The Dance of Death, Part 1


Writers: August Strindberg


EDGAR, Captain in the Coast Artillery
ALICE, his wifea former actress
CURT, Master of Quarantine
THE OLD WOMAN} Subordinate characters



The scene is laid inside of a round fort built of granite.

In the background, a gateway, closed by huge, swinging double doors; in these, small square window panes, through which may be seen a sea shore with batteries and the sea beyond.

On either side of the gateway, a window with flower pots and bird cages.

To the right of the gateway, an upright piano; further down the stage, a sewing-table and two easy-chairs.

On the left, half-way down the stage, a writing-table with a telegraph instrument on it; further down, a what-not full of framed photographs. Beside it, a couch that can be used to sleep on. Against the wall, a buffet.

A lamp suspended from the ceiling. On the wall near the piano hang two large laurel wreaths with ribbons. Between them, the picture of a woman in stage dress.

Beside the door, a hat-stand on which hang accoutrements, sabres, and so forth. Near it, a chiffonier.

To the left of the gateway hangs a mercurial barometer.

It is a mild Fall evening. The doors stand open, and a sentry is seen pacing back and forth on the shore battery. He wears a helmet with a forward pointed brush for a crest. Now and then his drawn sabre catches the red glare of the setting sun. The sea lies dark and quiet.

The CAPTAIN sits in the easy-chair to the left of the sewing-table, fumbling an extinguished cigar. He has on a much-worn undress uniform and riding-boots with spurs. Looks tired and bored.

ALICE sits in the easy-chair on the right, doing nothing at all. Looks tired and expectant.

CAPTAIN. Won't you play something for me?

ALICE. [Indifferently, but not snappishly] What am I to play?

CAPTAIN. Whatever suits you.

ALICE. You don't like my repertory.

CAPTAIN. Nor you mine.

ALICE. [Evasively] Do you want the doors to stay open?

CAPTAIN. If you wish it.

ALICE. Let them be, then. [Pause] Why don't you smoke?

CAPTAIN. Strong tobacco is beginning not to agree with me.

ALICE. [In an almost friendly tone] Get weaker tobacco then. It is your only pleasure, as you call it.

CAPTAIN. Pleasure---what is that?

ALICE. Don't ask me. I know it as little as you---Don't you want your whiskey yet?

CAPTAIN. I'll wait a little. What have you for supper?

ALICE. How do I know? Ask Christine.

CAPTAIN. The mackerel ought to be in season soon---now the Fall is here.

ALICE. Yes, it is Fall!

CAPTAIN. Within and without. But leaving aside the cold that comes with the Fall, both within and without, a little broiled mackerel, with a slice of lemon and a glass of white Burgundy, wouldn't be so very bad.

ALICE. Now you grow eloquent.

CAPTAIN. Have we any Burgundy left in the wine-cellar?

ALICE. So far as I know, we have had no wine-cellar these last five years------

CAPTAIN. You never know anything. However, we must stock up for our silver wedding.

ALICE. Do you actually mean to celebrate it?

CAPTAIN. Of course!

ALICE. It would be more seemly to hide our misery---our twenty-five years of misery------

CAPTAIN. My dear Alice, it has been a misery, but we have also had some fun---now and then. One has to avail one-self of what little time there is, for afterward it is all over.

ALICE. Is it over? Would that it were!

CAPTAIN. It is over! Nothing left but what can be put on a wheel-barrow and spread on the garden beds.

ALICE. And so much trouble for the sake of the garden beds!

CAPTAIN. Well, that's the way of it. And it is not of my making.

ALICE. So much trouble! [Pause] Did the mail come?


ALICE. Did the butcher send his bill?


ALICE. How large is it?

CAPTAIN. [Takes a paper from his pocket and puts on his spectacles, but takes them off again at once] Look at it yourself. I cannot see any longer.

ALICE. What is wrong with your eyes?

CAPTAIN. Don't know.

ALICE. Growing old?

CAPTAIN. Nonsense! I?

ALICE. Well, not I!


ALICE. [Looking at the bill] Can you pay it?

CAPTAIN. Yes, but not this moment.

ALICE. Some other time, of course! In a year, when you have been retired with a small pension, and it is too late! And then, when your trouble returns------

CAPTAIN. Trouble? I never had any trouble---only a slight indisposition once. And I can live another twenty years.

ALICE. The doctor thought otherwise.

CAPTAIN. The doctor!

ALICE. Yes, who else could express any valid opinion about sickness?

CAPTAIN. I have no sickness, and never had. I am not going to have it either, for I shall die all of a sudden---like an old soldier.

ALICE. Speaking of the doctor---you know they are having a party to-night?

CAPTAIN. [Agitated] Yes, what of it? We are not invited because we don't associate with those people, and we don't associate with them because we don't want to---because we despise both of them. Rabble---that's what they are!

ALICE. You say that of everybody.

CAPTAIN. Because everybody is rabble.

ALICE. Except yourself.

CAPTAIN. Yes, because I have behaved decently under all conditions of life. That's why I don't belong to the rabble.


ALICE. Do you want to play cards?

CAPTAIN. All right.

ALICE. [Takes a pack of cards from the drawer in the sewing-table and begins to shuffle them] Just think, the doctor is permitted to use the band for a private entertainment!

CAPTAIN. [Angrily] That's because he goes to the city and truckles to the Colonel. Truckle, you know---if one could only do that!

ALICE. [Deals] I used to be friendly with Gerda, but she played me false------

CAPTAIN. They are all false! What did you turn up for trumps?

ALICE. Put on your spectacles.

CAPTAIN. They are no help---Well, well!

ALICE. Spades are trumps.

CAPTAIN. [Disappointed] Spades------?

ALICE. [Leads] Well, be that as it may, our case is settled in advance with the wives of the new officers.

CAPTAIN. [Taking the trick] What does it matter? We never give any parties anyhow, so nobody is the wiser. I can live by myself---as I have always done.

ALICE. I, too. But the children? The children have to grow up without any companionship.

CAPTAIN. Let them find it for themselves in the city---I take that! Got any trumps left?

ALICE. One---That's mine!

CAPTAIN. Six and eight make fifteen------

ALICE. Fourteen---fourteen!

CAPTAIN. Six and eight make fourteen. I think I am also forgetting how to count. And two makes sixteen---[Yawns] It is your deal.

ALICE. You are tired?

CAPTAIN. [Dealing] Not at all.

ALICE. [Listening in direction of the open doors] One can hear the music all this way. [Pause] Do you think Curt is invited also?

CAPTAIN. He arrived this morning, so I guess he has had time to get out his evening clothes, though he has not had time to call on us.

ALICE. Master of Quarantine---is there to be a quarantine station here?


ALICE. He is my own cousin after all, and once I bore the same name as he------

CAPTAIN. In which there was no particular honour------

ALICE. See here! [Sharply] You leave my family alone, and I'll leave yours!

CAPTAIN. All right, all right---don't let us begin again!

ALICE. Must the Master of Quarantine be a physician?

CAPTAIN. Oh, no, he's merely a sort of superintendent or book-keeper---and Curt never became anything in particular.

ALICE. He was not much good------

CAPTAIN. And he has cost us a lot of money. And when he left wife and children, he became disgraced.

ALICE. Not quite so severe, Edgar!

CAPTAIN. That's what happened! What has he been doing in America since then? Well, I cannot say that I am longing for him---but he was a nice chap, and I liked to argue with him.

ALICE. Because he was so tractable------

CAPTAIN. [Haughtily] Tractable or not, he was at least a man one could talk to. Here, on this island, there is not one person who understands what I say---it's a community of idiots!

ALICE. It is rather strange that Curt should arrive just in time for our silver wedding---whether we celebrate it or not------

CAPTAIN. Why is that strange? Oh, I see! It was he who brought us together, or got you married, as they put it.

ALICE. Well, didn't he?

CAPTAIN. Certainly! It was a kind of fixed idea with him---I leave it for you to say what kind.

ALICE. A wanton fancy------

CAPTAIN. For which we have had to pay, and not he!

ALICE. Yes, think only if I had remained on the stage! All my friends are stars now.

CAPTAIN. [Rising] Well, well, well! Now I am going to have a drink. [Goes over to the buffet and mixes a drink, which he takes standing up] There should be a rail here to put the foot on, so that one might dream of being at Copenhagen, in the American Bar.

ALICE. Let us put a rail there, if it will only remind us of Copenhagen. For there we spent our best moments.

CAPTAIN. [Drinks quickly] Yes, do you remember that "navarin aux pommes"?

ALICE. No, but I remember the concerts at the Tivoli.

CAPTAIN. Yes, your tastes are so---exalted!

ALICE. It ought to please you to have a wife whose taste is good.

CAPTAIN. So it does.

ALICE. Sometimes, when you need something to brag of------

CAPTAIN. [Drinking] I guess they must be dancing at the doctor's---I catch the three-four time of the tuba: boom-boom-boom!

ALICE. I can hear the entire melody of the Alcazar Waltz. Well, it was not yesterday I danced a waltz------

CAPTAIN. You think you could still manage?

ALICE. Still?

CAPTAIN. Ye-es. I guess you are done with dancing, you like me!

ALICE. I am ten years younger than you.

CAPTAIN. Then we are of the same age, as the lady should be ten years younger.

ALICE. Be ashamed of yourself! You are an old man---and I am still in my best years.

CAPTAIN. Oh, I know, you can be quite charming---to others, when you make up your mind to it.

ALICE. Can we light the lamp now?

CAPTAIN. Certainly.

ALICE. Will you ring, please.

The CAPTAIN goes languidly to the writing-table and rings a bell.

JENNY enters from the right.

CAPTAIN. Will you be kind enough to light the lamp, Jenny?

ALICE. [Sharply] I want you to light the hanging lamp.

JENNY. Yes, ma'am.

[Lights the lamp while the CAPTAIN watches her.

ALICE. [Stiffly] Did you wipe the chimney?

JENNY. Sure.

ALICE. What kind of an answer is that?

CAPTAIN. Now---now------

ALICE. [To JENNY] Leave us. I will light the lamp myself. That will be better.

JENNY. I think so too. [Starts for the door.

ALICE. [Rising] Go!

JENNY. [Stops] I wonder, ma'am, what you'd say if I did go?

ALICE remains silent.

JENNY goes out.

The CAPTAIN comes forward and lights the lamp.

ALICE. [With concern] Do you think she will go?

CAPTAIN. Shouldn't wonder. And then we are in for it------

ALICE. It's your fault! You spoil them.

CAPTAIN. Not at all. Can't you see that they are always polite to me?

ALICE. Because you cringe to them. And you always cringe to inferiors, for that matter, because, like all despots, you have the nature of a slave.

CAPTAIN. There---there!

ALICE. Yes, you cringe before your men, and before your sergeants, but you cannot get on with your equals or your superiors.


ALICE. That's the way of all tyrants---Do you think she will go?

CAPTAIN. Yes, if you don't go out and say something nice to her.


CAPTAIN. Yes, for if I should do it, you would say that I was flirting with the maids.

ALICE. Mercy, if she should leave! Then I shall have to do the work, as I did the last time, and my hands will be spoiled.

CAPTAIN. That is not the worst of it. But if Jenny leaves, Christine will also leave, and then we shall never get a servant to the island again. The mate on the steamer scares away every one that comes to look for a place---and if he should miss his chance, then my corporals attend to it.

ALICE. Yes, your corporals, whom I have to feed in my kitchen, and whom you dare not show the door------

CAPTAIN. No, for then they would also go when their terms were up---and we might have to close up the whole gun shop!

ALICE. It will be our ruin.

CAPTAIN. That's why the officers have proposed to petition His Royal Majesty for special expense money.

ALICE. For whom?

CAPTAIN. For the corporals.

ALICE. [Laughing] You are crazy!

CAPTAIN. Yes, laugh a little for me. I need it.

ALICE. I shall soon have forgotten how to laugh------

CAPTAIN. [Lighting his cigar] That is something one should never forget---it is tedious enough anyhow!

ALICE. Well, it is not very amusing---Do you want to play any more?

CAPTAIN. No, it tires me.

ALICE. Do you know, it irritates me nevertheless that my cousin, the new Master of Quarantine, makes his first visit to our enemies.

CAPTAIN. Well, what's the use of talking about it?

ALICE. But did you see in the paper that he was put down as rentier? He must have come into some money then.

CAPTAIN. Rentier! Well, well---a rich relative. That's really the first one in this family.

ALICE. In your family, yes. But among my people many have been rich.

CAPTAIN. If he has money, he's conceited, I suppose, but I'll hold him in check---and he won't get a chance to look at my cards.

The telegraph receiver begins to click.

ALICE. Who is it?

CAPTAIN. [Standing still] Keep quiet, please.

ALICE. Well, are you not going to look------

CAPTAIN. I can hear---I can hear what they are saying---It's the children.

Goes over to the instrument and sends an answer; the receiver continues to click for awhile, and then the CAPTAIN answers again.

ALICE. Well?

CAPTAIN. Wait a little---[Gives a final click] The children are at the guard-house in the city. Judith is not well again and is staying away from school.

ALICE. Again! What more did they say?

CAPTAIN. Money, of course!

ALICE. Why is Judith in such a hurry? If she didn't pass her examinations until next year, it would be just as well.

CAPTAIN. Tell her, and see what it helps.

ALICE. You should tell her.

CAPTAIN. How many times have I not done so? But children have their own wills, you know.

ALICE. Yes, in this house at least. [The CAPTAIN yawns] So, you yawn in your wife's presence!

CAPTAIN. Well, what can I do? Don't you notice how day by day we are saying the same things to each other? When, just now, you sprang that good old phrase of yours, "in this house at least," I should have come back with my own stand-by, "it is not my house only." But as I have already made that reply some five hundred times, I yawned instead. And my yawn could be taken to mean either that I was too lazy to answer, or "right you are, my angel," or "supposing we quit."

ALICE. You are very amiable to-night.

CAPTAIN. Is it not time for supper soon?

ALICE. Do you know that the doctor ordered supper from the city---from the Grand Hotel?

CAPTAIN. No! Then they are having ptarmigans---tschk! Ptarmigan, you know, is the finest bird there is, but it's clear barbarism to fry it in bacon grease------

ALICE. Ugh! Don't talk of food.

CAPTAIN. Well, how about wines? I wonder what those barbarians are drinking with the ptarmigans?

ALICE. Do you want me to play for you?

CAPTAIN. [Sits down at the writing-table] The last resource! Well, if you could only leave your dirges and lamentations alone---it sounds too much like music with a moral. And I am always adding within myself: "Can't you hear how unhappy I am! Meow, meow! Can't you hear what a horrible husband I have! Brum, brum, brum! If he would only die soon! Beating of the joyful drum, flourishes, the finale of the Alcazar Waltz, Champagne Galop!" Speaking of champagne, I guess there are a couple of bottles left. What would you say about bringing them up and pretending to have company?

ALICE. No, we won't, for they are mine---they were given to me personally.

CAPTAIN. You are so economical.

ALICE. And you are always stingy---to your wife at least!

CAPTAIN. Then I don't know what to suggest. Perhaps I might dance for you?

ALICE. No, thank you---I guess you are done with dancing.

CAPTAIN. You should bring some friend to stay with you.

ALICE. Thanks! You might bring a friend to stay with you.

CAPTAIN. Thanks! It has been tried, and with mutual dissatisfaction. But it was interesting in the way of an experiment, for as soon as a stranger entered the house, we became quite happy---to begin with------

ALICE. And then!

CAPTAIN. Oh, don't talk of it!

There is a knock at the door on the left.

ALICE. Who can be coming so late as this?

CAPTAIN. Jenny does not knock.

ALICE. Go and open the door, and don't yell "come"---it has a sound of the workshop.

CAPTAIN. [Goes toward the door on the left] You don't like workshops.

ALICE. Please, open!

CAPTAIN. [Opens the door and receives a visiting-card that is held out to him] It is Christine---Has Jenny left? [As the public cannot hear the answer, to ALICE] Jenny has left.

ALICE. Then I become servant girl again!

CAPTAIN. And I man-of-all-work.

ALICE. Would it not be possible to get one of your gunners to help along in the kitchen?

CAPTAIN. Not these days.

ALICE. But it couldn't be Jenny who sent in her card?

CAPTAIN. [Looks at the card through his spectacles and then turns it over to ALICE] You see what it is---I cannot.

ALICE. [Looks at the card] Curt---it is Curt! Hurry up and bring him in.

CAPTAIN. [Goes out to the left] Curt! Well, that's a pleasure!

[ALICE arranges her hair and seems to come to life.

CAPTAIN. [Enters from the left with CURT] Here he is, the traitor! Welcome, old man! Let me hug you!

ALICE. [Goes to CURT] Welcome to my home, Curt!

CURT. Thank you---it is some time since we saw each other.

CAPTAIN. How long? Fifteen years! And we have grown old------

ALICE. Oh, Curt has not changed, it seems to me.

CAPTAIN. Sit down, sit down! And first of all---the programme. Have you any engagement for to-night?

CURT. I am invited to the doctor's, but I have not promised to go.

ALICE. Then you will stay with your relatives.

CURT. That would seem the natural thing, but the doctor is my superior, and I might have trouble afterward.

CAPTAIN. What kind of talk is that? I have never been afraid of my superiors------

CURT. Fear or no fear, the trouble cannot be escaped.

CAPTAIN. On this island I am master. Keep behind my back, and nobody will dare to touch you.

ALICE. Oh, be quiet, Edgar! [Takes CURT by the hand] Leaving both masters and superiors aside, you must stay with us. That will be found both natural and proper.

CURT. Well, then---especially as I feel welcome here.

CAPTAIN. Why should you not be welcome? There is nothing between us---[CURT tries vainly to hide a sense of displeasure] What could there be? You were a little careless as a young man, but I have forgotten all about it. I don't let things rankle.

ALICE looks annoyed. All three sit down at the sewing-table.

ALICE. Well, you have strayed far and wide in the world?

CURT. Yes, and now I have found a harbour with you------

CAPTAIN. Whom you married off twenty-five years ago.

CURT. It was not quite that way, but it doesn't matter. It is pleasing to see that you have stuck together for twenty-five years.

CAPTAIN. Well, we have borne with it. Now and then it has been so-so, but, as you say, we have stuck together. And Alice has had nothing to complain of. There has been plenty of everything---heaps of money. Perhaps you don't know that I am a celebrated author---an author of text-books------

CURT. Yes, I recall that, when we parted, you had just published a volume on rifle practice that was selling well. Is it still used in the military schools?

CAPTAIN. It is still in evidence, and it holds its place as number one, though they have tried to substitute a worse one ---which is being used now, but which is totally worthless.

[Painful silence.

CURT. You have been travelling abroad, I have heard.

ALICE. We have been down to Copenhagen five times---think of it?

CAPTAIN. Well, you see, when I took Alice away from the stage------

ALICE. Oh, you took me?

CAPTAIN. Yes, I took you as a wife should be taken------

ALICE. How brave you have grown!

CAPTAIN. But as it was held up against me afterward that I had spoiled her brilliant career---hm!---I had to make up for it by promising to take my wife to Copenhagen---and this I have kept---fully! Five times we have been there. Five [holding up the five fingers of the left hand] Have you been in Copenhagen?

CURT. [Smiling] No, I have mostly been in America.

CAPTAIN. America? Isn't that a rotten sort of a country?

CURT. [Unpleasantly impressed] It is not Copenhagen.

ALICE. Have you---heard anything---from your children?


ALICE. I hope you pardon me---but was it not rather inconsiderate to leave them like that------

CURT. I didn't leave them, but the court gave them to the mother.

CAPTAIN. Don't let us talk of that now. I for my part think it was lucky for you to get out of that mess.

CURT. [To ALICE] How are your children?

ALICE. Well, thank you. They are at school in the city and will soon be grown up.

CAPTAIN. Yes, they're splendid kids, and the boy has a brilliant head---brilliant! He is going to join the General Staff------

ALICE. If they accept him!

CAPTAIN. Him? Who has the making of a War Minister in him!

CURT. From one thing to another. There is to be a quarantine station here---against plague, cholera, and that sort of thing. And the doctor will be my superior, as you know---what sort of man is he?

CAPTAIN. Man? He is no man! He's an ignorant rascal!

CURT. [To ALICE] That is very unpleasant for me.

ALICE. Oh, it is not quite as bad as Edgar makes it out, but I must admit that I have small sympathy for the man------

CAPTAIN. A rascal, that's what he is. And that's what the others are, too---the Collector of Customs, the Postmaster, the telephone girl, the druggist, the pilot---what is it they call him now?---the Pilot Master---rascals one and all---and that's why I don't associate with them.

CURT. Are you on bad terms with all of them?

CAPTAIN. Every one!

ALICE. Yes, it is true that intercourse with those people is out of the question.

CAPTAIN. It is as if all the tyrants of the country had been sent to this island for safe-keeping.

ALICE. [Ironically] Exactly!

CAPTAIN. [Good-naturedly] Hm! Is that meant for me? I am no tyrant---not in my own house at least.

ALICE. You know better!

CAPTAIN. [To CURT] Don't believe her! I am a very reasonable husband, and the old lady is the best wife in the world.

ALICE. Would you like something to drink, Curt?

CURT. No, thank you, not now.

CAPTAIN. Have you turned------

CURT. A little moderate only------

CAPTAIN. Is that American?

CURT. Yes.

CAPTAIN. No moderation for me, or I don't care at all. A man should stand his liquor.

CURT. Returning to our neighbours on the island---my position will put me in touch with all of them---and it is not easy to steer clear of everything, for no matter how little you care to get mixed up in other people's intrigues, you are drawn into them just the same.

ALICE. You had better take up with them---in the end you will return to us, for here you find your true friends.

CURT. Is it not dreadful to be alone among a lot of enemies as you are?

ALICE. It is not pleasant.

CAPTAIN. It isn't dreadful at all. I have never had anything but enemies all my life, and they have helped me on instead of doing me harm. And when my time to die comes, I may say that I owe nothing to anybody, and that I have never got a thing for nothing. Every particle of what I own I have had to fight for.

ALICE. Yes, Edgar's path has not been strewn with roses------

CAPTAIN. No, with thorns and stones---pieces of flint---but a man's own strength: do you know what that means?

CURT. [Simply] Yes, I learned to recognise its insufficiency about ten years ago.

CAPTAIN. Then you are no good!

ALICE. [To the CAPTAIN] Edgar!

CAPTAIN. He is no good, I say, if he does not have the strength within himself. Of course it is true that when the mechanism goes to pieces there is nothing left but a barrowful to chuck out on the garden beds; but as long as the mechanism holds together the thing to do is to kick and fight, with hands and feet, until there is nothing left. That is my philosophy.

CURT. [Smiling] It is fun to listen to you.

CAPTAIN. But you don't think it's true?

CURT. No, I don't.

CAPTAIN. But true it is, for all that.

During the preceding scene the wind has begun to blow hard, and now one of the big doors is closed with a bang.

CAPTAIN. [Rising] It's blowing. I could just feel it coming.

Goes back and closes both doors. Knocks on the barometer.

ALICE. [To CURT] You will stay for supper?

CURT. Thank you.

ALICE. But it will be very simple, as our housemaid has just left us.

CURT. Oh, it will do for me, I am sure.

ALICE. You ask for so little, dear Curt.

CAPTAIN. [At the barometer] If you could only see how the mercury is dropping! Oh, I felt it coming!

ALICE. [Secretly to CURT] He is nervous.

CAPTAIN. We ought to have supper soon.

ALICE. [Rising] I am going to see about it now. You can sit here and philosophise---[secretly to CURT], but don't contradict him, for then he gets into bad humour. And don't ask him why he was not made a major.

[CURT nods assent.

[ALICE goes toward the right.

CAPTAIN. See that we get something nice now, old lady!

ALICE. You give me money, and you'll get what you want.

CAPTAIN. Always money!

[ALICE goes out.

CAPTAIN. [To CURT] Money, money, money! All day long I have to stand ready with the purse, until at last I have come to feel as if I myself were nothing but a purse. Are you familiar with that kind of thing?

CURT. Oh, yes---with the difference that I took myself for a pocket-book.

CAPTAIN. Ha-ha! So you know the flavour of the brand! Oh, the ladies! Ha-ha! And you had one of the proper kind!

CURT. [Patiently] Let that be buried now.

CAPTAIN. She was a jewel! Then I have after all---in spite of everything---one that's pretty decent. For she is straight, in spite of everything.

CURT. [Smiling good-humouredly] In spite of everything.

CAPTAIN. Don't you laugh!

CURT. [As before] In spite of everything!

CAPTAIN. Yes, she has been a faithful mate, a splendid mother---excellent---but [with a glance at the door on the right] she has a devilish temper. Do you know, there have been moments when I cursed you for saddling me with her.

CURT. [Good-naturedly] But I didn't. Listen, man------

CAPTAIN. Yah, yah, yah! You talk nonsense and forget things that are not pleasant to remember. Don't take it badly, please---I am accustomed to command and raise Cain, you see, but you know me, and don't get angry!

CURT. Not at all. But I have not provided you with a wife---on the contrary.

CAPTAIN. [Without letting his flow of words be checked] Don't you think life is queer anyhow?

CURT. I suppose so.

CAPTAIN. And to grow old---it is no fun, but it is interesting. Well, my age is nothing to speak of, but it does begin to make itself felt. All your friends die off, and then you become so lonely.

CURT. Lucky the man who can grow old in company with a wife.

CAPTAIN. Lucky? Well, it is luck, for the children go their way, too. You ought not to have left yours.

CURT. Well, I didn't. They were taken away from me------

CAPTAIN. Don't get mad now, because I tell you------

CURT. But it was not so.

CAPTAIN. Well, whichever way it was, it has now become forgotten---but you are alone!

CURT. You get accustomed to everything.

CAPTAIN. Do you---is it possible to get accustomed---to being quite alone also?

CURT. Here am I!

CAPTAIN. What have you been doing these fifteen years?

CURT. What a question! These fifteen years!

CAPTAIN. They say you have got hold of money and grown rich.

CURT. I can hardly be called rich------

CAPTAIN. I am not going to ask for a loan.

CURT. If you were, you would find me ready.

CAPTAIN. Many thanks, but I have my bank account. You see [with a glance toward the door on the right], nothing must be lacking in this house; and the day I had no more money---she would leave me!

CURT. Oh, no!

CAPTAIN. No? Well, I know better. Think of it, she makes a point of asking me when I happen to be short, just for the pleasure of showing me that I am not supporting my family.

CURT. But I heard you say that you have a large income.

CAPTAIN. Of course, I have a large income---but it is not enough.

CURT. Then it is not large, as such things are reckoned------

CAPTAIN. Life is queer, and we as well!

The telegraph receiver begins to click.

CURT. What is that?

CAPTAIN. Nothing but a time correction.

CURT. Have you no telephone?

CAPTAIN. Yes, in the kitchen. But we use the telegraph because the girls at the central report everything we say.

CURT. Social conditions out here by the sea must be frightful!

CAPTAIN. They are simply horrible! But all life is horrible. And you, who believe in a sequel, do you think there will be any peace further on?

CURT. I presume there will be storms and battles there also.

CAPTAIN. There also---if there be any "there"! I prefer annihilation!

CURT. Are you sure that annihilation will come without pain?

CAPTAIN. I am going to die all of a sudden, without pain

CURT. So you know that?

CAPTAIN. Yes, I know it.

CURT. You don't appear satisfied with your life?

CAPTAIN. [Sighing] Satisfied? The day I could die, I should be satisfied.

CURT. [Rising] That you don't know! But tell me: what is going on in this house? What is happening here? There is a smell as of poisonous wall-paper, and one feels sick the moment one enters. I should prefer to get away from here, had I not promised Alice to stay. There are dead bodies beneath the flooring, and the place is so filled with hatred that one can hardly breathe. [The CAPTAIN sinks together and sits staring into vacancy] What is the matter with you? Edgar! [The CAPTAIN does not move. Slaps the CAPTAIN on the shoulder] Edgar!

CAPTAIN. [Recovering consciousness] Did you say anything? [Looks around] I thought it was---Alice!---Oh, is that you?---Say---[Relapses into apathy.

CURT. This is horrible! [Goes over to the door on the right and opens it] Alice!

ALICE. [Enters, wearing a kitchen apron] What is it?

CURT. I don't know. Look at him.

ALICE. [Calmly] He goes off like that at times---I'll play and then he will wake up.

CURT. No, don't! Not that way! Leave it to me---Does he hear? Or see?

ALICE. Just now he neither hears nor sees.

CURT. And you can speak of that with such calm? Alice, what is going on in this house?

ALICE. Ask him there.

CURT. Him there? But he is your husband!

ALICE. A stranger to me---as strange as he was twenty-five years ago. I know nothing at all about that man---nothing but------

CURT. Stop! He may overhear you.

ALICE. Now he cannot hear anything.

A trumpet signal is sounded outside.

CAPTAIN. [Leaps to his feet and grabs sabre and cap] Pardon me. I have to inspect the sentries.

[Goes out through the door in the background.

CURT. Is he ill?

ALICE. I don't know.

CURT. Has he lost his reason?

ALICE. I don't know.

CURT. Does he drink?

ALICE. He boasts more of it than he really drinks.

CURT. Sit down and talk---but calmly and truthfully.

ALICE. [Sitting down] What am I to talk about? That I have spent a lifetime in this tower, locked up, guarded by a man whom I have always hated, and whom I now hate so beyond all bounds that the day he died I should be laughing until the air shook.

CURT. Why have you not parted?

ALICE. You may well ask! While still engaged we parted twice; since then we have been trying to part every single day---but we are chained together and cannot break away. Once we were separated---within the same house---for five whole years. Now nothing but death can part us. This we know, and for that reason we are waiting for him as for a liberator.

CURT. Why are you so lonely?

ALICE. Because he isolates me. First he "exterminated" all my brothers and sisters from our home---he speaks of it himself as "extermination"---and then my girl friends and everybody else.

CURT. But his relatives? He has not "exterminated" them?

ALICE. Yes, for they came near taking my life, after having taken my honour and good name. Finally I became forced to keep up my connection with the world and with other human beings by means of that telegraph---for the telephone was watched by the operators. I have taught myself telegraphy, and he doesn't know it. You must not tell him, for then he would kill me.

CURT. Frightful! Frightful!---But why does he hold me responsible for your marriage? Let me tell you now how it was. Edgar was my childhood friend. When he saw you he fell in love at once. He came to me and asked me to plead his cause. I said no at once---and, my dear Alice, I knew your tyrannical and cruel temperament. For that reason I warned him---and when he persisted, I sent him to get your brother for his spokesman.

ALICE. I believe what you say. But he has been deceiving himself all these years, so that now you can never get him to believe anything else.

CURT. Well, let him put the blame on me if that can relieve his sufferings.

ALICE. But that is too much------

CURT. I am used to it. But what does hurt me is his unjust charge that I have deserted my children------

ALICE. That's the manner of man he is. He says what suits him, and then he believes it. But he seems to be fond of you, principally because you don't contradict him. Try not to grow tired of us now. I believe you have come in what was to us a fortunate moment; I think it was even providential---Curt, you must not grow tired of us, for we are undoubtedly the most unhappy creatures in the whole world!

[She weeps.

CURT. I have seen one marriage at close quarters, and it was dreadful---but this is almost worse!

ALICE. Do you think so?

CURT. Yes.

ALICE. Whose fault is it?

CURT. The moment you quit asking whose fault it is, Alice, you will feel a relief. Try to regard it as a fact, a trial that has to be borne------

ALICE. I cannot do it! It is too much! [Rising] It is beyond help!

CURT. I pity both of you!---Do you know why you are hating each other?

ALICE. No, it is the most unreasoning hatred, without cause, without purpose, but also without end. And can you imagine why he is principally afraid of death? He fears that I may marry again.

CURT. Then he loves you.

ALICE. Probably. But that does not prevent him from hating me.

CURT. [As if to himself] It is called love-hatred, and it hails from the pit!---Does he like you to play for him?

ALICE. Yes, but only horrid melodies---for instance, that awful "The Entry of the Boyars." When he hears it he loses his head and wants to dance.

CURT. Does he dance?

ALICE. Oh, he is very funny at times.

CURT. One thing---pardon me for asking. Where are the children?

ALICE. Perhaps you don't know that two of them are dead?

CURT. So you have had that to face also?

ALICE. What is there I have not faced?

CURT. But the other two?

ALICE. In the city. They couldn't stay at home. For he set them against me.

CURT. And you set them against him?

ALICE. Of course. And then parties were formed, votes bought, bribes given---and in order not to spoil the children completely we had to part from them. What should have been the uniting link became the seed of dissension; what is held the blessing of the home turned into a curse---well, I believe sometimes that we belong to a cursed race!

CURT. Yes, is it not so---ever since the Fall?

ALICE. [With a venomous glance and sharp voice] What fall?

CURT. That of our first parents.

ALICE. Oh, I thought you meant something else!

[Embarrassed silence.

ALICE. [With folded hands] Curt, my kinsman, my childhood friend---I have not always acted toward you as I should. But now I am being punished, and you are having your revenge.

CURT. No revenge! Nothing of that kind here! Hush!

ALICE. Do you recall one Sunday while you were engaged---and I had invited you for dinner------

CURT. Never mind!

ALICE. I must speak! Have pity on me! When you came to dinner, we had gone away, and you had to leave again.

CURT. You had received an invitation yourselves---what is that to speak of!

ALICE. Curt, when to-day, a little while ago, I asked you to stay for supper, I thought we had something left in the pantry. [Hiding her face in her hands] And there is not a thing, not even a piece of bread------

CURT. Weeping] Alice---poor Alice!

ALICE. But when he comes home and wants something to eat, and there is nothing---then he gets angry. You have never seen him angry! O, God, what humiliation!

CURT. Will you not let me go out and arrange for something?

ALICE. There is nothing to be had on this island.

CURT. Not for my sake, but for his and yours---let me think up something---something. We must make the whole thing seem laughable when he comes. I'll propose that we have a drink, and in the meantime I'll think of something. Put him in good humour; play for him, any old nonsense. Sit down at the piano and make yourself ready------

ALICE. Look at my hands---are they fit to play with? I have to wipe glasses and polish brass, sweep floors, and make fires------

CURT. But you have two servants?

ALICE. So we have to pretend because he is an officer---but the servants are leaving us all the time, so that often we have none at all---most of the time, in fact. How am I to get out of this---this about supper? Oh, if only fire would break out in this house!

CURT. Don't, Alice, don't!

ALICE. If the sea would rise and take us away!

CURT. No, no, no, I cannot listen to you!

ALICE. What will he say, what will he say---Don't go, Curt, don't go away from me!

CURT. No, dear Alice---I shall not go.

ALICE. Yes, but when you are gone------

CURT. Has he ever laid hands on you?

ALICE. On me? Oh, no, for he knew that then I should have left him. One has to preserve some pride.

From without is heard: "Who goes there?---Friend."

CURT. [Rising] Is he coming?

ALICE. [Frightened] Yes, that's he. [Pause.

CURT. What in the world are we to do?

ALICE. I don't know, I don't know!

CAPTAIN. [Enters from the backgroundcheerful] There! Leisure now! Well, has she had time to make her complaints? Is she not unhappy---hey?

CURT. How's the weather outside?---

CAPTAIN. Half storm---[Facetiously; opening one of the doors ajar] Sir Bluebeard with the maiden in the tower; and outside stands the sentry with drawn sabre to guard the pretty maiden---and then come the brothers, but the sentry is there. Look at him. Hip---hip! That's a fine sentry. Look at him. Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre! Let us dance the sword dance! Curt ought to see it!

CURT. No, let us have "The Entry of the Boyars" instead!

CAPTAIN. Oh, you know that one, do you?---Alice in the kitchen apron, come and play. Come, I tell you!

[ALICE goes reluctantly to the piano.

CAPTAIN. [Pinching her arm] Now you have been black-guarding me!


CURT turns away from them.

ALICE plays "The Entry of the Boyars."

The CAPTAIN performs some kind of Hungarian dance step behind the writing-table so that his spurs are set jingling. Then he sinks down on the floor without being noticed by CURT and ALICE, and the latter goes on playing the piece to the end.

ALICE. [Without turning around] Shall we have it again? [Silence. Turns around and becomes aware of the CAPTAIN, who is lying unconscious on the floor in such a way that he is hidden from the public by the writing-table] Lord Jesus!

She stands still, with arms crossed over her breast, and gives vent to a sigh as of gratitude and relief.

CURT. [Turns around; hurries over to the CAPTAIN] What is it? What is it?

ALICE. [In a high state of tension] Is he dead?

CURT. I don't know. Come and help me.

ALICE. [Remains still] I cannot touch him---is he dead?

CURT. No---he lives.

ALICE sighs.

CURT helps the CAPTAIN to his feet and places him in a chair.

CAPTAIN. What was it? [Silence] What was it?

CURT. You fell down.

CAPTAIN. Did anything happen?

CURT. You fell on the floor. What is the matter with you?

CAPTAIN. With me? Nothing at all. I don't know of anything. What are you staring at me for?

CURT. You are ill.

CAPTAIN. What nonsense is that? You go on playing, Alice---Oh, now it's back again!

[Puts both hands up to his head.

ALICE. Can't you see that you are ill?

CAPTAIN. Don't shriek! It is only a fainting spell.

CURT. We must call a doctor---I'll use your telephone------

CAPTAIN. I don't want any doctor.

CURT. You must! We have to call him for our own sake---otherwise we shall be held responsible------

CAPTAIN. I'll show him the door if he comes here. I'll shoot him. Oh, now it's there again!

[Takes hold of his head.

CURT. [Goes toward the door on the right] Now I am going to telephone! [Goes out.

[ALICE takes off her apron.

CAPTAIN. Will you give me a glass of water?

ALICE. I suppose I have to! [Gives him a glass of water.

CAPTAIN. How amiable!

ALICE. Are you ill?

CAPTAIN. Please pardon me for not being well.

ALICE. Will you take care of yourself then?

CAPTAIN. You won't do it, I suppose?

ALICE. No, of that you may be sure!

CAPTAIN. The hour is come for which you have been waiting so long.

ALICE. The hour you believed would never come.

CAPTAIN. Don't be angry with me!

CURT. [Enters from the right] Oh, it's too bad------

ALICE. What did he say?

CURT. He rang off without a word.

ALICE. [To the Captain] There is the result of your limitless arrogance!

CAPTAIN. I think I am growing worse---Try to get a doctor from the city.

ALICE. [Goes to the telegraph instrument] We shall have to use the telegraph then.

CAPTAIN. [Rising half-way from the chair; startled] Do you---know---how to use it?

ALICE. [Working the key] Yes, I do.

CAPTAIN. So-o! Well, go on then---But isn't she treacherous! [To CURT] Come over here and sit by me. [CURT sits down beside the CAPTAIN] Take my hand. I sit here and fall---can you make it out? Down something---such a queer feeling.

CURT. Have you had any attack like this before?

CAPTAIN. Never------

CURT. While you are waiting for an answer from the city, I'll go over to the doctor and have a talk with him. Has he attended you before?

CAPTAIN. He has.

CURT. Then he knows your case. [Goes toward the left.

ALICE. There will be an answer shortly. It is very kind of you, Curt. But come back soon.

CURT. As soon as I can. [Goes out.

CAPTAIN. Curt is kind! And how he has changed.

ALICE. Yes, and for the better. It is too bad, however, that he must be dragged into our misery just now.

CAPTAIN. But good for us---I wonder just how he stands. Did you notice that he wouldn't speak of his own affairs?

ALICE. I did notice it, but then I don't think anybody asked him.

CAPTAIN. Think, what a life! And ours! I wonder if it is the same for all people?

ALICE. Perhaps, although they don't speak of it as we do.

CAPTAIN. At times I have thought that misery draws misery, and that those who are happy shun the unhappy. That is the reason why we see nothing but misery.

ALICE. Have you known anybody who was happy?

CAPTAIN. Let me see! No---Yes---the Ekmarks.

ALICE. You don't mean it! She had to have an operation last year------

CAPTAIN. That's right. Well, then I don't know---yes, the Von Kraffts.

ALICE. Yes, the whole family lived an idyllic life, well off, respected by everybody, nice children, good marriages---right along until they were fifty. Then that cousin of theirs committed a crime that led to a prison term and all sorts of after-effects. And that was the end of their peace. The family name was dragged in the mud by all the newspapers. The Krafft murder case made it impossible for the family to appear anywhere, after having been so much thought of. The children had to be taken out of school. Oh, heavens!

CAPTAIN. I wonder what my trouble is?

ALICE. What do you think?

CAPTAIN. Heart or head. It is as if the soul wanted to fly off and turn into smoke.

ALICE. Have you any appetite?

CAPTAIN. Yes, how about the supper?

ALICE. [Crosses the stage, disturbed] I'll ask Jenny.

CAPTAIN. Why, she's gone!

ALICE. Yes, yes, yes!

CAPTAIN. Ring for Christine so that I can get some fresh water.

ALICE. [Rings] I wonder---[Rings again] She doesn't hear.

CAPTAIN. Go and look---just think, if she should have left also!

ALICE. [Goes over to the door on the left and opens it] What is this? Her trunk is in the hallway---packed.

CAPTAIN. Then she has gone.

ALICE. This is hell!

Begins to cry, falls on her knees, and puts her head on a chair, sobbing.

CAPTAIN. And everything at once! And then Curt had to turn up just in time to get a look into this mess of ours! If there be any further humiliation in store, let it come this moment!

ALICE. Do you know what I suspect? Curt went away and will not come back.

CAPTAIN. I believe it of him.

ALICE. Yes, we are cursed------

CAPTAIN. What are you talking of?

ALICE. Don't you see how everybody shuns us?

CAPTAIN. I don't mind! [The telegraph receiver clicks] There is the answer. Hush, I can hear it---Nobody can spare the time. Evasions! The rabble!

ALICE. That's what you get because you have despised your physicians---and failed to pay them.

CAPTAIN. That is not so!

ALICE. Even when you could, you didn't care to pay their bills because you looked down upon their work, just as you have looked down upon mine and everybody else's. They don't want to come. And the telephone is cut off because you didn't think that good for anything either. Nothing is good for anything but your rifles and guns!

CAPTAIN. Don't stand there and talk nonsense------

ALICE. Everything comes back.

CAPTAIN. What sort of superstition is that? Talk for old women!

ALICE. You will see! Do you know that we owe Christine six months' wages?

CAPTAIN. Well, she has stolen that much.

ALICE. But I have also had to borrow money from her.

CAPTAIN. I think you capable of it.

ALICE. What an ingrate you are! You know I borrowed that money for the children to get into the city.

CAPTAIN. Curt had a fine way of coming back! A rascal, that one, too! And a coward! He didn't dare to say he had had enough, and that he found the doctor's party more pleasant---He's the same rapscallion as ever!

CURT. [Enters quickly from the left] Well, my dear Edgar, this is how the matter stands---the doctor knows everything about your heart------

CAPTAIN. My heart?

CURT. You have long been suffering from calcification of the heart------

CAPTAIN. Stone heart?

CURT. And------

CAPTAIN. Is it serious?

CURT. Well, that is to say------

CAPTAIN. It is serious.

CURT. Yes.


CURT. You must be very careful. First of all: the cigar must go. [The CAPTAIN throws away his cigar] And next: no more whiskey! Then, to bed!

CAPTAIN. [Scared] No, I don't want that! Not to bed! That's the end! Then you never get up again. I shall sleep on the couch to-night. What more did he say?

CURT. He was very nice about it and will come at once if you call him.

CAPTAIN. Was he nice, the hypocrite? I don't want to see him! I can at least eat?

CURT. Not to-night. And during the next few days nothing but milk.

CAPTAIN. Milk! I cannot take that stuff into my mouth.

CURT. Better learn how!

CAPTAIN. I am too old to learn. [Puts his hand up to his head] Oh, there it is again now!

[He sits perfectly still, staring straight ahead.

ALICE. [To CURT] What did the doctor tell you?

CURT. That he may die.

ALICE. Thank God!

CURT. Take care, Alice, take care! And now, go and get a pillow and a blanket and I'll put him here on the couch. Then I'll sit on the chair here all night.


CURT. You go to bed. Your presence seems only to make him worse.

ALICE. Command! I shall obey, for you seem to mean well toward both of us. [Goes out to the left.

CURT. Mark you---toward both of you! And I shall not mix in any partisan squabbles.

CURT takes the water bottle and goes out to the right. The noise of the wind outside is clearly heard. Then one of the doors is blown open and an old woman of shabby, unprepossessing appearance peeps into the room.

CAPTAIN. [Wakes up, rises, and looks around] So, they have left me, the rascals! [Catches sight of the old woman and is frightened by her] Who is it? What do you want?

OLD WOMAN. I just wanted to close the door, sir.

CAPTAIN. Why should you? Why should you?

OLD WOMAN. Because it blew open just as I passed by.

CAPTAIN. Wanted to steal, did you?

OLD WOMAN. Not much here to take away, Christine said.

CAPTAIN. Christine?

OLD WOMAN. Good night, sir, and sleep well!

[Closes the door and disappears.

ALICE comes in from the left with pillows and a blanket.

CAPTAIN. Who was that at the door? Anybody?

ALICE. Why, it was old Mary from the poorhouse who just went by.

CAPTAIN. Are you sure?

ALICE. Are you afraid?

CAPTAIN. I, afraid? Oh, no!

ALICE. As you don't want to go to bed, you can lie here.

CAPTAIN. [Goes over to the couch and lies down] I'll lie here.

[Tries to take ALICE*'s hand, but she pulls it away.* CURT comes in with the water bottle.

CAPTAIN. Curt, don't go away from me!

CURT. I am going to stay up with you all night. Alice is going to bed.

CAPTAIN. Good night then, Alice.

ALICE. [To CURT] Good night, Curt.

CURT. Good night.

[ALICE goes out.

CURT. [Takes a chair and sits down beside the couch] Don't you want to take off your boots?

CAPTAIN. No, a warrior should always be armed.

CURT. Are you expecting a battle then?

CAPTAIN. Perhaps! [Rising up in bed] Curt, you are the only human being to whom I ever disclosed anything of myself. Listen to me!---If I die to-night---look after my children!

CURT. I will do so.

CAPTAIN. Thank you---I trust in you!

CURT. Can you explain why you trust me?

CAPTAIN. We have not been friends, for friendship is something I don't believe in, and our families were born enemies and have always been at war------

CURT. And yet you trust me?

CAPTAIN. Yes, and I don't know why. [Silence] Do you think I am going to die?

CURT. You as well as everybody. There will be no exception made in your case.

CAPTAIN. Are you bitter?

CURT. Yes---are you afraid of death? Of the wheelbarrow and the garden bed?

CAPTAIN. Think, if it were not the end!

CURT. That's what a great many think!

CAPTAIN. And then?

CURT. Nothing but surprises, I suppose.

CAPTAIN. But nothing at all is known with certainty?

CURT. No, that's just it! That is why you must be prepared for everything.

CAPTAIN. You are not childish enough to believe in a hell?

CURT. Do you not believe in it---you, who are right in it?

CAPTAIN. That is metaphorical only.

CURT. The realism with which you have described yours seems to preclude all thought of metaphors, poetical or otherwise.


CAPTAIN. If you only knew what pangs I suffer!

CURT. Of the body?

CAPTAIN. No, not of the body.

CURT. Then it must be of the spirit, for no other alternative exists. [Pause.

CAPTAIN. [Rising up in bed] I don't want to die!

CURT. Not long ago you wished for annihilation.

CAPTAIN. Yes, if it be painless.

CURT. Apparently it is not!

CAPTAIN. Is this annihilation then?

CURT. The beginning of it.

CAPTAIN. Good night.

CURT. Good night.


The same setting, but note the lamp is at the point of going out. Through the windows and the glass panes of the doors a gray morning is visible. The sea is stirring. The sentry is on the battery as before.

The CAPTAIN is lying on the couch, asleep. CURT sits on a chair beside him, looking pale and wearied from his watch.

ALICE. [In from the left] Is he asleep?

CURT. Yes, since the time when the sun should have risen.

ALICE. What kind of night did he have?

CURT. He slept now and then, but he talked a good deal.

ALICE. Of what?

CURT. He argued about religion like a schoolboy, but with a pretension of having solved all the world riddles. Finally, toward morning, he invented the immortality of the soul.

ALICE. For his own glory.

CURT. Exactly! He is actually the most conceited person I have ever met. "I am; consequently God must be."

ALICE. You have become aware of it? Look at those boots. With those he would have trampled the earth flat, had he been allowed to do so. With those he has trampled down other people's fields and gardens. With those he has trampled on some people's toes and other people's heads---Man-eater, you have got your bullet at last!

CURT. He would be comical were he not so tragical; and there are traces of greatness in all his narrow-mindedness---Have you not a single good word to say about him?

ALICE. [Sitting down] Yes, if he only does not hear it; for if he hears a single word of praise he develops megalomania on the spot.

CURT. He can hear nothing now, for he has had a dose of morphine.

ALICE. Born in a poor home, with many brothers and sisters, Edgar very early had to support the family by giving lessons, as the father was a ne'er-do-well if nothing worse. It must be hard for a young man to give up all the pleasures of youth in order to slave for a bunch of thankless children whom he has not brought into the world. I was a little girl when I saw him, as a young man, going without an overcoat in the winter while the mercury stood at fifteen below zero---his little sisters wore kersey coats---it was fine, and I admired him, but his ugliness repelled me. Is he not unusually ugly?

CURT. Yes, and his ugliness has a touch of the monstrous at times. Whenever we fell out, I noticed it particularly. And when, at such times, he went away, his image assumed enormous forms and proportions, and he literally haunted me.

ALICE. Think of me then! However, his earlier years as an officer were undoubtedly a martyrdom. But now and then he was helped by rich people. This he will never admit, and whatever has come to him in that way he has accepted as a due tribute, without giving thanks for it.

CURT. We were to speak well of him.

ALICE. Yes---after he is dead. But then I recall nothing more.

CURT. Have you found him cruel?

ALICE. Yes---and yet he can show himself both kind and susceptible to sentiment. As an enemy he is simply horrible.

CURT. Why did he not get the rank of major?

ALICE. Oh, you ought to understand that! They didn't want to raise a man above themselves who had already proved himself a tyrant as an inferior. But you must never let on that you know this. He says himself that he did not want promotion---Did he speak of the children?

CURT. Yes, he was longing for Judith.

ALICE. I thought so---Oh! Do you know what Judith is? His own image, whom he has trained for use against me. Think only, that my own daughter---has raised her hand against me!

CURT. That is too much!

ALICE. Hush! He is moving---Think if he overheard us! He is full of trickery also.

CURT. He is actually waking up.

ALICE. Does he not look like an ogre? I am afraid of him!


CAPTAIN. [Stirs, wakes up, rises in bed, and looks around] It is morning---at last!

CURT. How are you feeling?

CAPTAIN. Not so very bad.

CURT. Do you want a doctor?

CAPTAIN. No---I want to see Judith---my child!

CURT. Would it not be wise to set your house in order before---or if something should happen?

CAPTAIN. What do you mean? What could happen?

CURT. What may happen to all of us.

CAPTAIN. Oh, nonsense! Don't you believe that I die so easily! And don't rejoice prematurely, Alice!

CURT. Think of your children. Make your will so that your wife at least may keep the household goods.

CAPTAIN. Is she going to inherit from me while I am still alive?

CURT. No, but if something happens she ought not to be turned into the street. One who has dusted and polished and looked after these things for twenty-five years should have some right to remain in possession of them. May I send word to the regimental lawyer?


CURT. You are a cruel man---more cruel than I thought you!

CAPTAIN. Now it is back again!

[Falls back on the bed unconscious.

ALICE. [Goes toward the right] There are some people in the kitchen---I have to go down there.

CURT. Yes, go. Here is not much to be done.

[ALICE goes out.

CAPTAIN. [Recovers] Well, Curt, what are you going to do about your quarantine?

CURT. Oh, that will be all right.

CAPTAIN. No; I am in command on this island, so you will have to deal with me---don't forget that!

CURT. Have you ever seen a quarantine station?

CAPTAIN. Have I? Before you were born. And I'll give you a piece of advice: don't place your disinfection plant too close to the shore.

CURT. I was thinking that the nearer I could get to the water the better------

CAPTAIN. That shows how much you know of your business. Water, don't you see, is the element of the bacilli, their life element?

CURT. But the salt water of the sea is needed to wash away all the impurity.

CAPTAIN. Idiot! Well, now, when you get a house for yourself I suppose you'll bring home your children?

CURT. Do you think they will let themselves be brought?

CAPTAIN. Of course, if you have got any backbone! It would make a good impression on the people if you fulfilled your duties in that respect also------

CURT. I have always fulfilled my duties in that respect.

CAPTAIN. [Raising his voice]---in the one respect where you have proved yourself most remiss------

CURT. Have I not told you------

CAPTAIN. [Paying no attention]---for one does not desert one's children like that------

CURT. Go right on!

CAPTAIN. As your relative---a relative older than yourself---I feel entitled to tell you the truth, even if it should prove bitter---and you should not take it badly------

CURT. Are you hungry?

CAPTAIN. Yes, I am.

CURT. Do you want something light?

CAPTAIN. No, something solid.

CURT. Then you would be done for.

CAPTAIN. Is it not enough to be sick, but one must starve also?

CURT. That's how the land lies.

CAPTAIN. And neither drink nor smoke? Then life is not worth much!

CURT. Death demands sacrifices, or it comes at once.

ALICE. [Enters with several bunches of flowers and some telegrams and letters] These are for you.

[Throws the flowers on the writing-table.

CAPTAIN. [Flattered] For me! Will you please let me look?

ALICE. Oh, they are only from the non-commissioned officers, the bandmen, and the gunners.

CAPTAIN. You are jealous.

ALICE. Oh, no. If it were laurel wreaths, that would be another matter---but those you can never get.

CAPTAIN. Hm!---Here's a telegram from the Colonel---read it, Curt. The Colonel is a gentleman after all---though he is something of an idiot. And this is from---what does it say? It is from Judith! Please telegraph her to come with the next boat. And here---yes, one is not quite without friends after all, and it is fine to see them take thought of a sick man, who is also a man of deserts above his rank, and a man free of fear or blemish.

ALICE. I don't quite understand---are they congratulating you because you are sick?


ALICE. Yes, we had a doctor here on the island who was so hated that when he left they gave a banquet---after him, and not for him!

CAPTAIN. Put the flowers in water---I am not easily caught, and all people are a lot of rabble, but, by heavens, these simple tributes are genuine---they cannot be anything but genuine!

ALICE. Fool!

CURT. [Reading the telegram] Judith says she cannot come because the steamer is held back by the storm.

CAPTAIN. Is that all?

CURT. No-o---there is a postscript.

CAPTAIN. Out with it!

CURT. Well, she asks her father not to drink so much.

CAPTAIN. Impudence! That's like children! That's my only beloved daughter---my Judith---my idol!

ALICE. And your image!

CAPTAIN. Such is life. Such are its best joys---Hell!

ALICE. Now you get the harvest of your sowing. You have set her against her own mother and now she turns against the father. Tell me, then, that there is no God!

CAPTAIN. [To CURT] What does the Colonel say?

CURT. He grants leave of absence without any comment.

CAPTAIN. Leave of absence? I have not asked for it.

ALICE. No, but I have asked for it.

CAPTAIN. I don't accept it.

ALICE. Order has already been issued.

CAPTAIN. That's none of my concern!

ALICE. Do you see, Curt, that for this man exist no laws, no constitutions, no prescribed human order? He stands above everything and everybody. The universe is created for his private use. The sun and the moon pursue their courses in order to spread his glory among the stars. Such is this man: this insignificant captain, who could not even reach the rank of major, and at whose strutting everybody laughs, while he thinks himself feared; this poor wretch who is afraid in the dark and believes in barometers: and all this in conjunction with and having for its climax---a barrowful of manure that is not even prime quality!

CAPTAIN. [Fanning himself with a bunch of flowers, conceitedly, without listening to ALICE] Have you asked Curt to breakfast?


CAPTAIN. Get us, then, at once two nice tenderloin steaks.


CAPTAIN. I am going to have one myself.

ALICE. But we are three here.

CAPTAIN. Oh, you want one also? Well, make it three then.

ALICE. Where am I to get them? Last night you asked Curt to supper, and there was not a crust of bread in the house. Curt has been awake all night without anything to eat, and he has had no coffee because there is none in the house and the credit is gone.

CAPTAIN. She is angry at me for not dying yesterday.

ALICE. No, for not dying twenty-five years ago---for not dying before you were born!

CAPTAIN. [To CURT] Listen to her! That's what happens when you institute a marriage, my dear Curt. And it is perfectly clear that it was not instituted in heaven.

[ALICE and CURT look at each other meaningly.

CAPTAIN. [Rises and goes toward the door] However, say what you will, now I am going on duty. [Puts on an old-fashioned helmet with a brush crest, girds on the sabre, and shoulders his cloak] If anybody calls for me, I am at the battery. [ALICE and CURT try vainly to hold him back] Stand aside!

[Goes out.

ALICE. Yes, go! You always go, always show your back, whenever the fight becomes too much for you. And then you let your wife cover the retreat---you hero of the bottle, you arch-braggart, you arch-liar! Fie on you!

CURT. This is bottomless!

ALICE. And you don't know everything yet.

CURT. Is there anything more------

ALICE. But I am ashamed------

CURT. Where is he going now? And where does he get the strength?

ALICE. Yes, you may well ask! Now he goes down to the non-commissioned officers and thanks them for the flowers---and then he eats and drinks with them. And then he speaks ill of all the other officers---If you only knew how many times he has been threatened with discharge! Nothing but sympathy for his family has saved him. And this he takes for fear of his superiority. And he hates and maligns the very women---wives of other officers---who have been pleading our cause.

CURT. I have to confess that I applied for this position in order to find peace by the sea---and of your circumstances I knew nothing at all.

ALICE. Poor Curt! And how will you get something to eat?

CURT. Oh, I can go over to the doctor's---but you? Will you not permit me to arrange this for you?

ALICE. If only he does not learn of it, for then he would kill me.

CURT. [Looking out through the window] Look, he stands right in the wind out there on the rampart.

ALICE. He is to be pitied---for being what he is!

CURT. Both of you are to be pitied! But what can be done?

ALICE. I don't know---The mail brought a batch of unpaid bills also, and those he did not see.

CURT. It may be fortunate to escape seeing things at times.

ALICE. [At the window] He has unbuttoned his cloak and lets the wind strike his chest. Now he wants to die!

CURT. That is not what he wants, I think, for a while ago, when he felt his life slipping away, he grabbed hold of mine and began to stir in my affairs as if he wanted to crawl into me and live my life.

ALICE. That is just his vampire nature---to interfere with other people's destinies, to suck interest out of other existences, to regulate and arrange the doings of others, since he can find no interest whatever in his own life. And remember, Curt, don't ever admit him into your family life, don't ever make him acquainted with your friends, for he will take them away from you and make them his own. He is a perfect magician in this respect. Were he to meet your children, you would soon find them intimate with him, and he would be advising them and educating them to suit himself---but principally in opposition to your wishes.

CURT. Alice, was it not he who took my children away from me at the time of the divorce?

ALICE. Since it is all over now---yes, it was he.

CURT. I have suspected it, but never had any certainty. It was he!

ALICE. When you placed your full trust in my husband and sent him to make peace between yourself and your wife, he made love to her instead, and taught her the trick that gave her the children.

CURT. Oh, God! God in heaven!

ALICE. There you have another side of him. [Silence.

CURT. Do you know, last night---when he thought himself dying---then---he made me promise that I should look after his children!

ALICE. But you don't want to revenge yourself on my children?

CURT. Yes---by keeping my promise. I shall look after your children.

ALICE. You could take no worse revenge, for there is nothing he hates so much as generosity.

CURT. Then I may consider myself revenged---without any revenge.

ALICE. I love revenge as a form of justice, and I am yearning to see evil get its punishment.

CURT. You still remain at that point?

ALICE. There I shall always remain, and the day I forgave or loved an enemy I should be a hypocrite.

CURT. It may be a duty not to say everything, Alice, not to see everything. It is called forbearance, and all of us need it.

ALICE. Not I! My life lies clear and open, and I have always played my cards straight.

CURT. That is saying a good deal.

ALICE. No, it is not saying enough. Because what I have suffered innocently for the sake of this man, whom I never loved------

CURT. Why did you marry?

ALICE. Who can tell? Because he took me, seduced me! I don't know. And then I was longing to get up on the heights------

CURT. And deserted your art?

ALICE. Which was despised! But you know, he cheated me! He held out hopes of a pleasant life, a handsome home---and there was nothing but debts; no gold except on the uniform---and even that was not real gold. He cheated me!

CURT. Wait a moment! When a young man falls in love, he sees the future in a hopeful light: that his hopes are not always realized, one must pardon. I have the same kind of deceit on my own conscience without thinking myself dishonest---What is it you see on the rampart?

ALICE. I want to see if he has fallen down.

CURT. Has he?

ALICE. No---worse luck! He is cheating me all the time.

CURT. Then I shall call on the doctor and the lawyer.

ALICE. [Sitting down at the window] Yes, dear Curt, go. I shall sit here and wait. And I have learned how to wait!


Same setting in full daylight. The sentry is pacing back and forth on the battery as before.

ALICE sits in the right-hand easy-chair. Her hair is now gray.

CURT. [Enters from the left after having knocked] Good day, Alice.

ALICE. Good day, Curt. Sit down.

CURT. [Sits down in the left-hand easy-chair] The steamer is just coming in.

ALICE. Then I know what's in store, for he is on board.

CURT. Yes, he is, for I caught the glitter of his helmet---What has he been doing in the city?

ALICE. Oh, I can figure it out. He dressed for parade, which means that he saw the Colonel, and he put on white gloves, which means that he made some calls.

CURT. Did you notice his quiet manner yesterday? Since he has quit drinking and become temperate, he is another man: calm, reserved, considerate------

ALICE. I know it, and if that man had always kept sober he would have been a menace to humanity. It is perhaps fortunate for the rest of mankind that he made himself ridiculous and harmless through his whiskey.

CURT. The spirit in the bottle has chastised him---But have you noticed since death put its mark on him that he has developed a dignity which elevates? And is it not possible that with this new idea of immortality may have come a new outlook upon life?

ALICE. You are deceiving yourself. He is conjuring up something evil. And don't you believe what he says, for he lies with premeditation, and he knows the art of intriguing as no one else------

CURT. [Watching ALICE] Why, Alice, what does this mean? Your hair has turned gray in these two nights!

ALICE. No, my friend, it has long been gray, and I have simply neglected to darken it since my husband is as good as dead. Twenty-five years in prison---do you know that this place served as a prison in the old days?

CURT. Prison---well, the walls show it.

ALICE. And my complexion! Even the children took on prison color in here.

CURT. I find it hard to imagine children prattling within these walls.

ALICE. There was not much prattling done either. And those two that died perished merely from lack of light.

CURT. What do you think is coming next?

ALICE. The decisive blow at us two. I caught a familiar glimmer in his eye when you read out that telegram from Judith. It ought, of course, to have been directed against her, but she, you know, is inviolate, and so his hatred sought you.

CURT. What are his intentions in regard to me, do you think?

ALICE. Hard to tell, but he possesses a marvellous skill in nosing out other people's secrets---and did you notice how, all day yesterday, he seemed to be living in your quarantine; how he drank a life-interest out of your existence; how he ate your children alive? A cannibal, I tell you---for I know him. His own life is going, or has gone------

CURT. I also have that impression of his being already on the other side. His face seems to phosphoresce, as if he were in a state of decay---and his eyes flash like will-o'-the-wisps over graves or morasses---Here he comes! Tell him you thought it possible he might be jealous.

ALICE. No, he is too self-conceited. "Show me the man of whom I need to be jealous!" Those are his own words.

CURT. So much the better, for even his faults carry with them a certain merit---Shall I get up and meet him anyhow?

ALICE. No, be impolite, or he will think you false. And if he begins to lie, pretend to believe him. I know perfectly how to translate his lies, and get always at the truth with the help of my dictionary. I foresee something dreadful---but, Curt, don't lose your self-control! My own advantage in our long struggle has been that I was always sober, and for that reason in full control of myself. He was always tripped by his whiskey---Now we shall see!

CAPTAIN. [In from the left in full uniform, with helmet, cloak, and white gloves. Calm, dignified, but pale and hollow-eyed. Moves forward with a tottering step and sinks down, his helmet and cloak still on, in a chair at the right of the stage, far from CURT and ALICE] Good day. Pardon me for sitting down like this, but I feel a little tired.

ALICE and CURT. Good day. Welcome home.

ALICE. How are you feeling?

CAPTAIN. Splendid! Only a little tired------

ALICE. What news from the city?

CAPTAIN. Oh, a little of everything. I saw the doctor, among other things, and he said it was nothing at all---that I might live twenty years, if I took care of myself.

ALICE. [To CURT] Now he is lying. [To the CAPTAIN] Why, that's fine, my dear.

CAPTAIN. So much for that.

Silence, during which the CAPTAIN is looking at ALICE and CURT as if expecting them to speak.

ALICE. [To CURT] Don't say a word, but let him begin---then he will show his cards.

CAPTAIN. [To ALICE] Did you say anything?

ALICE. No, not a word.

CAPTAIN. [Dragging on the words] Well, Curt!

ALICE. [To CURT] There---now he is coming out.

CAPTAIN. Well, I went to the city, as you know. [CURT nods assent] Mm-mm, I picked up acquaintances---and among others---a young cadet [dragging] in the artillery. [Pause, during which CURT shows some agitation] As---we are in need of cadets right here, I arranged with the Colonel to let him come here. This ought to please you, especially when I inform you that---he is---your own son!

ALICE. [To CURT] The vampire---don't you see?

CURT. Under ordinary circumstances that ought to please a father, but in my case it will merely be painful.

CAPTAIN. I don't see why it should!

CURT. You don't need to---it is enough that I don't want it.

CAPTAIN. Oh, you think so? Well, then, you ought to know that the young man has been ordered to report here, and that from now on he has to obey me.

CURT. Then I shall force him to seek transfer to another regiment.

CAPTAIN. You cannot do it, as you have no rights over your son.


CAPTAIN. No, for the court gave those rights to the mother.

CURT. Then I shall communicate with the mother.

CAPTAIN. You don't need to.

CURT. Don't need to?

CAPTAIN. No, for I have already done so. Yah!

[CURT rises but sinks back again.

ALICE. [To CURT] Now he must die!

CURT. Why, he is a cannibal!

CAPTAIN. So much for that! [Straight to ALICE and CURT] Did you say anything?

ALICE. No---have you grown hard of hearing?

CAPTAIN. Yes, a little---but if you come nearer to me I can tell you something between ourselves.

ALICE. That is not necessary---and a witness is sometimes good to have for both parties.

CAPTAIN. You are right; witnesses are sometimes good to have! But, first of all, did you get that will?

ALICE. [Hands him a document] The regimental lawyer drew it up himself.

CAPTAIN. In your favor---good! [Reads the document and then tears it carefully into strips which he throws on the floor] So much for that! Yah!

ALICE. [To CURT] Did you ever see such a man?

CURT. That is no man!

CAPTAIN. Well, Alice, this was what I wanted to say------

ALICE. [Alarmed] Go on, please.

CAPTAIN. [Calmly as before] On account of your long cherished desire to quit this miserable existence in an unhappy marriage; on account of the lack of feeling with which you have treated your husband and children, and on account of the carelessness you have shown in the handling of our domestic economy, I have, during this trip to the city, filed an application for divorce in the City Court.

ALICE. Oh---and your grounds?

CAPTAIN. [Calmly as before] Besides the grounds already mentioned, I have others of a purely personal nature. As it has been found that I may live another twenty years, I am contemplating a change from this unhappy marital union to one that suits me better, and I mean to join my fate to that of some woman capable of devotion to her husband, and who also may bring into the home not only youth, but---let us say---a little beauty!

ALICE. [Takes the wedding-ring from her finger and throws it at the CAPTAIN] You are welcome!

CAPTAIN. [Picks up the ring and puts it in his rest pocket] She throws away the ring. The witness will please take notice.

ALICE. [Rises in great agitation] And you intend to turn me out in order to put another woman into my home?


ALICE. Well, then, we'll speak plain language! Cousin Curt, that man is guilty of an attempt to murder his wife.

CURT. An attempt to murder?

ALICE. Yes, he pushed me into the water.

CAPTAIN. Without witnesses!

ALICE. He lies again---Judith saw it!

CAPTAIN. Well, what of it?

ALICE. She can testify to it.

CAPTAIN. No, she cannot, for she says that she didn't see anything.

ALICE. You have taught the child to lie!

CAPTAIN. I didn't need to, for you had taught her already.

ALICE. You have met Judith?


ALICE. Oh, God! Oh, God!

CAPTAIN. The fortress has surrendered. The enemy will be permitted to depart in safety on ten minutes' notice. [Places his watch on the table] Ten minutes---watch on the table! [Stops and puts one hand up to his heart.

ALICE. [Goes over to the CAPTAIN and takes his arm] What is it?

CAPTAIN. I don't know.

ALICE. Do you want anything---a drink?

CAPTAIN. Whiskey? No, I don't want to die---You! [Straightening himself up] Don't touch me! Ten minutes, or the garrison will be massacred. [Pulls the sabre partly from the scabbard] Ten minutes!

[Goes out through the background.

CURT. What kind of man is this?

ALICE. He is a demon, and no man!

CURT. What does he want with my son?

ALICE. He wants him as hostage in order to be your master---he wants to isolate you from the authorities of the island---Do you know that the people around here have named this island "Little Hell"?

CURT. I didn't know that---Alice, you are the first woman who ever inspired me with compassion---all others have seemed to me to deserve their fate.

ALICE. Don't desert me now! Don't leave me, for he will beat me---he has been doing so all these twenty-five years---in the presence of the children---and he has pushed me into the water------

CURT. Having heard this, I place myself absolutely against him. I came here without an angry thought, without memory of his former slanders and attempts to humiliate me. I forgave him even when you told me that he was the man who had parted me from my children---for he was ill and dying---but now, when he wants to steal my son, he must die---he or I!

ALICE. Good! No surrender of the fortress! But blow it up instead, with him in it, even if we have to keep him company! I am in charge of the powder!

CURT. There was no malice in me when I came here, and I wanted to run away when I felt myself infected with your hatred, but now I am moved by an irresistible impulse to hate this man, as I hate everything that is evil. What can be done?

ALICE. I have learned the tactics from him. Drum up his enemies and seek allies.

CURT. Just think---that he should get hold of my wife! Why didn't those two meet a life-time ago? Then there would have been a battle-royal that had set the earth quaking.

ALICE. But now these souls have spied each other---and yet they must part. I guess what is his most vulnerable spot---I have long suspected it------

CURT. Who is his most faithful enemy on the island?

ALICE. The Quartermaster.

CURT. Is he an honest man?

ALICE. He is. And he knows what I---I know too---he knows what the Sergeant-Major and the Captain have been up to.

CURT. What they have been up to? You don't mean------

ALICE. Defalcations!

CURT. This is terrible! No, I don't want to have any finger in that mess!

ALICE. Ha-ha! You cannot hit an enemy.

CURT. Formerly I could, but I can do so no longer.


CURT. Because I have discovered---that justice is done anyhow.

ALICE. And you could wait for that? Then your son would already have been taken away from you. Look at my gray hairs---just feel how thick it still is, for that matter---He intends to marry again, and then I shall be free---to do the same---I am free! And in ten minutes he will be under arrest down below, right under us---[stamps her foot on the floor] right under us---and I shall dance above his head---I shall dance "The Entry of the Boyars"---[makes a few steps with her arms akimbo] ha-ha-ha-ha! And I shall play on the piano so that he can hear it. [Hammering on the piano] Oh, the tower is opening its gates, and the sentry with the drawn sabre will no longer be guarding me, but him---Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre! Him, him, him, the sentry is going to guard!

CURT. [Has been watching her with an intoxicated look in his eyes] Alice, are you, too, a devil?

ALICE. [Jumps up on a chair and pulls down the wreaths] These we will take along when we depart---the laurels of triumph! And fluttering ribbons! A little dusty, but eternally green---like my youth---I am not old, Curt?

CURT. With shining eyes] You are a devil!

ALICE. In "Little Hell"---Listen! Now I shall fix my hair ---[loosens her hair], dress in two minutes---go to the Quartermaster in two minutes---and then, up in the air with the fortress!

CURT. [As before] You are a devil!

ALICE. That's what you always used to say when we were children. Do you remember when we were small and became engaged to each other? Ha-ha! You were bashful, of course------

CURT. [Seriously] Alice!

ALICE. Yes, you were! And it was becoming to you. Do you know there are gross women who like modest men? And there are said to be modest men who like gross women---You liked me a little bit, didn't you?

CURT. I don't know where I am!

ALICE. With an actress whose manners are free, but who is an excellent lady otherwise. Yes! But now I am free, free, free! Turn away and I'll change my waist!

She opens her waist. CURT rushes up to her, grabs her in his arms, lifts her high up, and bites her throat so that she cries out. Then he drops her on the couch and runs out to the left.



Same stage setting in early evening light. The sentry on the battery is still visible through the windows in the background. The laurel wreaths are hung over the arms of an easy-chair. The hanging lamp is lit. Faint music.

The CAPTAIN, pale and hollow-eyed, his hair showing touches of gray, dressed in a worn undress uniform, with riding-boots, sits at the writing-table and plays solitaire. He wears his spectacles. The entr'acte music continues after the curtain has been raised and until another person enters.

The CAPTAIN plays away at his solitaire, bid with a sudden start now and then, when he looks up and listens with evident alarm.

He does not seem able to make the solitaire come out, so he becomes impatient and gathers up the cards. Then he goes to the left-hand window, opens it, and throws out the cards. The window (of the French type) remains open, rattling on its hinges.

He goes over to the buffet, but is frightened by the noise made by the window, so that he turns around to see what it is. Takes out three dark-coloured square whiskey bottles, examines them carefully---and throws them out of the window. Takes out some boxes of cigars, smells at one, and throws them out of the window.

Next he takes off his spectacles, cleans them carefully, and tries how far he can see with them. Then he throws them out of the window, stumbles against the furniture as if he could not see, and lights six candles in a candelabrum on the chiffonier. Catches sight of the laurel wreaths, picks them up, and goes toward the window, but turns back. Folds the wreaths carefully in the piano cover, fastens the corners together with pins taken from the writing-table, and puts the bundle on a chair. Goes to the piano, strikes the keyboard with his fists, locks the piano, and throws the key out through the window. Then he lights the candles on the piano. Goes to the what-not, takes his wife's picture from it, looks at this and tears it to pieces, dropping the pieces on the floor. The window rattles on its hinges, and again he becomes frightened.

Then, after having calmed himself he takes the pictures of his son and daughter, kisses them in an off-hand way, and puts them into his pocket. All the rest of the pictures he sweeps down with his elbow and pokes together into a heap with his foot.

Then he sits down at the writing-table, tired out, and puts a hand up to his heart. Lights the candle on the table and sighs; stares in front of himself as if confronted with unpleasant visions. Rises and goes over to the chiffonier, opens the lid, takes out a bundle of letters tied together with a blue silk ribbon, and throws the bundle into the fireplace of the glazed brick oven. Closes the chiffonier. The telegraph receiver sounds a single click. The CAPTAIN shrinks together in deadly fear and stands fixed to the spot, listening. But hearing nothing more from the instrument, he turns to listen in the direction of the door on the left. Goes over and opens it, takes a step inside the doorway, and returns, carrying on his arm a cat whose back he strokes. Then he goes out to the right. Now the music ceases.

ALICE enters from the background, dressed in a walking suit, with gloves and hat on; her hair is black; she looks around with surprise at the many lighted candles.

CURT enters from the left, nervous.

ALICE. It looks like Christmas Eve here.

CURT. Well?

ALICE. [Holds out her hand for him to kiss] Thank me! [CURT kisses her hand unwillingly] Six witnesses, and four of them solid as rock. The report has been made, and the answer will come here by telegraph---right here, into the heart of the fortress.


ALICE. You should say "thanks" instead of "so."

CURT. Why has he lit so many candles?

ALICE. Because he is afraid of the dark, of course. Look at the telegraph key---does it not look like the handle of a coffee mill? I grind, I grind, and the beans crack as when you pull teeth------

CURT. What has he been doing in the room here?

ALICE. It looks as if he intended to move. Down below, that's where you are going to move!

CURT. Don't, Alice---I think it's distressing! He was the friend of my youth, and he showed me kindness many times when I was in difficulty---He should be pitied!

ALICE. And how about me, who have done nothing wrong, and who have had to sacrifice my career to that monster?

CURT. How about that career? Was it so very brilliant?

ALICE. [Enraged] What are you saying? Do you know who I am, what I have been?

CURT. Now, now!

ALICE. Are you beginning already?

CURT. Already?

ALICE throws her arms around CURT*'s neck and kisses him*.

CURT takes her by the arms and bites her neck so that she screams.

ALICE. You bite me!

CURT. [Beyond himself] Yes, I want to bite your throat and suck your blood like a lynx. You have aroused the wild beast in me---that beast which I have tried for years to kill by privations and self-inflicted tortures. I came here believing myself a little better than you two, and now I am the vilest of all. Since I first saw you---in all your odious nakedness---and since my vision became warped by passion, I have known the full strength of evil. What is ugly becomes beautiful; what is good becomes ugly and mean---Come here and I'll choke you---with a kiss! [He locks her in his arms.

ALICE. [Holds up her left hand] Behold the mark of the shackles that you have broken. I was a slave, and you set me free.

CURT. But I am going to bind you------



ALICE. For a moment I thought you were------

CURT. Pious?

ALICE. Yes, you prated about the fall of man------

CURT. Did I?

ALICE. And I thought you had come here to preach------

CURT. You thought so? In an hour we shall be in the city, and then you shall see what I am------

ALICE. Then we will go to the theatre to-night, just to show ourselves. The shame will be his if I run away, don't you see!

CURT. I begin to understand that prison is not enough------

ALICE. No, it is not---there must be shame also.

CURT. A strange world! You commit a shameful act, and the shame falls on him.

ALICE. Well, if the world be so stupid------

CURT. It is as if these prison walls had absorbed all the corruption of the criminals, and it gets into you if you merely breathe this air. You were thinking of the theatre and the supper, I suppose. I was thinking of my son.

ALICE. [Strikes him on the mouth with her glove] Fogey!

[CURT lifts his hand as if to strike her.

ALICE. [Drawing back] Tout beau!

CURT. Forgive me!

ALICE. Yes---on your knees! [CURT kneels down] Down on your face! [CURT touches the ground with his forehead] Kiss my foot! [CURT kisses her foot] And don't you ever do it again! Get up!

CURT. [Rising] Where have I landed? Where am I?

ALICE. Oh, you know!

CURT. [Looking around with horror] I believe almost------

CAPTAIN. [Enters from the right, looking wretched, leaning on a cane] Curt, may I have a talk with you---alone?

ALICE. Is it about that departure in safety?

CAPTAIN. [Sits down at the sewing-table] Curt, will you kindly sit down here by me a little while? And, Alice, will you please grant me a moment---of peace!

ALICE. What is up now? New signals! [To CURT] Please be seated. [CURT sits down reluctantly] And listen to the words of age and wisdom---And if a telegram should come---tip me off! [Goes out to the left.

CAPTAIN. [With dignity, after a pause] Can you explain a fate like mine, like ours?

CURT. No more than I can explain my own!

CAPTAIN. What can be the meaning of this jumble?

CURT. In my better moments I have believed that just this was the meaning---that we should not be able to catch a meaning, and yet submit------

CAPTAIN. Submit? Without a fixed point outside myself I cannot submit.

CURT. Quite right, but as a mathematician you should be able to seek that unknown point when several known ones are given------

CAPTAIN. I have sought it, and---I have not found it!

CURT. Then you have made some mistake in your calculations---do it all over again!

CAPTAIN. I should do it over again? Tell me, where did you get your resignation?

CURT. I have none left. Don't overestimate me.

CAPTAIN. As you may have noticed, my understanding of the art of living has been---elimination! That means: wipe out and pass on! Very early in life I made myself a bag into which I chucked my humiliations, and when it was full I dropped it into the sea. I don't think any man ever suffered so many humiliations as I have. But when I wiped them out and passed on they ceased to exist.

CURT. I have noticed that you have wrought both your life and your environment out of your poetical imagination.

CAPTAIN. How could I have lived otherwise? How could I have endured? [Puts his hand over his heart.

CURT. How are you doing?

CAPTAIN. Poorly. [Pause] Then comes a moment when the faculty for what you call poetical imagination gives out. And then reality leaps forth in all its nakedness---It is frightful! [He is now speaking in a voice of lachrymose senility, and with his lower jaw drooping] Look here, my dear friend---[controls himself and speaks in his usual voice] forgive me!---When I was in the city and consulted the doctor [now the tearful voice returns] he said that I was played out---[in his usual voice] and that I couldn't live much longer.

CURT. Was that what he said?

CAPTAIN. [With tearful voice] That's what he said!

CURT. So it was not true?

CAPTAIN. What? Oh---no, that was not true. [Pause.

CURT. Was the rest of it not true either?

CAPTAIN. What do you mean?

CURT. That my son was ordered to report here as cadet?

CAPTAIN. I never heard of it.

CURT. Do you know---your ability to wipe out your own misdeeds is miraculous!

CAPTAIN. I don't understand what you are talking of.

CURT. Then you have come to the end!

CAPTAIN. Well, there is not much left!

CURT. Tell me, perhaps you never applied for that divorce which would bring your wife into disgrace?

CAPTAIN. Divorce? No, I have not heard of it.

CURT, [Rising] Will you admit, then, that you have been lying?

CAPTAIN. You employ such strong words, my friend. All of us need forbearance.

CURT. Oh, you have come to see that?

CAPTAIN. [Firmly, with clear voice] Yes, I have come to see that---And for this reason, Curt, please forgive me! Forgive everything!

CURT. That was a manly word! But I have nothing to forgive you. And I am not the man you believe me to be. No longer now! Least of all one worthy of receiving your confessions!

CAPTAIN. [With clear voice] Life seemed so peculiar---so contrary, so malignant---ever since my childhood---and people seemed so bad that I grew bad also------

CURT. [On his feet, perturbed, and glancing at the telegraph instrument] Is it possible to close off an instrument like that?

CAPTAIN. Hardly.

CURT. [With increasing alarm] Who is Sergeant-Major Östberg?

CAPTAIN. An honest fellow, but something of a busybody, I should say.

CURT. And who is the Quartermaster?

CAPTAIN. He is my enemy, of course, but I have nothing bad to say of him.

CURT. [Looking out through the window, where a lantern is seen moving to and fro] What are they doing with the lantern out on the battery?

CAPTAIN. Do you see a lantern?

CURT. Yes, and people moving about.

CAPTAIN. I suppose it is what we call a service squad.

CURT. What is that?

CAPTAIN. A few men and a corporal. Probably some poor wretch that has to be locked up.

CURT. Oh! [Pause.

CAPTAIN. Now, when you know Alice, how do you like her?

CURT. I cannot tell---I have no understanding of people at all. She is as inexplicable to me as you are, or as I am myself. For I am reaching the age when wisdom makes this acknowledgment: I know nothing, I understand nothing; But when I observe an action, I like to get at the motive behind it. Why did you push her into the water?

CAPTAIN. I don't know. It merely seemed quite natural to me, as she was standing on the pier, that she ought to be in the water.

CURT. Have you ever regretted it?


CURT. That's strange!

CAPTAIN. Of course, it is! So strange that I cannot realise that I am the man who has been guilty of such a mean act.

CURT. Have you not expected her to take some revenge?

CAPTAIN. Well, she seems to have taken it in full measure; and that, too, seems no less natural to me.

CURT. What has so suddenly brought you to this cynical resignation?

CAPTAIN. Since I looked death in the face, life has presented itself from a different viewpoint. Tell me, if you were to judge between Alice and myself, whom would you place in the right?

CURT. Neither of you. But to both of you I should give endless compassion---perhaps a little more of it to you!

CAPTAIN. Give me your hand, Curt!

CURT. [Gives him one hand and puts the other one on the CAPTAIN'S shoulder] Old boy!

ALICE. [In from the left, carrying a sunshade] Well, how harmonious! Oh, friendship! Has there been no telegram yet?

CURT. [Coldly] No.

ALICE. This delay makes me impatient, and when I grow impatient I push matters along---Look, Curt, how I give him the final bullet. And now he'll bite the grass! First, I load---I know all about rifle practice, the famous rifle practice of which less than 5,000 copies were sold---and then I aim---fire! [She takes aim with her sunshade] How is your new wife? The young, beautiful, unknown one? You don't know! But I know how my lover is doing. [Puts her arms around the neck of CURT and kisses him; he thrusts her away from himself] He is well, although still a little bashful! You wretch, whom I have never loved---you, who were too conceited to be jealous---you never saw how I was leading you by the nose!

The CAPTAIN draws the sabre and makes a leap at her, aiming at her several futile blows that only hit the furniture.

ALICE. Help! Help!

[CURT does not move.

CAPTAIN. [Falls with the sabre in his hand] Judith, avenge me!

ALICE. Hooray! He's dead!

[CURT withdraws toward the door in the background.

CAPTAIN. [Gets on his feet] Not yet! [Sheathes the sabre and sits down in the easy-chair by the sewing-table] Judith! Judith!

ALICE. [Drawing nearer to CURT] Now I go---with you!

CURT. [Pushes her back with such force that she sinks to her knees] Go back to the hell whence you came! Good-bye for ever! [Goes to the door.

CAPTAIN. Don't leave me Curt; she will kill me!

ALICE. Don't desert me, Curt---don't desert us!

CURT. Good-bye! [Goes out.

ALICE. [With a sudden change of attitude] The wretch! That's a friend for you!

CAPTAIN. [Softly] Forgive me, Alice, and come here---come quick!

ALICE. [Over to the CAPTAIN] That's the worst rascal and hypocrite I have met in my life! Do you know, you are a man after all!

CAPTAIN. Listen, Alice! I cannot live much longer.

ALICE. Is that so?

CAPTAIN. The doctor has said so.

ALICE. Then there was no truth in the rest either?


ALICE. [In despair] Oh, what have I done!

CAPTAIN. There is help for everything.

ALICE. No, this is beyond helping!

CAPTAIN. Nothing is beyond helping, if you only wipe it out and pass on.

ALICE. But the telegram---the telegram!

CAPTAIN. Which telegram?

ALICE. [On her knees beside the CAPTAIN] Are we then cast out? Must this happen? I have sprung a mine under myself, under us. Why did you have to tell untruths? And why should that man come here to tempt me? We are lost! Your magnanimity might have helped everything, forgiven everything!

CAPTAIN. What is it that cannot be forgiven? What is it that I have not already forgiven you?

ALICE. You are right---but there is no help for this.

CAPTAIN. I cannot guess it, although I know your ingenuity when it comes to villanies------

ALICE. Oh, if I could only get out of this, I should care for you---I should love you, Edgar!

CAPTAIN. Listen to me! Where do I stand?

ALICE. Don't you think anybody can help us---well, no man can!

CAPTAIN. Who could then help?

ALICE. [Looking the CAPTAIN straight in the eye] I don't know---Think of it, what is to become of the children with their name dishonoured------

CAPTAIN. Have you dishonoured that name?

ALICE. Not I! Not I! And then they must leave school! And as they go out into the world, they will be lonely as we, and cruel as we---Then you didn't meet Judith either, I understand now?

CAPTAIN. No, but wipe it out!

The telegraph receiver clicks. ALICE flies up.

ALICE. [Screams] Now ruin is overtaking us! [To the CAPTAIN] Don't listen!

CAPTAIN. [Quietly] I am not going to listen, dear child---just calm yourself!

ALICE. [Standing by the instrument, raises herself on tiptoe in order to look out through the window] Don't listen! Don't listen!

CAPTAIN. [Holding his hands over his ears] Lisa, child, I am stopping up my ears.

ALICE. [On her knees, with lifted hands] God, help us! The squad is coming---[Weeping and sobbing] God in heaven!

She appears to be moving her lips as if in silent prayer.

The telegraph receiver continues to click for a while and a long white strip of paper seems to crawl out of the instrument. Then complete silence prevails once more.

ALICE. [Rises, tears off the paper strip, and reads it in silence. Then she turns her eyes upward for a moment. Goes over to the CAPTAIN and kisses him on the forehead] That is over now! It was nothing!

Sits down in the other chair, puts her handkerchief to her face, and breaks into a violent spell of weeping.

CAPTAIN. What kind of secrets are these?

ALICE. Don't ask! It is over now!

CAPTAIN. AS you please, child.

ALICE. You would not have spoken like that three days ago---what has done it?

CAPTAIN. Well, dear, when I fell down that first time, I went a little way on the other side of the grave. What I saw has been forgotten, but the impression of it still remains.

ALICE. And it was?

CAPTAIN. A hope---for something better!

ALICE. Something better?

CAPTAIN. Yes. That this could be the real life, I have, in fact, never believed: it is death---or something still worse!

ALICE. And we------

CAPTAIN. Have probably been set to torment each other---so it seems at least!

ALICE. Have we tormented each other enough?

CAPTAIN. Yes, I think so! And upset things! [Looks around] Suppose we put things to rights? And clean house?

ALICE. Yes, if it can be done.

CAPTAIN. [Gets up to survey the room] It can't be done in one day---no, it can't!

ALICE. In two, then! Many days!

CAPTAIN. Let us hope so! [Pause. Sits down again] So you didn't get free this time after all! But then, you didn't get me locked up either! [ALICE looks staggered] Yes, I know you wanted to put me in prison, but I wipe it out. I suppose you have done worse than that---[ALICE is speechless] And I was innocent of those defalcations.

ALICE. And now you intend me to become your nurse?

CAPTAIN. If you are willing!

ALICE. What else could I do?

CAPTAIN. I don't know!

ALICE. [Sits down, numbed and crushed] These are the eternal torments! Is there, then, no end to them?

CAPTAIN. Yes, if we are patient. Perhaps life begins when death comes.

ALICE. If it were so! [Pause.

CAPTAIN. You think Curt a hypocrite?

ALICE. Of course I do!

CAPTAIN. And I don't! But all who come near us turn evil and go their way. Curt was weak, and the evil is strong! [Pause] How commonplace life has become! Formerly blows were struck; now you shake your fist at the most! I am fairly certain that, three months from now, we shall celebrate our silver wedding---with Curt as best man---and with the Doctor and Gerda among the guests. The Quartermaster will make the speech and the Sergeant-Major will lead the cheering. And if I know the Colonel right, he will come on his own invitation---Yes, you may laugh! But do you recall the silver wedding of Adolph---in the Fusiliers? The bride had to carry her wedding ring on the right hand, because the groom in a tender moment had chopped off her left ring finger with his dirk. [ALICE puts her handkerchief to her mouth in order to repress her laughter] Are you crying? No, I believe you are laughing! Yes, child, partly we weep and partly we laugh. Which is the right thing to do?---Don't ask me! The other day I read in a newspaper that a man had been divorced seven times---which means that he had been married seven times---and finally, at the age of ninety-eight, he ran away with his first wife and married her again. Such is love! If life be serious, or merely a joke, is more than I can decide. Often it is most painful when a joke, and its seriousness is after all more agreeable and peaceful. But when at last you try to be serious, somebody comes and plays a joke on you---as Curt, for instance! Do you want a silver wedding? [ALICE remains silent] Oh, say yes! They will laugh at us, but what does it matter? We may laugh also, or keep serious, as the occasion may require.

ALICE. Well, all right!

CAPTAIN. Silver wedding, then! [Rising] Wipe out and pass on! Therefore, let us pass on!