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Plays: Comrades; Facing Death; Pariah; Easter by August Strindberg

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ELEONORA. No, mother dear.

MRS. HEYST [As she goes out]. Let me know first when it does come.

ELEONORA. The paper, the paper! Oh, that the print shop would burn
down or that the editor were taken ill, or something--No, no. I
mustn't say that. I mustn't. Do you know, Benjamin, I was with my
father last night.

BENJAMIN [Surprised]. Last night?

ELEONORA. Yes, while I slept. And then I was with my sister. She
told me that she sold thirty dollars' worth of things day before
yesterday, and that she had earned five dollars for herself.

BENJAMIN. That wasn't much.

ELEONORA. It's a great deal, Benjamin.

BENJAMIN [Slyly]. And who else did you meet in your sleep?

ELEONORA. Why do you ask that? You mustn't try to tease me,
Benjamin. You would like to know my secrets--but you mustn't.

BENJAMIN. Well, then you can't know my secrets either.

ELEONORA [Listening]. Can you hear the telephone wires humming? Now
the paper is out, and now they are 'phoning each other, "Have you
read about it?"--"Yes, indeed I have!"--"Isn't it terrible?"

BENJAMIN. What is terrible?

ELEONORA. Everything. Life is terrible, but we must be satisfied.
Think of Elis and Christine. They love each other, and yet hate has
come between them, so that when they walk thro' the room the
thermometer drops several degrees. She went to the recital last
night and today they won't speak to each other. And why,--why?

BENJAMIN. Because your brother is jealous.

ELEONORA. Don't mention that word. What do we know about it, for
that matter,--more than that it is disease and punishment? One must
never touch evil, for then one will surely catch it. Look at Elis,
haven't you noticed how changed he is since he started to read
those papers?

BENJAMIN. About the law-suit?

ELEONORA. Yes. It is as if evil had crept into his soul; it is
reflected in his face and eyes. Christine feels this, and not to be
contaminated by it, she encases herself in an armor of ice. And
those papers--if I could only burn them! They are filled with
meanness, falsehood and revenge. Therefore, my child, you must keep
away from evil and unclean things, both with your lips and heart.

BENJAMIN. How you understand everything!

ELEONORA. Do you know something else that I feel? If Elis and
Christine get to know that I bought the Easter lily in that unusual
way, they will--

BENJAMIN. What will they do?

ELEONORA. They will send me back--_there_. Where I just came from.
Where the sun never shines. Where the walls are dark and bare.
Where one hears only crying and lamentation. Where I sat away a
year of my life.

BENJAMIN. Where do you mean?

ELEONORA. There, where one is tortured more than in prison. Where
the unfortunate dwell, where unquiet reigns, where despair never
sleeps, and whence no one returns.

BENJAMIN. Worse than prison? How could that be?

ELEONORA. In prison one is tried and heard, but there in _that_
place no one listens. Poor little Easter lily that was the cause of
all this! I meant so well, and it turned but so badly!

BENJAMIN. But don't you go to the florist and tell him how it
happened. You would be like a lamb led to the sacrifice.

ELEONORA. It doesn't complain when it knows that it _must_ be
sacrificed, and doesn't even seek to get away. What else can _I_ do?

ELIS [Enters from R., a letter in his hand]. Hasn't the paper come

ELEONORA. No, brother dear.

ELIS [Turns toward kitchen door]. Lina must go out and get an
evening paper.

[Mrs. Heyst enters from R., Eleonora and Benjamin show fear.]

ELIS [To Eleonora and Benjamin]. Go out for a few moments. I want
to speak to mother.

[Eleonora and Benjamin go out.]

MRS. HEYST. Have you received word from the asylum?

ELIS. Yes.

MRS. HEYST. What do they want?

ELIS. They demand Eleonora's return.--

MRS. HEYST. I won't allow it. She's my own child--

ELIS. --And my sister.

MRS. HEYST. What do you mean to do?

ELIS. I don't know. I can't think any more.

MRS. HEYST. But I can. Eleonora, the child of sorrow, has found
happiness, tho' it's not of this world. Her unrest has turned to
peace, which she sheds upon others. Sane or not, she has found
wisdom. She knows how to carry life's burdens better than I do,
better than all of us. Am _I_ sane, for that matter? Was I sane
when I thought my husband innocent altho' I knew that he was
convicted by the evidence, and that he confessed? And you, Elis--
are you sane when you can't see that Christine loves you, when you
believe that she hates you?

ELIS. How can I be in the wrong? Didn't she go out with my false
friend last night?

MRS. HEYST. She did, but you knew about it. Why did she go? Well,
you should be able to divine the reason.

ELIS. No. I cannot.

MRS. HEYST. You will not. Very well, then you must take the

[The kitchen door opens a little and Lina's hand is seen with
evening paper. Mrs. Heyst takes paper and gives it to Elis.]

ELIS. That was the last misfortune. With Christine. I could carry
the other burdens, but now the last support has been pulled away
and I am falling.

MRS. HEYST. Well, fall then--but land right side up, and then you
can start again. Any news worth reading in the paper?

ELIS. I don't know. I am afraid to look at it today.

MRS. HEYST. Give it to me, then. I am not--

ELIS. No, wait a moment--

MRS. HEYST. What are you afraid of?

ELIS. The worst of all.

MRS. HEYST. The worst has happened so many times that it doesn't
matter. Oh, my boy, if you knew my life--if you could have seen
your father go down to destruction, as I did, and I couldn't warn
all those to whom he brought misfortune! I felt like his accomplice
when he went down--for, in a way, I knew of the crime, and if the
judge hadn't been a man of great feeling, who realized my position
as a wife and mother, I too would have been punished.

ELIS. What was really the cause of father's fall? I have never been
able to understand.

MRS. HEYST. Pride--pride. Which brings us all down.

ELIS. But why should the innocent suffer for _his_ wrong-doing?

MRS. HEYST. Hush. No more. [She takes paper and reads. Elis walks
up and down, worried and nervous.] Ah, what's this? Didn't I say
that there was a yellow tulip among the things stolen at the

ELIS. Yes, I remember.

MRS. HEYST. But here it says that it was an Easter lily.

ELIS [With fear]. An Easter lily? Does it say that?

[They look at each other. A long pause.]

MRS. HEYST [Sinking into a chair]. It's Eleonora. Oh, God keep us!

ELIS. It wasn't the end then.

MRS. HEYST. Prison or the asylum--

ELIS. But it's impossible. She couldn't have done this. Impossible!

MRS. HEYST. And now the family name must be dragged in disgrace

ELIS. Do they suspect her?

MRS. HEYST. They say that suspicion leads in a certain direction--
it's pretty plain where.

ELIS. I must talk to her.

MRS. HEYST. Don't speak harshly to her. I can stand no more. Oh,
she is lost--regained but lost again! Speak kindly to her. [She
goes out R.]

ELIS [At door L.]. Oh,--[Calls] Eleonora, come out here. I want to
speak to you.

ELEONORA [Coming in, her hair down]. I was just putting up my hair.

ELIS. Never mind that. Tell me, little sister, where did you get
that flower?

ELEONORA. I took it from--

ELIS. Oh, God!

[Eleonora hangs her head, crushed, with her arms over her breast.]

ELEONORA. But I--I left money there, beside the--

ELIS. You left the money? You paid for it, then?

ELEONORA. Yes and no. It's provoking, but I haven't done anything
wrong--I meant well--do you believe me?

ELIS. I believe you, little sister--but the newspapers don't know
that you are innocent.

ELEONORA. Dear me! Then I must suffer for this also. [She bends her
head forward; her hair falls over her face.] What do they want to
do with me now? Let them do what they will!

BENJAMIN [Enters from L., beside himself]. No, no. You mustn't
touch her. She hasn't done any harm--I know it--as it was I--I--I--
[He breaks down] who did it.

ELEONORA. Don't believe what he is saying--it was I.

ELIS. What shall I believe--whom shall I believe?



BENJAMIN. Let me go to the police--

ELIS. Hush, Benjamin, hush.

ELEONORA. No, I'll go--I'll go.

ELIS. Quiet, children. Here comes mother.

[Mrs. Heyst enters R., takes Eleonora in her arms and kisses her

MRS. HEYST [Stirred]. My dear, dear child! You have come back to
your mother and you shall stay with me.

ELEONORA. You kiss me, mother? You haven't kissed me in years. Why
just now?

MRS. HEYST. Why, because now--because the florist is out there and
asks pardon for making all this fuss.--The money has been found,
and your card and--

[Eleonora springs into the arms of Elis and kisses him. Then she
goes to Benjamin and kisses him quickly on the forehead.]

ELEONORA [To Benjamin]. You good child, who wanted to suffer for my
sake! Why did you do it?

BENJAMIN. Because--I--I--like--you so much, Eleonora.

MRS. HEYST. Well, my children, put on some things now and go out
into the orchard. It's clearing up.

ELEONORA. Oh, it's clearing--and soon the sun will be shining!

[She takes Benjamin's hand and they both go out L.]

ELIS. Mother, can't we throw the rod into the fire soon?

MRS. HEYST. Not yet. There is still something--

ELIS. Is it--Lindkvist?

MRS. HEYST. Yes. He is out there. But he looks so queer and bent on
talking to you. Too bad he talks so much and always about himself.

ELIS. Let him come. Now that I have seen a ray of sunlight, I am
not afraid to meet the giant. Let him come.

MRS. HEYST. But don't irritate him. Providence has placed our
destiny in his hands--and he who humbleth himself shall be exalted
and he who exalteth himself--well--you know what happens to him.

ELIS. I know. Listen--the galoshes--squeak, squeak, squeak! Does he
mean to come in with them on? And why not? They are his own

[There are three raps on door R.]

MRS. HEYST. Elis, think of us all.

ELIS. I do, mother.

[Mrs. Heyst opens door R. Lindkvist enters, Mrs. Heyst goes out. He
is an elderly man of serious, almost tragic aspect, with black
bushy eyebrows. Round, black-rimmed eye-glasses. He carries a stout
stick in his hand, he is dressed in black, with, fur coat, and over
his shoes wears galoshes that squeak.]

LINDKVIST [After looking at Elis]. My name is Lindkvist.

ELIS [Reserved]. Heyst is my name--won't you sit down?

[Lindkvist sits in chair R. of sewing table--looks at Elis with a
stern eye.]

ELIS [After a pause]. How can I be of service?

LINDKVIST [With good humor]. H'm. Last evening I had the honor to
notify you of my intended visit, but thinking it over, and
realizing that it was a holy evening, I refrained from coming then,
as my visit is not of a social nature--and I don't talk _business_
on a holy evening.

ELIS. We are very grateful.

LINDKVIST. We are _not_ grateful. [Pause.] However, day before
yesterday I made a casual call on the Governor.--[Stops to notice
how Elis takes it.] Do you know the Governor?

ELIS [Carelessly.] I haven't that honor.

LINDKVIST. Then you shall have that honor.--We spoke about your

ELIS. No doubt.

LINDKVIST [Takes out a paper and lays it down on table]. And I got
this paper from him, from the Governor.

ELIS. I've been expecting this for some time, but before you go any
further allow me to ask you a question.

LINDKVIST. Go ahead.

ELIS. Why don't you put that warrant in the hands of the executors,
so we could escape this long and painful business?

LINDKVIST. So--so--my young man.

ELIS. Young or not, I ask no mercy, only justice.

LINDKVIST. Well, well, no mercy--no mercy--eh? Do you see this
paper that I put here on the corner of the table?

ELIS. Yes.

LINDKVIST. Ah,--now I put it back again. [Puts it back in his
pocket.] Well, then, justice, only justice. Listen, my young
friend. Once upon a time, I was deprived of my money and in a
disagreeable manner. When I wrote you a courteous letter, asking
how much time you needed, you saw fit to answer with an uncourteous
note--and treated me as if I were a usurer, a plunderer of widows
and children--altho' I was really the one plundered, and you
belonged to the plunderer's party. But as I was more judicious, I
contented myself with answering your note courteously, but to the
point. You know my blue paper, eh? I see you do. And I can put the
seals on, too, if I choose--but I don't, not yet. [Looks around the

ELIS. As you please; the things are at your disposal.

LINDKVIST. I wasn't looking at the furniture. I looked to see if
your mother was in the room. She no doubt loves justice as much as
you do?

ELIS. Let us hope so.

LINDKVIST. Good. Do you know that if justice, which you value so
highly, had its course, your mother, who only knew of your father's
criminal act, could have been imprisoned?

ELIS. No! No!

LINDKVIST. Yes! Yes! And it isn't too late even now.

ELIS [Rises]. My mother--

[Lindkvist takes out another paper, also blue, and places it on the

LINDKVIST. See--now I put down another paper, and it's blue, too,
but as yet--no seals.

ELIS. Oh, God,--my mother! "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."

LINDKVIST. Yes, my young lover of justice, "As ye sow, so shall ye
reap." That's the way it goes. Now, if I should put this question
to myself: "You, Joseph Lindkvist, born in poverty and brought up
in denial and work, have you the right at your age to deprive
yourself and children--mark you, _your children_--of the support,
which you thro' industry, economy and denial,--mark you, _denial_,--
saved penny by penny? What will you do, Joseph Lindkvist, if you
want justice? You plundered no one--but if you resent being
plundered, then you cannot stay in this town, as no one would speak
to the terrible creature who wants his own hard-earned money
returned." So you see there exists a grace which is finer than
justice, and that is mercy.

ELIS. You are right. Take everything. It belongs to you.

LINDKVIST. I have right on my side, but I dare not use it.

ELIS. I shall think of your children and not complain.

LINDKVIST. Good. Then I'll put the blue paper away again.--And now
we'll go a step further.

ELIS. Pardon me, but do they intend to accuse my mother?

LINDKVIST. We will go a step further first--I take it that you
don't know the Governor personally?

ELIS. No, and I don't want to know him.

[Lindkvist takes out paper again and shakes it warningly at Elis.]

LINDKVIST. Don't, don't say that. The Governor and your father were
friends in their youth, and he wishes to see and know you. You see.
"As ye sow," and so forth, in everything--everything. Won't you go
to see him?


LINDKVIST. But the Governor

ELIS. Let us change the subject.

LINDKVIST. You must speak courteously to me, as I am defenseless.
You have public opinion on your side, and I have only justice on
mine. What have you got against the Governor? He doesn't like this
and that, what some people would call pleasure.--But that belongs
to his eccentricities, and we needn't exactly respect his
eccentricities, but we can overlook them and hold to fundamental
facts as human beings; and in the crises of human life we must
swallow each other skin and hair, as the saying goes. But will you
go to see the Governor?

ELIS. Never.

LINDKVIST. Are you that sort of creature?

ELIS. Yes.

LINDKVIST [Rises, walks about waving his blue paper.] That's too
bad--too bad.--Well, then I must start from the other end.--A
revengeful person has threatened to take legal steps against your

ELIS. What do you say?

LINDKVIST. Go to see the Governor.


LINDKVIST [Taking Elis by the shoulders]. Then you are the most
miserable being that I have ever met in all my experience.--And now
I shall go and see your mother.

ELIS. No, no. Don't go to her.

LINDKVIST. Will you go to see the Governor then?

ELIS. Yes.

LINDKVIST. Tell me again and louder.

ELIS. Yes.

LINDKVIST [Giving Elis blue paper]. Then that matter is over with--
and there is an end to that paper, and an end to your troubles on
that score.

[Elis takes paper without looking at it.]

LINDKVIST. Then we have number two--that was number one. Let us sit
down. [They sit as before.] You see--if we only meet each other
half-way, it will be so much shorter.--Number two--that is my claim
on your home.--No illusions--as I cannot and will not give away my
family's common property, I must have what is owing me, to the last

ELIS. I understand--

LINDKVIST. So. You understand that?

ELIS. I didn't mean to offend you.

LINDKVIST. No. I gather as much. [He lifts his glasses and looks at
Elis.] The wolf, the angry wolf--eh? The rod--the rod--the giant of
the mountains, who does not eat children--only scares them--eh? And
I shall scare you--yes, out of your senses. Every piece of
furniture must come out and I have the warrant in my pocket. And if
there isn't enough--you'll go to jail, where neither sun nor stars
shine.--Yes, I can eat children and widows when I am irritated.--
And as for public opinion? Bah! I'll let that go hang. I have only
to move to another city. [Elis is silent.] You had a friend who is
called Peter. He is a debater and was your student in oratory. But
you wanted him to be a sort of prophet.--Well, he was faithless. He
crowed twice, didn't he? [Elis is silent.]

LINDKVIST. Human nature is as uncertain as things and thought.
Peter was faithless--I don't deny it, and I won't defend him--in
that. But the heart of mankind is fathomless, and there is always
some gold to be found. Peter was a faithless friend, but a friend

ELIS. A faithless--

LINDKVIST. Faithless--yes, but a friend, as I said. This faithless
friend has unwittingly done you a great service.

ELIS [Sneeringly]. Even that.

LINDKVIST. [Moving nearer to Elis]. As ye sow, so shall ye reap!

ELIS. It's not true of evil.

LINDKVIST. It's true of everything in life. Do you believe me?

ELIS. I must, or else you will torture the life out of me.

LINDKVIST. Not your life--but pride and malice I _will_ squeeze out
of you.

ELIS. But to continue--

LINDKVIST. Peter has done you a service, I said.

ELIS. I want _no_ services from him--

LINDKVIST. Are you there again? Then listen! Thro' your friend
Peter's intervention the Governor was able to protect your mother.
Therefore you must write and thank Peter. Promise me that.

ELIS. Any other man in the world--but not him.

LINDKVIST [Nearer to Elis]. Then I must squeeze you again. How much
money have you in the bank?

ELIS. What has that got to do with it? I cannot be responsible for
my father's debts!

LINDKVIST. Oh, indeed? Weren't you among those who ate, and drank,
when my children's money was spent in this house? Answer.

ELIS. I can't deny it.

LINDKVIST. Well, then, you must sit down immediately and write a
check for the balance. You know the sum.

ELIS [As in a dream]. Even that?

LINDKVIST. Yes, even that.--Be good enough to make it out now.

[Elis rises and takes out check-book and pen.]

LINDKVIST. Make it on yourself or an order--

ELIS. Even then it won't be enough.

LINDKVIST. Then you must go out and borrow the rest. Every penny
must be paid.

ELIS [Handing check to Lindkvist]. There--everything I have.--That
is my summer and my, bride. I haven't anything else to give you.

LINDKVIST. Then you must go out and borrow, as I said.

ELIS. I can't do it.

LINDKVIST. Then you must get security.

ELIS. No one would give security to a Heyst.

LINDKVIST. So. Then I'll propose an alternative. Thank Peter, or
you will have to come up with the whole sum.

ELIS. I won't have anything to do with Peter.

LINDKVIST. Then you are the most miserable creature that I have
ever known. You can by a simple courtesy save your mother's
dwelling and your fiancee's happiness, and you won't do it. There
must be some motive that you won't come out with. Why do you hate

ELIS. Put me to death--but don't torture me any longer.

LINDKVIST. Are you jealous of him?

[Elis shrugs his shoulders.]

LINDKVIST. So--that's the way things stand. [Rises and walks up and
down.] Did you read the evening paper?

ELIS. Yes, more is the pity!

LINDKVIST. All of it?

ELIS. No, not all.

LINDKVIST. No? Then you didn't read of Peter's engagement?

ELIS. No. That I did not know about.

LINDKVIST. And to whom do you think?

ELIS. To whom?

LINDKVIST. Why, he is engaged to Miss Alice, and it was made known
at a certain recital, where your fiancee helped spread the glad

ELIS. Why should it have been such a secret?

LINDKVIST. Haven't two young people the right to keep their hearts'
secrets from you?

ELIS. And on account of their happiness I had to suffer this agony!

LINDKVIST. Yes, just as others have suffered for your happiness--
your mother, your father, your fiancee, your sister, your friends.
Sit down and I'll tell you a little story.

[Elis sits, against his will, through this scene and the following.
It is clearing outside.]

LINDKVIST. It's about forty years since I came to this town, as a
boy, you understand--alone, unknown, without even one acquaintance,
to seek a position. All I owned was one silver dollar. The night
that I arrived was a dark, rainy one. As I didn't know of any cheap
hotel, I asked the passers-by about one, but no one stopped to
answer. Took me for a beggar, most likely. When I was at the height
of my despair, a young man came up and asked me why I was crying--
evidently I was crying.--I told him my need, and he turned from his
course and took me to a hotel, and comforted me with friendly
words. As I entered the hotel the glass door of a store next door
was thrown open and hit my elbow and was smashed to pieces. The
furious owner of the store grabbed me and insisted that I should
pay for it, or else he would call the police. Can you imagine my
despair? The kindly-intentioned unknown man, who was a witness of
the affair, protested, and went to the trouble of calling the
police himself, explained, and saved me from a night in the street.
This man was your father! So you see, "As ye sow, so shall ye
reap." And for your father's sake, I have foregone what is owed me.
Therefore take this paper and keep your check. [Rises.] And as you
find it hard to say thanks, I'll go immediately, and especially as
I find it painful to be thanked. [Goes to door back.] Go to your
mother as soon as your feet can carry you and relieve her of her
worries. [Elis starts to Lindkvist to thank him, but Lindkvist
makes a gesture toward R.] Go--

[Elis hastens out R. The center door opens and Eleonora and
Benjamin enter. On seeing Lindkvist, she shows extreme fear.]

LINDKVIST. Well, little ones, step in and have no fear. Do you know
who I am? [In a blustering voice.] I am the giant of the
mountains,--muh, muh, muh!--and yet I am not dangerous. Come here,
Eleonora. [She goes to him and he takes her head in his hand and
looks into her eyes.] You have your father's kind eyes,--he was a
good man--but he was weak. [Kissing her forehead.] There.

ELEONORA. You speak well of my father? Can it be any one wishes him

LINDKVIST. I can--ask your brother Elis.

ELEONORA. Then you don't want to harm us?

LINDKVIST. No, my dear child.

ELEONORA. Well, help us then.

LINDKVIST. Child, I can't help your father in his sentence. I can't
help Benjamin in his Latin. But everything else is helped already.
Life doesn't give everything, and nothing is given for nothing.
Therefore you must help me,--will you?

ELEONORA. Poor me, what can I do?

LINDKVIST. What is the date today?

ELEONORA. Why, it's the sixteenth.

LINDKVIST. Good. Before the twentieth you must, have your brother
Elis make a call on the Governor, and you must get him to write a
letter to Peter.

ELEONORA. Is that all?

LINDKVIST. Oh, you dear child! But if he neglects these things the
giant will come again and say muh, muh!

ELEONORA. Why should the giant come and scare children?

LINDKVIST. So that the children will be good.

ELEONORA. That's true. The giant is right. [She kisses Lindkvist's
coat sleeve.] Thanks, dear giant.

LINDKVIST. You should say _Mr._ Giant, I should think.

ELEONORA. Oh, no. That's not your real name--

LINDKVIST [Laughing]. Good-bye, children. Now you can throw the rod
in the fire.

ELEONORA. No, we must keep it. Children are so forgetful.

LINDKVIST. How well you know children, little one![He goes out.]

ELEONORA. We are going to the country, Benjamin. Within two months!
Oh, if the time would only pass quickly. [She takes calendar and
tears the pages off one by one.] April, May, June, and the sun is
shining on them all. Now you must thank God, who helped us to the

BENJAMIN [Bashfully]. Can't I say my thanks in silence?

ELEONORA. Yes, you can say it in silence, for now the clouds are
gone, and it can be heard up there.

[Christine has entered from L. and stopped. Elis and Mrs. Heyst
from R. Christine and Elis start to meet each other with loving
smiles. Before they meet--]


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