JEAN. No, not I, but the people.
JULIA. What? That I am fond of the valet?
JEAN. I am not at all conceited, but such things have happened—and to the people nothing is sacred.
JULIA. You are an aristocrat, I think.
JEAN. Yes, I am.
JULIA. And I am stepping down—
JEAN. Take my advice, Miss Julia, don't step down. Nobody will believe you did it on purpose. The people will always say that you fell down.
JULIA. I think better of the people than you do. Come and see if I am not right. Come along! [She ogles him.]
JEAN. You're mighty queer, do you know!
JULIA. Perhaps. But so are you. And for that matter, everything is queer. Life, men, everything—just a mush that floats on top of the water until it sinks, sinks down! I have a dream that comes back to me ever so often. And just now I am reminded of it. I have climbed to the top of a column and sit there without being able to tell how to get down again. I get dizzy when I look down, and I must get down, but I haven't the courage to jump off. I cannot hold on, and I am longing to fall, and yet I don't fall. But there will be no rest for me until I get down, no rest until I get down, down on the ground. And if I did reach the ground, I should want to get still further down, into the ground itself—Have you ever felt like that?
JEAN. No, my dream is that I am lying under a tall tree in a dark wood. I want to get up, up to the top, so that I can look out over the smiling landscape, where the sun is shining, and so that I can rob the nest in which lie the golden eggs. And I climb and climb, but the trunk is so thick and smooth, and it is so far to the first branch. But I know that if I could only reach that first branch, then I should go right on to the top as on a ladder. I have not reached it yet, but I am going to, if it only be in my dreams.
JULIA. Here I am chattering to you about dreams! Come along! Only into the park! [She offers her arm to him, and they go toward the door.]
JEAN. We must sleep on nine midsummer flowers to-night, Miss Julia—- then our dreams will come true.
[They turn around in the doorway, and JEAN puts one hand up to his eyes.]
JULIA. Let me see what you have got in your eye.
JEAN. Oh, nothing—just some dirt—it will soon be gone.
JULIA. It was my sleeve that rubbed against it. Sit down and let me help you. [Takes him by the arm and makes him sit down; takes hold of his head and bends it backwards; tries to get out the dirt with a corner of her handkerchief] Sit still now, absolutely still! [Slaps him on the hand] Well, can't you do as I say? I think you are shaking—-a big, strong fellow like you! [Feels his biceps] And with such arms!
JEAN. [Ominously] Miss Julia!
JULIA. Yes, Monsieur Jean.
JEAN. Attention! Je ne suis qu'un homme.
JULIA. Can't you sit still!—There now! Now it's gone. Kiss my hand now, and thank me.
JEAN. [Rising] Miss Julia, listen to me. Christine has gone to bed now—Won't you listen to me?
JULIA. Kiss my hand first.
JEAN. Listen to me!
JULIA. Kiss my hand first!
JEAN. All right, but blame nobody but yourself!
JULIA. For what?
JEAN. For what? Are you still a mere child at twenty-five? Don't you know that it is dangerous to play with fire?
JULIA. Not for me. I am insured.
JEAN. [Boldly] No, you are not. And even if you were, there are inflammable surroundings to be counted with.
JULIA. That's you, I suppose?
JEAN. Yes. Not because I am I, but because I am a young man—
JULIA. Of handsome appearance—what an incredible conceit! A Don Juan, perhaps. Or a Joseph? On my soul, I think you are a Joseph!
JEAN. Do you?
JULIA. I fear it almost.
[JEAN goes boldly up to her and takes her around the waist in order to kiss her.]
JULIA. [Gives him a cuff on the ear] Shame!
JEAN. Was that in play or in earnest?
JULIA. In earnest.
JEAN. Then you were in earnest a moment ago also. Your playing is too serious, and that's the dangerous thing about it. Now I am tired of playing, and I ask to be excused in order to resume my work. The count wants his boots to be ready for him, and it is after midnight already.
JULIA. Put away the boots.
JEAN. No, it's my work, which I am bound to do. But I have not undertaken to be your playmate. It's something I can never become—- I hold myself too good for it.
JULIA. You're proud!
JEAN. In some ways, and not in others.
JULIA. Have you ever been in love?
JEAN. We don't use that word. But I have been fond of a lot of girls, and once I was taken sick because I couldn't have the one I wanted: sick, you know, like those princes in the Arabian Nights who cannot eat or drink for sheer love.
JULIA. Who was it?
[JEAN remains silent.]
JULIA. Who was it?
JEAN. You cannot make me tell you.
JULIA. If I ask you as an equal, ask you as—a friend: who was it?
JEAN. It was you.
JULIA. [Sits down] How funny!
JEAN. Yes, as you say—it was ludicrous. That was the story, you see, which I didn't want to tell you a while ago. But now I am going to tell it. Do you know how the world looks from below—no, you don't. No more than do hawks and falcons, of whom we never see the back because they are always floating about high up in the sky. I lived in the cotter's hovel, together with seven other children, and a pig—out there on the grey plain, where there isn't a single tree. But from our windows I could see the wall around the count's park, and apple-trees above it. That was the Garden of Eden, and many fierce angels were guarding it with flaming swords. Nevertheless I and some other boys found our way to the Tree of Life—now you despise me?
JULIA. Oh, stealing apples is something all boys do.
JEAN. You may say so now, but you despise me nevertheless. However—- once I got into the Garden of Eden with my mother to weed the onion beds. Near by stood a Turkish pavillion, shaded by trees and covered with honeysuckle. I didn't know what it was used for, but I had never seen a more beautiful building. People went in and came out again, and one day the door was left wide open. I stole up and saw the walls covered with pictures of kings and emperors, and the windows were hung with red, fringed curtains—now you know what I mean. I—[breaks off a lilac sprig and holds it under MISS JULIA's nose]—I had never been inside the manor, and I had never seen anything but the church—and this was much finer. No matter where my thoughts ran, they returned always—to that place. And gradually a longing arose within me to taste the full pleasure of—enfin! I sneaked in, looked and admired. Then I heard somebody coming. There was only one way out for fine people, but for me there was another, and I could do nothing else but choose it.
[JULIA, who has taken the lilac sprig, lets it drop on the table.]
JEAN. Then I started to run, plunged through a hedge of raspberry bushes, chased right across a strawberry plantation, and came out on the terrace where the roses grow. There I caught sight of a pink dress and pair of white stockings—that was you! I crawled under a pile of weeds—right into it, you know—into stinging thistles and wet, ill-smelling dirt. And I saw you walking among the roses, and I thought: if it be possible for a robber to get into heaven and dwell with the angels, then it is strange that a cotter's child, here on God's own earth, cannot get into the park and play with the count's daughter.
JULIA. [Sentimentally] Do you think all poor children have the same thoughts as you had in this case?
JEAN. [Hesitatingly at first; then with conviction] If all poor—- yes—-of course. Of course!
JULIA. It must be a dreadful misfortune to be poor.
JEAN. [In a tone of deep distress and with rather exaggerated emphasis] Oh, Miss Julia! Oh!—A dog may lie on her ladyship's sofa; a horse may have his nose patted by the young lady's hand, but a servant—[changing his tone]—oh well, here and there you meet one made of different stuff, and he makes a way for himself in the world, but how often does it happen?—However, do you know what I did? I jumped into the mill brook with my clothes on, and was pulled out, and got a licking. But the next Sunday, when my father and the rest of the people were going over to my grandmother's, I fixed it so that I could stay at home. And then I washed myself with soap and hot water, and put on my best clothes, and went to church, where I could see you. I did see you, and went home determined to die. But I wanted to die beautifully and pleasantly, without any pain. And then I recalled that it was dangerous to sleep under an elder bush. We had a big one that was in full bloom. I robbed it of all its flowers, and then I put them in the big box where the oats were kept and lay down in them. Did you ever notice the smoothness of oats? Soft to the touch as the skin of the human body! However, I pulled down the lid and closed my eyes—fell asleep and was waked up a very sick boy. But I didn't die, as you can see. What I wanted—that's more than I can tell. Of course, there was not the least hope of winning you—-but you symbolised the hopelessness of trying to get out of the class into which I was born.
JULIA. You narrate splendidly, do you know! Did you ever go to school?
JEAN. A little. But I have read a lot of novels and gone to the theatre a good deal. And besides, I have listened to the talk of better-class people, and from that I have learned most of all.
JULIA. Do you stand around and listen to what we are saying?
JEAN. Of course! And I have heard a lot, too, when I was on the box of the carriage, or rowing the boat. Once I heard you, Miss Julia, and one of your girl friends—
JULIA. Oh!—What was it you heard then?
JEAN. Well, it wouldn't be easy to repeat. But I was rather surprised, and I couldn't understand where you had learned all those words. Perhaps, at bottom, there isn't quite so much difference as they think between one kind of people and another.
JULIA. You ought to be ashamed of yourself! We don't live as you do when we are engaged.
JEAN. [Looking hard at her] Is it so certain?—Well, Miss Julia, it won't pay to make yourself out so very innocent to me—-
JULIA. The man on whom I bestowed my love was a scoundrel.
JEAN. That's what you always say—afterwards.
JEAN. Always, I believe, for I have heard the same words used several times before, on similar occasions.
JULIA. What occasions?
JEAN. Like the one of which we were speaking. The last time—
JULIA. [Rising] Stop! I don't want to hear any more!
JEAN. Nor did she—curiously enough! Well, then I ask permission to go to bed.
JULIA. [Gently] Go to bed on Midsummer Eve?
JEAN. Yes, for dancing with that mob out there has really no attraction for me.
JULIA. Get the key to the boat and take me out on the lake—I want to watch the sunrise.
JEAN. Would that be wise?
JULIA. It sounds as if you were afraid of your reputation.
JEAN. Why not? I don't care to be made ridiculous, and I don't care to be discharged without a recommendation, for I am trying to get on in the world. And then I feel myself under a certain obligation to Christine.
JULIA. So it's Christine now
JEAN. Yes, but it's you also—Take my advice and go to bed!
JULIA. Am I to obey you?
JEAN. For once—and for your own sake! The night is far gone. Sleepiness makes us drunk, and the head grows hot. Go to bed! And besides—if I am not mistaken—-I can hear the crowd coming this way to look for me. And if we are found together here, you are lost!
CHORUS. [Is heard approaching]: Through the fields come two ladies a-walking, Treederee-derallah, treederee-derah. And one has her shoes full of water, Treederee-derallah-lah.
They're talking of hundreds of dollars, Treederee-derallah, treederee-derah. But have not between them a dollar Treederee-derallah-lah.
This wreath I give you gladly, Treederee-derallah, treederee-derah. But love another madly, Treederee-derallah-lah.
JULIA. I know the people, and I love them, just as they love me. Let them come, and you'll see.
JEAN. No, Miss Julia, they don't love you. They take your food and spit at your back. Believe me. Listen to me—can't you hear what they are singing?—No, don't pay any attention to it!
JULIA. [Listening] What is it they are singing?
JEAN. Oh, something scurrilous. About you and me.
JULIA. How infamous! They ought to be ashamed! And the treachery of it!
JEAN. The mob is always cowardly. And in such a fight as this there is nothing to do but to run away.
JULIA. Run away? Where to? We cannot get out. And we cannot go into Christine's room.
JEAN. Oh, we cannot? Well, into my room, then! Necessity knows no law. And you can trust me, for I am your true and frank and respectful friend.
JULIA. But think only-think if they should look for you in there!
JEAN. I shall bolt the door. And if they try to break it I open, I'll shoot!—Come! [Kneeling before her] Come!
JULIA. [Meaningly] And you promise me—?
JEAN. I swear!
[MISS JULIA goes quickly out to the right. JEAN follows her eagerly.]
The peasants enter. They are decked out in their best and carry flowers in their hats. A fiddler leads them. On the table they place a barrel of small-beer and a keg of "braennvin," or white Swedish whiskey, both of them decorated with wreathes woven out of leaves. First they drink. Then they form in ring and sing and dance to the melody heard before:
"Through the fields come two ladies a-walking."
The dance finished, they leave singing.
JULIA. [Enters alone. On seeing the disorder in the kitchen, she claps her hands together. Then she takes out a powder-puff and begins to powder her face.]
JEAN. [Enters in a state of exaltation] There you see! And you heard, didn't you? Do you think it possible to stay here?
JULIA. No, I don't think so. But what are we to do?
JEAN. Run away, travel, far away from here.
JULIA. Travel? Yes-but where?
JEAN. To Switzerland, the Italian lakes—you have never been there?
JULIA. No. Is the country beautiful?
JEAN. Oh! Eternal summer! Orange trees! Laurels! Oh!
JULIA. But then-what are we to do down there?
JEAN. I'll start a hotel, everything first class, including the customers?
JEAN. That's the life, I tell you! Constantly new faces and new languages. Never a minute free for nerves or brooding. No trouble about what to do—for the work is calling to be done: night and day, bells that ring, trains that whistle, 'busses that come and go; and gold pieces raining on the counter all the time. That's the life for you!
JULIA. Yes, that is life. And I?
JEAN. The mistress of everything, the chief ornament of the house. With your looks—and your manners—oh, success will be assured! Enormous! You'll sit like a queen in the office and keep the slaves going by the touch of an electric button. The guests will pass in review before your throne and timidly deposit their treasures on your table. You cannot imagine how people tremble when a bill is presented to them—I'll salt the items, and you'll sugar them with your sweetest smiles. Oh, let us get away from here—[pulling a time-table from his pocket]—at once, with the next train! We'll be in Malmoe at 6.30; in Hamburg at 8.40 to-morrow morning; in Frankfort and Basel a day later. And to reach Como by way of the St. Gotthard it will take us—let me see—three days. Three days!
JULIA. All that is all right. But you must give me some courage— Jean. Tell me that you love me. Come and take me in your arms.
JEAN. [Reluctantly] I should like to—but I don't dare. Not in this house again. I love you—beyond doubt—or, can you doubt it, Miss Julia?
JULIA. [With modesty and true womanly feeling] Miss? Call me Julia. Between us there can be no barriers here after. Call me Julia!
JEAN. [Disturbed] I cannot! There will be barriers between us as long as we stay in this house—there is the past, and there is the count—-and I have never met another person for whom I felt such respect. If I only catch sight of his gloves on a chair I feel small. If I only hear that bell up there, I jump like a shy horse. And even now, when I see his boots standing there so stiff and perky, it is as if something made my back bend. [Kicking at the boots] It's nothing but superstition and tradition hammered into us from childhood—but it can be as easily forgotten again. Let us only get to another country, where they have a republic, and you'll see them bend their backs double before my liveried porter. You see, backs have to be bent, but not mine. I wasn't born to that kind of thing. There's better stuff in me—character—and if I only get hold of the first branch, you'll see me do some climbing. To-day I am a valet, but next year I'll be a hotel owner. In ten years I can live on the money I have made, and then I'll go to Roumania and get myself an order. And I may—note well that I say may—end my days as a count.
JULIA. Splendid, splendid!
JEAN. Yes, in Roumania the title of count can be had for cash, and so you'll be a countess after all. My countess!
JULIA. What do I care about all I now cast behind me! Tell me that you love me: otherwise—yes, what am I otherwise?
JEAN. I will tell you so a thousand times—later. But not here. And above all, no sentimentality, or everything will be lost. We must look at the matter in cold blood, like sensible people. [Takes out a cigar, cuts of the point, and lights it] Sit down there now, and I'll sit here, and then we'll talk as if nothing had happened.
JULIA. [In despair] Good Lord! Have you then no feelings at all?
JEAN. I? No one is more full of feeling than I am. But I know how to control myself.
JULIA. A while ago you kissed my shoe—and now!
JEAN. [Severely] Yes, that was then. Now we have other things to think of.
JULIA. Don't speak harshly to me!
JEAN. No, but sensibly. One folly has been committed—don't let us commit any more! The count may be here at any moment, and before he comes our fate must be settled. What do you think of my plans for the future? Do you approve of them?
JULIA. They seem acceptable, on the whole. But there is one question: a big undertaking of that kind will require a big capital have you got it?
JEAN. [Chewing his cigar] I? Of course! I have my expert knowledge, my vast experience, my familiarity with several languages. That's the very best kind of capital, I should say.
JULIA. But it won't buy you a railroad ticket even.
JEAN. That's true enough. And that is just why I am looking for a backer to advance the needful cash.
JULIA. Where could you get one all of a sudden?
JEAN. It's for you to find him if you want to become my partner.
JULIA. I cannot do it, and I have nothing myself. [Pause.]
JEAN. Well, then that's off—
JEAN. Everything remains as before.
JULIA. Do you think I am going to stay under this roof as your concubine? Do you think I'll let the people point their fingers at me? Do you think I can look my father in the face after this? No, take me away from here, from all this humiliation and disgrace!— Oh, what have I done? My God, my God! [Breaks into tears.]
JEAN. So we have got around to that tune now!—What you have done? Nothing but what many others have done before you.
JULIA. [Crying hysterically] And now you're despising me!—I'm falling, I'm falling!
JEAN. Fall down to me, and I'll lift you up again afterwards.
JULIA. What horrible power drew me to you? Was it the attraction which the strong exercises on the weak—the one who is rising on one who is falling? Or was it love? This love! Do you know what love is?
JEAN. I? Well, I should say so! Don't you think I have been there before?
JULIA. Oh, the language you use, and the thoughts you think!
JEAN. Well, that's the way I was brought up, and that's the way I am. Don't get nerves now and play the exquisite, for now one of us is just as good as the other. Look here, my girl, let me treat you to a glass of something superfine. [He opens the table-drawer, takes out the wine bottle and fills up two glasses that have already been used.]
JULIA. Where did you get that wine?
JEAN. In the cellar.
JULIA. My father's Burgundy!
JEAN. Well, isn't it good enough for the son-in-law?
JULIA. And I am drinking beer—I!
JEAN. It shows merely that I have better taste than you.
JEAN. Do you mean to tell on me?
JULIA. Oh, oh! The accomplice of a house thief! Have I been drunk, or have I been dreaming all this night? Midsummer Eve! The feast of innocent games—-
JULIA. [Walking back and forth] Can there be another human being on earth so unhappy as I am at this moment'
JEAN. But why should you be? After such a conquest? Think of Christine in there. Don't you think she has feelings also?
JULIA. I thought so a while ago, but I don't think so any longer. No, a menial is a menial—
JEAN. And a whore a whore!
JULIA. [On her knees, with folded hands] O God in heaven, make an end of this wretched life! Take me out of the filth into which I am sinking! Save me! Save me!
JEAN. I cannot deny that I feel sorry for you. When I was lying among the onions and saw you up there among the roses—I'll tell you now—I had the same nasty thoughts that all boys have.
JULIA. And you who wanted to die for my sake!
JEAN. Among the oats. That was nothing but talk.
JULIA. Lies in other words!
JEAN. [Beginning to feel sleepy] Just about. I think I read the story in a paper, and it was about a chimney-sweep who crawled into a wood-box full of lilacs because a girl had brought suit against him for not supporting her kid—-
JULIA. So that's the sort you are—
JEAN. Well, I had to think of something—for it's the high-faluting stuff that the women bite on.
JULIA. And now you have seen the back of the hawk—
JEAN. Well, I don't know—
JULIA. And I was to be the first branch—
JEAN. But the branch was rotten—
JULIA. I was to be the sign in front of the hotel—
JEAN. And I the hotel—
JULIA. Sit at your counter, and lure your customers, and doctor your bills—
JEAN. No, that I should have done myself—
JULIA. That a human soul can be so steeped in dirt!
JEAN. Well, wash it off!
JULIA. You lackey, you menial, stand up when I talk to you!
JEAN. You lackey-love, you mistress of a menial—shut up and get out of here! You're the right one to come and tell me that I am vulgar. People of my kind would never in their lives act as vulgarly as you have acted to-night. Do you think any servant girl would go for a man as you did? Did you ever see a girl of my class throw herself at anybody in that way? I have never seen the like of it except among beasts and prostitutes.
JULIA. [Crushed] That's right: strike me, step on me—I haven't deserved any better! I am a wretched creature. But help me! Help me out of this, if there be any way to do so!
JEAN. [In a milder tone] I don't want to lower myself by a denial of my share in the honour of seducing. But do you think a person in my place would have dared to raise his eyes to you, if the invitation to do so had not come from yourself? I am still sitting here in a state of utter surprise—
JULIA. And pride—
JEAN. Yes, why not? Although I must confess that the victory was too easy to bring with it any real intoxication.
JULIA. Strike me some more!
JEAN. [Rising] No! Forgive me instead what I have been saying. I don't want to strike one who is disarmed, and least of all a lady. On one hand I cannot deny that it has given me pleasure to discover that what has dazzled us below is nothing but cat-gold; that the hawk is simply grey on the back also; that there is powder on the tender cheek; that there may be black borders on the polished nails; and that the handkerchief may be dirty, although it smells of perfume. But on the other hand it hurts me to have discovered that what I was striving to reach is neither better nor more genuine. It hurts me to see you sinking so low that you are far beneath your own cook—it hurts me as it hurts to see the Fall flowers beaten down by the rain and turned into mud.
JULIA. You speak as if you were already above me?
JEAN. Well, so I am. Don't you see: I could have made a countess of you, but you could never make me a count.
JULIA. But I am born of a count, and that's more than you can ever achieve.
JEAN. That's true. But I might be the father of counts—if—
JULIA. But you are a thief—and I am not.
JEAN. Thief is not the worst. There are other kinds still farther down. And then, when I serve in a house, I regard myself in a sense as a member of the family, as a child of the house, and you don't call it theft when children pick a few of the berries that load down the vines. [His passion is aroused once more] Miss Julia, you are a magnificent woman, and far too good for one like me. You were swept along by a spell of intoxication, and now you want to cover up your mistake by making yourself believe that you are in love with me. Well, you are not, unless possibly my looks might tempt you—-in which case your love is no better than mine. I could never rest satisfied with having you care for nothing in me but the mere animal, and your love I can never win.
JULIA. Are you so sure of that?
JEAN. You mean to say that it might be possible? That I might love you: yes, without doubt—for you are beautiful, refined, [goes up to her and takes hold of her hand] educated, charming when you want to be so, and it is not likely that the flame will ever burn out in a man who has once been set of fire by you. [Puts his arm around her waist] You are like burnt wine with strong spices in it, and one of your kisses—
[He tries to lead her away, but she frees herself gently from his hold.]
JULIA. Leave me alone! In that way you cannot win me.
JEAN. How then?—Not in that way! Not by caresses and sweet words! Not by thought for the future, by escape from disgrace! How then?
JULIA. How? How? I don't know—Not at all! I hate you as I hate rats, but I cannot escape from you!
JEAN. Escape with me!
JULIA. [Straightening up] Escape? Yes, we must escape!—But I am so tired. Give me a glass of wine.
[JEAN pours out wine.]
JULIA. [Looks at her watch] But we must have a talk first. We have still some time left. [Empties her glass and holds it out for more.]
JEAN. Don't drink so much. It will go to your head.
JULIA. What difference would that make?
JEAN. What difference would it make? It's vulgar to get drunk—What was it you wanted to tell me?
JULIA. We must get away. But first we must have a talk—that is, I must talk, for so far you have done all the talking. You have told me about your life. Now I must tell you about mine, so that we know each other right to the bottom before we begin the journey together.
JEAN. One moment, pardon me! Think first, so that you don't regret it afterwards, when you have already given up the secrets of your life.
JULIA. Are you not my friend?
JEAN. Yes, at times—but don't rely on me.
JULIA. You only talk like that—and besides, my secrets are known to everybody. You see, my mother was not of noble birth, but came of quite plain people. She was brought up in the ideas of her time about equality, and woman's independence, and that kind of thing. And she had a decided aversion to marriage. Therefore, when my father proposed to her, she said she wouldn't marry him—and then she did it just the same. I came into the world—against my mother's wish, I have come to think. Then my mother wanted to bring me up in a perfectly natural state, and at the same time I was to learn everything that a boy is taught, so that I might prove that a woman is just as good as a man. I was dressed as a boy, and was taught how to handle a horse, but could have nothing to do with the cows. I had to groom and harness and go hunting on horseback. I was even forced to learn something about agriculture. And all over the estate men were set to do women's work, and women to do men's—with the result that everything went to pieces and we became the laughing-stock of the whole neighbourhood. At last my father must have recovered from the spell cast over him, for he rebelled, and everything was changed to suit his own ideas. My mother was taken sick—what kind of sickness it was I don't know, but she fell often into convulsions, and she used to hide herself in the garret or in the garden, and sometimes she stayed out all night. Then came the big fire, of which you have heard. The house, the stable, and the barn were burned down, and this under circumstances which made it look as if the fire had been set on purpose. For the disaster occurred the day after our insurance expired, and the money sent for renewal of the policy had been delayed by the messenger's carelessness, so that it came too late. [She fills her glass again and drinks.]
JEAN. Don't drink any more.
JULIA. Oh, what does it matter!—We were without a roof over our heads and had to sleep in the carriages. My father didn't know where to get money for the rebuilding of the house. Then my mother suggested that he try to borrow from a childhood friend of hers, a brick manufacturer living not far from here. My father got the loan, but was not permitted to pay any interest, which astonished him. And so the house was built up again. [Drinks again] Do you know who set fire to the house?
JEAN. Her ladyship, your mother!
JULIA. Do you know who the brick manufacturer was?
JEAN. Your mother's lover?
JULIA. Do you know to whom the money belonged?
JEAN. Wait a minute—no, that I don't know.
JULIA. To my mother.
JEAN. In other words, to the count, if there was no settlement.
JULIA. There was no settlement. My mother possessed a small fortune of her own which she did not want to leave in my father's control, so she invested it with—her friend.
JEAN. Who copped it.
JULIA. Exactly! He kept it. All this came to my father's knowledge. He couldn't bring suit; he couldn't pay his wife's lover; he couldn't prove that it was his wife's money. That was my mother's revenge because he had made himself master in his own house. At that time he came near shooting himself—it was even rumoured that he had tried and failed. But he took a new lease of life, and my mother had to pay for what she had done. I can tell you that those were five years I'll never forget! My sympathies were with my father, but I took my mother's side because I was not aware of the true circumstances. From her I learned to suspect and hate men—for she hated the whole sex, as you have probably heard—and I promised her on my oath that I would never become a man's slave.
JEAN. And so you became engaged to the County Attorney.
JULIA. Yes, in order that he should be my slave.
JEAN. And he didn't want to?
JULIA. Oh, he wanted, but I wouldn't let him. I got tired of him.
JEAN. Yes, I saw it—in the stable-yard.
JULIA. What did you see?
JEAN. Just that—how he broke the engagement.
JULIA. That's a lie! It was I who broke it. Did he say he did it, the scoundrel?
JEAN. Oh, he was no scoundrel, I guess. So you hate men, Miss Julia?
JULIA. Yes! Most of the time. But now and then—when the weakness comes over me—oh, what shame!
JEAN. And you hate me too?
JULIA. Beyond measure! I should like to kill you like a wild beast—
JEAN. As you make haste to shoot a mad dog. Is that right?
JULIA. That's right!
JEAN. But now there is nothing to shoot with—and there is no dog. What are we to do then?
JULIA. Go abroad.
JEAN. In order to plague each other to death?
JULIA. No-in order to enjoy ourselves: a couple of days, a week, as long as enjoyment is possible. And then—die!
JEAN. Die? How silly! Then I think it's much better to start a hotel.
JULIA. [Without listening to JEAN]—At Lake Como, where the sun is always shining, and the laurels stand green at Christmas, and the oranges are glowing.
JEAN. Lake Como is a rainy hole, and I could see no oranges except in the groceries. But it is a good place for tourists, as it has a lot of villas that can be rented to loving couples, and that's a profitable business—do you know why? Because they take a lease for six months—and then they leave after three weeks.
JULIA. [Naively] Why after three weeks?
JEAN. Because they quarrel, of course. But the rent has to be paid just the same. And then you can rent the house again. And that way it goes on all the time, for there is plenty of love—even if it doesn't last long.
JULIA. You don't want to die with me?
JEAN. I don't want to die at all. Both because I am fond of living, and because I regard suicide as a crime against the Providence which has bestowed life on us.
JULIA. Do you mean to say that you believe in God?
JEAN. Of course, I do. And I go to church every other Sunday. Frankly speaking, now I am tired of all this, and now I am going to bed.
JULIA. So! And you think that will be enough for me? Do you know what you owe a woman that you have spoiled?
JEAN. [Takes out his purse and throws a silver coin on the table] You're welcome! I don't want to be in anybody's debt.
JULIA. [Pretending not to notice the insult] Do you know what the law provides—
JEAN. Unfortunately the law provides no punishment for a woman who seduces a man.
JULIA. [As before] Can you think of any escape except by our going abroad and getting married, and then getting a divorce?
JEAN. Suppose I refuse to enter into this mesaillance?
JEAN. Yes, for me. You see, I have better ancestry than you, for nobody in my family was ever guilty of arson.
JULIA. How do you know?
JEAN. Well, nothing is known to the contrary, for we keep no Pedigrees—except in the police bureau. But I have read about your pedigree in a book that was lying on the drawing-room table. Do you know who was your first ancestor? A miller who let his wife sleep with the king one night during the war with Denmark. I have no such ancestry. I have none at all, but I can become an ancestor myself.
JULIA. That's what I get for unburdening my heart to one not worthy of it; for sacrificing my family's honour—
JEAN. Dishonour! Well, what was it I told you? You shouldn't drink, for then you talk. And you must not talk!
JULIA. Oh, how I regret what I have done! How I regret it! If at least you loved me!
JEAN. For the last time: what do you mean? Am I to weep? Am I to jump over your whip? Am I to kiss you, and lure you down to Lake Como for three weeks, and so on? What am I to do? What do you expect? This is getting to be rather painful! But that's what comes from getting mixed up with women. Miss Julia! I see that you are unhappy; I know that you are suffering; but I cannot understand you. We never carry on like that. There is never any hatred between us. Love is to us a play, and we play at it when our work leaves us time to do so. But we have not the time to do so all day and all night, as you have. I believe you are sick—I am sure you are sick.
JULIA. You should be good to me—and now you speak like a human being.
JEAN. All right, but be human yourself. You spit on me, and then you won't let me wipe myself—on you!
JULIA. Help me, help me! Tell me only what I am to do—where I am to turn?
JEAN. O Lord, if I only knew that myself!
JULIA. I have been exasperated, I have been mad, but there ought to be some way of saving myself.
JEAN. Stay right here and keep quiet. Nobody knows anything.
JULIA. Impossible! The people know, and Christine knows.
JEAN. They don't know, and they would never believe it possible.
JULIA. [Hesitating] But-it might happen again.
JEAN. That's true.
JULIA. And the results?
JEAN. [Frightened] The results! Where was my head when I didn't think of that! Well, then there is only one thing to do—you must leave. At once! I can't go with you, for then everything would be lost, so you must go alone—abroad—anywhere!
JULIA. Alone? Where?—I can't do it.
JEAN. You must! And before the count gets back. If you stay, then you know what will happen. Once on the wrong path, one wants to keep on, as the harm is done anyhow. Then one grows more and more reckless—and at last it all comes out. So you must get away! Then you can write to the count and tell him everything, except that it was me. And he would never guess it. Nor do I think he would be very anxious to find out.
JULIA. I'll go if you come with me.
JEAN. Are you stark mad, woman? Miss Julia to run away with her valet! It would be in the papers in another day, and the count could never survive it.
JULIA. I can't leave! I can't stay! Help me! I am so tired, so fearfully tired. Give me orders! Set me going, for I can no longer think, no longer act—-
JEAN. Do you see now what good-for-nothings you are! Why do you strut and turn up your noses as if you were the lords of creation? Well, I am going to give you orders. Go up and dress. Get some travelling money, and then come back again.
JULIA: [In an undertone] Come up with me!
JEAN. To your room? Now you're crazy again! [Hesitates a moment] No, you must go at once! [Takes her by the hand and leads her out.]
JULIA. [On her way out] Can't you speak kindly to me, Jean?
JEAN. An order must always sound unkind. Now you can find out how it feels!
[JULIA goes out.]
[JEAN, alone, draws a sigh of relief; sits down at the table; takes out a note-book and a pencil; figures aloud from time to time; dumb play until CHRISTINE enters dressed for church; she has a false shirt front and a white tie in one of her hands.]
CHRISTINE. Goodness gracious, how the place looks! What have you been up to anyhow?
JEAN. Oh, it was Miss Julia who dragged in the people. Have you been sleeping so hard that you didn't hear anything at all?
CHRISTINE. I have been sleeping like a log.
JEAN. And dressed for church already?
CHRISTINE. Yes, didn't you promise to come with me to communion to-day?
JEAN. Oh, yes, I remember now. And there you've got the finery. Well, come on with it. [Sits down; CHRISTINE helps him to put on the shirt front and the white tie.]
JEAN. [Sleepily] What's the text to-day?
CHRISTINE. Oh, about John the Baptist beheaded, I guess.
JEAN. That's going to be a long story, I'm sure. My, but you choke me! Oh, I'm so sleepy, so sleepy!
CHRISTINE. Well, what has been keeping you up all night? Why, man, you're just green in the face!
JEAN. I have been sitting here talking with Miss Julia.
CHRISTINE. She hasn't an idea of what's proper, that creature!
JEAN. Say, Christine.
JEAN. Isn't it funny anyhow, when you come to think of it? Her!
CHRISTINE. What is it that's funny?
CHRISTINE. [Seeing the glasses on the table that are only half-emptied] So you've been drinking together also?
CHRISTINE. Shame on you! Look me in the eye!
CHRISTINE. Is it possible? Is it possible?
JEAN. [After a moment's thought] Yes, it is!
CHRISTINE. Ugh! That's worse than I could ever have believed. It's awful!
JEAN. You are not jealous of her, are you?
CHRISTINE. No, not of her. Had it been Clara or Sophie, then I'd have scratched your eyes out. Yes, that's the way I feel about it, and I can't tell why. Oh my, but that was nasty!
JEAN. Are you mad at her then?
CHRISTINE. No, but at you! It was wrong of you, very wrong! Poor girl! No, I tell you, I don't want to stay in this house any longer, with people for whom it is impossible to have any respect.
JEAN. Why should you have any respect for them?
CHRISTINE. And you who are such a smarty can't tell that! You wouldn't serve people who don't act decently, would you? It's to lower oneself, I think.
JEAN. Yes, but it ought to be a consolation to us that they are not a bit better than we.
CHRISTINE. No, I don't think so. For if they're no better, then it's no use trying to get up to them. And just think of the count! Think of him who has had so much sorrow in his day! No, I don't want to stay any longer in this house—And with a fellow like you, too. If it had been the county attorney—if it had only been some one of her own sort—
JEAN. Now look here!
CHRISTINE. Yes, yes! You're all right in your way, but there's after all some difference between one kind of people and another—- No, but this is something I'll never get over!—And the young lady who was so proud, and so tart to the men, that you couldn't believe she would ever let one come near her—and such a one at that! And she who wanted to have poor Diana shot because she had been running around with the gate-keeper's pug!—Well, I declare!—But I won't stay here any longer, and next October I get out of here.
JEAN. And then?
CHRISTINE. Well, as we've come to talk of that now, perhaps it would be just as well if you looked for something, seeing that we're going to get married after all.
JEAN. Well, what could I look for? As a married man I couldn't get a place like this.
CHRISTINE. No, I understand that. But you could get a job as a janitor, or maybe as a messenger in some government bureau. Of course, the public loaf is always short in weight, but it comes steady, and then there is a pension for the widow and the children—
JEAN. [Making a face] That's good and well, but it isn't my style to think of dying all at once for the sake of wife and children. I must say that my plans have been looking toward something better than that kind of thing.
CHRISTINE. Your plans, yes—but you've got obligations also, and those you had better keep in mind!
JEAN. Now don't you get my dander up by talking of obligations! I know what I've got to do anyhow. [Listening for some sound on the outside] However, we've plenty of time to think of all this. Go in now and get ready, and then we'll go to church.
CHRISTINE. Who is walking around up there?
JEAN. I don't know, unless it be Clara.
CHRISTINE. [Going out] It can't be the count, do you think, who's come home without anybody hearing him?
JEAN. [Scared] The count? No, that isn't possible, for then he would have rung for me.
CHRISTINE. [As she goes out] Well, God help us all! Never have I seen the like of it!
[The sun has risen and is shining on the tree tops in the park. The light changes gradually until it comes slantingly in through the windows. JEAN goes to the door and gives a signal.]
JULIA. [Enters in travelling dress and carrying a small birdcage covered up with a towel; this she places on a chair] Now I am ready.
JEAN. Hush! Christine is awake.
JULIA. [Showing extreme nervousness during the following scene] Did she suspect anything?
JEAN. She knows nothing at all. But, my heavens, how you look!
JULIA. How do I look?
JEAN. You're as pale as a corpse, and—pardon me, but your face is dirty.
JULIA. Let me wash it then—Now! [She goes over to the washstand and washes her face and hands] Give me a towel—Oh!—That's the sun rising!
JEAN. And then the ogre bursts.
JULIA. Yes, ogres and trolls were abroad last night!—But listen, Jean. Come with me, for now I have the money.
JEAN. [Doubtfully] Enough?
JULIA. Enough to start with. Come with me, for I cannot travel alone to-day. Think of it—Midsummer Day, on a stuffy train, jammed with people who stare at you—and standing still at stations when you want to fly. No, I cannot! I cannot! And then the memories will come: childhood memories of Midsummer Days, when the inside of the church was turned into a green forest—birches and lilacs; the dinner at the festive table with relatives and friends; the afternoon in the park, with dancing and music, flowers and games! Oh, you may run and run, but your memories are in the baggage-car, and with them remorse and repentance!
JEAN. I'll go with you-but at once, before it's too late. This very moment!
JULIA. Well, get dressed then. [Picks up the cage.]
JEAN. But no baggage! That would only give us away.
JULIA. No, nothing at all! Only what we can take with us in the car.
JEAN. [Has taken down his hat] What have you got there? What is it?
JULIA. It's only my finch. I can't leave it behind.
JEAN. Did you ever! Dragging a bird-cage along with us! You must be raving mad! Drop the cage!
JULIA. The only thing I take with me from my home! The only living creature that loves me since Diana deserted me! Don't be cruel! Let me take it along!
JEAN. Drop the cage, I tell you! And don't talk so loud—Christine can hear us.
JULIA. No, I won't let it fall into strange hands. I'd rather have you kill it!
JEAN. Well, give it to me, and I'll wring its neck.
JULIA. Yes, but don't hurt it. Don't—no, I cannot!
JEAN. Let me—I can!
JULIA. [Takes the bird out of the cage and kisses it] Oh, my little birdie, must it die and go away from its mistress!
JEAN. Don't make a scene, please. Don't you know it's a question of your life, of your future? Come, quick! [Snatches the bird away from her, carries it to the chopping block and picks up an axe. MISS JULIA turns away.]
JEAN. You should have learned how to kill chickens instead of shooting with a revolver—[brings down the axe]—then you wouldn't have fainted for a drop of blood.
JULIA. [Screaming] Kill me too! Kill me! You who can take the life of an innocent creature without turning a hair! Oh, I hate and despise you! There is blood between us! Cursed be the hour when I first met you! Cursed be the hour when I came to life in my mother's womb!
JEAN. Well, what's the use of all that cursing? Come on!
JULIA. [Approaching the chopping-block as if drawn to it against her will] No, I don't want to go yet. I cannot—-I must see—Hush! There's a carriage coming up the road. [Listening without taking her eyes of the block and the axe] You think I cannot stand the sight of blood. You think I am as weak as that—oh, I should like to see your blood, your brains, on that block there. I should like to see your whole sex swimming in blood like that thing there. I think I could drink out of your skull, and bathe my feet in your open breast, and eat your heart from the spit!—You think I am weak; you think I love you because the fruit of my womb was yearning for your seed; you think I want to carry your offspring under my heart and nourish it with my blood—bear your children and take your name! Tell me, you, what are you called anyhow? I have never heard your family name—-and maybe you haven't any. I should become Mrs. "Hovel," or Mrs. "Backyard"—you dog there, that's wearing my collar; you lackey with my coat of arms on your buttons— and I should share with my cook, and be the rival of my own servant. Oh! Oh! Oh!—You think I am a coward and want to run away! No, now I'll stay—and let the lightning strike! My father will come home—will find his chiffonier opened—the money gone! Then he'll ring—twice for the valet—and then he'll send for the sheriff—and then I shall tell everything! Everything! Oh, but it will be good to get an end to it—if it only be the end! And then his heart will break, and he dies!—So there will be an end to all of us—and all will be quiet—peace—eternal rest!—And then the coat of arms will be shattered on the coffin—and the count's line will be wiped out—but the lackey's line goes on in the orphan asylum—wins laurels in the gutter, and ends in jail.
JEAN. There spoke the royal blood! Bravo, Miss Julia! Now you put the miller back in his sack!
[CHRISTINE enters dressed for church and carrying n hymn-book in her hand.]
JULIA. [Hurries up to her and throws herself into her arms ax if seeking protection] Help me, Christine! Help me against this man!
CHRISTINE. [Unmoved and cold] What kind of performance is this on the Sabbath morning? [Catches sight of the chopping-block] My, what a mess you have made!—What's the meaning of all this? And the way you shout and carry on!
JULIA. You are a woman, Christine, and you are my friend. Beware of that scoundrel!
JEAN. [A little shy and embarrassed] While the ladies are discussing I'll get myself a shave. [Slinks out to the right.]
JULIA. You must understand me, and you must listen to me.
CHRISTINE. No, really, I don't understand this kind of trolloping. Where are you going in your travelling-dress—and he with his hat on—what?—What?
JULIA. Listen, Christine, listen, and I'll tell you everything—
CHRISTINE. I don't want to know anything—
JULIA. You must listen to me—
CHRISTINE. What is it about? Is it about this nonsense with Jean? Well, I don't care about it at all, for it's none of my business. But if you're planning to get him away with you, we'll put a stop to that!
JULIA. [Extremely nervous] Please try to be quiet, Christine, and listen to me. I cannot stay here, and Jean cannot stay here—and so we must leave—-
CHRISTINE. Hm, hm!
JULIA. [Brightening. up] But now I have got an idea, you know. Suppose all three of us should leave—go abroad—go to Switzerland and start a hotel together—I have money, you know—and Jean and I could run the whole thing—and you, I thought, could take charge of the kitchen—Wouldn't that be fine!—Say yes, now! And come along with us! Then everything is fixed!—Oh, say yes!
[She puts her arms around CHRISTINE and pats her.]
CHRISTINE. [Coldly and thoughtfully] Hm, hm!
JULIA. [Presto tempo] You have never travelled, Christine—you must get out and have a look at the world. You cannot imagine what fun it is to travel on a train—constantly new people—new countries—- and then we get to Hamburg and take in the Zoological Gardens in passing—that's what you like—and then we go to the theatres and to the opera—and when we get to Munich, there, you know, we have a lot of museums, where they keep Rubens and Raphael and all those big painters, you know—Haven't you heard of Munich, where King Louis used to live—the king, you know, that went mad—And then we'll have a look at his castle—he has still some castles that are furnished just as in a fairy tale—and from there it isn't very far to Switzerland—and the Alps, you know—just think of the Alps, with snow on top of them in the middle of the summer—and there you have orange trees and laurels that are green all the year around—
[JEAN is seen in the right wing, sharpening his razor on a strop which he holds between his teeth and his left hand; he listens to the talk with a pleased mien and nods approval now and then.]
JULIA. [Tempo prestissimo] And then we get a hotel—and I sit in the office, while Jean is outside receiving tourists—and goes out marketing—and writes letters—That's a life for you—Then the train whistles, and the 'bus drives up, and it rings upstairs, and it rings in the restaurant—and then I make out the bills—and I am going to salt them, too—You can never imagine how timid tourists are when they come to pay their bills! And you—you will sit like a queen in the kitchen. Of course, you are not going to stand at the stove yourself. And you'll have to dress neatly and nicely in order to show yourself to people—and with your looks—yes, I am not flattering you—you'll catch a husband some fine day—some rich Englishman, you know—-for those fellows are so easy [slowing down] to catch—and then we grow rich—and we build us a villa at Lake Como—of course, it is raining a little in that place now and then—- but [limply] the sun must be shining sometimes—although it looks dark—and—then—or else we can go home again—and come back—here—- or some other place—
CHRISTINE. Tell me, Miss Julia, do you believe in all that yourself?
JULIA. [Crushed] Do I believe in it myself?
JULIA. [Exhausted] I don't know: I believe no longer in anything. [She sinks down on the bench and drops her head between her arms on the table] Nothing! Nothing at all!
CHRISTINE. [Turns to the right, where JEAN is standing] So you were going to run away!
JEAN. [Abashed, puts the razor on the table] Run away? Well, that's putting it rather strong. You have heard what the young lady proposes, and though she is tired out now by being up all night, it's a proposition that can be put through all right.
CHRISTINE. Now you tell me: did you mean me to act as cook for that one there—?
JEAN. [Sharply] Will you please use decent language in speaking to your mistress! Do you understand?
CHRISTINE. Well, well! Listen to him!
JEAN. Yes, it would be better for you to listen a little more and talk a little less. Miss Julia is your mistress, and what makes you disrespectful to her now should snake you feel the same way about yourself.
CHRISTINE. Oh, I have always had enough respect for myself—
JEAN. To have none for others!
CHRISTINE. —not to go below my own station. You can't say that the count's cook has had anything to do with the groom or the swineherd. You can't say anything of the kind!
JEAN. Yes, it's your luck that you have had to do with a gentleman.
CHRISTINE. Yes, a gentleman who sells the oats out of the count's stable!
JEAN. What's that to you who get a commission on the groceries and bribes from the butcher?
CHRISTINE. What's that?
JEAN. And so you can't respect your master and mistress any longer! You—you!
CHRISTINE. Are you coming with me to church? I think you need a good sermon on top of such a deed.
JEAN. No, I am not going to church to-day. You can go by yourself and confess your own deeds.
CHRISTINE. Yes, I'll do that, and I'll bring back enough forgiveness to cover you also. The Saviour suffered and died on the cross for all our sins, and if we go to him with a believing heart and a repentant mind, he'll take all our guilt on himself.
JULIA. Do you believe that, Christine?
CHRISTINE. It is my living belief, as sure as I stand here, and the faith of my childhood which I have kept since I was young, Miss Julia. And where sin abounds, grace abounds too.
JULIA. Oh, if I had your faith! Oh, if—-
CHRISTINE. Yes, but you don't get it without the special grace of God, and that is not bestowed on everybody—
JULIA. On whom is it bestowed then?
CHRISTINE. That's just the great secret of the work of grace, Miss Julia, and the Lord has no regard for persons, but there those that are last shall be the foremost—
JULIA. Yes, but that means he has regard for those that are last.
CHRISTINE. [Going right on] —and it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to get into heaven. That's the way it is, Miss Julia. Now I am going, however—-alone—- and as I pass by, I'll tell the stableman not to let out the horses if anybody should like to get away before the count comes home. Good-bye! [Goes out.]
JEAN. Well, ain't she a devil!—And all this for the sake of a finch!
JULIA. [Apathetically] Never mind the finch!—Can you see any way out of this, any way to end it?
JEAN. [Ponders] No!
JULIA. What would you do in my place?
JEAN. In your place? Let me see. As one of gentle birth, as a woman, as one who has—fallen. I don't know—yes, I do know!
JULIA. [Picking up the razor with a significant gesture] Like this?
JEAN. Yes!—But please observe that I myself wouldn't do it, for there is a difference between us.
JULIA. Because you are a man and I a woman? What is the difference?
JEAN. It is the same—as—that between man and woman.
JULIA. [With the razor in her hand] I want to, but I cannot!—My father couldn't either, that time he should have done it.
JEAN. No, he should not have done it, for he had to get his revenge first.
JULIA. And now it is my mother's turn to revenge herself again, through me.
JEAN. Have you not loved your father, Miss Julia?
JULIA. Yes, immensely, but I must have hated him, too. I think I must have been doing so without being aware of it. But he was the one who reared me in contempt for my own sex—half woman and half man! Whose fault is it, this that has happened? My father's—my mother's—my own? My own? Why, I have nothing that is my own. I haven't a thought that didn't come from my father; not a passion that didn't come from my mother; and now this last—this about all human creatures being equal—I got that from him, my fiance—whom I call a scoundrel for that reason! How can it be my own fault? To put the blame on Jesus, as Christine does—no, I am too proud for that, and know too much—thanks to my father's teachings—And that about a rich person not getting into heaven, it's just a lie, and Christine, who has money in the savings-bank, wouldn't get in anyhow. Whose is the fault?—What does it matter whose it is? For just the same I am the one who must bear the guilt and the results—
JEAN. Yes, but—
[Two sharp strokes are rung on the bell. MISS JULIA leaps to her feet. JEAN changes his coat.]
JEAN. The count is back. Think if Christine— [Goes to the speaking-tube, knocks on it, and listens.]
JULIA. Now he has been to the chiffonier!
JEAN. It is Jean, your lordship! [Listening again, the spectators being unable to hear what the count says] Yes, your lordship! [Listening] Yes, your lordship! At once! [Listening] In a minute, your lordship! [Listening] Yes, yes! In half an hour!
JULIA. [With intense concern] What did he say? Lord Jesus, what did he say?
JEAN. He called for his boots and wanted his coffee in half an hour.
JULIA. In half an hour then! Oh, I am so tired. I can't do anything; can't repent, can't run away, can't stay, can't live—- can't die! Help me now! Command me, and I'll obey you like a dog! Do me this last favour—save my honour, and save his name! You know what my will ought to do, and what it cannot do—now give me your will, and make me do it!
JEAN. I don't know why—but now I can't either—I don't understand—- It is just as if this coat here made a—I cannot command you—and now, since I've heard the count's voice—now—I can't quite explain it—-but—Oh, that damned menial is back in my spine again. I believe if the count should come down here, and if he should tell me to cut my own throat—I'd do it on the spot!
JULIA. Make believe that you are he, and that I am you! You did some fine acting when you were on your knees before me—then you were the nobleman—or—have you ever been to a show and seen one who could hypnotize people?
[JEAN makes a sign of assent.]
JULIA. He says to his subject: get the broom. And the man gets it. He says: sweep. And the man sweeps.
JEAN. But then the other person must be asleep.
JULIA. [Ecstatically] I am asleep already—there is nothing in the whole room but a lot of smoke—and you look like a stove—that looks like a man in black clothes and a high hat—and your eyes glow like coals when the fire is going out—and your face is a lump of white ashes. [The sunlight has reached the floor and is now falling on JEAN] How warm and nice it is! [She rubs her hands as if warming them before a fire.] And so light—and so peaceful!
JEAN. [Takes the razor and puts it in her hand] There's the broom! Go now, while it is light—to the barn—and— [Whispers something in her ear.]
JULIA. [Awake] Thank you! Now I shall have rest! But tell me first—- that the foremost also receive the gift of grace. Say it, even if you don't believe it.
JEAN. The foremost? No, I can't do that!—But wait—Miss Julia—I know! You are no longer among the foremost—now when you are among the—last!
JULIA. That's right. I am among the last of all: I am the very last. Oh!—But now I cannot go—Tell me once more that I must go!
JEAN. No, now I can't do it either. I cannot!
JULIA. And those that are foremost shall be the last.
JEAN. Don't think, don't think! Why, you are taking away my strength, too, so that I become a coward—What? I thought I saw the bell moving!—To be that scared of a bell! Yes, but it isn't only the bell—there is somebody behind it—a hand that makes it move—- and something else that makes the hand move-but if you cover up your ears—just cover up your ears! Then it rings worse than ever! Rings and rings, until you answer it—and then it's too late—then comes the sheriff—and then—
[Two quick rings from the bell.]
JEAN. [Shrinks together; then he straightens himself up] It's horrid! But there's no other end to it!—Go!
[JULIA goes firmly out through the door.]
Of Strindberg's dramatic works the briefest is "The Stronger." He called it a "scene." It is a mere incident—what is called a "sketch" on our vaudeville stage, and what the French so aptly have named a "quart d'heure." And one of the two figures in the cast remains silent throughout the action, thus turning the little play practically into a monologue. Yet it has all the dramatic intensity which we have come to look upon as one of the main characteristics of Strindberg's work for the stage. It is quivering with mental conflict, and because of this conflict human destinies may be seen to change while we are watching. Three life stories are laid bare during the few minutes we are listening to the seemingly aimless, yet so ominous, chatter of Mrs. X.—and when she sallies forth at last, triumphant in her sense of possession, we know as much about her, her husband, and her rival, as if we had been reading a three-volume novel about them.
Small as it is, the part of Mrs. X. would befit a "star," but an actress of genius and discernment might prefer the dumb part of Miss Y. One thing is certain: that the latter character has few equals in its demand on the performer's tact and skill and imagination. This wordless opponent of Mrs. X. is another of those vampire characters which Strindberg was so fond of drawing, and it is on her the limelight is directed with merciless persistency.
"The Stronger" was first published in 1890, as part of the collection of miscellaneous writings which their author named "Things Printed and Unprinted." The present English version was made by me some years ago—in the summer of 1906—when I first began to plan a Strindberg edition for this country. At that time it appeared in the literary supplement of the New York Evening Post.
THE STRONGER A SCENE 1890
MRS. X., an actress, married. MISS Y., an actress, unmarried.
[A corner of a ladies' restaurant; two small tables of cast-iron, a sofa covered with red plush, and a few chairs.]
[MRS. X. enters dressed in hat and winter coat, and carrying a pretty Japanese basket on her arm.]
[MISS Y. has in front of her a partly emptied bottle of beer; she is reading an illustrated weekly, and every now and then she exchanges it for a new one.]
MRS. X. Well, how do, Millie! Here you are sitting on Christmas Eve as lonely as a poor bachelor.
[MISS Y. looks up from the paper for a moment, nods, and resumes her reading.]
MRS. X. Really, I feel sorry to find you like this—alone—alone in a restaurant, and on Christmas Eve of all times. It makes me as sad as when I saw a wedding party at Paris once in a restaurant—the bride was reading a comic paper and the groom was playing billiards with the witnesses. Ugh, when it begins that way, I thought, how will it end? Think of it, playing billiards on his wedding day! Yes, and you're going to say that she was reading a comic paper— that's a different case, my dear.
[A WAITRESS brings a cup of chocolate, places it before MRS. X., and disappears again.]
MRS. X. [Sips a few spoonfuls; opens the basket and displays a number of Christmas presents] See what I've bought for my tots. [Picks up a doll] What do you think of this? Lisa is to have it. She can roll her eyes and twist her head, do you see? Fine, is it not? And here's a cork pistol for Carl. [Loads the pistol and pops it at Miss Y.]
[MISS Y. starts as if frightened.]
MRS. X. Did I scare you? Why, you didn't fear I was going to shoot you, did you? Really, I didn't think you could believe that of me. If you were to shoot me—well, that wouldn't surprise me the least. I've got in your way once, and I know you'll never forget it—but I couldn't help it. You still think I intrigued you away from the Royal Theatre, and I didn't do anything of the kind— although you think so. But it doesn't matter what I say, of course— you believe it was I just the same. [Pulls out a pair of embroidered slippers] Well, these are for my hubby—-tulips—I've embroidered them myself. Hm, I hate tulips—and he must have them on everything.
[MISS Y. looks up from the paper with an expression of mingled sarcasm and curiosity.]
MRS. X. [Puts a hand in each slipper] Just see what small feet Bob has. See? And you should see him walk—elegant! Of course, you've never seen him in slippers.
[MISS Y. laughs aloud.]
MRS. X. Look here—here he comes. [Makes the slippers walk across the table.]
[MISS Y. laughs again.]
MRS. X. Then he gets angry, and he stamps his foot just like this: "Blame that cook who can't learn how to make coffee." Or: "The idiot—now that girl has forgotten to fix my study lamp again." Then there is a draught through the floor and his feet get cold: "Gee, but it's freezing, and those blanked idiots don't even know enough to keep the house warm." [She rubs the sole of one slipper against the instep of the other.]
[MISS Y. breaks into prolonged laughter.]
MRS. X. And then he comes home and has to hunt for his slippers— Mary has pushed them under the bureau. Well, perhaps it is not right to be making fun of one's own husband. He's pretty good for all that—a real dear little hubby, that's what he is. You should have such a husband—what are you laughing at? Can't you tell? Then, you see, I know he is faithful. Yes, I know, for he has told me himself—what in the world makes you giggle like that? That nasty Betty tried to get him away from me while I was on the road—- can you think of anything more infamous? [Pause] But I'd have scratched the eyes out of her face, that's what I'd have done if I had been at home when she tried it. [Pause] I'm glad Bob told me all about it, so I didn't have to hear it first from somebody else. [Pause] And just think of it, Betty was not the only one! I don't know why it is, but all women seem to be crazy after my husband. It must be because they imagine his government position gives him something to say about the engagements. Perhaps you've tried it yourself—you may have set your traps for him, too? Yes, I don't trust you very far—but I know he never cared for you—and then I have been thinking you rather had a grudge against him.
[Pause. They look at each other in an embarrassed manner.]
MRS. X. Amelia, spend the evening with us, won't you? Just to show that you are not angry—not with me, at least. I cannot tell exactly why, but it seems so awfully unpleasant to have you—you for an enemy. Perhaps because I got in your way that time [rallentando] or—I don't know—really, I don't know at all—
[Pause. MISS Y. gazes searchingly at MRS. X.]
MRS. X. [Thoughtfully] It was so peculiar, the way our acquaintance— why, I was afraid of you when I first met you; so afraid that I did not dare to let you out of sight. It didn't matter where I tried to go—I always found myself near you. I didn't have the courage to be your enemy—and so I became your friend. But there was always something discordant in the air when you called at our home, for I saw that my husband didn't like you—and it annoyed me just as it does when a dress won't fit. I tried my very best to make him appear friendly to you at least, but I couldn't move him—not until you were engaged. Then you two became such fast friends that it almost looked as if you had not dared to show your real feelings before, when it was not safe—and later—let me see, now! I didn't get jealous—strange, was it not? And I remember the baptism—you were acting as godmother, and I made him kiss you—and he did, but both of you looked terribly embarrassed—that is, I didn't think of it then—or afterwards, even—I never thought of it—-till—now! [Rises impulsively] Why don't you say something? You have not uttered a single word all this time. You've just let me go on talking. You've been sitting there staring at me only, and your eyes have drawn out of me all these thoughts which were lying in me like silk in a cocoon—thoughts—bad thoughts maybe—let me think. Why did you break your engagement? Why have you never called on us afterward? Why don't you want to be with us to-night?
[MISS Y. makes a motion as if intending to speak.]
MRS. X. No, you don't need to say anything at all. All is clear to me now. So, that's the reason of it all. Yes, yes! Everything fits together now. Shame on you! I don't want to sit at the same table with you. [Moves her things to another table] That's why I must put those hateful tulips on his slippers—because you love them. [Throws the slippers on the floor] That's why we have to spend the summer in the mountains—because you can't bear the salt smell of the ocean; that's why my boy had to be called Eskil—because that was your father's name; that's why I had to wear your colour, and read your books, and eat your favourite dishes, and drink your drinks—this chocolate, for instance; that's why—great heavens!— it's terrible to think of it—it's terrible! Everything was forced on me by you—-even your passions. Your soul bored itself into mine as a worm into an apple, and it ate and ate, and burrowed and burrowed, till nothing was left but the outside shell and a little black dust. I wanted to run away from you, but I couldn't. You were always on hand like a snake with your black eyes to charm me—I felt how my wings beat the air only to drag me down—I was in the water, with my feet tied together, and the harder I worked with my arms, the further down I went—down, down, till I sank to the bottom, where you lay in wait like a monster crab to catch me with your claws—and now I'm there! Shame on you! How I hate you, hate you, hate you! But you, you just sit there, silent and calm and indifferent, whether the moon is new or full; whether it's Christmas or mid-summer; whether other people are happy or unhappy. You are incapable of hatred, and you don't know how to love. As a cat in front of a mouse-hole, you are sitting there!—you can't drag your prey out, and you can't pursue it, but you can outwait it. Here you sit in this corner—do you know they've nicknamed it "the mouse-trap" on your account? Here you read the papers to see if anybody is in trouble, or if anybody is about to be discharged from the theatre. Here you watch your victims and calculate your chances and take your tributes. Poor Amelia! Do you know, I pity you all the same, for I know you are unhappy—unhappy as one who has been wounded, and malicious because you are wounded. I ought to be angry with you, but really I can't—you are so small after all— and as to Bob, why that does not bother me in the least. What does it matter to me anyhow? If you or somebody else taught me to drink chocolate—what of that? [Takes a spoonful of chocolate; then sententiously] They say chocolate is very wholesome. And if I have learned from you how to dress—tant mieux!—it has only given me a stronger hold on my husband—and you have lost where I have gained. Yes, judging by several signs, I think you have lost him already. Of course, you meant me to break with him—as you did, and as you are now regretting—but, you see, I never would do that. It won't do to be narrow-minded, you know. And why should I take only what nobody else wants? Perhaps, after all, I am the stronger now. You never got anything from me; you merely gave—and thus happened to me what happened to the thief—I had what you missed when you woke up. How explain in any other way that, in your hand, everything proved worthless and useless? You were never able to keep a man's love, in spite of your tulips and your passions—and I could; you could never learn the art of living from the books—as I learned it; you bore no little Eskil, although that was your father's name. And why do you keep silent always and everywhere— silent, ever silent? I used to think it was because you were so strong; and maybe the simple truth was you never had anything to say—because you were unable to-think! [Rises and picks up the slippers] I'm going home now—I'll take the tulips with me—-your tulips. You couldn't learn anything from others; you couldn't bend and so you broke like a dry stem—and I didn't. Thank you, Amelia, for all your instructions. I thank you that you have taught me how to love my husband. Now I'm going home—to him! [Exit.]
This is one of the three plays which Strindberg placed at the head of his dramatic production during the middle ultra-naturalistic period, the other two being "The Father" and "Miss Julia." It is, in many ways, one of the strongest he ever produced. Its rarely excelled unity of construction, its tremendous dramatic tension, and its wonderful psychological analysis combine to make it a masterpiece.
In Swedish its name is "Fordringsaegare." This indefinite form may be either singular or plural, but it is rarely used except as a plural. And the play itself makes it perfectly clear that the proper translation of its title is "Creditors," for under this aspect appear both the former and the present husband of Tekla. One of the main objects of the play is to reveal her indebtedness first to one and then to the other of these men, while all the time she is posing as a person of original gifts.
I have little doubt that Strindberg, at the time he wrote this play—and bear in mind that this happened only a year before he finally decided to free himself from an impossible marriage by an appeal to the law—believed Tekla to be fairly representative of womanhood in general. The utter unreasonableness of such a view need hardly be pointed out, and I shall waste no time on it. A question more worthy of discussion is whether the figure of Tekla be true to life merely as the picture of a personality—as one out of numerous imaginable variations on a type decided not by sex but by faculties and qualities. And the same question may well be raised in regard to the two men, both of whom are evidently intended to win our sympathy: one as the victim of a fate stronger than himself, and the other as the conqueror of adverse and humiliating circumstances.
Personally, I am inclined to doubt whether a Tekla can be found in the flesh—and even if found, she might seem too exceptional to gain acceptance as a real individuality. It must be remembered, however, that, in spite of his avowed realism, Strindberg did not draw his men and women in the spirit generally designated as impressionistic; that is, with the idea that they might step straight from his pages into life and there win recognition as human beings of familiar aspect. His realism is always mixed with idealism; his figures are always "doctored," so to speak. And they have been thus treated in order to enable their creator to drive home the particular truth he is just then concerned with.
Consciously or unconsciously he sought to produce what may be designated as "pure cultures" of certain human qualities. But these he took great pains to arrange in their proper psychological settings, for mental and moral qualities, like everything else, run in groups that are more or less harmonious, if not exactly homogeneous. The man with a single quality, like Moliere's Harpagon, was much too primitive and crude for Strindberg's art, as he himself rightly asserted in his preface to "Miss Julia." When he wanted to draw the genius of greed, so to speak, he did it by setting it in the midst of related qualities of a kind most likely to be attracted by it.
Tekla is such a "pure culture" of a group of naturally correlated mental and moral qualities and functions and tendencies—of a personality built up logically around a dominant central note. There are within all of us many personalities, some of which remain for ever potentialities. But it is conceivable that any one of them, under circumstances different from those in which we have been living, might have developed into its severely logical consequence—or, if you please, into a human being that would be held abnormal if actually encountered.
This is exactly what Strindberg seems to have done time and again, both in his middle and final periods, in his novels as well as in his plays. In all of us a Tekla, an Adolph, a Gustav—or a Jean and a Miss Julia—lie more or less dormant. And if we search our souls unsparingly, I fear the result can only be an admission that—had the needed set of circumstances been provided—we might have come unpleasantly close to one of those Strindbergian creatures which we are now inclined to reject as unhuman.
Here we have the secret of what I believe to be the great Swedish dramatist's strongest hold on our interest. How could it otherwise happen that so many critics, of such widely differing temperaments, have recorded identical feelings as springing from a study of his work: on one side an active resentment, a keen unwillingness to be interested; on the other, an attraction that would not be denied in spite of resolute resistance to it! For Strindberg does hold us, even when we regret his power of doing so. And no one familiar with the conclusions of modern psychology could imagine such a paradox possible did not the object of our sorely divided feelings provide us with something that our minds instinctively recognise as true to life in some way, and for that reason valuable to the art of living.
There are so many ways of presenting truth. Strindberg's is only one of them—and not the one commonly employed nowadays. Its main fault lies perhaps in being too intellectual, too abstract. For while Strindberg was intensely emotional, and while this fact colours all his writings, he could only express himself through his reason. An emotion that would move another man to murder would precipitate Strindberg into merciless analysis of his own or somebody else's mental and moral make-up. At any rate, I do not proclaim his way of presenting truth as the best one of all available. But I suspect that this decidedly strange way of Strindberg's—resulting in such repulsively superior beings as Gustav, or in such grievously inferior ones as Adolph—may come nearer the temper and needs of the future than do the ways of much more plausible writers. This does not need to imply that the future will imitate Strindberg. But it may ascertain what he aimed at doing, and then do it with a degree of perfection which he, the pioneer, could never hope to attain.
CREDITORS A TRAGICOMEDY 1889
TEKLA ADOLPH, her husband, a painter GUSTAV, her divorced husband, a high-school teacher (who is travelling under an assumed name)
(A parlor in a summer hotel on the sea-shore. The rear wall has a door opening on a veranda, beyond which is seen a landscape. To the right of the door stands a table with newspapers on it. There is a chair on the left side of the stage. To the right of the table stands a sofa. A door on the right leads to an adjoining room.)
(ADOLPH and GUSTAV, the latter seated on the sofa by the table to the right.)
ADOLPH. [At work on a wax figure on a miniature modelling stand; his crutches are placed beside him]—and for all this I have to thank you!
GUSTAV. [Smoking a cigar] Oh, nonsense!
ADOLPH. Why, certainly! During the first days after my wife had gone, I lay helpless on a sofa and did nothing but long for her. It was as if she had taken away my crutches with her, so that I couldn't move from the spot. When I had slept a couple of days, I seemed to come to, and began to pull myself together. My head calmed down after having been working feverishly. Old thoughts from days gone by bobbed up again. The desire to work and the instinct for creation came back. My eyes recovered their faculty of quick and straight vision—and then you showed up.
GUSTAV. I admit you were in a miserable condition when I first met you, and you had to use your crutches when you walked, but this is not to say that my presence has been the cause of your recovery. You needed a rest, and you had a craving for masculine company.
ADOLPH. Oh, that's true enough, like everything you say. Once I used to have men for friends, but I thought them superfluous after I married, and I felt quite satisfied with the one I had chosen. Later I was drawn into new circles and made a lot of acquaintances, but my wife was jealous of them—she wanted to keep me to herself: worse still—she wanted also to keep my friends to herself. And so I was left alone with my own jealousy.
GUSTAV. Yes, you have a strong tendency toward that kind of disease.
ADOLPH. I was afraid of losing her—and I tried to prevent it. There is nothing strange in that. But I was never afraid that she might be deceiving me—
GUSTAV. No, that's what married men are never afraid of.
ADOLPH. Yes, isn't it queer? What I really feared was that her friends would get such an influence over her that they would begin to exercise some kind of indirect power over me—and that is something I couldn't bear.
GUSTAV. So your ideas don't agree—yours and your wife's?
ADOLPH. Seeing that you have heard so much already, I may as well tell you everything. My wife has an independent nature—what are you smiling at?
GUSTAV. Go on! She has an independent nature—
ADOLPH. Which cannot accept anything from me—
GUSTAV. But from everybody else.
ADOLPH. [After a pause] Yes.—And it looked as if she especially hated my ideas because they were mine, and not because there was anything wrong about them. For it used to happen quite often that she advanced ideas that had once been mine, and that she stood up for them as her own. Yes, it even happened that friends of mine gave her ideas which they had taken directly from me, and then they seemed all right. Everything was all right except what came from me.
GUSTAV. Which means that you are not entirely happy?
ADOLPH. Oh yes, I am happy. I have the one I wanted, and I have never wanted anybody else.
GUSTAV. And you have never wanted to be free?
ADOLPH. No, I can't say that I have. Oh, well, sometimes I have imagined that it might seem like a rest to be free. But the moment she leaves me, I begin to long for her—long for her as for my own arms and legs. It is queer that sometimes I have a feeling that she is nothing in herself, but only a part of myself—an organ that can take away with it my will, my very desire to live. It seems almost as if I had deposited with her that centre of vitality of which the anatomical books tell us.
GUSTAV. Perhaps, when we get to the bottom of it, that is just what has happened.
ADOLPH. How could it be so? Is she not an independent being, with thoughts of her own? And when I met her I was nothing—a child of an artist whom she undertook to educate.
GUSTAV. But later you developed her thoughts and educated her, didn't you?
ADOLPH. No, she stopped growing and I pushed on.
GUSTAV. Yes, isn't it strange that her "authoring" seemed to fall off after her first book—or that it failed to improve, at least? But that first time she had a subject which wrote itself—for I understand she used her former husband for a model. You never knew him, did you? They say he was an idiot.
ADOLPH. I never knew him, as he was away for six months at a time. But he must have been an arch-idiot, judging by her picture of him. [Pause] And you may feel sure that the picture was correct.
GUSTAV. I do!—But why did she ever take him?
ADOLPH. Because she didn't know him well enough. Of course, you never do get acquainted until afterward!
GUSTAV. And for that reason one ought not to marry until— afterward.—And he was a tyrant, of course?
ADOLPH. Of course?
GUSTAV. Why, so are all married men. [Feeling his way] And you not the least.
ADOLPH. I? Who let my wife come and go as she pleases—
GUSTAV. Well, that's nothing. You couldn't lock her up, could you? But do you like her to stay away whole nights?
ADOLPH. No, really, I don't.
GUSTAV. There, you see! [With a change of tactics] And to tell the truth, it would only make you ridiculous to like it.
ADOLPH. Ridiculous? Can a man be ridiculous because he trusts his wife?
GUSTAV. Of course he can. And it's just what you are already—and thoroughly at that!
ADOLPH. [Convulsively] I! It's what I dread most of all—and there's going to be a change.
GUSTAV. Don't get excited now—or you'll have another attack.
ADOLPH. But why isn't she ridiculous when I stay out all night?
GUSTAV. Yes, why? Well, it's nothing that concerns you, but that's the way it is. And while you are trying to figure out why, the mishap has already occurred.
ADOLPH. What mishap?
GUSTAV. However, the first husband was a tyrant, and she took him only to get her freedom. You see, a girl cannot have freedom except by providing herself with a chaperon—or what we call a husband.
ADOLPH. Of course not.
GUSTAV. And now you are the chaperon.
GUSTAV. Since you are her husband.
(ADOLPH keeps a preoccupied silence.)
GUSTAV. Am I not right?
ADOLPH. [Uneasily] I don't know. You live with a woman for years, and you never stop to analyse her, or your relationship with her, and then—then you begin to think—and there you are!—Gustav, you are my friend. The only male friend I have. During this last week you have given me courage to live again. It is as if your own magnetism had been poured into me. Like a watchmaker, you have fixed the works in my head and wound up the spring again. Can't you hear, yourself, how I think more clearly and speak more to the point? And to myself at least it seems as if my voice had recovered its ring.
GUSTAV. So it seems to me also. And why is that?
ADOLPH. I shouldn't wonder if you grew accustomed to lower your voice in talking to women. I know at least that Tekla always used to accuse me of shouting.
GUSTAV. And so you toned down your voice and accepted the rule of the slipper?
ADOLPH. That isn't quite the way to put it. [After some reflection] I think it is even worse than that. But let us talk of something else!—What was I saying?—Yes, you came here, and you enabled me to see my art in its true light. Of course, for some time I had noticed my growing lack of interest in painting, as it didn't seem to offer me the proper medium for the expression of what I wanted to bring out. But when you explained all this to me, and made it clear why painting must fail as a timely outlet for the creative instinct, then I saw the light at last—and I realised that hereafter it would not be possible for me to express myself by means of colour only.
GUSTAV. Are you quite sure now that you cannot go on painting— that you may not have a relapse?
ADOLPH. Perfectly sure! For I have tested myself. When I went to bed that night after our talk, I rehearsed your argument point by point, and I knew you had it right. But when I woke up from a good night's sleep and my head was clear again, then it came over me in a flash that you might be mistaken after all. And I jumped out of bed and got hold of my brushes and paints—but it was no use! Every trace of illusion was gone—it was nothing but smears of paint, and I quaked at the thought of having believed, and having made others believe, that a painted canvas could be anything but a painted canvas. The veil had fallen from my eyes, and it was just as impossible for me to paint any more as it was to become a child again.
GUSTAV. And then you saw that the realistic tendency of our day, its craving for actuality and tangibility, could only find its proper form in sculpture, which gives you body, extension in all three dimensions—
ADOLPH. [Vaguely] The three dimensions—oh yes, body, in a word!
GUSTAV. And then you became a sculptor yourself. Or rather, you have been one all your life, but you had gone astray, and nothing was needed but a guide to put you on the right road—Tell me, do you experience supreme joy now when you are at work?
ADOLPH. Now I am living!
GUSTAV. May I see what you are doing?
ADOLPH. A female figure.
GUSTAV. Without a model? And so lifelike at that!
ADOLPH. [Apathetically] Yes, but it resembles somebody. It is remarkable that this woman seems to have become a part of my body as I of hers.
GUSTAV. Well, that's not so very remarkable. Do you know what transfusion is?
ADOLPH. Of blood? Yes.
GUSTAV. And you seem to have bled yourself a little too much. When I look at the figure here I comprehend several things which I merely guessed before. You have loved her tremendously!
ADOLPH. Yes, to such an extent that I couldn't tell whether she was I or I she. When she is smiling, I smile also. When she is weeping, I weep. And when she—can you imagine anything like it?— when she was giving life to our child—I felt the birth pangs within myself.
GUSTAV. Do you know, my dear friend—I hate to speak of it, but you are already showing the first symptoms of epilepsy.
ADOLPH. [Agitated] I! How can you tell?
GUSTAV. Because I have watched the symptoms in a younger brother of mine who had been worshipping Venus a little too excessively.
ADOLPH. How—how did it show itself—that thing you spoke of?
[During the following passage GUSTAV speaks with great animation, and ADOLPH listens so intently that, unconsciously, he imitates many of GUSTAV'S gestures.]
GUSTAV. It was dreadful to witness, and if you don't feel strong enough I won't inflict a description of it on you.
ADOLPH. [Nervously] Yes, go right on—just go on!
GUSTAV. Well, the boy happened to marry an innocent little creature with curls, and eyes like a turtle-dove; with the face of a child and the pure soul of an angel. But nevertheless she managed to usurp the male prerogative—
ADOLPH. What is that?
GUSTAV. Initiative, of course. And with the result that the angel nearly carried him off to heaven. But first he had to be put on the cross and made to feel the nails in his flesh. It was horrible!
ADOLPH. [Breathlessly] Well, what happened?
GUSTAV. [Lingering on each word] We might be sitting together talking, he and I—and when I had been speaking for a while his face would turn white as chalk, his arms and legs would grow stiff, and his thumbs became twisted against the palms of his hands—like this. [He illustrates the movement and it is imitated by ADOLPH] Then his eyes became bloodshot, and he began to chew— like this. [He chews, and again ADOLPH imitates him] The saliva was rattling in his throat. His chest was squeezed together as if it had been closed in a vice. The pupils of his eyes flickered like gas-jets. His tongue beat the saliva into a lather, and he sank—slowly—down—backward—into the chair—as if he were drowning. And then—
ADOLPH. [In a whisper] Stop now!
GUSTAV. And then—Are you not feeling well?
GUSTAV. [Gets a glass of water for him] There: drink now. And we'll talk of something else.
ADOLPH. [Feebly] Thank you! Please go on!
GUSTAV. Well—when he came to he couldn't remember anything at all. He had simply lost consciousness. Has that ever happened to you?
ADOLPH. Yes, I have had attacks of vertigo now and then, but my physician says it's only anaemia.
GUSTAV. Well, that's the beginning of it, you know. But, believe me, it will end in epilepsy if you don't take care of yourself.
ADOLPH. What can I do?
GUSTAV. To begin with, you will have to observe complete abstinence.
ADOLPH. For how long?
GUSTAV. For half a year at least.
ADOLPH. I cannot do it. That would upset our married life.
GUSTAV. Good-bye to you then!