Part 2 out of 12
"Misfortune strides apace!"
_KAHL enters without having first knocked. He is twenty-four years
old: a clumsy peasant who is evidently concerned, so far as possible,
to make a show not only as a refined but, more especially, as a
wealthy man. His features are coarse; his predominant expression is
one of stupid cunning. He wears a green jacket, a gay velvet
waist-coat, dark trousers and patent-leather top-boots. His
head-covering is a green forester's hat with a cock's feather. His
jacket has buttons of stag's horn and stag's teeth depend from his
watch-chain. He stammers._
G-good evening everybody!
[_He sees LOTH, is much embarrassed and, standing still, cuts a
rather sorry figure._
[_Steps up to him and shakes hands with him encouragingly._] Good
evening, Mr. Kahl.
[_Ungraciously._] Good evening.
[_Strides with heavy steps diagonally across the room to HELEN and takes
her hand._] Evenin' t'you, Nellie.
[_To LOTH._] Permit me to introduce our neighbour's son, Mr. Kahl.
[_KAHL grins and fidgets with his hat. Constrained silence._
Come, let's sit down, then. Is anybody missing? Ah, our mama! Miele,
request Mrs. Krause to come to supper.
[_MIELE leaves by the middle door._
[_Is heard in the hall, calling out._] Missus! Missus!! You're to come
down--to come'n eat!
[_HELEN and HOFFMANN exchange a look of infinite comprehension and
laugh. Then, by a common impulse, they look at LOTH._
[_To LOTH._] Rustic simplicity!
_MRS. KRAUSE appears, incredibly overdressed. Silk and costly jewels.
Her dress and bearing betray hard arrogance, stupid pride and
Ah, there is mama! Permit me to introduce to you my friend Dr. Loth.
[_Half-curtsies, peasant-fashion._] I take the liberty! [_After a brief
pause._] Eh, but Doctor, you mustn't bear me a grudge, no, you mustn't at
all. I've got to excuse myself before you right away--[_she speaks with
increasing fluency_]--excuse myself on account o' the way I acted a while
ago. You know, y'understan', we' get a powerful lot o' tramps here right
along ... 'Tain't reasonable to believe the trouble we has with them
beggars. And they steals exackly like magpies. It ain't as we're stingy.
We don't have to be thinkin' and thinkin' before we spends a penny, no,
nor before we spends a pound neither. Now, old Louis Krause's wife, she's
a close one, worst kind you see, she wouldn't give a crittur that much!
Her old man died o' rage because he lost a dirty little two-thousand,
playin' cards. No, we ain't that kind. You see that sideboard over there.
That cost me two hundred crowns, not countin' the freight even. Baron
Klinkow hisself couldn't have nothin' better.
_MRS. SPILLER has entered shortly after MRS. KRAUSE. She is small,
slightly deformed and gotten up in her mistress's cast-off garments.
While MRS. KRAUSE is speaking she looks up at her with a certain
devout attention. She is about fifty-five years old. Every time she
exhales her breath she utters a gentle moan, which is regularly
audible, even when she speaks, as a soft_--m.
[_In a servile, affectedly melancholy, minor tone. Very softly._] His
lordship has exactly the identical sideboard--m--.
[_To MRS. KRAUSE._] Mama, don't you think we had better sit down first
[_Turns with lightning-like rapidity to HELEN and transfixes her with a
withering look; harshly and masterfully._] Is that proper?
[_She is about to sit down but remembers that grace has not been
said. Mechanically she folds her hands without, however, mastering
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. May thy gifts to us be blest.
[_All take their seats noisily. The embarrassing situation is tided
over by the passing and repassing of dishes, which takes some time._
[_To LOTH._] Help yourself, old fellow, won't you? Oysters?
I'll try them. They're the first I've ever eaten.
[_Has just sucked down an oyster noisily._] This season, you mean.
No, I mean at all.
[_MRS. KRAUSE and MRS. SPILLER exchange a look._
[_To KAHL, who is squeezing a lemon with his teeth._] Haven't seen you
for two days, Mr. Kahl. Have you been busy shooting mice?
[_To LOTH._] Mr. Kahl, I must tell you, is passionately fond of hunting.
M-m-mice is i-infamous amphibies.
[_Bursts out._] It's too silly. He can't see anything wild or tame
without killing it.
Las' night I sh-shot our ol' s-sow.
Then I suppose that shooting is your chief occupation.
Mr. Kahl, he just does that fer his own private pleasure.
Forest, game and women--as his Excellency the Minister von Schadendorf
often used to say.
'N d-day after t-t'morrow we're g-goin' t' have p-pigeon sh-sh-shooting.
What is that--pigeon shooting?
Ah, I can't bear such things. Surely it's a very merciless sport. Rough
boys who throw stones at window panes are better employed.
You go too far, Helen.
I don't know. According to my feeling it's far more sensible to break
windows, than to tether pigeons to a post and then shoot bullets into
Well, Helen, after all, you must consider ...
[_Using his knife and fork with energy._] It is a shameful barbarity.
Aw! _Them_ few pigeons!
[_To LOTH._] Mr. Kahl, you know, has m-more than two-hundred of them in
All hunting is barbarity.
But an ineradicable one. Just now, for instance, five hundred live foxes
are wanted in the market, and all foresters in this neighbourhood and in
other parts of Germany are busy snaring the animals.
What are all those foxes wanted for?
They are sent to England, where they will enjoy the honour of being
hunted from their very cages straight to death by members of the
Mohammedan or Christian--a beast's a beast.
May I pass you some lobster, mother?
I guess so. They're good this here season.
Madame has such a delicate palate.
[_To LOTH._] I suppose you ain't ever et lobsters neither, Doctor?
Yes, I have eaten lobsters now and then--in the North, by the sea, in
Warnemuende, where I was born.
[_To KAHL._] Times an' times a person don't know what _to_ eat no more.
Y-y're r-right there, cousin, G-God knows.
[_Is about to pour champagne into LOTH'S glass._] Champagne, sir.
[_Covers his glass with his hand._] No, thank you.
Come now, don't be absurd.
What? Don't you drink?
No, Miss Krause.
Well, now, look here, old man. That is, you must admit, rather tiresome.
If I were to drink I should only grow more tiresome.
That is most interesting, Doctor.
[_Untactfully._] That I grow even more tiresome when I drink wine?
[_Somewhat taken aback._] No, oh, no. But that you do not drink ... do
not drink at all, I mean.
And why is that particularly interesting?
[_Blushing._] It is not the usual thing.
[_She grows redder and more embarrassed._
[_Clumsily._] You are quite right, unhappily.
[_To LOTH._] It costs us fifteen shillin's a bottle. You needn't be
scared to drink it. We gets it straight from Rheims; we ain't givin' you
nothin' cheap; we wouldn't want it ourselves.
Ah, you can believe--m-me, Doctor: if his Excellency, the Minister von
Schadendorf, had been able to keep _such_ a table ...
I couldn't live without my wine.
[_To LOTH._] Do tell us why you don't drink?
I'll do that very gladly, I ...
Oh, pshaw, old fellow. [_He takes the bottle from the servant in order to
press the wine upon LOTH._] Just think how many merry hours we used to
spend in the old days ...
Please don't take the trouble ...
Drink to-day--this one time.
It's quite useless.
As a special favour to me.
[_HOFFMANN is about to pour the wine; LOTH resists. A slight conflict
No, no ... as I said before ... No!... no, thank you.
Don't be offended, but that, surely, is a mere foolish whim.
[_To MRS. SPILLER._] A man that don't want nothin' has had enough.
[_MRS. SPILLER nods resignedly._
Anyhow, if you let a man have his will what more can you do for him. But
I can tell you this much: without a glass of wine at dinner ...
And a glass of beer at breakfast ...
Very well; why not? A glass of beer is a very healthy thing.
And a nip of brandy now and then ...
Ah, well, if one couldn't get that much out of life! You'll never succeed
in making an ascetic of me. You can't rob life of every stimulus.
I'm not so sure of that. I am thoroughly content with the normal stimuli
that reach my nervous system.
And a company that sit together with dry throats always has been and
always will be a damnably weary and boresome one--with which, as a rule,
I'd care to have very little to do.
An' all them aristocrats drinks a whole lot.
[_Devoutly confirming her mistress' remark by an inclination of her
body._] It is easy for gentlemen to drink a great deal of wine.
[_To HOFFMANN._] My experience is quite to the contrary. As a rule, I am
bored at a table where a great deal is drunk.
Oh, of course, it's got to be done in moderation.
What do you call moderation?
Well, so long as one is in possession of one's senses ...
Aha! Then you do admit that, in general, the consumption of alcohol does
endanger the possession of one's senses? And for that reason, you see, I
find tavern parties such a bore.
Are you afraid of losing possession of your senses so easily?
T'-t'other d-day I drank a b-bottle o' R-Rhine-wine, _an'_ another o'
ch-champagne. An' on top o' that an-n-nother o' B-Bordeaux--an' I wan't
drunk by half.
[_To HOFFMANN._] Oh no. You know well enough that it was I who took you
fellows home when you'd been taking too much. And I still have the same
tough old system. No, I'm not afraid on that account.
Well, then, what is it?
Yes, why is it really that you don't drink? Do tell us!
[_To HOFFMANN._] In order to satisfy you then: I do not drink to-day, if
for no other reason but because I have given my word of honour to avoid
In other words, you've sunk to the level of a temperance fanatic.
I am a total abstainer.
And for how long, may one ask, have you gone in for this--
[_Throws down his knife and fork and half starts up from his chair._]
Well, I'll be ... [_He sits down again._] Now, frankly, you must forgive
me, but I never thought you so--childish.
You may call it so if you please.
But how in the world did you get into that kind of thing?
Surely, for such a resolution you must have a very weighty cause--it
seems so to me, at least.
Undoubtedly such a reason exists. You probably do not know, Miss Krause,
nor you either, Hoffmann, what an appalling part alcohol plays in modern
life ... Read Bunge, if you desire to gain an idea of it. I happen to
remember the statements of a writer named Everett concerning the
significance of alcohol in the life of the United States. His facts cover
a space of ten years. In these ten years, according to him, alcohol has
devoured directly a sum of three thousand millions of dollars and
indirectly of six hundred millions. It has killed three hundred thousand
people, it has driven thousands of others into prisons and poor-houses;
it has caused two thousand suicides at the least. It has caused the loss
of at least ten millions through fire and violent destruction; it has
rendered no less than twenty thousand women, widows, and no less than one
million children, orphans. Worst of all, however, are the far-reaching
effects of alcohol which extend to the third and fourth generation.--Now,
had I pledged myself never to marry, I might perhaps drink, but as it
is--My ancestors, as I happen to know, were all not only healthy and
robust but thoroughly temperate people. Every movement that I make, every
hardship that I undergo, every breath that I draw brings what I owe them
more deeply home to me. And that, you see, is the point; I am absolutely
determined to transmit undiminished to my posterity this heritage which
Look here, son-in-law, them miners o' ours do drink a deal too much. I
guess that's true.
They swills like pigs.
And such, things are hereditary?
There are families who are ruined by it--families of dipsomaniacs.
[_Half to MRS. KRAUSE; half to HELEN._] Your old man--he's goin' it
pretty fast, too.
[_White as a sheet, vehemently._] Oh, don't talk nonsense.
Eh, but listen to the impident hussy. You might think she was a princess!
You're tryin' to play bein' a grand lady, I s'ppose! That's the way she
goes fer her future husband. [_To LOTH, pointing to KAHL._] That's him,
you know; they're promised; it's all arranged.
[_Jumping up._] Stop! or ... _Stop_, mother, or I ...
Well, I do declare! Say, Doctor, is that what you call eddication, eh?
God knows, I treat her as if she was my own child, but that's a little
[_Soothingly._] Ah, mother, do me the favour....
No-o! I don't see why. Such a goose like that ... That's an end o' all
justice ... such a sl...!
Oh, but mother, I must really beg of you to control--
[_Doubly enraged._] Instead o' sich a crittur takin' a hand on the
farm.... God forbid! She pulls her sheets 'way over her ears. But her
Schillers and her Goethes and sich like stinkin' dogs--that can't do
nothin' but lie; they c'n turn her head. It's enough to make you sick!
[_She stops, quivering with rage._
[_Trying to pacify her._] Well, well--she will be all right now ...
perhaps it wasn't quite right ... perhaps....
[_He beckons to HELEN, who in her excitement has drawn aside, and the
girl, fighting down her tears, returns to her place._
[_Interrupting the painful silence that has followed, to LOTH._] Ah, yes
... what were we talking about? To be sure, of good old alcohol. [_He
raises his glass._] Well, mother, let us have peace. Come,--we'll drink a
toast in peace, and honour alcohol by being peaceful. [_MRS. KRAUSE,
although somewhat rebelliously, clinks glasses with him._] What, Helen,
and your glass is empty.... I say, Loth, you've made a proselyte.
Ah ... no ... I....
But, dear Miss Helen, that looks sus--
You weren't always so very particular.
[_Pertly._] I simply have no inclination to drink to-day. That's all.
Oh, I beg your pardon, very humbly indeed ... Let me see, what were we
We were saying that there were whole families of dipsomaniacs.
[_Embarrassed anew._] To be sure, to be sure, but ... er....
[_Growing anger is noticeable in the behaviour of MRS. KRAUSE. KAHL
is obviously hard put to it to restrain his laughter concerning
something that seems to furnish him immense inner amusement. HELEN
observes KAHL with burning eyes and her threatening glance has
repeatedly restrained him from saying something that is clearly on
the tip of his tongue. LOTH, peeling an apple with a good deal of
equanimity, has taken no notice of all this._
What is more, you seem to be rather blessed with that sort of thing
[_Almost beside himself._] Why? How? Blessed with what?
With drunkards, of course.
H-m! Do you think so ... ah ... yes ... I dare say--the miners....
Not only the miners. Here, in the inn, where I stopped before I came to
you, there sat a fellow, for instance, this way.
[_He rests both elbows on the table, supports his head, with his
hands and stares at the table._
[_His embarrassment has now reached its highest point; MRS. KRAUSE
coughs; HELEN still commands KAHL with her eyes. His whole body
quivers with internal laughter, but he is still capable of enough
self-command not to burst out._
I'm surprised that you don't know this, well, one might almost say, this
matchless example of his kind. It's the inn next door to your house. I
was told that the man is an immensely rich farmer of this place who
literally spends his days and years in the same tap-room drinking
whiskey. Of course he's a mere animal to-day. Those frightfully vacant,
drink-bleared eyes with which he stared at me!
[_KAHL, who has restrained himself up to this point, breaks out in
coarse, loud, irrepressible laughter, so that LOTH and HOFFMANN, dumb
with astonishment, stare at him._
[_Stammering out through his laughter._] By the Almighty, that was....
Oh, sure, sure--that was the ol' man.
[_Jumps up, horrified and indignant. She crushes her napkin and flings it
on the table._] You are.... [_With a gesture of utter loathing._] Oh, you
[_She withdraws swiftly._
[_Violently breaking through the constraint which arises from his
consciousness of having committed a gross blunder._] Oh, pshaw!... It's
too dam' foolish! I'm goin' my own ways. [_He puts on his hat and says,
without turning back:_] Evenin'.
[_Calls out after him._] Don' know's I c'n blame you, William. [_She
folds her napkin and calls_:] Miele! [_MIELE enters._] Clear the table!
[_To herself, but audibly._] Sich a goose!
[_Somewhat angry._] Well, mother, honestly, I must say....
You go and...!
[_Arises; exits quickly._
Madame--m--has had a good many domestic annoyances to-day--m--. I will
now respectfully take my leave.
[_She rises, prays silently with upturned eyes for a moment and then
_MIELE and EDWARD clear the table. HOFFMANN has arisen and comes to
the foreground. He has a toothpick in his mouth. LOTH follows him._
Well, you see, that's the way women are.
I can't say that I understand what it was about.
It isn't worth mentioning. Things like that happen in the most refined
families. It mustn't keep you from spending a few days with us....
I should like to have made your wife's acquaintance. Why doesn't she
appear at all?
[_Cutting off the end of a fresh cigar._] Well, in her condition, you
understand ... women won't abandon their vanity. Come, let's go and take
a few turns in the garden.--Edward, serve coffee in the arbour!
Very well, sir.
[_HOFFMANN and LOTH disappear by way of the conservatory. EDWARD
leaves by way of the middle door and MIELE, immediately thereafter,
goes out, carrying a tray of dishes, by the same door. For a few
seconds the room is empty. Then enters_
[_Wrought up, with tear-stained eyes, holding her handkerchief against
her mouth. From the middle door, by which she has entered, she takes a
few hasty steps to the left and listens at the door of HOFFMANN'S room._]
Oh, don't go! [_Hearing nothing there, she hastens over to the door of
the conservatory, where she also listens for a few moments with tense
expression. Folding her hands and in a tone of impassioned beseeching._]
Oh, don't go! Don't go!
THE CURTAIN FALLS
THE SECOND ACT
_It is about four o'clock in the morning. The windows in the inn are
still lit. Through the gateway comes in the twilight of a pallid dawn
which, in the course of the action, develops into a ruddy glow, and
this, in its turn, gradually melts into bright daylight. Under the
gateway, on the ground, sits BEIPST and sharpens his scythe. As the
curtain rises, little more is visible than his dark outline which is
defined against the morning sky, but one hears the monotonous,
uninterrupted and regular beat of the scythe hammer on the anvil. For
some minutes this is the only sound audible. Then follows the solemn
silence of the morning, broken by the cries of roysterers who are
leaving the inn. The inn-door is slammed with a crash. The lights in
the windows go out. A distant barking of dogs is heard and a loud,
confused crowing of cocks. On the path from the inn to the house a
dark figure becomes visible which reels in zigzag lines toward the
farmyard. It is FARMER KRAUSE, who, as always, has been the last to
leave the inn._
[_Has reeled against the fence, clings to it for support with both hands,
and roars with a somewhat nasal, drunken voice back at the inn._] The
garden'sh mine ... the inn'sh mi-ine ... ash of a' inn-keeper! Hi-hee!
[_After mumbling and growling unintelligibly he frees himself from the
fence and staggers into the yard, where, luckily, he gets hold of the
handles of a plough._] The farm'sh mi'ine. [_He drivels, half singing._]
Drink ... o ... lil' brother, drink ... o ... lil' brother ... brandy'sh
good t' give courash. Hi-hee--[_roaring aloud_]--ain' I a han'some man
... Ain' I got a han'some wife?... Ain' I got a couple o' han'some gals?
[_Comes swiftly from the house. It is plain that she has only slipped on
such garments as, in her hurry, she could find._] Papa!... dear papa!! Do
come in! [_She supports him by one arm, tries to lead him and draw him
toward the house._] Oh, do come ... do please come ... quick ... quick
... Come, oh, do, _do_ come!
[_Has straightened himself up and tries to stand erect. Fumbling with
both hands he succeeds, with great pains, in extracting from his
breeches-pocket a purse bursting with coins. As the morning brightens, it
is possible to see the shabby garb of KRAUSE, which is in no respects
better than that of the commonest field labourer. He is about fifty years
old. His head is bare, his thin, grey hair is uncombed and matted. His
dirty shirt is open down to his waist. His leathern breeches, tied at the
ankles, were once yellow but are now shiny with dirt. They are held up by
a single embroidered suspender. On his naked feet he wears a pair of
embroidered bedroom slippers, the embroidery on which seems to be quite
new. He wears neither coat nor waist-coat and his shirtsleeves are
unbuttoned. After he has finally succeeded in extracting the purse, he
holds it in his right hand and brings it down repeatedly on the palm of
his left so that the coins ring and clatter, At the same time he fixes a
lascivious look on his daughter._] Hi-hee! The money'sh mi-ine! Hey?
How'd y' like couple o' crownsh?
Oh, merciful God! [_She makes repeated efforts to drag him with her. At
one of these efforts he embraces her with the clumsiness of a gorilla and
makes several indecent gestures. HELEN utters suppressed cries for
help._] Let go! This minute! Let go-o!! Oh, please, papa, Oh-o!! [_She
weeps, then suddenly cries out in an extremity of fear, loathing and
rage:_] Beast! Swine!
[_She pushes him from her and KRAUSE falls to his full length on the
ground. BEIPST comes limping up from his seat under the gateway. He
and HELEN set about lifting KRAUSE._
[_Stammers._] Drink ... o ... lil' brothersh ... drrr ...
[_KRAUSE is half-lifted up and tumbles into the house, dragging
BEIPST and HELEN with him. For a moment the stage remains empty. In
the house voices are heard and the slamming of doors. A single window
is lit, upon which BEIPST comes out of the house again. He strikes a
match against his leathern breeches in order to light the short pipe
that rarely leaves his mouth. While he is thus employed, KAHL is seen
slinking out of the house. He is in his stocking feet, but has slung
his coat loosely over his left arm and holds his bedroom slippers in
his left hand. In his right hand he holds his hat and his collar in
his teeth. When he has reached the middle of the yard, he sees the
face of BEIPST turned upon him. For a moment he seems undecided; then
he manages to grasp his hat and collar also with his left hand, dives
into his breeches' pocket and going up to BEIPST presses a coin into
the latter's hand._
There, you got a crown ... but shut yer mouth!
[_He hastens across the yard and climbs over the picket fence at the
[_BEIPST has lit his pipe with a fresh match. He limps to the gate,
sits down and begins sharpening his scythe anew. Again nothing is
heard for a time but the monotonous hammer blows and the groans of
the old man, which he interrupts by short oaths when his work will
not go to his liking. It has grown considerably lighter._
[_Steps out of the house door, stands still, stretches himself, and
breathes deeply several times._] Ah! The morning air. [_Slowly he goes
toward the background until he reaches the gateway. To BEIPST._] Good
morning! Up so early?
[_Squinting at LOTH suspiciously. In a surly tone._] 'Mornin'. [_A brief
pause, whereupon BEIPST addresses his scythe which he pulls to and fro in
his indignation._] Crooked beast! Well, are ye goin' to? Eksch! Well,
well, I'll be ...
[_He continues to sharpen it._
[_Has taken a seat between the handles of a cultivator._] I suppose
there's hay harvesting to-day?
[_Roughly._] Dam' fools go a-cuttin' hay this time o' year.
Well, but you're sharpening a scythe?
[_To the scythe._] Eksch! You ol'...!
[_A brief pause._]
Won't you tell me, though, why you are sharpening your scythe if it is
not time for the hay harvest?
Eh? Don't you need a scythe to cut fodder?
So that's it. You're going to cut fodder?
Well, what else?
And is it cut every morning?
Well, d' you want the beasts to starve?
You must show me a little forbearance. You see, I'm a city man; and it
isn't possible for me to know things about farming very exactly.
City folks! Eksh! All of 'em I ever saw thought they knew it
all--better'n country folks.
That isn't the case with me.--Can you explain to me, for instance, what
kind of an implement this is? I have seen one like it before, to be sure,
but the name--
That thing that ye're sittin' on? Why, they calls that a cultivator.
To be sure--a cultivator. Is it used here?
Naw; more's the pity. He lets everything go to hell ... all the land ...
lets it go, the farmer does. A poor man would like to have a bit o'
land--you can't have grain growin' in your beard, you know. But no! He'd
rather let it go to the devil! Nothin' grows excep' weeds an' thistles.
Well, but you can get those out with the cultivator, too. I know that the
Icarians had them, too, in order to weed thoroughly the land that had
Where's them I-ca ... what d'you, call 'em?
The Icarians? In America.
They've got things like that there, too?
What kind of people is them I-I-ca...?
The Icarians? They are not a special people at all, but men of all
nations who have united for a common purpose. They own a considerable
tract of land in America which they cultivate together. They share both
the work and the profits equally. None of them is poor and there are no
poor people among them.
[_Whose expression had become a little more friendly, assumes, during
LOTH'S last speech, his former hostile and suspicious look. Without
taking further notice of LOTH he has, during the last few moments, given
his exclusive attention to his work._] Beast of a scythe!
[_LOTH, still seated, first observes the old man with a quiet smile
and then looks out into the awakening morning._
_Through the gateway are visible far stretches of clover field and
meadow. Between them meanders a brook whose course is marked by
alders and willows. A single mountain peak towers on the horizon. All
about, larks have begun their song, and their uninterrupted trilling
floats, now from near, now from far, into the farm yard._
[_Getting up._] One ought to take a walk. The morning is magnificent.
[_The clatter of wooden shoes is heard. Some one is rapidly coming
down the stairs that lead from the stable loft. It is GUSTE._
[_A rather stout maid-servant. Her neck is bare, as are her arms and legs
below the knee. Her naked feet are stuck in wooden shoes. She carries a
burning lantern._] Good morning father Beipst!
[_Shading her eyes with her hand looks after LOTH through the gate._]
What kind of a feller is that?
[_Embittered._] He can make fools o' beggars ... He can lie like a parson
... Jus' let him tell you his stories. [_He gets up._] Get the
wheelbarrows ready, girl!
[_Who has been washing her legs at the well gets through before
disappearing into the cow stable._] Right away, father Beipst.
[_Returns and gives BEIPST a tip._] There's something for you. A man can
always use that.
[_Thawing at once, quite changed and with sincere companionableness._]
Yes, yes, you're right there, and I thank ye kindly.--I suppose you're
the company of the son-in-law over there? [_Suddenly very voluble._] You
know, if you want to go walkin' out there, you know, toward the hill,
then you want to keep to the left, real close to the left, because to the
right, there's clefts. My son, he used to say, the reason of it was, he
used to say, was because they didn't board the place up right, the miners
didn't. They gets too little pay, he used to say, and then folks does
things just hit or miss, in the shafts you know.--You see? Over yonder?
Always to the left! There's holes on t'other side. It wasn't but only
last year and a butter woman, just as she was, sudden, sunk down in the
earth, I don't know how many fathoms down. Nobody knew whereto. So I'm
tellin' you--go to the left, to the left and you'll be safe.
[_A shot is heard. BEIPST starts up as though he had been struck and
limps out a few paces into the open._
Who, do you think, is shooting so early?
Who would it be excep' that rascal of a boy?
Will Kahl--our neighbour's son here ... You just wait, you! I've seen
him, I tell you. He shoots larks.
Why, you limp!
Yes, the Lord pity me. [_He shakes a threatening fist toward the
fields._] Eh, wait, you ... you...!
What happened to your leg?
Eh? Somethin' got into it.
Do you suffer pain?
[_Grasping his leg._] There's a tugging pain in it, a confounded pain.
Do you see a doctor about it?
Doctors? Eh, you know, they're all monkeys--one like another. Only our
doctor here--he's a mighty good man.
And did he help you?
A little, maybe, when all's said. He kneaded my leg, you see, he squeezed
it, an' he punched it. But no,'t'ain't on that account. He is ... well, I
tell you, he's got compassion on a human bein', that's it. He buys the
medicine an' asks nothin'. An' he'll come to you any time ...
Still, you must have come by that trouble somehow. Or did you always
Not a bit of it!
Then I don't think I quite understand. There must have been some cause
How do I know? [_Once more he raises a menacing fist._] You jus' wait,
you--with your rattling!
[_Appears within his own garden. In his right hand he carries a rifle by
the barrel, his left hand is closed. He calls across._] Good mornin',
_LOTH walks diagonally across the yard up to KAHL. In the meantime
GUSTE as well as another maid-servant named LIESE have each made
ready a wheel-barrow on which lie rakes and pitch-forks. They trundle
their wheel-barrows past BEIPST out into the fields. The latter,
sending menacing glances toward KAHL and making furtive gestures of
rage, shoulders his scythe and limps after them. BEIPST and the maids
[_To KAHL._] Good morning.
D'you want for to see somethin' fine?
[_He stretches his closed hand across the fence._
[_Going nearer._] What have you there?
[_He opens his hand at once._
What? Is it really true--you shoot the larks. You good for nothing! Do
you know that you deserve to be beaten for such mischief?
[_Stares at LOTH for some seconds in stupid amazement. Then, clenching
his fist furtively he says:_] You son of a...!
[_And swinging around, disappears toward the right._
[_For some moments the yard remains empty._]
_HELEN steps from the house door. She wears a light-coloured summer
dress and a large garden hat. She looks all around her, walks a few
paces toward the gate-way, stands still and gazes out. Hereupon she
saunters across the yard toward the right and turns into the path
that leads to the inn. Great bundles of various tea-herbs are slung
across the fence to dry. She stops to inhale their odours. She also
bends downward the lower boughs of fruit trees and admires the low
hanging, red-cheeked apples. When she observes LOTH coming toward her
from the inn, a yet greater restlessness comes over her, so that she
finally turns around and reaches the farm yard before LOTH. Here she
notices that the dove-cote is still closed and goes thither through
the little gate that leads into the orchard. While she is still busy
pulling down the cord which, blown about by the wind, has become
entangled somewhere, she is addressed by LOTH, who has come up in the
Good morning, Miss Krause.
Good morning. See, the wind has blown the cord up there!
Let me help you.
[_He also passes through the little gate, gets the cord down and
opens the dove-cote. The pigeons flutter out._
Thank you so much!
[_Has passed out by the little gate once more and stands there, leaning
against the fence. HELEN is on the other side of it. After a brief
pause._] Do you make a habit of rising so early?
I was just going to ask you the same thing.
I? Oh, no! But after the first night in a strange place it usually
Why does that happen?
I have never thought about it. To what end?
Oh, wouldn't it serve some end?
None, at least, that is apparent and practical.
And so everything that you do or think must have some practical end in
Exactly. Furthermore ...
I would not have thought that of you.
What, Miss Krause?
It was with those very words that, day before yesterday, my stepmother
snatched "The Sorrows of Werther" from my hand.
It is a foolish book.
Oh, don't say that.
Indeed, I must repeat it, Miss Krause. It is a book for weaklings.
That may well be.
How do you come across just that book? Do you quite understand it?
I hope I do--at least, in part. It rests me to read it. [_After a
pause._] But if it _is_ a foolish book, as you say, could you recommend
me a better one?
Read ... well, let me see ... do you know Dahn's "Fight for Rome"?
No, but I'll buy the book now. Does it serve a practical end?
No, but a rational one. It depicts men not as they are but such as, some
day, they ought to be. Thus it sets up an ideal for our imitation.
[_Deeply convinced._] Ah, that is noble. [_A brief pause._] But perhaps
you can tell me something else. The papers talk so much about Zola and
Ibsen. Are they great authors?
In the sense of being artists they are not authors at all, Miss Krause.
They are necessary evils. I have a genuine thirst for the beautiful and I
demand of art a clear, refreshing draught.--I am not ill; and what Zola
and Ibsen offer me is medicine.
[_Quite involuntarily._] Ah, then perhaps, they might help me.
[_Who has become gradually absorbed in his vision of the dewy orchard and
who now yields to it wholly._] How very lovely it is here. Look, how the
sun emerges from behind the mountain peak.--And you have so many apples
in your garden--a rich harvest.
Three-fourths of them will be stolen this year just as last. There is
such great poverty hereabouts.
I can scarcely tell you how deeply I love the country. Alas, the greater
part of _my_ harvest must be sought in cities. But I must try to enjoy
this country holiday thoroughly. A man like myself needs a bit of
sunshine and refreshment more than most people.
[_Sighing._] More than others ... In what respect?
It is because I am in the midst of a hard conflict, the end of which I
will not live to see.
But are we not all engaged in such a conflict?
Surely we are all engaged in some conflict?
Naturally, but in one that may end.
It _may_. Yon are right. But why cannot the other end--I mean the one in
which you are engaged, Mr. Loth?
Your conflict, after all, can only be one for your personal happiness.
And, so far as is humanly speaking possible, the individual can attain
this. My struggle is a struggle for the happiness of all men. The
condition of my happiness would be the happiness of all; nothing could
content me until I saw an end of sickness and poverty, of servitude and
spiritual meanness. I could take my place at the banquet table of life
only as the last of its guests.
[_With deep conviction._] Ah, then you are a truly, truly good, man!
[_Somewhat embarrassed._] There is no merit in my attitude: it is an
inborn one. And I must also confess that my struggle in the interest of
progress affords me the highest satisfaction. And the kind of happiness I
thus win is one that I estimate far more highly than the happiness which
contents the ordinary self-seeker.
Still there are very few people in whom such a taste is inborn.
Perhaps it isn't wholly inborn. I think that we are constrained to it by
the essential wrongness of the conditions of life. Of course, one must
have a sense for that wrongness. There is the point. Now if one has that
sense and suffers consciously under the wrongness of the conditions in
question--why, then one becomes, necessarily, just what I am.
Oh, if it were only clearer to me ... Tell me, what conditions, for
instance, do you call wrong?
Well, it is wrong, for instance, that he who toils in the sweat of his
brow suffers want while the sluggard lives in luxury. It is wrong to
punish murder in times of peace and reward it in times of war. It is
wrong to despise the hangman and yet, as soldiers do, to bear proudly at
one's side a murderous weapon whether it be rapier or sabre. If the
hangman displayed his axe thus he would doubtless be stoned. It is wrong,
finally, to support as a state religion the faith of Christ which teaches
long-suffering, forgiveness and love, and, on the other hand, to train
whole nations to be destroyers of their own kind. These are but a few
among millions of absurdities. It costs an effort to penetrate to the
true nature of all these things: one must begin early.
But how did you succeed in thinking of all this? It seems so simple and
yet one never thinks of it.
In various ways: the course of my own personal development, conversation
with friends, reading and independent thinking. I found out the first
absurdity when I was a little boy. I once told a rather flagrant lie and
my father flogged me most soundly. Shortly thereafter I took a railroad
journey with my father and I discovered that my father lied, too, and
seemed to take the action quite as a matter of course. I was five years
old at that time and my father told the conductor that I was not yet four
in order to secure free transportation for me. Again, our teacher said to
us: be industrious, be honourable and you will invariably prosper in
life. But the man had uttered folly, and I discovered that soon enough.
My father was honourable, honest, and thoroughly upright, and yet a
scoundrel who is alive and rich to-day cheated him of his last few
thousands. And my father, driven by want, had to take employment under
this very scoundrel who owned a large soap factory.
People like myself hardly dare think of such a thing as wrong. At most
one feels it to be so in silence. Indeed, one feels it often--and then--a
kind of despair takes hold of one.
I recall one absurdity which presented itself to me as such with especial
clearness. I had always believed that murder is punished as a crime under
whatever circumstances. After the incident in question, however, it grew
to be clear to me that only the milder forms of murder are unlawful.
How is that possible?
My father was a boilermaster. We lived hard by the factory and our
windows gave on the factory yard. I saw a good many things there. There
was a workingman, for instance, who had worked in the factory for five
years. He began to have a violent cough and to lose flesh ... I recall
how my father told us about the man at table. His name was Burmeister and
he was threatened with pulmonary consumption if he worked much longer in
the soap factory. The doctor had told him so. But the man had eight
children and, weak and emaciated as he was, he couldn't find other work
anywhere. And so he _had_ to stay In the soap factory and his employer
was quite self-righteous because he kept him. He seemed to himself an
extraordinarily humane person.--One August afternoon--the heat was
frightful--Burmeister dragged himself across the yard with a wheelbarrow
full of lime. I was just looking out of the window when I noticed him
stop, stop again, and finally pitch over headlong on the cobblestones. I
ran up to him--my father came, other workingmen came up, but he could
barely gasp and his month was filled with blood. I helped carry him into
the house. He was a mass of limy rags, reeking with all kinds of
chemicals. Before we had gotten him into the house, he was dead.
Ah, that is terrible.
Scarcely a week later we pulled his wife out of the river into which the
waste lye of our factory was drained. And, my dear young lady, when one
knows things of that kind as I know them now--believe me--one can find no
rest. A simple little piece of soap, which makes no one else in the world
think of any harm, even a pair of clean, well-cared-for hands are enough
to embitter one thoroughly.
I saw something like that once. And oh, it was frightful, frightful!
What was that?
The son of a workingman was carried in here half-dead. It's about--three
Had he been injured?
Yes, over there in the Bear shaft.
So it was a miner?
Oh, yes. Most of the young men around here go to work in the mines.
Another son of the same man was also a trammer and also met with an
And were they both killed?
Yes, both ... Once the lift broke; the other time it was fire damp.--Old
Beipst has yet a third son and he has gone down to the mine too since
Is it possible? And doesn't the father object?
No, not at all. Only he is even more morose than he used to be. Haven't
you seen him yet?
How could I?
Why, he sat near here this morning, under the gateway.
Oh! So he works on the farm here?
He has been with us for years.
Does he limp?
Yes, quite badly, indeed.
Ah--ha! And what was it that happened to his leg?
That's a delicate subject. You have met Mr. Kahl?... But I must tell you
this story very softly. [_She draws nearer to LOTH._] His father, you
know, was just as silly about hunting as he is. When wandering
apprentices came into his yard he shot at them--sometimes only into the
air in order to frighten them. He had a violent temper too, and
especially when he had been drinking. Well, I suppose Beipst grumbled one
day--he likes to grumble, you know--and so the farmer snatched up his
rifle and fired at him. Beipst, you know, used to be coachman at the
Outrage and iniquity wherever one goes.
[_Growing more uncertain and excited in her speech._] Oh, I've had my own
thoughts often and often ... and I've felt so sick with pity for them
all, for old Beipst and ... When the farmers are so coarse and brutish
like--well, like Streckmann, who--lets his farm hands starve and feeds
sweetmeats to the dogs. I've often felt confused in my mind since I came
home from boarding-school ... I have my burden too!--But I'm talking
nonsense. It can't possibly interest you, and you will only laugh at me
But, my dear Miss Krause, how can you think that? Why should I?
How can you help it? You'll think anyhow: she's no better than the rest
I think ill of no one.
Oh, you can't make me believe that--ever!
But what occasion have I given, you to make you ...
[_Almost in tears._] Oh, don't talk. You despise us; you may be sure that
you do. Why, how can you help despising us--[_tearfully_]--even my
brother-in-law, even me. Indeed, me above all, and you have--oh, you have
truly good reasons for it!
[_She quickly turns her back to LOTH, no longer able to master her
emotion, and disappears through the orchard into the background. LOTH
passes through the little gate and follows her slowly._
[_In morning costume, ridiculously over-dressed, comes out of the house.
Her face is crimson with rage. She screams._] The low-lived hussy! Marie!
Marie!! Under my roof! Out with the brazen hussy!
[_She runs across the yard and disappears in the stable. MRS. SPILLER
appears in the house-door; she is crocheting. From within the stable
resound scolding and howling._
[_Comes out of the stable driving the howling maid before her._] Slut of
a wench!--[_The maid almost screams._]--Git out o' here this minute! Pack
yer things 'n then git out!
[_Catching sight of MRS. SPILLER, hurls her milking stool and pail from
her._] That's your doin'! I'll git even with you!
[_Sobbing, she runs up the stairs to the loft._
[_Joining MRS. KRAUSE._] Why, what did she do?
[_Roughly._] Any o' your business?
[_Passionately, almost weeping._] Yes, it is my business.
[_Coming up quickly._] Dear Miss Helen, it's nothing fit for the ear of a
young lady ...
An' I'd like to know why not! She ain't made o' sugar. The wench lay abed
with the hired man. Now you know it!
[_In a commanding voice._] The maid shall stay for all that!
Good! Then I'll tell father that you spend your nights just the same way
with William Kahl.
[_Strikes her full in the face._] There you got a reminder!
[_Deathly pale, but even more firmly._] And I say the maid shall stay!
Otherwise I'll make it known--you ... with William Kahl ... your cousin,
my betrothed ... I'll tell the whole world.
[_Her assurance breaking down._] Who can say it's so!
I can. For I saw him this morning coming out of your bed-room ...
[_She goes swiftly into the house._
[_MRS. KRAUSE totters, almost fainting. MRS. SPILLER hurries to her
Oh, Madame, Madame!
Sp--iller; the maid c'n ss-stay!
THE CURTAIN FALLS QUICKLY
THE THIRD ACT
_Time: a few minutes after the incident between HELEN and her
step-mother in the yard. The scene is that of the first act._
_Dr. SCHIMMELPFENNIG sits at the table in the foreground to the left.
He is writing a prescription. His slouch hat, cotton gloves and cane
lie on the table before him. He is short and thick-set of figure; his
hair is black and clings in small, firm curls to his head; his
moustache is rather heavy. He wears a black coat after the pattern of
the Jaeger reform garments. He has the habit of stroking or pulling
his moustache almost uninterruptedly; the more excited he is, the
more violent is this gesture. When he speaks to HOFFMANN his
expression is one of enforced equanimity, but a touch of sarcasm
hovers about the corners of his mouth. His gestures, which are
thoroughly natural, are lively, decisive and angular. HOFFMANN walks
up and down, dressed in a silk dressing-gown and slippers. The table
in the background to the right is laid for breakfast: costly
porcelain, dainty rolls, a decanter with rum, etc._
Are you satisfied with my wife's appearance, doctor?
She's looking well enough. Why not?
And do you think that everything will pass favourably?
I hope so.
[_After a pause, with hesitation._] Doctor, I made up my mind--weeks
ago--to ask your advice in a very definite matter as soon as I came here.
[_Who has hitherto talked and written at the same time, lays his pen
aside, arises, and hands HOFFMANN the finished prescription._] Here ... I
suppose you'll have that filled quite soon. [_Taking up his hat, cane and
gloves._] Your wife complains of headaches, and so--[_looking into his
hat and adopting a dry, business-like tone_]--and so, before I forget:
try, if possible, to make it clear to your wife that she is in a measure
responsible for the new life that is to come into the world. I have
already said something to her of the consequences of tight lacing.
Certainly, doctor ... I'll do my very best to make it clear to her that
[_Bowing somewhat awkwardly._] Good morning. [_He is about to go but
stops again._] Ah, yes, you wanted my advice ...
[_He regards HOFFMANN coldly._
If you can spare me a little while ... [_With a touch of affectation._]
You know about the frightful death of my first boy. You were near enough
to watch it. You know also what my state of mind was.--One doesn't
believe it at first, but--time does heal!... And, after all, I have cause
to be grateful now, since it seems that my dearest wish is about to be
fulfilled. You understand that I must do everything, everything--it has
cost me sleepless nights and yet I don't know yet, not even yet, just
what I must do to guard the unborn child from the terrible fate of its
little brother. And that is what I wanted to ask ...
[_Dryly and business-like._] Separation from the mother is the
indispensable condition of a healthy development.
So it is that! Do you mean complete separation?... Is the child not even
to be in the same house with its mother?
Not if you are seriously concerned for the preservation of your child.
And your wealth permits you the greatest freedom of movement in this
Yes, thank God. I have already bought a villa with a very large park in
the neighbourhood of Hirschberg. Only I thought that my wife too ...
[_Pulls at his moustache and stares at the floor. Thoughtfully._] Why
don't you buy a villa somewhere else for your wife?
[_HOFFMANN shrugs his shoulders._
[_As before._] Could you not, perhaps, engage the interest of your
sister-in-law for the task of bringing up this child?
If you knew, doctor, how many obstacles ... and, after all, she is a
young, inexperienced girl, and a mother _is_ a mother.
You have my opinion. Good morning.
[_Overwhelming the doctor with excessive courtesy._] Good morning. I am
extremely grateful to you ...
[_Both withdraw through the middle door._
_HELEN enters. Her handkerchief is pressed to her mouth; she is
sobbing, beside herself, and lets herself fall on the sofa in the
foreground to the left. After a few moments, HOFFMANN reenters, his
hands full of newspapers._
Why, what is that? Tell me, sister, are things to go on this way much
longer? Since I came here not a day has passed on which I haven't seen
Oh!--what do _you_ know? If you had any sense for such things you'd be
surprised that you ever saw me when I didn't cry!
That isn't clear to me.
Oh, but it is to me!
Look here, something must have happened!
[_Jumps up and stamps her foot._] Ugh ... but I won't bear it any longer
... it's got to stop! I won't endure such things any more! I don't see
why ... I ...
[_Her sobs choke her._
Won't you tell me at least what the trouble is, so that I ...
[_Bursting out with renewed passion._] I don't care what happens to me!
Nothing worse _could_. I've got a drunkard for a father, a beast--with
whom his ... his own daughter isn't safe.--An adulterous step-mother who
wants to turn me over to her lover ... And this whole life.--No, I don't
see that anyone can force me to be bad in spite of myself. I'm going
away! I'll run away! And if the people here won't let me go, then ...
rope, knife, gun ... I don't care! I don't want to take to drinking
brandy like my sister.
[_Frightened, grasps her arm._] Nellie, keep still, I tell you; keep
still about that.
I don't care; I don't care one bit! I ... I'm ashamed of it all to the
very bottom of my soul. I wanted to learn something, to be something, to
have a chance--and what am I now?
[_Who has not released her arm, begins gradually to dram the girl over
toward the sofa. The tone of his voice now takes on an excessive
softness, an exaggerated, vibrant gentleness._] Nellie! Ah, I know right
well that you have many things to suffer here. But be calm...! You need
not tell one who knows. [_He puts his right hand caressingly upon her
shoulder and brings his face close to hers._] I can't bear to see you
weep. Believe me--it hurts me. But don't, don't see things in a worse
light than is needful--; and then: have you forgotten, that we are
both--you and I--so to speak--in the same position?--I have gotten into
this peasant atmosphere--do I fit into it? As little as you do yourself,
If my--dear little mother had suspected this--when she ... when she
directed--that I should be--educated at Herrnhut! If she had rather ...
rather left me at home, then at least ... at least I wouldn't have known
anything else, and I would have grown up in this corruption, But now ...
[_Has gently forced HELEN down upon the sofa and now sits, pressed close,
beside her. In his consolations the sensual element betrays itself more