Part 5 out of 9
is sayin'? Tell me, Rose, do you understand it?
No, an' I've got better things to be thinkin' of! [_She gives AUGUST a
friendly nudge on the head._] Isn't it so, August? We have no time for
nonsense! We have to hurry these comin' six weeks.
[_She gathers up the remnants of the meal in her basket._
Come over to us a bit later.
I must wash and iron and sew buttonholes. 'Tis almost time now.
We'll be comin' to our supper after seven.
[_Before he goes, earnestly:_] Do you care for me, Rosie?
Yes, I do care for you.
_AUGUST disappears and ROSE is left alone. The hum of the threshing
machine is heard as well as the muttering of thunder on the horizon.
After ROSE has replaced bread, butter, the coffee pots and cups into
her basket, she straightens herself up and seems to become aware of
something in the distance which attracts her and holds her captive.
With sudden, determination, she snatches up the head kerchief that
has fallen to the ground and hurries off. Before she has disappeared
from view, however, FLAMM becomes visible on the scene and calls to
Rose! Wait there! Confound it all! [_Rose stands still with her face
turned away._] You are to give me a drink! I suppose I'm worth a draught
There's plenty of water here.
I see. I'm not blind. But I don't care to drink like the beasts. Have you
no cups in your basket? [_ROSE pushes the cover of her basket aside._]
Well, then! You even have a cup of Bunzlauer ware! I like to drink out of
that best of all. [_She hands him the cup, still with averted face._] I
beg your pardon. You might practise a little politeness! I suppose you'll
have to force yourself to it this one more time. [_ROSE walks over to the
spring, rinses the cup, fills it with water, sets it down next to the
spring and then returns to her basket. She picks the latter up and waits
with her back to FLAMM._] No, Rosie--that won't do at all. You might get
rid of some gaol bird in that fashion. I don't know the habits of such
persons very exactly. As things are, I'm still the magistrate Flamm. Am I
going to get a drink or am I not? Well: One ... two ... three ... and ...
there's an end to this, I' beg for some decency! No more nonsense! [_ROSE
has returned to the spring, has picked up the cup and now holds it out to
FLAMM, still refusing to look at him._] So! Higher, though, a little
higher! I can't get at it yet!
But you must hold it.
How can I drink this way?
[_Amused against her will, turns her face to him._] Oh, but....
That's better already!--That's good!--[_Apparently unintentionally and as
if merely to hold the cup, he puts his own hands upon ROSE'S which
support it. His mouth at the rim he lowers himself more and more--until
he kneels on one knee._] So! Thank you, Rosie! Now you can let me go.
[_Making gentle efforts to disengage herself._] Oh, no! Do let me be, Mr.
Is that so? You think, then, that I ought to let you be? Now, when at
last I've succeeded in catching you! No, lassie,'tis not so easy as that.
It won't do and you needn't ask it of me. You needn't wear yourself out!
You can't escape me! First of all, look me square in the eyes once more!
I haven't changed! I know; I know about--everything! I've had 'a talk
with the magistrate Steckel about your having agreed to everything now. I
thank God that I'm no longer the official who attends to the matchmaking!
Another man takes care of the man-traps now. I even know the date of the
funeral ... I'll be ... I meant the wedding, of course. And in addition,
I've talked to myself, too. Rose, 'tis a hard nut! I hope we won't break
our teeth on it!
I dare not stand this way with you here.
You must. Whether you may or not--I don't care! In fact I don't give a
tinker's damn! If this thing is really decreed in the council of God, as
the song has it--I want a dismissal in all due form: I refuse to be just
coolly shunted off.--Rose, is there anything in the past for which I need
to ask your forgiveness?
[_Touched, shakes her head with energy._] Nothin', nothin' at all, Mr.
No? Is that honest? [_ROSE nods a hearty affirmation._] Well, I'm glad of
that, at least! I hoped it would be so. Then at least we can keep
something that's harmonious in our memories. Ah, Rose, it was a good,
An' you must go back to your wife....
A good time! And it rushes past ... past! And what do we keep of it?
You must be kind, very kind to your wife, Mr. Flamm. She's an angel; 'tis
she that saved me!
Come, let's sit down under the pear tree! Very well. But why talk of it?
I'm always kind to my wife. Our relations are the very friendliest. Come,
Rose! Tell me all about that. What d'you mean by that? Saved? What did
she save you from, Rose? I'd naturally like to know that! What was the
matter with you? Mother did drop all sorts of hints; but I was no wiser
Mr. Christopher ... Mr. Flamm! I can't sit down here. An' it don't
matter! It can't lead to anythin'. 'Tis all over an' past now--well--'tis
all dead an' gone. I know God will forgive me the sin. An' He won't lay
it up against the poor, innocent child neither. He's too merciful to do
[_Alluding to the hum of the threshing machine which grows louder and
louder._] That confounded buzzing all the time!--What did you say, Rose?
Sit down just a moment. I won't harm you; I won't even touch you! I give
you my word, Rose. Have some confidence in me! I want you to speak
out--to tell what's on your heart!
I don't know ... there's ... there's just nothin' more to say! When once
I'm married, you can go an' ask the good missis. Maybe she'll tell you
then what was the trouble with me. I haven't told August nothin' either.
I know he's good. I'm not afraid o' that. He's soft o' heart an' a good
Christian man. An' now: Good-bye, Christie--keep well.--We've a long life
ahead of us now an', maybe, we can be reel faithful an' do penance an'
work hard an' pay off the debt.
[_Holding ROSE'S hand fast in his._] Rose, stay one moment. It's all
right and I must be satisfied. I'm not coming to your wedding, God knows!
But even if I don't come to your wedding, still I admit that you're
right.--But, oh, lass, I've loved you so truly, so honestly.... I can
never tell you how much! And it's been, upon my word, as far back as I
can think.--You had crept into my heart even in the old days when you
were a child and were always so honest ... so frank about a thousand
little things--so straight and true, however things were. No sneakiness,
no subterfuge--whatever the consequences. I've known women enough in
Tarant and in Eberswalde at the agricultural college and in the army, and
I was usually lucky with them--ridiculously so. And yet I never knew true
happiness except through you.
Oh, Christie, I've loved you too!
Why you've been in love with me ever since you were a little thing! Why
you used to make eyes at me.... Do you believe you'll ever think of it?
And think of the mad, old sinner Flamm?
That I will. I have a pledge....
You mean the ring with the bit of stone? And won't you come to our house
No, that can't be. That would cut a body too sorely to the heart. That
wouldn't be nothin' but double sufferin' an' misery! There's got to be an
end to it all. I'll bury myself in the house! There's work an' moil
enough for two! 'Tis a new life that's beginnin' an' we mustn't look back
on the old life. There's nothin' but sorrow an' heart's need on this
earth; we has to wait for a better place.
And so this is to be our last farewell, Rose?
Father an' August will be wonderin' now.
And if the little fishes in the river were to stand on their tails in
wonderment and the bitterns on the trees did the same--I wouldn't lose
one second--now! So it's to be all, all over and done with? And you won't
even come to see mother?
[_Shaking her head._] I can't look her in the face no more! Maybe some
day! Maybe in ten years or so! Maybe all this'll be conquered then.
Good-bye, Mr. Christie! Good-bye, Mr. Flamm!
So be it. But, lass, I tell you, if it weren't for mother ... now ...
even now ... I wouldn't fool around much ... I wouldn't give you much
Yes, if it wasn't for that little word "if"! If August wasn't livin', an'
father wasn't--who knows what I'd do. I'd like to go out into the wide
And I with you, Rose! Well, then we know what's in our hearts.--And now
you might give me your hand once more.... [_He presses her hand and their
glances melt hotly into each other in this last farewell._] So it is.
What was to be, must be! I suppose we must leave each other now.
[_He turns resolutely and walks away with firm steps and without
ROSE [_Looking after him, mastering herself, with tense volition:_] What
must be, must be!--'tis well now!--
[_She put back the can into her basket and is about to walk in the
[_With pale, contorted face, creeping and basely hesitant in demeanour._]
Rose! Rose Bernd! D'you hear? That was that rascally Flamm again! If ever
I gets my hand on him ... I'll smash every bone in his carcase!--What's
up? What did he want again! But I'm tellin' you this: things don't go
that way! I won't bear it! One man is as good as another! I won't let
nobody turn me off this way!
What d'you say? Who are you anyhow?
Who am I? Damn it, you know that well enough!
Who are you? Where did I ever see you?
Me? Where you saw me? _You?_ You can look for somebody else to play your
monkey tricks on!
What do you want? What are you? What business has you with me?
What business? What I wants? Nothin' much, y'understand? God ... don't
I'll call for all the world to come if you don't get out o' my way this
Think o' the cherry tree! Think o' the crucifix....
Who are you! Lies! Lies! What do you want with me? Either you get away
from here straightway ... or I'll cry out for some one to come an' help
Girl, you've lost your senses!
Then I won't have to drag 'em around with me no longer! Who are you!
Lies! You've seen nothin'! I'll cry out! I'll shriek as long as I has
breath in my body, if you don't go this very second.
[_Frightened._] I'm goin', Rosie. It's all right.
But now! This minute! Y'understand!
Right away! For all I care! An' why not? [_He makes a farcical gesture as
though avoiding a shower of rain._]
[_Half-mad with rage and scorn._] There he runs! The vile scoundrel! When
you see a fellow like that from behind, you see the best side o' him! Fy,
I says! He's all smooth an' spruce on the outside, an' his innards rotten
as dirt. A body could die o' disgust!
[_Turns, pale and sinister._] Ah ...! An' is that so indeed! You don't
never mean it!... 'Tis not very appetisin' the way you makes it out. Why
was you so hot after it, then?
I? Hot after you?
Maybe you've forgotten already?
Maybe I am.
Scoundrel! Ruffian! Why do you go sniffin' around me now! Who are you?
What has I done? You stuck to my heels! You followed me an' baited me an'
snapped at me ... Rascal ... worse'n a dog ...
'Twas you that ran after me!
You came to my house an' made things hot for me!
An' you ...
An' you? An' you?
Well, I don't refuse a good thing that's offered.
Streckmann! You has to die some day! D'you hear? Think o' your last hour!
You has to stand before your Judge some day! I ran to you in the awful
terror o' my heart! An' I begged you for the love o' God not to put
nothin' between me an' August. I crept on my knees before you--an' you
say, you, I ran after you! What was it truly? You committed a crime--a
crime against me! An' that's worse'n a scoundrel's trick! 'Twas a
crime--doubly and trebly! An' the Lord'll bring it home to you!
Listen to that! I'll take my chances!
Is that what you say? You'll take your chances in that court? Then a
person can spit in your face!
Think o' the cherry tree! Think o' the crucifix!
An' you swore to me that you'd never mention it again! You swore by all
that's holy. You put that hand o' yours on the cross, an' by the cross
you swore--an' now you're beginnin' to persecute me again! What do you
I'm as good as Flamm. An' I don't want no more goin's on between you an'
I'll jump into his bed, scoundrel! An' it wouldn't concern you that much!
Well, we'll see what'll be the end of all that!
What? 'Tis violence that you did to me! You confused me! You broke me
down! You pounced on me like a wild beast! I know! I tried to get out by
the door! An' you took hold an' you rent my bodice an' my skirt! I bled!
I might ha' gotten out by the door! Then you shot the latch! That's a
crime, a crime! An' I'll denounce....
_BERND and AUGUST appear on the scene. After them KLEINERT and
GOLISCH and the other field hands._
[_Close to STRECKMANN._] What's all this? What did you do to my lass?
[_Pulls BERND back and thrusts himself forward._] 'Tis my place, father.
What did you do to Rosie?
[_Coming forward again._] What did you do to the lass?
[_Approaching STRECKMANN once more._] You'll tell us now what you did to
Nothin'! The devil! I say nothin'!
You'll either be tellin' us now what you did to her--or ...
Or? Well, what? What about "or"?--Hands off!... Take your hands from my
[_Trying to separate them._] Hold on, now.
Hands off, I tell you!
You'll have to take the consequences now! Either ...
What did you do to the girl?
[_Backing, in sudden fright, toward the pear tree, cries out:_] Help!
What did you do to the girl? Answer me that! I got to know that!
[_He has freed himself and faces STRECKMANN._
[_Lifts his arm and strikes AUGUST full in the face._] There's my answer!
That's what I did!
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
Catch hold o' August! He's fallin'!
[_Supports the falling man._] August!
[_Paying no attention to AUGUST, but addressing STRECKMANN:_] You'll have
to account for this! It'll be brought home to you!
What? On account o' that there wench that's common to anybody as wants
What was that he said ...?
[_Who is helping the MAID, HAHN, GOLISCH and MRS. GOLISCH support
AUGUST._] His eye is out!
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
Father Bernd, August didn't fare so very well this time....
'Tis an evil wooin' that he has!
What? How? Christ In Heaven! [_He goes to him._] August!
My left eye hurts that bad!
Rose, bring some water!
OLD MRS. GOLISCH
'Tis a misfortune.
Rose, fetch some water! D'you hear me?
That'll mean a good year o' prison!
[_Suddenly awakening from a dazed condition._] He says ... he says ...
What's the meanin' o' ... Didn't I get a doll o' Christmas....
[_To ROSE._] Are you asleep?
... There's no tellin' what ... No, lass: it can't be done! Such things
don't come to good! ... Mebbe a girl can't do without a mother.
THE CURTAIN FALLS
THE FOURTH ACT
_The same room in FLAMM'S house as in the second act. It is a
Saturday afternoon toward the beginning of September. FLAMM is
sitting over his accounts at the roller-top desk. Not far from the
door to the hall stands STRECKMANN._
According to this there is due you the sum of twelve pounds, ten
Yes, Mr. Flamm.
What was wrong with the machine? You stopped working one forenoon?
I had a summons to appear in the county court that day. There wasn't
nothin' wrong with the machine.
Was that in connection with the trouble about ... Keil?
Yes. An' besides that Bernd sued me for slanderin' his daughter.
[_Has taken money from a special pigeon hole and counts it out on the
large table._] Here are twelve pounds and eleven shillings. So you owe me
[_Pockets the money and gives FLAMM a small coin._] An' so I'm to tell
the head bailiff that by the end o' December you'll be ready for me
Yes, I want you for two days. Say, by the beginning of December. I'd like
to empty the big barn at that time.
By the beginnin' o' December. All right, Mr. Flamm. Good-bye.
Good-bye, Streckmann. Tell me, though, what's going to be the outcome of
[_Stops and shrugs his shoulders._] It isn't goin' to be much of an
outcome for me!
I suppose I'll have to suffer for it.
What consequences a little thing will sometimes have!--How did it happen
that you quarreled?
I can't say as I can remember clearly. That day--I must ha' been off my
head--but the truth is I just can't get it straight how it did happen.
The bookbinder is known to be a very peaceable man.
An' yet he's always quarrelin' with me! But the thing's just gone from
me.--All I know is that they fell on me just like hungry wolves! I
thought they was tryin' to kill me right there! If I hadn't been thinkin'
that, my hand wouldn't ha' slipped the way it did.
And the man's eye couldn't--be saved?
No, an' it makes a feller feel sorry. But ... there's nothin' to be done.
The misfortune isn't on my conscience.
A thing of that kind is bad enough in itself. And when the courts take a
hand in it, that only makes it worse. I'm especially sorry for the girl.
Yes; I'm thin an' wasted with the misery of it. It's gone straight to my
heart. I tell you, your honour, I don't know what it is to sleep no more.
I haven't got nothin' against August really. But, as I said, I just can't
account for it.
You ought to go over and see Bernd some day. If you insulted his daughter
and weren't in a clear state of mind, you could simply retract what you
That's none o' my business. That's his'n. Of course, if he knew what'll
come out--he'd take back his accusation. Somebody else ought to tell him.
He's not doin' the girl no service by it. That's how things is. Good-bye,
_STRECKMANN leaves the room._
FLAMM [_Excitedly, to himself._] If one could only get at the throat of a
creature like that!
_MRS. FLAMM is wheeled in by a maid from FLAMM'S den._
What are you muttering about again?--[_At a gesture from her the maid
retires._]--Did you have any annoyance?
Oh, yes; a little.
Wasn't that Streckmann?
The handsome Streckmann. Yes, that was the handsome Streckmann.
How is that affair getting on now, Christie? Did you talk about Keil?
[_Scribbling._] Oh, pshaw! My head is full of figures.
Do I disturb you, Christie?
No; only you must keep quiet.
If I can't do anything else--you can be sure I can do that.
[_Bursting out._] I'll be damned and double damned! There are times when
one would like to take a gun and simply shoot down a scoundrel like that!
There'd be no trouble about taking that on one's conscience.
But, Christie, you really frighten me.
It isn't my fault! I'm frightened myself!--I tell you, mother, that man
is so low, so rotten with evil ... I tell you ... at least he has spells
when he's that way ... that a man like myself, who is no saint either,
feels as if his very bowels were turning in him! There's no end to that
kind of corruption. A man may think he knows life inside out, that he's
digested some pretty tough bits himself--but things like that--crimes--I
tell you, one never gets beyond the elements in that kind of knowledge!
What has roused you so again?
[_Writing again._] Oh, I'm only speaking in general.
I thought it was somehow connected with Streckmann. Because, Christie, I
can't rid myself of the thought of that affair. And when it's convenient
to you some day, I'd like to have a good talk with you about it!
With me? How does Streckmann concern me?
Not Streckmann exactly--not the man. But surely old Bernd and Rose. As
far as the girl is concerned, 'tis bitter earnest for her--the whole
thing! And if I weren't tied down here as I am, I would have gone over to
see her long ago. She's never seen here any more.
You ... you want to go and see Rose? What do you want of her?
But, don't you see, Christie--you understand that--she isn't exactly the
first comer! I ought to see about setting her affairs to rights a bit!
Ah well, mother! Do what you think is your duty. I hardly think that
you'll accomplish much for the girl.
How is that, Christie? What do you mean?
One shouldn't mix up into other people's affairs. All you get for your
pains is ingratitude and worry.
Even so! We can bear the worry, an' ingratitude--that's what you expect
in this world. An' as far as Rose Bernd is concerned, I always felt as if
she were more than half my own child. You see, Christie, as far as I can
think back--when father was still chief forester--her mother already came
to wash for us. Afterward, in the churchyard, at our little Kurt's
grave--I see the girl standin' as clear as if it was to-day, even though
I was myself more dead than alive. Except you an' me, I can tell you
that, nobody was as inconsolable as the girl.
Do as you please, as far as I'm concerned! But what are your intentions
exactly? I can't think what you're after, child!
First, I'm going to be real curious now.
Oh, about nothing you can describe exactly! You know, usually, I don't
interfere in your affairs. But now ... I'd like real well to know ...
what's come over you this while past?
Over me? I thought you were talking about Rose Bernd.
But now I'm talking about you, you see.
You can spare yourself the trouble, mother. My affairs are no concern of
You say that! 'Tis easily said. But if a person sits still as I have to
do and sees a man growing more an' more restless, an' unable to sleep o'
nights, an' hears him sighin' an' sighin', and that man happens to be
your own husband--why, you have all kinds of thoughts come over you!
Now, mother, you've gone off your head entirely. You seem to want to make
me look utterly foolish! _I_ sigh! Am I such an imbecile? I'm not a
No, Christie, you can't escape me that way!
Mother, what are you trying to do? Do you want, simply, to be tiresome,
to bore me? Eh? Or make the house too disagreeable to stay in? Is that
your intention? If so, you're going about it the best way possible.
I don't care what you say; you're keeping something secret!
[_Shrugging his shoulders._] Do you think so?--Well, perhaps I _am_
keeping something from you! Suppose it is so, mother.... You know me....
You know my nature in that respect.... The whole world could turn upside
down and not get that much [_he snaps his fingers_] out of me! As for
annoyance ... everyone has his share of it in this world! Yesterday I had
to dismiss one of the brewers; day before yesterday I had to send a
distiller to the devil. And, all in all, apart from such incidents, the
kind of life one has to live here is really flat and unprofitable enough
to make any decent individual as cross as two sticks.
Why don't you seek company? Drive in to town!
Oh, yes, to sit in the inn playing at cards with a crowd of Philistines
or to be stilted with his honour, the prefect of the county! God forbid!
I have enough of that nonsense! It couldn't tempt me out of the house! If
it weren't for the bit of hunting a man could do--if one couldn't
shoulder one's gun occasionally, one would be tempted to run away to sea.
Well, you see! There you are! That's what I say! You've just changed
entirely! Till two, three months ago, you was as merry as the day's long;
you shot birds an' stuffed them, increased your botanical collection,
hunted birds' eggs--and sang the livelong day! 'Twas a joy to see you!
An' now, suddenly, you're like another person.
If only we had been able to keep Kurt!
How would it be if we adopted a child?
All of a sudden? No, mother. I don't care about it now. Before, you
couldn't make up your mind to it; now I've passed that stage too.
'Tis easily said: Take a child into the house! First of all it seemed to
me like betraying Kurt ... yes, like a regular betrayal ... that's what
the very thought of It seemed to me. I felt--how shall I say it?--as if
we were putting the child away from us utterly--out of the house, out of
his little room an' his little bed, an', last of all, out of our
hearts.--But the main thing was this: Where can you get a child in whom
you can hope to have some joy?--But let that rest where it is. Let's go
back to Rose once more!--Do you know how it is with her, Christopher?
Oh, well! Of course; why not? Streckmann has cast a slur upon her conduct
and old Bernd won't suffer that! 'Tis folly, to be sure, to bring suit in
such a matter.--Because it is the woman who has to bear the brunt of it
in the end.
I wrote a couple of letters to Rose and asked the lass to come here. In
her situation, Christopher, she may really not know what to do nor where
Why do you think so?
Because Streckmann is right!
[_Taken aback and with a show of stupidity._] What, mother? You must
express yourself more clearly.
Now, Christie, don't let your temper get the better of you again! I've
kept the truth from you till now because I know you're a bit harsh in
such matters. You remember the little maid that you put straight out o'
the house, and the trunk-maker to whom you gave a beating! Now this lass
o' ours made a confession to me long ago--maybe eight weeks. An' we have
to consider that 'tis not only Rose that's to be considered now, but ...
a second being ... the one that's on the way. Did you understand me? Did
[_With self-repression._] No! Not entirely, mother, I must say frankly.
I've got a kind of a ... just to-day ... it comes over me ... the blood,
you know ... it seems to go to my head suddenly, once in a while. It's
like a ... it's horrible, too ... like an attack of dizziness! I suppose
I'll have to ... at least, I think I'll have to take the air a bit. But
it's nothing of importance, mother. So don't worry.
[_Looking at him through her spectacles._] And where do you want to go
with your cartridge belt?
Nowhere! What did I want to do with the cartridge belt? [_He hurls the
belt aside which he has involuntarily picked up._] One learns nothing ...
is kept in the dark about everything! And then a point comes where one
suddenly feels blind and stupid ... and a stranger ... an utter stranger
in this world.
[_Suspiciously._] Will you tell me, Christie, the meanin' of all this?
It hasn't any, mother--not the slightest ... none at all, in fact. And
I'm quite clear in my head again, too--quite! Only now and then a feeling
comes over me, a kind of terror, all of a sudden, I don't know how ...
and I feel as if there were no solid footing under me any longer, and as
if I were going to crash through and break my neck.
'Tis strange things you are saying to-day, Christie. [_A knocking is
heard at the door._] Who's knocking there? Come in!
[_Still behind the scenes._] 'Tis only me, Mrs. Flamm.
_FLAMM withdraws rapidly into his den._
Oh, 'tis you, Mr. Keil. Just step right in.
_AUGUST KEIL appears on the scene. He is paler than formerly, more
emaciated and wears dark glasses. His left eye is hidden by a black
I have come, Mrs. Flamm, to bring Rose's excuses to you. Good-day, Mrs.
Good-day to you, Mr. Keil.
My betrothed had to go to the county court to-day, or she would ha' come
herself. But she'll be comin' in this evenin'.
I'm real pleased to get a chance to see you. How are you getting on? Sit
God's ways are mysterious! An' when His hand rests heavy on us, we
mustn't complain. On the contrary, we must rejoice. An' I tell you, Mrs.
Flamm, that's almost the way I'm feelin' nowadays. I'm content. The worse
things gets, the gladder I am. 'Tis layin' up more an' more treasures in
[_Taking a deep and difficult breath._] I trust you are right, Mr.
Keil.--Did Rose get my letters?
She gave them to me to read. An' I told her, it wouldn't do--that she'd
have to go to see you now.
I must tell you, Keil, I'm surprised that, after all these recent
happenin's, she never once found her way here. She knows that she'll find
She's been reel afraid o' people recently. An', Mrs. Flamm, if you'll
permit me to say so, you mustn't take it ill. First of all she had her
hands full with tendin' to me. I was so in need o' care--an' she did a
good work by me! An' then, since that man slandered her so terrible, she
scarce dared go out o' the room.
I don't take offence, Keil. Oh, no! But how is she otherwise? An' what
does she do?
'Tis hard to say, that's certain. To-day, for instance, when she had to
go to court at eleven o'clock--'twas a regular dance she led us! She
talked so strange, Mrs. Flamm, 'twas enough to scare a body out o' his
wits.--First of all she didn't want to be goin' at all; next she thought
she wanted to take me with her. In the end she was gone like a flash an'
cried out to me that I wasn't to follow. Times she kept weepin' all
day!--Naturally, a man has his thoughts.
What kind o' thoughts?
About several things.--Firstly, this mishap that came to me! She spoke of
it to me many a time. That's cut her straight to the heart! An' about
father Bernd an' that he has taken that business o' Streckmann so
We're all alone here, Mr. Keil. Why shouldn't we speak openly for once.
Did it never occur to you ... I mean about this Streckmann matter ... to
you or, maybe to father Bernd--that there might be some truth in it?
I don't let myself have no thoughts about that.
That's right! I don't blame you for that in the least. There are times in
life when one can't do better than stick one's head in the sand like an
ostrich. But that isn't right for a father!
Well, Mrs. Flamm, as far as old Bernd goes, his mind is as far as the sky
from any suspicion that somethin' mightn't be quite right. His
conviction's as firm as a rock. He'd let you chop off his hands for it.
Nobody wouldn't believe how strictly he thinks about things o' that kind.
His honour was there too an' tried to persuade him to withdraw his
[_Excitedly._] Who was there?
His honour, Mr. Flamm.
Yes! He talked to him a long time. You see, as for me--I've lost an eye,
to be sure--but I don't care to have Streckmann punished. Vengeance is
mine, saith the Lord. But father--he can't be persuaded to think
peaceably about this matter. Ask anythin' o' me, says he, but not that!
You say my husband went to see old Bernd?
Yes, that time he got the summons.
What kind o' summons was that?
To appear before the examining magistrate.
[_With growing excitement._] Who? Old Bernd?
No; Mr. Flamm.
Was my husband examined too? What did he have to do with the affair?
Yes, he was examined too.
[_Deeply affected._] Is that so? That's news to me! I didn't know about
that. Nor that Christie went to see old Bernd!... I wonder where my
smellin' bottle is?--No, August, you might as well go home now. I'm a bit
... I don't know what to call it! An' any special advice I can't give
you, the way it all turns out. There's something that's gone through an'
through me. Go home an' wait to see how everything goes. But if you love
the lass truly, then ... look at me: I could tell you a tale! If a body
is made that way: whether 'tis a man that the women run after, or a woman
that all the men are mad about--then there's nothin' to do but just to
suffer an' suffer and be patient!--I've lived that way twelve long
years. [_She pats her hand to her eyes and peers through her fingers._]
An' if I want to see things at all, I have to see them from behind my
I can't never believe that, Mrs. Flamm.
Whether you believe me or not. Life don't ask us if we want to believe
things. An' I feel exactly like you: I can't hardly realise it either.
But we have to see how we can reconcile ourselves to it--I made a promise
to Rose! 'Tis easy promisin' an' hard keepin' the promise sometimes in
this world. But I'll do the best in my power.--Good-bye--I can't expect
you to ... God must take pity on us. That's all.
_AUGUST, deeply moved, grasps the hand which MRS. FLAMM offers him
and withdraws in silence._
MRS. FLAMM leans her head far back and, lost in thought, looks up.
She sighs twice deeply and with difficulty. FLAMM enters, very pale,
looks sidewise at his wife and begins to whistle softly. He opens the
book case and pretends to be eagerly hunting for something._
Yes, yes; there it is--you whistle everything down the wind! But this ...
this ... I wouldn't ha' thought you capable of.
_FLAMM swings around, falls silent, and looks straight at her. He
lifts both hands slightly and shrugs his shoulders very high. Then,
he relaxes all his muscles and gazes simply and without
embarrassment--thoughtfully rather than shamefacedly--at the floor._
You men take these things very lightly! What's to happen now?
[_Repeating the same gesture but less pronouncedly._] That's what I don't
know.--I want to be quite calm now. I should like to tell you how that
came about. It may be that you will be able to judge me less harshly
then. If not ... why, then I should be very sorry for myself.
I don't see how a body can fail to judge such recklessness harshly.
Recklessness? I don't think that it was mere recklessness. What would you
rather have it be, mother--recklessness, or something more serious?
To destroy the future of just this girl, for whom we have to bear all the
responsibility! We made her come to the house! An' she an' her people had
blind confidence in us! 'Tis enough to make one perish o' shame! It looks
as if one had ... that ... in view!
Are you done, mother?
Far from it!
Well, then I'll have to wait a bit longer.
Christie, what did I tell you that day when you out with it an' said
you wanted to marry me?
What was it?
I'm much too old for you. A woman can be sixteen years younger than her
husband, but not three or four years older. I wish you had listened to me
Isn't it real idle to dish up those old stories now? Haven't we something
more important to do?--I may be wrong, but it seems to me that we have,
mother.--I've had no notion until to-day of what Rose means to me.
Otherwise I'd have acted very differently, of course. Now it's got to be
seen if there's anything that can be retrieved. And for that very reason,
mother, I was going to beg you not to be petty, and I wanted first of all
to try to see whether you could gain some comprehension of what really
happened. Up to the moment when it was agreed that that tottery manikin
was to marry Rose--our relations were strictly honourable. But when that
marriage was determined on--it was all over.--It may be that my ideas are
becoming confused. I had seen the girl grow up ... some of our love for
little Kurt clung to her. First of all I wanted to protect her from
misfortune, and finally, one day, all of a sudden, the way such things
happen ... even old Plato has described that correctly in the passage in
Phaedrus about the two horses:--the bad horse ran away with me and then
... then the sea burst in and the dykes crashed down.
'Tis a real interesting story that you've told me, an' even tricked out
with learned allusions. An' when you men do that--you think there's no
more to say. A poor woman can look out then to see how to get even! Maybe
you did it all just to make Rose happy, an' sacrificed yourself into the
bargain ... There's no excuse for such things!
Very well, mother. Then we'll adjourn the session. Remember though, that
when Kurt died, I couldn't bear to see the girl around the house. Who
kept her and persuaded her to come back?
Because I didn't want life to become so dead around us. I didn't keep her
for my sake.
And I have said nothing for your sake.
Every tear is wasted that one might shed for you an' your kind. But you
can spare me your speeches, Flamm.
_The MAID brings in the afternoon coffee._
Rose Bernd's out in the kitchen.
Come, girl! Wheel me out! [_To FLAMM._] You can help shove me aside.
Somewhere in the world there'll be a little room for me! I won't be in
the way. You can call her in when I'm gone.
[_Sternly, to the MAID._] Tell the girl to wait for a moment. [_The MAID
leaves the room._] Mother, you have to say a word to her! I can't.... My
hands are tied.
An' what am I to say to her, Flamm?
Mother, you know that better than I! You know very well ... you spoke of
it yourself.... For heaven's sake, don't be petty at this moment! She
mustn't go from our door in any such fashion!
I can't clean her boots, Flamm!
And I don't want you to! It isn't a question of that! But you sent for
her yourself.--You can't change so completely in a moment as to forget
all compassion and sympathy. What did you say to me a while ago? And if
the lass goes to the devil ... you know I'm not such a scoundrel that I'd
care to drag out my life any longer. It's one thing or the other--don't
Well, Christie ... you men are not worth it, to be sure. An' yet, in the
end, what is a body to do?--The heart bleeds! 'Tis our own fault. Why
does a woman deceive herself again an' again, when she's old enough an'
sensible enough to know better! An' don't deceive yourself about this
thing either, Christie.... I'm willin'! I can do it! I'll talk to her!
Not for your sake, but because it's right. But don't imagine that I can
make whole what you've broken.--You men are like children in that
_The MAID comes back._
She don't want to wait no more!
Send her in!
_The MAID withdraws again._
Be sensible, mother! On my word of honour....
You needn't give it! You needn't break it!
_FLAMM leaves the room. MRS. FLAMM sighs and picks up her crochet
work again. Thereupon ROSE BERND enters._
[_Showily dressed in her Sunday clothes. Her features are peaked and
there is a feverish gleam in her eyes._] Good-day, madam.
Good-day! Sit down. Well, Rose, I've asked you to come here ... I suppose
you've kept in mind what we talked about that time. There's many a thing
that's changed since then!... In many respects, anyhow! But that made me
want to talk to you all the more. That day, to be sure, you said I
couldn't help you, that you wanted to fight it all out alone! An' to-day
a good bit has grown clear to me--your strange behaviour that time, an'
your unwillingness to let me help you.--But I don't see how you're goin'
to get along all alone. Come, drink a cup o' coffee. [_ROSE sits down on
the edge of a chair by the table._] August was here to see me a while
ago. If I had been in your shoes, lass, I'd have risked it long ago an'
told him the truth. [_Looking sharply at her._] But now, the way things
has gone--I can't even advise you to do it! Isn't that true?
Oh, but why, madam?
'Tis true, the older a person gets, the less can she understand mankind
an' their ways. We've all come into the world the same way, but there's
no mention to be made o' that! From the Emperor an' the archbishop down
to the stable boy--they've all gotten their bit o' life one way ... one
way ... an' 'tis the one thing they can't besmirch enough. An' if the
stork but flies past the chimney-top--the confusion of people is great.
Then they run away in every direction. A guest like that is never
Oh, madam, all that would ha' been straightened up this long time, if it
hadn't ha' been for this criminal an' scoundrel here ... this liar ...
this Streckmann ...
No, girl. I don't understand that. How can you bear to say that the man
lies? 'Tis your shape that almost tells the story now!
He lies! He lies! That's all I know.
But in what respect does he lie?
In every respeck an' in every way!
I don't believe you've really thought it all out! Do you remember who I
am? Think, lass, think! In the first place you confessed it all to me,
and furthermore, I know more than what you said: I know all that you
[_Shivering with nervousness but obdurate._] An' if you was to kill me, I
couldn't say what I don't know.
Is that so? Oh! Is that your policy now? I must say I didn't take you for
a girl of that kind! It comes over me unexpectedly! I hope you talked a
little plainer than that when you were questioned in court.
I said just the same thing there that I'm tellin' you.
Girl, come to your senses! You're talking dreadful folly! People don't
lie that way before the Judge! Listen to what I'm tellin' you! Drink a
bit o' coffee, an' don't be frightened! Nobody's pursuing you, an' I
won't eat you up either!--You haven't acted very well toward me: no one
could say that you had! You might at least have told me the truth that
day; maybe an easier way out could ha' been found. 'Tis a hard matter
now! An' yet, we won't be idle, an' even to-day, maybe, some way o'
savin' you can be found! Some way it may be possible yet! Well then!...
An' especially ... this much is certain ... an' you can trust to that
surely ... you shan't, either of you, ever suffer any need in this world!
Even if your father abandons you and August, maybe, goes his own way,
I'll provide for you an' for your child.
I don't hardly know what you mean, madam!
Well, girl, then I'll tell you straight out! If you don't know that an'
have forgotten it, then it's simply because you have a bad conscience!
Then you've been guilty of something else! An', if you _has_ another
secret, it's connected with nobody but with Streckmann. Then, he's the
fellow that's bringin' trouble upon you!
[_Violently._] No, how can you think such a thing o' me! You say that ...
oh, for the good Lord's sake ... how has I deserved it o' you!... If only
my little Kurt ... my dear little fellow ...
[_She wrings her hands hysterically in front of the child's picture._
Rose, let that be, I beg o' you! It may be that you've deserved well o'
me in other days. We're not arguin' about that now! But you're so
changed, so ... I can never understand how you've come to change so!
Why didn't my little mother take me to herself! She said she would when
Come to your senses, lass. You're alive. What is your trouble?
It has nothin' to do with Streckmann! That man has lied his soul black.
What did he lie about? Did he make his statements under oath?
Oath or no oath! I says he lies, lies ...
An' did you have to take an oath too?
I don't know.--I'm not such a wicked lass ... If that was true,'twould be
a bitter crime!... An' that August lost his eye ... it wasn't I that was
the cause o' it. The pains that poor man had to suffer ... they follows
me day an' night. An' he might well despise me if they didn't. But you
try an' work an' pray to save somethin' from the flames o' the world ...
an' men comes an' they breaks your strength.
_FLAMM enters in intense excitement._
Who is breaking your strength? Look at mother here! On the contrary, we
want to save you!
'Tis too late now! It can't be done no more.
What does that mean?
Nothin'!--I can't wait no longer. Good-bye, I'll go my ways.
Here you stay! Don't move from this spot! I was at the door and heard
everything, and now I want to know the whole truth.
But I'm tellin' you the truth!
About Streckmann too?
There wasn't nothin' between us. He lies!
Does he say that there was something between you?
I say nothin' but that he lies!
Did he swear to that lie?
_ROSE is silent._
[_Regards ROSE long and searchingly. Then:_] Well, mother, think as
charitably of me as you can. Try to forgive me as much as possible. I
know with the utmost certainty that that matter doesn't concern me in the
least any longer! I simply laugh at it! I snap my fingers at it.
[_To ROSE._] Did you deny everything?
I spoke the truth in court, of course. Streckmann doesn't lie at such
times neither. Perjury is a penitentiary crime--a man doesn't lie under
An' didn't you tell the truth, girl? You lied when you were under oath,
maybe?--Haven't you any idea what that means an' what you've done? How
did you happen to do that? How could you think o' such a thing?
[_Cries out brokenly._] I was so ashamed!
But Rose ...
Every word is wasted! Why did you lie to the judge?
I was ashamed, I tell ye!... I was ashamed!
And I? And mother? And August? Why did you cheat us all? And you probably
cheated Streckmann in the end too? And I wonder with whom else you
carried on!... Yes, oh, yes; you have a very honest face. But you did
right to be ashamed!
He baited me an' he hunted me down like a dog!
[_Laughing._] Oh, well, that's what you women make of us--dogs. This man
to-day; that man to-morrow! 'Tis bitter enough to think! You can do what
you please now; follow what ways you want to!--If I so much as raise a
finger in this affair again, it'll be to take a rope and beat it about my
ass's ears until I can't see out of my eyes!
_ROSE stares at FLAMM in wide-eyed horror._
What I said, Rose, stands for all that! You two'll always be provided
[_Whispering mechanically._] I was so ashamed! I was so ashamed!
Do you hear what I say, Rose?--[ROSE _hurries out._] The girl's
gone!--'Tis enough to make one pray for an angel to come down....
[_Stricken to the heart, breaks out in repressed sobbing._] God forgive
me, mother, but ... I can't help it.
THE CURTAIN FALLS
_The living room in old BERND'S cottage. The room is fairly large; it
has grey walls and an old-fashioned whitewashed ceiling supported by
visible beams. A door in the background leads to the kitchen, one at
the left to the outer hall. To the right are two small windows. A
yellow chest of drawers stands between the two windows; upon it is
set an unlit kerosene lamp; a mirror hangs above it on the wall. In
the left corner a great stove; in the right a sofa, covered with
oil-cloth, a table with a cloth on it and a hanging lamp above it.
Over the sofa on the wall hangs a picture with the Biblical subject:
"Suffer little children to come unto me"; beneath it a photograph of
BERND, showing him as a conscript, and several of himself and his
wife. In the foreground, to the left, stands a china closet, filled
with painted cups, glasses, etc. A Bible is lying on the chest of
drawers; over the door to the hall hangs a chromolithograph of
"Christ with the crown of thorns." Mull curtains hang in front of the
windows. Each of four or five chairs of yellow wood has its own
place. The whole room makes a neat but very chilly impression.
Several Bibles and hymnals lie on the china closet. On the door-post
of the door to the hall hangs a collecting-box._
_It is seven o'clock in the evening of the same day on which the
events in Act Four have taken place. The door that leads to the hall
as well as the kitchen door stands open. A gloomy dusk fills the
_Voices are heard outside, and a repeated knocking at the window.
Thereupon a voice speaks through the window._
Bernd! Isn't there a soul at home? Let's be goin' to the back door!
_A silence ensues. Soon, however, the back door opens and voices and
steps are heard in the hall. In the door that leads to the hall
appear KLEINERT and ROSE BERND. The latter is obviously exhausted and
leans upon him._
[_Weak and faint._] No one's at home. 'Tis all dark.
I can't be leavin' you alone this way now!
An' why not, Kleinert? There's nothin' the matter with me!
Somebody else can believe that--that there's nothin' wrong! I wouldn't
ha' had to pick you up in that case!
Eh, but I'd only gotten a bit dizzy. Truly ... 'tis better now. I really
don't need you no more.
No, no, lass; I can't leave you this way!
Oh, yes, father Kleinert! I do thank you, but 'tis well! There's nothin'
wrong with me! I'm on my feet an' strong again! It comes over me that way
sometimes; but 'tis nothin' to worry over.
But you lay half dead yonder behind the willow! An' you writhed like a
Kleinert, go your ways.... I'll be lightin' a light! An' I must light a
fire, too ... go your ways ... the folks will be comin' to their
supper!... Oh, no, Kleinert, Kleinert! But I'm that tired! Oh, I'm so
terrible tired! No one wouldn't believe how tired I am.
An' then you want to be lightin' a fire here? That's nothin' for you! Bed
is the place where you ought to be!
Kleinert, go your ways, go! If father, an' if August ... they mustn't
know nothin'! For my sake, go! Don't do nothin' that'll only harm me!
I don't want to do nothin' that'll harm you!
No, no, I know it! You was always good to me! [_She has arisen from the
chair at the right on which, she had sunk down, gets a candle from behind
the oven and lights it._] Oh, yes, yes, I'm well off again.--There's
nothin' wrong.--You can be easy in your mind.
You're just sayin' that!
Because 'tis really so!
_MARTHEL comes in from the fields with bare arms and feet._
An' there's Marthel, too!
Rose, is that you? Where have you been all day?
I dreamed I was at the court.
No, no; she was really at the court! Take a bit o' care o' your sister,
Marthel. Look after her at least till your fatter comes back. 'Tisn't
well with the girl.
Marthel, hurry! Light the fire, so's we can start to put on the
On August's land.
I don't know where he is. He was out on the field to-day.
Have you got new potatoes?
I have an apron full!
[_Immediately behind the kitchen door she pours out the potatoes on
Fetch me a pan and a saucepan, so's I can begin the peelin'. I can't get
nothin' for myself.
D'you want me to be givin' a message anywhere?
To whom? To the grave-digger, maybe?... No, no, godfather, not on my
account. 'Tis a special bit o' ground where I'll find rest.
Good-bye to you!
[_Cheerily._] Come again, godfather!
_KLEINERT as usual with his pipe in his mouth, departs shaking his
[_Lighting the fire._] Don't you feel well, Rosie?
Oh, yes; well enough! [_Softly wringing her hands, she speaks to the
crucifix._] Jesus, Mary, have mercy on me!
What's the matter with you?
Nothin'. Bring me a pan an' the potatoes.
[_Has started the fire to burning and now brings ROSE an earthenware bowl
of potatoes and a paring knife._] Oh, but Rosie, I'm that frightened! You
look so ...!
How does I look? Tell me that? How? Has I got spots on my hands? Is it
branded over my eyes? Everythin's kind o' ghastly to me this day.
[_Laughing a ghastly laugh._] Lord! I can't see the face o' you! Now I
see one hand! Now I see two eyes! Just dots now! Martha, maybe I'm
Rosie, did somethin' happen to you?
God protect you from what's happened to me.... You'd better be wishin'
yourself an early death! Because, even if a body dies to this world, they
do say that he passes into rest. Then you don't have to live an' draw
breath no more.--How did it go with little Kurt Flamm? I've clean forgot
... I'm dizzy ... I'm forgettin' ... I've forgotten everythin' ... life's
that hard ... If I could only keep on feelin' this way ... an' never wake
up again ...! What's the reason o' such things comin' to pass in this
[_Frightened._] If only father would come home!