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The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann by Gerhart Hauptmann

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ROSE

Martha, come! Listen to me! You mustn't tell father that I was here or
that I am here ... Martha, sure you'll promise me that, won't you?...
Many a thing I've done for the love o' you ... Martha! You haven't
forgotten that, nor you mustn't forget it, even if things grows dark
around me now.

MARTHEL

Will you drink a bit of coffee? There's a drop left in the oven.

ROSE

An' don't be frightened! I'll go upstairs in the room an' lie down a wee
bit ... just a bit. Otherwise I'm all right ... otherwise there's nothin'
that ails me.

MARTHEL

An' I'm not to say nothin' to father?

ROSE

Not a word!

MARTHEL

An' not to August neither?

ROSE

Not a syllable! Lass, you've never known your mother an' I've raised you
with fear an' heartache.--Many's the night I've watched through in terror
because you was ill! I wasn't as old as you when I carried you about on
my arm till I was near breakin' in two! Here you was--at my breast! An'
if you go an' betray me now, 'tis all over between us!

MARTHEL

Rosie, 'tis nothin' bad is it ... nothin' dangerous, I mean?

ROSE

I don't believe it is! Come, Martha, help me a bit, support me a bit!...
A body is left too lonely in this world ... too deserted! If only a body
wasn't so lonely here ... so lonely on this earth!

[_ROSE and MARTHEL pass out through the hall door._

_For some moments the room remains empty. Then old BERND appears in
the kitchen. He puts down his basket and the potato hoe and looks
about him, earnestly and inquiringly. Meanwhile MARTHEL re-enters the
living-room from the hall._

MARTHEL

Is it you, father?

BERND

Is there no hot water! You know I have to have my foot bath! Isn't Rose
here yet?

MARTHEL

She isn't here yet, father!

BERND

What? Hasn't she come back from court yet? That isn't possible hardly!
'Tis eight o'clock. Was August here?

MARTHEL

Not yet.

BERND

Not yet either? Well, maybe she's with him then.--Have you seen that
great cloud, Marthel, that was comin' over from the mountain about six
o'clock, maybe?

MARTHEL

Yes, father; the world got all dark!

BERND

There'll come a day o' greater darkness than this! Light the lamp on the
table for me an' put the Good Book down next to it. The great thing is to
be in readiness. Marthel, are you sure you keep thinkin' o' the life
eternal, so that you can stand up before your Judge on that day? Few is
the souls that think of it here! Just now as I was comin' home along the
water's edge, I heard some one cryin' out upon me from behind, as they
often does. "Bloodsucker!" cried he. An' was I a bloodsucker when I was
overseer on the domain? Nay, I did my duty,--that was all! But the powers
of evil is strong! If a man is underhanded, an' closes his eyes to evil,
an' looks on quietly upon cheatin'--then his fellows likes him well.--But
I leans upon the Lord Jesus. We human bein's all need that support.
'Tisn't enough just to do good works! Maybe if Rose had given more
thought to that, maybe we'd ha' been spared many a visitation an' a deal
o' heaviness an' bitterness. [_A CONSTABLE appears in the doorway._]
Who's comin' there?

CONSTABLE

I have a summons to serve, I must speak to your daughter.

BERND

My oldest daughter?

CONSTABLE

[_Reads from the document._] To Rose Bernd.

BERND

My daughter hasn't come back from court yet. Can I give her the letter?

CONSTABLE

No; I've got to make a personal search, too. I'll be back at eight in the
mornin'.

_AUGUST appears hastily._

BERND

There's August, too.

AUGUST

Isn't Rose here?

BERND

No; an' the sergeant here is askin' after her, too. I thought you an' she
was together.

CONSTABLE

I has to make a search into one matter an' also to serve this paper.

AUGUST

Always an' forever this Streckmann business. 'Tis not only the loss of my
eye--now we has these everlastin' troubles an' annoyances. It seems, God
forgive me, to come to no end.

CONSTABLE

Good evenin'. To-morrow mornin' at eight!

[_Exit._

AUGUST

Marthel, go into the kitchen a bit of a while.--Father, I've got to speak
with you. Go, Marthel; go an' shut the door. But Marthel, didn't you see
anythin' o' Rose?

MARTHEL

No, nothin'! [_Surreptitiously she beckons to him with her hand._] I'll
tell you something August.

AUGUST

Close the door, lass. I have no time now. [_He himself closes the kitchen
door._] Father, you'll have to withdraw your suit.

BERND

Anythin' but that, August. I can't do that!

AUGUST

'Tis not Christian. Yon must withdraw.

BERND

I don't believe that 'tis not Christian!--For why? 'Tis a piece of infamy
to cut off a girl's honour that way. 'Tis a crime that needs to be
punished.

AUGUST

I hardly know how to begin, father Bernd.... You've been too hasty in
this matter....

BERND

My wife who's in her grave demands that of me! An' my honour demands it
... the honour o' my house and o' my lass. An' yours, too, if you come to
think.

AUGUST

Father Bernd, father Bernd, how am I to speak to you if you're so set on
not makin' peace? You've spoke o' so many kinds of honour. But we're not
to seek our honour or glory in this world, but God's only an' no other!

BERND

'Tis otherwise in this matter. Here woman's honour is God's too! Or have
you any complaint to make against Rose?

AUGUST

I've said to you: I make no complaint!

BERND

Or is your own conscience troublin' you on her account?

AUGUST

You know me in that respeck, father Bernd. Before I'd depart from the
straight an' narrow way ...

BERND

Well, then. I know that! I always knew that! An' so justice can take its
course.

AUGUST

[_Wiping the sweat from his forehead._] If only we knew where Rose is!

BERND

Maybe she isn't back from the court at Striegau yet!

AUGUST

An examination like that don't take very long. She meant to be home by
five o'clock.

BERND

Maybe she went to buy some things on the way. Wasn't she to get several
things yet? I thought you were wantin' one thing or another.

AUGUST

But she didn't take along any money. An' the things we was needin' for
the shop--curtains for the windows an' the door--we intended to buy those
together.

BERND

I was thinkin' that she'd come with you!

AUGUST

I went to meet her on the road--more'n a mile, but I heard an' saw
nothin' of her. Instead o' that, I met Streckmann.

BERND

I calls that meetin' the devil!

AUGUST

Ah, father, that man has a wife an' children too! His sins are no fault
o' theirs! What good does it do me that he's got to go to gaol? If a man
repents ... that's all I asks!

BERND

That bad man don't know repentance!

AUGUST

It looked very much as if he did.

BERND

Did you speak to him?

AUGUST

He gave me no peace. He ran along next to me an' talked an' talked. There
wasn't a soul to be seen far an' wide! In the end I felt sorry for him; I
couldn't help it.

BERND

You answered him! What did he say?

AUGUST

He said you should withdraw your suit.

BERND

I couldn't rest quiet in my grave if I did! 'Twouldn't matter if it
concerned me! I can bear it; I can laugh at it! I'm not only a man but a
Christian! But 'tis a different thing with my child! How could I look you
in the face if I let that shameful thing stick to her! An' now,
especially, after that terrible misfortune! Look, August, that can't be!
That mustn't be!--Everybody's always been at our heels, because we lived
different from the rest o' the world! Hypocrites they called us an'
bigots, an' sneaks an' such names! An' always they wanted to trump up
somethin' against us! What a feast this here thing would be to 'em! An'
besides ... How did I bring up the lass? Industrious an' with the fear o'
God in her heart so that if a Christian man marries her, he can set up a
Christian household! That's the way! That's how I gives her out o' my
care! An' am I goin' to let that poison cling to her? Rather would I be
eatin' bread an' salt all my days than take a penny from you then!

AUGUST

Father Bernd, God's ways is mysterious! He can send us new trials daily!
No man has a right to be self-righteous! An' even if I wanted to be, I
couldn't! I can't spare you the knowledge no longer, father. Our Rose has
been but a weak human bein' like others.

BERND

How do you mean that, August?

AUGUST

Father, don't ask me no more,

BERND

[_Has sat down on a chair by the table in such a way that his face is
turned to the wall. At AUGUST'S last words he has looked at him with
eyes, wide-open and estranged. Then he turns to the table, opens the
Bible with trembling hands, and turns its leaves hither and thither in
growing excitement. He ceases and looks at AUGUST again. Finally he folds
his hands over the book and lets his head sink upon them while his body
twitches convulsively. In this posture he remains for a while, Then he
straightens himself up._] No. I don't understand you rightly! Because,
you see, if I did understand you rightly ... that'd be really ... an' I
wouldn't know ... my God, the room swims with me ... why, I'd have to be
deaf an' blind!--Nay, August, an' I'm not deaf an' blind! Don't let
Streckmann impose on you! He'll take any means to get out o' the trap
that he's in now. It's comin' home to him, an' he wants to sneak out at
any cost! An' so he's incitin' you against the lass. No, August, ...
truly, August ... not on that bridge ... you mustn't start for to cross
that bridge!... Anybody can see through his villainy! ... He's laid traps
enough for the lass. An' if one way don't succeed, he'll try another!...
Now he's hit on this here plan.--Maybe he'll separate you two! It's
happened in this world, more than once or twice that some devil with his
evil schemes has tore asunder people that God meant for each other. They
always grudged the girl her good fortune. Good: I'm willin'! I won't
throw Rose after you! We've satisfied our hunger up to now! But if you'll
heed my word: I'll put my right hand in the fire for....

AUGUST

But Mr. Flamm took oath.

BERND

Ten oaths against me ... twenty oaths against me!... Then he has sworn
falsely an' damned hisself in this world an' in the world to come!

AUGUST

Father Bernd....

BERND

Now wait a bit before ever you say another word! Here I take the books!
Here I take my hat! Here I take the collecting box o' the missions. An'
all these things I puts together here. An' if that's true what you've
been sayin'--if there's so much in it as a grain o' truth--then I'll go
this minute to the pastor an' I'll say: Your reverence, this is how
things is: I can't be a deacon no more; I can't take care o' the treasury
for missions no more! Good-bye! And then nobody would see me no more! No,
no, no, for the love o' God! But now go on! Say your say! But don't
torture me for nothin'.

AUGUST

I had the same thought, too. I want to sell my house an' my land! Maybe
one could find contentment somewhere else.

BERND

[_In unspeakable astonishment._] You want to sell your house an' your
land, August? How do all these strange things come about all of a sudden!
It's enough ... A body might be tempted to make the sign o' the cross,
even though we're not Catholics.--Has the whole world gone mad? Or is the
Day o' Judgment at hand? Or maybe, 'tis but my last hour that has come.
Now answer me, August, how is it? As you hope for a life to come, how is
it?

AUGUST

However it is, father Bernd, I won't desert her.

BERND

You can do about that as you please. That don't concern me! I don't want
to know if a man'd like a wench o' that kind in his house or not. Not me!
I'm not that kind of a man. Well now ...?

AUGUST

I can't say nothin' more than this--somethin' must ha' happened to her!
Whether 'twas with Flamm or with Streckmann....

BERND

That makes two of 'em ...!

AUGUST

I can't tell exactly ...!

BERND

Well, then I'll be goin' to the pastor! Brush me off, August, clean me a
bit! I feel as if I had the itch on my body!

[_He steps into the hall._

_At the same moment MARTHEL rushes out of the kitchen and speaks to
AUGUST in intense terror._

MARTHEL

I believe a misfortune has happened to Rose! She's upstairs! She's been
home this long time!

BERND

[_Returns, changed somewhat by a fright which he has felt._] Somebody
must be upstairs.

AUGUST

Marthel is just sayin' that Rose is there.

MARTHEL

I hear her. She's comin' down the stairs.

BERND

God forgive me the sin! I don't want to see her.

_He sits down at the table, as before, holds his thumbs over his ears
and bends his head deep over the Bible. ROSE appears in the door. She
has her house skirt on and a loose bodice of cotton cloth. She keeps
herself erect by sheer force of will. Her hair hangs down, partly
loose, partly braided. There is in her face an expression of
terrible, fatalistic calm and of bitter defiance. For several moments
she lets her eyes wander over the room, over OLD BERND sitting there
with his Bible, over AUGUST who has slowly turned from the door and
pretends to be looking intently out of the window. Then, groping for
some support, she begins to talk with desperate energy._

ROSE

Good-evenin' to all o' ye!--?--Good evenin'.

AUGUST

[_After some hemming._] The same to you.

ROSE

[_With bitter iciness._] If you don't want me, I can go again.

AUGUST

[_Simply._] Where else do you want to go to? An' where have you been?

ROSE

He that asks much, hears much. More sometimes than he'd like
to.--Marthel, come over here to me a bit. [_MARTHEL goes. Rose has seated
herself not far from the stove and takes the younger girl's hand. Then
she says:_] What's the matter with father?

MARTHEL

[_Embarrassed, timid, speaks softly._] I don't know that neither.

ROSE

What's the matter with father? You can speak right out! An' with you,
August? What is the matter with you?... You've got cause, that you have,
August, to despise me. I don't deny that. No....

AUGUST

I don't despise no one in this world.

ROSE

But I do! All of 'em ... all ... all!

AUGUST

Those is dark words to me that you're speakin'.

ROSE

Dark? Yes! I know it. The world's dark! An' you hear the roarin' o' wild
beasts in it. An' then, later, it gets brighter ... but them are the
flames o' hell that make it bright.--Martha....

BERND

[_Who has been listening a little, arises and frees MARTHEL'S wrist from
ROSE'S grasp._] Don't poison the little lass's mind. Take your hand
away!--March off to bed! [_MARTHEL goes weeping._] A man would like to be
deaf, to be blind! A man'd like to be dead.

[_He becomes absorbed again in his Bible._

ROSE Father!--I'm alive!--I'm sittin' here!--That's somethin'!--Yes,
that's something when you considers!--I think, father, you might
understand that! This is a world ...! Nobody can never do nothin' more to
me! O Jesus, my Saviour--! All o' you, all o' you--you live together in a
bit o' chamber an' you don't know what goes on outside in the world! I
know it now ... I've learned it in bitterness an' wailin'! I had to get
out o' that little chamber! An' then--somehow--the walls gave way, one
wall an' another ... an' there I stood, outside, in the storm ... an'
there--was nothin' under me an' nothin' above me ... nothin'. You're all
like children compared to me.

AUGUST

[_Frightened._] But, Rose, if it's true what Streckmann says, then you've
committed perjury!...

ROSE

[_Laughing bitterly._] I don't know. 'Tis possible ... I can't just
remember this moment. The world is made up o' lies an' deception.

BERND

[_Sighs._] O God ... my refuge evermore.

AUGUST

Is it so easy that you take the swearin' o' false oaths?

ROSE

That's nothin'! Nothin'! How could that be anythin'? There's somethin'
that lies, out there, under a willow ... That's ... somethin' ... The
rest don't concern me! There ... there ... I wanted to look up at the
stars! I wanted to cry out an' to call out! No heavenly Father stirred to
help me.

BERND

[_Frightened, trembling._] You're blasphemin' our heavenly Father? Has it
gone so far with you? Then I don't know you no more!

ROSE

[_Approaching him on her knees._] 'Tis gone so far! But you know me
anyhow, father! You cradled me on your knees, an' I've stood by you too
many a time.--Now somethin' has come over us all--I've fought against it
and struggled against it....

BERND

[_Deeply perplexed._] What is it?

ROSE

I don't know ... I don't know!

[_Trembling and kneeling, she crouches and stares at the floor._

AUGUST

[_Overwhelmed and taken out of himself by the pity of the sight._] Rosie,
get up! I won't desert you! Get up, I can't bear to see you lyin' there!
We're all sinners together! An' anyone who repents so deep, is bound to
be forgiven. Get up, Rose, Father, raise her up! We're not among them
that condemns--not I, at least. There's nothin' in me o' the Pharisee! I
see how it goes to her heart! Come what will, I'll stand by you! I'm no
judge ... I don't judge. Our Saviour in Heaven didn't judge neither.
Truly, he bore our sickness for us, an' we thought he was one that was
tortured an' stricken, by God! Maybe we've all been guilty of error. I
don't want to acquit myself neither. I've been thinkin'. Before the lass
hardly knew me, she had to say her yea an' amen! What do I care about the
world? It don't concern me.

ROSE

August, they clung to me like burrs ... I couldn't walk across the street
safe ... All the men was after me!... I hid myself ... I was that scared!
I was so afraid o' men!... It didn't help! 'Twas worse an' worse! After
that I fell from one snare into another, till I hardly came to my senses
no more.

BERND

You used to have the strictest notion o' such things. You condemned the
Leichner girl an' despised the Kaiser wench! You boasted--you'd like to
see someone come across your path! You struck the miller's journeyman in
the face! A girl as does that, you said, don't deserve no pity; she can
go an' hang herself! An' now you speak o' snares.

ROSE

I know better now.

AUGUST

Come what will, I'll stand by you, Rose. I'll sell my land! We'll go out
into the world! I have an uncle in Brazil, across the ocean. We'll get
our bit o' livin' somehow--one way or t'other. Maybe 'tis only now that
we're ripe an' ready to take up our life together.

ROSE

O Jesus, Jesus, what did I do? Why did I go an' creep home? Why didn't I
stay with my little baby?

AUGUST

With whom?

ROSE

[_Gets up._] August, it's all over with me! First there was a burnin' in
my body like flames o' fire! Then I fell into a kind o' swoon! Then there
came one hope: I ran like a mother cat with her kitten in her mouth! But
the dogs chased me an' I had to drop it....

BERND

Do you understand one word, August?

AUGUST

No, not o' this....

BERND

Do you know how I feel? I feel as if one abyss after another was openin',
was yawnin' for us here. What'll we hear before the end?

ROSE

A curse! A curse will ye have to hear: I see you! I'll meet you! On the
Day o' Judgment I'll meet you! I'll tear out your gullet an' your jaws
together! You'll have to give an accountin'! You'll have to answer me,
there!

AUGUST

Whom do you mean, Rosie?

ROSE

_He_ knows ... _he_ knows.

[_A great exhaustion overtakes her and, almost swooning, she sinks
upon a chair. A silence follows._

AUGUST

[_Busying himself about her._] What is it that's come over you? Suddenly
you're so....

ROSE

I don't know.--If you'd asked me earlier, long ago, maybe ... to-day I
can't tell you!--There wasn't nobody that loved me enough.

AUGUST

Who can tell which love is stronger--the happy or the unhappy love.

ROSE

Oh, I was strong, strong, so strong! Now I'm weak! Now it's all over with
me.

_The CONSTABLE appears._

THE CONSTABLE

[_With a quiet voice._] They say your daughter is at home. Kleinert said
she was here.

AUGUST

It's true. We didn't know it a while ago.

THE CONSTABLE

Then I might as well get through now. There's somethin' to be signed
here.

[_Without noticing ROSE in the dim room, he lays several documents on
the table._

AUGUST

Rose, here's somethin' you're to sign.

_ROSE laughs with horrible and hysterical irony._

THE CONSTABLE

If you're the one, Miss, it's no laughin' matter.--Please!

ROSE

You can stay a minute yet.

AUGUST

An' why?

ROSE

[_With flaming eyes, a malice against the whole world in her voice._]
I've strangled my child.

AUGUST

What are you sayin'? For the love of God, what are you sayin'?

THE CONSTABLE

[_Draws himself up, looks at her searchingly, but continues as though he
had not heard._] It'll be somethin' connected with the Streckmann
'affair.

ROSE

[As before, harshly, almost with a bark.] Streckmann? He strangled my
child.

BERND

Girl, be still. You're out o' your mind.

THE CONSTABLE

Anyhow, you have no child at all--?

ROSE

What? I has none? Could I ha' strangled it with my hands?... I strangled
my baby with these hands!!!

THE CONSTABLE

You're possessed! What's wrong with you?

ROSE

My mind's clear. I'm not possessed. I woke up clear in my mind, so
clear.... [_Coldly, mildly, but with cruel firmness._] It _was_ not to
live! I didn't want it to live! I didn't want it to suffer my agonies! It
was to stay where it belonged.

AUGUST

Rose, think! Don't torment yourself! You don't know what you're sayin'
here! You'll bring down misery on us all.

ROSE

You don't know nothin' ... that's it ... You don't see nothin'. You was
all blind together with your eyes open. He can go an' look behind the
great willow ... by the alder-trees ... behind the parson's field ... by
the pool ... there he can see the wee thing....

BERND

You've done somethin' so awful?

AUGUST

You've been guilty o' somethin' so unspeakable?

_ROSE faints. The men look upon her confounded and helpless. AUGUST
supports her._

THE CONSTABLE

'Twould be best if she came along with me to headquarters. There she can
make a voluntary confession. If what she says isn't just fancies, it'll
count a good deal in her favour.

AUGUST

[_From the depth of a great experience._] Those are no fancies, sergeant.
That girl ... what she must have suffered!

THE CURTAIN FALLS

THE RATS

A BERLIN TRAGI-COMEDY

PERSONS

HARRO HASSENREUTER, _formerly a theatrical manager._

MRS. HARRO HASSENREUTER.

WALBURGA, _their daughter._

PASTOR SPITTA.

ERICH SPITTA, _postulant for Holy Orders, his son._

ALICE RÜTTERBUSCH, _actress._

NATHANAEL JETTEL, _court actor._

KÄFERSTEIN, DR. KEGEL, _Pupils of HASSENREUTER._

JOHN, _foreman mason._

MRS. JOHN.

BRUNO MECHELKE, _her brother._

PAULINE PIPERCARCKA, _a servant girl._

MRS. SIDONIE KNOBBE.

SELMA, _her daughter._

QUAQUARO, _house-steward._

MRS. KIELBACKE.

POLICEMAN SCHIERKE.

TWO INFANTS.

THE FIRST ACT

_The attic of a former cavalry barracks in Berlin, A windowless room
that receives all its light from a lamp which burns suspended over a
round table. From the back wall opens a straight passage which
connects the room with the outer door--a door with iron hasps and a
primitive signal bell which any one desiring to enter rings by means
of a bell rope. A door in the right wall leads to an adjoining room,
one in the left wall leads to the stairs into the loft immediately
under the roof. Into this store room, as well as into the space
visible to the spectator, the former theatrical manager, HARRO
HASSENREUTER has gathered his collection of properties. In the
prevalent gloom it is difficult to decide whether the place is the
armour room of an old castle, a museum of antiquities or the shop of
a costumer. Stands with helmets and breast-plates are put up on
either side of the passage; a row of similar stands almost covers the
two sides of the front room. The stairs wind upward between two
mailed figures. At the head of the stairs is a wooden trap-door. In
the left foreground, against the wall, is a high desk. Ink, pens, old
ledgers, a tall stool, as well as several chairs with tall backs and
the round table make it clear that the room serves the purposes of an
office. On the table is a decanter for water and several glasses;
above the desk hang a number of photographs. These photographs
represent HASSENREUTER in the part of Karl Moor (in Schiller's
"Robbers"), as well as in a number of other parts. One of the mailed
dummies wean a huge laurel wreath about its neck. The laurel wreath
is tied with a riband which bears, in gilt letters, the following
inscription: "To our gifted manager Hassenreuter, from his grateful
colleagues." A series of enormous red bows shows the inscriptions:
"To the inspired presenter of Karl Moor ... To the incomparable,
unforgettable Karl Moor" ... etc., etc. The room is utilised as far
as its space will permit for the storing of costumes. Wherever
possible, German, Spanish and English garments of every age hang on
hooks. Swedish riding boots, Spanish rapiers and German broadswords
are scattered about. The door to the left bears the legend: Library.
The whole room displays picturesque disorder, Trumpery of all
kinds--weapons, goblets, cups--is scattered about. It is Sunday
toward the end of May._

_At the table in the middle of the room are sitting, MRS. JOHN
(between thirty-five and forty) and a very young servant girl,
PAULINE PIPERCARCKA. PAULINE, vulgarly overdressed--jacket, hat,
sunshade--sits straight upright. Her pretty, round little face shows
signs of long weeping. Her figure betrays the fact that she is
approaching motherhood. She draws letters on the floor with the end
of her sunshade._

MRS. JOHN

Well, sure now! That's right! That's what I says, Pauline.

PAULINE

All right. So I'm goin' to Schlachtensee or to Halensee. I gotta go and
see if I c'n meet him!

[_She dries her tears and is about to rise._

MRS. JOHN

[_Prevents PAULINE from getting up._] Pauline! For God's sake, don't you
be doin' that! Not that there, for nothin' in the world! That don't do
nothin' but raise a row an' cost money an' don't bring you in nothin'.
Look at the condition you're in! An' that way you want to go an' run
after that there low lived feller?

PAULINE

Then my landlady c'n wait an' wait for me to-day. I'll jump into the
Landwehr canal an' drownd myself.

MRS. JOHN

Pauline! An' what for? What for, I'd like to know? Now you just listen to
me for a speck of a minute, just for God's sake, for the teeniest speck
of one an' pay attention to what I'm goin' to propose to you! You know
yourself how I says to you, out on Alexander square, right by the
chronomoneter--says I to you right out, as I was comin' out o' the market
an' sees your condition with half an eye. He don't want to acknowledge
nothin', eh? That's what I axed you right out!--That happens to many gals
here, to all of 'em--to millions! An' then I says to you ... what did I
say? Come along, I says, an' I'll help you!

PAULINE

O' course, I don't never dare to show myself at home lookin' this way.
Mother, she'd cry it out at the first look. An' father, he'd knock my
head against the wall an' throw me out in the street. An' I ain't got no
more money left neither--nothin' but just two pieces o' gold that I got
sewed up in the linin' o' my jacket. That feller didn't leave me no crown
an' he didn't leave me no penny.

MRS. JOHN

Miss, my husband, he's a foreman mason. I just wants you to pay attention
... just for heaven's sake, pay attention to the propositions that I'm
goin' to make to you. They'll help us both. You'll be helped out an' the
same way I'll be. An' what's more, Paul, that's my husband, he'll be
helped, because he'd like, for all the world, to have a child, an' our
only one, little Adelbert, he went an' died o' the croup. Your child'll
be as well taken care of as an own child. Then you c'n go an' you c'n
look up your sweetheart an' you c'n go back into service an' home to your
people, an' the child is well off, an' nobody in the world don't need to
know nothin'.

PAULINE

I'll do it just outa spite--that's what! An' drownd myself! [_She
rises._] An' a note, a note, I'll leave in my jacket, like this: You
drove your Pauline to her death with your cursed meanness! An' then I'll
put down his name in full: Alois Theophil Brunner, instrument-maker. Then
he c'n see how he'll get along in the world with the murder o' me on his
conscience.

MRS. JOHN

Wait a minute, Miss! I gotta unlock the door first.

_MRS. JOHN acts, as though she were about to conduct PAULINE to the
door._

_Before the two women reach the passage, BRUNO MECHELKE enters with
slow and suspicious demeanour by the door at the left and remains
standing in the room. BRUNO is short rather than tall, but with a
powerful bull's neck and athletic shoulders. His forehead is low and
receding, his close-clipped hair like a brush, his skull round and
small. His face is brutal and his left nostril has been ripped open
sometime and imperfectly healed. The fellow is about nineteen years
old. He bends forward, and his great, lumpish hands are joined to
muscular arms. The pupils of his eyes are small, black and piercing.
He is trying to repair a rat trap._

_BRUNO whistles to his sister as he would to a dog._

MRS. JOHN

I'm comin' now, Bruno! What d'you want?

BRUNO

[_Apparently absorbed by the trap._] Thought I was goin' to put up traps
here.

MRS. JOHN

Did you put the bacon in? [_To PAULINE._] It's only my brother. Don't be
scared, Miss.

BRUNO

[_As before._] I seen the Emperor William to-day. I marched along wi' the
guard,

MRS. JOHN

[_To PAULINE, who stands fearful and moveless in BRUNO'S presence._]
'Tain't nothin' but my brother. You c'n stay.--[_To BRUNO._] Boy, what're
you lookin' that way for again? The young lady is fair scared o' you.

BRUNO

[_As before, without looking up._] Brrr-rr-rr! I'm a ghost.

MRS. JOHN

Hurry an' go up in the loft an' set your traps.

BRUNO

[_Slowly approaching the table._] Aw, that business ain't no good 'cept
to starve on! When I goes to sell matches, I gets more outa it.

PAULINE

Good-bye, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

[_Raging at her brother._] Are you goin' to leave me alone?

BRUNO

[_Knuckling under._] Aw, don' go on so. I'm leavin'.

_Obediently he withdraws into the adjoining room. MRS. JOHN locks the
door behind him with a determined gesture._

PAULINE

That's a feller I wouldn't like to meet in the _Tiergarten_. Not by night
an' not by day neither.

MRS. JOHN

If I sets Bruno on anyone an' he gets at him, God help him!

PAULINE

Good-bye. I don't like this here place. If you wants to see me again,
Mrs. John, I'd rather meet you at a bench on the _Kreuzberg_.

MRS. JOHN

Pauline, I brought up Bruno with sorrow and trouble by day an' by night.
An' I'll be twenty times better to your child. So when it's born,
Pauline, I'll take it, an' I swears to you by my father an' mother what
died in the Lord an' what I goes to visit the graves of out in Rüdersdorf
one Sunday a year an' puts candles on 'em an' don' let nobody keep me
back--I swears to you that little crittur'll live on the fat o' the land
just like a born prince nor a born princess couldn't be treated no
better.

PAULINE

I'm goin' and with my last penny I'm goin' to buy vitriol--I don' care
who it hits! An' I'll throw it in the face o' the wench that he goes with
... I don' care who it hits ... right in the middle o' the mug. I don'
care! It c'n burn up his fine-lookin' phiz! I don' care! It c'n burn off
his beard an' burn out his eyes if he goes with other women! What did he
do? Cheated me! Ruined me! Took my money! Robbed me o' my honour! That's
what the damn' dog did--seduced me an' lied to me an' left me an' kicked
me out into the world! I don' care who it hits! I wants him to be blind!
I wants the stuff to burn his nose offa his face! I wants it to burn him
offa the earth!

MRS. JOHN

Pauline, as I hopes to be happy hereafter, I tells you, from the minute
where that there little one is born ... it's goin' to be treated like ...
well, I don' know what!... as if it was born to be put in silks an' in
satins. All you gotta do is to have some confidence--that's what! You
just say: Yes. I got it all figgered out. It c'n be done, it c'n be
done--that's what I tells you! An' no doctor an' no police an' no
landlady don't has to know nothin'. An' then, first of all, you gets paid
a hundred an' twenty crowns what I saved scrubbin' an' charrin' here for
manager Hassenreuter.

PAULINE

I might strangle it when it's born, rather 'n sell it!

MRS. JOHN

Who's talkin' about sellin'?

PAULINE

Look at the frights an' the misery I've stood from October las' to this
very day. My intended gives me the go; my landlady puts me out! They
gives me notice at a lodgin's. What does I do that I has to be despised
an' cursed an' kicked aroun'?

MRS. JOHN

That's what I says. That's cause the devil is still gettin' the better of
our Lord Jesus.

_Unnoticed and busy with the trap as before BRUNO has quietly
re-entered by the door._

BRUNO

[_With a strange intonation, sharply and yet carelessly._] Lamps!

PAULINE

That feller scares me. Lemme go!

MRS. JOHN

[_Makes violently for BRUNO._] Is you goin' to go where you belongs? I
told you I'd call you!

BRUNO

[_In the same tone as before._] Well, Jette, I jus' said: Lamps!

MRS. JOHN

Are you crazy? What's the meanin' o' that--lamps?

BRUNO

Ain't that a ringin' o' the front bell?

MRS. JOHN

[_Is frightened, listens and restrains PAULINE, who makes a motion to
go._] Sh, Miss, wait! Just wait one little minute!

[_BRUNO continues whittling as the two women stop to listen._

MRS. JOHN

[_Softly and in a frightened tone to BRUNO._] I don't hear nothin'!

BRUNO

You ol' dried up piece! You better go an' get another pair o' ears!

MRS. JOHN

That'd be the first time in all the three months that the manager'd be
comin' in when it's Sunday.

BRUNO

If that there theayter feller comes, he c'n engage me right on the spot.

MRS. JOHN

[_Violently._] Don' talk rot!

BRUNO

[_Grinning at PAULINE._] Maybe you don' believe it, Miss, but I went an'
took the clown's hoss at Schumann's circus aroun' the ring three times.
Them's the kind o' things I does. An' is I goin' to be scared?

PAULINE

[_Seeming to notice for the first time the fantastic strangeness of the
place in which she finds herself. Frightened and genuinely perturbed._]
Mother o' God, what kind o' place is this?

MRS. JOHN

Whoever c'n that be?

BRUNO

'Tain't the manager, Jette! More like it's a spout what's drippin'!

MRS. JOHN

Miss, you be so kind an' go for two minutes, if you don' mind, up into
this here loft. Maybe somebody's comin' that just wants some information.

_In her growing terror PAULINE does as she is asked to do. She
clambers up the stairs to the loft, the trap door being open. MRS.
JOHN has taken up a position in which she can, at need, hide PAULINE
from anyone entering the room. PAULINE disappears: MRS. JOHN and
BRUNO remain alone._

BRUNO

What business has you with that pious mug?

MRS. JOHN

That ain't none o' your business, y'understan'?

BRUNO

I was just axin' 'cause you was so careful that nobody should see her.
Otherwise I don't know's I gives a damn.

MRS. JOHN

An' you ain't supposed to!

BRUNO

Much obliged. Maybe I better toddle along, then.

MRS. JOHN

D'you know what you owes me, you scamp?

BRUNO

[_Carelessly._] What are you gettin' excited for? What is I doin' to you?
What d'you want? I gotta go to my gal now. I'm sleepy. Las' night I slept
under a lot o' bushes in the park. An' anyhow, I'm cleaned out--[_He
turns his trowsers pockets inside out._] An' in consequence o' that I
gotta go an' earn somethin'.

MRS. JOHN

Here you stays! Don't you dare move! If you do you c'n whine like a
whipped purp an' you'll never be gettin' so much as a penny outa me no
more--that's what you won't! Bruno, you're goin' ways you hadn't ought
to.

BRUNO

Aw, what d'you think? Is I goin' to be a dam' fool? D'you think I ain'
goin' when I gets a good livin' offa Hulda? [_He pulls out a dirty
card-case._] Not so much as a measly pawn ticket has I got. Tell me what
you want an' then lemme go!

MRS. JOHN

What I wants? Of you? What're you good for anyhow? You ain't good for
nothin' excep' for your sister who ain't right in her head to feel sorry
for you, you loafer an' scamp!

BRUNO

Maybe you _ain'_ right in your head sometimes!

MRS. JOHN

Our father, he used to say when you was no more'n five an' six years old
an' used to do rowdy things, that we couldn't never be proud o' you an'
that I might as well let you go hang. An' my husband what's a reel honest
decent man ... why, you can't be seen alongside of a good man like him.

BRUNO

Sure, I knows all that there, Jette. But things ain' that easy to
straighten out. I knows all right I was born with a kind o' a twist in my
back, even if nobody don't see it. No, I wasn't born in no castle. Well,
I gotta do what I c'n do with my twist. All right. What d'you want?
'Tain't for the rats you're keepin' me. You wanta hush up somethin' wi'
that whore!

MRS. JOHN

[_Shaking her hand under BRUNO'S nose._] You give away one word o' this
an' I'll kill you, I'll make a corpse o' you!

BRUNO

Well now, looka here! I'm goin', y'understan'? [_He mounts the stairs._]
Maybe someday I'll be droppin' into good luck without knowin' it.

_He disappears through the trap-door, MRS. JOHN hurriedly blows out
the lamp and taps her way to the door of the library. She enters it
but does--not wholly close the door behind her.--The noise that BRUNO
actually heard was that of a key being turned in a rusty keyhole. A
light step is now heard approaching the door. For a moment the street
noises of Berlin as well as the yelling of children in the outer
halls had been audible. Strains of a hurdy-gurdy from the
yard.--WALBURGA HASSENREUTER enters with hesitating and embarrassed
steps. The girl is not yet sixteen and is pretty and innocent of
appearance. Sunshade, light-coloured summer dress, not coming below
the ankle._

WALBURGA

[_Halts, listens, then says nervously:_] Papa!--Isn't any one up here
yet? Papa! Papa! [_She listens long and intently and then says:_] Why,
what an odour of coal oil there is here! [_She finds matches, lights one,
is about to light the lamp and burns her fingers against the hot
chimney._] Ouch! Why, dear me! Who is here?

[_She has cried out and is about to run away._

_MRS. JOHN reappears._

MRS. JOHN

Well, Miss Walburga, who's goin' to go an' kick up a row like that! You
c'n be reel quiet. 'Tain't nobody but me!

WALBURGA

Dear me, but I've had an awful fright, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

Well, then I advise you to be gettin' out o' here to-day--on Sunday?

WALBURGA

[_Laying her hand over her heart._] Why, my heart is almost standing
still yet, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

What's the matter, Miss Walburga? What's frightenin' you? You oughta know
that from your pa that Sunday an' week day I gotta be workin' aroun' here
with them boxes an' cases, dustin' an' tryin' to get rid o' the moths!
An' then, after two or three weeks, when I've gone over the twelve or
eighteen hundred theayter rags that're lyin' here--then I gotta start all
over again.

WALBURGA

I was frightened because the chimney of the lamp was still quite hot to
the touch.

MRS. JOHN

That's right. That there lamp was burnin' 'an' I put it out jus' a minute
ago. [_She lifts up the chimney._] It don't burn me; my hands is hard.
[_She lights the wick._] Well, now we has light. Now I lit it again.
What's the danger here? I don' see nothin'.

WALBURGA

But you do look like a ghost, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

How do you say I looks?

WALBURGA

Oh, it just seems so when one comes out of the vivid sunlight into the
darkness, into these musty holes. It seems as though one were surrounded
by ghosts.

MRS. JOHN

Well, you little ghost, why did you come up here? Is you alone or has you
got somebody with you? Maybe papa'll be comin' in yet?

WALBURGA

No, papa has been granted an important audience out in Potsdam to-day.

MRS. JOHN

All right! What're you lookin' for here then?

WALBURGA

I? Oh, I just came out for a walk!

MRS. JOHN

Well, then I advise you to be gettin out o' here again. No sun don't
shine into your papa's lumber-room.

WALBURGA

You look so grey! You had better go out into the sunlight yourself!

MRS. JOHN

Oh, the sunlight's just for fine folks! All I needs is a couple o' pounds
o' dust an' dirt on my lungs.--You just go along, missie! I gotta get to
work. I don' need nothin' else. I jus' lives on mildew an' insec'-powder.

[_She coughs._

WALBURGA

[_Nervously._] You needn't tell papa that I was up here.

MRS. JOHN

Me? Ain't I got somethin' better to do'n that?

WALBURGA

[_With assumed carelessness._] And if Mr. Spitta were to ask after me....

MRS. JOHN

Who?

WALBURGA

The young gentleman who gives us private lessons at home....

MRS. JOHN

Well, s'posin'?

WALBURGA

Then be so kind as to tell him that I've been here but left again at
once.

MRS. JOHN

So I'm to tell Mr. Spitta but not papa?

WALBURGA

[_Involuntarily._] Oh, for heaven's sake, no!

MRS. JOHN

Well, you jus' wait an' see! You jus' look out! There's many a one has
looked like you an' has come from your part o' the city an'--has gone to
the dogs in the ditch in Dragoner street or, even, behind Swedish
hangin's in Barnim street.

WALBURGA

Surely you don't mean to insinuate, Mrs. John, and surely you don't
believe that there's anything unpermitted or improper in my relations
with Mr. Spitta?

MRS. JOHN

[_In extreme fright._] Shut up!--Somebody's put the key into the keyhole.

WALBURGA

Blow out the lamp!

[_MRS. JOHN blows out the lamp quickly._

WALBURGA

Papa!

MRS. JOHN

Miss! Up into the loft with you!

_MRS. JOHN and WALBURGA both disappear through the trap-door, which
closes behind them._

_Two gentlemen, the manager HARRO HASSENREUTER and the court actor
NATHANAEL JETTEL, appear in the frame of the outer door. The manager
is of middle height, clean shaven, fifty years old. He takes long
steps and shows a lively temperament in his whole demeanour. The cut
of his face is noble, his eyes have a vivid, adventurous expression.
His behaviour is somewhat noisy, which accords with his thoroughly
fiery nature. He wears a light overcoat, a top-hat thrust back on his
head, full dress suit and patent leather boots. The overcoat, which
is unbuttoned, reveals the decorations which almost cover his
chest--JETTEL wears a suit of flannels under a very light spring
overcoat. In his left hand he holds a straw hat and an elegant cane;
he wears tan shoes. He also is clean shaven and over fifty years old.

HASSENREUTER

[_Calls:_] John! Mrs. John!--Well, now you see my catacombs, my dear
fellow! _Sic transit gloria mundi!_ Here I've stored everything--_mutatis
mutandis_--that was left of my whole theatrical glory--trash, trash! Old
rags! Old tatters!--John! John! She's been here, for the lamp chimney is
still quite hot! [_He strikes a match and lights the lamp._] _Fiat lux,
pereat mundus!_ Now you can get a good view of my paradise of moths and
rats and fleas!

JETTEL

You received my card, didn't you, my dear manager?

HASSENREUTER

Mrs. John!--I'll see if she is in the loft up there. [_He mounts the
stairs and rattles at the trap-door._] Locked! And of course the wretched
creature has the key tied to her apron. [_He beats enragedly against the
trap-door with his fist._] John! John!

JETTEL

[_Somewhat impatient._] Can't we manage without this Mrs. John?

HASSENREUTER

What? Do you think that I, in my dress suit and with all my decorations,
just back from His Highness, can go through my three hundred boxes and
cases just to rout out the wretched rags that you are pleased to need for
your engagement here?

JETTEL

I beg your pardon. But I'm not wont to appear in rags on my tours.

HASSENREUTER

Man alive, then play in your drawers for all I care! It wouldn't worry
me! Only don't quite forget who's standing before you. Because the court
actor Jettel is pleased to emit a whistle--well, that's no reason why the
manager Harro Hassenreuter should begin to dance. Confound it, because
some comedian wants a shabby turban or two old boots, is that any reason
why a _pater familias_ like myself must give up his only spare time at
home on Sunday afternoon? I suppose you expect me to creep about on all
fours into the corners here? No, my good fellow, for that kind of thing
you'll have to look elsewhere!

JETTEL

[_Quite calmly._] Would you mind telling me, if possible, who has been
treading on your corns?

HASSENREUTER

My boy, it's scarcely an hour since I had my legs under the same table
with a prince; _post hoc, ergo propter hoc!_--On your account I got into
a confounded bus and drove out to this, confounded bole, and so ... if
you don't know how to value my kindness, you can get out!

JETTEL

You made an appointment with use for four o'clock. Then you let me wait
one solid hour in this horrible tenement, in these lovely halls with
their filthy brats! Well, I waited and didn't address the slightest
reproach to you. And now you have the good taste and the good manners to
use me as a kind of a cuspidor!

HASSENREUTER

My boy ...

JETTEL

The devil! I'm not your boy! You seem to be kind of a clown that I ought
to force to turn sommersaults for pennies!

[_Highly indignant, he picks up his hat and cane and goes._

HASSENREUTER

[_Starts, breaks out into boisterous laughter and then calls out after
JETTEL:_] Don't make yourself ridiculous! And, anyhow, I'm not a
costumer!

_The slamming of the outer door is heard._

HASSENREUTER

[_Pulls out his watch._] The confounded idiot! The damned mutton
head.--It's a blessing the ridiculous ass went! [_He puts the match back
into his pocket, pulls it out again at once and listens. He walks
restlessly to and fro, then stops, gases into his top-hat, which contains
a mirror, and combs his hair carefully. He walks over to the middle door
and opens a few of the letters that lie heaped up there. At the same time
he sings in a trilling voice:_

"O Strassburg, O Strassburg,
Thou beautiful old town."

_Once more he looks at his watch. Suddenly the doorbell at his head
rings._] On the minute! Ah, but these little girls can be punctual when
they really care about it! [_He hurries out into the hall and is heard to
extend a loud and merry welcome to someone. The trumpet notes of his
voice are soon accompanied by the bell-like tones of a woman's speaking.
Very soon he reappears, at his side an elegant young lady, ALICE
RÜTTERBUSCH._]--Alice! My little Alice! Come here where I can see you,
little girl! Come here into the light! I must see whether you're the same
infinitely delightful, mad little Alice that you were in the great days
of my career in Alsace? Girl, it was I who taught you to walk! I held
your leading strings for your first steps. I taught you how to talk,
girl! The things you said! I hope you haven't forgotten!

ALICE RÜTTERBUSCH

Now, look here! You don't believe that I'm an ungrateful girl?

HASSENREUTER

[_Draws up her veil._] Why, girlie, you've grown younger instead of
older.

ALICE RÜTTERBUSCH

[_Flushed with delight._] Well, a person would just have to be like
everything to say that you had changed to your disadvantage! But, do you
know--it's awful dark up here really and--Harro, maybe you wouldn't mind
opening a window a little--oh, the air's a bit heavy, too,

HASSENREUTER

"Pillicock sat on Pillicock-hill"
"But mice and rats and such small deer
Have been Tom's food for seven long year."

In all seriousness I have passed through dark and difficult times! In
spite of the fact that I preferred not to write you of it, I have no
doubt that you are informed.

ALICE RÜTTERBUSCH

But it wasn't extra friendly, you know, for you not to answer one little
word to the long, nice letter I wrote you.

HASSENREUTER

Ha, ha, ha! What's the use of answering a little girl's letter if one has
both hands full taking care of oneself and can't possibly be of the
slightest use to her? Pshaw! _E nihilo nihil fit!_ In the vernacular: You
can't get results out of nothing! Moth and dust! Dust and moths! And
that's all my efforts for German culture in the west profited me!

ALICE RÜTTERBUSCH

So you didn't turn over your collection of properties to manager Kunz.

HASSENREUTER

"O Strassburg, O Strassburg,
Thou beautiful old town!"

No, little one, I didn't leave my properties in Strassburg! This
ex-waiter, ex-innkeeper and lessee of disreputable dance halls, this
idiot, this imbecile who succeeded me, didn't happen to want my stuff.
No, I didn't leave my collection of properties there, but what I did have
to leave there was forty thousand crowns of hard-earned money left me
from my old touring days as an actor, and, in addition, fifty thousand
crowns which formed the dowry of my excellent wife. However, it was a
piece of good luck, after all, that I kept the properties. Ha, ha, ha!
These fellows here ... [_he touches one of the mailed figures_] ...
surely you remember them?

ALICE RÜTTERBUSCH

Could I forget my pasteboard knights?

HASSENREUTER

Very well, then: it was these pasteboard knights and all the other trash
that surrounds them, that actually, after his hegira, kept the old
rag-picker and costumer, Harro Eberhard Hassenreuter, above water. But
let's speak of cheerful things: I saw with pleasure in the paper that his
Excellency has engaged you for Berlin.

ALICE RÜTTERBUSCH

I don't care a great deal about it! I'd rather play for you, and you must
promise me, whenever you undertake the management of a theatre again--you
will promise, won't you?--that you'll let me break my contract right
away? [_The MANAGER laughs heartily._] I had to be annoyed quite enough
for three long years by the barn-stormers of the provinces. Berlin I
don't like, and a court theatre least of all. Lord, what people and what
a profession it is! You know I belong to your collection--I've always
belonged to it!

[_She stands up primly among the pasteboard knights._

HASSENREUTER

Ha, ha, ha, ha! Well then, come to my arms, faithful knight!

[_He opens his arms wide, she flies into them, and they now salute
each other with long, continuous kisses._

ALICE RÜTTERBUSCH

Go on, Harro. Now tell me. How is your wife?

HASSENREUTER

Teresa gets along very well except that she gets fatter every day in
spite of sorrow and worries.--Girl, girl, how fragrant you are! [_He
presses her to him._] Do you know that you're a devilish dangerous
person?

ALICE RÜTTERBUSCH

D'you think I'm an idiot? Of course I'm dangerous!

HASSENREUTER

Well, I'll be ...!

ALICE RÜTTERBUSCH

Why, do you think if I didn't know it was dangerous, dangerous for us
both, I'd make an appointment with you out here in this lovely
neighbourhood, under this stuffy roof? By the way, though, since I'm
always bound to have the queerest luck if ever I do go a bit on
questionable ways, whom should I meet on the stairs but Nathanael Jettel?
I almost ran into the gentleman's arms! He'll take good care that my
visiting you doesn't remain our secret.

HASSENREUTER

I must have made a mistake in writing down the date. The fellow insists
on asserting--ha, ha, ha!--that I made an engagement with him for this
very afternoon.

ALICE RÜTTERBUSCH

And that wasn't the only person I met on the six flights. And as for the
dear little children that roll about on the stairs here! What they called
out after me was unparliamentary to a degree--such vulgarities as I've
never heard from such little beggars in my life.

HASSENREUTER

[_Laughs, then speaks seriously._] Ah, yes! But one gets accustomed to
that. You could never write down all the life that sweeps down these
stairs with its soiled petticoats--the life that cringes and creeps,
moans, sighs, sweats, cries out, curses, mutters, hammers, planes, jeers,
steals, drives its dark trades up and down these stairs--the sinister
creatures that hide here, playing their zither, grinding their
accordions, sticking in need and hunger and misery, leading their vicious
lives--no, it's beyond one's power of recording. And your old manager,
last but not least, runs, groans, sighs, sweats, cries out and curses
with the best of them. Ha, ha, ha, girlie! I've had a pretty wretched
time.

ALICE RÜTTERBUSCH

Oh, by the way, d'you know whom I ran into just as I was making for the
railroad station at the Zoological Garden? The good old Prince
Statthalter! And straight off, cool as a cucumber--that's my way you
know--I tripped along next to him for twenty minutes and got him absorbed
in a conversation. And then something happened, Harro, upon my honour,
just as I'm going to tell you--literally and truly: Suddenly on the
bridle-path His Majesty came riding along with a great suite. I thought
I'd sink into the earth with embarrassment. And His Majesty laughed right
out and threatened his Serenity playfully with his finger. But I was
delighted, you may believe me. The main thing comes now, however. Just
think! His Serenity asked me whether I'd be glad to go back to Strassburg
if the manager Hassenreuter were to assume direction of the theatre there
again. Well, you may know that I almost jumped for joy!

HASSENREUTER

[_Throws off his overcoat and stands with his decorations displayed._]
You probably couldn't help noticing that His Serenity had had a most
excellent breakfast. Aha! We had breakfast together! We attended an
exquisite little stag party given by Prince Ruprecht out in Potsdam. I
don't deny, therefore, that a turn for good may take place in the
miserable fate of your friend.

ALICE RÜTTERBUSCH

Sweetheart, you look like a statesman, like an ambassador!

HASSENREUTER

Ah, don't you know this breast covered with high and exalted decorations?
Klärchen and Egmont! Here you can drink your fill! [_They embrace each
other anew._] _Carpe diem!_ Enjoy the passing hour! Ah, my little Miss
Simplicity, champagne is not recorded at present on the repertory of your
old manager, inspirer and friend. [_He opens a wooden case and draws
forth a bottle of wine._] But this old cloister vintage isn't to be
sneezed at either! [_He pulls the cork. At the same moment the door bell
rings._] What? Sh! I wonder who has the monstrous impudence to ring here
on Sunday afternoon? [_The bell rings with increased violence._] Confound
it all--the fellow must be a lunatic. Little girl, suppose you withdraw
into the library. [_ALICE hurries into the library. The ringing is
repeated. He hurries to the door._] Either be patient or go to the devil.
[_He is heard opening the door._] Who? What? "It is I, Miss Walburga."
What? I am not Miss Walburga. I am not the daughter. I am the father. Oh,
it's you, Mr. Spitta! Your very humble servant. I'm only her father--only
her father! What is it that you want?

_HASSENREUTER reappears in the passage accompanied by ERICH SPITTA, a
young man of twenty-one, spectacled, with keen and not
undistinguished features, SPITTA passes as a student of theology and
is correspondingly dressed. He does not hold himself erect and his
development shows the influence of over-study and underfeeding._

HASSENREUTER

Did you intend to give my daughter one of your private lessons here in my
storeroom?

SPITTA

I was riding past on the tram-car and I really thought I had seen Miss
Walburga hurry into the doorway downstairs.

HASSENREUTER

No possibility of such a thing, my dear Spitta. At this moment my
daughter Walburga is attending a ritualistic service with her mother in
the Anglican church.

SPITTA

Then perhaps you'll forgive my intrusion. I took the liberty of coming
upstairs because I thought that Miss Walburga might not find it
unpleasant or useless to have an escort home through this neighbourhood.

HASSENREUTER

Very good! Very excellent! But she isn't here. I regret it. I'm here
myself by the merest chance--on account of the mail. And in addition, I
have other pressing engagements. Can I do anything else for you?

_SPITTA polishes his glasses and betrays signs of embarrassment._

SPITTA

One doesn't grow used to the darkness at once.

HASSENREUTER

Perhaps you stand in need of the tuition due you. Sorry, but
unfortunately I have the habit of going out with only some small change
in my waistcoat pocket. So I must ask you to have patience until I am at
home again.

SPITTA

Not the least hurry in the world.

HASSENREUTER

Yes, it's easy for you to say that. I'm like a hunted animal, my dear
fellow ...

SPITTA

And yet I would like to beg for a minute of your precious time. I can't
but look upon this unexpected meeting as a kind of providential
arrangement. In short: may I put a question to you?

HASSENREUTER

[_With his eyes on his watch, which he has just been winding._] One
minute exactly. By the watch, my good fellow!

SPITTA

Both my question and your answer need hardly take that long.

HASSENREUTER

Well, then!

SPITTA

Have I any talent for the stage?

HASSENREUTER

For the love of God, man! Have you gone mad?--Forgive me, my dear fellow,
if a case like this excites me to the point of being discourteous. You
have certainly given the lie to the saying: _natura non facit saltus_ by
the unnatural leap that you've taken. I must first get my breath after
that! And now let's put an end to this at once. Believe me, if we were
both to discuss the question now we wouldn't come to any conclusion in
two or three weeks, or rather, let us say years.--You are a theologian by
profession, my good fellow, and you were born in a parsonage. You have
all the necessary connections and a smooth road to a comfortable way of
life ahead of you. How did you hit upon such a notion as this?

SPITTA

That's a long story of the inner life, Mr. Hassenreuter, of difficult
spiritual struggles--a story which, until this moment, has been an
absolute secret and known only to myself. But my good fortune led me into
your house and from that moment on I felt that I was drawing nearer and
nearer to the true aim of my life.

HASSENREUTER

[_Wildly impatient._] That's very creditable to me; that does honour to
my family and myself! [_He puts his hands on SPITTA'S shoulders._] And
yet I must make it in the form of an urgent request that, at this moment,
you refrain from a further discussion of the question. My affairs cannot
wait.

SPITTA

Then I will only add the expression of my absolutely firm decision.

HASSENREUTER

But, my dear Spitta, who has put these mad notions into year head? I've
taken real pleasure in the thought of you. I've really been quietly
envying you the peaceful personage that was to be yours. I've attached no
special significance to certain literary ambitions that one is likely to
pick up in the metropolis. That's a mere phase, I thought, and will be
quite passing in his case! And now you want to become an actor? God help
you, were I your father! I'd lock you up on bread and water and not let
you out again until the very memory of this folly was gone. _Dixi!_ And
now, good-bye, my dear man.

SPITTA

I'm afraid that locking me op or resorting to force of any kind would not
help in my case at all.

HASSENREUTER

But, man alive, you want to become an actor--you, with your round
shoulders, with your spectacles and, above all, with your hoarse and
sharp voice. It's impossible.

SPITTA

If such fellows as I exist in real life, why shouldn't they exist on the
stage too? And I am of the opinion that a smooth, well-sounding voice,
probably combined with the Goethe-Schiller-Weimar school of idealistic
artifice, is harmful rather than helpful. The only question is whether
you would take me, just as I am, as a pupil?

HASSENREUTER

[_Hastily draws on his overcoat._] I would not. In the first place my
school of acting is only one of the schools of idealistic artifice which
you mention. In the second place I wouldn't be responsible to your father
for such an action. And in the third place, we quarrel enough as it
is--every time you stay to supper at my house after giving your lessons.
If you were my pupil, we'd come to blows. And now, Spitta, I must catch
the car.

SPITTA

My father is already informed. In a letter of twelve pages, I have given
him a full history of the change that has taken place within me....

HASSENREUTER

I'm sure the old gentleman will feel flattered! And now come along with
me or I'll go insane!

_HASSENREUTER forcibly takes SPITTA out with him. The door is heard
to slam. The room grows silent but for the uninterrupted roar of
Berlin, which can now be clearly heard. The trap-door to the loft is
now opened and WALBURGA HASSENREUTER clambers down in mad haste,
followed by MRS. JOHN._

MRS. JOHN

[_Whispering vehemently._] What's the matter? Nothin' ain't happened.

WALBURGA

Mrs. John, I'll scream! I'll have to scream in another second! Oh, for
heaven's sake, I can't help it much longer, Mrs. John!

MRS. JOHN

Stuff a handkerchief between your teeth! There ain't nothin'! Why d'you
take on so?

WALBURGA

[_With chattering teeth, making every effort to suppress her sobs._] I'm
frightened! Oh, I'm frightened to death, Mrs. John!

MRS. JOHN

I'd like to know what you're so scared about!

WALBURGA

Why, didn't you see that horrible man?

MRS. JOHN

That ain't nothin' so horrible. That's my brother what sometimes helps me
clean up your pa's things here.

WALBURGA

And that girl who sits with her back to the chimney and whines?

MRS. JOHN

Well, your mother didn't act no different when you was expected to come
into the world.

WALBURGA

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