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The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann by Gerhart Hauptmann

Part 8 out of 9

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HASSENREUTER

I beg your pardon, Pastor, but I have not observed in your son the
slightest inclination toward leading a frivolous life. He is simply
attracted to literature, and he isn't the first clergyman's son--remember
merely Lessing and Herder--who has taken the road of literary study and
creative art. Very likely be has manuscript plays in his desk even now.
To be sure, I am bound to admit that the opinions which your son defends
in the field of literature frighten even me at times!

PASTOR SPITTA

But that's horrible! That's frightful! That far exceeds my worst fears!
And so my eyes have been opened.--My dear sir, I have had eight children,
of whom Erich seemed our fairest hope and his next-oldest sister our
heaviest trial. And now, it seems, the same accursed city has demanded
them both as its victims. The girl developed prematurely, she was
beautiful ... and ... But I must mention another circumstance now, I
have, been in Berlin for three days and I haven't seen Erich yet. When I
tried to see him to-day, he was not at home in his rooms. I waited for a
while and naturally looked about me in my son's dwelling. And now: look
at this picture, sir!

[_Replacing ERICH'S letter in his pocket he extracts therefrom a
small photograph and holds it immediately under HASSENREUTER'S eyes._

HASSENREUTER

[_Takes the picture and holds it at varying distances from him. He is
disconcerted._] Why should I look at this?

PASTOR SPITTA

The silly little face is of no importance. But pray look at the
inscription.

HASSENREUTER

Where?

PASTOR SPITTA

[_Reads._] "From Walburga to her only sweetheart."

HASSENREUTER

Permit me!--- What's the meaning of this?

PASTOR SPITTA

It simply means some seamstress if not, what is worse, some shady
waitress!

HASSENREUTER

H-m. [_He slips the picture into his pocket._] I shall keep this
photograph.

PASTOR SPITTA

It is in such filth that my son wallows. And consider the situation in
which it puts me: with what feelings, with what front shall I
henceforward face my congregation from the pulpit ...?

HASSENREUTER

Confound it, what business is that of mine? What have I to do with your
offspring, with your lost sons and daughters? [_He pulls out the
photograph again._] And furthermore, as far as this excellent and
sound-hearted young lady is concerned, you're quite mistaken in your
ideas about waitresses and such like. I'll say nothing more. All other
matters will adjust themselves. Good-bye.

PASTOR SPITTA

I confess frankly, I don't understand you. Probably this tone is the
usual one in your circles, I will go and not annoy you any longer. But as
a father I have the right before God, to demand of you that henceforth
you refuse to my deluded son this so-called dramatic instruction. I hope
I shall not have to look for further ways and means of enforcing this
demand.

HASSENREUTER

I won't only do that, but I'll actually put him out of doors.

[_He accompanies the PASTOR to the door, slams it behind him and
returns alone._

HASSENREUTER

[_Waving his arms through the air._] All that one can say here is: Plain
parson! [_He rushes halfway up the stairs to the loft._] Spitta!
Walburga! Come down here, will you?

_WALBURGA and SPITTA come down._

HASSENREUTER

[_To WALBURGA, who looks at him questioningly._] Go to your high stool
over there and sit down on the humorous part of your anatomy! Well, and
you, my dear Spitta, what do you want?

SPITTA

You called us both, sir.

HASSENREUTER

Exactly. Now look me in the eye!

SPITTA Certainly.

[_He looks straight at HASSENREUTER._

HASSENREUTER

You two want to make an ass of me. But you won't succeed! Silence! Not a
word! I would have expected something very different from you! This is a
striking proof of ingratitude. Keep still! Furthermore, a gentleman was
here just now! That gentleman is afraid in Berlin! March! Follow him!
Take him down into the street and try to make it clear to him that I'm
neither your bootblack nor his.

[_SPITTA shrugs his shoulders, takes his hat and goes._

HASSENREUTER

[_Strides up to WALBURGA energetically and tweaks her ear._] And as for
you, my dear, you'll have your ears soundly boxed if ever again without
my permission you exchange two words with this rascal of a theologian
gone to smash!

WALBURGA

Ouch, papa, ouch!

HASSENREUTER

This fellow who is fond of making such an innocent face as if he couldn't
harm a fly and whom I was careless enough to admit to my house is,
unfortunately, a man behind whose mask the most shameless impudence lies
in wait. I and my house are in the service of true propriety. Do you want
to besmirch the escutcheon of oar honour as the sister of this fellow
seems to have done--a girl who disgraced, her parents by coming to an end
in the street and the gutter?

WALBURGA

I don't share your opinion about Erich, papa.

HASSENREUTER

What's that? Well, at least you know my opinion. Either you give him his
walking papers or else you can look out for yourself and find out what it
is to get along, away from your parental roof, in a way of life
regardless of honour, duty and decency! In that case you can go! I have
no use for daughters of that kind!

WALBURGA

[_Pale and sombre._] You are always saying, papa, that you too had to
make your way independently and without your parents.

HASSENREUTER

You're not a man.

WALBURGA

Certainly not. But think, for instance, of Alice Rütterbusch.

[_Father and daughter look firmly into each other's eyes._

HASSENREUTER

Why should I? Have you a fever, eh? Or have you gone mad? [_He drops the
whole discussion, noticeably put out of countenance, and taps at the
library door._] Where did we leave off? Begin at the proper place.

_KEGEL and KÄFERSTEIN appear._

KEGEL _and_ KÄFERSTEIN

[_Declaim:_]

"A wiser temper
Beseemeth age.
I, being reasonable,
Salute him first."

_Led and directed by SPITTA appear PAULINE PIPERCARCKA in street
dress and MRS. KIELBACKE, who carries an infant on a pillow._

HASSENREUTER

What do you want here? What kind of women are you bringing here to annoy
me?

SPITTA

It isn't my fault, sir. The women insisted on coming to you.

MRS. KIELBACKE

No; all we wants is to see Mrs. John.

PAULINE

An' Mrs. John she's always up here with you!

HASSENREUTER

True. But I'm beginning to regret the fact, and I must insist, at all
events, that she hold her private receptions in her own rooms and not
here. Otherwise I'll soon equip the door here with patent locks and
mantraps.--What's the matter with you, my good Spitta? I suppose you'll
have to have the goodness to show these ladies the place they really want
to go to.

PAULINE

But Mrs. John ain't to be found in her rooms downstairs.

HASSENREUTER

Well, she's not to be found up here either.

MRS. KIELBACKE

The reason is because this here young lady has her little son boardin'
with Mrs. John.

HASSENREUTER

Glad to hear it! Please march now without further delay! Save me,
Käferstein!

MRS. KIELBACKE

An' now a gentleman's come from the city, from the office of the
government guardian office to see how the child is an' if it's well taken
care of an' in good condition. An' then he went into Mrs. John's room an'
we went with him. An' there was the child an' a note pinned to it what
said that Mrs. John was workin' for you up here.

HASSENREUTER

Where was the child boarding?

MRS. KIELBACKE

With Mrs. John.

HASSENREUTER

[_Impatiently._] That's simply a piece of imbecility. You are quite
wrong.--Spitta, you would have been much better employed accompanying the
old gentleman after whom I sent you than aiding these ladies to come
here.

SPITTA

I looked for the gentleman you speak of but he was already gone.

HASSENREUTER

These ladies don't seem to believe me. Will you kindly inform them,
gentlemen, that Mrs. John has no child in board, and that they are quite
obviously mistaken in the name.

KÄFERSTEIN

I am asked to tell you that you are probably mistaken in the name.

PAULINE

[_Vehemently and tearfully._] She has got my baby! She had my baby
boardin' with her. An' the gentleman came from the city an' he said that
the child wasn't in no good hands an' that it was neglected. She went an'
ruined my baby's health.

HASSENREUTER

There is no doubt but what you have mistaken the name of the woman of
whom you speak, Mrs. John has no child in board.

PAULINE

She had my baby in her claws, that's what! An' she let it starve an' get
sick! I gotta see her! I gotta tell her right out! She's gotta make my
little baby well again! I gotta go to court. The gentleman says as how I
gotta go to court an' give notice.

HASSENREUTER

I beg of you not to get excited. The fact is that you are mistaken! How
did you ever hit on the idea that Mrs. John has a child in board?

PAULINE

Because I gave it to her myself.

HASSENREUTER

But Mrs. John has her own child and it just occurs to me that she has
taken it along with her on a visit to her sister-in-law.

PAULINE

She ain't got no child. No, Mrs. John ain't got none! She cheats an' she
lies. She ain't got none. She took my little Alois an' she ruined him.

HASSENREUTER

By heaven, ladies, you are mistaken!

PAULINE

Nobody won't believe me that I had a baby. My intended he wrote me a
letter an' he says it ain't true an' that I'm a liar an' a low creature.
[_She touches the pillow on which the infant is resting._] It's mine an'
I'll prove it in court! I c'n swear it by the holy Mother o' God.

HASSENREUTER

Do uncover the child. [_It is done and HASSENREUTER observes the infant
attentively._]--H-m, the matter will not remain long in obscurity. In the
first place ... I know Mrs. John. If she had had this child in board it
could never look as it does. And that is true quite simply because, where
it is a question of children, Mrs. John has her heart in the right place.

PAULINE

I want to see Mrs. John. That's all I says. I don't has to tell my
business to everybody in the world. I c'n tell everythin' in court, down
to the least thing--the day an' the hour an' jus' exackly the place where
it was born! People is goin' to open their eyes; you c'n believe me.

HASSENREUTER

What you assert, then, if I understand you rightly, is that Mrs. John has
no baby of her own at all, and that the one which passes as such is in
reality yours.

PAULINE

God strike me dead if that ain't the truth!

HASSENREUTER

And this is the child in question? I trust that God won't take you at
your word this time.--You must know that I, who stand before you, am
manager Hassenreuter and I have personally had in my own hands the child
of Mrs. John, my charwoman, on three or four occasions. I even weighed it
on the scales and found it to weigh over eight pounds. This poor little
creature doesn't weigh over four pounds. And on the basis of this fact I
can assure you that this child is not, at least, the child of Mrs. John.
You may be right in asserting that it is yours. I am in no position to
throw doubt on that. But I know Mrs. John's child and I am quite sure
that it is, in no wise, identical with this.

MRS. KIELBACKE

[_Respectfully._] No, no; that's right enough. It ain't identical.

PAULINE

This baby here is identical enough all right, even if it's a bit underfed
an' weakly. This business with the child is all straight enough! I'll
take an oath that it's identical all right.

HASSENREUTER

I am simply speechless. [_To his pupils._] Our lesson is ruled by an evil
star to-day, my dear boys. I don't know why, but the error which these
ladies are making engrosses me. [_To the women._] You may have entered
the wrong door.

MRS. KIELBACKE

No, me an' the gentleman from the guardian's office an' the young lady
went an' fetched this here child outa the room what has the name plate o'
Mrs. John on it, an' took it out into the hall. Mrs. John wasn't there
an' her husband the mason is absent in Hamburg.

_POLICEMAN SCHIERKE comes in, fat and good-natured._

HASSENREUTER

Ah, there's Mr. Schierke! What do you want here?

SCHIERKE

I understand, sir, that two women fled up here to you.

MRS. KIELBACKE

We ain't fled at all.

HASSENREUTER

They were inquiring for Mrs. John.

SCHIERKE

May I be permitted to ax somethin' too?

HASSENREUTER

If you please.

PAULINE

Jus' let him ax. We don't has to worry.

SCHIERKE

[_To MRS. KIELBACKE._] What's your name?

MRS. KIELBACKE

I'm Mrs. Kielbacke.

SCHIERKE

You're connected with the society for raisin' children, eh? Where do you
live?

MRS. KIELBACKE

Linien street number nine.

SCHIERKE

Is that your child that you have there?

MRS. KIELBACKE

That's Miss Pipercarcka her child.

SCHIERKE

[_To PAULINE._] An' your name?

PAULINE

Paula Pipercarcka from Skorzenin.

SCHIERKE

This woman asserts that the child is yours. Do you assert that too?

PAULINE

Sergeant, I has to ax for your protection because suspicions is cast on
me an' I'm innercent. The gentleman from the city did come to me. An' I
did get my child outa the room o' Mrs. John what I had it in board with
...

SCHIERKE

[_With a searching look._] Yes? Maybe it was the door across the way
where the restaurant keeper's widow Knobbe lives. Nobody knows what
you're up to with that child nor who sent you an' bribed you. You ain't
got a good conscience! You took the child an' slipped up here with it
while its rightful mother, the widow Knobbe, what it's been stolen from,
is huntin' all over the stairs an' halls for it an' while a detective is
standin' acrost the way.

PAULINE

I don't care about no detective. I'm ...

HASSENREUTER

You are refuted, my good girl. Can't you comprehend that? First you say
that Mrs. John has no child. Next you say--kindly attend to me--that you
had taken your child, which has been passing for Mrs. John's, out of the
latter's room. However; all of us here happen to know Mrs. John's child
and the one you have here is another. Is that clear to you? Hence your
assertion cannot, in any circumstances, be a correct one!--And now,
Schierke, you would do me a favour if you would conduct these ladies out
so that I can continue giving my lesson.

SCHIERKE

All right, but if I does that we'll get into that Knobbe crowd. Because
her child has been stolen.

PAULINE

It ain't me that done it; it's Mrs. John.

SCHIERKE

That's all right. [_Continuing his account to HASSENREUTER._] And they
says that the child has blue blood in it on its father's side. So Mrs.
Knobbe thinks as how it's a plot of enemies 'cause they grudges her the
alimony in some quarters an' a gentleman's eddication for the kid.
[_Someone is beating at the door with fists._] That's the Knobbe woman.
There she comes now!

HASSENREUTER

Mr. Schierke, you are responsible to me. If these people trespass on my
premises and I suffer any damages thereby, I'll complain to the chief of
police. I know Mr. Maddei very well. Don't be afraid, my dear boys. You
are my witnesses.

SCHIERKE

[_At the door._] You stay out there! You don't get in here!

_A small mob howls outside of the door._

PAULINE

They c'n holler all they wants to but they can't get my child.

HASSENREUTER

Perhaps this is the better way. You go into the library for the present.
[_He escorts PAULINE, MRS. KIELBACKE and the child into the library._]
And now, Mr. Schierke, we might risk letting that fury enter in here.

SCHIERKE

[_Opening the door slightly._] All right. But only Mrs. Knobbe! Come in
here a minute.

_MRS. SIDONIE KNOBBE appears. She is tall and emaciated and dressed
in a badly worn but fashionable summer gown. Her face bears the
stigma, of a dissolute life but gives evidence of a not ungentle
origin. Her air is curiously like that of a gentlewoman. She talks
affectedly and her eyes show addiction to alcohol and morphine._

MRS. KNOBBE

[_Sailing in._] There is no cause for any anxiety, Mr. Hassenreuter.
Those without are principally little boys and girls who have come with me
because I am fond of children. Pray pardon me if I intrude. One of the
children told me that two women had sneaked up here with my little boy. I
am looking for my little son, named Helfgott Gundofried, who has actually
disappeared from my dwelling. At the same time I do not wish to incommode
you.

SCHIERKE

An' you better not do that if I has any say about it.

MRS. KNOBBE

[_Disregarding these words except by a proud toss of the head._] To my
great regret I caused a certain amount of disturbance in the yard. From
the yard as a place of vantage it is possible to command every window and
I made inquiries of the poor cigar maker in the second story and of the
consumptive little seamstress in the third as to whether my Selma and my
little son were with either of them. But nothing is farther from my
intention than to create a scandal. I want you to know--- for I am quite
conscious of being in the presence of a distinguished, indeed, of a
famous man--you are to know that where Helfgott Gundofried is concerned I
am obliged to be strictly on my guard! [_With quivering voice and an
occasional application of her handkerchief to her eyes._] I am an
unfortunate woman who is pursued by fate, who has sunk low but who has
seen better days. I do not care to bore you with my troubles. But I am
being pursued and there are those who would rob me of my last hope.

SCHIERKE

Aw, hurry up an' say what you has to!

MRS. KNOBBE

[_As before._] It is not enough that I was forced to lay aside my honest
name. Later I lived in Paris and then married a brutal person, a south
German inn-keeper, because I had the foolish thought that my affairs
might be bettered thereby. O these scoundrels of men!

SCHIERKE

This don't lead to nothin'! You cut it short, I tell you.

MRS. KNOBBE

But I am glad of the opportunity of standing, once more, face to face
with a man of culture and intellect. I could a tale unfold ... Popularly
I am known here as "the countess" and God is my witness that in my
earlier youth I was not far removed from that estate! For a time I was an
actress, too. What did I say! I could unfold a tale from my life, from my
past, which would have the advantage of not being invented!

SCHIERKE

Maybe not. Nobody c'n tell.

MRS. KNOBBE

[_With renewed emphasis._] My wretchedness is not invented, although it
may seem so when I relate how, one night, sunk in the deepest abysses of
my shame, I met on the street a cousin--the playmate of my youth--who is
now captain in the horse-guards. He lives in the world: I live in the
underworld ever since my father from pride of rank and race disowned me
because in my earliest youth I had made a mistake. Oh, you have no
conception of the dullness, the coarseness, the essential vulgarity that
obtains in those circles. I am a trodden worm, sir, and yet not for a
moment do I yearn to be there, in that glittering wretchedness....

SCHIERKE

Maybe you don't mind comin' to the point now!

HASSENREUTER

If you please, Mr. Schierke, all that interests me. So suppose you don't
interrupt the lady for a while. [_To MRS. KNOBBE._] You were speaking of
your cousin. Didn't you say that he is a captain in the horse-guards?

MRS. KNOBBE

He was in plain clothes. He is, however, a captain in the horse-guards.
He recognised me at once and we dedicated some blessed though painful
hours to memories. Accompanying him there was--I will not call his
name--a very young lieutenant, a fair, sweet boy, delicate and brooding.
Mr. Hassenreuter, I have forgotten what shame is! Was I not even, the
other day, turned out of church? Why should a down-trodden, dishonoured,
deserted creature, more than once punished by the laws--why should such
an one hesitate to confess that _he_ became the father of Helfgott
Gundofried?

HASSENREUTER

Of this baby that's been stolen from you?

MRS. KNOBBE

Yes, stolen! At least it is so asserted! It may be! But though my enemies
are mighty and have every means at their command, I am not yet wholly
convinced of it. And yet it may be a plot concocted by the parents of the
child's father whose name you would be astonished to hear, for they
represent one of the oldest and most illustrious families. Farewell!
Whatever you may hear of me, sir, do not think that my better feelings
have been wholly extinguished in the mire into which I am forced to cast
myself. I need this mire in which I am on terms of equality with the
dregs of mankind. Here, look! [_She thrusts forward her naked arm._]
Forgetfulness! Insensibility! I achieve it by means of chloral, of opium.
Or I find it in the abysses of human life. And why not? To whom am I
responsible?--There was a time when my dear mama was scolded by my father
on my account! The maid had convulsions because of me! Mademoiselle and
an English governess tore each other's _chignons_ from their heads
because each asserted that I loved _her_ best--! Now ...

SCHIERKE

Aw, I tell you to shut it now! We can't take up people's time an' lock
'em up. [_He opens the library door._] Now tell us if this here is your
kid?

_PAULINE, staring at MRS. KNOBBE with eyes full of hatred, comes out
first. MRS. KIELBACKE, carrying the child, comes next. SCHIERKE
removes the shawl, that has been thrown over the child._

PAULINE

What d'you want o' me? Why d'you come chasin' me? I ain' no gypsy! I don'
go in people's houses stealin' their children! Eh? You're crazy, I
wouldn't do no such thing. I ain't hardly got enough to eat for myself
an' my own child. D'you s'pose I'm goin' to steal strange children an'
feed 'em till they're grown when the one I got is trouble an' worry
enough!

_MRS. KNOBBE stares about her inquiringly and as if seeking help.
Rapidly she draws a little flask from her pocket and pours its
contents upon a handkerchief. The latter she carries swiftly to her
mouth and nose, inhaling the fragrance of the perfume to keep her
from fainting._

HASSENREUTER

Well, why don't you speak, Mrs. Knobbe? This girl asserts that she is the
mother of the child--not you.

_MRS. KNOBBE lifts her umbrella in order to strike out with it. She
is restrained by those present._

SCHIERKE

That won't do! You can't practice no discipline like that here! You c'n
do that when you're alone in your nursery downstairs.--The main thing is:
who does here kid belong to? An' so--now--Mrs. Knobbe, you just take care
an' think so's to tell nothin' but the truth here! Well! Is it yours or
is it her'n?

MRS. KNOBBE

[_Bursts out_] I swear by the holy Mother of God, by Jesus Christ,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost that I am the mother of this child.

PAULINE

An' I swears by the Holy Mother o' God ...

HASSENREUTER

You'd better not if you want to save your soul! We may have a case here
in which the circumstances are complicated in the extreme! It is
possible, therefore, that you were about to swear in perfectly good
faith. But you will have to admit that, though each of you may well be
the mother of twins--two mothers for one child is unthinkable!

WALBURGA

[_Who, like MRS. KNOBBE, has been staring steadily at the child._] Papa,
papa, do look at the child a moment first!

MRS. KIELBACKE

[_Tearfully and horrified._] Yes, the poor little crittur's been a-dyin',
I believe, ever since I was in the other room there!

SCHIERKE

What?

HASSENREUTER

How? [_Energetically he strides forward, and now regards the child
carefully too._] The child is dead. There's no question about that! It
seems that invisible to us, one has been in our midst who has delivered
judgment, truly according to the manner of Solomon, concerning the poor
little passive object of all this strife.

PAULINE

[_Who has not understood._] What's the matter?

SCHIERKE

Keep still!--You come along with me.

_MRS. KNOBBE seems to have lost the power of speech. She puts her
handkerchief into her mouth. A moaning sob is heard deep in her
chest. SCHIERKE, MRS. KIELBACKE with the dead child, followed by MRS.
KNOBBE and PAULINE PIPERCARCKA, leave the room. A dull murmur is
heard from the outer hall. HASSENREUTER returns to the foreground
after he has locked the door behind those who have left._

HASSENREUTER

_Sic eunt fata hominum._ Invent something like that, if you can, my good
Spitta.

THE FOURTH ACT

_The dwelling of the foreman-mason JOHN as in the second act. It is
eight o'clock on a Sunday morning._

_JOHN is invisible behind the partition. From his plashing and
snorting it is clear that he is performing his morning ablutions._

_QUAQUARO has just entered. His hand is still on the knob of the
outer door._

QUAQUARO

Tell me, Paul, is your wife at home?

JOHN

[_From behind the partition._] Not yet, Emil. My wife went with the boy
out to my married sister's in Hangelsberg. But she's goin' to come back
this mornin'. [_Drying his hands and face, JOHN appears in the door of
the partition wall._] Good mornin' to you, Emil.

QUAQUARO

Mornin', Paul.

JOHN

Well, what's the news? I didn't come from the train till about half an
hour ago.

QUAQUARO

Yes, I saw you goin' into the house an' mountin' the stairs.

JOHN

[_In a jolly frame of mind._] That's right, Emil! You're a reglar old
watch-dog, eh?

QUAQUARO

Tell, me, Paul: How long has your wife'n the kid been out in Hangelsberg?

JOHN

Oh, that must be somethin' like a week now, Emil. D'you want anythin' of
her? I guess she paid her rent an' on time all right. By the way, I might
as well give you notice right now. We got it all fixed. We're goin' to
move on the first of October. I got mother to the point at last that we
c'n move outa this here shaky old barracks an' into a better
neighbourhood.

QUAQUARO

So you ain't goin' back to Hamburg no more?

JOHN

Naw. It's a good sayin': Stay at home an' make an honest livin'! I'm not
goin' outa town no more. Not a bit of it! First of all, it's no sort o'
life, goin' from one lodgin' to another. An' then--a man don' get no
younger neither! The girls, they ain't so hot after you no more ... No,
it's a good thing that all this wanderin' about is goin' to end.

QUAQUARO

Your wife--she's a fine schemer.

JOHN

[_Merrily._] Well, this is a brand new household what's jus' had a child
born into it. I said to the boss: I'm a newly married man! Then he axed
me if my first wife was dead. On the contrary an' not a bit of it, I
says. She's alive an' kickin', so that she's jus' given birth to a
kickin' young citizen o' Berlin, that's what! When I was travellin' along
from Hamburg this mornin' by all the old stations--Hamburg, Stendal,
Ultzen--an' got outa the fourth-class coach at the Lehrter station with
all my duds, the devil take me if I didn't thank God with a sigh. I guess
he didn't hear on account o' the noise o' the trains.

QUAQUARO

Did you hear, Paul, that Mrs. Knobbe's youngest over the way has been
taken off again?

JOHN

No. What chance did I have to hear that? But if it's dead, it's a good
thing, Emil. When I saw the poor crittur a week ago when it had
convulsions an' Selma brought it in an' me an' mother gave it a spoonful
o' sugar an' water--well, it was pretty near ready for heaven then.

QUAQUARO

An' you mean to tell me that you didn't hear nothin' o' the
circumstances, about the how an' the why o' that child's death?

JOHN

Naw! [_He fetches a long tobacco pipe from behind the sofa._] Wait a
minute! I'll light a pipe first! I didn't have no chanct to hear nothin'.

QUAQUARO

Well, I'm surprised that your wife didn't write you nothin' at all.

JOHN

Aw, since we has a child o' our own, mother's taken no interest in them
Knobbe brats no more.

QUAQUARO

[_Observing JOHN with lurking curiosity._] You're wife was reel crazy to
have a son, wasn't she?

JOHN

Well, that's natural. D'you think I wasn't? What's a man to work for?
What do I slave away for? It's different thing savin' a good lump o'
money for your own son from doin' it for your sister's children.

QUAQUARO

So you don't know that a strange girl came here an' swore that the Knobbe
woman's child wasn't hers but belonged to the girl?

JOHN

Is that so? Well, Mrs. Knobbe an' child stealin'--them two things don't
go together. Now if it'd been mother, that would ha' been more likely.
But not that Knobbe woman! But tell me, Emil, what's all this here
business about?

QUAQUARO

Well, one person says one thing an' another says another. The Knobbe
woman says that certain people has started a plot with detectives an'
such like to get hold o' the brat. An' there ain't no doubt o' this. It's
proved that the child was hers. C'n you maybe give me a tip as to where
your brother-in-law's been keepin' hisself the past few days?

JOHN

You mean the butcher in Hangelsberg?

QUAQUARO

Naw, I don' mean the husband o' your sister, but the feller what's
brother o' your wife.

JOHN

It's Bruno you mean?

QUAQUARO

Sure, that's the feller.

JOHN

How do I know? I'd sooner be watchin' if the dogs still plays on the
curb. I don't want to have no dealin's with Bruno.

QUAQUARO

Listen to me, Paul. But don't get mad. They knows at the police station
that Bruno was seen in company o' the Polish girl what wanted to claim
this here child, first right outside o' the door here an' then at a
certain place on Shore street where the tanners sometimes looses their
soakin' hides. An' now the girl's jus' disappeared. I don' know nothin'
o' the particulars, excep' that the police is huntin' for the girl.

JOHN

[_Resolutely putting aside the long pipe which he had lit._] I don' know,
but I can't take no enjoyment in it this mornin'. I don' know what's
gotten into me. I was as jolly as can be. An' now all of a sudden I feel
so dam' mean I'd like to go straight back to Hamburg an' hear an' see
nothin' more!--Why d'you come aroun' with stories like that?

QUAQUARO

I jus' thought I'd tell you what happened while you an' your wife was
away right here in your own house?

JOHN

In my own house?

QUAQUARO

That's it! Yessir! They says that Selma pushed the perambulator with her
little brother in here where the strange girl an' her friend came an'
took him an' carried him off. But upstairs, in the actor's place, they
caught her.

JOHN

What's that?

QUAQUARO

So up there the strange girl an' the Knobbe woman pretty near tore each
other's hair out over the child's body.

JOHN

What I'd like to know is how all that concerns me? Ain't there trouble
here over some girl most o' the time? Let 'em go on! I don' care! That is
to say, Emil, if there ain't more to it than you're tellin' me.

QUAQUARO

That's why I come to you! There is more. The girl said in front o'
witnesses more'n onct that that little crittur o' Knobbe's was her own
an' that she had expressly given it in board to your wife.

JOHN

[_First taken aback, then relieved. Laughing._] She ain't quite right in
her upper story. That's all.

_ERICH SPITTA enters._

SPITTA

Good morning, Mr. John.

JOHN

Good mornin', Mr. Spitta. [_To QUAQUARO, who is still loitering in the
door._] It's all right, Emil. I'll take notice o' what you says an' act
accordin'.

_QUAQUARO exit._

JOHN

Now jus' look at a feller like that, Mr. Spitta. He's more'n half a gaol
bird an' yet he knows how to make hisself a favourite with the district
commissioner at headquarters! An' then he goes aroun' pokin' his nose
into honest folks' affairs.

SPITTA

Has Miss Walburga Hassenreuter been asking after me, Mr. John?

JOHN

Not up to this time; not that I knows of! [_He opens the door to the
hall._] Selma! Excuse me a minute, will you? Selma! I gotta know what
that there girl c'n tell me.

_SELMA KNOBBE enters._

SELMA

[_Still at the door._] What d'you want?

JOHN

You shut the door a minute an' come in! An' now tell me, girl, what's all
this that happened in this room about your little dead brother and the
strange girl?

SELMA

[_Who has, obviously, a bad conscience, gradually comes forward
watchfully. She now answers glibly and volubly._] I pushed the
perambulator over into the room here. Your wife wasn't in an' so I thinks
that maybe here there'd be more quiet, 'cause my little brother, you
know, he was sick anyhow an' cryin' all the time. An' then, all of a
sudden, a gentleman an' a lady an' another woman all comes in here, an'
they picked the little feller right outa the carridge an' put clean
clothes on him an' carried him off.

JOHN

An' then the lady said as how it was her child an' how she'd given it in
board with mother, with my old woman?

SELMA

[_Lies._] Naw, not a bit. I'd know about that if it was so.

JOHN

[_Bangs his fist on the table._] Well, damn it all, it'd be a idjit's
trick to have said that.

SPITTA

Permit me, but she did say that. I take it you're talking of the incident
with the two women that took place upstairs at manager Hassenreuter's?

JOHN

Did you see that? Was you there when the Knobbe woman an' the other one
was disputin' about the little crittur?

SPITTA

Yes, certainly. I was present throughout.

SELMA

I tell you all I knows. An' I couldn't say no more if officer Schierke or
the tall police lieutenant hisself was to examine me for hours an' hours.
I don' know nothin'. An' what I don' know I can't tell.

JOHN

The lieutenant examined you?

SELMA

They wanted to take mama to the lock-up because people went an' lied.
They said that our little baby was starved to death.

JOHN

Aha! 's that so? Well, Selma, s'pose you go over there an' cook a little
coffee.

_SELMA goes over to the stove where she prepares coffee for JOHN.
JOHN himself goes up to his working table, takes up the compass. Then
he draws lines, using a piece of rail as a ruler._

SPITTA

[_Conquering his diffidence and shame._] I really hoped to meet your wife
here, Mr. John. Someone told me that your wife has been in the habit of
lending out small sums to students against security. And I am somewhat
embarrassed.

JOHN

Maybe that's so. But that's mother's business, Mr. Spitta.

SPITTA

To be quite frank with you, if I don't get hold of some money by
to-night, the few books and other possessions I have will be attached for
rent by my landlady and I'll be put into the street.

JOHN

I thought your father was a preacher.

SPITTA

So he is. But for that very reason and because I don't want to become a
preacher, too, he and I had a terrible quarrel last night. I won't ever
accept a farthing from him any more.

JOHN

[_Busy over his drawing._] Then it'll serve him right if you starve or
break your neck.

SPITTA

Men like myself don't starve, Mr. John. But if, by any chance, I were to
go to the dogs--I shouldn't greatly care.

JOHN

No one wouldn't believe how many half-starved nincompoops there is among
you stoodents. But none o' you wants to put your hand to some reel
work.--[_The distant sound of thunder is heard. JOHN looks out through
the window._]--Sultry day. It's thunderin' now.

SPITTA

Yon can't say that of me, Mr. John, that I haven't been willing to do
real work. I've given lessons, I've addressed envelopes for business
houses! I've been through everything and in all these attempts I've not
only toiled away the days but also the nights. And at the same time I've
ground away at my studies like anything!

JOHN

Man alive, go to Hamburg an' let 'em give you a job as a bricklayer. When
I was your age I was makin' as much as twelve crowns a day in Hamburg.

SPITTA

That may be. But I'm a brain worker.

JOHN

I know that kind.

SPITTA

Is that so? I don't think you do know that kind, Mr. John. I beg you not
to forget that your Socialist leaders--your Bebels and your
Liebknechts--are brain workers too.

JOHN

All right. Come on, then! Let's have some breakfast first. Things look
mighty different after a man's had a good bite o' breakfast. I s'pose you
ain't had any yet, Mr. Spitta?

SPITTA

No, frankly, not to-day.

JOHN

Well, then the first thing is to get somethin' warm down your throat.

SPITTA

There's time enough for that.

JOHN

I don' know. You're lookin' pretty well done up. An' I passed the night
on the train too. [_To SELMA, who has brought in a little linen bag filed
with rolls._] Hurry an' bring another cup over here. [_He has seated
himself at his ease on the sofa, dips a roll into the coffee and begins
to eat and drink._]

SPITTA

[_Who has not sat down yet._] It's really pleasanter to pass a summer
night in the open if one can't sleep anyhow. And I didn't sleep for one
minute.

JOHN

I'd like to see the feller what c'n sleep when he's outa cash. When a
man's down in the world he has most company outa doors too. [_He suddenly
stops chewing._]--Come here, Selma, an' tell me exackly just how it was
with that there girl an' the child that she took outa our room here.

SELMA

I don' know what to do. Everybody axes we that. Mama keeps axin' me about
it all day long; if I seen Bruno Mechelke; if I know who it was that
stole the costumes from the actor's loft up there! If it goes on that way
...

JOHN

[_Energetically._] Girl, why didn't you cry out when the gentleman and
the young lady took your little brother outa his carridge?

SELMA

I didn't think nothin' 'd happen to him excep' that he'd get some clean
clothes.

JOHN

[_Grasps SELMA by the wrist._] Well, you come along with me now. We'll go
over an' see your mother.

_JOHN and SELMA leave the room. As soon as they are gone SPITTA
begins to eat ravenously. Soon thereafter WALBURGA appears. She is in
great haste and strongly excited._

WALBURGA

Are you alone?

SPITTA

For the moment, yes. Good morning, Walburga.

WALBURGA

Am I too late? It was only by the greatest cunning, by the greatest
determination, by the most ruthless disregard of everything that I
succeeded in getting away from home. My younger sister tried to bar the
door. Even the servant girl! But I told mama that if they wouldn't let me
out through the door, they might just as well bar the window, else I'd
reach the street through it, although it's three stories high. I flew.
I'm more dead than alive. But I am prepared for anything. How was it with
your father, Erich?

SPITTA

We have parted. He thought that I was going out to eat husks with the
swine as the Prodigal Son did, and told me not to take it into my mind
ever again to cross the threshold of my father's house in my future
capacity as acrobat or bareback rider, as he was pleased to express it.
His door was not open to such scum! Well, I'll fight it down! Only I'm
sorry for my poor, dear mother.--You can't imagine with what abysmal
hatred a man of his kind considers the theatre and everything connected
with it. The heaviest curse is not strong enough to express his feelings.
An actor is, to his mind, _a priori_, the worst, most contemptible scamp
imaginable.

WALBURGA

I've found out, too, how papa discovered our secret.

SPITTA

My father gave him your picture.

WALBURGA

O Erich, if you knew with what awful, with what horrible names papa
overwhelmed me in his rage. And I had to be silent through it all. I
might have said something that would have silenced all his lofty moral
discourses and made him quite helpless before me. I was almost on the
point of saying it, too. But I felt so ashamed for him! My tongue refused
to form the words! I couldn't say it, Erich! Finally mama had to
intervene. He struck me! For eight or nine hours he locked me in a dark
alcove--to break my stubbornness, as he put it, Erich. Well, he won't
succeed! He won't break it!

SPITTA

[_Taking WALBURGA into his arms._] You dear, brave girl! I am beginning
to see now what I possess in having your love, what a treasure you are!
[_Passionately._] And how beautiful you look, Walburga!

WALBURGA

Don't! Don't!--I trust you, Erich; that's all.

SPITTA

And you shall not be disappointed, dearest. You see, a man like me in
whom everything is still in a ferment, who feels that he was born to
achieve something great and significant but something which, for the
present, he can make sufficiently clear neither to himself nor to the
world--such a man has, at twenty, every man's hand against his and is a
burden and a laughing-stock to all the world. But believe me: it will not
always be so! The germs of the future lie in us! The soil is being
loosened even now by the budding shoots! Unseen to-day, _we_ are the
harvest of the future! We _are_ the future! And the time will come when
all this great and beautiful world will be ours!

WALBURGA

Ah, go on, Erich! What you say heals my heart.

SPITTA

Walburga, I did more, last night! I flung straight out into my father's
face, just as I felt it, my accusation of the crime committed against my
sister. And that made the break definite and unbridgeable. He said
stubbornly: He had no knowledge of such a daughter as I was describing.
Such a daughter had no existence in his soul, and it seemed to him that
his son would also soon cease to exist there. O these Christians! O these
servants of the good shepherd who took the lost lamb with double
tenderness into his arms! O thou good Shepherd, how have your words been
perverted; How have your eternal truths been falsified into their exact
contrary. But to-day when I sat amidst the flash of lightning and the
roll of thunder in the _Tiergarten_ and certain Berlin hyaenas were
prowling about me, I felt the crushed and restless soul of my sister
close beside me. How many nights, in her poor life, may she not have sat
shelterless on such benches, perhaps on this very bench in the
_Tiergarten_, in order to consider in her loneliness, her degradation,
her outcast estate, how, two thousand years after the birth of Christ,
this most Christian world is drenched with Christianity and with the love
of its fellow-men! But whatever she thought, this is what I think; the
poor harlot, the wretched sinner who is yet above the righteous, who is
weighed down by the sins of the world, the poor outcast and her terrible
accusation shall never die in my soul! And into this flame of our goals
we must cast all the wretchedness, all the lamentations of the oppressed
and the disinherited! Thus shall my sister stay truly alive, Walburga,
and effect noble ends before the face of God through the ethical impulse
that lends wings to my soul, and that will be more powerful than all the
evil, heartless parson's morality in the world.

WALBURGA

You were in the _Tiergarten_ all night, Erich? Is that the reason why
your hands are so icy cold, and why you look so utterly worn out? Erich,
you must take my purse! No, please, you must! Oh, I assure you what is
mine is yours! If you don't feel that, you don't love me. Erich, you're
suffering! If you don't take my few pennies, I'll refuse all nourishment
at home! By heaven, I'll do it, I'll do it, unless you're sensible about
that!

SPITTA

[_Chokes down his rising tears and sits down._] I'm nervous; I'm
overwrought.

WALBURGA

[_Puts her purse into his pocket._] And you see, Erich, this is the real
reason why I asked you to meet me here. To add to all my misfortunes I
received yesterday this summons from the court.

SPITTA

[_Regards a document which she hands to him._] Look here? What's behind
this, Walburga?

WALBURGA

I'm quite sure that it must have some connection with the stolen goods
upstairs in the loft. But it does disquiet me terribly. If papa were to
discover this ... oh, what would I do then?

_MRS. JOHN enters, carrying the child in her arms. She is dressed for
the street, and looks dusty and harassed._

MRS. JOHN

[_Frightened, suspicious._] Well, what d'you want here? Is Paul home yet?
I jus' went down in the street a little with the baby.

[_She carries the child behind the partition._

WALBURGA

Erich, do mention the summons to Mrs. John!

MRS. JOHN

Why, Paul's at home. There's his things!

SPITTA

Miss Hassenreuter wanted very much to talk to you. She received a summons
to appear in court. It's probably about those things that were stolen
from the loft. You know.

MRS. JOHN

[_Emerging from behind the partition._] What's that? You reelly got a
summons, Miss Walburga? Well, then you better look out! I ain't jokin'.
An' maybe you're thinkin' o' the black man!

SPITTA

What you're saying there is quite incomprehensible, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

[_Taking up her domestic tasks._] Did you hear that 'way out in the
Lauben settlement, beyond the Halle Gate, the lightenin' struck a man an'
a woman an' a little girl o' seven this mornin'. It was right under a
tall poplar tree.

SPITTA

No, Mrs. John, we didn't hear that.

MRS. JOHN

The rain's splashin' down again.

_One hears a shower of rain beginning to fall._

WALBURGA

[_Nervously._] Come, Erich, let's get out into the open anyhow.

MRS. JOHN

[_Speaking louder and louder in her incoherent terror._] An' I tell you
another thing: I was talking to the woman what was struck by lightenin'
jus' a short time before. An' she says--now listen to me, Mr. Spitta--if
you takes a dead child what's lyin' in its carridge an' pushes it out
into the sun ... but it's gotta be summer an' midday ... it'll draw
breath, it'll cry, it'll come back to life!--You don't believe that, eh?
But I seen that with my own eyes!

[_She circles about the room in a strange fashion, apparently
becoming quite oblivious of the presence of the two young people._

WALBURGA

Look, here, Mrs. John is positively uncanny! Let's go!

MRS. JOHN

[_Speaking still louder._] You don' believe that, that it'll come to life
again, eh? I tell you, its mother c'n come an' take it. But it's gotta be
nursed right off.

SPITTA

Good-bye, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

[_In strange excitement accompanies the two young people to the door.
Speaking still more loudly._] You don' believe that! But it's the solemn
truth, Mr. Spitta!

_SPITTA and WALBURGA leave the room._

MRS. JOHN

[_Still holding the door in her hand calls out after them._] Anybody that
don' believe that don' know nothin' o' the whole secret that I
discovered.

_The foreman-mason JOHN appears in the door and enters at once._

JOHN

Why, there you are, mother! I'm glad to see you. What's that there secret
you're talkin' about?

MRS. JOHN

[_As though awakening, grasps her head._] Me?--Did I say somethin' about
a secret?

JOHN

That you did unless I'm hard o' hearin'. An' it's reelly you unless it's
a ghost.

MRS. JOHN

[_Surprised and frightened._] Why d'you think I might be a ghost?

JOHN

[_Pats his wife good-naturedly on the back._] Come now, Jette, don't bite
me. I'm reel glad, that I am, that you're here again with the little kid!
[_He goes behind the partition._] But it's lookin' a little measly.

MRS. JOHN

The milk didn't agree with him. An' that's because out there in the
country the cows is already gettin' green fodder. I got milk here from
the dairy company that comes from dry fed cows.

JOHN

[_Reappears in the main room._] That's what I'm sayin'. Why did you have
to go an' take the child on the train an' outa town. The city is
healthier. That's my notion.

MRS. JOHN

I'm goin' to stay at home now, Paul.

JOHN

In Hamburg everythin' is settled, too. To-day at noon I'm goin' to meet
Karl an' then he'll tell me when I c'n start workin' for the new
boss!--Look here: I brought somethin' with me, too.

[_He takes a small child's rattle from his breeches pocket and shakes
it._

MRS. JOHN

What's that?

JOHN

That's somethin' to bring a bit o' life into the place, 'cause it's
pretty quiet inside in Berlin here! Listen how the kid's crowin'. [_The
child is heard making happy little noises._] I tell you, mother, when a
little kid goes on that way--there ain't nothin' I'd take for it!

MRS. JOHN

Have you seen anybody yet?

JOHN

No!--Leastways only Quaquaro early this mornin'.

MRS. JOHN

[_In timid suspense._] Well ...?

JOHN

Oh, never mind! Nothin! There was nothin' to it.

MRS. JOHN [_As before._] What did he say?

JOHN

What d'you think he said? But if you're bound to know--'tain't no use
talkin' o' such things Sunday mornin'--he axed me after Bruno again.

MRS. JOHN

[_Pale and speaking hastily._] What do they say Bruno has done again?

JOHN

Nothin'. Here, come'n drink a little coffee, Jette, an' don' get excited!
It ain't your fault that you got a brother like that. We don't has to
concern ourselves about other people.

MRS. JOHN

I'd like to know what an old fool like that what spies aroun' all day
long has always gotta be talkin' about Bruno.

JOHN

Jette, don' bother me about Bruno--You see ...aw, what's the use ...
might as well keep still!... But if I was goin' to tell you the truth,
I'd say that it wouldn't surprise me if some day Bruno'd come to a pretty
bad end right out in the yard o' the gaol, too--a quick end. [_MRS. JOHN
sits down heavily beside the table. She grows grey in the face and
breathes with difficulty._] Maybe not! Maybe not! Don't take it to heart
so right off!--How's the sister?

MRS. JOHN

I don' know.

JOHN

Why, I thought you was out there visitin' her?

MRS. JOHN

[_Looks at him absently._] Where was I?

JOHN

Well, you see, Jette, that's the way it is with you women! You're jus'
shakin', but oh no--you don' want to go to no doctor! An' it'll end
maybe, by your havin' to take to your bed. That's what comes o'
neglectin' nature.

MRS. JOHN

[_Throwing her arms about JOHN'S neck._] Paul, you're goin' to leave me!
For God's sake, tell me right out that it's so! Don' fool me aroun' an'
cheat me! Tell me right out!

JOHN

What's the matter with you to-day, Henrietta?

MRS. JOHN

[_Pulling herself together._] Don' attend to my fool talk. I ain't had no
rest all night--that's it. An' then I got up reel early, an' anyhow, it
ain't nothin' but that I'm a bit weak yet.

JOHN

Then you better lie down flat on your back an' rest a little. [_MRS. JOHN
throws herself on the sofa and stares at the ceiling._] Maybe you'd
better comb yourself a bit afterwards, Jette!--It musta been mighty dusty
on the train for you to be jus' covered all over with sand the way you
are! [_MRS. JOHN does not answer but continues staring at the ceiling._]
I must go an' bring that there little feller into the light a bit.

[_He goes behind the partition._

MRS. JOHN

How long has we been married, Paul?

JOHN

[_Plays with the rattle behind the partition. Then answers_:] That was in
eighteen hundred and seventy-two, jus' as I came back from the war.

MRS. JOHN

Then you came to father, didn't you? An' you assoomed a grand position
an' you had the Iron Cross on the left side o' your chest.

JOHN

[_Appears, swinging the rattle and carrying the child on its pillow. He
speaks merrily._] That's so, mother. An' I got it yet. If you want to see
it, I'll pin it on.

MRS. JOHN

[_Still stretched out on the sofa._] An' then you came to me an' you said
that I wasn't to be so busy all the time ... goin' up an' down, runnin'
upstairs an' downstairs ... that I was to be a bit more easy-goin'.

JOHN

An' I'm still sayin' that same thing to-day.

MRS. JOHN

An' then you tickled me with your moustache an' kissed me right behind my
left ear! An' then ...

JOHN

Then it didn't take long for us to agree, eh?

MRS. JOHN

Yes, an' I laughed an', bit by bit, I looked at myself in every one o'
your brass buttons. I was lookin' different then! An' then you said ...

JOHN

Well, mother, you're a great one for rememberin' things, I must say!

MRS. JOHN

An' then you said: When we has a boy, an' that'll be soon, he c'n follow
the flag into the field too "with God for King an' country."

JOHN

[_Sings to the child, playing with the rattle._]

"To heaven he turns his glances bold
Whence gaze the hero sires of old:
The Rhine, the Rhine, the German Rhine!"...

Well, an' now that I has a little feller like that I ain't half so keen
on sendin' him to the war to be food for powder.

[_He retires with the child behind the partition._

MRS. JOHN

[_Still staring at the ceiling._] Paul, Paul! Seems as if all that was a
hundred years ago!

JOHN

[_Reappears from behind the partition without the child._] Not as long
ago as all that.

MRS. JOHN

Look here, what d'you think? How would it be if you was to take me an'
the child an' go to America?

JOHN

Now listen here, Jette! What's gotten into you, anyhow? What is it? Looks
as if there was nothin' but ghosts aroun' me here! You know I has a good
easy temper! When the workmen heave bricks at each other, I don't even
get excited. An' what do they say? Paul has a comfortable nature. But
now: what's this here? The sun's shinin'; it's bright daylight! I can't
_see_ nothin'; that's a fac'. But somethin's titterin' an' whisperin' an'
creepin' aroun' in here. Only when I stretches out my hand I can't lay
hold on nothin'! Now I wants to know what there is to this here story
about the strange girl what came to the room. Is it true?

MRS. JOHN

You heard, Paul, that the young lady didn't come back no more. An' that
shows you, don't it ...

JOHN

I hear what you're sayin'. But your lips is fair blue an' your eyes look
as if somebody was tormentin' you.

MRS. JOHN

[_Suddenly changing her attitude_] Yes. Why do you leave me alone year in
an' year out, Paul? I sits here like in a cave an' I ain't got a soul to
who I c'n say what I'm thinkin'. Many a time I've sat here an' axed
myself why I works an' works, why I skimps an' saves to get together a
few crowns, an' find good investments for your earnin's an' try to add to
'em. Why? Was all that to go to strangers? Paul, it's you who's been the
ruin o' me!

[_She lays her head on the table and bursts out in sobs._

_Softly and with feline stealth BRUNO MECHELKE enters the room at
this moment. He has on his Sunday duds, a sprig of lilac in his hat
and a great bunch of it in his hand. JOHN drums with his fingers on
the window and does not observe him._

MRS. JOHN

[_Has gradually realised BRUNO'S presence as though he were a ghost._]
Bruno, is that you?

BRUNO

[_Who has recognised JOHN in a flash, softly._] Sure, it's me, Jette.

MRS. JOHN

Where d'you come from? What d'you want?

BRUNO

I been dancin' all night, Jette! You c'n see, can't you, that I'm dam'
jolly?

JOHN

[_Has been staring steadily at BRUNO. A dangerous pallor has overspread
his face. He now goes slowly to a small cupboard, takes out an old army
revolver and loads it. MRS. JOHN does not observe this._] You! Listen!
I'll tell you somethin'--somethin' you forgot, maybe. There ain't no
reason on God's earth why I shouldn't pull this here trigger! You
scoundrel! You ain't fit to be among human bein's! I told you ... las'
fall it was ... that I'd shoot you down if I ever laid eyes on you in my
home again! Now go ... or I'll ... shoot. Y'understan'?

BRUNO

Aw, I ain't scared o' your jelly squirter.

MRS. JOHN

[_Who observes that JOHN, losing control of himself, is slowly
approaching BRUNO with the weapon and raising it._] Then kill me too,
Paul. 'Cause he's my brother.

JOHN

[_Looks at her long, seems to awaken and change his mind._] All right.
[_He replaces the revolver carefully in the cupboard._] You're right,
anyhow, Jette! It's hell, Jette, that your name's got to be on the tongue
of a crittur like that. All right. The powder'd be too good, too. This
here little pistol's tasted the blood o' two French cavalry men! Heroes
they was! An' I don't want it to drink no dirt.

BRUNO

I ain' doubtin' that there's dirt in your head! An' if it hadn't been
that you board with my sister here I'd ha' let the light into you long
ago, you dirt eater, so you'd ha' bled for weeks.

JOHN

[_With tense restraint._] Tell me again, Jette, that it's your brother.

MRS. JOHN

Go, Paul, will you? I'll get him away all right! You know's well as I
that I can't help it now that Bruno's my own brother.

JOHN

All right. Then I'm one too many here. You c'n bill an' coo. [_He is
dressed for the street as it is and hence proceeds to go. Close by BRUNO
he stands still._] You scamp! You worried your father into his grave.
Your sister might better ha' let you starve behind some fence rather'n
raise you an' litter the earth with another criminal like you. I'll be
back in half an hour! But I won't be alone. I'll have the sergeant with
me!

[_JOHN leaves by the outer door, putting on his slouch hat._

_So soon as JOHN has disappeared BRUNO turns and spits out after him
toward the door._

BRUNO

If I ever gets hold o' you!

MRS. JOHN

Why d'you come, Bruno? Tell me, what's the matter?

BRUNO

Tin's what you gotta give me. Or I'll go to hell.

MRS. JOHN

[_Locks and latches the outer door._] Wait till I close the door! Now,
what's the matter? Where d'you come from? Where has you been?

BRUNO

Oh, I danced about half the night an' then, about sunrise, I went out
into the country for a bit.

MRS. JOHN

Did Quaquaro see you comin' in, Bruno? Then you better look out that you
ain't walked into no trap.

BRUNO

No danger. I crossed the yard an' then went through the cellar o' my
friend what deals in junk an' after that up through the loft.

MRS. JOHN

Well, an' what happened?

BRUNO

Don' fool aroun', Jette. I gotta have railroad fare. I gotta take to my
heels or I'll go straight to hell.

MRS. JOHN

An' what did you do with that there girl?

BRUNO

Oh, I found a way, Jette!

MRS. JOHN

What's the meanin' o' that?

BRUNO

Oh, I managed to make her a little more accommodatin' all right!

MRS. JOHN

An' is it a sure thing that she won't come back now?

BRUNO

Sure. I don' believe that she'll come again! But that wasn't no easy
piece of work, Jette. But I tell you ... gimme somethin' to
drink--quick!... I tell you, you made me thirsty with your damned
business--thirsty, an' hot as hell.

[_He drains a jug full of water._

MRS. JOHN

People saw you outside the door with the girl.

BRUNO

I had to make a engagement with Arthur. She didn't want to have nothin'
to do with me. But Arthur, he came dancin' along in his fine clothes an'
he managed to drag her along to a bar. She swallowed the bait right down
when he told her as how her intended was waitin' for her there. [_He
trills out, capering about convulsively._]

"All we does in life's to go
Up an' down an' to an' fro
From a tap-room to a show!"

MRS. JOHN

Well, an' then?

BRUNO

Then she wanted to get away 'cause Arthur said that her intended had gone
off! Then I wanted to go along with her a little bit an' Arthur an'
Adolph, they came along. Next we dropped in the ladies' entrance at
Kalinich's an' what with tastin' a lot o' toddy an' other liquors she got
good an' tipsy. An' then she staid all night with a woman what's Arthur's
sweetheart. All next day there was always two or three of us boys after
her, didn't let her go, an' played all kinds o' tricks, an' things got
jollier an' jollier.

[_The church bells of the Sunday morning services begin to ring._

BRUNO

[_Goes on._] But the money's gone. I needs crowns an' pennies, Jette.

MRS. JOHN

[_Rummaging for money._] How much has you got to have?

BRUNO

[_Listening to the bells._] What?

MRS. JOHN

Money!

BRUNO

The old bag o' bones in the junk shop downstairs was thinkin' as how I'd
better get across the Russian frontier! Listen, Jette, how the bells is
ringin'.

MRS. JOHN

Why do you has to get acrost the frontier?

BRUNO

Take a wet towel, Jette, an' put a little vinegar on it. I been bothered
with this here dam' nosebleed all night.

[_He presses his handkerchief to his nose._

MRS. JOHN

[_Breathing convulsively, brings a towel._] Who was it scratched your
wrist into shreds that way?

BRUNO

[_Listening to the bells._] Half past three o'clock this mornin' she
could ha' heard them bells yet.

MRS. JOHN

O Jesus, my Saviour! That ain't true! That can't noways be possible! I
didn't tell you nothin' like that, Bruno! Bruno, I has to sit down. Oh!
[_She sits down._] That's what our father foretold to me on his dyin'
bed.

BRUNO

It ain't so easy jokin' with me. If you go to see Minna, jus' tell her
that I got the trick o' that kind o' thing an' that them goin's on with
Karl an' with Fritz has to stop.

MRS. JOHN

But, Bruno, if they was to catch you!

BRUNO

Well, then I has to swing, an' out at the Charity hospital they got
another stiff to dissect.

MRS. JOHN

[_Giving him money._] Oh, that ain't true. What did you do, Bruno?

BRUNO

You're a crazy old crittur, Jette.--[_He puts his hand on her not without
a tremor of emotion._] You always says as how I ain't good for nothin'.
But when things can't go on no more, then you needs me, Jette.

MRS. JOHN

Well, but how? Did you threaten the girl that she wasn't to let herself
be seen no more? That's what you ought to ha' done, Bruno! An' did you?

BRUNO

I danced with her half the night. An' then we went out on the street.

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