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Plays: The Father; Countess Julie; The Outlaw; The Stronger by August Strindberg

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THORFINN [to Valgerd]. Out on you, cowardly, faithless woman, to
guard my treasure so ill! To make my child mine enemy.

GUNLOED. O, my father, am I your enemy?

THORFINN. You are a Christian; but it is not too late yet. Will you
deny the white Christ?

GUNLOED. Never! But I will follow you to death.

VALGERD. Thorfinn, you call me cowardly. I can suffer that, but
faithless--there you wrong me. I have not loved you as warmly as
the southern women are said to love, yet have I been faithful to
you throughout life and I have sworn to go with you in death--as is
the ancient custom. [Opens a trap door in floor.] Look, here have I
prepared my grave, here would I die under these smoky beams that
have witnessed my sorrows--and with those [points to the carved
images of Thor and Odin on uprights of high bench] who guided us
here. I want to go with the flames, and in the smoke shall my
spirit rise to Ginde to receive charity and peace.

GUNLOED. And I to be alone afterward! Oh, let me follow you.

VALGERD. No, child, you are young. You may yet flourish in a milder
clime. But the old fir tree dies on its roots.

GUNLOED. Father, father, you must not die. I will save you!

THORFINN. You?

GUNLOED. Your kinsman Gunnar lies off Hjaerleif's headland with his
men. Send one of the thralls to him by a roundabout route and he
will come.

THORFINN. So! It wax out of that well that you drew your courage.
Keep your help and go if you will.

GUNLOED. You shall not think me a coward. I go with you, mother. You
cannot hinder me.

[Thorfinn goes to the door, trying to conceal his emotion.]

VALGERD. No! Stay, Thorfinn, and for once bare your big soul that I
may read its dim runics.

THORFINN. If you cannot interpret them now then may this runic
stone crumble to air unread.

VALGERD. You are not the hard stone you would seem. You have
feelings. Show them. Let them flow forth and you shall know peace!

THORFINN. My feelings are my heart's blood. Would you see it?

[The clatter of arms is heard outside which continues until
Thorfinn returns. Thorfinn starts to go out when he hears the
chatter.]

VALGERD. Oh, stay and say a word of farewell!

THORFINN. Woman, you tear down my strength with your feelings. Let
me go! The play has begun!

VALGERD. Say farewell, at least.

THORNFINN [Restraining his feelings with effort]. Farewell, child.
[Goes out.]

VALGERD. That man no one will bend.

GUNLOED. God will!

VALGERD. His hardness is great.

GUNLOED. God's mercy is greater!

VALGERD. Farewell, my child.

GUNLOED. Do you dare leave me behind, alone?

VALGERD [Embracing Gunloed]. Are you prepared?

GUNLOED. The holy virgin prays for me.

VALGERD. I trust in the God of love.

GUNLOED. And in the mother of God.

VALGERD. I know her not.

GUNLOED. You must believe in her.

VALGERD. My belief is not your belief.

GUNLOED [Embracing Valgerd]. Forgive me.

VALGERD. Now to your place.

[Gunloed opens the wooden shutter at window-hole and looks out.
Valgerd takes it torch and places herself by the trap door in
floor.]

GUNLOED. The strife is sharp.

VALGERD. Do you see the Erl?

GUNLOED. He stands at the gate.

VALGERD. How fares he?

GUNLOED. Everything falls before him.

VALGERD. Does he weary?

GUNLOED. Still is he straight-- -- --See what terrible northern
lights.

VALGERD. Have many fallen?

GUNLOED. I cannot tell. They are drawing away from the threshing
yard. Oh, the heavens are red as blood!

[Pause.]

VALGERD. Speak! What do you see?

GUNLOED [With joy]. The silver falcon!

VALGERD. It's an ill-omen.

GUNLOED. Father comes.

VALGERD. Is he wounded?

GUNLOED. Oh, now he is falling!

VALGERD. Close the window-hole and trust in God.

GUNLOED. No, not yet. A moment.

VALGRED. Are you afraid?

GUNLOED [Going toward door]. No! No!

[The sounds of the conflict gradually die away.]

THORFINN [Comes in pale and wounded.] Stay!

[Valgerd goes towards him. Pause.]

THORFINN [On high bench]. Come here.

[Valgerd and Gunloed go to him. Thorfinn caresses Gunloed's hair,
kisses her forehead, then presses Valgerd's hand.]

THORFINN [Kissing Valgerd]. Now you see my heart's blood.

[Valgerd rises to get torch.]

VALGERD. Now is our parting over.

THORFINN. Stay and live with your child.

VALGERD. My oath!

THORFINN. My whole life has been a broken oath and yet I hope-- -- --
It is better to live-- -- --

[Orm comes in wounded. Stops at door.]

ORM. May I come?

THORFINN. Come.

ORM. Have you found peace now?

THORFINN [Caressing the woman]. Soon, soon!

ORM. Then we are ready for the journey.

THORFINN [Looks at Valgerd and Gunloed]. Not yet.

ORM [Sits on bench]. Hurry if you want company.

THORFINN. Orm, are you a Christian?

ORM. You may ask indeed.

THORFINN. What are you then, riddle?

ORM. I was everything. I was nothing. I was a poet.

THORFINN. Do you believe in anything?

ORM. I've come to have a belief.

THORFINN. What gave it to you?

ORM. Doubt, misfortune, sorrow.

THORFINN [To Valgerd]. Valgerd, give me your hand, so. Hold fast--
tighter--you must not let go until--the end.

[Gunnar comes in and stops by door.]

THORFINN. Who comes?

GUNNAR. You know me!

THORFINN. I know your voice, but my eyes see you not.

GUNNAR. I am your kinsman, Gunnar.

THORFINN [After a pause]. Step forth.

[Gunnar remains where he is, looking questioningly at Gunloed.]

THORFINN. Is he here?

[Gunloed rises, goes with slow steps and bowed head to Gunnar. Takes
his hand and leads him to Thorfinn. They kneel.]

THORFINN [Putting hands on their heads]. Eternal-- -- -- Creating--
-- --God--
[Dies.]

CURTAIN.

THE STRONGER

CHARACTERS

MME. X., an actress, married
MLLE. Y., an actress, unmarried
A WAITRESS

THE STRONGER

[SCENE--The corner of a ladies' cafe. Two little iron tables, a red
velvet sofa, several chairs. Enter Mme. X., dressed in winter
clothes, carrying a Japanese basket on her arm.]

[MLLE. Y. sits with a half empty beer bottle before her, reading an
illustrated paper, which she changes later for another.]

MME. X. Good afternoon, Amelie. You're sitting here alone on
Christmas eve like a poor bachelor!

MLLE. Y. [Looks up, nods, and resumes her reading.]

MME. X. Do you know it really hurts me to see you like this, alone,
in a cafe, and on Christmas eve, too. It makes me feel as I did one
time when I saw a bridal party in a Paris restaurant, and the bride
sat reading a comic paper, while the groom played billiards with
the witnesses. Huh, thought I, with such a beginning, what will
follow, and what will be the end? He played billiards on his
wedding eve! [Mlle. Y. starts to speak]. And she read a comic
paper, you mean? Well, they are not altogether the same thing.

[A waitress enters, places a cup of chocolate before Mme. X. and
goes out.]

MME. X. You know what, Amelie! I believe you would have done better
to have kept him! Do you remember, I was the first to say "Forgive
him?" Do you remember that? You would be married now and have a
home. Remember that Christmas when you went out to visit your
fiance's parents in the country? How you gloried in the happiness
of home life and really longed to quit the theatre forever? Yes,
Amelie dear, home is the best of all, the theatre next and
children--well, you don't understand that.

MLLE. Y. [Looks up scornfully.]

[Mme. X. sips a few spoonfuls out of the cup, then opens her basket
and shows Christmas presents.]

MME. X. Now you shall see what I bought for my piggywigs. [Takes up
a doll.] Look at this! This is for Lisa, ha! Do you see how she can
roll her eyes and turn her head, eh? And here is Maja's popgun.
[Loads it and shoots at Mlle. Y.]

MLLE. Y. [Makes a startled gesture.]

MME. X. Did I frighten you? Do you think I would like to shoot you,
eh? On my soul, if I don't think you did! If you wanted to shoot
_me_ it wouldn't be so surprising, because I stood in your way--and
I know you can never forget that--although I was absolutely
innocent. You still believe I intrigued and got you out of the
Stora theatre, but I didn't. I didn't do that, although you think
so. Well, it doesn't make any difference what I say to you. You
still believe I did it. [Takes up a pair of embroidered slippers.]
And these are for my better half. I embroidered them myself--I
can't bear tulips, but he wants tulips on everything.

MLLE. Y. [Looks up ironically and curiously.]

MME. X. [Putting a hand in each slipper.] What little feet Bob has!
What? And you should see what a splendid stride he has! You've
never seen him in slippers! [Mlle. Y. laughs aloud.] Look! [She
makes the slippers walk on the table. Mlle. Y. laughs loudly.] And
when he is grumpy he stamps like this with his foot. "What! damn
those servants who can never learn to make coffee. Oh, now those
creatures haven't trimmed the lamp wick properly!" And then there
are draughts on the floor and his feet are cold. "Ugh, how cold it
is; the stupid idiots can never keep the fire going." [She rubs the
slippers together, one sole over the other.]

MLLE. Y. [Shrieks with laughter.]

MME. X. And then he comes home and has to hunt for his slippers
which Marie has stuck under the chiffonier--oh, but it's sinful to
sit here and make fun of one's husband this way when he is kind and
a good little man. You ought to have had such a husband, Amelie.
What are you laughing at? What? What? And you see he's true to me.
Yes, I'm sure of that, because he told me himself--what are you
laughing at?--that when I was touring in Norway that that brazen
Frederique came and wanted to seduce him! Can you fancy anything so
infamous? [Pause.] I'd have torn her eyes out if she had come to
see him when I was at home. [Pause.] It was lucky that Bob told me
about it himself and that it didn't reach me through gossip.
[Pause.] But would you believe it, Frederique wasn't the only one!
I don't know why, but the women are crazy about my husband. They
must think he has influence about getting them theatrical
engagements, because he is connected with the government. Perhaps
you were after him yourself. I didn't use to trust you any too
much. But now I know he never bothered his head about you, and you
always seemed to have a grudge against him someway.

[Pause. They look at each other in a puzzled way.]

MME. X. Come and see us this evening, Amelie, and show us that
you're not put out with us,--not put out with me at any rate. I
don't know, but I think it would be uncomfortable to have you for
an enemy. Perhaps it's because I stood in your way [rallentando]
or--I really--don't know why--in particular.

[Pause. Mlle. Y. stares at Mme. X curiously.]

MME. X [Thoughtfully]. Our acquaintance has been so queer. When I
saw you for the first time I was afraid of you, so afraid that I
didn't dare let you out of my sight; no matter when or where, I
always found myself near you--I didn't dare have you for an enemy,
so I became your friend. But there was always discord when you came
to our house, because I saw that my husband couldn't endure you,
and the whole thing seemed as awry to me as an ill-fitting gown--
and I did all I could to make him friendly toward you, but with no
success until you became engaged. Then came a violent friendship
between you, so that it looked all at once as though you both dared
show your real feelings only when you were secure--and then--how
was it later? I didn't get jealous--strange to say! And I remember
at the christening, when you acted as godmother, I made him kiss
you--he did so, and you became so confused--as it were; I didn't
notice it then--didn't think about it later, either--have never
thought about it until--now! [Rises suddenly.] Why are you silent?
You haven't said a word this whole time, but you have let me go on
talking! You have sat there, and your eyes have reeled out of me
all these thoughts which lay like raw silk in its cocoon--thoughts--
suspicious thoughts, perhaps. Let me see--why did you break your
engagement? Why do you never come to our house any more? Why won't
you come to see us tonight?

[Mlle. Y. appears as if about to speak.]

MME. X. Hush, you needn't speak--I understand it all! It was
because--and because--and because! Yes, yes! Now all the accounts
balance. That's it. Fie, I won't sit at the same table with you.
[Moves her things to another table.] That's the reason I had to
embroider tulips--which I hate--on his slippers, because you are
fond of tulips; that's why [Throws slippers on the floor] we go to
Lake Maelarn in the summer, because you don't like salt water;
that's why my boy is named Eskil--because it's your father's name;
that's why I wear your colors, read your authors, eat your favorite
dishes, drink your drinks--chocolate, for instance; that's why--oh--
my God--it's terrible, when I think about it; it's terrible.
Everything, everything came from you to me, even your passions.
Your soul crept into mine, like a worm into an apple, ate and ate,
bored and bored, until nothing was left but the rind and a little
black dust within. I wanted to get away from you, but I couldn't;
you lay like a snake and charmed me with your black eyes; I felt
that when I lifted my wings they only dragged me down; I lay in the
water with bound feet, and the stronger I strove to keep up the
deeper I worked myself down, down, until I sank to the bottom,
where you lay like a giant crab to clutch me in your claws--and
there I am lying now.

I hate you, hate you, hate you! And you only sit there silent--
silent and indifferent; indifferent whether it's new moon or waning
moon, Christmas or New Year's, whether others are happy or unhappy;
without power to hate or to love; as quiet as a stork by a rat
hole--you couldn't scent your prey and capture it, but you could
lie in wait for it! You sit here in your corner of the cafe--did
you know it's called "The Rat Trap" for you?--and read the papers
to see if misfortune hasn't befallen some one, to see if some one
hasn't been given notice at the theatre, perhaps; you sit here and
calculate about your next victim and reckon on your chances of
recompense like a pilot in a shipwreck. Poor Amelie, I pity you,
nevertheless, because I know you are unhappy, unhappy like one who
has been wounded, and angry because you are wounded. I can't be
angry with you, no matter how much I want to be--because you come
out the weaker one. Yes, all that with Bob doesn't trouble me. What
is that to me, after all? And what difference does it make whether
I learned to drink chocolate from you or some one else.
[Sips a spoonful from her cup.]

Besides, chocolate is very healthful. And if you taught me how to
dress--tant mieux!--that has only made me more attractive to my
husband; so you lost and I won there. Well, judging by certain
signs, I believe you have already lost him; and you certainly
intended that I should leave him--do as you did with your fiance
and regret as you now regret; but, you see, I don't do that--we
mustn't be too exacting. And why should I take only what no one
else wants?

Perhaps, take it all in all, I am at this moment the stronger one.
You received nothing from me, but you gave me much. And now I seem
like a thief since you have awakened and find I possess what is
your loss. How could it be otherwise when everything is worthless
and sterile in your hands? You can never keep a man's love with
your tulips and your passions--but I can keep it. You can't learn
how to live from your authors, as I have learned. You have no
little Eskil to cherish, even if your father's name was Eskil. And
why are you always silent, silent, silent? I thought that was
strength, but perhaps it is because you have nothing to say!
Because you never think about anything! [Rises and picks up
slippers.]

Now I'm going home--and take the tulips with me--_your_ tulips! You
are unable to learn from another; you can't bend--therefore, you
broke like a dry stalk. But I won't break! Thank you, Amelie, for
all your good lessons. Thanks for teaching my husband how to love.
Now I'm going home to love him. [Goes.]

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