BLUMENBERG. First rate! That will lend solemnity to his entrance. Only think up your speech. Be popular, for today we are among the rabble.
Enter guests, among them HENNING.
SENDEN (doing the honors with BLUMENBERG). Delighted to see you here! We knew that you would not fail us. Is this your wife?
GUEST. Yes, Mr. von Senden, this is my wife.
SENDEN. You here, too, Mr. Henning? Welcome, my dear sir!
HENNING. I was invited by my friend and really had the curiosity to come. My presence, I hope, will not be unpleasant to any one?
SENDEN. Quite the contrary. We are most pleased to greet you here.
[Guests leave through centre door; SENDEN goes out in conversation with them.]
BLUMENBERG. He knows how to manage people. It's the good manners of these gentlemen that does it. He is useful—useful to me too. He manages the others, and I manage him. [Turning, he sees SCHMOCK, who is hovering near the door.] What are you doing here? Why do you stand there listening? You are not a door-keeper! See that you keep out of my vicinity. Divide yourself up among the company.
SCHMOCK. Whom shall I go to if I know none of these people at all? You are the only person I know.
BLUMENBERG. Why must you tell people that you know me? I consider it no honor to stand next to you.
SCHMOCK. If it is not an honor it's not a disgrace either; But I can stay by myself.
BLUMENBERG. Have you money to get something to eat? Go to the restaurant-keeper and order something charged to me. The committee will pay for it.
SCHMOCK. I don't care to go and eat. I have no need to spend anything. I have had my supper.
[Blare of trumpets and march in the distance. Exit BLUMENBERG. SCHMOCK alone, coming forward, angrily.]
I hate him! I'll tell him I hate him, that I despise him from the bottom of my heart!
[Turns to go, comes back.]
But I cannot tell him so, or he will cut out all I send in for the special correspondence I write for his paper! I will try to swallow it down!
[Exit through centre door.]
Enter BOLZ, KAeMPE, BELLMAUS by side door.
BOLZ (marching in). Behold us in the house of the Capulets! [Pretends to thrust a sword into its scabbard.] Conceal your swords under roses. Blow your little cheeks up, and look as silly and innocent as possible. Above all, don't let me see you get into a row, and if you meet this Tybaldus Senden be so good as to run round the corner.
[The procession is seen marching through the rear halls.]
You, Romeo Bellmaus, look out for the little women. I see more fluttering curls and waving kerchiefs there than are good for your peace of mind.
KAeMPE. I bet a bottle of champagne that if one of us gets into a row it will be you.
BOLZ. Possibly. But I promise you that you shall surely come in for your share of it. Now listen to my plan of operations. You Kaempe—[Enter SCHMOCK.] Stop! Who is that? Thunder! The factotum of the Coriolanus! Our incognito has not lasted long.
SCHMOCK (even before the last remark, has been seen looking in at the door, coming forward). I wish you good evening, Mr. Bolz.
BOLZ. I wish you the same and of even better quality, Mr. Schmock.
SCHMOCK. Might I have a couple of words with you?
BOLZ. A couple? Don't ask for too few, noble armor-bearer of the Coriolanus! A couple of dozen words you shall have, but no more.
SCHMOCK. Could you not employ me on your paper.
BOLZ (to KAeMPE and BELLMAUS). Do you hear that? On our paper? H'm! 'Tis much you ask, noble Roman!
SCHMOCK. I am sick of the Coriolanus. I would do any kind of work you needed done. I want to be with respectable people, where one can earn something and be treated decently.
BOLZ. What are you asking of us, slave of Rome? We to entice you away from your party—never! We do violence to your political convictions? Make you a renegade? We bear the guilt of your joining our party? No, sir! We have a tender conscience. It rises in arms against your proposition!
SCHMOCK. Why do you let that trouble you? Under Blumenberg I have learned to write whichever way the wind blows. I have written on the left and again on the right. I can write in any direction.
BOLZ. I see you have character. You would be a sure success on our paper. Your offer does us honor, but we cannot accept it now. So momentous an affair as your defection needs deep consideration. Meanwhile you will have confided in no unfeeling barbarian. (Aside to the others.) We may be able to worm something out of him. Bellmaus, you have the tenderest heart of us three; you must devote yourself to him today.
BELLMAUS. But what shall I do with him?
BOLZ. Take him into the restaurant, sit down in a corner with him, pour punch into every hollow of his poor head until his secrets jump out like wet mice. Make him chatter, especially about the elections. Go, little man, and take good care not to get overheated yourself and babble.
BELLMAUS. In that case I shall not see much of the fete.
BOLZ. That's true, my son! But what does the fete mean to you? Heat, dust, and stale dance-music. Besides, we will tell you all about it in the morning; and then you are a poet, and can imagine the whole affair to be much finer than it really was. So don't take it to heart. You may think you have a thankless role, but it is the most important of all, for it requires coolness and cleverness. Go, mousey, and look out about getting overheated.
BELLMAUS. I'll look out, old tom-cat.—Come along Schmock!
[BELLMAUS and SCHMOCK leave.]
BOLZ. We might as well separate, too.
KAeMPE. I'll go and see how people feel. If I need you I'll look you up.
BOLZ. I had better not show myself much. I'll stay around here.
Alone at last!
[Goes to centre door.]
There stands the Colonel, closely surrounded. It is she! She is here, and I have to lie in hiding like a fox under the leaves.—But she has falcon eyes,—perhaps—the throng disperses—she is walking through the hall arm-in-arm with Ida—(Excitedly.) They are drawing nearer! (Irritably.) Oh, bother! There is Korb rushing toward me! And just now!
KORB. Mr. Conrad! I can't believe my eyes! You here, at this fete!
BOLZ (hastily). Hush, old chap! I'm not here without a reason. I can trust you—you're one of us, you know.
KORB. Body and soul. Through all the talking and fiddling I've kept saying to myself, "Long live the Union!" Here she is!
[Shows him a paper in his pocket.]
BOLZ. Good, Korb, you can do me a great favor. In a corner of the refreshment room Bellmaus is sitting with a stranger. He is to pump the stranger, but cannot stand much himself and is likely to say things he shouldn't. You'll do the party a great service if you will hurry in and drink punch so as to keep Bellmaus up to the mark. You have a strong head—I know it from of old.
KORB (hastily). I go! You are as full of tricks as ever, I see. You may rely on me. The stranger shall succumb, and the Union shall triumph.
[Exit quickly. The music ceases.]
BOLZ. Poor Schmock! [At the door.]
Ah, they are still walking through the hall. Ida is being spoken to, she stops, Adelaide goes on—(Excitedly.) she's coming, she's coming alone!
ADELAIDE (makes a motion as though to pass the door, but suddenly enters. BOLZ bows). Conrad! My dear doctor!
[Holds out her hand. BOLZ bends low over it.]
ADELAIDE (in joyous emotion). I knew you at once from a distance. Let me see your faithful face. Yes, it has changed but little—a scar, browner, and a small line about the mouth. I hope it is from laughing.
BOLZ. If at this moment I feel like anything but laughing it is only a passing malignity of soul. I see myself double, like a melancholy Highlander. In your presence my long happy childhood passes bodily before my eyes. All the joy and pain it brought me I feel as vividly again as though I were still the boy who went into the wood for you in search of wild adventures and caught robin-red-breasts. And yet the fine creature I see before me is so different from my playmate that I realize I am only dreaming a beautiful dream. Your eyes shine as kindly as ever, but—(Bowing.) I have scarcely the right still to think of old dreams.
ADELAIDE. Possibly I, too, am not so changed as you think; and changed though we both be, we have remained good friends, have we not?
BOLZ. Rather than give up one iota of my claim to your regard, I would write and print and try to sell malicious articles against myself.
ADELAIDE. And yet you have been too proud all this time even to come and see your friend in town. Why have you broken with the Colonel?
BOLZ. I have not broken with him. On the contrary, I have a very estimable position in his house—one that I can best keep by going there as seldom as possible. The Colonel, and occasionally Miss Ida, too, like to assuage their anger against Oldendorf and the newspaper by regarding me as the evil one with horns and hoofs. A relationship so tender must be handled with care—a devil must not cheapen himself by appearing every day.
ADELAIDE. Well, I hope you will now abandon this lofty viewpoint. I am spending the winter in town, and I hope that for love of your boyhood's friend you will call on my friends as a denizen of this world.
BOLZ. In any role you apportion me.
ADELAIDE. Even in that of a peace-envoy between the Colonel and Oldendorf?
BOLZ. If peace be at the cost of Oldendorf's withdrawal, then no. Otherwise I am ready to serve you in all good works.
ADELAIDE. But I fear that this is the only price at which peace can be purchased. You see, Mr. Conrad, we too have become opponents.
BOLZ. To do anything against your wishes is horrible to me, son of perdition though I be. So my saint wills and commands that Oldendorf do not become member of Parliament?
ADELAIDE. I will it and command it, Mr. Devil!
BOLZ. It is hard. Up in your heaven you have so many gentlemen to bestow on Miss Ida; why must you carry off a poor devil's one and only soul, the professor?
ADELAIDE. It is just the professor I want, and you must let me have him.
BOLZ. I am in despair. I would tear my hair were the place not so unsuitable. I dread your anger. The thought makes me tremble that you might not like this election.
ADELAIDE. Well, try to stop the election, then.
BOLZ. That I cannot do. But so soon as it is over I am fated to mourn and grow melancholy over your anger. I shall withdraw from the world—far, far to the North Pole. There I shall end my days sadly, playing dominoes with polar bears, or spreading the elements of journalistic training among the seals. That will be easier to endure than the scathing glance of your eyes.
ADELAIDE (laughing). Yes, that's the way you always were. You made every possible promise and acted exactly as you pleased. But before starting for the North Pole, perhaps you will make one more effort to reconcile me here.
[KAeMPE is seen at the door.]
Hush!—I shall look forward to your visit. Farewell, my re-found friend!
BOLZ. And thus my good angel turns her back to me in anger! And now, politics, thou witch, I am irretrievably in thy power!
[Exit quickly through centre door.]
Enter PIEPENBRINK, MRS. PIEPENBRINK, BERTHA escorted by FRITZ KLEINMICHEL, and KLEINMICHEL through centre door. Quadrille behind the scenes.
PIEPENBRINK. Thank Heaven, we are out of this crowd!
MRS. PIEPENBRINK. It is very hot.
KLEINMICHEL. And the music is too loud. There are too many trumpets and I hate trumpets.
PIEPENBRINK. Here's a quiet spot; we'll sit down here.
FRITZ. Bertha would prefer staying in the ball-room. Might I not go back with her?
PIEPENBRINK. I have no objection to you young people going back into the ball-room, but I prefer your staying here with us. I like to keep my whole party together.
MRS. PIEPENBRINK. Stay with your parents, my child!
PIEPENBRINK. Sit down! (To his wife.) You sit at the corner, Fritz comes next to me. You take Bertha between you, neighbors. Her place will soon be at your table, anyway.
[They seat themselves at the table on the right—at the left corner MRS. PIEPENBRINK, then he himself, FRITZ, BERTHA, KLEINMICHEL.]
FRITZ. When will "soon" be, godfather? You have been saying that this long time, but you put off the wedding day further and further.
PIEPENBRINK. That is no concern of yours.
FRITZ. I should think it is, godfather! Am I not the man that wants to marry Bertha?
PIEPENBRINK. That's a fine argument! Any one can want that. But it's I who am to give her to you, which is more to the point, young man; for it is going to be hard enough for me to let the little wag-tail leave my nest. So you wait. You shall have her, but wait!
KLEINMICHEL. He will wait, neighbor.
PIEPENBRINK. Well, I should strongly advise him to do so. Hey! Waiter, waiter!
MRS. PIEPENBRINK. What poor service one gets in such places!
My name is Piepenbrink. I brought along six bottles of my own wine. The restaurant-keeper has them. I should like them here.
[While the waiter is bringing the bottles and glasses BOLZ and KAeMPE appear. Waiter from time to time in the background.]
BOLZ (aside to KAeMPE). Which one is it?
KAeMPE. The one with his back to us, the broad-shouldered one.
BOLZ. And what kind of a business does he carry on?
KAeMPE. Chiefly red wines.
BOLZ. Good! (Aloud.) Waiter, a table and two chairs here! A bottle of red wine!
[Waiter brings what has been ordered to the front, on the left.]
MRS. PIEPENBRINK. What are those people doing here?
PIEPENBRINK. That is the trouble with such promiscuous assemblies, that one never can be alone.
KLEINMICHEL. They seem respectable gentlemen; I think I have seen one of them before.
PIEPENBRINK (decisively). Respectable or not, they are in our way.
KLEINMICHEL. Yes, to be sure, so they are.
BOLZ (seating himself with KAeMPE). Here, my friend, we can sit quietly before a bottle of red wine. I hardly dare to pour it out, for the wine at such restaurants is nearly always abominable. What sort of stuff do you suppose this will be?
PIEPENBRINK (irritated). Indeed? Just listen to that!
KAeMPE. Let's try it.
[Pours out; in a low voice.]
There is a double P. on the seal; that might mean Piepenbrink.
PIEPENBRINK. Well, I am curious to know what these greenhorns will have to say against the wine.
MRS. PIEPENBRINK. Be quiet, Philip, they can hear you over there.
BOLZ (in a low tone). I'm sure you are right. The restaurant takes its wine from him. That's his very reason for coming.
PIEPENBRINK. They don't seem to be thirsty; they are not drinking.
BOLZ (tastes it; aloud). Not bad!
PIEPENBRINK (ironically). Indeed?
BOLZ (takes another sip). A good, pure wine.
PIEPENBRINK (relieved). The fellow's judgment is not so bad.
BOLZ. But it does not compare with a similar wine that I recently drank at a friend's house.
BOLZ. I learned then that there is only one man in town from whom a sensible wine-drinker should take his red wine.
KAeMPE. And that is?
PIEPENBRINK (ironically). I really should like to know.
BOLZ. It's a certain Piepenbrink.
PIEPENBRINK (nodding his head contentedly). Good!
KAeMPE. Yes, it is well known to be a very reliable firm.
PIEPENBRINK. They don't know that their own wine, too, is from my cellars. Ha! Ha! Ha!
BOLZ (turning to him). Are you laughing at us, Sir?
PIEPENBRINK. Ha! Ha! Ha! No offense. I merely heard you talking about the wine. So you like Piepenbrink's wine better than this here? Ha! Ha! Ha!
BOLZ (slightly indignant). Sir, I must request you to find my expressions less comical. I do not know Mr. Piepenbrink, but I have the pleasure of knowing his wine; and so I repeat the assertion that Piepenbrink has better wine in his cellar than this here. What do you find to laugh at in that? You do not know Piepenbrink's wines and have no right to judge of them.
PIEPENBRINK. I do not know Piepenbrink's wines, I do not know Philip Piepenbrink either, I never saw his wife—do you hear that, Lottie?—And when his daughter Bertha meets me I ask, "Who is that little black-head?" That is a funny story. Isn't it, Kleinmichel?
KLEINMICHEL. It is very funny! [Laughs.]
BOLZ (rising with dignity). Sir, I am a stranger to you and have never insulted you. You look honorable and I find you in the society of charming ladies. For that reason I cannot imagine that you came here to mock at strangers. As man to man, therefore, I request you to explain why you find my harmless words so astonishing. If you don't like Mr. Piepenbrink why do you visit it on us?
PIEPENBRINK (rising). Don't get too excited, Sir. Now, see here! The wine you are now drinking is also from Piepenbrink's cellar, and I myself am the Philip Piepenbrink for whose sake you are pitching into me. Now, do you see why I laugh?
BOLZ. Ah, is that the way things stand? You yourself are Mr. Piepenbrink? Then I am really glad to make your acquaintance. No offense, honored Sir!
PIEPENBRINK. No, no offense. Everything is all right.
BOLZ. Since you were so kind as to tell us your name, the next thing in order is for you to learn ours. I'm Bolz, Doctor of Philosophy, and my friend here is Mr. Kaempe.
PIEPENBRINK. Pleased to meet you.
BOLZ. We are comparative strangers in this company and had withdrawn to this side room as one feels slightly embarrassed among so many new faces. But we should be very sorry if by our presence we in any way disturbed the enjoyment of the ladies and the conversation of so estimable a company. Tell us frankly if we are in the way, and we will find another place.
PIEPENBRINK. You seem to me a jolly fellow and are not in the least in my way, Doctor Bolz—that was the name, was it not?
MRS. PIEPENBRINK. We, too, are strangers here and had only just sat down. Piepenbrink!
[Nudges him slightly.]
PIEPENBRINK. I tell you what, Doctor, as you are already acquainted with the yellow-seal from my cellar and have passed a very sensible verdict upon it, how would it be for you to give it another trial here? Sit down with us if you have nothing better to do, and we will have a good talk together.
BOLZ (with dignity, as throughout this whole scene, during which both he and KAeMPE must not seem to be in any way pushing). That is a very kind invitation, and we accept it with pleasure. Be good enough, dear Sir, to present us to your company.
PIEPENBRINK. This here is my wife.
BOLZ. Do not be vexed at our breaking in upon you, Madam. We promise to behave ourselves and to be as good company as lies in the power of two shy bachelors.
PIEPENBRINK. Here is my daughter.
BOLZ (to MRS. PIEPENBRINK). One could have known that from the likeness.
PIEPENBRINK. This is my friend, Mr. Kleinmichel, and this, Fritz Kleinmichel, my daughter's fiance.
BOLZ. I congratulate you, gentlemen, on such delightful society. (To PIEPENBRINK.) Permit me to sit next to the lady of the house. Kaempe, I thought you would sit next to Mr. Kleinmichel.
[They sit down.]
Now we alternate! Waiter!
[Waiter comes to him.]
Two bottles of this!
PIEPENBRINK. Hold on! You won't find that wine here. I brought my own kind. You're to drink with me.
BOLZ. But Mr. Piepenbrink——
PIEPENBRINK. No remonstrances! You drink with me. And when I ask any one to drink with me, Sir, I don't mean to sip, as women do, but to drink out and fill up. You must make up your mind to that.
BOLZ. Well, I am content. We as gratefully accept your hospitality as it is heartily offered. But you must then let me have my revenge. Next Sunday you are all to be my guests, will you? Say yes, my kind host! Punctually at seven, informal supper. I am single, so it will be in a quiet, respectable hotel. Give your consent, my dear Madam. Shake hands on it, Mr. Piepenbrink.—You, too, Mr. Kleinmichel and Mr. Fritz!
[Holds out his hand to each of them.]
PIEPENBRINK. If my wife is satisfied it will suit me all right.
BOLZ. Done! Agreed! And now the first toast. To the good spirit who brought us together today, long may he live!—[Questioning those about him.] What's the spirit's name?
FRITZ KLEINMICHEL. Chance.
BOLZ. No, he has a yellow cap.
PIEPENBRINK. Yellow-seal is his name.
BOLZ. Correct! Here's his health! We hope the gentleman may last a long time, as the cat said to the bird when she bit its head off.
KLEINMICHEL. We wish him long life just as we are putting an end to him.
BOLZ. Well said! Long life!
PIEPENBRINK. Long life!
[They touch glasses. PIEPENBRINK to his wife.]
It is going to turn out well today, after all.
MRS. PIEPENBRINK. They are very modest nice men.
BOLZ. You can't imagine how glad I am that our good fortune brought us into such pleasant company. For although in there everything is very prettily arranged—
PIEPENBRINK. It really is all very creditable.
BOLZ. Very creditable! But yet this political society is not to my taste.
PIEPENBRINK. Ah, indeed! You don't belong to the party, I suppose, and on that account do not like it.
BOLZ. It's not that! But when I reflect that all these people have been invited, not really to heartily enjoy themselves, but in order that they shall presently give their votes to this or that gentleman, it cools my ardor.
PIEPENBRINK. Oh, it can hardly be meant just that way. Something could be said on the other side—don't you think so, comrade?
KLEINMICHEL. I trust no one will be asked to sign any agreement here.
BOLZ. Perhaps not. I have no vote to cast and I am proud to be in a company where nothing else is thought of but enjoying oneself with one's neighbor and paying attention to the queens of society—to charming women! Touch glasses, gentlemen, to the health of the ladies, of the two who adorn our circle. [All touch glasses.]
PIEPENBRINK. Come here, Lottie, your health is being drunk.
BOLZ. Young lady, allow a stranger to drink to your future prosperity.
PIEPENBRINK. What else do you suppose they are going to do in there?
FRITZ KLEINMICHEL. I hear that at supper there are to be speeches, and the candidate for election, Colonel Berg, is to be introduced.
PIEPENBRINK. A very estimable gentleman.
KLEINMICHEL. Yes, it is a good choice the gentlemen on the committee have made.
ADELAIDE, who has been visible in the rear, now saunters in.
ADELAIDE. He sitting here? What sort of a company is that?
KAeMPE. People say that Professor Oldendorf has a good chance of election. Many are said to be going to vote for him.
PIEPENBRINK. I have nothing to say against him, only to my mind he is too young.
SENDEN is seen in the rear, later BLUMENBERG and guests.
SENDEN. You here, Miss Runeck?
ADELAIDE. I'm amusing myself with watching those queer people. They act as though the rest of the company were non-existent.
SENDEN. What do I see? There sits the Union itself and next to one of the most important personages of the fete!
[The music ceases.]
BOLZ (who has meanwhile been conversing with MRS. PIEPENBRINK but has listened attentively—to MR. PIEPENBRINK). There, you see the gentlemen cannot desist from talking politics after all. (To PIEPENBRINK.) Did you not mention Professor Oldendorf?
PIEPENBRINK. Yes, my jolly Doctor, just casually.
BOLZ. When you talk of him I heartily pray you to say good things about him; for he is the best, the noblest man I know.
PIEPENBRINK. Indeed? You know him?
KLEINMICHEL. Are you possibly a friend of his!
BOLZ. More than that. Were the professor to say to me today: "Bolz, it will help me to have you jump into the water," I should have to jump in, unpleasant as it would be to me just at this moment to drown in water.
PIEPENBRINK. Oho! That is strong!
BOLZ. In this company I have no right to speak of candidates for election. But if I did have a member to elect he should be the one—he, first of all.
PIEPENBRINK. But you are very much prejudiced in the man's favor.
BOLZ. His political views do not concern me here at all. But what do I demand of a member? That he be a man; that he have a warm heart and a sure judgment, and that he know unwaveringly and unquestionably what is good and right; furthermore, that he have the strength to do what he knows to be right without delay, without hesitation.
KLEINMICHEL. But the Colonel, too, is said to be that kind of a man.
BOLZ. Possibly he is, I do not know; but of Oldendorf I know it. I looked straight into his heart on the occasion of an unpleasant experience I went through. I was once on the point of burning to powder when he was kind enough to prevent it. Him I have to thank for sitting here. He saved my life.
SENDEN. He lies abominably!
ADELAIDE (holding him back). Be still! I believe there is some truth to the story.
PIEPENBRINK. Well now, it was very fine of him to save your life; but that kind of thing often happens.
MRS. PIEPENBRINK. Do tell us about it, Doctor!
BOLZ. The little affair is like a hundred others and would not interest me at all, had I not been through it myself. Picture to yourself an old house. I am a student living on the third floor. In the house opposite me lives a young scholar; we do not know each other. At dead of night I am awakened by a great noise and a strange crackling under me. If it were mice, they must have been having a torchlight procession for the room was brilliantly illuminated. I rush to the window, the bright flame from the story under me leaps up to where I stand. My window-panes burst about my head, and a vile cloud of smoke rushes in on me. There being no great pleasure under the circumstances in leaning out of the window, I rush to the door and throw it open. The stairs, too, cannot resist the mean impulse peculiar to old wood, they are all ablaze. Up three flights of stairs and no exit! I gave myself up for lost. Half unconscious I hurried back to the window. I heard the cries from the street, "A man! a man! This way with the ladder!" A ladder was set up. In an instant it began to smoke and to burn like tinder. It was dragged away. Then streams of water from all the engines hissed in the flames beneath me. Distinctly I could hear each separate stream striking the glowing wall. A fresh ladder was put up; below there was deathly silence and you can imagine that I, too, had no desire to make much of a commotion in my fiery furnace. "It can't be done," cried the people below. Then a full, rich voice rang out: "Raise the ladder higher!" Do you know, I felt instantly that this was the voice of my rescuer. "Hurry!" cried those below. Then a fresh cloud of vapor penetrated the room. I had had my share of the thick smoke, and lay prostrate on the ground by the window.
MRS. PIEPENBRINK. Poor Doctor Bolz!
PIEPENBRINK (eagerly). Go on!
[SENDEN starts forward.]
ADELAIDE (holding him back). Please, let him finish, the story is true!
BOLZ. Then a man's hand seizes my neck. A rope is wound round me under the arms, and a strong wrist raises me from the ground. A moment later I was on the ladder, half dragged, half carried; with shirt aflame, and unconscious, I reached the pavement.—I awoke in the room of the young scholar. Save for a few slight burns, I had brought nothing with me over into the new apartment; all my belongings were burned. The stranger nursed me and cared for me like a brother. Not until I was able to go out again did I learn that this scholar was the same man who had paid his visit to me that night on the ladder. You see the man has his heart in the right spot, and that's why I wish him now to become member of Parliament, and why I could do for him what I would not do for myself; for him I could electioneer, intrigue, or make fools of honest people. That man is Professor Oldendorf.
PIEPENBRINK. Well, he's a tremendously fine man! [Rising.] Here's to the health of Professor Oldendorf! [All rise and touch glasses.]
BOLZ (bowing pleasantly to all—to MRS. PIEPENBRINK). I see warm sympathy shining in your eyes, dear madam, and I thank you for it. Mr. Piepenbrink, I ask permission to shake your hand; you are a fine fellow. [Slaps him on the back and embraces him.] Give me your hand, Mr. Kleinmichel! [Embraces him.] And you, too, Mr. Fritz Kleinmichel! May no child of yours ever sit in the fire, but if he does may there ever be a gallant man at hand to pull him out. Come nearer, I must embrace you, too.
MRS. PIEPENBRINK (much moved). Piepenbrink, we have veal-cutlets tomorrow. What do you think? [Converses with him in a low tone.]
ADELAIDE. His spirits are running away with him!
SENDEN. He is unbearable! I see that you are as indignant as I am. He snatches away our people; it can no longer be endured.
BOLZ (who had gone the rounds of table, returning and standing in front of MRS. PIEPENBRINK). It really isn't right to let it stop here. Mr. Piepenbrink, head of the house, I appeal to you, I ask your permission—hand or mouth?
ADELAIDE (horrified, on the right toward the front). He is actually kissing her!
PIEPENBRINK. Sail in, old man, courage!
MRS. PIEPENBRINK. Piepenbrink, I no longer know you!
ADELAIDE (at the moment when BOLZ is about to kiss MRS. PIEPENBRINK crosses the stage, passing them casually, as it were, and holds her bouquet between BOLZ and MRS. PIEPENBRINK. In a low tone, quickly to BOLZ). You're going too far! You are being watched!
[Passes to the rear on the left, and exit.]
BOLZ. A fairy interferes!
SENDEN (who has already been haranguing some of the other guests, including BLUMENBERG, noisily pushes forward at this moment—to those at the table). He is presumptuous; he has thrust himself in!
PIEPENBRINK (bringing down his hand on the table and rising). Oho! I like that! If I kiss my wife or let her be kissed, that is nobody's concern whatever! Nobody's! No man and no woman and no fairy has a right to put a hand before her mouth.
BOLZ. Very true! Splendid! Hear! Hear!
SENDEN. Revered Mr. Piepenbrink, no offense against you! The company is charmed to see you here. Only to Mr. Bolz we will remark that his presence is causing scandal. So completely opposed are his political principles that we must regard his appearing at this fete as an unwarrantable intrusion!
BOLZ. My political principles opposed? In society I know no other political principle than this—to drink with nice people and not to drink with those whom I do not consider nice. With you, Sir, I have not drunk.
PIEPENBRINK (striking the table). That was a good one!
SENDEN (hotly). You thrust yourself in here!
BOLZ (indignantly). Thrust myself in?
PIEPENBRINK. Thrust himself in? Old man, you have an entrance ticket, I suppose?
BOLZ (frankly). Here is my ticket! It is not you I am showing it to, but this honorable man from whom you are trying to estrange me by your attack. Kaempe, give your ticket to Mr. Piepenbrink. He is the man to judge of all the tickets in the world!
PIEPENBRINK. Here are two tickets just exactly as valid as my own. Why, you scattered them right and left like sour grape juice. Oho! I see quite well how things stand! I'm not one of your crowd, either, but you want to get me. That's why you came to my house again and again—because you expected to capture me. Because I am a voter, that's why you're after me. But because this honorable man is not a voter he does not count for you at all. We know those smooth tricks!
SENDEN. But, Mr. Piepenbrink!
PIEPENBRINK (interrupting him, more angrily). Is that any reason for insulting a peaceful guest? Is it a reason for closing my wife's mouth? It is an injustice to this man, and he shall stay here as long as I do. And he shall stay here by my side. And whoever attempts to attack him will have to deal with me!
BOLZ. Your fist, good sir! You're a faithful comrade! And so hand-in-hand with you Philip, I defy the Capulet and his entire clan!
PIEPENBRINK. Philip! Right you are, Conrad, my boy! Come here! They shall swell with anger till they burst! Here's to Philip and Conrad! [They drink brotherhood.]
BOLZ. Long live Piepenbrink!
PIEPENBRINK. So, old chum! Shall I tell you what! Since we are having so good a time I think we'll leave all these people to their own devices, and all of you come home with me. I'll brew a punch and we'll sit together as merrily as jackdaws. I'll escort you, Conrad, and the rest of you go ahead.
SENDEN (and guests). But do listen, revered Mr. Piepenbrink!
PIEPENBRINK. I'll listen to nothing. I'm done with you!
Enter BELLMAUS and other guests.
BELLMAUS (hurrying through the crowd). Here I am!
BOLZ. My nephew! Gracious Madam, I put him under your protection! Nephew, you escort Madam Piepenbrink. (MRS. PIEPENBRINK takes a firm grip on BELLMAUS'S arm and holds him securely. Polka behind the scene.) Farewell, gentlemen, it's beyond your power to spoil our good humor. There, the music is striking up! We march off in a jolly procession, and again I cry in conclusion, Long live Piepenbrink!
THE DEPARTING ONES. Long live Piepenbrink! [They march off in triumph. FRITZ KLEINMICHEL and his fiancee, KAeMPE with KLEINMICHEL, MRS. PIEPENBRINK with BELLMAUS, finally BOLZ with PIEPENBRINK.]
COLONEL. What's going on here?
SENDEN. An outrageous scandal! The Union has kidnapped our two most important voters!
The COLONEL'S Summer Parlor.
The COLONEL in front, walking rapidly up and down. In the rear, ADELAIDE and IDA arm-in-arm, the latter in great agitation. A short pause. Then enter SENDEN.
SENDEN (hastily calling through centre door).
All goes well! 37 votes against 29.
Who has 37 votes?
Why you, Colonel, of course!
Of course! (Exit SENDEN.) The election day is unendurable! In no fight in my life did I have this feeling of fear. It is a mean cannon-fever of which any ensign might be ashamed. And it is a long time since I was an ensign!
[Stamping his foot.]
[Goes to rear of stage.]
IDA (coming forward with ADELAIDE).
This uncertainty is frightful. Only one thing is sure, I shall be unhappy whichever way this election turns out.
[Leans on ADELAIDE.]
Courage! Courage, little girl! Things may still turn out all right. Hide your anxiety from your father; he is in a state of mind, as it is, that does not please me at all.
Enter BLUMENBERG in haste; the COLONEL rushes toward him.
Now, sir, how do things stand?
41 votes for you, Colonel, 34 for our opponents; three have fallen on outsiders. The votes are being registered at very long intervals now, but the difference in your favor remains much the same. Eight more votes for you, Colonel, and the victory is won. We have every chance now of coming out ahead. I am hurrying back, the decisive moment is at hand. My compliments to the ladies!
[IDA hastens to him.]
Are you my good daughter?
My dear father!
I know what is troubling you, child. You are worse off than any one. Console yourself, Ida; if, as seems likely, the professor has to make way for the old soldier, then we'll talk further on the matter. Oldendorf has not deserved it of me; there are many things about him that I do not like. But you are my only child. I shall think of that and of nothing else; but the very first thing to do is to break down the young man's obstinacy.
[Releases IDA; walks up and down again.]
ADELAIDE (in the foreground, aside).
The barometer has risen, the sunshine of pardon breaks through the clouds. If only it were all over! Such excitement is infectious! (To IDA.) You see you do not yet have to think of entering a nunnery.
IDA. But if Oldendorf is defeated, how will he bear it!
ADELAIDE (shrugging her shoulders).
He loses a seat in unpleasant company and wins, instead, an amusing little wife. I think he ought to be satisfied. In any case he will have a chance to make his speeches. Whether he makes them in one house or another, what is the difference? I fancy you will listen to him more reverently than any other member.
But Adelaide, what if it really would be better for the country to have Oldendorf elected?
Yes, dearest, in that case there is no help for the country. Our State and the rest of the European nations must learn to get along without the professor. You have yourself to attend to first of all; you wish to marry him; you come first.
What news, Carl?
Mr. von Senden presents his compliments and reports 47 to 42. The head of the election committee, he says, has already congratulated him.
Congratulated? Lay out my uniform, ask for the key of the wine-cellar, and set the table; we are likely to have visitors this evening.
COLONEL (to himself in the foreground).
Now, my young professor! My style does not please you? It may be that you are right. I grant you are a better journalist. But here, where it is a serious matter, you will find yourself in the wrong, just for once. [Pause.] I may be obliged to say a few words this evening. It used to be said of me in the regiment, indeed, that I could always speak to the point, but these manoeuvres in civilian dress disconcert me a little. Let's think it over! It will be only proper for me to mention Oldendorf in my speech, of course with due respect and appreciation; yes indeed, I must do that. He is an honest fellow, with an excellent heart, and a scholar with fine judgment. And he can be very amiable if you disregard his political theories. We have had pleasant evenings together. And as we sat then around my fat tea-kettle and the good boy began to tell his stories, Ida's eyes would be fixed on his face and would shine with pleasure—yes, and my own old eyes, too, I think. Those were fine evenings! Why do we have them no longer? Bah! They'll come back again! He'll bear defeat quietly in his own way—a good, helpful way. No sensitiveness in him! He really is at heart a fine fellow, and Ida and I could be happy with him. And so, gentlemen and electors—but thunder and lightning! I can't say all that to the voters! I'll say to them—
Shameful, shameful! All is lost!
Aha! (Instantly draws himself up in military posture.)
ADELAIDE } My presentiment! Father! } [Hurries to him]. } (together). } IDA } Dear me!
It was going splendidly. We had 47, the opponents 42 votes. Eight votes were still to be cast. Two more for us and the day would have been ours. The legally appointed moment for closing the ballot-box had come. All looked at the clock and called for the dilatory voters. Then there was a trampling of feet in the corridor. A group of eight persons pushed noisily into the hall, at their head the vulgar wine-merchant Piepenbrink, the same one who at the fete the other day—
We know; go on—
Each of the band in turn came forward, gave his vote and "Edward Oldendorf" issued from the lips of all. Then finally came this Piepenbrink. Before voting he asked the man next to him: "Is the professor sure of it?" "Yes," was the reply. "Then I, as last voter, choose as member of Parliament"—[Stops.]
No. "A most clever and cunning politician," so he put it, "Dr. Conrad Bolz." Then he turned short around and his henchmen followed him.
ADELAIDE (aside, smiling).
Oldendorf is member by a majority of two votes.
It is a shame! No one is to blame for this result but these journalists of the Union. Such a running about, an intriguing, a shaking of hands with all the voters, a praising of this Oldendorf, a shrugging of the shoulders at us—and at you, dear Sir!
That last is not true.
ADELAIDE (to SENDEN).
Show some regard, and spare those here.
You are trembling, my daughter. You are a woman, and let yourself be too much affected by such trifles. I will not have you listen to these tidings any longer. Go, my child! Why, your friend has won, there is no reason for you to cry! Help her, Miss Adelaide!
IDA (is led by ADELAIDE to the side door on the left; entreatingly.)
Leave me! Stay with father!
Upon my honor, the bad faith and arrogance with which this paper is edited are no longer to be endured. Colonel, since we are alone—for Miss Adelaide will let me count her as one of us—we have a chance to take a striking revenge. Their days are numbered now. Quite a long time ago, already, I had the owner of the Union sounded. He is not disinclined to sell the paper, but merely has scruples about the party now controlling the sheet. At the club-fete I myself had a talk with him.
What's this I hear?
This outcome of the election will cause the greatest bitterness among all our friends, and I have no doubt that, in a few days, by forming a stock company, we can collect the purchase price. That would be a deadly blow to our opponents, a triumph for the good cause. The most widely-read sheet in the province in our hands, edited by a committee—
To which Mr. von Senden would not refuse his aid—
As a matter of duty I should do my part. Colonel, if you would be one of the shareholders, your example would at once make the purchase a sure thing.
Sir, what you do to further your political ideas is your own affair. Professor Oldendorf, however, has been a welcome guest in my house. Never will I work against him behind his back. You would have spared me this moment had you not previously deceived me by your assurances as to the sentiments of the majority. However, I bear you no malice. You acted from the best of motives, I am sure. I beg the company to excuse me if I withdraw for today. I hope to see you tomorrow again, dear Senden.
Meanwhile I will start the fund for the purchase of the newspaper. I bid you good day. [Exit.]
Pardon me, Adelaide, if I leave you alone. I have some letters to write, and [with a forced laugh] my newspapers to read.
May I not stay with you now, of all times?
COLONEL (with an effort).
I shall be better off alone, now.
[Exit through centre door.]
My poor Colonel! Injured vanity is hard at work in his faithful soul. And Ida. [Gently opens the door on the left, remains standing.] She is writing. It is not difficult to guess to whom. [Closes the door.] And for all of this mischief that evil spirit Journalism is to blame. Everybody complains of it, and every one tries to use it for his own ends. My Colonel scorned newspaper men until he became one himself, and Senden misses no opportunity of railing at my good friends of the pen, merely because he wishes to put himself in their place. I see Piepenbrink and myself becoming journalists, too, and combining to edit a little sheet under the title of Naughty Bolz. So the Union is in danger of being secretly sold. It might be quite a good thing for Conrad: he would then have to think of something else besides the newspaper. Ah! the rogue would start a new one at once!
Enter OLDENDORF and CARL.
OLDENDORF (while still outside of the room).
And the Colonel will receive no one?
No one, Professor. [Exit.]
ADELAIDE (going up to OLDENDORF).
Dear Professor, this is not just the right moment for you to come. We are very much hurt and out of sorts with the world, but most of all with you.
I am afraid you are, but I must speak to him.
Enter IDA through the door on the left.
IDA (going toward him).
Edward! I knew you would come!
My dear Ida! [Embraces her.]
IDA (with her arms around his neck).
And what will become of us now?
Enter COLONEL through centre door.
COLONEL (with forced calmness).
You shall remain in no doubt about that, my daughter! I beg you, Professor, to forget that you were once treated as a friend in this household. I require you, Ida, to banish all thought of the hours when this gentleman entertained you with his sentiments. (More violently.) Be still! In my own house at least I submit to no attacks from a journalist. Forget him, or forget that you are my daughter. Go in there! [Leads IDA, not ungently, out to the left, and places himself in front of the door.] On this ground, Mr. Editor and Member of Parliament, before the heart of my child, you shall not beat me.
[Exit to the left.]
Dear me! That is bad!
OLDENDORF (as the COLONEL turns to go, with determination).
Colonel, it is ungenerous of you to refuse me this interview. [Goes toward the door.]
ADELAIDE (intercepting him quickly).
Stop! No further! He is in a state of excitement where a single word might do permanent harm. But do not leave us this way, Professor; give me just a few moments.
I must, in my present condition of mind, ask your indulgence. I have long dreaded just such a scene, and yet I hardly feel able to control myself.
You know our friend; you know that his quick temper drives him into acts for which later he would gladly atone.
This was more than a fit of temper. It means a breach between us two—a breach that seems to me beyond healing.
Beyond healing, Professor! If your sentiments toward Ida are what I think they are, healing is not so difficult. Would it not be fitting for you even now—especially now—to accede to the father's wishes. Does not the woman you love deserve that, for once at least, you sacrifice your ambition!
My ambition, yes; my duty, no.
Your own happiness, Professor, seems to me to be ruined for a long time, possibly forever, if you part from Ida in this way.
Not every one can be happy in his private life.
This resignation does not please me at all, least of all in a man. Pardon me for saying so, plainly. (Ingratiatingly.) Is the misfortune so great if you become member for this town a few years later, or even not at all?
Miss Runeck, I am not conceited. I do not rate my abilities very high, and, as far as I know myself, there is no ambitious impulse lurking at the bottom of my heart. Possibly, as you do now, so a later age will set a low estimate on our political wrangling, our party aims, and all that that includes. Possibly all our labor will be without result; possibly much of the good we hope to do will, when achieved, turn out to be the opposite—yes, it is highly probable that my own share in the struggle will often be painful, unedifying, and not at all what you would call a grateful task; but all that must not keep me from devoting my life to the strife and struggle of the age to which I belong. That struggle, after all, is the best and noblest that the present has to offer. Not every age permits its sons to achieve results which remain great for all time; and, I repeat, not every age can make those who live in it distinguished and happy.
I think every age can accomplish that if the individuals will only understand how to be great and happy. [Rising.] You, Professor, will do nothing for your own little home-happiness. You force your friends to act for you.
At all events cherish as little anger against me as possible, and speak a good word for me to Ida.
I shall set my woman's wits to aiding you, Mr. Statesman.
So this is one of the noble, scholarly, free spirits of the German nation! And he climbs into the fire from a sheer sense of duty! But to conquer anything—the world, happiness, or even a wife—for that he never was made!
Ah! He at least will be no such paragon of virtue!—Where is the Colonel?
In Miss Ida's room.
Show the gentleman in here.
I feel somewhat embarrassed at seeing you again, Mr. Bolz; I shall take pains to conceal it.
A poor soul has just left you, vainly seeking consolation in your philosophy. I too come as an unfortunate, for yesterday I incurred your displeasure; and but for your presence, which cut short a vexatious scene, Mr. von Senden, in the interests of social propriety, would doubtless have pitched into me still harder. I thank you for the reminder you gave me; I take it as a sign that you will not withdraw your friendly interest in me.
Very pretty, very diplomatic!—It is kind of you to put so good a construction on my astonishing behavior. But pardon me if I presume to interfere again; that scene with Mr. von Senden will not, I trust, give provocation for a second one?
This eternal Senden! (Aloud.) Your interest in him furnishes me grounds for avoiding further consequences. I think I can manage it.
I thank you. And now let me tell you that you are a dangerous diplomatist. You have inflicted a thorough defeat on this household. On this unfortunate day but one thing has pleased me—the one vote which sought to make you member of Parliament.
It was a crazy idea of the honest wine-merchant.
You took so much trouble to put your friend in, why did you not work for yourself? The young man I used to know had lofty aims, and nothing seemed beyond the range of his soaring ambition. Have you changed, or is the fire still burning?
I have become a journalist, Miss Adelaide.
Your friend is one, too.
Only as a side issue. But I belong to the guild. He who has joined it may have the ambition to write wittily or well. All that goes beyond that is not for us.
Not for you?
For that we are too flighty, too restless and scatter-brained.
Are you in earnest about that, Conrad?
Perfectly in earnest. Why should I wish to seem to you different from what I am? We journalists feed our minds on the daily news; we must taste the dishes Satan cooks for men down to the smallest morsel; so you really should make allowances for us. The daily vexation over failure and wrong doing, the perpetual little excitements over all sorts of things—that has an effect upon a man. At first one clenches one's fist, then one learns to laugh at it. If you work only for the day you come to live for the day.
But that is sad, I think.
On the contrary, it is quite amusing. We buzz like bees, in spirit we fly through the whole world, suck honey when we find it, and sting when something displeases us. Such a life is not apt to make great heroes, but queer dicks like us are also needed.
Now he too is at it, and he is even worse than the other one.
We won't waste sentiment on that account. I scribble away so long as it goes. When it no longer goes, others take my place and do the same. When Conrad Bolz, the grain of wheat, has been crushed in the great mill, other grains fall on the stones until the flour is ready from which the future, possibly, will bake good bread for the benefit of the many.
No, no, that is morbidness; such resignation is wrong.
Such resignation will eventually be found in every profession. It is not your lot. To you is due a different kind of happiness, and you will find it. (Feelingly.) Adelaide, as a boy I wrote you tender verses and lulled myself in foolish dreams. I was very fond of you, and the wound our separation inflicted still smarts at times. [ADELAIDE makes a deprecatory gesture.] Don't be alarmed, I am not going to pain you. I long begrudged my fate, and had moments when I felt like an outcast. But now when you stand there before me in full radiancy, so lovely, so desirable, when my feeling for you is as warm as ever, I must say to you all the same: Your father, it is true, treated me roughly; but that he separated us, that he prevented you, the rich heiress, who could claim anything, with your own exclusive circle of friends, from throwing herself away on a wild boy who had always shown more presumption than power—that was really very sensible, and he acted quite rightly in the matter.
ADELAIDE (in her agitation seizing his hands).
Thank you, Conrad, thank you for speaking so of my dead father! Yes, you are good, you have a heart. It makes me very happy that you should have shown it to me.
It is only a tiny little pocket-heart for private use. It was quite against my will that it happened to make its appearance.
And now enough of us two! Here in this house our help is needed. You have won, have completely prevailed against us. I submit, and acknowledge you my master. But now show mercy and let us join forces. In this conflict of you men a rude blow has been struck at the heart of a girl whom I love. I should like to make that good again and I want you to help me.
I am at your command.
The Colonel must be reconciled. Think up some way of healing his injured self-esteem.
I have thought it over and have taken some steps. Unfortunately, all I can do is to make him feel that his anger at Oldendorf is folly. This soft conciliatory impulse you alone can inspire.
Then we women must try our luck.
Meanwhile I will hurry and do what little I can.
Farewell, Mr. Editor. And think not only of the progress of the great world, but also occasionally of one friend, who suffers from the base egotism of wishing to be happy on her own account.
You have always found your happiness in looking after the happiness of others. With that kind of egotism there is no difficulty in being happy. [Exit.]
He still loves me! He is a man with feeling and generosity. But he, too, is resigned. They are all ill—these men! They have no courage! From pure learning and introspection they have lost all confidence in themselves. This Conrad! Why doesn't he say to me: "Adelaide, I want you to be my wife?" He can be brazen enough when he wants to! God forbid! He philosophizes about my kind of happiness and his kind of happiness! It was all very fine, but sheer nonsense.—My young country-squires are quite different. They have no great burden of wisdom and have more whims and prejudices than they ought to; but they do their hating and loving thoroughly and boldly, and never forget their own advantage. They are the better for it! Praised be the country, the fresh air, and my broad acres! [Pause; with decision.] The Union is to be sold! Conrad must come to the country to get rid of his crotchets! [Sits down and writes; rings; enter CARL.] Take this note to Judge Schwarz; I want him kindly to come to me on urgent business.
Enter IDA through the side door on the left.
I am too restless to keep still! Let me cry here to my heart's content! [Weeps on ADELAIDE'S neck.]
Poor child! The bad men have been very cruel to you. It's all right for you to grieve, darling, but don't be so still and resigned!
I have but the one thought: he is lost to me—lost forever!
You are a dear good girl. But be reassured! You haven't lost him at all. On the contrary, we'll see to it that you get him back better than ever. With blushing cheeks and bright eyes he shall reappear to you, the noble man, your chosen demigod—and your pardon the demigod shall ask for having caused you pain!—
IDA (looking up at her).
What are you telling me?
Listen! This night I read in the stars that you were to become Mrs. Member-of-Parliament. A big star fell from heaven, and on it was written in legible letters: "Beyond peradventure she shall have him!" The fulfilment has attached to it but one condition.
What condition? Tell me!
I recently told you of a certain lady and an unknown gentleman. You remember?
I have thought of it incessantly.
Good! On the same day on which this lady finds her knight again shall you also be reconciled with your professor—not sooner, not later. Thus it is written.
I am so glad to believe you. And when will the day come?
Yes, dear, I do not know that exactly. But I will confide in you, since we girls are alone, that the said lady is heartily tired of the long hoping and waiting and will, I fear, do something desperate.
IDA (embracing her).
If only she will hurry up!
ADELAIDE (holding her).
Hush! Some man might hear us! [Enter KORB.] What is it, old friend?
Miss Adelaide, out there is Mr. Bellmaus, the friend—
Very well, and he wishes to speak to me?
Yes. I myself advised him to come to you; he has something to tell you.
Bring him in here! [Exit KORB.]
Let me go away; my eyes are red with weeping.
Well go, dear. In a few minutes I will rejoin you. (Exit IDA.)
He too! The whole Union—one after the other!
BELLMAUS (shyly, bowing repeatedly).
You permit me, Miss Runeck!
I am glad to receive your visit, and am curious about the interesting disclosures you have to make to me.
There is no one to whom I would rather confide what I have heard, Miss Runeck, than to you. Having learned from Mr. Korb that you are a subscriber to our newspaper I feel sure—
That I deserve, too, to be a friend of the editors. Thank you for the good opinion.
There is this man Schmock! He is a poor fellow who has been little in good society and was until now on the staff of the Coriolanus.
ADELAIDE. I remember having seen him.
At Bolz's request I gave him a few glasses of punch. He thereupon grew jolly and told me of a great plot that Senden and the editor of the Coriolanus have hatched between them. These two gentlemen, so he assures me, had planned to discredit Professor Oldendorf in the Colonel's eyes and so drove the Colonel into writing articles for the Coriolanus.
But is the young man who made you these revelations at all trustworthy?
He can't stand much punch, and after three glasses he told me all this of his own accord. In general I don't consider him very reputable. I should call him a good fellow, but reputable—no, he's not quite that.
Do you suppose this gentleman who drank the three glasses of punch would be willing to repeat his disclosures before other persons?
He said he would, and spoke of proofs too.
Aha! (Aloud.) I fear the proofs won't amount to much. And you have not spoken of it to the professor or Mr. Bolz?
Our professor is very much occupied these days, and Bolz is the jolliest man in the world; but his relations with Mr. von Senden being already strained I thought—
And you were quite right, dear Mr. Bellmaus. So in other regards you are content with Mr. Bolz?
He is a sociable, excellent man, and I am on very good terms with him. All of us are on very good terms with him.
I am glad to hear it.
He sometimes goes a little too far, but he has the best heart in the world.
ADELAIDE (aside). "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings" ye shall hear the truth!
His nature, you know, is a purely prosaic one; for poetry he has not the least comprehension. ADELAIDE. Do you think so?
Yes, he often bursts forth on the subject.
I thank you for your communication even if I cannot attach weight to it, and I am glad to have met in you one of the editorial staff. Journalists, I find, are dangerous people, and it is just as well to secure their good will; although I, as an unimportant person, will try never to furnish matter for a newspaper article. [As BELLMAUS lingers.] Can I do anything more for you?
BELLMAUS (with warmth).
Yes, Miss Runeck, if you would be so good as to accept this copy of my poems. They are poems of youth, to be sure, my first attempts, but I count on your friendly indulgence.
[Draws a gilt-edged book from his pocket, and hands it to her.]
I thank you heartily, Mr. Bellmaus. Never before has a poet presented me with his works. I shall read the beautiful book through in the country, and, under my trees, shall rejoice that I have friends in town who spare a thought for me too, when they represent beauty for other people.
Rest assured, Miss Runeck, that no poet will forget you, who has once had the good fortune to make your acquaintance.
[Exit with a deep bow.]
This Mr. Schmock with the three glasses of punch is well worth cultivating, I should say. Scarcely have I arrived in town when my room turns into a regular business office, where editors and authors ply their trade. I fear that is an omen.
[Exit to the left.]
It grows dark. The COLONEL enters from the garden.
COLONEL (slowly coming forward).
I am glad that all is over between us. [Stamping his foot.] I am very glad! [In a depressed tone.] I feel free and more relieved than for a long time. I think I could actually sing! At this moment I am the subject of conversation over all tea-cups, on all beer-benches. Everywhere arguing and laughter: It serves him right, the old fool! Damn! [Enter CARL, with lights and the newspaper.] Who told you to bring the lamp?
Colonel, it is your hour for reading the newspaper. Here it is. [Lays it on the table.]
A low rabble, these gentlemen of the pen! Cowardly, malicious, insidious in their anonymity. How this band will triumph now, and over me! How they will laud their editor to the skies! There lies the contemptible sheet! In it stands my defeat, trumpeted forth with full cheeks, with scornful shrugs of the shoulders—away with it! [Walks up and down, looks at the newspaper on the ground, picking it up.] All the same I will drink out the dregs! [Seats himself.] Here, right in the beginning! [Reading.] "Professor Oldendorf—majority of two votes. This journal is bound to rejoice over the result."—I don't doubt it!—"But no less a matter for rejoicing was the electoral contest which preceded it."—Naturally—"It has probably never before been the case that, as here, two men stood against each other who were so closely united by years of friendship, both so distinguished by the good will of their fellow-citizens. It was a knightly combat between two friends, full of generosity, without malice, without jealousy; yes doubtless, deep down in his heart, each harbored the hope that his friend and opponent and not himself would be the victor"—[Lays down the paper; wipes his brow.] What sort of language is that? [Reads.] "and aside from some special party views, never did a man have greater claims to victory than our honored opponent. What he, through his upright, noble personality stands for among his wide circle of friends and acquaintances, this is not the place to dwell upon. But the way in which, by his active participation in all public spirited enterprises of the town, he has given aid and counsel, is universally known and will be realized by our fellow-citizens, especially today, with heartfelt gratitude." [Lays the paper aside.] That is a vile style! [Reads on.] "By a very small majority of votes our town has decreed to uphold the younger friend's political views in Parliament. But by all parties today—so it is reported—addresses and deputations are being prepared, not to extol the victor in the electoral contest, but to express to his opponent the general reverence and respect of which never a man was more worthy than he."—That is open assassination! That is a fearful indiscretion of Oldendorf's, that is the revenge of a journalist, so fine and pointed! Oh, it is just like him! No, it is not like him! It is revolting, it is inhuman! What am I to do! Deputations and addresses to me? To Oldendorf's friend? Bah, it is all mere gossip, newspaper-babble that costs nothing but a few fine words! The town knows nothing of these sentiments. It is blackguardism!
Letters from the local mail.
[Lays them on the table.]
There is something up, here, too. I dread to open them. [Breaks open the first one.] What the devil! A poem?—and to me? "To our noble opponent, the best man in town."—Signed? What is the signature? "B—aus!" B—aus? I don't know it, it must be a pseudonym! [Reads.] It seems to be exceedingly good poetry!—And what have we here? [Opens the second letter.] "To the benefactor of the poor, the father of orphans." An address!—[Reads.] "Veneration and kindliness."—Signature: "Many women and girls." The seal a P.P.—Good God, what does it all mean? Have I gone mad? If these are really voices from the town, and if that is the way people look on this day, then I must confess men think better of me than I do of myself!
A number of gentlemen wish to speak to you, Colonel.
What sort of gentlemen!
They say: A deputation from the voters.
Show them in. This confounded newspaper was right, after all.
Enter PIEPENBRINK, KLEINMICHEL and three other gentlemen. They bow, the COLONEL likewise.
My Colonel: A number of voters have sent us as a deputation to you to inform you on this special day that the whole town considers you a most respectable and worthy man.
I am obliged for the good opinion.
You have no reason to feel obliged. It is the truth. You are a man of honor through and through, and it gives us pleasure to tell you so; you cannot object to hearing this from your fellow-citizens.
I always did consider myself a man of honor, gentlemen.
There you were quite right. And you have proved your good principles, too. On every occasion. In cases of poverty, of famine, of caring for orphans, also at our shooting-club meeting—always when we citizens enjoyed or needed a benevolent good man, you were among the first. Always simple and loyal without arrogance or supercilious manners. That's the reason why we universally love and honor you. (Colonel wipes his eyes.) Today many of us gave their votes to the professor. Some on account of politics, some because they know that he is your close friend and possibly even your future son-in-law. COLONEL (not harshly).
Nor did I myself vote for you.
COLONEL (somewhat more excitedly).
But for that very reason I come to you with the rest, and that is why we tell you what the citizens think of you. And we hope that for long years to come you will preserve to us your manly principles and friendly heart as an honored, most respected gentleman and fellow-citizen.
COLONEL (without harshness).
Why do you not say that to the professor, to the man that you have chosen?
He shall first deserve it in Parliament before the town thanks him. But you have deserved it of us, and therefore we come to you.
I thank you, sir, for your kind words. They are very comforting to me just now. May I ask your name?
My name is Piepenbrink.
COLONEL (morely coldly, but not impolitely).
Ah, indeed, that is your name! (With dignity.) I thank you, gentlemen, for the friendly sentiment you have expressed, whether it be that you render the true opinion of the town, or speak according to the desire of individuals. I thank you, and shall go on doing what I think is right.
[Bows, so does the deputation; exit latter.]
This, then, is that Piepenbrink, the close friend of his friend! But the man's words were sensible and his whole demeanor honorable; it cannot possibly be all rascality. Who knows! They are clever intriguers; send into my house newspaper articles, letters, and these good-natured people, to make me soft-hearted; act in public as my friends, to make me confide again in their falseness! Yes, that is it. It is a preconcerted plan! They will find they have miscalculated!
I am at home to no one any longer!
So I told the gentleman; but he insisted on speaking to you, saying that he came in on an affair of honor.
What? But Oldendorf won't be so insane—show him in here!
BOLZ (with dignity).
Colonel, I come to make you an announcement which the honor of a third person necessitates.
I am prepared for it, and beg you not to prolong it unduly.
No more than is requisite. The article in this evening's Union which deals with your personality was written by me and inserted by me in the paper without Oldendorf's knowledge.
It can interest me little to know who wrote the article.
But I consider it important to tell you that it is not by Oldendorf and that Oldendorf knew nothing about it. My friend was so taken up these last weeks with his own sad and painful experiences that he left the management of the paper entirely to me. For all that has lately appeared in it I alone am responsible.
And why do you impart this information?
You have sufficient penetration to realize, Colonel, that, after the scene which took place today between you and my friend, Oldendorf as a man of honor could neither write such an article nor allow it to appear in his paper.
How so, sir? In the article itself I saw nothing unsuitable.
The article exposes my friend in your eyes to the suspicion of having tried to regain your good-will by unworthy flattery. Nothing is further from his thoughts than such a method. You, Colonel, are too honorable a man yourself to consider a mean action natural to your friend.
You are right. (Aside.) This defiance is unbearable! (Aloud.) Is your explanation at an end?
It is. I must add still another: that I myself regret very much having written this article.
I imagine I do not wrong you in assuming that you have already written others that were still more to be regretted.
I had the article printed before hearing of your last interview with Oldendorf. (Very courteously.) My reason for regretting it is, that it is not quite true. I was too hasty in describing your personality to the public. Today, at least, it is no longer a true portrait; it is flattering.
COLONEL (bursting out).
Well, by the devil, that is rude!
Your pardon—it is only true. I wish to convince you that a journalist can regret having written falsehoods.
Sir! (Aside.) I must restrain myself, or he will always get the better of me.—Dr. Bolz, I see that you are a clever man and know your trade. Since, in addition, you seem inclined today to speak only the truth, I must beg you to tell me further if you, too, organized the demonstrations which purport to represent to me public sentiment.
I have, as a matter of fact, not been inactive in the matter.
COLONEL (holding out the letter to him, angrily).
Did you prompt these, too?
In part, Colonel. This poem is the heart-outpouring of an honest youth who reveres in you the paternal friend of Oldendorf and the ideal of a chivalrous hero. I inspired him with the courage to send you the poem. It was well-meant, at any rate. The poet will have to seek another ideal. The address comes from women and girls who constitute the Association for the Education of Orphans. The Association includes among its members Miss Ida Berg. I myself composed this address for the ladies; it was written down by the daughter of the wine-merchant Piepenbrink.
That was just about my opinion concerning these letters. It is needless to ask if you too are the contriver who sent me the citizens?
At all events I did not discourage them. [From without a male chorus of many voices.]
Hail! Hail! Hail! Within the precincts of our town, Blessed by each burgher's son, There dwells a knight of high renown, A noble, faithful one.
Who doth in need for aid apply To this brave knight sends word; For love is his bright panoply And mercy is his sword.
We laud him now in poem and song Protector of the lowly throng. The Colonel, the Colonel, The noble Colonel Berg!
COLONEL (rings after the first measure of the song. CARL enters).
You are to let no one in if you wish to remain in my service.
Colonel, they are already in the garden, a great company of them. It is the glee club; the leaders are already at the steps.
BOLZ (who has opened the window).
Very well sung, Colonel—from La Juive—he is the best tenor in town and the accompaniment is exceedingly original.
It is enough to drive one mad. [Aloud.] Show the gentlemen in!
Exit CARL. At the end of the verse enter FRITZ KLEINMICHEL and two other gentlemen.
Colonel, the local glee club asks to be allowed to sing you some songs—kindly listen to the little serenade as a feeble expression of the general veneration and love.
Gentlemen, I regret exceedingly that a case of illness in my family makes it desirable for me to have you curtail your artistic performance. I thank you for your intentions, and beg you will sing to Professor Oldendorf the songs you had designed for me.
We considered it our duty first to greet you before visiting your friend. In order not to disturb invalids, we will, with your permission, place ourselves further away from the house, in the garden.
Do as you please.
[FRITZ KLEINMICHEL and the two others leave.]
Is this act, too, an invention of yours?
BOLZ (with a bow).
Partially at least. But you are too kind, Colonel, if you look upon me as the sole originator of all these demonstrations. My share in it is really a small one. I have done nothing but edit public opinion a little; all these different people are not dolls, which a skilful puppet-man can move around by pulling wires. These are all voices of capable and honorable persons, and what they have said to you is actually the general opinion of the town—that is to say, the conviction of the better and more sensible elements in the town. Were that not the case I should have labored quite in vain with these good people to bring a single one of them into your house.
He is right again, and I am always in the wrong!
BOLZ (very courteously).
Permit me to explain further, that I consider these tender expressions of general regard out of place now, and that I deeply regret my share in them. Today at least, no friend of Oldendorf has any occasion to praise your chivalrous sentiments or your self-effacement.
COLONEL (going toward him).
Doctor Bolz, you use the privilege of your profession to speak recklessly, and are insulting outsiders in a way that exhausts my patience. You are in my house, and it is a customary social amenity to respect the domicile of one's opponent.
BOLZ (leaning on a chair, good-naturedly).
If you mean by that that you have a right to expel from your house unwelcome guests you did not need to remind me of it, for this very day you shut your doors on another whose love for you gave him a better right to be here than I have.
Sir, such brazen-facedness I have never yet experienced.
BOLZ (with a bow).
I am a journalist, and claim what you have just called the privilege of my profession.
[Grand march by brass band. Enter CARL quickly.]
COLONEL (going toward him).
Shut the garden gate; no one is to come in. [The music stops.]
BOLZ (at the window).
You are locking your friends out; this time I am innocent.
Ah, Colonel, it is too late. The singers are back there in the garden, and in front a great procession is approaching the house; it is Mr. von Senden and the entire club.
[Goes to rear of stage.]
COLONEL (to BOLZ).
Sir, I wish the conversation between us to end.
BOLZ (speaking back at him from the window).
In your position, Colonel, I find the desire very natural. [Looking out again.] A brilliant procession! They all carry paper lanterns, and on the lanterns are inscriptions! Besides the ordinary club mottoes, I see others. Why isn't Bellmaus ever looking when he might be helping the newspaper! [Taking out a note book.] We'll quickly note those inscriptions for our columns. [Over his shoulder.] Pardon me! Oh, that is truly remarkable: "Down with our enemies!" And here a blackish lantern with white letters—"Death to the Union!" Holy thunder! [Calls out of the window.] Good evening, gentlemen!
COLONEL (going up to him).
Sir, you're in league with the devil!
BOLZ (turning quickly around).
Very kind of you, Colonel, to show yourself at the window with me.
SENDEN (from below).
Whose voice is that!
Good evening, Mr. von Senden!—The gentleman with the dark lantern and white inscription would oblige us greatly by kindly lifting it up to the Colonel. Blow your light out, man, and hand me the lantern. So, thank you—man with the witty motto! [Pulling in the stick and lantern.] Here, Colonel, is the document of the brotherly love your friends cherish toward us. [Tears the lantern from the stick.] The lantern for you, the stick for the lantern-bearer! [Throws the stick out of the window.] I have the honor to bid you good day!
[Turns to go, meets ADELAIDE.]
Male chorus, close at hand again: "Within the precincts of our town;" trumpets join in; then many voices: "Long live COLONEL BERG! Hurrah!" ADELAIDE has entered on the left, during the noise.
Well, is the whole town upside-down today?
I've done my share; he is half converted. Good night!
COLONEL (throwing the lantern on the ground—in a rage).
To the devil with all journalists!
Male chorus, SENDEN, BLUMENBERG and many other gentlemen, in procession, are visible through the door into the garden; the deputation comes in; chorus and lantern-bearers form a group at the entrance.
SENDEN (with a loud voice while the curtain is lowered).
Colonel, the Club has the honor of greeting its revered members!
The COLONEL'S summer parlor. COLONEL enters from the garden, followed by CARL.
COLONEL (on entering, crossly).
Who ordered William to bring the horse round in front of the bedrooms? The brute makes a noise with his hoofs that would wake the dead.
Are you not going to ride today, Colonel?
No. Take the horse to the stable!
Yes, Colonel. [Exit.]
COLONEL (rings, CARL reappears at the door).
Is Miss Runeck at home?
She is in her room; the judge has been with her an hour already.
What? Early in the morning?
Here she is herself.
[Exit as soon as ADELAIDE enters.]
Enter ADELAIDE and KORB through the door on the right.
ADELAIDE (to KORB).
You had better remain near the garden gate, and when the said young man comes bring him to us.
[Going up to him and examining him gaily.]
How is the weather today?
Gray, girl, gray and stormy. Vexation and grief are buzzing round in my head until it is fit to burst. How is the child?
Better. She was wise enough to fall asleep toward morning. Now she is sad, but calm.
This very calmness annoys me. If she would only once shriek and tear her hair a bit! It would be horrible, but there would be something natural about it. It is this smiling and then turning away to dry secret tears that makes me lose my composure. It is unnatural in my child.
Possibly she knows her father's kind heart better than he does himself; possibly she still has hopes.
Of what? Of a reconciliation with him? After what has happened a reconciliation between Oldendorf and myself is out of the question.
I wonder if he wants me to contradict him!
KORB (to ADELAIDE).
The gentleman has come.
I will ring.
Help me out of a little dilemma. I have to speak with a strange young man who seems in need of help, and I should like to have you stay near me.—May I leave this door open?
[Points to the door on the left.]
That means, I suppose, in plain English, that I am to go in there?
I beg it of you—just for five minutes.
Very well—if only I don't have to listen.
I do not require it; but you will listen all the same if the conversation happens to interest you.
In that case I shall come out.
[Exit to the left; ADELAIDE rings.]
Enter SCHMOCK. KORB also appears at the entrance, but quickly withdraws.
SCHMOCK (with a bow).
I wish you a good-morning. Are you the lady who sent me her secretary?
Yes. You said you wished to speak to me personally.
Why should the secretary know about it if I want to tell you something? Here are the notes that Senden wrote and that I found in the paper-basket of the Coriolanus. Look them over, and see if they will be of use to the Colonel. What can I do with them? There's nothing to be done with them.
ADELAIDE (looking through them, reading, in an aside).
"Here I send you the wretched specimens of style, etc." Incautious and very low-minded! [Lays them on the table. Aloud.] At any rate these unimportant notes are better off in my paper-basket than in any one else's. And what, sir, induces you to confide in me?
I suppose because Bellmaus told me you were a clever person who would choose a good way of telling the Colonel to be on his guard against Senden and against my editor; and the Colonel is a kind man; the other day he ordered a glass of sweet wine and a salmon sandwich as a lunch for me.
COLONEL (visible at the door, clasping his hands sympathetically).
Why should I let him be duped by these people!
Since you did not dislike the lunch, we will see that you get another one.
Oh please, don't trouble yourself on my account.
Can we help you with anything else?
What should you be able to help me with? [Examining his boots and clothes.] I have everything in order now. My trouble is only that I have got into the wrong occupation. I must try to get out of literature.
It is very hard, I suppose, to feel at home in literature?
That depends. My editor is an unfair man. He cuts out too much and pays too little. "Attend to your style first of all," says he; "a good style is the chief thing." "Write impressively, Schmock," says he; "write profoundly; it is required of a newspaper today that it be profound." Good! I write profoundly, I make my style logical! But when I bring him what I have done he hurls it away from him and shrieks: "What is that? That is heavy, that is pedantic!" says he. "You must write dashingly; it's brilliant you must be, Schmock. It is now the fashion to make everything pleasant for the reader." What am I to do? I write dashingly again; I put a great deal of brilliant stuff in the article; and when I bring it he takes his red pencil and strikes out all that is commonplace and leaves me only the brilliant stuff remaining.
Are such things possible?
How can I exist under such treatment? How can I write him only brilliant stuff at less than a penny a line. I can't exist under it! And that is why I'm going to try to get out of the business. If only I could earn twenty-five to thirty dollars, I would never in my life write again for a newspaper; I would then set up for myself in business—a little business that could support me.
Wait a moment! [Looks into her purse.]
COLONEL (hastily coming forward).
Leave that to me, dear Adelaide. The young man wants to cease being a journalist. That appeals to me. Here, here is money such as you desire if you will promise me from this day on not to touch a pen again for a newspaper. Here, take it.
A Prussian bank note—twenty-five thalers in currency? On my honor, I promise you, on my honor and salvation, I go this very day to a cousin of mine who has a paying business. Would you like an I.O.U., Colonel, or shall I make out a long-term promissory note?
Get out with your promissory note!
Then I will write out a regular I.O.U. I prefer it to be only an I.O.U.
I don't want your I.O.U. either. Sir, for God's sake get out of the house!
And how about the interest? If I can have it at five per cent. I should like it.
The gentleman makes you a present of the money.
He makes me a present of the money? It's a miracle! I tell you what, Colonel, if I don't succeed with the money it remains a gift, but if I work my way up with it I return it. I hope I will work my way up. COLONEL. Do just as you like about that.
I like to have it that way, Colonel.—Meanwhile I thank you, and may some other joy come to make it up to you. Good day, Sir and Madam.
We must not forget the lunch. [Rings, KORB enters.] Dear Korb! [Talks in a low tone to him.]
O please, do not go to that trouble!
[Exeunt SCHMOCK and KORB.]
And now, dear lady, explain this whole conversation; it concerns me intimately enough.
Senden spoke tactlessly to outsiders about his relations with you and your household. This young man had overheard some of it, and also had notes written by Senden in his possession, which contained unsuitable expressions. I thought it best to get these notes out of his hands.
I want you to let me have those letters, Adelaide.
I won't get angry, girl.
Nor is it worth while to do so. But still I beg you won't look at them. You know enough now, for you know that he, with his associates, does not merit such great confidence as you have latterly reposed in him.
Well, well! In my old days I have had bad luck with my acquaintances.
If you put Oldendorf and this one (pointing to the letters) in the same class you are quite mistaken.
I don't do that, girl. For Senden I had no such affection, and that's why it is easier to bear it when he does me an injury.
And because you loved the other one, that was the reason why yesterday you were so—
Say it, mentor—so harsh and violent!
Worse than that, you were unjust.
I said the same thing to myself last night, as I went to Ida's room and heard the poor thing cry. I was a hurt, angry man and was wrong in the form—but in the matter itself I was, all the same, right. Let him be member of Parliament; he may be better suited for it than I. It is his being a newspaper writer that separates us.
But he is only doing what you did yourself!
Don't remind me of that folly! Were he as my son-in-law to hold a different opinion from mine regarding current happenings—that I could doubtless stand. But if day by day he were to proclaim aloud to the world feelings and sentiments the opposite of mine, and I had to read them, and had to hear my son-in-law reproached and laughed at for them on all sides by old friends and comrades, and I had to swallow it all—you see that is more than I could bear!
And Ida? Because you won't bear it Ida is to be made unhappy?
My poor child! She has been unhappy throughout the whole affair. This half-hearted way of us men has long been a mistake. It is better to end it with one sharp pain.
I cannot see that ending of it as yet. I shall only see it when Ida laughs once more as merrily as she used to do.
COLONEL (excitedly walking about, exclaiming).
Well then, I'll give him my child, and go and sit alone in a corner. I had other views for my old age, but God forbid that my beloved girl should be made unhappy by me. He is reliable and honorable, and will take good care of her. I shall move back to the little town I came from.
ADELAIDE (seizing his hand).
My revered friend, no—you shall not do that! Neither Oldendorf nor Ida would accept their happiness at such a price. But if Senden and his friends were secretly to take the paper away from the professor, what then?
Then he would no longer be a journalist! (Uneasily.) But I won't hear of such a thing. I am no friend of underhanded action.
Nor am I! (Heartily.) Colonel, you have often shown a confidence in me that has made me happy and proud. Even today you let me speak more frankly than is usually permitted to a girl. Will you give me one more great proof of your regard?
COLONEL (pressing her hand).
Adelaide, we know how we stand with each other. Speak out!
For one hour, today, be my faithful knight. Allow me to lead you wherever I please.
What are you up to, child?
Nothing wrong, nothing unworthy of you or of me. You shall not long be kept in the dark about it.
If I must, I will surrender. But may I not know something of what I have to do?
You are to accompany me on a visit, and at the same time keep in mind the things we have just talked over so sensibly.
On a visit?
On a visit I am making in my own interest.
KORB (to ADELAIDE).
Mr. von Senden wishes to pay his respects.
I don't wish to see him now.
Be calm, Colonel! We have not time to be angry even with him. I shall have to see him for a few moments.
Then I will go away.
But you will accompany me directly? The carriage is waiting.
I obey the command. [Exit to the left.]
I have made a hasty decision; I have ventured on something that was doubtless too bold for a girl; for now that the crisis is at hand, I feel my courage leaving me. I had to do it for his sake and for all our sakes. (To KORB.) Ask Miss Ida to get ready—the coachman will come straight back for her. Dear Korb, let your thoughts be with me. I am going on a weighty errand, old friend! [Exit ADELAIDE.]
(alone). Gracious, how her eyes shine! What is she tip to? She's not going to elope with the old Colonel, I hope! Well, whatever she is up to, she will carry it through. There is only one person who could ever be a match for her. Oh, Mr. Conrad, if only I could speak!
Editorial room of the Union. Enter BOLZ through the door on the left, directly afterward MILLER.
BOLZ (at middle door).
In here with the table!
MILLER (carries small table, all set, with wine-bottles, glasses and plates, to the foreground on the left; brings up five chairs while he speaks).
Mr. Piepenbrink sends his regards, with the message that the wine is yellow-seal, and that, if the Doctor drinks any healths, he must not forget Mr. Piepenbrink's health. He was very jolly, the stout gentleman. And Madam Piepenbrink reminded him that he ought to subscribe for the Union. He commissioned me to see to it.
BOLZ (who meanwhile has been turning over papers at the work-table on the right, rising).
Let's have some wine!
[MILLER pours some in a glass.]
In honor of the worthy vintner! [Drinks.]
I treated him scandalously, but he has proved true-hearted. Tell him his health was not forgotten. There, take this bottle along!—Now, get out!
[Exit MILLER. BOLZ opening the door on the left.]
Come, gentlemen, today I carry out my promise.
[Enter KAeMPE, BELLMAUS, KOeRNER.]
This is the lunch I agreed to give. And now, my charming day-flies, put as much rose-color into your cheeks and your humors as your wits will let you. [Pouring out.] The great victory is won; the Union has celebrated one of the noblest of triumphs; in ages still to come belated angels will say with awe: "Those were glorious days," and so on—see continuation in today's paper. Before we sit down, the first toast—
KAeMPE. The member-elect—
No, our first toast is to the mother of all, the great power which produces members—the newspaper, may she prosper!
Hurrah! [Clink glasses.]
Hurrah! And secondly, long live—hold on, the member himself is not here yet.
Here he comes.
The member from our venerable town, editor-in-chief and professor, journalist, and good fellow, who is angry just now because behind his back this and that got into the paper—hurrah for him!
OLDENDORF (in a friendly tone.)
I thank you, gentlemen.
BOLZ (drawing OLDENDORF to the front).
And you are no longer vexed with us?
Your intention was good, but it was a great indiscretion.
Forget all about it! (Aloud.) Here, take your glass and sit down with us. Don't be proud, young statesman! Today you are one of us. Well, here sits the editorial staff! Where is worthy Mr. Henning—where tarries our owner, printer and publisher, Gabriel Henning?
I met him a little while ago on the stairs. He crept by me as shyly as though he were some one who had been up to mischief.
Probably he feels as Oldendorf does—he is again not pleased with the attitude of the paper.
MILLER (thrusting in his head).
The papers and the mail!
Over there! [MILLER enters, lays the papers on the work-table.]
Here is the Coriolanus. There is something in it about our paper. The errand-boy of the Coriolanus grinned at me scornfully, and recommended me to look over the article.
Give it here! Be quiet, Romans, Coriolanus speaks.—All ye devils, what does that mean? [Reads.] "On the best of authority we have just been informed that a great change is imminent in the newspaper affairs of our province. Our opponent, the Union, will cease to direct her wild attacks against all that is high and holy."—This high and holy means Blumenberg.—"The ownership is said to have gone over into other hands, and there is a sure prospect that we shall be able from now on to greet as an ally this widely read sheet." How does that taste to you, gentlemen?
MILLER} Thunder! KAeMPE.}(All together.) Nonsense! BELLMAUS.} It's a lie!
It's another of Blumenberg's reckless inventions.
There is something behind it all. Go and get me Gabriel Henning. [Exit MILLER.] This owner has played the traitor; we have been poisoned. [Springing up.] And this is the feast of the Borgia! Presently the misericordia will enter and sing our dirge. Do me the favor at least to eat up the oysters before it be too late.
OLDENDORF (who has seized the newspaper.)
Evidently this news is only an uncertain rumor. Henning will tell us there is no truth in it. Stop seeing ghosts, and sit down with us.
BOLZ (seating himself).
I sit down, not because I put faith in your words, but because I don't wish to do injustice to the lunch. Get hold of Henning; he must give an account of himself.
But, as you heard, he is not at home.
BOLZ (zealously eating).
Oh, thou wilt have a fearful awakening, little Orsini! Bellmaus, pour me out some wine. But if the story be not true, if this Coriolanus have lied, by the purple in this glass be it sworn I will be his murderer! The grimmest revenge that ever an injured journalist took shall fall on his head; he shall bleed to death from pin-pricks; every poodle in the street shall look on him scornfully and say: "Fie, Coriolanus, I wouldn't take a bite at you even if you were a sausage." [A knock is heard. BOLZ lays down his knife.] Memento mori! There are our grave-diggers. The last oyster, now, and then farewell thou lovely world!
Enter JUDGE SCHWARZ and SENDEN from the door on the left; the door remains open.
Obedient servant, gentlemen!
Your pardon if we disturb you.
BOLZ (remaining seated at the table).
Not in the least. This is our regular luncheon, contracted for a whole year—fifty oysters and two bottles daily for each member of the staff. Whoever buys the newspaper has to furnish it.
What brings us here, Professor, is a communication which Mr. Henning should have been the first to make to you. He preferred handing over the task to me.
I await your communication.
Mr. Henning has, from yesterday on, transferred to me by sale all rights pertaining to him as owner of the newspaper Union.
To you, Judge?
I acknowledge that I have bought it merely as accredited agent of a third person. Here is the deed; it contains no secrets. [Hands him a paper.]
OLDENDORF (looking through it, to BOLZ).
It is drawn up by a notary in due form—sold for thirty thousand thalers. [Agitation among the staff-members.] Let me get to the bottom of the matter. Is this change of owner also to be connected with a change in the political attitude of the sheet?
SENDEN (coming forward).
Certainly, Professor, that was the intention in making the purchase.
Do I possibly see in you the new owner?
Not that, but I have the honor to be a friend of his. You yourself, as well as these gentlemen, have a right to demand the fulfilment of your contracts. Your contracts provide, I understand, for six months' notice. It goes without saying that you continue to draw your salary until the expiration of this term.
You are very kind, Mr. von Senden. Our contracts empower us to edit the paper as we see fit, and to control its tone and its party affiliations. For the next half-year, therefore, we shall not only continue to draw our salaries but also to conduct the paper for the benefit of the party to which you have not the honor to belong.
We'll find a way to prevent that!
Calm yourself. That kind of work would scarcely be worthy of us. If such are the circumstances, I announce that I resign the editorship from today, and release you from all obligations to me.