Poet Lore/Volume 35/Number 3/The Great Freeholder
THE GREAT FREEHOLDER
A THREE ACT DRAMA
Translated from the Bohemian by Beatrice M. Mekota
|Dr. Ludvik Svoboda, A great freeholder|
|Klementina, His wife|
|Count Mitrovec of Mitrov|
|Jiri Prokop, A journalist from Prague|
|Max Neufeld, An officer in a bank|
|Aron Lewi, A money loaner|
|Broz, Treasurer at the estate|
|Skala, A farmer|
Scene laid in a castle in eastern Bohemia, year 1872
A salon in a castle with a balcony at one end, and doors at the sides.
Without the village band is playing as it approaches from a distance. The music ceases before the conversation in the salon begins. At the entrance to the balcony stands Dr. Svoboda with his two daughters, Filipina and Anezka; within the salon his wife Klementina, his son, Jaroslav, and the two visitors, Scheffel and Kytka.
Anezka (Plainly attired; looking gloomy).—They are here!
Filipina (Gayly).—Music! A horseback procession! Flower maids and our seven firemen!
Anezka.—The school-master, the village council, and all the people behind them!
Filipina.—Papa, papa! This is all in your honor!
Dr. Svoboda (Banteringly).—Just take notice of all the honor conferred upon me! They have elected me a magistrate for the third time, and now they have prepared this procession to surprise me! (He steps to the door of the balcony but does not appear upon it.)
Jaroslav.—Because they are expecting a good time. They look forward to it as though they were going to celebrate a feast-day.
Jaroslav (To Scheffel).—What a rabble! They want to do nothing but eat and drink! What a pity that Baron Siegdorf didn’t come! What sport he would have out of this!
Scheffel.—Do not begrudge the people their pleasure. It is right that they should try to show their respect for the owner of the castle!
Klementina.—Certainly! I myself would not tolerate anything extreme in the way of a celebration. But we surely can accept this tribute of respect!
Scheffel.—Why, you are a great freeholder here!
Klementina.—Ach! A freeholder! Where are those days when the owners of the great estates were almost on the same level with the nobility! We are now but common citizens,—just like those howling down below!
Scheffel.—It seems to me, gracious lady, that it all depends on you whether you will become anything else. You were born into a noble family from Jiranek—
Jaroslav (Ironically).—Oh, we are the real thing, the genuine nobility! My grandfather on my mother's side was a tanner in Nachod . . .
Jaroslav (Approaching with a laugh).—And my grandfather in Vienna was first a manufacturer, then a member of the commissary department in the army, and finally a noble.
Scheffel.—That reflects nothing but honor upon your grandfather who advanced so rapidly through his own efforts. (To Klementina.) If your husband, gracious lady, would give us some indication of being ambitious, you might have your desire gratified, and become elevated to the rank of the nobility!
Klementina.—Yes, if he only were different from what you see him! But my husband! His whole concern and only pleasure in life consists in curing ailing farmers! And his aspiration, his highest ambition, is to be a Bohemian representative! When I married a physician’s title, I hoped that my husband would become a noble. But, (with a short and bitter laugh) those dreams have vanished, long ago. It is better to turn from such meditations and watch the procession which the village has prepared in honor of Dr. Svoboda. (Walks with Scheffel to the balcony.)
Kytka (To Jaroslav).—It would please me greatly if I should have such an honor as this conferred upon me!
Jaroslav.—You have only to become a justice of the peace in your community to have a similar comedy conferred upon you!
Kytka (Laughing).—That would be fine! As though I have not enough to do, taking care of myself, without having an entire community to look after.
Klementina (To her husband)—Come! Step out on the balcony so the people can see you! Agnes, Filipina, step aside a bit!
Dr. Svoboda (Walks out on the balcony.)
People (Shouting under the window).—Long live the doctor! Long live our magistrate!
(A deputation from the village council steps forth; Skala, Hromadka, the parson, schoolmaster, and two representatives.)
Skala, Hromadka, the parson, school-master, and the two representatives.
Skala (A fleshy, but restless, sanguine, and somewhat elderly farmer).—God bless you, gracious sir! May you prosper, you with all your titled family!
Dr. Svoboda (Laughing).—Born, friend, not a titled family! (Greets the others.)
Klementina.—I welcome you, friends.
Hromadka.—We,—gracious lady— . . . How could I . . . I, Hromadka,—and not this gentleman . . . God bless you . . . (offers his hand to Klementina who backs away.) Well then . . . (Presses the hand of Klementina who winces at his grasp, and steps to one side where Jaroslav and Scheffel stand laughing.)
Filipina (Quictly laughing, to her mother).—That was a sincere handshake.
Klementina (Jokingly, holding her hand)—It was . . .
Skala.—Since we are all here, permit, dear sir, permit me to express what is in my heart. Well, then, (Raising his voice) Gracious sir, and your respected family! We, the plain but good people of the village of Lhot, are overjoyed because you, our beloved freeholder, philanthropist and recognized patriot, such as is seldom known, have again accepted the election and become, once more, our benefactor and magistrate. We feel as if all anxiety, all care, had fallen from our shoulders . . .
Jaroslav (Quietly),—I believe you . . . that is just what you wish, you rascals!
Skala.—Because you, gracious sir, look after the village, well, just as—no offence, sir,—just as a hen looks after its brood. (Dr. Svoboda is laughing in the midst of the ladies who are trying to suppress their mirth.)
Jaroslav.—Boors, you mean, not a brood of chickens!
Skala.—Whatever we have in the village that is worth mentioning, the school, the parsonage, the church—these were all built by you, gracious sir, or at least improved. You give the people an opportunity to earn their living, you advise and help them in all things. And so, we thank God for the blessings.
Jaroslav (In a low voice).—Of getting drunk and making merry at our expense.
Skala.—And we only hope that you, good sir, may honor that dignified office to which we have again elected you, and hold it to the end of your days.
Members of the deputation.—Glory!
Skala.—Hromadko, place the signal, (Pointing to the balcony,) up there!
Hromadka (Leaping to the balcony, waves a red handkerchief, and shouts).—Glory!
People (Beneath the window).—Glory! Glory! Glory!
Dr. Svoboda.—I thank you, my friends, for this honor. The more sincere the demonstration, the better it pleases me. I hope the Lord will grant you all the gifts of health and happiness.
Skala—And you hope that we, the common people, may retain our reason and good sense, so as not to bother you more than we should.—(Laughter.)
Hromadka.—We beg you to get along with us the best you can.
Dr. Svoboda.—I will try! I will endeavor to. Give my greetings to the entire community, and in the afternoon, come out to the park. There we will have a gathering, all of us together.
Hromadka—(Leaps up, shouting from the balcony).—Afternoon . . . to the park! (Making the sign of eating and noon drinking.) (More laughter.)
People (Below).—Glory! Glory! Glory! (The deputation taking leave.)
Dr. Svododa.—The Lord be with you, good friends and neighbors!
Hromadka (Turning to Klementina, who in consternation, but looking unconcerned, is trying to find a way to escape. Hromadka finally seizes her hand. In that instant he slips and falls).—Thunder!
Klementina.—Thank the Lord! (Laughter in the group around her.)
Skala.—Well, friend, you did that neatly! (Pointing to Hromadka.) What a picture!
(Hromadka arises, and in the midst of laughter, steps backward to the right.)
Jaroslav (Pointing out Hromadka to Scheffel and Kytka).—And that is also a part of the public office!
Kytka, Jaroslav, Scheffel, Klementina, later Dr. Svoboda.
Kytka.—Well, that was fine! I would give a thousand dollars to have some one speak the same way of me.
Jaroslav.—I could make better use of that thousand.
Kytka.—Well, perhaps! Then I would give you another thousand.
Jaroslav (To himself).—Money bag!
Scheffel (Approaching Klementina).—I am going to be very uncivil, gracious lady.
Scheffel.—May I remind you, gracious lady.
Klementina.—Oh, you wished to have a few words? I will be very much pleased. Attend me to my room, Mr. Scheffel. (Enter Dr. Svoboda. Speaks to Kytka.) Mr. Kytka, you will excuse me for a moment. (Makes a sign to Kytka who answers with a clumsy bow. Klementina and Scheffel walk off to the left.)
Dr. Svoboda, Kytka
Kytka.—And now I am with you, Respected Doctor, alone. Now, . . . now, . . . I will attempt it . . . doctor!
Dr. Svoboda.—You appear to be somewhat disturbed, dear friend!
Kytka.—I am (Looking around, trying to compose himself.) I cannot speak! But perhaps you have already noticed, dear doctor, that there is nothing on earth which would delight me more, (Choking) . . . the privilege of asking for your daughter’s hand . . .
Dr. Svoboda (Laughing).—Mine?
Kytka.—That is just the case . . . the hand of your daughter, Anezka.
Dr. Svoboda.—And does my daughter know of this?
Kytka.—She does not! She does not! I have not had the courage! I am here now for the fifth time to pay my respects, and I knew her even before that . . . but I can only look . . . I am not able to talk!
Dr. Svoboda.—But just try to, once.
Kytka.—This time, I am going to. Doctor, you know my father left me a sugar-factory with an estate which I sold for six hundred thousand florins!
Dr. Svoboda (Frowning, says to himself).—So that is the most important news, you poor mortal!
Kytka.—I will give your daughter all that I have if she will only accept me. I want nothing for myself, (With emphasis) but her!
Dr. Svoboda.—Well, I will refer the matter to her mother. Hold your head up! Go into the garden, compose yourself, then come back. (Enter Klementina, quickly, looking somewhat disturbed.)
Klementina (Notices Kytka).—Ah! (Kytka bows and walks away.)
Dr. Svoboda, Klementina
Dr. Svoboda.—What is it?
Klementina.—I have news!
Dr. Svoboda—The same as I have, I wonder!
Klementina.—What is it?
Dr. Svoboda.—Young Kytka has just asked me for the hand of Anezka.
Klementina (With brightening face).—And Mr. Scheffel has just asked me for the hand of Filipina.
Dr. Svoboda (To himself).—Ah! Then we will be celebrating two weddings at one time!
Klementina.—You are so serious!
Dr. Svoboda.—It is a serious matter. It is necessary, first of all, to know what the children think about it.
Klementina.—Filipina is fortunate. She truly likes Mr. Scheffel.
Dr. Svoboda.—And Anezka?
Klementina.—She is so reticent. I feel that she is almost a stranger to me. She is such a riddle that I have not the patience to solve her.
Dr. Svoboda.—You love her altogether too little!
Klementina.—About as much as she loves me. But you, at least, cannot complain that you do not possess her affection!
Dr. Svoboda.—She is a kind and dutiful daughter.
Klementina.—A bit provincial. You two are just alike. And as I was saying, that Kytka—
Dr. Svoboda (Moving about nervously).—Is a simple boy . .
Klementina (Seating herself; ironically).—Yes, very simple!
Dr. Svoboda (Seating himself).—What a pity that he hasn’t a little more intelligence!
Klementina (Proudly).—For Anezka, he has quite enough!
Anezka, Dr. Svoboda, Klementina, later the servant
Anezka (Brightening, extends toward them a letter which she holds in her hand).—Father,—mother,—we are going to have company!
Klementina.—Who is it to be?
Anezka (Radiantly).—Mr. Prokop . . . he writes me that he is coming!
Klementina (Aside to her husband).—Notice how she looked when she spoke of him.
Anezka.—He is coming some time this morning!
Dr. Svoboda.—But he did not write to me?
Anezka.—His letter is awaiting you; it is downstairs. I will bring it up with the others.
Klementina.—Listen, Anezka—let that letter go just now.
Anezka (Looking at the two).—Mother, . . . is it something serious?
Klementina.—Mr. Kytka has just asked for permission to speak for your hand.
Anezka (Overcome with surprise).—Mine,—mine! (Glances from her mother to her father, bursts into tears, then runs off.)
Dr. Svoboda, Klementina, later the servant
Dr. Svoboda.—That is not a cheerful sign!
Klementina (Suspiciously). There is love back of it!
Dr. Svoboda.—You think so? What kind?
Klementina.—I do not know.
Dr. Svoboda (Sighing).—Our answer to Mr. Kytka will be somewhat disappointing to him! And what shall we say to Mr. Scheffel?
Klementina.—That depends upon ourselves.
Dr. Svoboda.—Upon him, rather! He is not a simple-minded boy!
Klementina (Hesitatingly).—He told the treasurer several times yesterday, that he is still in need of fifty thousand florins for his factory.
Dr. Svoboda (Ironically).—A practical man,—he comes right to the point.
- Klementina.—He wants to leave this afternoon.
Dr. Svoboda.—We will give him his answer in a few days.
Klementina.—Very well. (Walks off to the left.)
Dr. Svoboda (Buried in thought).—But what kind of an answer? Can I grant his request and make my child happy, at the same time? (He is silent for a moment; a servant enters the room.)
Servant.—Your Grace,—Count Mitrovec of Mitrova.
Dr. Svoboda (Overcome with surprise).—The Count? Let him come in! After he leaves, tell the treasurer I wish to see him.
(Enter Count Mitrovec; exit servant.)
Count Mitrovec of Mitrova; Dr. Svoboda; later the Servant and Broz
Count.—Doctor, I hope I have not annoyed you by this surprise! (Presses his hand.)
Dr. Svoboda.—I so seldom have the honor of seeing you!
Count.—We two understand the pleasure of being alone, so we seldom visit each other. Even today, doctor, I do not wish to take much of your time. For I have come neither to exchange ideas, nor to be entertained.
Dr. Svoboda.—I am consumed with curiosity! (Motions to him to be seated.)
Count.—I am about to leave the village. Just an hour ago, I received a letter from the Count of Smecen which enraged me.
Dr. Svoboda.—Has something happened? Something serious?
Count.—Say, rather, something contemptible,—low!
Dr. Svoboda.—You are growing angry, Count!
Count.—Yes, even I, the old philosophical observer of human life and human events, who has but sympathy and mercy for the depravity of the human race. But this depravity, which stirred me so deeply today, is such a sure indication of moral decay, that even I could no longer retain my composure! Can you believe what the Count of Smecen writes me about the coming elections of the House of Representatives, and those frenzied agitations on the part of our opponents?
Dr. Svoboda.—I am curious.
Count.—My old friend informs me that the opposite side has resorted to methods such as never yet have been heard of in political battles. They intend to buy up, with large sums of money, as many as possible of the great estates and large freeholders, so that our faction, which represents the historical past of the country, and its independence, could not become victorious, by any manner or means! (Rising angrily.) They want to drown us out with a stream of their filthy money,— ah, what abomination is possible on earth!
Dr. Svoboda (Rising).—This thing,—which you are now telling me . . . it is so frightful, so low, that I still can hardly believe it! When it was discussed in the newspapers, I thought it must be a mere conjecture,—but if it is really true, what will be the result?
Count.—Yes, yes, the possible result! In former times, war was waged in our country with arms and accompanied by the flow of blood, today it is waged with the ballot. But this coming fight, which will decide the election among the freeholders, will be fully as decisive as any bloody battle fought in the Middle Ages.
Dr. Svoboda—Certainly. If we lose this battle, it will affect us for the next hundred years. But we need not be gravely concerned about the plans of our opponents. To carry on a plan to its execution is not as easy as sliding down hill (With a laugh.) The large estates are not easily bought up. None of them are on sale for a six-pence!
Count.—Yet you could buy up a score of them if you were willing to lose several millions And are you aware of the source from which our opponents are drawing their money?
Dr. Svoboda.—They established a special bank for that purpose in Vienna.
Count.—Yes; by buying up mortgages, a large sum of money will be raised by our opponents.
Dr. Svoboda.—Then it behooves us to work, agitate the matter, warning the voters, so that no member of our side could be induced to sell his estate.
Count.—So, so, . . . if such things as poverty, selfishness and corruption were unknown among the freeholders themselves. Defense through speech alone will not help. For poison there must be anti-poison. We have no other recourse, my friend, but to resort to similar weapons.
Dr. Svoboda . . . which, whether we wish to or not, we must call immoral.
Count.—Essentially immoral, perhaps; but not immoral when applied for the purpose of self-defense. Or shall we permit ourselves, rather, to be smothered out? Never! We must not remain inert! Of course our hands must remain clean. They shall never touch strange money! Our party, the first representatives of historic nobility, has been raising funds to buy up as many as possible of the large estates, and today, I myself directed by telegram the payment of a certain sum of money. I have made an arrangement, through which most of the money that I leave would be used for important public purposes after my death. But today, and no doubt during the next hundred years, there will be no more important event than the winning of this election. For we now are facing the necessity of preserving our national identity and saving our nation.
Dr. Sjoboda.—Every patriot must do his duty according to his means.
Count.—But God forbid that the corruption I anticipate should be greater in our own party than we expect!
Dr. Svoboda.—Honesty has not so completely died out that corruption could dance unpunished on its grave!
Count.—And in spite of all my philosophy, I share the same opinion. But I was greatly alarmed over that last report, and I must confess, there will be a period of disquiet for me until after the election. (Rising to go.) So come to see me, my dear neighbor, and we will discuss the subject more fully.
Dr. Svoboda.—With your consent, Count.
Count.—Give my excuses to your family since I have failed to pay them my respects.
Dr. Svoboda—They will regret it deeply.
Count (Laughing).—I would be but a sorry companion for them today (Walks away, escorted by Dr. Svoboda.)
(Broz enters, with papers and bills which he begins to examine. Dr. Svoboda returns after a few minutes.)
Dr. Svoboda, Broz
Dr. Svoboda (Somewhat uncertainly).—My dear Mr. Broz, I have just received a report from Count Mitrovec which imposes a certain obligation upon me . . . .
Broz (With a rough laugh).—You wish to contribute to another subscription . . . .
Dr. Svoboda (Uncertainly).—Yes, yes . . . how much have we in the treasury?
Broz.—I cannot give you the exact amount off hand, but it does not exceed a thousand florins.
Dr. Svoboda (To himself).—That is but little, very little indeed!
Broz.—And that has been put aside for pressing expenses.
Dr. Svoboda.—But I must have more!
Broz (With emphasis on the word “notes”).—And certain notes are due in three weeks.
Dr. Svoboda (Passing his hand over his forehead).—Do not talk to me about notes. A sacred duty demands the money of me.
Broz (Dryly).—Impossible to break a trust, I suppose.
Dr. Svoboda (Frightened).—Do not frighten me!
Broz.—If it were but a matter of a few hundred . . . .
Dr. Svoboda.—Ten thousand is the smallest amount that I can give!
Broz (With a harsh laugh).—Ten thousand! I cannot even meet those notes in three weeks, and now I shall be fortunate if I can borrow . . . .
Dr. Svoboda (Mopping his forhead).—The fields look promising, and the harvest ought to pay back all that we owe!
Broz.—That is, it can save the estate in a year’s time if no unforeseen occurrence or streak of ill-luck comes! The Lord grant that the present cloud looming up will blow over. If the harvest were to be lost, everything would go with it!
Dr. Svoboda.—You frighten me!
Broz.—I am always the black lining to your cloud! Would that I could be the silver one!
Dr. Svoboda (Sharply).—But I must contribute something to the cause!
Broz.—Better attend to your own floor first so it doesn’t cave through!
Dr. Svoboda.—Yes, that is the excellent principle of selfishness which screens itself by excuses regardless of the consequence to others, regardless of its duty to the nation and the people. That is the mask which screens that national avarice which refuses to see the herd of the hungry, the mask so neatly prepared that the people cannot hear the word, “Help!”
Broz.—And suppose that we, for the need of timely help, should perish ourselves?
Dr. Svoboda (Angrily).—Self-praise is unnecessary,—but might be better to perish than to drift on to that abyss where people perish with their principles. If each one of us should intelligently help, according to his own strength and ability, the appearance of the entire country would become changed, and our loftiest dreams would be realized.
Broz.—I do not wish to thrust my surly egotism upon you, doctor, but I am only talking common sense, cold common sense. (An uproar in the courtyard with a rising shout.)
What a misfortune!
Dr. Svoboda.—What is happening? (Hastens out upon the balcony.)
(Klementina quickly steps in.)
Klementina, Dr. Svoboda, Broz
Klementina.—Do you know what has happened?
Dr. Svoboda.—I just heard the poeple shouting . . .
Klementina.—Baron Siegdorf arrived a short time ago. He requested the pleasure of seeing my new coach-horses. The coachman Jirik brought them out of the stable,—but something must have frightened the horses. One started forward and fell, drawing down the other, and now both are lying in a heap with their legs broken!
Dr. Svoboda.—And Jirik?
Klementina.—He managed to slide out of it alive.
Dr. Svoboda.—Thank Heaven! And nothing else has happened?
Klementina.—Nothing else. Except that just at that instant, old Hromadkova was passing with her cow. The cow leaped aside to escape the horses, and struck the old woman in the head with her horns.
Dr. Svoboda.—Where is Hromadkova?
Klementina.—Down below in the servant’s-hall. (Angrily.) But does she interest you more than the poor horses do?
Dr. Svoboda.—That is not a mere misfortune but an accident!
Klementina.—Then order another team of horses for me at once, and be sure they are good trotters as the others were! (Dr. Svoboda stops, looking at the treasurer.)
Broz.—They were valued at three thousand florins.
Klementina.—Then we must have that same amount.—
Broz.—But we cannot raise it!
Klementina.—Mr. Broz! . . . (Looks intently at Dr. Svbboda.) Ludvik! Certainly I am not going to walk to town, or go afoot to the neighbors?
Dr. Svoboda.—But surely, there are other horses to be had?
Klementina.—Not unless you mean that ancient team of yours? One would need to shoot above their heads to make them break into a trot!
Dr. Svoboda.—My dear Klementina, certainly you realize how we stand financially!
Klementina.—And if we were ten times worse off than we really are, I still would say, without a coach and pair I cannot get along! Why don’t you sell your bank stock?
Dr. Svoboda.—Impossible! Without losing half of its face value. Wait until the stock advances a bit!
Klementina.—Then try some other device. (To Broz) Send a telegram to Prague for the horses.
Broz.—I beg to be pardoned, gracious lady,—but there is no money to pay for them!
Klementina.—I did not ask you, officer, whether there is money or not. I sternly command you to see to it that in three days the horses are here! (Walks off to the left without acknowledging the officer’s low bow.)
Dr. Svoboda, Broz, later the Servant and Hromadkova
Dr. Svoboda (To Broz).—Will it be possible?
Broz (Dryly).—Your annual income, respected sir, is already overdrawn by two thousand florins,—and the year is hardly half gone!
Dr. Svoboda (Carefully, as though afraid of pressing the subject).—Mr. Broz, this time, even I did not ask you to volunteer any information.
Broz.—Hm, hm, you will pardon the offense, I hope!
Dr. Svoboda.—If the money cannot be raised, we will not purchase any more horses before the harvest.
Broz.—That is sensible!
Dr. Svoboda.—But my contribution to Prague must be sent! At least five thousand.
Broz (With emphasis).—Doctor!
Dr. Svoboda.—Yes, at least five thousand. Sell my bank stock for six.
Broz (To himself).—At this rate, we will soon be at the foot of the hill!
Dr. Svoboda (Irritably).—What has happened now? I did not wish to be disturbed by anyone!
Servant.—Old Hromad kova is begging for your aid. The cow put out her eye.
Dr. Svoboda.—What are you saying? (To himself, shortly.) Klementina did not mention that to me. Of course, the horses were of more importance! (Civilly to the servant.) Then gather together my surgical instruments. We will go to her.
Serjant.—She is waiting here. (Pointing to the door.)
Dr. Svoboda.—Bring her in.
(The Servant opens the door. Enter Hromadkova, her face half-bandaged by a shawl.)
Dr. Svoboda (Greeting the old woman).—Well, well, Neighbor, and what did that fallow animal do to you? (Dismisses Servant.)
Hromadkova.—She put out my eye! I thought I would die, right on the spot!
Servant (Enters with a surgical case.)
Dr. Svoboda.—Oh, it may not be so bad. The eye is out?
Dr. Svoboda.—I must take care of the wound, and later you shall have an artificial eye. Come.
(The old woman, servant and doctor step into the room at the left. Enter Jaroslav. Looks around then approaches the treasurer.)
Jaroslav, Broz, later Dr. Svoboda, and Hromadkova
Jaroslav.—Well then, High Lord Chancellor of the Treasury, how is your treasure? Those two thousand that I spoke of before, you have them ready for me?
Broz.—I have not, young sir.
Jaroslav.—Then they must be secured in some other way. With Aron, my credit is still good. And what about those new coach-horses for my highly respected mother?
Broz.—The doctor will not allow us to buy them,—not until after the harvest.
Jaroslaj (Laughing).—Would not allow them? This will be another merry day for mother! Yes, we are getting along, fine! This is thrift, good husbandry! We must begin to use our wits and find other resources! But do you hear me, Mr. Broz? I am in pressing need of that two thousand today!
Broz.—For what purpose?
Jaroslav.—My very good friend from Vienna, Max Neufeld, is coming. I want to go with him to the city. Its been a long time since I’ve been out on a real vagabondage. (Goes aside to the right.) Mr. Scheffel has been asking for you. (Whistles and walks away.)
Broz.—Again? A very special honor.
(From the left enters Dr. Svoboda, Hromadkova, and Servant.)
Dr. Svoboda.—There. For the present I have fixed you up. Just be careful not to move the bandage.
Hromadkova.—May the Lord reward you a thousand times, noble sir!
Dr. Svoboda.—That’s all right! Just come back again tomorrow! (Exit the Olld Woman and Servant from the right.)
Broz.—Another relieved patient. But be careful: “May the Lord reward you!”
Dr. Svoboda.—Wouldn’t it be fine! To allow these poor unfortunates to pay for their misfortune! But they reward me in other ways.
Broz.—Just as that farmer, Zicha, did. Do you remember how you set his fractured shoulder, then he led the water from his marshy land down through ditches into your field?
(From the left enters Baron Siegdorf in short satin riding coat and riding-trousers, with a whip in hand. His feet are somewhat crooked. He speaks quickly and proudly with an affected German accent. He tries to assume an air of importance, yet at times is comical and almost clownish. Without a word of greeting, he steps boldly up to Dr. Svoboda, and offers his hand. Broz, standing in the background, is closely observing the baron during his conversation with the doctor.)
Baron Siegdorf, Dr. Svoboda, Broz
Siegdorf.—That was a stroke of bad luck. Such horses, Neighbor! Such trotters! And that stupid rajtknecht allowed them to become frightened! I would have him beaten well and driven away. But you can buy a new team and all will be well again. If I only had a team of coach-horses with me, I would insist that madame accept them in place of her maimed ones, but I have just a saddle-horse with me, just a rajtpferd. (He runs about the salon, picking up particles, examining pictures, without taking further notice of the doctor or Broz.)
Dr. Svoboda.—I thank you for my wife, Baron, but you are somewhat late.
Siegdorf.—Pardon, Neighbor. I wanted to be present for that farce which took place here, that comedy which the neighbors planned so neatly in your honor, but you see I was delayed. I was just about to start when there appeared that rogue, that district-usurer, Aron Lewi, with two servants of the Lord . . . and you can imagine the scene we had! (Laughing.) For a while, I merely humored them and laughed. Finally, they wearied me. So I had the footman show them out,—and Lewi I put out forcibly.
Dr. Svoboda.—But those people will surely seek revenge, Baron.
Siegdorf.—What kind of revenge? I pay only my legitimate debts, and money they cannot get! And if they dare lay a plot of some sort against me, I will beat them up at the first chance meeting on the street.
Dr. Svoboda.—But your estate?
Siegdorf.—Oh, the devil took possession of that, long ago! Not as much as a wing of it rightfully belongs to me now. Let them have it. If somebody should want it, I would put it up to an appraisor, possibly today.
Dr. Svoboda.—Today? . . . Before the election?
Siegdorf.—It makes no difference, either before election, or after. Who is going to stop for election?
Dr. Svoboda.—But you are alligned with our party! You cannot desert us just before election!
Siegdorf.—I shall stay with you as long as it may suit my convenience to do so. But if I can dispose of the estate at a good figure, certainly no one would expect me to wait out of consideration for a foolish political principle! Some opponent or other from the opposite side will sell your party another estate, so in the end, things will be held about even, Dr. Svoboda.
Dr. Svoboda.—Baron, you surely must be joking. At least, hold your estate until election is over. It would be greatly to your credit!
Siegdorf.—But how irrational you are, Neighbor! I am not joking. I could not make a better decision or act more sensibly! If I can rid myself of financial embarrassment so easily, surely I should not be irresolute and hesitate to sell on account of a foolish election!
Dr. Svoboda.—But listen a minute, Baron. Count Mitrovec is greatly disturbed over the report that our opponents are making use of large sums of money to win this coming election. His honor as a noble . . . .
Siegdorf.—Eh, what is Count Mitrovec to me? He is an old fossil and a recluse. And as for honor? The first fundamental law is the law of self-protection. To sell an estate is surely not dishonorable. But, Neighbor, let us stop quarreling over trifles! I have a slight request to make of you. (He stops running about the room, striking an attitude before the Doctor.)
Dr. Svoboda.—Let me hear it.
Siegdorf.—I have a debt to pay. I lost fifteen thousand at cards. Could you not, Neighbor, make me a loan of a couple of thousand for a month or so?
Dr. Svoboda.—I deeply regret, my friend, that I am unable to grant your request.
Siegdorf.—Do not be afraid. I will not offer you a note. Notes I do not always pay but my honorable debts I settle. I give you my word of honor that I will remember to pay it back. Two thousand I can surely sell the castle for, and in a month’s time, the money will be mine. And if not, well then, my good aunt cannot live forever, and after her demise, I shall inherit half of her estate. Then I will settle everything, and even pay off the Jew, Aron.
Dr. Svoboda.—You embarrass me by pressing your request, Baron, but I must refuse you. My hands are now tied . . .
Baron.—I depended upon you absolutely. But how goes it with you, Neighbor? Are you so badly off, then? These are surely devilish hard times (Suddenly leaves the Doctor and begins to run about the salon.) But where are the young ladies, your daughters? I must pay them my respects
Dr. Svoboda—Most likely they are in the park. If you wish, I will attend you there, Baron. Will you permit me to say another word or two about the election?
Siegdorf—I thank you, but do not exert yourself unnecessarily. I feel perfectly at home here. (Bows, quickly making his exit to the left.)
Broz, Dr. Svoboda
Broz (Gazing after Siegdorf).—That is a fine specimen of the nobility!
Dr. Svoboda.—He will never be different. But, (Meditating) it seems to me, Master of the Treasury, that you began a somewhat serious conversation with me a while ago.
Broz.—Yes, that is true. And if you will permit me . . .
Dr. Svoboda.—Tell me everything that is on your mind. And make it short.
Broz.—Honorable Doctor, unless there is a change in your finances before long, somebody else will be ruling in your place over this estate.
Dr. Svoboda (Frightened).—Seat yourself. (They are both seated.)
Broz—When it pleased you to buy this estate, you were out of debt except for a part of the dowry which you owe your wife. Today, you owe 30,000 florins borrowed on the estate, and the timbers have been chopped out five years in advance.
Dr. Svoboda (Sighing).—I cannot understand why everything seems to be turning against us. I have an excellent farm manager. Few as capable are to be found. We have also had prosperous years.
Broz.—Yes, yes—the farm manager is a good repairer, but he takes no account of what repairs cost! Add to that a number of very poor years, as far as harvests are concerned, with one tremendous flood,—then speculation with your fatal bank-stock—and then—
Dr. Svoboda.—Do not stop.
Broz.—That yearly deficit . . . .
Dr. Svoboda.—So, it is so! . . . And the remainder of my property with all my wordly goods hangs high in the air. Well, I almost expected as much. I was afraid to admit it to myself . . . Now it probably is too late!
Dr. Svoboda.—How is that?
Broz.—If you wish me to advise you, I would suggest that you manage everything yourself.
Dr. Svoboda.—I am hardly fitted for such an undertaking!
Broz.—At first, you need do nothing more than to remain steadily on your estate. Give up everything that is needlessly taking your money and your time.
Dr. Svoboda.—And that is?
Broz.—Your representative mandate, your three month’s visit to Prague, your village magistracy, and your office in the Farmer’s Savings Bank.
Dr. Svoboda.—And further . . . .
Broz.—Furthermore, limit your countless expenses, and try to show the members of your family how to reduce theirs.
Dr. Svoboda.—So I stand on the very verge of ruin, and only a complete change in the management of my affairs can save me. (Hotly, as though to himself.) So you see, my friend, how my fondest hopes have remained unfulfilled, and how the tide of fortune has turned against me. My dream can never be realized. From a struggling Bohemian student, I kept on rising until I became a noted physician and professor in Prague. I acquired a famous reputation, and the money poured in. Had I but remained in Vienna, I might today be a man of great wealth. But something kept drawing me back to the land of my fathers, and I became possessed of the desire to have a castle with a great estate. And for this crazy reason: to be the master over all I surveyed, to live in the seat of one of the oldest and best known Bohemian families, and to finally help decide the destinies of my country. Who can believe me, who can feel and understand the wondrous fascination of the idea, the charm with which it held me!
Broz.—It was a beautiful and fond ambition,—that I can readily understand!
Dr. Svoboda.—I actually succeeded in realizing my ambition. From that moment forth, I lived here as one lives in a dream. And see, today I hear from your lips the truth,—that my roof is caving in over my head, and the floor is about to sink under my feet. This is terrible!
Broz.—Energy and good management can yet save the situation.
Dr. Svoboda.—You are right. I must make amends for my remissness in the past. It is not I alone whom this affects, but my wife, my children!
Broz.—Splendid! Splendid! That is right, doctor! Just depend on me! We will see you through together. (Enter the Servant.)
Dr. Svoboda (Irritably).—Now what has happened?
Servant.—A deputation of County Representatives is here.
Dr. Svoboda.—That is how it goes, (Aside to Broz with a laugh.) They have come most likely, to ask me to be their County Magistrate. But I will accept no more of their honors. (Aloud to the Servant.) Let the gentlemen come in.
(Enter the burgomaster, Prouza, with the farmers Cerny and Valtera. The Servant leaves.)
Prouza, Valtera, Cerny, the Others
Prouza (A sincere and serious man).—Respected Doctor, now our Honorable Magistrate!
Dr. Svoboda (With a laugh).—What does this mean, gentlemen? The whole speech at once, please!
Valtera (A voluble talker, easily excited).—It cannot be otherwise with us, Honorable Doctor! What would become of us in these legislative times? We, the people, had to keep our opinions behind our teeth for several hundred years,—so now we must say frankly what we think and feel, and talk things over.
Prouza.—Tomorrow the election of the County Magistrate is to take place, so we have come with one accord, Honorable Doctor, to ask you to take upon yourself the burden of this office.
Dr. Svoboda.—Gentlemen, I assure you that I am pleased with the confidence you repose in me. But grave and serious reasons make it imperative that I should, for the present at Icast, give up all offices.
Valtera.—But that is not possible!
Dr. Svoboda.—I cannot accept the office.
Prouza.—Honorable Doctor, without you, (Taking his hand) the entire county would be an orphan. You are not only a magistrate, but a father to the people, . . . you take better care of public interests than you do of your own estate!
Dr. Svoboda (Buried in thought).—That is probably true.
Prouza.—And so just now, when we are just beginning to profit through your services, when you have attended to all the funds that had to be raised, the loans made necessary by last year’s floods, when our success at this moment depends entirely upon you,—no, doctor, today you cannot refuse us.
Dr. Svoboda.—In spite of all that, gentlemen, you must manage to get along without my services.
Prouza.—We realize that our arguments are weak, Respected Doctor, and we do not know how to talk to you. But on my soul, this is a disappointment, a bitter disappointment!
Valtera (Turning upon Cerny).—Isn’t this enough to make one shed tears? But you know I warned you he might refuse us! The great freeholder,—it may be as it may,—but he should have a warm spot in his heart for us, the struggling common people!
Dr. Svoboda.—Valtera! You do not know how hard you are making it for me! (Turning in doubt to Broz.) If there were any possible way . . .
Prouza.—It must be possible! Won’t you try to give up something else . . . but do . . . do not abandon us now!
Dr. Svoboda.—If you only realized . . . my time . .
Prouza.—Just this one time . . . we will not come again!
Dr. Svoboda (To himself).—This is painful. (To Broz) I must conserve the time in some other way. (To the deputation) Then I will accept the office this time, once more!
Prouza.—Accept, beloved friend, our heartfelt thanks. It comes from the deths of our hearts. All the village will bless you!
Dr. Svoboda.—Be well, and may you prosper, gentlemen! Till we meet again!
(The deputation leaves.)
Broz.—In vain . . . to reason with you is all in vain!
(The door half opens; Anezka appears.)
Anezka, Filipina, Prokop, then the servant
Anezka.—Father, Mr. Prokop has arrived.
Dr. Svoboda.—Where is he?
Anezka.—We are bringing him with us. (Enter Prokop with Anezka and Filipina.)
Dr. Svoboda.—I welcome you, dear Jirik! I see you have grown up, yet to me you are just a boy still.
Prokop.—Just as I was twenty years ago.
Dr. Svoboda (Dismissing Broz).—My dear friend, do not look so gloomy. This afternoon we must have a council and talk over all our plans.
Broz (To himself, shaking his head)—And by tomorrow, it may be too late. (Goes away.)
Dr. Svoboda.—And now, my Jirik, what is happening in Prague?
Prokop.—Everyone is looking forward to the coming election. It will take place within five weeks. The excitement is increasing from day today. The establishment of People’s Savings Banks, reports of the preparations which are being made against us, that all reacts upon the people like the sounding of an alarm.
Dr. Svoboda.—What a pity that I cannot be in Prague!
Prokop.—For the present, Honorable Doctor, you are needed more here. We are counting greatly upon your support.
Dr. Svoboda.—In what capacity?
Prokop.—In this: that you will use your influence to persuade the great holders of estates to remain, in this surrounding district, loyal to their historic traditions. I have been sent out to obtain, if possible, a reliable report from each. I must go directly from here to the Soukup, the Zahradka estates, and then to Baron Siegdorf. We are uncertain about them.
Dr. Svoboda.—Soukup is with us,—but Baron Siegdorf is exceedingly uncertain. The others, . . . Siegdorf is now present here . . . (Looks at his daughters.)
Filipina.—He is with mamma in the park.
Dr. Svoboda.—Come, my friend! We will speak with him before he leaves. (Rising)
Prokop.—Very well. (Rises. All leave.)
Dr. Svoboda.—If it is in any way possible, I will ride to the Soukup estate with you. (Leaving. Enter Neufeld and Jaroslav from the right.)
Dr. Svoboda, Neufeld, Jaroslav
Dr. Svoboda (Questioningly).—I have the honor?
Jaroslav.—My esteemed friend and former University associate.
Neufeld.—Max Neufeld, son of the banker Neufeld of Vienna.
Dr. Svoboda.—Can I be of any service to you?
Neufeld.—My father desires very much to buy up some property in Bohemia. I thought at once of my friend, your esteemed son, and took the liberty to come, Honorable Doctor, to ask you for advice in this matter, or at least for a suggestion.
Dr. Svoboda.—I deeply regret, Mr. Neufeld, that such matters do not fall within my province.
Neufeld (Persistently).—I took the trouble to learn whether there is an estate for sale in this district. My mother has taken a fancy to the historic banks of the Elbe which she knew years ago.
Jaroslav (Aside)—When she was still the daughter of the Burgomaster Kostelec.
Dr. Svoboda.—I know of none which would be to your liking, Mr. Neufeld.
Neufeld—My mother especially fancied this castle and estate. Honorable Doctor, should you by any chance be considering the disposal of your estate, I beg you to feel that I am not approaching you as a buyer of estates but as a connisseur, a mere connisseur.
Dr. Svoboda.—Mr. Neufeld, even though I were considering a change, it would be necessary for me to know, first of all, when the sale would occur.
Neufeld (As though he did not understand).—Whenever it might suit your pleasure, Honorable Doctor. Within four weeks, a week, (With a laugh,) or possibly even today!
Dr. Svoboda.—And if I should say that the sale could not take place until after the coming election?
Neufeld (Stirring uneasily).—I think it is unnecessary to make such a useless request.
Dr. Svoboda.—And I share the same opinion with you, Mr. Neufeld. (With emphasis.) For my estate is not on sale.
Dr. Svoboda.—I have two reasons,—(Ironically.) and above them all, I have a very strong attachment for my estate. (Bows and walks away.)
Neufeld (Gazing a few minutes at Jaroslav).—We have lost the game before it was even played.
Jaroslav.—Not at all. We must be patient and wait. The old man has scented something in the wind.
Neufeld.—Your respected father has pledged his support to his own party. He will not sell before election.
Jaroslav.— He will, He will!
(Rings. A servant enters.)
Jean, go to mother unobserved and tell her that I must speak to her at once. (Servant makes his exit to the left.) Just leave me for a minute, Neufeld, and look over our trophies in the corridor, or if it suits your fancy, look out of the window at some pretty girl from the village. I will call you at once.
Jaroslav.—We will play a double game here; either play is good; the better one will be the one that can win the estate. First, I must send a telegram to Prague to the election committee which represents the historical nobility. (Seats himself twrite.) Ha! Ha! I will send it in my good father’s name. (Writes.) “My estate is threatened with an executioner’s sale before election. I urge you to buy it for 650,000 florins, which the opposite side offers me. If you do not accept, I shall be obliged to find other means of saving myself and family from ruin. Svoboda.” There. The response no doubt will be prompt, either by telegram or letter. Father will rage at first because I used his name, but otherwise I have not lied. If this society which represents the historical nobility buys up the estate, even father cannot complain and we will be supplied with money once more. If not, we must try another maneuvre, and first of all we must talk it over with my saintly mamma. (Laughing.) Those coachhorses will help matters along!
Jaroslav, Klementina, later Dr. Svoboda
Klementina.—What is so pressing?
Jaroslav.—Mamma, father told the treasurer that he could not buy your new coach-horses until after election.
Klementina (With surprise).—Your father did that? The treasurer shall send for those horses today!
Jaroslav.—Hm! He must, must he? He probably would if he could!
Klementina.—Your father must recall that order.
Jaroslav.—Yes, recall it. I suppose he would not even have given it had he seen some other way out of the situation. But where there is nothing to draw upon, then neither the Jew nor the devil can carry anything away. (Klementina tries to interrupt.) Compose yourself, mother! Look at the situation calmly, and prepare yourself for a great blow.
Klementina (With astonishment).—What kind of blow?
Jaroslav.—Our estate is not valued at even a half million as the forests are practically chopped out and destroyed. We cannot scrape together money enough so you could have your coach-horses and go about in proper style to pay your calls. (Klementina tries to interrupt.) No, we have not! You will not accomplish anything by growing angry and flying into a fit of temper . . . so, be calm. But good fortune has brought us some one, (With emphasis,) who urges us to accept 650,000 florins for the estate. I will run the figure up to 670,000 before I am through with him—(Adding quickly,)—that 20,000 will fall to me. Do you consent to the sale?
Klementina.—Without a single condition.
Jaroslav (With emphasis).—But father will surely object. He knows the estate would fall into German hands, even before election! Can you manage to overcome his opposition?
Klementina (Quickly).—I will. For the sake of you and your sisters, for the protection of your father and myself, I must. Today, we are all standing on the very verge of ruin. By the sale of the estate we can be saved! With this acquired amount, we can marry off both your sisters creditably, and you and I can both indulge our tastes once more. (With emphasis.) I must induce your father to sell the estate!
(Enter Dr. Svoboda)
Dr. Svoboda (Angrily).—Klementina, have you heard of the insolence of this Neufeld, who is urging me to sell out to the opposite side?
Klementin a (Looking the doctor straight in the eye).—Yes. I know all about it.
The Same Salon
Neufeld, Klementina, Jaroslav
Neufeld (Seated).—I thank you, gracious lady, for the interest you have taken in my plans.
Klementina.—It is first of all, my duty. I am shielding not only myself but my entire family before this insane obsession of my husband, which is blinding his eyes to the inevitable doom which awaits us.
Neufeld.—Should I be successful in accomplishing my purpose, I will make an effort to have your future home embellished with a seal.
Klementina (Joyfully surprised).—A seal? But I did not ask for one.
Neufeld.—The present combination of our syndicate might even acquire a title for you.
Jaroslav (Standing by the window).—Listen, mother, it might be worth while to think about that.
Klementina.—We must first reach the goal we are striving for. (Rises. Neufeld does the same.)
Neufeld.—I hope you will have good news for me tomorrow, gracious lady!
Klementina.—Nothing would please me better.
(Neufeld bows, and makes his exit from the right, Jaroslav with him. Dr. Svoboda enters from the left.)
Dr. Svoboda, Klementina
Dr. Svoboda (Greatly excited, holding two papers in his hand).—I have come to tell you that, that person, (Pointing after Neufeld) had better leave my home.
Dr. Svoboda.—Because his presence here is compromising me. He is an agent appointed by the banks interested in the election to buy up the great estates.
Klementina.—To me, he is only a bidder for our estate.
Dr. Svoboda.—To me, he is a person with whom I cannot do business.
Klementina.—Let us drop this subject. I have a more serious matter weighing upon my mind.
Dr. Svoboda.—And that is?
Klementina.—The betrothal of our daughters. Ludvik,—I mean, Mr. Scheffel, is awaiting his answer today. What will you tell him?
Dr. Svoboda.—True. I might give Filipina an annual allowance of some sort, but 50,000 florins I cannot raise now.
Klementina.—But Filipina loves Mr. Scheffel!
Dr. Svoboda.—How unfortunate!
Klementina.—And he would be a very desirable husband!
Dr. Svoboda (With a laugh).—A very practical one!
Klementina.—To turn him away means that we must blight the happiness and the good fortune of our daughter.
Dr. Svoboda.—But we cannot wave a charmed wand and bring the money here.
Klementina.— There is another way to get it.
Dr. Svoboda.—What is it?
Klementina.—Consider the suggestion of selling your estate.
Dr. Svoboda.—That is not necessary. I will undertake the management of the place myself and save it.
Klementina.—Your undertakings, as far as merely abstract things are not concerned, vanish in the air like a phantom. Everything comes and goes with you.
Dr. Svoboda.—Energy does not need to proclaim itself.
Klementina.—But perseverance does. You are not a man of hard practical sense, and you never will be.
Dr. Svoboda.—Then find me a buyer who will be a successor to my political principles,—and I will then be induced to sell,—yes, perhaps even a part of my own heart with it.
Klementina.—The buyer is here; there is no need of inquiring about his political principles.
Dr. Svoboda.—Every honorable man today must do so. The soil of this estate does not belong to me, a private person, alone, but to the sons of this land and their country.
Klementina.—You subordinate the sacred duty you owe your family to your duty toward your country? Nationalism is mere fanaticism, a relic of barbarism, the intellectual limitation of a greater or lesser number of people.
Dr. Svoboda.—A diversity of nationalism is a characteristic, a national trait of the people. With the exception of sex, and the physiological parts of the body, there is not a more natural division among the people. For that reason, it is justifiable.
Klementina.—The people, however, gravitate toward unity, and toward that purpose, diversity of nationalism is an obstacle.
Dr. Svoboda.—Unity among the people can be only intellecual, and diversity of nationalism is no obstacle to it.
Klementina—The people are gravitating even toward a universal language.
Dr. Svoboda.—That was attempted by the Roman kings, and later by the Latins. The first attempt was broken by a force of nations, the second by the force of nationalism.
Klementina.—But nationalism is not the highest object, the supreme aim, that man aspires to.
Dr. Svoboda.—Then what is higher?
Dr. Svoboda.—Humanism is only one noble part of the human soul. But man is also at various times a barbarian.
Dr. Svoboda.—When the heart of the individual is neglected, or when in the name of culture or religion, nations are destroyed.
Klementina.—You are continually harping on nationality, yet your duty toward your family is more apparent, certainly, than an assumed duty to your country. Everything that concerns your family seems to be of secondary importance.
Dr. Svoboda.—Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. There is a turning point which may lead man either to a great action, or to one that is unjust.
Klementina.—The right step is the one which is prompted by self-denial, generosity, and duty.
Dr. Svoboda.—The right act is the one which, in a conflict between two duties, is prompted by the inner conviction of the individual.
Klementina.—That is intellectual sophistry.
Dr. Svoboda.—That is the highest law of morality.
Klementina (Maliciously).—Then you intend, on account of this highest law, to shake from your conscience your duty to your family?
Dr. Svoboda (Agitated and with emphasis).—I shake off only that duty, which my family seems to require of me, of selling myself to a slavish, unclean act, of giving my family the opportunity to profit by their father’s baseness.
Klementina.—What a speech!
Dr. Svoboda.—You have been poisoned by the words of that man! There is contagion and corruption in every footprint he leaves behind him!
Klementina.—But with the money he offers you, we might buy another smaller estate, recorded in the registers of the country.
Dr. Svoboda.—But when? After election, when the unfriendly party is shouting, “We have conquered!”
Klementina.—Neufeld offers 650,000 florins, but what is more, we could secure,—for the children,—even a title!
Dr. Svoboda.—What are you saying? Is that phantom still haunting you?
Klementina.—A title is not a phantom. By forming a connection with these people, we might be able to acquire one.
Dr. Svoboda (Searchingly).—So? That is surprising . . . (To himself) The villain! (Aloud) Well, then, I would like to learn something more definite.
Klementina.—I will call Neufeld. (Rings. A servant enters.) You surely are the best father and husband on earth!
(Enter Neufeld with Jaroslav.)
Dr. Svoboda (To himself).—I will get rid of him at one stroke!
Dr. Svoboda, Neufeld, Klementina, Jaroslav
Dr. Svoboda.—Mr. Neufeld, my wife has been telling me something very interesting. It seems that you referred to something,—something about the possible elevation of my family,—to the rank of the nobility.
Neufeld—I am proud to tell you that our syndicate might be able to be of service to you in this respect.
Dr. Svoboda.—Then you no longer speak in the name of your honorable mother and respected father.
Neufeld.—Both in their name and that of the syndicate.
Dr. Svoboda (Angrily).—An honorable man tells first of all in whose name his business is negotiated.
Neufeld (Taken by surprise).—Is that offensively intended?
Dr. Svoboda (With sarcasm).—For you, nothing is offensive.
Neufeld.—I am sincerely offering to you, Respected Doctor, a means of winning favor with your wife and of securing certain advantages that are not to be sneered at, both for your children and yourself.
Dr. Svoboda (Sharply).—He who is inclined to accept anything is equally low as the man who dares to offer anything. From you, Mr. Neufeld, I might consider the matter of buying up a pile of old trash,—but never will I allow my family or myself to acquire a title through the dishonorable sale of my estate to advance the interests of the rabble you represent. (Rising.)
Dr. Svoboda.—I am your respectful servant! (Leares the room.)
Klementina.—Husband! (Hurries after him.)
Neufeld.—That is an insult! I am choking! I must be avenged!
Jaroslav.—Compose yourself, my friend. Self-control may bring victory just now, but you will surely defeat your purpose by becoming enraged. You will yet succeed.
Neufeld.—I was ready to be of service, now I am prepared to destroy!
Jaroslav.—Destroy whom? You certainly want to buy our estate! Success at this juncture may mean to you the acquisition of two other estates, and possibly three! Baron Siegdorf . . .
Neufeld.—I am sure of him, in any event. I am going, I must leave this instant!
Jaroslav.—To do so now, (Pointing out of the window) is impossible. Night and day are merging into one. And besides, I have not cast the last horse-shoe yet.
Neufeld.—At least, take me away somewhere, so I can be alone.
Jaroslav.—Be good enough to go to your room for a moment. I will follow you there almost immediately.
(Neufeld leaves to the right.)
Jarostav, Broz, later Dr. Svoboda, then the servant
Broz.—The Honorable Doctor, is he here?
Jaroslav.—He must be in his room. And what report do you bring from the hopperies and the fields?
(Enter Dr. Svoboda.)
Dr. Svoboda (Gazing about, then to Jaroslav).—Has he gone?
Dr. Svoboda.—You appear to be terribly excited!
Broz.—During the night, the flood and whirlwind made fearful ravages in the fields. All the grain that was cut is now ruined! The rest lies flooded on the ground. As for the hops, they are completely destroyed.
Dr. Svoboda.—This is awful!
Broz.—And still it is steadily raining, and the water keeps on rising. Bastyr came running to the farm manager for men to fortify the flood-gates.
Dr. Svoboda.—I shall go to see about them myself.
Broz.—Please, wait a while longer. Lewi has arrived. I wrote him day before yesterday.
Dr. Svoboda (To himself).—The notes!
Broz.—Yes, the notes. (Talks aside to the doctor.)
Jaroslav (Meditating).—Aron Lewi could cool our papa off a bit! His notes will speak up more forcibly than all our duplicity!
Lewi, Broz, Dr. Svoboda, Jaroslav
Lewi (A rich Jew, small, corpulent, in fashionable street attire. He greets the others in a decided Jewish accent.).—Honorable Doctor, I have been requested to come. I hardly cared about the honor in this weather. (Pointing to the window.)
Dr. Svoboda.—It was kind of you, Mr. Lewi . . .
Lewi.—What do you wish?
Dr. Svoboda.—Within three weeks, my notes will be due.
Dr. Svoboda.—I will be caught up financially before the summer is over. And I have need of 6000 florins more. What about the loan, Mr. Lewi?
Lewi.—I am unable to grant your request.
Dr. Svoboda (Frightened).—You refuse to extend the notes?
Lewi.—I have no security. The harvest this year is destroyed.
Dr. Svoboda.—Then for your security, let me give you a tract of timber.
Lewi.—The timber will not answer the purpose since it cannot be felled. (Dr. Svoboda talks aside to Broz. Lewi to himself,) This salon, this castle and estate,—that would not be so bad! (Jaroslav enters.)
� Dr. Svoboda.—Then I am determined to do that which I have been intending to do only as an extreme measure. I have bank stock in the company “Vulcan” valued at 20,000 florins. I will lose fully half of its value by selling today. Do you wish to offer, Mr. Lewi, 9000 florins for the stock, and meanwhile extend the notes?
Lewi.—Such expensive trappings I do not buy. At the best, I am satisfied to take a quarter-meter to the florin.
Dr. Svoboda (Frightened).—What are you saying?
Lewi (Taking a newspaper from his pocket).—The advertisement of the sale of the Vulcan stock appears in the papers today.
Dr. Svoboda.—That is a lie!
Lewi.—As you please. Such lies the papers do not publish. In these times, the stockholders are dancing tarantellas so wildly that occasionally a dancer strikes his heels together and falls to the ground. That “Vulcan” happens to be the latest, and tomorrow, the day after, other companies will meet with the same fate.
Dr. Svoboda (To himself)—Oh horrors! (Aloud) And why do you refuse to grant me even my insignificant request?
Lewi.—Because I do not know how the notes will be paid later on. And your bare word . . . (With a laugh) even a Jew will not rely upon that today. If your honor has reliable surety of any sort, all may yet be well. If not, I can only express my deep regrets.
Dr. Svoboda.—Mr. Broz! (They walk to the window, standing in a consultation for a few minutes.)
Lewi (Looking about the salon).—If it came to an auction, something might be made on this!
Jaroslav (Expressing his thoughts)—This will help. Father will now be compelled to sell. It looks simple; it may go through. (Quietly to Lewi) A word with you, Mr. Lewi.
Lewi (Quietly)—What is it?
Jaroslav.—I can find a buyer for father’s notes.
Lewi.—That would be strange indeed. Who would want them? The roadrunner hovers over the snake, but above a Jew?
Jaroslav.—Only another Jew.
Jaroslav.—But instead of giving me a commission, you will be good enough to loan me 1000 florins.
Lewi.—I might say that I will grant that commission to your worthiness, but loan is a better-sounding word.
Jaroslav.—Good! But now keep your tongue behind your teeth. You will find me in my room. (Makes his exit to the right.)
Dr. Svoboda (Coming forward).—Mr. Lewi, at just this moment, I cannot find a guarantor . . . but—
Lewi.—Then I must express my deep regrets. New terms I cannot make you, and the notes cannot be prolonged. Command me. (Walks off to the right.)
Dr. Svoboda, Broz
Dr. Svoboda.—He will not extend the notes! . . . That means their protest, an executioner’s sale of my estate . . . (Looking about him.) They will come here to attach my property . . . they will bring appraisors with them . . everything will be sold . . . strange unclean hands will scatter about my most sacred relics, . . . they will display for sale, with pity or scorn, my furnishings, dishes, relics, my clothes,—all, all that I still can call my own! . . . (Holding his head between his hands) I cannot bear it . . . that would be unendurable!
Broz.—Compose yourself, my dear doctor! That must not happen.
Dr. Svoboda.—Must not! No, of course it must not! But where do you see any source of help?
Broz.—I will speak once more with Lewi.
Dr. Svoboda.—And if he still refuses?
Broz.—Then it will be necessary to turn to Prague.
Dr. Svoboda.—What can be gained there? My friends in Prague have difficulty enough in raising money to buy up estates only when it seems to be imperative to fortify our position. And to ask them to sign my notes or make a loan,—it would be a fraud! I do not know how I could pay back the debt! (Sinking into a chair.) How terribly my improvidence is avenging itself upon me in these days. If I had but thatched my own roof more securely, I could now be standing erect upon my feet, under obligations to no one, a stanch proclaimor of my own convictions. And what am I today?
Broz.—Somebody can help you even now.
Dr. Svoboda.—Mr. Kytka . . . but that is uncertain
Broz.—Or . . .
Dr. Svoboda (Anxiously).—Or?
Broz.— . . . Sell the estate to Neufeld.
Dr. Svoboda (Shortly).—Even you advise me to do so?
Broz.—I do not, but the ciphers do.
Dr. Svoboda.—And you can offer no other advice?
Broz.—I cannot. Otherwise, I see no way of averting your ruin.
Dr. Svoboda.—Inevitable . . . the word sounds like a knell! . . . But do you not believe, my friend, that there may possibly be people who live true to their convictions, and act upon a certain principle, even when they know that by doing so they will plunge themselves into inevitable ruin?
Broz.—Possibly so, but such people have no duty to others to consider, and no one to think of but themselves.
Dr. Svoboda—But I also know of others, others who owed a duty to their families, yet did not hesitate to face their doom for the sake of those things which were held sacred by them. I myself saw an example which made me shudder. For all eternity, it became impressed upon my memory. Listen, friend. (Motions to Broz to seat himself, at the same time taking a seat beside him.) Three years ago, I was passing through a little town near Budejovic. In the middle of a narrow lane, I came upon some broken furniture which had been forcibly thrown out from an abandoned house. A woman sat upon a chest with her children, lamenting, sobbing, all of them in tears, while her husband stood helplessly behind her. Unkempt, dishevelled, with bewildered eyes, he was a pathetic figure standing there, with his hands clasped behind his soiled shoemaker’s apron. He was a bootmaker by trade. I approached and sympathetically inquired what had happened. “They have thrown us out!” he answered. And why?—“Because I would not deny my mother tongue! In this whole nest, there is not a room they will rent me!”—What are you going to do?—“I will move somewhere else.” —Do you know how you will earn a living?—“I do not; but I will not give up my selfrespect.”
You see, my friend . . . so he spoke, so he acted . . . . one of the rabbleWant, misery, actual destruction, looked him straight in the eye, but he would not yield, he would not become a traitor to his own convictions. And he was just a common laborer. And I, a gentleman from birth, a man of culture and education, an example to the entire community and a chosen representative of my people . . . . am I to sink lower than that poor unkempt shoemaker, who willingly sacrificed himself with his whole family as martyrs to a sacred idea?
Broz—But is it advisable to perish through similar heroism? Might it not be wiser to save yourself, to sacrifice a principle for the moment, than to sacrifice yourself for all eternity?
Dr. Svoboda.—There is not now . . . there never has been a great ideal but what has demanded its great sacrifice. Every ideal is like a fairy which walks forth with a shining star above its head to guide its followers, but always at midnight changes itself into a dragon and devours the devotees who happen to be near it.
Broz.—Then allow someone else to be the victim for the sacrifice, Honorable Doctor, some one who does not owe so many duties to others.
Dr. Svoboda.—Another! Another means nobody! For according to that maxim, each one has the right to say, “Not I . . . . let another be the victim for the execution!” Not at all, my dear friends; he whom fate points out must be the sacrifice. He must not only give battle for his convictions, but when necessary, even give up his life for them. In this fight, one is no better than another.
Broz.—These are lofty ideals, but they will ruin you, my dear doctor. You might yet be saved, even now, by your daughter Anezka,—
Dr. Svoboda.—Yes, if she were but in love with Mr. Kytka . . . . if she were willing to consent to a union with him!
Dr. Svoboda.—But dare I urge her to accept a husband that might be distasteful to her?
Broz.—Certainly, such cases are not at all unusual! Thousands of families have been obliged to do so, to preserve themselves in the face of destruction . . . there is no dishonor in it!
Dr. Svoboda.—And does there not exist, Mr. Broz, in the hearts and minds of some people, something which rises and becomes enraged at the idea . . . this barter of one’s own flesh and blood?
Broz.—I am a practical man, and through experience have arrived at the conclusion that excessively delicate scruples may destroy one not only materially but even spiritually.
Dr. Svoboda (Ironically).—Then blessed be he who has no scruples. But be at rest, Mr. Broz. You may find a following of plenty of such, both among men and among women.
(Prokop enters. Broz bows, taking his leave.)
Prokop, Dr. Svoboda, later the servant
Dr. Svoboda.—My friend! How did you fare on the way? You do not appear to be happy!
Prokop.—Blow upon blow! I received the report yesterday from Prague to the effect that the corruption among the large free-holders is amazing. Within the last three days, fully twenty changes have been made in the titles to the large estates. Formerly, it appeared as though our victory was certain. Now it depends upon every individual vote.
Dr. Svoboda (Thoughtfully repeats).—Upon every individual vote!
Prokop.—And today, Baron Rozkosny announced that he also has sold his estate to the rabble!
Dr. Svoboda.—Terrible! And he did it from mere rapacity!
Prokop.—Baron Siegdorf will do the same.
Dr. Svoboda.—That is also possible.
Prokop.—A committee of citizens called upon Rozkos to urge him to be loyal. But all in vain.
Dr. Svoboda.—They called upon me also.
Prokop.—I have almost become effeminate through my contact with Baron Rozkos. And Zahradka seemed undecided. But from him and Soukup, we finally won the promise that they would stay with us. So we are at ease about them.
Dr. Svoboda.—As for myself . . . then you have implicit faith in me?
Prokop.—Doctor—such a joke!
Dr. Svoboda.—Yes, it would be a terrible joke . . . But, my friend, what would you advise me to do were I to tell you that my loyalty to my political principles may sacrifice my entire family?
Prokop.—My friend, I hope that such a supposition as an actuality is impossible. But even in that case, you are not in need of my advice.
Prokop.—Because I feel assured that every step you take will be guided by one leading star.
Dr. Svoboda.—And that is?
Dr. Svoboda.—And if by my conviction, I should spoil the wedding of my daughter?
Prokop.—The wedding of your daughter? If the husband you have chosen for your daughter is honorable and worthy of your confidence, surely he would not retract because you cannot give the lady her dowry?
Dr. Svoboda.—And do you think there still are people in the world so noble?
Prokop (With emphasis).—There are.
Dr. Svoboda.—In your words, there is still a spark of idealism. It is possibly the last I shall ever hear. (Enter the servant.)
Servant.—My lady with Baron Siegdorf.
Dr. Svoboda.—If you will be so good, my Jiri, go to my children for a few minutes.
(Prokop leaves to the left. From the right comes Baron Sifgdorf with Klementina. The Servant leaves.)
Klementina, Siegdorf, Dr. Svoboda
Siegdorf.—Doctor! (Runs to the doctor with outstretched hands.)
Dr. Svoboda.—I have the honor, Baron?
Siegdorf.—Are you not thinking, kind neighbor, that I have come back again to borrow money?
Dr. Svoboda (With a Laugh)—Not at all! Not at all!
Siegdorf.—That pleases me greatly! For . . . listen, doctor—I have already told your gracious lady—I have blossomed out of my difficulties—and how?
Dr. Svoboda.—What is this? Did you inherit something, then?
Siegdorf.—Not at all. My good aunt has not as yet been kind enough to die. But in spite of that, I now have in my pocket 160,000—clear money . . . mine . . .
Dr. Svoboda (Suspiciously).—You have—
Siegdorf.—Sold my estate.
Dr. Svoboda (Angrily).—To whom?
Siegdorf.—To a bank in Vienna, or (With a laugh), as it is called, the bank of the rabble.
Dr. Svoboda (Quickly).—You, Baron?
Siegdorf.—Yes, that was a clever play. And how was it managed? Do you know that I played one side against the other until they both began to grow excited? There was some concern shown, believe me!
Dr. Svoboda.—You then, Baron, do not expect to vote with us in the coming election?
Klementia.—Not at all. The Baron found a convenient moment to look after his own interests. He saved himself by selling his estate.
Siegdorf.—And how! And how! Just let me tell you! You must, my highly esteemed friend, do exactly the same!
Klementina.—Pray be seated. (All seat themselves.)
Siegdorf.—Then that agent came around to see me . . . the same one that called to pay his respects toyou . . .
Siegdorf.—Yes, Neufeld. He bid for the estate. Offered 300,000. I, without any delay, sent a telegram to our party in Prague to ask for 350,000 florins. They answer they will pay it. I showed that telegram to Neufeld who said he would add 50,000. I once more sent a wire to Prague. They replied that they could go no higher than 360,000 florins. And here, my honorable neighbor, is where I performed my cleverest trick! I changed the figure three to a four, gave it to Neufeld to read, and he offered me 460,000 florins! Hahaha! Wasn’t that fine?
Dr. Svoboda (Angrily).—But Baron, that is not a joke—that is . . .
Siegdorf (Seriously).—No, indeed. I am serious. After all my debts were paid, I had some 160,000 florins left which I fell into by a clever maneuvre!
Dr. Svoboda.—And what about our party, which depended upon you?
Siegdorf.—Let it look for new members elsewhere! They won’t mourn over the loss of my vote . . . or my presence either. I would have been a pauper in a short time. Now I can live respectably again.
Dr. Svoboda (Aside).—That is amazing.
Siegdorf.—Yes, Doctor, and you cannot act more wisely than I. In fact, you would receive even a larger offer, as your estate is worth twice as much as mine was. Sell it, sell it!
Dr. Svoboda.—Thank you, Baron, for your advice, but my estate is not for sale today.
Siegdorf.—Ah, that is a pity! You are throwing money away! After election, nobody will want to buy an estate! But where is my friend, Jaroslav? I must tell him the news. Today we will both be merry. He will take colossal delight in my idea!
Dr. Svoboda.—I pray you . . .
(Klementina bows. Siegdorf bows to both and walks away.)
Klementina, Dr. Svoboda.
Klementina.—Baron Siegdorf is an example . . . you may profit by doing likewise.
Dr. Svoboda (Dryly).—I see in him as plainly as though I were gazing into a mirror, all the infamy I should have fallen into had I done the same.
Klementina.—You are closing your eyes to the fate of your wife and your children. You would, then, abandon us to our fate with the certain knowledge that destruction awaits us all?
Klementina.—Yes, that will be the inevitable result of your decision. Then what answer can you give to Scheffel? He is waiting for it today. Kytka also wants your reply. If you are thinking of your children, tell them what you have in view for their future.
(Walks off toward the left.)
Dr. Svoboda—My children! Their whole future, in which I took as keen a pleasure and delight as I might take in my own second youth! To save them means the betrayal of my convictions, to be loyal to myself means their ruin! Only Anezka is able to help us now—only she, and she alone! And if she will not help, (despairingly) what then, what then?
(Enter Klementina with Anezka and Filipina.)
Klementina, Anezka, Filipina, Dr. Svoboda, later Jaroslav.
Dr. Svoboda (Rising).—My children . . . (Sinking into a chair.)
Anezka (Hurries to him).—You are agitated, father dear! Something has happened!
Dr. Svoboda.—Be composed. Nothing is the matter with me. Seat yourselves. (The ladies are seated; Jaroslav remains standing at one side, carelessly indifferent.) Heavy times are gathering you around me, and drawing the family circle together. Our entire future depends upon the present. And so, my children, listen to all I say to you most carefully, weigh it with deliberation, and then, each of you, (turning to his daughters,) answer as your own hearts, your own convictions, or the voice of conscience dictates.
Filipina (Turning to her mother).—Mamma!
Dr. Svoboda.—What my life has brought to me, I have dedicated to you, (addressing the group) from the fervent love of my heart, to the property which, years ago, I accumulated. Today, I love you, if possible, more than ever before. My whole existence and being is so completely wrapped up in you that I truly think life would be impossible without you. But our property is lost, destroyed!
Dr. Svoboda.—Half of our estate is gone, the remainder is threatened, and unless some extraordinary help is found, and found within a few days, all will be lost. I could help myself and thereby save you, but to do so, I would be driven to a disgraceful act.
Kelementina, Jaroslav.—Not at all!
Dr. Svoboda. Yes, disgraceful . . .
Anezka.—Then father, you cannot follow such acourse . .
Dr. Svoboda.— . . . for the betrayal of one’s convictions and one’s nation is always disgraceful. And so now there is left us but one honorable source of help, and that depends, my Anezka, upon you.
Anezka.—Upon me? And how?
Dr. Svoboda.—Mr. Kytka has asked for your hand.
Anezka—And I . . . and I should then be obliged to marry Mr. Kytka?
Anezka.—That is impossible!
Dr. Svoboda.—Impossible! Anezka, listen calmly, then make your decision!
Anezka.—I am fully decided.
Dr. Svoboda.—Upon your decision, depends your entire future, with material comfort, peace and good fortune, or else your necessary resignation to a life of penury and misfortune. The future happiness of your sister hinges upon it, of your mother, and lastly, of your brother, who has never understood the meaning of the word, Work!
Jaroslav.—And now you would expect it of me!
Anezka.—And how is it, father, that you have not thought of yourself?
Dr. Svoboda.—My future must be devoted to my practice. I am a physician, and should I lose everything, I will strive to earn my own bread and yours, if necessary, by the practice of medicine.
Klementina.—What crazy idea is this? For twenty years, you have neglected your practice, except for your occasional amateurish attempts! Now, at your advanced age, do not expect to have any professional summons!
Anezka.—What then, am I to do?
Dr. Svoboda.—If you could decide to marry Mr. Kytka . .
Anezka (Rising)—Father . . . ask of me anything else—work, poverty, even my life . . . for my mother, my sister and my brother, but Mr. Kytka, happen what may, I cannot and will not marry!
Jaroslav.—And this we could anticipate!
Klementina (Terribly aroused).—Agnes, you do not wish to profit by the advantages of this union . . . and do you, then, want to meet the misery and poverty into which we all must fall if you and your father persist in your defiance?
Anezka.—I do not wish to, I cannot marry him!
Klementina—And why, pray?
Anezka.—First, because Mr. Kytka is personally repulsive to me, secondly because he is a man without a soul, without a spark of warmth—and because I can never, never become his wife . . . (Sinks weeping into a chair and covers her face with her hands.)
Klementina.—Personal inclination must be subordinated to duty and it is your duty, Agnes—that much is evident.
Anezka.—No one has the right to coerce me in such a step. It is also a debatable question, mother, whether or not it is my duty!
Klementina.—You are our daughter!
Anezka.—But no daughter is compelled to marry to further the interests of her parents!
Anezka.—Forgive me, mother, and you, father . . . don’t you understand? I cannot do otherwise!
Klementina (To Dr. Svoboda).—Now you see her as she really is, your beloved pet! Your kind and simple Anezka!
Dr. Svoboda (To Klementina).—Stop! (To Anezka.) And you, Agnes, compose yourself. You are my own flesh and blood. Were I in your place, I could not do otherwise. Nevertheless, I ask you, my dear child, on account of your entire future existence, on account of the poverty which perhaps awaits you—having you considered and weighed everything?
Klementina.—You love some one else.
(All look at each other.)
Klementina.—And that is?
Anezka (With deep agitation).—He is my one and only true love! Him I can marry and none other!
Dr. Svoboda (Rising)—My child, the Lord be with you. (Kisses her on the forehead). I ask nothing more of you.
(Anezka looks at her father, then walks slowly away, her eyes fixed upon the ground.)
Dr. Svoboda, Klementina, Filipina, Jaroslav, later the Servant.
Klementina (To Dr. Svoboda).—Then the last hope we entertained, aside from yourself, is lost. What now? Will you have the courage to spoil the happiness of your other daughter? (Pointing to Filipina). Are you going to allow Jaroslav to meet his evil fate? Will you permit Anezka to marry without a dowry, a poor man and struggling journalist? And will you, then, forget to have compassion even for me? From my very infancy, I have been accustomed to luxury, raised in it, and now my children are accustomed to it the same as I. Neither I, neither they, have the fortitude to endure misery and want. Will you allow the executioner to come here, within a few weeks, to drive us from our home like beggars, the butt of ridicule, laughed at by the rabble?
Dr. Svoboda.—Heaven help you and me also. I must keep the sanity of my mind. I cannot sell myself to an unprincipled act, therefore it is impossible for me to secure the dowry for Filipina.
Klementina—Then you will compel her to lose the hand of Mr. Scheffel, and . . . drive her to despair!
Filipina (Embracing her father fervently) —Father! You surely do not wish to make me unhappy the rest of my life! You are so fond of us all . . . and I have never disobeyed you in anything! I am your dutiful daughter, I respect you for your nobility of purpose! But I am deeply in love with Mr. Scheffel . . . I could be so happy with him! Help me win the husband of my choice! With the dowry you would give him, he could make my happiness secure, and he may yet become a prop to mother and yourself! Do not drive me away to ceaseless regret and remorse! It would finally end in despair!
Dr. Svoboda—Child! . . . Filipina! Give me a moment . . . let me have a moment’s calm, a breath . . .
Filipina.—And will you promise, then, papa, to make my marriage possible? Will you bear in mind the happiness of your Filipina?
Dr. Svoboda.—I cannot promise . . . I dare not, lest I break my word to you!
Filipina.—My happiness! Gone! (Walks weakly to the rear, and falls into a chair.)
Klementina (To Dr. Svoboda).—Look about you, and open your eyes to the misery which you are summoning forth everywhere like a lunatic! Do you wish to destroy us all—me, the children, yourself—are you, then, going to be our executioneer?
Dr. Svoboda.—I wish to remain a self-respecting man who does not betray his honor, his convictions, his principles . . .
Jaroslav.—What madness is this!
Klementina (In desperation).—That which is destroying my family is not honorable, but terrifying, awful!
Dr. Svoboda.—Stop! You are now treading upon sacred ground, not only the sacred ground upon which I stand, but the entire nation!
Klementina (With the deepest agitation).—What do I care about your nation, your people, when my children are to be sacrificed for the sake of a mere abstraction, an idea! This is sheer madness!
Dr. Svoboda.—Call it whatever you will. But I cannot deal a foul blow at my nation . . . and I will not allow my name to be spat upon!
(The servant enters with messages.)
Servant.—I pray you, forgive the intrusion. Special messages have arrived.
(Dr. Svoboda signs, opens the messages, and reads with growing amazement.)
Jaroslav.—Ah! The message from Prague! (Servant leaves.)
The Same without the Servant.
Dr. Svoboda (With growing excitement and agitation).—What is happening? (Reads.) “We find it impossible to tell you, dear friend, how painfully your decision is operating against us.” What is this? “Upon you we were building afortress of faith, but your telegram announces a fearful reality.” Which telegram? What is it all about? What does it mean? “To dispose of your estate in the most critical moment, and to offer it to us at such a price, to desire to profit in such manner at the expense of our hardship . . . .”—For Heaven’s sake!
Klementina.—What is happening?
Jarolsav (To himself) —Aha! They are rejecting!
Dr. Svoboda (Reading).—“We each of us contributed large sums of money from our estates, and we have no robbers’ bank to draw upon, from which we might meef the prices, which on all sides, the most shameless corruption is demanding. No one suspected how many there are of these titled gentlemen who are pressing their estates upon us for sale. And behold, now comes even Dr. Svoboda, that patriot of patriots, taken at his word, who asks us to pay for his estate fully 150,000 florins above its worth. This is shameless, terrible!”—Yes, this is terrible!
Jaroslav.—This is going to be a bitter moment.
Klementina.—But what has happened?
Dr. Svoboda (Reading on).—“But there remains nothing more to be said except that your grievous speculation is all in vain. Your estate we cannot buy, because we are obliged to use our rapidly diminishing funds to purchase the small estates. Carry out that deed then, with which you now threaten us; settle with your conscience; sell your estate to the opposing party: we cannot prevent you from so doing—and be prepared to find your name, (that of our greatest patriot) drowned in the mire and eternally befouled by this deed!”
(Cries out) Oh scoundrel, scoundrel! Who has done this? Who has robbed me of my honor and my good name!
(Looks at Jaroslav who turns away.) Jaroslav! It could only be you . . . or your mother . . . or was it Broz . . . who was it? Who did it?
Jarolsav (Stepping out boldly).—Father, I am that resolute person.
Dr. Svoboda.—You! You! Out of my sight, (pointing to the door) before I cast you out!
Jaroslav (Calmly).—Not at all. For I transacted the matter in a perfectly honorable manner as I wished to see the estate held in the hands of our party. You are a Cech, my mother is partly German, and I am only a man. You are going straightway over the abyss with your crazy phantom; do not expect my mother and me to follow you there. The estate must be sold. And if that glorious nobility in Prague would not purchase it, that inglorious bank in Vienna will!
Dr. Svoboda.—It shall not! Even though I knew beyond a doubt that a year from today I would be a pauper!
Jaroslav.—Would you rather lose all that we have? You must sell the estate to Neufeld!
Dr. Svoboda.—You say I must?
Jaroslav.—Yes. According to my will and command. I am your first and only son. I have the right to demand of you a livelihood—as I also find it my duty to save your family.
Dr. Svoboda.—Will you hold your tongue!
Jaroslav.—What am I today? Nobody! Nothing!
Dr. Svoboda.—Whose fault is it but your own? Why did you always find all useful work so tiresome?
Jaroslav.—Because you brought me up to believe that we had an abundance of money!
Dr. Svoboda.—Then try something now!
Jaroslav.—It is too late. At my age, a position of responsibility does not present itself to me.
Dr. Svoboda.—People who are afraid of work find every age the wrong one in which to begin. And the natural consequence of it results in such baseness as the sending of that telerram to Prague! Who can clear me of suspicion! Who will have faith in me now! Upon me, the infamy will fall, and if I try to ward it off, the supposition will at once arise, that like a coward I am trying to save myself from the consequences of the deed when I failed to accomplish my design! Oh you scoundrel!
Jaroslav.—Why waste such useless phrases!
Dr. Svoboda.—Truly, why waste phrases. For your perfidy and baseness deserve a different sort of answer.
Jaroslav.—Then you still gaze with indifference upon the precipice which is threatening to engulf us all for the sake of your crazy whim?
Dr. Svoboda.—I am gazing with alarm upon that chasm of moral depravity and shame which is fast engulfing my son!
Jaroslav.—Come, mother! We are in the way here. Before he will relent, our ruin must stare him in the eyes!
(Jaroslav walks away with his mother and Filipina.)
Dr. Svoboda (Sinks into a chair weakly, looking faint)—Such shame! Such disgrace! Shall I be able to bear this avalanche without being crushed . . . this avalanche coming down upon me from all sides . . . and will not all my efforts and my sacrifice in the end be made in vain? . . . (Talking to himself in evident indecision.) And who can assure me, after all, that I am absolutely in the right by taking this stand against all the interests of myself, my family? And must I finally take upon myself, through my loyalty in this affair, some horrible blame which as yet I cannot foresee? Oh that someone would lift from me this awful crushing load, and make the sacrifice a ligliter one! (Anezka enters.)
Anezka, Dr. Svoboda.
Anezka.—Father, my dear father, I have so grievously hurt you!
Dr. Svoboda.—You followed the prompting of truth, of your deepest innermost convictions! You have been true to my teachings. Only, will you not be disappointed now, in Prokop?
Anezka.—I will not! I know he will not disappoint me!
Dr. Svoboda.—Be it as it may—I must tell Prokop everything. (With a sigh.) I wish with all my heart that your sun may soon rise upon a happier day for you while mine is going down.
Dr. Svoboda.—And now take your stand by me, my child, and never permit this clear brow of yours to become clouded by shame! Neither must you give way to those who will try to overcome your every objection to gain their desires for their own advantage. (Enter Broz.)
Broz, Dr. Svoboda, Anezka
Broz (Deeply agitated).—Doctor! (Sees Anezka.) I beg you, excuse this intrusion . . .
Dr. Svoboda.—What has happened?
Broz.—The manager sends the report by a special courier that the flood gates at the brook are torn down! The water is rushing into the fields and destroying the last of the harvest!
(Anezka rises to leave in deep agitation.)
Dr. Svoboda (In desperation).—Well, then, let it carry away everything, and first of all, my own wretched life! (Enter Klementina.) I am now prepared for any misfortune. Have my horse saddled. I will start immediately.
(Broz makes his exit to the right.)
Klementina, Dr. Svoboda
Klementina (Seriously).—You have heard of the flood?
Klementina.—And you are still composed?
Dr. Svoboda.—As composed as a man overwhelmed by a train of misfortunes can be.
Klementina.—Cast aside this false mask of composure! At last wake up, and look around you! This last disaster comes knocking at our door like the blow of the last nail into a coffin.
Dr. Svoboda.—I will exert every effort, use every remaining resource, to save the estate. If that is utterly impossible, then I will sell it as soon as the election is over!
Klementina.—An estate laid waste . . . who will buy it after the election, even for the amount of its debts? The executioner’s annuity may surprise us at any moment, and the notes held by Lewi may ruin us even sooner! (Fervently.) My relative, my husband listen! (Takes him by the hand.) Do not set up strange and far-off interests in opposition to your closest ones, in opposition to the salvation of your wife and family! See, by your defiance I am no longer enraged, only crushed and over-whelmed. I do not threaten nor even complain. I only beg you to have mercy on us, and humbly entreat you not to abandon us to this pitiless doom. I am your wife, the mother of your children. And I moreover take myself to task because I now realize that my wastefulness, my lack of consideration, have hastened the doom which is about to overtake us all. But I will be more conscientious—in the future you will find me different striving to make amends for my remissness in the past. Just take mercy upon us this one time, sell the estate to save us . . . spare me the humiliation of begging from my relatives a piece of bread and a roof to shelter my head—or perhaps the misery of dying in the streets, a veritable beggar!
Dr. Svoboda (In desperation).—Klementina, forgive me, forgive! Your tears and lamentations almost deprive me of my very reason! But I cannot act otherwise!
Klementina (Turning on him at his last words in deep agitation).—Then we are all lost. I did not realize that the destruction of your entire family would be so easy for you. You are a monster, not a man—a monster without a heart or soul!
(Enter Jaroslav and Neufeld.)
Jaroslav, Neufeld and the others.
Dr. Svoboda.—Neufeld! You scoundrel! What insolence is this. Out, out with you!
Jaroslav (Suppressing his inward rage)—Compose yourself, father. If there is no spot within you that is vulnerable to the distress of my mother and the poverty closing in upon us all, then you should be aware, at Ieast, of the fate that is awaiting us within the next few days.
Dr. Svoboda (To Neufeld)—Away from here, away!
Neufeld.—I am going. But first, look at these. (Extends his hand with the notes.)
Dr. Svoboda.—Those are the notes!
Neufeld.—These are your notes, Venerable Doctor, which I purchased from Lewi. The election will occur in a month’s time, but these notes are due in somewhat less than three weeks. Sell me the estate, and I will let you have the notes at a marketable rate in the bargain.
Dr. Svoboda.—I will not sell.
Neufeld—If you refuse, you will be ruined even before the election.
Dr. Svoboda.—But you cannot prevent me from casting my vote.
Neufeld.—I cannot, but I will pave that road for you in such a manner that you will have reason to remember it for a long time to come. I will spoil your credit, so you will find it to be impossible to pay your notes, and I will have them protested on the very day they fall due. I will seize everything movable in both this castle and in court, then demand an executioner’s sale of this entire estate, and on the day you cast your election vote, you will take your seat there with the knowledge that you are a beggar, with the knowledge that you have brought ruin upon your entire family.
Dr. Svoboda.—And if I knew I were to sell my very life for it, I will not part now with this state! Away from here, you scoundrel, (stepping toward him) away from this castle, or I will have you thrust out . . . or kill you!
Neufeld.—I am going. But in less than a month’s time, you also will leave. And when you leave, it will be with the knowledge that the return road is forever barred! (Walks out.)
Klementina—Jaroslav . . . hold him!
(Jarostav follows Neufeld.)
Klementina, Dr. Svoboda.
Klementina.—Ludvik, this is my last opportunity to warn you! Save yourself, save us, save the children! You will be their destroyer unless you do as I beg you—and me you will drive away from you.
Dr. Svoboda (In amazement).—It is incredible . . . you mean that you would leave me?
Klementina.—I would. Otherwise, I would be driven to madness over your folly. I could never endure the sight of the vultures which would soon be clawing at our most sacred possessions.
Dr. Svoboda (Shortly, with terrible suppressed anger).—I, the destroyer of my children—I, a madman before whom his own flesh and blood must flee? A madman? Have my actions ascribed to madness if you will, proclaim me a lunatic bereft of all reason! But that lunatic, thief, and destroyer of his hearth, will not consent to have his name, the name of his fathers, stained by an act of dishonor! He will not betray his own convictions! Though his own lost roof were to sink in on his head, he will remain true to his people, the Czechish blood from which he sprang forth!
The same room, with dismantled walls, and the executioners sale in progress. A lounge is in the center of the room. Clothes, pictures, various articles are strewn upon it. About the room are scattered dishes, books, mirrors, relics, revolvers; the draperies and curtains torn down.
At the table sits Cizek, taking an inventory of the goods which Dub and Prochazka are looking over.
Dub (Examining a Persian rug, which he casts aside).—What is this rag worth? It might yet be used to wipe one’s boots on. Put down, Mr. Cizek, two florins.
Prochazka.—Isn’t that too much?
Dub.—Then make it one and fifty.
Cizek.—One and fifty.
Dub (Picking up some clothing).—This rag you might put down for about five florins.
Prochazka.—What an idea! Three is more than enough!
Dub.—Then make it three. Those pictures—write down—there are five of them—let them go at two apiece.
Prochazka.—Who would buy them? They will doubtless go to the junk pile.
Dub.—Those books must be weighed and sold for old paper. And that porcelain . . .
Cizek.—How many pieces?
Dub.—Two trays and something with them . . . they might be set down for twenty.
Prochazka.—Well, they are worth something!
Cizek.—What about these satin curtains?
Prochazka.—The devil! But they are fine! (Digging around among them.) What material! My girl could have a waist made of that—and there would still be a nice piece left. If by any chance, nobody were looking, and something could disappear, this is just what I would want. At least half of it—it might be cut in two!
Dub.—And I would choose something else. That clock in the corner, perhaps. What about you, Mr. Cizek?
Cizek.—I would rather have some silver.
Dub.—Oh the dickens, The notary was very careful about all the gold and silver. He had an inventory made in his own presence. Not a handle must be missing from anything. But some old trinket or other . . . who would know the difference?
Cizek.—And when will the notary return from town?
Dub.—Most likely in the evening.
Cizek.—In the evening—and we are slaving away as though he were sitting here watching us now.
Prochazka.—On my faith, you are right! (Throws aside a picture which he held in his hand.)
Dub.—I am almost faint from it all. (Stretches out his arms, yawning.)
Cizek.—Mr. Prochazka, call that lackey—tell him to bring us something.
Prochazka.—That’s right! (Opens the door, calling.) Hey lackey! (Closes the door again.) Yes, that lackey, you can wait for him! It seems just like the day after a funeral. We had better jump up, Mr. Cizek, and go after him ourselves. Let him bring a bottle of Bordeaux, and perhaps a deer roast with it.
Dub.—Go away with your venison! We have already had some today.
Prochazka.—Then what will you have?
Dub.—Let it be two bottles of beer. I am always thirsty after drinking Bordeaux. (Cizek goes away.)
Prochazka, Dub, later the Servant and Cizek
Prochazka.—I was going to say . . . it seems to me that we are hurrying this appraisement along. We are here only five days, and almost everything has been appraised. In a week, we will be through.
Dub.—You are right . . . we must drag it out a little longer.
Prochazka.—Yes, it ought to take at least three weeks. Why this is a castle . . . such luck as this doesn’t fall to one more than once or twice in a lifetime.
Dub.—But that notary there, (pointing to his place), better give him a hint, so he would not waste breath talking unnecessarily.
Prochazka.—Don’t worry—I have thought of him. (Servant enters, bringing food in a basket. Cizek, who came in at the same time, begins to clear the table, bringing out glasses and plates.)
Dub.—Only one bottle of Bordeaux—that is not enough. (To the Servant.) You must bring another.
Servant.—It is about time that I also was enjoying life and getting some profit from my service. I won’t be turning around here much longer. (Leaves.)
Prochazka.—No need of knives and forks. I have my own pocket knife. It will do very well. (Cuts a piece of bread and meat, taking them in his fingers, then lies on the sofa, with his feet in the air as he eats. The others sit at the table, eating, drinking, and occasionally filling a glass for Prochazka.)
Prochazka, Dub, Cizek, later the Servant.
Dub.—I cannot understand how these people went down so rapidly. Plenty of everything—and in a few years through with it all.
Prochazka.—Yes, it makes me laugh. A fine example we have here of extravagance and mismanagement. A sharp person would have saved himself. Look at that Baron Siegdorf! He is a clever fellow! He won out! But this doctor here! These educated people are seldom as keen as they should be.
Dub.—That is true. It is his own fault.
Prochazka.—Expenses on every hand, nonsense of all sorts and this is the way it ended.
Dub.—He built a new school for the people in the village. And he used to waste his time running off to Prague and Vienna as a representative of the people.
Dub.—And that family—they certainly made a show! (Enter Servant.)
Prochazka.—And now they are off at one side in two rooms, (pointing to the left), and nobody sees or hears anything of them.
Dub.—The old lady and the children leave tomorrow, so we hear. Is it true, Mr. Johanes?
Servant (Who has also seated himself at the table).—Even today it seems. Nana was saying to me that they are packing their few belongings now.
Dub.—I wonder when the old doctor will return. He will see some strange sights when he gets back.
Prochazka.—The fool! He is reaping just as he sowed. That bank in Vienna was offering him more than the value of his estate—he might have grabbed with all ten fingers. But even with that doctor’s title, he is still a stupid man. He would not take the offer.
Dub.—I believe he is not quite right here, (pointing to his forehead.) A sane man would have acted differently.
Servant (Mysteriously).—If I only dared to talk!
Prochazka, Dub, Cizek.—What is it? What did you say?
Servant.—Nothing except that his five senses are not all there, as they should be. The old lady told him so before he went away. Gentlemen, that was a scene! One could hear them over the whole corridor!
Dub.—What did she say to him?
Servant.—She told him plainly that he was crazy that she would have him put in the asylum at Prague!
Dub.—He went to Prague on account of the election—is it not true?
Servant.—Exactly. He wanted to vote, to be a representative, that is why he would not sell out.
Dub.—And how did the election go?
Servant.—It is all in the papers. The other side won.
Prochazka.—The idiot! There he is now! That is what he gets for not taking advice!
Cizek.—And now there will be peace. I have always said: the state should be superior to everything, and these fights should not occur. But why should we care? Legislators and ministers, more show and display! That is all there is to it!
Prochazka.—That is right!
(Dr. Svoboda enters unnoticed.)
Dr. Svoboda, the others.
Dr. Svoboda (To himself)—The vultures have already alighted on the corpse.
Dub.—And what about the estate?
Servant.—It will be sold at auction. There won’t be enough left to pay off the debts.
Dub.—And where will these people go?
Servant.—The old lady has a brother in Vienna. She will go to him.
Dr. Svoboda (To himself).—Good Heavens!
Dub.—And the old man?
Servant.—He may go where he likes . . . nobody cares about him.
Dr. Svoboda (Stepping to the front).—You scoundrel!
Servant (Jumps up with the others)—Good Lord! The master!
Dr. Svoboda (To the Servant)—Away! Away! (Servant hurries off. To the others.) And you may leave this room at once!
Prochazka (Fearlessly)—We were appointed by the court, so whom are we to deal with?
Dr. Svoboda.—I am the master of this house!
Prochazka.—That is—as the Honorable Doctor,—you once were the master of this house. But the place has since been in the hands of the executioner, so who has the right to command us now?
Dub (Dryly)—No one . . . do you understand?
Dr. Svoboda (Taking a step forward, then controlling himself).—Noone! Then I can give no further orders in my home!
Cizek.—We have come from the court, (insolently) and if any one dares to touch us . . . that is what the court is for.
Prochazka.—These, (pointing to the furnishings) we had the servants bring these things in here, so the family would be left in peace for a few days, and so they might be spared the pain of seeing what is going on.
(Dr. Svoboda bows his head with pain.)
Dub (To the others).—Let us go away. We will say he drove us out. Then the appraisement will hold out longer.
Prochazka.—Your grace may command us. We will return in the morning.
Cizek (Aside to Prochazka).—I will tell Neufeld that the doctor is here. (They leave.)
Dr. Svoboda (Holding his head between his hands, rocking back and forth.) This was once my home—this was once my property—a ruin upon the wreck of my life. You will-o’-the-wisp, you dream, where have you led me? Those longings that soared so high, what murderous cliffs you have dashed my frail craft against, shattering it to pieces. Now the rabble is grovelling among my possessions, slime and mire coat my most cherished mementoes, and the worms will soon be crawling through the remains of the corpse. (Taking various objects in his hands.) Pictures of my parents, souvenirs of forgotten honors, my past glory, all that is now buried with my by gone years—you are all here, and I myself am cast aside with you. Nothing is left me now, not even the consciousness that I have helped to win the Cause for which I battled. All have fallen into the abyss. The deluge has drowned us all. Everything dear to me which I wished to preserve has been destroyed with my own ruin. (He sinks into a chair. From the left enter Klementina, Filipina and Jaroslav. The ladies are dressed in black travelling costumes with hats on their heads. Jaroslav carries a travelling coat on his arm, a bag in his hand. Klementina in deep agitation, paces the salon, occasionally wiping her eyes. Filipina keeps close to her mother, despair in her face. It is rapidly growing dark. No one sees Dr. Svoboda who is hovering over the articles scattered on the floor. When the ladies advance to the front, they see the doctor for the first time.)
Dr. Svoboda, Klementina, Filipina, Jaroslav
Klementina (With a frightened cry)—Oh! (Wheels around as though she would run away.)
Filipina (Holding her)—Mamma!
Jaroslav—What is happening?
Dr. Svoboda (Rising)—Klementina!
Klemintina (Agitated)—You! (To herself) I must go away!
Dr. Svoboda (Firmly)—Stay! Be seated!
Klemintina (Supported by Jaroslav and Filipina, who seat her in a chair. Painfully, in a lifeless and heavy voice.)—I did not wish to see you again! I only wanted to look about for the last time at these things. We are leaving now!
Dr. Svoboda—Leaving! Without my knowledge!
Klemintina—I am leaving . . . I will not return again! I did not know that you had come back. Had I known, I would not have seen you.
Dr. Svoboda—Yes, I came home to find a deserted court. No one in sight anywhere, . . . and two people who saw me, fled as if they were afraid of meeting me.
Klemintina.—And I also would have fled before you in the same way. (Shortly, as she rises.) Goodbye . . . we will never meet again.(Leaving.)
Dr. Svoboda—(Stepping before her.)—Klemintina! Surely you are not going! You would not desert me now!
Klemintina (trying to control her rising voice. In the deepest agitation.)—You deserted me and the children! You forgot to consider us! You would not look ahead to face the poverty, the misery we have fallen into! Therefore, in the sight of the Lord and all the world, I want to sever every tie that binds me to you, and consider yourself fortunate if I do not curse the very hour in which we two met!
Klemintina—Goodbye! (Without meeting his eyes, she walks slowly away.)
Dr. Svoboda—My children! Filipina!
Filipina—I must go with mother! I cannot leave her! (Kneels before her father, bursting into tears.) Father! Father!
Dr. Svoboda (Placing both hands on her head.)—I bless you, my child . . . I will not keep you longer now . . . and if if we never meet again, I only ask that you will return to my grave at times . . .
Dr. Svoboda—The Lord be with you! (Turning away from her. Filipina hastens after her mother.)
Jaroslav—(Stepping to the front)—Be in good health, father! And if your conscience ever awakens, and you realize what you have done, then find some philosophical formula to quiet and console you. (Offers his hand) I have been nothing, I am nothing now . . . and I take with me from here, (reaching for the revolver on the table) this weapon, so that if necessity drive! me to it, I will be true to my destiny and become nothing indeed.
Jaroslav—Until we mect again! (Hurries after his mother and sister to the left.)
Dr. Svoboda—My wife, my children! They are leaving me! Have I then been a traitor to my family? Should I have changed me decision? And my third child! Where is Anezka? (Steps advancing from the right) I hear steps . . . that must be she! (Neufeld enters.) Oh!
Dr. Svoboda, Neufeld
Neufeld (With an evil laugh)—Good Evening, Doctor! Do not be afraid! You see it is I, Neufeld!
Dr. Svoboda—Leave my house at once!
Neufeld (Bursting into laughter)—Your house! What an idea!
Neufeld—Certainly, I can go if you so desire for I have a place to stay. But where will Your Highness go, where will you find another roof to shelter you after I leave? And has Your Grace the proper clothes, and a wallet sufficiently large to take you forth upon that journey, that very long journey from your castle?
Dr. Svoboda—Leave, I tell you! Or I will send you to hell!
Neufeld—Here we have your glory, your former grand style, lying all in a heap! Do not be angry, doctor! (Drawing the notes from his breast-pocket.) Here for example . . . you will probably have need of them on the way . . . pray accpt from me, as a memento of your former magnificence, this . . . (with sarcastic emphasis) . . . this old junk!
Dr. Svoboda—I will kill you!
Neufeld (Drawing a revolver from his hip-pocket)—I am prepared even for that!
Dr. Svoboda (Leaping upon him, snatches the weapon, flinging it upon the floor.)—I will strangle you, you dog! With these two hands I will strangle you!
Neufeld—Help! Help! (Runs quickly away. Anezka. appears from the left.)
Anezka, Dr. Svoboda
Anezka—Who was calling for help! Father!
Dr. Svoboda—Anezka . . . hold me . . . or I will go after that cur and kill him!
Anezka—For Heaven’s sake, father! Remember where we are!
Dr. Svoboda (Staggering into a chair)—Do not be afraid.
Anezka—Mamma has left—Filipina and Jaroslav with her, and you father—
Dr. Svoboda (Calmly again)—And you, my daughter, you stayed behind?
Anezka—And will continue to stay.
Dr. Svoboda—On my account?
Anezka—On your account.
Dr. Svoboda—And I am a beggar,—and you would become my companion—you would fetter yourself to me—
Anezka—There are happier days coming. Jiri has written that he will ask you and mother for my hand—we will all live together.
Dr. Svoboda—He has already spoken tome. Yesterday, after the election, when I told him that I have lost everything, that I am now a beggar—I never in my life heard a manlier answer than he gave me. I only want your daughter, he said: and if she will be satisfied with the humble little nest that a journalist can offer he, than let her marry me—in a month, tomorrow,—or perhaps even today.
Anezka—My Jiri—oh my father! You will come with us, won’t you?
Dr. Svoboda—(Buried in thought)—Yes—I would go about the streets of Prague— and people would point after me and say: See, there goes Dr. Svoboda, formerly the great freeholder! They threw him out—he is run down at the heels now—has nothing—lives off of his daughter and son-in-law!—Or what could I do—starting anew with the youngsters in the hospitals, competing with them for a living in the profession that I have now neglected for these twenty years—finding myself subordinated, even an utter failure—My life has run its course—I missed my aim—
Anezka—Father—dear father! Do not talk so!
Dr. Svoboda—(Smoothing her hair)—That was only for a moment. You do not know as yet, what ideas may take possession of a defeated man. Anezka, let me rest and take breath. See, night is at hand, and I have had a terrible day—My child, (kissing her on the forehead)—go now, and be at peace.
Anezka—I could compose myself, if I only knew that you, my father, would be calm!
Dr. Svoboda—I will be at rest—in a few minutes, but I now must be alone—alone—
Anezka—Won’t you take refreshment of some sort?
Dr. Svoboda—Not today—Where the beaks of the vultures have been feeding, (pointing to the table)—I can no longer eat.
Dr. Svoboda—Good night, dear child, Good night! (Kisses her, holding her for a minute in his arms.)
Anezka—Good night! (Leaves him.)
Dr. Svoboda (To himself)—Good night!—May you sleep well, my dearest, best beloved child! Before my last sleep, I wish you good night! It is growing late, the day is fading, and the night is spreading out like a dark and heavy blanket, into which it would forever enfold me. For etermity,—yes, what is left—what wiser philosophy could I think of,—the surest and safest refuge—it is a short and sharp word, death—Death . . . Here I stand before that riddle, before which I have stood a thousand times when it was disporting itself with others, drawing others to its bosom. Today, I must solve that puzzle myself. Why did not the thought come to me before the election? Then I might have died, and my family could have been saved. But then, my death would have been an act of cowardice, of shame, and the bullet that would have pierced my brain would have branded my name with infamy and dishonor. Today, I have purchased death and paid the price—it is my reward—what peace in that eternal forgetfulness—forgetfulness of my loss, my dreams, my love, my family, my home—On this fatal day, at the bottom of my life, there is left me but death, a sure and swift death instead of a slow and painful dying. (From the right there enters a woman dressed in black).
Dr. Svoboda (In a whisper)—It is she! It is death! Come then, I have purchased you!
Hromadkova, Dr. Svobada
Hromadkova—Good Heavens! What a fright!
Dr. Svoboda—Who are you?
Hromadkova—Our former master—doctor—it is I! I only came to beg—
Dr. Svoboda—Go, go away,—leave me in peace—
Hromadkova—But, your honor, I only want to ask you to look at my eye! The other is becoming inflamed—I am afraid I will lose them both!
Dr. Svoboda—Go to a physician—I am not able—
Hromadkova—But where would I go? I have been waiting for you to return! Do not be angry at me on account of this rabble which has taken your castle—
Dr. Svoboad—Woman! (Overcoming his impatience, he says to himself, I must be a man to the last. (To Mrs. Hromadkova) Come out to the balcony. I will look at it. (They step out.)
Hromadkova—May the Lord repay you for all your goodness and bring you an easy death! You are still, gracious sir, our best friend!
Dr. Svoboda—Where is my surgical case? (Goes back into the darkened room to get it. Looking about.) Here—(Opens the case, taking out vials, instruments, and picking out one little bottle. To himself, in deep agitation.) Poison! Poison! (Holds the vial a moment in his hand, buried in thought.)
Hromadkova (From the balcony)—I pray you, dear doctor, do not forget me—
Dr. Svoboda (With a sudden start, placing the vial on the table) I am coming! (Goes quickly to the balcony.) Have no fear, Hromadkova. Nothing will happen to your eye. Wash the wound with the medicine I have given you. Within a weck the inflammation will be gone.
Hromadiova.—May Heaven reward you! And did you know, Honorable Doctor, that the people from the village are getting ready to come to the castle to pay you their respects? With torchlights and music!
Dr. Svoboda—What is this? Ridicule? What do they mean by such madness! (Walking about.)
Hromadkova—No, no! Just a tribute fo their respect! That is because you voted for your nation, and cared nothing, nothing, even though you lost all that you had!
Dr. Svoboda—Hromadkova—tell them that I respectfully beg them to leave off everything—and not to come.
Hromadkova—Why! They won’t have it any other way! And what is the use of spoiling their pleasure? Heaven bless you once more and may the Lord be with you! (Leaving.)
Dr Svoboda—Well, then, let them have their childish pleasure. For me there is another reward—a far greater one—(goes to the table, picking up the vial with the poison.) Poison! That woman surely brought me my death—Physicians, since ancient times, have sought their death by means of poison—I from the former freeholder, just a physician is left once more . . . must remain true to my calling. (Raises the vial, walking to the light to examine it.) Yes, this is the universal healer, the medicine that cures all ills, all that we have fought against in vain; the shortest formula of philosophy, the dropstone of wisdom, and the key which unlocks the other world. Come! my friend! Take me there for all eternity, to that peace from which there is no awakening! (Drinks, staggers, falls and dies. The room grows darker and darker in the fading twilight until it becomes wrapped in blackness. All is still for a moment. Then from a distance comes the strains of a national hymn, drawing nearer to the castle, with shouts and voices. At last the music ceases.)
Other Voices Long live Dr. Svoboda! Glory! Glory!
Anzeka, the dead Dr. Svoboda
Anezka—Father! Listen, listen, father! They are calling you! They are doing this in your honor! (Looking around) Where is father? Has he gone away? Is he in the room? (Sees her father lying on the ground) Merciful Heavens! Father! (Runs and kneels beside him, raising his head. A piercing scream.) Father! He is dead!
- ↑ Copyright 1925, by the Poet Lore Co. All rights reserved.
This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.
This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.
This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.