is speaking now? Do you think _he_ can be scared
off with your rattle when he comes sweeping across your vineyard? Storm
and Hail are his names; destruction nestles under his wings, and in his
claws he carries punishment. Put on your caul now, and don your good
conscience.

        [_The rattling of the hail-storm is heard outside_.

JUDGE. Mercy!

THE OTHER ONE. Yes, if you promise repentance.

JUDGE. I promise on my oath----

THE OTHER ONE. You can take no oath, for you have already perjured
yourself. But promise first of all to set the children free--and then
all the rest!

JUDGE. I promise! Before the sun has set, the children shall be here!

THE OTHER ONE. That's the first step ahead, but if you turn back, then
you'll see that I am as good as my name, which is--Legion!

        _He raises the rattan, and at that moment the_ JUDGE _comes
        able to move again_.

_Curtain_.



ACT III


        _A wine-cellar, with rows of casks along both side walls. The
        doorway in the rear is closed by an iron door_.

        _Every cask is marked with the name of the urine kept in it.
        Those nearest the foreground have small shelves above the taps,
        and the shelves hold glasses_.

        _At the right, in the foreground, stands a wine-press and near
        it are a couple of straw-bottomed chairs_.

        _Bottles, funnels, siphons, crates, etc., are scattered about
        the place_.


ERIC _and_ THYRA _are seated by the wine-press_.

ERIC. I think it's awfully dull.

THYRA. I think grandmother is nasty.

ERIC. You mustn't talk like that.

THYRA. No, perhaps not, but she _is_ nasty.

ERIC. You mustn't, Thyra, for then the little boy won't come and play
with us again.

THYRA. Then I won't say it again. I only wish it wasn't so dark.

ERIC. Don't you remember, Thyra, that the boy said we shouldn't
complain----

THYRA. Then I won't do it any more--[_The spot of sunlight appears on
the ground_] Oh, look at the sun-spot!

        [_She jumps up and places her foot on the light._

ERIC. You mustn't step on the sun, Thyra. That's a sin!

THYRA. I didn't mean to step on him. I just wanted to have him. Now
see--I have him in my arms, and I can pat him.--Look! Now he's kissing
me right on the mouth.

        _The_ PLAYMATE _enters from behind one of the casks; he wears a
        white garment reaching below his knees, and a blue scarf around
        the waist; on his feet are sandals; he is blond, and when he
        appears the cellar grows lighter_.

ERIC. [_Goes to meet him and shakes hands with him_] Hello, little
boy!--Come and shake hands, Thyra!--What's your name, boy? You must
tell us to-day.

        _The_ PLAYMATE _merely looks at him_.

THYRA. You shouldn't be so forward, Eric, for it makes him
bashful.--But tell me, little boy, who is your papa?

PLAYMATE. Don't be so curious. When you know me better, you'll learn
all those things.--But let us play now.

THYRA. Yes, but nothing instructive, for that is so tedious. I want it
just to be nice.

PLAYMATE. [_Smiling_] Shall I tell a story?

THYRA. Yes, but not out of the Bible, for all those we know by heart----

        _The_ PLAYMATE _smiles again_.

ERIC. You say such things, Thyra, that he gets hurt----

PLAYMATE. No, my little friends, you don't hurt me--But now, if you are
really good, we'll go and play in the open----

ERIC. Oh, yes, yes!--But then, you know, grandmother won't let us----

PLAYMATE. Yes, your grandmother has said that she wished you were out,
and so we'll go before she changes her mind. Come on now!

THYRA. Oh, what fun! Oh----

        _The door in the rear flies open and through the doorway is
        seen a sunlit field planted with rye ready for the harvest.
        Among the yellow ears grow bachelor's-buttons and daisies_.

PLAYMATE. Come, children! Come into the sunlight and feel the joy of
living!

THYRA. Can't we take the sun-spot along? It's a pity to leave it here
in the darkness.

PLAYMATE. Yes, if it is willing to go with you. Call it!

ERIC _and_ THYRA _go toward the door, followed by the spot of light_.

ERIC. Isn't it a nice little spot! [_Talks to the spot as if it were a
cat_] Puss, puss, puss, puss!

PLAYMATE. Take it up on your arm, Thyra, for I don't think it can get
over the threshold.

THYRA _gets the spot of light on her arm, which she bends as if
carrying something_.

        _All three go out; the door closes itself. Pause_.

        _The_ JUDGE _enters with a lantern, the_ OLD LADY _with the
        birch rod_.

OLD LADY. It's cool and nice here, and then there is no sun to bother
you.

JUDGE. And how quiet it is. But where are the children?

        [_Both look for the children_.

JUDGE. It looks as if they had taken us at our word.

OLD LADY. Us? Please observe that I didn't promise anything, for
he--you know--talked only to you toward the end.

JUDGE. Perhaps, but this time we had better obey, for I don't want to
have any more trouble with hail-storms and such things.--However, the
children are not here, and I suppose they'll come back when they get
hungry.

OLD LADY. And I wish them luck when they do! [_The rod is snatched out
of her hand and dances across the floor; finally it disappears behind
one of the casks_] Now it's beginning again.

JUDGE. Well, why don't you submit and do as he--you know who!--says? I,
for my part, don't dare to do wrong any longer. The growing grapes have
been destroyed, and we must take pleasure in what is already safe. Come
here, Caroline, and let us have a glass of something good to brace us
up! [_He knocks on one of the casks and draws a glass of wine from it_]
This is from the year of the comet--anno 1869, when the big comet came,
and everybody said it meant war. And, of course, war did break out.

        [_He offers a filled glass to his wife_.

OLD LADY. You drink first!

JUDGE. Well, now--did you think there might be poison in this, too?

OLD LADY. No, really, I didn't--but--we'll never again know what peace
is, or happiness!

JUDGE. Do as I do: submit! [_He drinks_.

OLD LADY. I want to, and I try to, but when I come to think how badly
other people have treated us, I feel that I am just as good as anybody
else. [_She drinks_] That's a very fine wine! [_She sits down_.

JUDGE. The wine is good, and it makes the mind easier.--Yes, the
wiseacres say that we are rapscallions, one and all, so I can't see
what right anybody has to go around finding fault with the rest. [_He
drinks_] My own actions have always been legal; that is, in keeping
with prevailing laws and constitutions. If others happened to be
ignorant of the law, they had only themselves to blame, for no one has
a right to ignorance of that kind. For that reason, if Adolph does not
pay the rent, it is he who breaks the law, and not I.

OLD LADY. And yet the blame falls on you, and you are made to appear
like a criminal. Yes, it is as I have always said: there is no justice
in this world. If you had done right, you should have brought suit
against Adolph and turned out the whole family. But then it isn't too
late yet---- [_She drinks_.

JUDGE. Well, you see, if I were to carry out the law strictly, then I
should sue for the annulment of his marriage, and that would cut him
off from the property----

OLD LADY. Why don't you do it?

JUDGE. [_Looking around_] We-e-ell!--I suppose that would settle the
matter once for all. A divorce would probably not be granted, but I
think it would be possible to get the marriage declared invalid on
technical grounds----

OLD LADY. And if there be no such grounds?

JUDGE. [_Showing the influence of the wine_] There are technical
grounds for everything, if you only look hard enough.

OLD LADY. Well, then! Think of it--how that good-for-nothing is wishing
the life out of us--but now he'll see how "the natural course of
events" makes the drones take to the road----

JUDGE. Ha-ha! You're right, quite right! And then, you know, when I
think it over carefully--what reason have we for self-reproach? What
wrong have we done? It's mean to bring up that about the monstrance--it
didn't hurt anybody, did it? And as for my being guilty of perjury:
that's a pure lie. I got blood-poison in the finger--that's all--and
quite a natural thing.

OLD LADY. Just as if I didn't know it. And I may as well add that this
hail-storm a while ago--why, it was as plain a thing as if it had been
foretold in the Farmer's Almanac!

JUDGE. Exactly! That's what I think too. And for that reason, Caroline,
I think we had better forget all that fool talk--and if you feel as I
do, we'll just turn to another priest and get him to consecrate the
mausoleum.

OLD LADY. Well, why shouldn't we?

JUDGE. Yes, why shouldn't we? Perhaps because that mesmerist comes here
and talks a lot of superstitious nonsense?

OLD LADY. Tell me, do you really think he is nothing but a mesmerist?

JUDGE. [_Blustering_] That fellow? He's a first-class charlatan. A
che-ar-la-tan!

OLD LADY. [_Looking around_] I am not so sure.

JUDGE. But I am sure. Su-ure! And if he should ever come before my eyes
again--just now, for instance--I'll drink his health and say: here's
to you, old humourist! [As _he raises the glass, it is torn out of his
hand and is seen to disappear through the wall_] What was that? [_The
lantern goes out._ OLD LADY. Help!

        [_A gust of wind is heard, and then all is silence again_.

JUDGE. You just get some matches, and I'll clear this matter up. For I
am no longer afraid of anything. Not of anything!

OLD LADY. Oh, don't, don't!

THE OTHER ONE. [_Steps from behind one of the casks_] Now we'll have to
have a talk in private.

JUDGE. [_Frightened_] Where did you come from?

THE OTHER ONE. That is no concern of yours.

JUDGE. [_Straightening himself up_] What kind of language is that?

THE OTHER ONE. Your own!--Off with your cap! [_He blows at the_ JUDGE,
_whose cap is lifted off his head and falls to the ground_] Now you
shall hear sentence pronounced: you have wanted to sever what has been
united by Him whose name I may not mention. Therefore you shall be
separated from her who ought to be the staff of your old age. Alone
you must run the gauntlet. Alone you must bear the qualms of sleepless
nights.

JUDGE. Is that mercy?

THE OTHER ONE. It is justice; it is the law: an eye for an eye, and a
tooth for a tooth! The gospel has a different sound, but of that you
didn't want to hear. Now, move I along. [_He beats the air with the
rattan._

        _The scene changes to a garden with cypresses and yew-trees
        clipped in the shape of obelisks, candelabra, vases, etc. Under
        the trees grow roses, hollyhocks, foxgloves, etc. At the centre
        of it is a spring above which droops a gigantic fuchsia in full
        bloom_.[1]

        _Back of the garden appears a field of rye, all yellow and
        ready to be cut. Bachelor's-buttons and daisies grow among the
        rye. A scarecrow hangs in the middle of the field. The distant
        background is formed by vineyards and light-coloured rocks with
        beech woods and ruined castles on them_.

        _A road runs across the stage in the near background. At the
        right is a covered Gothic arcade. In front of this stands a
        statue of the Madonna with the Child_.

ERIC _and_ THYRA _enter hand in hand with the_ PLAYMATE.

ERIC. Oh, how beautiful it is!

THYRA. Who is living here?

PLAYMATE. Whoever feels at home has his home here.

THYRA. Can we play here?

PLAYMATE. Anywhere except in that avenue over there to the right.

ERIC. And may we pick the flowers?

PLAYMATE. You may pick any flowers you want, but you mustn't touch the
tree at the fountain.

THYRA. What kind of tree is that?

ERIC. Why, you know, it is one of those they call [_lowering his
voice_] "Christ's Blood-drops."

THYRA. You should cross yourself, Eric, when you mention the name of
the Lord.

ERIC. [_Makes the sign of the cross_] Tell me, little boy, why mustn't
we touch the tree?

THYRA. You should obey without asking any questions, Eric.--But tell
me, little boy, why is that ugly scarecrow hanging there? Can't we take
it away?

PLAYMATE. Yes, indeed, you may, for then the birds will come and sing
for us.

        ERIC _and_ THYRA _run into the rye-field and tear down the
        scarecrow_.

ERIC. Away with you, you nasty old scarecrow! Come and eat now, little
birds! [_The Golden Bird comes flying from the right and perches on the
fuchsia_] Oh, see the Golden Bird, Thyra!

THYRA. Oh, how pretty it is! Does it sing, too?

        [_The bird calls like a cuckoo_.

ERIC. Can you understand what the bird sings, boy?

PLAYMATE. No, children, the birds have little secrets of their own
which they have a right to keep hidden.

THYRA. Of course, Eric, don't you see, otherwise the children could
tell where the nests are, and then they would take away the eggs, and
that would make the birds sorry, and they couldn't have any children of
their own.

ERIC. Don't talk like a grown-up, Thyra.

PLAYMATE. [_Putting a finger across his lips_] Hush! Somebody is
coming. Now let us see if he likes to stay with us or not.

        _The_ CHIMNEY-SWEEP _enters, stops in surprise, and begins to
        look around_.

PLAYMATE. Well, boy, won't you come and play with us?

CHIMNEY-SWEEP. [_Takes off his cap; speaks bashfully_] Oh, you don't
want to play with me.

PLAYMATE. Why shouldn't we?

CHIMNEY-SWEEP. I am sooty all over. And besides I don't know how to
play--I hardly know what it is.

THYRA. Think of it, the poor boy has never played.

PLAYMATE. What is your name?

CHIMNEY-SWEEP. My name? They call me Ole--but----

PLAYMATE. But what's your other name?

CHIMNEY-SWEEP. Other name? I have none.

PLAYMATE. But your papa's name?

CHIMNEY-SWEEP. I have no papa.

PLAYMATE. And your mamma's?

CHIMNEY-SWEEP. I don't know.

PLAYMATE. He has no papa or mamma. Come to the spring here, boy, and
I'll make you as white as a little prince.

CHIMNEY-SWEEP. If anybody else said it, I shouldn't believe it----

PLAYMATE. Why do you believe it then, when I say it?

CHIMNEY-SWEEP. I don't know, but I think you look as if it would be
true.

PLAYMATE. Give the boy your hand, Thyra!--Would you give him a kiss,
too?

THYRA. [_After a moment's hesitation_] Yes, when you ask me!


[Footnote 1: The Swedish name of this plant is "Christ's Blood-drops."]

        _She kisses the_ CHIMNEY-SWEEP. _Then the_ PLAYMATE _dips
        his hand in the spring and sprays a little water on the face
        of the_ CHIMNEY-SWEEP, _whose black mask at once disappears,
        leaving his face white_.

PLAYMATE. Now you are white again. And now you must go behind that
rose-bush there and put on new clothes.

CHIMNEY-SWEEP. Why do I get all this which I don't deserve?

PLAYMATE. Because you don't believe that you deserve it.

CHIMNEY-SWEEP. [_Going behind the rose-bush_] Then I thank you for it,
although I don't understand what it means.

THYRA. Was he made a chimney-sweep because he had been bad?

PLAYMATE. No, he has never been bad. But he had a bad guardian who took
all his money away from him, and so he had to go out into the world to
earn a living--See how fine he looks now!

        _The_ CHIMNEY-SWEEP _enters dressed in light summer clothes_.

PLAYMATE. [_To the_ CHIMNEY-SWEEP] Go to the arcade now, and you'll
meet somebody you love--and who loves you!

CHIMNEY-SWEEP. Who could love me?

PLAYMATE. Go and find out.

        _The_ CHIMNEY-SWEEP _goes across the stage to the arcade, where
        he is met by the_ LADY IN WHITE, _who puts her arms around him_.

THYRA. Who is living in there?

PLAYMATE. [_With his finger on his lips_] Polly Pry!--But who is coming
there?

        _The_ OLD LADY _appears on the road with a sack on her back and
        a stick in her hand_.

ERIC. It's grandmother! Oh, now we are in for it!

THYRA. Oh, my! It's grandmother!

PLAYMATE. Don't get scared, children. I'll tell her it's my fault.

ERIC. No, you mustn't, for then she'll beat you.

PLAYMATE. Well, why shouldn't I take a beating for my friends?

ERIC. No, I'll do it myself!

THYRA. And I, too!

PLAYMATE. Hush! And come over here--then you won't be scolded. [_They
hide_.

OLD LADY. [_Goes to the spring_] So, this is the famous spring that
is said to cure everything--after the angel has stirred it up, of
course!--But I suppose it is nothing but lies. Well, I might have a
drink anyhow, and water is water. [_She bends down over the spring_]
What is it I see? Eric and Thyra with a strange boy! What can it mean?
For they are not here. It must be an oracle spring. [_She takes a cup
that stands by the spring, fills it with water and drinks_] Ugh, it
tastes of copper--he must have been here and poisoned the water, too!
Everything is poisoned! Everything!--And I feel tired, too, although
the years have not been hard on me--[_She looks at her reflection
in the spring and tosses her head_] On the contrary, I look quite
youthful--but it's hard to walk, and still harder to get up--[_She
struggles vainly to rise_] My God, my God, have mercy! Don't leave me
lying here!

PLAYMATE. [_Makes a sign to the children to stay where they are; then
he goes up to the_ OLD LADY _and wipes the perspiration from her
forehead_] Rise, and leave your evil ways!

OLD LADY. [_Rising_] Who is that?--Oh, it's you, my nice gentleman, who
has led the children astray?

PLAYMATE. Go, ungrateful woman! I have wiped the sweat of fear from
your brow; I have raised you up when your own strength failed you, and
you reward me with angry words. Go--go!

        OLD LADY _stares astonished at him; then her eyes drop, and she
        turns and goes out_.

        ERIC _and_ THYRA _come forward_.

ERIC. But I am sorry for grandmother just the same, although she is
nasty.

THYRA. It isn't nice here, and I want to go home.

PLAYMATE. Wait a little! Don't be so impatient.--There comes somebody
else we know.

        _The_ JUDGE _appears on the road_.

PLAYMATE. He cannot come here and defile the spring. [_He waves his
hand; the spot of sunlight strikes the_ JUDGE, _making him turn around
and walk away_] It is nice of you to be sorry for the old people, but
you must believe that what I do is right. Do you believe that?

ERIC _and_ THYRA. Yes, we believe it, we believe it!

THYRA. But I want to go home to mamma!

PLAYMATE. I'll let you go.

        THE OTHER ONE _appears in the background and hides himself
        behind the bushes_.

PLAYMATE. For now I must go. The Angelus bell will soon be ringing----

ERIC. Where are you going, little boy?

PLAYMATE. There are other children I must play with--far away from
here, where you cannot follow me. But now, when I leave you here, don't
forget what I have told you: that you mustn't touch the tree!

ERIC. We'll obey! We will! But don't go away, for it will soon be dark!

PLAYMATE. How is that? Anybody who has a good conscience and knows his
evening prayer has nothing, nothing to be afraid of.

THYRA. When will you come back to us, little boy?

PLAYMATE. Next Christmas I come back, and every Christmas!--Good night,
my little friends!

        _He kisses their foreheads and goes out between the bushes;
        when he reappears in the background, he is carrying a cross
        with a banner like that carried by the Christ-Child in old
        paintings; the Angelus bell begins to ring; as he raises the
        banner and waves it in greeting to the children, he becomes
        surrounded by a clear, white light; then he goes out_.

ERIC _and_ THYRA _kneel and pray silently while the bell is ringing_.

ERIC. [_Having crossed himself_] Do you know who the boy was, Thyra?

THYRA. It was the Saviour!

        THE OTHER ONE _steps forward_.

THYRA. [_Scared, runs to Eric, who puts his arms around her to protect
her_] My!

ERIC. [_To_ THE OTHER ONE] What do you want? You nasty thing!

THE OTHER ONE. I only wanted--Look at me!

ERIC. Yes?

THE OTHER ONE. I am looking like this because once I touched the tree.
Afterward it was my joy to tempt others into doing the same. But now,
since I have grown old, I have come to repent, and now I am remaining
here to warn men, but nobody believes me--nobody--because I lied once.

ERIC. You don't need to warn us, and you can't tempt us.

THE OTHER ONE. Tut, tut, tut! Not so high-and-mighty, my little friend!
Otherwise it's all right.

ERIC. Well, go away then, for I don't want to listen to you, and you
scare my sister!

THE OTHER ONE. I am going, for I don't feel at home here, and I have
business elsewhere. Farewell, children!

AMELIA. [_Is heard calling from the right_] Eric and Thyra!

ERIC _and_ THYRA. Oh, there is mamma--dear little mamma!

        AMELIA _enters_.

        ERIC _and_ THYRA _rush into her arms_.

        THE OTHER ONE _turns away to hide his emotion_.

_Curtain_.



ACT IV


        _A cross-roads surrounded by pine woods. Moonlight_.

        _The_ WITCH _stands waiting_.


OLD LADY. Well, at last, there you are.

WITCH. You have kept me waiting. Why have you called me?

OLD LADY. Help me!

WITCH. In what way?

OLD LADY. Against my enemies.

WITCH. There is only one thing that helps against your enemies: be good
to them.

OLD LADY. Well, I declare! I think the whole world has turned
topsyturvy.

WITCH. Yes, so it may seem.

OLD LADY. Even the Other One--you know who I mean--has become
converted.

WITCH. Then it ought to be time for you, too.

OLD LADY. Time for me? You mean that my years are burdening me? But it
is less than three weeks since I danced at a wedding.

WITCH. And you call that bliss! Well, if that be all, you shall have
your fill of it. For there is to be a ball here to-night, although I
myself cannot attend it.

OLD LADY. Here?

WITCH. Just here. It will begin whenever I give the word----

OLD LADY. It's too bad I haven't got on my low-necked dress.

WITCH. You can borrow one from me--and a pair of dancing shoes with red
heels.

OLD LADY. Perhaps I might also have a pair of gloves and a fan?

WITCH. Everything! And, in particular, any number of young cavaliers
who will proclaim you the queen of the ball.

OLD LADY. Now you are joking.

WITCH. No, I am not joking. And I know that they have the good taste at
these balls to choose the right one for queen--and in speaking of the
right one, I have in mind the most worthy----

OLD LADY. The most beautiful, you mean?

WITCH. No, I don't--I mean the worthiest. If you wish, I'll start the
ball at once.

OLD LADY. I have no objection.

WITCH. If you step aside a little, you'll find your maid--while the
hall is being put in order.

OLD LADY. [_Going out to the right_] Think of it--I am going to have a
maid, too! You know, madam, that was the dream of my youth--which never
came true.

WITCH. There you see: "What youth desires, age acquires." [_She blows a
whistle_]

        _Without curtain-fall, the stage changes to represent the
        bottom of a rocky, kettle-shaped chasm. It is closed in on
        three sides by steep walls of black rock, wholly stripped of
        vegetation. At the left, in the foreground, stands a throne. At
        the right is a platform for the musicians_.

        _A bust of Pan on a square base stands in the middle of the
        stage, surrounded by a strange selection of potted plants:
        henbane, burdock, thistle, onion, etc._

        _The musicians enter. Their clothing is grey; their faces are
        chalk-white and sad; their gestures tired. They appear to be
        tuning their instruments, but not a sound is heard_.

        _Then comes the_ LEADER OF THE ORCHESTRA.

        _After him, the guests of the ball: cripples, beggars, tramps.
        All are pulling on black gloves as they come in. Their
        movements are dragging; their expressions funereal_.

        _Next: The_ MASTER OF CEREMONIES, _who is really_ THE OTHER
        ONE_--a septuagenarian dandy wearing a black wig which is too
        small for him, so that tufts of grey hair appear underneath.
        His mustaches are waxed and pointed. He wears a monocle and has
        on an outgrown evening dress and top-boots. He looks melancholy
        and seems to be suffering because of the part he has to play._

        _The_ SEVEN DEADLY SINS _enter and group themselves around the
        throne as follows_:

         PRIDE                COVETOUSNESS
         LUST                 ANGER
         GLUTTONY             ENVY
                     SLOTH

        _Finally the_ PRINCE _enters. He is hunchbacked and wears a
        soiled velvet coat with gold buttons, ruffles, sword, and high
        boots with spurs_.

        _The ensuing scene must be played with deadly seriousness,
        without a trace of irony, satire, or humour. There is a
        suggestion of a death-mask in the face of every figure. They
        move noiselessly and make simple, awkward gestures that convey
        the impression of a drill_.

PRINCE. [_To the_ MASTER OF CEREMONIES] Why do you disturb my peace at
this midnight hour?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. Always, brother, you are asking why. Have you not
seen the light yet?

PRINCE. Only in part. I can perceive a connection between my suffering
and my guilt, but I cannot see why I should have to suffer eternally,
when He has suffered in my place.

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. Eternally? You died only yesterday. But then time
ceased to exist to you, and so a few hours appear like an eternity.

PRINCE. Yesterday?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. Yes.--But because you were proud and wanted no
assistance, you have now to bear your own sufferings.

PRINCE. What have I done, then?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. What a sublime question!

PRINCE. But why don't you tell?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. As our task is to torture each other by
truth-telling--were we not called "heroes of truth" in our lifetime?--I
shall tell you a part of your own secret. You were, and you are still,
a hunchback----

PRINCE. What is that?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. There you see! You don't know what is known to
everybody else. But all those others pitied you, and so you never heard
the word that names your own deformity.

PRINCE. What deformity is that? Perhaps you mean that I have a weak
chest? But that is no deformity.

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. A "weak chest"--yes, that is your own name for
the matter. However, people kept the disfigurement of your body hidden
from you, and they tried to assuage your misfortune by showing you
sympathy and kindness. But you accepted their generosity as an earned
tribute, their encouraging words as expressions of admiration due to
your superior physique. And at last you went so far in conceit that
you regarded yourself as a type of masculine beauty. And when, to cap
it all, woman granted you her favours out of pity, then you believed
yourself an irresistible conqueror.

PRINCE. What right have you to say such rude things to me?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. Right? I am filling the saddening duty which
forces one sinner to punish another. And soon you will have to fulfil
the same cruel duty toward a woman who is vain to the verge of
madness--a woman resembling you as closely as she possibly could.

PRINCE. I don't want to do it.

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. Try to do anything but what you must, and you'll
experience an inner discord that you cannot explain.

PRINCE. What does it mean?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. It means that you cannot all of a sudden cease to
be what you are: and you are what you have wanted to become. [_He claps
his hands_.

        _The_ OLD LADY _enters, her figure looking as aged and clumsy
        as ever; but she has painted her face and her head is covered
        by a powdered wig; she wears a very low-necked, rose-coloured
        dress, red shoes, and a fan made out of peacock feathers_.

OLD LADY. [_A little uncertain_] Where am I? Is this the right place?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. Quite right, for you are in the place we call
the "waiting-room." It is so called [_he sighs],_ because here we have
to spend our time waiting--waiting for something that will come some
time----

OLD LADY. Well, it isn't bad at all--and there is the music--and there
is a bust--of whom?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. It's a pagan idol called Pan, because to the
ancients he was all they had. And as we, in this place, are of the old
order, more or less antiquated, he has been put here for us to look at.

OLD LADY. Why, we are not old----

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. Yes, my Queen. When the new era opened [_he
sighs_], we couldn't keep up with it, and so we were left behind----

OLD LADY. The new era? What kind of talk is that? When did it begin?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. It is easy to figure out when the year one
began--It was night, for that matter; the stars were shining brightly,
and the weather must have been mild, as the shepherds remained in the
open----

OLD LADY. Oh, yes, yes--Are we not going to dance here to-night?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. Of course, we are. The Prince is waiting for a
chance to ask you----

OLD LADY. [_To the_ MASTER OF CEREMONIES] Is he a real Prince?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. A real one, my Queen. That is to say, he has full
reality in a certain fashion----

OLD LADY. [_To the_ PRINCE, _who is asking her to dance_] You don't
look happy, my Prince?

PRINCE. I am not happy.

OLD LADY. Well, I can't say that I find it very hilarious--and the
place smells of putty, as if the glazier had just been at work here.
What is that strange smell, as of linseed-oil?

PRINCE. [_With an expression of horror_] What are you saying? Do you
mean that charnel-house smell?

OLD LADY. I fear I must have said something impolite--but then, it
isn't for the ladies to offer pleasantries--that's what the cavalier
should do----

PRINCE. What can I tell you that you don't know before?

OLD LADY. That I don't know before? Let me see--No, then I had better
tell you that you are very handsome, my Prince.

PRINCE. Now you exaggerate, my Queen. I am not exactly handsome, but I
have always been held what they call "good-looking."

OLD LADY. Just like me--I never was a beauty--that is, I _am_ not,
considering my years--Oh, I am so stupid!--What was it I wanted to say?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. Let the music begin!

        _The musicians appear to be playing, but not a sound is heard_.

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. Well? Are you not going to dance?

PRINCE. [_Sadly_] No, I don't care to dance.

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. But you must: you are the only presentable
gentleman.

PRINCE. That's true, I suppose--[_pensively_] but is that a fit
occupation for me?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. How do you mean?

PRINCE. At times it seems as if I had something else to think of, but
then--then I forget it.

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. Don't brood--enjoy yourself while youth is with
you and the roses of life still bloom on your cheeks. Now! Up with the
head, and step lively----

        _The_ PRINCE _grins broadly; then he offers his hand to the_
        OLD LADY, _and together they perform a few steps of a minuet_.

OLD LADY. [_Interrupting the dance_] Ugh! Your hands are cold as ice!
_goes to the throne_] Why are those seven ladies not dancing?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. How do you like the music, Queen?

OLD LADY. It's splendid, but they might play a little more _forte_----

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. They are soloists, all of them, and formerly each
one of them wanted to make himself heard above the rest, and so they
have to use moderation now.

OLD LADY. But I asked why the seven sisters over there are not dancing.
Couldn't you, as master of ceremonies, make them do so?

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. I don't think it would be of any use trying, for
they are obstinate as sin--But please assume your throne, my Queen. We
are going to perform a little play in honour of the occasion----

OLD LADY. Oh, what fun! But I want the prince to ... escort me----

PRINCE. [_To the_ MASTER OF CEREMONIES] Have I got to do it?

OLD LADY. You ought to be ashamed of yourself--you with your hunch!

PRINCE. [_Spits in her face_] Hold your tongue, you cursed old hag!

OLD LADY. [_Cuffs him on the ear_] That'll teach you!

PRINCE. [_Jumps at her and knocks her down_] And that's, for you!

        _All the rest cover their faces with their hands_.

PRINCE. [_Tears off the_ OLD LADY'S _wig so that her head appears
totally bald_] There's the false scalp! Now we'll pull out the teeth!

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. Enough! Enough!

        _He helps the_ OLD LADY _to rise, and gives her a kerchief to
        cover her head_.

OLD LADY. [_Crying_] Goodness gracious, that I could let myself be
fooled like that! But I haven't deserved any better, I admit.

PRINCE. No, you have deserved a great deal worse. You should leave my
hunch alone, for otherwise hell breaks loose--It's a miserable thing to
see an old woman like you so foolish and so degraded. But, then, you
are to be pitied--as all of us are to be pitied.

ALL. We are all to be pitied!

PRINCE. [_With a sneer_] The queen!

OLD LADY. [_In the same tone_] The prince!--But haven't we met before?

PRINCE. Perhaps--in our youth--for I am old, too. You had too much
frippery on before--but now, when the disguise has been taken away--I
begin to distinguish certain features----

OLD LADY. Don't say anything more--don't say anything more--Oh, what
have I come to--what is happening to me?

PRINCE. Now I know: you are my sister!

OLD LADY. But--my brother is dead! Have I been deceived? Or are the
dead coming back?

PRINCE. Everything comes back.

OLD LADY. Am I dead or am I living?

PRINCE. You may well ask that question, for I don't know the
difference. But you are exactly the same as when I parted from you
once: just as vain and just as thievish.

OLD LADY. Do you think you are any better?

PRINCE. Perhaps! I am guilty of all the seven deadly sins, but you have
invented the eighth one--that of robbing the dead.

OLD LADY. What are you thinking of now?

PRINCE. Twelve years in succession I sent you money to buy a wreath for
mother's grave, and instead of buying it you kept the money.

OLD LADY. How do you know?

PRINCE. How I came to know of it is the only thing that interests you
about that crime of yours.

OLD LADY. Prove it!

PRINCE. [_Taking a number of bills from his pocket_] Here is the money!

        _The_ OLD LADY _sinks to the ground. A church bell begins to
        ring. All bend their heads, but nobody kneels_.

LADY IN WHITE. [_Enters, goes up to the_ OLD LADY, _and assists her in
rising_] Do you know me?

OLD LADY. No.

LADY IN WHITE. I am Amelia's mother. You have taken the memory of me
away from her. You have erased me from her life. But now you are to be
wiped out, and I shall recover my child's love and the prayers my soul
needs.

OLD LADY. Oh, somebody has been telling tales to that hussy--then I'll
set her to herd the swine----

        _The_ PRINCE _strikes her on the mouth_.

LADY IN WHITE. Don't strike her!

OLD LADY. Are you interceding for me?

LADY IN WHITE. It is what I have been taught to do.

OLD LADY. You hypocrite! If you only dared, you would wish me buried as
deep as there are miles from here to the sun!

MASTER OF CEREMONIES. Down with you--monster!

        [As _he touches her with his staff she falls to the ground_

        _Again the scene is changed while the curtain remains up. The
        bust of Pan sinks into the earth. The musicians and the throne
        with its attendant sins disappear behind pieces of; scenery
        that are lowered from above. At last the cross-roads with the
        surrounding pine woods appear again, and the_ OLD LADY _is
        discovered lying at the foot of a sign-post_.

WITCH. Get up!

OLD LADY. I cannot--I am frozen stiff----

WITCH. The sun will rise in a moment. The cock has crowed. The matin
bells are ringing.

OLD LADY. I don't care for the sun.

WITCH. Then you'll have to walk in darkness.

OLD LADY. Oh, my eyes! What have you done to me?

WITCH. I have only turned out the light because it troubled you. Now,
up and away with you--through cold and darkness--until you drop!

OLD LADY. Where is my husband?--Amelia! Eric and Thyra! My children!

WITCH. Yes, where are they? But wherever they may be, you shall not see
them until your pilgrimage is ended. Now, up and away! Or I will loose
my dogs!

        _The_ OLD LADY _gropes her way out_.

_The court-room. In the background is the desk of the presiding judge,
decorated in white and gold with the emblems of justice. In front of
the desk, covering the centre of the floor, stands a big table, and on
it are placed writing-materials, inkstand, Bible, bell, and gavel_.

_The axe of the executioner hangs on the rear wall, with a pair of
handcuffs below it and a big black crucifix above_.

        _The_ JUDGE _enters and makes his way into the room on tiptoe.
        The bell rings. The gavel raps once on the table. All the
        chairs are pulled up to the table at once. The Bible is opened.
        The candles on the table become lighted_.

        _For a moment the_ JUDGE _stands still, stricken with horror.
        Then he resumes his advance toward a huge cabinet. Suddenly the
        doors of this fly open. A number of documents are thrown out,
        and the_ JUDGE _picks them up_.

JUDGE. [_Reassured_] This time I am in luck! Here are the accounts
of my guardianship; here is the contract for the lease--my report as
executor--all of it! [_The handcuffs on the wall begin to clank_] Make
all the noise you please! As long as the axe stays still, I won't be
scared. [_He puts the documents on the table and goes back to close
the door of the cabinet, but this flies open again as soon as he shuts
it_] Everything has a cause: _ratio sufficiens_. This door must have
a spring with which I am not familiar. It surprises me that I don't
know it, but it cannot scare me. [_The axe moves on the wall_] The axe
moved--as a rule, that foretells an execution, but to-day it means only
that its equilibrium has become disturbed in some way. Oh, no, nothing
will give me pause but seeing my own ghost--for that would be beyond
the tricks of any charlatan.

        _The_ GHOST _enters from behind the cabinet; the figure
        resembles in every way the_ JUDGE, _but where the eyes should
        be appear two white surfaces, as on a plaster bust_.

JUDGE. [_Frightened_] Who are you?

GHOST. I am not--I have been. I have been that unrighteous judge who is
now come here to receive his sentence.

JUDGE. What have you done then, poor man?

GHOST. Everything wrong that an unrighteous judge might do. Pray for
me, you whose conscience is clear----

JUDGE. Am I--to pray for you?

GHOST. Yes, you who have caused no innocent blood to be shed----

JUDGE. That's true; that's something I haven't done. And besides, as
I have always obeyed the letter of the law, I have good reason to let
myself be called a righteous judge--yes, without irony!

GHOST. It would, indeed, be a bad moment for joking, as the Invisible
Ones are sitting in judgment----

JUDGE. What do you mean? Who are sitting in judgment?

GHOST. [_Pointing to the table_] You don't see them, but I do. [_The
bell rings; a chair is pushed back from the table_] Pray for me!

JUDGE. No, I won't. Justice must take its course. You must have been a
great offender to reach consciousness of your guilt so late.

GHOST. You are as stern as a good conscience.

JUDGE. That's just the word for it. Stern, but just!

GHOST. No pity, then?

JUDGE. None whatever.

GHOST. No mercy?

JUDGE. No mercy!

        _The gavel raps on the table; the chairs are pushed away_.

GHOST. Now the verdict is being delivered. Can't you hear?

JUDGE. I hear nothing.

GHOST. [_Pointing to the table_] And you see nothing? Don't you see the
beheaded sailor, the surveyor, the chimney-sweep, the lady in white,
the tenant----

JUDGE. I see absolutely nothing.

GHOST. Woe unto you, then, when your eyes become opened as mine have
been. Now the verdict has been given: guilty!

JUDGE. Guilty!

GHOST. You have said it--yourself! And you have already been sentenced.
All that remains now is the big auction.

_Curtain._



ACT V


        _The same room as in the second act, but it is now arranged for
        the auction. Benches are placed in the middle of the room. On
        the table behind which the auctioneer is to preside stand the
        silver coffee-set, the clock, vases, candelabra, etc._

        _The portraits of the_ JUDGE _and the_ OLD LADY _have been
        taken down and are leaning against the table_.

        _The_ NEIGHBOUR _and_ AMELIA _are on the stage_.


AMELIA. [_Dressed as a scrub-woman_] Before my mother left, she ordered
me to clean the hallway and the stairs. It is winter now, and cold, and
I cannot say that it has been any pleasure to carry out her order----

NEIGHBOUR. So you didn't get any pleasure out of it? Well, my child, I
must say that you demand rather too much of yourself. But as you have
obeyed, and stood the test, your time of trial shall be over, and I
will let you know your life's secret.

AMELIA. Speak out, neighbour, for I dare hardly trust my good
resolutions much longer.

NEIGHBOUR. Well, then! The woman you have been calling mother is your
stepmother. Your father married her when you were only one year old.
And the reason you have never seen your mother is that she died when
you were born.

AMELIA. So that was it!--How strange to have had a mother and yet never
to have seen her! Tell me--did you ever see her?

NEIGHBOUR. I knew her.

AMELIA. How did she look?

NEIGHBOUR. Well, how _did_, she look?--Her eyes were blue as the
blossom of the flax--her hair was yellow as the dry stalks of wheat----

AMELIA. And tall and slender--and her hand was small and white as if it
had touched nothing but silk in all her days--and her mouth was shaped
like a heart, and her lips looked as if none but good words had ever
passed them.

NEIGHBOUR. How can you know all that?

AMELIA. Because that is the image which appears in my dreams when I
have not been good--And then she raises her hand as if to warn me, and
on one of her fingers there is a ring with a green stone that seems to
radiate light. It is she!--Tell me, neighbour, is there a picture of
her in the place?

NEIGHBOUR. There used to be one, but I don't know whether it's still
here.

AMELIA. So this one is my stepmother? Well, God was good when he let me
keep my mother's image free from stain--and hereafter I shall find it
quite natural that this other woman is cruel to me.

NEIGHBOUR. Cruel stepmothers exist to make children kind. And you were
not kind, Amelia, but you have become so, and for that reason I shall
now give you a Christmas present in advance.

        _He takes the portrait of the_ OLD LADY _out of its frame, when
        in its place appears a picture in water-colours corresponding
        to the description given above_.

AMELIA. [_Kneeling in front of the picture_] My mother--mother of my
dreams! [_Rising_] But how can I keep the picture when it is to be sold
at auction?

NEIGHBOUR. You can, because the auction has already taken place.

AMELIA. Where and when was it held?

NEIGHBOUR. It was held elsewhere--in a place not known to you--and
to-day the things are merely to be taken away.

AMELIA. What a lot of queer things are happening! And how full of
secrets the house is!--But tell me, where is my stepmother? I have not
seen her in a long time.

NEIGHBOUR. I suppose it must be told: she is in a place from which
nobody returns.

AMELIA. Is she dead?

NEIGHBOUR. She is dead. She was found frozen to death in a swamp into
which she had stumbled.

AMELIA. Merciful God have pity on her soul!

NEIGHBOUR. So he will in time, especially if you pray for her.

AMELIA. Of course I will.

NEIGHBOUR. How good you have become, my child--as a result of her
becoming so bad!

AMELIA. Don't say so now when she is dead----

NEIGHBOUR. Right you are! Let her rest in peace!

AMELIA. But where is my father?

NEIGHBOUR. That's a secret to all of us. But it is sweet of you to ask
for him before you ask for your own Adolph.

AMELIA. Adolph--yes, where is he? The children are crying for him, and
Christmas is near.--Oh, what a Christmas this will be to us!

NEIGHBOUR. Leave to each day its own trouble--and now take your
Christmas present and go. The affairs connected with the auction are to
be settled, and then you'll hear news.

AMELIA. [_Takes the portrait of her mother_] I go, but no longer
alone--and I have a feeling that something good is about to happen, but
what I cannot tell.

        [_She goes out to the right_.

NEIGHBOUR. But I know! Yet you had better go, for what is about to
happen here should not be seen by children.

        _He opens the door in the rear and rings a bell to summon
        the people to the auction. The people enter in the following
        order_: THE POOR, _a large number of them; the_ SAILOR; _the_
        CHIMNEY-SWEEP; _the_ NEIGHBOUR, who takes his place in front
        of the rest; _the_ WIDOW _and the_ FATHERLESS CHILDREN; _the_
        SURVEYOR; THE OTHER ONE, _carrying the auctioneer's hammer and
        a pile of documents_.

THE OTHER ONE. [_Takes his place at the table and raps with the
hammer_] At a compulsory auction held at the court-house for the
disposal of property left by the late circuit judge, the items now to
be described were bid in by the Court on behalf of absent creditors,
and may now be obtained and taken away by their respective owners.

JUDGE. [_Enters, looking very aged and miserable_] In the name of the
law--hold!

THE OTHER ONE. [_Pretends to throw something at the_ JUDGE, _who
stands aghast and speechless_] Don't speak of the law! Here the Gospel
is preached--but not for you, who wanted to buy heaven with stolen
money.--First: the widow and her fatherless children. There is the
silver set which the judge accepted from you for his false report
as executor. In his stained hands the silver has turned black, but
I hope that in yours it will once more turn white.--Then we come to
the ward, who had to become a chimney-sweep, after being cheated out
of his inheritance. Here are the receipted bills and the property
due to you from your guardian. And you need not thank him for his
accounting.--Here stands the surveyor who, although he was innocent,
had to serve two years in prison because he had made an illegal
partition--the maps handed to him for the purpose having been falsified
in advance. What can you do for him, Judge? Can you undo what has
happened, or restore his lost honour?

JUDGE. Oh, that fellow--give him a bill and he'll be satisfied! His
honour wasn't worth a penny, anyhow.

THE OTHER ONE. [_Slaps the_ JUDGE _on the mouth, while the rest spit at
him and mutter with clinched fists_] Here is the brother of the sailor
who was beheaded in spite of his innocence. Can you restore his brother
to life? No! And you cannot pay for his life with yours, as it is not
worth as much.--And finally we come to the neighbour whom you cheated
out of his property in a perfectly legal way. Not familiar with the
tricks of the law, the neighbour has, contrary to prevailing practice,
placed the judge's son-in-law in charge of the property as life tenant,
wiping out his previous indebtedness and making him also legal heir to
the property.

JUDGE. I appeal to a higher court!

THE OTHER ONE. This case has passed through all the instances except
the highest, and that far you cannot reach with your stamped papers.
For if you tried, all these poor people whom you have robbed of their
living would cry out: Guilty!--Thus we are done with all that could be
properly disposed of. What remains here still undisposed of goes to the
poor: clocks, vases, jewelry and other valuables that have served as
bribes, graft, tips, souvenirs--all in a perfectly legal way because
evidence and witnesses were wanting. You poor, take back your own!
Your tears have washed the guilt from the ill-gotten goods. [_The_ POOR
_begin to plunder_] And now remains the last item to be sold by me.
This pauper here, formerly a judge, is offered to the lowest bidder for
board at the expense of the parish. How much is offered? [_Silence_]
No offer? [_Silence_] First, second, third time--no offer? [_To the_
JUDGE] There, you see! Nobody wants you. Well, then, I have to take you
myself and send you to your well-earned punishment.

JUDGE. Is there no atonement?

THE OTHER ONE. Yes, punishment atones.--Take him into the woods and
stone him in accordance with the law of Moses--for no other law was
ever known to him. Away with him! [_The people pounce on the_ JUDGE
_and jostle him_.

        _The scene changes to the "waiting-room." The same setting as
        in the second scene of the fourth act: a kettle-shaped chasm
        surrounded by steep black rocks. (The same people are on the
        stage.)_

        _In the background appear a pair of huge scales for the
        weighing of newcomers_.

        _The_ JUDGE _and the_ OLD LADY _are seated opposite each other
        at a small table_.

JUDGE. [_Staring in front of himself as if lost in a dream_]
Hush!--I had a dream! They were throwing stones at me--and yet I
felt no pain--and then everything turned black and vacant until this
moment--How long it may have lasted, I cannot tell--Now I am beginning
to hear again--and to feel. It feels as if I were being carried--oh,
how cold it is--they are washing me, I think--I am lying in something
that has six sides like a cell in a honeycomb and that smells like a
carpenter shop--I am being carried, and a bell is ringing--Wait! Now I
am riding, but not in a street-car, although the bell is ringing all
the time--Now I am sinking down, down, as if I were drowning--boom,
boom, boom: three knocks on the roof--and then the lessons begin--the
teacher is leading--and now the boys are singing--What can it be?--And
then they are knocking on the roof again, incessantly--boom, boom,
boom, boom, boom, boom--silence--it's over! [_He wakes up_] Where am I?
I choke! It's so stuffy and close here!--Oh, it's you!--Where are we?
Whose bust is that?

OLD LADY. They say it is the new god.

JUDGE. But he looks like a goat.

OLD LADY. Perhaps it is the god of the goats?

JUDGE. "The goats on the left side--" What is that I am recalling?

PRINCE. It is the god Pan.

JUDGE. Pan?

PRINCE. Exactly! Just exactly! And when, in the night, the
shepherds--no, not _those_ shepherds--catch sight of a hair of his hide
they are seized with panic----

JUDGE. [_Rising_] Woe! I don't want to stay here! Woe! Can't I get out
of here? I want to get out!

        [_He runs around, looking vainly for a way out._

THE OTHER ONE. [_Enters dressed as a Franciscan friar_] You'll find
nothing but entrances--no exits!

JUDGE. Are you Father Colomba?

THE OTHER ONE. No, I am The Other One.

JUDGE. As a monk?

THE OTHER ONE. Don't you know that The Other One turns monk when he
grows old; and don't you think it is well that he does so some time?
But, seriously speaking--for here everything is serious--this is my
holiday attire, which I am permitted to wear only this one day of the
year in order that I may remember what I have had and what I have lost.

JUDGE. [_Alarmed_] What day of the year is it to-day?

THE OTHER ONE. [_Bending his head with a sigh_] It is Christmas Eve!

JUDGE. [_Approaching the_ OLD LADY] Think of it, it is Christmas
Eve?--And you know I don't dare to ask where we are--I dare not--but
let us go home, home to our children, to our own---- [_He cries_.

OLD LADY. Yes, let us go from here, home to ourselves, that we may
start a new life in peace and harmony----

THE OTHER ONE. It is too late!

OLD LADY. Oh, dear, sweet fellow--help us, have mercy on us, forgive us!

THE OTHER ONE. It is too late!

JUDGE. [_Taking the_ OLD LADY _by the hand_] I am choking with dread!
Don't ask him where we are; I don't want to know! But one thing I do
want to know: will there ever be an end to this?

THE OTHER ONE. Never!--That word "end" is not known to us here.

JUDGE. [_Crushed_] No end! [_Looking around_] And does the sun never
enter this place of damp and cold?

THE OTHER ONE. Never, for those who dwell here have not loved the sun!

JUDGE. It is true: I have cursed the sun.--May I confess my sins?

THE OTHER ONE. No, you must keep them to yourself until they begin to
swell and stop up your throat.

OLD LADY. [_Kneeling_] O--I don't know how to pray!

        _She rises and walks restlessly back and forth, wringing her
        hands_.

THE OTHER ONE. Because for you there is no one to whom you might pray.

OLD LADY. [_In despair_] Children--send somebody to give me a word of
hope and pardon.

THE OTHER ONE. It will not be done. Your children have forgotten
you--they are now rejoicing at your absence.

        _A picture appears on the rocky wall in the rear: the home,
        with_ ADOLPH, AMELIA, ERIC, _and_ THYRA _around the Christmas
        tree; in the background, the_ PLAYMATE.

JUDGE. You say they are seated at the Christmas table rejoicing at our
misfortune?--No, now you lie, for they are better than we!

THE OTHER ONE. What new tune is that? I have always heard that you were
a righteous man----

JUDGE. I? I was a great sinner--the greatest one that ever was!

THE OTHER ONE. Hm! Hm!

JUDGE. And if you say anything of the children you are guilty of a sin.
I know that they are praying for us.

OLD LADY. [_On her knees_] I can hear them tell their rosaries: hush--I
hear them!

THE OTHER ONE. You are completely mistaken. What you hear is the song
of the workmen who are tearing down the mausoleum.

JUDGE. The mausoleum! Where we were to have rested in peace!

PRINCE. Shaded by a dozen wreaths.

JUDGE. Who is that?

PRINCE. [_Pointing to the_ OLD LADY] She is my sister, and so you must
be my brother-in-law.

JUDGE. Oh--that lazy scamp!

PRINCE. Look here! In this place we are all lazy scamps.

JUDGE. But we are not all hunchbacks!

PRINCE. [_Strikes him a blow on the mouth_] Don't touch the hunch or
there will be hell to pay!

JUDGE. What a way to treat a man of my ability and high social
position! What a Christmas!

PRINCE. Perhaps you expected your usual creamed codfish and Christmas
cake?

JUDGE. Not exactly, but there ought to be something to feed on----

PRINCE. Here we are keeping a Christmas fast, you see.

JUDGE. How long will it last?

PRINCE. How long? We don't measure time here, because it has ceased to
exist, and a minute may last a whole eternity.

OLD LADY. We suffer only what our deeds have deserved--so don't
complain----

PRINCE. Just try to complain, and you'll see what happens.--We are not
squeamish here, but bang away without regard for legal forms.

JUDGE. Are they beating carpets out there--on a day like this?

PRINCE. No, it is an extra ration of rod all around as a reminder for
those who may have forgotten the significance of the day.

JUDGE. Do they actually lay hands on our persons? Is it possible that
educated people can do things like that to each other?

PRINCE. This is a place of education for the badly educated; and those
who have behaved like scoundrels are treated like such.

JUDGE. But this passes all limits!

PRINCE. Yes, because here we are in the limitless! Now get ready! I
have already been out there and had my portion.

JUDGE. [_Appalled_] What humiliation! That's to strip you of all human
worth!

PRINCE. Ha ha! Human worth! Ha ha!--Look at the scales over there.
That's where the human worth is--and invariably found wanting.

JUDGE. [_Sits down at the table_] I could never have believed----

PRINCE. No, you could only believe in your caul and your own
righteousness. And yet you had both Moses and the Prophets and more
besides--for the very dead walked for your benefit.

JUDGE. The children! The children! Is it not possible to send them a
word of greeting and of warning?

PRINCE. No! Eternally, no!

        _The_ WITCH _comes forward with a big basketful of
        stereoscopes._

JUDGE. What is it?

WITCH. Christmas gifts for the righteous. Stereoscopes, you know.
[_Handing out one_] Help yourself. They don't cost anything.

JUDGE. There's a kind soul at last. And a little attention to a man of
my age and rank does honour both to your tact and to your heart----

WITCH. That's very nice of you, Judge, but I hope you don't mind my
having given some thought to the others, too.

JUDGE. [_Disappointed_] Are you poking fun at me, you damned old hag?

WITCH. [_Spitting in his face_] Hold your tongue, petti-fogger!

JUDGE. What company I have got into!

WITCH. Is it not good enough for you, you old perjurer, you grafter,
you forger, you robber of orphans, you false pleader? Now have a look
in the peep-show and take in the great spectacle: "From the Cradle to
the Grave." There is your whole biography and all your victims--just
have a look now. That's right!

JUDGE _looks in the stereoscope; then he rises with horror stamped on
his face_.

WITCH. I hope this slight attention may add to the Christmas joy!

        _She hands a stereoscope to the_ OLD LADY, _and proceeds
        thereafter to give one to each person present_.

JUDGE. [_Sitting at the table, where now the_ OLD LADY _takes a seat
opposite him_] What do you see?

OLD LADY. Everything is there; everything!--And do you notice that
everything is black? All life that seemed so bright is now black, and
even moments which I thought full of innocent joy have an appearance
of something nauseating, foul, almost criminal. It is as if all my
memories had decayed, including the fairest among them----

JUDGE. You are right. There is not one memory that can bring light into
this darkness. When I look at her who was the first love of my youth,
I see nothing but a corpse. When I think of my sweet Amelia, there
appears--a harlot. The little ones make faces at me like gutter-snipes.
My court has become a pigsty; the vineyard, a rubbish-heap full of
thistles; and the mausoleum--Oh, horrors!--an outhouse! When I think of
the green woods, the leafage appears snuff-coloured and the trunks look
bleached as mast tops. The blue river seems to flow out of a dung-heap
and the blue arch above it looks like a smoky roof--Of the sun itself I
can recall nothing but the name; and what was called the moon--the lamp
that shed its light on bays and groves during the amorous nights of my
youth--I can remember only as--no, I cannot remember it at all. But
the words are left, although they have only sound without sense.--Love,
wine, song! Flowers, children, happiness!--Don't the words sound
pretty? And it is all that is left!--Love? What _was_ it, anyhow?

OLD LADY. What was it?--Two cats on a back-yard fence.

JUDGE. [_Sheepishly_] Yes, that's it! That's what it was! Three dogs on
a sidewalk. What a sweet recollection!

OLD LADY. [_Pressing his hand_] Yes, it is sweet!

JUDGE. [_Looking at his watch_] My watch has stopped. I am so
hungry--and I am thirsty, too, and I long for a smoke. But I am also
tired and want to sleep. All my desires are waking. They claw at me and
hound me, but not one of them can I satisfy. We are lost! Lost, indeed!

OLD LADY. And I long for a cup of tea more than I can tell!

JUDGE. Hot green tea--that's just what I should like now--with a tiny
drop of rum in it.

OLD LADY. No, not rum! I should prefer some cakes----

PRINCE. [_Who has drawn near to listen_] Sugared, of course? I fear
you'll have to whistle for them.

OLD LADY. Oh, this dreadful language hurts me more than anything, else.

PRINCE. That's because you don't know yet how something else is going
to hurt you.

JUDGE. What is that?

OLD LADY. No, don't! We don't want to know! Please!

PRINCE. Yes, I am going to tell. It begins with----

OLD LADY. [_Puts her fingers in her ears and cries out_] Mercy! Don't,
don't, don't!

PRINCE. Yes, I will--and as my brother-in-law is curious, I'll tell it
to him. The second letter is----

JUDGE. This uncertainty is worse than torture--Speak out, you devil, or
I'll kill you!

PRINCE. Kill, ha ha! Everybody is immortal here, body and soul, what
little there is left. However, the third letter is--and that's all
you'll know!

MAN IN GREY. [_A small, lean man with grey clothes, grey face, black
lips, grey beard, and grey hands; he speaks in a very low voice_] May I
speak a word with you, madam?

OLD LADY. [_Rising in evident alarm_] What is it about?

MAN IN GREY. [_Smiling a ghastly, malicious smile_] I'll tell--out
there.

OLD LADY. [_Crying_] No, no; I won't!

MAN IN GREY. [_Laughing_]; It isn't dangerous. Come along! All I want
is to _speak_ to you. Come now!

        [_They go toward the background and disappear_.

PRINCE. [_To the_ JUDGE] A little Christmas entertainment is wholesome.

JUDGE. Do you mean to maltreat a woman?

PRINCE. Here all injustices are abolished, and woman is treated as the
equal of man.

JUDGE. You devil!

PRINCE. That's all right, but don't call me hunchback, for that touches
my last illusion.

THE OTHER ONE. [_Steps up to the table_] Well, how do you like our
animal magnetism? It _can_ work wonders on black-guards!

JUDGE. I understand nothing of all this.

THE OTHER ONE. That's just what is meant, and it is very nice of you to
admit that there are things you don't understand.

JUDGE. Granting that I am now in the realm of the dead----

THE OTHER ONE. Say "hell," for that is what it's called.

JUDGE. [_Stammering_] Th-then I should like to remind you that He who
once descended here to redeem all lost----

PRINCE. [_At a sign from_ THE OTHER ONE _he strikes the_ JUDGE _in the
face_] Don't argue!

JUDGE. They won't even listen to me! It is beyond despair! No mercy, no
hope, no end!

THE OTHER ONE. Quite right! Here you find only justice and
retribution--especially justice: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a
tooth! Just as you wanted it!

JUDGE. But among men there is pardon--and that you don't have here.

THE OTHER ONE. Monarchs alone possess the right to pardon. And as a man
of law you ought to know that a petition for pardon must be submitted
before it can be granted.

JUDGE. For me there can be no pardon!

THE OTHER ONE. [_Gives the_ PRINCE _a sign to step aside_] You feel,
then, that your guilt is too great?

JUDGE. Yes.

THE OTHER ONE. Then I'll speak kindly to you. There is an end, you see,
if there is a beginning. And you have made a beginning. But the sequel
will be long and hard.

JUDGE. Oh, God is good!

THE OTHER ONE. You have said it!

JUDGE. But--there is one thing that cannot be undone--there is one!

THE OTHER ONE. You are thinking of the monstrance which should have
been of gold but was of silver? Well, don't you think that He who
changed water into wine may also change silver into gold?

JUDGE. [_On his knees_] But my misdeed is too great, too great to be
forgiven.

THE OTHER ONE. Now you overestimate yourself again. But rise up. We
are about to celebrate Christmas in our own fashion.--The light of the
sun cannot reach here, as you know--nor that of the moon. But on this
night, and on this alone, a star rises so far above the rocks that it
is visible from here. It is the star that went before the shepherds
through the desert--and _that_ was the morning star.

        [_He claps his hands together_.

        _The bust of Pan sinks into the ground. The_ OLD LADY _returns,
        looking reassured and quietly happy. With a suggestion of firm
        hope in mien and gesture, she goes up to the_ JUDGE _and takes
        his hand. The stage becomes filled with shadows that are gazing
        up at the rocks in the rear_.

CHORUS I. [_Two sopranos and an alto sing behind the stage, accompanied
only by string instruments and a harp_.]

        Puer natus est nobis;
        Et filius datus est nobis,
        Cujus imperium super humerum ejus;
        Et vocabitur nomen ejus
        Magni consilii Angelus.

CHORUS II. [_Soprano, alto, tenor, basso_.]

        Cantate Domino canticum novum
        Quia mirabilia fecit!

        _The star becomes visible above the rocks in the rear. All
        kneel down. A part of the rock glides aside, revealing a
        tableau: the crib with the child and the mother; the shepherds
        adoring at the left, the three Magi at the right_.

CHORUS III. [_Two sopranos and two altos.]_

        Gloria in excelsis Deo
        Et in terra pax
        Hominibus bonæ voluntatis!

_Curtain_.



THE THUNDERSTORM

(OVÄDER)

A CHAMBER PLAY

1907


        CHARACTERS

        THE MASTER, _a retired government official_
        THE CONSUL, _his brother_
        STARCK, _a confectioner_
        AGNES, _daughter of Starck_
        LOUISE, _a relative of the Master_
        GERDA, _the Master's divorced wife_
        FISCHER, _second husband of Gerda_
        THE ICEMAN
        THE LETTER-CARRIER
        THE LAMPLIGHTER
        THE LIQUORDEALER'S MAN
        THE MILKMAID

        SCENE I--IN FRONT OF THE HOUSE
        SCENE II--INSIDE THE HOUSE
        SCENE III--IN FRONT OF THE HOUSE



FIRST SCENE


        _The front of a modern house with a basement of granite. The
        upper parts are of brick covered with yellow plastering. The
        window-frames and other ornaments are of sandstone. A low
        archway leads through the basement to the court and serves also
        as entrance to the confectioner's shop. The corner of the house
        appears at the right of the stage, where the avenue opens into
        a small square planted with roses and various other flowers. At
        the corner is a mail-box. The main floor, above the basement,
        has large windows, all of which are open. Four of these windows
        belong to an elegantly furnished dining-room. The four middle
        windows in the second story have red shades which are drawn;
        the shades are illumined by light from within_.

        _Along the front of the house runs a sidewalk with trees
        planted at regular intervals. There is a lamp-post in the
        extreme foreground and beside it stands a green bench_.

        STARCK, _the confectioner, comes out with a chair and sits down
        on the sidewalk_.

        _The_ MASTER _is visible in the dining-room of the main floor,
        seated at the table. Behind him appears an oven built of green
        majolica tiles. On its mantelshelf stands a large photograph
        between two candelabra and some vases containing flowers. A
        young girl in a light dress is just serving the final course_.

        _The_ MASTER'S _brother, the_ CONSUL, _appears in front of the
        house, coming from the left, and knocks with his walking-stick
        on the sill of one of the dining-room windows_.


CONSUL. Will you soon be through?

MASTER. I'll come in a moment.

CONSUL. [_Saluting the confectioner_] Good evening, Mr. Starck. It's
still hot----

STARCK. Good evening, Consul. Yes, it's the dog-day heat, and we have
been making jam all day.

CONSUL. Is that so? It's a good year for fruit, then?

STARCK. It might be worse. Well, the spring was cold, but the summer
turned out unbearably hot. It was hard on us who had to stay in the
city.

CONSUL. I got back from the country yesterday--one begins to wish
oneself back when the evenings grow dark.

STARCK. Neither I nor my wife have been out of the city. Of course,
business is at a standstill, but you have to be on hand to make
ready for the winter. First come strawberries, then cherries, then
raspberries, and last gooseberries, cantaloupes and all the fall
fruits----

CONSUL. Tell me something, Mr. Starck. Is the house here to be sold?

STARCK. Not that I have heard.

CONSUL. There are a lot of people living here?

STARCK. Something like ten families, I think, counting those in the
rear also. But nobody knows anybody else. There is unusually little
gossiping in the house. It seems rather as if everybody were hiding. I
have lived here ten years, and during the first two years we had for
neighbours a strange family that kept very quiet in the daytime. But at
night they began to stir about, and then carriages would come and fetch
things away. Not until the end of the second year did I learn that
they had been running a private sanatorium, and that what was being
taken away at night were dead bodies.

CONSUL. Horrible!

STARCK. And they call it the Silent House.

CONSUL. Yes, there isn't much talking done here.

STARCK. More than one drama has been played here, nevertheless.

CONSUL. Tell me, Mr. Starck, who lives up there on the second floor,
right above my brother?

STARCK. Up there, where the light comes through the red shades--a
tenant died there during the summer. Then the place stood empty for a
month, and a week ago a new family moved in. I haven't seen them. I
don't know their name. I don't think they ever go out. Why did you ask,
Consul?

CONSUL. Whew--I don't know! Those four red shades look like stage
curtains behind which some sanguinary tragedies are being rehearsed--or
I imagine so, at least. There is a palm at one of the windows looking
like a rod made of wire--you can see the shadow of it on the shade. If
only some people were to be seen----

STARCK. I have seen plenty of them, but not until later--at night.

CONSUL. Was it men or women you saw?

STARCK. Both, I guess--but now I must get back to my pots. [_He
disappears into the gateway_.

MASTER. [_Still inside, has risen from the table and lighted a cigar;
he is now standing at the open window, talking to his brother outside_]
I'll be ready in a moment. Louise is only going to sew a button on one
of my gloves.

CONSUL. Then you mean to go down-town?

MASTER. Perhaps we'll take a turn in that direction--Whom were you
talking with?

CONSUL. Just the confectioner----

MASTER. Oh, yes--a very decent fellow--and, for that matter, my only
companion here during the summer.

CONSUL. Have you really stayed at home every night--never gone out?

MASTER. Never! Those light evenings make me timid. They are pleasant in
the country, of course, but here in the city they produce the effect of
something unnatural--almost ghastly. But no sooner has the first street
lamp been lighted than I feel calm once more and can resume my evening
walks. In that way I can get tired and sleep better at night. [LOUISE
_hands him the glove_] Thank you, my child. You can just as well leave
the windows open, as there are no mosquitoes. [_To the_ CONSUL] Now I'm
coming.

        _A few moments later he can be seen coming out of the house
        on the side facing the square; he stops at the corner to drop
        a letter in the mail-box; then he comes around the corner to
        the front of the house and sits down on the bench beside his
        brother_.

CONSUL. But tell me: why do you stay in the city when you _could_ be in
the country?

MASTER. I don't know. I have lost my power of motion. My memory has
tied me for ever to these rooms. Only within them can I find peace and
protection. In there--yes! It is interesting to look at your own home
from the outside. Then I imagine that some other man is pacing back and
forth in there--Just think: for ten years I have been pacing back and
forth in there!

CONSUL. Is it ten years now?

MASTER. Yes, time goes quickly--once it is gone. But when it is still
going it seems slow enough.--That time the house was new. I watched
them putting down the hard-wood floor in the dining-room and painting
the doors; and _she_ was permitted to pick out the wall-paper, which
is still there--Yes, that was then! The confectioner and I are the
oldest tenants in the place, and he, too, has had a few experiences of
his own--he is one of those people who never succeed but are always in
some kind of trouble. In a way, I have been living his life also, and
bearing his burdens besides my own.

CONSUL. Does he drink, then?

MASTER. No-o--nothing of that kind, but there is no _go_ to him. Well,
he and I know the history of this house: how they have arrived in
bridal coaches and left in hearses, while the mail-box at the corner
became the recipient of all their confidences.

CONSUL. There was a death here in the middle of the summer, wasn't
there?

MASTER. Yes, a case of typhoid--the man was manager of a bank--and then
the flat stood vacant for a month. The coffin came out first, then the
widow and the children, and last of all the furniture.

CONSUL. That was on the second floor?

MASTER. Yes, up there, where you see the light--where those new people
are, about whom I know nothing at all.

CONSUL. Haven't you seen anything of them either?

MASTER. I never ask any questions about the other tenants. What comes
to me unasked, I accept--but I never make any wrong use of it, and I
never interfere, for I am anxious for the peace of my old age.

CONSUL. Old age--yes! I think it's nice to grow old, for then there
isn't so much left to be recorded.

MASTER. Indeed, it is nice. I am settling my accounts, both with life
and with people, and I have already begun to pack for the journey.
Of course, the solitude has its draw-backs, but when there is nobody
who can make any demands on you, then you have won your freedom--the
freedom to come and go, to think and act, to eat and sleep, in
accordance with your own choice.

        _At this moment the shade in one of the windows on the second
        floor is raised a little way, so that part of a woman's dress
        becomes visible. Then it is quickly drawn again_.

CONSUL. They are astir up there--did you see?

MASTER. Yes, there is such a lot of mystery about it--and at night it
is worse than ever. Sometimes there is music, but it's always bad;
and sometimes I think they are playing cards; and long after midnight
carriages drive up and take away people.--I never make a complaint
against other tenants, for then they want to get even, and nobody wants
to change his ways. The best thing is to remain oblivious of everything.

        _A gentleman, dressed in a dinner coat but bareheaded, comes
        out of the house and drops a big pile of letters into the
        mail-box; then he disappears into the house again_.

CONSUL. That fellow must have a lot of correspondence.

MASTER. It looked to me like circulars.

CONSUL. But who is he?

MASTER. Why, that's the new tenant up there on the second floor.

CONSUL. Oh, is that so! What do you think he looked like?

MASTER. I don't know. Musician, conductor, a touch of musical
comedy, with a leaning to vaudeville--gambler--Adonis--a little of
everything----

CONSUL. Black hair should have gone with that pale complexion of
his, but his hair was brown--which means that it had been dyed, or
that he wears a wig. A tuxedo at home indicates an empty wardrobe,
and the movements of his hands as he dropped the letters into the
box suggested shuffling and cutting and dealing--[_At this moment
waltz music becomes faintly audible from the second floor_] Always
waltzes--perhaps they have a dancing-school--but it's always the same
waltz--what's the name of it now?

MASTER. Why, I think--that's "Pluie d'or"--I know it by heart.

CONSUL. Have you heard it in your own house?

MASTER. Yes, that one and the "Alcazar Waltz."

        LOUISE _becomes visible in the dining-room, where she is
        putting things in order and wiping the glassware on the buffet_.

CONSUL. Are you still pleased with Louise?

MASTER. Very.

CONSUL. Isn't she going to marry?

MASTER. Not that I know of.

CONSUL. Is there no fiancé in sight?

MASTER. Why do you ask?

CONSUL. Have you had any thoughts of that kind?

MASTER. I? No, thank you! When I married the last time I was not too
old, as we had a child in due time, but I have grown too old since
then, and now I want to spend my evening in peace--Do you think I want
another master in my own house, who would rob me of life and honour and
goods?

CONSUL. Oh, nobody took your life or your goods----

MASTER. Do you mean to say that my honour suffered any harm?

CONSUL. Don't you know?

MASTER. What _do_ you mean?

CONSUL. In leaving you, she killed your honour.

MASTER. Then I have been a dead man for five years without knowing it.

CONSUL. You haven't known it?

MASTER. No, but now I'll tell you in a few words what really happened.
When, at fifty, I married a girl much younger than myself--one whose
heart I had won and who gave me her hand fearlessly and willingly--then
I promised her that if ever my age should become a burden to her youth
I would go my own way and give her back her freedom. Since the child
had come in due time, and neither one of us wanted another, and since
our little girl had begun to grow apart from me, so that I had come to
feel superfluous, I did go my way--that is, I took a boat, as we were
living on an island--and that was the end of the whole story. I had
redeemed my promise and saved my honour--what more besides?

CONSUL. All right--but she thought it an attack on her own honour,
because she had meant to go away herself. And so she killed you by
tacit accusations which never reached your ears.

MASTER. Did she accuse herself also?

CONSUL. No, she had no reason to do so.

MASTER. Then no harm has been done.

CONSUL. Do you know what has become of her and the child since then?

MASTER. I don't want to know! Having at last outlived the horrors of
longing, I came to regard the whole business as buried; and as none but
beautiful memories were left behind in our rooms, I remained where I
was. However, I thank you for that piece of valuable information!

CONSUL. Which one?

MASTER. That she had no reason for self-accusation, for if she had it
would constitute an accusation against me----

CONSUL. I think you are living under a serious misconception----

MASTER. If I am, leave me alone! A clear conscience--comparatively
clear, at least--has always been the diving-suit that has enabled me
to descend into the vast deeps without being suffocated. [_Rising_]
To think of it--that I got out of it with my life! And now it's all
over!--Suppose we take a turn down the avenue?

CONSUL. All right, then we can see them light the first street lamp of
the season.

MASTER. But won't the moon be up to-night--the harvest-moon?

CONSUL. Why, I think the moon is full just now----

MASTER. [_Going to one of the windows and talking into the
dining-room_] Please hand me my stick, Louise. The light one--I just
want to hold it in my hand.

LOUISE. [_Handing out a cane of bamboo_] Here it is, sir.

MASTER. Thank you, my girl. Now turn out the light in the dining-room
if you have nothing to do there. We'll be gone a little while--I cannot
tell just how long.

        _The_ MASTER _and the_ CONSUL _go out to the left_. LOUISE
        _remains standing by the open window_. STARCK _comes out of the
        gateway_.

STARCK. Good evening, Miss Louise. It's awfully hot!--So your gentlemen
have disappeared?

LOUISE. They have gone for a stroll down the avenue--the first time my
master has gone out this summer.

STARCK. We old people love the twilight, which covers up so many
defects both in ourselves and others. Do you know, Miss Louise, my old
woman is getting blind, but she won't have an operation performed. She
says there is nothing to look at, and that sometimes she wishes she
were deaf, too.

LOUISE. Well, one does feel that way--at times.

STARCK. Of course, you are leading a very quiet life in there, with
plenty of everything, and nothing to worry about. I have never heard a
loud voice or the slamming of a door--perhaps, even, it is a little too
quiet for a young lady like yourself?

LOUISE. Not at all! I love the quiet, and whatever is dignified,
graceful, measured--with nobody blurting out things, and all thinking
it a duty to overlook the less pleasant features of daily life.

STARCK. And you have never any company?

LOUISE. No, only the consul comes here--and the like of the love
between those two brothers I have never seen.

STARCK. Who is the elder of the two?

LOUISE. That's more than I can tell. Whether there is a year or two
between them, or they are twins, I don't know, for they treat each
other with mutual respect, as if each one of them was the elder brother.

        AGNES _appears, trying to get past_ STARCK _without being seen
        by him_.

STARCK. Where are you going, girl?

AGNES. Oh, I am just going out for a little walk.

STARCK. That's right, but get back soon.

        AGNES _goes out_.

STARCK. Do you think your master is still mourning the loss of his dear
ones?

LOUISE. He doesn't mourn--he doesn't even feel any regrets, for he
doesn't want them back--but he is always with them in his memory, where
he keeps only their beautiful traits.

STARCK. But doesn't the fate of his daughter trouble him at times?

LOUISE. Yes, he cannot help fearing that the mother may have married
again, and then, of course, everything depends on how the child's
stepfather turns out.

STARCK. I have been told that the wife refused alimony at first, but
that now, when five years have passed, she has sent him a lawyer with a
demand for many thousands----

LOUISE. [_With reserve_] I know nothing about it.

STARCK. I believe, however, that she was never more beautiful than in
his memory----

THE LIQUORDEALER'S MAN. [_Enters, carrying a crateful of bottles_]
Excuse me, but does Mr. Fischer live here?

LOUISE. Mr. Fischer? Not so far as I know.

STARCK. Perhaps Fischer is the name of that fellow on the second floor?
Around the corner--one flight up.

THE LIQUORDEALER'S MAN. [_Going toward the square_] One flight
up--thanks. [_He disappears around the corner_.

LOUISE. Carrying up bottles again--that means another sleepless night.

STARCK. What kind of people are they? Why don't they ever show
themselves?

LOUISE. I suppose they use the back-stairs, for I have never seen them.
But I do hear them.

STARCK. Yes, I have also heard doors bang and corks pop--and the
popping of other things, too, I guess.

LOUISE. And they never open their windows, in spite of the heat--they
must be Southerners.--Why, that's lightning--a lot of it!--I guess
it's nothing but heat-lightning, for there has been no thunder.

A VOICE. [_Is heard from the basement_] Starck, dear, won't you come
down and help me put in the sugar!

STARCK. All right, old lady, I'm coming! [_To_ LOUISE] We are making
jam, you know. [_As he goes_] I'm coming, I'm coming! [_He disappears
into the gateway again_.

        LOUISE _remains standing at the window_.

CONSUL. [_Enters slowly from the right_] Isn't my brother back yet?

LOUISE. No, sir.

CONSUL. He wanted to telephone, and I was to go ahead. Well, I suppose
he'll be here soon.--What's this? [_He stoops to pick up a post-card_]
What does it say?--"Boston club at midnight: Fischer."--Do you know who
Fischer is, Louise?

LOUISE. There was a man with a lot of wine looking for Fischer a while
ago--up on the second floor.

CONSUL. On the second floor--Fischer! Red shades that make the place
look like a drug-store window at night! I fear you have got bad company
in the house.

LOUISE. What is a Boston club?

CONSUL. Oh, there need be no harm in it at all--in this case I don't
know, however.--But how did the post-card--? Oh, it was _he_ who
dropped it a while ago. Then I'll put it back in the box.--Fischer?
I have heard that name before. In connection with something I cannot
recall just now--May I ask a question, Miss Louise: does my brother
never speak of--the past?

LOUISE. Not to me.

CONSUL. Miss Louise--one more question----

LOUISE. Excuse me, but here comes the milk, and I have to receive it.

       [_She leaves the dining-room_.

        _The_ MILKMAID _appears from the right and enters the house
        from the square_.

STARCK. [_Comes out again, takes off his white linen cap, and puffs
with heat_] In and out, like a badger at its hole--it's perfectly
horrid down there by the ovens--and the evening doesn't make it any
cooler.

CONSUL. All this lightning shows that we are going to have rain--Well,
the city isn't pleasant, exactly, but up here you have quiet at least:
never any rattling carriages, and still less any street-cars--it's just
like the country.

STARCK. Of course, it's quiet, but it's too quiet for business. I
know my trade, but I am a poor salesman--have always been, and
can't learn--or it may be something else. Perhaps I haven't got the
proper manner. For when customers act as if I were a swindler I get
embarrassed at first, and then as mad as it is possible for me to
become. But nowadays I haven't the strength to get really mad. It has
been worn out of me--everything gets worn out.

CONSUL. Why don't you go to work for somebody else?

STARCK. Who would want me?

CONSUL. Have you ever tried?

STARCK. What would be the use of it?

CONSUL. Oh--well!

        _At this moment a long-drawn "O-oh" is heard from the apartment
        on the second floor_.

STARCK. What, in the name of Heaven, are they up to in that place? Are
they killing each other?

CONSUL. I don't like this new and unknown element that has come into
the house. It is pressing on us like a red thunder-cloud. What kind of
people are they? Where do they come from? What do they want here?

STARCK. It's so very dangerous to delve in other people's affairs--you
get mixed up in them yourself----

CONSUL. Do you know anything about them?

STARCK. No, I don't know anything at all.

CONSUL. Now they're screaming again, this time in the stairway----

STARCK. [_Withdrawing into the gateway and speaking in a low voice_] I
don't want to have anything to do with this.

        GERDA, _the divorced wife of the_ MASTER, _comes running from
        the house into the square. She is bareheaded, with her hair
        down, and very excited. The_ CONSUL _approaches her, and they
        recognise each other. She draws back from him_.

CONSUL. So it's you--my former sister-in-law?

GERDA. Yes, it is I.

CONSUL. How did you get into this house, and why can't you let my
brother enjoy his peace?

GERDA. [_Bewildered_] They didn't give us the right name of the tenant
below--I thought he had moved--I couldn't help it----

CONSUL. Don't be afraid--you don't have to be afraid of me, Gerda! Can
I be of any help to you? What's happening up there?

GERDA. He was beating me!

CONSUL. Is your little girl with you?

GERDA. Yes.

CONSUL. So she has got a stepfather?

GERDA. Yes.

CONSUL. Put up your hair and calm yourself. Then I'll try to straighten
this matter out. But spare my brother----

GERDA. I suppose he hates me?

CONSUL. No, don't you see that he has been taking care of your flowers
in the bed over there? He brought the soil himself, in a basket,
don't you remember? Don't you recognise your blue gentians and the
mignonette, your _Malmaison_ and _Merveille de Lyons_ roses, which he
budded himself? Don't you understand that he has cherished the memory
of yourself and of the child?

GERDA. Where is he now?

CONSUL. Taking a walk along the avenue, but he will be here in a few
minutes with the evening papers. When he comes from that side he uses
the back door, and he goes straight into the dining-room to read the
papers. Stand still and he won't notice you.--But you must go back to
your own rooms----

GERDA. I can't! I can't go back to that man.

CONSUL. Who is he, and what?

GERDA. He--has been a singer.

CONSUL. Has been--and what is he now? An adventurer?

GERDA. Yes!

CONSUL. Keeps a gambling-house?

GERDA. Yes!

Consul. And the child? Bait?

GERDA. Oh, don't say that!

CONSUL. It's horrible!

GERDA. You are too harsh about the whole thing.

CONSUL. Of course, filth must be handled gently--so very gently! But
a just cause should be dragged in the dirt. Why did you defile his
honour, and why did you lure me into becoming your accomplice? I was
childish enough to trust your word, and I defended your unjust cause
against his.

GERDA. You forget that he was too old.

CONSUL. No, he wasn't _then_, as you had a child at once. When he
proposed, he asked if you wanted to have a child with him, and he vowed
in the bargain to give you back your freedom when his promise had been
kept and old age began to weigh him down.

GERDA. He deserted me, and that was an insult.

CONSUL. Not to you! Your youth prevented it from being a reflection on
you.

GERDA. He should have let me leave him.

CONSUL. Why? Why did you want to heap dishonour on him?

GERDA. One of us had to bear it.

CONSUL. What strange paths your thoughts pursue! However, you have
killed him, and fooled me into helping you. How can we rehabilitate him?

GERDA. If he is to be rehabilitated, it can only be at my expense.

CONSUL. I cannot follow your thoughts, which always turn to hatred.
But suppose we leave the rehabilitation alone and think only of how his
daughter is to be saved: what can we do then?

GERDA. She is my child. She's mine by law, and my husband is her
father----

CONSUL. Now _you_ are too harsh about it! And you have grown cruel and
vulgar--Hush! Here he comes now.

        _The_ MASTER _enters from the left with a newspaper in his
        hand; he goes into the house pensively by the back door, while
        the_ CONSUL _and_ GERDA _remain motionless, hidden behind the
        corner of the house_.

        _Then the_ CONSUL _and_ GERDA _come down the stage. A moment
        later the_ MASTER _becomes visible in the dining-room, where he
        sits down to read the paper_.

GERDA. It was he!

CONSUL. Come over here and look at your home. See how he has kept
everything as it was--arranged to suit your taste.--Don't be afraid.
It's so dark out here that he can't see us. The light in the room
blinds him, you know.

GERDA. How he has been lying to me!

CONSUL. In what respect?

GERDA. He hasn't grown old! He had grown tired of me--that was the
whole thing! Look at his collar--and his tie--the very latest fashion!
I am sure he has a mistress!

CONSUL. Yes, you can see her photograph on the mantelshelf, between the
candelabra.

GERDA. It is myself and the child! Does he still love me?

CONSUL. Your memory only!

GERDA. That's strange!

        _The_ MASTER _ceases to read and stares out through the window_.

GERDA. He is looking at us!

CONSUL. Don't move!

GERDA. He is looking straight into my eyes.

CONSUL. Be still! He doesn't see you.

GERDA. He looks as if he were dead----

CONSUL. Well, he has been killed.

GERDA. Why do you talk like that?

        _An unusually strong flash of heat-lightning illumines the
        figures of the_ CONSUL _and_ GERDA.

        _The_ MASTER _rises with an expression of horror on his face_.
        GERDA _takes refuge behind the corner of the house_.

MASTER. Carl Frederick! [_Coming to the window_] Are you alone? I
thought--Are you really alone?

CONSUL. As you see.

MASTER. The air is so sultry, and the flowers give me a headache--I am
just going to finish the newspaper.

        [_He resumes his former position._

CONSUL. Now let us get at your affairs. Do you want me to go with you?

GERDA. Perhaps! But it will be a hard struggle.

CONSUL. But the child must be saved. And I am a lawyer.

GERDA. Well, for the child's sake, then! Come with me!

        [_They go out together._

MASTER. [_Calling from within_] Carl Frederick, come in and have a game
of chess!--Carl Frederick!

_Curtain_.



SECOND SCENE


        _Inside the dining-room. The brick stove appears at the centre
        of the rear wall. To the left of it there is a door leading
        into the pantry. Another door to the right of it leads to the
        hallway. At the left stands a buffet with a telephone on it. A
        piano and a tall clock stand at the right. There are doors in
        both side walls_.


        _The_ MASTER _is in the room, and_ LOUISE _enters as the
        curtain rises_.


MASTER. Where did my brother go?

LOUISE. [_Alarmed_] He was outside a moment ago. He can't be very far
away.

MASTER. What a dreadful noise they are making up above! It is as
if they were stepping on my head! Now they are pulling out bureau
drawers as if they were were preparing for a journey--running away,
perhaps.--If you only knew how to play chess, Louise!

LOUISE. I know a little----

MASTER. Oh, if you just know how to move the pieces, that will be
enough--Sit down, child. [_He sets up the chess pieces_] They are
carrying on up there so that they make the chandelier rattle--and the
confectioner is heating up down below. I think I'll have to move soon.

LOUISE. I have long thought that you ought to do so anyhow.

MASTER. Anyhow?

LOUISE. It isn't good to stay too long among old memories.

MASTER. Why not? As time passes, all memories grow beautiful.

LOUISE. But you may live twenty years more, and that is too long a time
to live among memories which, after all, must fade and which may change
colour entirely some fine day.

MASTER. How much you know, my child!--Begin now by moving a pawn--but
not the one in front of the queen, or you will be mate in two moves.

LOUISE. Then I start with the knight----

MASTER. Hardly less dangerous, girl!

LOUISE. But I think I'll start with the knight just the same.

MASTER. All right. Then I'll move my bishop's pawn.

        STARCK _appears in the hallway, carrying a tray_.

LOUISE. There's Mr. Starck with the tea-cakes. He doesn't make any more
noise than a mouse.

        [_She rises and goes out into the hallway to receive the tray,
        which she then carries into the pantry_.

MASTER. Well, Mr. Starck, how is the old lady?

STARCK. Oh, thank you, her eyes are about as usual.

MASTER. Have you seen anything of my brother?

STARCK. He is walking back and forth outside, I think.

MASTER. Has he got any company?

STARCK. No-o--I don't think so.

MASTER. It wasn't yesterday you had a look at these rooms, Mr. Starck.

STARCK. I should say not--it's just ten years ago now----

MASTER. When you brought the wedding-cake.--Does the place look changed?

STARCK. It is just as it was--the palms have grown, of course--but the
rest is just as it was.

MASTER. And will remain so until you bring the funeral cake. When you
have passed a certain age, nothing changes, nothing progresses--all the
movement is downward like that of a sleigh going down-hill.

STARCK. Yes, that's the way it is.

MASTER. And it is peaceful, the way I have it here. No love, no
friends, only a little company to break up the solitude. Then human
beings are just human beings, without any claims on your feelings and
sympathies. Then you come loose like an old tooth, and drop out without
pain or regrets. Take Louise, for instance--a pretty young girl, the
sight of whom pleases me like a work of art that I don't wish to
possess--there is nothing to disturb our relationship. My brother and I
meet like two old gentlemen who never get too close to each other and
never exact any confidences. By taking up a neutral position toward
one's fellow-men, one attains a certain distance--and as a rule we look
better at a distance. In a word, I am pleased with my old age and its
quiet peace--[_Calling out_] Louise!

LOUISE. [_Appearing in the doorway at the left and speaking pleasantly
as always_] The laundry has come home, and I have to check it off.
[_She disappears again_.

MASTER. Well, Mr. Starck, won't you sit down and chat a little--or
perhaps you play chess?

STARCK. I can't stay away from my pots, and the oven has to be heated
up at eleven. It's very kind of you, however----

MASTER. If you catch sight of my brother, ask him to come in and keep
me company.

STARCK. So I will--so I will! [_He goes_.

MASTER. [_Alone; moves a couple of pieces on the chess-board; then gets
up and begins to walk about_] The peace of old age--yes! [_He sits down
at the piano and strikes a few chords; then he gets up and walks about
as before_] Louise! Can't you let the laundry wait a little?

LOUISE. [_Appears again for a moment in the doorway at the left_] No,
I can't, because the wash-woman is in a hurry--she has husband and
children waiting for her.

MASTER. Oh! [_He sits down at the table and begins to drum with his
fingers on it; tries to read the newspaper, but tires of it; lights
matches only to blow them out again at once; looks repeatedly at the
big clock, until at last a noise is heard from the hallway_] Is that
you, Carl Frederick?

THE MAIL-CARRIER. [_Appears in the doorway_] It's the mail. Excuse me
for walking right in, but the door was standing open.

MASTER. Is there a letter for me?

THE MAIL-CARRIER. Only a post-card.

        [_He hands it over and goes out_.

MASTER. [_Reading the post-card_] Mr. Fischer again! Boston club!
That's the man up above--with the white hands and the tuxedo coat. And
to me! The impertinence of it! I have got to move!--Fischer!--[_He
tears up the card; again a noise is heard, in the hallway_] Is that
you, Carl Frederick?

THE ICEMAN. [_Without coming into the room_] It's the ice!

MASTER. Well, it's nice to get ice in this heat. But be careful about
those bottles in the box. And put one of the pieces on edge so that I
can hear the water drip from it as it melts--That's my water-clock that
measures out the hours--the long hours--Tell me, where do you get the
ice from nowadays?--Oh, he's gone!--Everybody goes away--goes home--to
hear their own voices and get some company-[_Pause_] Is that you, Carl
Frederick?

_Somebody in the apartment above plays Chopin's_ Fantaisie Impromptu,
Opus 66, _on the piano_--_but only the first part of it_.

MASTER. [_Begins to listen, is aroused, looks up at the ceiling_] My
_Impromptu_?

        [_He covers his eyes with one hand and listens_.

        _The_ CONSUL _enters through the hallway_.

MASTER. Is that you, Carl Frederick?

        _The music stops_.

CONSUL. It is I.

MASTER. Where have you been so long?

CONSUL. I had some business to clear up. Have you been alone?

MASTER. Of course! Come and play chess now.

CONSUL. I prefer to talk. And you need also to hear your own voice a
little.

MASTER. True enough--only it is so easy to get to talking about the
past.

CONSUL. That makes us forget the present.

MASTER. There is no present. What's just passing is empty nothingness.
One has to look ahead or behind--and ahead is better, for there lies
hope!

CONSUL. [_Seating himself at the table_] Hope--of what?

MASTER. Of change.

CONSUL. Well! Do you mean to say you have had enough of the peace of
old age?

MASTER. Perhaps.

CONSUL. It's certain then. And if now you had the choice between
solitude and the past?

MASTER. No ghosts, however!

CONSUL. How about your memories?

MASTER. They don't walk. They are only poems wrought by me out of
certain realities. But if dead people walk, then you have ghosts.

CONSUL. Well, then--in your memory--who brings you the prettiest
mirage: the woman or the child?

MASTER. Both! I cannot separate them, and that's why I never tried to
keep the child.

CONSUL. But do you think you did right? Did the possibility of a
stepfather never occur to you?

MASTER. I didn't think that far ahead at the time, but afterward, of
course, I have had--my thoughts--about--that very thing.

CONSUL. A stepfather who abused--perhaps debased--your daughter?

MASTER. Hush!

CONSUL. What is it you hear?

MASTER. I thought I heard the "little steps"--those little steps that
came tripping down the corridor when she was looking for me.--It was
the child that was the best of all! To watch that fearless little
creature, whom nothing could frighten, who never suspected that life
might be deceptive, who had no secrets! I recall her first experience
of the malice that is in human beings. She caught sight of a pretty
child down in the park, and, though it was strange to her, she went
up to it with open arms to kiss it--and the pretty child rewarded her
friendliness by biting her in the cheek first and then making a face
at her. Then you should have seen my little Anne-Charlotte. She stood
as if turned to stone. And it wasn't pain that did it, but horror at
the sight of that yawning abyss which is called the human heart. I
have been confronted with the same sight myself once, when out of two
beautiful eyes suddenly shot strange glances as if some evil beast had
appeared behind those eyes. It scared me literally so that I had to see
if some other person were standing behind that face, which looked like
a mask.--But why do we sit here talking about such things? Is it the
heat, or the storm, or what?

CONSUL. Solitude brings heavy thoughts, and you ought to have company.
This summer in the city seems to have been rather hard on you.

MASTER. Only these last few weeks. The sickness and that death up
above--it was as if I had gone through it myself. The sorrows and
cares of the confectioner have also become my own, so that I keep
worrying about his finances, about his wife's eye trouble, about his
future--and of late I have been dreaming every night about my little
Anne-Charlotte. I see her surrounded by dangers--unknown, undiscovered,
nameless. And before I fall asleep my hearing grows so unbelievably
acute that I can hear her little steps--and once I heard her voice----

CONSUL. But where is she then?

MASTER. Don't ask me!

CONSUL. And if you were to meet her on the street?

MASTER. I imagine that I should lose my reason or fall in a faint.
Once, you know, I stayed abroad very long, during the very time when
our youngest sister was growing up. When I returned, after several
years, I was met at the steam-boat landing by a young girl who put
her arms around my neck. I was horrified at those eyes that searched
mine, but with unfamiliar glances--glances that expressed absolute
terror at not being recognised. "It is I," she repeated again and again
before at last I was able to recognise my own sister. And that's how I
imagine it would be for me to meet my daughter again. Five years are
enough to render you unrecognisable at that age. Think of it: not to
know your own child! That child, who is the same as before, and yet a
stranger! I couldn't survive such a thing. No, then I prefer to keep
the little girl of four years whom you see over there on the altar of
my home. I want no other one. [_Pause_] That must be Louise putting
things to rights in the linen closet. It has such a clean smell, and it
reminds me--oh, the housewife at her linen closet; the good fairy that
preserves and renews; the housewife with her iron, who smooths out all
that has been ruffled up and who takes out all wrinkles--the wrinkles,
yes--[_Pause_] Now--I'll--go in there to write a letter. If you'll
stay, I'll be out again soon.

        [_He goes out to the left_.

        _The_ CONSUL _coughs_.

GERDA. [_Appears in the door to the hallway_] Are you--[_The clock
strikes_] Oh, mercy! That sound--which has remained in my ears for ten
years! That clock which never kept time and yet measured the long hours
and days and nights of five years. [_She looks around_] My piano--my
palms--the dinner-table--he has kept it in honour, shining as a
shield! My buffet--with the "Knight in Armour" and "Eve"--Eve with her
basketful of apples--In the right-hand upper drawer, way back, there
was a thermometer lying--[_Pause_] I wonder if it is still there? [_She
goes to the buffet and pulls out the right-hand drawer_] Yes, there it
is!

CONSUL. What does that mean?

GERDA. Oh, in the end it became a symbol--of instability. When we went
to housekeeping the thermometer was not put in its place at once--of
course, it ought to be outside the window. I promised to put it up--and
forgot it. He promised, and forgot. Then we nagged each other about
it, and at last, to get away from it, I hid it in this drawer. I came
to hate it, and so did he. Do you know what was back of all that?
Neither one of us believed that our relationship would last, because we
unmasked at once and gave free vent to our antipathies. To begin with,
we lived on tiptoe, so to speak--always ready to fly off at a moment's
notice. That was what the thermometer stood for--and here it is still
lying! Always on the move, always changeable, like the weather. [_She
puts away the thermometer and goes over to the chess-board_] My chess
pieces! Which he bought to kill the time that hung heavy on our hands
while we were waiting for the little one to come. With whom does he
play now?

CONSUL. With me.

GERDA. Where is he?

CONSUL. He is in his room writing a letter.

GERDA. Where?

CONSUL. [_Pointing toward the left_] There.

GERDA. [_Shocked_] And here he has been going for five years?

CONSUL. Ten years--five of them alone!

GERDA. Of course, he loves solitude.

CONSUL. But I think he has had enough of it.

GERDA. Will he turn me out?

CONSUL. Find out for yourself! You take no risk, as he is always polite.

GERDA. I didn't make that centrepiece----

CONSUL. That is to say, you risk his asking you for the child.

GERDA. But it was he who should help me find it again----

CONSUL. Where do you think Fischer has gone, and what can be the
purpose of his flight?

GERDA. To get away from the unpleasant neighbourhood, first of all;
then to make me run after him. And he wanted the girl as a hostage, of
course.

CONSUL. As to the ballet--that's something the father _must not_ know,
for he hates music-halls.

GERDA. [_Sitting down in front of the chess-board and beginning,
absent-mindedly, to arrange the pieces_] Music-halls--oh, I have been
there myself.

CONSUL. You?

GERDA. I have accompanied on the piano.

CONSUL. Poor Gerda!

GERDA. Why? I love that kind of life. And when I was a prisoner here,
it wasn't the keeper, but the prison itself, that made me fret.

CONSUL. But now you have had enough?

GERDA. Now I am in love with peace and solitude--and with my child
above all.

CONSUL. Hush, he's coming!

GERDA. [_Rises as if to run away, but sinks down on the chair again_]
Oh!

CONSUL. Now I leave you. Don't think of what you are to say. It will
come of itself, like the "next move" in a game of chess.

GERDA. I fear his first glance most of all, for it will tell me whether
I have changed for better or for worse--whether I have grown old and
ugly.

CONSUL. [_Going out to the right_] If he finds you looking older, then
he will dare to approach you. If he finds you as young as ever, he will
have no hope, for he is more diffident than you think.--Now!

        _The_ MASTER _is seen outside, passing by the door leading
        to the pantry; he carries a letter in his hand; then he
        disappears, only to become visible again a moment later in the
        hallway, where he opens the outside door and steps out_.

CONSUL. [_In the doorway at the right_] He went out to the mail-box.

GERDA. No, this is too much for me! How can I possibly ask _him_ to
help me with this divorce? I want to get out! It's too brazen!

CONSUL. Stay! You know that his kindness has no limits. And he'll help
you for the child's sake.

GERDA. No, no!

CONSUL. And he is the only one who can help you.

MASTER. [_Enters quickly from the hallway and nods at_ GERDA, _whom,
because of his near-sightedness, he mistakes for_ LOUISE; _then he goes
to the buffet and picks up the telephone, but in passing he remarks to_
GERDA] So you're done already? Well, get the pieces ready then, and
we'll begin all over again--from the beginning.

        GERDA _stands paralysed, not understanding the situation_.

MASTER. [_Speaks in the telephone receiver, with his back to_ Gerda]
Hello!--Good evening! Is that you, mother?--Pretty well, thank you!
Louise is waiting to play a game of chess with me, but she is a
little tired after a lot of bother--It's all over now--everything
all right--nothing serious at all.--If it's hot? Well, there has
been a lot of thundering, right over our heads, but nobody has been
struck. False alarm!--What did you say? Fischer?--Yes, but I think
they are going to leave.--Why so? I know nothing in particular.--Oh,
is that so?--Yes, it leaves at six-fifteen, by the outside route,
and it gets there--let me see--at eight-twenty-five.--Did you have a
good time?--[_With a little laugh_] Oh, he's impossible when he gets
started! And what did Marie have to say about it?--How I have had it
during the summer? Oh, well, Louise and I have kept each other company,
and she has got such an even, pleasant temper.--Yes, she is very nice,
indeed!--Oh, no, nothing of that kind!

        GERDA, _who has begun to understand, rises with an expression
        of consternation on her face_.

MASTER. My eyes? Oh, I am getting a little near-sighted. But I feel
like the confectioner's old wife: there is nothing to look at. Wish I
were deaf, too! Deaf and blind! The neighbours above make such a lot of
noise at night--it's a gambling club--There now! Somebody got on the
wire to listen. [_He rings again_.

        LOUISE _appears in the door to the hallway without being seen
        by the_ MASTER; GERDA _stares at her with mingled admiration
        and hatred_; LOUISE _withdraws toward the right_.

MASTER. [_At the telephone_] Is that you? The cheek of it--to
break off our talk in order to listen!--To-morrow, then, at
six-fifteen.--Thank you, and the same to you!--Yes, I will,
indeed!--Good night, mother! [_He rings off_.

        LOUISE _has disappeared_. GERDA _is standing in the middle of
        the floor_.

MASTER. [_Turns around and catches sight of_ GERDA, _whom he gradually
recognises; then he puts his hand to his heart_] O Lord, was that you?
Wasn't Louise here a moment ago?

        GERDA _remains silent_.

MASTER. [_Feebly_] How--how did you get here?

GERDA. I hope you pardon--I just got to the city--I was passing by and
felt a longing to have a look at my old home--the windows were open----

        [_Pause_.

MASTER. Do you find things as they used to be?

GERDA. Exactly, and yet different--there is a difference

MASTER. [_Feeling unhappy_] Are you satisfied--with your life?

GERDA. Yes. I have what I was looking for.

MASTER. And the child?

GERDA. Oh, she's growing, and thriving, and lacks nothing.

MASTER. Then I won't ask anything more. [_Pause_] Did you want
anything--of me--can I be of any service?

GERDA. It's very kind of you, but--I need nothing at all now when I
have seen that you lack nothing either. [_Pause]_ Do you wish to see
Anne-Charlotte?

MASTER. I don't think so, now when I have heard that she is doing well.
It's so hard to begin over again. It's like having to repeat a lesson
at school--which you know already, although the teacher doesn't think
so--I have got so far away from all that--I live in a wholly different
region--and I cannot connect with the past. It goes against me to be
impolite, but I am not asking you to be seated--you are another man's
wife--and you are not the same person as the one from whom I parted.

GERDA. Am I then so--altered?

MASTER. Quite strange to me! Your voice, glance, manner----

GERDA. Have I grown old?

MASTER. That I cannot tell!--They say that not a single atom in a
person's body remains wholly the same after three years--and in five
years everything is renewed. And for that reason you, who stand over
there, are not the same person as the sufferer who once sat here--you
seem such a complete stranger to me that I can only address you in the
most formal way. And I suppose it would be just the same in the case of
my daughter, too.

GERDA. Don't speak like that. I would much rather have you angry.

MASTER. Why should I be angry?

GERDA. Because of all the evil I have done you.

MASTER. Have you? That's more than I know.

GERDA. Didn't you read the papers in the suit?

MASTER. No-o! I left that to my lawyer. [_He sits down_.

GERDA. And the decision of the court?

MASTER. No, why should I? As I don't mean to marry again, I have no use
for that kind of documents.

        _Pause_. GERDA _seats herself_.

MASTER. What did those papers say? That I was too old?

        GERDA'S _silence indicates assent_.

MASTER. Well, that was nothing but the truth, so that need not trouble
you. In my answer I said the very same thing and asked the Court to set
you free again.

GERDA. You said, that----

MASTER. I said, not that I _was_, but that I was about to _become_ too
old _for you_!

GERDA. [_Offended_] For me?

MASTER. Yes.--I couldn't say that I was too old when we married, for
then the arrival of the child would have been unpleasantly explained,
and it was _our_ child, was it not?

GERDA. You know that, of course! But----

MASTER. Do you think I should be ashamed of my age?--Of course, if
I took to dancing and playing cards at night, then I might soon land
in an invalid's chair, or on the operating-table, and that would be a
shame.

GERDA. You don't look it----

MASTER. Did you expect the divorce to kill me?

        _The silence of_ GERDA _is ambiguous_.

MASTER. There are those who assert that you _have_ killed me. Do you
think I look like a dead man?

        GERDA _appears embarrassed_.

MASTER. Some of your friends are said to have caricatured me in the
papers, but I have never seen anything of it, and those papers went
into the dump five years ago. So there is no need for your conscience
to be troubled on my behalf.

GERDA. Why did you marry me?

MASTER. Don't you know why a man marries? And you know, too, that I
didn't have to go begging for love. And you ought to remember how
we laughed together at all the wiseacres who felt compelled to warn
you.--But why you led me on is something I have never been able to
explain--When you didn't look at me after the marriage ceremony, but
acted as if you had been attending somebody else's wedding, then I
thought you had made a bet that you could kill me. As the head of the
department, I was, of course, hated by all my subordinates, but they
became your friends at once. No sooner did I make an enemy than he
became _your_ friend. Which caused me to remark that, while it was
right for you not to hate your enemies, it was also right that you
shouldn't _love_ mine!--However, seeing where you stood, I began to
prepare for a retreat at once, but before leaving I wanted a living
proof that you had not been telling the truth, and so I stayed until
the little one arrived.

GERDA. To think that you could be so disingenuous!

MASTER. I learned to keep silent, but I never lied!--By degrees you
turned all my friends into detectives, and you lured my own brother
into betraying me. But worst of all was that your thoughtless chatter
threw suspicions on the legitimacy of the child.

GERDA. All that I took back!

MASTER. The word that's on the wing cannot be pulled back again. And
worse still: those false rumours reached the child, and now she thinks
her mother a----

GERDA. For Heaven's sake!

MASTER. Well, that's the truth of it. You raised a tall tower on a
foundation of lies, and now the tower of lies is tumbling down on your
head.

GERDA. It isn't true!

MASTER. Yes, it is! I met Anne-Charlotte a few minutes ago----

GERDA. You have met----

MASTER. We met on the stairs, and she said I was her uncle. Do you
know what an uncle is? That's an elderly friend of the house and the
mother. And I know that at school I am also passing as her uncle.--But
all that is dreadful for the child!

GERDA. You have met----

MASTER. Yes. But why should I tell anybody about it? Haven't I a right
to keep silent? And, besides, that meeting was so shocking to me that I
wiped it out of my memory as if it had never existed.

GERDA. What can I do to rehabilitate you?

MASTER. You? What could you do? That's something I can only do myself.
[_For a long time they gaze intently at each other_] And for that
matter, I have already got my rehabilitation. [_Pause_.

GERDA. Can't I make good in some way? Can't I ask you to forgive, to
forget----

MASTER. What do you mean?

GERDA. To restore, to repair----

MASTER. Do you mean to resume, to start over again, to reinstate a
master above me? No, thanks! I don't want you.

GERDA. And this I had to hear!

MASTER. Well, how does it taste? [_Pause_.

GERDA. That's a pretty centrepiece.

MASTER. Yes, it's pretty.

GERDA. Where did you get it? [_Pause_.

        LOUISE _appears in the door to the pantry with a bill in her
        hand_.

MASTER. [_Turning toward her_] Is it a bill?

GERDA _rises and begins to pull on her gloves with such violence that
buttons are scattered right and left_.

MASTER. [_Taking out the money_] Eighteen-seventy-two. That's just
right.

LOUISE. I should like to see you a moment, sir.

MASTER. [_Rises and goes to the door, where_ LOUISE _whispers something
into his ear_] Oh, mercy----

LOUISE _goes out_.

MASTER. I am sorry for you, Gerda!

GERDA. What do you mean? That I am jealous of your servant-girl?

MASTER. No, I didn't mean that.

GERDA. Yes, you meant that you were too old for me, but not for her.
I catch the insulting point--She's pretty--I don't deny it--for a
servant-girl----

MASTER. I am sorry for you, Gerda!

GERDA. Why do you say that?

MASTER. Because you are to be pitied. Jealous of my servant--that ought
to be rehabilitation enough.

GERDA. Jealous, I----

MASTER. Why do you fly in a rage at my nice, gentle kinswoman?

GERDA. "A little more than kin."

MASTER. No, my dear, I have long ago resigned myself--and I am
satisfied with my solitude--[_The telephone rings, and he goes to
answer it_] Mr. Fischer? No, that isn't here.--Oh, yes, that's me.--Has
he skipped?--With whom, do you say?--with Starck's daughter! Oh, good
Lord! How old is she?--Eighteen! A mere child! [_Rings off_.

GERDA. I knew he had run away.--But with a woman!--Now you're pleased.

MASTER. No, I am not pleased. Although there is a sort of solace to my
mind in finding justice exists in this world. Life is very quick in its
movements, and now you find yourself where I was.

GERDA. Her eighteen years against my twenty-nine--I am old--too old for
him!

MASTER. Everything is relative, even age.--But now let us get at
something else. Where is your child?

GERDA. My child? I had forgotten it! My child! My God! Help me! He
has taken the child with him. He loves Anne-Charlotte as his own
daughter--Come with me to the police--come!

MASTER. I? Now you ask too much.

GERDA. Help me!

MASTER. [_Goes to the door at the right_] Come, Carl Frederick--get a
cab--take Gerda down to the police station--won't you?

CONSUL. [_Enters_] Of course I will! We are human, are we not?

MASTER. Quick! But say nothing to Starck. Matters may be straightened
out yet--Poor fellow--and I am sorry for Gerda, too!--Hurry up now!

GERDA. [_Looking out through the window_] It's beginning to rain--lend
me an umbrella. Eighteen years--only eighteen--quick, now!

        _She goes out with the_ CONSUL.

MASTER. [_Alone_] The peace of old age!--And my child in the hands of
an adventurer!--Louise!

        LOUISE _enters_.

MASTER. Come and play chess with me.

LOUISE. Has the consul----

MASTER. He has gone out on some business. Is it still raining?

LOUISE. No, it has stopped now.

MASTER. Then I'll go out and cool off a little. [_Pause_] You are a
nice girl, and sensible--did you know the confectioner's daughter?

LOUISE. Very slightly.

MASTER. Is she pretty?

LOUISE. Ye-es.

MASTER. Have you known the people above us?

LOUISE. I have never seen them.

MASTER. That's an evasion.

LOUISE. I have learned to keep silent in this house.

MASTER. I am forced to admit that pretended deafness can be carried to
the point where it becomes dangerous.--Well, get the tea ready while I
go outside and cool off a little. And, one thing, please--you see what
is happening, of course--but don't ask me any questions.

LOUISE. I? No, sir, I am not at all curious.

MASTER. I am thankful for that!

_Curtain_.



THIRD SCENE


        _The front of the house as in the First Scene. There is light
        in the confectioner's place in the basement. The gas is also
        lit on the second floor, where now the shades are raised and
        the windows open_.


        STARCK _is sitting near the gateway_.

MASTER. [_Seated on the green bench_] That was a nice little shower we
had.

STARCK. Quite a blessing! Now the raspberries will be coming in
again----

MASTER. Then I'll ask you to put aside a few jars for us. We have grown
tired of making the jam ourselves. It only gets spoiled.

STARCK. Yes, I know. Jars of jam are like mischievous children: you
have to watch them all the time. There are people who put in salicylic
acid, but those are newfangled tricks in which I take no stock.

MASTER. Salicylic acid--yes, they say it's antiseptic--and perhaps it's
a good thing.

STARCK. Yes, but you can taste it--and it's a trick.

MASTER. Tell me, Mr. Starck, have you got a telephone?

STARCK. No, I have no telephone.

MASTER. Oh!

STARCK. Why do you ask?

MASTER. Oh, I happened to think--a telephone is handy at times--for
orders--and important communications----

STARCK. That may be. But sometimes it is just as well to
escape--communications.

MASTER. Quite right! Quite right!--Yes, my heart always beats a little
faster when I hear it ring--one never knows what one is going to
hear--and I want peace--peace, above all else.

STARCK. So do I.

MASTER. [_Looking at his watch_] The lamplighter ought to be here soon.

STARCK. He must have forgotten us, for I see that the lamps are already
lit further down the avenue.

MASTER. Then he'll be here soon. It will be a lot of fun to see our
lamp lighted again.

        _The telephone in the dining-room rings_. LOUISE _comes in to
        answer the call. The_ MASTER _rises and puts one hand up to his
        heart. He tries to listen, but the public cannot hear anything
        of what is said within. Pause. After a while_ LOUISE _comes out
        by way of the square_.

MASTER. [_Anxiously_] What news?

LOUISE. No change.

MASTER. Was that my brother?

LOUISE. No, it was the lady.

MASTER. What did she want?

LOUISE. To speak to you, sir.

MASTER. I don't want to!--Have I to console my executioner? I used to
do it, but now I am tired of it.--Look up there! They have forgotten
to turn out the light--and light makes empty rooms more dreadful than
darkness--the ghosts become visible. [_In a lowered voice_] And how
about Starck's Agnes? Do you think he knows anything?

LOUISE. It's hard to tell, for he never speaks about his sorrows--nor
does anybody else in the Silent House!

MASTER. Do you think he should be told?

LOUISE. For Heaven's sake, no!

MASTER. But I fear it isn't the first time she gave him trouble.

LOUISE. He never speaks of her.

MASTER. It's horrible! I wonder if we'll get to the end of it soon?
[_The telephone rings again_] Now it's ringing again. Don't answer. I
don't want to hear anything.--My child--in such company! An adventurer
and a strumpet!--It's beyond limit!--Poor Gerda!

LOUISE. It's better to have certainty. I'll go in--You must do
something!

MASTER. I cannot move--I can receive blows, but to strike back--no!

LOUISE. But if you don't repel a danger, it will press closer; and if
you don't resist, you'll be destroyed.

MASTER. But if you refuse to be drawn in, you become unassailable.

LOUISE. Unassailable?

MASTER. Things straighten out much better if you don't mess them up
still further by interference. How can you want me to direct matters
where so many passions are at play? Do you think I can suppress
anybody's emotions, or give them a new turn?

LOUISE. But how about the child?

MASTER. I have surrendered my rights--and besides--frankly speaking--I
don't care for them--not at all now, when _she_ has been here and
spoiled the images harboured in my memory. She has wiped out all the
beauty that I had cherished, and now there is nothing left.

LOUISE. But that's to be set free!

MASTER. Look, how empty the place seems in there--as if everybody had
moved out; and up there--as if there had been a fire.

LOUISE. Who is coming there?

        AGNES _enters, excited and frightened, but trying hard
        to control herself; she makes for the gateway, where the
        confectioner is seated on his chair_.

LOUISE [_To the_ MASTER] There is Agnes? What can this mean?

MASTER. Agnes? Then things are getting straightened out.

STARCK. [_With perfect calm_] Good evening, girl! Where have you been?

AGNES. I have been for a walk.

STARCK. Your mother has asked for you several times.

AGNES. Is that so? Well, here I am.

STARCK. Please go down and help her start a fire under the little oven.

AGNES. Is she angry with me, then?

STARCK. You know that she cannot be angry with you.

AGNES. Oh, yes, but she doesn't say anything.

STARCK. Well, girl, isn't it better to escape being scolded?

        AGNES _disappears into the gateway_.

MASTER. [_To_ LOUISE] Does he know, or doesn't he?

LOUISE. Let's hope that he will remain in ignorance.

MASTER. But what can have happened? A breach? [_To_ STARCK] Say, Mr.
Starck----

STARCK. What is it?

MASTER. I thought--Did you notice if anybody left the house a while ago?

STARCK. I saw the iceman, and also a mail-carrier, I think.

MASTER. Oh! [_To_ LOUISE] Perhaps it was a mistake--that we didn't hear
right--I can't explain it--Or maybe he is not telling the truth? What
did she say when she telephoned?

LOUISE. That she wanted to speak to you.

MASTER. How did it sound? Was she excited?

LOUISE. Yes.

MASTER. I think it's rather shameless of her to appeal to me in a
matter like this.

LOUISE. But the child!

MASTER. Just think, I met my daughter on the stairway, and when I asked
her if she recognised me she called me uncle and told me that her
father was up-stairs. Of course, he is her stepfather, and has all the
rights--They have just spent their time exterminating me, blackguarding
me----

LOUISE. A cab is stopping at the corner.

        STARCK _withdraws into the gateway_.

MASTER. I only hope they don't come back to burden me again! Just
think: to have to hear my child singing the praise of her father--the
other one! And then to begin the old story all over again: "Why did you
marry me?"--"Oh, you know; but what made you want me?"--"You know very
well!"--And so on, until the end of the world.

LOUISE. It was the consul that came.

MASTER. How does he look?

LOUISE. He is taking his time.

MASTER. Practising what he is to say, I suppose. Does he look satisfied?

LOUISE. Thoughtful, rather----

MASTER. Hm!--That's the way it always was. Whenever he saw that woman
he became disloyal to me. She had the power of charming everybody but
me. To me she seemed coarse, vulgar, ugly, stupid; to all the rest she
seemed refined, pleasant, handsome, intelligent. All the hatred aroused
by my independence centred in her under the form of a boundless
sympathy for whoever wronged me in any way. Through her they strove to
control and influence me, to wound me, and, at last, to kill me.

LOUISE. Now, I'll go in and watch the telephone--I suppose this storm
will pass like all others.

MASTER. Men cannot bear independence. They want you to obey them. Every
one of my subordinates in the department, down to the very messengers,
wanted me to obey him. And when I wouldn't they called me a despot. The
servants in our house wanted me to obey them and eat food that had been
warmed up. When I wouldn't, they set my wife against me. And finally
my wife wanted me to obey the child, but then I left, and then all of
them combined against the tyrant--which was I!--Get in there quick now,
Louise, so we can set off our mines out here.

        _The_ CONSUL _enters from the left_.

MASTER. Results--not details--please!

CONSUL. Let's sit down. I am a little tired.

MASTER. I think it has rained on the bench.

CONSUL. It can't be too wet for me if you have been sitting on it.

MASTER. A you like!--Where is my child?

CONSUL. Can I begin at the beginning?

MASTER. Begin!

CONSUL [_Speaking slowly_] I got to the depot with Gerda--and at the
ticket-office I discovered him and Agnes----

MASTER. So Agnes was with him?

CONSUL. And so was the child!--Gerda stayed outside, and I went up to
them. At that moment _he_ was handing Agnes the tickets, but when she
discovered that they were for third class she threw them in his face
and walked out to the cab-stand.

MASTER. Ugh!

CONSUL. As soon as I had established a connection with the man, Gerda
hurried up and got hold of the child, disappearing with it in the
crowd----

MASTER. What did the man have to say?

CONSUL. Oh, you know--when you come to hear the other side--and so on.

MASTER. I want to hear it. Of course, he isn't as bad as we thought--he
has his good sides----

CONSUL. Exactly!

MASTER. I thought so! But you don't want me to sit here listening to
eulogies of my enemy?

CONSUL. Oh, not eulogies, but ameliorating circumstances----

MASTER. Did you ever want to listen to me when I tried to explain the
true state of affairs to you? Yes, you did listen--but your reply was
a disapproving silence, as if I had been lying to you. You have always
sided with what was wrong, and you have believed nothing but lies, and
the reason was--that you were in love with Gerda! But there was also
another reason----

CONSUL. Brother, don't say anything more! You see nothing but your own
side of things.

MASTER. How can you expect me to view my conditions from the standpoint
of my enemy? I cannot take sides against myself, can I?

CONSUL. I am not your enemy.

MASTER. Yes, when you make friends with one who has wronged me!--Where
is my child?

CONSUL. I don't know.

MASTER. What was the outcome at the depot?

CONSUL. He took a south-bound train alone.

MASTER. And the others?

CONSUL. Disappeared.

MASTER. Then I may have them after me again. [_Pause]_ Did you see if
they went with him?

CONSUL. He went alone.

MASTER. Well, then we are done with that one, at least. Number
two--there remain now--the mother and the child.

CONSUL. Why is the light burning up there in their rooms?

MASTER. Because they forgot to turn it out.

CONSUL. I'll go up----

MASTER. No, don't go!--I only hope that they don't come back here!--To
repeat, always repeat, begin the same lesson all over again!

CONSUL. But it has begun to straighten out.

MASTER. Yet the worst remains--Do you think they will come back?

CONSUL. Not she--not since she had to make you amends in the presence
of Louise.

MASTER. I had forgotten that! She really did me the honour of becoming
jealous! I do think there is justice in this world!

CONSUL. And then she learned that Agnes was younger than herself.

MASTER. Poor Gerda! But in a case like this you mustn't tell people
that justice exists--an avenging justice--for it is sheer falsehood
that they love justice! And you must deal gently with their filth. And
Nemesis--exists only for the other person.--There it's ringing again?
That telephone makes a noise like a rattlesnake!

        LOUISE _becomes visible at the telephone inside. Pause_.

MASTER. [_To_ LOUISE] Did the snake bite?

LOUISE. [_At the window_] May I speak to you, sir?

MASTER. [_Going up to the window_] Speak out!

LOUISE. The lady has gone to her mother, in the country, to live there
with her little girl.

Master. [_To his brother_] Mother and child in the country--in a good
home! Now it's straightened out!--Oh!

LOUISE. And she asked us to turn out the light up-stairs.

MASTER. Do that at once, Louise, and pull down the shades so we don't
have to look at it any longer.

        LOUISE _leaves the dining-room_.

STARCK. [_Coming out on the sidewalk again and looking up]_ I think the
storm has passed over.

MASTER. It seems really to have cleared up, and that means we'll have
moonlight.

CONSUL. That was a blessed rain!

STARCK. Perfectly splendid!

MASTER. Look, there's the lamplighter coming at last!

        _The_ LAMPLIGHTER _enters, lights the street lamp beside the
        bench, and passes on_.

MASTER. The first lamp! Now the fall is here! That's our season, old
chaps! It's getting dark, but then comes reason to light us with its
bull's-eyes, so that we don't go astray.

        LOUISE _becomes visible at one of the windows on the second
        floor; immediately afterward everything is dark up there_.

Master. [_To_ Louise] Close the windows and pull down the shades so
that all memories can lie down and sleep in peace! The peace of old
age! And this fall I move away from the Silent House.

_Curtain_.



AFTER THE FIRE

(BRÄNDA TOMTEN)

A CHAMBER PLAY

1907


CHARACTERS

RUDOLPH WALSTRÖM, _a dyer_
THE STRANGER, _who is_) }
ARVID WALSTRÖM               } _brother of_ RUDOLPH
ANDERSON, _a mason (brother-in-law of the gardener)_
MRS. ANDERSON, _wife of the mason_
GUSTAFSON, _a gardener (brother-in-law of the mason)_
ALFRED, _son of the gardener_
ALBERT ERICSON, _a stone-cutter_ (_second cousin of the hearse-driver_)
MATHILDA, _daughter of the stone-cutter_
THE HEARSE-DRIVER (_second cousin of the stone-cutter_)
A DETECTIVE
SJÖBLOM, _a painter_
MRS. WESTERLUND, _hostess at "The Last Nail," formerly a
   nurse at the dyer's_
MRS. WALSTRÖM, _wife of the dyer_
THE STUDENT
THE WITNESS



AFTER THE FIRE



FIRST SCENE


        _The left half of the background is occupied by the empty shell
        of a gutted one-story brick house. In places the paper remains
        on the walls, and a couple of brick stoves are still standing_.

        _Beyond the walls can be seen an orchard in bloom._

        _At the right is the front of a small inn, the sign of which
        is a wreath hanging from a pole. Tables and benches are placed
        outside._

        _At the left, in the foreground, there is a pile of furniture
        and household utensils that have been saved from the fire_.

        SJÖBLOM, _the painter, is painting the window-frames of the
        inn. He listens closely to everything that is said_.

        ANDERSON, _the mason, is digging in the ruins_.

        _The_ DETECTIVE _enters_.

DETECTIVE. Is the fire entirely out?

ANDERSON. There isn't any smoke, at least.

DETECTIVE. Then I want to ask a few more questions. [_Pause_] You were
born in this quarter, were you not?

ANDERSON. Oh, yes. It's seventy-five years now I've lived on this
street. I wasn't born when they built this house here, but my father
helped to put in the brick.

DETECTIVE. Then you know everybody around here?

ANDERSON. We all know each other. There is something particular about
this street here. Those that get in here once, never get away from it.
That is, they move away, but they always come back again sooner or
later, until at last they are carried out to the cemetery, which is
way out there at the end of the street.

DETECTIVE. You have got a special name for this quarter, haven't you?

ANDERSON. We call it the Bog. And all of us hate each other, and
suspect each other, and blackguard each other, and torment each other
[_Pause_.

DETECTIVE. The fire started at half past ten in the evening, I
hear--was the front door locked at that time?

ANDERSON. Well, that's more than I know, for I live in the house next
to this.

DETECTIVE. Where did the fire start?

ANDERSON. Up in the attic, where the student was living.

DETECTIVE. Was he at home?

ANDERSON. No, he was at the theatre.

DETECTIVE. Had he gone away and left the lamp burning, then?

ANDERSON. Well, that's more than I know. [_Pause_.

DETECTIVE. Is the student any relation to the owner of the house?

ANDERSON. No, I don't think so.--Say, you haven't got anything to do
with the police, have you?

DETECTIVE. How did it happen that the inn didn't catch fire?

ANDERSON. They slung a tarpaulin over it and turned on the hose.

DETECTIVE. Queer that the apple-trees were not destroyed by the heat.

ANDERSON. They had just budded, and it had been raining during the day,
but the heat made the buds go into bloom in the middle of the night--a
little too early, I guess, for there is frost coming, and then the
gardener will catch it.

DETECTIVE. What kind of fellow is the gardener?

ANDERSON. His name is Gustafson----

DETECTIVE. Yes, but what sort of a man is he?

ANDERSON. See here: I am seventy-five--and for that reason I don't know
anything bad about Gustafson; and if I knew I wouldn't be telling it!
[_Pause_.

DETECTIVE. And the owner of the house is named Walström, a dyer, about
sixty years old, married----

ANDERSON. Why don't you go on yourself? You can't pump me any longer.

DETECTIVE. Is it thought that the fire was started on purpose?

ANDERSON. That's what people think of all fires.

DETECTIVE. And whom do they suspect?

ANDERSON. The insurance company always suspects anybody who has an
interest in the fire--and for that reason I have never had anything
insured.

DETECTIVE. Did you find anything while you were digging?

ANDERSON. Mostly one finds all the door-keys, because people haven't
got time to take them along when the house is on fire--except now and
then, of course, when they have been taken away----

DETECTIVE. There was no electric light in the house?

ANDERSON. Not in an old house like this, and that's a good thing, for
then they can't put the blame on crossed wires.

DETECTIVE. Put the blame?--A good thing?--Listen----

ANDERSON. Oh, you're going to get me in a trap? Don't you do it, for
then I take it all back.

DETECTIVE. Take back? You can't!

ANDERSON. Can't I?

DETECTIVE. No!

ANDERSON. Yes! For there was no witness present.

DETECTIVE. No?

ANDERSON. Naw!

        _The_ DETECTIVE _coughs. The_ WITNESS _comes in from the left_.

DETECTIVE. Here's _one_ witness.

ANDERSON. You're a sly one!

DETECTIVE. Oh, there are people who know how to use their brains
without being seventy-five. [_To the_ WITNESS] Now we'll continue with
the gardener.

        [_They go out to the left_.

ANDERSON. There I put my foot in it, I guess. But that's what happens
when you get to talking.

        MRS. ANDERSON _enters with her husband's lunch in a bundle_.

ANDERSON. It's good you came.

MRS. ANDERSON. Now we'll have lunch and be good--you might well
be hungry after all this fuss--I wonder if Gustafson can pull
through--he'd just got done with his hotbeds and was about to start
digging in the open--why don't you eat?--and there's Sjöblom already at
work with his putty--just think of it, that Mrs. Westerlund got off as
well as she did--morning, Sjöblom, now you've got work, haven't you?

        MRS. WESTERLUND _comes in_.

MRS. ANDERSON. Morning, morning, Mrs. Westerlund--you got out of this
fine, I must say, and then----

MRS. WESTERLUND. I wonder who's going to pay me for all I am losing
to-day, when there's a big funeral on at the cemetery, which always
makes it a good day for me, and just when I've had to put away all my
bottles and glassware----

MRS. ANDERSON. Who's that they're burying to-day? I see such a lot of
people going out that way--and then, of course, they've come to see
where the fire was, too.

MRS. WESTERLUND. I don't think they're burying anybody, but I've heard
they're going to put up a monument over the bishop--worst of it is that
the stone-cutter's daughter was going to get married to the gardener's
son--him, you know, who's in a store down-town--and now the gardener
has lost all he had--isn't that his furniture standing over there?

MRS. ANDERSON. I guess that's some of the dyer's, too, seeing as it
came out helter-skelter in a jiffy--and where's the dyer now?

MRS. WESTERLUND. He's down at the police station testifying.

MRS. ANDERSON. Hm-hm!--Yes, yes!--And there's my cousin now--him what
drives the hearse--he's always thirsty on his way back.

HEARSE-DRIVER. [_Enters_] How do, Malvina! So you've gone and started a
little job of arson out here during the night, have you? Looks pretty,
doesn't it. Would have been better to get a new shanty instead, I guess.

MRS. WESTERLUND. Oh, mercy me! But whom have you been taking out now?

HEARSE-DRIVER. Can't remember what his name was--only _one_ carriage
along, and no flowers on the coffin at all.

MRS. WESTERLUND. Sure and it wasn't any happy funeral, then! If you
want anything to drink you'll have to go 'round to the kitchen, for
I haven't got things going on this side yet, and, for that matter,
Gustafson is coming here with a lot of wreaths--they've got something
on out at the cemetery to-day.

HEARSE-DRIVER. Yes, they're going to put up a moniment to the
bishop--'cause he wrote books, I guess, and collected all kinds of
vermin--was a reg'lar vermin-hunter, they tell me.

MRS. WESTERLUND. What's that?

HEARSE-DRIVER. Oh, he had slabs of cork with pins on 'em, and a lot of
flies--something beyond us here--but I guess that's the proper way--can
I go out to the kitchen now?

MRS. WESTERLUND. Yes, if you use the back door, I think you can get
something wet----

HEARSE-DRIVER. But I want to have a word with the dyer before I drive
off--I've got my horses over at the stone-cutter's, who's my second
cousin, you know. Haven't got any use for him, as you know, too, but
we're doing business together, he and I--that is, I put in a word for
him with the heirs, and so he lets me put my horses into his yard--just
let me know when the dyer shows up--luck, wasn't it, that he didn't
have his works here, too----

        [_He goes out, passing around the inn_.

        MRS. WESTERLUND _goes into the inn by the front door_.

        ANDERSON, _who has finished eating, begins to dig again_.

MRS. ANDERSON. Do you find anything?

ANDERSON. Nails and door-hinges--all the keys are hanging in a bunch
over there by the front door.

MRS. ANDERSON. Did they hang there before, or did you put them there?

ANDERSON. No, they were hanging there when I got here.

MRS. ANDERSON. That's queer--for then somebody must have locked all the
doors and taken out the keys before it began burning! That's queer!

ANDERSON. Yes, of course, it's a little queer, for in that way it was
harder to get at the fire and save things. Yes--yes! [_Pause_.

MRS. ANDERSON. I worked for the dyer's father forty years ago, I did,
and I know the people, both the dyer himself and his brother what
went off to America, though they say he's back now. The father, he
was a real man, he was, but the boys were always a little so-so. Mrs.
Westerlund over here, she used to take care of Rudolph, and the two
brothers never could get along, but kept scrapping and fighting all
the time.--I've seen a thing or two, I have--yes, there's a whole lot
what has happened in that house, so I guess it was about time to get it
smoked out.--Ugh, but that was a house! One went this way and another
that, but back they had to come, and here they died and here they were
born, and here they married and were divorced.--And Arvid, the brother
what went off to America--him they thought dead for years, and at least
he didn't take what was coming to him after his father, but now they
say he's come back, though nobody has seen him--and there's such a lot
of talking--Look, there's the dyer back from the police station!

ANDERSON. He doesn't look happy exactly, but I suppose that's more than
can be expected--Well, who's that student that lived in the attic? How
does he hang together with the rest?

MRS. ANDERSON. Well, that's more than I know. He had his board there,
and read with the children.

ANDERSON. And also with the lady of the house?

MRS. ANDERSON. No-o, they played something what they called tennis,
and quarrelled the rest of the time--yes, quarrelling and backbiting,
that's what everybody is up to in this quarter.

ANDERSON. Well, when they broke the student's door open they found
hairpins on the floor--it had to come out, after all, even if the fire
had to sweep over it first----

MRS. ANDERSON. I don't think it was the dyer that came, but our
brother-in-law, Gustafson----

ANDERSON. He's always mad, and to-day I suppose he's worse than ever,
and so he'll have to come and dun me for what I owe him, seeing what he
has lost in the fire----

MRS. ANDERSON. Now you shut up!

GUSTAFSON. [_Enters with a basketful of funeral wreaths and other
products of his trade_] I wonder if I am going to sell anything to-day
so there'll be enough for food after all this rumpus?

ANDERSON. Didn't you carry any insurance?

GUSTAFSON. Yes, I used to have insurance on the glass panes over my
hotbeds, but this year I felt stingy, and so I put in oiled paper
instead--gosh, that I could be such a darned fool!--[_Scratching his
head_] I don't get paid for that, of course. And now I've got to cut
and paste and oil six hundred paper panes. It's as I have always said:
that I was the worst idiot among us seven children. Gee, what an ass
I was--what a booby! And then I went and got drunk yesterday. Why in
hell did I have to get drunk that day of all days--when I need all the
brains I've got to-day? It was the stone-cutter who treated, because
our children are going to get married to-night, but I should have said
no. I didn't want to, but I'm a ninny who can't say no to anybody.
And that's the way when they come and borrow money of me--I can't say
no--darned fool that I am! And then I got in the way of that policeman,
who snared me with all sorts of questions. I should have kept my mouth
shut, like the painter over there, but I can't, and so I let out this,
that, and the other thing, and he put it all down, and now I am called
as a witness!

ANDERSON. What was it you said?

GUSTAFSON. I said I thought--that it looked funny to me--and that
somebody must have started it.

ANDERSON. Oh, that's what you said!

GUSTAFSON. Yes, pitch into me--I've deserved it, goose that I am!

ANDERSON. And who could have started it, do you think?--Don't mind the
painter, and my old woman here never carries any tales.

GUSTAFSON. Who started it? Why, the student, of course, as it started
in his room.

ANDERSON. No--_under_ his room!

GUSTAFSON. Under, you say? Then I _have_ gone and done it!--Oh, I'll
come to a bad end, I'm sure!--_Under_ his room, you say--what could
have been there--the kitchen?

ANDERSON. No, a closet--see, over there! It was used by the cook.

GUSTAFSON. Then it must have been her.

ANDERSON. Yes, but don't you say so, as you don't know.

GUSTAFSON. The stone-cutter had it in for the cook last night--I guess
he must have known a whole lot----

ANDERSON. You shouldn't repeat what the stone-cutter says, for one who
has served isn't to be trusted----

GUSTAFSON. Ash, that's so long ago, and the cook's a regular dragon,
for that matter--she'd always haggle over the vegetables----

ANDERSON. There comes the dyer from the station now--you'd better quit!

        _The_ STRANGER _enters, dressed in a frock coat and a high hat
        with mourning on it; he carries a stick_.

MRS. ANDERSON. It wasn't the dyer, but he looks a lot like him.

STRANGER. How much is one of those wreaths?

GARDENER. Fifty cents.

STRANGER. Oh, that's not much.

GARDENER. No, I am such a fool that I can't charge as I should.

STRANGER. [_Looking around_] Has there--been a fire--here?

GARDENER. Yes, last night.

STRANGER. Good God! [_Pause_] Who was the owner of the house?

GARDENER. Mr. Walström.

STRANGER. The dyer?

GARDENER. Yes, he used to be a dyer, all right. [_Pause_.

STRANGER. Where is he now?

GARDENER. He'll be here any moment.

STRANGER. Then I'll look around a bit--the wreath can lie here till I
come back--I meant to go out to the cemetery later.

GARDENER. On account of the bishop's monument, I suppose?

STRANGER. What bishop?

GARDENER. Bishop Stecksen, don't you know--who belonged to the Academy.

STRANGER. Is he dead?

GARDENER. Oh, long ago!

STRANGER. I see!--Well, I'll leave the wreath for a while.

        _He goes out to the left, studying the ruins carefully as he
        passes by_.

MRS. ANDERSON. Perhaps he came on account of the insurance.

ANDERSON. Not that one! Then he would have asked in a different way.

MRS. ANDERSON. But he looked like the dyer just the same.

ANDERSON. Only he was taller.

GUSTAFSON. Now, I remember something--I should have a bridal bouquet
ready for to-night, and I should go to my son's wedding, but I have
no flowers, and my black coat has been burned. Wouldn't that make
you--Mrs. Westerlund was to furnish the myrtle for the bride's crown,
being her godmother--that's the myrtle she stole a shoot of from
the dyer's cook, who got hers from the dyer's first wife--she who
ran away--and I was to make a crown of it, and I've clean forgotten
it--well, if I ain't the worst fool that ever walked the earth! [_He
opens the inn door_] Mrs. Westerlund, can I have the myrtle now, and
I'll do the job!--I say, can I have that myrtle! Wreath, too, you
say--have you got enough for it?--No?--Well, then I'll let the whole
wedding go hang, that's all there is to it!--Let them walk up to the
minister's and have him splice them together, but it'll make the
stone-cutter mad as a hornet.--What do you think I should do?--No, I
can't--haven't slept a wink the whole night.--It's too much for a poor
human creature.--Yes, I am a ninny, I know--go for me, will you!--Oh,
there's the pot--thanks! And then I need scissors, which I haven't
got--and wire--and string--where am I to get them from?--No, of course,
nobody wants to break off his work for a thing like that.--I'm tired of
the whole mess--work fifty years, and then have it go up in smoke! I
haven't got strength to begin over again--and the way it comes all at
once, blow on blow--did you ever! I'm going to run away from it! [_He
goes out_.

RUDOLPH WALSTRÖM. [_Enters, evidently upset, badly dressed_, _his hands
discoloured by the dyes_] Is it all out now, Anderson?

ANDERSON. Yes, now it's out.

RUDOLPH. Has anything been discovered?

ANDERSON. That's a question! What's buried when it snows comes to light
when it thaws!

RUDOLPH. What do you mean, Anderson?

ANDERSON. If you dig deep enough you find things.

RUDOLPH. Have you found anything that can explain how the fire started?

ANDERSON. Naw, nothing of that kind.

RUDOLPH. That means we are still under suspicion, all of us.

ANDERSON. Not me, I guess.

RUDOLPH. Oh, yes, for you have been seen up in the attic at unusual
hours.

ANDERSON. Well, I can't always go at usual hours to look for my tools
when I've left them behind. And I did leave my hammer behind when I
fixed the stove in the student's room.

RUDOLPH. And the stone-cutter, the gardener, Mrs. Westerlund, even the
painter over there--we are all of us under suspicion--the student, the
cook, and myself more than the rest. Lucky it was that I had paid the
insurance the day before, or I should have been stuck for good.--Think
of it: the stone-cutter suspected of arson--he who's so afraid of doing
anything wrong! He's so conscientious _nowadays_ that if you ask him
what time it is he won't swear to it, as his watch _may_ be wrong. Of
course, we all know he got two years, but he's reformed, and I'll swear
now he's the straightest man in the quarter.

ANDERSON. But the police suspect him because he went wrong once--and he
ain't got his citizenship back yet.

RUDOLPH. Oh, there are so many ways of looking at a thing--so many
ways, I tell you.--Well, Anderson, I guess you'd better quit for the
day, seeing as you're going to the wedding to-night.

ANDERSON. Yes, that wedding--There was somebody looking for you a while
ago, and he said he would be back.

RUDOLPH. Who was it?

ANDERSON. He didn't say.

RUDOLPH. Police, was it?

ANDERSON. Naw, I don't think so.--There he is coming now, for that
matter. [_He goes out, together with his wife_.

        _The_ STRANGER _enters_.

RUDOLPH. [_Regards him with curiosity at first, then with horror; wants
to run away, but cannot move_] Arvid!

STRANGER. Rudolph!

RUDOLPH. So it's you!

STRANGER. Yes. [_Pause_.

RUDOLPH. You're not dead, then?

STRANGER. In a way, yes!--I have come back from America after thirty
years--there was something that pulled at me--

        I wanted to see my childhood's home once more--and I found
        those ruins! [_Pause_] It burned down last night?

RUDOLPH. Yes, you came just in time. [_Pause_.

STRANGER. [_Dragging his words_] That's the place--such a tiny place
for such a lot of destinies! There's the dining-room with the frescoed
walls: palms, and cypresses, and a temple beneath a rose-coloured
sky--that's the way I dreamt the world would look the moment I got away
from home. And the stove with its pale blossoms growing out of conches.
And the chimney cupboard with its metal doors--I remember as a child,
when we had just moved in, somebody had scratched his name on the
metal, and then grandmother told us it was the name of a man who had
killed himself in that very room. I quickly forgot all about it, but
when I later married a niece of the same man, it seemed to me as if my
destiny had been foretold on that plate of metal.--You don't believe in
that kind of thing, do you?--However, you know how my marriage ended!

RUDOLPH. Yes, I've heard----

STRANGER. And there's the nursery--yes!

RUDOLPH. Don't let us start digging in the ruins!

STRANGER. Why not? After the fire is out you can read things in the
ashes. We used to do it as children, in the stove----

RUDOLPH. Come and sit down at the table here!

STRANGER. What place is that? Oh, the tavern--"The Last Nail"--where
the hearse-drivers used to stop, and where, once upon a time, condemned
culprits were given a final glass before they were taken to the
gallows--Who is keeping it?

RUDOLPH. Mrs. Westerlund, who used to be my nurse.

STRANGER. Mrs. Westerlund--I remember her. It is as if the bench sank
from under me, and I was sent tumbling through the past, sixty whole
years, down into my childhood. I breathe the nursery air and feel it
pressing on my chest. You older ones weighed me down, and you made
so much noise that I was always kept in a state of fright. My fears
made me hide in the garden--then I was dragged forward and given a
spanking--always spankings--but I never knew why, and I don't know it
yet. And yet she was my mother----

RUDOLPH. Please!

STRANGER. Yes, you were the favourite, and as such you always had her
support--Then we got a stepmother. Her father was an undertaker's
assistant, and for years we had been seeing him drive by with funerals.
At last he came to know us so well by sight that he used to nod and
grin at us, as if he meant to say: "Oh, I'll come for you sooner or
later!" And then he came right into our house one day, and had to be
called grandfather--when our father took his daughter for his second
wife.

RUDOLPH. There was nothing strange in that.

STRANGER. No, but somehow, as our own destinies, and those of other
people, were being woven into one web----

RUDOLPH. Oh, that's what happens everywhere----

STRANGER. Exactly! It's the same everywhere. In your youth you see
the web set up. Parents, relatives, comrades, acquaintances, servants
form the warp. Later on in life the weft becomes visible. And then
the shuttle of fate runs back and forth with the thread--sometimes
it breaks, but is tied up again, and it goes on as before. The reed
clicks, the thread is packed together into curlicues, and one day the
web lies ready. In old age, when the eye has learned how to see, you
discover that those curlicues form a pattern, a monogram, an ornament,
a hieroglyph, which only then can be interpreted: that's life! The
world-weaver has woven it! [_Pause; he rises_] Over there, in that
scrap-heap, I notice the family album. [_He walks a few steps to the
right and picks up a photograph album_] That's the book of our family
fate. Grandfather and grandmother, father and mother, brothers and
sisters, relatives, acquaintances--or so-called "friends"--schoolmates,
servants, godparents. And, strange to say, wherever I have gone, in
America or Australia, to Hongkong or the Congo, everywhere I found
at least one countryman, and as we began to dig it always came out
that this man knew my family, or at least some godfather or maid
servant--that, in a word, we had some common acquaintances. I even
found a relative in the island of Formosa----

RUDOLPH. What has put those ideas into your head?

STRANGER. The fact that life, however it shaped itself--I have been
rich and poor, exalted and humbled; I have suffered a shipwreck and
passed through an earthquake--but, however life shaped itself, I always
became aware of connections and repetitions. I saw in one situation the
result of another, earlier one. On meeting _this_ person I was reminded
of _that_ one whom I had met in the past. There have been incidents in
my life that have come back time and again, so that I have been forced
to say to myself: this I have been through before. And I have met with
occurrences that seemed to me absolutely inevitable, or predestined.

RUDOLPH. What have you done during all these years?

STRANGER. Everything! I have beheld life from every quarter, from every
standpoint, from above and from below, and always it has seemed to me
like a scene staged for my particular benefit. And in that way I have
at last become reconciled to a part of the past, and I have come to
excuse not only my own but also other people's so-called "faults." You
and I, for instance, have had a few bones to pick with each other----

        RUDOLPH _recoils with a darkening face_.

STRANGER. Don't get scared now----

RUDOLPH. I never get scared!

STRANGER. You are just the same as ever.

RUDOLPH. And so are you!

STRANGER. Am I? That's interesting!--Yes, you are still living in that
delusion about your own bravery, and I remember exactly how this false
idea became fixed in your mind. We were learning to swim, and one day
you told how you had dived into the water, and then mother said: "Yes,
Rudolph, he has courage!" That was meant for me--for me whom you had
stripped of all courage and self-assurance. But then came the day when
you had stolen some apples, and you were too cowardly to own up to it,
and so you put it on me.

RUDOLPH. Haven't you forgotten that yet?

STRANGER. I haven't forgotten, but I have forgiven.--From here, where I
am sitting, I can see that very tree, and that's what brought it into
my mind. It's over there, you see, and it bears golden pippins.--If you
look, you'll see that one of its biggest branches has been sawed off.
For it so happened that I didn't get angry with you on account of my
unjust punishment, but my anger turned against the tree. And two years
later that big branch was all dried up and had to be sawed off. It made
me think of the fig-tree that was cursed by the Saviour, but I was
not led into any presumptuous conclusions.--However, I still know all
those trees by heart, and once, when I had the yellow fever in Jamaica,
I counted them over, every one. Most of them are still there, I see.
There's the snow-apple which has red-striped fruit--a chaffinch used
to nest in it. There's the melon-apple, standing right in front of the
garret where I used to study for technological examinations; there's
the spitzenburg, and the late astrachan; and the pear-tree that used to
look like a poplar in miniature; and the one with pears that could only
be used for preserves--they never ripened, and we despised them, but
mother treasured them above all the rest; and in that tree there used
to be a wryneck that was always twisting its head around and making a
nasty cry--That was fifty years ago!

RUDOLPH. [_Irately_] What are you driving at?

STRANGER. Just as touchy and ill-tempered as ever! It's
interesting.--There was no special purpose back of my chatter--my
memories insist on pushing forward--I remember that the garden was
rented to somebody else once, but we had the right to play in it.
To me it seemed as if we had been driven out of paradise--and the
tempter was standing behind every tree. In the fall, when the ground
was strewn with ripe apples, I fell under a temptation that had become
irresistible----

RUDOLPH. You stole, too?

STRANGER. Of course I did, but I didn't put it off on you!--When I was
forty I leased a lemon grove in one of the Southern States, and--well,
there were thieves after the trees every night. I couldn't sleep, I
lost flesh, I got sick. And then I thought of--poor Gustafson here!

RUDOLPH. He's still living.

STRANGER. Perhaps he, too, stole apples in his childhood?

RUDOLPH. Probably.

STRANGER. Why are your hands so black?

RUDOLPH. Because I handle dyed stuffs all the time.--Did you have
anything else in mind?

STRANGER. What could that have been?

RUDOLPH. That my hands were not clean.

STRANGER. Fudge!

RUDOLPH. Perhaps you are thinking of your inheritance?

STRANGER. Just as mean as ever! Exactly as you were when eight years
old!

RUDOLPH. And you are just as heedless, and philosophical, and silly!

STRANGER. It's a curious thing--but I wonder how many times before we
have said just what we are saying now? [_Pause_] I am looking at your
album here--our sisters and brothers--five dead!

RUDOLPH. Yes.

STRANGER. And our schoolmates?

RUDOLPH. Some taken and some left behind.

STRANGER. I met one of them in South Carolina--Axel Ericson--do you
remember him?

RUDOLPH. I do.

STRANGER. One whole night, while we were on a train together, he kept
telling me how our highly respectable and respected family consisted of
nothing but rascals; that it had made its money by smuggling--you know,
the toll-gate was right here; and that this house had been built with
double walls for the hiding of contraband. Don't you see that the walls
are double?

RUDOLPH. [_Crushed_] So that's the reason why we had closets everywhere?

STRANGER. The father of that fellow, Ericson, had been in the
custom-house service and knew our father, and the son told me a lot
of inside stories that turned my whole world of imagined conditions
topsyturvy.

RUDOLPH. You gave him a licking, I suppose?

STRANGER. Why should I lick him?--However, my hair turned grey that
night, and I had to edit my entire life over again. You know how we
used to live in an atmosphere of mutual admiration; how we regarded
our family as better than all others, and how, in particular, our
parents were looked up to with almost religious veneration. And then I
had to paint new faces on them, strip them, drag them down, eliminate
them. It was dreadful! Then the ghosts began to walk. The pieces of
those smashed figures would come together again, but not properly,
and the result would be a regular wax cabinet of monsters. All those
grey-haired gentlemen whom we called uncles, and who came to our house
to play cards and eat cold suppers, they were smugglers, and some of
them had been in the pillory--Did you know that?

RUDOLPH. [_Completely overwhelmed_] No.

STRANGER. The dye works were merely a hiding-place for smuggled yarn,
which was dyed in order to prevent identification. I can still remember
how I used to hate the smell of the dyeing vat--there was something
sickeningly sweet about it.

RUDOLPH. Why did you have to tell me all this?

STRANGER. Why should I keep silent about it and let you make yourself
ridiculous by your boasting about that revered family of yours? Have
you never noticed people grinning at you?

RUDOLPH. No-o! [_Pause_.

STRANGER. I am now looking at father's bookcase in the pile over there.
It was always locked, you remember. But one day, when father was out,
I got hold of the key. The books in front I had seen through the glass
doors, of course. There were volumes of sermons, the collected works
of great poets, handbooks for gardening, compilations of the statutes
referring to customs duties and the confiscation of smuggled goods; the
constitution; a volume about foreign coins; and a technical work that
later determined my choice of a career. But back of those books there
was room for other things, and I began to explore. First of all I found
the rattan--and, do you know, I have since learned that that bitter
plant bears a fruit from which we get the red dye known as "dragon's
blood": now, isn't that queer! And beside the rattan stood a bottle
labelled "cyanide of potassium."

RUDOLPH. I suppose it was meant for use over at the works.

STRANGER. Or elsewhere, perhaps. But this is what I had in mind: there
were some bundles of pamphlets with illustrated covers that aroused my
interest. And, to put it plain, they contained the notorious memoirs
of a certain chevalier--I took them out and locked the case again. And
beneath the big oak over there I studied them. We used to call that oak
the Tree of Knowledge--and it was, all right! And in that way I left
my childhood's paradise to become initiated, all too early, into those
mysteries which--yes!

RUDOLPH. You, too?

STRANGER. Yes, I, too! [_Pause_] However--let us talk of something
else, as all that is now in ashes.--Did you have any insurance?

RUDOLPH. [_Angrily_] Didn't you ask that a while ago?

STRANGER. Not that I can recall. It happens so often that I confuse
what I have said with what I have intended to say, and mostly because I
think so intensely--ever since that day when I tried to hang myself in
the closet.

RUDOLPH. What is that you are saying?

STRANGER. I tried to hang myself in the closet.

RUDOLPH. [_Speaking very slowly_] Was that what happened that Holy
Thursday Eve, when you were taken to the hospital--what the rest of us
children were never permitted to know?

STRANGER. [_Speaking in the same manner_] Yes.--There you can see how
little we know about those that are nearest to us, about our own homes
and our own lives.

RUDOLPH. But why did you do it?

STRANGER. I was twelve years old, and tired of life! It was like
groping about in a great darkness--I couldn't understand what I had to
do here--and I thought the world a madhouse. I reached that conclusion
one day when our school was turned out with torches and banners to
celebrate "the destroyer of our country." For I had just read a book
which proved that our country had been brought to destruction by the
worst of all its kings--and that was the one whose memory we had to
celebrate with hymns and festivities.[1]

        [_Pause_.

RUDOLPH. What happened at the hospital?

STRANGER. My dear fellow, I was actually put into the morgue as dead.
Whether I was or not, I don't know--but when I woke up, most of my
previous life had been forgotten, and I began a new one, but in such a
manner that the rest of you thought me peculiar.--Are you married again?

RUDOLPH. I have wife and children--somewhere.

STRANGER. When I recovered consciousness I seemed to myself another
person. I regarded life with cynical calm: it probably had to be the
way it was. And the worse it turned out the more interesting it became.
After that I looked upon myself as if I were somebody else, and I
observed and studied that other person, and his fate, thereby rendering
myself callous to my own sufferings. But while dead I had acquired new
faculties--I could see right through people, read their thoughts, hear
their intentions. In company, I beheld them stripped naked--Where did
you say the fire started?

RUDOLPH. Why, nobody knows.

STRANGER. But the newspapers said that it began in a closet right
under the student's garret--what kind of a student is he?

RUDOLPH. [_Appalled_] Is it in the newspapers? I haven't had time to
look at them to-day. What more have they got?

STRANGER. They have got everything.

RUDOLPH. Everything?

STRANGER. The double walls, the respected family of smugglers, the
pillory, the hairpins----

RUDOLPH. What hairpins?

STRANGER. I don't know, but they are there. Do you know?

RUDOLPH. Naw!

STRANGER. Everything was brought to light, and you may look for a
stream of people coming here to stare at all that exposed rottenness.

RUDOLPH. Lord have mercy! And you take pleasure at seeing your family
dragged into scandal?

STRANGER. My family? I have never felt myself related to the rest of
you. I have never had any strong feeling either for my fellow men or
myself. I think it's interesting to watch them--that's all--What sort
of a person is your wife?

RUDOLPH. Was there anything about her, too?

STRANGER. About her and the student.

RUDOLPH. Good! Then I was right. Just wait and you'll see!--There comes
the stone-cutter.

STRANGER. You know him?

RUDOLPH. And so do you. A schoolmate--Albert Ericson.

STRANGER. Whose father was in the customs service and whose brother I
met on the train--he who was so very well informed about our family.

RUDOLPH. That's the infernal cuss who has blabbed to the papers, then!

        ERICSON _enters with a pick and begins to look over the ruins_.

STRANGER. What a ghastly figure!

RUDOLPH. He's been in jail--two years. Do you know what he did? He made
some erasures in a contract between him and myself----

STRANGER. You sent him to jail! And now he has had his revenge!

RUDOLPH. But the queerest part of it is that nowadays he is regarded as
the most honest man in the whole district. He has become a martyr, and
almost a saint, so that nobody dares say a word against him.

STRANGER. That's interesting, indeed!

DETECTIVE. [_Entering, turns to_ Ericson] Can you pull down that wall
over there?

ERICSON. The one by the closet?

DETECTIVE. That's the one.

ERICSON. That's where the fire started, and I'm sure you'll find a
candle or a lamp around there--for I know the people!

DETECTIVE. Go ahead then!

ERICSON. The closet door was burned off, to be sure, but the ceiling
came down, and that's why we couldn't find out, but now we'll use the
beak on it! [_He falls to with his pick_] Ho-hey, ho-ho!--Ho-hey,
leggo!--Ho-hey, for that one!--Do you see anything?

DETECTIVE. Not yet.

ERICSON. [_Working away as before_] Now I can see something!--The lamp
has exploded, but the stand is left!--Who knows this forfeit for his
own?--Didn't I see the dyer somewhere around here?

DETECTIVE. There he is sitting now. [_He picks the lamp from the debris
and holds it up_] Do you recognise your lamp, Mr. Walström?

RUDOLPH. That isn't mine--it belonged to our tutor.

DETECTIVE. The student? Where is he now?

RUDOLPH. He's down-town, but I suppose he'll soon be here, as his books
are lying over there.

DETECTIVE. How did his lamp get into the cook's closet? Did he have
anything to do with her?

RUDOLPH. Probably!

DETECTIVE. The only thing needed now is that he identify the lamp as
his own, and he will be arrested. What do you think of it, Mr. Walström?

RUDOLPH. I? Well, what is there to think?

DETECTIVE. What reason could he have for setting fire to another
person's house?

RUDOLPH. I don't know. Malice, or mere mischief--you never can tell
what people may do--Or perhaps there was something he wanted to cover
up.

DETECTIVE. That would have been a poor way, as old rottenness always
will out. Did he have any grudge against you?

RUDOLPH. It's likely, for I helped him once when he was hard up, and he
has hated me ever since, of course.

DETECTIVE. Of course? [_Pause_] Who is he, then?

RUDOLPH. He was raised in an orphanage--born of unknown parents.

DETECTIVE. Haven't you a grown-up daughter, Mr. Walström?

RUDOLPH. [_Angered_] Of course I have!

DETECTIVE. Oh, you have! [_Pause; then to_ ERICSON] Now you bring those
twelve men of yours and pull down the walls quick. Then we'll see what
new things come to light.

        [_He goes out_.

ERICSON. That'll be done in a jiffy. [_Goes out_.

        [_Pause_.

STRANGER. Have you really paid up your insurance?

RUDOLPH. Of course!

STRANGER. Personally?

RUDOLPH. No, I sent it in as usual.

STRANGER. You sent it--by somebody else! That's just like you!--Suppose
we take a turn through the garden and have a look at the apple-trees.

RUDOLPH. All right, and then we'll see what happens afterward.

STRANGER. Now begins the most interesting part of all.

RUDOLPH. Perhaps not quite so interesting if you find yourself mixed up
in it.

STRANGER. I?

RUDOLPH. Who can tell?

STRANGER. What a web it is!

RUDOLPH. There was a child of yours that went to the orphanage, I think?

STRANGER. God bless us!--Let's go over into the garden!

_Curtain_.


[Footnote 1: This refers to King Charles XII of Sweden, whose memory
Strindberg hated mainly because of the use made of it by the jingo
elements of the Swedish upper classes.]



SECOND SCENE


        _The same setting as before with the exception that the walls
        have been torn down so that the garden is made visible,
        with its vast variety of spring flowers--daphnes, deutzias,
        daffodils, narcissuses, tulips, auriculas--and with all the
        fruit-trees in bloom_.

        ERICSON, ANDERSON _and his old wife_, GUSTAFSON, _the_
        HEARSE-DRIVER, MRS. WESTERLUND, _and the painter_, SJÖBLOM,
        _are standing in a row staring at the spot where the house used
        to be_.


STRANGER. [_Entering_] There they stand, enjoying the misfortune that's
in the air and waiting for the victim to appear--he being the principal
item. That the fire was incendiary they take for granted, merely
because they want it that way.--And all these rascals are the friends
and comrades of my youth. I am even related to the hearse-driver
through my stepmother, whose father used to help carry out the
coffins--[_He speaks to the crowd of spectators_] Look here, you
people, I shouldn't stand there if I were you. There may have been some
dynamite stored in the cellar, and if such were the case an explosion
might take place any moment.

        _The curious crowd scatters and disappears_.

STRANGER. [Stoops _over the scrap-heap and begins to poke in the
books piled there_] Those are the student's books--Same kind of rot
as in my youth--Livy's Roman history, which is said to be lies, every
word--But here's a volume out of my brother's library--"Columbus, or
the Discovery of America"! My own book, which I got as a Christmas
gift in 1857. My name has been erased. This means it was stolen from
me--and I accused one of our maids, who was discharged on that account!
Fine business! Perhaps it led to her ruin--fifty years ago! Here is
the frame of one of our family portraits; my renowned grandfather,
the smuggler, who was put in the pillory--fine!--But what is this?
The foot-piece of a mahogany bed--the one in which I was born! Oh,
damn!--Next item: a leg of a dinner-table--the one that was an
heirloom. Why, it was supposed to be of ebony, and was admired on
that account! And now, after fifty years, I discover it to be made
of painted maple. Everything had its colours changed in our house to
render it unrecognisable, even the clothes of us children, so that
our bodies always were stained with various dyes. Ebony--humbug! And
here's the dining-room clock--smuggled goods, that, too--which has
measured out the time for two generations. It was wound up every
Saturday, when we had salt codfish and a posset made with beer for
dinner. Like all intelligent clocks, it used to stop when anybody
died, but when I died it went on just as before. Let me have a look at
you, old friend--I want to see your insides. [_As he touches the clock
it falls to pieces_] Can't stand being handled! Nothing could stand
being handled in our home--nothing! Vanity, vanity!--But there's the
globe that was on top of the clock, although it ought to have been at
the bottom. You tiny earth: you, the densest and the heaviest of all
the planets--that's what makes everything on you so heavy--so heavy
to breathe, so heavy to carry. The cross is your symbol, but it might
just as well have been a fool's cap or a strait-jacket--you world of
delusions and deluded!--Eternal One--perchance Thy earth has gone
astray in the limitless void? And what set it whirling so that Thy
children were made dizzy, and lost their reason, and became incapable
of seeing what really is instead of what only seems?--Amen!--And here
is the student!

        _The_ STUDENT _enters and looks around in evident search of
        somebody_.

STRANGER. He is looking for the mistress of the house. And he tells
everything he knows--with his eyes. Happy youth!--Whom are you looking
for?

STUDENT. [_Embarrassed_] I was looking----

STRANGER. Speak up, young man--or keep silent. I understand you just
the same.

STUDENT. With whom have I the honour----

STRANGER. It's no special honour, as you know, for once I ran away to
America on account of debts----

STUDENT. That wasn't right.

STRANGER. Right or wrong, it remains a fact.--So you were looking for
Mrs. Walström? Well, she isn't here, but I am sure that she will come
soon, like all the rest, for they are drawn by the fire like moths----

STUDENT. By a candle!

STRANGER. That's what _you_ say, but I should rather have said "lamp,"
in order to choose a more significant word. However, you had better
hide your feelings, my dear fellow, if you can--I can hide mine!--We
were talking of that lamp, were we not? How about it?

STUDENT. Which lamp?

STRANGER. Well, well! Every one of them lies and denies!--The lamp
that was placed in the cook's closet and set fire to the house?

STUDENT. I know nothing about it.

STRANGER. Some blush when they lie and others turn pale. This one has
invented an entirely new manner.

STUDENT. Are you talking to yourself, sir?

STRANGER. I have that bad habit.--Are your parents still living?

STUDENT. They are not.

STRANGER. Now you lied again, but unconsciously.

STUDENT. I never tell a lie!

STRANGER. Not more than three in these few moments! I know your father.

STUDENT. I don't believe it.

STRANGER. So much the better for me!--Do you see this scarf-pin? It's
pretty, isn't it? But I never see anything of it myself--I have no
pleasure in its being there, while everybody else is enjoying it. There
is nothing selfish about that, is there? But there are moments when
I should like to see it in another man's tie so that I might have a
chance to admire it. Would you care to have it?

STUDENT. I don't quite understand--Perhaps, as you said, it's better
not to wear it.

STRANGER. Perhaps!--Don't get impatient now. She will be here soon.--Do
you find it enviable to be young?

STUDENT. I can't say that I do.

STRANGER. No, youth is not its own master; it has never any money, and
has to take its food out of other hands; it is not permitted to speak
when company is present, but is treated as an idiot; and as it cannot
marry, it has to ogle other people's wives, which leads to all sorts of
dangerous consequences. Youth--humbug!

STUDENT. That's right! As a child, you want to grow up--that is, reach
fifteen, be confirmed, and put on a tall hat. When you are that far,
you want to be old--that is, twenty-one. Which means that nobody wants
to be young.

STRANGER. And when you grow old in earnest, then you want to be dead.
For then there isn't much left to wish for.--Do you know that you are
to be arrested?

STUDENT. Am I?

STRANGER. The detective said so a moment ago.

STUDENT. Me?

STRANGER. Are you surprised at that? Don't you know that in this life
you must be prepared for anything?

STUDENT. But what have I done?

STRANGER. You don't have to do anything in order to be arrested. To be
suspected is enough.

STUDENT. Then everybody might be arrested!

STRANGER. Exactly! The rope might be laid around the neck of the whole
race if justice were wanted, but it isn't. It's a disgusting race:
ugly, sweating, ill-smelling; its linen dirty, its stockings full of
holes; with chilblains and corns--ugh! No, an apple-tree in bloom is
far more beautiful. Or look at the lilies in the field--they seem
hardly to belong here--and what fragrance is theirs!

STUDENT. Are you a philosopher, sir?

STRANGER. Yes, I am a great philosopher.

STUDENT. Now you are poking fun at me!

STRANGER. You say that to get away. Well, begone then! Hurry up!

STUDENT. I was expecting somebody.

STRANGER. So I thought. But I think it would be better to go and
meet----

STUDENT. She asked you to tell me?

STRANGER. Oh, that wasn't necessary.

STUDENT. Well, if that's so--I don't want to miss----

        [_He goes out_.

STRANGER. Can that be my son? Well, if it comes to the worst--I was a
child myself once, and it was neither remarkable nor pleasant--And I
am his--what of it? And for that matter--who knows?--Now I'll have a
look at Mrs. Westerlund. She used to work for my parents--was faithful
and good-tempered; and when she had been pilfering for ten years she
was raised to the rank of a "trusted" servant. [_He seats himself at
the table in front of the inn_] There are Gustafson's wreaths--just as
carelessly made as they were forty years ago. He was always careless
and stupid in all he did, and so he never succeeded with anything. But
much might be pardoned him on account of his self-knowledge. "Poor
fool that I am," he used to say, and then he would pull off his cap
and scratch his head.--Why, there's a myrtle plant! [_He knocks at the
pot_] Not watered, of course! He always forgot to water his plants, the
damned fool--and yet he expected them to grow.

        SJÖBLOM, _the painter, appears_.

STRANGER. I wonder who that painter can be. Probably he belongs also to
the Bog, and perhaps he is one of the threads in my own web.

        SJÖBLOM _is staring at the_ STRANGER _all this time_.

STRANGER. [_Returning the stare_] Well, do you recognise me?

SJÖBLOM. Are you--Mr. Arvid?

STRANGER. Have been and am--if perception argues being.

        [_Pause_.

SJÖBLOM. I ought really to be mad at you.

STRANGER. Well, go on and be so! However, you might tell me the reason.
That has a tendency to straighten matters out.

SJÖBLOM. Do you remember----

STRANGER. Unfortunately, I have an excellent memory.

SJÖBLOM. Do you remember a boy named Robert?

STRANGER. Yes, a regular rascal who knew how to draw.

SJÖBLOM. And I was to go to the Academy in order to become a real
painter, an artist. But just about that time-colour-blindness was all
the go. You were studying at the Technological Institute then, and so
you had to test my eyes before your father would consent to send me to
the art classes. For that reason you brought two skeins of yarn from
the dye works, one red and the other green, and then you asked me about
them. I answered--called the red green and the green red--and that was
the end of my career----

STRANGER. But that was as it should be.

SJÖBLOM. No--for the truth of it was, I could distinguish the
colours, but not--the _names_. And that wasn't found out until I was
thirty-seven----

STRANGER. That was an unfortunate story, but I didn't know better, and
so you'll have to forgive me.

SJÖBLOM. How can I?

STRANGER. Ignorance is pardonable! And now listen to me. I wanted to
enter the navy, made a trial cruise as mid-shipman, seemed to become
seasick, and was rejected! But I could stand the sea, and my sickness
came from having drunk too much. So my career was spoiled, and I had to
choose another.

SJÖBLOM. What have I got to do with the navy? I had been dreaming of
Rome and Paris----

STRANGER. Oh, well, one has so many dreams in youth, and in old age
too, for that matter. Besides, what's the use of bothering about what
happened so long ago?

SJÖBLOM. How you talk! Perhaps you can give me back my wasted life----

STRANGER. No, I can't, but I am under no obligation to do so, either.
That trick with the yarn I had learned at school, and you ought to have
learned the proper names of the colours. And now you can go to--one
dauber less is a blessing to humanity!--There's Mrs. Westerlund!

SJÖBLOM. How you _do_ talk. But I guess you'll get what's coming to you!

        MRS. WESTERLUND _enters_.

STRANGER. How d'you do, Mrs. Westerlund? I am Mr. Arvid--don't get
scared now! I have been in America, and how are you? I am feeling fine!
There has been a fire here, and I hear your husband is dead--policeman,
I remember, and a very nice fellow. I liked him for his good humour
and friendly ways. He was a harmless jester, whose quips never hurt. I
recall once----

MRS. WESTERLUND. O, merciful! Is this my own Arvid whom I used to
tend----

STRANGER. No, that wasn't me, but my brother--but never mind, it's just
as well meant. I was talking of your old man who died thirty-five years
ago--a very nice man and a particular friend of mine----

MRS. WESTERLUND. Yes, he died. [_Pause_] But I don't know if--perhaps
you are getting him mixed up----

STRANGER. No, I don't. I remember old man Westerlund perfectly, and I
liked him very much.

MRS. WESTERLUND. [_Reluctantly_] Of course it's a shame to say it, but
I don't think his temper was very good.

STRANGER. What?

MRS. WESTERLUND. Well--he had a way of getting around people, but
he didn't mean what he said--or if he did he meant it the other way
around----

STRANGER. What is that? Didn't he mean what he was saying? Was he a
hypocrite?

MRS. WESTERLUND. Well, I don't like to say it, but I believe----

STRANGER. Do you mean to say that he wasn't on the level?

MRS. WESTERLUND. N--yes--he was--a little--well, he didn't mean exactly
what he said--And how have you been doing, Mr. Arvid?

STRANGER. Now a light is dawning on me!--The miserable wretch! And
here I have been praising him these thirty-five years. I have missed
him, and I felt something like sorrow at his departure--I even used
some of my tobacco allowance to buy a wreath for his coffin.

MRS. WESTERLUND. What was it he did? What was it?

STRANGER. The villain! [_Pause_] Well--he fooled me--it was Shrove
Tuesday, I remember. He told me that if one took away every third
egg from a hen she would lay so many more. I did it, got a licking,
and came near getting into court. But _I_ never suspected him of
having told on me.--He was always hanging around our kitchen looking
for tid-bits, and so our maids could do just what they pleased about
the garbage--oh, now I see him in his proper aspect!--And here I am
now getting into a fury at one who has been thirty-five years in his
grave?--So he was a satirist, he was--and I didn't catch on--although I
understand him now.

MRS. WESTERLUND. Yes, he was a little satirical all right--_I_ ought
to know that!

STRANGER. Other things are coming back to me now--and I have been
saying nice things about that blackguard for thirty-five years! It was
at his funeral I drank my first toddy--And I remember how he used to
flatter me, and call me "professor" and "the crown prince"--ugh--And
there is the stone-cutter! You had better go inside, madam, or we'll
have a row when that fellow begins to turn in his bills. Good-bye,
madam--we'll meet again!

MRS. WESTERLUND. No we won't. People ought never to meet again--it
is never as it used to be, and they only get to clawing at each
other--What business did you have to tell me all those things--seeing
everything was all right as it was [_She goes out_.

        ERICSON, _the stone-cutter, comes in_.

STRANGER. Come on!

ERICSON. What's that?

STRANGER. Come on, I said!

        ERICSON _stares at him_.

STRANGER. Are you looking at my scarf-pin? I bought it in London.

ERICSON. I am no thief!

STRANGER. No, but you practise the noble art of erasure. You wipe out!

ERICSON. That's true, but that contract was sheer robbery, and it was
strangling me.

STRANGER. Why did you sign it?

ERICSON. Because I was hard up.

STRANGER. Yes, that _is_ a motive.

ERICSON. But now I am having my revenge.

STRANGER. Yes, isn't it nice!

ERICSON. And now _they_ will be locked up.

STRANGER. Did _we_ ever fight each other as boys?

ERICSON. No, I was too young.

STRANGER. Have we never told lies about each other, or robbed each
other, or got in each other's way, or seduced each other's sisters?

ERICSON. Naw, but my father was in the customs service and yours was a
smuggler.

STRANGER. There you are! That's something, at least!

ERICSON. And when my father failed to catch yours he was discharged.

STRANGER. And you want to get even with me because your father was a
good-for-nothing?

ERICSON. Why did you say a while ago that there was dynamite in the
cellar?

STRANGER. Now, my dear sir, you are telling lies again. I said there
_might_ be dynamite in the cellar, and everything is possible, of
course.

ERICSON. And in the meantime the student has been arrested. Do you know
him?

STRANGER. Very little--his mother more, for she was a maid in our
house. She was both pretty and good, and I was making up to her--until
she had a child.

ERICSON. And were you not its father?

STRANGER. I was not. But as a denial of fatherhood is not allowed, I
suppose I must be regarded as a sort of stepfather.

ERICSON. Then they have lied about you.

STRANGER. Of course. But that's a very common thing.

ERICSON. And I was among those who testified against you--under oath!

STRANGER. I have no doubt about it, but what does it matter? Nothing
matters at all! But now we had better quit pulling--or we'll get the
whole web unravelled.

ERICSON. But think of me, who have perjured myself----

STRANGER. Yes, it isn't pleasant, but such things will happen.

ERICSON. It's horrible--don't you find life horrible?

STRANGER. [_Covering his eyes with his hand_] Yes, horrible beyond all
description!

ERICSON. I don't want to live any longer!

STRANGER. Must! [_Pause_] Must! [_Pause_] Tell me--the student is
arrested, you say--can he get out of it?

ERICSON. Hardly!--And now, as we are talking nicely, I'll tell you
something: he is innocent, but he cannot clear himself. For the only
witness that can prove him innocent would, by doing so, prove him
guilty--in another way.

STRANGER. She with the hairpins, isn't it?

ERICSON. Yes.

STRANGER. The old one or the young one?

ERICSON. You have to figure that out yourself. But it isn't the cook.

STRANGER. What a web this is!--But who put the lamp there?

ERICSON. His worst enemy.

STRANGER. And did his worst enemy also start the fire?

ERICSON. That's beyond me! Only Anderson, the mason, knows that.

STRANGER. Who is he?

ERICSON. The oldest one in the place--some kind of relative of Mrs.
Westerlund--knows all the secrets of the house--but he and the dyer
have got some secrets together, so he won't tell anything.

STRANGER. And the lady--my sister-in-law--who is she?

ERICSON. Well--she was in the house as governess when the first wife
cleared out.

STRANGER. What sort of character has she got?

ERICSON. Hm! Character? I don't quite know what that is. Do you mean
trade? The old assessment blanks used to call for your name and
"character"--but that meant occupation instead of character.

STRANGER. I mean her temper.

ERICSON. Well, it changes, you know. In me it depends on the person
with whom I am talking. With decent people I am decent, and with the
cruel ones I become like a beast of prey.

STRANGER. But I was talking of her temper under ordinary circumstances.

ERICSON. Well, nothing in particular. Gets angry if you tease her, but
comes around after a while. One cannot always have the same temper, of
course.

STRANGER. I mean, is she merry or melancholy?

ERICSON. When things go right, she is happy, and when they go wrong,
she gets sorry or angry--just like the rest of us.

STRANGER. Yes, but how does she behave?

ERICSON. Oh, what does it matter?--Of course, being an educated person,
she behaves politely, but nevertheless, you know, she can get nasty,
too, when her blood gets to boiling.

STRANGER. But that doesn't make me much wiser.

ERICSON. [_Patting him on the shoulder_] No, sir, we never get much
wiser when it's a question of human beings.

STRANGER. Oh, you're a marvel!--And how do you like my brother, the
dyer? [_Pause_.

ERICSON. Oh, his manners are pretty decent. And more than that I don't
know, for what he keeps hidden I can't find out, of course.

STRANGER. Excellent! But--his hands are always blue, and yet you know
that they are white beneath the dye.

ERICSON. But to make them so they should be scraped, and that's
something he won't permit.

STRANGER. Good!--Who are the young couple coming over there?

ERICSON. That's the gardener's son and my daughter, who were to have
been married to-night, but who have had to postpone it on account of
the fire--Now I shall leave, for I don't want to embarrass them. You
understand--I ain't much as a father-in-law. Good-bye! [_He goes out_.

        _The_ Stranger _withdraws behind the inn, but so that he
        remains visible to the spectators_.

        Alfred _and_ Mathilda _enter hand in hand_.

ALFRED. I had to have a look at this place--I had to----

MATHILDA. Why did you have to look at it?

ALFRED. Because I have suffered so much in this house that more than
once I wished it on fire.

MATHILDA. Yes, I know, it kept the sun out of the garden, and now
everything will grow much better--provided they don't put up a still
higher house----

ALFRED. Now it's open and pleasant, with plenty of air and sunlight,
and I hear they are going to lay out a street----

MATHILDA. Won't you have to move then?

ALFRED. Yes, all of us will have to move, and that's what I like--I
like new things--I should like to emigrate----

MATHILDA. Mercy, no! Do you know, our pigeons were nesting on the roof.
And when the fire broke out last night they kept circling around the
place at first, but when the roof fell in they plunged right into the
flames--They couldn't part from their old home!

ALFRED. But we must get out of here--must! My father says that the soil
has been sucked dry.

MATHILDA. I heard that the cinders left by the fire were to be spread
over the ground in order to improve the soil.

ALFRED. You mean the ashes?

MATHILDA. Yes; they say it's good to sow in the ashes.

ALFRED. Better still on virgin soil.

MATHILDA. But your father is ruined?

ALFRED. Not at all. He has money in the bank. Of course he's
complaining, but so does everybody.

MATHILDA. Has he--The fire hasn't ruined him?

ALFRED. Not a bit! He's a shrewd old guy, although he always calls
himself a fool.

MATHILDA. What am I to believe?

ALFRED. He has loaned money to the mason here--and to others.

MATHILDA. I am entirely at sea! Am I dreaming?--The whole morning
we have been weeping over your father's misfortune and over the
postponement of the wedding----

ALFRED. Poor little thing! But the wedding is to take place to-night----

MATHILDA. Is it not postponed?

ALFRED. Only delayed for a couple of hours so that my father will have
time to get his new coat.

MATHILDA. And we who have been weeping----

ALFRED. Useless tears--such a lot of tears!

MATHILDA. I am mad because they were useless--although--to think that
my father-in-law could be such a sly one!

ALFRED. Yes, he is something of a joker, to put it mildly. He is always
talking about how tired he is, but that's nothing but laziness--oh,
he's lazy, I tell you----

MATHILDA. Don't say any more nasty things about him--but let us get
away from here. I have to dress, you know, and put up my hair.--Just
think, that my father-in-law isn't what I thought him--that he could be
fooling us like that and not telling the truth! Perhaps you are like
that, too? Oh, that I can't know what you really are!

ALFRED. You'll find out afterward.

MATHILDA. But then it's too late.

ALFRED. It's never too late----

MATHILDA. All you who lived in this house are bad--And now I am afraid
of you----

ALFRED. Not of me, though?

MATHILDA. I don't know what to think. Why didn't you tell me before
that your father was well off?

ALFRED. I wanted to try you and see if you would like me as a poor man.

MATHILDA. Yes, afterward they always say that they wanted to try you.
But how can I ever believe a human being again?

ALFRED. Go and get dressed now. I'll order the carriages.

MATHILDA. Are we to have carriages?

ALFRED. Of course--regular coaches.

MATHILDA. Coaches? And to-night? What fun! Come--hurry up! We'll have
carriages!

ALFRED. [_Gets hold of her hand and they dance out together_] Hey and
ho! Here we go!

STRANGER. [_Coming forward_] Bravo!

        _The_ DETECTIVE _enters and talks in a low tone to the_
        Stranger, _who answers in the same way. This lasts for about
        half a minute, whereupon the_ DETECTIVE _leaves again_.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. [_Enters, dressed in black, and gazes long at the_
Stranger] Are you my brother-in-law?

STRANGER. I am. [_Pause_] Don't I look as I have been described--or
painted?

MRS. WALSTRÖM. Frankly, no!

STRANGER. No, that is generally the case. And I must admit that the
information I received about you a while ago does not tally with the
original.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. Oh, people do each other so much wrong, and they paint
each other in accordance with some image within themselves.

STRANGER. And they go about like theatrical managers, distributing
parts to each other. Some accept their parts; others hand them back and
prefer to improvise.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. And what has been the part assigned to you?

STRANGER. That of a seducer. Not that I have ever been one! I have
never seduced anybody, be she wife or maid, but once in my youth I was
seduced, and that's why the part was given to me. Strange to say, it
was forced on me so long that at last I accepted it. And for twenty
years I carried the bad conscience of a seducer around with me.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. You were innocent then?

STRANGER. I was.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. How curious! And to this day my husband is still
talking of the Nemesis that has pursued you because you seduced another
man's wife.

STRANGER. I fully believe it. But your husband represents a still more
interesting case. He has created a new character for himself out of
lies. Tell me: isn't he a coward in facing the struggles of life?

MRS. WALSTRÖM. Of course he is a coward!

STRANGER. And yet he boasts of his courage, which is nothing but
brutality.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. You know him pretty well.

STRANGER. Yes, and no!--And you have been living in the belief that you
had married into a respected family which had never disgraced itself?

MRS. WALSTRÖM. So I believed until this morning.

STRANGER. When your faith crumbled! What a web of lies and mistakes
and misunderstandings! And that kind of thing we are supposed to take
seriously!

MRS. WALSTRÖM. Do you?

STRANGER. Sometimes. Very seldom nowadays. I walk like a somnambulist
along the edge of a roof--knowing that I am asleep, and yet being
awake--and the only thing I am waiting for is to be waked up.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. You are said to have been across to the other side?

STRANGER. I have been across the river, but the only thing I can recall
is--that there everything _was_ what it pretended to be. That's what
makes the difference.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. When nothing stands the test of being touched, what are
you then to hold on to?

STRANGER. Don't you know?

MRS. WALSTRÖM. Tell me! Tell me!

STRANGER. Sorrow brings patience; patience brings experience;
experience brings hope; and hope will not bring us to shame.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. Hope, yes!

STRANGER. Yes, hope!

MRS. WALSTRÖM. Do you ever think it pleasant to live?

STRANGER. Of course. But that is also a delusion. I tell you, my dear
sister-in-law, that when you happen to be born without a film over your
eyes, then you see life and your fellow creatures as they are--and
you have to be a pig to feel at home in such a mess.--But when you
have been looking long enough at blue mists, then you turn your eyes
the other way and begin to look into your own soul? There you find
something really worth looking at.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. And what is it you see?

STRANGER. Your own self. But when you have looked at that you must die.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. [_Covers her eyes with her hands; after a pause she
says_] Do you want to help me?

STRANGER. If I can.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. Try.

STRANGER. Wait a moment!--No, I cannot. He is innocently accused. Only
you can set him free again. But that you cannot do. It's a net that has
not been tied by men----

MRS. WALSTRÖM. But he is not guilty.

STRANGER. Who is guilty? [_Pause_.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. No one! It was an accident!

STRANGER. I know it.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. What am I to do?

STRANGER. Suffer. It will pass. For that, too, is vanity.

MRS. WALSTRÖM. Suffer?

STRANGER. Yes, suffer! But with hope!

MRS. WALSTRÖM. [_Holding out her hand to him_] Thank you!

STRANGER. And let it be your consolation

MRS. WALSTRÖM. What?

STRANGER. That you don't suffer innocently.

        MRS. WALSTRÖM _walks out with her head bent low_.

        _The_ STRANGER _climbs the pile of debris marking the site of
        the burned house_.

RUDOLPH. [_Comes in, looking happy_] Are you playing the ghost among
the ruins?

STRANGER. Ghosts feel at home among ruins--And now you are happy?

RUDOLPH. Now I am happy.

STRANGER. And brave?

RUDOLPH. Whom have I got to fear, or what?

STRANGER. I conclude from your happiness that you are ignorant of one
important fact--Have you the courage to bear a piece of misfortune?

RUDOLPH. What is it?

STRANGER. You turn pale?

RUDOLPH. I?

STRANGER. A serious misfortune!

RUDOLPH. Speak out!

STRANGER. The detective was here a moment ago, and he told me--in
confidence----

RUDOLPH. What?

STRANGER. That the premium on your insurance was paid up two hours too
late.

RUDOLPH. Great S----! what are you talking of? I sent my wife to pay
the premium.

STRANGER. And she sent the bookkeeper--and he got there too late.

RUDOLPH. Then I am ruined? [_Pause_.

STRANGER. Are you crying?

RUDOLPH. I am ruined!

STRANGER. Well, is that something that cannot be borne?

RUDOLPH. How am I to live? What am I to do?

STRANGER. Work!

RUDOLPH. I am too old--I have no friends Stranger. Perhaps you'll get
some now. A man in misfortune always seems sympathetic. I had some of
my best hours while fortune went against me.

RUDOLPH. [_Wildly_] I am ruined!

STRANGER. But in my days of success and fortune I was left alone. Envy
was more than friendship could stand.

RUDOLPH. Then I'll sue the bookkeeper.

STRANGER. Don't!

RUDOLPH. He'll have to pay----

STRANGER. How little you have changed! What's the use of living, when
you learn so little from it?

RUDOLPH. I'll sue him, the villain!--He hates me because I gave him a
cuff on the ear once.

STRANGER. Forgive him--as I forgave you when I didn't demand my
inheritance.

RUDOLPH. What inheritance?

STRANGER. Always the same! Merciless! Cowardly! Disingenuous!--Depart
in peace, brother!

RUDOLPH. What inheritance is that you are talking of?

STRANGER. Now listen, Rudolph--my brother after all: my own mother's
son! You put the stone-cutter in jail because he did some erasing--all
right! But how about your own erasures from my book, "Christopher
Columbus, or the Discovery of America"?

RUDOLPH. [_Taken aback_] What's that? Columbus?

STRANGER. Yes, _my_ book that became yours!

        RUDOLPH _remains silent_.

STRANGER. Yes, and I understand now that it was you who put the
student's lamp in the closet--I understand everything. But do _you_
know that the dinner-table was not of ebony?

RUDOLPH. It wasn't?

STRANGER. It was nothing but maple.

RUDOLPH. Maple!

STRANGER. The pride and glory of the house--valued at two thousand
crowns!

RUDOLPH. That, too? So that was also humbug!

STRANGER. Yes!

RUDOLPH. Ugh!

STRANGER. Thus the debt is settled. The case is dropped--the issue is
beyond the court--the parties can withdraw----

RUDOLPH. [_Rushing out_] I am ruined!

STRANGER. [_Takes his wreath from the table_] I meant to take this
wreath to the cemetery--to my parents' grave--but I will place it here
instead--on the ruins of what was once their home--my childhood's home!
[_He bends his head in silent prayer_] And now, wanderer, resume thy
pilgrimage!

_Curtain_.



PLAYS BY AUGUST STRINDBERG


PLAYS. FIRST SERIES: The Dream Play, The
Link, The Dance of Death--Part I and Part II.

PLAYS. SECOND SERIES: There are Crimes
and Crimes, Miss Julia, The Stronger, Creditors,
Pariah.

PLAYS. THIRD SERIES: Swanwhite, Simoom,
Debit and Credit, Advent, The Thunder
Storm, After the Fire.

PLAYS. FOURTH SERIES: The Bridal Crown,
The Spook Sonata, The First Warning, Gustavus Vasa.

CREDITORS. PARIAH.

MISS JULIA. THE STRONGER.

THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES.





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