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The Dramatic Works of Gerhart Hauptmann by Gerhart Hauptmann

Part 9 out of 9

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Well, a gentleman came along, y'understan'? Well, when I told him that I
had some little business o' my own to transact with the lady an' pulled
my brass-knuckles outa my breeches, o' course he took to his heels.--Then
I says to her, says I: Don't you be scared. If you're peaceable an' don'
make no outcry an' don' come no more to my sister axin' after the
child--well, we c'n make a reel friendly bargain. So she toddled along
with me a ways.

MRS. JOHN

Well, an' then?

BRUNO

Well, she didn't want to! An' all of a sudden she went for my throat that
I thought it'd be the end o' me then an' there! Like a dawg she went for
me hot an' heavy! An' then ... then I got a little bit excited too--an'
then, well ... that's how it come ...

MRS. JOHN

[_Sunk in horror._] What time d'you say it was?

BRUNO

It must ha' been somewhere between three an' four. The moon had a big
ring aroun' it. Out on the square there was a dam' cur behind the planks
what got up an' howled. Then it began to drip an' soon a thunderstorm
came up.

MRS. JOHN

[_Changed and with sudden self-mastery._] It's all right. Go on. She don'
deserve no better.

BRUNO

Good-bye. I s'pose we ain't goin' to see each other for years an' years.

MRS. JOHN

Where you goin' to?

BRUNO

First of all I gotta lie flat on my back for a couple o' hours. I'm goin'
to Fritz's. He's got a room for rent in the old police station right
acrost from the Fisher's Bridge. I'm safe there all right. If there's
anythin' of a outcry you c'n lemme know.

MRS. JOHN

Don' you want to take a peek at the child onct more?

BRUNO

[_Trembling._] Naw!

MRS. JOHN

Why not?

BRUNO

No, Jette, not in this here life! Good-bye, Jette. Hol' on a minute: Here
I got a horseshoe. [_He puts a horseshoe on the table._] I found it.
That'll bring you good luck. I don' need it.

_Stealthily as he has come, BRUNO MECHELKE also disappears. MRS.
JOHN, her eyes wide with horror, stares at the spot where he stood.
Then she totters backward a few paces, presses her hands, clenched
convulsively as if in prayer, against her mouth, and collapses, still
trying in vain to stammer out a prayerful appeal to heaven._

MRS. JOHN

I ain't no murderer! I ain't no murderer! I didn't want that to happen!

FIFTH ACT

_JOHN'S room. MRS. JOHN is asleep on the sofa. WALBURGA and SPITTA
enter from the outer hall. The loud playing of a military band is
heard from the street._

SPITTA

No one is here.

WALBURGA

Oh, yes, there is, Erich. Mrs. John! She's asleep here.

SPITTA

[_Approaching the sofa together with WALBURGA._] Is she asleep? So she
is! I don't understand how anyone can sleep amidst this noise.

_The music of the band trails off into silence._

WALBURGA

Oh, Erich, sh! I have a perfect horror of the woman. Can you understand
anyhow why policemen are guarding the entrance downstairs and why they
won't let us go out into the street? I'm so awfully afraid that, maybe,
they'll arrest us and take us along to the station.

SPITTA

Oh, but there's not the slightest danger, Walburga! You're seeing ghosts
by broad daylight.

WALBURGA

When the plain clothes man came up to you and looked at us and you asked
him who he was and he showed his badge under his coat, I assure you, at
that moment, the stairs and the hall suddenly began to go around with me.

SPITTA

They're looking for a criminal, Walburga. It is a so-called raid that is
going on here, a kind of man hunt such as the criminal police is at times
obliged to undertake.

WALBURGA

And you can believe me, too, Erich, that I heard papa's voice. He was
talking quite loudly to some one.

SPITTA

You are nervous. You may have been mistaken.

WALBURGA

[_Frightened at MRS. JOHN, who is speaking in her sleep._] Listen to her:
do!

SPITTA

Great drops of sweat are standing on her forehead. Come here! Just look
at the rusty old horseshoe that she is clasping with both hands.

WALBURGA

[_Listens and starts with fright again._] Papa!

SPITTA

I don't understand you. Let him come, Walburga. The essential thing is
that one knows what one wants and that one has a clean conscience. I am
ready. I long for the explanation to come about.

_A loud knocking is heard at the door._

SPITTA

[_Firmly._] Come in!

_MRS. HASSENREUTER enters, more out of breath than usual. An
expression of relief comes over her face as she catches sight of her
daughter._

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Thank God! There you are, children! [_Trembling, WALBURGA throws herself
into her mother's arms._] Girlie, but what a fright you've given your old
mother.

[_A pause in which only the breathing of MRS. HASSENREUTER is heard._

WALBURGA

Forgive me, mama: I couldn't act differently.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Oh, no! One doesn't write letters containing such thoughts to one's own
mother. And especially not to a mother like me. If your soul is in pain
you know very well that you can always count on me for help and counsel.
I'm not a monster, and I was young myself once. But to threaten to drown
yourself ... and things like that ... no, that's all wrong. You shouldn't
have done that. Surely you agree with me, Mr. Spitta. And now this very
minute ... heavens, how you both look!... this very minute you must both
come home with me!--What's the matter with Mrs. John?

WALBURGA

Oh yes, help us! Don't forsake us! Take us with you, mama! Oh, I'm _so_
glad that you're here! I was just paralysed with fright!

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Very well, then. Come along. That would be the last straw if one had to
be prepared for such desperate follies from you, Mr. Spitta, or from this
child! At your age one should have courage. If everything doesn't go
quite smoothly you have no right to think of expedients by which one has
nothing to gain and everything to lose. We live but once, after all.

SPITTA

Oh, I have courage! And I'm not thinking of putting an end to myself as
one who is weary and defeated ... unless Walburga is refused to me. In
that case, to be sure, my determination is firm. It doesn't in the least
undermine my belief in myself or in my future that I am poor for the
present and have to take my dinner occasionally in the people's kitchen.
And I am sure Walburga is equally convinced that a day must come that
will indemnify us for all the dark and difficult hours of the present.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Life is long; and you're almost children to-day. It's not so very bad for
a student to have to take an occasional meal in the people's kitchen. It
would be much worse, however, for Walburga as a married woman. And I hope
for the sake of you both that you'll wait till something in the nature of
a hearthstone of your own with the necessary wood and coal can be
founded. In the meantime I've succeeded in persuading papa to a kind of
truce. It wasn't easy and it might have been impossible had not this
morning's mail brought the news of his definitive appointment as manager
of the theatre at Strassburg.

WALBURGA

[_Joyously._] Oh, mama, mama! That is a ray of sunshine, isn't it?

MRS. JOHN

[_Sits up with a start._] Bruno!

MRS. HASSENREUTER

[_Apologising._] Oh, we've wakened you, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

Is Bruno gone?

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Who? Who's Bruno?

MRS. JOHN

Why, Bruno! Don' you know Bruno?

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Ah, yes, yes! That's the name of your brother.

MRS. JOHN

Was I asleep?

SPITTA

Fast asleep. But you cried out aloud in your sleep just now.

MRS. JOHN

Did you see, Mr. Spitta, how them boys out in the yard threw stones at my
little Adelbert's wee grave? But I got after 'em, eh? An' they wasn't no
bad slaps neither what I dealt out.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

It seems that you've been dreaming of your first little boy who died,
Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

No, no; all that's fac'! I ain't been dreamin'. An' then I took little
Adelbert an' I went with him to the registrar's office.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

But if your little boy's no longer alive ... how could you ...

MRS. JOHN

Aw, when a little child is onct born, it don't matter if it's dead ...
it's still right inside o' its mother. Did you hear that dawg howlin'
behind the board fence? An' the moon had a big ring aroun' it! Bruno, you
ain' doin' right!

MRS. HASSENREUTER

[_Shaking MRS. JOHN._] Wake up, my good woman! Wake up, Mrs. John! You
are ill! Your husband ought to take you to see a physician.

MRS. JOHN

Bruno, you ain' doin' right! [_The bells are ringing again._] Ain't them
the bells?

MRS. HASSENREUTER

The service is over, Mrs. John.

MRS. JOHN

[_Wholly awake now, stares about her._] Why does I wake up? Why didn't
you take an ax when I was asleep an' knock me over the head with
it?--What did I say? Sh! Only don't tell a livin' soul a word, Mrs.
Hassenreuter.

[_She jumps up and arranges her hair by the help of many hairpins._

_Manager HASSENREUTER appears in the doorway._

HASSENREUTER

[_Starting at the sight of his family._]

"Behold, behold, Timotheus,
_Here_ are the cranes of Ibicus!"

Didn't you tell me there was a shipping agent's office in the
neighbourhood, Mrs. John?--[_To WALBURGA._] Ah, yes, my child! While,
with the frivolousness of youth you have been thinking of your pleasure
and nothing but your pleasure, your papa has been running about for three
whole hours again purely on business.--[_To SPITTA._] You wouldn't be in
such a hurry to establish a family, young man, if you had the least
suspicion how hard it is--a struggle from day to day--to get even the
wretched, mouldy necessary bit of daily bread for one's wife and child! I
trust it will never be your fate to be suddenly hurled one day, quite
penniless, into the underworld of Berlin and be obliged to struggle for a
naked livelihood for yourself and those dear to you, breast to breast
with others equally desperate, in subterranean holes and passages! But
you may all congratulate me! A week from now we will be in Strassburg.
[_MRS. HASSENREUTER, WALBURGA and SPITTA all press his hand._] Everything
else will be adjusted.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

You have fought an heroic battle for us during these past years, papa.
And you did it without stooping to anything unworthy.

HASSENREUTER

It was a fight like that of drowning men who struggle for planks in the
water. My noble costumes, made to body forth the dreams of poets, in what
dens of vice, on what reeking bodies have they not passed their
nights--_odi profanum vulgus_--only that a few pennies of rental might
clatter in my cashbox! But let us turn to more cheerful thoughts. The
freight waggon, alias the cart of Thespis is at the door in order to
effect the removal of our Penates to happier fields--[_Suddenly turning
to SPITTA._] My excellent Spitta, I demand your word of honour that, in
your so-called despair, you two do not commit some irreparable folly. In
return I promise to lend my ear to any utterances of yours characterised
by a modicum of good sense.--Finally: I've come to you, Mrs. John,
firstly because the officers bar all the exits and will permit no one to
go out; and secondly because I would like exceedingly to know why a man
like myself, at the very moment when his triumphant flag is fluttering in
the wind again, should have become the object of a malicious newspaper
report!

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Dear Harro, Mrs. John doesn't understand you.

HASSENREUTER

Aha! Then let us begin _ab ovo_. I have letters here [_he shows a bundle
of them_] one, two, three, five--about a dozen! In these letters unknown
but malicious individuals congratulate me upon an event which is said to
have taken place in my storage loft. I would pay no attention to these
communications were they not confirmed by a news item in the papers
according to which a newborn infant is said to have been found in the
loft of a costumer in the suburbs ... a costumer, forsooth! I would have
said nothing, I repeat, if this item had not perplexed me. Undoubtedly
there is a case of mistaken identity involved here. In spite of that, I
don't like to have the report stick to me. Especially since this cub of a
reporter speaks of the costumer as being a bankrupt manager of barn
stormers. Read it, mama: "The Stork Visits Costumer." I'll box that
fellow's ears! This evening my appointment at Strassburg is to be made
public in the papers and at the same time I am to be offered as a kind of
comic dessert _urbi et orbi_. As if it were not obvious that of all
curses that of being made ridiculous is the worst!

MRS. JOHN

You say there's policemen at the door downstairs, sir?

HASSENREUTER

Yes, and their watch is so close that the funeral procession of Mrs.
Knobbe's baby has been brought to a standstill. They won't even let the
little coffin and the horrid fellow from the burial society who is
carrying it go out to the carriage.

MRS. JOHN

What child's funeral was that?

HASSENREUTER

Don't you know? It's the little son of Mrs. Knobbe which was brought up
to me in so mysterious a way by two women and died almost under my very
eyes, probably of exhaustion. _ propos_ ...

MRS. JOHN

The Knobbe woman's child is dead?

HASSENREUTER

_ propos_, Mrs. John, I was going to say that you ought really to know
how the affair of those two half-crazy women who got hold of the child
finally ended?

MRS. JOHN

Well now, tell me, ain't it like the very finger of God that they didn't
take my little Adelbert an' that he didn't die?

HASSENREUTER

Just why? I don't understand the logic of that. On the other hand, I have
been asking myself whether the confused speeches of the Polish girl, the
theft committed in my loft, and the milk bottle which Quaquaro brought
down in a boot--whether all these things had not something to do with the
notice in the papers.

MRS. JOHN

No, there ain't no connection between them things. Has you seen Paul,
sir?

HASSENREUTER

Paul? Ah yes; that's your husband. Yes, yes. Indeed I saw him in
conversation with detective Puppe, who visited me too in connection with
the theft.

_JOHN enters._

JOHN

Well, Jette, wasn't I right? This here thing's happened soon enough!

MRS. JOHN

What's happened?

JOHN

D'you want me to go an' earn the thousand crowns' reward what's offered
accordin' to placards on the news pillars by the chief o' police's office
for denouncin' the criminal?

MRS. JOHN

How's that?

JOHN

Don't you know that all this manoeuverin' o' police an' detectives is
started on account o' Bruno?

MRS. JOHN

How so? Where? What is it? What's been started?

JOHN

The funeral's been stopped an' two o' the mourners--queer customers they
is, too--has been taken prisoner. Yes, sir! That's the pass things has
come to, Mr. Hassenreuter. I'm a man, sir, what's tied to a women as has
a brother what's bein' pursued by the criminal police an' by detectives
because he killed a woman not far from the river under a lilac bush.

HASSENREUTER

But my dear Mr. John: God forbid that that be true!

MRS. JOHN

That's a lie! My brother don' do nothin' like that.

JOHN

Aw, don' he though, Jette? Mr. Hassenreuter, I was sayin' the other day
what kind of a brother that is! [_He notices the bunch of lilacs and
takes it from the table._] Look at this here! That there monster's been
in my home! If he comes back I'll be the first one that'll take him,
bound hand an' foot, an' deliver him up to justice!

[_He searches through the whole room._

MRS. JOHN

You c'n tell dam' fools there's such a thing as justice. There ain't no
justice, not even in heaven. There wasn't a soul here. An' that bit o'
lilac I brought along from Hangelsberg where a big bush of it grows
behind your sister's house.

JOHN

Jette, you wasn't at my sister's at all. Quaquaro jus' told me that! They
proved that at headquarters. You was seen in the park by the river ...

MRS. JOHN

Lies!

JOHN

An' 'way out in the suburbs where you passed the night in a arbour!

MRS. JOHN

What? D'you come into your own house to tear everythin' into bits?

JOHN

All right! I ain't sorry that things has come to this. There ain't no
more secrets between us here. I foretold all that.

HASSENREUTER

[_Tense with interest._] Did that Polish girl who fought like a lioness
for Mrs. Knobbe's baby the other day ever show herself again?

JOHN

She's the very one. She's the one what they pulled out o' the water this
morning. An' I has to say it without bitin' my tongue off: Bruno Mechelke
took that girl's life.

HASSENREUTER

[_Quickly._] Then she was probably his mistress?

JOHN

Ask mother! I don' know about that! That's what I was scared of; that's
the reason I rather didn't come home at all no more, that my own wife was
loaded down with a crowd like that an' didn't have the strength to shake
it off.

HASSENREUTER

Come, children!

JOHN

Why so? You jus' stay!

MRS. JOHN

You don' has to go an' open the windows an' cry out everythin' for all
the world to hear! It's bad enough if fate's brought a misfortune like
that on us. Go on! Make a noise about it if you want to. But you won't
see me very soon again.

HASSENREUTER

And you mean to say that that ...

JOHN

That's jus' what I'll do! Jus' that! I'll call in anybody as wants to
know--outa the street, offa the hall, the carpenter outa the yard, the
boys an' the girls what takes their confirmation lessons--I'll call 'em
all an' I'll tell 'em what a woman got into on account o' her fool love
for her brother!

HASSENREUTER

And so that good-looking girl who laid claim to the child is actually
dead to-day?

JOHN

Maybe she was good-lookin'. I don' know nothin' about that, whether she
was pretty or ugly. But it's a fac' that she's lyin' in the morgue this
day.

MRS. JOHN

I c'n tell you what she was! She was a common, low wench! She had
dealin's with a Tyrolese feller that didn't want to have nothin' more to
do with her an' she had a child by him. An' she'd ha' liked to kill that
child while it was in her own womb. Then she came to fetch it with that
Kielbacke what's been in prison eighteen months as a professional
baby-killer. Whether she had any dealin's with Bruno, I don' know! Maybe
so an' maybe not! An' anyhow, I don' see how it concerns me what Bruno's
gone an' done.

HASSENREUTER

So you _did_ know the girl in question, Mrs. John?

MRS. JOHN

How so? I didn't know her a bit! I'm only sayin' what everybody as knows
says about that there girl.

HASSENREUTER

You're an honourable woman: you're an honourable man, Mr. John. This
matter with your wayward brother is terrible enough as a fact, but it
ought not seriously to undermine your married life. Stay honest and ...

JOHN

Not a bit of it! I don't stay with such people; not anywhere near 'em.
[_He brings his fist down on the table, taps at the walls, stamps on the
floor._] Listen to the crackin'! Listen, how the plasterin' comes
rumblin' down behind the wall-paper! Everything rotten here, everythin's
worm eaten! Everythin's undermined by varmint an' by rats an' by mice.
[_He see-saws on a loose plank in the floor._] Every thin' totters! Any
minute the whole business might crash down into the cellar.--[_He opens
the door._] Selma! Selma! I'm goin' to pull outa here before the whole
thing just falls together into a heap o' rubbish!

MRS. JOHN

What do you want o' Selma?

JOHN

Selma is goin' to take that child an' I'll go with 'em on the train an'
take it out to my sister.

MRS. JOHN

You'll hear from me if you try that! Oh, you jus' try it!

JOHN

Is my child to be brought up in surroundin's like this, an' maybe some
day be driven over the roofs with Bruno an' maybe end in the
penitentiary?

MRS. JOHN

[_Cries out at him._] That ain't your child at all! Y'understan'?

JOHN

'S that so? Well, we'll see if an honest man can't be master o' his own
child what's got a mother that's gone crazy an' is in the hands of a
crowd o' murderers. I'd like to see who's in the right there an' who's
the stronger. Selma!

MRS. JOHN

I'll scream! I'll tear open the windows! Mrs. Hassenreuter, they wants to
rob a mother o' her child! That's my right that I'm the mother o' my
child! Ain't that my right? Ain't that so, Mrs. Hassenreuter? They're
surroundin' me! They wants to rob me o' my rights! Ain't it goin' to
belong to me what I picked up like refuse, what was lyin' on rags
half-dead, an' I had to rub it an' knead it all I could before it began
to breathe an' come to life slowly? If it wasn't for me, it would ha'
been covered with earth these three weeks!

HASSENREUTER

Mr. John, to play the part of an arbitrator between married people is not
ordinarily my function. It's too thankless a task and one's experiences
are, as a rule, too unhappy. But you should not permit your feeling of
honour, justly wounded as, no doubt, it is, to hurry you into acts that
are rash. For, after all, your wife is not responsible for her brother's
act. Let her have the child! Don't increase the misery of it all by such
hardness toward your wife as must hurt her most cruelly and
unnecessarily.

MRS. JOHN

Paul, that child's like as if it was cut outa my own flesh! I bought that
child with my blood. It ain't enough that all the world's after me an'
wants to take it away from me; now you gotta join 'em an' do the same!
That's the thanks a person gets! Why, it's like a pack o' hungry wolves
aroun' me. You c'n kill me! But you can't touch my baby!

JOHN

I comes home, Mr. Hassenreuter, only this mornin'. I comes home with all
my tools on the train, jolly as c'n be. I broke off all my connections in
Hamburg. Even if you don' earn so much, says I to myself, you'd rather be
with your family, an' take up your child in your arms a little, or maybe
take it on your knee a little! That was about the way I was thinkin'!

MRS. JOHN

Paul! Here, Paul! [_She goes close up to him._] You c'n tear my heart out
if you want to!

[_She stares long at him, then runs behind the partition, whence her
loud weeping is heard._

_SELMA enters from the hall. She is dressed in mourning garments and
carries a little wreath in her hand._

SELMA

What is I to do? You called me, Mr. John.

JOHN

Put on your cloak, Selma. Ax your mother if you c'n go an' take a trip
with me to Hangelsberg. You'll earn a bit o' money doin' it. All you
gotta do is to take my child on your arm an' come along with me.

SELMA

No, I ain' goin' to touch that child no more.

JOHN

Why not?

SELMA

No; I'm afraid, Mr. John! I'm that scared at the way mama an' the police
lieutenant screamed at me.

MRS. JOHN

[_Appears._] Why did they scream at you?

SELMA

[_Crying vociferously._] Officer Schierke even slapped my face.

MRS. JOHN

Well, I'll see about that ... he oughta try that again.

SELMA

I can't tell why that Polish girl took my little brother away. If I'd
known that my little brother was goin' to die, I'd ha' jumped at her
throat first. Now little Gundofried's coffin stands on the stairs. I
believe mama has convulsions an' is lyin' down in Quaquaro's alcove. An'
me they wants to take to the charity organisation, Mrs. John.

[_She weeps._

MRS. JOHN

Then you c'n be reel happy. They can't treat you worse'n you was treated
at home.

SELMA

An' I gotta go to court! An' maybe they'll take me to gaol!

MRS. JOHN

On account o' what?

SELMA

Because they says I took the child what the Polish girl had up in the
loft an' carried it down to you.

HASSENREUTER

So a child actually was born up there.

SELMA

Certainly.

HASSENREUTER

In _whose_ loft?

SELMA

Why, where them actors lives! It ain't none o' my business! How is I to
know anythin' about it? All I c'n say is ...

MRS. JOHN

You better hurry on about your business now, Selma! You got a clean
conscience! You don' has to care for what people jabber.

SELMA

An' I don' want to betray nothin' neither, Mrs. John.

JOHN

[_Grasps SELMA, who is about to run away, and holds her fast._] Naw, you
ain't goin'! Here you stays! The truth! "I don' want to betray nothin',"
you says. You heard that, too, Mrs. Hassenreuter? An' Mr. Spitta an' the
young lady here heard it too. The truth! You ain't goin' to leave this
here spot before I don' know the rights o' this matter about Bruno an'
his mistress, an' if you people did away with that child!

MRS. JOHN

Paul, I swear before God that I ain't done away with it!

JOHN

Well ...? Out with what you know, girl! I been seein' for a long time
that there's been some secret scheming between you an' my wife. There
ain't no use no more in all that winkin' an' noddin'. Is that child dead
or alive?

SELMA

No, that child is alive all right.

HASSENREUTER

The one, you mean, that you carried down here under your apron or in some
such way?

JOHN

If it's dead you c'n be sure that you an' Bruno'll both be made a head
shorter'n you are!

SELMA

I'm tellin' you the child is alive.

HASSENREUTER

But you said at first that you hadn't brought down any child at all.

JOHN

An' you pretend to know nothin' o' that whole business, mother? [_MRS.
JOHN stares at him; SELMA gazes helplessly and confusedly at MRS. JOHN._]
Mother, you got rid o' the child o' Bruno an' that Polish wench an' then,
when people came after it, you went an' substitooted that little crittur
o' Knobbe's.

WALBURGA

[_Very pale and conquering her repugnance._] Tell me, Mrs. John, what
happened on that day when I so foolishly took flight up into the loft at
papa's coming? I'll explain that to you later, papa. On that occasion, as
became clear to me later, I saw the Polish girl twice: first with Mrs.
John and then with her brother.

HASSENREUTER

You, Walburga?

WALBURGA

Yes, papa. Alice Rtterbusch was with you that day, and I had made an
engagement to meet Erich here. He came to see you finally but failed to
meet me because I kept hidden.

HASSENREUTER

I can't say that I have any recollection of that.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

[_To her husband._] The girl has really passed more than one sleepless
night on account of this matter.

HASSENREUTER

Well, Mrs. John, if you are inclined to attach any weight to the opinion
of a former jurist who exchanged the law for an artistic career only
after having been plucked in his bar examination--in that case let me
assure you that, under the circumstances, ruthless frankness will prove
your best defense.

JOHN

Jette, where did you put that there child? The head detective told me--I
jus' remember it now--that they're still huntin' aroun' for the child o'
the dead woman! Jette, for God's sake, don't you have 'em suspect you o'
layin' hands on that there newborn child jus' to get the proofs o' your
brother's rascality outa the world!

MRS. JOHN

_Me_ lay hands on little Adelbert, Paul?

JOHN

Nobody ain't talkin' o' Adelbert here. [_To SELMA._] I'll knock your head
off for you if you don' tell me this minute what's become o' the child o'
Bruno an' the Polish girl!

SELMA

Why, it's behind your own partition, Mr. John!

JOHN

Where is it, Jette?

MRS. JOHN

I ain't goin' to tell that.

_The child begins to cry._

JOHN

[_To SELMA._] The truth! Or I'll turn you over to the police,
y'understan'? See this rope? I'll tie you hand and foot!

SELMA

[_Involuntarily, in the extremity of her fear._] It's cryin' now! You
know that child well enough. Mr. John.

JOHN

Me?

[_Utterly at sea he looks first at SELMA, then at HASSENREUTER.
Suddenly a suspicion flashes upon him as he turns his gaze upon his
wife. He believes that he is beginning to understand and wavers._

MRS. JOHN

Don't you let a low down lie like that take you in, Paul! It's all
invented by the fine mother that girl has outa spite! Paul, why d'you
look at me so?

SELMA

That's low of you, mother John, that you wants to make me out so bad now.
Then I won't be careful neither not to let nothin' out! You know all
right that I carried the young lady's child down here an' put it in the
nice, clean bed. I c'n swear to that! I c'n take my oath on that!

MRS. JOHN

Lies! Lies! You says that my child ain't my child!

SELMA

Why, you ain't had no child at all, Mrs. John!

MRS. JOHN

[_Embraces her husband's knees._] Oh, that ain't true at all!

JOHN

You leave me alone, Henrietta! Don' dirty me with your hands!

MRS. JOHN

Paul, I couldn't do no different. I had to do that, I was deceived myself
an' then I told you about it in my letter to Hamburg an' then you was so
happy an' I couldn't disappoint you an' I thought: it's gotta be! We c'n
has a child this way too an' then ...

JOHN

[_With ominous calmness._] Lemme think it over, Jette. [_He goes to the
chest of drawers, opens a drawer and flings the baby linen and baby
dresses that he finds therein into the middle of the room._] C'n anybody
understan' how week after week, an' month after month, all day long an'
half the nights she could ha' worked on this trash till her fingers was
bloody?

MRS. JOHN

[_Gathers up the linen and the dresses in insane haste and hides them
carefully in the table drawer and elsewhere._] Paul, don' do that! You
c'n do anythin' else! It's like tearin' the last rag offa my naked body!

JOHN

[_Stops, grasps his forehead and sinks into a chair._] If that's true,
mother, I'll be too ashamed to show my face again.

[_He seems to sink into himself, crosses his arms over his head and
hides his face._

HASSENREUTER

Mrs. John, how could you permit yourself to be forced into a course of so
much error and deception? You've entangled yourself in the most frightful
way! Come, children! Unhappily there is nothing more for us to do here.

JOHN

[_Gets up._] You might as well take me along with you, sir.

MRS. JOHN

Go on! Go on! I don' need you!

JOHN

[_Turning to her, coldly._] So you bargained for that there kid someway
an' when its mother wanted it back you got Bruno to kill her?

MRS. JOHN

You ain't no husband o' mine! How could that be! You been bought by the
police! You took money to give me up to my death! Go on, Paul, you ain't
human even! You got poison in your eyes an' teeth like wolves'! Go on an'
whistle so they'll come an' take me! Go on, I says! Now I see the kind o'
man you is an' I'll despise you to the day o' judgment!

[_She is about to run from the room when policeman SCHIERKE and
QUAQUARO appear._

SCHIERKE

Hold on! Nobody can't get outa this room.

JOHN

Come right in, Emil! You c'n come in reel quiet, officer. Everything in
order here an' all right.

QUAQUARO

Don't get excited, Paul! This here don' concern you!

JOHN

[_With rising rage._] Did you laugh, Emil?

QUAQUARO

Man alive, why should I? Only Mr. Schierke is to take that there little
one to the orphan house in a cab.

SCHIERKE

Yessir! That's right. Where is the child?

JOHN

How is I to know where all the brats offa junk heaps that witches use in
their doin's gets to in the end? Watch the chimney! Maybe it flew outa
there on a broomstick.

MRS. JOHN

Paul!--Now it _ain't_ to live! No, outa spite! Now it don' _has_ to live!
Now it's gotta go down under the ground with me!

[_With lightning-like rapidity she has run behind the partition and
reappears at once with the child and makes for the door. HASSENREUTER
and SPITTA throw themselves in front of the desperate woman, intent
on saving the child._

HASSENREUTER

Stop! I'll interfere now! I have the right to do so at this point!
Whomever the little boy may belong to--so much the worse if its mother
has been murdered--it was born on my premises! Forward, Spitta! Fight for
it, my boy! Here your propensities come properly into play! Go on!
Careful! That's it! Bravo! Be as careful as though it were the Christ
child! Bravo! That's it! You yourself are at liberty, Mrs. John. We don't
restrain you. You must only leave us the little boy.

_MRS. JOHN rushes madly out._

SCHIERKE

Here you stays!

MRS. HASSENREUTER

The woman is desperate. Stop her! Hold her!

JOHN

[_With a sudden change._] Look out for mother! Mother! Stop her! Catch
hold o' her! Mother! Mother!

_SELMA, SCHIERKE and JOHN hurry after MRS. JOHN. SPITTA,
HASSENREUTER, MRS. HASSENREUTER and WALBURGA busy themselves about
the child, which lies on the table._

HASSENREUTER

[_Carefully wrapping the infant._] The horrible woman may be desperate
for all I care! But for that reason she needn't destroy the child.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

But, dearest papa, isn't it quite evident that the woman has pinned her
love, silly to the point of madness as it is, to this very infant?
Thoughtless and harsh words may actually drive the unhappy creature to
her death.

HASSENREUTER

I used no harsh words, mama.

SPITTA

An unmistakable feeling assures me that the child has only now lost its
mother.

QUAQUARO

That's true. Its father ain't aroun' an' don' want to have nothin' to do
with it. He got married yesterday to the widow of a man who owned a
merry-go-roun'! Its mother was no better'n she should be! An' if Mrs.
Kielbacke was to take care of it, it'd die like ten outa every dozen what
she boards. The way things has come aroun' now--it'll have to die too.

HASSENREUTER

Unless our Father above who sees all things has differently determined.

QUAQUARO

D'you mean Paul, the mason? Not now! No sir! I knows him! He's a ticklish
customer where his honour is concerned.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Just look how the child lies there! It's incomprehensible! Fine
linen--even lace! Neat and sweet as a doll! It makes one's heart ache to
think how suddenly it has become an utterly forlorn and forsaken orphan.

SPITTA

Where I judge in Israel ...

HASSENREUTER

You would erect a monument to Mrs. John! It may well be that many an
element of the heroic, much that is hiddenly meritorious, lurks in these
obscure fates and struggles. But not even Kohlhaas of Kohlhaasenbrck
with his mad passion for justice could fight his way through! Let us use
practical Christianity! Perhaps we could permanently befriend the child.

QUAQUARO

You better keep your hands offa that!

HASSENREUTER

Why?

QUAQUARO

Unless you're crazy to get rid o' money an' are anxious for all the
worries an' the troubles you'll have with the public charities an' the
police an' the courts.

HASSENREUTER

For such things I have no time to spare, I confess.

SPITTA

Won't you admit that a genuinely tragic fatality has been active here?

HASSENREUTER

Tragedy is not confined to any class of society. I always told you that!

_SELMA, breathless, opens the outer door._

SELMA

Mr. John! Mr. John! Oh, Mr. John!

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Mr. John isn't here. What do you want, Selma?

SELMA

Mr. John, you're to come out on the street!

HASSENREUTER

Quiet, quiet now! What is the matter?

SELMA

[_Breathlessly._] Your wife ... your wife ... The whole street's crowded
... 'buses an' tram-cars ... nobody can't get through ... her arms is
stretched out ... your wife's lyin' on her face down there.

MRS. HASSENREUTER

Why, what has happened?

SELMA

Lord! Lord God in Heaven! Mrs. John has killed herself.

THE END

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