Part 4 out of 12
[_She whispers into HELEN'S ear._
My brother-in-law ordered that the doctor be sent for at any sign of--
Oh--m--dear Miss Helen--m--she doesn't really want a doctor. These
doctors--m--oh, these doctors--m--with God's help ...
_MIELE comes from the house._
Miele, go at once for Dr. Schimmelpfennig!
[_From the window, arrogantly._] Miele! You come up here!
[_In a tone of command._] Miele, you go for the doctor! [_MIELE withdraws
into the house._] Well, then I must go myself ...
[_She goes into the house and comes back out at once carrying her
It'll go wrong--m--If you call the doctor, dear Miss Helen,--m--it will
surely go wrong!
_HELEN passes her by. MRS. SPILLER withdraws into the house, shaking
her head. As HELEN turns at the driveway KAHL is standing at the
[_Calls out to HELEN._] What's the matter over at your place?
_HELEN does not stop, nor does she deign to notice or answer KAHL._
[_Laughing._] I guess ye got a pig killin'?
THE FIFTH ACT
_The same room, as in the first act. Time: toward two o'clock in the
morning. The room is in complete darkness. Through the open middle
door light penetrates into it from the illuminated hall. The light
also falls clearly upon the wooden stairway that leads to the upper
floor. The conversation in this act--with very few exceptions--is
carried on in a muffled tone._
_EDWARD enters through the middle door, carrying a light. He lights
the hanging lamp (it is a gas lamp) over the corner table. While he
is thus employed, LOTH _also enters by the middle door._
O Lord! Such goin's on! It'd take a monster to be able to close a eye
I didn't even try to sleep. I have been writing.
You don't say! [_He succeeds in lighting the lamp._] There! Well, sure, I
guess it's hard enough, too ... Maybe you'd like to have paper and ink,
Perhaps that would be ... If you would be so good, then, Mr. Edward?
[_Placing pen and ink on the table._] I'm always thinkin' that any honest
fellow has got to get all the work there's in every bone for every dirty
penny. You can't even get your rest o' nights. [_More and more
confidentially._] But this crew here! They don't do one thing--a lazy,
worthless crew, a--... I suppose, sir, that you've got to be at it early
and late too, like all honest folks, for your bit o' bread.
I wish I didn't have to.
Me too, you betcher.
I suppose Miss Helen is with her sister?
Yes, sir, an', honestly, she's a good girl, she is; hasn't budged since
[_Looking at his watch._] The pains began at eleven o'clock in the
morning. So they've already lasted fifteen hours--fifteen long hours--!
Lord, yes!--And that's what they calls the weaker sex. But she's just
And is Mr. Hoffmann upstairs, too?
Yes, an' I can tell you, he's goin' on like a woman.
Well, I suppose it isn't very easy to have to watch that.
You're right there, indeed. Dr. Schimmelpfennig came just now. There's a
man for you: rough as rough can be--but sugar ain't nothing to his real
feelings. But just tell me what's become of little, old Berlin in all
[_He interrupts himself with a_ Gee-rusa-lem! _as HOFFMANN and the
DOCTOR are seen coming down the stairs._
_HOFFMANN and DR. SCHIMMELPFENNIG enter._
Surely--you will stay with us from now on.
Yes, I suppose I will stay now.
That's a very, very great consolation to me.--Will you have a glass of
wine? Surely you'll drink a glass of wine, Doctor?
If you want to do something for me, have a cup of coffee prepared.
With pleasure. Edward! Coffee for the doctor! [_EDWARD withdraws._] Are
you...? Are you satisfied with the way things are going?
So long as your wife's strength keeps up there is, at all events, no
direct danger. But why didn't you call in the young midwife? I remember
having recommended her to you.
My mother-in-law...! What is one to do? And, to be frank with you, my
wife has no confidence in the young woman either.
But your ladies place confidence in this old fossil? Well, I hope they'll
... And I suppose you would like to go back upstairs?
Yes, honestly, I can't get much rest down here.
It would be better undoubtedly if you were to go somewhere--out of the
With the best will in the world, I--. [_LOTH arises from the sofa in the
dim foreground and approaches the two._] Hallo, Loth, there you are too!
[_Surprised in the extreme._] Well, I'll be--!
I heard that you were here. I would have looked you up to-morrow without
[_They shake hands cordially. HOFFMANN takes the opportunity to mash
down a glass of brandy at the side-board and then to creep back
upstairs on tiptoe._
So you've evidently forgotten--ha, ha, ha--that ridiculous old affair?
[_He lays aside his hat and cane._
Long ago, Schimmel!
Well, so have I, as you can well imagine. [_They shake hands once more._]
I've had so few pleasant surprises in this hole, that this one seems
positively queer to me. And it is strange that we should meet just here.
And you faded clear out of sight. Otherwise I'd have routed you out long
Oh, I just dived below the surface like a seal. Made deep-sea
investigations. In about a year and a half I hope to emerge once more. A
man must be financially independent--do you know that?--In order to
achieve anything useful.
So you, too, are making money here?
Naturally and as much as possible. What else is there to do here?
You might have let some one hear from you!
I beg your pardon. But if I had been heard from, I would have heard from
you fellows--and I absolutely didn't want to hear. Nothingnothing. That
would simply have kept me from exploiting my diggings here.
_The two men walk slowly up and down the room._
I see. But then you mustn't be surprised to hear that ... well, they all,
without an exception, really gave you up as hopeless.
That's like them--the scamps! They'll be made to take notice.
Schimmel--otherwise the "rough husk"!
I wish you had had to live here among the farmers for six years.
Hellhounds--every one of them.
I can imagine that.--But how in the world did you get to Witzdorf?
The way such things do happen! You remember I had to skin out from Jena
Was that before my crash?
Yes, a short time after we'd given up living together. So I took up
medicine at Zuerich, first simply so as to have something against a time
of need. But then the thing began to interest me, and now I'm a doctor,
heart and soul.
And about this place. How did you get here?
Very simply. When I got through I said to myself: first of all you've got
to have a sufficient pile. I thought of America, South and North America,
of Africa, Australia and the isles of the sea ... In the end it occurred
to me, however, that my escapade had become outlawed; and so I made up my
mind to creep back into the old trap.
And how about your Swiss examinations?
Why, I simply had to go through the whole rigmarole once more.
Man! You passed the state medical examination twice over?
Yes, luckily I then discovered this fat pasture here.
Your toughness is certainly enviable.
All very well, unless one collapses suddenly.--Well, it wouldn't matter
so greatly after all.
Have you a very large practice?
Oh, yes. Occasionally I don't get to bed till five o'clock in the
morning. And at seven my consultation hour begins again.
_EDWARD comes in, bringing coffee._
[_Sitting down at the table, to EDWARD._] Thank you, Edward.--[_To
LOTH._]--The way I swill coffee is--uncanny.
You'd better give that up.
What is one to do? [_He takes small swallows._] As I told you awhile
ago--another year; then--all this stops. At least, I hope so.
Don't you intend to practice after that at all?
Don't think so. No--no more. [_He pushes back the tray with the dishes
and wipes his mouth._] By the way, let's see your hand. [_LOTH holds up
both his hands for inspection._] I see. You've taken no wife to your
bosom yet. Haven't found one, I suppose. I remember you always wanted
primaeval vigour in the woman of your choice on account of the soundness
of the strain. And you're quite right, too. If one takes a risk, it ought
to be a good one. Or maybe you've become less stringent in that respect.
Not a bit! You may take your oath.
I wish the farmers around here had such notions. But they're in a
wretched condition--degeneration along the whole line ... [_He has half
taken his cigar case from his inner pocket but lets it slip back and
arises as a sound penetrates through the door which is only ajar._] Wait
a moment! [_He goes on tiptoe to the door leading to the hall and
listens. A door is heard to open and close, and for several moments the
moans of the woman in labour are audible. The DOCTOR, turning to LOTH,
says softly._] Excuse me!
[_And goes out._
_For several seconds, while the slamming of doors is heard and the
sound of people running up and down the stairs, LOTH paces the room.
Then he sits down in the arm-chair in the foreground, right. HELEN
slips in and throws her arms about LOTH, who has not observed her
coming from, behind._
[_Looking around and embracing her in turn._] Nellie! [_He drams her down
upon his knee in spite of her gentle resistance. HELEN weeps under his
kisses._] Don't cry, Nellie! Why are you crying so?
Why? Oh, if I knew!... I keep thinking that I won't find you here. Just
now I had such a fright ...
Because I heard you go out of your room--Oh, and my sister--we poor, poor
women!--oh, she's suffering too much!
The pain is soon forgotten and there is no danger of death.
Oh, but she is praying so to die. She wails and wails: Do let me die!...
[_She jumps up and slips into the conservatory._
[_On entering._] I do really wish now that that little woman upstairs
would hurry a bit! [_He sits down beside the table, takes out his cigar
case again, extracts a cigar from it and lays the latter down on the
table._] You'll come over to my house afterward, won't you? I have a
necessary evil with two horses standing out there in which we can drive
straight over. [_He taps his cigar against the edge of the table._] Oh,
the holy state of matrimony! O Lord! [_Striking a match._] So you're
still pure, free, pious and merry?
You might better have waited a few more days with that question.
[_His cigar is lit now._] Oho! I see!--[_laughing_]--so you've caught on
to my tricks at last!
Are you still so frightfully pessimistic in regard to women?
_Fright_fully! [_Watching the drifting smoke of his cigar._] In other
years I was a pessimist, so to speak, by presentiment....
Have you had very special experiences in the meantime?
That's just it. My shingle reads: Specialist for Diseases of Women.--The
practice of medicine, I assure you, makes a man terribly wise ...
terribly ... sane ...; it's a specific against all kinds of delusions.
[_Laughing._] Well, then we can fall back into our old tone at once. I
want you to know ... I haven't caught on to your tricks at all. Less than
ever now ... But I am to understand, I suppose, that you've exchanged
your old hobby?
The question of woman was in those days in a certain way your pet
I see! And why should I have exchanged it?
If you think even worse of women than ...
[_Somewhat aroused. He gets up and walks to and fro while he is
speaking._] I don't think evil of women.--Not a bit!--I think evil only
of marrying ... of marriage ... of marriage and--at most, of men ... The
woman question, you think, has ceased to interest me? What do you suppose
I've worked here for, during six years, like a cart horse? Surely in
order to devote at last all the power that is in me to the solution of
that question. Didn't you know that from the beginning?
How do you suppose I could have known it?
Well, as I said ... and I've already gathered a lot of very significant
material that will be of some service to me! Sh! I've got the bad habit
of raising my voice. [_He falls silent, listens, goes to the door and
comes back._] But what took you among these gold farmers?
I would like to study the local conditions.
[_In a repressed tone._] What a notion! [_Still more softly._] I can give
you plenty of material there too.
To be sure. You must be thoroughly informed as to the conditions here.
How do things look among the families around here?
Miserable! There's nothing but drunkenness, gluttony, inbreeding and, in
consequence,--degeneration along the whole line.
With exceptions, surely?
[_Disquieted._] Didn't the temptation ever come to you to ... to marry a
daughter of one of these Witzdorf gold farmers?
The devil! Man, what do you take me for? You might as well ask whether I
[_Very pale._] But why ... why?
Because ... Anything wrong with you?
[_He regards LOTH steadily for several moments._
Certainly not. What should be wrong?
[_Has suddenly become very thoughtful. He stops in his walking suddenly
and whistles softly, glances at LOTH and then mutters to himself._]
You act very strangely all of a sudden.
[_He listens carefully and then leaves, the room quickly by the
[_Comes at the end of several seconds from the middle door. She cries
out._] Alfred!--Alfred!... You're here. Oh, thank God!
Well, dear, did you suppose I had run away?
[_They embrace each other._
[_Bends back. With unmistakable terror in her face._] Alfred!
What is it, dearest?
Nothing, nothing ...
But there must be something.
You seemed so cold ... Oh, I have such foolish fancies....
How are things going upstairs?
The doctor is quarreling with the midwife.
Isn't it going to end soon?
How do I know? But when it ends, when it ends--then....
What then?... Tell me, please, what were you going to say?
Then we ought soon to go away from here. At once! Oh, right away!
If you think that would really be best, Nellie--
It is! it is! We mustn't wait! It's the best thing--for you and for me.
If you don't take me soon, you'll just leave me quite, and then, and then
... It would just be all over with me.
How distrustful you are, Nellie.
Don't say that, dearest. Anybody would trust you, would just have to
trust you!... When I am your own, oh, then ... then, you surely wouldn't
leave me. [_As if beside herself._] I beseech you! Don't go away! Only
don't leave me! Don't--go, Alfred! If you go away without me, I would
just have to die, just have to die!
But you are strange!... And you say you're not distrustful! Or perhaps
they're worrying you, torturing you terribly here--more than ever ... At
all events we'll leave this very night. I am ready. And so, as soon as
you are--we can go.
[_Falling around his neck with a cry of joyous gratitude._]
[_She kisses him madly and hurries out._
_DR. SCHIMMELPFENNIG comes in through the middle door and catches a
glimpse of HELEN disappearing into the conservatory._
Who was that?--Ah, yes! [_To himself._] Poor thing!
[_He sits down beside the table with a sigh, finds his old cigar,
throws it aside, takes a new cigar from the case and starts to knock
it gently against the edge of the table. Thoughtfully he looks away
[_Watching him._] That's just the way you used to loosen every cigar
before smoking it eight years ago.
It's possible--[_When he has lit and begun to smoke the cigar._] Listen
Yes; what is it?
I take it that, so soon as the affair is over, you'll come along with me.
Can't be done. I'm sorry.
Once in a while, you know, one does feel like talking oneself out
I feel that need quite as much, as you do. But you can see from just that
how utterly out of my power it is to go ...
But suppose I give you my emphatic and, in a way, solemn assurance that
there is a specific, an extremely important matter that I'd like--no,
that I must discuss with you to-night, Loth!
Queer! You don't expect me to take that in deadly earnest. Surely
not!--You've waited to discuss that matter so many years and now it can't
wait one more day? You know me--I'm not pretending.
So I am right! Well, well ...
[_He gets up and walks about._
What are you right about?
[_Standing still before LOTH _and looking straight into his eyes._] So
there is really something between you and Helen Krause?
How in the world did you fall in with this family?
How do you know that, Schimmel?
It wasn't _so_ hard to guess.
Well then, for heaven's sake, don't say a word, because ...
So you're quite regularly betrothed?
Call it that. At all events, we're agreed.
But what I want to know is: how did you fall in with this particular
Hoffmann's an old college friend of mine. Then, too, he was a
member--though only a corresponding one--of my colonisation society.
I heard about that business at Zuerich.--So he was associated with you.
That explains the wretched half-and-half creature that he is.
That describes him, no doubt.
He isn't even _that_, really.--But, look here, Loth! Is that your honest
intention? I mean this thing with the Krause girl.
Of course it is! Can you doubt it? You don't think me such a scoundrel--?
Very well! Don't exert yourself! You've probably changed in all this long
time. And why not? It needn't be entirely a disadvantage. A little bit of
humour couldn't harm you. I don't see why one must look at all things in
that damnably serious way.
I take things more seriously than ever. [_He gets up and walks up and
down with SCHIMMELPFENNIG, always keeping slightly behind the latter._]
You can't possibly know, and I can't possibly explain to you, what this
thing means to me.
Man, you have no notion of the condition I'm in. One doesn't know it by
simply longing for it. If one did, one would simply go mad with yearning.
Let the devil try to understand how you fellows come by this senseless
You're not safe against an attack yourself yet.
I'd like to see that!
You talk as a blind man would of colour.
I wouldn't give a farthing for that bit of intoxication. Ridiculous! And
to build a life-long union on such a foundation. I'd rather trust a heap
of shifting sand.
Intoxication! Pshaw! To call it that is simply to show your utter
blindness to it. Intoxication is fleeting. I've had such spells, I admit.
This happens to be something different.
I'm perfectly sober all through it. Do you imagine that I surround my
darling with a kind of a--well, how shall I put it--a kind of an aureole?
Not In the least. She lias her faults; she isn't remarkably beautiful, at
least--well, she's certainly not exactly homely either. Judging her quite
objectively--of course it's entirely a matter of taste--I haven't seen
such a sweet girl before in my life. So when you talk of mere
intoxication--nonsense! I am as sober as possible. But, my friend, this
is the remarkable thing: I simply can't imagine myself without her any
longer. It seems to me like an amalgam, as when two metals are so
intimately welded together that you can't say any longer, here's the one,
there's the other. And it all seems so utterly inevitable. In
short--maybe I'm talking rot--or what I say may seem rot to you, but so
much is certain: a man who doesn't know _that_ is a kind of cool-blooded
fishy creature. That's the kind of creature I was up till now, and that's
the kind of wretched thing you are still.
That's a very complete set of symptoms. Queer how you fellows always
slide up to the very ears into the particular things that you've long ago
rejected theoretically--like yourself into marriage. As long as I've
known you, you've struggled with this unhappy mania for marriage.
It's instinct with me, sheer instinct. God knows, I can wriggle all I
please--there it is.
When all's said and done one can fight down even an instinct.
Certainly, if there's a good reason, why not?
Is there any good reason for marrying?
I should say there is. It has a purpose; it has for me! You don't know
how I've succeeded in struggling along hitherto. I don't want to grow
sentimental. Perhaps I didn't feel it quite so keenly either; perhaps I
wasn't so clearly conscious of it as I am now, that in all my endeavour I
had taken on something desolate, something machine-like. No spirit, no
fire, no life! Heaven knows whether I had any faith left! And all that
has come back to me to-day--with such strange fullness, such primal
energy, such joy ... Pshaw, what's the use ... You don't understand.
The various things you fellows need to keep you going--faith, love, hope.
I consider all that trash. The thing is simply this: humanity lies in its
death throes and we're merely trying to make the agony as bearable as we
can by administering narcotics.
Is that your latest point of view?
It's five or six years old by this time and I see no reason to change it.
I congratulate you on it.
_A long pause ensues._
[_After several disquieted and unsuccessful beginnings._] The trouble is
just this. I feel that I'm responsible ... I absolutely owe you an
elucidation. I don't believe that you will be able to marry Helen Krause.
[_Frigidly._] Oh, is that what you think?
Yes, that's my opinion. There are obstacles present which just you would
Look here! Don't for heaven's sake have any scruples on that account. The
conditions, as a matter of fact, aren't so complicated as all that. At
bottom they're really terribly simple.
Simply terrible, you'd better say.
I was referring simply to the obstacles.
So was I, very largely. But take it all in all, I can't imagine that you
really know the conditions as they are.
Please, Schimmel, express yourself more clearly.
You must absolutely have dropped the chief demand which you used to make
in regard to marriage, although you did give me to understand that you
laid as much weight as ever on the propagation of a race sound in mind
Dropped my demand...? Dropped it? But why should I?
I see. Then there's nothing else left me but to ... Then you don't know
the conditions here. You do not know, for instance, that Hoffmann had a
son who perished through alcoholism at the age of three.
Wha ... what d'you say?
I'm sorry, Loth, but I've got to tell you. You can do afterward as you
please. But the thing was no joke. They were visiting here just as they
are now. They sent for me--half an hour too late. The little fellow had
bled to death long before I arrived.
_LOTH drinks in the DOCTOR'S _words with every evidence of profound
and terrible emotion._
The silly little chap grabbed for the vinegar bottle, thinking his
beloved rum was in it. The bottle fell and the child tumbled on the
broken glass. Down here, you see, the _vena saphena_, was completely
Whose, _whose_ child was that?
The child of Hoffmann and of the same woman who again, up there ... And
she drinks too, drinks to the point of unconsciousness, drinks whatever
she can get hold of!
So it's not, it's not inherited from Hoffmann?
Not at all. That's the tragic aspect of the man! He suffers under it as
much as he is capable of suffering. To be sure, he knew that he was
marrying into a family of dipsomaniacs. The old farmer simply spends his
life in the tavern.
Then, to be sure--I understand many things--No, everything, rather ...
everything! [_After a heavy silence._] Then her life here, Helen's life,
is a ... how shall I express it? I have no words for it; it's ...
Utterly horrible. I can judge of that. And I understood from the
beginning how you should cling to her. But, as I said ...
It's enough. I understand ... But doesn't...? Couldn't one perhaps
persuade Hoffmann to do something? She ought to be removed from all this
You don't know him. I don't believe that he has ruined her already, but
he has ruined her reputation even now.
[_Flaring up._] If that's true, I'll murder...! D'you really believe
that? Do you think Hoffmann capable...?
Of anything! I think him capable of anything that might contribute to his
Then she is--the purest creature that ever breathed ...
_LOTH slowly takes up his hat and cane and hangs his mallet over his
What do you think of doing, Loth?
... I mustn't meet her ...
So you're determined?
Determined to what?
To break the connection.
How is it possible for me to be other than determined?
I may add, as a physician, that cases are known in which such inherited
evils have been suppressed. And of course you would give your children a
Such cases may be known.
And the chances are not so small but that ...
That kind of thing can't help me, Schimmel. There are just three
possibilities in this affair: Either I marry her and then ... no, that
way out simply doesn't exist. Or--the traditional bullet. Of course, that
would mean rest, at least. But we haven't reached that point yet awhile;
can't indulge in that luxury just yet. And so: live! fight!--Farther,
farther! [_His glance falls on the table and he observes the
writing-materials that have been placed there by EDWARD. He sits down,
hesitates and says:_] And yet...?
I promise you that I'll represent the situation to her as clearly as
Yes, yes! You see--I can't do differently. [_He writes, places his paper
in an envelope and addresses it. Then he arises and shakes hands with
SCHIMMELPFENNIG._] For the rest--I depend on you.
You're coming over to my house, aren't, you? Let my coachman drive you
Look here! Oughtn't one to try, at least, to get her out of the power of
this ... this person? ... As things are she is sure to become his victim.
My dear, good fellow! I'm sorry for you. But shall I give you a bit of
advice? Don't rob her of the--little that you still leave her.
[_With a deep sigh._] Maybe you're right--perhaps certainly.
_Hasty steps are heard descending the stairs. In the next moment
HOFFMANN rushes in._
Doctor, I beg you, for heaven's sake ... she is fainting ... the pains
have stopped ... won't you at last ...
I'm coming up. [_To LOTH significantly._] We'll see each other later. Mr.
Hoffmann, I must request you ... any interference or disturbance might
prove fatal ... I would much prefer to have you stay here.
You ask a great deal, but ... well!
No more than is right.
_HOFFMANN remains behind._
[_Observing LOTH._] I'm just trembling in every limb from the excitement.
Tell me, are you leaving?
Now in the middle of the night?
I'm only going as far as Schimmelpfennig's.
Ah, yes. Well ... as things have shaped themselves, it's of course no
pleasure staying with us any longer ... So, good luck!
I thank you for your hospitality.
And how about that plan of yours?
I mean that essay of yours, that economic description of our district. I
ought to say ... in fact, as a friend, I would beg of you as insistently
as possible ...
Don't worry about that any more. I'll be far away from here by to-morrow.
That is really--
[_He interrupts himself._
Kind of you, you were going to say.
Oh, I don't know. Well, in a certain respect, yes! And anyhow you must
forgive me; I'm so frightfully upset. Just count on me. Old friends are
always the best! Good-bye, good-bye.
[_He leaves through the middle door._
[_Before going to the door, turns around once more with a long glance as
if to imprint the whole room on his memory. Then to himself:_] I suppose
I can go now ...
[_After a last glance he leaves._
_The room remains empty for some seconds. The sound of muffled voices
and the noise of footfalls is heard. Then HOFFMANN appears. As soon
as he has closed the door behind him, he takes out his note-book and
runs over some account with exaggerated calm. He interrupts himself,
listens, becomes restless again, advances to the door and listens
there. Suddenly some one runs down the stair and HELEN bursts in._
[_Still without._] Brother! [_At the door._] Brother!
What's the _matter_?
Be brave: still-born!
O my God!
[_He rushes out._
_She looks about her and calls softly:_ Alfred! Alfred! _As she
receives no answer, she calls out again more quickly:_ Alfred!
Alfred! _She has hurried to the door of the conservatory through
which she gazes anxiously. She goes into the conservatory, but
reappears shortly._ Alfred! _Her disquiet increases. She peers out of
the window._ Alfred! _She opens the window and mounts a chair that
stands before it. At this moment there resounds clearly from the yard
the shouting of the drunken farmer, her father, who is coming home
from the inn,_ Hay-hee! Ain' I a han'some feller? Ain' I got a
fine-lookin' wife? Ain' I got a couple o' han'some gals? Hay-hee!
_HELEN utters a short cry and runs, like a hunted creature, toward
the middle door. From there she discovers the letter which LOTH has
left lying on thee table. She runs to it, tears it open, feverishly
takes in the contents, of which she audibly utters separate words._
"Insuperable!" ... "Never again." ... _She lets the letter fall and
sways._ It's over! _She steadies herself, holds her head with both
hands and cries out in brief and piercing despair._ It's over! _She
rushes out through the--middle door. The farmer's voice without,
drawing nearer._ Hay-hee! Ain' the farm mine? Ain' I got a han'some
wife? Ain' I a han'some feller? _HELEN, still seeking LOTH
half-madly, comes from the conservatory and meets EDWARD, who has
come to fetch something from HOFFMANN'S room. She addresses him:_
Edward! _He answers:_ Yes, Miss Krause. _She continues:_ I'd like to
... like to ... Dr. Loth ... _EDWARD answers:_ Dr. Loth drove away in
Dr. Schimmelpfennig's carriage. _He disappears into HOFFMANN'S room._
True! _HELEN cries out and holds herself erect with difficulty. In
the next moment a desperate energy takes hold of her. She runs to the
foreground and seizes the hunting knife with its belt which is
fastened to the stag's antlers above the sofa. She hides the weapon
and stays quietly in the dark foreground until EDWARD, coming from
HOFFMANN'S room, has disappeared through the middle door. The
farmer's voice resounds more clearly from moment to moment._ Hay-hee!
Ain' I a han'some feller? _At this sound, as at a signal, HELEN
starts and runs, in her turn, into HOFFMANN'S room. The main room is
empty but one continues to hear the farmer's voice:_ Ain' I got the
finest teeth? Ain' I got a fine farm? _MIELE comes through the middle
door and looks searchingly about. She calls:_ Miss Helen! Miss Helen!
_Meanwhile the farmer's voice:_ The money 'sh mi-ine! _Without
further hesitation MIELE has disappeared into HOFFMANN'S room, the
door of which she leaves open. In the next moment she rushes out with
every sign of insane terror. Screaming she spins around
twice--thrice--screaming she flies through the middle door. Her
uninterrupted screaming, softening as it recedes, is audible for
several seconds. Last there is heard the opening and resonant
slamming of the heavy house door, the tread of the farmer stumbling
about in the hall, and his coarse, nasal, thick-tongued drunkard's
voice echoes through the room:_ Hay-hee! Ain' I got a couple o'
_I DEDICATE THIS DRAMA TO MY FATHER
You, dear father, know what feelings lead me to dedicate this work to
you, and I am not called upon to analyse them here.
Your stories of my grandfather, who in his young days sat at the
loom, a poor weaver like those here depicted, contained the germ of
my drama. Whether it possesses the vigour of life or is rotten at the
core, it is the best, "so poor a man as Hamlet is" can offer.
COMPLETE LIST OF CHARACTERS
DREISSIGER, _fustian manufacturer._
PFEIFER, _manager in DREISSIGER'S employment._
NEUMANN, _cashier in DREISSIGER'S employment._
AN APPRENTICE _in DREISSIGER'S employment._
JOHN, _coachman in DREISSIGER'S employment._
A MAID _in DREISSIGER'S employment._
WEINHOLD, _tutor to DREISSIGER'S sons._
HEIDE, _Police Superintendent._
A COMMERCIAL TRAVELLER.
HORNIG, _rag dealer._
FRITZ, EMMA'S _son (four years old)._
LUISE, GOTTLIEB'S _wife._
MIELCHEN, _their daughter (six years old)._
A WEAVER'S WIFE.
_A number of weavers, young and old, of both sexes._
The action passes in the Forties, at Kaschbach, Peterswaldau and
Langenbielau, in the Eulengebirge.
THE FIRST ACT
_A large whitewashed room on the ground floor of DREISSIGER'S house
at Peterswaldau, where the weavers deliver their finished webs and
the fustian is stored. To the left are uncurtained windows, in the
back mall there is a glass door, and to the right another glass door,
through which weavers, male and female, and children, are passing in
and out. All three walls are lined with shelves for the storing of
the fustian. Against the right wall stands a long bench, on which a
number of weavers have already spread out their cloth. In the order
of arrival each presents his piece to be examined by PFEIFER,
DREISSIGER'S manager, who stands, with compass and magnifying-glass,
behind a large table, on which the web to be inspected is laid. When
PFEIFER has satisfied himself, the weaver lays the fustian on the
scale, and an office apprentice tests its weight. The same boy stores
the accepted pieces on the shelves. PFEIFER calls out the payment due
in each case to NEUMANN, the cashier, who is seated at a small
_It is a sultry day towards the end of May. The clock is on the
stroke of twelve. Most of the waiting work-people have the air of
standing before the bar of justice, in torturing expectation of a
decision that means life or death to them. They are marked too by the
anxious timidity characteristic of the receiver of charity, who has
suffered many humiliations, and, conscious that he is barely
tolerated, has acquired the habit of self-effacement. Add to this a
rigid expression on every face that tells of constant, fruitless
brooding. There is a general resemblance among the men. They have
something about them of the dwarf, something of the schoolmaster. The
majority are flat-breasted, short-minded, sallow, and poor
looking--creatures of the loom, their knees bent with much silting.
At a, first glance the women show fewer typical traits. They look
over-driven, worried, reckless, whereas the men still make some show
of a pitiful self-respect; and their clothes are ragged, while the
men's are patched and mended. Some of the young girls are not without
a certain charm, consisting in a wax-like pallor, a slender figure,
and large, projecting, melancholy eyes._
[_Counting out money._] Comes to one and seven-pence halfpenny.
[_About thirty, emaciated, takes up the money with trembling fingers._]
Thank you, sir.
[_Seeing that she does not move on._] Well, something wrong this time,
[_Agitated, imploringly._] Do you think I might have a few pence in
advance, sir? I need it that bad.
And I need a few pounds. If it was only a question of needing it--!
[_Already occupied in counting out another weaver's money, gruffly._]
It's Mr. Dreissiger who settles about pay in advance.
Couldn't I speak to Mr. Dreissiger himself, then, sir?
[_Now manager, formerly weaver. The type is unmistakable, only he is well
fed, well dressed, clean shaven; also takes snuff copiously. He calls out
roughly._] Mr. Dreissiger would have enough to do if he had to attend to
every trifle himself. That's what we are here for. [_He measures, and
then examines through the magnifying-glass._] Mercy on us! what a
draught! [_Puts a thick muffler round his neck._] Shut the door, whoever
[_Loudly to PFEIFER._] You might as well talk to stocks and stones.
That's done!--Weigh! [_The weaver places his web on the scales._] If you
only understood your business a little better! Full of lumps again.... I
hardly need to look at the cloth to see them. Call yourself a weaver, and
"draw as long a bow" as you've done there!
_BECKER has entered. A young, exceptionally powerfully-built weaver;
offhand, almost bold in manner. PFEIFER, NEUMANN, and the APPRENTICE
exchange looks of mutual understanding as he comes in._
Devil take it! This is a sweatin' job, and no mistake.
[_In a low voice._] This blazin' heat means rain.
[_OLD BAUMERT forces his way in at the glass door on the right,
through which the crowd of weavers can be seen, standing shoulder to
shoulder, waiting their turn. The old man stumbles forward and lays
his bundle on the bench, beside BECKER'S. He sits down by it, and
wipes the sweat from his face._
A man has a right to a rest after that.
Rest's better than money.
Yes, but we _needs_ the money too. Good mornin' to you, Becker!
Mornin', father Baumert! Goodness knows how long we'll have to stand here
That don't matter. What's to hinder a weaver waitin' for an hour, or for
a day? What else is he there for?
Silence there! We can't hear our own voices.
[_In a low voice._] This is one of his bad days.
[_To the weaver standing before him._] How often have I told you that you
must bring cleaner cloth? What sort of mess is this? Knots, and straw,
and all kinds of dirt.
It's for want of a new picker, sir.
[_Has weighed the piece._] Short weight, too.
I never saw such weavers. I hate to give out the yarn to them. It was
another story in my day! I'd have caught it finely from my master for
work like that. The business was carried on in different style then. A
man had to know his trade--that's the last thing that's thought of
nowadays. Reimann, one shilling.
But there's always a pound allowed for waste.
I've no time. Next man!--What have you to show?
[_Lays his web on the table. While PFEIFER is examining it, he goes close
up to him; eagerly in a low tone._] Beg pardon, Mr. Pfeifer, but I wanted
to ask you, sir, if you would perhaps be so very kind an' do me the
favour an' not take my advance money off this week's pay.
[_Measuring and examining the texture; jeeringly._] Well! What next, I
wonder? This looks very much as if half the weft had stuck to the bobbins
[_Continues._] I'll be sure to make it all right next week, sir. But this
last week I've had to put in two days' work on the estate. And my missus
is ill in bed....
[_Giving the web to be weighed._] Another piece of real slop-work.
[_Already examining a new web._] What a selvage! Here it's broad, there
it's narrow; here it's drawn in by the wefts goodness knows how tight,
and there it's torn out again by the temples. And hardly seventy threads
weft to the inch. What's come of the rest? Do you call this honest work?
I never saw anything like it.
[_HEIBER, repressing tears, stands humiliated and helpless._
[_In a low voice to BAUMERT._] To please that brute you'd have to pay for
extra yarn out o' your own pocket.
[_Who has remained standing near the cashier's table, from time to time
looking round appealingly, takes courage and once more turns imploringly
to the cashier._] I don't know what's to come o' me, sir, if you won't
give me a little advance this time ... O Lord, O Lord!
[_Calls across._] It's no good whining, or dragging the Lord's name into
the matter. You're not so anxious about Him at other times. You look
after your husband and see that he's not to be found so often lounging in
the public-house. We can give no pay in advance. We have to account for
every penny. It's not our money. People that are industrious, and
understand their work, and do it in the fear of God, never need their pay
in advance. So now you know.
If a Bielau weaver got four times as much pay, he would squander it four
times over and be in debt into the bargain.
[_In a loud voice, as if appealing to the general sense of justice._] No
one can't call me idle, but I'm not fit now for what I once was. I've
twice had a miscarriage. And as to John, he's but a poor creature. He's
been to the shepherd at Zerlau, but he couldn't do him no good, and ...
you can't do more than you've strength for.... We works as hard as ever
we can. This many a week I've been at it till far on into the night. An'
we'll keep our heads above water right enough if I can just get a bit o'
strength into me. But you must have pity on us, Mr. Pfeifer, sir.
[_Eagerly, coaxingly._] You'll please be so very kind as to let me have a
few pence on the next job, sir?
[_Paying no attention._] Fiedler, one and twopence.
Only a few pence, to buy bread with. We can't get no more credit. We've a
lot o' little ones.
[_Half aside to the APPRENTICE, in a serio-comic-tone._] "Every year
brings a child to the linen-weaver's wife, heigh-ho, heigh-ho, heigh."
[_Takes up the rhyme, half singing._] "And the little brat it's blind the
first weeks of its life, heigh-ho, heigh-ho, heigh."
[_Not touching the money which the cashier has counted out to him._]
We've always got one and fourpence for the web.
[_Calls across._] If our terms don't suit you, Reimann, you have only to
say so. There's no scarcity of weavers--especially of your sort. For full
weight we give full pay.
How anything can be wrong with the weight o' this...!
You bring a piece of fustian with no faults in it, and there will be no
fault in the pay.
It's clean impossible that there's too many knots in this web.
[_Examining._] If you want to live well, then be sure you weave well.
[_Has remained standing near PFEIFER, so as to seize on any favourable
opportunity. He laughs at PFEIFER'S little witticism, then steps forward
and again addresses him._] I wanted to ask you, sir, if you would perhaps
have the great kindness not to take my advance of sixpence off to-day's
pay? My missus has been bedridden since February, She can't do a hand's
turn for me, an' I've to pay a bobbin girl. An' so ...
[_Takes a pinch of snuff._] Heiber do you think I have no one to attend
to but you? The others must have their turn.
As the warp was given me I took it home and fastened it to the beam. I
can't bring back no better yarn than I gets.
If you're not satisfied, you need come for no more. There are plenty
ready to tramp the soles off their shoes to get it.
[_To REIMANN._] Don't you want your money?
I can't bring myself to take such pay.
[_Paying no further attention to REIMANN._] Heiber, one shilling. Deduct
sixpence for pay it advance. Leaves sixpence.
[_Goes up to the table, looks at the money, stands shaking his head as if
unable to believe his eyes, then slowly takes it up._] Well, I never!--
[_Sighing._] Oh dear, oh dear!
[_Looking into HEIBER'S face._] Yes, Franz, that's so! There's matter
enough for sighing.
[_Speaking with difficulty._] I've a girl lyin' sick at home too, an' she
needs a bottle of medicine.
What's wrong with her?
Well, you see, she's always been a sickly bit of a thing. I don't know
... I needn't mind tellin' you--she brought her trouble with her. It's in
her blood, and it breaks out here, there, and everywhere.
It's always the way. Let folks be poor, and one trouble comes to them on
the top of another. There's no help for it and there's no end to it.
What are you carryin' in that cloth, fatter. Baumert?
We haven't so much as a bite in the house, and so I've had the little dog
killed. There's not much on him, for the poor beast was half starved. A
nice little dog he was! I couldn't kill him myself. I hadn't the heart to
[_Has inspected BECKER'S web and calls._] Becker, one and threepence.
That's what you might give to a beggar; it's not pay.
Every one who has been attended to must clear out. We haven't room to
turn round in.
[_To those standing near, without lowering his voice._] It's a beggarly
pittance, nothing else. A man works his treadle from early morning till
late at night, an' when he's bent over his loom for days an' days, tired
to death every evening, sick with the dust and the heat, he finds he's
made a beggarly one and threepence!
No impudence allowed here.
If you think I'll hold my tongue for your tellin', you're much mistaken.
[_Exclaims._] We'll see about that! [_Rushes to the glass door and calls
into the office._] Mr. Dreissiger, Mr. Dreissiger, will you be good
enough to come here?
_Enter DREISSIGER. About forty, full-bodied, asthmatic. Looks
What is it, Pfeifer?
[_Spitefully._] Becker says he won't be told to hold his tongue.
[_Draws himself up, throws back his head, stares at BECKER; his nostrils
tremble._] Oh, indeed!--Becker. [_To PFEIFER.] Is he the man?...
[_The clerks nod._
[_Insolently._] Yes, Mr. Dreissiger, yes! [_Pointing to himself._] This
is the man. [_Pointing to DREISSIGER._] And that's a man too!
[_Angrily._] Fellow, how dare you?
He's too well off. He'll go dancing on the ice once too often, though.
[_Recklessly._] You shut up, you Jack-in-the-box. Your mother must have
gone dancing once too often with Satan to have got such a devil for a
[_Now in a violent passion, roars._] Hold your tongue this moment, sir,
[_He trembles and takes a fere steps forward._
[_Holding his ground steadily._] I'm not deaf. My hearing's quite good
[_Controls himself, asks in an apparently cool business tone._] Was this
fellow not one of the pack...?
He's a Bielau weaver. When there's any mischief going, they're sure to be
[_Trembling._] Well, I give you all warning: if the same thing happens
again as last night--a troop of half-drunken cubs marching past my
windows singing that low song ...
Is it "Bloody Justice" you mean?
You know well enough what I mean. I tell you that if I hear it again I'll
get hold of one of you, and--mind, I'm not joking--before the justice he
shall go. And if I can find out who it was that made up that vile
It's a grand song, that's what it is!
Another word and I send for the police on the spot, without more ado.
I'll make short work with you young fellows. I've got the better of very
different men before now.
I believe you there. A real thoroughbred manufacturer will get the better
of two or three hundred weavers in the time it takes you to turn
round--swallow 'em up, and not leave as much as a bone. He's got four
stomachs like a cow, and teeth like a wolf. That's nothing to him at all!
[_To his clerks._] That man gets no more work from us.
It's all the same to me whether I starve at my loom or by the roadside.
Out you go, then, this moment!
[_Determinedly._] Not without my pay.
How much is owing to the fellow, Neumann?
One and threepence.
[_Takes the money hurriedly ont of the cashier's hand, and flings it on
the table, so that some of the coins roll off on to the floor._] There
you are, then; and now, out of my sight with you!
Not without my pay.
Don't you see it lying there? If you don't take it and go ... It's
exactly twelve now ... The dyers are coming out for their dinner ...
I gets my pay into my hand--here--that's where!
[_Points with the fingers of his right hand at the palm of his left._
[_To the APPRENTICE._] Pick up the money, Tilgner.
[_The APPRENTICE lifts the money and puts it into BECKER'S hand._
Everything in proper order.