Collins, The Red Vial,
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, www.wilkiecollinsplays.net (date
accessed) The Red Vial
[Lord Chamberlain's collection, British Library]
Manuscript received September 30
License sent October 2  [Wm[?]. B. Donne] 1
The Red Vial
A Drama in Three Acts
By Wilkie Collins
‘R. Olympic Theatre’ 2
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
Minna – Her Daughter
The Scene is at Frankfort on the Main
The Period is the beginning of the Nineteenth Century
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,
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
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
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
taint of pride!
Keller. Stay, Mrs. Bergmann, I have my pride. For two centuries
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
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,
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
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
Keller. Certainly. To what do you refer?
Widow B. To the day on which the marriage is to take place. You
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
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
your disposal and your daughter’s.
Widow B. Then suppose we settle this weighty question at once.
we say this day six months – in other words, the third of June?
Keller. With all my heart. And now that our negotiation is
I must ask leave to return to business of a less interesting nature.
9 – No! not a step nearer the
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
(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;
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
Karl. (Going to Minna’s side, and kissing her hand.) Then I shall look
Minna’s face, and see the answer there.
Minna. Oh, the vanity of men! He really believes that I cannot look
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Hans. I woke up and saw the heavenly morning light streaming through my
open door, and my master 26 standing
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
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
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
“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
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
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?
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
(Exit, by the door in the Flat.)
Karl. The keeper of the keys is the hardest riddle to guess that ever I
Minna. (Putting on her hat.) Surely not! Touch the poor creature’s
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.)
Widow Bergmann by the side door, with the letter open in her hand.)
Widow B. Refused! Refused, in the plainest, the coldest, the most
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
(Enter Rodenberg, hurriedly, by the door in Flat. He
holds two books clasped to his bosom. His face and manner express
Roden. Mrs. Bergmann!
Widow B. Good heavens, Mr. Rodenberg! What has happened?
Roden. The worst of scandals, the vilest of treacheries. There
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
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
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
Widow B. Is the account-book 38
always to be depended on,
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
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,
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
the plain conclusion, to which my questions and your answers lead.
Roden. (rousing himself.) I can draw the conclusion for myself; and I
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!
Hans Grimm, I have been robbed; and suspicion falls 42 on
Hans. On me! (Looks about him in bewilderment.) He suspects me! My
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
room.) Hans! (Hans draws back in the direction indicated, and crouches
down against the wall.)
Roden. (to Joseph.) Now you are here, stay, and keep near that man. I
you to take charge of him.
Hans. (starting up.) Take charge of me! Am I back in my cell, and is
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
Roden. Poor wretch! Poor wretch!
Widow B. For Heaven’s sake, Sir, don’t question him here! Send him away
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
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
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,
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
Widow B. (Hurrying to him.) You are ill – you are faint, Sir!
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
from my dressing case.
(Minna hurries out by the door on
the Right, and reappears immediately with a
small bottle in
Minna. Try this, Sir – pray try this.
Roden. (takes the bottle, removes the stopper, smells at it, and
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
Roden. Your daughter’s position touches me to the heart. I cannot
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
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
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
Widow B. In Minna’s name – I dare not say, in my own – in her name, let
try to thank you! (Attempts to kiss his hand.)
Roden. (Withdrawing it.) No! I keep my hand for the faithful servant
have wronged. (Takes the ledger and account-book from the table, and
walks to the door – then, stops, and turns round.) Remember! The Fourth
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
* 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
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
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.
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
Roden. Are all my poor pensioners remembered and looked after, as they
to be when I was well?
Hans. All, master. Every day they crowd by hundreds before the
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,
it is as good or better than mine?
Roden. Is it? Let me try what it is worth. Let me see what I can
– 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.
Roden. And the doctor who first attended me has been dismissed? And a
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
Hans. Not you! You remember – I know you remember. Why, he only
Roden. And his name?
Hans. His name? I said your memory was as good as mine, master; and
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
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
(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
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
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
my compassion for your unhappy child? The first words I speak to Mr.
Keller tomorrow when the 58 truth
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.
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
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
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!
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.
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 –
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
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
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
Widow B. Remember! (Joins Doctor Hetzel.)
Hans. You threaten me, do you? You fancy you can frighten a grown man
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
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,
results of a long illness are always doubtful.
Widow B. Tell me the worst plainly, sir. Would you be surprised if he
Doctor. I give the answer most unwillingly – but, as you seem to insist
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Minna. Do we disturb you, Mama?
Karl. We only came to ask how Mr. Rodenberg is, this
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
death is the safest – my time is short!
(Hans expresses by his gestures that he is trying in vain to overhear
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
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
she may, I shall know it again.
Widow B. Now to find Hans! – No! better lock my own room first for
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
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
- 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.)
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
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
Hans. (Taking up the glass.) You startled me.
Widow B. What are you going to do with that? Has your master called for
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,
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!
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
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?
I was here? 94
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
I saw you drop something out of this red vial 96
my master’s lemonade. 97
Widow B. You saw that! – (Pressing her hand on her heart.) 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?
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
Widow B. Nearer, Hans. We are not 105
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
Hans. (Eagerly advancing again, close to Widow B.) Are all poisons in
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
Widow B. Medicine.
Hans . Medicine?
Widow B. Yes, medicine that will cure your master – medicine that will
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
Widow B. Well, when you next want strength and want spirits, take ten
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 –
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
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
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
(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
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
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
I wrong in answering, at half past eight, tonight?
Keller. Half past eight was the time. It is now getting on towards
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
Nine are tenanted by the dead already.
Widow B. (To Keller.) Have no exceptions ever been made? Have the great
the wealthy who have died in Frankfort, always been brought here?
Keller. Always. This place was founded, when the dread of being buried
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
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
Widow B. (To Keller.) You are a native of Frankfort. Have you ever been
that the bell rang?
Widow B. (To Duntzer.) Will the procession of the Bearers pass through
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
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
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
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,
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
an instant. – In that room did you say? – Stay! has he seen anyone else
Duntzer. The house-surgeon spoke to him when he first came in.
Widow B. (Aside.) Worse and worse! He may have already aroused the
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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.)
Hans. (Not attending.) Ten drops – she said ten drops.
Schwartz. How dare you physic yourself when you have got me for a
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
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
out the brandy.) Here! Pull up that other chair, and try this.
Hans. Drinkable gold! (Goes to fetch the chair, then pauses suddenly.)
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
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
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
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.
Schwartz. Try a drop of my physic, first, and I’ll tell you. (Hans
What’s that like?
Hans. Fire! Fire in my heart; fire in my head! – How shall I know when
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?
Schwartz. That’s the rope that pulls the bell. It hangs down loose in a
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. 124
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
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
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
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.)
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
Widow B. (Crossing the stage.) Is the poison speaking in those wild
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
end of the rope is fastened round his hand! 127
Widow B. (Aside.) How wild his eyes are! – Come away, Hans. Come away,
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
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,
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
sleep in such a place as this! - Hans! Hans! What
noise was that?
Hans. We are locked up! 129 – Locked
Widow B. Horrible! horrible! – Watchman, wake! – Where are the rest of
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!
Hans. Water? There is but a drop. Wine, if you like. – (Aside, pouring
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!
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 –
And I was the watchman left alone,
While the rest to dance and feast were gone.
I envied their lot, and cursed me own.
Backwards and forwards with hasty tread,
I walked on my watch by the door’s of the Dead –
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.
Any company’s better than none, I said;
If I can’t have the living, I’d like the dead –
Before my lips could utter more,
The corpse-bells rang at every door,
And footsteps crept across the floor.
The doors gaped wide. There stood a ghost
On every threshold, as white as frost –
Each spectre said, with a mocking grin,
We are the ghosts of the dead within,
Come dance with us the New Year in.
Down, down upon me the spectres swept,
Like flames in the wind, they whirled and leapt –
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.
And since that night, I’ve lost my wits,
And I shake with ceaseless ague fits –
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,
And, oh, when I lie in my coffin bed,
Heap thick the earth above my head –
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.
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
with the fancied ghost for a partner. Then stops suddenly, and points
off with both hands.) There he goes! – there, there, there, there! –
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
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!
Widow B. (Leaving the chair, and catching Hans by the arm.) Hide me!
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
Duntzer. (To Schwartz, in a whisper.) Alive!
Hans. (Clasping his master’s knees.) 142
Speak to me, Master.
Say, “Hans” – oh, say, “Hans”! 143
Roden. Where am I? What has happened? This dress –
Hans. Oh, don’t wear it another moment! (Rises.) Come in – come in,
(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.) 144
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
“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
Here! take it back. I won’t have it. If it does you harm, how can it do
Widow B. Me? Does me harm?
Hans. Yes. You drank it in the wine.
Widow B. 149 (Falls back in the
Hans. What have I done wrong? I gave you, in your necessity, what you
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
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
agony burns fainter. There is but one pang now – the pang of parting
(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
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
are mounting in waves to my head! (Rodenberg opens the letter, and
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
his name exposed in a Court of Justice, he sends the five thousand
Widow B. (Rising, and clasping her hands in rapture.) Happy at last!
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,
154 the surgeon come out of the
Watchman’s Room, followed
by Hans.) 155
Roden. (To the surgeon.) In there! 156
the door close.
(The surgeon 157 enters the room.)
Roden. Hans! Where is the Antidote? Where are the drops you mixed with
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,
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,
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! 162 163
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! 164
Hans. Are you pleased with me, master? My poor head is perplexed with
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.)