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The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann by Gerhart Hauptmann

Part 5 out of 12

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[_Deliberately takes an old purse out of his pocket and puts the
money into it._

DREISSIGER

[_As BECKER still does not move away._] Well? Do you want me to come and
help you?

[_Signs of agitation are observable among the crowd of weavers. A
long, loud sigh is heard, and then a fall. General interest is at
once diverted to this new event._

DREISSIGER

What's the matter there?

CHORUS OF WEAVERS AND WOMEN

"Some one's fainted."--"It's a little sickly boy."--"Is it a fit, or what?"

DREISSIGER

What do you say? Fainted?

[_He goes nearer._

OLD WEAVER

There he lies, any way.

[_They make room. A boy of about eight is seen lying on the floor as
if dead._

DREISSIGER

Does any one know the boy?

OLD WEAVER

He's not from our village.

OLD BAUMERT

He's like one of weaver Heinrich's boys. [_Looks at him more closely._]
Yes, that's Heinrich's little Philip.

DREISSIGER

Where do they live?

OLD BAUMERT

Up near us in Kaschbach, sir. He goes round playin' music in the
evenings, and all day he's at the loom. They've nine children an' a tenth
a coming.

CHORUS OF WEAVERS AND WOMEN

"They're terrible put to it."--"The rain comes through their roof."--"The
woman hasn't two shirts among the nine."

OLD BAUMERT

[_Taking the boy by the arm._] Now then, lad, what's wrong with you? Wake
up, lad.

DREISSIGER

Some of you help me, and we'll get him up. It's disgraceful to send a
sickly child this distance. Bring some water, Pfeifer.

WOMAN

[_Helping to lift the boy._] Sure you're not goin' to be foolish and die,
lad!

DREISSIGER

Brandy, Pfeifer, brandy will be better.

BECKER

[_Forgotten by all, has stood looking on. With his hand on the
door-latch, he now calls loudly and tauntingly._] Give him something to
eat, an' he'll soon be all right.

[_Goes out._

DREISSIGER

That fellow will come to a bad end.--Take him under the arm, Neumann.
Easy now, easy; we'll get him into my room. What?

NEUMANN

He said something, Mr. Dreissiger. His lips are moving.

DREISSIGER

What--what is it, boy?

BOY

[_Whispers._] I'm h-hungry.

WOMAN

I think he says--

DREISSIGER

We'll find out. Don't stop. Let us get him into my room. He can lie on
the sofa there, We'll hear what the doctor says.

_DREISSIGER, NEUMANN, and the woman lead the boy into the office. The
weavers begin to behave like school-children when their master has
left the classroom. They stretch themselves, whisper, move from one
foot to the other, and in the course of a few moments are conversing
loudly._

OLD BAUMERT

I believe as how Becker was right.

CHORUS OF WEAVERS AND WOMEN

"He did say something like that."--"It's nothin' new here to fall down
from hunger."--"God knows what's to come of 'em in winter if this cuttin'
down o' wages goes on."--"An' this year the potatoes aren't no good at
all."--"Things'll get worse and worse till we're all done for together."

OLD BAUMERT

The best thing a man could do would be to put a rope round his neck and
hang hisself on his own loom, like weaver Nentwich. [_To another old
weaver._] Here, take a pinch. I was at Neurode yesterday. My
brother-in-law, he works in the snuff factory there, and he give me a
grain or two. Have you anything good in your kerchief?

OLD WEAVER

Only a little pearl barley. I was coming along behind Ulbrich the
miller's cart, and there was a slit in one of the sacks. I can tell you
we'll be glad of it.

OLD BAUMERT

There's twenty-two mills in Peterswaldau, but of all they grind, there's
never nothin' comes our way.

OLD WEAVER

We must keep up heart. There's always somethin' comes to help us on
again.

HEIBER

Yes, when we're hungry, we can pray to all the saints to help us, and if
that don't fill our bellies we can put a pebble in our mouths and suck
it. Eh, Baumert?

_Re-enter DREISSIGER, PFEIFER, AND NEUMANN._

DREISSIGER

It was nothing serious. The boy is all right again. [_Walks about
excitedly, panting._] But all the same it's a disgrace. The child's so
weak that a puff of wind would blow him over. How people, how any parents
can be so thoughtless is what passes my comprehension. Loading him with
two heavy pieces of fustian to carry six good miles! No one would believe
it that hadn't seen it. It simply means that I shall have to make a rule
that no goods brought by children will be taken over. [_He walks up and
down silently for a few moments._] I sincerely trust such a thing will
not occur again.--Who gets all the blame for it? Why, of course the
manufacturer. It's entirely our fault. If some poor little fellow sticks
in the snow in winter and goes to sleep, a special correspondent arrives
post-haste, and in two days we have a blood-curdling story served up in
all the papers. Is any blame laid on the father, the parents, that send
such a child?--Not a bit of it. How should they be to blame? It's all the
manufacturer's fault--he's made the scapegoat. They flatter the weaver,
and give the manufacturer nothing but abuse--he's a cruel man, with a
heart like a stone, a dangerous fellow, at whose calves every cur of a
journalist may take a bite. He lives on the fat of the land, and pays the
poor weavers starvation wages. In the flow of his eloquence the writer
forgets to mention that such a man has his cares too and his sleepless
nights; that he runs risks of which the workman never dreams; that he is
often driven distracted by all the calculations he has to make, and all
the different things he has to take into account; that he has to struggle
for his very life against competition; and that no day passes without
some annoyance or some loss. And think of the manufacturer's
responsibilities, think of the numbers that depend on him, that look to
him for their daily bread. No, No! none of you need wish yourselves in my
shoes--you would soon have enough of it. [_After a moment's reflection._]
You all saw how that fellow, that scoundrel Becker, behaved. Now he'll go
and spread about all sorts of tales of my hard-heartedness, of how my
weavers are turned off for a mere trifle, without a moment's notice. Is
that true? Am I so very unmerciful?

CHORUS OF VOICES

No, sir.

DREISSIGER

It doesn't seem to me that I am. And yet these ne'er-do-wells come round
singing low songs about us manufacturers--prating about hunger, with
enough in their pockets to pay for quarts of bad brandy. If they would
like to know what want is, let them go and ask the linen-weavers: they
can tell something about it. But you here, you fustian-weavers, have
every reason to thank God that things are no worse than they are. And I
put it to all the old, industrious weavers present: Is a good workman
able to gain a living in my employment, or is he not?

MANY VOICES

Yes, sir; he is, sir.

DREISSIGER

There now! You see! Of course such a fellow as that Becker can't. I
advise you to keep these young lads in check. If there's much more of
this sort of thing, I'll shut up shop--give up the business altogether,
and then you can shift for yourselves, get work where you like--perhaps
Mr. Becker will provide it.

FIRST WEAVER'S WIFE

[_Has come close to DREISSIGER, and removes a little dust from his coat
with creeping servility._] You've been an' rubbed agin something, sir.

DREISSIGER

Business is as bad as it can be just now, you know that yourselves.
Instead of making money, I am losing it every day. If, in spite of this,
I take care that my weavers are kept in work, I look for some little
gratitude from them. I have thousands of pieces of cloth in stock, and
don't know if I'll ever be able to sell them. Well, now, I've heard how
many weavers hereabouts are out of work, and--I'll leave Pfeifer to give
the particulars--but this much I'll tell you, just to show you my good
will.... I can't deal out charity all round; I'm not rich enough for
that; but I can give the people who are out of work the chance of earning
at any rate a little. It's a great business risk I run by doing it, but
that's my affair. I say to myself: Better that a man should work for a
bite of bread than that, he should starve altogether, Am I not right?

CHORUS OF VOICES

Yes, yes, sir.

DREISSIGER

And therefore I am ready to give employment to two hundred more weavers.
Pfeifer will tell you on what conditions.

[_He turns to go._

FIRST WEAVER'S WIFE

[_Comes between him and the door, speaks hurriedly, eagerly,
imploringly._] Oh, if you please, sir, will you let me ask you if you'll
be so good ... I've been twice laid up for ...

DREISSIGER

[_Hastily._] Speak to Pfeifer, good woman. I'm too late as it is.

[_Passes on, leaving her standing._

REIMANN

[_Stops him again. In an injured, complaining tone._] I have a complaint
to make, if you please, sir. Mr. Pfeifer refuses to ... I've always got
one and two-pence for a web ...

DREISSIGER

[_Interrupts him._] Mr. Pfeifer's my manager. There he is. Apply to him.

HEIBER

[_Detaining DREISSIGER; hurriedly and confusedly._] O sir, I wanted to
ask if you would p'r'aps, if I might p'r'aps ... if Mr. Pfeifer might ...
might ...

DREISSIGER

What is it you want?

HEIBER

That advance pay I had last time, sir; I thought p'r'aps you would kindly
...

DREISSIGER

I have no idea what you are talking about.

HEIBER

I'm awful hard up, sir, because ...

DREISSIGER

These are things Pfeifer must look into--I really have not the time.
Arrange the matter with Pfeifer.

[_He escapes into the office._

[_The supplicants look helplessly at one another, sigh, and take
their places again among the others._

PFEIFER

[_Resuming his task of inspection._] Well, Annie, let as see what yours
is like.

OLD BAUMERT

How much is we to get for the web, then, Mr. Pfeifer?

PFEIFER

One shilling a web.

OLD BAUMERT

Has it come to that!

[_Excited whispering and murmuring among the weavers._

END OF THE FIRST ACT

THE SECOND ACT

_A small room in the house of WILHELM ANSORGE, weaver and cottager in
the village of Kaschbach, in the Eulengebirge._

_In this room, which does not measure six feet from the dilapidated
wooden floor to the smoke-blackened rafters, sit four people. Two
young girls, EMMA and BERTHA BAUMERT, are working at their looms;
MOTHER BAUMERT, a decrepit old woman, sits on a stool beside the bed,
with a winding-wheel in front of her; her idiot son AUGUST sits on a
foot-stool, also winding. He is twenty, has a small body and head,
and long, spider-like legs and arms._

_Faint, rosy evening light makes its way through two small windows in
the right wall, which have their broken panes pasted over with paper
or stuffed with straw. It lights up the flaxen hair of the girls,
which falls loose on their slender white necks and thin bare
shoulders, and their coarse chemises. These, with a short petticoat
of the roughest linen, form their whole attire. The warm glow falls
on the old woman's face, neck, and breast--a face worn away to a
skeleton, with shrivelled skin and sunken eyes, red and watery with
smoke, dust, and working by lamplight--a long gotre neck, wrinkled
and sinewy--a hollow breast covered with faded, ragged shawls._

_Part of the right wall is also lighted up, with stove, stove-bench,
bedstead, and one or two gaudily coloured sacred prints. On the stove
rail rags are hanging to dry, and behind the stove is a collection of
worthless lumber. On the bench stand some old pots and cooking
utensils, and potato parings are laid out on it, on paper, to dry.
Hanks of yarn and reels hang from the rafters; baskets of bobbins
stand beside the looms. In the back wall there is a low door without
fastening. Beside it a bundle of willow wands is set up against the
wall, and beyond them lie some damaged quarter-bushel baskets._

_The room is full of sound--the rhythmic thud of the looms, shaking
floor and walls, the click and rattle of the shuttles passing back
and forward, and the steady whirr of the winding-wheels, like the hum
of gigantic bees._

MOTHER BAUMERT

[_In a querulous, feeble voice, as the girls stop weaving and bend over
their webs._] Got to make knots again already, have you?

EMMA

[_The elder of the two girls, about twenty-two, tying a broken thread_]
It's the plagueyest web, this!

BERTHA

[_Fifteen._] Yes, it's real bad yarn they've given us this time.

EMMA

What can have happened to father? He's been away since nine.

MOTHER BAUMERT

That he has! yes. Where in the wide world c'n he be?

BERTHA

Don't you worry yourself, mother.

MOTHER BAUMERT

I can't help it, Bertha lass.

[_EMMA begins to weave again._

BERTHA

Stop a minute, Emma!

EMMA

What is it!

BERTHA

I thought I heard some one.

EMMA

It'll be Ansorge comin' home.

_Enter FRITZ, a little, barefooted, ragged boy of four._

FRITZ

[_Whimpering._] I'm hungry, mother.

EMMA

Wait, Fritzel, wait a bit! Gran'father'll be here very soon, an' he's
bringin' bread along with him, an' coffee too.

FRITZ

But I'm awful hungry, mother.

EMMA

Be a good boy now, Fritz. Listen to what I'm tellin' you. He'll be here
this minute. He's bringin' nice bread an' nice corn-coffee; an' when we
stops workin' mother'll take the tater peelin's and carry them to the
farmer, and the farmer'll give her a drop o' good buttermilk for her
little boy.

FRITZ

Where's grandfather gone?

EMMA

To the manufacturer, Fritz, with a web.

FRITZ

To the manufacturer?

EMMA

Yes, yes, Fritz, down to Dreissiger's at Peterswaldau.

FRITZ

Is it there he gets the bread?

EMMA

Yes; Dreissiger gives him money, and then he buys the bread.

FRITZ

Does he give him a heap of money?

EMMA

[_Impatiently._] Oh, stop that chatter, boy.

[_She and BERTHA go on weaving for a time, and then both stop again._

BERTHA

August, go and ask Ansorge if he'll give us a light.

[_AUGUST goes out accompanied by FRITZ._

MOTHER BAUMERT

[_Overcome by her childish apprehension, whimpers._] Emma! Bertha! where
c'n the man be stay-in'?

BERTHA

Maybe he looked in to see Hauffe.

MOTHER BAUMERT

[_Crying._] What if he's sittin' drinkin' in the public-house?

EMMA

Don't cry, mother! You know well enough father's not the man to do that.

MOTHER BAUMERT

[_Half distracted by a multitude of gloomy forebodings._] What ... what
... what's to become of us if he don't come home? if he drinks the money,
an' don't bring us nothin' at all? There's not so much as a handful o'
salt in the house--not a bite o' bread, nor a bit o' wood for the fire.

BERTHA

Wait a bit, mother! It's moonlight just now. We'll take August with us
and go into the wood and get some sticks.

MOTHER BAUMERT

Yes, an' be caught by the forester.

_ANSORGE, an old weaver of gigantic stature, who has to bend down to
get into the room, puts his head and shoulders in at the door. Long,
unkempt hair and beard._

ANSORGE

What's wanted?

BERTHA

Light, if you please.

ANSORGE

[_In a muffled voice, as if speaking' in a sick-room._] There's good
daylight yet.

MOTHER BAUMERT

Is we to sit in the dark next?

ANSORGE

I've to do the same mayself.

[_Goes out._

BERTHA

It's easy to see that he's a miser.

EMMA

Well, there's nothin' for it but to sit an' wait his pleasure.

_Enter MRS. HEINRICH, a woman of thirty, heavy with child; an
expression of torturing anxiety and apprehension on her worn face._

MRS. HEINRICH

Good evenin' t'you all.

MOTHER BAUMERT

Well, Jenny, and what's your news?

MRS. HEINRICH

[_Who limps._] I've got a piece o' glass into my foot.

BERTHA

Come an' sit down, then, an' I'll see if I c'n get it out.

[_MRS. HEINRICH seats herself, BERTHA kneels down, in front of her,
and examines her foot._

MOTHER BAUMERT

How are ye all at home, Jenny?

MRS. HEINRICH

[_Breaks out despairingly._] Things is in a terrible way with us!

[_She struggles in vain, against a rush of tears; then weeps
silently._

MOTHER BAUMERT

The best thing as could happen to the likes o' us, Jenny, would be if God
had pity on us an' took us away out o' this weary world.

MRS. HEINRICH

[_No longer able to control herself, screams, still crying._] My
children's starvin'. [_Sobs and moans._] I don't know what to do no more!
I c'n work till I drops--I'm more dead'n alive--things don't get
different! There's nine hungry mouths to fill! We got a bit o' bread last
night, but it wasn't enough even for the two smallest ones. Who was I to
give it to, eh? They all cried; Me, me, mother! give it to me!... An' if
it's like this while I'm still on my feet, what'll it be when I've to
take to bed? Our few taters was washed away. We haven't a thing to put in
our mouths.

BERTHA

[_Has removed the bit of glass and washed the wound._] We'll put a rag
round it. Emma, see if you can find one.

MOTHER BAUMERT

We're no better off'n you, Jenny.

MRS. HEINRICH

You has your girls, any way. You've a husband as c'n work. Mine was taken
with one o' his fits last week again--so bad that I didn't know what to
do with him, and was half out o' my mind with fright. And when he's had a
turn like that, he can't stir out o' bed under a week.

MOTHER BAUMERT

Mine's no better. He's goin' to pieces, too. He's breathin's bad now as
well as his back. An' there's not a farthin' nor a farthin's worth in the
house. If he don't bring a few pence with him today, I don't know what
we're to do.

EMMA

It's the truth she's tellin' you, Jenny. We had to let father take the
little dog with him to-day, to have him killed, that we might get a bite
into our stomachs again!

MRS. HEINRICH

Haven't you got as much as a handful o' flour to spare?

MOTHER BAUMERT

An' that we haven't, Jenny. There's not as much as a grain o' salt in the
house.

MRS. HEINRICH

Well, then, I don't know ... [_Rises, stands still, brooding._] I don't
know what'll be the end o' this! It's more'n I c'n bear. [_Screams in
rage and despair._] I'd be contented if it was nothin' but pigs'
food!--But I can't go home again empty-handed--that I can't. God forgive
me, I see no other way out of it.

[_She limps quickly out._

MOTHER BAUMERT

[_Calls after her in a warning voice._] Jenny, Jenny! don't you be doin'
anything foolish, now!

BERTHA

She'll do herself no harm, mother. You needn't be afraid.

EMMA

That's the way she always goes on.

[_Seats herself at the loom and weaves for a few seconds._

_AUGUST enters, carrying a tallow candle, and lighting his father,
OLD BAUMERT, who follows close behind him, staggering under a heavy
bundle of yarn._

MOTHER BAUMERT

Oh, father, where have you been all this long time? Where have you been?

OLD BAUMERT

Come now, mother, don't fall on a man like that. Give me time to get my
breath first. An' look who I've brought with me.

_MORITZ JAEGER comes stooping in at the low door. Reserve soldier,
newly discharged. Middle height, rosy-cheeked, military carriage. His
cap on the side of his head, hussar fashion, whole clothes and shoes,
a clean shirt without collar. Draws himself up and salutes._

JAEGER

[_In a hearty voice._] Good-evenin', auntie Baumert!

MOTHER BAUMERT

Well, well now! and to think you've got back! An' you've not forgotten
us? Take a chair, then, lad.

EMMA

[_Wiping a wooden chair with her apron, and pushing it towards MORITZ._]
An' so you've come to see what poor folks is like again, Moritz?

JAEGER

I say, Emma, is it true that you've got a boy nearly old enough to be a
soldier? Where did you get hold o' him, eh?

[_BERTHA, having taken the small supply of provisions which her
father has brought, puts meat into a saucepan, and shoves it into the
oven, while AUGUST lights the fire._

BERTHA

You knew weaver Finger, didn't you?

MOTHER BAUMERT

We had him here in the house with us. He was ready enough to marry her;
but he was too far gone in consumption; he was as good as a dead man. It
didn't happen for want o' warnin' from me. But do you think she would
listen? Not she. Now he's dead an' forgotten long ago, an' she's left
with the boy to provide for as best she can. But now tell us how you've
been gettin' on, Moritz.

OLD BAUMERT

You've only to look at him, mother, to know that. He's had luck. It'll be
about as much as he can do to speak to the likes o' us. He's got clothes
like a prince, an' a silver watch, an' thirty shillings in his pocket
into the bargain.

JAEGER

[_Stretching himself consequentially, a knowing smile on his face._] I
can't complain, I didn't get on so badly in the regiment.

OLD BAUMERT

He was the major's own servant. Just listen to him--he speaks like a
gentleman.

JAEGER

I've got so accustomed to it that I can't help it.

MOTHER BAUMERT

Well, now, to think that such a good-for-nothin' as you was should have
come to be a rich man. For there wasn't nothin' to be made of you. You
would never sit still to wind more than a hank of yarn at a time, that
you wouldn't. Off you went to your tomtit boxes an' your robin redbreast
snares--they was all you cared about. Isn't it the truth I'm telling?

JAEGER

Yes, yes, auntie, it's true enough. It wasn't only redbreasts. I went
after swallows too.

EMMA

Though we were always tellin' you that swallows was poison.

JAEGER

What did I care?--But how have you all been gettin' on, auntie Baumert?

MOTHER BAUMERT

Oh, badly, lad, badly these last four years. I've had the
rheumatics--just look at them hands. An' it's more than likely as I've
had a stroke o' some kind too, I'm that helpless. I can hardly move a
limb, an' nobody knows the pains I suffers.

OLD BAUMERT

She's in a bad way, she is. She'll not hold out long.

BERTHA

We've to dress her in the mornin' an' undress her at night, an' to feed
her like a baby.

MOTHER BAUMERT

[_Speaking in a complaining, tearful voice._] Not a thing c'n I do for
myself. It's far worse than bein' ill. For it's not only a burden to
myself I am, but to every one else. Often and often do I pray to God to
take me. For oh! mine's a weary life. I don't know ... p'r'aps they think
... but I'm one that's been a hard worker all my days. An' I've always
been able to do my turn too; but now, all at once, [_she vainly attempts
to rise_] I can't do nothin'.--I've a good husband an' good children, but
to have to sit here and see them...! Look at the girls! There's hardly
any blood left in them--faces the colour of a sheet. But on they must
work at these weary looms whether they earn enough to keep theirselves or
not. What sort o' life is it they lead? Their feet never off the treadle
from year's end to year's end. An' with it all they can't scrape together
as much as'll buy them clothes that they can let theirselves be seen in;
never a step can they go to church, to hear a word o' comfort. They're
liker scarecrows than young girls of fifteen and twenty.

BERTHA

[_At the stove._] It's beginnin' to smoke again!

OLD BAUMERT

There now; look at that smoke. And we can't do nothin' for it. The whole
stove's goin' to pieces. We must let it fall, and swallow the soot. We're
coughin' already, one worse than the other. We may cough till we choke,
or till we cough our lungs up--nobody cares.

JAEGER

But this here is Ansorge's business; he must see to the stove.

BERTHA

He'll see us out o' the house first; he has plenty against us without
that.

MOTHER BAUMERT

We've only been in his way this long time past.

OLD BAUMERT

One word of a complaint an' out we go. He's had no rent from us this last
half-year.

MOTHER BAUMERT

A well-off man like him needn't be so hard.

OLD BAUMERT

He's no better off than we is, mother. He's hard put to it too, for all
he holds his tongue about it.

MOTHER BAUMERT

He's got his house.

OLD BAUMERT

What are you talkin' about, mother? Not one stone in the wall is the
man's own.

JAEGER

[_Has seated himself, and taken a short pipe with gay tassels out of one
coat-pocket, and a quart bottle of brandy out of another._] Things can't
go on like this. I'm dumfoundered when I see the life the people live
here. The very dogs in the towns live better.

OLD BAUMERT

[_Eagerly._] That's what I says! Eh? eh? You know it too! But if you say
that here, they'll tell you that it's only bad times.

_Enter ANSORGE, an earthenware pan with soup in one hand, in the
other a half-finished quarter-bushel basket._

ANSORGE

Glad to see you again, Moritz!

JAEGER

Thank you, father Ansorge--same to you!

ANSORGE

[_Shoving his pan into the oven._] Why, lad you look like a duke!

OLD BAUMERT

Show him your watch, Moritz. An' he's got a new suit of clothes, an'
thirty shillings cash.

ANSORGE

[_Shaking his head._] Is that so? Well, well!

EMMA

[_Puts the potato-parings into a bag._] I must be off; I'll maybe get a
drop o' buttermilk for these.

[_Goes out._

JAEGER

[_The others hanging intently and devoutly on his words._] You know how
you all used to be down on me. It was always: Wait, Moritz, till your
soldierin' time comes--you'll catch it then. But you see how well I've
got on. At the end o' the first half-year I had my good conduct stripes.
You've got to be willin'--that's where the secret lies. I brushed the
sergeant's boots; I groomed his horse; I fetched his beer. I was as sharp
as a needle. Always ready, accoutrements clean and shinin'--first at
stables, first at roll-call, first in the saddle. An' when the bugle
sounded to the assault--why, then, blood and thunder, and ride to the
devil with you!! I was as keen as a pointer. Says I to myself: There's no
help for it now, my boy, it's got to be done; and I set my mind to it and
did it. Till at last the major said before the whole squadron: There's a
hussar now that shows you what a hussar should be!

[_Silence. He lights his pipe._

ANSORGE

[_Shaking his head._] Well, well, well! You had luck with you, Moritz!

[_Sits down on the floor, with his willow twigs beside him, and
continues mending the basket, which he holds between his legs._

OLD BAUMERT

Let's hope you've brought some of it to us.--Are we to have a drop to
drink your health in?

JAEGER

Of course you are, father Baumert. And when this bottle's done, we'll
send for more.

[_He flings a coin on the table._

ANSORGE

[_Open mouthed with amusement._] Oh my! Oh my! What goings on to be sure!
Roast meat frizzlin' in the oven! A bottle o' brandy on the table! [_He
drinks out of the bottle._] Here's to you, Moritz!--Well, well, well!

[_The bottle circulates freely after this._

OLD BAUMERT

If we could any way have a bit o' meat on Sundays and holidays, instead
o' never seein' the sight of it from year's end to year's end! Now we'll
have to wait till another poor little dog finds its way into the house
like this one did four weeks gone by--an' that's not likely to happen
soon again.

ANSORGE

Have you killed the little dog?

OLD BAUMERT

We had to do that or starve.

ANSORGE

Well, well! That's so!

MOTHER BAUMERT

A nice, kind little beast he was, too!

JAEGER

Are you as keen as ever on roast dog hereabouts?

OLD BAUMERT

Lord, if we could only get enough of it!

MOTHER BAUMERT

A nice little bit o' meat like that does you a lot o' good.

OLD BAUMERT

Have you lost the taste for it, Moritz? Stay with us a bit, and it'll
soon come back to you.

ANSORGE

[_Sniffing._] Yes, yes! That will be a tasty bite--what a good smell it
has!

OLD BAUMERT

[_Sniffing._] Fine as spice, you might say.

ANSORGE

Come, then, Moritz, tell us your opinion, you that's been out and seen
the world. Is things at all like to improve for us weavers, eh?

JAEGER

They would need to.

ANSORGE

We're in an awful state here. It's not livin' an' it's not dyin'. A man
fights to the bitter end, but he's bound to be beat at last--to be left
without a roof over his head, you may say without ground under his feet.
As long as he can work at the loom he can earn some sort o poor,
miserable livin'. But it's many a day since I've been able to get that
sort o' job. Now I tries to put a bite into my mouth with this here
basket-mak-in'. I sits at it late into the night, and by the time I
tumbles into bed I've earned three-halfpence. I puts it to you as knows
things, if a man can live on that, when everything's so dear? Nine
shillin' goes in one lump for house tax, three shillin' for land tax,
nine shillin' for mortgage interest--that makes one pound one. I may
reckon my year's earnin' at just double that money, and that leaves me
twenty-one shillin' for a whole year's food, an' fire, an' clothes, an'
shoes; and I've got to keep up some sort of a place to live in. An'
there's odds an' ends. Is it a wonder if I'm behindhand with my interest
payments?

OLD BAUMERT

Some one would need to go to Berlin an' tell the King how hard put to it
we are.

JAEGER

Little good that would do, father Baumert. There's been plenty written
about it in the news-papers. But the rich people, they can turn and twist
things round ... as cunning as the devil himself.

OLD BAUMERT

[_Shaking his head._] To think they've no more sense than that in Berlin.

ANSORGE

And is it really true, Moritz? Is there no law to help us? If a man
hasn't been able to scrape together enough to pay his mortgage interest,
though he's worked the very skin off his hands, must his house be taken
from him? The peasant that's lent the money on it, he wants his
rights--what else can you look for from him? But what's to be the end of
it all, I don't know.--If I'm put out o' the house ... [_In a voice
choked by tears._] I was born here, and here my father sat at his loom
for more than forty year. Many was the time he said to mother: Mother,
when I'm gone, keep hold o' the house. I've worked hard for it. Every
nail means a night's weavin', every plank a year's dry bread. A man would
think that ...

JAEGER

They're just as like to take the last bite out of your mouth--that's what
they are.

ANSORGE

Well, well, well! I would rather be carried out than have to walk out now
in my old days. Who minds dyin'? My father, he was glad to die. At the
very end he got frightened, but I crept into bed beside him, an' he
quieted down again. Think of it; I was a lad of thirteen then. I was
tired and fell asleep beside him--I knew no better--and when I woke he
was quite cold.

MOTHER BAUMERT

[_After a pause._] Give Ansorge his soup out o' the oven, Bertha.

BERTHA

Here, father Ansorge, it'll do you good.

ANSORGE

[_Eating and shedding tears._] Well, well, well!

[_OLD BAUMERT has begun to eat the meat out of the saucepan._

MOTHER BAUMERT

Father, father, can't you have patience an' let Bertha serve it up
properly?

OLD BAUMERT

[_Chewing._] It's two years now since I took the sacrament. I went
straight after that an' sold my Sunday coat, an' we bought a good bit o'
pork, an' since then never a mouthful of meat has passed my lips till
to-night.

JAEGER

_We_ don't need no meat! The manufacturers eats it for us. It's the fat
o' the land _they_ lives on. Whoever don't believe that has only to go
down to Bielau and Peterswaldau. He'll see fine things there--palace upon
palace, with towers and iron railings and plate-glass windows. Who do
they all belong to? Why, of course, the manufacturers! No signs of bad
times there! Baked and boiled and fried--horses and carriages and
governesses--they've money to pay for all that and goodness knows how
much more. They're swelled out to burstin' with pride and good livin'.

ANSORGE

Things was different in my young days. Then the manufacturers let the
weaver have his share. Now they keeps everything to theirselves. An'
would you like to know what's at the bottom of it all? It's that the fine
folks nowadays believes neither in God nor devil. What do they care about
commandments or punishments? And so they steals our last scrap o' bread,
an' leaves us no chance of earnin' the barest living. For it's their
fault. If our manufacturers was good men, there would be no bad times for
us.

JAEGER

Listen, then, and I'll read you something that will please you. [_He
takes one or two loose papers from his pocket._] I say, August, run and
fetch another quart from the public-house. Eh, boy, do you laugh all day
long?

MOTHER BAUMERT

No one knows why, but our August's always happy--grins an' laughs, come
what may. Off with you then, quick! [_Exit AUGUST with the empty
brandy-bottle._] You've got something good now, eh, father?

OLD BAUMERT

[_Still chewing; his spirits are rising from the effect of food and
drink._] Moritz, you're the very man we want. You can read an' write. You
understand the weavin' trade, and you've a heart to feel for the poor
weavers' sufferin's. You should stand up for us here.

JAEGER

I'd do that quick enough! There's nothing I'd like better than to give
the manufacturers round here a bit of a fright--dogs that they are! I'm
an easy-goin' fellow, but let me once get worked up into a real rage, and
I'll take Dreissiger in the one hand and Dittrich in the other, and knock
their heads together till the sparks fly out o' their eyes.--If we could
only arrange all to join together, we'd soon give the manufacturers a
proper lesson ... we wouldn't need no King an' no Government ... all we'd
have to do would be to say: We wants this and that, and we don't want the
other thing. There would be a change of days then. As soon as they see
that there's some pluck in us, they'll cave in. I know the rascals;
they're a pack o' cowardly hounds.

MOTHER BAUMERT

There's some truth in what you say. I'm not a bad woman. I've always been
the one to say as how there must be rich folks as well as poor. But when
things come to such a pass as this ...

JAEGER

The devil may take them all, for what I care. It would be no more than
they deserves.

[_OLD BAUMERT has quietly gone out._

BERTHA

Where's father?

MOTHER BAUMERT

I don't know where he can have gone.

BERTHA

Do you think he's not been able to stomach the meat, with not gettin'
none for so long?

MOTHER BAUMERT

[_In distress, crying._] There now, there! He's not even able to keep it
down when he's got it. Up it comes again, the only bite o' good food as
he's tasted this many a day.

_Re-enter OLD BAUMERT, crying with rage._

OLD BAUMERT

It's no good! I'm too far gone! Now that I've at last got hold of
somethin' with a taste in it, my stomach won't keep it.

[_He sits down on the bench by the stove crying._

JAEGER

[_With a sudden violent ebullition of rage._] An' yet there's people not
far from here, justices they call themselves too, over-fed brutes, that
have nothing to do all the year round but invent new ways of wastin'
their time. An' these people say that the weavers would be quite well off
if only they wasn't so lazy.

ANSORGE

The men as says that are no men at all, they're monsters.

JAEGER

Never mind, father Ansorge; we're makin' the place hot for 'em. Becker
and I have been and given Dreissiger a piece of our mind, and before we
came away we sang him "Bloody Justice."

ANSORGE

Good Lord! Is that the song?

JAEGER

Yes; I have it here.

ANSORGE

They calls it Dreissiger's song, don't they?

JAEGER

I'll read it to you,

MOTHER BAUMERT

Who wrote it?

JAEGER

That's what nobody knows. Now listen.

[_He reads, hesitating like a schoolboy, with incorrect accentuation,
but unmistakably strong feeling. Despair, suffering, rage, hatred,
thirst for revenge, all find utterance._

The justice to us weavers dealt
Is bloody, cruel, and hateful;
Our life's one torture, long drawn out:
For Lynch law we'd be grateful.

Stretched on the rack day after day,
Hearts sick and bodies aching,
Our heavy sighs their witness bear
To spirit slowly breaking.

[_The words of the song make a strong impression on OLD BAUMERT.
Deeply agitated, he struggles against the temptation to interrupt
JAEGER. At last he can keep quiet no longer._

OLD BAUMERT [_To his wife, half laughing, half crying, stammering._]
Stretched on the rack day after day. Whoever wrote that, mother, wrote
the truth. You can bear witness ... eh, how does it go? "Our heavy sighs
their witness bear" ... What's the rest?

JAEGER

"To spirit slowly breaking."

OLD BAUMERT

You know the way we sigh, mother, day and night, sleepin' and wakin'.

[_ANSORGE had stopped working, and cowers on the floor, strongly
agitated. MOTHER BAUMERT and BERTHA wipe their eyes frequently during
the course of the reading._

JAEGER

[_Continues to read._]

The Dreissigers true hangmen are,
Servants no whit behind them;
Masters and men with one accord
Set on the poor to grind them.

You villains all, you brood of hell ...

OLD BAUMERT

[_Trembling with rage, stamping on the floor._] Yes, brood of hell!!!

JAEGER

[_Reads._]

You fiends in fashion human,
A curse will fall on all like you,
Who prey on man and woman.

ANSORGE

Yes, yes, a curse upon them!

OLD BAUMERT

[_Clenching his fist, threateningly._] You prey on man and woman.

JAEGER

[_Reads._]

The suppliant knows he asks in vain,
Vain every word that's spoken.
"If not content, then go and starve--
Our rules cannot be broken."

OLD BAUMERT

What is it? "The suppliant knows he asks in vain"? Every word of it's
true ... every word ... as true as the Bible. He knows he asks in vain.

ANSORGE

Yes, yes! It's all no good.

JAEGER

[_Reads._]

Then think of all our woe and want,
O ye who hear this ditty!
Our struggle vain for daily bread
Hard hearts would move to pity.

But pity's what _you've_ never known,
You'd take both skin and clothing,
You cannibals, whose cruel deeds
Fill all good men with loathing.

OLD BAUMERT

[_Jumps up, beside himself with excitement._] Both skin and clothing.
It's true, it's all true! Here I stands, Robert Baumert, master-weaver of
Kaschbach. Who can bring up anything against me?... I've been an honest,
hard-workin' man all my life long, an' look at me now! What have I to
show for it? Look at me! See what they've made of me! Stretched on the
rack day after day, [_He holds out his arms._] Feel that! Skin and bone!
"You villains all, you brood of hell!!"

[_He sinks down on a chair, weeping with rage and despair._

ANSORGE

[_Flings his basket from him into a corner, rises, his whole body
trembling with rage, gasps._] An' the time's come now for a change, I
say. We'll stand it no longer! We'll stand it no longer! Come what may!

END OF THE SECOND ACT

THE THIRD ACT

_The common-room of the principal public-house in Peterswaldau. A
large room with a raftered roof supported by a central wooden pillar,
round which a table runs. In the back mall, a little to the right of
the pillar, is the entrance-door, through the opening of which the
spacious lobby or outer room is seen, with barrels and brewing
utensils. To the right of this door, in the corner, is the bar--a
high wooden counter with receptacles for beer-mugs, glasses, etc.; a
cupboard with rows of brandy and liqueur bottles on the wall behind,
and between counter and cupboard a narrow space for the barkeeper. In
front of the bar stands a table with a gay-coloured cover, a pretty
lamp hanging above it, and several cane chairs placed around it. Not
far off, in the right wall, is a door with the inscription: Bar
Parlour. Nearer the front on the same side an old eight-day clock
stands ticking. At the back, to the left of the entrance-door, is a
table with bottles and glasses, and beyond this, in the corner, is
the great tile-oven. In the left wall there are three small windows.
Below them runs a long bench; and in front of each stands a large
oblong wooden table, with the end towards the wall. There are benches
with backs along the sides of these tables, and at the end of each
facing the window stands a wooden chair. The walls are washed blue
and decorated with advertisements, coloured prints and oleographs,
among the latter a portrait of Frederick William IV._

_WELZEL, the publican, a good-natured giant, upwards of fifty, stands
behind the counter, letting beer run from a barrel into a glass._

_MRS. WELZEL is ironing by the stove. She is a handsome, tidily
dressed woman in her thirty-fifth year._

_ANNA WELZEL, a good-looking girl of seventeen, with a quantity of
beautiful, fair, reddish hair, sits, neatly dressed, with her
embroidery, at the table with the coloured cover. She looks up from
her work for a moment and listens, as the sound of a funeral hymn
sung by school-children is heard in the distance._

_WIEGAND, the joiner, in his working clothes, is sitting at the same
table, with a glass of Bavarian beer before him. His face shows that
he understands what the world requires of a man if he is to attain
his ends--namely, craftiness, swiftness, and relentless pushing
forward._

_A COMMERCIAL TRAVELLER is seated at the pillar-table, vigorously
masticating a beef-steak. He is of middle height, stout and
thriving-looking, inclined to jocosity, lively, and impudent. He is
dressed in the fashion of the day, and his portmanteau, pattern-case,
umbrella, overcoat, and travelling rug lie on chairs beside him._

WELZEL

[_Carrying a glass of beer to the TRAVELLER, but addressing WIEGAND._]
The devil's broke loose in Peterswaldau to-day.

WIEGAND

[_In a sharp, shrill voice._] That's because it's delivery day at
Dreissiger's.

MRS. WELZEL

But they don't generally make such an awful row.

WIEGAND

It's may be because of the two hundred new weavers that he's going to
take on.

MRS. WELZEL

[_At her ironing._] Yes, yes, that'll be it. If he wants two hundred, six
hundred's sure to have come. There's no lack of _them_.

WIEGAND

No, they'll last. There's no fear of their dying out, let them be ever so
badly off. They bring more children into the world than we know what to
do with. [_The strains of the funeral hymn are suddenly heard more
distinctly._] There's a funeral to-day too. Weaver Nentwich is dead, you
know.

WELZEL

He's been long enough about it. He's been goin' about like a livin' ghost
this many a long day.

WIEGAND

You never saw such a little coffin, Welzel; it was the tiniest,
miserablest little thing I ever glued together. And what a corpse! It
didn't weigh ninety pounds.

TRAVELLER

[_His mouth full._] What I don't understand's this.... Take up whatever
paper you like and you'll find the most heartrending accounts of the
destitution among the weavers. You get the impression that three-quarters
of the people in this neighbourhood are starving. Then you come and see a
funeral like what's going on just now. I met it as I came into the
village. Brass band, schoolmaster, school children, pastor, and such a
procession behind them that you would think it was the Emperor of China
that was getting buried. If the people have money to spend on this sort
of thing, well...! [_He takes a drink of beer; puts down the glass;
suddenly and jocosely._] What do you say to it, Miss? Don't you agree
with me?

[ANNA _gives an embarrassed laugh, and goes on working busily._

TRAVELLER

Now, I'll take a bet that these are slippers for papa.

WELZEL

You're wrong, then; I wouldn't put such things on my feet.

TRAVELLER

You don't say so! Now, I would give half of what I'm worth if these
slippers were for me.

MRS. WELZEL

Oh, he don't know nothing about such things.

WIEGAND

[_Has coughed once or twice, moved his chair, and prepared himself to
speak._] You were sayin', sir, that you wondered to see such a funeral as
this. I tell you, and Mrs. Welzel here will bear me out, that it's quite
a small funeral.

TRAVELLER

But, my good man ... what a monstrous lot of money it must cost! Where
does all that come from?

WIEGAND

If you'll excuse me for saying so, sir, there's a deal of foolishness
among the poorer working people hereabouts. They have a kind of
inordinate idea, if I may say so, of the respect an' duty an' honour
they're bound to show to such as is taken from their midst. And when it
comes to be a case of parents, then there's no bounds whatever to their
superstitiousness. The children and the nearest family scrapes together
every farthing they can call their own, an' what's still wanting, that
they borrow from some rich man. They run themselves into debt over head
and ears; they're owing money to the pastor, to the sexton, and to all
concerned. Then there's the victuals, an' the drink, an' such like. No,
sir, I'm far from speaking against dutifulness to parents; but it's too
much when it goes the length of the mourners having to bear the weight of
it for the rest of their lives.

TRAVELLER

But surely the pastor might reason them out of such foolishness.

WIEGAND

Begging your pardon, sir, but I must mention that every little place
hereabouts has its church an' its reverend pastor to support. These
honourable gentlemen has their advantages from big funerals. The larger
the attendance is, the larger the offertory is bound to be. Whoever knows
the circumstances connected with the working classes here, sir, will
assure you that the pastors are strong against quiet funerals.

_Enter HORNIG, the rag dealer, a little bandy-legged old man, with a
strap round his chest._

HORNIG

Good-mornin', ladies and gentlemen! A glass o' schnapps, if you please,
Mr. Welzel. Has the young mistress anything for me to-day? I've got
beautiful ribbons in my cart, Miss Anna, an' tapes, an' garters, an' the
very best of pins an' hairpins an' hooks an' eyes. An' all in exchange
for a few rags. [_In a changed voice._] An'out of them rags fine white
paper's to be made, for your sweetheart to write you a letter on.

ANNA

Thank you, but I've nothing to do with sweethearts.

MRS. WELZEL

[_Putting a bolt into her iron._] No, she's not that kind. She'll not
hear of marrying.

TRAVELLER

[_Jumps up, affecting delighted surprise, goes forward to ANNA'S table,
and holds out his hand to her across it._] That's sensible, Miss. You and
I think alike in this matter. Give me your hand on it. We'll both remain
single.

ANNA

[_Blushing scarlet, gives him her hand._] But you are married already!

TRAVELLER

Not a bit of it. I only pretend to be. You think so because I wear a
ring. I only have it on my finger to protect my charms against shameless
attacks. I'm not afraid of you, though. [_He puts the ring into his
pocket._] But tell me, truly, Miss, are you quite determined never,
never, never, to marry?

ANNA

[_Shakes her head._] Oh, get along with you!

MRS. WELZEL

You may trust her to remain single unless something very extra good turns
up.

TRAVELLER

And why shouldn't it? I know of a rich Silesian proprietor who married
his mother's lady's maid. And there's Dreissiger, the rich manufacturer,
his wife is an innkeeper's daughter too, and not half so pretty as you,
Miss, though she rides in her carriage now, with servants in livery. And
why not? [_He marches about, stretching himself, and stamping his feet._]
Let me have a cup of coffee, please.

_Enter ANSORGE and OLD BAUMERT, each with a bundle. They seat
themselves meekly and silently beside HORNIG, at the front table to
the left._

WELZEL

How are you, father Ansorge? Glad to see you once again.

HORNIG

Yes, it's not often as you crawl down from that smoky old nest.

ANSORGE

[_Visibly embarrassed, mumbles._] I've been fetchin' myself a web again.

BAUMER

He's goin' to work at a shilling the web.

ANSORGE

I wouldn't ha' done it, but there's no more to be made now by
basket-weaving'.

WIEGAND

It's always better than nothin'. He does it only to give you employment.
I know Dreissiger very well. When I was up there takin' out his double
windows last week we were talkin' about it, him and me. It's out of pity
that he does it.

ANSORGE

Well, well, well! That may be so.

WELZEL

[_Setting a glass of schnapps on the table before each of the weavers._]
Here you are, then. I say, Ansorge, how long is it since you had a shave?
The gentleman over there would like to know.

TRAVELLER

[_Calls across._] Now, Mr. Welzel, you know I didn't say that. I was only
struck by the venerable appearance of the master-weaver. It isn't often
one sees such a gigantic figure.

ANSORGE

[_Scratching his head, embarrassed._] Well, well!

TRAVELLER

Such specimens of primitive strength are rare nowadays. We're all rubbed
smooth by civilisation ... but I can still take pleasure in nature
untampered with.... These bushy eyebrows! That tangled length of beard!

HORNIG

Let me tell you, sir, that them people haven't the money to pay a barber,
and as to a razor for themselves, that's altogether beyond them. What
grows, grows. They haven't nothing to throw away on their outsides.

TRAVELLER

My good friend, you surely don't imagine that I would ... [_Aside to
WELZEL._] Do you think I might offer the hairy one a glass of beer?

WELZEL

No, no; you mustn't do that. He wouldn't take it. He's got some queer
ideas in that head o' his.

TRAVELLER

All right, then, I won't. With your permission, Miss. [_He seats himself
at ANNA'S table._] I declare, Miss, that I've not been able to take my
eyes off your hair since I came in--such glossy softness, such a splendid
quantity! [_Ecstatically kisses his finger-tips._] And what a colour!...
like ripe wheat. Come to Berlin with that hair and you'll create no end
of a sensation. On my honour, with hair like that you may go to Court....
[_Leans back, looking at it._] Glorious, simply glorious!

WIEGAND

They've given her a fine name because of it.

TRAVELLER

And what may that be?

ANNA

[_Laughing quietly to herself._] Oh, don't listen to that!

HORNIG

The chestnut filly, isn't it?

WELZEL

Come now, we've had enough o' this. I'm not goin' to have the girl's head
turned altogether. She's had a-plenty of silly notions put into it
already. She'll hear of nothing under a count today, and to-morrow it'll
be a prince.

MRS. WELZEL

Don't abuse the girl, father. There's no harm in wantin' to rise in the
world. It's as well that people don't all think as you do, or nobody
would get on at all. If Dreissiger's grandfather had been of your way of
thinkin', they would be poor weavers still. And now they're rollin' in
wealth. An' look at old Tromtra. He was nothing but a weaver, too, and
now he owns twelve estates, an' he's been made a nobleman into the
bargain.

WIEGAND

Yes, Welzel, you must look at the thing fairly. Your wife's in the right
this time. I can answer for that. I'd never be where I am, with seven
workmen under me, if I had thought like you.

HORNIG

Yes, you understand the way to get on; that your worst enemy must allow.
Before the weaver has taken to bed, you're gettin' his coffin ready.

WIEGAND

A man must stick to his business if he's to get on.

HORNIG

No fear of you for that. You know before the doctor when death's on the
way to knock at a weaver's door.

WIEGAND

[_Attempting to laugh, suddenly furious._] And you know better'n the
police where the thieves are among the weavers, that keep back two or
three bobbins full every week. It's rags you ask for but you don't say
No, if there's a little yarn among them.

HORNIG

An' your corn grows in the churchyard. The more that are bedded on the
sawdust, the better for you. When you see the rows o' little children's
graves, you pats yourself on the belly and says you: This has been a good
year; the little brats have fallen like cockchafers off the trees. I can
allow myself a quart extra in the week again.

WIEGAND

And supposin' this is all true, it still don't make me a receiver of
stolen goods.

HORNIG

No; perhaps the worst you do is to send in an account twice to the rich
fustian manufacturers, or to help yourself to a plank or two at
Dreissiger's when there's building goin' on and the moon happens not to
be shinin'.

WIEGAND

[_Turning his back._] Talk to any one you like, but not to me. [_Then
suddenly._] Hornig the liar!

HORNIG

Wiegand the coffin-jobber!

WIEGAND

[_To the rest of the company._] He knows charms for bewitching cattle.

HORNIG

If you don't look out, I'll try one of 'em on you.

[_WIEGAND turns pale._

MRS. WELZEL

[_Had gone out; now returns with the TRAVELLER'S coffee; in the act of
putting it on the table._] Perhaps you would rather have it in the
parlour, sir?

TRAVELLER

Most certainly not! [_With a languishing look at ANNA._] I could sit here
till I die.

_Enter a YOUNG FORESTER and a PEASANT, the latter carrying a whip.
They wish the others_ "Good Morning," _and remain standing at the
counter._

PEASANT

Two brandies, if you please.

WELZEL

Good-morning to you, gentlemen.

[_He pours out their beverage; the two touch glasses, take a
mouthful, and then set the glasses down on the counter._

TRAVELLER

[_To FORESTER._] Come far this morning, sir?

FORESTER

From Steinseiffersdorf--that's a good step.

_Two old WEAVERS enter, and seat themselves beside ANSORGE, BAUMERT,
and HORNIG._

TRAVELLER

Excuse me asking, but are you in Count Hochheim's service?

FORESTER

No. I'm in Count Keil's.

TRAVELLER

Yes, yes, of course--that was what I meant. One gets confused here among
all the counts and barons and other gentlemen. It would take a giant's
memory to remember them all. Why do you carry an axe, if I may ask?

FORESTER

I've just taken this one from a man who was stealing wood.

OLD BAUMERT

Yes, their lordships are mighty strict with us about a few sticks for the
fire.

TRAVELLER

You must allow that if every one were to help himself to what he wanted
...

OLD BAUMERT

By your leave, sir, but there's a difference made here as elsewhere
between the big an' the little thieves. There's some here as deals in
stolen wood wholesale, and grows rich on it. But if a poor weaver ...

FIRST OLD WEAVER

[_Interrupts BAUMERT._] We're forbid to take a single branch; but their
lordships, they take the very skin off of us--we've assurance money to
pay, an' spinning-money, an' charges in kind--we must go here an' go
there, an' do so an' so much field work, all willy-nilly.

ANSORGE

That's just how it is--what the manufacturer leaves us, their lordships
takes from us.

SECOND OLD WEAVER

[_Has taken a seat at the next table._] I've said it to his lordship
hisself. By your leave, my lord, says I, it's not possible for me to work
on the estate so many days this year. I comes right out with it. For
why--my own bit of ground, my lord, it's been next to carried away by the
rains. I've to work night and day if I'm to live at all. For oh, what a
flood that was...! There I stood an' wrung my hands, an' watched the good
soil come pourin' down the hill, into the very house! And all that dear,
fine seed!... I could do nothin' but roar an' cry until I couldn't see
out o' my eyes for a week. And then I had to start an' wheel eighty heavy
barrow-loads of earth up that hill, till my back was all but broken.

PEASANT

[_Roughly._] You weavers here make such an awful outcry. As if we hadn't
all to put up with what Heaven sends us. An' if you _are_ badly off just
now, whose fault is it but your own? What did you do when trade was good?
Drank an' squandered all you made. If you had saved a bit then, you'd
have it to fall back on now when times is bad, and not need to be goin'
stealin' yarn and wood.

FIRST YOUNG WEAVER

[_Standing with several comrades in the lobby or outer room, calls in at
the door._] What's a peasant but a peasant, though he lies in bed till
nine?

FIRST OLD WEAVER

The peasant an' the count, it's the same story with 'em both. Says the
peasant when a weaver wants a house: I'll give you a little bit of a hole
to live in, an' you'll pay me so much rent in money, an' the rest of it
you'll make up by helpin' me to get in my hay an' my corn--and if that
don't please you, why, then you may go elsewhere. He tries another, and
to the second he says the same as to the first.

BAUMERT

[_Angrily._] The weaver's like a bone that every dog takes a gnaw at.

PEASANT

[_Furious._] You starvin' curs, you're no good for anything. Can you yoke
a plough? Can you draw a straight furrow or throw a bundle of sheaves on
to a cart. You're fit for nothing but to idle about an' go after the
women. A pack of scoundrelly ne'er-do-wells!

[_He has paid and now goes out._

[_The FORESTER follows, laughing. WELZEL, the joiner, and MRS. WELZEL
laugh aloud; the TRAVELLER laughs to himself. Then there is a
moment's silence._

HORNIG

A peasant like that's as stupid as his own ox. As if I didn't know all
about the distress in the villages round here. Sad sights I've seen! Four
and five lyin' naked on one sack of straw.

TRAVELLER

[_In a mildly remonstrative tone._] Allow me to remark, my good man, that
there's a great difference of opinion as to the amount of distress here
in the Eulengebirge. If you can read....

HORNIG

I can read straight off, as well as you. An' I know what I've seen with
my own eyes. It would be queer if a man that's travelled the country with
a pack on his back these forty years an' more didn't know something about
it. There was the Fullers, now. You saw the children scrapin' about among
the dung-heaps with the peasants' geese. The people up there died naked,
on the bare stone floors. In their sore need they ate the stinking
weavers' glue. Hunger carried 'em off by the hundred.

TRAVELLER

You must be aware, since you are able to read, that strict investigation
has been made by the Government, and that....

HORNIG

Yes, yes, we all know what that means. They send a gentleman that knows
all about it already better nor if he had seen it, an' he goes about a
bit in the village where the brook flows broad an' the best houses is. He
don't want to dirty his shinin' boots. Thinks he to hisself: All the
rest'll be the same as this. An' so he steps into his carriage, an'
drives away home again, an' then writes to Berlin that there's no
distress in the place at all. If he had but taken the trouble to go
higher up into a village like that, to where the stream comes in, or
across the stream on to the narrow side--or, better still, if he'd gone
up to the little out-o'-the-way hovels on the hill above, some of 'em
that black an' tumble-down as it would be the waste of a good match to
set fire to 'em--it's another kind o' report he'd have sent to Berlin.
They should ha' come to me, these government gentlemen that wouldn't
believe there was no distress here. I would ha' shown 'em something. I'd
have opened their eyes for 'em in some of these starvation holes.

[_The strains of the Weavers' Song are heard, sung outside._

WELZEL

There they are, roaring at that devil's song again.

WIEGAND

They're turning the whole place upside down.

MRS. WELZEL

You'd think there was something in the air.

_JAEGER and BECKER arm in arm, at the head of a troop of young
weavers, march noisily through the outer room and enter the bar._

JAEGER

Halt! To your places!

[_The new arrivals sit down at the various tables, and begin to talk
to other weavers already seated there._

HORNIG

[_Calls out to BECKER._] What's up now, Becker, that you've got together
a crowd like this?

BECKER

[_Significantly._] Who knows but something may be goin' to happen? Eh,
Moritz?

HORNIG

Come, come, lads. Don't you be a-gettin' of yourselves into mischief.

BECKER

Blood's flowed already. Would you like to see it?

[_He pulls up his sleeve and shows bleeding tattoo-marks on the upper
part of his arm. Many of the other young weavers do the same._

BECKER

We've been at barber Schmidt's gettin' ourselves vaccinated.

HORNIG

Now the thing's explained. Little wonder there's such an uproar in the
place, with a band of young rapscallions like you paradin' round.

JAEGER

[_Consequentially, in a loud voice._] You may bring two quarts at once,
Welzel! I pay. Perhaps you think I haven't got the needful. You're wrong,
then. If we wanted we could sit an' drink your best brandy an' swill
coffee till to-morrow morning with any bagman in the land.

[_Laughter among the young weavers._

TRAVELLER

[_Affecting comic surprise._] Is the young gentleman kind enough to take
notice of me?

[_Host, hostess, and their daughter, WIEGAND, and the TRAVELLER all

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