One-Act Plays
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a play in one-act

by August Strindberg

The following one-act play is reprinted from Poet Lore. Volume XVII. Autumn, 1906. It is now in the public domain and may therefore be performed without royalties.


MR. AXEL, Doctor and African traveler
MR. TURE, his brother, a gardener
Mr. Ture's WIFE
DOCTOR LINDGREN, formerly a teacher
A GENTLEMAN of the court

[A beautifully furnished room in a hotel. Doors left and right. Enter TURE and his WIFE.]

TURE: Pretty fine room, this! But it's a fine man, too, who lives here.

THE WIFE: Yes, I suppose so! To be sure, I've never seen your brother, but I've heard of him often enough to make up for it.

TURE: Jabber away! My brother, the doctor, has traveled half way through Africa, and it isn't every one who will follow his footsteps,--though he may have drunk such a lot of toddy when he was young...

THE WIFE: Your brother, the doctor, indeed! After all he is nothing but an M.A....

TURE: No ma'am, he is a Doctor of Philosophy!

THE WIFE: Well, what is that but an M.A.! And my brother at the school at Aby is that too.

TURE: Your brother is a very good man, but he is only a teacher in a public school, and that is not the same thing as a Doctor of Philosophy and that much I can say without boasting.

THE WIFE: Well, he may be whatever he likes, and be called whatever you like, at all events, he has cost us something.

TURE: Yes, he has cost us something, but he has also given us pleasure.

THE WIFE: Fine pleasure! When we had to leave house and home on his account.

TURE: That's true enough, but we don't know whether his delay in the discharge of the loan, wasn't caused by something he couldn't help. Probably it's not so easy to send money orders out of darkest Africa.

THE WIFE: His having any excuse or not doesn't help matters. Is he going to do anything for us now? It's no more than his duty!

TURE: We shall see! We shall see! -- In any case, have you heard that he has gotten four orders?

THE WIFE: Yes, but how does that help us? I believe they'll only make him that much haughtier. No sir, I shan't forget so soon how the sheriff came with those papers -- and brought people with him as witnesses -- and then -- the auction -- when all the neighbors came in and fumbled around in our things. Do you know, Ture, what grieved me the most?

TURE: The black ...

THE WIFE: Yes, my black silk dress that my sister-in-law bought at fifteen kronen. Fifteen kronen!

TURE: Just wait! Wait! We'll be able to buy a new silk dress ...

THE WIFE: [weeps] Yes, but never the same one -- the one my sister-in-law bought in.

TURE: Then we can buy another. Look, here, see what a fine hat this is. It must be a gentleman of the court who is in there with Axel.

THE WIFE: What do I care if it is?

TURE: Oh, don't you think it's rather nice, that some one who bears the same name as you and I, is thought so much of that he is visited by friends of the king? I remember that you rejoiced for two weeks when your brother, the teacher, was invited to dine at the bishop's.

THE WIFE: I don't remember it.

TURE: Oh, no, of course not!

THE WIFE: But I remember the fourteenth of March, when, on his account, we had to leave the farm we had leased, -- and we had been married two years and had a child in our arms -- oh dear! -- And then, the arrival of the steamboat with all its passengers, just as we were moving out, I'll not forget that for all the three-cornered hats in the world. And anyhow, what attention do you think a gentleman of the court will pay to a gardener and his wife, who have been ejected?

TURE: Look at this! What is this? Do you see these orders, his! Look at this one!

[He takes an order out of the case on the writing-table, lays it in his hands and strokes it gently.]

THE WIFE: Such trash!

TURE: Don't speak so disrespectfully of orders, we never know where we may be ourselves some day. The gardener at Staringe was made a director and knight today.

THE WIFE: What good does that do us!

TURE: It doesn't do us any good, that's quite true, but this order here [points to the order] may be instrumental in some way or other in helping us to a position. -- In the mean time, I think this waiting begins to be rather long, so we might as well make ourselves at home here. Come, I will help you take your cloak off. Come!

THE WIFE: [after slight resistance] Are you so sure that we shall be welcome? I have a feeling that we won't grow old in this house.

TURE: Oho! And I expect to get a good dinner here, if I know Axel. If he only knew that we are here, he -- But, wait a minute! [He presses a bell on the table; a WAITER comes in.] What will you have? Some bread and butter perhaps? [To the WAITER.] Give us some sandwiches and beer. -- Wait a minute! A pearl for me -- fine brandy! We have to take care of ourselves, you see!

[AXEL and the GENTLEMAN of the court enter.]

AXEL: [to the GENTLEMAN of the court] At five o'clock, then, in frock coat.

THE GENTLEMAN: And orders.

AXEL: Is that necessary?

THE GENTLEMAN: Absolutely necessary, if you do not wish to be discourteous, and you surely would not be that to any one, since you are a democrat. Farewell, Doctor.

AXEL: Farewell!

[The GENTLEMAN bows slightly to TURE and his WIFE as he passes them; but his greeting is not returned.]

AXEL: Hello! You there, old fellow! It is a long time since we have seen each other! -- And this is your wife! Welcome! Welcome!

TURE: Thank you, brother! And welcome yourself after your long journey!

AXEL: Yes, it was something of a journey. -- You have read all about it in the newspapers, I suppose ...

TURE: Yes, indeed, I have read everything! [Pause.] Father sent you his greetings.

AXEL: Did he? Is he still angry at me?

TURE: You know the old man and how he is. If you had not been with this expedition, he would have considered it one of the seven wonders of the world. But because you were with it, it is all humbug.

AXEL: Then he hasn't changed at all. Because I am his son, nothing that I undertake amounts to anything. At least there is no self-love in that. Well, that's the way with some people! -- But what have you been doing with yourself all this time?

TURE: Not much! That old loan ...

AXEL: Yes, that's true! Well, what about it?

TURE: There's this about it, I had to pay it.

AXEL: That's really very vexatious. But we'll arrange that matter at the first opportunity.

[The WAITER enters with the things ordered.]

AXEL: What is that?

TURE: Oh, I took the liberty of ordering some bread and butter ...

AXEL: That was wise! But we ought to drink a glass of wine with my sister-in-law, since I could not be with you at the wedding.

TURE: No, thank you, not for us! Not in the forenoon. Thank you very much!

AXEL: [Nods to the waiters, he goes out.] I ought really to invite you to dine with me, but I'm going out to dine myself. Can you guess where?

TURE: You are not going to the castle, are you?

AXEL: Just there. I am to dine with the prince himself.

TURE: God bless us! -- What do you say to that, Anna?

[The WIFE squirms around uneasily in her chair, and is unable to answer.]

AXEL: The old man will surely become a republican when he hears that his royal majesty is willing to associate with me.

TURE: Listen, Axel. Pardon me, if I mention a subject that is very unpleasant, but of which we must speak.

AXEL: I suppose it's that accursed loan?

TURE: Yes, but not only that. To be brief -- we have had to have a forced sale on your account, and are hard up.

AXEL: So you had a scene, too. But why didn't you renew the loan?

TURE: Oh, that's easy for you to say. Where was I to find any one to go my security when you were away?

AXEL: You might have gone to my friends.

TURE: I did go to them. And the result was what it was. Can you help us now?

AXEL: How can I help you now? Now, when all my creditors are harassing me? How can I begin to borrow, now, when all my friends are on the point of procuring a position for me? There is no worse recommendation than borrowing. Just wait a little while and matters will arrange themselves.

TURE: Do you think we can wait without being utterly ruined? Right now is the time to begin gardening; the digging and sowing must be done now, if anything is to be gotten out of the earth in good season. Can't you find a position for us?

AXEL: Where shall I find the garden?

TURE: At your friends'.

AXEL: My friends have no gardens. Don't get in my way when I am trying to save myself. When I am saved, I will save you.

TURE: [to his wife] He will not help us, Anna.

AXEL: I cannot -- not now. Is it reasonable to expect that I, I who am seeking a position for myself, should seek one for someone else too? What will people say to that? There, you see, now we are getting not only him, but his whole family on our shoulders. And then they will let me fall.

TURE: [looks at the clock, then at his wife] Well, we must be going.

AXEL: Why are you in such a hurry?

TURE: We want to take our child to the doctor.

AXEL: Good God, you have a child?

THE WIFE: Yes, we have a child. A sick child, that took sick because we had to move into the kitchen while the auction was being held.

AXEL: And this on my account? I shall go crazy over all this. For my sake! That I might become a celebrated man! What can I do for you? But would I have been any better off, if I had remained at home? Worse, for then I should still be a poor school teacher, who most certainly would be of less use to you than I am now. Listen! Go to the doctor and come back again in a little while, and I shall then have thought of something for you.

TURE: [to his wife] You see, he is going to help us.

THE WIFE: He must be able to.

TURE: He is able to do what he will!

AXEL: But don't depend too much on my help, for then the last state may be worse than the first. -- Go, good God, that you should have a sick child too! And for my sake!

TURE: Oh, it isn't so bad as it sounds.

THE WIFE: That's the way you talk, you who understand nothing ...

TURE: Farewell, then, for a little while, Axel.

[LINDGREN appears in the doorway.]

THE WIFE: Say, he didn't introduce us to the gentleman from the castle.

TURE: Don't talk nonsense. Why should he?

[They go out. LINDGREN enters. He is rather poorly clad and looks besotted, unshaven and only half awake. AXEL starts back at LINDGREN'S entrance.]

LINDGREN: Don't you recognize me?

AXEL: Yes, now I do; but you have changed so.

LINDGREN: You think so?

AXEL: Yes, I think so, and I am astonished that three years could make so much ...

LINDGREN: Three years may be a long time! -- Aren't you going to ask me to sit down?

AXEL: Certainly, but I am in somewhat of a hurry.

LINDGREN: You were always in a hurry. [Sits down.]


AXEL: How much do you want?

LINDGREN: Three hundred and fifty.

AXEL: I haven't it and can't get it.

LINDGREN: Oh yes, you have! -- Pardon me if I take a tear-drop.

[LINDGREN pours out a glass of brandy.]

AXEL: Will you do me the pleasure of taking a glass of wine instead?

LINDGREN: No, why?

AXEL: Well, it looks badly for you to take your brandy straight that way.

LINDGREN: How elegant you have become!

AXEL: It hurts my prestige, my credit.

LINDGREN: If you have credit, then you can help me up, after having pulled me down.

AXEL: That means that you demand help!

LINDGREN: I only remind you of the fact that I am one of your sacrifices.

AXEL: Then I beg you, by the gratitude I owe you, to be allowed to remind you: that you helped me with my examination at the university, at a time when you had the money; that you had my thesis printed ...

LINDGREN: That I taught you the method of study which was to be the determining factor in your scientific career; that I who was, at that time, a person of orderly habits, worked advantageously on your careless nature; that, to be brief, I made something of you; and that, later, when I sought for the subsidy for the expedition, you came in my way and took it from me.

AXEL: Received it. Because I was regarded as the man adapted to the undertaking and you were not.

LINDGREN: And then it was all up with me. One is lifted up, and another is cast down! -- Do you think that was acting kindly toward me?

AXEL: It was ungrateful, as people say, but the great deed was accomplished, science was enriched, the honor of the Fatherland was increased, and new lands were opened up for the needs of coming generations.

LINDGREN: Hello! -- You have been practicing eloquence! -- Do you know how unpleasant it is to be obliged to play the part of being used up and thrown away?

AXEL: I imagine it must be just as unpleasant as to be the black ingrate, and I congratulate you that you are not in my false position -- Let us go back to existing conditions. -- What can I do for you?

LINDGREN: What do you think?

AXEL: At this moment, nothing!

LINDGREN: And the next moment, you will be gone again. And then I'll never get a chance to see you again. [Pours out another glass of brandy.]

AXEL: Do me the kindness not to empty the brandy bottle, so that the servants may not be suspicious of me.

LINDGREN: For shame!

AXEL: Do you think it is pleasant for me to have to reprove you here? Do you think so?

LINDGREN: Look here! Will you get me a ticket to the castle this evening?

AXEL: It pains me to be obliged to say that I think you would not be allowed to enter.

LINDGREN: Because ...

AXEL: You are drunk!

LINDGREN: Thank you, old friend! -- Will you let me see your botanical collections?

AXEL: No! I am going to arrange them myself for the benefit of the academy.

LINDGREN: Your ethnographic collections, then?

AXEL: No, they don't belong to me.

LINDGREN: Then will you -- give me twenty-five kronen?

AXEL: I can't give you more than ten, as I posses but twenty, myself.

LINDGREN: Oh, the devil!

AXEL: This is the position of the man you envy! Do you think there is any one with whom I can enjoy myself? None! For those who are below me hate the man who has gone up, and those who are above, fear the man who has come from below.

LINDGREN: Yes, you are most unfortunate!...

AXEL: Well, let me tell you, after what I have gone through in the last half hour, I should be willing to change places with you. How at ease and unapproachable is the man who has nothing to lose; how interesting is the insignificant man, the man who has been misunderstood and passed by, to get a nickel, you have only to offer your arm and you have a friend to hook theirs into it; and what a powerful party your kindred spirits make! Enviable person, who know not your own good fortune!

LINDGREN: You are of the opinion, then, that I am so far down, and you, so high up. -- Look here, perhaps you haven't happened to read this newspaper? [Pulls out a newspaper.]

AXEL: No, and I don't wish to read it.

LINDGREN: And yet you should read it, for your own good.

AXEL: I certainly shall not do so, not even to give you pleasure. You say: come here and I will spit on you, and are naive enough to demand that I should really come. -- Do you know; I have this moment arrived at the conviction that if I should meet you in a bamboo jungle, I should, without fail, stretch you out with my breech-loader.

LINDGREN: I believe it of you, you beast of prey!

AXEL: It is best never to settle up accounts with friends or with people with whom you have lived intimately, for you never know who has the most figures on the debt side. But if you will bring your account to me, I will examine it. -- Do you think I wouldn't have seen before long, that behind your benevolence lay an unconscious desire to make of me the strong arm you lacked, which would accomplish for you what you could not for yourself? For I possessed the inventive faculty and intitiative, while you possessed only money and a university education. I can congratulate myself that you did not eat me, and I am excusable for having eaten you, since I had no other choice than to eat or be eaten.

LINDGREN: Beast of prey!

AXEL: Rodent, that could not rise to be the beast of prey, -- you would so gladly have been! At this moment, you do not wish yourself up with me, so much as you wish me down with you. If you have anything more of importance to add, hurry up with it; I am expecting a guest.

LINDGREN: Your fiancée?

AXEL: So you have sniffed that out too?

LINDGREN: Yes, of course! And I know what Mary, the girl you deserted, thinks and says; and I know how things have gone with your brother and his wife ...

AXEL: Do you know my future fiancée? I am not yet engaged.

LINDGREN: No, but I know the man to whom she is engaged.

AXEL: What do you mean?

LINDGREN: That she has been going with another man all this time -- Oh, you didn't knot it, then?

AXEL: [listens for a sound in the hall] Yes, I knew it, but I thought she had broken with him. -- See here, won't you come back in a quarter of an hour? In the meantime I'll try to arrange your matter in some way.

LINDGREN: Is that a nice way of showing me out?

AXEL: No! It is an effort to discharge an obligation. In solemn earnest.

LINDGREN: Then I'll go, and come back again. -- Goodbye for a while ...

[The WAITER enters.]

THE WAITER: A gentleman begs to be allowed to speak to you, Doctor.

AXEL: Let him come in.

[The WAITER goes out, leaving the door open. CECELIA'S BETROTHED enters. He is dressed in black with blue bands.]

LINDGREN: [observing him carefully] Goodbye, Axel! -- Good luck to you! [Goes out.]

AXEL: Goodbye!

[CECELIA'S BETROTHED, embarrassed.]

AXEL: Whom have I the honor ...

CECELIA'S BETROTHED: My name is not a distinguished name like yours, and my errand is an affair of the heart ...

AXEL: Do you ... You know Miss Cecilia?


AXEL: [hesitating, then decidedly] I pray you be seated. [Opens the door and beckons to the waiter.] Have my account ready; pack my things in there, and order a hack in half an hour.

THE WAITER: [bows and goes out.] I will attend to it, Doctor.

AXEL: [goes over to CECILIA'S BETROTHED, sits down on a chair.] Pray tell me your errand.

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: [after a pause, unctuously] Two men lived in the same city, one rich, the other poor. The rich man had a great number of sheep and cattle: the poor man possessed nothing but a little lamb ...

AXEL: What concern of mine is that?

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: [as before] --a little lamb, that he had bought and raised ...

AXEL: This is too long! What do you want? Are you still engaged to Cecilia?

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: [changes suddenly] Have I said anything of Cecilia? Have I?

AXEL: Listen, sir, out with your errand, or you'll be shown out the door! And tell what you have to tell quickly, and to the point, without any twistings ...

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: [offers his snuff] May I?

AXEL: No, thank you!

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: A great man has no small weaknesses like this.

AXEL: Since you will not speak, I shall. It really doesn't concern you, but it may be useful for you to know, since you don't seem to know it: I am formally engaged to Miss Cecilia, your former fiancée.

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: [surprised] Former?

AXEL: Yes, she has of course broken off her engagement to you.

CECILIA's BETROTHED: I know nothing of it.

AXELL: [takes a ring from his vest pocket] Inexplicable! You knew nothing of it? Well, now you know it. Here you see my ring.

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: She has broken off her engagement to me?

AXEL: Since she cannot be engaged to two men at once, and since she no longer loves you, of course, she had to break with you. I would have said all this much more politely, if you hadn't trodden on me when you came in.

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: I didn't tread on you.

AXEL: Cowardly and deceitful, sneaky and boastful!

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: [weakly] You are a hard man, Doctor!

AXEL: No, I am not, but I shall be. You didn't spare my feelings before; you sneered, I didn't do that. Now, this conversation is at an end.

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: [with genuine emotion] She was my one lamb, and I feared you would take her away from me; but surely you will not, you who have so many ...

AXEL: Granted that I really wouldn't, are you sure that she would stay with you?

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: Think of me, Doctor ...

AXEL: I will, if you will think of me.

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: I am a poor man ...

AXEL: I am, too. But you, according to what I can see and hear, can expect constant bliss beyond this life. I cannot! -- Beside that, I have taken nothing from you -- only accepted what was offered me. Just as you did.

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: And I, who had dreamed of a future for this girl, a future so bright ...

AXEL: Pardon me, if I say anything uncivil, since you are saying uncivil things; you are so sure that the future of this girl might not be brighter at my side?...

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: You remind me of my low social position as a laborer ...

AXEL: No, I only remind you of this girl's future, which lies so near to your heart, and since I am told that she no longer loves you, but me, I take the liberty of dreaming that her future will be brighter with the man she loves than with the one she does not love.

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: You are so strong and we smaller people are here to be sacrificed.

AXEL: See here! I have been told you supplanted a rival in Cecilia's affections, and by none too honorable means. What do you think your sacrifice thought of you?

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: He was a bad man.

AXEL: From whom you saved the girl. Well, now I am saving her from you. Farewell!

[CECILIA enters.]


[CECILIA starts back.]

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: You seem to be finding your way her already.

AXEL: [To CECILIA'S BETROTHED] Take yourself off!

CECILIA: Give me a glass of water.

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: [lifts up the brandy bottle] The carafe seems to have been emptied. -- Beware of this man, Cecilia!

AXEL: [pushes CECILIA'S BETROTHED out of the door] Your presence here is absolutely unnecessary -- go!

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: Beware of this man, Cecilia! [Goes.]

AXEL: That was a most uncomfortable incident, and you could have spared me it; first, by breaking with him openly, and then, by abstaining from visiting me in my rooms.

CECILIA: [weeps] And now I have to listen to reproaches!

AXEL: We had to discuss whose fault this was, and now that that is clear -- let us talk of something else. -- To begin with something: how are you?

CECILIA: So, so.

AXEL: Then you are not ill?

CECILIA: How are you, yourself?

AXEL: Very well, only a little tired.

CECILIA: Are you coming with me to my aunt's this afternoon?

AXEL: No, I can't. I have to go away at noon.

CECILIA: That's nice. You go away so much, and I never go.


CECILIA: Why do you say Hm?

AXEL: Because your remark made an unpleasant impression on me.

CECILIA: One has so many unpleasant impressions these days ...

AXEL: For example?

CECILIA; When you read the newspapers.

AXEL: You read those scandalous stories about me! Do you believe them?

CECILIA: What are you to believe?

AXEL: So you entertain a suspicion that I may be the infamous person described in them. If you are willing to marry me in spite of this, I can only believe that you would do it from purely practical motives and not because of any personal liking for me.

CECILIA: You speak so hardly, as if you had no opinion at all of me.

AXEL: Cecilia! Will you go away from here with me in a quarter of an hour?

CECILIA: In a quarter of an hour? Where?

AXEL: To London.

CECILIA: I will not travel with you until we have been married.

AXEL: Why not?

CECILIA: Why should we go away in such a hurry?

AXEL: Because -- it is suffocating here. And if we remain, I shall be pulled down so low that I shall never rise again.

CECILIA: That would be queer! Is it so bad as that?

AXEL: Will you go with me, or won't you go with me?

CECILIA: Not before we are married, for you'll never marry me afterward.

AXEL: Do you believe that? -- Sit down here a few minutes, while I go in and write one or two letters.

CECILIA: Do you want me to sit here alone, with the doors open?

AXEL: Don't lock the door, if you do we are totally lost. [Goes out left.]

CECILIA: Don't stay long!

[She goes to the door leading into the hall and turns the key. CECILIA alone. Later MARY comes in through the door leading from the hall.]

CECILIA: Wasn't the door locked?

MARY: No, not that I noticed! -- Oho, so it should have been locked, should it?

CECILIA: Whom have I the honor?

MARY: And whom have I?

CECILIA: That doesn't concern you!

MARY: So aristocratic? I understand. It is you! And I have been sacrificed to you -- until someone else comes.

CECILIA: I do not know you.

MARY: But I know you so much the better.

CECILIA: [rises, goes to the door left.] Indeed. [Speaks to AXEL.] Come out a minute.

[AXEL enters.]

AXEL: [To MARY.] What do you want here?

MARY: You never can tell.

AXEL: Then go away.

MARY: Why?

AXEL: Because everything has been at an end between us for three years.

MARY: And now there is another girl to be thrown out on the rubbish heap.

AXEL: Did I ever make you a promise that I didn't keep? Do I owe you anything? Did I ever speak of marriage? Did we have a child? Was I the only one in your favor?

MARY: And now he thinks he is the only one? With that girl, there?

CECILIA: [goes up to MARY.] Be still! -- I do not know you.

MARY: But when we used to tramp round the streets, then we knew each other; and when we went to market we called each other thou. [To AXEL.] And you intend to marry that girl. Do you know what, you are much too good for her!

AXEL: [To CECILIA.] Did you used to know this girl?


MARY: Aren't you ashamed of yourself? At first I did not recognize you, because you looked so fine ...

[AXEL gazes at CECILIA.]

CECILIA: [To AXEL.] Come! I will go with you.

AXEL: [absentmindedly] Right away! Just wait a few minutes. -- I must go in and write one more letter. -- But this time we will lock the door.

MARY: No, thank you, I don't wish to be locked in, the way she was before.

AXEL: [becoming attentive] Was the door locked before?

CECILIA: [To MARY] Can you say that the door was locked?

MARY: As you thought it was locked, I took it for granted that you had locked it so carelessly that it opened ...

AXEL: [looks searchingly at CECILIA, then says to MARY.] Mary, you were a good girl, at least so it seemed to me. Will you give me back my letters?


AXEL: What do you want with them?

MARY: I have heard that since you became such a celebrated man, I can sell them.

AXEL: And then, you can revenge yourself with them.

MARY: Yes!

AXEL: Is Lindgren ...

MARY: Yes. -- Here he is, himself.

[LINDGREN enters.]

LINDGREN: [in a good humor] Just look! What a lot of girls! And Mary is here, like the roaches wherever there is a fish-spawn. Listen, Axel!

AXEL: I hear you even if I don't see you. You are in a very good humor. What misfortune has happened to me?

LINDGREN: I had overslept a little, it was some time before I felt like myself, but I went downstairs and had them bring me a beefsteak. -- Yes! See here! -- You don't really owe me anything [AXEL: play of expression], for what I did for you I did out of the goodness of my heart, and I have had both honor and pleasure in return. What you have received, you have received and not borrowed.

AXEL: Now you are too meek and high-souled.

LINDGREN: Don't say that. And now, service for service: will you sign this, as my security?

[AXEL hesitates.]

LINDGREN: You needn't be afraid, I won't bring you into the dilemma that your brother ...

AXEL: What do you mean? It was I who brought misfortune on him ...

LINDGREN: The two hundred kronen, yes, but he gave you as his security for a five years' lease ...

AXEL: Good Lord!

LINDGREN: What was that? -- Hm, hm!

AXEL: [looks at his watch] Wait a few minutes, I must go in and write a few letters.

[CECILIA is about to follow him.]

AXELL: [holds her back] A few minutes, my dear friend ... [Kisses her on the forehead.] A few minutes! [Goes out, left.]

LINDGREN: Here is the paper. Sign this at the same time.

AXEL: Give it here. [Goes resolutely to the left.]

LINDGREN: Well, are we on good terms now, little girls?l

MARY: Yes, indeed. And before we go away from here, together, we'll be on still better terms.

[CECILIA: play of expression.]

MARY: I think I'd like to do something nice today.

LINDGREN: Come with me; I'm going to get some money.


[CECILIA sits down, uneasily, near the door where AXEL went out and leans against it.]

LINDGREN: We'll go and look at the fireworks tonight, then we can see what a big man made of Bengal lights looks like; or don't you want to, Cissa? -- You there!

CECILIA: Do you know, I shall be sick if I stay here.

MARY: It wouldn't be the first time.

LINDGREN: Now quarrel, little girls, that'll give me something to listen to. Go ahead, make it hail round your ears -- ha, ha!

[TURE and his WIFE come in.]

LINDGREN: Look here! Old acquaintances! How are you?

TURE: Very well, thank you!

LINDGREN: And the child?

TURE: The child?

LINDGREN: Oh, you had forgotten it, had you? -- Do you find it just as hard to retain names?

TURE: Names?

LINDGREN: Signatures? -- It's dreadful how slowly that man in there writes.

TURE: Is my brother, the doctor, in there?

LINDGREN: Whether the doctor is in there, I do not know, but your brother went in there just now. -- At all events, we can find out. [Knocks at the door.] Quiet as a grave. [Knocks again.] I'll go in. [Goes in.]

[General tension and uneasiness.]

CECILIA: What does this mean?

MARY: We shall see.

TURE: What has happened?

THE WIFE: Something's the matter -- you'll see, he won't help us.

LINDGREN: [comes out of the room with a bottle and some letters.] What is written on this? [Reads the label on the bottle.] Cyanide of potassium! -- Look at that, how stupid he was, the sentimental dreamer, to go and take his life for so little.

[General outcry.]

So you weren't a beast of prey, my dear Axel! -- But -- [Peeps through the door into the room.] he isn't there -- and neither are his things. So he has gone off. And the bottle is unopened -- that means: he thought of taking his life, but then decided to do something else. -- Well, here are the writings he left behind.

'To Miss Cecilia----' seems to contain something round -- probably an engagement ring. -- Be so good!

'To my brother, Ture.' [Holds the letter up to the light.] -- On blue paper -- that's a draught for -- the full amount. -- May it do you good!

[CECILIA'S BETROTHED appears in the door to the right.]

TURE: [who has opened his letter] You see, he has helped us ...

THE WIFE: Yes, in that way, oh, yes!

LINDGREN: And here's my note. -- Without his signature! This was a strong man. Diable!

MARY: Then there'll be no fireworks.

CECILIA'S BETROTHED: Was there nothing for me?

LINDGREN: Why, certainly, a fiancée, over there. -- What a man! To be able to bring such tangled affairs into order in each case! It vexes me, of course, that I let myself be cheated; but the devil take me, if I don't think I'd have done just the same -- you too, perhaps? Eh?


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