PRINCE YANKO RACOWITZA
HERR VON DONNIGES
HELENE VON DONNIGES
FRAU VON DONNIGES
HILDA VON DONNIGES
Servants, maids, butler, landlord, ladies and gentlemen.
A wise man has said that there is a difference between fact and truth. He has also told us that things may be true and still not be so. The truth as to the love-story of Ferdinand Lassalle and Helene von Donniges can only be told by adhering strictly to the facts. Facts are not only stubborn things, but often very inconvenient; yet in this instance the simple facts fall easily into dramatic form, and the only way to tell the story seems to be to let it tell itself. Dramas are made up of incidents that have happened to somebody sometime, but in no instance that I ever heard of have all the situations pictured in a play happened to the persons who played the parts. The business of the playwright is selection and rejection, and usually the dramatic situations revealed have been culled from very many lives over a long course of years. Here the author need but reveal the tangled skein woven by Fate, Meddling Parents, Pride, Prejudice, Caprice, Ambition, Passion. In other words it is human nature in a tornado, and human nature is a vagrant ship, with a spurious chart, an uncertain compass, a drunken pilot, a mutinous crew and a crazy captain.
The moral seems to be that the tragedy of existence lies in interposing that newly discovered thing called intellect into the delicate affairs of life, instead of having faith in God, and moving serenely with the eternal tide.
Moses struck the rock, and the waters gushed forth; but if Moses had found a spring in the desert and then toiled mightily to smother it with a mountain of arid sand, I doubt me much whether the name of Moses would now live as one of the saviors of the world.
Parties with an eczema for management would do well to butt their heads three times against the wall and take note that the wall falls not. Then and then only are they safe from Megalocephalia. There are temptations in life that require all of one's will to succumb to; and he who resists not the current of his being, nor attempts to dam the fountain of life for another, shall be crowned with bay and be fed on ambrosia in Elysium.
* * * * * * *
Scene: Parlors of Herr and Frau Holthoff at their home in Berlin.
[An informal conference of the leading members of the Allied Workingmen's Clubs. Present various ladies and gentlemen, some seated, others standing, talking.]
Enter DOCTOR HAENLE
HERR HOLTHOFF. Hello, Comrade Haenle! I am very glad to see you here.
DOCTOR HAENLE. Not more glad than I am to be here.
[They shake hands cordially, all around.]
HERR HOLTHOFF. [To his wife] My dear, you see Doctor Haenle has come--I win my bet!
DOCTOR HAENLE. I hope you two have not been gambling!
FRAU HOLTHOFF. Yes, Doctor, we made a bet, and I am delighted to lose!
DOCTOR HAENLE. You mystify me!
HERR HOLTHOFF. Well, the fact is that Madame had a dream in which you played a part; she thought you had been--what is that word, my dear?
FRAU HOLTHOFF. Expatriated.
HERR HOLTHOFF. Yes, expatriated--sent out of the country for the country's good.
DOCTOR HAENLE. It would be a great compliment!
HERR HOLTHOFF. Very true; you could then join our own Richard Wagner in Switzerland!
DOCTOR HAENLE. Could I but write such songs as he does, I would relish the fate!
FRAU HOLTHOFF. But the people who sent him into exile never guessed that they were giving him the leisure to write immortal music.
DOCTOR HAENLE. People who persecute other people never know what they do.
HERR HOLTHOFF. It isn't so bad to be persecuted, but it is a terrible thing to persecute.
DOCTOR HAENLE. It is often a good thing for the persecuted, provided he can spare the time--how does that strike you, Herr Marx?
KARL MARX. I fully agree in the sentiment. There seems to be an Eternal Spirit of Wisdom that guides man and things, and this Spirit cares only for the end.
FRAU HOLTHOFF. Nature's solicitude is for the race, not the individual.
KARL MARX. Exactly so!
HERR HOLTHOFF. Get that in your forthcoming book, Brother Marx, and give credit to the Madame.
KARL MARX. I surely will. Most of my original thoughts I get from my friends.
HERR HOLTHOFF. You may not be so grateful when the book is published.
KARL MARX. You mean I may sing the Pilgrims' Chorus with Richard across the border?
HERR HOLTHOFF. Yes; the government is growing very sensitive.
DOCTOR HAENLE. Which has nothing to do with the publication of Das Kapital--eh, Herr Marx?
KARL MARX. Not the slightest. The book will live, regardless of the fate of the author.
FRAU HOLTHOFF. You do not seem very sanguine of immediate success of the workingmen's party!
KARL MARX. We will succeed when the ditches are even full of our dead--then progress can pass.
FRAU HOLTHOFF. And that time has not come?
KARL MARX. I hope we are great enough not to deceive ourselves. We work for truth: whether this truth will be accepted by the many this year, or next, or the next century, we can not say, but that should not deter us from our best endeavors.
HELENE VON DONNIGES. [Golden-haired, enthusiastic, needlessly pink and gorgeously twenty] Men fight for a thing and lose, and the men they fought fight for the same thing under another name, and win! [All turn and listen] Life is in the fight, not the achievement. Oh, I think it would be glorious to suffer, to be misunderstood, and fail; and yet know in our hearts that we were right--absolutely right--and that the wisdom of the ages will endorse our acts and on the tombs of some of us carve the word "Savior"!
KARL MARX. Grand, magnificent! That sounds just like Lassalle.
HELENE. There; that is the third time I have been told I talk just like Lassalle--a person I have never seen.
DOCTOR HAENLE. Then you have something to live for.
HELENE. Perhaps, but I echo no man. When one speaks from one's heart it is not complimentary to have people suavely smile and say, "Goethe," "Voltaire," "Shakespeare," "Rousseau," "Lassalle"!
FRAU HOLTHOFF. Just see the company in which she places our Ferdinand!
HELENE. [Wearily] Oh, I am not trying to compliment Lassalle. The fact is, I dislike the man. His literary style is explosive; about all he seems to do is to paraphrase dear Karl Marx. Besides, he is a Jew----
KARL MARX. Gently--I am a Jew!
HELENE. But you are different. Lassalle is aggressive, pushing, grasping--he has ego plus, and [With relaxing tension] all I want to say is that I am aweary of being accused of quoting Lassalle--that I do not know Lassalle, and what is more, I----
FRAU HOLTHOFF. Oh, you'll talk differently when you see him!
HELENE. But surely you, too, do not make genius exempt from the moral code?
DOCTOR HAENLE. Oh, some one has been telling you about Madame Hatzfeldt----
HELENE. I know the undisputed facts.
KARL MARX. Which are that at nineteen years of age Ferdinand Lassalle became the legal counsel for Madame Hatzfeldt; that he fought her case through the courts for nine years; that he lost three times and finally won.
HELENE. And then became a member of the Madame's household.
KARL MARX. If so, with the Madame's permission.
HELENE. [Sarcastically] Certainly.
FRAU HOLTHOFF. That thirty years' difference in their ages ought to absolve him.
DOCTOR HAENLE. To say nothing of the fee he received!
KARL MARX. The fee?
DOCTOR HAENLE. One hundred thousand thalers.
FRAU HOLTHOFF. Capital; also, Das Kapital!
KARL MARX. I have made a note of it. A lawyer gets a single fee of one hundred thousand thalers--this under the competitive system--a hundred years of labor for the average workingman!
FRAU HOLTHOFF. A lawyer at nineteen--studying on one case, knowing its every aspect and phase, pursuing the case for nine years, and opposed by six of the ablest, oldest and most influential legal lights in Germany, and gaining a complete victory!
KARL MARX. I've heard of successful authors of a single book, but I never before heard of a great lawyer with but one case!
FRAU HOLTHOFF. Oh, Lassalle has had many cases offered him, but he refused them all so as to devote himself to the People versus Entailed Nobility.
KARL MARX. You mean Entrenched Alleged Royalty.
FRAU HOLTHOFF. Yes. I accept the correction--and this case he will win, just as he did the other.
HELENE. You had better say his body will go to fill up the sunken roadway!
DOCTOR HAENLE. Good! that was your idea of success a few moments ago.
HELENE. I see--more of Lassalle.
FRAU HOLTHOFF. Oh, you two were just made for each other!
DOCTOR HAENLE. You both have the fire, the dash, the enthusiasm, the personality, the beautiful unreasonableness, the----
HELENE. Go on!
KARL MARX. He is the greatest orator in Europe!
FRAU HOLTHOFF. And the handsomest man!
DOCTOR HAENLE. You shall see!
HELENE. Shall I?
DOCTOR HAENLE. You certainly shall. Indeed, Lassalle may be here this evening. He spoke in Dresden last night, and was to leave at once, after the address. His train was due--let me see--[consults watch] half an hour ago. I told him if he came to drive straight here.
HELENE. [Slightly agitated] I must go--I promised papa I would be home at ten.
KARL MARX. And your papa would never allow you to stay out after ten, any more than he would forgive you if he knew you visited with people who harbored Ferdinand Lassalle?
HELENE. My father is a busy man--a Monarchist of course--and he has no time for the New Thought.
DOCTOR HAENLE. He leaves that to you?
HELENE. Yes, he indulges me--he says the New Thought does him no harm and amuses me! See if my carriage is waiting, please. Thank you----
[Frau Holthoff starts to help Helene on with her wraps. Knocking is heard at the door. Herr Holthoff goes into the hall to answer knock.]
HERR HOLTHOFF. [Outside] Well, well, Ferdinand the First, Ferdinand himself!
[Commotion--all move toward door]
Enter HERR HOLTHOFF with LASSALLE
[Lassalle is tall, slender, nervous, active, intelligent, commanding. All shake hands, and he and Karl Marx embrace and kiss each other on the cheek. Helene stares, slips down behind the sofa, and seated on an ottoman reads intently with her nose in a book. The rest talk and move toward the center of the stage, gathering around Lassalle, who affectionately half-embraces all--with remarks from everybody: "How well you look!" "And the news from Dresden!" "Did the police molest you?" "Was it a big audience?" etc. Lassalle seats himself on sofa with back to Helene, who is immediately behind him.]
LASSALLE. We will win when fifty-one per cent of the voters declare themselves. You see Nature never intended that ninety per cent of the people should slave for the other ten per cent. The world must see that we all should work--that to succeed we must work for each other. We have thought that educated men should not work, and that men who work should not be educated. We have congested work and congested education and congested wealth. The good things of the world are for all, and if there were an even distribution there would be no want, no wretchedness. The rich for the most part waste and destroy, and of course the many have to toil in order to make good this waste. When we can convince fifty-one per cent of the people that righteousness is only a form of self-preservation, that mankind is an organism and that we are all parts of the whole, the battle will be won. [Rises and paces the floor, still talking] I spoke last night to five thousand people, and the way they listened and applauded and applauded and listened, revealed how hungry the people are for truth. The hope of the world lies in the middle class--the rich are as ignorant as the poverty-stricken. A way must be devised to reach the rich--I can do it. Inaction, idleness, that is the curse. Life is fluid, and only running water is pure. Stagnation is death. Turbulent Rome was healthy, but quiescent Rome was soft, feverish, morbid, pathological. Now, take Hamlet--what man ever had more opportunities? Heir to the throne--beauty, power, youth, intellect--all were his! What wrecked him? Why, inaction; he sat down to muse, instead of being up and doing. He wrangled, dawdled, dreamed, followed soothsayers, and consulted mediums until his mind was mush----
HELENE. [Rising quickly] Mad from the beginning!
[Lassalle and the two men to whom he was talking jump, turn, stare.]
HELENE. Mad from the beginning, I say!
[The two friends at once quit Lassalle and move off arm in arm talking, leaving Lassalle and Helene eyeing each other across the sofa. Her eyes flash defiance; he relaxes, smiles, paying no attention to her contradiction concerning Hamlet. He kneels on the sofa and leans toward her.]
LASSALLE. Ah, this is how you look! This is you! Yes, yes, it is as I thought. It is all right!
FRAU HOLTHOFF. [Bustling forward] Oh, I forgot you had not met--allow me to introduce----
LASSALLE. [Waving the Frau away, walks around the sofa taking Helene by the arm] What is the necessity of introducing us! People who know each other do not have to be introduced. You know who I am, and you are Brunhilde, the Red Fox.
[Leads her around and seats her on the sofa and takes his place beside her, with one arm along the back of the sofa. Helene leans toward him, and flicks an imaginary particle of dust from his coat-collar.]
HELENE. You were talking about your success in Dresden!
[Lassalle proceeds to talk to her most earnestly. She listens, nods approval, sighs, and clasps her hands. The others in the room gather at opposite sides of the room and talk, but with eyes furtively turned now and then toward the couple, who are lost to the world, interested but in each other, and the great themes they are discussing.]
LASSALLE. I knew we must meet. Fate decreed it so. You are the Goddess of the Morning and I am the Sun-God.
HELENE. You are sure then about your divinity?
LASSALLE. Yes, through a belief in yours.
HELENE. I knew I would meet you. I felt that I must, in order to get you out of my mind. I am betrothed, you know----
LASSALLE. I know--to me, from the foundation of the world.
HELENE. I am betrothed to Prince Yanko Racowitza. You never heard of him, of course. He is out of your class, because he is good, and gentle, and kind, and of noble blood. And you are a demagogue, and a demigod, and a Jew, and a Mephisto! I told Yanko I would not wed him until I saw you. He has been trying to meet you, to introduce us.
LASSALLE. That you might be disillusioned!
HELENE. Precisely so.
LASSALLE. How interesting! And how superfluous in your fairy prince.
HELENE. He is an extraordinary man, for he said I should see you and him both, see you together and take my choice.
LASSALLE. Good! He is a Christian, and does as he would be done by. I am a Christianized Jew, and I will bejew all Christendom. Your prince is a useless appendenda, and I would kill him, were it not that I am opposed to duelling. I fought one duel--or did not fight it, I should say. I faced my man, he fired and missed. I threw my pistol into the bushes and held out my hand to the late enemy. He reeled toward me and fell into my arms, pierced by his emotions. He is now my friend. Had I killed him, the vexed question between us would still be unsettled. I believe in brain, not brawn--soul, not sense. Let us meet your prince, and when he sees you and me together, he will know we are one, and dare not withhold his blessing which we do not need. He shall be our page. Win people and use them, I say--use them! You and I working together can win and use humanity for humanity's good. We talk with the same phrases. You say, "Two wishes make a will"--so do I. We read the same books, are fed at the same springs. Our souls blend together; great thoughts are children, born of married minds----
HELENE. My carriage is at the door--I surely must go!
LASSALLE. I'll order your coachman to go home; we will walk.
[Strides to the door, and gives the order and in an instant returns, picks up Helene's wraps and proceeds affectionately to help her on with overshoes, cloak and hat.]
LASSALLE. The fact is that life lies in mutual service--any other course is merely existence. Those who do most for others enjoy most. Well, good-night, dear Karl Marx, [Shakes hands] and you, Doctor Haenle--what would life be to me without you! Good-night, Herr Holthoff and dear Frau Holthoff!
[Kisses the Frau's hand. Helene helps him on with overcoat and hands him his hat. They disappear through the right entrance, arm in arm, faces turned toward each other, talking earnestly. As they go through the door, Lassalle lifts his hat to the company and says, "Good-night, everybody." Those on the stage turn and stare at one another in amazement. Doctor Haenle breaks the silence with a laugh.]
DOCTOR HAENLE. Well, well, well!
HERR HOLTHOFF. She is carried off on the back of a centaur.
KARL MARX. A whirlwind wooing!
FRAU HOLTHOFF. Affinities!
* * * * * * *
Scene: Hotel veranda in the Swiss Mountains.
[Present: Herr Holthoff, Frau Holthoff, Doctor Haenle, Lassalle and Helene, seated or walking about and talking leisurely. Surroundings beautiful and an air of peace pervades the place.]
DOCTOR HAENLE. These early Fall days are the finest of the year in the mountains.
HELENE. Yes: for then the guests have mostly gone.
LASSALLE. Just as the church is never quite so sacred as when the priest is not there!
FRAU HOLTHOFF. You mean the priest and congregation?
LASSALLE. Certainly, they go together. A priest apart from his people is simply a man.
HELENE. Ferdinand loves the Church!
LASSALLE. You should say a church, my lady fair!
HELENE. Yes, a church--this is the fourth time we have met. Two of the other times were in a church.
LASSALLE. [Ecstatically] Yes, in the dim, cool, religious light of a church, vacant save for us two--I should say for us one!
HELENE. We just sat and said the lover's litany--"Love like ours can never die."
HERR HOLTHOFF. Well, love and religion are one at the last.
LASSALLE. They were one once, and neither will be right until they are one again.
HELENE. A creed is made up of ossified metaphors--lover's metaphors.
DOCTOR HAENLE. Good, and every one can believe a creed if you allow him to place his own interpretation on it!
LASSALLE. That is what we will do in the Co-operative Commonwealth.
DOCTOR HAENLE. Which reminds me that Bismarck, who loves you almost as well as we do, declares that you are a Monarchist, not a Socialist, the difference being that you believe in the House of Lassalle and he in the House of Hohenzollern.
LASSALLE. Which means, I suppose, that I will be king of the Co-operative Commonwealth?
HELENE. You will be if I have my way.
DOCTOR HAENLE. Heresy and sedition! The woman who loves a man confuses him with God, and regards him as one divinely appointed to rule.
HELENE. I can not deny it if I would.
FRAU HOLTHOFF. And yet tomorrow you and Lassalle part!
HELENE. Only for a time.
LASSALLE. For how long, no man can say; that is why I have urged that we should be married here and now. A notary can be gotten from the village in an hour--you, dear comrades, shall be the witnesses.
HELENE. It is only my love that makes me hesitate. The future of Ferdinand Lassalle, and the future of Socialism must not be jeopardized!
DOCTOR HAENLE. Jeopardized?
LASSALLE. Jeopardized by love?
HELENE. The world would regard a marriage here as an elopement. My father would be furious. Who are we that we should run away to wed, as if I were a schoolgirl and Lassalle a grocer's clerk! Lassalle is the king of men. He convinces them by his logic, by his presence, by his enthusiasm----
HERR HOLTHOFF. He has convinced you in any event.
HELENE. And he can and will convince the world!
DOCTOR HAENLE. I believe he will.
HELENE. And when he wins my parents he will secure an influence that will help usher in the Better Day. Besides----
HELENE. [Laughing] I am engaged to marry Prince Racowitza!
LASSALLE. [Smiling] True, I forgot. But when he sees the Goddess of the Dawn and the Socialistic Sun-God together, he will give them his blessing and renounce all claims.
HELENE. Exactly so.
DOCTOR HAENLE. Which is certainly better than to snip him off without first tying the ligature.
FRAU HOLTHOFF. This whole situation is really amusing when one takes a cool look at it. Here is Helene betrothed to Prince Racowitza, who is intelligent, kind, amiable, good, unobjectionable. And because society demands that a girl shall marry somebody, she accepts the situation, and until Lassalle, the vagrant planet, came shooting through space, this girl of aspiration and ambition would have actually wedded the unobjectionable man and herself become unobjectionable to please her unobjectionable parents.
HERR HOLTHOFF. That is a plain, judicial statement of the case, made by the wife of a fairly good man.
LASSALLE. Error set in motion continues indefinitely, all according to the physical law of inertia. The customs of society continue, and are always regarded by the many as perfect--in fact, divine. This continues until some one called a demagogue and a fanatic suggests a change. This talk of change causes a little wobble in the velocity of the error, but it still spins forward and crushes and mangles all who get in the way. That is what you call orthodoxy--the subjection of the many. The men, run over and mangled, are spoken of as "dangerous."
HERR HOLTHOFF. Which reminds me that when people say a man is dangerous, they simply mean that his ideas are new to them.
LASSALLE. [Seating himself at a table opposite Helene] You hear, my Goddess of the Dawn, Helene, that dangerous ideas are simply new ideas?
HELENE. Yes, I heard it and I have said it.
LASSALLE. Because I have said it.
HELENE. Undoubtedly, which is reason enough.
LASSALLE. Can you make your father believe that?
HELENE. I intend to try and I expect to succeed.
[All slip away and leave Helene and Lassalle alone. As the conversation grows earnest, he holds her hands across the table, just as the lovers do in a Gibson picture.]
LASSALLE. And you still think this better than that we should proclaim the republic tomorrow, and have our dear friends go down and inform the world that we are man and wife?
HELENE. Listen: The desire of my life is to be your wife. No ceremony can make us more completely one than we are now. My soul is intertwined with yours. All that remains is, how shall we announce the truth to the world? Shall we do it by the tongue of scandal? That is not necessary. Doctor Haenle can take you to call on my father. I will be there--we will meet incidentally. You are irresistible to men, as well as to women. My father will study you. You will allow him to talk--you will agree with him. After he has said all he has to say, you will talk, and he will gradually agree with you. My parents will become accustomed to your presence--they will see that you are a gentleman. Prince Racowitza will be there, and he will not have to be told the truth--he will see it. He will be obedient to my wishes. He admires me, and you----
LASSALLE. I love you.
HELENE. You love me--the world seems tame. I am simply yours.
LASSALLE. I realize it, and so, like your little prince, I am obedient--an obedient rebel!
HELENE. A rebel?
LASSALLE. I say it, but very gently. I can win your parents and the prince, quite as well if introduced to them as your husband, as if we faced each other in their presence and pretended--a nice word, that--pretended we had never met. There, I am done. I am now your page--your slave.
HELENE. [Disturbed and slightly nettled] Then grant me a small favor.
LASSALLE. Even if it be the half of my kingdom.
HELENE. Let me see a picture of Madame Hatzfeldt!
HELENE. Madame Hatzfeldt.
LASSALLE. [Coloring and confused] Oh, surely, I will--I will find one for you and send it by mail.
HELENE. Perhaps you have one in your pocketbook?
LASSALLE. Oh, that is so; possibly I have!
[Takes pocketbook out of breast-pocket of his coat, fumbles and finds a small, square photograph, which he passes over to Helene, who studies his face and then the photograph.]
HELENE. [Looking at picture] She has intellect!
LASSALLE. [Trying to laugh] She was born in Eighteen Hundred Eight--I call her Gran'ma!
HELENE. Is she handsome?
LASSALLE. Oh, twenty years ago she was.
HELENE. Twenty years ago she was a woman in distress?
HELENE. And women in distress are very alluring to gallant and adventurous young men.
LASSALLE. It was twenty years ago, I say.
HELENE. And now you are--are friends?
LASSALLE. We are friends!
HELENE. [Archly] Shall I win her before we are married, or after?
HELENE. As you say.
LASSALLE. We are both needlessly humble, I take it!
[Smiles and gently takes her hand.]
HELENE. [Smiles back] We understand each other.
LASSALLE. And to be understood is paradise.
HELENE. We have been in paradise eight days.
LASSALLE. And now we go out into the world----
HELENE. To meet at my father's house.
LASSALLE. At the day and hour next week that you shall name.
HELENE. Even so.
[They hold hands, look into each other's eyes wistfully and solemnly. Both rise and walk off the stage in opposite directions. Lassalle hesitates, stops and looks back at her as if he expected she would turn and command him to go with her. She does not command him, and he goes off the stage alone, slowly and with a dejected air, which for him is unusual.]
* * * * * * *
Scene: A bedroom in the Metropolitan Hotel, Berlin.
[Lassalle in shirt-sleeves, putting on his collar before the mirror. Jacques standing by, brushing his coat.]
LASSALLE. [Wrestling with unruly collar-button] Yes; that is the coat. A long, plain, priestly coat. [Gaily, half to himself and half to valet] You see, I am going on a delicate errand, and I must not fail----
JACQUES. They say you never fail in anything.
LASSALLE. Which is not saying that I might not fail in the future.
LASSALLE. Now, today I am going to call on a man who hates me--who totally misunderstands me--and my task is to convince him, without mentioning the subject, that I am a gentleman. In fact--[A knock at the door] In fact--answer that, please, Jacques--to convince him that a man may be earnest and honest in his efforts for human betterment, and that----
JACQUES. [To porter at door] The master, Herr Lassalle, is dressing. I will give him her card.
PORTER. She says she knows him, and demands admittance. She will give neither her name nor her card.
JACQUES. Herr Lassalle can not receive her here--patience--I will tell him, and he will see her in half an hour in the parlor!
[Pauses breathlessly on the threshold, then pushes past the porter. The valet confronts her with arms outstretched to stay her entering.]
HELENE. Ferdinand--I--I am here!
[Lassalle turns and stares, surprised, overcome, joyous--seizes the valet by the shoulder and pushes him out of the door, bowling over the porter who blocks the entrance. Lassalle and Helene face each other. He is about to take her in his arms; she backs away.]
HELENE. Not yet, dear, not yet!
[She sinks into a chair in great confusion, struggling for breath.]
LASSALLE. [Leaning over her tenderly] Tell me what has happened!
HELENE. The worst.
LASSALLE. You mean----
HELENE. That I told my father and mother!
LASSALLE. And they----
HELENE. Renounced me, cursed me--called me vile names--threatened me! They said you are a---- [Trying to laugh]
LASSALLE. A Jew and a demagogue!
HELENE. Would to God they had used terms so mild.
LASSALLE. Did they attack my honor--my personal character?
HELENE. Why ask me? What they said is nothing. They are furious, blind with rage--I escaped to save my life--and--I am here.
LASSALLE. [Coolly, taking his seat in a chair opposite her] Yes, you are here, that is irrefutable. You are here. Now we must consider the situation and then decide on what to do. First, let me ask you how you came to mention me to them.
HELENE. Is it necessary that we should enter into details? Pardon me, I am so sick with fear and humiliation. When I reached home I found the whole household joyous over the news of my sister's betrothal to Count Kayserling. They are to be married in June. I thought it a good time to tell my own joy. You see, I hesitated about your coming to our home in a false position--you and I meeting as if we had never met. I told my sister first. She was grieved, but satisfied since it was my will. She kissed me in blessing. I am an honest woman, Ferdinand--that is, I want to be honest. I scorn a lie--my prayer is to leave every prevarication behind. So I told my mother of you--knowing of course there would be a storm, but never guessing the violence of it. She called in my father and cried, "Your daughter has been debauched by a Jew!" I resented the insult and tried to explain. I upheld you--my father seized the bread-knife from the table and brandished it over me, trying to make me swear never to see you. I refused--he choked me and called me a harlot. To save my life I promised never again to see you. Their violence abated, and when their vigilance relaxed, I escaped and came here--here!
[Holds out her arms toward him; and cowers into her seat as she sees he does not respond.]
LASSALLE. Yes, you are here.
HELENE. Do you not see?--I have come to you.
LASSALLE. [Musingly] I see!
HELENE. Yes, and in doing this I have burned my bridges. I can never go back--I have broken my promise with them--for you. They are no longer my parents. The Paris Express goes in half an hour----
LASSALLE. You studied the time-table?
HELENE. [Trying to smile] Yes, I calculated the time. To be caught here is death to me, and prison to you. In this town my father is supreme--the law is construed as he devises--safety for us lies in flight!
LASSALLE. But my belongings!
HELENE. Your valet can attend to them.
LASSALLE. And I run away, flee?
HELENE. [Trying to be gay] Yes, with me.
LASSALLE. [Exasperatingly cool] It would be the first time I ever ran away from danger.
HELENE. If you remain here you may never have another chance.
LASSALLE. You mean that your father or that little prince, Yanko, may do me violence?
HELENE. No one can tell what my father may do in his present state of mind.
LASSALLE. Then I will remain and see.
HELENE. [In agony] We are wasting time. Do you understand that as soon as my absence is discovered, they will hunt for me--even now the police may be notified!
LASSALLE. Let cowards and criminals run--we have done nothing of which we need be ashamed.
HELENE. Surely not--but what more can I say! Oh, Ferdinand, my Ferdinand!
LASSALLE. Listen to me----
[Knocking is heard at the door. She involuntarily moves toward him for protection. He enfolds her in his arms just an instant. More knocking and louder. Lassalle tenderly puts her away from him and goes to the door, opens it. The landlord stands there with the porter behind him.]
LANDLORD. [Entering] You will pardon me, Herr Lassalle--but the mother and sister of the Fraulein are in the parlor below. They had spies follow her--it is all a misunderstanding, I know. But the young lady should--you will pardon me, both--should not be here with you. She will have to go. I declared to her mother that she was not here; the porter told her otherwise. The police are at the entrance, and you understand I can not afford to have a scene. Will the Fraulein be so good as to go below and meet her mother?
HELENE. My mother! I have no mother.
LANDLORD. You will excuse me if I insist.
[Lassalle starts toward the landlord as if he would throttle him. Then bethinks himself and smiles.]
LASSALLE. Certainly, kind sir, she will go, and I will go with her. We will excuse you now!
[Puts hands on shoulder and half-pushes landlord out of the door. Closes door.]
HELENE. [In terror] What shall I do?
LASSALLE. Do? Why, there is only one thing to do--meet your mother and sister. I will go, too. [Adjusts his collar and puts on his vest and coat] There, I am ready--we go!
HELENE. You do not know them. It is death.
LASSALLE. Nonsense! Have I not addressed a mob and won? Do you trust me?
[Kisses her on the forehead, and putting his arm around her, leads her to the door.]
HELENE. [In agony, striving to be calm] I--I trust you. To whom can I turn!
* * * * * * *
Scene: The Hotel-Parlor.
[Hilda, sister of Helene, hanging dejectedly out of window. Frau Von Donniges standing statue-like in the center of room. Two hotel porters making pretense of dusting furniture.]
Enter LASSALLE with HELENE on his arm.
LASSALLE. [To Helene] Courage, my dear, courage!
[Bows to Frau Von Donniges, who is unconscious of his presence. Lassalle and Helene hesitate and look at each other nervously. Helene clutches Lassalle's arm to keep from falling--they both move slowly around the statuesque Frau. The Frau suddenly perceives them, turns and glares.]
FRAU VON DONNIGES. Away with that man--I will not allow him to remain in this room!
LASSALLE. [Bowing, with hand on heart] Surely, Madame, you do not know me. Will you not allow me to speak--to explain!
FRAU VON DONNIGES. Away, I say--out of my sight! Begone, you craven coward--you thief!
[These are new epithets to Lassalle. He is used to being called a Jew, a fanatic, a dangerous demagogue--something half-complimentary. But there is no alloy in "coward," "thief." He looks at Helene as if to receive reassurance that he hears aright.]
HELENE. Come--you see it is as I told you--reason in her is dead. Let us go.
LASSALLE. [Loosening Helene's hold upon his arm and stepping toward the Frau] Madame, you have availed yourself of a woman's privilege, and used language toward me which men never use toward each other unless they court death. I say no more to you, preferring now to speak to your husband.
FRAU VON DONNIGES. Yes, you speak to my husband--and he will give you what you deserve.
LASSALLE. [Changing his tactics] Your husband is a gentleman, I trust. And you--are the mother of the lady I love, so I will resent nothing you say. You speak only in a passion, and not from your heart. I resent nothing.
FRAU VON DONNIGES. A man spotted with every vice says he loves my daughter! Your love is pollution. My ears are closed to you--you may stand and grimace and insult me, but I hear you not. Go!
LASSALLE. Very well, I will go and see Helene's father. Men may dislike each other--they may be enemies, but they do not spit on each other. If they fight, they fight courteously. I will see Helene's father--he will at least hear me.
FRAU VON DONNIGES. You enter his house, and the servants will throw your vile body into the street.
LASSALLE. I have written him that I will call.
FRAU VON DONNIGES. Your letter was cast into the garbage unopened.
LASSALLE. [Stung] It may be possible, Madame, for you to wear out my patience.
FRAU VON DONNIGES. You have already succeeded in wearing out mine.
HELENE. [In agony--wringing her hands] Hopeless, Ferdinand, you see it is hopeless!
LASSALLE. [Aside to Helene] Her outbreak will pass in a moment.
FRAU VON DONNIGES. You have ruined the reputation of my family--stolen my child. You, who are known over an empire for your dealings with women!
HELENE. [Joining in the fray, in shrill excitement] False! He did not steal me--I went to him unasked. You who call yourself my mother, how dare you traduce me so, you who bore me! I fled from you to save my life--to escape your tortures, you killed my love. I am Lassalle's, because I love him. He understands me--you do not. When you abuse him, you abuse me. When you trample on him, you trample on me. I now choose life with him in preference to perdition with you. I follow him, I am his, I glory in him. Now!
[Helene turns to Lassalle in triumph, believing of course that after she has just avowed herself, they will stand together--he and she.]
LASSALLE. [Calmly] Well spoken, Helene, and now tell me, will you make a sacrifice--a temporary sacrifice for me?
HELENE. [Looking straight at him in absolute faith] Yes, command me!
LASSALLE. Go home, with your--mother!
HELENE. Anything but that.
LASSALLE. Yes, that is what I ask.
HELENE. [Writhing in awful pain] You will not ask of me the impossible.
LASSALLE. No, but this you can do. Your going will soften them. We will win them. Go with them. Do this for me. I leave you here.
[Backs away, and goes out bowing low and very calm. Helene sinks into a chair, crushed in spirit, wrenched, mangled.]
HILDA VON DONNIGES. [Comes forward, and caresses the drooping head of her sister] Bear up, Helene, my sister! We are your friends, our home is yours, no matter what you have done--we forgive it all. Our home is still yours. Bear up--he is gone--now come with us. [Helene merely moans]
FRAU VON DONNIGES. [In Amazonian flush of success] No more of this foolishness--no more of it, I say! He is gone; I knew he could not withstand my plain-spoken truths. He could not look me in the eye. You heard me, Hilda; he could not answer--he dare not. Come, Helene!
[Shakes her by the shoulder. Commotion is heard outside.]
LANDLORD. [Entering by backing into the room, striving by tongue and hands to calm some one outside] Be calm, kind sir! I am innocent in this matter. The ladies are here--here in the parlor. The man is gone--he never was here. In fact, he left before he came--be calm--I keep a respectable house. The police will raid the place, I fear. Be calm and I will explain all!
HERR VON DONNIGES. [Purple with rage, big, prosperous--brandishing cudgel] The Jew--show me the Jew who seduced my daughter! Show him to me, I say! That corrupt scum of society--the man who broke into my house and stole my daughter. [Waves his cane and smites the air] Where is that infidel Jew!
FRAU VON DONNIGES. Now, do not be a fool--I sent the Jew on his way. It was not necessary that you should follow. I can take care of this little matter.
HERR VON DONNIGES. Oh, so you protect her, do you? You side with her? You are a party to her undoing! And has the Jew seduced you, too? Where is he, I say? You seem to be deaf. This man who has ruined my home--he is the man I want, not your apologies. The girl is my daughter, I say! [Suddenly sees Helene crouching in a chair, her face between her knees] Oh, so you are here, my pretty miss--you who brought ruin on your father's house.
[Puts one foot against chair and overturns it. Kicks at prostrate form of Helene. Then seizing her by the hair, drags her across the room, striking her face with his open hands. The mother, daughter and landlord try to restrain his fury.]
LANDLORD. You will kill her!
FRAU VON DONNIGES. She has brought it on herself! But stop--it is enough.
HERR VON DONNIGES. [Half-frightened at his own violence, reaching into his pocket brings out purse and throws it at feet of landlord] Not a word about this!
LANDLORD. Trust me--you will tell of it first!
HERR VON DONNIGES. Is there a carriage at the door?
HERR VON DONNIGES. If any one asks, tell them my daughter is insane--a maniac--and a little force was necessary--you understand?
LANDLORD. I understand.
HERR VON DONNIGES. Here, we must carry her out.
[Tears down curtains from windows and rolls Helene in the curtains.]
LANDLORD. You must pay for those!
HERR VON DONNIGES. Name the amount!
LANDLORD. Why, they cost me----
HERR VON DONNIGES. Never mind. Charge them to the Jew. Here, help carry her--this daughter who has ruined me!
LANDLORD. You act like a man who might do the task of ruining yourself.
[Helene starts to rise. Her father fells her to the floor with the flat of his hand. Seizes her and with the help of the mother and landlord carries her out. Exit, with Hilda following behind, mildly wringing her hands.]
HILDA VON DONNIGES. Oh, why did she bring this disgrace upon us?
* * * * * * *
Scene: Room in house of Herr Von Donniges.
[Furnishings are rich and old-fashioned, as becomes the house of a collector of revenue. Helene pacing the room talking to maidservant, who sits quietly sewing.]
HELENE. It is only a week since I saw Lassalle--only a week. Yet my poor head says it is a year, and my heart says a lifetime. For six days my father kept me locked in that little room in the tower, where not even you were allowed to enter. The butler silently pushed food in at the door and as silently went away. Once each day at exactly noon my father came and solemnly asked, "Do you renounce Lassalle?" and I as solemnly answered, "I will yet be the wife of Lassalle." But since yesterday, when I wrote the letter at their dictation to Lassalle telling him that he was free, and that I was soon to marry Prince Yanko Racowitza, I feel a load lifted from my heart. How queer! Perhaps it is because I am relieved of the pressure of my parents and have been given my freedom!
MAID. Not quite freedom; for see--there is a guard pacing back and forth at the door!
[Guard is seen through the window pacing his beat.]
HELENE. Oh, freedom is only comparative--but now you are with me. I needed some one to whom I could talk. Yet I did not renounce Lassalle until he failed to rescue me--he did not even answer my letter----
MAID. Possibly he did not receive it!
HELENE. But you bribed the porter!
MAID. True; but some one may have paid him more!
HELENE. Listen, do you still think it possible that Lassalle has not forgotten me?
MAID. Not only possible, but probable. A man of his intellect would guess that the letter you wrote was forced from you.
HELENE. A lawyer surely would understand that for things done in terrorem one is not responsible. Now see what I am doing--yesterday I hoped never again to see Lassalle, and now I am planning and praying he will come to me.
MAID. Your heart is with Lassalle.
HELENE. It seems so.
MAID. Then God will bring it about, and you shall be united.
SERVANT. Prince Racowitza!
Enter PRINCE RACOWITZA
[The Prince is small, dark, dapper, unobjectionable. He is much agitated. Helene holds out her hand to him in a friendly, but non-committal, discreet way. Maid starts to go.]
PRINCE. [To maid] Do not leave the room--I have serious news, and your mistress may need your services when I tell her what I have to say!
HELENE. [Relieved by the thought that the Prince is about to renounce all claims to one so caught in the web of scandal] You will remain with me, Elizabeth; I may need you. And now, Prince Yanko--I am steeled [tries to smile]--give me the worst. [The Prince making passes in the air, tierce and thrust with his cane at an imaginary foe] I say, dear Prince, tell me the worst--I think I can bear it. [Helene is almost amused by the sight of the semi-comic opera-bouffe prince] Tell me the worst!
PRINCE. Lassalle has challenged your father!
HELENE. [Blanching] Lassalle has challenged my father!
PRINCE. To the death. [Aiming with his cane at a piece of statuary in the corner] One, two, three--fire!
HELENE. It is not so. Lassalle is opposed to the code on principle.
PRINCE. There are no principles in time of war! Are you ready, gentlemen--One, two, three!
HELENE. [Contemptuously] Why do you not fight him?
PRINCE. Is there no way, gentlemen, by which this unfortunate affair can be arranged? If not----
HELENE. You did not hear me!
PRINCE. Oh, yes, I heard you, and I am to fight him at sunrise. Your father turned the challenge over to me!
HELENE. To you?
PRINCE. And your father has fled to Paris--it is a serious thing to be a party to a duel in Germany--a sure-enough duel!
HELENE. But you are not a swordsman, nor have you ever shot a pistol--you told me so once.
PRINCE. But I have been practising at the shooting-gallery for two hours. The keeper there says I am a wonderful shot--I hit a plaster-of-Paris rabbit seven times in succession!
[Helene is excited; her thought is that Lassalle, being a sure shot and a brave man, will surely kill the Prince. This will eliminate one factor in the tangle. Lassalle having killed his man will have to flee--the Government only tolerates him now. And she will flee with him--her father in Paris, the Prince dead, exile for Lassalle--the way lubricated by the gods--good.]
HELENE. [Excitedly] Yes, fight him, kill him!
PRINCE. I will fight him at sunrise--at once after the meeting, I will drive directly here. If I am unhurt, we will fly--you and I--for Paris to meet your father. If I am wounded, the carriage will come with the horses walking; if I am dead, the horses will be on a run; if I am unharmed, the horses will simply trot and----
HELENE. [Who knows that Lassalle will kill the Prince, hysterically] Will trot--good! And now good-by, good-by!
[Kisses him explosively and backs him out of the door.]
HELENE. [In ecstasy] Lassalle will kill him!
MAID. I am afraid he will.
HELENE. And this will make us free, free!
MAID. It will exile you.
HELENE. And since this home is a prison, exile would be paradise.
* * * * * * *
Scene: Same as Act Five. Time, one day later.
[Very early in the morning. Helene and maid in traveling costume, small valises and rugs rolled and strapped, on center-table.]
HELENE. You gave my letter to Doctor Haenle himself, into his own hands!
MAID. Into his own hands.
HELENE. Then there was no mistake. I told Lassalle I would meet him at the station at seven o'clock--only half an hour yet to spare! We will catch the Switzerland Express. Lassalle will have to go--this affair means exile for him--but for us to be exiled together will be Heaven. Now this is a pivotal point--we must be calm.
MAID. Surely you are calm.
HELENE. Yet I did not sleep a moment all the night.
MAID. Probably Lassalle did not either.
HELENE. Did you hear a carriage?
MAID. [Peering out of window] Only a wagon.
MAID. I hear the sound of horses!
MAID. They are running!
HELENE. My God; yes, they come closer--they are running! Oh, thank Heaven, thank Heaven, the Prince is dead--I am both sorry and glad.
MAID. There, they are turning this way--there, the carriage stops at the door!
HELENE. Dead--the Prince is dead. Now in the excitement that will follow the carrying in of the body, we will escape--we can walk to the station in ten minutes--that gives us ten minutes to spare. Here, you take the rug and this valise, I will take the other. We will find a street porter at the corner, or a carriage. Do not open the door until I tell you!
[Door bursts open and Prince Yanko half-tumbles in.]
PRINCE. I am unharmed--congratulate me--I am unharmed!
[Opens arms to embrace Helene, who backs away.]
HELENE. And Lassalle--Lassalle--where is Lassalle?
PRINCE. He is dead--I killed him!
HELENE. You killed Lassalle--the greatest man in Europe--you killed him!
PRINCE. He fell at the first fire--congratulate me!
HELENE. You lie! Lassalle is not dead. Away! Away! I scorn you--loathe you--away--the sight of you burns my eyeballs--the murderer of Lassalle--away!
[Helene crouches in a corner. Prince stands stiff, amazed. The man, with valises in one hand and rug in shawl-strap, looks on with lack-luster eye, frozen by indecision.]
* * * * * * *
Note.--Helene von Donniges married Prince Racowitza three weeks after the death of Lassalle. The Prince died two years later. Princess Helene committed suicide at Munich, March Twenty-six, Nineteen Hundred Twelve, aged sixty-seven years. These facts are of such a dull slaty-gray and so lacking in dramatic interest that they are omitted from the play.
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