Poet Lore/Volume 35/Number 4/The Solstice

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
4062852Poet Lore, vol. 35, Winter number — The Solstice1924Karel Matěj Čapek-Chod


By K. M. Capek

Translated from the Czech by E. D. Schonberger

ACT I: Twilight
ACT II: Midnight
ACT III: Daybreak


Old Karvan, retired.
John Karvan, his nephew, the present incumbent at the pharmacy.
Anna, his wife.
Julia, Anna’s sister.
Johnny, Anna’s son, ten years old.
Little Jack, Julia’s son, five years old.
Mr. Hans, the old man’s son.
The Dean, brother of the old man, in charge of the parish church.
Andrew, a chemist, employed in the pharmacy.
Granny, an old woman employed in the Karvan family.
Doctor Crow, family physician.
An Officer.
A Sexton.
Fable, A notary.

The scene is laid in the garden of the Karvan estate in the town of Potsedin, a small village on the edge of the Bohmerwald.

The time is between evening and morning of St John’s day,—1874.

ACT I. Twilight

The garden. In the background an inspiring view of the Bohmerwald. The slopes are covered with a dense forest. Above the forest, on the barren crest of a conical hill, is the ruined castle of Shorfstein. The garden plot is enclosed in a picket fence, with a wicket gate at back C.

At the right is a cottage where the old man is now living in retirement. There are three windows opening towards the audience, and a door approached by three broad steps, opens upon the garden.

At center is a shady chestnut. Beneath it a small table and a rustic seat.

The left is the sunny side of the garden. Here are some racks for the drying of herbs. This side is open, as the picket extends beyond the left wing.

The Karvan home is beyond the right wing, and a walk passing under the old man’s cottage, curves off right.

The East is on the left hand. West on the right.

It is June 24, 8 P. M. The sun has just set in a crimson and gold halo. As the curtain rises. Julia is discovered seated under the chestnut, embroidering on a frame. Andrew is drying herbs at left. John enters dressed for an outing with exaggerated elegance.

John (Approaching Andrew).—Well. Andrew, how is it coming? Karvan’s pulmonary tea, the ninth essence of famous forest flowers? Good, only add a wee bit rose leaf, just enough to give it the faintest scent.

Andrew.—But, my dear Mr. Mayor . . .

John.—Now Andrew, mayor at the city hall, but here just druggist. I have told you often.

Andrew.—Excuse me, sir. But I was about to say that there is very little of this rose stuff. None of the herb women know where to find it, and so we have only the little that our old Granny brings in.

John.—Just so there is enough of this Bohmer bloom, see? (He pinches the petals and smells them.) Just a little more sun in the morning not enough to crumble them again. Just so they are not gathered green. They can’t be mouldy. (Goes to Julia and sits beside her.) What our Latin labeled jars cannot yield, our granny must find in the woods. To be sure I am a modern Pharmacist, and yet I cannot afford to throw away such a well established traditional patent remedy; particuarly when it has been handed down for generations. (He whistles lightly, takes a straw, and tickles Julia on the neck.) And how is the doctor’s lady today?

Julia (Rising).—Please, brother-in-law, don’t do that to me again! It’s all I can stand to have you around, but to touch me I felt as if a spider had fallen down my neck. (Sits.)

John.—Now, now, now!

Julia.—And don’t call me the doctor’s lady. Not to my face at least. It’s bad enough when it comes from those outside of the family.

John.—But there was such a trifle lacking of your being a real widow. And what so nearly happened six years ago may now happen any time you say the word. Dr. Crow is willing . . .

Julia.—You mean, might be willing, . . . if it were not for little Jack.

John (Catching Julia’s hands). He would never stand in my way, if . . .

Julia.—Let go!

John.—You’d be mine, Jackie or no . . .

Julia.—For God’s sake, what are you doing!

John.—I could dance for joy only to think of the possibility.

Julia (Calling).—Johnny! Perhaps you may be ashamed of yourself in the presence of your own son, if you are not before old Andrew.

John (To Andrew).—Andrew, run down the lane and see that Johnny does not fall into the stream.

Julia.—No, please. Andrew, stay where you are. I can call Johnny from here.

Andrew.—There is not a spoonful of water in the stream.

John.—I have said! (Andrew bestirs himself and goes out by the wicket).—Julia, dear—I sent Andrew away because I did not want him to hear what I am about to say to you. (Julia rises.)

Julia.—Aren’t you sorry for me a little? I know I have to live on you, but surely I earn my keep. Oh, I earn it! I love the old man, but what I suffer at his hands! I am willing to suffer anything so long as I may be loved and respected here, and I have to be grateful to you for the home you have given me and my boy; but you have almost untaught me how to be grateful. I don’t know what to do . . . tell Ann, or run away. It makes me ill to think of telling her. It is so hideous, so abominable!!

John.—Please listen to me. I am going to promise you something, and I’ll keep my promise. I can’t let you run away, because frankly, this place would be intolerable without you. And I promise I shall not touch you again, not even speak to you alone, until . . .


John.—Until I see that you have changed your mind about me.

Julia.—And you dare to tell me this! What right have I ever given to speak to me so insultingly?

John.—Not so loud, please, darling! If you won’t, you won’t, but you owe us both this much: to keep still about it. Some one may hear.

Julia—Is it possible that you are afraid of your wife? In that case I should be spared the humiliation of telling her myself . . . if she caught . . .

John.—Now, dear, now, now! Let me tell you something that will really surprise you. I am in love with you, because I am in love with her.

Julia.—What do you mean?

John—I mean it seriously. It is very simple. It is something beyond my control . . . Just look at Ann today—a mere shadow of what she was ten years ago when I married her.

Julia. You are the last one who should hold that against her.

John—I know what you mean, that I have not spared her? Suppose you are rightThe fact remains that I carry in my heart Ann as she was ten years ago.

Julia.—And Ann as she is today has dropped out, that’s quite evident. You no longer love her.

John (Laughing).—With the best kind of love . . . platonic.

Julia—How loathesome you areHow do you dare to speak to me like this! You imagine I have to stay here, no matter how you choose to treat me?

John.—My dear Julia, you don’t understand! I love my Ann in you. Don’t you see what a temptation you are to me, being as you are, the living image of Ann as she was years ago when I threatened to kill myself if she did not love me? I tell you, I have to rub my eyes often to realize that you are not she. The same age, the same beauty. You are her second edition.

Julia.—You make me laugh, and what you say is not at all to my taste. Your flattery won’t turn my headMoreover, you are wasting precious time with me. What about your coming election? If I were in your place I should worry a little about affairs in the city hall.

John.—Don’t laugh at me, please. Remember, I do not belong to those who let themselves be moved from their purpose. Once I make up my mind to a thing, I get it. I shall get what I am after at the polls, and here, too.

Julia.—Here, too? (Andrew comes in leading Jackie across the footbridge beyond the wicket. The child is pulling a toy wagon full of sand. Having entered, he respectfully offers to kiss John’s hand, but is rebuffed.)

Andrew (Guiding the boy).—There, there, Mr. Driver! Slowly! Let’s not tip over. What if our load should fall into the river, horse and all! Go now, and kiss your uncle’s hand.

John.—Yes, Julia. (To the boy) No, no, not now!

Jack.—Mama, Andrew thinks I am a horse, and that he is a big horse, and that we might fall into the water, when there is no water.

Julia.—All right Jackie, go on with your game right here beside mama.

John.—Julia, I want you to believe about me what you must must have noticed during all these years—that I am different from other men . . .

Julia (Vehemently).—I’ll tell you what you are; you are a cynic and you are trying to behave like a brute.

John.—Hm, your sister talked just like that once. Once she had no word for me but . . . what you have now, and yet she became—how shall we say—my own. I tell you I had to overcome some obstacles there! When I say that I am different from other men, I mean that I don’t mind obstacles. I always find the means for removing them, be it as cynic or brute. (Again catching her hands) I shall in time remove this obstacle. I know you, you Lash sisters.

Julia.—Sir, how dare you! If you were not holding my hands you would see!

Andrew (By way of warning).—I kiss your hand, my lady.

Ann (With point).—Oh, I beg your pardon doctor. I imagined that you were wandering over hill and dale, and here you are amusing yourself with (Sarcastically) little Jackie. What about your own son? Isn’t this a great deal out of your way?

John.—Oh, I shall have time to rest beneath the Shorfstein yet before the young folks return. Their outing is to close with fireworks, and so they won’t be coming till after dark. Besides, since the gentle director of my every step seems determined to know, I wished to see, en passant, how Karvan’s Pulmonary Flower Tea is being taken care of.

Ann.—As if Andrew had not prepared more bloom in his time than you will ever see!

John (Glancing at his watch).—Then I’ll mosey along. Of course, I might have gone on Main street, but surely I may be allowed to save a few steps by cutting across the lawn. (He goes out through wicket, waving his hand.) Till we meet again.

Ann (Looking through the window into the cottage).—What’s grandfather doing?

Julia.—Sleeping as usual—from noon till evening.

Ann.—What a lot of work you’ve done! No wonder, with such a Celadon to thread the needle for you.

Julia.—Please, Ann. I should think you would be furious about it all. (Jackie whispers something in Andrew’s ear, both go out by wicket, and presently Andrew returns alone.)

Ann (Forcing a laugh).—You don’t need my oath on it that I am not. Not even a headache. It only makes me laugh!

Julia.—Just so you are not pretending.

Ann (Laughing hysterically).—For God’s sake, Julia, don’t think that I am jealous. I don’t care about anything but the good name of the house. All I have in life is the hollow honor of being mistress here, and I must put up a semblance of dignity. The elections are at hand, and our opponents are looking for anything they can dig up against us.

Julia.—Ann, if I did not realize how agitated you must be, I should feel insulted. Even so, I do not feel exactly flattered.

Ann.—Don’t think I haven’t eyes. He is to meet the young people on their way home from the excursion, and instead of taking a short cut, he wanders around by the back way, simply to see you. This is not the first time. Every day he seems to have more business here about the house than at the drug store.

Julia.—Please to remember, before you say any more, that the father of your boy is more loathesome to me than he is to you. That is saying a mouthful.

Ann (With anxious look toward Andrew).—The father of my child?

Julia.—The gentleman who has just departed, the community druggist, the village mayor, the honorable Mr. John Karvan.

Ann (Perceptibly relieved).—You mean thing! Why should my own husband be loathesome to me? I am afraid people are whispering such things about only too freely. I should be lying if I denied that I could love him more to distraction than I do. But as you say, being the father of my boy, the first man in the village . . . since Fate denied me that other one . . .

Julia (Tenderly).—That other one! My dear little sister, who better than I could feel the broken heart behind that cry. I know what floods of sorrow still surge within, even though you have learned to weep without tears.

Ann.—It ought to be easier for you to be reconciled to your lot, since your beloved doctor died in your arms.

Julia.—Are you not reconciled to yours? Your doctor told me—Oh, if he would only keep his distance!—He said, “I know you Lash sisters.” He recalls how you treated him once, and how you treat him now. He has faith that he will conquer me the same way in time. He says that he shall have me, and he knows us. Do you understand him?

Ann.—The dupe! I swear that I never felt for the man one spark of love.

Julia.—But you married him, even while you loved another.

Ann.—You have no right . . . You were a mere tadpole then, and you could not possibly understand . . .

Julia (Gently).—Oh, yes I can! I remember what happened, and I can interpret with my mature experience. My dear little Annie (Kisses her)How often as a child I had stood behind the door and heard you both. And when he was leaving how I would run lest I should be caught eavesdropping. I trembled, my hands were ice, and my eyes were swimming in tears. But one thing I could never make out. No sooner had he run away, than, like a bolt out of a clear sky, you up and married the other man.

Ann.—Julia, for the love of God, don’t refer to that again! These shadows of the past . . . let them darken my life. You have shadows enough of your own. Let me bear my own burdens.

Julia.—My beloved also went away forever—not into the world, as yours had, but out of it.

Ann.—And your boy has no father.

Julia.—Ann (Then in an altered tone full of dismay and suspicion.) Ann!

Ann.—Stop! Don’t say it! Don’t even dare to think it! (She takes Julia’s face between her hands and looks into her eyes searchingly.)

(Enter Granny, with a basket of herbs. She is terribly excited. She stumbles through the wicket into the garden, breathless.)

Granny.—Lord Jesus!

Andrew (Startled).—So, so, and while you were about it you might have called on the Virgin Mary for me! (Muttering) The old witch is enough to scare the soul out of a man’s body.

Granny.—As if you carried your soul in your mouth, Mr. Andrew!—Humbly kiss your hand, my lady, and yours, too, Mrs. Julia—Holy Mary! In the woods . . . I can’t get my breath!

Andrew.—If an old woman will fly like a young girl, she must expect to get flabbergasted!

Granny.—If you had heard and seen what I have, you might have made still better time, seeing that you are such a verdant youth!

Andrew.—Likely the warden’s dog showed his tongue, and you thought it was at you.

Granny.—I want you to believe me . . . in the woods today . . . I caught a glimpse of . . . our Mr. Hans.

Andrew.—Mr. Hans? The late Mr. Hans!

Ann (With a shudder).—What is that, Granny?

Granny.—Mr. Hans, the lawful heir of this house.

Julia (With an anxious look toward the old man’s cottage).—Sh! Not so loud!

Granny (Unmindful of consequences).—I tell you I saw him!

Ann.—With your own eyes, Granny?

Granny.—Not exactly . . . that is to say . . .

Ann.—Well, then . .

Granny.—But I heard! God is my witness that I heard!

Andrew.—Had you lost your sight that you only heard?

Granny.—How could I see when I was sitting in the woods on a stump, and he somewhere below on the highway. But I am not mistaken! No one else ever called me that way.” “Granny, grandma, grandmother!” My precious!

Andrew.—Perhaps it was the old knight of Shorfstein himself, the robber king of the woods. They say he used to fall for well preserved old ladies like yourself.


Granny.—It was no other but the very one, my Hans. Were I to hear it once in a hundred years, I should recognize that voice at once.

Ann (Much perturbed).—You must be mistaken! And, Granny, whether you saw and heard, or only heard, please don’t say a word about it in the village. Do you understand?

Granny.—I understand.

Ann (To Julia).—I am sure she is wrong. We have had proofs of his death . . And yet my knees are all a-tremble. (Ann and Julia converse apart. Granny adds her herbs to those on the racks.)

Andrew.—You child! That man has been killed or frozen in a Siberian outpost. The doctor has had official confirmation of his death in black and white. Mr. Hans is dead, so how on earth could he show himself all at once here at the Shorfstein?

Granny.—You can’t rob me of my conviction that I heard his voice.

Andrew.—Pshaw! You had a dream . . some hallucination. I had supposed that you were the one that haunted the woods, and instead you are running away from other spooks.

Granny.—Just listen to the man! Spooks! And I had only to breathe the word, and I might have been the dear spouse of our esteemed laboratory assistant, Mr. Andrew. How many times has this poor spook had to break her basket over the head of this persistent gentleman for his unmaidenly presumption, and how many more times may she need to do it!

Andrew.—Basket, says I! You may thank God for the basket! Once when I accidentally broke the large bottle of liquid bronze, how I longed to gild your basket for you. What a figure you might have cut in the woods! But never mind. You may yet find yourself binding sheaves of sand before you shuffle off, old Granny.

Granny.—And when I do, I shall engage you to turn the bands for me. (She goes away.)

Ann (Showing her sleeves rolled up above her elbows).—Will you look!

Julia.—Calm down a little. Something will happen to you.

Ann (Pulling down her sleeves).—It’s all foolishness, of course! (Laughing hysterically) It’s a sin to call his poor shadow out of the grave. The cracked old thing!

Julia.—But if it were true . . .

Ann (Wildly). But the doctor has an official report of his death, corroborated by all manner of ambassadors and consuls. Without that the old man could not have settled the estate upon him.

Julia.—Hm, if the doctor . . .

Ann (Wringing her hands).—Oh, Lord! (Starting suddenly) Andrew!

Andrew.—At your service, my lady.

Ann.—Don’t you think you could catch up with your master, and tell him to come right back, that something very important has happened? Or perhaps you can get your apprentice to do it. He is younger and he can run faster.

Andrew.—I fear I could not overtake him if my legs were twice as nimble as the apprentice’s. He will be there by this, and he will not be coming back until after the picnic party has broken up. Besides, what would he think of me if I should run up to him and stammer: “Come home, quick, our Granny has had a fright in the woods”Having worked in this laboratory for the last forty years, my record should give me the privilege of making a little suggestion. And so if you permit me to say, and to back it up with my life if necessary: Mr. Hans is dead, and cannot be here.

Julia.—Why are you so sure, Andrew?

Andrew—You are my witness how the old man has been talking with him here for years after dark. How many times have you and I listened to him together! He talks with him so intimately it is enough give a person the creeps.

Julia—That’s so. Every night after dark, and lately even before dusk, he seems to hear the voice of his son.

Andrew.—Exactly! And could this son come back here and visit him in spirit as he does if his spirit were still in his body?

Julia.—Ah, Andrew!

Andrew.—Ah, ah, my lady! It isn’t so because I happen to think it is. Why had he not come to the old man before we received the report of his death? But the very night after—indeed, that very same night—the father was talking to his son. That was the night he had his second stroke.

Julia.—You don’t know quite everything, Andrew.

Andrew.—I know a lot more than I venture to express. Henceforth I shall keep my mouth shut. (To Ann) My lady

Ann.—Go tend the flowers, Andrew.

Andrew.—There is no more to do than cover them so that they don’t take the dew (As he goes) If only old Andrew cared to talk! (A long silence. Julia begins her embroidery. She stops, giving Ann a searching look. Then checks herself and sews on.)

Ann.—Listen to me, Julia. I am going to meet him myself. I am going to find Hans . . . find out if he really has the presumption to rise out of his grave and to come to trouble the living, to whom he has caused enough sorrow already.

Julia.—Are you insane?

Enter Fable, the notary, unobserved.) (He stands at the gate.)

Ann (Suddenly aware of his presence).—Oh, it is you, Notary!

Fable (As Andrew opens the wicket).—I kiss your hands, ladies.

Ann.—Good evening, Notary. Be so kind as to come in. How you startled me! I could as soon expect death as you, coming from that direction.

Fable.—I beg your pardon, but if I am to speak the truth, I feel relieved that you were a little startled. The news I bring is such that it is well to be a little used to surprise.

Ann.—For God’s love, what more today? Andrew, oblige by asking Granny to bring the lamp. (Exit Andrew.)

Fable.—It is the nature of my news made me come by way of the garden. I do not care to meet the doctor just now.

Ann.—He has gone to the Shorfstein. But your report, Notary? I am not so alarmed as curious.

Fable.—What would you say, my lady . . . if I were tell you that the son of the old man there, a member of the Polish uprising in ’64, captured and carried away to Sakhalin in ’70, in which he made a lucky dash for liberty, who has since been residing in Arkansas City, U. S. A., where he won his naturalization papers . . . in other words, that Mr. Hans is now on his way here . . . You don’t seem a bit astonished?

Julia.—Then Granny was right.

Ann.—My dear notary, I can furnish the latest detail,—Mr. Hans Karvan is already here.


Ann.—Or rather may be any minute. Our Granny saw him a while ago at the Shorftstein. It is probable that he is waiting for night fall.

Fable.—In that case you may answer with your own lips the question he sent by me from Paris . . . He came on, as it seems, without waiting for his answer.

Ann.—A question . . . I should answer?

Fable.—As it concerns you chiefly. Mr. Hans turns to me—not officially to be sure but still as notary, as his particular friend and counsellor and friend of the family—to know if Miss Ann Lash is still single. Ah, there, my lady! It seems to me I noted a slight symptom of a start.

Ann.—I am not startled, Mr. Notary. . . at least not for the reason you think. Mr. Fable, Hans does not even dream of the changes that have taken place here, in a business way, since he left. And you can imagine how a question like that coming from him at this time . . . when it is a question of what will happen to us all, if . . . A question cannot be entirely indifferent to me. . . a man, asking his cousin, my husband, if I am married. . .

Fable.—And your being that cousin’s wife . . . is that matter of indifference to you?

Ann.—You used to be chivalrous!


Fable.—God forbid, Mrs. Karvan, that I should willingly touch a sensitive spot. I am a friend of the family.

Julia.—My dear sister, where are you to get the strength you will need!

Ann.—Don’t be afraid, Julia. See, I am myself again. You shall see with what perfect poise I can behave.

(At this moment there comes an impatient knocking at the old man’s window.)

Ann.—Oh, Lord!

Julia (Calling, as knocking continues).—Andrew! Andrew! (To Andrew, who enters right.) Hurry, hurry, Andrew—grandfather is awake.

Andrew.—That’s why I am always at hand, my lady. (Enters cottage and strikes a light.)

Ann.—Does he always act like this?

Julia.—If some one should not come at once, he’d break the pane. He has done it more than once. He is terribly frightened of the dark.

Fable.—And he is always so . . .

Julia.—He is not so cross as he used to be. He is more like a child. He often cries, and last night he could not go to sleep for sheer joy. He was so excited over the approach of St. John’s eve, his name day! And over today’s picnic! God knows how he keeps track of the day, but he does. This morning he was up early to see the procession from the gymnasium pass by. And now he is waiting for the excursion to come back.

Fable.—He still thinks he is the mayor?

Julia.—Andrew has to bring him the papers to sign every day. Any old wrapping paper satisfies him. He doesn’t know any difference.

(Granny enters with lamp in one hand and a table spread in the other.)

Granny.—Are we to have supper out here tonight?

Ann (Confused).—What’s that? (Recovering) Oh, supper! To be sure. Here as usual on St. John’s . . . for grandfather’s sake. (Hand at head, bewildered) Today we may have one saint. . . one John more . . . There!

(From the distance comes music of the band playing a Turner’s March.)

Julia.—The young folks are back.

(Granny spreads the table.)

Fable.—That means they will be here at once. The procession is turning the corner around the armory, and the breeze is carrying the music this way.

Ann.—Granny, please, leave everything for a while and get me my shawl. Hurry! (Granny goes.)

Julia.—What are you up to now?

Ann.—I must go to meet my husband. . . if he is coming.

Fable.—Certainly he is coming. And you won’t have to wait long. If you permit a suggestion from an old friend of the family . . . what will people say if they see you tonight, just as the young man of ten years ago, who turned the village topsy turvy, and you with it . . . what would they say if they saw you running like a wild woman to meet your husband on his way home from the picnic.

Ann.—What shall I do?

(The music grows louder. In the lodge Andrew is seen taking the old man to the window.)

Julia.—It would be better if the doctor were here. Truly, I should prefer to see him here before the other arrives.

Fable.—Well, well, they shall have to meet sooner or later—the present incumbent, and the one to whom the business lawfully belongs—who may still wish to urge his claims.

Ann (To Granny who brings mantle).—Give it here, quick!

(Music sounds farther off.)

Fable.—What does this mean? (All are surprised.) Just look at that! The procession is turning to the market place, and will not pass by here. That looks like a demonstration against our mayor.

Ann.—I must meet him from this direction then!

Fable (Looking off, back).—That is superfluous, for here he comes. (John enters, leading Johnny by the hand.)

John.—Come along, and behave yourself like a man. I’ll get cross!

Johnny.—When everybody is going to the armory, and they are going to play a lot more! All the other boys can go, but I have to come home!

John (Sternly).—Not another word! (Pretense of kindness as he comes nearer—). Come along. Johnny-papa’s big boy.

Johnny.—That’s all I get for being papa’s big boy! Other boys have papas too, and they can stay as long as they want to.

John (Entering through the gate).—Is that you, Fable? Good evening. (The band plays a lively march.) Just listen to that! That is in honor of the First Voters’ League. (Angrily) Do you know what the manager said? He said that the prcession could not pass this way because it would be contrary to the law that was in force long before the state granted the charter. When I told him that the old man was counting on it, that he stayed awake all night in anticipation like a child, and that he had a right to be humored, seeing that he financed the scheme, he said that he had high respect for the old man, but that it could not be helped. It was settled. I am sure the whole damn league will vote against us! . . . But, what’s the matter here? You all act as if you had seen a ghost!

Ann.—Perhaps you will look that way too, doctor, when you learn.

John.—What is it? What’s happened? Can’t you speak,—someone?

Fable.—I came to tell you that a . . a . . guest . .

Ann.—Who is standing on the very threshold . . . .

John.—A guest? From a distance?

Ann.—From the other world, doctor.

John.—From the other world, you say? Then it must be . . . Hans . .

Ann.—Yes, doctor, it’s Hans. He had written Mr. Fable that he was coming soon, and instead he is already here. Our Granny heard him in the woods this evening.

Julia.—It is strange that you should have guessed so easily, brother-in-law. It was to be expected that you would be the very last one to believe, and yet you do not even say, “impossible.”

John (Moved).—Why should I say it when you are telling me here that he is sending messages, that you have actually seen him (Chainging abruptly.) No time for that now. (Assuming joy.) You say that Jan is back? My dear cousin Jan! Where is he, let me embrace him!

Ann (Quietly to John).—No use. John; you can’t keep that mask on for long. We know now that he is still on earth, but what about . . . (Pointing to the lodge) about the two who do suspect each other’s presence among the living!

Fable.—Precious people, with your permission, I take my leave. You have my message, I can be of no further service, and I am on my way.

Ann.—Oh, we beg pardon for neglecting you . . .

Fable.—Not at all. Everything is ship shape. I shall take the upper road, if you don’t mind. Good night. (Exit.)

John.—You mean?

Ann.—Don’t act so innocent! The two that one in there and this one—father and son.

John (Pretentiously righteous).—Don’t meddle with them! We have no right to stand between them!

Ann.—And you have never done that before, doctor?

John.—Please, please, don’t drive me mad! He may be here any minute, and you don’t give a man the chance to collect his wits!

Johnny (Suddenly comprehending).—Mamma, is it that rebel uncle of mine that’s coming? I want to see him, I want to see him!

John.—Out of the way! You go to bed this minute!

Andrew (Out of lodge window).—Pardon, but the old man will not stir from the window. He is still expecting the procession to pass this way. He is straining his ears for the music, and they have stopped long ago. I don’t know what to do with him. (He stands so that Hans, entering, sees him first.)

(Ann is sitting under the tree where she is cut off from Hans’ view. John is standing beside her also out of sight. Julia has strayed up stage and Johnny is attached to her.)

Hans (Outside).—Andrew! Andrew! Could you scrape up a lodging for a poor tramp?

Andrew.—For the love of God, if it isn’t Mr. Hans! So the old woman was right after all! Upon my soul, it is the very, very Mr. Hans!

Hans (Entering and catching sight of Julia).—Ann! My Ann! what luck! Is it possible? And how do you happen to be here at our house? (He embraces her eagerly.)

Julia (Too astounded to resist).—No, no, I am not . . .

Ann (Coming into view).—Stop, you unhappy man, I am Ann! This is my sister, Julia.

Hans (Confused).—You are Ann? You, Ann? I am Jan, Hans, who has come out of the wide world to his father’s house.

Ann.—So we have heard.

Hans (Unable to take his eyes off Julia).—Your sister! She seemed to me more like . . .

Ann.—What a ridiculous mistake!

Hans.—How could I have made such a blunder! But you are really Ann? Will you kindly tell me what you are doing at our house?

(Ann takes Hans by the hand and leads him to the doctor.)

John (Boisterously).—Jan! My dear cousin! Welcome! Welcome!

Hans (Dashing away his proferred hand).—Wait a moment! Aha! I begin to catch on! Husband and wife, is it? Oh, that is great! How wonderfully it all worked out! (He breaks out in wild laughter. His back is to the lodge. His laugh brings the old man out.) Say, but this is a surprise! I couldn’t have dreamed . . .

Old Man (Staggering through the door).—Julia, Julia! Hans is calling me again! I am afraid!

Hans (Turning, sees Julia run to the old man).—What’s this? What! My . . . Oh, my father, and alive? Andrew, this is he, my father, isn’t it? (To him) Father!

Old Man (Holding out his arms to Hans).—My little Hans! So you are back from the picnic, sonny boy? Everybody said that you would never come again, only Julia . . she promised. You were out a long time, my boy. Weren’t you afraid father would use a strap?


Old Man.—Don’t you see how late it is? So late! And it is growing dark! It’s so dark! Hans, Jan, where are you? (Falls into his arms.)

Hans.—Father, father! Is our meeting to be so brief? Father, speak to me! Father!

Old Man.—The thing . . that was . . . you know, my boy . . you must forgive . . . that . . .

Hans.—Help, here, good people, help me!

Julia.—For the love of God, will someone stir! Get Dr. Crow, someone! Andrew (Andrew starts out right.)

Johnny (Weeping).—Grandfather! Grandfather!

Julia.—No Andrew, wait! Let Granny fetch the doctor. You help us here. We must put him to bed. Brother-in-law!

(Hans, Julia and Andrew carry the old man into the lodge. John follows a few steps, but does not go in. Instead, in sudden resolution, he hastens out right.)

ACT II. Midnight

Same as Act I. In the lodge of the old man, candles are burning. On the garden table is a lamp. Through the open door of the lodge the Dean is seen kneeling in prayer. Ann is seated under the chestnut tree, Johnny at her side. He is frightened. Holding on to his mother, he throws a scared glance at the death chamber now and again.

A sexton comes out of the lodge, a cassock over his arm, a satchel with paraments over his shoulder. Hans comes after him. The sexton goes out right, Andrew lighting his way with a candle. Hans comes to the table and buries his face in his hands. Johnny seeing his uncle in sorrow is about to approach him.)

Ann (In a sharp whisper, restrains him).—Stay right here!

Johnny (Struggles free of her hand and runs to Hans).—I don’t want to! Let me go, mama! (Ann about to pursue, but remains seated.)

Johnny (Caressing Hans’ head).—Don’t cry so bitterly, uncle.

Hans.—Oh, it’s you, Johnny!—I am not crying, see?

Johnny.—I thought you were. Why don’t you, when your father died?

Hans.—One does not always cry when one is sad. When you grow up you will realize that often your heart will be breaking when your eyes will shed no tears. Did you love grandpa?

Johnny.—Oh, yes, very much, but they would never let me go to him. Aunt Julia, she loved him very much too. The others, they did not love him so much . . not so much as we two.

Hans.—How much did the others love him?

Johnny.—Not so well as we two. You see. I had to love him the most of all, because he was my grandfather and my godfather, too.

Hans.—So your name is Jan, also? You are going to celebrate tomorrow?

Johnny.—I am. (Tearfully) Oh dear! Grandpa will never hear my greeting any more and I learned such a pretty one. Aunt Julia found it for me.

Hans.—Never mind, you shall say it to me.

Johnny.—But it isn’t your name day.

Hans.—Oh, yes, it is. I am the Baptist, the same as every other first born Karvan.

Johnny.—But it won’t fit you. Please don’t look in there all the time!—You see, it went like this—Dear grandaddy, my precious old fellow . . You are not even gray, so how can you be precious old fellow? But I tell you what! I can fix it up, and after I have said it to father, then it can be yours. Only in place of saying precious daddy, I can say “my golden uncle!”

Ann.—Johnny, you must not impose on your uncle. It is not right for you to be so talkative when uncle is in mourning.

Hans.—Why so considerate?

Ann.—Come on, sonny, it’s past your bed time.

Johnny.—I shan’t go.

Hans.—Just leave him here. Those few innocently prattled sentences have a remarkably refreshing effect on me.

Johnny.—You were always saying that uncle would never come again, and here he is. Only we two—we were certain you would come.

Hans.—Who are “we two?”

Johnny.—Aunt Julia and I.

Hans.—So? Aunt Julia and you?

Ann.—That’s enough for this time, Johnny. The boy has such a fond disposition, there will be no comforting him when you leave.

Hans.—But no one has said that I would leave. Look here, I have just arrived, have not yet spent a night under the paternal roof, and you are talking of my leaving.

Johnny.—Don’t go away again, uncle, please! (Half asleep) Stay here at the store. Father can dismiss the assistant and hire you in his place. I will love you even more than I loved grandaddy.

Ann.—Johnny, not another word!

Johnny (Falling off).—Aunt Julia always said . . .

Ann.—Surely you would not for one moment consider staying at this house, or even in the village.

Hans.—I have reasons for as well as against.

Ann.—The motives that brought you, cannot possibly prompt you to stay . . . You must be entirely disillusioned . . .

Hans.—To just which of my motives do you refer?

Ann.—In particular to the one mentioned in a certain letter written to Mr. Fable.

Hans.—So you know about that?

Ann.—Only this afternoon the notary paid us a visit. Of course, he was most discreet; he came when conditions were entirely favorable. I served out my sentence of despair this afternoon. Bitterness came only tonight.

Hans.—Bitterness? What do you expect me to reply to that? It is true that I came only out of one motive, the one mentioned in the letter.

Ann.—In that case your friend should have received some such letter long ago. (Softly) Some one else, too, might have received a line or two. As it is you have let the years slip by without taking the slightest interest in that matter.

Hans.—I couldn’t! I swear to you, I couldn’t! Not that I forgot. Not entirely. Not the Polish battlefields, not the Russian transport, not the horrors of Sakhalin were sufficient to make me forget. When I found myself at liberty again, I imagined the memories were less insistent, but they kept calling The last five years in America! They were worse than the rebellion, worse than the prison. On my honor, I never had a half day’s peace. All this time I felt upon my chest the weight of an alien fist. I had to fight to ward it off—to break through the handicap of my foreign birth. When I boarded the ship, I began to hear more and more clearly the bells on our village church. And when I landed at Havre, I could see the village tower. From Paris I wrote to Fable, but even before my letter reached the postoffice, I was seized with uncontrollable longing. I forgot all at once my government office, and the same train that carried my letter carried me. The train crawled! My heart kept climbing into my throat, I was so impatient.

Ann.—Impatient! And yet you arrived on foot.

Hans.—Yes. On the Bavarian border I was smitten with a fear that all my hopes were vain. I left the train and walked the rest of the day. Even when I arrived on the outskirts of the village I dared not come here at once. I caught sight of Granny in the woods, but she took fright at my voice.

Ann.—Are you sure that your disappointment is as sore as it might have been?

Hans.—Quite! What a blow! I am not sentimental, but what I found here would shake a backwoodsman. Ann, dead to me forever. My father, whom I had considered dead for many years, alive; only to die in my arms!

Ann (Smiling with veiled bitterness).—Your greatest disappointment though was, ha, ha, ha,—this evening, when you found Julia in your arms. How you opened your eyes when you beheld the real Ann. It was wonderfully gratifying to me to know that the hugs and kisses she got were really intended for me.

Hans.—The error was easy. Your sister is the living image of you as you were the evening I went away—the very picture of you I had been carrying with me over the four quarters of the globe.

Ann.—It must have been a very light burden, seeing that you carried it so long without complaining about it.

Hans.—Besides, the mistake was only momentary.

Ann.—It lasted long enough to satisfy all concerned. I noticed Julia did not object. . . By the way, that’s an idea! One way to make up for the lost Ann. Julia will agree I am sure, and Ann will give you both her heartiest blessing.

Hans.—Poor Ann, how you must have suffered to be able to talk thus! I owe Julia nothing. I made her no promises as I have you.

Ann.—You took your promises seriously, didn’t you? If you did not come after ten years to boast of her, we might not even have known that there was a Mrs. Hans . . .

Hans.—Keep on, you can’t hurt me now. But I wish you to understand that there is no one . . . that I have been all these years alone.

Ann.—You needn’t tell me that you would still be interested in me . . . as I am now . . . if that were still possible. I know what I look like.

Hans.—I swear to you that I would! My faith has survived ten years.

Ann.—And I am sure you hadn’t any time for faithlessness.

Hans.—Look here, Ann! Here lies asleep before us the ocular evidence of your faith, a beautiful grown boy! In order that he be as old as he is it was necessary that your faith have a violent and sudden end, ten years ago.

Ann.—Don’t go a step farther! Don’t trample on the innocent! What right have you to blame me? You went away forever and I had nothing left. For me and for the rest of us you were dead.


Dean (Entering from the death chamber).—Ah me!

Hans (To Ann).—This is not the last word between us on the subject.

Dean.—Right behind the door lies the yet warm corpse of your father! The return of the Scriptural prodigal was not so tragic as yours, Jan; and I, though your uncle, have no word of welcome.

Hans.—Don’t exert yourself, uncle.

Dean.—Your arrival has cost me the life of my brother.


Dean.—It would have been better for you, for me, for everybody, had you indeed perished in Siberia!

Hans.—Fortunately, you were the last person from whom I expected a welcome, and I assure you that your welcome is not what I came for. Since unavoidable circumstances have made our meeting necessary, I wish to remind you that I am no longer a boy of twenty-two, cursed by your anathema, but a Man!—a man that has traversed three-quarters of the globe. I would warn you . . .

Dean.—You warn me? Against what, for God’s love?

Hans.—Not to urge me too far. Not to compel me to ask for a settlement of accounts between us.

Dean.—There is nothing to settle, my son. Not between you and me. But there is some one may force you to settle whether you will or no.

Hans.—If you mean God, I can take care of that, I assure you, my reverend sir! My God lives in my conscience and that is at peace. But pray don’t you aggravate the load you have saddled on me. It lacked mighty little of your accusing me of the death of my father.

Dean.—Had I done so, should I have been far wrong? You came home, they tell me, and your father died. After so many years that evil deed of yours bore its fruit of destruction.

Hans.—I shall permit no one to sit in judgment over my deeds, least of all you. My evil deed! True, it did not square with your laws and hypocritical regulations, but I have never regretted the deed. It was necessary to save the man between whose temple and the mouth of a gun there was scarcely the distance of a span. I saved that man, and I do not begrudge the price I had to pay later.

Dean.—Your generosity was wasted, my boy, for that same public servant on whom you poured it out, met his fate later. He has proved the curse of our family, himself cursed . . .

Ann.—He was my father, please to remember, sir!

Hans.—It is true? He did not escape his fate?

Dean.—By his own hand. When this worthy treasurer reached the second time for government funds, and more extensively than the first time, there was no sentimental fool here willing to ruin his own life and plunge the pharmacy on the verge of ruin by forging a draft for him.

Hans.—I implore you, uncle! Spare the daughter’s feelings, at least!

Dean (To Ann who is weeping).—Yes, yes, my dear, you have cause to weep! Fortunately, you need not weep over yourself and your son, like the daughters of Jerusalem. How about that, Mrs. Karvan?

Ann.—I beg you, sir!


Dean.—You are both to blame and you may weep together over the dead.

(Julia and Doctor Crowe have come out of the lodge and stop on the veranda.)

Hans.—My father died in my arms, and his last words were not of forgiveness, but a plea to be forgiven.

Dean.—Still it was his grieving over you that killed him.

Dr. Crowe.—I beg pardon, worthy sir, for allowing myself to make one suggestion. So far as I have been able to learn from those present at the fatal meeting, the old gentleman died rather of joy at seeing his son again than of surprise.

Julia.—We all know that the old gentleman looked upon Mr. Karvan as dead. So did we all.

Ann.—Not only looked upon, we were all certain that he was dead.

Hans.—How could you be certain?

Ann.—We had proofs-written reports, and an official confirmation came to us here at the store.

Hans.—So? I must see that document at once. Where is my cousin? I feel the scales gradually falling off my eyes. Where is the doctor? Surely he is not hiding from me?

Dean.—Remember, Jan, that nearby lies the body of your father, and that it is necessary to observe a certain decorum, even if we ourselves are incapable of the proper respect. The house of the dead should not be desecrated by the quarrels of the living.

Hans.—I acknowledge my error. But I wish I might shriek loud enough to wake him and explain how it happened that we were robbed of each other for all those years. For I had, you understand, proofs that my father was dead.

Ann.—From whom?

Hans.—From the present incumbent.

Julia.—I felt there was something like that!

Hans.—Where did he go? Where is he? I must have him here. I am only surprised that the thing had not dawned on me before.

Johnny (Waking and crying out).—Who was that shouting? Mamma, I am afraid! Where am I? (To Hans) Oh, I see! (He throws his arms about his uncle’s neck.) And poor grandpa died! (Dozing) Don’t be so . . . angry . . . uncle . . . (Sleeps.)

Dean.—I am surprised that the boy should take to him so; he is usually very shy.

Julia.—It is as if they had known each other all their lives.

Ann (Confused, takes Johnny from Hans).—You must come to bed now, baby.

Dr. Crowe.—Beg your pardon, ma’am, but allow me to suggest that it might be better for him to sleep right out here, and to keep as nearly awake as possible. He would only rave in his sleep till morning.

Ann (Wrapping him up in a shawl).—No, no, it’s no use you see. He is asleep again. He is worn out after the excursion.

Julia (To Hans, who is walking about).—Don’t torment yourself this way, Mr. Karvan, it can’t be helped now. The body is ready for the casket. He is as handsome, our dear grandpa, as if he was alive. Come and look at him, you haven’t seen him for so many years. The sight of him will do your heart good.

Crowe (To Hans).—Allow me to introduce myself, Dr. Crowe, the local hospital physician.–

Hans.—John Karvan, dentist, Arkansas City.

Crowe.—So we are in a measure colleagues, aren’t we? I happened to take the position of the beloved of this lady here. He came to such a tragic end! (He pats Julia’s shoulder.) Don’t protest, my dear lady, I repeat. She is an angel, sir, and the whole city of Potsedin will bear me out in the opinion. Her sacrificing devotion to the deceased is exceedingly well known in general, and to me in particular.

Hans.—Is that true! You were of service to my poor father before as well as after death. I shall not forget.

Julia.—That’s nothing to talk about. That is my calling, and it happened to be my assigned duty in this house until last evening.

Hans.—I thank you, too, doctor, for all you have done here.

Crowe.—Please, please, how could I help doing for the dear old physician who established the pharmacy, and through it maintained such valuable public service. Surely he deserves special consideration . . . Allow me to take my leave. It seemed foreordained that I should be called upon again before daybreak. I beg you to accept my heartfelt sympathy.

Hans.—Thanks, heartily, doctor.

Julia (Leading Hans to lodge).—Come, Mr. Karvan.

Crowe.—I take my leave of you, sir Dean. You have my deepest sympathy for the loss of your brother.

Dean.—Thanks, thanks, it is much safer for him under the Shadow of the Almighty, than here among the lies of men . . . I shall have to go, too, in a minute; I have an officium at seven.

Crowe.—I kiss your hand, my lady. It would do the little fellow no harm if you should let him sleep here in the garden all night. On a hot night like this it would be better, indeed. I take my leave, respectfully. (Exit.)

Dean.—My dear, you seemed touched by the words about your father I had occasion to pronounce a while ago. Believe me, although I am extremely sorry, I feel that I am unable to take back a syllable of what I said. I do not feel obliged to apologize for my . . . for my . . . perhaps, tactless remark.

Ann.—My dear sir, if my father was indeed guilty, he was his own most severe judge, and he satisfied the demands of justice.

Dean.—So, so, that is the very thing I meant to say.

Ann.—And I believe it would be more in keeping with your high office of love if you should rather pity and forgive.

Dean.—For a deed like his my office should and must not feel any compassion. Your father, forgive me, was a godless unbeliever all his life, and by his own judgment upon himself he did not atone for, but he rather added to his burden of sin. The one evil was born of the other. And now, behold! There lies the latest victim of the original sin, my brother!

Ann.—Your brother! For almost ten years this brother has been dead to you. From the day of our marriage you never crossed this threshold until now. That is how dear your brother was to you.

Dean.—As to your marriage, you understand well enough, my dear. And your threshold, is it? Who knows how much longer you will be able to call it yours? To all appearances the man in that room does not behave as if he meant, without some protest, to allow himself again to be forced out of his patrimony. You know it legally belongs to him, this estate of yours.

Ann.—It is all the same to me.

Dean.—Oh, no, it isn’t!

Ann.—Whose fault is it? Whose fault that Hans has not been settled here for the last ten years as the lawful heir to the property, instead of being first a Polish rebel, then a Siberian exile, and now a seeming outcast? Don’t you know that he told me all, the last night he was here? His father offered to forgive him, but you, his uncle, stood out against him like adamant. If it had not been for you, Hans would be in his rightful place tonight.

Dean.—And as for you, since it did not pan out with one Karvan, you had to take the other?

Ann.—As my father said, you would never forgive me if you had to use your office to marry me to a Karvan.

Dean.—Yes, yes, he was right I am a Karvan myself. I knew that the ceremony was most urgently necessary in order that the disgrace with which you overwhelmed our family name might not overflow into the streets of Potsedin.

Ann.—That is too much!

Dean (Pointing to Johnny).—That little fellow was with you at the altar.

Ann.—Oh, Sir!

Dean.—And the ceremony was necessary to spare the little one a life long disgrace.


Dean.—For he, too, is a Karvan. A John Karvan, whether he be the son . . .

Ann.—I pray you, do not finish that sentence.

Dean.—Of the one or of the other Karvan.

Ann (About to swoon).—My God!

Dean.—So, so! You see, my dear Mrs. Karvan; we ought to be able to come to terms without any trouble. What’s this? Take care, take care. You must brace up!

Ann.—It’s nothing now. It has passed. You win, most reverend sir. What a reward must be awaiting you in that other life!

(John rushes in from the right. He is excited, evasive, conscience-stricken. He talks rapidly.)

John.—What is this? What are you doing? We need some kind of a collapse from you to cap the climax!

Ann.—It is nothing, don’t worry.

John.—Just so it’s nothing.

Dean.—It is no wonder that the nerves should give way a little before the onslaught of such events . . . such a revival of memories!

John.—It does seem a little precipitate, that flood. What a surprise! And what a blow!

Dean.—Just so it ends with the blow, my dear John.

John.—One never can tell. I should sooner have expected my own death. Death came and the old man is . . . I pray you, where is this death dealer . . . this returned prodigal?

Dean.—John you are a poor dissembler. Don’t pretend! You don’t need to tell us that there is a single detail of what has been going on here in this garden that has escaped you.

John.—What is this boy doing here this time of night? Off to bed with him, and with you, too.

Dean.—You are not holding well together, John

John (Head in hands).—But the little chap must get some rest. I will have my orders obeyed. (Calling) Andrew! (To Ann) And you go with him.

Ann.—You know perfectly well that I am going to stay here.

John (Shaking Johnny).—Andrew! Andrew!

Ann.—Not so rough, if you please! The child is disturbed enough as it is. (To Andrew who enters.) Andrew, will you please carry Johnny to bed?

Andrew.—To be sure, to be sure. What else have I been playing at but nurse around here since he was born!

Ann.—And tell Granny to stay with him till I come.

(As Andrew goes out with Johnny, Julia and Hans come out of the lodge.)

Hans.—Again from the bottom of my heart I thank you for what you have done for the dear old man. (About to kiss her hand.)

Johnny (Hearing Hans’ voice, calling).—Uncle! Uncle! (Andrew takes him.)

Julia.—No, no, please. Not that!

Hans.—I shall never forget what you have done for me . . .

John.—My dear Jan.

Hans (Astonished).—You here at last? Where have you been hanging out?

John.—I had gone to fetch this worthy gentleman, here.

Hans.—Good thing you came back. I have a number of things to ask you.

John.—All in good time, but first permit . . .

Hans.—All in good time! For God’s sake, man, have you not had time enough? Will you explain . . .

Julia (Indicating the death chamber).—Mr. Karvan.

Hans.—You are right. I shall control myself if it chokes me. John, you have done some awful things to me.

John.—Be careful what you say, cousin. Weigh well every word before you speak.

Hans.—Will you tell me how it is possible . . . but no . . . no—it’s too horrible!

John.—Go on, I’ll stand your fire!

Hans.—What’s the use of asking you. You wrote me that father died six years ago.

Dean.—So, so?

John.—As there is a God above me, cousin, you lie! There was not one word about death in that letter.

Hans.—Do you wish me to show it to you? To be specific you wrote: I am sorry to report that your father succumbed to a paralytic stroke last night.

John.—And didn’t he? For fully nine months he lay without so much as moving a muscle. And ever since he has lain around, never even rising to his feet without help. Now, poor fellow—now he is free. Now he fares better, my never-to-be-forgotten second father. (Wipes eyes.)

Dean.—John told me that you were corresponding. So, so!

Hans.—But this is not all. It seems that I was given our . . .

Ann.—Permit me a word. It occurs to me that I can throw some light on the subject. If it was that second troke father had, it’s no wonder that John wrote what he did. We all expected father to go any minute.

John.—Exactly! Dr. Crowe himself announced that he could not last a week.

Ann (Speaking, but catching herself).—But still . . .

Dean.—Still? It seems, my lady, that something has loomed up before your conscience that is not easily banished?

Ann.—Oh, nothing at all . . . only I can’t get it through my head . . . there must have been some carelessness somewhere.

Dean.—What sort of carelessness can’t you get through your head?

Julia.—There are things none of us can get through our heads. When was it that grandfather had his second stroke Was it not the moment brother-in-law announced . . .

Ann (Sharply).—Julia, don’t meddle.

John.—I pray you . . .

Julia (Continuing).—When he brought the official confirmation of Mr. Hans Karvan’s having been shot while fleeing from a Siberian prison!

John.—I broke the news as cautiously as I knew how.

Julia.—But if it was after that . . . after that that you wrote to your cousin, brother-in-law . . .

Hans.—Is this the order of events?

Dean.—From which it would seem that he knew Hans was still living while he was trying to convince his father that he was dead.

Hans (Catching John by the throat).—You coward! You intolerable villain! (Ann shrieks.)

Julia.—Oh, Mr. Karvan, surely you would not so far forget yourself.

John.—Let me go! Would you strangle me?

Dean.—Back, you madman!

Andrew (Re-entering, hastening to John’s assistance).—Mr. Hans! Mr. Hans! What on earth possesses you? Recall yourself! You cannot do this! This is the mayor!

Hans (Holding John until Julia puts her hand on his shoulder)—Andrew? You old dog!

Ann.—Dear God!

Dean.—No unncessary panic please.

Andrew.—I guess I am that, Mr. Hans. Only an old dog would have stood it around here as I have done. For forty years I have drudged around here. Choke me if you must choke somebody, but not the mayor!

John.—This to me! Me! It is me he would lay his hands on.

Julia.—You let yourself go pretty far, Mr. Hans.

Ann.—It is all your fault, Julia.

Hans.—You are right. Forgive me, Andrew I was hasty.

John (Still shouting).—To assault me! Me, the head of the community.

Dean.—Don’t howl so loud or you may rouse the community.

John.—How shouldn’t I howl when he assaults me in my own house and half smothers me?

Hans.—If this had been in the States a gun would have settled your howling.

John (To Andrew).—What are you gawking around here for? Go tend to your own business. (Aside to Andrew.) Just hang around close, see? (Exit Andrew.)

Dean.—You are both defamers of the good Karvan name. The old pharmacy from which we have all sprung has seen many troubles of one kind and another, but never till today has it witnessed a fist fight in the presence of the dead.

Hans.—A while ago you almost accused me of being responsible for the death of my father. Now confess which one of us comes nearer being the murderer, he or I?

Dean.—I am always on the side of justice. You, John, have much to answer for if you do not clear yourself of this accusation.

John.—Not until I have had satisfaction for this unprovoked assault which I have sustained under my own roof.

Dean.—With regard to the ownership of the roof, things may go somewhat dubiously just now.

John.—Were I owner only till tomorrow noon, I am master here till then.

Hans.—And you really imagine that you can repair the damage you have wrought by this made to order noise!

John.—As far as this place is concerned, you and I have done. You shall answer me somewhere else.

Hans.—It is a long way yet before we have done with each other. It will please me to answer you here, or anywhere. But right here I am telling you that I see to the bottom of your rotten soul! You got the official confirmation for father in order to inherit his business. I know now that you had been playing me for that long before I left the country.

Julia (To Ann who is sobbing).—Ann, dear, please go and lie down. You’ll catch your death here.

John.—The document is legitimate from the opening word to the seal. You may see it yourself in the morning.

Hans.—It must have been easy to get the signed statement from Sakhalin, but by all the devils, you see that I am here and alive!

John.—But I was obliged to accept the report, and so was everybody else hereabouts. Even the city council.

Hans.—But still you knew where to write to me afterwards, to me—dead.

John.—That was the only way I knew to get a confirmation of the report. I was thoroughly convinced only after I had written and had received no answer.

Dean.—Well, why then did you not answer?

Hans (After reflection).—I was busy flying from Sakhalin at the time.

John.—So there. And you are leaping at my throat like a Bengal tiger, after all I had tried to do for you.

Ann.—That is only the truth, Mr. Karvan; when the sad news came my husband was utterly dejected.

John.—Out of consideration for the fact that I have been acting here in the pharmacy as your special representative, for that I am to get out of here tomorrow, a beggar. And for taking care of your father, of my dear uncle, to the hour of his death! And in all these years I have not brought any disgrace on the family as you had once done. I can point to ten years of respectable family life here in Potsedin, for which I have enjoyed the trust of my fellow citizens. This reverend gentleman knows it.

Dean.—The trust of our fellow citizens is firmly rooted in this house and in this dispensary.

John.—For all of which I am insulted before the members of my family, and before my employe. Tomorrow, the whole village will be wagging with it.

Dean.—Be silent! The most important thing now is what to do next. My dear Hans, you are not saying a word. I know that it is only right you should have your heritage, but what would the municipality say? An American dentist proposing to establish himself here as a practicing physician. What are you thinking about all this, Jan? Am I not worth a word from you?

Hans (Who has been sitting with head in his palms, now rises and takes a small vial out of his pocket. He holds it out towards John.) What is this? Do you recognize it?

John.—I can't see it, but as a practicing pharmacist I suppose I should recognize any bottle any where, even in the dark. A pharmacist should recognize a bottle as easily as a twenty dollar bill. What is it?

Hans.—Did you ever hold this particular bottle in your hand?

John.—I have held hundreds like it in my hand. Am I expected to recognize one out of that number!

Hans.—And you have no memory of what was in this one?

John.—You ask too much of me.

Hans.—Oh, not at all. You are not anxious to recognize this one.

John.—Oh, please leave me alone!

Hans.—You remember the night . . . it was at this very gate . . . I sat waiting for you to bring me word from the conference over me between my father and uncle.

John.—Why all this history, pray?

Hans.—You came to me there and pressed into my hand this bottle as a mute message from the patriarchal stems of our house. An eloquent bit of advice for me to take on the road with me.

Ann.—What is in the bottle?

Hans.—Laudanum! Not much, to be sure; but still enough to put all of us here to sleep for ever.

Ann.—For the living God!


Dean.—And this actually happened?

Hans.—To the letter as I report it, sir!

John.—Such prattle! Such fantastic fabrications!

Hans.—More than once has the cork been out of the vial, particularly on the Russian etapes toward Sakhalin. Today I am glad I had denied myself the refreshing potion, that I have been able to bring back to you this token of remembrance, because this moment brings me a measure of reparation for my suffering. I return the gift to you with a hearty thank you.

John (Taking the vial which Hans has placed on the table).—Permit me . . .

Hans (Stopping him).—Just a minute, no hurry! There will come a time for everything.

(Ann catches for the vial, but Julia, who has been watching Ann’s every motion, snatches it from her hands.)

Julia (Emptying the bottle into the grass).—What on earth would you do with it, Ann? A thing like that! Away with it. (She flings the bottle away.)

John.—You should not have done that, sister-in-law.

Julia.—I did it for Ann.

Dean.—I ask you, unhappy boy, whether you regard me or your father capable of sending you such a thing. I give you my word that I never left your father’s side all that night. The money to cancel the forged draft, and the money for your journey came from me, but of this horrible thing I knew nothing.

John.—But I tell you all this is folly! It was a boy’s joke to test his will power.

Julia.—Such jokes are sometimes called removing obstacles, is it not?

John.—I did offer him the vial, but if Julia had not destroyed it just now, I should have swallowed the contents myself to prove it was nothing harmful. Laudanum from the back yard pump! And he carried it over three quartrs of the globe. Ha! Ha! Ha! That’s good!

Dean.—John, do you really think that any one of us four will ever believe that?

John.—You may all believe what you wish.

Dean.—Be still! The more you talk the more clear it is that silence would serve you best. (To Hans.) My poor boy! From henceforth I shall neither praise nor blame the deed with which you ruined your own career and the family honor. The arrow which was meant for you alone has struck beside you. I regret the words I spoke a while ago in refusing to welcome you. You have been robbed of more than you may ever know. So again after ten years, I bid you welcome.

Hans.—And he, the robber, is to be permitted to sit on his booty? He robbed me of everything—of my father, of my heritage, and almost of my life.

Dean.—Peace, peace, Hans! Consider well your motives, and their consequences. If you try to repair your fortunes now, you will not only ruin yourself but others as well. You might even erase the name of Karvan forever from the archives of Potsedin. Forgive and forget, even though he is unworthy. There, there!

John.—If it is necessary I can buy out the business with cash.

Dean.—And return to your newly adopted country. You no longer belong here, God be with you, Jan! I should like to remain and hear the last word between you two, but I feel that this night has cut deep into the roots of my own life. I cannot stand much any more. (Kisses him.) If I should not live till morning, God bless you! I beg that Andrew escort me a little on the way. (He waves a blessing toward the lodge, and Julia leads him off.)

John (After a pause).—Well, Hans, what do you say to my proposal?

Hans.—You mean that you actually dare?

John.—I am sure it will be best for both of us to come to an immediate understanding. Every minute lost is to be regretted, not so much on my account, but on yours. The money is ready.

Hans.—Now we have finished. This is the last word for the present.

John.—Just as you say. So you are not sorry later.

Ann (As Julia returns).—Mr. Karvan, I don’t know just what to say after all that has happened. I feel very much depressed. Yet I must not forget. I am the mistress of the house . . . I think everything will yield to reason in time. When you care to retire, Mr. Karvan, the couch is ready. Granny is waiting. She will show you.

Hans.—With you under the same roof? Not a single night! I remain here in the garden.

Ann.—Be sure that your words will never cause you a pang when you recall them.

Hans (Kindly).—I mean I shall stay here with Andrew and watch beside father. There is very little of the night left anyway. Tomorrow, or rather, this morning, everything will be decided. I shall report to you what takes place.

John.—I hope you do not think I am afraid of you, rebel. You can’t do a thing to me tomorrow, you Siberian outlaw. You do not stop to think of one thing. You are a fugitive from military service. Do you know what that carries with it? You have evaded military duty in the Austrian army as a conscript. Do you know what that means for you? It means that unless you disappear before daybreak, you may tomorrow be resting under the roof with the Austrian Eagle floating above it.

Hans.—Go, go on! But remember that I am quick tempered.

John.—Only take care, Hans, that you do not go on before I do.

(John and Ann go right. Julia stands a moment in a thoughtfull attitude. John is heard off, laughing and saying,He thinks!” Julia steps to Hans quickly as he stands with his back to her. Then she stops and thinks. Finally she turns and resolutely hastens away.)

ACT III. Daybreak

Scene, as in Acts I and II. The glow in the East shows St. John’s eve about to give way to St. John’s day. In the death chamber the lights are perceptibly lower. On the garden table the lamp is beginning to flicker.

As the curtain rises, John is standing at the lodge window, gazing at the body of his father. Presently he turns and advances to the centre. He seizes a grip sack off a knot of the tree where it has been hanging and throws it on the bench for a pillow. Andrew is hanging a padlock on the wicket and locking up.

Hans.—Listen to me, Andrew—come a little closer. What do you get for defending your honorable master last night when I had him by the throat?

Andrew.—Before the living God, my dear Mr. Hans, I did not save him! It was Miss Julia, and she used very little force. A bare touch of her fingers and your grip was off. Your hands are made of steel, Mr. Hans,—you might as safely pick up the pestle of a mortar.

Hans.—But you held me valiantly, Andrew. At least I know now what to expect of you if it comes to a show down between me and him.

Andrew.—No, no!

Hans.—Shame on you, Andrew! You join forces with the pharmacist against me,—me you used to carry on your back when I was a baby.

Andrew.—Oh, Mr. Hans, I would never do that! If the mayor had leaped at your throat, then I should have defended you.

Hans.—Your policy is to stand by the one who happens to be master and mayor, is that it? Just remember that I could, if I chose, be master here from this minute.

Andrew.—That you could not, Mr. Hans, not today, nor tomorrow, nor ever.

Hans.—I want to know why you think so.

Andrew.—There is no chance of your getting your rights because that fellow will not give way. He always gets what he goes after. Oh, dear!

Hans.—I see! That’s why you hold out with him against me. You have no faith in my getting what I set out after?

Andrew.—You don’t understand me. You see, I have been working here for forty years, and pretty much on my own terms, as it were. My whole duty has been to see to it that the business does not suffer any serious loss. If, as you say, you should become master here, then it becomes my plain duty to stand up for you as I stood up in his defense a while ago. And I’d be a lion in your defense, Mr. Hans!

Hans.—Well, that makes it different. There, there! What a noble creature you are, to be sure. For that, you may now go to bed and get some sleep. I shall do guard duty here myself till morning. I am at the end of my rope myself, and I may close my eyes for a minute here on the settee.

Andrew.—On this hard bench? I pray that you take the couch in my room.

Hans.—That’s kind of you, Andy, but you know yourself how often in the past years I got all the sleep I needed on this bench in this garden.

Andrew.—Very well, then. Good night, and God bless you.

Hans.—One moment, Andy. My throat is parched. Would you bring me a glass of water before you retire? (Andrew takes glass from table and goes.) No one has set ’em up to me here since I came. With the exception of the perfume from Karvan’s Pulmonary Tea, I have had nothing to sustain me since yesterday noon. (Takes glass from Andrew and drinks.) To your good health! Great water! Tastes as good as when I was a boy.

Andrew (Overcome by emotion, falling at his feet).—Oh, Mr. Hans! My golden Mr. Hans!

Hans (As Andrew attempts to kiss his hand, embracing him and kissing his cheek). This is just the way you always spoiled me, you old bear!

Andrew (Tearful).—I spoiled you?

Hans.—Run away to bed. In the morning we shall have a long talk.

Andrew.—God give you a sweet good night!

Hans.—But we’ve said that several times already.

(Andrew puts out the lamp and goes out R. A moment later the shrill note of a guinea hen announces advancing day.)

Hans.—Ha, that sounds more like good morning.

(Hans lies down on the bench, using his grip for a pillow. As he drops off almost instantly, Julia comes in from the house. She is wrapped in a thick kimona. She steps up to Jan, and speaks softly. Seeing that he is asleep she bends over him tenderly, but suddenly starts with a cry and tries to retreat. He has thrown his arms about her in a strong embrace.)

Hans (Out of his sleep).—Ann! My Ann! (Waking) I beg your pardon! Now I know where I am. For a moment I had forgotten. You are not Ann, but the doctor’s widow.

Julia.—I was expecting . . . I thought . . . I was sure you were not asleep, but you were and all at once you awoke.

Hans.—And frightened you terribly. Strange that I should again call you by your sister’s name. The first time it happened it was broad daylight, and this time it is twilight.

Julia.—I know I should not have come here, but I wanted so much . . . My chief fault is that the moment anything occurs to me, I want to carry it through without thinking ahead to the consequences. This is what occurred to me just now: That you are here, sleeping, while you ought to be far away (from here) beyond the Bavarian mountains. I must warn you that brother-in-law intends no kindness toward you.

Hans.—Let us not talk about him, please; I have had all I can stand of him for one day. He calls me an outlaw, a fugitive, and I must agree with him, because it is the truth.

Julia.—He is capable of anything! You remember what he said about the Austrian Eagle? It is very evident that he is planning to turn you over to the magistrates. So why are you waiting here?

Hans.—It will not be the first time in his life that he tried to get me out of his way. I can always linger till the last moment, and then make a brave dash for liberty. I’ll be off in time, you’ll see. But now let’s talk about yourself, Mrs . . .

Julia.—I am not a Mrs. I am not really a widow.

Hans.—I took you for the widow of the late interne.

Julia.—That is only a sort of charity name to satisfy town gossip.

Hans.—On my honor, I don’t comprehend!

Julia.—Mr. Karvan, I don’t know why it should be so, but there is nothing so important to me at this moment than that you should hear from my own lips all that I shall tell you. Before you go . . . Of course, my history cannot be of interest to you, and so my sad tale will be brief. (Hesitating.) Johnny, Ann’s boy, him you have seen. If you should stay till tomorrow you would see another little fellow running around here, my little Jack. He is only five.

Hans.—And this little Jack?

Julia.—He is mine and I am unmarried.

Hans.—You poor girl, I begin to understand.

Julia.—Don’t pity me, that would be worse than being laughed at. I should not have confessed this to you, but it seemed to me that I could not bear your finding out from others.

Hans.—Tell me everything.

Julia.—I loved the doctor; that he did not become my husband is neither his fault, nor mine.

Hans.—Some higher power . . .

Julia.—Yes, Doctor Hill was an interne in the local hospital, and second in charge at our pharmacy. It is here that I met him. We had already announced our wedding day, but just then the catastrophe fell. Some gypsies from Bavaria brought an infectious disease, they were isolated and quarantined by order of the Emperor, and Dr. Hill was detailed to attend them.

Hans (As if remembering his own case).—And the evening before he left you said goodbye here in the garden?

Julia (Surprised).—How did you know that?

Hans.—You have only to add that your parting took place on this very settee, with only old Andrew yonder tending the bloom racks and acting as chaperon.

Julia.—So he told you?

Hans.—Oh, no! The old rascal is a silent as the grave. I only guessed. In that one experience you and your sister are exactly . . .

Julia.—You talk that way, too?

Hans.—Who else has been talking that way?

Julia.—One whom I detest from the bottom of my heart. But why you?

Hans.—You will understand when you learn my motives for coming home. But to return to your doctor—I have already guessed that he died at his post.

Julia.—Yes, he took the contagion, and died in my arms. Oh, that was terrible; but it was still more terrible when . . .

Hans.—When little Jack came!

Julia.—Then everybody began calling me the doctor’s lady, and every one knew that I had not been married. (Hans laughs bitterly.) How can you laugh at me?

Hans.—Don’t be angry, my dear girl!

Julia.—Even you seem to see only the laughable side of my misery. The smile that even you cannot suppress I have felt in the eyes of all, as they soberly addressed me as Mrs. Doctor. They all knew and yet they did not dare to hint at anything that might be disrespectful to this honorable house. You cannot conceive what a hell I have lived through here. I have been like a plaything under everybody’s feet, to be kicked about from place to place. But now that poor grandfather is dead, I can run away at last, thank God! (Hans smiles again.) Please, please, don’t laugh at me! Your smile is very unbecoming to you on a night like this.

(Ann has approached unobserved. She stops to listen.)

Hans.—This night, although we are watching at the deathbed of my father, is so full of irony, so laughably in keeping with the fate of my entire life, that it seems impossible for me to reflect upon it without a smile. It is true—it is the account of your experience that constitutes the main cause of my mirth.

Julia.—In that case I shall never cease to regret the confidence I placed in you.

Hans (As she turns to go).—No, no, don’t go! I must talk to you. Your doctor he loved you very much? (She nods.) I know. It cannot be expressed in speech. Any one who has been in heaven and then descended into hell will understand us . . .No one else can. As your doctor loved you, I loved your sister, and I carry in my memory a night of parting . . .

Julia.—I was sure of that since yesterday.

Hans.—That night Andrew played the spy for us to warn us of my cousin. He guarded us well . . . from him, but not from ourselves. At dawn I had to leave the country.

Julia (Unable to suppress her emotion, points to the death chamber).—And he . . .

Hans.—But love is stronger than death! I carried mine in my heart through all the horrors of the battle fields and the Siberian exile. Meanwhile at home my cousin thrived on my absence. I find him a pharmacist and mayor, enjoying all that should have belonged to me. . . . Son of my father, husband of my wife . . .

Ann (Coming forward).—And father of your son.

Julia.—Ann, dear!

Hans.—You came just in time to take the words out of my mouth. Any one might have guessed, and yet the sharpest man in Potsedin has remained blind.

Ann.—And you are joking at the most serious moment of your life. You are still only wild Hans of the drug store.

Hans.—I am not joking, Ann! That is only a sort of exultation, a kind of tragic enthusiasm. Everything seems but a wild dream of St. John’s Eve. Come here, both of you. Look up there in the sky. You see those five stars there in the milky way? That’s Cassiopiea. That is our constellation—ours and our children’s. In those stars our fate is hidden. Before they begin to pale, I shall know their secrets.

Ann.—You inveterate dreamer! I come to you with a most serious purpose and you begin talking about the stars.

Hans.—I know what you came to say. You wanted me to know that it did . . . that it takes a long time for the mother to win over the woman.

Ann.—Mother over the woman?

Hans.—Exactly; for before you allowed the mother in you to speak, you had to overhear what your one time lover had to say to your sister.

Ann.—And he was saying so much, was carrying things so far, that it is a wonder the mother in me, and the sister, had not spoken sooner.

Hans (Smiling).—Who knows to what good end all this may not lead! Meanwhile, we, there in the sky . . .

Ann.—Oh, please, come down from your sky! Leave your stars up there for a minute and listen to what I have to tell you. If the time were not so precious, if daybreak were not coming on us apace, I should not have shouted this thing out before Julia as I did. What we three know, we must keep a profound secret. My husband must never suspect. . . . For the child’s sake. And for that very reason, I ask you to go away from here before those stars of yours begin to fade. You must go at once!

Hans.—It is only for that reason that I feel like staying. Surely, I have a right to see him again! My son! To hold him in my arms, to kiss him! Do you hear! My son!

Ann.—You kissed him for the last time last night. The poor boy loves you as if he knew . . .

Hans.—Last night I acted out of blind instinct, now I must hold him in full certainty. Don’t you see how I must feel?

Ann.—It is ridiculous to yield to such feelings. I must be the judge of these things, and I have a right to command in this matter. I earned this right by sufferings far greater than any you could have undergone in Siberia. Do you suppose it was such a trifle to become the wife of that man? A man I hated as intensely as I loved you.

Hans.—Yet how gamely you went through it!

Ann.—Hans, the night you left me . . . I . . . I became a fallen woman. It was soon after that I realized . . . that I had to act quickly. Not for my own protection—I could have borne anything on my own account—but for the sake of your son.

Hans.—Through deceit,—subterfuge . . .

Ann.—A bitter, bitter subterfuge! I had to act as if I really loved the man!

Hans.—You should have waited. You see, it would have come out all right.

Ann.—That’s easy advice today. But, Hans, don’t you really think in your own heart that I did something stronger, and finer than wait? The honor of your professional dynasty is intact; your name is unsullied; your son will one day succeed to the throne of his fathers in dignity and honor.

Hans.—I don’t deny . . .

Ann.—I acted as I did by compulsion, and if I have sinned, my atonement has been bitter enough to satisfy the most exacting deity. For never in all those years I have ceased to love you! Do you hear, Hans? Never!


Ann.—While you were still supposed to be alive, I thought of you constantly; and the better I loved the more I had to hope that you would never return!

Hans.—So you are sorry we met again on earth?

Julia.—Why will you keep on bruising each other’s hearts!

Ann.—You are mistaken, Julia. It is not my heart speaking now. Last night, when Hans came in, and flung himself on you like a dragon ready to devour you, I guessed what had happened, and my heart cried out once in bitter anguish. Afterwards, when he beheld his real Ann, his face showed such a shock of disappointment that . . .


Hans.—Forgive me, Ann! There was not the least . . .

Ann (Bracing herself for the lie).—At that moment, I swear, my heart went out like a weak flame. It will never glow again. (Putting off his outstretched arms.) No, Hans! If there is any future life possible for us three, it must be achieved by our breaking every natural human tie woven for us in the past. You must leave your son with me here, and take Julia with you.

Julia.—What’s that you are saying? Are you going mad?

Ann.—What has been written in the stars from the beginning of the world . . .

Hans.—Ann, I thank you.

Julia.—I can’t comprehend what is happening to me!

Ann.—I want no thanks, not at this time: but I shall be eternally grateful to you when you are beyond the mountains, far away under those stars there. (A note of the meadow lark.) Only hurry! Day is almost here! You must be gone before light!

Hans (To Julia).—Are you hesitating?

Julia.—Oh, Mr. Karvan, what am I to do? I cannot believe that you are willing to become my liberator.

Hans.—More than that! In time I am hoping that I may be able to make up to you your loss, my dear Mrs. Doctor.

Julia.—If you are joking, it is a cruel joke!

Hans.—I mean it most seriously. I don’t know whether anything I may possess beyond the seas is worthy of you, but I ask you: Will you go with me? Will you be my wife?

Julia (Brightening, then sad).—Oh, but you are forgetting one thing! I am not alone . . .

Hans.—What else?

Julia.—My little one.

Hans.—God forbid that I should forget him! Without him my compensation would be incomplete. Having become a father, I shall not leave without a son. You, Julia, shall make up my Ann to me, and your boy, my son . . .

Ann (As the cock crows).—For God’s love, make haste! Before you get the boy ready . . .

Julia.—That’s the easiest part of my preparation! (She runs out right happily. The day is dawning fast.)

Hans (To Ann, attempting to embrace her).—Good bye Ann!

Ann.—Not that kind of a good bye! I am afraid of your arms. (She offers her lips in a long kiss which she herself interrupts.) No, Hans, don’t be cruel. You can’t conceal it. Your lips, they cannot tell a lie even in a kiss.

Hans.—That kiss has spoken the truth—it was meant for our boy. Kiss him for his uncle . . . . . . . . a thousand times.

Johnny (Outside) Uncle! Uncle!

Ann.—Ah,it’s too late!

(With a joyful cry Johnny runs in in his night clothes, leaps into Hans’ arms, and throws his arms about his neck.)

Hans (Kissing him tendezly).—My precious boy!

Ann (To John, who is coming after Johnny).—How could this have happened? I am sure I locked the door.

John (Coming up hastily). That was a smart thing for you to do! He jumped from the veranda into the yard; he could have broken his leg. Johnny! It seemed to me that he limped. (To Hans.) You still here? The dew may rust even an old love affair.

Johnny.—Are you going to live at our house, uncle? Granny says you have to go away again. I don’t want you to go. Do stay, please. Say you will stay.

Hans.—No, Johnny, I cannot stay this time. I must go where I came from.

Johnny.—Won’t you take me with you?

John.—You really mean that, Hans?

Hans (Vainly trying to put Johnny of).—He is hard to . . .

John.—So you realize at last . . .

Hans.—I realize . . .

Johnny (Interrupting).—Please, uncle, wait till I get dressed!

Ann.—We might have been spared all this!

John (With authority).—Johnny, will you go, or won’t you?

Hans (Firing).—Let the boy alone! (Controlling himself.) He will go of his own accord.

John.—If you are anxious as I am to avoid all unpleasant consequences, you have very little time to spare.

Hans.—Oh, Johnny is a smart lad, and he sees that it is impossible to take him away from his mother.

John.—You know that America is not over here in Bavaria. You must have learned that much in school.

Ann.—You wouldn’t leave your mother, would you, Johnny?

Johnny (Quietly crying on Hans’ breast).—Will you send me a revolver, and a tomahawk, and a a calumet?

Hans.—You bet your life I’ll send them. As soon as ever I get home.

Johnny.—But still I’d rather have you stay.

Ann.—I foresaw how it would be.

John.—If you keep your uncle too long the captain of the guard will come and take him away.

Johnny (Letting go).—Because he is a rebel?

Hans.—Yes, a rebel, a fugitive, a prisoner, and God knows what more!

Johnny.—But you have a revolver. Why should you be afraid?

Hans.—Of course, I am not afraid, but it is always better to get along without shooting.

John.—It is easy to joke, but if the officer should actually appear, it might be harder to laugh it off.

Hans.—You seem more concerned about that than I am.

John.—You are fully aware of your danger.

Ann.—Mr. Karvan, don’t be careless, don’t tempt ruin.

John.—At least you cannot say that I did not warn you. It was no small number of rebels that the Austrian government turned over to Russia. Please consider that you might find yourself again travelling toward Sakhalin.

Hans.—In that case, my suffering would be somewhat eased by the knowledge that I have in my place here such a faithful and worthy beneficiary.

John.—Listen Hans! There will be no question about that. I have been thinking about it all night. I have decided that it would be best for me to remain in my present position here for the rest of my life. It is now the one thing or the other: Will you let them take you, or will you go of your own accord?

Hans.—Oh, I see your drift. It is not so much my arrest you fear, as the resulting scandal. Last night you promised me a lodging under the Austrian Eagle, and now that you see I am almost willing to go, you are all-fired keen on having me go at once. It must not be said here-abouts that the mayor of Potsedin had a cousin arrested, because he came all the way from America to look after what belonged to him.

Ann.—No one could stoop to such a low trick! I hope not even you, John!

Johnny.—Oh, dear, you are all quarrelling again!

John.—What have I to do with all this? As if I could help it. Already last evening the town was ringing with the news of your return. The authorities will find you without my calling them.

Hans.—And just for that I am going to wait now until they come.

John (Uneasy).—As you think best.

Hans.—I am curious to know how far human cowardice can go.

John.—Hans, you suspect me, you are trying to accuse me in your mind of things I am utterly incapable of.

Andrew (Running in alarmed).—Mr. Hans, for all the world! Up there at the house is the gendarme with the commissioner! (Unlocking the gate.) Hurry out this way before it is too late! This way! We’ll be in the woods in ten minutes!

Ann.—So it is true!

Hans (Smiling).—But my dear Andrew, how should I ever keep up with you? You are in such a violent stride—Besides I have given my word to some one to take her along.

(Julia enters carrying Jackie over her shoulder, asleep. She is dressed for travel, bundle in her hand. The daylight floods her face with a rosy light.)

Julia.—The little fellow will not wake up!

Hans.—And here we are.

John.—What’s that?

Hans.—Only this, my lord mayor! Here you behold the American expedition of one Hans Karvan, consisting of three members. This little trio are shaking the dust of their native land off their heels, and are taking the Bavarian flyer at exactly (Looks at watch) four-twenty-three. That is, of course, provided our lord commissioner deigns to permit our departure. Here he is. I pray you greet him in your capacity of mayor of Potsedin.

Commissioner (Entering and saluting).—I crave pardon, lord mayor for breaking upon you at this unseasonable hour, but official business, you know. It has no bearing on yourself, but since last night you have had a guest . . .

Julia.—Good bye, vain dream!

Hans (Happily).—Krachmer! Well, well, old comrade, don’t you know me?

Commissioner.—I know Mr. Karvan, but I regret that my official duty. . . .

Hans.—Inasmuch as you come in the name of the law, I beg pardon for presuming on your former friendship, and since I am beyond the big pond also an officer of the law, I sympathize with you in the discharge of your duty. I beg you to glance at my papers.

John.—Do your duty, commissioner.

Commissioner (Reading).—All English! Aha! Here is something from the consul, and from the embassy. (Handing papers back.) That puts a different complexion on the whole affair. (Saluting.) Mr. Karvan is travelling as a minister plenipotentiary of the United States of America.

John.—And his military obligations? They are also no doubt in the best of condition?

Commissioner.—We see there a clause from Vienna which has effected an exchange with America,—a sort of general amnesty. Yes, everything is in the best of condition. I take my leave, Mr. Karvan, and I wish you a happy journey.


Hans.—I congratulate you, cousin, on your punctilliousness. How happy you seem over my escape from military duty! Are you glad that my affairs are in such good order?

John.—There is something here that is not in such good order but I think I am myself competent to put them so.

Hans.—What may that be?

John.—What is this about Julia? She will go with you, will she?

Hans.—We sort of mentioned it to each other didn’t we, Julia.

Julia.—We agreed since midnight.

John.—But as her guardian, surely I ought to have something to say in the matter?

Hans.—I am afraid the honor of the ward is not entirely safe with the guardian in this particular case.

Ann.—Was that necessary?

John.—Even if I permitted it as guardian, I cannot as mayor, just this way.

Hans.—What way? As bride and groom? You have such a fine conscience, John! We shall remove this objection at once. (To Julia.) Come! (He leads her into the death chamber.) There lies one to whom we owe something.

John (To Ann).—So this is what you have been cooking up since last night, is it?

Ann.—You may thank your stars that we did!

John.—I almost had him! If he had not had that cursed pass!

Ann.—Shame on you! You cannot control your evil spirit even to my face. It is lucky for you, for me, for all of us that he is taking Julia with him. It would have been to his advantage to take over your business and marry her here.


Ann.—Julia is your guardian angel. She has taken a curse off this house.

Johnny (Looking through window into the lodge).—Mamma, auntie and uncle are kneeling at the foot of the bed, and auntie is crying.

Ann (Fiercely). Come down from there! (Pulls him down.)

John.—Why so reasonable! As if he could help it. You have less control than I.

Ann.—If you could only guess how far from the thing you think, my thoughts were! You darling boy! (Clasps him passionately.) You are all I ever think of.

John.—There you go, and a moment ago you could have torn him limb from limb. Come to me Johnny.

Ann.—I shan’t hurt him. But you just please remember that you and I don’t count. It is only his welfare I am living for. And for God’s sake don’t goad that fellow in there. He may change his mind and then where would you be?

John.—He may ask for payment yet.

(Hans and Julia come back. He is leading Julia and carrying Jackie. His eyes are on Johnny in his mother’s arms.)

Hans.—Now we are man and wife. We have solemnized our union before him who looks down upon us from the eternal abiding place. Are you satisfied? Now I have I your august permission to carry off your ward? All right. Silence gives consent, and I thank you. Here is my hand at parting, though I had not thought to offer it—farewell! Rule as mayor and physician here in Potsedin for a hundred years; and above all, take good care of your son. He is the heir to the estate and the preserver of the name and fame of Karvan on the store front at the sign of the golden eagle. Now let’s hurry. In another minute it will be too late, Andrew.

Andrew (Entering).—At your service, my lord.

Hans.—Ask the apothecary if you can accompany us to the station.

Andrew.—Will not Mr. Hans stay for the funeral? If I may make so bold as to ask.

Hans.—In three days I must be on the sea. When you are taking father to the grave, I shall be boarding the ship. It is necessary that I go now—necessary for us who go as well as for those who stay.

Johnny.—At least you might hear my best wishes for your wedding before you go.

Hans.—All right! If they are not too long. Let her go!

Johnny.—My dearest daddy . . .

Hans (Laughing).—Now you’ve fixed it.

Johnny (Correcting).—My dearest uncle . . .

Hans.—That’s more like it, you precious boy.

Johnny.—I knew the wish by heart, but I just forgot.

Hans.—I accept your wish with all my heart before you recite it, my dear little fellow. (Kisses him.)

Ann (Anxious).—If you intend to catch that train, you’d better go.

Hans.—You are right, by all that’s sacred. (To Julia.) Cheer up! We want a bright and sunny face for this journey. Be happy—all of you. (To Ann, as if to kiss her, but seeing her distress, kisses her hand instead.) And you . . . (To Johnny.) I am not saying that we shall not see each other again, Johnny. Now up, and off we go! (Once more he steps to the window and looks at the body.) Andrew, just throw three clods on the box for me. You will be my representative at the funeral. If I stay another moment I shall smother. (Out through the wicket.)

Ann (To Julia).—Good bye, my Julia, my little sister.

(All but John speed the parting guests beyond the gate. He remains standing in the full light of the risen sun.)

Hans (Already beyond the gate).—A brief St. John’s Eve have I spent in my father’s house. What I seemed to have lost last night, I have found again this morning. Between the rising and setting sun . . . Now westward, Ho! Good bye, Potsedin! (Exeunt Hans, Julia, Andrew, and Jackie.)

(Ann and Johnny stands at the gate waving a long good bye.)

Johnny (Running to John and throwing his arms around his neck).—Me he wouldn’t, but that kid he takes with him!

John (Folding him tenderly).—Never mind, sonny.

(Ann comes back slowly, and lays her hand on John’s head gently. Gratefully surprised, he catches her hand and presses it to his lips.)


  1. First performance at the Municipal Theatre of Prague, November 5, 1912.
    Copyright 1925.

 This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in 1924, before the cutoff of January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1927, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 96 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in 1924, before the cutoff of January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1957, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 66 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse