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The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. IV
by Editor-in-Chief: Kuno Francke
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PLAYWR.

I leave you, honored sirs, to decide now whether my attempt is to be rejected entirely—trembling, I withdraw, and the play will begin. (He bows very respectfully and goes behind the curtain.)

ALL.

Bravo! Bravo!

VOICES FROM THE GALLERY.

Da capo!

[All are laughing. The music begins again; meanwhile the curtain rises.]



ACT I

Small room in a peasant's cottage

LORENZ, BARTHEL, GOTTLIEB. The tom-cat HINZE, is lying on a bench by the stove.

LORENZ.

I think that after the death of our father, our little fortune can be divided easily. You know the deceased has left only three pieces of property—a horse, an ox, and that cat there. I, as the eldest, will take the horse; Barthel, second after me, gets the ox, and so the cat is naturally left for our youngest brother.

LEUTNER (in the pit).

For Heaven's sake! Did any one ever see such an exposition! Just see how far dramatic art has degenerated!

MUeLLER.

But I understand everything perfectly well.

LEUTNER.

That's just the trouble, you should give the spectator a cunning suggestion, not throw the matter right into his teeth.

MUeLLER.

But now you know, don't you, where you are?

LEUTNER.

Yes, but you certainly mustn't know that so quickly; why, the very best part of the fun consists in getting at it little by little.

BARTHEL.

I think, brother Gottlieb, you will also be satisfied with this division; unfortunately you are the youngest, and so you must grant us some privileges.

GOTTLIEB.

Yes, to be sure.

SCHLOSS.

But why doesn't the court of awards interfere in the inheritance? What improbabilities!

LORENZ.

So then we're going now, dear Gottlieb; farewell, don't let time hang heavy on your hands.

GOTTLIEB.

Good-bye.

[Exit the brothers.]

GOTTLIEB (alone).

They are going away—and I am alone. We all three have our lodgings. Lorenz, of course, can till the ground with his horse, Barthel can slaughter and pickle his ox and live on it a while—but what am I, poor unfortunate, to do with my cat? At the most, I can have a muff for the winter made out of his fur, but I think he is even shedding it now. There he lies asleep quite comfortably—poor Hinze! Soon we shall have to part. I am sorry I brought him up, I know him as I know myself—but he will have to believe me, I cannot help myself, I must really sell him. He looks at me as though he understood. I could almost begin to cry.

[He walks up and down, lost in thought.]

MUeLLER.

Well, you see now, don't, you, that it's going to be a touching picture of family life? The peasant is poor and without money; now, in the direst need, he will sell his faithful pet to some susceptible young lady, and in the end that will be the foundation of his good fortune. Probably it is an imitation of Kotzebue's Parrot; here the bird is replaced by a cat and the play runs on of itself.

FISCHER.

Now that it's working out this way, I am satisfied too.

HINZE, the tom-cat (rises, stretches, arches his back, yawns, then speaks).

My dear Gottlieb—I really sympathize with you.

GOTTLIEB (astonished).

What, puss, you are speaking?

THE CRITICS (in the pit).

The cat is talking? What does that mean, pray?

FISCHER.

It's impossible for me to get the proper illusion here.

MUeLLER.

Rather than let myself be disappointed like this I never want to see another play all my life.

HINZE.

Why should I not be able to speak, Gottlieb?

GOTTLIEB.

I should not have suspected it; I never heard a cat speak in all my life.

HINZE.

Because we do not join in every conversation, you think we're nothing but dogs.

GOTTLIEB.

I think your only business is to catch mice.

HINZE.

If we had not, in our intercourse with human beings, got a certain contempt for speech, we could all speak.

GOTTLIEB.

Well, I'll own that! But why don't you give any one an opportunity to discover you?

HINZE.

That's to avoid responsibility, for if once the power of speech were inflicted on us so-called animals, there wouldn't be any joy left in the world. What isn't the dog compelled to do and learn! The horse! They are foolish animals to show their intelligence, they must give way entirely to their vanity; we cats still continue to be the freest race because, with all our skill, we can act so clumsily that human beings quite give up the idea of training us.

GOTTLIEB.

But why do you disclose all this to me?

HINZE.

Because you are a good, a noble man, one of the few who take no delight in servility and slavery; see, that is why I disclose myself to you completely and fully.

GOTTLIEB (gives him his hand).

Good friend!

HINZE.

Human beings labor under the delusion that the only remarkable thing about us is that instinctive purring which arises from a certain feeling of comfort; for that reason they often stroke us awkwardly and then we usually purr to secure ourselves against blows. But if they knew how to manage us in the right way, believe me, they would accustom our good nature to everything, and Michel, your neighbor's tom-cat, would even at times be pleased to jump through a hoop for the king.

GOTTLIEB.

You're right in that.

HINZE.

I love you, Master Gottlieb, very much. You have never stroked me the wrong way, you have let me sleep when I felt like it, you have objected whenever your brothers wanted to take me up, to go with me into the dark, and see the so-called electrical sparks—for all this I now want to show my gratitude.

GOTTLIEB.

Noble-hearted Hinze! Ah, how unjustly do they speak ill of you and scornfully, doubting your loyalty and devotion! My eyes are being opened—how my knowledge of human nature is increasing and so unexpectedly!

FISCHER.

Friends, where has our hope for a picture of family life gone to?

LEUTNER.

Why it is almost too nonsensical.

SCHLOSS.

I feel as though I were in a dream.

HINZE.

You are a good man, Master Gottlieb; but, do not take it ill of me, you are somewhat narrow, confined—to speak out freely, not one of the best heads.

GOTTLIEB.

Alas, no!

HINZE.

You don't know now, for example, what you want to do.

GOTTLIEB.

You read my thoughts perfectly.

HINZE.

If you had a muff made out of my fur—

GOTTLIEB.

Do not take it amiss, comrade, that this idea just passed through my mind.

HINZE.

Why, no, it was an altogether human thought. Can you think of no way of managing?

GOTTLIEB.

Not a thing!

HINZE.

You might carry me around and show me for money; but that is never a sure means of support.

GOTTLIEB.

No.

HINZE.

You might publish a journal or a German paper, with the motto, Homo sum—or a novel; I should be willing to collaborate with you—but that is too much bother.

GOTTLIEB.

Yes.

HINZE.

Well, I'll see that I take even better care of you. Depend upon it, you are yet to become very happy through me.

GOTTLIEB.

O, best, most noble man. (He embraces him tenderly.)

HINZE.

But you must also trust me.

GOTTLIEB.

Entirely. Why, now I realize your honorable spirit.

HINZE.

Well, then, do me a favor and bring the shoemaker immediately to take my measure for a pair of boots.

GOTTLIEB.

The shoemaker? Boots?

HINZE.

You are surprised, but in accomplishing what I intend to do for you, I have to walk and run so much that I have to wear boots.

GOTTLIEB.

But why not shoes?

HINZE.

Master Gottlieb, you do not understand the matter; they must lend me some dignity, an imposing air, in short, a certain manliness to which one never attains in shoes.

GOTTLIEB.

Well, as you think best; but the shoemaker will be surprised.

HINZE.

Not at all; we must act only as if it were nothing remarkable that I should wish to wear boots; one gets used to everything.

GOTTLIEB.

Yes, indeed; why, my conversation with you has actually become quite easy! But another thing; now that we have become such good friends, do call me by my first name, too; why do you still want to stand on ceremony with me?

HINZE.

As you like, Gottlieb.

GOTTLIEB.

There's the shoemaker passing. Hey! Pst! Friend Leichdorn! Will you please stop a moment?

[The shoemaker comes in.]

SHOEMAK.

God bless you! What's the news?

GOTTLIEB.

I have ordered no work from you for a long time.

SHOEMAK.

No, my friend, all in all, I have very little to do now.

GOTTLIEB.

I should like to have another pair of boots made—

SHOEMAK.

Please take a seat. I have a measure with me.

GOTTLIEB.

Not for myself, but for my young friend there.

SHOEMAK.

For this one here? Very well.

HINZE (sits on a chair and holds out his right leg).

SHOEMAK.

Now how should you like it, pussy?

HINZE.

In the first place, good soles, then brown flaps, and, above all things, stiff.

SHOEMAK.

Very well. (He takes the measure.) Will you be so kind as to draw your claws in a bit—or rather nails? I have already scratched myself. (He takes the measure.)

HINZE.

And they must be finished quickly. (As his leg is being stroked he begins to purr involuntarily.)

SHOEMAK.

The pussy is comfortable.

GOTTLIEB.

Yes, he's a good-humored fellow. He has just come from school, what they usually call a "smarty."

SHOEMAK.

Well, good-bye.

[Exit.]

GOTTLIEB.

Wouldn't you perhaps like to have your whiskers trimmed too?

HINZE.

On no account, I look so much more respectable, and you certainly must know that cats immediately become unmanly after that. A tom-cat without whiskers is but a contemptible creature.

GOTTLIEB.

If I only knew what you are planning!

HINZE.

You'll find out in due time. Now I want to take a little walk on the roofs; there's a fine, open view there and you're likely to catch a dove too.

GOTTLIEB.

As a good friend, I want to warn you not to let yourself be caught at it.

HINZE.

Don't worry, I'm not a novice. Meanwhile, good-bye.

[Exit.]

GOTTLIEB (alone).

Natural history always says that cats cannot be trusted and that they belong to the lion family, and I am in such fearful dread of a lion. Now if the cat had no conscience, he could run away from me afterward with the boots for which I must now give my last penny and then sell them somewhere for nothing, or it's possible that he wants to make a bid for favor with the shoemaker and then go into his service. But he has a tom-cat already. No, Hinze, my brothers have betrayed me, and now I will try my luck with you. He spoke so nobly, he was so touched—there he sits on the roof yonder, stroking his whiskers—forgive me, my fine friend, that I could even for a moment doubt your magnanimity.

[Exit.]

FISCHER.

What nonsense!

MUeLLER.

What does the cat need those boots for?—to be able to walk better? Silly stuff!

SCHLOSS.

But it seems as though I saw a cat before me.

LEUTNER.

Be still, the scene is changing.

Hall in the royal palace

The KING with crown and sceptre. The PRINCESS, his daughter

KING.

A thousand handsome princes, my precious daughter, have already sued for your hand and laid their kingdoms at your feet, but you have continued to refuse them. Tell us the reason for this, my treasure.

PRINCESS.

My most gracious father, I have always believed that my heart must first feel certain emotions before my neck would bow under the yoke of marriage. For a marriage without love, they say, is truly hell upon earth.

KING.

That is right, my dear daughter. Ah, indeed, indeed, have you spoken words of truth: a hell on earth! Alas, if only I were not qualified to discuss it! Indeed I should have preferred to remain ignorant! But as it is, dear treasure, I have my tale to tell, as they say. Your mother, my consort of blessed memory—ah, Princess, see, the tears rush to my eyes even in my old age—she was a good queen, she wore the crown with an indescribable air of majesty—but she gave me very little peace. Well, may her ashes rest in peace among her royal relatives.

PRINCESS.

Your majesty excites yourself too much.

KING.

When the memory of it returns to me, O my child, on my knees I would entreat you—do be careful in marrying! It is a great truth that linen and a bridegroom must not be bought by candle-light, a truth which should be found in every book. What did I suffer! No day passed without a quarrel; I could not sleep peacefully, could not conduct my administrative business quietly, I could not think of anything, could not read a book—I was always interrupted. And still my spirit sometimes yearns for you, my blessed Klothilde! My eyes smart—I am a real old fool.

PRINCESS (tenderly).

My father!

KING.

I tremble to think of the dangers that face you, for, even if you do fall in love now, my daughter, ah! you should just see what thick books wise men have filled on this subject—see, your very passion, then, can also make you miserable. The happiest, the most blissful emotion can ruin us; moreover, love is, as it were, a magic cup; instead of nectar we often drink poison; then our pillow is wet with tears; all hope, all consolation are gone. (The sound of a trumpet is heard.) Why, it isn't dinner-time yet, is it? Probably another new prince who wants to fall in love with you. Take care, my daughter; you are my only child, and you do not realize how near my heart your happiness lies. (He kisses her and leaves the hall. Applause is heard in the pit.)

FISCHER.

That's a scene for you, in which you can find sound common sense.

SCHLOSS.

I am also moved.

MUeLLER.

He's an excellent sovereign.

FISCHER.

Now he didn't exactly have to appear with a crown.

SCHLOSS.

It entirely spoils the sympathy one feels for him as an affectionate father.

THE PRINCESS (alone).

I do not understand at all; why, not one of the princes has yet touched my heart with love. I always keep in mind my father's warnings; he is a great sovereign and nevertheless a good father too, and is always thinking of my happiness; if only he did not have such a hasty temper! But fortune and misfortune are always coupled thus. My joy I find in the arts and sciences, for books constitute all my happiness.

The PRINCESS, LEANDER, the court scholar.

LEANDER.

Well, your Royal Highness! (They sit down.)

PRINCESS.

Here. Master Leander, is my essay. I have entitled it Thoughts at Night.

LEANDER (reads).

Excellent! Inspired! Ah! I feel as though I hear the hour of midnight striking. When did you write it?

PRINCESS.

Yesterday noon, after dinner.

LEANDER.

Beautifully conceived! Truly, beautifully conceived! But with your most gracious permission! The moon shines sadly down in the world. If you will not take it amiss, it should read: into the world.

PRINCESS.

Very well, I will note that for the future; it's too stupid that poetry should be made so hard for us; one can't write five or six lines without making a mistake.

LEANDER.

That's the obstinacy of language, so to speak.

PRINCESS.

Are not the emotions tenderly and delicately phrased!

LEANDER.

Indescribably! It is scarcely comprehensible how a feminine mind could write such a thing.

PRINCESS.

Now I might try my hand at moonlight descriptions. Don't you think so?

LEANDER.

Naturally you keep going farther all the time; you keep rising higher.

PRINCESS.

I have also begun a piece: The Unhappy Misanthrope; or, Lost Peace and Restored Innocence!

LEANDER.

Even the title itself is fascinating.

PRINCESS.

And then I feel an incomprehensible desire within me to write some horrible ghost story. As I said before, if it were not for those grammatical errors!

LEANDER.

Do not worry about that, incomparable princess! They are easily corrected.

[Groom from the Chamber enters.]

GROOM.

The Prince of Malsinki, who has just arrived, wishes to wait on your royal highness.

[Exit.]

LEANDER.

Your obedient servant.

[Exit.]

Prince NATHANIEL of Malsinki. The KING

KING.

Here, Prince, is my daughter, a young, simple creature, as you see her before you. (Aside.) Be polite, my daughter, courteous; he is an illustrious prince from afar; his country is not even on my map, I have already looked it up; I have an amazing amount of respect for him.

PRINCESS.

I am glad to have the pleasure of making your acquaintance.

NATHAN.

Beautiful Princess, the report of your beauty has been spread so widely over the whole world that I have come here from a far distant corner for the happiness of seeing you face to face.

KING.

Indeed it is astonishing, how many countries and kingdoms there are! You would not believe how many thousand crown-princes have been here already, to pay their addresses to my daughter; sometimes they arrive by dozens, especially when the weather is fine—and now you have come all the way from—I beg your pardon, topography is such a very extensive subject—in what region does your country lie?

NATHAN.

Mighty king, if you travel from here first down the great highway, then you turn to the right and go on; but when you reach a mountain, turn to the left again, then you go to the ocean and sail directly north (if the wind is favorable, of course), and so, if the journey is successful, you reach my dominions in a year and a half.

KING.

The deuce! I must have my court scholar explain that to me. You are probably a neighbor of the North Pole or Zodiac, or something like that, I suppose!

NATHAN.

Not that I know of.

KING.

Perhaps somewhere near the savages?

NATHAN.

I beg your pardon, all my subjects are very tame.

KING.

But you must live confoundedly far away. I can't get a clear idea of it yet.

NATHAN.

The geography of my country is still not exactly fixed; I expect to discover more every day; and then it may easily come about that we shall even become neighbors in the end.

KING.

That will be splendid! And if, after all, a few countries still stand in our way, I will help you in your discoveries. My neighbor is not a good friend of mine, so to speak, and he has a fine country; all the raisins come from there; why, I should be only too glad to have it! But another thing; do tell me, how, living so far away, can you speak our language so fluently!

NATHAN.

Hush!

KING.

What?

NATHAN.

Hush! hush!

KING.

I do not understand.

NATHANIEL, (softly to him).

Do be quiet about it, pray, for otherwise the audience down there will surely notice that it is really very unnatural.

KING.

It doesn't matter. They clapped before and so I can afford to take a chance.

NATHAN.

You see, it is only for the sake of the drama that I speak your language; for otherwise, of course, the matter is incomprehensible.

KING.

Ah, so! Well, come, Prince, the table is set!

[The PRINCE escorts the princess out, the KING precedes.]

FISCHER.

Cursed improbabilities there are in this play!

SCHLOSS.

And the king doesn't remain at all true to his character.

LEUTNER.

Why, nothing but the natural should ever be presented on the stage! The prince should speak an altogether unknown language and have an interpreter with him; the princess should make grammatical errors, since she herself admits that she writes incorrectly.

MUeLLER.

Of course! Of course! The whole thing is unquestionable nonsense; the author himself is always forgetting what he has said the moment before.

The scene is laid in front of a tavern.

LORENZ, KUNZ, MICHEL are sitting on a bench. The HOST

LORENZ.

I shall have to be going again soon! I still have a long way home.

HOST.

You are a subject of the king, aren't you?

LORENZ.

Yes, indeed; what do you call your good ruler?

HOST.

He is just called Bugbear.

LORENZ.

That is a foolish title. Why, has he no other name?

HOST.

When he has edicts issued, they always read: For the good of the public, the Law demands—hence I believe that is his real name. All petitions, too, are always laid before the Law. He is a fearful man.

LORENZ.

Still, I should rather be under a king; why, a king is more dignified. They say the Bugbear is a very ungracious master.

HOST.

He is not especially gracious, that is true of course, but, on the other hand, he is justice itself. Cases are even sent to him from abroad and he must settle them.

LORENZ.

They say wonderful things about him; the story goes he can transform himself into any animal.

HOST.

It is true, and then he travels around incognito and spies out the sentiments of his subjects; that's the very reason why we trust no cat, no strange dog or horse, because we always think the ruler might probably be inside of them.

LORENZ.

Then surely we are in a better position, too. Our king never goes out without wearing his crown, his cloak, and his sceptre; by these, he is known three hundred paces away. Well, take care of yourselves.

[Exit.]

HOST.

Now he is already in his own country.

KUNZ.

Is the border line so near?

HOST.

Surely, that very tree belongs to the king; you can see from this very spot everything that goes on in his country; this border line here is a lucky thing for me. I should have been bankrupt long ago if the deserters from over there had not supported me; almost every day several come.

MICHEL.

Is the service there so hard?

HOST.

Not that; but running away is so easy, and just because it is so strictly forbidden the fellows get such an exceptional desire to desert. Look, I bet that's another one coming!

[A soldier comes running.]

SOLDIER.

A can of beer, host! Quick!

HOST.

Who are you?

SOLDIER.

A deserter.

MICHEL.

Perhaps 'twas his love for his parents which made him desert. Poor fellow, do take pity on him, host.

HOST.

Why if he has money, there won't be any lack of beer. (Goes into the house.)

[Two hussars come riding and dismount.]

1ST HUSS.

Well, thank God, we've got so far! Your health, neighbor!

SOLDIER.

This is the border.

2D HUSS.

Yes, Heaven be thanked! Didn't we have to ride for the sake of that fellow? Beer, host!

HOST (with several glasses).

Here, gentlemen, a fine, cool drink; you are all pretty warm.

1ST HUSS.

Here, you rascal! To your health!

SOLDIER.

Best thanks, I will meantime hold your horses for you.

2D HUSS.

The fellow can run! It's good that the border is never so very far away; for otherwise it would be deucedly hard service.

1ST HUSS.

Well, we must go back, I suppose. Good-bye, deserter! Much luck on your way!

[They mount and ride away.]

HOST.

Will you stay here?

SOLDIER.

No, I am going away; why I must enlist with the neighboring duke.

HOST.

Say, come and see me when you desert again.

SOLDIER.

Certainly. Farewell!

[They shake hands. Exeunt soldier and guests, exit host into the house. The curtain falls.]

INTERLUDE

FISCHER.

Why, it's getting wilder and wilder! What was the purpose of the last scene, I wonder?

LEUTNER.

Nothing at all, it is entirely superfluous; only to introduce some new nonsense. The theme of the cat is now lost entirely and there is no fixed point of view at all.

SCHLOSS.

I feel exactly as though I were intoxicated.

MUeLLER.

I say, in what period is the play supposed to be taking place? The hussars, of course, are a recent invention.

SCHLOSS.

We simply shouldn't bear it, but stamp hard. Now we haven't the faintest idea of what the play is coming to.

FISCHER.

And no love, either! Nothing in it for the heart, for the imagination.

LEUTNER.

As soon as any more of that nonsense occurs, for my part at least, I'll begin to stamp.

WIESENER (to his neighbor).

I like the play now.

NEIGHBOR.

Very fine, indeed, very fine; a great man, the author; he has imitated the Magic Flute well.

WIESENER.

I liked the hussars particularly well; people seldom take the risk of bringing horses on the stage—and why not? They often have more sense than human beings. I would rather see a good horse than many a human being in the more modern plays.

NEIGHBOR.

The Moors in Kotzebue—a horse is after all nothing but another kind of Moor.

WIESENER.

Do you not know to what regiment the hussars belonged

NEIGHBOR.

I did not even look at them carefully. Too bad they went away so soon—indeed I'd rather like to see a whole play with nothing but hussars. I like the cavalry so much.

LEUTNER (to BOeTTICHER).

What do you think of all this?

BOeTTICH.

Why, I simply can't get the excellent acting of the man who plays the cat out of my head. What a study! What art! What observation! What costuming!

SCHLOSS.

That is true; he really does look like a large tom-cat.

BOeTTICH.

And just notice his whole mask, as I would rather call his costume, for since he has so completely disguised his natural appearance, this expression is far more fitting. But I say, God bless the ancients when blessing is due. You probably do not know that the ancients acted all parts, without exception, in masks, as you will find in Athenaeus, Pollux and others. It is hard, you see, to know all these things so accurately, because one must now and then look up those books oneself to find them. At the same time, however, one then has the advantage of being able to quote them. There is a difficult passage in Pausanias.

FISCHER.

You were going to be kind enough to speak of the cat.

BOeTTICH.

Why, yes; and I only meant to say all the preceding by the way, hence I beg you most earnestly to consider it as a note; and, to return to the cat, have you noticed, I wonder, that he is not one of those black cats? No, on the contrary, he is almost entirely white and has only a few black spots; that expresses his good-nature excellently; moreover, the theme of the whole play, all the emotions to which it should appeal, are suggested in this very fur.

LEUTNER.

That is true.

FISCHER.

The curtain is going up again!



ACT II

Room in a peasant's house

GOTTLIEB, HINZE. Both are sitting at a small table and eating.

GOTTLIEB.

Did it taste good?

HINZE.

Very good, very fine.

GOTTLIEB.

But now my fate must soon be determined, for otherwise I do not know what I am to do.

HINZE.

Just have patience a few days longer; why, good fortune must have some time to grow; who would expect to become happy all of a sudden, so to speak? My good man, that happens only in books; in the world of reality things do not move so quickly.

FISCHER.

Now just listen, the cat dares to speak of the world of reality! I feel almost like going home, for I'm afraid I shall go mad.

LEUTNER.

It looks almost as if that is what the writer intended.

MUeLLER.

A splendid kind of artistic enjoyment, to be mad, I must admit!

GOTTLIEB.

If I only knew, dear Hinze, how you have come by this amount of experience, this intelligence!

HINZE.

Are you, then, under the impression that it is in vain one lies for days at the stove with one's eyes tight shut? I always kept studying there quietly. In secret and unobserved does the power of the intelligence grow; hence it is a sign that one has made the least progress when one sometimes has a mind to crane one's neck around as far as possible, so as to look back at the ground one has already covered. Now do be kind enough to untie my napkin.

GOTTLIEB (does it).

A blessing on good food! (They kiss.) Content yourself with that.

HINZE.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

GOTTLIEB.

The boots fit very nicely, and you have a charming little foot.

HINZE.

That is only because we always walk on our toes, as you must already have read in your natural history.

GOTTLIEB.

I have great respect for you—on account of the boots.

HINZE (hangs a soldier's knapsack about his neck).

I am going now. See, I have also made myself a bag with a drawing-string.

GOTTLIEB.

What's it all for?

HINZE.

Just let me alone! I want to be a hunter. Why, where is my cane?

GOTTLIEB.

Here.

HINZE.

Well, then, good-bye.

[Exit.]

GOTTLIEB.

A hunter? I can't understand the man.

[Exit.]

Open Field

HINZE (with cane, knapsack, and bag).

Splendid weather! It's such a beautiful, warm day; afterward I must lie down a bit in the sun. (He spreads out his bag.) Well, fortune, stand by me. Of course, when I think that this capricious goddess of fortune so seldom favors shrewdly laid plans, that she always ends up by disgracing the intelligence of mortals, I feel as though I should lose all my courage. Yet, be quiet, my heart; a kingdom is certainly worth the trouble of working and sweating some for it! If only there are no dogs around here; I can't bear those creatures at all; it is a race that I despise because they so willingly submit to the lowest servitude to human beings. They can't do anything but either fawn or bite; they haven't fashionable manners at all, a thing which is so necessary in company. There's no game to be caught. (He begins to sing a hunting song: "I steal through the woods so still and wild," etc. A nightingale in the bush near-by begins to sing.) She sings gloriously, the songstress of the grove; but how delicious she must taste! The great people of the earth are, after all, right lucky in the fact that they can eat as many nightingales and larks as they like; we poor common people must content ourselves with their singing, with the beauty in nature, with the incomprehensibly sweet harmony. It's a shame I can't hear anything sing without getting a desire to eat it. Nature! Nature! Why do you always destroy my finest emotions by having created me thus! I feel almost like taking off my boots and softly climbing up that tree yonder; she must be perching there. (Stamping in the pit.) The nightingale is good-natured not to let herself be interrupted even by this martial music; she must taste delicious; I am forgetting all about my hunting with these sweet dreams. Truly, there's no game to be caught. Why, who's there?

[Two lovers enter.]

HE.

I say, my sweet life, do you hear the nightingale?

SHE.

I am not deaf, my good friend.

HE.

How my heart overflows with joyousness when I see all harmonious nature thus gathered about me, when every tone but reechoes the confession of my love, when all heaven bows down to diffuse its ether over me.

SHE.

You are raving, my dear!

HE.

Do not call the most natural emotions of my heart raving. (He kneels down.) See, I swear to you, here in the presence of glad heaven—

HINZE (approaching them courteously).

Kindly pardon me—would you not take the trouble to go somewhere else? You are disturbing a hunt here with your lovely affection.

HE.

Be the sun my witness, the earth—and what else? Thou, thyself, dearer to me than earth, sun, and all the elements. What is it, good friend?

HINZE.

The hunt—I beg most humbly.

HE.

Barbarian, who are you, to dare to interrupt the oaths of love? You are not of woman born, you belong outside humanity.

HINZE.

If you would only consider, sir—

SHE.

Then wait just a second, good friend; you see, I'm sure, that my lover, lost in the intoxication of the moment, is down on his knees.

HE.

Dost thou believe me now?

SHE.

Oh, didn't I believe you even before you spoke a word? (She bends down to him affectionately.) Dearest! I love you! Oh, inexpressibly!

HE.

Am I mad? Oh, and if I am not, why do I not become so immediately with excess of joy, wretched, despicable creature that I am? I am no longer on the earth; look at me well, dearest, and tell me: Am I not perhaps standing in the sun?

SHE.

You are in my arms, and they shall never release you either.

HE.

Oh, come, this open field is too narrow for my emotions, we must climb the highest mountain, to tell all nature how happy we are.

[Exit the lovers, quickly and full of delight. Loud applause and bravos in the pit.]

WIESENER (clapping).

The lover thoroughly exhausted himself. Oh, my, I gave myself such a blow on the hand that it swelled right up.

NEIGHBOR.

You do not know how to restrain yourself when you are glad.

WIESENER.

Yes, I am always that way.

FISCHER.

Ah!—that was certainly something for the heart; that makes one feel good again!

LEUTNER.

Really beautiful diction in that scene!

MUeLLER.

But I wonder whether it is essential to the whole?

SCHLOSS.

I never worry about the whole; if I cry, I cry—that's enough; that was a divine passage.

HINZE.

Such a pair of lovers is good for something in the world after all; they have fallen plump into the poetical again down there and the stamping has ceased. There's no game to be caught.

(A rabbit creeps into the bag; he rushes over and draws the strings over him.)

Look here, good friend! A kind of game that is a cousin of mine, so to speak; yes, that's the way with the world nowadays, relatives against relatives, brother against brother; if one wants to get through the world oneself, one must push others out of the way.

(He takes the rabbit out of the bag and puts it into the knapsack.)

Hold! Hold!—truly I must take care not to devour the game myself. I must just tie up the knapsack quickly only to be able to restrain my passion. Fie! for shame, Hinze! Is it not the duty of the nobleman to sacrifice himself and his desires to the happiness of his brother creatures? That's the reason why we live, and whoever cannot do that—oh, it were better for him if he had never been born!

(He is on the point of withdrawing; violent applause and shouting of "Encore;" he has to repeat the last beautiful passage, then he bows respectfully and goes of with the rabbit.)

FISCHER.

Oh, what a noble man!

MUeLLER.

What a beautifully human state of mind!

SCHLOSS.

One can still be benefited by things like this, but when I see such nonsense I should like to smash it with a single blow.

LEUTNER.

I began to feel quite sad too—the nightingale—the lovers—the last tirade—why the play has some really beautiful passages after all!

Hall in the palace

Large company. The KING. The PRINCESS. Prince NATHANIEL. The COOK (in gala costume)

KING (sitting on throne).

Over here, cook; now is the time to speak and answer; I want to examine the matter myself.

COOK (falls on his knees).

May it please your majesty to express your commands for your highness's most faithful servant?

KING.

One cannot expend too much effort, my friends, in keeping a king—on whose shoulders lies the well-being of a whole country and that of innumerable subjects—always in good humor. For if he falls into a bad humor, he very easily becomes a tyrant, a monster; for good humor encourages cheerfulness, and cheerfulness, according to the observations of all philosophers, makes man good; whereas melancholy, on the other hand, is to be considered a vice for the very reason that it encourages all the vices. Whose duty is it, I now ask, in whose power does it so lie, to preserve the good spirits of the monarch, so much as in the hands of a cook? Are not rabbits very innocent animals? My favorite dish—by means of these animals I could succeed in never becoming tired of making my country happy—and these rabbits he lets me do without! Sucking pigs and sucking pigs daily. Rascal, I am disgusted with this at last!

COOK.

Let not my king condemn me unheard. Heaven is my witness, that I took all pains to secure those pretty white animals; I even wanted to purchase them at a rather high price, but there are absolutely none to be had. If it were possible to get possession of even one of these rabbits, do you think you would be allowed to doubt for one moment longer the love your subjects bear you?

KING.

Stop with those roguish words, betake yourself to the kitchen and show by your action that you love your king. (Exit cook.) Now I turn to you, my prince, and to you my daughter. I have been informed, worthy prince, that my daughter does not love you; she is a thoughtless, silly girl, but I still give her credit for so much common sense as probably to have several reasons. She causes me care and sadness, grief and worry, and my old eyes are flooded with tears when I think of how she will get along after my death. "You will be left an old maid," I have told her a thousand times; "take your chance while it is offered you;" but she will not hear; well, then she'll have to be made to feel.

PRINCESS.

My father—

KING (weeping and sobbing).

Go, ungrateful, disobedient girl—by your refusal you are drawing me into—alas, only too early a grave! (He supports himself on the throne, covers his face with his cloak and weeps bitterly.)

FISCHER.

Why, the king does not remain true to his character for a moment.

[Groom of the Chamber comes in.]

GROOM.

Your majesty, a strange man is outside and begs to be admitted before your majesty.

KING (sobbing).

Who is it?

GROOM.

I beg pardon, my king, for not being able to answer this question. Judging by his long white beard, one should say he is an old man, and his face completely covered with hair should almost confirm one in this opinion, but then again he has such bright, youthful eyes, such a smooth, flexible back, that one cannot understand him. He appears to be a wealthy man; for he is wearing a pair of fine boots and as far as I can infer from his exterior he seems to be a hunter.

KING.

Bring him in; I am curious to see him.

[Groom goes and returns directly with HINZE.]

HINZE.

With your majesty's most gracious permission the Count of Carabas makes bold to present you with a rabbit.

KING (delighted).

A rabbit? Do you hear it, really, people? Ah, fate has become reconciled with me again! A rabbit?

HINZE (takes it out of his knapsack).

Here, great monarch!

KING.

Here—just hold the sceptre a moment, prince. (He feels the rabbit.) Fat! nice and fat! From the Count of ——

HINZE.

Carabas.

KING.

Indeed, he must be an excellent man. I must become better acquainted with him. Who is the man? Which of you knows him? Why does he keep himself concealed? If such heads as that are allowed to remain idle, what will become of our throne! I would cry for joy. Sends me a rabbit! Groom, give it to the cook directly.

[Groom takes it. Exit.]

NATHAN.

My king, I beg most humbly to make my departure.

KING.

Why, indeed! I had almost forgotten that in my joy! Farewell, prince, yes, you must make room for other suitors; it cannot be otherwise. Adieu! I wish you had a highroad all the way home.

[Prince kisses his hand. Exit.]

KING (shouting).

People! Let my historian come!

[The historian appears.]

KING.

Here, friend, come, here's some material for our history of the world. You have your book with you, of course!

HISTORIAN.

Yes, my king.

KING.

Now enter immediately, that on such and such a day (whatever date we happen to have today) the Count of Carabas sent me a present of a most delicious rabbit.

[HISTORIAN seats himself and writes.]

KING.

Do not forget, Anno currentis. I must think of everything, otherwise it's always sure to be done wrong. (Blast of a trumpet is heard.) Ah, dinner is ready—come, my daughter, do not weep; if it isn't one prince, it will be another. Hunter, we thank you for your trouble. Will you accompany us to the dining-room?

(They go, HINZE follows.)

LEUTNER.

Pretty soon I shall not be able to stand it any longer; why, what has happened to the father now, who was so tender to his daughter at first and touched us all so?

FISCHER.

The only thing that vexes me is that not a person in the play wonders at the cat; the king and all act as though it had to be so.

SCHLOSS.

My head is all dizzy with this queer stuff.

Royal dining-room

Large table set. Sound of drums and trumpets. Enter the KING, the PRINCESS, LEANDER, HINZE, several distinguished guests and JACKPUDDING, Servants, waiting at the table.

KING.

Let us sit down, otherwise the soup will get cold! Has the hunter been taken care of?

SERVANT.

Yes, your majesty, he will eat at the little table here with the court fool.

JACKPUDDING (to HINZE).

Let us sit down, otherwise the soup will get cold.

HINZE (sits down).

With whom have I the honor of dining?

JACKPUD.

A man is what he is, Sir Hunter; we cannot all do the same thing. I am a poor, exiled fugitive, a man who was once, a long time ago, witty, but who has now become stupid and re-entered service in a foreign land where he is again considered witty for a while.

HINZE.

From what country do you come?

JACKPUD.

Unfortunately, only Germany. My countrymen became so wise about a certain time that they finally forbade all jokes on pain of punishment; wherever I was seen, I was called by unbearable nicknames, such as: Absurd, indecent, bizarre—whoever laughed at me was persecuted like myself, and so I was compelled to go into exile.

HINZE.

Poor man!

JACKPUD.

There are strange trades in the world, Sir Hunter; cooks live by eating, tailors by vanity, I, by the laughter of human beings; if they cease to laugh I must starve.

[Murmuring in the pit: A Jackpudding! A Jackpudding!]

HINZE.

I do not eat that vegetable.

JACKPUD.

Why? Don't be bashful, help yourself.

HINZE.

I tell you, white cabbage does not agree with me.

JACKPUD.

It will taste all the better to me. Give me your hand! I must become better acquainted with you, Sir Hunter.

HINZE.

Here!

JACKPUD.

Take here the hand of an honest German fellow; I am not ashamed of being German, as many of my countrymen are. (He presses the cat's hand very tightly.)

HINZE.

Ow! Ow! (He resists, growls, clutches JACKPUDDING.)

JACKPUD.

Oh! Hunter! Are you possessed of the devil? (He rises and goes to the king weeping.) Your majesty, the hunter is a perfidious man; just look at the remembrance of his five fingers he has left on me.

KING (eating).

Strange! Now sit down again; wear gloves in the future when you give him your hand.

JACKPUD.

One must guard against you.

HINZE.

Why did you take such a hold on me? The deuce take your pretended honesty!

JACKPUD.

Why, you scratch like a cat!

[HINZE laughs maliciously.]

KING.

But what's the trouble today, anyhow? Why is there no intelligent conversation carried on at the table? I do not enjoy a bite unless my mind has some nourishment too. Court scholar, did you perhaps fall on your head today?

LEANDER (eating).

May it please your majesty—

KING.

How far is the sun from the earth?

LEANDER.

Two million four hundred thousand and seventy-one-miles.

KING.

And the circle in which the planets revolve?

LEANDER.

A hundred thousand million miles.

KING.

A hundred thousand million! There's nothing in the world I like better to hear than such great numbers—millions, trillions—that gives you—something to think about. It's a good deal, isn't it, a thousand million, more or less?

LEANDER.

Human intelligence grows with the numbers.

KING.

But tell me, about how large is the whole world in general, counting fixed stars, milky ways, hoods of mist, and all that?

LEANDER.

That cannot be expressed at all.

KING.

But you are to express it or (threatening with his sceptre)—

LEANDER.

If we consider a million as one, then about ten hundred thousand trillions of such units which of themselves amount to a million.

KING.

Just think, children, think! Would you believe this bit of world could be so great? But how that occupies the mind!

JACKPUD.

Your majesty, this bowl of rice here seems to me sublimer.

KING.

How's that, fool?

JACKPUD.

Such sublimities of numbers give no food for thought; one cannot think, for of course the highest number always finally becomes the smallest again. Why, you just have to think of all the numbers possible. I can never count beyond five here.

KING.

But say, there's some truth in that. Scholar, how many numbers are there, anyhow?

LEANDER.

An infinite number.

KING.

Just tell me quickly the highest number.

LEANDER.

There is no highest, because you can always add something to the highest; human intelligence knows no bounds in this respect.

KING.

But in truth it is a remarkable thing, this human mind.

HINZE.

You must get disgusted with being a fool here.

JACKPUD.

You can introduce nothing new; there are too many working at the trade.

LEANDER.

The fool, my king, can never understand such a thing; on the whole I am surprised that your majesty is still amused by his insipid ideas. Even in Germany they tired of him, and here in Utopia you have taken him up where thousands of the most wonderful and clever amusements are at our service. He should be thrown out at once, for he only brings your taste into bad repute.

KING (throws the sceptre at his head).

Sir Brazenbold of a scholar! What do you dare to say? The fool pleases me, me, his king, and if I like him, how dare you say that the man is ridiculous? You are the court scholar and he the court fool; you both have equal positions; the only difference is that he is dining at the little table with the strange hunter. The fool displays his nonsense at the table, and you carry on an intelligent conversation at the table; both are only to while away the time for me and make my meal taste good: where, then, lies the great difference? Furthermore, it does us good to see a fool who is more stupid than we, who has not the same gifts; why, then, one feels greater oneself and is grateful to heaven; even on that account I like to have a blockhead around.

[THE COOK serves the rabbit and goes.]

KING.

The rabbit! I do not know—I suppose the other gentlemen do not care for it?

ALL (bow).

KING.

Well, then, with your permission, I will keep it for myself. (He eats.)

PRINCESS.

It seems to me the king is making faces as though he were getting an attack again.

KING (rising in rage).

The rabbit is burned! Oh, earth! Oh, pain! What keeps me from sending the cook right down to Orcus as fast as possible?

PRINCESS.

My father!

KING.

How did this stranger lose his way among the people? His eyes are dry—

ALL (arise very sadly, JACKPUDDING runs back and forth busily, HINZE remains seated and eats steadily).

KING.

A long, long, good night; no morning will ever brighten it.

PRINCESS.

Do have some one fetch the peacemaker.

KING.

May the Cook Philip be Hell's cry of jubilee when an ungrateful wretch is burned to ashes!

PRINCESS.

Where can the musician be!

KING.

To be or not to be—

[The peacemaker enters with a set of musical bells and begins to play them at once.]

KING.

What is the matter with me? (Weeping.) Alas! I have already had my attack again. Have the rabbit taken out of my sight. (He lays his head on the table, full of grief, and sobs.)

COURTIER.

His majesty suffers much.

[Violent stamping and whistling in the pit; they cough, they hiss; those in the gallery laugh; the king gets up, arranges his cloak and sits down majestically with his sceptre. It is all in vain; the noise continues to increase, all the actors forget their parts, a terrible pause on the stage. HINZE has climbed up a pillar. The author appears on the stage, overcome.]

AUTHOR.

Gentlemen—most honorable public—just a few words!

IN THE PIT.

Quiet! Quiet! The fool wishes to speak!

AUTHOR.

For the sake of heaven, do not disgrace me thus; why, the act will be over directly. Just look, the king, too, is again calmed; take an example from this great soul which certainly has more reason to be vexed than you.

FISCHER.

More than we?

WIESENER (to his neighbor).

But I wonder why you are stamping? We two like the play, do we not?

NEIGHBOR.

That's true too—absent-mindedly, because they're all doing it. (Claps with might and main.)

AUTHOR.

A few voices are still favorable to me, however. For pity, do put up with my poor play; a rogue gives more than he has, and it will be over soon, too. I am so confused and frightened that I can think of nothing else to say to you.

ALL.

We want to hear nothing, know nothing.

AUTHOR (raging, drags the peacemaker forward).

The king is calmed, now calm this raging flood too, if you can. (Beside himself, rushes off.)

[The peacemaker plays on his bells, the stamping keeps time with the melody; he motions; monkeys and bears appear and dance fondly around him. Eagles and other birds. An eagle sits on the head of HINZE who is very much afraid; two elephants, two lions. Ballet and singing.]

THE FOUR-FOOTED ANIMALS.

That sounds so beautiful!

THE BIRDS.

That sounds so lovely!

CHORUS TOGETHER.

Never have I seen or heard the like!

[Hereupon an artistic quadrille is danced by all present, the king and his court retinue are taken into the centre, HINZE and JACKPUDDING not excluded; general applause. Laughter; people standing up in pit to see better; several hats fall down from the gallery.]

THE PEACEMAKER (sings during the ballet and the audience's general expression of pleasure).

Could only all good men Soft bells like these discover Each enemy would then With ease be turned to lover. And life without bad friends would be All sweet and lovely harmony.

[The curtain falls, all shout and applaud, the ballet is heard awhile.]

INTERLUDE

WIESENER.

Splendid! Splendid!

NEIGHBOR.

Well, I'd certainly call that a heroic ballet.

WIESENER.

And so beautifully woven into the main plot!

LEUTNER.

Beautiful music!

FISCHER.

Divine!

SCHLOSS.

The ballet is the only redeeming feature of the play.

BOeTTICH.

I still keep on admiring the acting of the cat. In such details one recognizes the great and experienced actor; for example, as often as he took the rabbit out of the sack, he always lifted it by the ears; that was not prescribed for him; I wonder whether you noticed how the king grasped it at once by the body? But these animals are held by the ears because that is where they can best bear it. That's what I call a master!

MUeLLER.

That is a very fine explanation.

FISCHER (aside).

He himself ought to be lifted by the ears for it.

BOeTTICH.

And his terror when the eagle was sitting on his head! How he did not even move for fear, did not stir or budge—it is beyond description!

MUeLLER.

You go very deeply into the matter.

BOeTTICH.

I flatter myself I am a bit of a connoisseur; that is of course not the case with all of you, and for that reason the matter must be demonstrated to you.

FISCHER.

You are taking great pains!

BOeTTICH.

Oh, when you love art as I do it is a pleasant task! Just now a very acute thought also occurred to me concerning the cat's boots, and in them I admire the genius of the actor. You see, at first be is a cat; for that reason he must lay aside his natural clothing in order to assume the appropriate disguise of a cat. Then he has to appear fully as a hunter; that is what I conclude, for every one calls him that, nor does a soul marvel at him; an unskilful actor would have dressed himself exactly so too, but what would have happened to our illusion? We might perhaps have forgotten that he was still originally a cat and how uncomfortable a new costume would be for the actor over the fur he already had. By means of the boots, however, he merely skilfully suggests the hunter's costume; and that such suggestions are extremely dramatic, the ancients prove to us very excellently, in often—

FISCHER.

Hush! The third act is beginning.



ACT III

Room in a peasant's house

The PLAYWRIGHT. The MACHINIST.

MACHIN.

Then do you really think that will do any good?

PLAYWR.

I beg, I entreat you, do not refuse my request; my only hope depends on it.

LEUTNER.

Why, what's this again? How did these people ever get into Gottlieb's room?

SCHLOSS.

I won't rack my brains about anything more.

MACHIN.

But, dear friend, you certainly do ask too much, to have all this done in such a hurry, entirely on the spur of the moment.

PLAYWR.

I believe you are against me, too; you also rejoice in my misfortune.

MACHIN.

Not in the least.

PLAYWRIGHT (falls down before him).

Then prove it to me by yielding to my request; if the disapproval of the audience breaks out so loudly again, then at a motion from me let all the machines play; as it is, the second act has already closed quite differently from the way it reads in my manuscript.

MACHIN.

What's this now? Why, who raised the curtain?

PLAYWR.

It never rains but it pours! I am lost! (He rushes in embarrassment behind the scenes.)

MACHIN.

There never has been such a confusion on any evening.

[Exit. A pause.]

WIESENER.

I say, does that belong to the play?

NEIGHBOR.

Of course—why that motivates the transformation to follow.

FISCHER.

This evening ought certainly to be described in the theatre almanac.

KING (behind the scenes).

No, I will not appear, on no condition; I cannot bear to have any one laugh at me.

PLAYWR.

But you—dearest friend—it can't be changed now.

JACKPUD.

Well, I will try my luck. (He steps forward and bows comically to the audience.)

MUeLLER.

Why, what is Jackpudding doing in the peasant's room now?

SCHLOSS.

I suppose he wants to deliver a ridiculous monologue.

JACKPUD.

Pardon me if I make bold to say a few words which do not exactly belong to the play.

FISCHER.

Oh, you should keep perfectly quiet, we're tired of you even in the play; moreover, now so very—

SCHLOSS.

A Jackpudding dares to talk to us?

JACKPUD.

Why not? For if people laugh at me, I am not hurt at all; why, it would be my warmest wish to have you laugh at me. So do not hesitate.

LEUTNER.

That is pretty funny!

JACKPUD.

Naturally, what scarcely befits the king is all the more fitting for me; hence he would not appear, but left this important announcement to me.

MUeLLER.

But we do not wish to hear anything.

JACKPUD.

My dear German countrymen—

SCHLOSS.

I believe the setting of the play is in Asia.

JACKPUD.

But now, you see, I am talking to you merely as an actor to the spectators.

SCHLOSS.

People, it's all over with me now; I am crazy.

JACKPUD.

Do be pleased to hear that the former scene, which you just saw, is not part of the play at all.

FISCHER.

Not part of the play? Then how does it get in there?

JACKPUD.

The curtain was raised too soon. It was a private discussion which would not have taken place on the stage at all if it were not so horribly crowded behind the scenes. Now if you were deceived, it is of course so much the worse; then just be kind enough to eradicate this delusion again; for from now on, do you understand me, only after I have gone away, will the act really begin. Between you and me, all the preceding has nothing to do with it at all. But you are to be compensated; much is coming soon which is very essential to the plot. I have spoken to the playwright myself and he has assured me of it.

FISCHER.

Yes, your playwright is just the fellow.

JACKPUD.

He's good for nothing, isn't it so? Well, I am glad after all, that there is still some one else who has the same taste as I—

THE PIT.

All of us, all of us!

JACKPUD.

Your obedient servant; it is too great an honor by far. Yes, God knows, he is a wretched writer—only to give a bad example; what a miserable part he has given me! Where, pray, am I witty and funny? I appear in so few scenes, and I believe, if I hadn't stepped forward even now, by a lucky chance, I should not have appeared again at all.

PLAYWRIGHT (rushing forward).

Impudent fellow—

JACKPUD.

Look, he is even jealous of the small part I am playing now.

PLAYWRIGHT (on the other side of the stage with a bow).

Worthy friends! I never should have dared to give this man a more important part since I know your taste—

JACKPUDDING (on the other side).

Your taste? Now you see his jealousy—and they have all just declared that my taste is the same as theirs.

PLAYWR.

I wished, by means of the present play, only to prepare you for even more extravagant products of the imagination.

ALL IN THE PIT.

How? What?

JACKPUD.

Of course for plays in which I would have no part to act at all.

PLAYWR.

For the development of this matter must advance step by step.

JACKPUD.

Don't believe a word he says!

PLAYWR.

Now I withdraw, not to interrupt the course of the play any longer.

[Exit.]

JACKPUD.

Adieu, until we meet again. (Exit, returns again quickly.) Apropos—another thing—the discussion which has just taken place among us is not part of the play either.

[Exit.]

THE PIT (laughs).

JACKPUDDING (returns again quickly).

Let us finish the wretched play today; make believe you do not notice at all how bad it is; as soon as I get home I'll sit down and write one for you that you will certainly like.

[Exit, some applause.]

(Enter GOTTLIEB and HINZE)

GOTTLIEB.

Dear Hinze, it is true you are doing much for me, but I still cannot understand what good it is going to do me.

HINZE.

Upon my word, I want to make you happy.

GOTTLIEB.

Happiness must come soon, very soon, otherwise it will be too late; it is already half past seven and the comedy ends at eight.

HINZE.

Say, what the devil does that mean?

GOTTLIEB.

Oh, I was lost in thought—See! I meant to say, how beautifully the sun has risen. The accursed prompter speaks so indistinctly; and then if you want to extemporize once in a while, it always goes wrong.

HINZE (quietly).

Do bethink yourself, otherwise the whole play will break in a thousand pieces.

SCHLOSS.

I wish somebody would tell me why I can no longer understand anything.

FISCHER.

My intelligence is at a standstill too.

GOTTLIEB.

So my fortune is yet to be determined today?

HINZE.

Yes, dear Gottlieb, even before the sun sets. See, I love you so much that I would run through fire for you—and you doubt my sincerity?

WIESENER.

Did you hear that? He is going to run through fire. Ah, fine, here we get the scene from the Magic Flute too, with the fire and the water!

NEIGHBOR.

But cats do not go into the water.

WIESENER.

Why so much the greater is the cat's love for his master, you see; that's just what the author wants to make us understand.

HINZE.

Now what would you like to become in the world, anyhow?

GOTTLIEB.

Oh, I don't know, myself.

HINZE.

Perhaps you'd like to become a prince, or a king?

GOTTLIEB.

That, better than anything.

HINZE.

And do you also feel the strength within you to make a nation happy?

GOTTLIEB.

Why not? If only I am once happy myself.

HINZE.

Well, then content yourself. I swear to you, you shall mount the throne.

[Exit.]

GOTTLIEB.

It would have to come about mysteriously—still, of course, so many unexpected things happen in the world.

[Exit.]

BOeTTICH.

Do notice the infinite refinement with which the cat always holds his cane.

FISCHER.

You've been a bore to us for the longest while; you are even more tiresome than the play.

SCHLOSS.

You even add to the confusion in our heads.

MUeLLER.

You talk constantly and do not know what you want.

MANY VOICES.

Out! Out! He's a nuisance! (A crowd; BOeTTICHER finds himself compelled to leave the theatre.)

FISCHER.

He with his talk about refinement!

SCHLOSS.

He always vexes me when he considers himself a connoisseur.

An open field

HINZE (with knapsack and bag).

I have become quite accustomed to hunting. Every day I catch partridges, rabbits and the like, and the dear little animals are getting more and more practice in being caught. (He spreads out his bag.) Now the season of the nightingales is over, I do not hear a single one singing.

[Enter the two lovers.]

HE.

Go, you bore me.

SHE.

I am disgusted with you.

HE.

A fine kind of love!

SHE.

Wretched hypocrite, how you have deceived me!

HE.

What has become of your infinite tenderness?

SHE.

And your faithfulness?

HE.

Your rapture?

SHE.

Your infatuation?

BOTH.

The devil has taken it! That comes of marrying.

HINZE.

The hunt has never yet been so disturbed—if you would be pleased to notice that this open field is clearly too confined for your sorrows, and climb up some mountain.

HE.

Insolent wretch! (Boxes HINZE on the ear.)

SHE.

Boor! (Also boxes HINZE on the ear.)

HINZE (purrs).

SHE.

It seems best to me that we be parted again.

HE.

I am at your bidding.

[Exit the lovers.]

HINZE.

Nice people, these so-called human beings. Just look, two partridges; I will carry them off quickly. Now, fortune, make haste, for I myself am almost getting impatient. Now I have no longer any desire to eat the partridges. It's probably thus, that, by mere habit, we can implant in our nature every possible virtue.

[Exit.]

Hall in the Palace

The KING on his throne with the PRINCESS; LEANDER in a lecturer's chair; opposite him JACKPUDDING in another lecturer's chair; in the centre of the hall a costly hat, decorated with gold and precious stones, is fastened on a high pole. The entire court is present.

KING.

Never yet has a person rendered such services to his country as this amiable Count of Carabas. Our historian has already almost filled a thick volume, so often has the Count presented me with pretty and delicious gifts, sometimes even twice a day, through his hunter. My appreciation of his kindness is boundless and I desire nothing more earnestly than to find at some time the opportunity of discharging to some extent the great debt I owe him.

PRINCESS.

Dearest father, would your majesty not most graciously permit the learned disputation to begin? My heart yearns for this mental activity.

KING.

Yes, it may begin now. Court scholar—court fool—you both know that to the one who gains the victory in this disputation is allotted that costly hat; for this very reason have I had it set up here, so that you may have it always before your eyes and never be in want of quick wit.

[LEANDER and JACKPUDDING bow.]

LEANDER.

The theme of my assertion is, that a recently published play by the name of Puss in Boots is a good play.

JACKPUD.

That is just what I deny.

LEANDER.

Prove that it is bad.

JACKPUD.

Prove that it is good.

LEUTNER.

What's this again? Why that's the very play they are giving here, if I am not mistaken.

MUeLLER.

No other.

SCHLOSS.

Do tell me whether I am awake and have my eyes open.

LEANDER.

The play, if not perfectly excellent, is still to be praised in several respects.

JACKPUD.

Not one respect.

LEANDER.

I assert that it displays wit.

JACKPUD.

I assert that it displays none.

LEANDER.

You are a fool; how can you pretend to judge concerning wit?

JACKPUD.

And you are a scholar; what can you pretend to understand about wit?

LEANDER.

Several characters are well-sustained.

JACKPUD.

Not a single one.

LEANDER.

Then, even if I concede else, the audience is well drawn in it.

JACKPUD.

An audience never has a character.

LEANDER.

I am almost amazed at this boldness.

JACKPUD (to the pit).

Isn't he a foolish fellow? Here we are, hand and glove with each other and sympathize in our views on taste, and he wishes to assert in opposition to my opinion, that at least the audience in Puss in Boots is well drawn.

FISCHER.

The audience? Why no audience appears in the play.

JACKPUD.

That's even better! So, then, no audience is presented in it at all?

MUeLLER.

Why not a bit of it, unless he means the several kinds of fools that appear.

JACKPUD.

Now, do you see, scholar! What these gentlemen down there are saying must certainly be true.

LEANDER.

I am getting confused, but still I won't yield the victory to you.

[Enter HINZE.]

JACKPUD.

Sir Hunter, a word! (HINZE approaches, they whisper.)

HINZE. If it's nothing more than that. (He takes off his boots, climbs up the pole, then takes the hat, jumps down, then puts his boots on again.)

JACKPUD.

Victory! Victory!

KING.

The deuce! How clever the hunter is!

LEANDER.

I only regret that I have been vanquished by a fool, that learning must acknowledge foolishness as its superior.

KING.

Keep still; you wanted the hat, he wanted the hat; so again I see no difference. But what have you brought, hunter?

HINZE.

The Count of Carabas commends himself most respectfully to your majesty and sends you these two partridges.

KING.

Too much! too much! I am sinking under the burden of gratitude! Long since should I have done my duty and visited him; today I will delay no longer. Have my royal carriage prepared at once—eight horses in front—I want to go driving with my daughter. You, Hunter, are to show us the way to the castle of the count.

[Exit with retinue.]

HINZE. JACKPUDDING

HINZE.

What was your disputation about, anyhow?

JACKPUD.

I asserted that a certain play, which, moreover, I am not acquainted with at all, Puss in Boots, is a wretched play.

HINZE.

So?

JACKPUD.

Adieu, Sir Hunter.

[Exit.]

HINZE (alone).

I'm all in the dumps. I, myself, helped the fool win a victory against a play in which I myself am taking the leading part. Fate! Fate! Into what complications do you so often lead us mortals? But be that as it may. If I only succeed in putting my beloved Gottlieb on the throne, I will gladly forget all my other troubles. The king wishes to visit the count? Now that is another bad situation which I must clear up; now the great, important day has arrived on which I need you so particularly, you boots. Now do not desert me; all must be determined today.

[Exit.]

FISCHER.

Do tell me what this is—the play itself—it appears again as a play in the play.

SCHLOSS.

Without much ceremony, I am crazy—didn't I say at once, that is the enjoyment of art which you are said to have here?

LEUTNER.

No tragedy has ever affected me as this farce has.

In front of the tavern

THE HOST (reaping corn with a scythe).

This is hard work! Well, of course people cannot be deserting every day either. I only wish the harvest were over. After all, life consists of nothing but work; now draw beer, then clean glasses, then pour it out—now even reap. Life means work—and here some learned folk are even so wicked, in their books, as to try to put sleep out of fashion, because one does not live enough for one's time. But I am a great friend of sleep.

[Enter HINZE.]

HINZE.

Whoever wants to hear something wonderful, listen to me now! How I have been running!—first from the royal palace to Gottlieb, second with Gottlieb to the palace of the Bugbear where I left him, third from there back again to the king, fourth I am now racing ahead of the king's coach like a courier and showing him the way. Hey! good friend!

HOST.

Who's that? Countryman, you must probably be a stranger, for the people in this neighborhood know that I do not sell any beer about this time; I need it for myself; when one does work like mine, one must also fortify one's self. I am sorry, but I cannot help you.

HINZE.

I do not want any beer, I never drink beer; I only want to say a few words to you.

HOST.

You must certainly be a regular idler, to attempt to disturb industrious people in their occupation.

HINZE.

I do not wish to disturb you. Just listen: the neighboring king will drive by here, he will probably step out of his carriage and inquire to whom these villages belong. If your life is dear to you, if you do not wish to be hanged or burned, then be sure to answer: to the Count of Carabas.

HOST.

But, Sir, we are subject to the law.

HINZE.

I know that well enough, but, as I said, if you do not wish to die, this region here belongs to the Count of Carabas.

[Exit.]

HOST.

Many thanks! Now this would be the finest kind of opportunity for me to get out of ever having to work again. All I need do is to say to the king—the country belongs to the Bugbear. But no, idleness breeds vice: Ora et labora is my motto.

[A fine carriage with eight horses, many servants behind; it stops; the KING and PRINCESS step out.]

PRINCESS.

I am somewhat curious to see the Count.

KING.

So am I, my daughter. Good day, my friend. To whom do these villages here belong?

HOST (aside).

He asks as though he were ready to have me hanged at once.—To the Count of Carabas, your majesty.

KING.

A beautiful country. But I always thought the country must look altogether different if I should cross the border, judging from the maps. Do help me a bit. (He climbs up a tree quickly.)

PRINCESS.

What are you doing, my royal father?

KING.

I like open views on beautiful landscapes.

PRINCESS.

Can you see far?

KING.

Oh, yes, and if it were not for those annoying mountains, you would see even further. Oh, my, the tree is full of caterpillars! (He climbs down again.)

PRINCESS.

That is because it is a scene in nature which has not yet been idealized; imagination must first ennoble it.

KING.

I wish you could take the caterpillars off me by means of imagination. But get in, we must drive ahead.

PRINCESS.

Farewell, good, innocent peasant. (They get into the carriage; it drives on.)

HOST.

How the world has changed! If you read in old books or listen to old people's stories, they always got louis d'ors or something like that if they spoke to a king or a prince. Such a king would formerly never dare to open his mouth if he did not press gold pieces into your hand at once. But now! How, pray, is one to make one's fortune unexpectedly, if the chance is over even with kings? Innocent peasant! I wish to God I didn't owe anything—that comes of the new sentimental descriptions of country life. Such a king is powerful and envies people of our station. I must only thank God that he did not hang me. The strange hunter was our Bugbear himself after all. At least it will now appear in the paper, I suppose, that the king has spoken to me graciously. [Exit.]

Another region

KUNZ (reaping corn).

Bitter work! And if at least I were doing it for myself—but this compulsory villainage! Here one must do nothing but sweat for the Bugbear and he does not even thank one. Of course they always say in this world that laws are necessary to keep the people in order, but what need there is here of our Law who devours all of us, I cannot understand.

[HINZE comes running.]

HINZE.

Now I have blisters-on my soles already—well, it doesn't matter, Gottlieb, Gottlieb must get the throne for it. Hey, good friend!

KUNZ.

Who's this fellow?

HINZE.

The king will drive by here directly. If he asks you to whom all this belongs, you must answer—to the Count of Carabas; otherwise you will be chopped into a thousand million pieces. For the welfare of the public, the law desires it thus.

FISCHER.

For the welfare of the public?

SCHLOSS.

Naturally, for otherwise the play would never end.

HINZE.

Your life is probably dear to you.

[Exit.]

KUNZ.

That's just how the edicts always sound. Well, I don't mind saying that, if only no new taxes result from it. One must trust no innovation.

[The coach drives up and stops; the KING and the PRINCESS step out.]

KING.

A fine landscape, too. We have already seen a great deal of very fine country. To whom does this land belong?

KUNZ.

To the Count of Carabas.

KING.

He has splendid estates, that must be true—and so near mine; daughter, that seems to be a good match for you. What is your opinion?

PRINCESS.

You embarrass me, my father. What new things one sees while traveling, though. Do tell me, pray, good peasant, why do you cut down the straw like that?

KUNZ (laughing).

Why, this is the harvest, Mam'selle Queen—the corn.

KING.

Corn? What do you use that for, pray?

KUNZ (laughing).

Bread is baked from that.

KING.

Pray, daughter, for heaven's sake, bread is baked of it! Who would ever think of such tricks! Nature is something marvelous, after all. Here, good friend, get a drink, it is warm today. (He steps in again with the PRINCESS; the carriage drives away.)

KUNZ.

If he wasn't a king, you'd almost think he was stupid. Doesn't know what corn is! Well, you learn new things every day, of course. Here he has given me a shining piece of gold and I'll fetch myself a can of good beer at once. [Exit.]

Another part of the country, beside a river

GOTTLIEB.

Now here I've been standing two hours already, waiting for my friend, Hinze. And he's not coming yet. There he is! But how he's running—he seems all out of breath.

[HINZE comes running.]

HINZE.

Well, friend Gottlieb, take off your clothes quickly?

GOTTLIEB.

My clothes?

HINZE.

And then jump into the water here—

GOTTLIEB.

Into the water?

HINZE.

And then I will throw the clothing into the bush—

GOTTLIEB.

Into the bush?

HINZE.

And then you are provided for!

GOTTLIEB.

I agree with you; if I am drowned and my clothes gone, I am well enough provided for.

HINZE.

There is no time for joking—

GOTTLIEB.

I am not joking at all. Is that what I had to wait here for?

HINZE.

Undress!

GOTTLIEB.

Well, I'll do anything to please you.

HINZE.

Come, you are only to take a little bath. (Exit with GOTTLIEB. Then he comes back with the clothing which he throws into a bush.) Help! Help! Help!

[The carriage. The KING looks out of the coach door.]

KING.

What is it, Hunter? Why do you shout so?

HINZE.

Help, your majesty, the Count of Carabas is drowned!

KING.

Drowned!

PRINCESS (in the carriage).

Carabas!

KING.

My daughter in a faint! The Count drowned!

HINZE.

Perhaps he can still be saved; he is lying there in the water.

KING.

Servants! Try everything, anything to preserve the noble man.

SERVANT.

We have rescued him, your majesty.

HINZE.

Misfortune upon misfortune, my king! The Count was bathing here in the clear water and a rogue stole his clothing.

KING.

Unstrap my trunk at once—give him some of my clothes. Cheer up, daughter, the Count is rescued.

HINZE.

I must hurry.

[Exit.]

GOTTLIEB (in the king's clothing).

Your majesty—

KING.

Here is the Count! I recognize him by my clothing! Step in, my best friend—how are you? Where do you get all the rabbits? I cannot compose myself for joy! Drive on, coachman!

[The carriage drives off quickly.]

SERVANT.

None but the hangman could come up so quickly—now I have the pleasure of running behind on foot, and besides I'm just as wet as a cat.

LEUTNER.

How many more times, pray, will the carriage appear?

WIESENER.

Neighbor! Why, you are asleep!

NEIGHBOR.

Not at all—a fine play.

Palace of the Bugbear

The BUGBEAR appears as a rhinoceros; a poor peasant stands before him.

PEASANT.

May it please your honor—

BUGBEAR.

There must be justice, my friend.

PEASANT.

I cannot pay just now.

BUGBEAR.

Be still, you have lost the case; the law demands money and your punishment; consequently your land must be sold. There is nothing else to be done and this is for the sake of justice.

[Exit peasant.]

BUGBEAR (who is re-transformed into an ordinary bugbear).

These people would lose all respect if they were not compelled to fear in this way.

[An officer enters, bowing profusely.]

OFFICER.

May it please you, honored sir—I—

BUGBEAR.

What's your trouble, my friend?

OFFICER.

With your kindest permission, I tremble and quiver in your honor's formidable presence.

BUGBEAR.

Oh, this is far from my most terrible form.

OFFICER.

I really came—in matters—to beg you to take my part against my neighbor. I had also brought this purse with me—but the presence of Lord Law is too frightful for me.

BUGBEAR (suddenly changes into a mouse and sits in a corner).

OFFICER.

Why, where has the Bugbear gone?

BUGBEAR (in a delicate voice).

Just put the money down there on the table; I will sit here to avoid frightening you.

OFFICER.

Here. (He lays the money down.) Oh, this justice is a splendid thing—how can one be afraid of such a mouse!

[Exit.]

BUGBEAR (assumes his natural form).

A pretty good purse—of course one must sympathize with human weakness.

[Enter HINZE.]

HINZE.

With your permission—(aside) Hinze, you must pluck up courage—(aloud) Your Excellency!

BUGBEAR.

What do you wish?

HINZE.

I am a scholar traveling through this region and wished to take the liberty of making your excellency's acquaintance.

BUGBEAR.

Very well, then, make my acquaintance.

HINZE.

You are a mighty prince; your love of justice is known all over the world.

BUGBEAR.

Yes, I don't doubt it. Do sit down!

HINZE.

They tell many wonderful things about Your Highness—

BUGBEAR.

Yes, people always want something to talk about and so the reigning monarchs must be the first to be discussed.

HINZE.

But still, there is one thing I cannot believe, that Your Excellency can transform yourself into an elephant and a tiger.

BUGBEAR.

I will give you an example of it at once. (He changes into a lion.)

HINZE (draws out a portfolio, trembling).

Permit me to make note of this marvel—but now would you also please resume your natural charming form? Otherwise I shall die of fear.

BUGBEAR (in his own form).

Those are tricks, friend! Don't you think so?

HINZE.

Marvelous! But another thing—they also say you can transform yourself into very small animals—with your permission, that is even far more incomprehensible to me; for, do tell me, what becomes of your large body then?

BUGBEAR.

I will do that too.

[He changes into a mouse. HINZE leaps after him, the Bugbear flees into another room, HINZE after him.]

HINZE (coming back).

Freedom and Equality! The Law is devoured! Now indeed the Tiers—Etat! Gottlieb will surely secure the government.

SCHLOSS.

Why, a revolutionary play after all? Then for heaven's sake, you surely shouldn't stamp!

[The stamping continues, WIESENER and several others applaud, HINZE creeps into a corner and finally even leaves the stage. The playwright is heard quarreling behind the scenes and then enters.]

PLAYWR.

What am I to do? The play will be over directly—everything would perhaps have run smoothly—now just in this moral scene I had expected so much applause. If this were only not so far away from the king's palace, I would fetch the peacemaker; he explained to me at the end of the second act all the fables of Orpheus—but am I not a fool? I became quite confused—why, this is the theatre here, and the peacemaker must be somewhere behind the scenes—I will look for him—I must find him—he shall save me! (Exit, returns again quickly.) He is not there, Sir Peacemaker! An empty echo mocks me—he has deserted me, his playwright. Ha! there I see him—he must come forward.

[The pauses are always filled by stamping in the pit and the playwright delivers this monologue in recitative, so that the effect is rather melodramatic.]

PEACEMAKER (behind the scenes).

No, I will not appear.

PLAYWR.

But why not, pray?

PEACEMAK.

Why, I have already undressed.

PLAYWR.

That doesn't matter. (He pushes him forward by force.)

PEACEMAKER (appearing in his ordinary dress, with, the set of bells).

Well, you may take the responsibility. (He plays on the bells and sings.)

These sacred halls of beauty Revenge have never known. For love guides back to duty The man who vice has sown. Then he is led by friendly hand, Glad and content, to a better land.

[The pit begins to applaud; meanwhile the scene is changed, the fire and water taken from the MAGIC FLUTE begin to play, above appears the open temple of the sun, the sky is clear and Jupiter sits within it, beneath Hell with Terkaleon, cobalds and witches on the stage, many lights, etc. The audience applauds excessively, everything is astir.]

WIESENER.

Now the cat has only to go through fire and water and then the play is finished.

[Enter the KING, the PRINCESS, GOTTLIEB, HINZE and servants.]

HINZE.

This is the palace of the Count of Carabas. Why, the dickens, how this has changed!

KING.

A beautiful palace!

HINZE.

As long as matters have gone thus far (taking Gottlieb by the hand) you must first walk through the fire here and then through the water there.

GOTTLIEB (walks through fire and water to the sound of flute and drum.)

HINZE.

You have stood the test; now, my prince, you are altogether worthy of the government.

GOTTLIEB.

Governing, Hinze, is a curious matter.

KING.

Accept, now, the hand of my daughter.

PRINCESS.

How happy I am!

GOTTLIEB.

I, likewise. But, my king, I would desire to reward my servant.

KING.

By all means; I herewith raise him to the nobility. (He hangs an order about the cat's neck.) What is his actual name?

GOTTLIEB.

Hinze. By birth he is of but a lowly family—but his merits exalt him.

LEANDER (quickly stepping forward).

After the King I rode with due submission, And now implore his Majesty's permission To close with laudatory lines poetic This play so very wondrous and prophetic. In praise of cats my grateful anthem soars— The noblest of those creatures on all fours Who daily bring contentment to our doors. In Egypt cats were gods, and very nice is The Tom-cat who was cousin to Great Isis. They still protect our cellar, attic, kitchen, And serve the man who this world's goods is rich in. Our homes had household gods of yore to grace them. If cats be gods, then with the Lares place them!

[Drumming. The curtain falls.]



FAIR ECKBERT (1796)

BY LUDWIG TIECK

TRANSLATED BY PAUL B. THOMAS

In a region of the Hartz Mountains there lived a knight whom people generally called simply Fair Eckbert. He was about forty years old, scarcely of medium height, and short, very fair hair fell thick and straight over his pale, sunken face. He lived very quietly unto himself, and was never implicated in the feuds of his neighbors; people saw him but rarely outside the encircling wall of his little castle. His wife loved solitude quite as much as he, and both seemed to love each other from the heart; only they were wont to complain because Heaven seemed unwilling to bless their marriage with children.

Very seldom was Eckbert visited by guests, and even when he was, almost no change on their account was made in the ordinary routine of his life. Frugality dwelt there, and Economy herself seemed to regulate everything. Eckbert was then cheerful and gay—only when he was alone one noticed in him a certain reserve, a quiet distant melancholy.

Nobody came so often to the castle as did Philip Walther, a man to whom Eckbert had become greatly attached, because he found in him very much his own way of thinking. His home was really in Franconia, but he often spent more than half a year at a time in the vicinity of Eckbert's castle, where he busied himself gathering herbs and stones and arranging them in order. He had a small income, and was therefore dependent upon no one. Eckbert often accompanied him on his lonely rambles, and thus a closer friendship developed between the two men with each succeeding year.

There are hours in which it worries a man to keep from a friend a secret, which hitherto he has often taken great pains to conceal. The soul then feels an irresistible impulse to impart itself completely, and reveal its innermost self to the friend, in order to make him so much the more a friend. At these moments delicate souls disclose themselves to each other, and it doubtless sometimes happens that the one shrinks back in fright from its acquaintance with the other.

One foggy evening in early autumn Eckbert was sitting with his friend and his wife, Bertha, around the hearth-fire. The flames threw a bright glow out into the room and played on the ceiling above. The night looked in darkly through the windows, and the trees outside were shivering in the damp cold. Walther was lamenting that he had so far to go to get back home, and Eckbert proposed that he remain there and spend half the night in familiar talk, and then sleep until morning in one of the rooms of the castle. Walther accepted the proposal, whereupon wine and supper were brought in, the fire was replenished with wood, and the conversation of the two friends became more cheery and confidential.

After the dishes had been cleared off, and the servants had gone out, Eckbert took Walther's hand and said:

"Friend, you ought once to let my wife tell you the story of her youth, which is indeed strange enough."

"Gladly," replied Walther, and they all sat down again around the hearth. It was now exactly midnight, and the moon shone intermittently through the passing clouds.

"You must forgive me," began Bertha, "but my husband says your thoughts are so noble that it is not right to conceal anything from you. Only you must not regard my story as a fairy-tale, no matter how strange it may sound.

"I was born in a village, my father was a poor shepherd. The household economy of my parents was on a humble plane—often they did not know where they were going to get their bread. But what grieved me far more than that was the fact that my father and mother often quarreled over their poverty, and cast bitter reproaches at each other. Furthermore I was constantly hearing about myself, that I was a simple, stupid child, who could not perform even the most trifling task. And I was indeed extremely awkward and clumsy; I let everything drop from my hands, I learned neither to sew nor to spin, I could do nothing to help about the house. The misery of my parents, however, I understood extremely well. I often used to sit in the corner and fill my head with notions—how I would help them if I should suddenly become rich, how I would shower them with gold and silver and take delight in their astonishment. Then I would see spirits come floating up, who would reveal subterranean treasures to me or give me pebbles which afterward turned into gems. In short, the most wonderful fantasies would occupy my mind, and when I had to get up to help or carry something, I would show myself far more awkward than ever, for the reason that my head would be giddy with all these strange notions.

"My father was always very cross with me, because I was such an absolutely useless burden on the household; so he often treated me with great cruelty, and I seldom heard him say a kind word to me. Thus it went along until I was about eight years old, when serious steps were taken to get me to do and to learn something. My father believed that it was sheer obstinacy and indolence on my part, so that I might spend my days in idleness. Enough—he threatened me unspeakably, and when this turned out to be of no avail, he chastised me most barbarously, adding that this punishment was to be repeated every day because I was an absolutely useless creature.

"All night long I cried bitterly—I felt so entirely forsaken, and I pitied myself so that I wanted to die. I dreaded the break of day, and did not know what to do. I longed for any possible kind of ability, and could not understand at all why I was more stupid than the other children of my acquaintance. I was on the verge of despair.

"When the day dawned, I got up, and, scarcely realizing what I was doing, opened the door of our little cabin. I found myself in the open field, soon afterward in a forest, into which the daylight had hardly yet shone. I ran on without looking back; I did not get tired, for I thought all the time that my father would surely overtake me and treat me even more cruelly on account of my running away.

"When I emerged from the forest again the sun was already fairly high, and I saw, lying ahead of me, something dark, over which a thick mist was resting. One moment I was obliged to scramble over hills, the next to follow a winding path between rocks. I now guessed that I must be in the neighboring mountains, and I began to feel afraid of the solitude. For, living in the plain, I had never seen any mountains, and the mere word mountains, whenever I heard them talked about, had an exceedingly terrible sound to my childish ear. I hadn't the heart to turn back—it was indeed precisely my fear which drove me onwards. I often looked around me in terror when the wind rustled through the leaves above me, or when a distant sound of chopping rang out through the quiet morning. Finally, when I began to meet colliers and miners and heard a strange pronunciation, I nearly fainted with fright.

"You must forgive my prolixity. As often as I tell this story I involuntarily become garrulous, and Eckbert, the only person to whom I have told it, has spoiled me by his attention.

"I passed through several villages and begged, for I now felt hungry and thirsty. I helped myself along very well with the answers I gave to questions asked me. I had wandered along in this way for about four days, when I came to a small foot-path which led me farther from the highway. The rocks around me now assumed a different, far stranger shape. They were cliffs, and were piled up on one another in such a way that they looked as if the first gust of wind would hurl them all together into a heap. I did not know whether to go on or not. I had always slept over night either in out-of-the-way shepherds' huts, or else in the open woods, for it was just then the most beautiful season of the year. Here I came across no human habitations whatever, nor could I expect to meet with any in this wilderness. The rocks became more and more terrible—I often had to pass close by dizzy precipices, and finally even the path under my feet came to an end. I was absolutely wretched; I wept and screamed, and my voice echoed horribly in the rocky glens. And now night set in; I sought out a mossy spot to lie down on, but I could not sleep. All night long I heard the most peculiar noises; first I thought it was wild beasts, then the wind moaning through the rocks, then again strange birds. I prayed, and not until toward morning did I fall asleep.

"I woke up when the daylight shone in my face. In front of me there was a rock. I climbed up on it, hoping to find a way out of the wilderness, and perhaps to see some houses or people. But when I reached the top, everything, as far as my eye could see, was like night about me—all overcast with a gloomy mist. The day was dark and dismal, and not a tree, not a meadow, not even a thicket could my eye discern, with the exception of a few bushes which, in solitary sadness, had shot up through the crevices in the rocks. It is impossible to describe the longing I felt merely to see a human being, even had it been the most strange-looking person before whom I should inevitably have taken fright. At the same time I was ravenously hungry. I sat down and resolved to die. But after a while the desire to live came off victorious; I got up quickly and walked on all day long, occasionally crying out. At last I was scarcely conscious of what I was doing; I was tired and exhausted, had hardly any desire to live, and yet was afraid to die.

"Toward evening the region around me began to assume a somewhat more friendly aspect. My thoughts and wishes took new life, and the desire to live awakened in all my veins. I now thought I heard the swishing of a mill in the distance; I redoubled my steps, and how relieved, how joyous I felt when at last I actually reached the end of the dreary rocks! Woods and meadows and, far ahead, pleasant mountains lay before me again. I felt as if I had stepped out of hell into paradise; the solitude and my helplessness did not seem to me at all terrible now.

"Instead of the hoped-for mill, I came upon a water-fall, which, to be sure, considerably diminished my joy. I dished up some water from the river with my hand and drank. Suddenly I thought I heard a low cough a short distance away. Never have I experienced so pleasant a surprise as at that moment; I went nearer and saw, on the edge of the forest, an old woman, apparently resting. She was dressed almost entirely in black; a black hood covered her head and a large part of her face. In her hand she held a walking-stick.

"I approached her and asked for help; she had me sit down beside her and gave me bread and some wine. While I was eating she sang a hymn in a shrill voice, and when she had finished she said that I might follow her.

"I was delighted with this proposal, strange as the voice and the personality of the old woman seemed to me. She walked rather fast with her cane, and at every step she distorted her face, which at first made me laugh. The wild rocks steadily receded behind us—we crossed a pleasant meadow, and then passed through a fairly long forest. When we emerged from this, the sun was just setting, and I shall never forget the view and the feelings of that evening. Everything was fused in the most delicate red and gold; the tree-tops stood forth in the red glow of evening, the charming light was spread out over the fields, the forest and the leaves of the trees were motionless, the clear sky looked like an open paradise, and the evening bells of the villages rang out with a strange mournfulness across the lea. My young soul now got its first presentment of the world and its events. I forgot myself and my guide; my spirit and my eyes were wandering among golden clouds.

"We now climbed a hill, which was planted with birchtrees, and from its summit looked down into a little valley, likewise full of birches. In the midst of the trees stood a little hut. A lively barking came to our ears, and presently a spry little dog was dancing around the old woman and wagging his tail. Presently he came to me, examined me from all sides, and then returned with friendly actions to the old woman.

"When we were descending the hill I heard some wonderful singing, which seemed to come from the hut. It sounded like a bird, and ran

O solitude Of lonely wood, Where none intrude, Thou bringest good For every mood, O solitude!

"These few words were repeated over and over; if I were to attempt to describe the effect, it was somewhat like the blended notes of a bugle and a shawm.

"My curiosity was strained to the utmost. Without waiting for the old woman's invitation, I walked into the hut with her. Dusk had already set in. Everything was in proper order; a few goblets stood in a cupboard, some strange-looking vessels lay on a table, and a bird was hanging in a small, shiny cage by the window. And he, indeed, it was that I had heard singing. The old woman gasped and coughed, seemingly as if she would never get over it. Now she stroked the little dog, now talked to the bird, which answered her only with its usual words. Furthermore, she acted in no way as if I were present. While I was thus watching her, a series of shudders passed through my body; for her face was constantly twitching and her head shaking, as if with age, and in such a way that it was impossible for one to tell how she really looked.

"When she finally ceased coughing she lighted a candle, set a very small table, and laid the supper on it. Then she looked around at me and told me to take one of the woven cane chairs. I sat down directly opposite her, and the candle stood between us. She folded her bony hands and prayed aloud, all the time twitching her face in such a way that it almost made me laugh. I was very careful, however, not to do anything to make her angry.

"After supper she prayed again, and then showed me to a bed in a tiny little side-room—she herself slept in the main room. I did not stay awake long, for I was half dazed. I woke up several times during the night, however, and heard the old woman coughing and talking to the dog, and occasionally I heard the bird, which seemed to be dreaming and sang only a few isolated words of its song. These stray notes, united with the rustling of the birches directly in front of my window, and also with the song of the far-off nightingale, made such a strange combination that I felt all the time, not as if I were awake, but as if I were lapsing into another, still stranger, dream.

"In the morning the old woman woke me up and soon afterward gave me some work to do; I had, namely, to spin, and I soon learned how to do it; in addition I had to take care of the dog and the bird. I was not long in getting acquainted with the housekeeping, and came to know all the objects around. I now began to feel that everything was as it should be; I no longer thought that there was anything strange about the old woman, or romantic about the location of her home, or that the bird was in any way extraordinary. To be sure, I was all the time struck by his beauty; for his feathers displayed every possible color, varying from a most beautiful light blue to a glowing red, and when he sang he puffed himself out proudly, so that his feathers shone even more gorgeously.

"The old woman often went out and did not return until evening. Then I would go with the dog to meet her and she would call me child and daughter. Finally I came to like her heartily; for our minds, especially in childhood, quickly accustom themselves to everything. In the evening hours she taught me to read; I soon learned the art, and afterward it was a source of endless pleasure to me in my solitude, for she had a few old, hand-written books which contained wonderful stories.

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