Part 4 out of 9
Deadly pale and quivering she bursts out involuntarily:_] What are you
Nothin'!--I'm sayin' nothin' more.--But when a feller hasn't no notion of
nothin' an' is thinkin' no ill, a wench like you acts as high an' mighty!
[_Losing self-control and leaping in front of him in her terror._] What
is't you say?
[_Calmly returning her terrible gaze._] I said: A wench like you.
An' what's the meanin' o' that?
That's got no special meanin'.
[_Clenches her fists and pierces him with her eyes in an intense passion
of rage, hate, terror and consternation until in the consciousness of her
powerlessness she drops her arms and utters almost whiningly the words:_]
I'll know how to get my good right about this!
[_Holding her right arm before her weeping eyes and wiping her face
with the left, she returns, sobbing brokenly, to her work._
[_Looks after her with his old expression of malicious coldness and
determination. Gradually he is seized with a desire to laugh and finally
bursts out:_] That's the way things go! Don't worry a bit.--What do you
take me for anyhow, Rose? What's the row about? This kind o' thing don't
do no harm! Why shouldn't a person fool her neighbours? Why not? Who made
'em so stupid? Them as can do it are the finest women in the world! Of
course, a man like me knows how things are! You can believe me--I've
always known about you.
[_Beside herself._] Streckmann! I'll do myself some harm! Do you hear? Or
else go away from our bit o' patch! Go ... I ... something awful will
happen, I tell you!
[_Sits down and claps his flat hands over his knees._] For goodness'
sake! Don't carry on so! D'you think I'll be goin' about everywhere an'
tellin' what I know an' rakin' you over the coals? How does it concern
me, I'd like to know, what your goin's on are?
I'll go home an' hang myself on a beam! That's what Mary Schubert did
That was a different thing with her! That girl had different things on
her conscience! An' I didn't have nothin' to do with her.--But if every
woman was to go an' hang herself on account o' what you've done--there
wouldn't be no more women in this world. That sort o' thing happens
wherever you look--everywhere--that's the way things is. O' course, I
have to laugh. That father o' yours, he carries himself so high! The way
he stares at a feller that's gone a bit off the narrow way. It's enough
to make you want to go an' hide your face. Well--people ought to begin at
[_Trembling in the terror of her heart._] O dear Lord, have mercy!
Can you deny that I'm right? You people stick in piety up to the very
eyes--your father an' August Keil an' you too! A feller like me can't
compete with you there.
[_With a new outburst of despair._] It's a lie ... a lie! You saw
No? Saw nothing? Well, I'll be...! Then I must ha' been dreamin'. That's
what it must ha' been! If that wasn't Squire Flamm from Diessdorf! I
haven't had a drop o' anythin' to-day. Didn't he play at drivin' you by
the braids o' your hair? Didn't he throw you into the grass? [_With
uncontrollable, hard laughter._] He had a good hold on you!
Streckmann, I'll beat your head in with my hoe!
[_Still laughing._] Listen to that! What now? You're not goin' to cut up
so rough! Why shouldn't you ha' done it? I don't blame you. First come,
first served: that's the way o' the world.
[_Weeping and moaning in her helpless grief and yet working
convulsively._] A feller like that, presumes to ...!
[_Enraged and brutally._] It's you that presumes! 'Tisn't me that does!
Not that I'd mind presumin' a good deal. If Flamm's good enough, it's
certain that I am!
[_Sobbing and crying out in her despair._] I've been a decent girl all my
life long! Let anybody come an' say somethin' against me if he can! I
took care o' three little brothers an' sisters! Three o'clock in the
mornin' I've gotten up, an' not so much as taken a drop o' milk! An'
people knows that! Every child knows it!
Well, you needn't make such a noise about it! The bells is ringin' and
the people is comin' from church. You might be a bit sociable with a
feller. You people are just burstin' with pride. Maybe it's true ...
things look as if it was. I'm not sayin' but what you're a good worker
an' a good saver. But otherwise you're no better'n other folks.
[_Gazing into the distance; in extreme fear._] Isn't that August that's
[_Looks in the same direction toward the village. Contemptuously_:]
Where? Oh, yes, that's him! There they both are! They're just walkin'
around the parson's garden. Well, what about it? You think I ought to be
gettin' away? I'm not afeard o' them psalm-singin' donkeys.
[_In quivering fear._] Streckmann, I've saved up twelve crowns ...
Rosie, you know you've saved more than that.
All right, I'll give you all my bit o' savin's! I don't care for the
money ... I'll bring it to you, to the last farthing. Streckmann, only
have pity ...
[_She seeks to grasp his hands beseechingly, but he draws them away._
I takes no money.
Streckmann! For the sake o' all good things in the world ...
Well now, I can't see why you don't act sensible.
If one person in the village finds that out....
It depends on you! Nobody needn't know. All you need to do is not to
force it on 'em ... [_With sudden passion._] What's at the bottom of
it?--I'm crazy about you ...
Where's the woman or girl you're not crazy about!
Maybe it's so. I can't change things. A man like me who has to go the
round o' all the estates in the country with his threshin' machine--he
don't have worry because he's not talked about. I know best how it is
with me. Before ever Flamm came--I'm not mentionin' August--I'd thrown an
eye on you. An' nobody knows what it's cost me. [_With iron
stubbornness._] But the devil fetch me now! Come what may, Rosie! There's
no more use tryin' to joke with me! I happened to come upon somethin'
An' what is it?
You'll see soon enough.
_MARTHEL, ROSE'S younger sister, comes skipping along the field-path.
She is neatly dressed in her Sunday garments and is still
[_Calls out._] Rose, is that you? What are you doin' here?
I've got to finish hoein' the patch. Why didn't you stop to finish it o'
Oh, dearie me, Rosie, if father sees you!
If there's a bit o' profit in it, he won't do nothing very bad. You let
old Bernd alone for that!
Who is that, Rosie?
Oh, don't ask me!
_Old BERND and AUGUST KEIL are approaching along the field-path from
the village. The old, white-haired man, as well as the other who is
about thirty-five years old, is dressed in his Sunday coat and each
carries a hymn book. Old BERND has a white beard; his voice has a
certain softness as though he had had and been cured of a severe
pulmonary affection. One might imagine him to be a dignified retired
family coachman. AUGUST KEIL, who is a bookbinder, has a pale face,
thin, dark moustache and pointed beard. His hair is growing notably
thin and he suffers from occasional nervous twitching. He is lean,
narrow-chested; his whole appearance betrays the man of sedentary
Isn't that Rosie?
Yes, father Bernd.
You can't nowise make the girl stop that. When the fit takes her, she's
got to go an' toil--if it's weekday or holiday. [_He is quite near her by
this time._] Is there not time enough o' weekdays?
You do too much, Rosie! There's no need o' that!
If our good pastor saw that, it'd hurt him to the very soul. He wouldn't
trust his own eyes.
An' he's been askin' for you again.
[_Suggestively._] They say, too, as he wants her to be his housekeeper.
[_Noticing him for the first time._] Why, that's Streckmann!
Yes, here I am, life-size. That girl, she's as busy as an ant or a bee!
She'll be workin' if her sides crack. She's got no time to be sleepin' in
It's little sleepin' we does there, I tell you. You might better say that
them as are out here do the sleepin' an' don't want no awakenin'. The
Bridegroom is at hand ...
An' that's certainly true! But the bride, meantime, runs off!
You're in a merry mood this day.
Yes, that I am. I could hug a curbstone ... or the handle o' your
collection bag. I do feel most uncommonly jolly. I could laugh myself
[_To ROSE._] Put up your things an' we'll go home! Not that way! That way
I'm not goin' home with you! Put your hoe in the hollow of the tree!
Carryin' that o' Sunday would give offence.
There's them that even gads about with guns.
An' devils that take no shame carryin' a whisky-bottle.
[_He pulls his bottle out of his pocket._
Each man does those things on his own responsibility.
True. An' at his own expense! Come, take courage an' have a drink with me
[_He holds out the bottle to AUGUST who pays no attention to him._
You know well enough that August drinks no spirits!--Whereabouts is your
threshin' machine now?
But you, father Bernd; you can't go an' refuse to take a drop with me!
You've been a distiller yourself! My machine is on the great estate down
[_Takes the bottle hesitatingly._] Just because it's you, Streckmann,
otherwise I wouldn't be touchin' it. When I was manager of the estate, I
had to do a good many things! But I never liked to distil the drink an' I
didn't touch it in them days at all.
[_To AUGUST who has placed a spade in the hollow of the cherry tree._]
You just look at that tree! Piff, paff! All you got to do is to take your
aim and let it fly.
There's people that goes hunting o' Sundays.
Just so. We ha' met him. 'Tis bad. I'm sorry for them folks.
_STRECKMANN throws cock-chafers at ROSE._
What's the meanin' o' that?
Nothin'! We've got a little private quarrel!
You can have your little quarrels. But it'd be better if you had 'em
[_With malicious hostility._] You take care, August! Watch out!
Peace! Don't be quarrelsome! In God's name!
The dam' carrion always spits at me!
Carrion is a dead beast ...!
August, let's be at peace. Father Bernd is right; people ought to like
each other! An' it isn't Christian the way you act sour like! Come on
now! Have a drink! You're not good-lookin', your worst enemy'd have to
admit that, but you're fine when it comes to readin' an' writin' an'
you've got your affairs pretty well arranged! Well, then, here's to your
weddin'--an early one an' a merry one!
_BERND takes the bottle and drinks since AUGUST remains quite
I take that real kind o' you, father Bernd.
When it comes to drinkin' to a happy weddin', I makes an exception!
Exactly! That's proper! That's right!--It isn't as if I was a horse-boy
to-day as in the old times on the estate when you had the whip hand o'
me. I've gotten to be a reputable kind o' feller. Anybody that's got a
head on his shoulders makes his way.
God bestows his favours on them he wants to.--[_To AUGUST._] Drink to a
[_Takes the bottle._] May God grant it! We don't have to drink to it.
[_Slapping his thigh._] An' may he give plenty o' little Augusts, so that
the grandfather can be glad. An' the oldest of 'em all must grow up to be
a squire!--But now you ought to let Rosie have a drink too.
You're weepin', Rosie. What's troublin' you?
The tears keep runnin' out o' her eyes all the time.
[_To ROSE._] Drink a drop, so's to let him have his will.
_ROSE takes the bottle, overcoming her repugnance by a violent
Right down with it now! Let's be jolly!
_ROSE drinks trembling and hands back the bottle to AUGUST with
[_Softly in his paternal pride to STRECKMANN._] There's a girl for you!
He'd better keep a good hold o' her.
THE CURTAIN FALLS.
THE SECOND ACT
_The large living room in FLAMM'S house. The large, low room which is
on a level with the ground has a door at the right leading to the
outer hall. A second door in the rear hall leads into a smaller
chamber, filled with hunting implements, etc., which FLAMM calls his
den. When this door is open, garments and rifles and stuffed bird
heads are to be seen covering the walls of the smaller room. In it
stands, also, the chest of drawers in which FLAMM stores the
documents kept by him as magistrate. The large room with its three
windows on the left side, its dark beams and its furnishings creates
an impression of home-likeness and comfort. In the left corner stands
a large sofa covered with material of an old-fashioned, flowery
pattern. Before it stands an extension table of oak. Above the door
of the den hangs a glass case containing a group of stuffed
partridges. Immediately to the right of this door a key-rack with
keys. Not far from this stands a bookcase with glass doors which is
filled with books. Upon this bookcase stands a stuffed owl and next
to it hangs a cuckoo clock. A great tile oven of dappled blue
occupies the right corner of the room. In all the three windows of
the left wall are potted plants in bloom. The window beside the table
is open as well as the one farther forward. In front of the latter
MRS. FLAMM is sitting in an invalid's chair. All the windows have
mull curtains. Not far from the window nearest to the spectator there
is an old chest of drawers covered by a lace scarf upon which are to
be seen glasses, bric-a-brac and family mementos of various kinds. On
the wall above hang family photographs. Between the oven and the door
that leads to the outer hall stands an old-fashioned grand piano and
an embroidered piano-stool. The keyboard of the instrument is turned
toward the tile oven. Above the piano there are glass cases
containing a collection of butterflies. In the foreground, to the
right, a brightly polished roller-top desk of oak with a simple
chair. Several such chairs are set against the mall near the desk.
Between the windows an old armchair covered with brown leather. Above
the table a large brass lamp of English manufacture is suspended.
Above the desk hangs the large photograph of a handsome little boy of
five. The picture is in a simple wooden frame wreathed in fresh field
flowers. On top of the desk a large globe of glass covers a dish of
forget-me-nots. It is eleven o'clock in the forenoon on a magnificent
day of late spring._
_MRS. FLAMM is an attractive, matronly woman of forty. She wears a
smooth, black alpaca dress with a bodice of old-fashioned cut, a
small cap of white lace on her head, a lace collar and soft lace
cuffs which all but cover her emaciated, sensitive hands. A book and
a handkerchief of delicate material lie in her lap. MRS. FLAMM'S
features are not without magnanimity and impressiveness. Her eyes are
light blue and piercing, her forehead high, her temples broad. Her
hair, already gray and thin is plainly parted in the middle. From
time to time she strokes it gently with her finger tips. The
expression of her face betrays kindliness and seriousness without
severity. About her eyes, her nose and her mouth there is a flicker
[_Looks thoughtfully out into the open, sighs, becomes absorbed in her
book for a moment, then listens and closes her book after inserting a
bookmark. Finally she turns toward the door and speaks in a slightly
raised, sympathetic voice._] Whoever is out there ... come in! [_A tap is
heard, the door to the hall is slightly opened and the head of old BERND
is seen._] Well, who is it? Ah, that's father Bernd, our deacon and
trustee. Come right in! I'm not going to bite you.
We was wantin' to speak to the squire.
[_He enters, followed by AUGUST KEIL. Both are once more in their
Well, well, you do look solemn.
Good mornin', Missis.
Good day to you, father Bernd.--My husband was in his den there a minute
ago. [_Referring to AUGUST._] And there is your future son-in-law too.
Yes, by God's help, Mrs. Flamm.
Well, then, do take a seat. I suppose you want to make official
announcement of the marriage? It's to be at last.
Yes, thanks be to God; everythin' is in readiness now.
I'm glad o' that. This waiting leads to very little. If something is to
be, then 'tis better to have it done! So the girl has made up her mind to
it at last?
Yes. An' it's like takin' a stone off my heart. She has kept us all
hangin' about this long time. Now she wants to hurry of her own free
will. She'd rather have the weddin' to-day than to-morrow.
I'm very glad of that, Mr. Keil! Very glad, indeed, Bernd. Christie! I
think my husband will be here presently! So this matter has been adjusted
at last! Well, father Bernd, I think you ought to feel that you're lucky!
You must be well content.
An' so I am! You're right indeed, Mrs. Flamm! Day before yesterday we
talked it all over. An' God has given us an especial blessin' too. For
August went to see the lady of Gnadau an' she was so extraordinar'
kind-hearted as to loan him a thousand crowns. An' with that he can go
an' buy the Lachmann house now.
Is that true? Is that possible? Now there you see again how life is,
father Bernd. When your master let you go without a bit o' pension or
anything for your old age, you were quite desperate and hopeless. An'
'twas an unfeeling thing to do! But now God has turned everything to
So it is! But men has too little faith!
Well, then! Now you're well off! In the first place the house is right
opposite the church, an' then it has a good bit o' land that goes with
it! And Rose, well, I'm sure she knows how to manage. Yes, you can really
The blessin's that a lady like that can spread! Next to God ... it's to
her we owe the most. If I'd been in her service an' had ruined my health
as I did workin' for my master, I wouldn't ha' had to complain.
You have nothing more to complain of now, Bernd.
My goodness, no! In one way not!
You can't count on gratitude in this world. My father was chief forester
for forty years an' when he died my mother knew want for all that.--You
have an excellent son-in-law. You can live in a pleasant house and you'll
even have your own land to work on. And that everything goes from better
to better--well, you can let your children see to that.
An' that's what I hope for too. No, I haven't no doubt o' that at all. A
man who has worked himself up in the world that way by carryin' tracts
Weren't you thinking once of being a missionary?
Unfortunately my health was too bad for that.
... An' learned readin' an' writin' an' his trade too the while, an' is
so upright an' Christian--well, I feel that I can lay down my head in
peace if it is to lay it down to my last sleep.
Do you know, by the way, father Bernd, that my husband is giving up his
office as magistrate? He'll hardly marry your girl.
They're in a hurry....
I know, I know. Rose is helpin' along too. She was in to see me this
morning. If you wouldn't mind, going to look ... right behind the yard
... Christie!... There he is....
[_Not yet visible, calls:_] Presently! In a moment!
It's official business.
_FLAMM, without coat or waistcoat, appears in the door of his den.
His gleaming white shirt is open in front. He is busy cleaning the
barrels of a shotgun._
Here I am. The machinist Streckmann was here just now. I'd like to have
my threshing done at once, but the machine is down there on the estate
and they're far from being done ... Dear me! Surely that's father Bernd.
Yes, Mr. Flamm, we have come here. We were wantin' to....
One thing after another! Patience! [_He examines the barrels of the gun
carefully._] If you have official business for the magistrate, you'd
better wait a little while. Steckel will be my successor and he will take
these matters a deal more solemnly.
[_Holding her crocheting needle to her chin and observing her husband
attentively._] Christie, what silly stuff are you talking?
[_Who, pale from the first, has grown paler at the mention of
STRECKMANN'S name, now arises solemnly and excitedly._] Your honour, we
want to announce a marriage.--I am ready, by God's help, to enter into
the holy state of matrimony.
[_Stops looking at the gun. Lightly._] Is it possible? And are you in
such a hurry about it?
[_Banteringly._] How does that concern you, Christie? Dear me, let the
good folks marry in peace! You're a reg'lar preacher, you are! If that
man had his will, father Bernd, there wouldn't be hardly anything but
single men and women.
Well, marriage is a risky business,--You're the bookbinder August Keil.
At your service.
You live over in Wandriss? And you've bought the Lachmann house?
And you want to open a book-shop?
A book and stationery shop. Yes. Probably,
He thinks o' sellin' mostly devotional books.
There's some land that belongs to the Lachmann house, isn't there? It
must be there by the big pear tree?
BERND _and_ AUGUST
[_At the same time._] Yes.
Why then our properties adjoin! [_He lays down the barrels of the gun,
searches in his pockets for a bunch of keys and then calls out through
the door:_] Minna! Come and wheel your mistress out!
[_Resignedly though unable to control his disquiet, he sits down at
A very chivalrous man! But he's in the right! I'm in the way just now!
[_To the neat maid who has come in and stepped behind her._] Come, my
girl, wheel me into the den. An' you might well pin up your hair more
_MRS. FLAMM and the MAID disappear in the den._
I'm really sorry for the Lachmanns. [_To KEIL._] You invested your
savings in a mortgage on that property, didn't you? [_AUGUST coughs
excitedly and in embarrassment._] Well, that's all the same in the end!
Whoever owns that property, though, has cause to congratulate
himself.--So you want to marry? Well, all that's wanting is the lady! How
is that? Is the lady stubborn?
[_Very much wrought up and quite determined._] We're at one entirely, so
far as I know.
I'll go an' fetch her, Mr. Flamm.
[_Who has opened the desk in obvious absentmindedness, observes BERND'S
departure too late._] Nonsense, there's no such terrible hurry. [_For a
few moments he gazes in some consternation at the door through which
BERND has disappeared. Then he shrugs his shoulders._] Do as you please!
Exactly as you please! I can light a pipe in the meanwhile. [_He gets up,
takes a tobacco pouch from the bookcase and a pipe from a rack on the
wall, fills the pipe and lights it. To AUGUST._] Do you smoke?
Nor take snuff?
And you drink no whisky, no beer, no wine?
Nothing except the wine in the sacrament.
Iron principles, I must say! Quite exemplary!--Come in! I thought someone
was knocking. Or wasn't there? Those confounded ...! You practise a bit
of quackery now and then as a diversion, don't you? [_AUGUST shakes his
head._] I thought you healed by prayer? Seems to me I heard something
That would be somethin' very different from quackery.
In what respect?
Faith can move mountains. And whatever is asked in the right spirit ...
there the Father is still almighty to-day.
Come in! Surely someone's been knocking again! Come in! Come in! Confound
it all! [_Old BERND, very pale himself, urges ROSE to enter. She is pale
and resists him. She and FLAMM look steadfastly into each other's eyes
for a moment. Thereupon FLAMM continues:_] Very well! Just wait one
[_He goes into the den as though to search for something._
_The following colloquy of BERND, ROSE and AUGUST is carried on in
What was Streckmann sayin' to you?
Who? But, father ...
Streckmann was out there, talkin' an' talkin' to her!
Well, what should he ha' been talkin' to me about?
That's what I'm askin' you.
An' I know about nothin'.
You ought to have no dealin's with such a scamp!
Can I help it if he talks to me?
You see, you must confess that he's been talkin' to you!
An' if he has! I didn't listen to him--
I'll have to be givin' notice about that feller Streckmann. I'll have to
get the help o' the law against him. We was walkin' past there a while
ago where they're workin' with that threshin' machine. You hear? They're
beginnin' again! [_From afar the humming and rumbling of the machine is
heard._] An' then he called out somethin' after us. I couldn't just
rightly hear what it was.
If a girl talks as much as two words to that man, her good repute is
Well, go an' get yourself a better girl.
[_Re-enters. He has put on a collar and a hunting coat. His demeanour is
firm and dignified._]
Good morning, everybody. Now what can I do for you? When is this wedding
to take place? What's the trouble? You don't seem to be in agreement.
Well, won't you please say something? Well, my good people, it doesn't
look as though you were really ready. Suppose you take my advice: go home
and think it all over once more. And when you've quite made up your minds
come in again.
[_Dictatorially._] The matter'll be adjusted now.
I have surely nothing against it, Keil. [_About to make the necessary
notes with a pencil._] When is the ceremony to take place?
As soon as ever it's possible, we was thinkin'.
Yes; in four or five weeks if it could be done.
In four or five weeks? So soon as that?
Yes, Mr. Flamm.
Then I must beg you to name the exact date. It's very difficult to make
such arrangements so rapidly and....
[_Involuntarily from the depth of her painful excitement._] An' it might
well wait a bit longer'n that.
What do you mean, Rosie? I should say Miss Bernd. We've known, each other
all our lives. But one shouldn't--be so familiar with a girl who's
betrothed. However, it seems, then, that you are not in agreement....
[_Who has started violently at ROSE'S words, has stared at her
uninterruptedly since. Now he fights down his emotion and says with
unnatural calm:_] Very well then. Good-bye and good luck to you, father
Stay right where you are, August, I tell you! [_To ROSE._] An' as for
you! I'm tellin' you now that you must make up your mind one way or
t'other! D'you understand? Long enough has I had patience with you, an'
August too, more than was need. We went an' took your foolishness upon
ourselves. We was thinkin': Patience, patience! The Almighty will bring
the lass to her senses. But things gets worse an' worse with you. Three
days ago you give me your sacred promise an' plighted your troth to
August, an' you yourself was hard put to it to wait. An' to-day comes an'
you want to be shirkin'. What's the meanin' o' that? What do you think o'
yourself? D'you think you can dare anything because you've been a good,
decent lass? Because you've had self-respect an' been industrious, an' no
man can say evil o' you? Is that the reason? Ah, you're not the only one
o' that kind. That's no more'n our dooty! An' we're not permitted to
think anything of ourselves on that account! There's others as don't go
gaddin' to the dance! There's others as has taken care o' her brothers
an' sisters an' kept house for an old father! They're not all slovens an'
gadabouts even though you're a pious, decent lass! An' how would things
ha' been if you had been different? The street would ha' been your home!
No girl like that could be a daughter o' mine! This man here, August, he
has no need o' you! A man like that has but to stretch out his hand ...
an' he can have any girl he wants, even if her people are of the best. He
might be havin' a very different wife from yourself! Truly, a man's
patience can't bear everything! It'll snap sometime! Pride, arrogance,
recklessness--that's what it is in you! Either you keep your promise,
Now, now, father Bernd! You must be gentle!
Your honour, you don't know how it's been! A girl that leads on and makes
a fool of an honest man that way--she can't be no daughter o' mine!
[_Nearly weeping._] What have you got to reproach me with, Rose? Why are
you so hard toward me? 'Tis true, I never had no confidence in my good
fortune? An' why should I have? I'm made for misfortune! An' that's what
I've always told you, father Bernd, in spite of it all I've taken thought
an' I've worked an' God has given his blessin' so that I've not fallen by
the wayside. But I can weep; these things aren't for me! That would ha'
been too much of a blessin'. I grew up in an orphan house! I never knew
what it was to have a home! I had no brother an' no sister ... well, a
man can still hold fast to his Saviour.--It may be I'm not much to look
at, lass! But I asked you an' you said yes. 'Tis the inner man that
counts! God looks upon the heart ... You'll be bitter sorry some day!
[_He tries to go but BERND holds him back._
Once more! Here you stay, August!--D'you understand, Rosie! I means these
words: This man here ... or ... no, I can't permit that! That man here
was my friend an' support long before he asked you to be his wife. When I
was down with the sickness an' couldn't earn nothin', an' no one was good
to us--he shared his bit o' bread with us! [_AUGUST, unable to master his
emotion any longer, takes his hat and goes out._] He was like an angel o'
the Lord to us!--August!
I'm willin'. Can't you give me a little time?
He's given you three years! The good pastor has tried to persuade you ...
Now August is tired out! Who's to blame him for't? Everything must end
somewhere! He's in the right! But now you can look after yourself an' see
what becomes o' you ... I can't take no more pride in such a daughter.
FLAMM Well, well, well, well! This is the damnedest ...!
_ROSE has become alternately red and deathly pale. It is clear that
she is struggling with emotions so violent that she can scarcely hold
them in check. After BERND has gone out the girl seems to fall into a
state of desperate numbness._
[_Closing the public registration book and finding courage to look at
ROSE._] Rose! Wake up! What's the matter with you? Surely you're not
going to worry about all that ranting? [_A fever seems to shake her and
her great eyes are full of tears._] Rose! Be sensible! What's the ...?
I know what I want--and--maybe--I'll be able to put it through! An'--if
not--it don't matter--neither!
[_Walks up and down excitedly, stopping to listen at the door._]
Naturally. And why not? [_Apparently absorbed in the key-rack from which
he takes several keys, whispers in feverish haste._] Rose! Listen! Rose,
do you hear me? We must meet behind the outbuildings! I must talk it all
over with you once more. Ssh! Mother's in there in the den. It's not
[_Uttering her words with difficulty but with an iron energy._] Never an'
never, Mr. Flamm!
I suppose you want to drive us all mad? The devil has gotten into you!
I've been running around after you for the better part of a month, trying
to say a sensible word to you and you avoid me as if I were a leper!
What's the result? Things of this kind!
[_As before._] An' if everythin' gets ten times worse'n it is--_no_! You
can all beat down on me; I don't deserve no better! Go on an' wipe your
boots on me, but ...
[_Who is standing by the table, turns suddenly with indignant
astonishment toward ROSE. He strives to master his rage. Suddenly however
he brings down his fist on the table top with resounding violence._] I
will be damned to all ...!
For heaven's sake ...
_MRS. FLAMM, wheeled by a maid servant, appears at the door of the
What is the trouble, Christopher?
_FLAMM who has turned deadly pale, pulls himself together
energetically, takes his hat and cane from the wall and goes out
through the door at the right._
[_Looks at her husband in consternation, shakes her head at his abrupt
departure and then turns questioningly to ROSE._] What has happened?
What's the matter with him?
[_Overwhelmed by her profound wretchedness._] Oh, dear Mrs. Flamm, I'm
[_She sinks down before MRS. FLAMM and buries her head in the
Now do tell me!... For pity's sake, lass ... what's come over you! What
is it? You're like a different creature. I can't never understand that!
[_To the maid who has wheeled her in._] I don't need you now; you can
come back later! Get everything ready in the kitchen. [_The maid leaves
the room._] Now then! What is the trouble? What has happened? Tell me
everything! It'll ease you! What? What is't you say? Don't you want to
marry that pasty August? Or maybe you're carryin' some other fellow
around in your thoughts? Dear me! one o' them is about as good as
another, an' no man is worth a great deal.
[_Controlling herself and rising._] I know what I wants and that's the
Is that true? You see, I was afraid you didn't know! Sometimes a woman
don't know, especially a young one like you. An' then, maybe, an older
woman can help a bit. But if you know what you want,'tis well! You'll be
findin' your own way out o' your trouble. [_Putting on her spectacles,
with a keen glance._] Rosie, are you ill maybe?
[_Frightened and confused._] Ill? How ...?
Why, don't people get ill? You used to be so different formerly.
But I'm not ill!
I'm not sayin' it. I just ask. I ask because I want to know! But we must
understand each other rightly! 'Tis true! Don't let's talk round about
the thing we want to know, or play hide an' seek.--You're not afraid that
I don't mean well? [_ROSE shakes her head vigorously._] An 'twould be
strange if you did. That's settled then. You used to play with my little
Kurt. You two grew up together until it pleased God to take my only
child.--An' that very time your mother died too an' I remember--she was
lyin' on her deathbed--that she was askin' me that I might, if possible,
look after you a bit.
[_Staring straight before her._] The best thing for me would be to jump
into the river! If things is that way ... God forgive me the sin!
If things are that way? How? I don't understand you! You might well speak
a bit more clearly.--In the first place, I'm a woman myself, an' it won't
astonish me. An' then--I've been a mother myself, even if I have no
children now. Lass, who knows what's wrong with you? I've been watchin'
you for weeks an' weeks; maybe you didn't notice anything, but now I want
you to come out with the truth.--Wheel me over to that chest o' drawers.
[_ROSE obeys her._] So! Here in these drawers are old things--a child's
clothes an' toys. They were Kurt's ... Your mother said to me once: My
Rose, she'll be a mother o' children! But her blood is a bit too hot!--I
don't know. Maybe she was right. [_She takes a large doll from one of the
drawers._] Do you see? Things may go as they want to in this world, but a
mother is not to be despised.--You and Kurt used to play with this doll.
'Twas you mainly that took care o' her, washed her, fed her, gave her
clean linen, an' once--Flamm happened to come up--you put her to your
breast.--You brought those flowers this morning, didn't you? The
forget-me-nots in the little dish yonder? An' you put flowers on Kurt's
grave o' Sunday. Children an' graves--they're women's care. [_She has
taken a little child's linen shift from the drawer, she unfolds it,
holding it by the sleeves, and speaks from behind it._] Didn't you,
Rosie? An' I thank you for it, too. Your father, you see, he's busy with
his missionary meetin's an' his Bible lessons an' such things. All people
are sinners here, says he, an' he wants to make angels of 'em. It may be
that he's right, but I don't understand those things. I've learned one
thing in this world, an' that is what it is to be a mother an' how a
mother is blessed with sorrows.
_ROSE overwhelmed and moaning has sunk down beside MRS. FLAMM and
kisses the latter's hands again and again in gratitude and as a sign
[_Shows by a sudden gleam in her eyes that she understands the truth and
has received the confession. But she continues to speak quietly._] You
see, lass, that's what I've learned. I've learned that one thing which
the world has forgotten. I don't know very much about anything else. As
much as most people, maybe, an' that's not any real knowledge. [_She lays
down the child's shift carefully on her lap._] Well, now you go home an'
be of good courage! I'll be thinkin' things over for you. 'Tis well so
far. I'll ask you no more just now. You're different now ... all's
different. An' I'll be doubly careful. I don't want to know anything, but
I want you to depend on me. Little I care, anyhow, who the father is--if
'tis a councillor or a beggar. It's we who have to bring the children
into the world, an' no one can help us there. Three things you must think
about--how about your father, and about August ... an' something more.
But I have time enough! I'll think it all over an' I'll feel that I'm
still good for something in this world.
[_Has arisen and passed again into a state of moral numbness._] No, no,
Mrs. Flamm, don't do that! You can't! Don't take no interest in me! I've
not deserved it of him nor of no one! I know that! I've got to fight it
through--alone! There's no help in others for me; it's ... no, I can't
tell you no clearer!... You're as good to me as an angel! Dear God,
you're much too good! But it's no use! I can't take your help.
Wait a little! I can't let you go this way. Who knows what you may be
No, you can be reel quiet about that, Mrs. Flamm. I'm not that desperate
yet. If there's need, I can work for my child. Heaven's high an' the
world is wide! If it was just me, an' if it wasn't for father an' if
August didn't seem so pitiful ... an' then, a child ought to have a
Good. You just be resolute. You were always a brave girl. An' 'tis better
if you can keep your courage up!--But, if I've understood you rightly, I
can't see at all why you want to fight against the weddin'.
[_Becomes sullen, pale and fearful._] What can I say? I don't hardly
know! An' I don't want to fight against it no more. Only ...
Be open with me, you understand? For my part you can go home now! But
come back to-morrow! An' listen to this thing I say: Be glad! A woman
ought to be glad of her child....
An' God knows that I am! An' I will fight it all through! Only--nobody
can't help me to do it!
MRS. FLAMM [_Alone. She looks after ROSE, sighs, takes the child's shift
from her lap, unfolds it as before and says:_] Ah, lass,'tis a good
fortune that you have, not an evil! There's none that's greater for a
woman! Hold it fast!
THE CURTAIN FALLS
THE THIRD ACT
_A fertile landscape. In the foreground, to the right, on a
triangular piece of greensward slightly below the level of the
fields, there stands an old pear tree, at the foot of which a spring
empties into a primitive basin of stone. The middle distance is of
meadow land. In the background a pool, bordered by reeds and dotted
by water plants, lies in a grove of alder trees and bushes of
hazelnut, willow and beech. The meadows extend on either side
encircled by immemorial oaks, elms, beeches and birch trees. Between
the foliage of the trees and bushes the church spires of distant
villages are visible. To the left, behind the bushes, arise the
thatched roofs of the field barns._
_It is a hot afternoon of early August._
_From afar is heard the hum of the threshing machine. BERND and
AUGUST KEIL come from, the right. They are worn out from labour and
from the heat. The men are clad only in their shirts, breeches, boots
and caps. Each carries a hoe across his shoulder, a scythe in his
hand, and carries at his belt a cowherd's horn and whetstone._
'Tis hot an' to spare to-day. A man must rest a bit! But a feelin' o'
peace comes to you workin' on your own ground.
The trouble is I'm not used to mowin'.
You went an' did your share right bravely.
Yes, yes! But how long can I do it? All my limbs are twitchin' an'
hurtin' me now.
You can rest content, my son. A man's got to be used to that kind o'
work. An' in your case 'tis only an exception. But, 's I said, you could
well go an' be a gard'ner.
For the space of a day. On the second I'd collapse. There's no use; I'm
but a broken reed. I went to the county physician again. 'Twas the same
as always. He just shrugged his shoulders.
You're well now an' in God's hands. The most you might do is to put a few
rusty nails in water an' drink the rinsings two or three times a week.
That purifies the blood an' strengthens the heart.--I only hope the
weather'll keep on this way.
The heat's too terrible. When we were mowin', I thought I heard thunder.
[_Kneeling down on the edge of the basin and drinking from the surface of
the spring._] Water is the best drink for all they say.
How late is it?
'Tis about four o'clock, I'm wonderin' what keeps Rose with our evenin'
meal. [_He raises his scythe and looks at the blade. AUGUST does the
same._] Will you have to sharpen? Mine will do a bit longer.
I can try it this way a while longer.
[_Throws himself on the grass under the pear tree._] You'd better come
an' sit down by me. An' if, maybe, you got your Testament with you, we
might refresh ourselves with the Good Word.
[_Sitting down exhausted and glad to be free._] All I say is: Thanks and
praise be to the Lord.
D'you see, August, I said to you then: Let her be! The lass will find her
own way! Now she's come to her senses! In the old days, before your time,
often an' often I worried about her. A kind o' stubbornness used to come
over her from time to time. An' 'twas always best to let her
be!--Sometimes it seemed, as God lives, as if the lass was runnin'
against a wall--a strong wall that nobody else couldn't see, an' as if
she had to grope her way around it first.
What got into her that day ... I'm thankin' God on my knees ... but that
day I didn't know what to make of it! Suddenly she--how that came about
...? No, I can't see the rights of it to this day.
An' how different did she act this time when we went down to the
I'm glad that it's no longer Squire Flamm.
Yes, an' this time she didn't say a word an' in four or five minutes
everythin' was straight. That's the way she is. 'Tis the way o' women.
D'you think it had somethin' to do with Streckmann? He called out some
words behind you that day, an' first he had talked to her.
It may be so, an' it may not be so. I can't tell you. Times is when one
can't get a word out o' her. 'Tis not a good thing. An' on that account
I'm glad that she'll be the wife of a man who can influence her an' take
that sullen way from her. You two are meant for one another. 'Tis well!
The girl needs to be led, an' you have a kind hand an' a gentle one.
When I see that Streckmann, I feel as if I had to look upon the evil one
Maybe she thought as the feller meant mischief. He's been a sinner from
his childhood on! Many a time his mother complained of it!... It may be!
'Twouldn't surprise no one in him.
When I see that man, I don't seem to be myself no longer. Hot an' cold
shudders run down my back, an' I come near to accusin' our Heavenly
Father ... because he didn't make me a Samson in strength. Such times,
God forgive me, I have evil thoughts. [_The whizzing of Streckmann's
engine is heard._] There he is!
Don't take no notice of him.
I won't. An' when 'tis all over, I'll shut myself up in my four walls an'
we can lead a quiet life.
A good, quiet life--God grant it!
And I don't want to know nothin' of the world no more! The whole business
fills me with horror! I have taken such a disgust to the world and to
men, that I ... Father, I don't hardly know how to say it ... but when
the bitterness o' things rises up into my throat--then I laugh! Then I
have a feelin' of peace in the thought of death; and I rejoice in it like
_A number of thirsty field labourers, an old woman and two young
girls, all from the estate of the magistrate FLAMM, come hurriedly
across the fields. They are HAHN, HEINZEL, GOLISCH, OLD MRS. GOLISCH,
OLD KLEINERT, THE HEAD MAID SERVANT and her ASSISTANT. The men are
clad in trousers, the women have their skirts gathered up, shawls
over their breasts and manicoloured kerchiefs on their heads._
[_Thirty years old, bronzed and vigorous._] I'm always the first at the
fountain! The rest o' ye c'n run all ye want to! Ye can't never ketch up
with me! [_He kneels down and leans over the spring._] Eh, but I'd like
to jump right in.
THE ASSISTANT MAID
Don't ye dare! We've got a thirst too. [_To the HEAD MAID SERVANT._] Have
ye a bit of a cup with ye to dip up the water?
HEAD MAID SERVANT
Hold on there! I comes first.
[_Pulls the two women back by the shoulders and thrusts himself between
them up to the spring._] First comes the men, then the women folks.
There's space enough here for us all. Eh, father Bernd? Wish you a good
Yes, yes. Only no meal's been brought for us to eat yet. We're waitin'
for it--waitin' in vain.
I ... I ... I'm wet enough to be wrung out! My tongue is lyin' in my
mouth, dry as a piece o' charred wood.
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
Here 'tis, enough for us all!
_They all drink greedily, some immediately from the surface of the
mater, some out of their hollowed hands, others out of their hats or
out of little cups and bottles. The sounds of swallowing and of deep
relieved breathing are clearly audible._
[_Getting up._] Water's a good thing but beer would be a better.
An' a bit o' brandy wouldn't come amiss neither.
August, you might be treatin' us to a quart.
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
He'd better invite us all to the weddin'.
We're all comin' to the weddin'. They says it's to be soon.
I'm not comin'. What for? To swill cold water? I needn't go no farther
than the spring for that. Or for the sake of a little coffee.
An' prayin' an' singin' for dessert. An' mebbe, there's no tellin', the
parson from Jenkau will come over an' see if we know the ten
Or the seven beatitudes on top o' that! That'd be a fine state of
affairs. I've long forgot it all.
You folks had better stop teasin' August. I'm tellin' you now, if I had a
girl of my own, I wouldn't be wantin' no better son-in-law. He knows his
business! You always know where to find him.
_The working men and women have scattered themselves at ease in a
semicircle and are eating their evening meal; coffee in tin pots and
great wedges of bread from which they cut pieces with their
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
There comes Rosie Bernd around from behind the farm.
Look an' see, will you, how that girl can jump.
She can lift a sack o' wheat and drag it to the very top o' the barn.
This very mornin' I saw her with a great heavy chest o' drawers on a
wheelbarrow, trundlin' it over to the new house. That there girl has got
sap an' strength. She'll take care o' her household.
If I could get along in the world like August in other respecks, my
faith, I wouldn't a bit mind tryin'; I'd see what bein' pious can do for
You've got to know how to run after good fortune; then you'll get hold of
When you consider how he used to go around from village to village with a
sack full o' tracts; an' how, after that, he used to be writin' letters
for people ... an' now, to-day, he's got the finest bit o' property an'
can marry the handsomest girl in the county.
_ROSE BERND approaches. In a basket she is carrying the evening meal
for AUGUST and OLD BERND._
A good afternoon to you.
Good evenin'!--Good evenin'! Many thanks!
You're lettin' your sweetheart starve, Rosie.
[_Merrily unpacking the food._] Don't you worry! He don't starve so easy
You must be feedin' him well, Rosie, or he'll put on no flesh.
That's true. He'll be a sight too lean for you, lass.
Where have you been keepin' yourself so long? We've been waitin' this
[_In a subdued but annoyed voice._] An' now the whole crowd is here
again! An' we might have been through this long time.
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
Let him scold, lass, an' don't mind it.
Who's scoldin'? There's no one here to scold. August wouldn't do it in a
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
Even so! But that's right: you shouldn't care nothin' about it.
'Cause, if he don't scold now, that'll be comin' later.
I'm not afraid o' that ever comin'.
You're mighty friendly, all of a sudden.
We was always agreed with each other, wasn't we, August? What are you
laughin' at? [_She kisses him. Laughter is heard among the people._]
Well, well, and I thought as I might be climbin' into her window some
If you did, you'd be carrying home your bones in a handkerchief!
THE HEAD MAID SERVANT
[_Sarcastically._] O Lordy, Lordy! I'd try it all the same. You can't
[_Sombre but calm._] Take care what you're sayin', woman.
Hear what he says, I tell you! Be careful of what you're sayin'. Old
Bernd, he don't take no jokes.
She's not sayin' anythin' special. Let her be.
[_Lighting his pipe._] He may be lookin' real mild now, but when he lets
go, you won't hardly believe it. I know how it used to be when he was
manager of the estate; the women folks didn't have much cause for
laughin' then. He got the upper hand o' ten like you; there wasn't no
gaddin 'about with fellers for them!
HEAD MAID SERVANT
Who's gaddin' about with fellers, I'd like to know!
You'd better be askin' the machinist, Streckmann,
HEAD MAID SERVANT
[_Crimson._] For all I care you can ask the Lord hisself!
[_All present laugh._
_The machinist STRECKMANN appears. He is dusty and comes straight
from the threshing machine. He shows the effects of liquor._
Who's talkin' about the machinist Streckmann aroun' here? He's right
here! He's standin' right here. Anybody wantin' to pick a quarrel with
him? Good day to you all! Hope you're havin' a pleasant meal.
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
Talk of the devil an' he appears.
An' you're the devil's grandmother, I suppose. [_He takes off his cockade
and wipes the sweat from his forehead._] I tell you people I can't keep
up with this: this kind o' work uses a man up skin and bones!--Hello,
August! Good day to you, Rosie! Well, father Bernd--Great God, can't
Let him be! Some people's better off than they can stand.
The Lord lets his own people have an easy time. A feller like me works
and works and can't get ahead. [_He has assumed a reclining position and
squeezed himself between HEINZEL and KLEINERT. He now hands his whisky
bottle to HEINZEL._] Let her go aroun'.
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
You live the best life of us all, Streckmann! What in Heaven's name has
you to complain about? You drinks your drinks and makes three times over
what we do--all for standin' by the machine a bit.
What I want is work for my brain. I got a head on me. That's what you
bran-heads can't understand. Of course! What does an old woman know about
that! An', anyhow--the trouble I got....
Lord, Streckmann and trouble--
More than enough!--there's somethin' that sticks into me, I can tell
you--sticks into my belly and into my heart. I feel so rotten bad I'd
like to be doin' somethin' real crazy. [_To the ASSISTANT MAID._] Lass,
shall I lie down with you?
I'll bang you over the head with a whetstone!
That's just what's troublin' him; everythin' gets black before his eyes,
he don't see nothin' more, an' sudden like, he's lyin' abed with a lass.
Yon can laugh, ye ragamuffins, laugh all ye want to! It's no laughin'
matter with me, I can tell ye. [_Blustering:_] I'll let the machine
squeeze off one of my arms! Or ye can run the piston through me if ye
want to! Kill me, for all I care.
Or mebbe you'd like to set a barn afire.
By God! There's fire enough inside of me. August there, he's a happy man
Whether I'm happy or whether I'm unhappy, that don't concern no one in
What am I doin' to you? Can't you be sociable with a feller?
I'll look for my society elsewhere.
[_Looks at him long with smouldering hatred; represses his rage and
grasps the whisky bottle which has been handed back to him._] Give it to
me! A feller's got to drown his sorrow!--[_To ROSE._] You needn't be
lookin' at me; a bargain's a bargain. [_He gets up._] I'm goin'!--I don't
want to come between you.
You can go or you can stay for all I care.
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
[_Calling STRECKMANN back._] Look here, Streckmann, what was that
happened t'other day? About three weeks ago at the threshin' machine?...
[_Men and women burst into laughter._
That's all over. I don't know nothin' about that.
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
An' yet, you swore by all that was good and holy....
You people stop your gossippin'.
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
He needn't be talkin' so big all the time.
[_Comes back._] And I tell you what I says, that I puts through. I'll be
damned if I don't! Let it go at that. I don't say no more.
OLD MRS. GOLISCH It's done just as easy without talkin'.
[_Comes back, is about to speak out, but restrains himself._] Never mind!
I don't walk into no such trap! But if you want to know exactly what it's
all about, ask August there or father Bernd.
What's all this about? What's this we're supposed to know?
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
'Twas that time you went to the magistrate's, 'twas that time! An' didn't
Streckmann pass you on the road an' didn't he cry out somethin' after ye?
It's about time for you to be stoppin'.
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
An' why, I'd like to know? That's all nothin' but a joke ... People
wonders if that there time you all agreed, or if Rosie wasn't so willin'
to join in!
God Almighty forgive you all for your sins! What I wants to ask you is
this: Why can't the whole crowd o' you leave us in peace? Or is it that
we ever did any harm to any o' ye?
An' we're not doin' any wrong neither.
An' whether I was willin' on that day or not--you needn't give yourself
no concern about that! I'm willin' now an' that settles it,
That's the right way, Rosie!
[_Who has hitherto been reading, with apparent absorption, in his New
Testament, now closes the book and arises._] Come, father, let's go to
That takes it out o' you more than pastin' prayer books together or
stirrin' the paste in your pot!
And how do you think he'll feel after the weddin'? A girl like Rosie--she
[_Also laughing._] Gee ...! I almost said somethin' I oughtn't to!--[_He
steps back among the people._] I'll give you a riddle to guess. Shall I?
Still waters run deep! 'Tis bad. You mustn't taste blood--no, no! The
thirst only gets worse an' worse--that's all.
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
What's that? Where did you get the taste o' blood?
I suppose he means the taste for whisky!
I'm goin' my way! Good-bye! I'm a good feller! Good-bye, father Bernd!
Good-bye, August! Good-bye, Rosie! [_To AUGUST._] What's wrong?--August,
don't be showin' off. 'Tis all well! I'm willin'! You'll not see me
again! But you--you've got reason enough to be grateful to me. You've
always been an underhanded kind o' crittur! But I've given my consent to
let things be! I've given my consent an' everything can go smoothly.
[_With violent energy._] Let him talk, August; pay no attention to him.
Flamm is comin'! [_He looks at his watch._] 'Tis over half an hour!
[_The whistle of the engine is heard._
[_During the general stir._] Forward, Prussians! It's misery whistlin'
_The workingmen and the maids disappear swiftly with their scythes.
ROSE, OLD BERND and AUGUST remain alone on the scene._
All the evil on earth seems broken loose here' What's all that Streckmann