Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann by Gerhart Hauptmann

Part 7 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Oh, it's all over with me. I'll die if papa comes back.

MRS. JOHN

Well then hurry and get out an' don' fool roun' no more!

[_MRS. JOHN accompanies the horrified girl along the passage, lets
her out, and then returns._

MRS. JOHN

Thank God, that girl don' know but what the moon _is_ made o' cheese!

[_She takes the uncorked bottle, pours out a glass full of wine and
takes it with her to the loft into which she disappears._

_The room is scarcely empty when HASSENREUTER returns._

HASSENREUTER

[_Still in the door. Singing._] "Come on down, O Madonna Teresa!" [_He
calls:_] Alice! [_Still in the door._] Come on! Help me put up my iron
bar with a double lock before the door, Alice! [_He comes forward._] Any
one else who dares to interrupt our Sunday quiet--_anathema sit!_ Here!
You imp! Where are you, Alice? [_He observes the bottle and lifts it
against the light._] What? Half empty! The little scamp! [_From behind
the door of the library a pleasant woman's voice is heard singing
coloratura passages._] Ha, ha, ha, ha! Heavens and earth! She's tipsy
already.

THE SECOND ACT

_MRS. JOHN'S rooms on the second floor of the same house in the
attics of which HASSENREUTER has stored his properties. A high, deep,
green-tinted room which betrays its original use as part of a
barracks. The rear wall shows a double door which gives on the outer
hall. Above this door there hangs a bell connected by a wire with the
knob outside. To the right of the door a partition, covered with
wall-paper, projects into the room. This partition takes a
rectangular turn and extends to the right wall. A portion of the room
is thus partitioned off and serves as sleeping-chamber. From within
the partition, which is about six feet high, cupboards are seen
against the wall._

_Entering the room from the hall, one observes to the left a sofa
covered with oil-cloth. The back of the sofa is pushed against the
partition wall. The latter is adorned with small photographs: the
foreman-mason JOHN as a soldier, JOHN and his wife in their wedding
garb, etc. An oval table, covered with a faded cotton cloth, stands
before the sofa. In order to reach the entrance of the
sleeping-chamber from the door it is necessary to pass the table and
sofa. This entrance is closed by hangings of blue cotton cloth.
Against the narrow front wall of the partition stands a neatly
equipped kitchen cabinet. To the right, against the wall of the main
room, the stove. This corner of the room serves the--purposes of
kitchen and pantry. Sitting on the sofa, one would look straight at
the left wall of the room, which is broken by two large windows. A
neatly planed board has been fastened to the nearer of the windows to
serve as a kind of desk. Upon it are lying blue-prints,
counter-drawings, an inch-measure, a compass and a square. A small,
raised platform is seen beneath the farther window. Upon it stands a
small table with glasses. An old easy chair of cane and a number of
simple wooden chairs complete the frugal equipment of the room, which
creates an impression of neatness and orderliness such as is often
found in the dwellings of childless couples._

_It is about five o'clock of an afternoon toward the end of May. The
warm sunlight shines through the windows._

_The foreman-mason JOHN, a good-natured, bearded man of forty, sits
at the desk in the foreground taking notes from the building plans._

_MRS. JOHN sits sewing on the small platform, by the farther window.
She is very pale. There is something gentle and pain-touched about
her, but her face shows an expression of deep contentment, which is
broken only now and then by a momentary gleam of restlessness and
suspense. A neat new perambulator stands by her side. In it lies a
newborn child._

JOHN

[_Modestly._] Mother, how'd it be if I was to open the window jus' a
speck an' was to light my pipe for a bit?

MRS. JOHN

Does you have to smoke? If not, you better let it be!

JOHN

No, I don't has to, mother. Only I'd like to! Never mind, though. A
quid'll be just as good in the end.

[_With comfortable circumstantiality he prepares a new quid._

MRS. JOHN

[_After a brief silence._] How's that? You has to go to the public
registry office again?

JOHN

That's what he told me, that I had to come back again an' tell him
exackly ... that I had to give the exack place an' time when that little
kid was born.

MRS. JOHN

[_Holding a needle in her mouth._] Well, why didn't you tell him that
right away?

JOHN

How was I to know it? I didn't know, you see.

MRS. JOHN

You didn't know that?

JOHN

Well, I wasn't here, was I?

MRS. JOHN

You wasn't. That's right. If you goes an' leaves me here in Berlin an'
stays from one year's end to another in Hamburg, an' at most comes to see
me once a month--how is you to know what happens in your own home?

JOHN

Don't you want me to go where the boss has most work for me? I goes where
I c'n make good money.

MRS. JOHN

I wrote you in my letter as how our little boy was born in this here
room.

JOHN

I knows that an' I told him that. Ain't that natural, I axes him, that
the child was born in our room? An' he says that ain't natural at all.
Well then, says I, for all I cares, maybe it was up in the loft with the
rats an' mice! I got mad like 'cause he said maybe the child wasn't born
here at all. Then he yells at me: What kind o' talk is that? What? says
I. I takes an interest in wages an' earnin' an' not in talk--not me, Mr.
Registrar! An' now I'm to give him the exack day an' hour ...

MRS. JOHN

An' didn't I write it all out for you on a bit o' paper?

JOHN

When a man's mad he's forgetful. I believe if he'd up and axed me: Is you
Paul John, foreman-mason? I'd ha' answered: I don' know. Well an' then
I'd been a bit jolly too an' taken a drink or two with Fritz. An' while
we was doin' that who comes along but Schubert an' Karl an' they says as
how I has to set up on account o' bein' a father now. Those fellers, they
didn't let me go an' they was waitin' downstairs in front o' the public
registry. An' so I kept thinkin' o' them standin' there. So when he axes
me on what day my wife was delivered, I didn't know nothin' an' just
laughed right in his face.

MRS. JOHN

I wish you'd first attended to what you had to an' left your drinkin'
till later.

JOHN

It's easy to say that! But if you're up to them kind o' tricks in your
old age, mother, you can't blame me for bein' reel glad.

MRS. JOHN

All right. You go on to the registry now an' say that your child was
borne by your wife in your dwellin' on the twenty-fifth o' May.

JOHN

Wasn't it on the twenty-sixth? 'Cause I said right along the
twenty-sixth. Then he must ha' noticed that I wasn't quite sober. So he
says: If that's a fac', all right; if not, you gotta come back.

MRS. JOHN

In that case you'd better leave it as it is.

_The door is opened and SELMA KNOBBE pushes in a wretched
perambulator which presents the saddest contrast to MRS. JOHN'S.
Swaddled in pitiful rags a newly born child lies therein._

MRS. JOHN

Oh, no, Selma, comin' into my room with that there sick child--that was
all right before. But that can't be done no more.

SELMA

He just gasps with that cough o' his'n. Over at our place they smokes all
the time.

MRS. JOHN

I told you, Selma, that you could come from time to time and get milk or
bread. But while my little Adelbert is here an' c'n catch maybe
consumption or somethin', you just leave that poor little thing at home
with his fine mother.

SELMA

[_Tearfully._] Mother ain't been home at all yesterday or to-day. I can't
get no sleep with this child. He just moans all night. I gotta get some
sleep sometime! I'll jump outa the window first thing or I'll let the
baby lie in the middle o' the street an' run away so no policeman can't
never find me!

JOHN

[_Looks at the strange child._] Looks bad! Mother, why don't you try an'
do somethin' for the little beggar?

MRS. JOHN

[_Pushing SELMA and the perambulator out determinedly._] March outa this
room. That can't be done, Paul. When you got your own you can't be
lookin' out for other people's brats. That Knobbe woman c'n look after
her own affairs. It's different with Selma. [_To the girl._] You c'n come
in when you want to. You c'n come in here after a while an' take a nap
even.

[_She locks the door._

JOHN

You used to take a good deal o' interest in Knobbe's dirty little brats.

MRS. JOHN

You don' understan' that. I don' want our little Adelbert to be catchin'
sore eyes or convulsions or somethin' like that.

JOHN

Maybe you're right. Only, don't go an' call him Adelbert, mother. That
ain't a good thing to do, to call a child by the same name as one that
was carried off, unbaptised, a week after it was born. Let that be,
mother. I can't stand for that, mother,

_A knocking is heard at the door. JOHN is about to open._

MRS. JOHN

What's that?

JOHN

Well, somebody wants to get in!

MRS. JOHN

[_Hastily turning the key in the lock._] I ain't goin' to have everybody
runnin' in on me now that I'm sick as this. [_She listens at the door and
then calls out:_] I can't open! What d'you want?

A WOMAN'S VOICE

[_Somewhat deep and mannish in tone._] It is Mrs. Hassenreuter.

MRS. JOHN

[_Surprised._] Goodness gracious! [_She opens the door._] I beg your
pardon, Mrs. Hassenreuter! I didn't even know who it was!

_MRS. HASSENREUTER has now entered, followed by WALBURGA. She is a
colossal, asthmatic lady aver fifty. WALBURGA is dressed with greater
simplicity than in the first act. She carries a rather large
package._

MRS. HASSENREUTER

How do you do, Mrs. John? Although climbing stairs is ... very hard for
me ... I wanted to see how everything ... goes with you after the ...
yes, the very happy event.

MRS. JOHN

I'm gettin' along again kind o' half way.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

That is probably your husband, Mrs. John? Well, one must say, one is
bound to say, that your dear wife, in the long time of waiting--never
complained, was always cheery and merry, and did her work well for my
husband upstairs.

JOHN

That's right. She was mighty glad, too.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Well, then we'll have the pleasure--at least, your wife will have the
pleasure of seeing you at home oftener than heretofore.

MRS. JOHN

I has a good husband, Mrs. Hassenreuter, who takes care o' me an' has
good habits. An' because Paul was workin' out o town you musn't think
there was any danger o' his leavin' me. But a man like that, where his
brother has a boy o' twelve in the non-commissioned officers' school ...
it's no kind o' life for him havin' no children o' his own. He gets to
thinkin' queer thoughts. There he is in Hamburg, makin' good money, an'
he has the chance every day and--well--then he takes a notion, maybe,
he'd like to go to America.

JOHN

Oh, that was never more'n a thought.

MRS. JOHN

Well, you see, with us poor people ... it's hard-earned bread that we
eats ... an' yet ... [_lightly she runs her hand through JOHN'S hair_]
even if there's one more an' you has more cares on that account--you see
how the tears is runnin' down his cheeks--well, he's mighty happy anyhow!

JOHN

That's because three years ago we had a little feller an' when he was a
week old he took sick an' died.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

My husband has already ... yes, my husband did tell me about that ... how
deeply you grieved over that little son of yours. You know how it is ...
you know how my good husband has his eyes and his heart open to
everything. And if it's a question of people who are about him or who
give him their services--then everything good or bad, yes, everything
good or bad that happens to them, seems just as though it had happened to
himself.

MRS. JOHN

I mind as if it was this day how he sat in the carridge that time with
the little child's coffin on his knees. He wouldn't let the gravedigger
so much as touch it.

JOHN

[_Wiping the moisture out of his eyes._] That's the way it was. No. I
couldn't let him do that.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Just think, to-day at the dinner-table we had to drink wine--suddenly, to
drink wine! Wine! For years and years the city-water in decanters has
been our only table drink ... absolutely the only one. Dear children,
said my husband.--You know that he had just returned from an eleven or
twelve day trip to Alsace. Let us drink, my husband said, the health of
my good and faithful Mrs. John, because ... he cried out in his beautiful
voice ... because she is a visible proof of the fact that the cry of a
mother heart is not indifferent to our Lord.--And so we drank your
health, clinking our glasses! Well, and here I'm bringing you at my
husband's special ... at his very special and particular order ... an
apparatus for the sterilisation of milk.--Walburga, you may unpack the
boiler.

_HASSENREUTER enters unceremoniously through the outer door which has
stood ajar. He wears a top-hat, spring overcoat, carries a
silver-headed cane, in a word, is gotten up in his somewhat shabby
meek-day outfit. He speaks hastily and almost without pauses._

HASSENREUTER

[_Wiping the sweat from his forehead._] Berlin is hot, ladies and
gentlemen, hot! And the cholera is as near as St. Petersburg! Now you've
complained to my pupils, Spitta and Käferstein, Mrs. John, that your
little one doesn't seem to gain in weight. Now, of course, it's one of
the symptoms of the general decadence of our age that the majority of
mothers are either--unwilling to nurse their offspring or incapable of
it. But you've already lost one child on account of diarrhoea, Mrs. John.
No, there's no help for it: we must call a spade a spade. And so, in
order that you do not meet with the same misfortune over again, or fall
into the hands of old women whose advice is usually quite deadly for an
infant--in order that these things may not happen, I say, I have caused
my wife to bring you this apparatus. I've brought up all my--children,
Walburga included, by the help of such an apparatus ...Aha! So one gets a
glimpse of you again, Mr. John! Bravo! The emperor needs soldiers, and
you needed a representative of your race! So I congratulate you with all
my heart.

[_He shakes JOHN'S hand vigorously._

MRS. HASSENREUTER

[_Leaning over the infant._] How much ... how much did he weigh at birth?

MRS. JOHN

He weighed exactly eight pounds and ten grams.

HASSENREUTER

[_With noisy joviality._] Ha, ha, ha! A vigorous product, I must say!
Eight pounds and ten grams of good healthy, German national flesh!

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Look at his eyes! And his little nose! His father over again! Why, the
little fellow is really, really, the very image of you, Mr. John.

HASSENREUTER

I trust that you will have the boy received into the communion of the
Christian Church.

MRS. JOHN

[_With happy impressiveness._] Oh, he'll be christened properly, right in
the parochial church at the font by a clergyman.

HASSENREUTER

Right! And what are his baptismal names to be?

MRS. JOHN

Well, you know the way men is. That's caused a lot o' talk. I was
thinkin' o' "Bruno," but he won't have it!

HASSENREUTER

Surely Bruno isn't a bad name.

JOHN

That may be. I ain't sayin' but what Bruno is a good enough name. I don't
want to give no opinion about that.

MRS. JOHN

Why don't you say as how I has a brother what's twelve years younger'n me
an' what don't always do just right? But that's only 'cause there's so
much temptation. That boy's a good boy. Only you won't believe it.

JOHN

[_Turns red with sudden rage._] Jette ... you know what a cross that
feller was to us! What d'you want? You want our little feller to be the
namesake of a man what's--I can't help sayin' it--what's under police
soopervision?

HASSENREUTER

Then, for heaven's sake, get him some other patron saint.

JOHN

Lord protect me from sich! I tried to take an interest in Bruno! I got
him a job in a machine-shop an' didn't get nothin' outa it but annoyance
an' disgrace! God forbid that he should come aroun' an' have anythin' to
do with this little feller o' mine. [_He clenches his fist._] If that was
to happen, Jette, I wouldn't be responsible for myself!!

MRS. JOHN

You needn't go on, Paul! Bruno ain't comin'. But I c'n tell you this much
for certain, that my brother was good an' helpful to me in this hard
time.

JOHN

Why didn't you send for me?

MRS. JOHN

I didn't want no man aroun' that was scared.

HASSENREUTER

Aren't you an admirer of Bismarck, John?

JOHN

[_Scratching the back of his head._] I can't say as to that exackly. My
brothers in the masons' union, though, they ain't admirers o' him.

HASSENREUTER

Then you have no German hearts in your bodies! Otto is what I called my
eldest son who is in the imperial navy! And believe me [_pointing to the
infant_] this coming generation will well know what it owes to that
mighty hero, the great forger of German unity! [_He takes the tin boiler
of the apparatus which WALBURGA has unpacked into his hands and lifts it
high up._] Now then: the whole business of this apparatus is mere child's
play. This frame which holds all the bottles--each bottle to be filled
two-thirds with water and one-third with milk--is sunk into the boiler
which is filled with boiling water. By keeping the water at the
boiling-point for an hour and a half in this manner, the content--of the
bottles becomes free of germs. Chemists call this process sterilisation.

JOHN

Jette, at the master-mason's house, the milk that's fed to the twins is
sterilised too.

_The pupils of HASSENREUTER, KÄFERSTEIN and DR. KEGEL, two young men
between twenty and twenty-five years of age, have knocked at the door
and then opened it._

HASSENREUTER

[_Noticing his pupils._] Patience, gentlemen. I'll be with you directly.
At the moment I am busying myself with the problems of the nourishment of
infants and the care of children.

KÄFERSTEIN

[_His head bears witness to a sharply defined character: large nose,
pale, a serious expression, beardless, about the mouth a flicker of
kindly mischievousness. With hollow voice, gentle and suppressed._] You
must know that we are the three kings out of the East.

HASSENREUTER

[_Who still holds the apparatus aloft in his hands._] What are you?

KÄFERSTEIN

[_As before._] We want to adore the babe.

HASSENREUTER

Ha, ha, ha, ha! If you are the kings out of the East, gentlemen, it seems
to me that the third of you is lacking.

KÄFERSTEIN

The third is our new fellow pupil in the field of dramaturgic activity,
the _studiosus theologiae_, who is detained at present at the corner of
Blumen and Wallnertheater streets by an accident partly sociological,
partly psychological in its nature.

DR. KEGEL

We made all possible haste to escape.

HASSENREUTER

Do you see, a star stands above this house, Mrs. John! But do tell me,
has our excellent Spitta once more made some public application of his
quackery for the healing of the so-called sins of the social order? Ha,
ha, ha, ha! _Semper idem!_ Why, that fellow is actually becoming a
nuisance!

KÄFERSTEIN

A crowd gathered in the street for some reason and it seems that he
discovered a friend in the midst of it.

HASSENREUTER

According to my unauthoritative opinion this young Spitta would have done
much better as a surgeon's assistant or Salvation Army officer. But
that's the way of the world: the fellow must needs want to be an actor.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Mr. Spitta, the children's tutor, wants to become an actor?

HASSENREUTER

That is exactly the plan he has proposed to me, mama.--But now, if you
bring incense and myrrh, dear Käferstein, out with them! You observe what
a many sided man your teacher is. Now I help my pupils, thirsty after
the contents of the Muses' breasts, to the nourishment they
desire--_nutrimentum spiritus_--again I....

KÄFERSTEIN

[_Rattles a toy bank._] Well, I deposit this offering, which is a
fire-proof bank, next to the perambulator of this excellent offspring of
the mason, with the wish that he will rise to be at least a royal
architect.

JOHN

[_Having put cordial glasses on the table, he fetches and opens a fresh
bottle._] Well, now I'm goin' to uncork the _Danziger Goldwasser_.

HASSENREUTER

To him who hath shall be given, as you observe, Mrs. John.

JOHN

[_Filling the glasses._] Nobody ain't goin' to say that my child's
unprovided for, gentlemen. But I takes it very kindly o' you, gentlemen!
[_All except MRS. HASSENREUTER and WALBURGA lift up their glasses._] To
you health! Come on, mother, we'll drink together too.

[_The action follows the words._

HASSENREUTER

[_In a tone of reproof._] Mama, you must, of course, drink with us.

JOHN

[_Having drunk, with jolly expansiveness._] I ain't goin' to Hamburg no
more now. The boss c'n send some other feller there. I been quarrelin'
with him about that these three days. I gotta take up my hat right now
an' go there; he axed me to come roun' to his office again at six. If he
don' want to give in, he needn't. It won't never do for the father of a
family to be forever an' a day away from his family ... I got a
friend--why, all I gotta do's to say the word 'n I c'n get work on the
layin' o' the foundations o' the new houses o' Parliament. Twelve years I
been workin' for this same boss! I c'n afford to make a change some time.

HASSENREUTER

[_Pats JOHN'S shoulder._] Quite of your opinion, quite! Our family life
is something that neither money nor kind words can buy of us.

_ERICH SPITTA enters. His hat is soiled; his clothes show traces of
mud. His tie is gone. He looks pale and excited and is busy wiping
his hands with his handkerchief._

SPITTA

Beg pardon, but I wonder if I could brush up here a little, Mrs. John?

HASSENREUTER

Ha, ha, ha! For heaven's sake, what have you been up to, my good Spitta?

SPITTA

I only escorted a lady home, Mr. Hassenreuter--nothing else!

HASSENREUTER

[_Who has joined in the general, outburst of laughter called forth by
SPITTA'S explanation._] Well now, listen here! You blandly say: Nothing
else! And you announce it publicly here before all these people?

SPITTA

[_In consternation._] Why not? The lady in question, was very well
dressed; I've often seen her on the stairs of this house, and she
unfortunately met with an accident on the street.

HASSENREUTER

You don't say so? Tell us about it, dear Spitta! Apparently the lady
inflicted spots on your clothes and scratches on your hands.

SPITTA

Oh, no. That was probably the fault of the mob. The lady had an attack of
some kind. The policeman caught hold of her so awkwardly that she slipped
down in the middle of the street immediately in front of two omnibus
horses. I simply couldn't bear to see that, although I admit that the
function of the Good Samaritan is, as a rule, beneath the dignity of
well-dressed people on the public streets.

_MRS. JOHN wheels the perambulator behind the partition and reappears
with a basin full of water, which she places on a chair._

HASSENREUTER

Did the lady, by any chance, belong to that international high society
which we either regulate or segregate?

SPITTA

I confess that that was quite as indifferent to me in the given instance,
as it was to one of the omnibus horses who held his left fore foot
suspended in the air for five, six or, perhaps, even eight solid minutes,
in order not to trample on the woman who lay immediately beneath it.
[_SPITTA is answered by a round of laughter._] You may laugh! The
behaviour of the horse didn't strike me as in the least ludicrous. I
could well understand how some people applauded him, clapped their hands,
and how others stormed a bakery to buy buns with which to feed him.

MRS. JOHN

[_Fanatically._] I wish he'd trampled all he could! [_MRS. JOHN'S remark
calls forth another outburst of laughter._] An' anyhow! That there Knobbe
woman! She oughta be put in some public place, that she ought, publicly
strapped to a bench an' then beaten--beaten--that's what! She oughta have
the stick taken to her so the blood jus' spurts!

SPITTA

Exactly, I've never been deluded into thinking that the so-called Middle
Ages were quite over and done with. It isn't so long ago, in the year
eighteen hundred and thirty-seven, as a matter of fact, that a widow
named Mayer was publicly broken on the wheel right here in the city of
Berlin on Hausvogtei Square,--[_He displays fragments of the lenses of
his spectacles._] By the way, I must hurry to the optician at once.

JOHN

[_To SPITTA._] You must excuse us. But didn't you take that there fine
lady home on this very floor acrost the way? Aha! Well, mother she
noticed it right off that that couldn't ha' been nobody but that Knobbe
woman what's known for sendin' girls o' twelve out on the streets! Then
she stays away herself an' swills liquor an' has all kinds o' dealin's
an' takes no care o' her own children. Then when she's been drunk an'
wakes up she beats 'em with her fists an' with an umbrella.

HASSENREUTER

[_Pulling himself together and bethinking himself._] Hurry, gentlemen! We
must proceed to our period of instruction. We're fifteen minutes behind
hand as it is and our time is limited. We must close the period quite
punctually to-day. I'm sorry. Come, mama. See you later, ladies and
gentlemen.

[_HASSENREUTER offers his arm to his wife and leaves the room,
followed by KÄFERSTEIN and DR. KEGEL. JOHN also picks up his slouch
hat._

JOHN

[_To his wife._] Good-bye. I gotta go an' see the boss.

[_He also leaves._

SPITTA

Could you possibly lend me a tie?

MRS. JOHN

I'll see what c'n be found in Paul's drawer. [_She opens the drawer of
the table and turns pale._] O Lord! [_She takes from the drawer a lock of
child's hair held together by a riband._] I found a bit of a lock o' hair
here that was cut off the head of our little Adelbert by his father when
he was lyin' in the coffin. [_A profound, grief-stricken sadness suddenly
comes over her face, which gives way again, quite as suddenly, to a gleam
of triumph._] An' now the crib is full again after all! [_With an
expression of strange joyfulness, the lock of hair in her hand, she leads
the young people to the door of the partition through which the
perambulator projects into the main room by two-thirds of its length.
Arrived there she holds the lock of hair close to the head of the living
child._] Come on! Come on here! [_With a strangely mysterious air she
beckons to WALBURGA and SPITTA, who take up their stand next to her and
to the child._] Now look at that there hair an' at this! Ain't it the
same? Wouldn't you say it was the same identical hair?

SPITTA

Quite right. It's the same to the minutest shade, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

All right! That's all right! That's what I wanted to know.

[_Together with the child she disappears behind the partition._

WALBURGA

Doesn't it strike you, Erich, that Mrs. John's behaviour is rather
peculiar?

SPITTA

[_Taking WALBURGA'S hands and kissing them shyly but passionately._] I
don't know, I don't know ... Or, at least, my opinion musn't count
to-day. The sombre state of my own mind colours all the world. Did you
get the letter?

WALBURGA

Yes. But I couldn't make out why you hadn't been at our house in such a
long while.

SPITTA

Forgive me, Walburga, but I couldn't come.

WALBURGA

And why not?

SPITTA

Because my mind was not at one with itself.

WALBURGA

You want to become an actor? Is that true? You're going to change
professions?

SPITTA

What I'll be in the end may be left to God. But never a parson--never a
country parson!

WALBURGA

Listen! I've had my fortune told from the cards.

SPITTA

That's nonsense, Walburga. You mustn't do that.

WALBURGA

I swear to you, Erich, that it isn't nonsense. The woman told me I was
betrothed in secret and that my betrothed is an actor. Of course I
laughed her to scorn. And immediately after that mama told me that you
wanted to be an actor.

SPITTA

Is that a fact?

WALBURGA

It's true--every bit of it. And in addition the clairvoyant said that we
would have a visitor who would cause us much trouble.

SPITTA

My father is coming to Berlin, Walburga, and it's undoubtedly true that
the old gentleman will give us not a little trouble. Father doesn't know
it, but my views and his have been worlds asunder for a long time. It
didn't need these letters of his which seem actually to burn in my pocket
and by which he answered my confession--it didn't need these letters to
tell me that.

WALBURGA

An evil, envious, venomous star presided over our secret meeting here!
Oh, how I used to admire my papa! And since that Sunday I blush for him
every minute. And however much I try, I can't, since that day, look
frankly and openly into his eyes.

SPITTA

Did you have differences with your father too?

WALBURGA

Oh, if it were nothing more than that! I was so proud of papa! And now I
tremble to think of even your finding it out. You'd despise us!

SPITTA

_I_ despise anyone? Dear child, I can't think of anything less fitting
for me! Look here: I'll set you an example in the matter of frankness. A
sister of mine, six years older than I, was governess in a noble family.
Well, a misfortune happened to her and ... when she sought refuge in the
house of her parents, my Christian father put her out of doors! I believe
he thought that Jesus would have done the same. And so my sister
gradually sank lower and lower and some day we can go and visit her in
the little suicides' graveyard near Schildhorn where she finally found
rest.

WALBURGA

[_Puts her arms around SPITTA._] Poor boy, you never told me a word of
that.

SPITTA

Circumstances have changed now and I speak of it. I shall speak of it to
papa too even if it causes a breach between us.--You're always surprised
when I get excited, and that I can't control myself when I see some poor
devil being kicked about, or when I see the rabble mistreating some poor
fallen girl. I have actual hallucinations sometimes. I seem to see ghosts
in bright daylight and my own sister among them!

_PAULINE PIPERCARCKA enters, dressed as before. Her little face seems
to have grown paler and prettier._

PAULINE

Good mornin'.

MRS. JOHN

[_From behind the partition._] Who's that out there?

PAULINE

Pauline, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

Pauline? I don't know no Pauline.

PAULINE

Pauline Pipercarcka, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

Who? Oh, well then you c'n wait a minute, Pauline.

WALBURGA

Good-bye, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

[_Emerges from behind the partition and carefully draws the hangings._]
That's right. I got somethin' to discuss with this here young person. So
you young folks c'n see about getting out.

_SPITTA and WALBURGA leave hastily. MRS. JOHN locks the door behind
them._

MRS. JOHN

So it's you, Pauline? An' what is it you want?

PAULINE

What should I be wantin'? Somethin' jus' drove me here! Couldn't wait no
longer. I has to see how everythin' goes.

MRS. JOHN

How what goes? What's everythin'?

PAULINE

[_With a somewhat bad conscience._] Well, if it's well; if it's gettin'
on nicely.

MRS. JOHN

If what's well? If what's gettin' on nicely?

PAULINE

You oughta know that without my tellin'.

MRS. JOHN

_What_ ought I to know without your tellin' me?

PAULINE

I wants to know if anythin's happened to the child!

MRS. JOHN

What child? An' what could ha' happened? Talk plainly, will you? There
ain't a word o' your crazy chatter that anybody c'n understand!

PAULINE

I ain't sayin' nothin' but what's true, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

Well, what is it?

PAULINE

My child ...

MRS. JOHN

[_Gives her a terrific box on the ear._] Say that again an' I'll bang my
boots about your ears so that you'll think you're the mother o' triplets.
An now: get outa here! An' don' never dare to show your face here again!

PAULINE

[_Starts to go. She shakes the door which is locked._] She's beaten me!
Help! Help! I don' has to--stand that! No! [_Weeping._] Open the door!
She's maltreated me, Mrs. John has!

MRS. JOHN

[_Utterly transformed, embraces PAULINE, thus restraining her._] Pauline!
For God's sake, Pauline! I don' know what could ha' gotten into me! You
jus' be good now an' quiet down an' I'll beg your pardon. What d'you want
me to do? I'll get down _on_ my knees if you wants me to! Anythin'!
Pauline! Listen! Let me do _some_thin'!

PAULINE

Why d'you go 'n hit me in the face? I'm goin' to headquarters and say as
how you slapped me in the face. I'm goin' to headquarters to give notice!

MRS. JOHN

[_Thrusts her face forward._] Here! You c'n hit me back--- right in the
face! Then it's all right; then it's evened up.

PAULINE

I'm goin' to headquarters ...

MRS. JOHN

Yes, then it's evened up. You jus' listen to what I says: Don't you see
it'll be evened up then all right! What d'you want to do? Come on now an'
hit me!

PAULINE

What's the good o' that when my cheek is swollen?

MRS. JOHN

[_Striking herself a blow on the cheek._] There! Now my cheek is swollen
too. Come on, my girl, hit me an' don' be scared!--- An' then you c'n
tell me everythin' you got on your heart. In the meantime I'll go an'
I'll cook for you an' me, Miss Pauline, a good cup o' reel coffee made o'
beans--none o' your chicory slop, so help me!

PAULINE

[_Somewhat conciliated._] Why did you has to go an' be so mean an' rough
to a poor girl like me, Mrs. John?

MRS. JOHN

That's it'--that's jus' what I'd like to know my own self! Come on,
Pauline, an' sit down! So! It's all right, I tells you! Sit down! It's
fine o' you to come an' see me! How many beatin's didn't I get from my
poor mother because sometimes I jus' seemed to go crazy an' not be the
same person no more. She said to me more'n onct: Lass, look out! You'll
be doin' for yourself some day! An' maybe she was right; maybe it'll be
that way. Well now, Pauline, tell me how you are an' how you're gettin'
along?

PAULINE

[_Laying down bank-notes and handfuls of silver, without counting them,
on the table._] Here is the money: I don't need it.

MRS. JOHN

I don' know nothin' about no money, Pauline.

PAULINE

Oh, you'll know about the money all right! It's been jus' burnin' into
me, that it has! It was like a snake under my pillow ...

MRS. JOHN

Oh, come now ...

PAULINE

Like a snake that crept out when I went to sleep. An' it tormented me an'
wound itself aroun' me an' squeezed me so that I screamed right out an'
my landlady found me lyin' on the bare floor jus' like somebody what's
dead.

MRS. JOHN

You jus' let that be right now, Pauline. Take a bit of a drink first of
all! [_She pours out a small glassful of brandy._] An' then come an' eat
a bite. It was my husband's birthday yesterday.

[_She gets out some coffee-cake of which she cuts an oblong piece._

PAULINE

Oh, no, I don' feel like eatin'.

MRS. JOHN

That strengthens you; that does you good; you oughta eat that! But I is
pleased to see, Pauline, how your fine constitootion helped you get back
your strength so good.

PAULINE

But now I want to have a look at it, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

What's that? What d'you want to have a look at?

PAULINE

If I could ha' walked I'd ha' been here long ago. I want to see now what
I come to see!

_MRS. JOHN, whose almost creeping courtesies have been uttered with
lips aquiver with fear, pales ominously and keeps silent. She goes to
the kitchen cabinet, wrenches the coffee handmill out and pours beans
into it. She sits down, squeezes the mill between her knees, grasps
the handle, and stares with a consuming expression of nameless hatred
over at PAULINE._

MRS. JOHN

Eh? Oh, yes! What d'you want to see? What d'you want to see now all of a
sudden? That what you wanted to throttle with them two hands o' yours,
eh?

PAULINE

Me?

MRS. JOHN

D'you want to lie about it? _I'll_ go and give notice about you!

PAULINE

Now you've tormented me an' jabbed at me an' tortured me enough, Mrs.
John. You followed me up; you wouldn't leave me no rest where I went.
Till I brought my child into the world on a heap o' rags up in your loft.
You gave me all kinds o' hopes an' you scared me with that rascal of a
feller up there! You told my fortune for me outa the cards about my
intended an' you baited me an' hounded me till I was most crazy.

MRS. JOHN

An' that's what you are. Yes, you're as crazy as you c'n be. _I_
tormented you, eh? Is that what I did? I picked you up outa the gutter! I
fetched you outa the midst of a blizzard when you was standin' by the
chronometer an' stared at the lamplighter with eyes that was that
desperate scared! You oughta seen yourself! An' I hounded you, eh? Yes,
to prevent the police an' the police-waggon an' the devil hisself from
catchin' you! I left you no rest, eh? I tortured you, did I? to keep you
from jumpin' into the river with the child in your womb! [_Mocking her._]
"I'll throw myself into the canal, mother John! I'll choke the child to
death! I'll kill the little crittur with my hat pin! I'll go an' run to
where its father plays the zither, right in the midst o' the saloon, an'
I'll throw the dead child at his feet!" That's what you said; that's the
way you talked--all the blessed day long and sometimes half the night too
till I put you to bed an' petted you an' stroked you till you went to
sleep. An' you didn't wake up again till next day on the stroke o'
twelve, when the bells was ringin' from all the churches, Yes, that's the
way I scared you, an' then gave you hope again, an' didn't give you no
peace! You forgot all that there, eh?

PAULINE

But it's my child, Mrs. John ...

MRS. JOHN

[_Screams._] You go an' get your child outa the canal!

[_She jumps up and walks hastily about the room, picking up and
throwing aside one object after another._

PAULINE

Ain't I goin' to be allowed to see my child even?

MRS. JOHN

Jump into the water an' get it there! Then you'll have it! I ain't
keepin' you back. God knows!

PAULINE

All right! You c'n slap me, you c'n beat me, you c'n throw things at my
head if you wants to. Before I don' know where my child is an' before I
ain't seen it with my own eyes, nothin' an' nobody ain't goin' to get me
away from this place.

MRS. JOHN

[_Interrupting her._] Pauline, I put it out to nurse!

PAULINE

That's a lie! Don't I hear it smackin' its lips right behind that there
partition. [_The child behind the partition begins to cry. PAULINE
hastens toward it. She exclaims with pathetic tearfulness, obviously
forcing the note of motherhood a little._] Don' you cry, my poor, poor
little boy! Little mother's comin' to you now!

[_MRS. JOHN, almost beside herself, has sprung in front of the door,
thus blocking PAULINE'S way._

PAULINE

[_Whining helplessly but with clenched fists._] Lemme go in an' see my
child!

MRS. JOHN

[_A terrible change coming over her face._] Look at me, girl! Come here
an' look me in the eye!--D'you think you c'n play tricks on a woman that
looks the way I do? [_PAULINE sits down still moaning._] Sit down an'
howl an' whine till ... till your throat's swollen so you can't give a
groan. But if you gets in here--then you'll be dead or I'll be dead an'
the child--he won't be alive no more neither.

PAULINE

[_Rises with some determination._] Then look out for what'll happen.

MRS. JOHN

[_Attempting to pacify the girl once more._] Pauline, this business was
all settled between us. Why d'you want to go an' burden yourself with the
child what's my child now an' is in the best hands possible? What d'you
want to do with it? Why don't you go to your intended? You two'll have
somethin' better to do than listen to a child cryin' an' takin' all the
care an' trouble he needs!

PAULINE

No, that ain't the way it is! He's gotta marry me now! They all says
so--Mrs. Keilbacke, when I had to take treatment, she said so. They says
I'm not to give in; he has to marry me. An' the registrar he advised me
too. That's what he said, an' he was mad, too, when I told him how I
sneaked up into a loft to have my baby! He cried out loud that I wasn't
to let up! Poor, maltreated crittur--that's what he called me an' he put
his hand in his pocket an' gave me three crowns! All right. So we needn't
quarrel no more, Mrs. John. I jus' come anyhow to tell you to be at home
to-morrow afternoon at five o'clock. An' why? Because to-morrow an
official examiner'll come to look after things here. I don't has to worry
myself with you no more....

MRS. JOHN

[_Moveless and shocked beyond expression._] What? You went an' give
notice at the public registry?

PAULINE

O' course? Does I want to go to gaol?

MRS. JOHN

An' what did you tell the registrar?

PAULINE

Nothin' but that I give birth to a boy. An' I was so ashamed! Oh my God,
I got red all over! I thought I'd just have to go through the floor.

MRS. JOHN

Is that so? Well, if you was so ashamed why did you go an' give notice?

PAULINE

'Cause my landlady an' Mrs. Kielbacke, too, what took me there, didn't
give me no rest.

MRS. JOHN

H-m. So they knows it now at the public registry?

PAULINE

Yes; they had to know, Mrs. John!

MRS. JOHN

Didn't I tell you over an' over again?

PAULINE

You gotta give notice o' that! D'you want me to be put in gaol for a
investergation?

MRS. JOHN

I told you as how I'd give notice.

PAULINE

I axed the registrar right off. Nobody hadn't been there.

MRS. JOHN

An' what did you say exackly?

PAULINE

That his name was to be Aloysius Theophil an' that he was boardin' with
you.

MRS. JOHN

An' to-morrow an officer'll be comin' in.

PAULINE

He's a gentlemen from the guardian's office. What's the matter with that?
Why don't you keep still an' act sensible. You scared me most to death a
while ago!

MRS. JOHN

[_As if absent-minded._] That's right. There ain't nothin' to be, done
about that now. An' there ain't so much to that, after all, maybe.

PAULINE

All right. An' now c'n I see my child, Mrs. John?

MRS. JOHN

Not to-day. Wait till to-morrow, Pauline.

PAULINE

Why not to-day?

MRS. JOHN

Because no good'd come of it this day. Wait till to-morrow, five o'clock
in the afternoon.

PAULINE

That's it. My landlady says it was written that way, that a gentleman
from the city'll be here to-morrow afternoon five o'clock.

MRS. JOHN

[_Pushing PAULINE out and herself going out of the room with her, in the
same detached tone._] All right. Let him come, girl.

_MRS. JOHN has gone out into the hall for a moment. She now returns
without PAULINE. She seems strangely changed and absent-minded. She
takes a few hasty steps toward the door of the partition; then stands
still with an expression of fruitless brooding on her face. She
interrupts herself in this brooding and runs to the window. Having
reached it she turns and on her face there reappears the expression
of dull detachment. Slowly, like a somnambulist, she walks up to the
table and sits down beside it, leaning her chin on her hand. SELMA
KNOBBE appears in the doorway._

SELMA

Mother's asleep, Mrs. John, an' I'm that hungry. Might I have a bite o'
bread?

_MRS. JOHN rises mechanically and cuts a slice from the loaf of bread
with the air of one under an hypnotic influence._

SELMA

[_Observing MRS. JOHN'S state of mind._] It's me! What's the matter, Mrs.
John? Whatever you do, don't cut yourself with the bread knife.

MRS. JOHN

[_Lets the loaf and the bread-knife slip involuntarily from her hand to
the table. A dry sobbing overwhelms her more and more._]
Fear!--Trouble!--You don' know nothin' about that!

[_She trembles and grasps after some support._

THE THIRD ACT

_The same decoration as in the first act. The lamp is lit. The dim
light of a hanging lamp illuminates the passage._

_HASSENREUTER is giving his three pupils, SPITTA, DR. KEGEL and
KÄFERSTEIN instruction in the art of acting. He himself is seated at
the table, uninterruptedly opening letters and beating time to the
rhythm of the verses with a paper cutter. In front of him stand,
facing each other, KEGEL and KÄFERSTEIN on one side, SPITTA on the
other, thus representing the two choruses in Schiller's "Bride of
Messina." The young men stand in the midst of a diagram drawn with
chalk on the floor and separated, like a chess-board, into sixty-four
rectangles. On the high stool in front of the office desk WALBURGA is
sitting. Waiting in the background stands the house steward QUAQUARO,
who might be the manager of a wandering circus and, in the capacity
of athlete, its main attraction. His speech is uttered in a guttural
tenor. He wears bedroom slippers. His breeches are held up by an
embroidered belt. An open shirt, fairly clean, a light jacket, a cap
now held in his hand, complete his attire._

DR. KEGEL AND KÄFERSTEIN

[_Mouthing the verses sonorously and with exaggerated dignity._]

"Thee salute I with reverence,
Lordliest chamber,
Thee, my high rulers'
Princeliest cradle,
Column-supported, magnificent roof.
Deep in its scabbard ..."

HASSENREUTER

[_Cries in a rage._] Pause! Period! Period! Pause! Period! You're not
turning the crank of a hurdy-gurdy! The chorus in the "Bride of Messina"
is no hand-organ tune! "Thee salute I with reverence!" Start over again
from the beginning, gentleman! "Thee salute I with reverence, Lordliest
chamber!" Something like that, gentlemen! "Deep in its scabbard let the
sword rest." Period! "Magnificent roof." I meant to say: Period! But you
may go on if you want to.

DR. KEGEL AND KÄFERSTEIN

"Deep in its scabbard
Let the sword rest,
Fettered fast by your gateway
Moveless may lie Strife's snaky-locked monster.
For ..."

HASSENREUTER

[_As before._] Hold on! Don't you know the meaning of a full stop,
gentlemen? Haven't you any knowledge of the elements? "Snaky-haired
monster." Period! Imagine that a pile is driven there! You've got to
stop, to pause. There must be silence like the silence of the dead!
You've got to imagine yourself wiped out of existence for the moment,
Käferstein. And then--out with your best trumpeting chest-notes! Hold on!
Don't lisp, for God's sake. "For ..." Go on now! Start!

DR. KEGEL AND KÄFERSTEIN

"For this hospitable house's
Inviolable threshold
Guardeth an oath, the Furies' child...."

HASSENREUTER

[_Jumps up, runs about and roars._] Oath, oath, oath, oath!!! Don't you
know what an oath is, Käferstein? "Guardeth an oath!!--the Furies'
child." This oath is said to be the child of the Furies, Dr. Kegel!
You've got to use your voice! The audience, to the last usher, has got to
be one vast quivering gooseflesh when you say that! One shiver must run
through every bone in the house! Listen to me: "For this house's ...
threshold Guardeth an oath!!! The Furies' child, The fearfullest of the
infernal deities!"--Go ahead! Don't repeat these verses. But you can stop
long enough to observe that an oath and a Munich beer radish are, after
all, two different things.

SPITTA

[_Declaims._]

"Ireful my heart in my bosom burneth...."

HASSENREUTER

Hold on! [_He runs up to SPITTA and pushes and nudges the latter's arms
and legs in order to produce the desired tragic pose._]--First of all,
you lack the requisite statuesqueness of posture, my dear Spitta. The
dignity of a tragic character is in nowise expressed in you. Then you did
not, as I expressly desired you to do, advance your right foot from the
field marked ID into that marked IIC! Finally, Mr. Quaquaro is waiting;
so let us interrupt ourselves for a moment. So; now I'm at your service,
Mr. Quaquaro. That is to say, I asked you to come up because, in making
my inventory, it became clear that several cases and boxes cannot be
found or, in other words, have been stolen. Now, before lodging
information with the authorities which, of course, I am determined to do,
I wanted first to get your advice. I wanted to do that all the more
because, in place of the lost cases, there was found, in a corner of the
attic, a very peculiar mess--a find that could appropriately be sent to
Dr. Virchow. First there was a blue feather-duster, truly prehistoric,
and an inexpressible vessel, the use of which, quite harmless in itself,
is equally inexpressible.

QUAQUARO

Well, sir, I can climb up there if you want me to.

HASSENREUTER

Suppose you do that. Up there you'll meet Mrs. John, whom the find in
question has disquieted even more than it has me. These three gentlemen,
who are my pupils, won't be persuaded that something very like a murder
didn't take place up there. But, if you please, let's not cause a
scandal!

KÄFERSTEIN

When something got lost in my mother's shop in Schneidemühl, it was
always said that the rats had eaten it. And really, when you consider the
number of rats and mice in this house--I very nearly stepped on one on
the stairs a while ago--why shouldn't we suppose that the cases of
costumes were devoured in the same way. Silk is said to be sweet.

HASSENREUTER

Very excellent! Very good! You're relieved from the necessity of
indulging in any more notion-shopkeepers' fancies, my good Käferstein!
Ha, ha, ha! It only remains for you to dish up for us the story of the
cavalry man Sorgenfrei, who, according to your assertion, when this house
was still a cavalry barracks, hanged himself--spurred and armed--in my
loft. And then the last straw would be for you to direct our suspicions
toward him.

KÄFERSTEIN

You can still see the very nail he used.

QUAQUARO

There ain't a soul in the house what don't know the story of the soldier
Sorgenfrei who put an end to hisself with a rope somewhere under the
rooftree.

KÄFERSTEIN

The carpenter's wife downstairs and a seamstress in the second story have
repeatedly seen him by broad daylight nodding out of the attic window and
bowing down with military demeanour.

QUAQUARO

A corporal, they says, called the soldier Sorgenfrei a windbag an' gave
him a blow outa spite. An' the idjit took that to heart.

HASSENREUTER

Ha, ha, ha! Military brutalities and ghost stories! That mixture is
original, but hardly to our purpose. I assume that the theft, or whatever
it was, took place during those eleven or twelve days that I spent on
business in Alsace. So look the matter over and have the goodness, later,
to report to me.

_HASSENREUTER turns to his pupils. QUAQUARO mounts the stairs to the
loft and disappears behind the trap-door._

HASSENREUTER

All right, my good Spitta: Fire away!

_SPITTA recites simply according to the sense and without any tragic
bombast._

"Ireful my heart in my bosom burneth,
My hand is ready for sword or lance,
For unto me the Gorgon turneth
My foeman's hateful countenance.
Scarce I master the rage that assails me.
Shall I salute him with fair speech?
Better, perchance, my ire avails me?
Only the Fury me affrighteth,
Protectress of all within her reach,
And God's truce which all foes uniteth."

HASSENREUTER

[_Who has sat down, supports his head on his hand and listens resignedly.
Not until SPITTA has ceased speaking for some moments does he look up, as
if coming to himself._] Are you quite through, Spitta? If so, I'm much
obliged!--You see, my dear fellow, I've really gotten into a deuce of a
situation as far as you are concerned: either I tell you impudently to
your face that I consider your method of elocution excellent--and in that
case I'd be guilty of a lie of the most contemptible kind: or else I tell
you that I consider it abominable and then we'd get into another beastly
row.

SPITTA

[_Turning pale._] Yes, all this stilted, rhetorical stuff is quite
foreign to my nature. That's the very reason why I abandoned theology.
The preacher's tone is repulsive to me.

HASSENREUTER

And so you would like to reel off these tragic choruses as a clerk of
court mumbles a document or a waiter a bill of fare?

SPITTA

I don't care for the whole sonorous bombast of the "Bride of Messina."

HASSENREUTER

I wish you'd repeat that charming opinion.

SPITTA

There's nothing to be done about it, sir. Our conceptions of dramatic art
diverge utterly, in some respects.

HASSENREUTER

Man alive, at this particular moment your face is a veritable monogram of
megalomania and impudence! I beg your pardon, but you're my pupil now and
no longer the tutor of my children. Your views and mine! You ridiculous
tyro! You and Schiller! Friedrich Schiller! I've told you a hundred times
that your puerile little views of art are nothing but an innate striving
toward imbecility!

SPITTA

You would have to prove that to me, after all.

HASSENREUTER

You prove it yourself every time you open your mouth! You deny the whole
art of elocution, the value of the voice in acting! You want to
substitute for both the art of toneless squeaking! Further you deny the
importance of action in the drama and assert it to be a worthless
accident, a sop for the groundlings! You deny the validity of poetic
justice, of guilt and its necessary expiation. You call all that a vulgar
invention--an assertion by means of which the whole moral order of the
world is abrogated by the learned and crooked understanding of your
single magnificent self! Of the heights of humanity you know nothing! You
asserted the other day that, in certain circumstances, a barber or a
scrubwoman might as fittingly be the protagonist of a tragedy as Lady
Macbeth or King Lear!

SPITTA

[_Still pale, polishing his spectacles._] Before art as before the law
all men are equal, sir.

HASSENREUTER

Aha? Is that so? Where did you pick up that banality?

SPITTA

[_Without permitting himself to be disconcerted._] The truth of that
saying has become my second nature. In believing it I probably find
myself at variance with Schiller and Gustav Freytag, but not at all with
Lessing and Diderot. I have spent the past two semesters in the study of
these two great dramaturgic critics, and the whole stilted French
pseudo-classicism is, as far as I'm concerned, utterly destroyed--not
only in creative art itself but in such manifestations as the boundless
folly of the directions for acting which Goethe prescribed in his old
age. These are mere superannuated nonsense.

HASSENREUTER

You don't mean it?

SPITTA

And if the German stage is ever to recuperate it must go back to the
young Schiller, the young Goethe--the author of "Götz"--and ever again to
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing! There you will find set down principles of
dramatic art which are adapted to the rich complexity of life in all its
fullness, and which are potent to cope with Nature itself!

HASSENREUTER

Walburga! I'm afraid Mr. Spitta is taking us for each other. Mr. Spitta,
you're about to give a lesson! Walburga, you and your teacher are free to
retire to the library.--If human arrogance and especially that of very
young people could be crystallised into one formation--humanity would be
buried under that rock like an ant under the granite masses of an
antediluvian mountain range!

SPITTA

But I wouldn't in any wise be refuted thereby.

HASSENREUTER

Man, I tell you that I've not only passed through two semesters of formal
study, but I have grown grey in the practice of the actor's art! And I
tell you that Goethe's catechism for actors is the alpha and the omega of
my artistic convictions! If you don't like that--get another teacher!

SPITTA

[_Pursuing his argument calmly._] According to my opinion, Goethe with
his senile regulations for actors denied, in the pettiest way, himself
and his whole original nature. What is one to say of his ruling that
every actor, irrespective of the quality of the character represented by
him, must--these are his very words--show an ogre-like expression of
countenance in order that the spectator be at once reminded of the nature
of lofty tragedy. Actually, these are his very words!

_KÄFERSTEIN and KEGEL make an effort to assume ogre-like
expressions._

HASSENREUTER

Get out your note-book, most excellent Spitta, and record your opinion,
please, that Manager Hassenreuter is an ass, that Schiller is an ass,
Goethe an ass, Aristotle, too, of course--[_he begins suddenly to laugh
like mad_]--and, ha, ha, ha! a certain Spitta a--night watchman!

SPITTA

I'm glad to see, sir, that, at least, you've recovered your good humour.

HASSENREUTER

The devil! I haven't recovered it at all! You're a symptom. So you
needn't think yourself very important.--You are a rat, so to speak. One
of those rats who are beginning, in the field of politics, to undermine
our glorious and recently united German Empire! They are trying to cheat
us of the reward of our labours! And in the garden of German art these
rats are gnawing at the roots of the tree of idealism. They are
determined to drag its crown into the mire!--Down, down, down into the
dust with you!

_KÄFERSTEIN and KEGEL try to preserve their gravity but soon break
out into loud laughter, which HASSENREUTER is impelled to join.
WALBURGA looks on in wide-eyed astonishment. SPITTA remains serious._

_MRS. JOHN is now seen descending the stairs of the loft. After a
little while QUAQUARO follows her._

HASSENREUTER

[_Perceives MRS. JOHN and points her out to SPITTA with violent
gesticulations as if he had just made an important discovery._] There
comes your tragic Muse!

MRS. JOHN

[_Approaches, abashed by the laughter of HASSENREUTER, KEGEL and
KÄFERSTEIN._] Why, what d'you see about me?

HASSENREUTER

Nothing but what is good and beautiful, Mrs. John! You may thank God that
your quiet, withdrawn and peaceful life unfits you for the part of a
tragic heroine.--But tell me, have you, by any chance, had an interview
with ghosts?

MRS. JOHN

[_Unnaturally pale._] Why do you ax that?

HASSENREUTER

Perhaps you even saw the famous soldier Sorgenfrei who closed his career
above as a deserter into a better world?

MRS. JOHN

If it was a livin' soul, maybe you might be right. But I ain't scared o'
no dead ghosts.

HASSENREUTER

Well, Mr. Quaquaro, how did it look under the roof there?

QUAQUARO

[_Who has brought down with him a Swedish riding-boot._] Well, I took a
pretty good look aroun' an' I came to the conclusion that, at least, some
shelterless ragamuffins has passed the night there; though how they got
in I ain't sayin'. An' then I found this here boot.--

[_Out of the boot he draws an infant's bottle, topped by a rubber
nipple and half filled with milk._

MRS. JOHN

That's easily explained. I was up there settin' things to rights an' I
had little Adelbert along with me. But I don' know nothin' about the
rest.

HASSENREUTER

Nobody has undertaken to assert that you do, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

When you considers how my little Adelbert came into the world ... an'
when you considers how he died ... nobody c'n come an' tell me nothin'
about bein' a reel mother ... But I gotta leave now, sir ... I can't be
comin' up here for two three days. Good-bye! I has to go to my
sister-in-law an' let Adelbert enjoy the country air a little.

[_She trots off through the door to the outer hall._

HASSENREUTER

Can you make anything of her wild talk?

QUAQUARO

There's been a screw loose there ever since her first baby came, an' all
the more after it took an' died. Now since she's got the second one,
there's two screws what's wobbly. Howsoever, she c'n count--that's a
fac'. She's got a good bit o' money loaned out at interest on pawned
goods.

HASSENREUTER

Well, but what is the injured party--namely, myself--to do?

QUAQUARO

That depends on where the suspicion falls.

HASSENREUTER

In this house?--You'll admit yourself, Mr. Quaquaro ...

QUAQUARO

That's true all right. But it won't be long before we'll have a little
cleanin' up aroun' here! The widow Knobbe with all her crowd is goin' to
be put out! An' then there's a gang in wing B, where there's some tough
customers by what Policeman Schierke tells me. Well, they're goin' to
come from headquarters pretty soon and blow up that crowd.

HASSENREUTER

There must be a glee club somewhere in the house. At least I hear
excellent male voices singing from time to time things like "Germany, our
highest glory," and "Who has built thee, noble wood," and "In a cool
galley turneth."

QUAQUARO

Them's the very fellers! That's right! An' they do sing fine! The sayin'
is that bad men has no songs, but I wouldn't advise no one to fool with
_them_! I wouldn't go into that company my own self without Prince.
That's my bull dog. You just go an' lay information against 'em an' you
won't be doin' no harm, sir.

[_QUAQUARO exit._

HASSENREUTER

[_Referring to QUAQUARO._] The gleam in his eye demands security. His
lips demand cash. His fist portends immediate warning. He's a lucky
creature who doesn't dream of him at the end of the month. And whoever
dreams of him roars for help. A horrible, greasy fellow. But without him
the people who rent this old shell would get no money and the
army-treasurer could strike the income of these rentals from his
books.--[_The door bell rings._]--That Is Miss Alice Rütterbusch, the
young soubrette with whom, unfortunately, I haven't been able to make a
hard and fast contract yet on account of the way the aldermen of
Strassburg shilly shally about their final decision. After my
appointment, which I will secure by God's help, her engagement will be my
first managerial act.--Walburga and Spitta, march up into the loft! Count
the contents of the six boxes marked "Journalists" in order that we may
complete our inventory at the proper time.--[_To KÄFERSTEIN and DR.
KEGEL._] You may withdraw into the library in the meantime....

[_He steps forward in order to open the door._

_WALBURGA and SPITTA disappear swiftly and very willingly into the
loft; KÄFERSTEIN and KEGEL retire into the library._

HASSENREUTER

[_In the background._] If you please, step right in, my dear lady! I
_beg_ your pardon, sir! I was expecting a lady ... I was expecting a
young lady ... But, please, come in.

_HASSENREUTER comes forward accompanied by PASTOR SPITTA. The latter
is sixty years old. A village parson, somewhat countrified. One might
equally well take him to be a surveyor or a landowner in a small way.
He is of vigorous appearance--short-necked, well-nourished, with a
squat, broad face like Luther's. He wears a slouch-hat, spectacles
and carries a cane and a coat of waterproof cloth over his arm. His
clumsy boots and the state of his other garments show that they have
long been accustomed to wind and weather._

PASTOR SPITTA

Do you know who I am, Mr. Hassenreuter?

HASSENREUTER

Not quite exactly, but I would hazard ...

PASTOR SPITTA

You may, you may! You needn't hesitate to call me Pastor Spitta from
Schwoiz in Uckermark, whose son Erich--yes, that's it--has been employed
in your family as private tutor or something like that. Erich Spitta:
that's my son. And I'm obliged to say that with deep sorrow.

HASSENREUTER

First of all, I'm very glad, to have the privilege of your acquaintance.
I hasten at once to beg you, however, dear Pastor, not to be too much
worried, not to be too sorrowful concerning the little escapade in which
your son is indulging.

PASTOR SPITTA

Oh, but I am greatly troubled, I am deeply grieved. [_Sitting down on a
chair he surveys the strange place in which he finds himself with
considerable interest._] It is hard to say; it is extremely difficult to
communicate to any one the real depth of anxiety. But forgive me a
question, sir: I was in the trophy-chamber.--[_He touches one of the
armored dummies with his cane._] What kind of armor is this?

HASSENREUTER

These figures are to represent the cuirassiers in Schiller's
"Wallenstein."

PASTOR SPITTA

Ah, ah, my idea of Schiller was so very different! [_Collecting
himself._] Oh, this city of Berlin! It confuses me utterly. You see a man
before you, sir, who is not only grieved, whom this Sodom of a city has
not only stirred to his very depths, but who is actually broken-hearted
by the deed of his son.

HASSENREUTER

A deed? What deed?

PASTOR SPITTA

Is there any need to ask? The son of an honest man desiring to become an
... an ... an actor!

HASSENREUTER

[_Drawing himself up. With the utmost dignity._] My dear sir, I do not
approve of your son's determination. But I am myself--_honi soit qui mal
y pense_--the son of an honest man and myself, I trust, a man of honour.
And I, whom you see before you, have been an actor, too. No longer than
six weeks ago I took part in the Luther celebration--for I am no less an
apostle of culture in the broadest sense--not only as manager but by
ascending the boards on which the world is shadowed forth as an actor!
From my point of view, therefore, your son's determination is scarcely
open to objection on the score of his social standing or his honourable
character. But it is a difficult calling and demands, above all, a high
degree of talent. I am also willing to admit that it is a calling not
without peculiar dangers to weak characters. And finally I have myself
proved the unspeakable hardships of my profession so thoroughly that I
would like to guard anyone else from entering it. That is the reason why
I box my daughters' ears if the slightest notion of going on the stage
seizes them, and why I would rather tie stones about their necks and
drown them where the sea is deepest than see them marry actors.

PASTOR SPITTA

I didn't mean to wound any one's feelings. I admit, too, that a simple
country parson like myself can't very well have much of a conception of
such things. But consider a father now--just such a poor country
parson--who has saved and hoarded his pennies in order that his son might
have a career at the university. Now consider, further, that this son is
just about to take his final examinations and that his father and his
mother--I have a sick wife at home--are looking forward with anxiety and
with longing, whichever you call it, toward the moment in which their son
will mount the pulpit and deliver the trial sermon before the
congregation of his choice. And then comes this letter. Why, the boy is
mad!

_The emotion of the Pastor is not exactly consciously directed; it is
controlled. The trembling of the hand with which he searches for the
letter in his inner pocket and hands it to the manager is not quite
convincing._

HASSENREUTER

Young men search after various aims. We mustn't be too much taken by
surprise if, once in a while, a crisis of this kind is not to be avoided
in a young man's life.

PASTOR SPITTA

Well, this crisis _was_ avoidable. It will not be difficult for you to
see from this letter who is responsible for this destructive change in
the soul of a young, an excellent, and hitherto thoroughly obedient
youth. I should never have sent him to Berlin. Yes, it is this so-called
scientific theology, this theology that flirts with all the pagan
philosophers, that would change the Lord our God into empty smoke and
sublimate our blessed Saviour into thin air--it is this that I hold
responsible for the grievous mistake of my child. And to this may be
added other temptations. I tell you, sir, I have seen things which it is
impossible for me to speak of! I have circulars in every pocket--"Ball of
the Élite! Smart waitresses!" and so on! I was quietly walking, at half
past twelve one night, through the arcade that connects Friedrich street
with the Linden, and a disgusting fellow sidles up to me, wretched,
undergrown, and asks me with a kind of greasy, shifty impudence: Doesn't
the gentleman want something real fetching? And these show windows in
which, right by the pictures of noble and exalted personages, naked
actresses, dancers, in short the most shocking nudities are displayed!
And finally this Corso--oh, this Corso! Where painted and bedizened vice
jostles respectable women from the sidewalk! It's simply the end of the
world!

HASSENREUTER

Ah, my dear Pastor, the world doesn't so easily come to an end--nor,
surely, will it do so on account of the nudities that offend or of the
vice which slinks through the streets at night. The world will probably
outlive me and the whole scurrilous interlude of humanity.

PASTOR SPITTA

What turns these young people aside from the right path is evil example
and easy opportunity.

Book of the day: