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Wilkie Collins,  The Red Vial, edited by Richard Pearson (c) 2013
Published with kind permission of

Ms Faith Clarke
The British Library

For the purposes of referencing, please use the following formula:
Wilkie Collins, The Red Vial (BLRedVial), ed. Richard Pearson, (date accessed)

The Red Vial (1858)[Notes]

[Lord Chamberlain's collection, British Library]
Manuscript received September 30
License sent October 2 [1858] [Wm[?]. B. Donne] 1

The Red Vial
A Drama in Three Acts

By Wilkie Collins

‘R. Olympic Theatre’ 2

Act I
Persons of the Drama 3

Isaac Rodenberg   - A Jewish merchant of Frankfort

Max Keller  - His partner

Karl – Keller’s Son

Hans Grimm – Rodenberg’s servant

Doctor Hetzel – A Physician

Joseph – A servant

Schwartz – First watchman of the Dead-House

Duntzer – Second Watchman

The Surgeon of the Dead House, And Two Assistants

Widow Bergmann 4 – Rodenberg’s Housekeeper

Minna – Her Daughter

The Scene is at Frankfort on the Main

The Period is the beginning of the Nineteenth Century

Act I

The Fourth of June

(Scene. An apartment in the house of Isaac Rodenberg. Door in the Flat.  Side door on the actors right.  Widow Bergmann and Max Keller discovered, seated.)

Keller. 5 Excuse me, Mrs. Bergmann, if I bring the conversation back to the point from which it started.  The object of our present interview is to discuss the question of the marriage of my son and your daughter.  I have already reminded you that I am the travelling partner in the house of Rodenberg and Keller; that I am perpetually absent, in consequence, from my home in Franckfort [sic] –
Widow B. And that you, therefore, know but little of my daughter and myself.  So far, we are quite agreed, Mr. Keller.
Keller. I leave for Vienna tomorrow; and, if our children are to be married, you must decide the question for them, today.  You have spoken of your daughter in terms of admiration which I am sure are deserved.  Permit me, now, to say a word for my son.  Karl has good conduct and good character to recommend him, and he will inherit the whole of my fortune.  If I looked at his attachment from a worldly point of view, I might say that he has shown no great ambition in making his choice of a wife.
Widow B. 6 Misfortune has obliged me, sir, to accept the situation of Mr. Rodenberg’s housekeeper; but I am the widow of a physician.  My husband died young, and died poor – but his discoveries in chemical science have conferred an honourable celebrity on the name I bear.
Keller. I merely spoke, madam, of the view I might take of my son’s attachment, [sic] 7 In my opinion, rank is not essential to happiness.  Riches my own son has got already, let him marry for the best of all reasons – for love; let his wife be a virtuous girl, born of honest parents – and I, his father, ask no more.
Widow B. Ah, Mr. Keller, if other parents were as free as you are from all taint of pride!
Keller. Stay, Mrs. Bergmann, I have my pride.  For two centuries past, my family have lived in this city of Frankfort, and no breath of dishonour has tainted our pure reputation in all that time.  We have been rich, and have never turned our wealth to a base purpose.  We have been poor, and have resisted the temptation to borrow, even when the hands of our dearest friends offered the loan.  My ancestors were once among the humblest people in the city; but their bitterest enemies could never point at any one of them as a debtor.  It was their opinion – as it is mine – that a man who incurs a debt contracts an engagement of honour.  If he breaks it, no matter on what pretence, he disgraces himself.  Those were the old-fashioned principles of traders in the bygone time 8 and I have done my best to make them my son’s principles after me.  If I come here now, to consent to Karl’s marriage, it is because I have enquired in Frankfort, and have found that the reputation of his intended wife’s family is unblemished.  I ask no more, after that.  In our commercial phrase, I offer you my hand on the bargain.  (Rising.)
Widow B. (Rising and taking his hand.) You have done me justice, sir.  In my own name and my daughter’s, I thank you. (Aside, after dropping Keller’s hand.) Well over! Well over!
Keller. We must mark this third day of December with a special line in the calendar, Mrs. Bergmann.  The great anxiety of our lives is now set at rest.
Widow B. One small anxiety still remains, sir.  Shall we set that at rest also?
Keller. Certainly. To what do you refer?
Widow B. To the day on which the marriage is to take place.  You are going to leave us so soon that I may not have another opportunity of hearing what your wishes are on that point.
Keller. If my wishes followed my son’s, I am afraid they would hardly give the young lady time to order her wedding-dress! I am no friend to long engagements; but I think I must make the period of Karl’s courtship long enough to enable him to complete his studies at the university.
Widow B. And how long a period might that be?
Keller. Rather more than five months.  After that, my son and I are at your disposal and your daughter’s.
Widow B. Then suppose we settle this weighty question at once.  Shall we say this day six months – in other words, the third of June?
Keller. With all my heart.  And now that our negotiation is completed, I must ask leave to return to business of a less interesting nature. 9 – No! not a step nearer the door.  No ceremony – we are almost relations now – no ceremony, I beg and pray.
                        (Exit by door in flat.)

Widow B. Unfortunate people who 10 can’t pay their debts disgrace themselves, do they, Mr. Keller? – what do you know of the struggles and temptations of poverty?


(Enter Minna,12 peeping through the door on the Right.  She wears a walking cloak over her dress, and carries a garden hat in her hand)

Minna. Mama! Is he gone?
Widow B. (sadly) Kiss me, my angel.  Your happiness is secured; your life is provided for.

               (Enter Karl,13 peeping through the door in Flat)

Karl. Mrs. Bergmann!14 Is it all over?
Widow B. What in the world brings you here?
Karl. My father has gone straight to the counting-house.  I was afraid to ask him, before clerks and strangers, the all-important15 question that I have come to ask you.
Widow B. And, suppose I decline to reply, without first obtaining your father’s leave?
Karl. (Going to Minna’s side, and kissing her hand.) Then I shall look in Minna’s face, and see the answer there.
Minna. Oh, the vanity of men! He really believes that I cannot look happy now, except when I am thinking of him. (To her mother) You look pale and harassed, dear.  You have looked so for some time past.
Widow B. I have been anxious about you, Minna.  But that is all over now. (Puts her arm round Minna’s waist, and presses one of her daughter’s hands to her bosom) Are you jealous of me, Mr. Karl?  You little think what a hard trial it is to give up my treasure, my own sweet darling, even to you.
Minna. Remember, Mama, that we are not to part when I marry.
Karl. And remember that man never loved woman as I love her.
Widow B. Love her?  Oh, what a difference between your love and mine! Have you given her little pattering feet their first lesson in treading the earth?  Have you knelt by her pillow 16 night after night, to feast your eyes on her lovely sleeping face? Have you taught her lips to form their first words and to give their first kiss? Have you sat by her sick-bed, and felt the mortal agony of wrestling for her with death?  Have you watched the long brightening of her beauty from its dawning point, and the tender growth of her mind from its first impressions of the world about her? – Your love! – Oh, friend, friend, there is but one earthly love that is tainted by no thought of self, [sic] 17 – the love I give to this child – the love your own mother gives to you!
Minna. I know it – we both know it.  Don’t let us have tears in our eyes on this happy day.  Put on your bonnet and cloak, and come 18 out into the garden: the fine frosty air 19 will do you so much good.
Karl. Yes, pray come out.  A little brisk 20 exercise, with my arm to lean on –
Widow B. (Composing herself.) No, my dears; not now.  I am expected a letter by the post – a letter which I am anxious to receive.  (Seats herself at the table with her back to the door in Flat.  Karl and Minna talk aside.) Ten days since I wrote to them! And no answer yet – oh me! No answer yet!

(Enter Hans Grimm, with a letter in his hand. He is dressed in black, and has a bunch of keys hanging at his waist.  His hair is long and grey; his complexion of a dull yellowish white; his step quiet and stealthy; his expression stolidly vacant.  He advances noiselessly to the back of Widow Bergmann’s chair.)

Hans. (Holding out the letter.) For you.
Widow B. (Starting violently, and snatching the letter from him.) You hideous, crazy wretch! Have I not told you, over and over again, to keep your ghastly face out of my room? Who sent you here with this letter?
Hans. Master.
Widow B. (Turning his back on him.) Shall I read it here? No. Better be alone, in case it agitates me. (Rises.) I am going to my own room, Minna.  Don’t wait for me, love, if you wish to walk in the garden.

                        (Exit by side door.)

Karl. (Pointing to Hans.) Minna, can you make this mysterious little mortal speak? Is he always in that dead-alive condition?
Minna. Always, except when you talk to him of his master, Mr. Rodenberg – and then, he wakes into life and intelligence in an instant.  The poor creature’s hair was turned prematurely grey, and his reason was a little shaken, some years since, by a dreadful accident.  He is quite harmless, and wonderfully careful in performing the small round of duties entrusted to him in this house.
Karl. But who is he?
Minna. Suppose you ask him yourself? – Hans!

                 (Hans comes forward.)

Karl. (Laughing.) Who are you, Hans?
Hans. I don’t know.
Karl. But you must have had a father and a mother?
Hans. Not that I know of.
Karl. Where were you born?
Hans. In the gutter.
Karl. Where were you brought up?
Hans. In the madhouse.
Minna. Who took you out of the madhouse, Hans?
Hans. (Suddenly brightening up.) My master! 21 – (To Karl.) Where do you think he found me? 22In a stone cell, with a chain to my leg and a litter of straw to lie on.  Look at my hands. How do you think I used to keep them from tearing my own flesh, when I was mad? I plaited my straw – all day long, I plaited my straw.  Mats and baskets and toys and hats, I made them all out of my straw.  Oh how 23 the biting cold eat into me all the winter day! How the frightful darkness wrapped itself around me all the winter night! – Do you know, sir, what is the greatest blessing in the world? Daylight! – daylight!! – daylight!!
Minna. (Aside to Karl.) You see he can talk fast enough now. 24 (To Hans.) I have been telling this gentleman how Mr. Rodenberg’s charitable heart took him, one day, to the public madhouse, to see what he could do for the poor people who were shut up there.  That was the first time you and your master 25 met, was it not?
Hans. I woke up and saw the heavenly morning light streaming through my open door, and my master 26 standing watching me in the midst of it.  “Is this the man?” he said to the doctor behind him.  And the doctor answered, “That is the man - treacherous and cunning.”27 My master smiled, and came close to me, and took from my side a little child’s hat – the last thing that I had plaited out of my straw.  “You made this?” he said.  His was the first voice that had ever spoken kindly to me in all my life.  My poor head burnt, and I put up my cold hands to cool it.  “I’ll find you some better way of cooling it than that,” he said; and patted my shoulder gently, and went back to the doctor with my little hat 28 in his hand.  (Taking out his handkerchief and drying his eyes.) I never cry now – I’m so happy. But I burst out crying then.  Why do you both look at me in that way?  (Crying, and stamping his foot passionately.)  I’m not crying – I tell you I never 29 cry now!
Minna. (To Karl.) Humour him.  No, no, Hans – no crying now!
Hans. (To Karl, changing suddenly to looks and tones of triumph.) Would you believe that I can remember every little word my master said, every little thing my master did, on the day when I first saw him?  I can!  He held out my hat before the doctor. “Look,” he said, “there is not a false turn anywhere in all this intricate plaiting.  That poor creature is sane enough to fix his attention to this subtle work. Do you give him up as incurable, when he can do that?” – See how I can remember! Not a word wrong; and more to come directly.  “The condition of this place is a disgrace to humanity,” says my master.  "If these poor wretches are to be cured at all, they are to be cured by kindness.” 30 (Changing to a tone of contempt.) The doctor said something – I don’t remember what.  I have a fine memory of my own, but I’m not going to trouble it to remember what the doctor said! (Snapping his fingers.) Ha! ha! the doctor! Laugh at the doctor, miss - a 31 poor half-witted creature – and short, too – not above six inches taller than me!
Minna. (Laughing.) Oh, Hans, what an absurd doctor!
Hans. (Seriously.) Hush! I’ve not done with what my master said yet.  “Proofs” – that was his next word – “You want proofs, before you try the experiment of kindness against the experiment of chains? I will give you those proofs.  You have told me this man has not a relation or a friend in the world to lay claim to him. He has a friend. I lay claim to him.” (To Karl.) – I know what you would have done in my place, when you heard that! You would have jumped to your feet, and screamed till the place rang again! – I fastened both my hands on my chair, and set my teeth together, and kept quiet. – My master comes to me again. “I have been asking questions, my poor fellow, about you,” he says. “Is it true that you have been all your life an outcast?” I held on by the chair, and said, Yes. “Is it true that you were once employed by a chemist of this town to sweep out the shop and put up the shutters?” I held on by the chair, and said, Yes. “Is it true that you once put some powder on your tongue, to taste it, when your master was out of the way?” I took a double turn of the chair, and said, Yes.  “Is it true that the powder was poison, and that the doctors dropped you out of the jaws of death, with your hair turned grey, and all your colour gone, and your poor wits a little crazed?” I took a treble turn of the chair, and said, Yes. “Drop that chair,” he whispered gently, “and take hold of my hand instead.” (To Karl.) Would you have dropped the chair, and been as quiet as a lamb the moment he touched you?  I was. Would you have gone home with him 32 afterwards, through all the noise and daylight of the town, and never once have burst out raving with the glory of it?  Would you have mastered reading, and mastered writing, and waited peaceably 33 in this house till the blessed time came when he could first put trust in you?  Look here! (Snatches the keys from his girdle, and shakes them in the air.) – I’ve been keeper of the keys for two years, and have never once mislaid them.  Aha, young gentleman! You would hardly have thought that!
Karl. A great trust, Hans, the keeper of the keys! A great trust in your master’s house!
Minna. (To Karl.) You have no idea how fond he is of his master.
Hans. Fond of him! Don’t you know what he said to me on the first day when I came here?  I tried to fall on my knees at his feet, and he stopped me. “Friend,” he said, “lift up your heart, and stand equal with me.  The debt of kindness is the one debt in this world, which the poorest man alive may be rich enough in gratitude to repay.” – Fond of him! Only fond of him, after such words as those! Other servants obey their masters like servants: I obey mine like one of his own limbs. – Hush! I can’t say another word – I must go directly – my master wants me at this very moment.
Karl. I did not hear him call.
Hans. He will call.
Minna. How can you possibly know that?
Hans. How do my master’s hands know when he wants them to move?  How do my master’s feet know when he wants them to walk?  (Karl smiles.) Ho! he laughs – the gentleman laughs! Will you listen, sir? If my master doesn’t call me in less than a minute, you laugh at me. If he does, I laugh at you. Hush! – (A pause. Rodenberg’s voice is heard outside, calling “Hans!” Hans chuckles slyly at Karl, and shakes the keys.) Ha! ha! ha! The keeper of the keys is not quite so crazy as he looks!

                           (Exit, by the door in the Flat.)

Karl. The keeper of the keys is the hardest riddle to guess that ever I met with.
Minna. (Putting on her hat.) Surely not! Touch the poor creature’s heart, and you clear his head – awaken his gratitude, and you rouse his intelligence along with it.  There is the clue to the riddle in three words. (Taking Karl’s arm.) One turn in the garden; and then back again here to persuade my mother to join us.

                             (Exeunt by the door in Flat.)

           (Enter Widow Bergmann by the side door, with the letter open in her hand.)

Widow B. Refused! Refused, in the plainest, the coldest, the most pitiless terms! And these are the rich relations to whose mercy my husband left me on his death bed. – Where am I to turn for help? Who am I to write to next?

   (Enter Rodenberg, hurriedly, by the door in Flat.  He holds two books clasped to his bosom.  His face and manner express violent agitation.)

Roden. Mrs. Bergmann!
Widow B. Good heavens, Mr. Rodenberg! What has happened?
Roden. The worst of scandals, the vilest of treacheries.  There are thieves in my house.  I have been robbed!
Widow B. Robbed!
Roden. (Opening the books on the table.) Look here! Judge for yourself.  You see this book – the Cash Ledger.  Look at that page, headed with the words, “Reserved Fund”.  You know what that means?
Widow B. I am afraid, sir, I am too ignorant of business –
Roden. I’ll explain it to you.  “Reserved Fund” means the surplus money belonging to me and my partner, which is set aside to meet any unexpected calls on us.  One of those calls came this morning.  Without it, I might have discovered nothing for months to come. - Nearer! 34 Nearer! Look here, at the entry for the last six months – notice the figures – Fifteen thousand dollars.  (Widow Bergmann trembles.) Don’t tremble! Don’t be nervous!
Widow B. How can I help it, sir, when I see you so violently agitated?
Roden. (Pointing to the book.) Cash Ledger – Reserved Fund – Fifteen thousand dollars.  Bear that in mind; and now look at this other book.  This is my private account-book.  (Widow Bergmann starts back.) I tell you again, don’t be nervous! – This is my private account-book that closes with a lock – my private account-book which I secretly keep 35 as a check on the ledger.  Here is the duplicate entry to correspond with the cash-book: - “Reserved Fund, Twenty thousand dollars.”  A difference of five thousand dollars between the two books!
Widow B. Are you sure there has been no mistake, sir?
Roden. Absolutely sure. The entry in my 36 account-book, and the entry in the Cash Ledger, were both made six months since, by the same hand, at the same time. The money has never been wanted before today. It 37 has been kept locked up in an iron safe, built into the wall.  The key is always in my pocket. I have just come from the safe – the lock has not been tampered with.  I have just reckoned up the money – it is fifteen thousand dollars. Right by the ledger – wrong, five thousand dollars, by my account-book.
Widow B. Is the account-book 38 always to be depended on, Sir?
Roden. Always.  But there is another proof of the robbery besides that.  Look back again at the cash ledger. Look closely at the figures – 15,000. The paper under the three noughts is dull and rough, as it is on the rest of the page. The paper under those two first figures – fifteen – has a slight shine on it. The entry has been altered from twenty to fifteen; altered to correspond with the sum left in the safe, after the robbery. But for my 39 account-book, that lie in the ledger would have passed itself off on me as the truth.
Widow B. Do you suspect anybody, Sir?
Roden. Who can I suspect? All my clerks has served me faithfully for years.
Widow B. 41 Who keeps the keys of the room where the safe is?
Roden. (aside.) Merciful Heaven! I never thought of that!
Widow B. Who keeps the keys of the room where the safe is?
Roden. (sadly and unwillingly.) Hans Grimm!
Widow B. Who wakes you in the morning? Who assists you in your room, the last thing at night?
Roden. (in the same tone.) Hans Grimm!
Widow B. (taking a chair.) It is not my place, Mr. Rodenberg, to point out the plain conclusion, to which my questions and your answers lead.
Roden. (rousing himself.) I can draw the conclusion for myself; and I will show you that I can act upon it. (aside.) Oh, Hans, Hans, I would give twice five thousand dollars not to trace this robbery to you! (to Widow B.) I will tell him, in your presence, what suspicions fall upon him: you shall be witness of my impartiality.  Hans! Hans!
                                (Enter Hans)
Hans Grimm, I have been robbed; and suspicion falls 42 on you!
Hans. On me! (Looks about him in bewilderment.) He suspects me! My master, who delivered me from my chains and my straw, believes that I have robbed him! (A pause.) Stop! Stop! My head’s dull. It’s a joke. Why don’t I laugh at it? – He doesn’t laugh at it. Is he waiting for me? – Oh, master, I can’t laugh! – there is something crying at my heart – I can’t laugh! (looks earnestly at Rodenberg; then starts and changes.) Who accuses me? Not you? (Affectionately.) Oh, no, not you! (Advances till he stands in line with Widow Bergmann’s chair, and eyes him attentively.) Ha! You!!
Widow B. (striking a bell on the table.) Help! Help!
Roden. No fear – I can control him. (Points away to a distant part of the room.) Hans! (Hans draws back in the direction indicated, and crouches down against the wall.)
                              (Enter Joseph)
Roden. (to Joseph.) Now you are here, stay, and keep near that man. I want you to take charge of him.
Hans. (starting up.) Take charge of me! Am I back in my cell, and is this one of the dreams I used to have there? (Shuddering violently.) The old feeling 43 comes over me: the crawling cold is busy again with the roots of my hair. (Loudly.) I’m innocent! Don’t drive me mad again by saying I’m guilty! For shame! For shame!! For shame!! (Suddenly checking himself.) Oh, hush! hush! I used to scream like that in the mad house!
Roden. Poor wretch! Poor wretch!
Widow B. For Heaven’s sake, Sir, don’t question him here! Send him away immediately. 44
Hans. (Overhearing her, and catching at Joseph’s arm.) Hold me, Joseph! The devil that tortured me in my straw has got here at last, and found me out. Mark that woman! Mark 45 her serpent’s eyes – listen to her serpent’s tongue! – Hold me, Joseph, or I shall fly at her like a cat! (Opening and shutting his fingers in the air.) Look at my ten claws! Look how they long to be inches deep in her throat!
Widow B. Why do you keep him here, Sir? The wretch horrifies me!
Roden. He shall go. It is useless to prolong this. (To Joseph.) Take him into the next room, and wait there till I come to you.
Hans. (melting into tears.) Yes! Take me away. Do as he tells you, Joseph. Don’t lose the best master that ever lived as I have lost him. Give me one last merciful look, Sir, to take away with me! – (To Joseph.) Does he turn aside his head? I can’t see. Oh, man, man, do you know how the heart-ache scalds when it gets into the eyes? – Will Joseph help you now, Sir, when you go to bed, and when you get up, instead of me? May I tell him what to do? – No answer! Not a word of farewell! Look into your own kind heart, 46 master, and ask it if I have been ungrateful – ask it if poor crazy Hans is vile enough to rob you! – Give me your hand, Joseph; I’m a poor forlorn wretch as helpless as any child – give me your hand, friend, and lead me away.
                                           (Joseph leads him out.)
Roden. (Sinking back into a chair.) Oh, Hans, Hans, my heart is heavy for you!
Widow B. (Hurrying to him.) You are ill – you are faint, Sir! (Rodenberg lays his hand on her arm to support himself.) Let me loosen your cravat – let me get you something from my room. (Rodenberg still mechanically holds her arm.)
                              (Enter Minna, in her walking dress.)
Minna. Mama, you must come out; you must enjoy the fresh bracing air. – What is the matter?
Widow B. Mr. Rodenberg is ill. Run to my room, and bring the bottle of salts from my dressing case.
       (Minna hurries out by the door on the Right, and reappears immediately with a
          small bottle in her hand.)
Minna. Try this, Sir – pray try this.
Roden. (takes the bottle, removes the stopper, smells at it, and suddenly starts in his chair.) What is this?
Widow B. Has she made a mistake? (To Minna.) Have you 47 brought the wrong bottle? (Tries to take the bottle from Rodenberg. He prevents her.)
Minna. Perhaps I have, Mama. I was in such a hurry, I never stopped to look. (Turns to go back to the room.)
Roden. (Stopping her.) No, no. No need to go back. (Looks intently at the bottle.) Return to the garden, my dear. I wish to be alone with your mother for a little while. (Minna goes out.) There is a label on this bottle, madam – a label containing directions. I will read them to you.
Widow B. (Aside.) 48 The wrong bottle! The wrong bottle!
Roden. (Reading.) “Pass the composition three times over the writing to be removed. Then dry up the moisture with blotting paper. The ink-marks will disappear, and the paper will show nothing but a slight shine on the surface.” – There (pointing to the table.) is my ledger, with that slight shine on one of its pages! I ask no questions; I hold no further communication with you. The money that has been stolen is my partner’s as well as mine. Let Mr. Keller discover the guilty hands that have taken it. (Going.)
Widow B. Stop, Sir! (Falls on her knees.) I confess everything. Those guilty hands are mine. – In the name of pity, in the name of justice, hear me! For my daughter’s sake, hear me! – my daughter whose life and happiness are at your mercy!
Roden. (Starting.) At my mercy!
Widow B. Listen! Listen! I took the key of the safe from your pocket, when you lay ill and helpless some months since. I took the key of the room from your faithful servant’s pillow while he was asleep. – Yonder, in the garden, happy and loving and beautiful – yonder is the innocent cause of the crime that I have committed!
Roden. Your daughter!
Widow B. (Starting up.) My daughter, for whom I would die a thousand deaths! My daughter, for whom I would commit a thousand crimes! My daughter, who is blood of my blood, and soul of my soul! – Do you think I would have wronged you for my own advantage? Oh, I am wicked, but not so vile as that! It is for her that I have sinned. The happiness of her whole life was within my reach, if I stood on your money-bags to grasp at it. The strength of my wickedness and the strength of my love helped me together – and I stood on them!
Roden. Miserable woman!
Widow B. No! not miserable. Guilty, disgraced, ruined; but not miserable while my eyes can question Minna’s face, and see a smile on it for answer! Bear with me for a moment yet, and I will tell you all. When I first entered your service, you asked me if my poverty had led me into debt – I named a sum – and your generosity paid it.
Roden. I understand. You deceived me, then, as you have deceived me now.
Widow B. I might have asked too much, even of your charity, if I had confessed the truth. I knew the wages your bounty gave, would pay the debts I had kept secret, if time was allowed me. Time was promised – faithfully, solemnly promised. Four months since, when you lay ill, the wretches who had me in their power threatened me with a prison unless their demands were paid at two days’ notice. When that threat came, you were powerless to help me. When that threat came, my child’s face lay hid on my bosom, and my child’s voice was whispering to my heart the confession of her first love! – You know the object of that love; you know the future husband of her choice; you know what Mr. Keller would have said if Minna’s mother had been dragged to prison! Pause – pause in Heaven’s name, before you ruin my child for my fault! 49 I ask you to give me time to restore the money, and I implore you to be mercifully silent until the atonement is made. I have written twice to my husband’s father to help me. This very day I have received an answer – a cold, cruel answer. But I will write again – I will even confess the shameful truth, if nothing else will plead for me. (Rodenberg turns away.) You turn away? – Go out into the garden; look at my Minna; see her, the happiest creature that walks the earth, with the golden future of her married life just opening before her – see that; and then say the word to Mr. Keller which blasts all that happiness and darkens all that future, if you can!
Roden. If I can! 50 You have forfeited all claim on my mercy – but your daughter – your unfortunate daughter –
Widow B. Bless you for your kind looks, your kind tones, when you speak of Minna!
Roden. Your daughter’s position touches me to the heart. I cannot condemn her – I cannot condemn any innocent creature to wretchedness at the fair beginning of life.  My conscience – yes, the jew has a conscience! – my 51 conscience upbraids me for lending myself to a deception –
Widow B. You consent to save us!
Roden. I consent to save your daughter, on one condition, which you must fulfil. Restore the money you have stolen by the Fourth of June next.
Widow B. The Fourth of June?
Roden. On the evening of that day, the accounts of our house of business are balanced, and the profits are divided between my partner and myself. On that day, unless the money is restored, if I remain silent, I defraud Mr. Keller of half of five thousand dollars. Make your atonement therefore by the Fourth of June, and your secret is safe. We are now at the Third of December.  You have six months and one day before you.
Widow B. In Minna’s name – I dare not say, in my own – in her name, let me try to thank you! (Attempts to kiss his hand.)
Roden. (Withdrawing it.) No! I keep my hand for the faithful servant whom I have wronged. (Takes the ledger and account-book from the table, and walks to the door – then, stops, and turns round.) Remember! The Fourth of June.

WB. This day six months for the marriage – Mr. Keller has 52 agreed to that.  Six months from the Third of December brings us to the Third of June. – Saved by a day! Saved by a day!

The End of Act I

Act II

* Note: * During the Second and Third Acts, Widow Bergmann, Minna, Max Keller, and Karl are all dressed in mourning.

The Physician’s Secrets

(Scene. The stage represents two rooms of unequal size, divided by a wooden partition. The larger of the rooms is on the actors’ left. It contains an old-fashioned bed, with drawn curtains, placed parallel with the Flat, and having the head set towards the left. On the right, in the same room, a large open window in the Flat. The sky seen through it indicates the time of sunset, and darkens gradually through the Act. On the left side of the same room, a door, and, lower down, an easy chair with a table near it. On the table, bottles of medicine, a table spoon, a jug of lemonade, and am empty tumbler.
   At the end of the partition between the rooms which is nearest to the audience, a door of communication.
   The smaller room, on the Right of the Stage, is furnished as a sitting-room. The door of entrance is in the Flat. On the right hand side of this room, low down towards the front of the stage, stands a german stove of white porcelain. Its shape is square; its height six or seven feet. In one side of it, more than half way up, there is a small recess, used for warming plates & c. & c. Just below this recess is placed a chair; and, on the flat top of the stove, there stands a 53 box filled with earth, with a large shrub growing in it. On the left side of the room, against the partition, a chiffonier with cupboards that lock, and with books ranged on the upper shelf. 54 On the right, just beyond the stove, a small table with glasses and a decanter of wine placed upon it.

   At the rising of the curtain, Hans Grimm is discovered in the bedroom, dozing in the easy chair. The bed is occupied by Isaac Rodenberg. The door in the partition is closed. In the sitting-room, Widow Bergmann is discovered standing 55 at the table, looking into a plain deal box of the size of an ordinary medicine chest.)

Roden. (calling faintly.) Hans! – Hans!
Hans. (Rousing himself.) Master!
Roden. I’m parched with thirst – more lemonade.
   (Hans takes a glass of lemonade to the bed, and draws aside the curtains. As he pours out the lemonade he strikes the jug against the glass. Hearing the sound in the next room, Widow Bergmann hastily closes the box, locks it up in the chiffonier cupboard, and then stops, listening, at the door in the partition.)

Widow B. Is he awake?
Hans. (Returning to the table with the empty glass.) I left the curtains open at the foot of the bed – all the air from the window gets to him – and still the thirsty sickness worries him for drink!
Roden. Is the night coming on?
Hans. (Going back to the bed.) Night? Oh, no! It is only sunset now.
Roden. What day of the month?
Hans. I heard the clerk downstairs say it was the Third of June.
   (Widow Bergmann softly opens the door in the partition, and stands behind it listening.)

Roden. The Third of June! The doctor must make me stronger by tomorrow. I must have all my faculties about me on the Fourth of June.  Where is Mr. Keller?
Hans. Writing letters – letters by dozens, letters by scores! – down in the office.
Roden. Are all my poor pensioners remembered and looked after, as they used to be when I was well?
Hans. All, master.  Every day they crowd by hundreds before the house to know how you are.
Roden. Do I look very ill? Tell me the truth.
Hans. Don’t ask me, master!
Roden. Is my memory going? I sometimes fear it is.
Hans. Don’t fear anything of the sort. How can your memory be going, when it is as good or better than mine?
Roden. Is it? Let me try what it is worth. Let me see what I can remember. – Have I been two months ill? Is that right?
Hans. Yes, master. Two long, warm, sunshiny months.
Roden. And you have watched me, my faithful friend, all that time?
Hans. Except when Mrs. Bergmann thrusts herself in. I hate Mrs. Bergmann!
Roden. And the doctor who first attended me has been dismissed? And a new doctor has been sent for from Darmstadt? What is his name? When did he come? – Hans, my memory is going. I have forgotten when the new doctor came.
Hans. Not you! You remember – I know you remember.  Why, he only came yesterday!
Roden. And his name?
Hans. His name? I said your memory was as good as mine, master; and here is the proof of it – I have forgotten his name, too! Doctor? – Doctor? –
Widow B. (Showing herself.) Doctor Hetzel.
Hans. (Aside.) What does she want here? I hate her! – Say you hate her too, master; and send her away.
Roden. No, no. No quarrelling, no hard words – I can’t bear them. Go into the garden – I have had no flowers in my room today – go, Hans, and gather me some before the sun sets.
Hans. With all my heart, master – the sweetest and prettiest I can find. (Goes to the door on the left, stops, and looks back at Widow Bergmann.) If I had the making of the laws, I would hang a woman for being a housekeeper!

Widow B. I accidentally overheard some of your talk with Hans, Sir. You have already tested your recollection of recent circumstances.  Is your memory as good for more remote events? Do you remember a misfortune that happened six weeks ago?
Roden. The wife of my dear friend and partner, Max Keller, died six weeks ago.
Widow B. Do you know the effect which that 56 lady’s death has had on the marriage of my daughter?
Roden. The marriage has been put off.
Widow B. For three months. Minna was to have been married today. This affliction delays her union with Karl until the third of September. Six months since, you told me that the preservation of my guilty secret depended on my restoring the stolen money by the Fourth of June. I have appealed, as I said I would, to my husband’s father, in Vienna, to help me. On the day when Mrs. Keller died, I wrote to him a full confession of my crime. The letter remained unanswered. I wrote a second and a third time – and still no reply. The five thousand dollars are not replaced, Mr. Rodenberg; the condition has not been fulfilled; and tomorrow is the 57 Fourth of June. Tomorrow, unless you relent, Mr. Keller’s son and my daughter will be parted, never, on this side of eternity, to meet again.
Roden. Do you count my influence with my partner as nothing? Do you forget my compassion for your unhappy child? The first words I speak to Mr. Keller tomorrow when the 58 truth has been told, will be words that plead your daughter’s cause.
Widow B. Do you talk in the same breath, sir, of exposing me to Mr. Keller as a thief, and of asking him afterward to accept Minna as a daughter-in-law? Plainly – for my agony of mind leaves me no power of choosing my expressions – plainly and finally, tell me, do you still hold to your resolution, or do you offer me the mercy of a reprieve?
Roden. Mrs. Bergmann, for aught I know to the contrary, I may not rise from this bed again. If I conceal the truth tomorrow, when the time has come for telling it, I am passively guilty of a lie. The day of repentance for that lie may never dawn in this world for me. Stand back from my bed! I will die as I have lived, faithful in the interests of my partner, and faithful to the cause of truth.
Widow B. Reflect, sir! I implore you reflect! All I ask is time to travel to Vienna, and to appeal personally 59 to my husband’s father. I entreat you to grant me this last chance for my daughter’s sake! Don’t say you have decided against me yet! No! no! no! I will not believe that you have decided yet!
Roden. You have had my answer. I will die as I have lived!
           (Enter Hans with a nosegay, showing in Doctor Hetzel. Widow Bergmann
             walks away from them to the table in front.)

Hans. The prettiest flowers in the garden, master; and the 60 great doctor from Darmstadt come to cure you.
          (Doctor Hetzel seats himself by the bedside. Hans strews some flowers over the
             coverlid 61 of the bed.)

Widow B. He will die as he has lived? I can tell the doctor a secret – he will die soon! (Pauses absorbed in thought. Hans leaves the bed, advances along the side of the partition, and, opening the door of communication, peeps into the sitting-room. Widow Bergmann continues:) And yet, he was my father’s friend; he has been generous towards me; he has spoken tenderly of Minna – shall I give him 62 one other chance?  (Looks towards the bed, sees Hans, and steals on him unperceived.) How dare you look into my room! (Seizes his arm.)
Hans. Let go! Your cold 63 hand chills me through my sleeve. The touch of your fingers is like the touch of death!
Widow B. Listen to me, Idiot! If you peep through that door, if you set foot in that room again, you will repent it to the last day of your life!
Doctor. (Speaking from the bedside.) May I beg you to come here for a moment, Madam?
Widow B. Remember! (Joins Doctor Hetzel.)
Hans. You threaten me, do you? You fancy you can frighten a grown man like me, because my wits are a little crazed? – There is not another servant in the house she dare talk to in that way! – What does she do, all alone in that room? I’ll slip in, in spite of her, and see for myself. It’s getting dark – I’ll catch her there alone – I’ll steal on her in the dusk – I’ll frighten her out of her wits! – Oho! Hans! Make her scream, my lad – make her scream! – (Chuckles to himself; rubs his hands joyfully, and steals off, by the door on the left.)
Doctor. (To Rodenberg.) Try to sleep a little, sir – let me hear, when I come back, that you have had an hour’s comfortable rest. (Draws the curtains – then advances 64 to the front of the stage with Widow B.)
Widow B. Will you favour me, Doctor Hetzel, with a minute’s private conversation in my own room?
Doctor. Certainly, Madam.
     (Widow B. leads the way into the sitting-room, and closes the door of

Widow B. Is Mr. Rodenberg in any danger, sir?
Doctor. If he was a younger man, I should answer, No. But, at his age, the results of a long illness are always doubtful.
Widow B. Tell me the worst plainly, sir. Would you be surprised if he were to die?
Doctor. I give the answer most unwillingly – but, as you seem to insist on it – No, I should not be surprised. At the same time –
Widow B. Yes?
Doctor. I have hopes of saving him, for he has the remains of an excellent constitution to help me. Much depends on the way in which he is nursed.
Widow B. I may say for myself, sir, that I ought to know how a good doctor may be helped by a good nurse. My late husband – Doctor Bergmann – was a member of your profession.
Doctor. Doctor Bergmann! I am proud to become acquainted with the widow of so eminent a man. His extraordinary researches in chemistry have made him deservedly famous in his profession. It is still a favourite tradition in our medical school, that Doctor Bergmann discovered the composition of the deadliest poisons of antiquity – the poisons of the Roman Emperors, and the poisons of the Roman Popes.
Widow B. Some of his investigations might have led him that way, sir. But I need hardly tell you that the secrets of his laboratory were sealed secrets to me. Shall we see you again, tonight?
Doctor. I will not fail to return. In the meantime, I am rejoiced to know that I leave our patient in such excellent hands.
    (Exit, by the door in Flat. The sky outside the window of the bedroom begins to get

Widow B. Safe! Safe, so far! (Pours out a glass of wine and drinks 65 it eagerly.) Down! Down! All remembrance of past kindness 66 – all fear of future detection. Down! Down! (A knock at the door in Flat.) Who’s that? Come in!
                   (Enter Minna and Karl.)

Widow B. (Aside.) She comes in time. The sight of her was all I wanted to nerve me!
Minna. Do we disturb you, Mama?
Karl. We only came to ask how Mr. Rodenberg is, this evening?
Widow B. Ill, my dears. Too ill, I am afraid, to see you. Wait, however, while I ask him the question. (Opens the partition-door, and leaves it ajar after she has entered the bedroom.) I am astonished at my own weakness! Twice, this pitiless old man has refused me. And yet, something urges me, in spite of myself, to try him for the third time. (Goes to the bed, and parts the curtains.) Minna and Karl have come to ask after you, sir. Would you like to see them?
Roden. After what has passed between us, Mrs. Bergmann seeing them would needlessly distress me.
Minna. (Putting her arm round Karl’s neck.) Oh, Karl, don’t look so sorrowful! Try to think, dear, that your poor mother is happy in Heaven!
Widow B. (Still parting the bed curtains.) Listen to them, sir, if you will not see them. The first chance words my daughter speaks, may be the 68 words best fitted to plead her mother’s 69 cause!
Minna. (Continuing.) When we are married, love, I will try to be something 70 more to you, even than your wife!
Widow B. Gentle words, sir, gently spoken – and yet how clearly they find their way to your bedside!
Minna. I will try, dear, to supply the place in your heart that your lost mother filled. Since her death, our love is a sacred thing; and I may speak it as I should never have spoken, if this affliction had not happened. (Kisses his forehead.) I may kiss you, Karl, as your mother used to kiss you! 71
Karl. My own Minna! It is something to live for still, if I live to be worthy of you!
Widow B. (To Rodenberg.) You hear? Can you speak the fatal truth tomorrow, and ruin that future without a pang?
Roden. I must speak the fatal truth.
Widow B. (Turning from him.) Die, then! (Draws the bed curtains.) It is useless to wait, Minna. Mr. Rodenberg is not well enough to see either of you.
Karl. Good night, Mrs. Bergmann.
Minna. Good night, Mama.

Widow B. Good night. (Closes the partition door, and looks round the bedroom.) Hans is out of the way – the time has come – the chance is mine! (Takes up the jug of lemonade, pauses, and looks back suspiciously at the bed.)
       (The door of the sitting-room opens softly, and Hans steals in on tip toe.)

Hans. Miss Minna and Master Karl are gone – nobody here – I’ve got the forbidden room all to myself. Now, Mrs. Bergmann, we’ll see which of us two can frighten the other! I can answer for myself as long as she doesn’t pounce upon me with those dead-cold hands of hers. (Looks about him.) Where shall I hide?
Widow B. (Looking back at the table.) He sees nothing – he suspects nothing.  Let me make sure of his drink to begin with – and then – (Pauses to consider.)
Hans. (Observing the stove, and the shrub placed on it.) I know! Up there! It’s summertime, and the top of the stove is just the place for me. Ho! ho! ho! this is one of my clever days. It’s months, sometimes, before a sharp thought like this gets into my head. Now then, Chair! I’m light enough: I shan’t hurt you. (Mounts from the chair to the recess in the stove, and from that to the top.)
Widow B. (Pouring the lemonade into the tumbler.) He will take nothing unless Hans gives it to him. A difficulty – a serious difficulty there.
Hans. (Crouching on the top of the stove, behind the shrub.) It’s lucky I’m so little. A big man would be put to it for room up here. It’s beginning to get dark already – How she’ll 72
scream when  she takes me for a ghost!
Widow B. He will take nothing, except from Hans. Well! Let Hans give it to him. I see the way. – Stop! (Feeling in her pocket.) My husband’s list of the Poisons – the poisons that are remembered as a tradition by Doctor Hetzel’s students; that are present as a reality in the next room. Did I leave the list in the medicine chest, or did I take it out? (Produces a small MSS book, opens, and reads it to herself.) – “In case of my death, I desire that the contents of my deal medicine chest may be destroyed. They would do dreadful mischief in careless or wicked hands. – Francis Bergmann.” 73 (Closes the book, and takes up the glass of lemonade.) Courage! Courage! (Passes into the sitting-room, 74 places the lemonade and the book on the table. Takes the deal medicine chest from the cupboard, and places that also on the table.) (Hans raises himself gently, and watches her from the top of the stove.) 75
Widow B. (opening first the chest, and then the MSS book.) The speediest death is the safest – my time is short!
(Hans expresses by his gestures that he is trying in vain to overhear her.)
Widow B. Let me see the list. “Blue Vial” – (Takes this and the other bottles that are mentioned, out of the chest, as she names them from the list.). What does the book say of the Blue Vial? (Reads.) “Fatal in twelve hours”. Too long! too long!  - “Yellow Vial” – “Fatal in two days.” Worse! worse! – “Green Vial” – “Fatal in four hours.” Shall it be that? One more before I decide. “Red Vial” – “Fatal in a quarter of an hour.” Less time for me to betray myself; less time for him to suffer in! (Looking again at the book.) “Dose, seven drops in any liquid.” Stay! His experiments were on animals – my experiment is on a man. I’ll give ten!
Hans. (whispering to himself.) I can’t hear her.
Widow B. (Dropping the poison into the lemonade.) One, two, three, four – Hush! – five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten! (Puts the vial back in the chest, and the 76 book in her pocket. Then takes up the lemonade.) Death! – death that is great enough to fill the wide world, and yet, small enough to be hid in this circlet of glass! (Takes the lemonade into the bedroom.)
Hans. Shall I 77 venture down? I can’t! I daren’t!
Widow B. (Placing the lemonade on the table.) When the master next calls for drink the servant will take the glass that lies ready to his hand.
Hans. I know the glass! There’s a flaw half way down in it. Hide it where she may, I shall know it again.
Widow B. Now to find Hans! – No! better lock my own room first for safety’s sake. (Goes back to the sitting-room, and turns the key in the partition door.) So far, safe! Now for the door that leads to the staircase! (Exit by the door in Flat, locking it after her on the outside.)
Hans. Gone! (Descends from the stove, and comes down hurriedly to the front of the stage.) What has she done? What has she dropped into my master’s drink? 78 - My forehead’s all damp – my eyes are dim – my hands are icy cold. (Passes his handkerchief over his forehead.) – What am I doing? Thinking of myself when my master might be in danger? (Throws the handkerchief passionately on the ground, pounces on the medicine chest, and draws out the Red Vial.) Here it is! – No writing on it; nothing to tell me what it is. – Red? What do I remember of Red? (Puts the Vial back – a pause.) Poison!!! The stuff that poisoned me, when I was in the doctor’s shop, was kept in a red bottle. Stop! stop! stop! Nothing quenches my master’s thirst. When I was poisoned, nothing quenched mine. – Oh, my head! my head! the thoughts are crowding into it faster than it can bear! (Falls on his knees, and beats both his hands desperately on his head.) More sense! More sense!! Oh, Father of Mercies, five minutes’ sense to save my master; and the mad house afterwards for the rest of my life! (Starting to his feet.) 79 Hark! She’s coming back! 80 - the murderess who has laid him on that sick bed – the murderess who has poisoned him slowly day by day! – Are my hands big enough to squeeze the life out of her at her throat? No, no, no, if she has poisoned him already, killing her won’t save him. – Oh I’m too crazy to be believed, or I would tell 81 Mr. Keller! – The other bottles! I saw her take out more bottles! (Goes to the chest, takes out several bottles together, then looks in.) What’s this, hid away in the bottom of the chest? (Takes out a little parcel wrapped up in paper, tears off the paper, and discloses a plain glass bottle, with a 82 colourless liquid in it.) More poison? (Looks at the paper.) Writing! Oh happy, happy day when I learnt to read! (Reading.) “Antidote.” What’s that? Curse on their hard words that a poor man can’t understand! Here’s more under it. “Good Against Poison.” Ah! I understand that. – “Good Against Poison.” Is it sent from Heaven to help me? I tried to pray just now – I cried from my heart for sense enough to save my master. Is this the answer? – How shall I know? (A pause.) Shall I drop the bottle on the floor, and let that decide? If the mercy of Heaven guided my hand to it, the mercy of Heaven can keep it whole. How high shall I hold it? As 83 high as my heart? If it breaks it’s a sign not to use it – if it keeps whole, it’s the answer to my prayer; it’s health, 84 safety, life to my master! – (Drops the bottle.) – I hardly dare look at it! – (Kneels down, and takes it up.) Whole!!! - 85 (Rushes to the partition-door, with a scream of exultation, and with the bottle and paper in his hand, unlocks the door, and bangs it to after him, when he gets into the bedroom.)
Roden. Hans? Is that you?
Hans. Yes, master. (Goes to the table, and examines the glass on it.) Here it is – here’s the flaw half-way down. Has he drank any of it? – Master, have you been thirsty, have you wanted your drink, 86 since I have been away?
Roden. No – but I want some now.
Hans. In a minute! – I’ll empty it at once; I won’t give myself time to doubt. (Empties the glass out of the window; then comes back, and examines the written paper again.) “Good Against Poison – "

                   (Enter Widow Bergmann, by the sitting-room door.)

Widow B. No Hans in the house; no Hans in the garden – what does it mean?
Hans. – More hard words, after “Good Against Poison.” What’s this, 87 lower down? – “Dose” – that’s what I want – “Dose, one 88 table-spoonful in any liquid.” (Measures the Antidote into the tumbler, fills up with lemonade, looks again at the bottle.) Empty! The last dose left. This is the mercy of Heaven; I can’t doubt it now! (Hides away the bottle and the paper in his bosom.)
Widow B. Can he have got back into the bedroom, by the other staircase? (Tries the key of the partition door.) How did this door come unlocked? (Enters the bedroom. Hans starts.) So! You are here, after all? What’s the matter?
Hans. (Taking up the glass.) You startled me.
Widow B. What are you going to do with that? Has your master called for drink? 89
Roden. Hans! Didn’t you hear me? I’m thirsty again.
Widow B. Take it!
Hans. (Aside; moving away slowly.) 90 If it should do him harm, after all!
Widow B. Take it!
Hans. No escape! (Goes to the bed.) 91
WB. (After following Hans, and seeing him give the lemonade to Rodenberg.) Drained – drained to the deeps! When my child wakes me tomorrow, will she see what I have done for her in my 92 guilty face? (Returns to the sitting-room.)
Hans. (Dropping the bed-curtain.) Saved! If there is mercy above us, saved by me! Oh! have his own good words come true at last? Has my poor gratitude given back all that his rich charity bestowed on me? – Your hand, master, dear, before you go to sleep again!

           (Rodenberg puts his hand out between the curtains. Hans falls on his knees and
             kisses it. The hand pats him on the head gently before it is withdrawn.)

Widow B. (Observing Hans’ handkerchief on the floor of the sitting-room.) What’s this? (Looks at mark.) “Hans Grimm”. He has been in this room! – (calling.) Hans! – (Hans enters the sitting-room.) Shut the door. (He obeys. She suddenly shows him the handkerchief.) Yours! I found it on the floor – you have been in this room!
Hans. (Drawing back from her.) I must own something or she’ll be too clever for me.
Widow B. You have been in this room.
Hans. I can’t deny it. I have.
Widow B. What for?
Hans. For no reason that I know of. 93
Widow B. Where were you? (Hans points to the top of the stove.) When? While I was  here? 94
Hans. Yes.
Widow B. Wretch! Did you see – ?
Hans. I saw you take a pretty red vial 95 from a deal box.
Widow B. (Aside.) My blood curdles! My heart stands still!
Hans. (Aside.) I’ll go near enough to the truth to try her. (To Widow B.) I saw you drop something out of this red vial 96 into my master’s lemonade. 97
Widow B. You saw that! – (Pressing her hand on her heart.) Quiet! quiet! – What did you think when you saw that?
Hans. (Drawing back again.) I dare’nt [sic] tell her! (Turns away, and affects to be looking at the books 98 on the chiffonier.)
Widow B. (Aside.) Lost, if he lives! How to silence him forever – ? (To Hans, speaking gently.) Come here, Hans, and answer my question. What did you think, when you saw me drop something into your master’s drink? 99
Hans. (Remaining near the chiffonier.) 100 I thought –
Widow B. Yes?
Hans. 101 I – I thought I should like to have that pretty red vial bottle. 102
Widow B. You shall have it! (Aside.) I thank the crazy wretch for those words! 103 (To Hans, kindly.) Come 104 here – don’t be afraid.
Hans. (Advancing a step.) You change about so, I don’t know what to make of you.
Widow B. Nearer, Hans. We are not 105 quite such good friends as we ought to be. 106 I was very unjust and unfair to you, some time ago, when your master lost a few dollars, and thought they were stolen. 107 You shall have the red vial, Hans, as a proof that I am sincere in wishing to be better 108 friends with you. (Takes the bottle from the chest.) And I will tell you what is inside it, because that is only fair. You know that this is a medicine-chest, of course?
Hans. (Aside.) I never thought of that!
Widow B. Yes, yes – you know my husband was a doctor, and you were once in a doctor’s shop yourself – Come and look at it - 109 you needn’t be afraid – you won’t be poisoned, this time – there are no powders here.
Hans. (Eagerly advancing again, close to Widow B.) Are all poisons in powder?
Widow B. To be sure! Was it not a powder that poisoned you?
Hans. It was! (Aside.) How came I to forget that?
Widow B. And see, not one of these vials 110 has got a powder in it.
Hans. What has the red vial 111 got in it?
Widow B. Medicine.
Hans . Medicine?
Widow B. Yes, medicine that will cure your master – medicine that will do you good when you are ill. You have sat up, in that sick-room, many, many nights together, Hans; and I think I have heard you complain sometimes of feeling weak in your body, and gloomy in your mind? 112
Hans. Yes.
Widow B. Well, when you next want strength and want spirits, take ten drops out of this Red Vial, and you will be restored to yourself again. (Gives the vial to Hans – then locks up the chest and puts it away in the cupboard. Hans remains alone at the front of the stage.)
Hans. Have I done wrong? The poison that nearly killed me was powder – her husband was a doctor – that box is a medicine chest. Have I harmed my master, when I meant to save him? – Stop! you came in here, and poured out this physic in secret. Why?
Widow B. Because the new doctor would be angry if he knew that I was interfering with him. If my husband had been alive, he would have cured your master before this. I am sure of that, and therefore I privately give Mr. Rodenberg my husband’s medicine.
Hans. (Vacantly.) Yes, yes. (Goes towards the partition door – then suddenly stops.) Wait! I’ve got another question to ask you. Did your husband ever make poisons?
Widow B. He? He had a horror of them. He was much more likely to make Antidotes to Poisons.
Hans. (Opening the door.) Antidote! That’s the hard word on the paper!
Widow B. Don’t forget. Ten drops from the Red Vial, in any drink you like, whenever you want strength and spirits. Go in now, and see how your master is. (Hans enters the bedroom – closes the door after him, and goes slowly to the bed.) Sink sun – pass night – come morning! Oh, my child! tomorrow I can look freely at last to your wedding-day!
Hans. (Returning from the bed.) Asleep. Surely it’s a good sign when he’s asleep? – what’s this? More writing on the other side. (Reads.) “Memorandum. I have tried giving this Antidote in cases where no poison had been taken beforehand. Results very strange and startling, being nothing less than –" More words that I can’t understand! Oh, these gentlemen! these gentlemen! 113 plain language is not fine enough for them to write in! (Crumpling the paper up in his bosom.) I won’t look at it any more: it only frightens me. How can I have done him harm when I would die to do him good? (The view of the sky from the window entirely fades out.) Night come already! Oh, I wish it was morning instead! – My hands tremble; my mind is black with doubts and fears. Red Vial! Shall I want you tonight?
Widow B. (Opening the door a few inches.) Hans! How is your master?
Hans. Asleep. I think.
Widow B. (Closing the door again.) Asleep forever!

The End of Act II


The Bell

(Scene. The Dead House at Frankfort. The stage represents part of a long corridor, the ends of which are supposed to terminate, on the right and the left, out of sight of the audience. The scene in the Flat presents a plain pannelled [sic] wall. In the middle of the wall, a narrow black door, with the figures, 10, painted on it in large white characters. Above the door, and on the left hand side of it, a large bell, moved by a wooden crank. Attached to the crank, a rope; with the end passed through a hole in the wall. The rope is not drawn tight to the crank, but hangs down loosely below it in a loop. On the right of the door, a bracket fixed against the wall. The Flat scene 114 is continued off the stage, to right and left, as far as the audience can see. At the left end of it, a black door, marked, 9, with a bell painted above it, to correspond with number 10. At the right end, a door marked, Watchman’s Room. On the right side of the door of Number 10, a plain arm chair, placed against the wall. On the left side, a small round table, and a second arm chair. A 115 lamp burns on the table. The light on the stage is dim.
Enter, from the right, Widow Bergmann, and 116 Max Keller, preceded by Duntzer.)

Widow B. Is this the place?
Keller. This is the Dead House of Frankfort.
Widow B. (To Duntzer.) And you?
Duntzer. I am the second watchman of the Dead-House.
Keller. Is Schwartz still the first watchman?
Duntzer. Yes, sir. He has the Duty by day, and I have the Duty by night.
Widow B. Are you two alone in this dreadful place?
Duntzer. No, madam. Below stairs, there are two more men. One is a clerk who registers the names of the dead as they are brought in. The other is a servant who assists my comrade and myself in the Duties of the house.
Keller. The Surgeon’s apartments are above stairs, I think?
Duntzer. Yes, sir. The Surgeon asked me at what hour Mr. Rodenberg died. Was I wrong in answering, at half past eight, tonight?
Keller. Half past eight was the time. It is now getting on towards eleven. The Bearers who will bring to this place all that is mortal of my dear lost friend, will soon leave the house where he died. I have come here before them to see that his last resting-place on the way to the grave, is worthy to receive the remains of the best and truest man that ever lived. And this lady, who loved and honoured him, has come  with me to share the pious duty. Where will he be laid?
Duntzer. (Pointing to Number 10.) In that room. The other rooms from One to Nine are tenanted by the dead already.
Widow B. (To Keller.) Have no exceptions ever been made? Have the great and the wealthy who have died in Frankfort, always been brought here?
Keller. Always. This place was founded, when the dread of being buried alive was strong in men’s minds. It is the law that the bodies of all citizens of Frankfort shall be laid out here, each in a separate room; and that a rope, which communicates with a bell, shall be passed round the right hand of the dead. Thus, if, in any case, the trance of a few hours has been mistaken for the terrible reality of death, the first movement of the reviving body betrays itself by the sound of the bell – the watchmen are at hand – the surgeon is within call – and the faint struggle of returning life is certain to be aided at the instant when it begins.
Widow B. (To Duntzer.) Have you ever heard the sound of the bell?
Duntzer. I have been in this place for twelve years; and I have never heard it.
Widow B. (To Keller.) You are a native of Frankfort. Have you ever been told that the bell rang?
Keller. Never.
Widow B. (To Duntzer.) Will the procession of the Bearers pass through this corridor?
Duntzer. No: it will enter the room, Number Ten, by a second door. (To Keller.) Would you like to assure yourself now, sir, that all things are fitly prepared?

             (Keller makes a sign in the affirmative. Duntzer pushes open the door of
              Number 10. The room is dark. Keller takes the lamp from the table, and
              looks in, without entering the room.)

Widow B. Hans! – when will Hans be here? Twice this evening, I have seen the Red Vial at his lips; and twice the chance of the moment has removed it from them again. While he lives, my secret is in danger! While he lives, he may tell others what he saw in my room, as he told me! I have watched him till the doctor left the house. I must watch him again when he gets here among strangers – I must make sure of him when he comes to this place! (Duntzer lets the door fall to again, and returns with Keller to the front.) – Mr. Keller, do you think it right to indulge Hans Grimm in his mad resolution to sit up tonight with the Watchman of the Dead House?
Keller. Why should we thwart the poor creature? He finds comfort in his own hopeless persuasion that his master is not dead yet. His delusion is harmless. Why should we hesitate to trust him here?
Duntzer. He is here, now, sir.

             (Keller goes up to the table, and sits down by it.)

Widow B. Here now! Where is he? Who has he spoken to?
Duntzer. He is in the Watchman’s room with Schwartz. (Points off, right.) The poor crazy creature brought with him a bundle of his master’s clothes, insisting that Mr. Rodenberg would be sure to want them before the morning. Schwartz, who is surly and silent with all the rest of the world, has taken a strange fancy to him. And the two have been sitting together for some time past.
Widow B. (Walking away, right.) Fool! fool! to let him out of my sight for an instant. – In that room did you say? – Stay! has he seen anyone else beside Schwartz?
Duntzer. The house-surgeon spoke to him when he first came in.
Widow B. (Aside.) Worse and worse! He may have already aroused the surgeon’s suspicions. I must see the surgeon directly.
Duntzer. What did you say, madam?
Widow B. I asked if I could see the surgeon.
Duntzer. Certainly. He is upstairs at this moment.
Keller. (Rising.) Why should you want to see the surgeon?
Widow B. I have an interest – an absorbing, breathless interest – in the past history of this place. The surgeon is sure to know more of it than anyone else. I want to ask him if that bell – if any of the bells all down the corridor – have ever rung yet within the memory of man. I want to know if there could be any case, in our own time, when one of the bells might be likely to ring – to ring at the hush of night – to ring in the dead silence of this fearful place!
Keller. Has Hans infected you with his delusion? – your nerves are shaken by the calamity that has befallen us. Past anxiety and present grief are weighing too heavily on your mind. Go home, Mrs. Bergmann, and try to get some rest.
Widow B. I can’t rest. My mind and body are alike unfatigued. Humour me in my caprice, sir, as you are willing to humour Hans. – Where is the surgeon? How shall I find his room?
Duntzer. I will show you his room. (To Keller.) Do you remain here, sir?
Keller. No, I will return to the door, and watch for the procession of the Bearers, as it 117 enters the street.
                                                        (Exit. – Right.)
Duntzer. This way, madam.
                                     (Exit, with Widow B. – Left.)

         (Enter Schwartz from the Watchman’s Door, 118 with a bottle and two glasses.)

Schwartz. ( 119 Approaching the table.) Hans! Come out into the passage, Hans! It’s a fine cool air for drinking in, here. Come out, and bring the lamp with you. (Sets the bottle and glasses on the table.)

  (Enter Hans from the watchman’s room, slowly and dejectedly, carrying a burning
    lamp. The stage brightens a little.)

Schwartz. I’ll put it up for you, Crazy brains. (Places the lamp on the bracket. The light from it falls vividly across the door of number 10.) There! – Now what do you say to a drop of the third bottle? (Goes to the table.)
Hans. (Fiercely.) Curse the wine! (Turns away, and flings himself down sullenly by the armchair, on the right, with his head and arms resting on the seat.)
Schwartz. 120 Why, you Scarecrow, has’nt [sic] the wine made a man of you? Didn’t you come here whimpering? and what dried your eyes? – My wine. What made you surer than ever you were before that your master is’nt [sic] dead yet? My wine. What put colour in your yellow face, and light into your fishy eyes, and brains into your empty head – what made you forget all your troubles, and set you singing and dancing like the mad devil’s brat that you are? Ha! ha! ha! my wine.
Hans. (Starting up passionately on his knees.) I hate your wine! Your wine’s a betrayer – your wine’s a liar – your wine promises and does’nt [sic] perform. I want to forget who I am, and where I am, and everything that’s happened – and the wine helps me for half an hour, and then leaves me worse than I was before. I don’t want to think – I don’t want to feel – I don’t want to live, till my master’s kind voice speaks to me once more. Kill me, till my master comes to life again! Will your wine do that? – Away with your bottles, and drown me in a barrelful, if it will!
Schwartz. Ha! ha! ha! Medicinal little man, you do me good! Come and be watchman here, and shake my leathery sides for me, all day long. I know what you want: I’ll drown your troubles for you in better liquor than wine. Son Hans! you have a vile knack of getting drunk on a sudden and getting sober on a sudden. Correct that! When our mad watchman here was alive, he was just like you. Look up at the bracket where the lamp is. My fellow-servant hung himself to that, just twelve years ago. And why did he hang himself? Shocking! shocking! He got drunk on a sudden, and sober on a sudden – correct that, Hans, correct that!
Hans. (Speaking to himself.) Oh, master, master, I did it for the best!
Schwartz. That’s not the song! Have you forgot it already? Didn’t I tell you that my fellow servant who hung himself up there, made poetry when the fit was on him? Didn’t I teach you the mad watchman’s song? And didn’t you croak it out along with me, when my wine made a man of you? – Shocking, shocking to see a fellow-creature forget himself like that! Stop where you are – I’ll get something to pick you up again; I’ll set you chattering and kicking your heels like a poll parrot on a hot perch. Stop where you are, Son Hans, till Father Schwartz comes back and picks you up again.
                                                                             (Exit into the Watchman’s Room.)

Hans. (Rising.) Dead? No! not if all the doctors in Germany said it! Is there any kind soul in the wide world who would not accuse me of poisoning him, if I told the truth? They would put me in prison, master, if I told the truth! They would keep me away from you, when you wake up and want me again! – Dead? The paper that was round the bottle says nothing about death! (Taking it from his bosom, and reading.) “I have tried giving this Antidote in cases where no poison had been taken beforehand. Results very strange and startling, being nothing less than – suspension of the functions of life.” Life! that one word is plain enough. But “suspension” – “functions” – what do they mean? Happy, happy people, who have their heads full of learning! It ends with “Life” – that’s all the comfort I have. The last word of the writing is “life”! (Puts the paper back.) What’s this? (Feeling in his breast.) The Red Vial! (Produces it.) Why did I drink that man’s wine, when I had this to help my sinking spirits and to quiet my trembling hands? – My memory used to be such a good one; and now I’m losing it! – How many drops did she say? how many drops?

             (Enter Schwartz, with a second bottle.)

Schwartz. What! on your legs again, Crazybrains? (sees the Red Vial.) What’s that?
Hans. (Not attending.) Ten drops – she said ten drops.
Schwartz. Physic?
Hans. Yes.
Schwartz. How dare you physic yourself when you have got me for a doctor? Son Hans, I’m ashamed of you. Put it away!
Hans. She said it would do me good.
Schwartz. She! – Little man, a word of advice – never listen to what a woman tells you. Let her take her physic herself. It may do for her. I’ve got the physic that will do for you. Look! (Holds up the bottle.)
Hans. How it shines! Is it gold? (Puts back the Red Vial.)
Schwartz. Yes. Drinkable gold. Brandy! (Seats himself by the table and pours out the brandy.) Here! Pull up that other chair, and try this.
Hans. Drinkable gold! (Goes to fetch the chair, then pauses suddenly.) No! I can’t stop now. I hav’nt [sic] time.
Schwartz. What do you mean?
Hans. Let me think. I’ve brought my master’s clothes here, nicely folded and nicely brushed. Stop! stop! I’ve brought something else with them. (Feels in his coat pocket.) – His letter!
Schwartz. Whose letter?
Hans. My master’s. A letter that came for him tonight, when he was asleep. I took care of it, while the rest were all crying round 121 his bed; and I’ve brought it here to wait for him along with his clothes. (Takes out the letter.) Oh, it’s all crumpled! He’ll think I’m untidy. How can I smooth it out again?
Schwartz. Smack it down flat with your hand, and put the lamp on it.
Hans. Yes, yes! The lamp is heavy – the lamp will press it out smooth again. (Puts the letter under the lamp.) Can I leave it there? No! I must take it back home with me. If they will bring my master to this place, I must go at once and help them.
Schwartz. You help them! They won’t let you. They’ll leave you in the crowd, and, when you get here again, you’ll find the door locked. Stop along with me, and leave the letter where it is. Your master is on his way here already. They’ll take him up the other stairs, and put him into that room. You’ll know as soon as he’s in there.
Hans. How?
Schwartz. Try a drop of my physic, first, and I’ll tell you. (Hans drinks.) What’s that like?
Hans. Fire! Fire in my heart; fire in my head! – How shall I know when my master is in that room? Tell me, or I’ll tear it out of you!
Schwartz. Ha! ha! ha! Crazybrains is getting like himself. 122 He’ll be chaunting the mad watchman’s song 123 again before long. Here! I’ll show you. (Takes Hans across the stage.) Do you see that rope?
Hans. Yes!
Schwartz. That’s the rope that pulls the bell. It hangs down loose in a loop, don’t it? You keep your eye on the loop. When you see it move, and run up tight to the hole in the wall, look into that room. There you’ll find your master on the bed, with the end of the rope in his hand. (Returns to his seat, and holds up the bottle.) Try a drop more.
Hans. Hush! don’t speak; don’t move. I’m watching the rope.

                               (Enter Duntzer. Right.)

Duntzer. Schwartz, it’s close on eleven o’clock. The procession of the Bearers can’t be far off now. – Surely, you are not giving that mad creature brandy?
Schwartz. Never you mind!
Duntzer. Is he to stop here all night? You know the doors are locked at eleven o’clock. The lady must have gone already – she is not to be found in the surgeon’s room. I shall lock up in ten minutes. What is to be done with that man?
Schwartz. Leave him alone!
Duntzer. (Aside.) Surly brute! Is he going to sleep in that chair all night?
                                                                                                        (Exit. Right.)
Hans. (Pointing to the rope.) 125 It moves! It moves!
Schwartz. (Sleepily.) Aye, aye. 126

              (The loop of the rope is slowly drawn up till it disappears through the hole in
               the wall. Hans points to it all the time.)

Hans. (Hurrying to the door.) Master! master! (Stops suddenly.) Oh! to think of him there, alone on his narrow bed – his kind eyes closed, his friendly voice hushed – his poor heart smothered over with the black pall of death! – I dare’nt go in; I dare’nt look at him! – (Turns to the table.) More drink. My heart’s all cold again. (Takes more brandy.)

                                (Enter Widow Bergmann, Left.)

Widow B. I have lost myself in this desert of passages. (Sees Hans.) Ah! you here. (Aside.) His eyes shine strangely. Has he drunk of the Red Vial? (Points to Schwartz.) Who is that?
Hans. I’ll tell you! A Witch who deals in drinkable gold! (Drinks again.)
Widow B. (Crossing the stage.) Is the poison speaking in those wild words? Safe, if it is. The surgeon’s own lips assured me that he suspects nothing. (Turns, and sees the door in the middle.) Number Ten! I am back in the corridor.
Hans. (Approaching close to her.) Hush! a secret. He is in there, and the end of the rope is fastened round his hand! 127
Widow B. (Aside.) How wild his eyes are! – Come away, Hans. Come away, home. Don’t let us stop here.
Hans. Another secret! I mean to stop here all night.
Widow B. (Aside.) Horrible! I dare’nt leave him. – Where is the other watchman? Where is Mr. Keller?
Hans. Hark! – (the church-clocks of Frankfort strike eleven. One begins, near at hand: two others chime in from a distance. Then a pause – and one clock strikes eleven by itself.) Hark! His clock. (Points to the door.) The chapel clock of the hospital he founded. I call it, Silvertongue. Who contradicts me?
Widow B. Hush! hush! (Aside.) My heart sinks – my 128 knees tremble under me! (Goes to the chair on the right, and seats herself, with her face turned away from the door.)
Hans. (Following her.) A third secret! Turn your head the other way, and look at the bell. You’ll see it move. You’ll hear it ring before long. (Goes to the table.)

                   (A noise below, as of bolting and locking a heavy door.)

Widow B. What’s that? (Calling to Schwartz.) Watchman! Oh, Heavens, can he sleep in such a place as this! - Hans! Hans! What noise was that?
Hans. We are locked up! 129 – Locked up for the night!
Widow B. Horrible! horrible! – Watchman, wake! – Where are the rest of them? Am I shut in here with a madman and a drunkard?
Hans. Ha! ha! ha! We are a fine company here. One mad, one drunk, one frightened – and the rest dead all down the passage! 130
Widow B. (Sinking back in the chair, and hiding her face.) Water! water! – I’m faint.
Hans. Water? There is but a drop. Wine, if you like. – (Aside, pouring out some wine.) She shan’t have drinkable gold; she shan’t taste Father Schwartz’s physic. – Physic!!! – Oh, what a thought! (Produces the Red Vial.) Her own physic. He (indicating Schwartz.) said let her take her own physic. She wants it badly enough now; and she shall have it. (Drops the poison into the wine.) If it does her good, I’ll mix the rest with the drinkable gold, and take it while Schwartz is asleep.
Widow B. Water! water!
Hans. There is none. Here’s wine.
Widow B. Anything to moisten my parched lips. (Drinks the wine.)
Hans. She has drunk it. Now we shall see! 131
Widow B. You are quieter now, Hans. Come home! come home!
Hans. (Pointing to the bell.) When the bell rings – not before.
Widow B. I shall die 132 if I stay here. – Watchman! wake, wake, and let me out!
(A white ray of moonlight glimmers in at the end of the corridor. Hans sees it.) H. Ha! Look! The moon – the cold white moon that the mad watchman sings about. Father Schwartz, I’m a man again! I remember the mad watchman’s song. Listen! listen! 133
Widow B. Oh, stop him! stop him!
Hans. Stop me? I’m up in the clouds – I’m racing on a whirlwind – I’ll sing the stars down from Heaven to hear me! Schwartz! wake up! – wake up for the mad watchman’s song!

The moon was shining, cold and white,
In the Frankfort Dead-House, on New Year’s night –
                   Poor me!
And I was the watchman left alone,
While the rest to dance and feast were gone.
I envied their lot, and cursed me own.
                 Poor me!

Backwards and forwards with hasty tread,
I walked on my watch by the door’s of the Dead –
               Poor me!
And I said, It’s hard on this New Year,
When I want to be dancing to leave me here,
Alone with Death and Cold and Fear.
              Poor me!

Any company’s better than none, I said;
If I can’t have the living, I’d like the dead –
             Poor me!
Before my lips could utter more,
The corpse-bells rang at every door,
And footsteps crept across the floor.
            Poor me!

The doors gaped wide. There stood a ghost
On every threshold, as white as frost –
            Poor me!
Each spectre said, with a mocking grin,
We are the ghosts of the dead within,
Come dance with us the New Year in.
           Poor me!

Down, down upon me the spectres swept,
Like flames in the wind, they whirled and leapt –
            Poor me!
You called us – they shrieked – and we gathered soon;
Dance with your guests by the New Year’s moon!
I danced till I dropped in a deadly swoon.
            Poor me!

And since that night, I’ve lost my wits,
And I shake with ceaseless ague fits –
             Poor me!
For the ghosts they turned me cold as stone,
On that New Year’s night when the white moon shone,
And I walked on my watch, all, all alone,
               Poor me!

And, oh, when I lie in my coffin bed,
Heap thick the earth above my head –
              Poor me!
Or I shall come back, and dance once more,
With frantic feet on the Dead-House floor,
And a ghost for a partner at every door.
            Poor me!

Ha! There he is – come back! There he rises, with the earth dripping from him, and the halter round his neck! Dance, ghost, dance! I’m as mad as you are! – (Breaks into a terrified 136 dance, with the fancied ghost for a partner. Then stops suddenly, and points off with both hands.) There he goes! – there, there, there, there! – Gone!
Widow B. ( 137 (Looking steadfastly at the Bell, and shrinking back in horror.) The bell! the bell!
Hans. (Shuddering.) The cold of him creeps up my hands – up and up and up! It cools my heart: it cools my head. – Oh me! Is the thought of my master coming back again?
Widow B. (Pointing to the Bell.) Look!
Hans. Where?
Widow B. (Leaving the chair, and catching Hans by the arm.) Hide me! hide me! The bell is moving.

                         (The crank of the bell moves.)

Hans. Let me go! 138 Master! Master! I hear you!
Widow B. (Desperately holding him.) 139 The bell! the bell!

(The bell swings slowly to and fro – then rings one deep note. Schwartz starts from his sleep, and looks up in terror. Hans tries vainly to break from Widow Bergmann. A pause. The door opens a few inches – then bangs to again with a dull sound. A second pause. The door opens a few inches again. A bare hand and arm steal out over its black surface, and slowly move it back. As it opens wide, Isaac Rodenberg appears on the threshold. He is dressed in a robe of black velvet, which covers him, except his right 140 hand, and arm, from the neck to the feet. His head is bare; his face deadly pale. He stands looking straight before him, without moving, or speaking; the light from the lamp on the bracket falling in one bright ray across his face.
    Widow Bergmann shrieks and drops to the ground at the sight of Rodenberg. Hans remains for a few moments struck with ecstasy; his 141 arms outstretched lovingly towards his master – then rushes up to him and falls at his knees. Schwartz stands motionless close to the entrance, on the left. After an instant of silence, a voice is heard off, left, shouting “the bell! the bell!” Duntzer enters, and stops, thunderstruck at the sight of Rodenberg, by Schwartz’s side.)

Duntzer. (To Schwartz, in a whisper.) Alive!
Hans. (Clasping his master’s knees.) 142 Speak to me, Master. Say, “Hans” – oh, say, “Hans”!
Roden. Where am I? What has happened? This dress –
Hans. Oh, don’t wear it another moment! (Rises.) Come in – come in, there. (Pointing off, Right.) I can dress you, master, dear, in this dismal place, as I dress you at home. Lean on me – heavily, heavily. (Rodenberg advances a few steps, leaning on Hans’ shoulder. The surgeon of the dead-house enters, Right, and helps to support Rodenberg.)
Widow B. (reviving.)145 No fear about your marriage, child. You shall be happy, Minna – your mother will take care of that. (Rises feebly.) A burning pain in my heart; my heart throbbing; something strange – I don’t know what – in my head. – (Looks round.) Ah! The frightful door – the frightful bell! Do the dead rise in judgement against he living? Did I see him there? I know that this is the Dead-House; I see, yonder, the passages where I lost myself in coming from the surgeon’s room - I did see him standing there! – Death itself has turned against me!146 Where is he? Spirit or man. I must find him! Are my eyes dim? Or is the place growing dark? The lamp – the lamp will help me in these lonesome passages. (Takes up the lamp.) A letter? - 147 I see a letter on the table! (Looks at the letter.) “Vienna”, on the post-mark. Addressed to me? No! “Isaac Rodenberg” – and down here, at the side (Looks closer.) – the name of my husband’s father, “Bergmann” – it is “Bergmann!”

                       (Enter Hans from the Watchman’s Room.)

Hans. The letter – my master’s letter. What are you doing with it? 148
Widow B. Where is your master?
Hans. How faint her voice is! How pale she looks! (Produces the Red Vial.) Here! take it back. I won’t have it. If it does you harm, how can it do me good?
Widow B. Me? Does me harm?
Hans. Yes. You drank it in the wine.
Widow B. 149 (Falls back in the chair.)
Hans. What have I done wrong? I gave you, in your necessity, what you told me to take, in mine. Ten drops, when you want health and spirits – those were your own words.
Widow B. Your master! As you value your happiness in this world and your salvation in the next, fetch your master!
Hans. Even her voice is changed! – You shall see my master.
                                                              (Exit into the Watchman’s Room.)

Widow B. Death-struck by my own crime! Oh, my child! my child! The growing agony burns fainter. There is but one pang now – the pang of parting from you.

                   (Enter Rodenberg from the Watchman’s Room.)

Roden. You have asked for me, and I come. (Aside, after looking at her intently.) Is the face of Sin so like the face of Death?
Widow B. (Giving him the letter.) Open that.
Roden. Wretched, wretched woman! Hans has told me all. Don’t hope to deceive me as you have deceived him.
Widow B. Open that letter – my time is short – Death is like you; he grants me no reprieve.
Roden. What does she mean?
Widow B. Ask Hans what he did with the Red Vial.
Roden. The Red Vial! – Stay! we are within reach of help.
Widow B. Open the letter. There is no help for me. The fumes of the Red Vial are mounting in waves to my head! (Rodenberg opens the letter, and hurriedly runs his eye over it.) Speak! While I have sense to hear you. Why does my husband’s father write to you?
Roden. He has faith in my honesty. After long hesitation, rather than have his name exposed in a Court of Justice, he sends the five thousand dollars.
Widow B. (Rising, and clasping her hands in rapture.) Happy at last! Oh, Minna, Minna, happy at last! 150
Roden. 151 Wait! Wait! I’ll bring the surgeon. (Exit, Right.)
Widow B. (Approaching as the effect of the poison grows 152 the door of the middle room.) Where is Minna’s room? – the house seems strange to me – where is it? – Ha! there – there is the door, with 153 little white curtains hanging over it! – Hush, hush! I am going to Minna’s room; I am going to tell her the good news. Don’t stop me, I must tell Minna. Hush! hush! hush! I must tell Minna!
         (Staggers forward into the room. The door falls to after her. As she disappears,
          Rodenberg and 154 the surgeon come out of the Watchman’s Room, followed
          by Hans.) 155

Roden. (To the surgeon.) In there! 156 I saw the door close.

          (The surgeon 157 enters the room.)

Roden. Hans! Where is the Antidote? Where are the drops you mixed with my drink?
Hans. Gone! The last dose was the dose I gave you.
Roden. The last! Oh, Hans! Hans! 158 (To Hans.) Go in, and see how she is.

(Hans opens the door of the middle room. 159 The surgeon meets him on the threshold – raises his hand warningly, and whispers in Hans’s ear, then disappears and closes the door on him.)

Hans. (Starting, and looking round at Rodenberg.) 160 Is it my fault, Master?
Roden. No, no; my faithful friend 161 not your fault. – Is she worse?
Hans. Dead. (Walks aside a little.)
Roden. Dead, at the moment when the lost money is restored! Dead, without a farewell word from the child for whom she has sinned! Dead by the hand of one victim, on the bed that she prepared for the other! (A murmuring of voices heard, with bells, without.) What noise is that?
Hans. Hark! The news of you waking to life again has flown through the city! The joy-bells, master, the joy-bells are ringing for your sake! 162
Roden. The joy-bells – while the bed in that room bears its burden of death, after all! The joy-bells – while the poor motherless girl listens vainly at home for the footstep that shall never return! – Oh, I may yet be worthy of the mercy that has saved me, if I live to dry her tears! – If I live to guide her tenderly towards the better future of her married life!
Hans. Are you pleased with me, master? My poor head is perplexed with many doubts; my thoughts go back for refuge to the quiet past time; and all the memory I have, stops at your first words when you sheltered me in your house, and forbade me to kneel and thank you: - “Lift up your heart, friend, and stand equal with me. The debt of kindness is the one debt in this world 165 which the poorest man alive –
Roden. (Taking his hand.) - 166 Has been rich enough in gratitude to repay!”

(The bells ring louder; the cheering increases: Rodenberg rests his hand on Hans’ neck, and points to the way out. Keller appears at the door of the Watchman’s Room, with Schwartz, Duntzer, and the surgeon, 167 waiting to join Rodenberg. The two assistants are seen a little beyond them, standing with lamps, to light the way down the passage. The Curtain falls.)

The End.

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Richard Pearson and the Victorian Plays Project, 2013