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The German Classics of The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Vol. IX - Friedrich Hebbel and Otto Ludwig
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THE LIFE OF OTTO LUDWIG

By A.R. HOHLFELD, Ph.D.

Professor of German Literature, University of Wisconsin

The career of Otto Ludwig belongs to a sad period in nineteenth century literature in Germany. Sad not because of any lack of works of originality and power, but sad because of the wanton neglect with which the German public of those years treated its ablest and most forceful writers. The historian Treitschke, in an essay probably written not long after the death of Otto Ludwig, sarcastically says in direct reference to the latter's tragic life: "No nation reads more books than ours, none buys fewer." To be sure, Germany was then a poor country and its readers had some excuse for being economical in supplying their literary wants. But there was no excuse for the notorious narrowness of vision and judgment shown by many of the leading critics, theatres, and literary journals of that time. Writers of mediocre talent were praised to the skies. But old Grillparzer, Hebbel and Ludwig, Keller, Raabe, Storm, and others who brought a really new and vital message were left to bear the burden of neglect, if not of animosity. No wonder that in foreign lands, after the middle of the nineteenth century, contemporary German literature fell into an almost universal disrepute from which it is only slowly recovering at present. Foreign critics were justified in judging the significance of the literary output of Germany by those writers on whom the Germans themselves were placing the seal of national approval. Zschokke, Gerstaecker, Auerbach, Spielhagen, not to mention the ubiquitous Muehlbach or Marlitt or Polko—these were the names which in America, for instance, figured most prominently in the magazines between 1850 and 1880. [Blank Page] Their works were reviewed and translated. They were considered as the representatives of Germany in the literary parliament of nations, while those of her men of letters whom we have since learned to recognize as the real forces of her mid-century literature remained unknown. Of Ludwig, who clearly belongs to this more select group, the Atlantic Monthly and the North American Review, for obvious reasons, reviewed at some length his Studies in Shakespeare; but, as far as the present writer's knowledge goes, not one of his works was ever translated in this country until the Hereditary Forester appeared in Poet Lore only a few years ago.

Otto Ludwig was born in 1813 in Eisfeld, a small town picturesquely situated in the foothills of the southern slope of the Thuringian Forest, and his entire life was spent within the limited confines of Thuringia and Saxony. Leipzig and Dresden, not much over one hundred English miles to the northeastward of Eisfeld, were the only two larger cities with which he ever became acquainted, and, even when living there, it was characteristic of him to take refuge in some rustic suburb or near-by village. Ludwig's parents belonged to the "leading families" of their town and were in very comfortable circumstances at the time of his birth and early childhood. Sudden reverses, however, soon interfered with the boy's prospects in life. At the age of twelve, he lost his father, six years later his mother. After the father's death a well-to-do uncle took it upon himself to care for the boy, whom he intended to be his heir and his successor in business. But neither the imaginative, nervously sensitive mother, nor the well-meaning but happy-go-lucky uncle were able to furnish that guidance which the delicate and prematurely contemplative youth needed. After only a short period of irregular schooling, Ludwig, sixteen years old, had to enter his uncle's business; but a few years of apprenticeship convinced even the uncle that the young man was hardly on his right track as a salesman of groceries. A renewed effort to take up systematic school work with the view of preparing for one of the learned professions did not prove any more successful, and, in 1833, Ludwig, who had always shown an unusual talent for music and enjoyed excellent instruction in it, decided to become a musician. Continuing his secluded life at Eisfeld he devoted himself for years to the leisurely study and composition of music, until a few successful amateur performances of some operatic compositions of his attracted attention to him in musical circles in Meiningen, the near-by ducal residence. He was granted a scholarship amply sufficient to permit him to perfect his musical education at Leipzig under Mendelssohn, then the renowned director of the famous Gewandhaus concerts. But the large city only deterred the shy recluse, Mendelssohn showed little appreciation for Ludwig's efforts to cultivate a realistically characteristic style of musical expression, and finally a severe spell of illness came to make the Leipzig venture a complete failure.

After a year's absence we thus find Ludwig again at home. But his experiences in the great world were not to be without consequences. While he was at Leipzig his homesickness had made him paint in rosy colors the dreamy hermit-life at Eisfeld. Now, however, after his return, he became keenly conscious of the pettiness and inadequacy of his surroundings and of the lack of well-defined purpose in his life thus far. It was during this period of introspection and doubt that he finally decided to devote himself to a literary career. He took up the study of English, plunged into Shakespeare and Goethe, and worked assiduously on a number of dramatic and novelistic ventures. In 1843 he again left Eisfeld, this time for good, and first turned to Leipzig and then to Dresden. Efforts to get some of his dramas accepted by the Leipzig and Dresden theatres continued to prove fruitless. But in 1844, after his uncle's death, he had come into possession of a small fortune, and as his habits were always exceedingly frugal, he now saw before himself the assurance of a few years free from all care. In characteristic fashion he again created for himself a quiet retreat, partly in the idyllic surroundings of Meissen, partly in Meissen itself, the charmingly picturesque town of historic fame not far from Dresden, on the Elbe. He soon became engaged to a lovable young woman, who entered heart and soul into all of his hopes and plans, and with but brief interruptions he continued to live here in rustic retirement, until the year 1850 at last was destined to bring him recognition and fame.

Thus far none of Ludwig's writings, aside from a mere trifle or two, had found their way before the public. As many as five or six regular dramas had been completed, but none had been printed, none performed. But now he finished his Hereditary Forester and with it made a deep impression upon his influential friend Eduard Devrient, the famous actor of the Dresden court theatre. Through Devrient's mediation the drama was accepted at Dresden and, although its reception by the public was at first a divided one, it was at once recognized by friend and foe as a literary and theatrical event of great significance. Though late, yet all of a sudden, Ludwig, like Byron, awoke to find himself famous. When, in 1852, he at last felt able to marry the woman of his love, his life battle seemed to have been won for good. In the same year, 1852, he published his second great drama, The Maccabeans, which, though not attaining the popularity of the Hereditary Forester, did even more perhaps to enhance the poet's fame. He could now count among the steadily widening circle of his friends and admirers men like Julian Schmidt, the prominent critic and editor, Gustav Freytag, and Berthold Auerbach. At Auerbach's suggestion, Ludwig for awhile turned to narrative literature and in the years 1855 and 1856 published his two best stories, the Heiterethei and Between Heaven and Earth—the former again the more popular, the latter of higher literary merit. These brief years from 1850 to 1856 were the zenith of Ludwig's career, the height of his productivity as an artist and of his success and happiness as a man. But already the shadows were gathering which were to cast such a deep gloom over the last years of the poet's life.

In 1856 he was again stricken by what seemed to be the same mysterious illness, never fully explained, that had befallen him in Leipzig. He recovered, to be sure, for the time being, but his ailments returned again and again. From about 1860 Ludwig practically never was a well man. Confined to the house and soon to his bed, he slowly wasted away. The tenderest care of his devoted wife and the affection of a few loyal friends could do but little to relieve the most excruciating pain or to keep away the actual want that began to knock at his door. Ludwig had never learned to look upon his art as a commercial asset; his few published works had never brought him much return, and his own slender means had for some time been exhausted. Some gifts of honor were bestowed upon the invalid by authors' societies and princely patrons, but they came too late to prevent the inevitable. As late as 1859 Ludwig still had hope for the future. "I see before me," he wrote in his diary, "a veritable world of conceptions and forms which I might conquer if, freed from the weight that keeps me down, I could take wings again. I believe it would not be too late yet." It was not to be. Successful production of a high order would probably have been impossible under such circumstances in any case. With Ludwig it was further prevented by an obstacle of a psychological nature. As the feeling of health and strength and ease of mind departed from him, there came in its place an ever growing, almost morbid, spirit of self-questioning criticism and doubt. As the springs of creative energy ceased flowing, Ludwig thought he could replenish them by turning to theory and analysis. In the free intervals between the attacks of his illness, when his mind worked as vigorously as ever, the luckless poet filled volume upon volume with esthetic and ethical reflections upon poetry and literature. From Shakespeare especially he thought he might be able to wrest those last secrets of an art which tantalizingly hovered before his vision. In these studies, fragmentary, ill-organized, not prepared for publication as they are, we nevertheless possess a veritable treasure-house of soundest reflection and subtlest intuition on many of the fundamental questions of poetry, especially of the drama. They have often been compared with Lessing's Hamburg Dramaturgy, of which, in many respects, they are the worthiest continuation. But in this unequal struggle Ludwig became less and less able to give life and color to his own conceptions or to be satisfied with his results when he had done so. How many could safely try to measure up to a standard taken directly from Shakespeare! Plan upon plan was started and laid aside. A field of ruins, disquieting, threatening, piled up around the lonesome fighter who slowly succumbed beneath the crushing greatness of his vision. Noble, but also tragic beyond words it is when, shortly before his death, Ludwig declared to one of his friends that even in his suffering no poet had ever been to him such a source of strength as Shakespeare, to whom he owed far more than the clarification of his ideals of art. Thus the mariner sang the praises of the ocean as it was about to engulf his shipwrecked craft. Ludwig died in Dresden in February, 1865, fifty-two years of age. Of his three surviving children, two sons came to this western hemisphere and attained, in successful business and professional life, to positions of honor and influence among the German element of Southern Brazil.

Aside from the posthumous Studies just spoken of, Ludwig's fame as a writer rests entirely on the two dramas, the Hereditary Forester and The Maccabaeans, and on the two long novel-like stories, the Heiterethei and Between Heaven and Earth. They represent practically everything that he ever published during his lifetime. The few insignificant lyrics, the additional dramas and stories, partly completed and partly fragmentary, which have become known after his death, have added no new traits to the picture of Ludwig as it will remain in the history of German literature, and they can well be omitted from consideration in this brief appreciation. It must be admitted that it is a rare phenomenon to see lasting fame and influence built on such a slender amount of work and on so brief a period of productivity. But within this limited range Ludwig must be recognized as a writer of unusual powers of observation and sympathy, of imagination and embodying execution. Truthful to himself and to the ideals of his art, uninfluenced by the popular demands of the day or by any desire for gain or fame, free from everything that smacks of sham or artifice, he succeeded in creating works that speak to us with the robustness and authority of life itself and yet are ennobled by the graces of a selective and restraining art.

In his Hereditary Forester Ludwig produced one of the best middle-class tragedies of modern literature, combining in it, as indeed he had set out to do, highest literary merit with impelling effectiveness upon the stage. "It is exceedingly easy," he said, "to write a poetic drama if one does not care to keep an eye upon the stage, or one that is a successful stage play, but without poetry. * * * I shall do what I can to help create that really healthy condition of the drama which consists in the intimate union of poetry and the stage." Following in the footsteps of Schiller in his Intrigue and Love and of Hebbel in his Maria Magdalena, he has not attained, it is true, the massive solidity of the latter, nor has he breathed into his drama that lofty spirit of social challenge that wings the former. On close inspection, the construction of Ludwig's drama shows undeniable flaws of motivation. The playwright has allowed too free a play to chance and slender probability. The spirit of the revolutionary unrest of 1848 is in the background, especially in the tavern scene of the third act, but it does not in any way organically connect the family tragedy which we witness with the broad movements of contemporary public life. But the play is indeed, as Ludwig desired it to be, "a declaration of war against the unnaturalness and conventionalities of our latter-day stage literature." The life-like characters which it portrays, the convincing language which they speak, the carefully drawn milieu in which they move, the intense struggle of passions in which they are engaged-these are all handled with a skill as rare as it is artistically true to life. And even though the atmosphere enveloping it all seems to combine the realism of Ludwig's maturity with the romantic pre-disposition of his earlier works, it remains in fine keeping with that shadowy forest-world which forms the setting of the play.

Ludwig's next drama, The Maccabaeans, was of a radically different mold. From prose we pass to verse, from humble middle-class life to the traditional grandeur of classical tragedy, from the narrow circle of domestic happenings to a Shakespearean canvas of broad historical associations, from contemporary Germany to those heroic struggles in which, in the second century, B.C., the Jews under the leadership of Judas Maccabaeus defended their national and religious freedom against Syrian oppression. In this drama also, certain faults of construction are evident. There is a lack of central unity of interest, in part due, no doubt, to the long processes of development which the play underwent before completion. But again, there is the same masterly technique in all matters of detail, a wonderful strength and beauty of language, subtle and convincing character-portrayal and a splendid realization of that ethnic atmosphere of Jewish life and character in which the drama moves and from which its conflicts spring.

Of the two stories of Ludwig, the Heiterethei is in every way the lighter; nevertheless, it is one of the best of those famous stories from peasant life in which German literature is so rich. More artistic than Jeremias Gotthelf and in a deeper sense truer to life than Auerbach, Ludwig has here created a popular tale of great charm and power. The "poetic realism" of his manner and the subdued ethical didacticism of his purpose have been skillfully united in forming an excellent example of truly popular art. The story is that of the gradual mellowing and final happy marriage of two young people who, with the best of hearts, are veritable firebrands of self-willed defiance to everything suggesting outside interference. The nickname of the girl, "Heiterethei," given her on account of her bright and sunny disposition, explains the title of the story. And it must not be left unsaid that, despite the underlying seriousness of the character-development portrayed, the story as a whole is characterized by a sovereign play of humor, at times a bit grotesque and boisterous, maybe, but none the less irresistible in its quaint charm and deeper meaning.

In Between Heaven and Earth, Ludwig finally achieved his masterpiece, creating a work in which vision and workmanship are both on the highest level and thoroughly worthy of each other. No "hero" in the traditional sense, no glamor of what is commonly regarded as "poetic," no broad social background, no philosophic outlook, but within a narrow, and if you will, commonplace range, the author here permits us to get same of the profoundest glimpses of human life and character. It is a story of slaters working on steep roofs and tall church spires; and as does their scaffolding, so the poet tries to move along "between heaven and earth," his feet and eyes firmly fastened to life's realities, his heart and soul lifted into the realm of the ideal, the eternal. Thus interpreted, the title of the story may indeed be taken as a symbol of that principle of "poetic realism" which Ludwig strove for and of which the story is one of the best embodiments. The technique of the work, to be sure, is that of Ludwig's day, not of our own. There are long descriptions and reflections and a good deal of direct psychological analysis, in all of which the narrator does not hesitate to speak from his subjective point of view. Such a method modern theorists would feign stamp as a crime against the spirit of epic art, as though a novel were a drama, and genuine narration did not by nature participate of both the objective and subjective manner of presentation. But even if these things were undeniable flaws of technique, which we are far from admitting, they certainly cannot mar genuine art in its essential beauty and appeal. The Thuringian landscape and the life of the small town embedded in it, the tragic happenings in the Nettenmair family, the slow processes of soul-life in the two hostile brothers and the martyred woman between them—all this is made to live before our eyes with such simple and yet absolutely adequate means that we get from it that deep and satisfying feeling of harmony of content and form that characterizes a true masterpiece of art. Character drawing and milieu painting, always Ludwig's strong points, have again been most felicitously handled. With equal success the author has developed the plot of the story which, in a few memorable scenes, attains to truly dramatic scope and power. More admirable than everything else, however, is the subtly realistic treatment of the psychological processes in Fritz Nettenmair. His gradual deterioration, step by step, from self-indulgent joviality, through envy and jealousy, to the hatred of despair that does not even shrink from fratricide, is depicted with masterly insight and consistency. This phase of Ludwig's art strikes us as fresh and modern today, and it must have appeared like a revelation to a generation that did not yet, know Flaubert's Madame Bovary or George Eliot's Adam Bede.

Considered in his totality as man and as artist, Ludwig cannot be counted among the names of the very first rank in German nineteenth century literature. To him cannot be assigned the unequivocal greatness of a Kleist, a Hebbel, a Keller. The narrowness of the circumstances of his life and the invalidism of his mature years combined with, and no doubt were aided by, an apparent lack of robustness and forcefulness of character and temperament, and thus conspired to keep him from attaining that victorious self-assertion, that sovereign balance between volition and power, without which true greatness in the full sense of the word is impossible. But among the leading names of second rank, his will always occupy a place of distinction. If his was not the work of a Messiah, it was that of a John the Baptist. Having been nurtured in the traditions of the romanticism of Tieck, E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Jean Paul, he was one of the first to experience the artistic charm and possibilities of unidealized reality and to respond to its call. It was he who seems to have coined the phrase, even if he was not first to formulate the principle, of that restrained or "artistic realism" that tries to set its standards half-way between subjectively idealistic and objectively naturalistic art. Even his extravagant admiration for Shakespeare was chiefly due to the fact that he saw in his art the supreme embodiment of this principle. Ludwig did not renounce beauty of art except where it infringed upon the one thing needful—essential truthfulness to reality, especially in all that pertains to what Hebbel called "the laws of the human soul." Many of the utterances of Ludwig's Studies are as startlingly modern, not to say Ibsenesque, as similar ones in Hebbel's Diaries, in their frank recognition of the solemn claims of reality, even ugly reality, upon the honest artist who endeavors to interpret life in its entirety. For art, too, like all other achievements of human culture, according to Ludwig, must render service unto life. It is its function to furnish insight into life, mastery over life. "Rather no poetry at all," he exclaims, "than a poetry that robs us of the joy of living, that makes us unproductive in life, that, instead of nerving us for life, unnerves us for it."

In German literature Ludwig thus occupies a not unimportant place. Far more penetrating and far more artistic than "realists" like Auerbach or Spielhagen he paved the way for the coming of Anzengruber who, in turn, anticipated the realism of the moderns in more, ways than is generally recognized. Ludwig will always be a figure of prominence in the history of the modern middle-class tragedy, in the development of the story dealing with village life, in the efforts to emphasize the value of a literature close to the native soil, in the attempts of German criticism to fathom the secret of Shakespearean art. More than that, however. When the final account of the gradual evolution of nineteenth century realism will some time be written from another than a one-sidedly French point of view, a place of honorable recognition will be due to the thoughtful and forceful author of the Studies and Between Heaven and Earth.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 6: The extracts from The Prince of Homburg are taken from Mr. Hagedorn's translation, Volume IV of THE GERMAN CLASSICS.]

* * * * *



OTTO LUDWIG

* * * * *



THE HEREDITARY FORESTER

A TRAGEDY IN FIVE ACTS

* * * * *

DRAMATIS PERSONAE



STEIN, a rich manufacturer and country gentleman.

ROBERT, his son.

CHRISTIAN ULRICH, forester on the estate of Duesterwalde, called "The Hereditary Forester."

SOPHY, his wife.

ANDREW, forester's assistant } MARY } their children. WILLIAM }

WILKENS, a wealthy farmer, uncle of SOPHY.

The Pastor of Waldenrode.

MOeLLER, Stein's bookkeeper.

GODFREY, a hunter.

WEILER, keeper in Ulrich's forest.

The proprietor of the "Boundary Inn."

FREI } LINDENSCHMIED} Poachers. KATHARINE }

BASTIAN, Stein's valet.

Two porters.

The scene is alternately the forester's house at Duesterwalde and Stein's mansion at Waldenrode; once, in Act III, the Frontier Inn and the Dell.



THE HEREDITARY FORESTER (1850)

TRANSLATED BY ALFRED REMY, A.M.

Professor of Modern Languages, Brooklyn Commercial High School.



ACT I

The FORESTER'S house at Duesterwalde.

In the back of the room a folding door and a closet; at either side ordinary doors. On the right, a window; on the left, in the rear, the stove; more to the front a cuckoo-clock; then a rack where several rifles are hanging, among them two double-barreled ones, hunter's bags and similar utensils; and a book shelf on which are a Bible and hymn-books.

SCENE I

Behind the scenes musicians are heard playing. WEILER, looking about him, slowly through the centre door; the FORESTER'S wife at the same time from the left with an air of being very busy. Then ANDREW, WILLIAM, and finally MARY.

SOPHY. There, the musicians have come already. I wonder where I put the cellar-key. The musicians must have something to drink. You here, Weiler?

WEILER.

Yes, I'm here. But where is the old man—the forester?

SOPHY.

My husband? Isn't he outside?

WEILER.

I want to see him about the wood-cutters.

SOPHY.

Can't you wait?

WEILER.

Wait? Bless you, no. I have my hands full.

SOPHY.

Then get along with you!

WEILER (quietly filling his short clay pipe with tobacco).

Yes.

SOPHY.

Is he perhaps already with Herr Stein—

WEILER.

Yes; the sand was already strewn on Tuesday. And the garlands outside at the door. If I do not mistake we are today celebrating the engagement of Miss Mary to Mr. Robert Stein? Then they will be even more chummy when he can say "my father-in-law, Mr. Stein." And that is by no means all. Now Stein has also bought the estate where Ulrich is forester. The fat lawyer from town fixed up the deeds yesterday. And this morning Stein got out of bed as proprietor of Duesterwalde.

SOPHY.

The table here—

WEILER (while they carry the table together, on the left).

Won't Ulrich have an easy time of it, now that his old friend has become his master, and is going to be his father-in-law into the bargain!

SOPHY.

Nearer the stove. We must get in one more table.

WEILER (chuckling to himself).

Regular ale-house politicians those two, Stein and Ulrich. Every day they have a row.

SOPHY.

What are you talking there about a row? They're only fooling.

[Exit in a hurry; reenters immediately afterward.]

WEILER (going as far as the door, gesticulating behind her).

Fooling? Don't you believe it! The one is hot-headed, the other obstinate. Ever since there was talk of buying the estate, the clearing of the forest has been the daily apple of discord. Rich people always pretend to know something, even if they don't know the first thing. Now Stein thinks that by cutting down every other row of trees in the forest the first would have more light and room for growing. Maybe Godfrey has hunted that up in some old book. But when he comes with that theory to Ulrich he strikes the wrong man. Only day before yesterday I thought they were going to eat each other up, so that nothing would remain of either of them. Stein says: "The forest will be cleared." The forester: "The forest will not be cleared." Stein: "But it shall be cleared." The forester: "It shall not be cleared." Stein jumps up, buttons his coat, two buttons at a time, knocks down two chairs, and is gone. Well, I thought, that is the end of the friendship! But Lord bless my soul! That happened the night before last, and early yesterday morning—it was scarcely dawn—who comes whistling from the castle and knocks at the forester's window, as though nothing had happened? That's Stein. And who has already been waiting for a quarter of an hour and grunts forth from under his white moustache, "I'm coming?" That's Ulrich. And now both of them, without asking each other's pardon, go together out into the forest, as though there never had been a quarrel! Nobody takes any notice of it any longer. At night they quarrel, in the morning they go together into the forest, as though it could not be otherwise. But does he treat his boy any differently? Robert? Does he? Didn't he want to leave home half a dozen times? And afterward he is too good. Queer business that!

[During the last words he has retreated step by step before the table which ANDREW and WILLIAM are carrying in and placing against the table which already stands on the left in the direction from the footlights to the back of stage.]

SOPHY.

Put it here. That's it. And now chairs, boys. From the upper room. Weiler might—

[ANDREW and WILLIAM exeunt.]

WEILER (in a hurry, making ready to go).

Well, if Weiler did not have his hands full! Outside with the wood-cutters—then with the fir-seed and with the salt—there—I don't know where my head's standing with all the work. And the old man—

[A pantomime expressive of ULRICH'S severity.]

SOPHY.

Well, I don't want to be to blame if you neglect anything.

[Exit.]

WEILER (very calmly).

All right!

[Laying his finger against his nose.]

But I wonder whether he will still always be the first to patch up differences? I mean Stein. Now that he is the forester's master? Well; I don't want to prophesy, but—the master is always right because he is the master. Humph! I wish something serious would come to pass. At any rate, I am getting tired of merry faces again.

[Enter ANDREW and WILLIAM, carrying chairs.]

SOPHY. Seven, eight, nine, ten, chairs.

[Counts once more, softly.]

Correct!

WEILER.

That was a queer expression that Godfrey had on his face yesterday, Mr. Andrew. I bet you had another quarrel with him.

SOPHY.

With that vindictive brutal fellow?

[She sets the table.]

ANDREW.

Who can live in peace with him?

SOPHY.

Well, what's done can't be undone. But you'd better look out for him.

WEILER.

So say I. For there is not a muscle in that fellow's body which is not wicked.

ANDREW.

I am not afraid of him.

SOPHY.

Come, William; run into the garden. Get me some crown-imperials, snap-dragons, larkspurs—something big, so that it will look like something in the glass. The Steins will soon be here with Mr. Moeller, the bookkeeper.

WEILER.

The old bachelor—

SOPHY.

Just look, Andrew, whether cousin Wilkens isn't coming yet.

[ANDREW and WILLIAM exeunt.]

WEILER.

Wilkens is coming too?

SOPHY (with emphasis).

Mr. Wilkens? He will not stay away when his niece's daughter announces her engagement.

WEILER.

No, indeed. He has money, has Mr. Wilkens. The richest farmer for miles around. I also was Mr. Weiler once, before my creditors closed up my coffee store. Then they jammed the "Mr." in the door and there it is still. Now people say simply "Weiler"—"Weiler might"—"As long as Weiler is here," etc. Sometimes, when I am in the humor, I get angry over it. A strange pleasure, to get angry, but it is a pleasure. Hey! There comes the bride-to-be.

[MARY appears; during the following dialogue the women set the table.]

WEILER.

My! Like a squirrel!

SOPHY.

Weiler means to pay you a compliment, Mary. He has a peculiar manner.

WEILER.

That is true. It does not matter whether the flattery is coarse or fine. If a woman only notices that one means to flatter her, she is satisfied. It is just as when boys stroke a kitten. Whether they pet it gently or roughly, whether it likes it or not, it cannot help purring.

MARY.

And I presume you mean to pet me with this comparison.

WEILER.

If you feel obliged to purr it must have been a petting.

MARY (looking out of the window).

He is coming, mother.

SOPHY.

Who? Robert?

WEILER.

I had better be off to my wood-cutters. Otherwise the old man will make a row.

[Exit.]

SOPHY (calling after him).

If you cannot come in I will save your portion. An uncomfortable fellow! And it is not likely that he will acquire polite manners at this late day. That is a relic of his better days. And for that reason your father is indulgent with him because they were old comrades. Godfrey also was one of them. When he had wasted his property in drink he fell in with Stein.

[Surveying the table.]

Here at the head the father of the bridegroom; next to him your father; then the good droll pastor. If it had not been for him, Robert would have gone long ago.

MARY.

Mother, at that time Robert was so wild, so impetuous—

SOPHY.

You are right. At that time the pastor and we could scarcely keep him. [Counts once more the afore-mentioned persons.] Then here Mr. Moeller; and there your godfather, my cousin Mr. Wilkens; then I myself here; there Robert and you; finally, at the foot, Andrew and William. How the time passes! If I think back to my engagement day! Then I was not as happy as I am today.

MARY.

Mother, I wonder whether every girl that is to become a bride feels as I do? SOPHY. Not every one has such good cause to be glad as you have.

MARY.

But is it gladness that I feel? I am so depressed, mother, so—

SOPHY.

Of course. You are like the flower on which clings a dewdrop. It hangs its head, and yet the dew is no burden.

MARY.

I feel as if it were wrong of me to leave my father, even if it is to go with Robert.

SOPHY.

The Bible says, "A woman shall leave father and mother and cleave to her husband."—But my case was quite different from yours. Your father was a stately man, no longer quite young, but tall and straight like a pine. At that time his beard was still black as coal. Many a girl that would gladly have married him set her cap at him; that I knew. But to me he seemed too serious, too severe. He took everything so seriously, and he cared nothing for amusements. It was no easy matter to accommodate myself to him. I never had to worry about the means of subsistence; and if I should say that he ever treated me harshly, I should be telling a lie; even if he pretended to be harsh.

MARY.

And that was all you had expected? Was that all.

SOPHY.

As if the good Lord could grant everything that is dreamt of by the heart of a girl who herself does not know what she desires! But here comes Robert. We will be quite merry, so that no gloomy thoughts will come to him.



SCENE II

Enter ROBERT.

ROBERT.

Good morning, mother dear. Good morning, Mary.

SOPHY.

Good morning, Mr. Bridegroom-to-be.

ROBERT.

How glad I am to see you so cheerful. But you Mary? You are sad, Mary? And I am so joyful, so over-joyful. The whole morning I have been in the forest. Where the bushes glistened brightest with the dew, there I penetrated, so that the moist branches should strike my heated face. There I threw myself down on the grass. But I could not stay anywhere. It seemed that nothing could relieve me but weeping aloud. And you—at other times as blithe and gay as a deer—you are sad? Sad on this day?

SOPHY. She surely is glad, dear Robert. But you have known her ever since she was a little child; when others proclaim their happiness, she hides hers in silence. MARY. No, Robert. Sad I surely am not. I only have a feeling of solemnity; it has been upon me the whole morning. Wherever I go, it seems to me as though I were in church. And—

ROBERT.

And what?

MARY.

And that now my life is soon to be broken off behind me, as if it were sinking away from under me, and that a new life is to begin, one so entirely new—don't be offended, good Robert! This to me is so strange—gives me such a feeling of anxiety!

ROBERT.

A new life? A life so entirely new? Why, Mary, it is still the old life, only more beautiful. It is still the dear old tree under which we are sitting, only it is in bloom now.

MARY.

Besides, the thought that I am to leave my father and my mother! The old I see passing away, the new I do not see coming; the old I must leave, the new I cannot reach.

ROBERT.

Must you indeed leave your father? Do we not all remain together? Has not my father for this very reason bought the estate of Duesterwalde?

SOPHY.

That is the anxiety which comes over one in spring; one knows not whence it comes, nor why. And yet in spring one knows that everything will become more and more beautiful, and still one feels anxious. One is merely afraid of happiness. Now that my dearest wishes are about to be fulfilled—do I not experience the same sensation? I might almost wish that a roast were burnt, or that a piece of the fine china were broken. Happiness is like the sun: There must be a little shade if man is to be comfortable. I will just go to see whether a little shade of that sort has not been cast in the kitchen.

[Exit to the left.]

MARY (after she and ROBERT have been standing in silence facing each other).

Is anything wrong with you, Robert?

ROBERT.

With me? No. Perhaps—

MARY.

You are still angry with your father? And he is so good!

ROBERT.

That is just the trouble, that he is so good. Oh, his kindness is almost more difficult to bear than his violent temper! His anger only hurts, his kindness humiliates; over against his anger I set my pride—but what can I set against his kindness?

MARY.

And you wanted to go away, you wicked Robert, and leave us all!

ROBERT.

I wanted to go, but I am still here. Oh! That was a wretched time! I despaired of everything; of you, Mary; of myself; but all that is now past. There must be a little shade, only not too much. Let us go out, Mary. It is so close here in the house. The musicians shall play us the merriest piece they know. [They are about to go.]



SCENE III

The same. Enter the FORESTER, his Wife behind him. As soon as MARY sees the FORESTER, she leaves ROBERT and embraces her father.

FORESTER.

Get out, wench! [Tearing himself free.] Is this the sun's ray after a rainy day, that the gadflies come buzzing about one's head? Have you filled Robert's ears with lamentations, you women folks? You silly girl there!

[Pushes MARY from him.]

I have something to say to Robert. I have been looking for you, Mr. Stein.

ROBERT.

Mr. Stein? No longer Robert?

FORESTER.

Everything has its due season, familiar speech and formal speech. When the women folks are gone—

SOPHY.

Don't worry, we'll retreat, you old bear. Don't be afraid to talk.

FORESTER.

All right. As soon as you are out.

ROBERT (leads her out).

Don't be angry, mother dear.

SOPHY.

If I were to mind him, I should never cease being angry.

FORESTER.

Close the door! Do you hear?

SOPHY.

Hush, hush!

FORESTER.

Who is master here? Confound it!



SCENE IV

The FORESTER; ROBERT. The FORESTER, when they are alone becomes embarrassed, and walks up and down for some time.

ROBERT.

You wished to say—

FORESTER.

Quite right—

[Wipes the perspiration from his forehead.]

Well; sit down, Mr. Stein.

ROBERT.

These preparations—

[FORESTER points to a chair at the end of the table. ROBERT seats himself.]

FORESTER (takes the Bible from the shelf, seats himself opposite)

ROBERT,(puts on his spectacles, opens the book and clears his throat).

Proverbs, chapter 31, verse 10: "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life." [7]

[Short pause; then he calls brusquely toward the window, while he remains seated.]

William, be careful out there! And then further on, verse 30. You'll trample down all the boxweed, confound you! "Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised."—Robert!

ROBERT (starting).

Father Ulrich—

FORESTER.

Again, Ecclesiasticus, verse so and so—Mr. Stein—

ROBERT.

Once more "Mister."

FORESTER.

I see I shall have to use the familiar form of address. Otherwise I shall not be able to speak my mind.—Robert—

ROBERT.

You are so solemn!

FORESTER.

Solemn? Perhaps so. But this affair is enough to make one solemn. I am not a heathen.

[Strikes an attitude.] So you are decided with God's help, Robert—

ROBERT. Well—

FORESTER.

Hang it!—Don't look at me that way!—You intend to marry, Robert?

ROBERT (rises, surprised).

Why, you know that—

FORESTER.

That's true. But there must be some sort of introduction. Never mind, sit down. However, you must give me a chance to finish what I have to say. On other occasions I am not afraid to talk, but now that I am about to preach a sermon, it strikes me just as if I were to see the pastor in his cassock trying to chase a hare.

[Relieved.]

Now, then; at last I have struck the trail. Suppose a stag from Luetzdorf is roaming about. You understand, Robert? Now give me your attention. This fork here represents the stag. Right here, do you see? Here is the salt-cellar: that's you. And the wind blows from the direction of that plate. What are you going to do now in order to stalk the stag? Hey?

[Trying to assist him.]

You—well?

ROBERT.

I must—

FORESTER (nodding assent).

You must—

[Makes a pantomime.]

ROBERT.

I must get to the windward of him.

FORESTER.

Get to the windward. Correct. Do you begin to see what I am driving at? You must get to the windward of him. That's it! Do you see now? That is the reason why I had to have a talk with you.

[Solemnly.]

You must get to the windward of the stag.

[Rises.]

And now—make her happy—Robert—my Mary.

[About to go.]

ROBERT.

But what has all this to do with Mary?

FORESTER.

Why, you have not yet understood me? Look here! The stag must not have an inkling that you are very anxious about him; and much less a woman. You make too much fuss about the women. Children must not know how dearly one loves them; anything but that! But women even less so. In reality, they are nothing but grown-up children, only more shrewd. And the children are already shrewd enough.—Sit down, Robert, I must tell you something.

[They sit at the edge of the table, facing the audience.]

When that Mary of mine was four years old—no taller than this—I once came home later than usual. "Where is Mary?" I ask. One child says: "In her room;" the other: "In front of the house. She'll be here pretty soon." But one guess was as far from the truth as the other. Evening comes, night comes—Mary does not appear. I go outside. In the garden, in the adjoining shrubbery, on the rocks of the dell, in the whole forest—not a trace of Mary. In the meantime my wife is looking for her at your house, then at every house in the village, but nowhere can she find a trace of Mary. Can it be possible that some one should have kidnapped her? Why, she was as beautiful as a wax-doll, my Mary. The whole night I never touched my bed. Even at that time Mary was everything to me. The next morning I alarm the entire village. Not a person fails to respond. All were passionately fond of Mary. At least I wished to bury the corpse. In the dell, you know, the thicket of firs—under the cliffs where on the other side of the brook the old footpath runs high along the rocks-next to it the willows. This time I crawl through the whole thicket. In the midst of it is the small open meadows; there at last I see something red and white. Praised be heaven! It is she—and neither dead nor ill, no, safe and sound in the green grass; and after her sleep her little cheeks were as red as peonies, Robert. But—

[He looks about him and lowers his voice.]

I hope she is not listening.

[Draws closer to ROBERT; whenever he forgets himself, he immediately lowers his voice.]

I say: "Is it you, really?" "Of course," she says, and rubs her eyes so that they sparkle. "And you are alive," I say; "and did not die," I say, "of hunger and fear?" I say. "Half a day and a whole, night alone in the forest, in the very thickest of the forest! Come," I say, "that in the meantime mother may not die of anxiety," I say. Says she: "Wait a while, father." "But, why and for what?" "Till the child comes again," says she. "And let us take it with us, please, father. It is a dear child." "But who, in all the world, is this child?" I ask. "The one that came to me," says she, "when I ran away from you a little while ago after the yellow butterfly, and when all at once I was quite alone in the forest and wanted to cry and call after you, and who picked berries for me and played with me so nicely." "A little while ago?" I say. "Did not the night come since then?" I say. But she would not believe that. We looked for the child and—naturally did not find it. Men no longer have faith in anything, but I know what I know. Do you understand, Robert? Say nothing. It seems to me I were committing a sacrilege if I should say it right out. There, shake hands with me without saying anything. All right, Robert.—For heaven's sake, don't let her hear what we are saying about her.

[Goes softly to the door; looks out.] MARY (outside).

Do you want anything, father?

FORESTER (nods secretly toward ROBERT, then brusquely).

Nothing. And don't you come in again before I—

[Comes back; speaks just above a whisper.]

Do you see? That's the way to treat her. You make far too much fuss about that girl. She is [still more softly] a girl that any father might be proud of, and I think she is going to be a wife after God's own heart. I have such a one. Do you see, I don't mind telling you, because I know you are not going to repeat it to her. For she must not know it; otherwise all my pains would go for nothing. And pains it certainly cost me till I got her so far; pains, I tell you. I advise you not to spoil my girl, whom I have gone to so much trouble to bring up properly.

ROBERT.

You may think,—but I don't understand you at all.

FORESTER.

There's just the rub! You don't do it purposely. But, confound it! Don't make such a fuss over the girl, do you hear? If you go on this way, she will have you in her pocket within a month. The women always want to rule; all their thoughts and aspirations tend to that end, without being themselves aware of it. And when they finally do rule, they are unhappy in spite of it; I know more than one instance of this. I only look inside the door, and I know for certain what sort of figure the man cuts. I only look at the cattle. If the dog or the cat is not well trained, neither are the children; and the wife still less. Hey? My wife does not yet know me as far as that here [points to his heart] is concerned. And if she should ever get hold of that secret—then good-by, authority! The wife may be an angel, but the man must act like a bear. And especially a huntsman. That's part of the business, just as much as the moustache and the green coat.

ROBERT.

But could it not be possible that—

FORESTER (eagerly). No, Robert. Once and for all, no! There is no way out of it. Either he trains her, or she trains him.—For example; let me give you only one instance how to go about it. My wife cannot see any human being suffer; now the poor wretches come in troops, and I should like to know what is to come of it all, if I were to praise her to her face. Therefore I grumble and swear like a trooper, but at the same time I gradually withdraw, so that she has full liberty. And when I notice that she is through, then I come along again, as if by accident, and keep on grumbling and swearing. Then people say: "The Hereditary Forester is harder on the poor than the devil himself, but his wife and his girl, they are angels from heaven." And they say this so that I should hear it; and hear it I do. But I pretend not to notice it, and laugh in my sleeve; and to keep up appearances I bluster all the more.—It seems the guests are arriving. Robert, my wife, and my girl, my Mary—if I at some time—you understand me, Robert. Give me your hand. God is looking down on us.

[Wipes his eyes.]

The deuce! Confound it! Don't let the cat out of the bag to the women—and you rule her as it ought to be.

[He turns around to hide his emotion, with gestures expressive of his vexation that he cannot control himself. At the door he encounters the following]:



SCENE V

The same. STEIN; MOeLLER; WILKENS; MARY; SOPHY. They exchange greetings with the FORESTER.

STEIN.

What's your hurry, old man? Have you already had a row with him?

FORESTER.

Yes. I have given the young gentleman a lecture on the subject of women-folks.

STEIN.

High treason against the majesty of petticoat-government? And you permit that, madam?

SOPHY.

A little more, a little less—when one has to put up with so much!

FORESTER.

And now can anybody say that this woman is not clever enough to get one under her thumb. But let us have cards. I had to promise Stein that he should have his revenge today before lunch—

STEIN. Revenge I must have.

[The FORESTER and STEIN sit down opposite each other on the right side of the stage and play cards.]

SOPHY (watches them a moment; then to ROBERT, while going to and fro with an air of being very busy).

I hope to heaven they are not going to discuss the clearing of the forest today.

MOeLLER (on the left side, stepping up to WILKENS and pointing to MARY, who is talking to her mother and ROBERT).

That is what I call a fine-looking bride!

WILKENS.

And she is not a beggar's child either, Sir.

MOeLLER (politely).

Who does not know that Mr. Wilkens is her mother's uncle?

WILKENS (flattered).

Well, well!

MOeLLER.

And Mr. Wilkens need not be ashamed, I believe, of the firm of Stein and Son.

WILKENS (calmly).

By no means.

MOeLLER (with great enthusiasm).

Sir! The firm of Stein and Son! I have served the firm twenty years. That is my honor and my pride. For me the firm is wife and child!

WILKENS.

I do not doubt it.

MOeLLER.

The foremost houses of Germany would consider it an honor to ally themselves in marriage with Stein and Son.

WILKENS. I am sure of it.

[Turns to the bridal couple.]

MOeLLER (angrily to himself).

And that fellow parades his peasant's pride, as if Stein and Son ought to esteem it a high honor to ally themselves with that forester's goose. His forty-five will be divided into three parts, and only after his death. The only daughter of Loehlein & Co. with her eighty! That were quite a different capital for our business; and cash down today! This mesalliance is unpardonable. But what can one do? One must [A waltz is heard without] dance off one's vexation. May I have the honor, madam [to SOPHY] on the lawn?

[Bows with an old bachelor's jauntiness.]

STEIN.

I wonder whether I'll get decent cards!

SOPHY.

I guess we'll have time for that?

WILKENS.

Old Wilkens is not yet going to sit in a corner.

[Fumbles in his pocket.]

Wilkens must also contribute his dollar for the benefit of the musicians. I hope I have your permission, Mr. Bridegroom?

[MOeLLER leads out SOPHY; WILKENS leads MARY; ROBERT follows.]



SCENE VI

STEIN; the FORESTER.

STEIN (throwing down his cards).

Have I a single trump?

FORESTER (calling).

Twenty in spades.

STEIN (taking up his cards again; impatiently).

Why not forty? Talking about spades reminds me—have you considered that matter about the clearing?

FORESTER. That fellow is a—

[They continue to play.]

STEIN.

What fellow?

FORESTER.

The fellow who hatched that scheme.

STEIN.

Do you mean me?

FORESTER.

Your Godfrey there—

STEIN (getting excited: with emphasis).

My Godfrey?

FORESTER (growing more and more calm and cheerful).

Well, for all I care, mine, then.

STEIN.

Why do you always drag him in?

FORESTER.

Never mind him, then.

STEIN.

As if I—it is you—whenever an opportunity offers, you, you drag him in. You can't get rid of him. Like dough he sticks to your teeth.

FORESTER (very calmly).

As, for example, just now.

STEIN.

You have made up your mind to annoy me.

FORESTER.

Nonsense! You only want to pick a quarrel. STEIN. I? But why do you immediately trump, when I play a wrong card?

FORESTER.

Playing a wrong card means losing the game.

STEIN (throwing down his cards).

Well, there you have the whole business!

[Jumps up.]

FORESTER. I deal.

[Shuffles calmly and deals.]

STEIN (has taken a few steps).

I am not going to play any more with you.

FORESTER (unconcerned).

But it is my turn to deal.

STEIN (sits down again).

Obstinate old fellow!

FORESTER.

You immediately lose your temper.

STEIN (taking his cards; still angry).

You would not give in, even if it were as clear as day that you are wrong!



SCENE VII

The same. Enter MOeLLER, leading in SOPHY; WILKENS. The waltz outside is finished.

SOPHY.

But now I think that—

FORESTER.

One more turn.

SOPHY.

Everything is ready—

FORESTER.

The pastor—

SOPHY.

He sent word that we are not to wait lunch for him. But he would be here at eleven o'clock sharp for the betrothal.

FORESTER.

Then sit down and eat.

STEIN.

Please, do not let us detain you.

FORESTER.

It is immaterial whether we sit here or there. Now then! Forty in spades.

[Continuing to play.]

STEIN.

All right! Go ahead.

FORESTER (triumphantly).

Are not you thinking of Godfrey again? And the clearing? Hey?

STEIN (controlling himself).

Now you see—

FORESTER (more excited).

That the fellow is a fool—Queens are trumps.

STEIN.

I'm bearing in mind that we are not alone.

FORESTER (excited by the game).

And trump—and trump!—the forest shall be cleared!

STEIN.

That will do, I say. The idea was mine.

FORESTER.

And trump.

STEIN.

And if I—[He controls himself.]

FORESTER (triumphantly).

Well, what then?

[Puts the cards together.]

STEIN (making a desperate effort to contain himself).

And if I should wish to have it so—if I should insist upon it—then— FORESTER.

Everything would remain as it is.

STEIN.

The forest would be cleared.

FORESTER.

Nothing of the kind.

STEIN.

We'll see about that. And now the forest shall be cleared.

FORESTER.

It shall not.

STEIN.

Sir!

FORESTER (laughing).

Mr. Stein!

STEIN.

It's all right! It's all right!

FORESTER (very calmly).

As it is.

STEIN.

Not another word—

FORESTER.

And not a tree—

STEIN (rises).

No contradiction and no sarcasm! That I request. That I insist upon. I am the master of Duesterwalde.

FORESTER.

And I am the forester of Duesterwalde.

[STEIN is getting more and more excited. He shows plainly that the presence of other persons increases his sensitiveness, and he makes an evident effort to control his temper. The FORESTER treats the matter lightly, as an every-day affair. SOPHY with increasing anxiety looks from one to the other. WILKENS does not move a muscle of his face. MOeLLER exhibits his sympathy by accompanying his master's words with appropriate gestures. The entire pantomimic by-play is very rapid.]

STEIN.

You are my servant, and I command: The forest shall be cleared. If not, you are no longer my servant. The forest shall be cleared.

FORESTER.

Old hot-head!

STEIN.

Either you obey, or you are no longer forester.

FORESTER.

Stuff and nonsense!

STEIN.

And I shall put Godfrey in your place.

FORESTER.

Quite right. Congratulations.

STEIN (buttons his coat).

The forest shall be cleared.

FORESTER.

The forest shall not be cleared.

SOPHY (stepping between the two).

But—

STEIN.

I regret this exceedingly.—Mr. Moeller!—I bid everybody good-day.

[Exit.]

MOeLLER.

Bravo! At last he has spoken his mind in a manner worthy of Stein and Son. Yours truly.

[Follows STEIN.]

FORESTER.

I deal—

[He looks up while shuffling the cards.]

But—well, let him go. If he can't sit for an hour without exploding, the old powder-bag—



SCENE VIII

The FORESTER remains seated imperturbably. SOPHY stands beside his chair. WILKENS steps up to the FORESTER.

SOPHY.

But what in the world is going to come of this?

WILKENS.

He should have gone after him.

FORESTER. The old hot-head!

SOPHY.

I am absolutely dumbfounded. On the very day of betrothal!

WILKENS.

But for the sake of a few miserable trees he surely is not going to—

FORESTER.

Miserable trees? Thunder! In my forest there is no miserable tree!—Nonsense. There is no cause for lamentation.

WILKENS.

But Mr. Stein—

FORESTER.

Is not going to run far. When his anger has subsided, he will be the first one to—he is better than I.

WILKENS.

But—

FORESTER.

Hang it! You always have a "But." That's the way he goes on every day. For twenty years—

WILKENS.

But today he is your master.

FORESTER.

Master or not. The forest shall not be cleared. WILKENS. But you will lose your place.

FORESTER.

To Godfrey? Idle talk! Stein himself can't bear Godfrey, and he knows what I am worth to him. I need not sing my own praise. Show me a forest anywhere in the whole district that can be compared to mine.—Do you hear? Why, there he is back again. Sit down. And if he comes in, act as if nothing had happened.



SCENE IX The same. Enter MOeLLER rapidly; later, ANDREW.

FORESTER (not looking up).

Well, I deal.

[Takes the cards, notices his mistake.]

Is that you, Mr. Moeller?

MOeLLER (pompously).

At your service.

FORESTER.

Well, sit down. Has he cooled down again, the old hot-head? Why doesn't he come in? I suppose he expects me to fetch him?

[Is about to go.]

MOeLLER.

Mr. Stein sends me to ask you, sir, whether you have changed your mind.

FORESTER.

I should say not!

MOeLLER.

That you will clear the forest?

FORESTER.

That I will not clear the forest.

MOeLLER.

That means, that you are going to resign your position as forester.

FORESTER.

That means—that you are a fool.

MOeLLER (very pompously).

I have been commissioned by Mr. Adolf Friedrich Stein, head of the firm of Stein and Son, in case you should still persist in your refusal to execute the command of your master, to announce to you your dismissal, and to notify Godfrey immediately that he is forester of Duesterwalde.

FORESTER.

And that would be a great pleasure to you—

MOeLLER.

I am not to be considered in this matter. What is to be considered is the firm of Stein and Son, whom I have the honor to represent. I give you five minutes time for consideration.

[Steps to the window.]



FORESTER.

Dismiss me? Dismiss me? Do you know what that means? Dismiss a man who has served faithfully for forty years? Good heavens, sir! If I should do what he wishes—then I deserved to be dismissed. Clear the forest! And the mountain faces north and northwest, absolutely exposed—

WILKENS.

Well! But this is not a question of your trees.

FORESTER.

So that the wind can rush in and break down everything. Hang it! Nonsense! He does not mean it at all. If he only comes to his senses—

WILKENS.

That's just what I say. Until it comes to the actual cutting down, one has time to think a hundred times. And don't you see that it is not at all the cutting down that Mr. Stein is concerned about? He is only concerned about maintaining his authority. If he is the master he necessarily must be right.

FORESTER.

But he is wrong, and I shall not give my consent to anything that is wrong. For forty years I have disregarded my own interest for the sake of what was intrusted to my care; I have—

WILKENS.

Well. My opinion is, that if for forty years you have had such tender regard for your trees, you might now, for once, have a similar regard for your wife and children and yourself.

FORESTER.

Do you know that to Stein there may result from this a loss of six thousand dollars? Do you? Of that sum I should deprive him if I consented. And would you have some one come along and say: "Ulrich gave his consent to that? In fifteen years there might have been such a forest of timber, that a forester's heart would have swelled with pride, and—"

WILKENS.

Well. That might still—

FORESTER.

After the cursed wind from the direction of Hersbruck once has made havoc in it? You talk as you understand it.

SOPHY (anxiously).

But what is to become of us?

FORESTER.

We are honest people, and such we shall remain. WILKENS. Well! As if honesty entered even remotely into this question!

FORESTER.

But, gracious heavens! What else does enter? Hey? Am I to play the sycophant? Just try to kick me! You'll soon learn better. And laugh in my sleeve? Only no honest, fearless word! That is your peasant's philosophy. As long as they don't touch your pocket-book, you put up with anything. If you are not compelled—

WILKENS (self-satisfied).

Well, yes. If the peasant is not compelled, he moves neither hand nor foot. There he is quite right. That is the peasant's philosophy. And, I tell you, this peasant's philosophy is not so foolish. Had you practised this philosophy, you would have done your duty, and not a penny's worth more; you would have spent your money on yourself, your wife and your children, and not to increase somebody else's wealth. In that case, it would not concern you now what becomes of it.—Whose bread I eat, his praise I sing. You are paid to be servant, not master. When, therefore, your master says: The forest shall be cleared—

FORESTER.

Then I must see to it that it is not done. The honest man comes before the servant.

WILKENS.

Well. Now we are just as far as we were at the beginning.

[Turns away.]

SOPHY.

You are not going? You are my only consolation, cousin. No doubt, he will change his mind. He has the greatest respect for you, cousin.

WILKENS.

I notice he has.

SOPHY.

The betrothal!—Mary! How unfortunate that the pastor has not yet arrived! Cousin, if you only would—

Enter ANDREW.

WILKENS.

His head is as hard as iron. Can any one make anything plain to him? MOeLLER (who until now has been looking out of the window without saying anything, looks at his watch, and then turns pompously to the FORESTER).

Sir, I should like to ask you for your final decision.

FORESTER.

What I have said, I have said.

[Takes a few steps, then stops.]

And moreover, he can't do it; I mean, dismiss me. He has no right to dismiss me. First of all he must produce evidence that I have deserved it. He has no right to dismiss me without any cause whatever.

MOeLLER (with authority).

So you will not clear the forest? Say it plainly: You will not?

FORESTER.

If it was not sufficiently plain to you before, then: No! I can't state it more plainly. I will not be a scoundrel, and he cannot dismiss an honest man. Is that plain, definite and unmistakable? I am forester, and I remain forester—and the forest shall not be cleared. That you may tell your master and your Godfrey and whomever you please.

SOPHY.

Have only a little patience with him. I am sure Mr. Stein does not mean it, and you have been so kind already—

MOeLLER.

If the decision rested with me, with me, Justus Moeller,—what would I not do to please you, madam? But I am here as the representative of Stein and Son.

FORESTER.

And if he thinks he has a right, let him act accordingly. But you, woman, do not insult my good right by asking favors of the wrong-doer. Good-day, Mr. Moeller. Is there anything else you desire? Nothing? Have you anything else to tell me?

MOeLLER (very pompously).

Nothing beyond the fact that your incumbency of the post of forester ceases with the present moment. Here is your salary—a half year in advance. In consideration whereof, as soon as possible, within three days at the latest, you will vacate this house, so that the present forester may move in, upon whom, from this moment on, rests the sole responsibility for the forest.

[The FORESTER is obliged to sit down.]

SOPHY (to ANDREW, whom she has been compelled to restrain all the while, and who now rushes toward the door).

Where are you going, Andrew?

ANDREW.

I am going to tell Robert what his father—

SOPHY.

Don't you dare to—

ANDREW.

Let me go, mother, before I lay hands on that fellow there—

[Exit in violent anger.]

FORESTER.

Never mind. Never mind! Keep quiet, woman.

[Rises.]

Good-day, Mr. Moeller. You have left some money behind you, sir. Better take it, or I'll throw it after you.

[Steps to the window and whistles.]

MOeLLER.

You see, madam, it gives me pain to discharge my duty. I am going to Godfrey.

FORESTER (without turning toward him).

Good luck on the way!



SCENE X

The FORESTER is standing at the window whistling. WILKENS is looking for his cane and hat. SOPHY in perplexity looks from one to the other. As he is about to leave, MOeLLER encounters ROBERT and ANDREW, who come rushing in. MARY is clinging to the arm of ROBERT whom she tries to calm.

ROBERT (entering angrily).

He shall give in. He shall not spoil the beautiful day.

ANDREW.

Go to your father. He commenced this quarrel.

MOeLLER.

It is lucky that I meet you, Mr. Stein. I am commissioned to beg you to come home at once.

[Exit.]

ROBERT.

Ulrich, you yield; you must yield.

FORESTER (turning away from the window).

You, Mr. Stein? What do you want from me? Mary, you go out there! What do you want from the man whom your father intends to dismiss?

ROBERT.

But why will you not consent?

ANDREW.

Because he wishes to remain an honest man, and will not suffer himself to be made a scoundrel by you. [The FORESTER makes a sign to him to be silent.]

ROBERT.

I am not talking to you now, Andrew.

FORESTER.

You are here with your father's consent, Mr. Stein? Moreover—sir, and if your father had the power to take from me my position and my honor—the fact that I have an irreproachable child, that is something he cannot take from me. And any one else—hey? Young man, on this point I am touchy. Do you understand?

SOPHY.

But will you fall out even with your last friend?

FORESTER.

Mary's reputation is at stake. If he is a friend, he knows without my telling him what he has to do.

ROBERT.

I know what I have to do; but you do not. Otherwise you would not risk your children's happiness for a whim—for—

FORESTER.

Ho! ho! Tell that to your father, young man!

ROBERT.

For your obstinacy. I have your word, and Mary has mine; I am a man, and will be no scoundrel.

FORESTER.

And because you will not be a scoundrel, I am to be one? Shall people say: "Ulrich caused a quarrel between father and son?" Sir, my girl is too good to have it said of her that she stole into your family. Mr. Stein, this is my home. You know what I mean.

SOPHY.

At least let the children—

FORESTER.

Do something foolish? And you look on; and afterward you can do nothing better than weep.

ROBERT.

Mary, whatever befall—

FORESTER.

I do not know whether I know Mary. If I am mistaken in her then it is better you go with him at once.

MARY.

Father, he is so true.

FORESTER.

Very well. Go with him.

SOPHY.

So inflexible—

ROBERT. In the name of heaven, Mary, which has destined us for one another—

FORESTER (as before, to his wife).

And let me advise you not to—Do you hear, if it should come to pass—

[Turns with her toward the background.]

ANDREW (bursting out).

Now it's enough! Mary, either you go or he goes.

SOPHY.

Now you are beginning too, Andrew! [Goes to him on the left side of the stage.]

ANDREW.

I have been silent long enough. Let me alone, mother. His father has insulted my father; I will not allow this fellow to insult my sister also.

ROBERT.

You belong to me, Mary. I should like to see him who—keep your hands off!

MARY.

Robert, it is my brother!

ANDREW (threatening).

Only one step further, or—

ROBERT.

Away, I say; for God's sake—

ANDREW.

You are no match for me—

ROBERT.

Not with the point of your finger shall you touch what belongs to me. I defy you all—

ANDREW.

Do you hear that, father?

FORESTER (stepping between the two).

Back there, fellow! Who is master in this house?

ANDREW.

If you are master, father, then show that you are. Otherwise let me show it to that fellow there.

FORESTER.

Andrew, go over there, and say not another word!

ANDREW.

Father—

FORESTER.

Will you mind what I say?

[ANDREW pulls a rifle from the wall.]

FORESTER.

What are you doing there?

ANDREW (with suppressed rage).

Nothing. Here in the house you are master. Outside no one is master; outside we all are.

FORESTER.

In my forest I am master.

ANDREW.

But not a step beyond.

FORESTER.

What do you mean? Answer!

ANDREW.

Nothing particular, father. Only that fellow there need know.—If you are not concerned about your own honor—I shall protect Mary's honor. That is for him who dares to come near Mary.

SOPHY.

What words are those?

ROBERT.

Idle words. It is children that are afraid of words.

ANDREW.

There will be something more than words, as surely as I am a man.

ROBERT.

If you were a man you would not threaten, you—

ANDREW.

If we were somewhere else, you would not taunt—

FORESTER.

Andrew!

ROBERT.

Make room—

ANDREW.

Get out, I say—

[FORESTER almost at the same time puts his finger in his mouth and gives a shrill whistle.]

ANDREW.

If you no longer—

FORESTER (stepping between the two).

Rebellious boys! Hold your peace! Don't you dare to strike, either one of you! You confounded fellow! When I need a guardian I certainly shall not select a greenhorn. Is it I who is master here or is it some one else? What business have you here, fellow? Get you gone into the forest; look after Weiler that he does not loaf; then take out a dozen maple trees from the nursery and put them up in damp moss; see to it that the messenger from Haslau does not have to wait when he comes. Not a word! Along with you!

[ANDREW obeys and goes, after having cast a threatening look at ROBERT, to which the latter replies.]

FORESTER.

And you, Mr. Stein; good-day, Mr. Stein. You know what I mean.

SOPHY.

If you would intercede with your father; but gently and kindly! And if you would bring him back!

MARY.

Then I should see how truly you love me, Robert.

FORESTER (less roughly).

Don't come again before that. Good-by, Robert. And leave that girl alone.

ROBERT.

I am going. But come what may, I shall not resign my claim upon Mary. [Exit.]

SOPHY.

Is everything to turn out unlucky today? And you, cousin, are you also going to leave us?

WILKENS.

Well! If one insists on running his head through a wall, I'm not the fool to hold my hand in between.

[Exit.]



ACT II

In the Manor House



SCENE I

STEIN alone, seated.

STEIN.

Confound his obstinacy! The whole fine day spoiled! Otherwise we should now be at table. I suppose he is right after all, that this clearing serves no goad purpose. But is that a reason why he should put me into this rage? It is true, I should have been wiser than he. Probably my excitement was also partly to blame.—I am only sorry for his wife—and the children. I am going to—[Rises, then sits down again.] Do what? Repair one foolish action with another? Be as rash in yielding as I was in taking offense? The old hotspur! But that shall serve me as a lesson.

[Short pause. Then he rises again, takes his cane and hat and throws both down again.]

No, it won't do—It simply will not do. Well! I should make myself ridiculous forever! This time he must come to me; I can't help him. But perhaps he has already—isn't that Moeller?

[Hastens toward the person coming in.]



SCENE II

ROBERT; STEIN.

ROBERT (entering, in a passion).

You will ruin my happiness, father?

STEIN (surprised, indignant).

Robert!

ROBERT.

You have no right to do that.

STEIN.

That's the last straw! Now you too must come along and set me fuming.

ROBERT.

Father, you have me fetched away from the betrothal festivities like a child from his playthings. But I am no child to whom one gives and takes away as one likes. I have your word, and you must keep it. Do you intend to sacrifice my happiness to a whim? Paternal authority cannot go so far.

STEIN.

But tell me, what is your object in saying this?

ROBERT.

I wish to ask you whether you intend to bring about a reconciliation between the forester and yourself.

STEIN.

Boy, how can you dare to ask? Do you mean to call me to account? Go to that obstinate fellow. It is he that is in the wrong; it is he that must yield!

ROBERT.

I just came from the forester; he referred me to you.

STEIN.

I can do nothing. And now leave me in peace.

ROBERT.

You will do nothing toward a reconciliation?

STEIN.

Nothing, unless he yields. And now go your ways.

ROBERT.

If you will do nothing toward a reconciliation I shall never again cross his threshold. Andrew and I have become mortal enemies. Perhaps this very day I shall face him in an encounter for life and death. Come what may, I have done everything I was able to do. Father, no blame can attach to me. If a catastrophe takes place—you could have prevented it, the forester could have prevented it. Mary is mine, and neither you nor the forester shall take her from me.

STEIN.

Are you mad, boy? To your room this moment! Do you hear?

ROBERT.

Father, I ask you—

STEIN.

You shall obey, not ask!

ROBERT.

Your anger carries you away. Father, I implore you, do not tear open the wound which healed only because I made allowance for your excited state. I shall wait till you have become calm; till you are again master of yourself.

STEIN.

You see that I am master of myself. You try to provoke me by all means, and you do not succeed. But now not another word! Not a sound!

ROBERT (beside himself).

Not a word? A hundred words, a thousand words; as many as I have breath to utter. I will speak; until I have relieved myself of this load on my heart, I will speak! You may forbid your Moeller, your blacksmiths to speak, not me! Show your impatience as much as you want, remain or go—speak I will. Once for all you shall know that I will no longer stand being treated like a boy, that I will be free, that I can stand on my own feet, that you shall be obliged to respect me, that I will be neither your toy nor any man's!

STEIN.

Do you threaten me with the old song? I know it by heart. You are still here? I thought you had gone. Oh, indeed! You mean to speak, do you? Speak, do what you wish. I shall not prevent you.

ROBERT (calmly, with the accent of determination).

And if you wished to prevent me, it were too late. I insist upon my right, even if it should cost my own or another's life. But I hold you and the forester responsible.

STEIN (who is beginning to repent his anger).

Boy—

ROBERT.

Farewell—perhaps forever! [Rushes out.]



SCENE III

STEIN alone; later, the PASTOR.

STEIN (forgetting himself, going a few steps after him).

Where are you going? Robert! My boy!—Curse it! I have scarcely got over my anger, and the next moment—But does it not seem as though all had entered into a conspiracy to keep me in a turmoil of excitement? If he really has had a falling out and meets those hotspurs—But I cannot run after him. Will he come back?

Enter the PASTOR.

STEIN.

You, parson? You find me here.

PASTOR.

I have heard of the affair.

[Shakes hands.]

STEIN.

Robert, my boy—

PASTOR.

Almost knocked me down. He wants to leave home again, hey? We'll manage to hold him.

STEIN.

And with that obstinate old fellow—

PASTOR.

I know. It's the old story again, the everlasting story, the ending of which one always knows in advance.

STEIN.

But this time one cannot be so certain.

PASTOR.

True. It is more complicated than usual, because at the same time the affair of the young gentleman was mixed up with it. Moreover, the young gentleman this time has also had words with Andrew. However—

STEIN.

Isn't that he who is coming along there?



SCENE IV

MOeLLER; STEIN; the PASTOR.

STEIN.

You, Moeller? What is the prospect? Will he yield?

MOeLLER.

So little does he think of yielding that he even wishes me to tell you, you have not the power to dismiss him.

STEIN.

He thinks I have not the power?

[More composed.]

If he only thought I had not the intention!—And you have tried everything?

MOeLLER.

Everything.

STEIN.

Did you also threaten him with Godfrey? As if he were to be appointed forester, as if you were to deliver to him his commission immediately, in case—

MOeLLER.

As if I were to?—My instructions were more definite. I bring you Godfrey's respectful acknowledgment; he accepts the position.

STEIN.

He ac—he accepts it? He really accepts it? What an obliging man he is, that Godfrey! And you into the bargain—with your haste. Have you entirely lost your senses, sir? The whole thing was intended to scare Ulrich. I wanted him to listen to reason—to yield. And if in the first heat I actually did say it as you understood it, you should have interpreted it differently. You know that in my heart I am not thinking of dismissing that old man who is worth a thousand times more—but you understand it, you understood it right, but—now that it is too late, I recall you always opposed this marriage.

MOeLLER.

I have served the firm of Stein and Son for twenty years, time enough to learn at last that one can serve too faithfully. I have done nothing but execute your instructions literally. And if, in spite of that, you persist in misjudging me, then this must be my consolation. I have never compromised the dignity of Stein and Son.

[Sits down to work.]

STEIN.

Then the dignity of Stein and Son may thank you for what you have done; I shall not. [Pause.] And yet, when one considers the matter calmly, what else was to be done? After all that took place? Don't be uneasy; I simply asserted myself as master.

PASTOR.

That is quite a new sensation!

STEIN.

Now I have confronted him with that confounded alternative, before old Wilkens there. Surely, I cannot—confound the rash word!—a word that in my innermost heart I did not mean seriously, and which now becomes fate, because I did not take the pains to keep that word under control.

PASTOR.

Indeed! it is exceedingly disagreeable for discretion to acknowledge the debts that passion has contracted. Why, in the name of common sense, did you not have your quarrel by yourselves, as usual?

STEIN (who has been walking up and down).

No, it will not do. And yet, if I think of those hot-headed boys—Moeller, please send immediately for my Robert; send some one to find him and tell him that I must speak with him.

[Exit MOeLLER, and returns soon.]

STEIN.

I can't help the obstinate old fellow; this time he must knuckle under. I cannot go back on my word; that he must see himself. And by this time he also may have come to his senses. But in order that he may see that I am ready to do whatever I can toward a reconciliation, without losing my dignity—how would it be, parson, if you went to see him? His post, I dare say, he must resign for the time being; but his present salary he may—yes, he shall draw twice the amount. He may regard it as a pension, until further notice. I should think—after all, his is the chief fault in this business—in this way he is let off easily enough for his share.

PASTOR.

I am going at once.

STEIN.

And I shall accompany you part of the way. I ought not to walk all alone.

[Exeunt to the left.]



SCENE V

MOeLLER alone; later, GODFREY.

MOeLLER.

Even if the marriage with Miss Loehlein should not come to pass, at least Stein and Son have asserted themselves. It used to turn my stomach to see how he always was the first to make up. This time I am satisfied with my chief, and will not mind his rebuke. But who is making that noise out there? [At the door.] It is lucky that they went through the rooms. It is Godfrey. And in what condition! What sort of man do you call that? [Leads in GODFREY, who is intoxicated.]

GODFREY (while still behind the scenes).

Where is Stein? Hey there, fellow! Stein, I say! Is that you, Moeller?

MOeLLER (with a patronizing air).

There can be no doubt that it is you. What do you want here?

GODFREY (while MOeLLER pushes him down on a chair).

Thank him, why, I must thank him. Fetch Stein. Thank him, for that's the fashion.

MOeLLER.

In this condition?

GODFREY (while MOeLLER is obliged to hold him forcibly down on the chair).

Condition? What's my condition to you? That I want to express my thanks is condition enough. Let me alone with my condition. Is he in? Hey?

MOeLLER.

Nobody is in there. Be glad that nobody is in. You are past all help. You have made up your mind not to get along. Those who have your interest at heart can never do anything for your advantage without your doing something that counteracts their efforts a hundredfold, so that everything is spoiled. My master already repents having given you the post, and now you at once give him an opportunity—

GODFREY.

You stupid fellow, you. With your patronizing air, hang it! As if you did not want to make a break between Stein and Ulrich because of that Loehlein girl. I should know that, even if I were as stupid as that confounded, patronizing fellow of a Moeller. That's all I have to say. And what of it, that I am forester for a day? For it won't be two days before those two cronies are again one heart and one soul; after that it's all over with my forester's job. You think you are a decent fellow, because you are not thirsty. It will last one day—for one day I shall be sp—spite-forester—and that day I have turned to account, my dear fellow—with Ulrich's Andrew—turned to account, my dear fellow. Come, my dear fellow, for I am jolly, my dear fellow. You patronizing fellow of a Moeller. [Embrace him.]

MOeLLER (ashamed and very much embarrassed, trying to keep him off).

For heaven's sake, what are you thinking of? If any one should see this! Shame on you!

[Making an effort to recover his dignity.]

You have hatched a scheme with Ulrich's Andrew, have you?

GODFREY.

Scheme, scheme! I have had a talk with him, do you know? Because of yesterday, you know? and because of my grudge against his old man, you know? You know nothing, you know? When he hears it he'll bite his white beard with rage, the old man will.

MOeLLER.

But what the deuce could you have put into Andrew's head?

GODFREY.

What? Nothing. You'll learn it soon enough. Hey? Thirst, thirst—that is my wail, that is my chronic ill-health, my misery; that is the cause of my gout; that will kill me while I am still young. Where is Stein?

MOeLLER.

Now come along to my room and drink a cup of black coffee, so that you may recover your senses. Then I must go to the blast-furnace. I'll take you along as far as the mill in the dell, and then you go the rest of the way to your home. One has to tie your hands, if you are not to drive away your good fortune.

GODFREY (while MOeLLER is leading him off).

Where is he? Hey, there! Where is he? Stein!



SCENE VI

In the FORESTER's house.

SOPHY alone; then WEILER; and, later, the FORESTER.

SOPHY (closing the window).

Robert hasn't come back yet, nor the pastor.

WEILER (entering through the centre door).

Bless my soul, if he don't come to grief! But who, in thunder, is really forester? I wonder whether the mistress has saved me anything? But, anyhow, I have no appetite. Well!

SOPHY.

I suppose it has become cold by this time.

[Takes from the oven a plate with food, from the closet bread, etc., and puts it on the table to the left.]

WEILER.

We shall all be cold some day.

[Sits down to eat.]

FORESTER (has entered from the side).

Have you found the trail of the stag from Luetzdorf again?

WEILER.

Stalking about. But that's the way it goes. As soon as they are man and wife, master and servant—then love and friendship fly out of the window.

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