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August Strindberg.

Easter (a play in three acts) and stories from the Swedish of August Strindberg .. online

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himself was there.

Elis.

That amazes me, for Peter was always re-
garded as being against the Governor's party.

74



EASTER



Feu Heyst.
He has probably changed his mind now.

Elis.
He is not called Peter for fun, it seems !

Feu Heyst.
What have you against the Governor?

Elis.
He is a hinderer. He hinders everything.
He hindered the Folk-High-Schools; hindered
practice at arms; innocent cycling; the beauti-
ful Vacation Colonies and — he has hindered
me!

Feu Heyst.

I don't understand — but no matter. Mean-
while, the Governor made a speech and Peter
thanked him —

Elis.
— Touched, I daresay, and denied his master
saying: "I do not know this man" — And
again the cock crew. Was the Governor named
Pontius, surnamed Pilate? [Eleonora moves,
as if to speak, hut controls herself.}

75



EASTER AND STORIES



Feu Heyst.

You mustn't be so bitter, Elis! Human be-
ings are human, and one has to put up with
them.

Elis.
Hush! I hear Lindquist coming.

Fru Heyst.
Can you hear his step in the snow?

Elis.

I hear the rap, rap of his cane on the stones
— and his leather galoshes. Go, mother!

Fru Heyst.

No, now I want to stay. I've got something
to say to him.

Elis.

Mother, dear, please go! It would be too
painful. —

Fru Hey^st.

"May the day be accursed wherein I was
born ! ' '

76



EASTER



Christina.
Mustn't curse!

Fru Heyst.
[With lofty dignity.} "Is not destruction
rather to the wicked, and a strange punishment
to the workers of iniquity?"

Eleonora.
[With a cry of anguish.} Mother!

Fru Heyst.

**My God, why hast thou forsaken me!" —
Oh, my children! [Goes out left.]

Elis.

[Listening to sounds from imthout.} He
stops. — Maybe he thinks it unseemly, or too
brutal? Surely one who could write such
dreadful letters would not think thus! The}^
were always written on blue paper, and now I
cannot look at a blue letter without shuddering.

Christina.

What do you intend to say? AMiat shall you
propose!

77



EASTER AND STORIES



Elis.

I don't know. I have lost all presence of
mind — all power to reflect. Shall I fall at his
feet and beg for mercy? Can you hear him?
I hear only the throbbing of the blood in my
ears.

Christina.

Let us imagine the worst that can happen. —
He takes everything —

Elis.

Then along comes the landlord and demands
security, which I cannot get. — He will want se-
curity when the furniture does not stand here
as surety for the rent.

Christina.

[Who has been peeping through the curtain.}
He is no longer there; he has gone.

Elis.

Ah! — Do you know that mother's apathetic
submissiveness pains me more than her anger?



78



EASTER



Christina.

Her submissiveness is only assumed or fan-
cied. There was somewhat of the lioness' roar
in her last words. Did you see how tall she
became ?

Elis.

Fancy! as I think of Lindquist at this mo-
ment, I see him as a good-natured giant who
only wants to frighten children. Why did that
come to me just now?

Christina.
Thoughts come and go —

Elis.

How fortunate that I was not at the dinner
yesterday! I should certainly have made a
speech against the Governor and spoiled every-
thing for myself, and for the rest of us. It was
a great stroke of fortune.

Christina.
You see!



79



EASTEE AND STORIES



Elis.

Thanks for the advice. You knew your
friend Peter !

Christina.
My friend Peter?

Elis.
I meant — mine. See, now he is here again!
Woe to us! [On the curtain appears the
shadow of a man, tvho advances hesitatingly.
The shadoiv gradually increases and becomes
giantlike. Great suspense.} The giant! See
the giant, who wants to swallow us !

Christina.

Why, this is like the fairy-tales — something
to laugh at.

Elis.

I can't laugh any more. [Shadow gradually
decreases until it disappears.']

Christina.

Then look at the cane, and you'll have to
laugh,

80



EASTER



Elis.

He's gone. Now I want to breathe, for now
he will not come before to-morrow. — Ah !

Christina.

And to-morrow the sun will be shining — for
it is Resurrection Eve; the snow will be gone
and the birds will be singing!

Elis.

Say some more things of that sort. I can see
all that you picture.

Christina.

If you could only look into my heart: if you
could know my thoughts — my good intentions —
my inmost prayers! Elis, Elis, as I now —
[Checks herself.]

Elis.
What is it? Tell me!

Christina.
As I now beg one thing of you —



81



EASTER AND STORIES



Elis.
Speak !

Christina.

It is a test. Think of it as a test, Elis.

Elis.
Test, testing?— Well—

Christina.

Let me — no, I dare not. — It may fail!
\Eleonora all attention.']

Elis.
Why do you torture me?

Christina.

I shall regret it — I know. — Let come what
may! Elis, allow me to go to the concert this
evening.

Elis.

What concert?

Christina.

Haydn's ''Last Words from the Cross," at
the Cathedral.

82



EASTER



Elis.
With whom?

Christina.
With Alice—

Elis.
And—?

Christina.
And Peter.

Elis.
With Peter!

Christina.
Now you are frowning! I'm sorry, but it is
too late.

Elis.
Yes, it is rather late — but explain yourself !

Christina.
I prepared you for this — which I cannot ex-
plain; therefore I asked for your implicit con-
fidence.

Elis.

[Gentli/.] Go! I have faith in you, but I
suffer all the same because you seek the trai-
tor's company.

83



EASTER AND STORIES



Christina.
I understand; but this is simply a test —

Elis.
— Whicli I cannot stand!

Christina.
You must !

Elis.

I want to, but can't. You shall go, neverthe-
less.

Christina.
Your hand !

Elis.

[Taking her proffered hand.] There!
[Telephone rings.] [Elis at the 'phone.]
Hello ! No answer — Hello ! My own voice an-
swers. "Who's there? How strange! — I hear
my own words, like an echo.

Christina.
Such things can happen.

84



EASTEE



Elis.

Hello! — It's uncanny. [He rings off.] Go
now, Christina, without explanations or par-
ticulars; I'll stand the test.

Christina.
If you do, it will be well for us.

Elis.

I'll do it. [Christina crosses to right.]
Why do you go that way?

Christina.

My wraps are out there. So, farewell for
the present. [She goes out.]

Elis.

Farewell, my friend — [pause] forever ! [He
rushes out left.]

Eleonora.

God help us, what have I done now! The
police are searching for the offender; if I am
discovered — poor mother and Elis!



85



EASTER AND STORIES



Benjamin.

[Childisldy.} Eleonora, you must say that
I did it.

Eleonora.

You! Can you bear another's guilt, you
child?

Benjamin.

That's easy enough to do, when one knows
one is innocent.

Eleonora.
One should never deceive.

Benjamin.

Let me telephone to the florist and tell him
the facts.

Eleonora.

No; I have done wrong and I must be pun-
ished with unrest. I awakened their fear of
robbery, and I ought to be frightened.

Benjamin.

But if the police should come —

86



EASTEE



Eleonora.

That would be hard — but it has to be — Oh,
that this day were over! [She takes up the
clock from the table and moves the hands.]
Good clock, go a little faster! Tick-tack, ping
ping — now it is eight. — Ping, ping, ping, — now
it is nine — ten — eleven — twelve — and now it is
Easter Eve ! The sun will soon be up, and then
we shall write on the Easter eggs. I'll write
like this : ' ' Behold, the adversary hath desired
you, that he may sift you as wheat ; but I have
prayed for thee — "

Benjamin.
Why torture yourself so, Eleonora?

Eleonora.

What, I torture myself! Think, Benja-
min, of all the flowers in bloom — the blue
anemones, the white snow-drops — that have to
stand out in the snow day and night, to freeze
in the darkness ! Think what they must suffer !
Night time is the hardest, for then it is dark
and they are afraid of darkness. They can't
run away, so they stand there, waiting for the

87



EASTER AND STORIES



dawn. All — all things suffer, but the flowers
most. And the birds of passage that have
come, where shall they sleep to-night?

Benjamin.

iNa'ively.} They sit in hollow trees, you
know.

Eleonoea.

Surely there are not enough hollow trees for
all? I have seen only two in the parks here-
abouts, and the owls, who kill the little birds,
live in those. Poor Elis, who thinks that Chris-
tina has deserted him ! But I know that she is
coming back.

Benjamin.
If you know it, then why don't you tell him?

Eleonoea.

Because Elis must suffer — all must suffer on
Good Friday, to remind them of Christ's suf-
ferings on the cross. [Sonnd of a police whis-
tle is heard from the street.] [Eleonora, ivith
a start.'] AYhat was that?

88



EASTER



Benjamin.
Don't vou know?

Eleoxoka.
No.

Benjamin.
The police —

Eleonoea.

All ! — It sounded like that when they came to
take father. — Then I was ill — and now they are
coming- to take me !

Benjamin.

[Placing himself before centre door and fac-
ing Eleonora.] No, they can't take you! I
shall protect you, Eleonora.

Eleonora.

That's very good of you, Benjamin, hut you
mustn't do it.

Benjamin.

[Peeping through curtains.'\ There are two
of them! [Eleonora tries to get past Ben-
jamin, hut he quietly restrains her.] Not you,

89



EASTEE AND STORIES



Eleonora ! — for then I shouldn't care to live any
longer !

Eleonora.

Go sit down in your chair, child ; go sit down.
[Benjamin reluctantly obeys.] [Eleonora looks
through curtain without attempting to conceal
herself.] It was only two little boys. ''Oh,
we of little faith !" Do you think God so cruel
when I did no wrong — only acted thoughtlessly!
It served me right ! Why did I doubt !

Benjamin.

But to-morrow he will come who wants to
take the furniture —

Eleonora.

He may come, and we can go — from every-
thing ! — from all the old furniture which father
has been accumulating for us, and which I have
seen ever since I was a little child. One should
not own anything that binds one to earth. Go
out on the stony highways and wander with
bleeding feet, for that way leads upwards,
therefore it is difficult —

90



EASTER



Benjamin.
There you go, torturing yourself again !

Eleonora.

Let me ! But do you know what I find hard-
est to part with? It is the old clock over there.
That was here when I was born, and it has
measured my hours and my days. [She lifts
clock from the table.] Hear how it beats, ex-
actly like a heart. It stopped on the hour that
grandfather died — for it was here even then.
Farewell, little clock, may you soon stop again !
Do you know that it used to hasten when we
* had ill-luck in the house — as though it wanted
to get past the evil, for our sakes, of course.
But when the times were bright, it slowed
down, that we might enjoy them all the longer.
It was the good clock. But we had a bad one
too. It has to hang in the kitchen now. The
bad clock couldn't tolerate music, and as soon
as Elis touched the piano, it began striking.
Not I alone, but all noticed it; and that is why
it has to stand in the kitchen. Lina does not
like it, either, for it isn't quiet at night, and
she can't boil eggs by it because they always

91



EASTEE AND STOEIES



become hard-boiled, she says. Now you are
hiughing !

Benjamin.

How can I help it !

Eleonora.

You're a good boy, Benjamin, but you must
be serious. Think of the birch rod behind the
mirror.

Benjamin.

But you are so amusing that I have to laugh.
— Why weep all the time?

Eleonora.

If one can't weep in the vale of tears, where
else shall one weepf

Benjamin.
Hm!

Eleonora.

You would rather laugh all day, and you have
paid for it, too ! I like you only when you are
serious — bear that in mind.



92



EASTER



Benjamin.

Do you think we shall come out of all this,
Eleonora!

Eleonora.

Most of it will right itself, when Good
Friday is over, but not all. To-day the rod;
to-morrow the Easter eggs. To-day snow; to-
morrow thaw. To-day death; to-morrow Res-
urrection.

Benjamin.
How wise you are !

Eleonoea.

Oh, I feel already that it has cleared for beau-
tiful weather; that the snow is melting. To-
morrow the \dolets will bloom by the south wall.
The clouds have lifted — I feel it in my breath-
ing. Oh, I know so well when the way to
Heaven is open ! Draw aside the curtains, Ben-
jamin, I want God to see us !

[He rises obediently ; moonlight streams into
the room.

93



EASTER AND STORIES



Look, the full moon ! It is the Paschal moon.
And now you know that the sun is still with us,
although the moon gives the light.



Curtain.



94



ACT THREE.



EASTER EVE.

Music before rise of curtain: "Seven Last
Words from the Cross" (Haydn). No. 5,
Adagio.



Scene : Same as first and second acts, hut with
curtains drawn hack. Landscape outside
suhdued hy a grayish atmosphere. Centre
doors closed; a fire in the stove. As cur-
tain rises, Eleonora is seen sitting hefore the
stove holding toward the fire a hunch of hlue
anemones. Benjamin enters from door at
right.

Eleonoea.

Where have you been all this time, Benjamin?

Benjamin.
Surely I wasn't gone a great while!

Eleonora.
I have been longing for you !

Benjamin.
And where have you been, Eleonora?

Eleonora.

I have been at the market place, where I
bought some blue anemones. Now I am warm-
ing them. They were frozen, poor things !

97



EASTER AND STORIES



Benjamin.
Where's the sun?

Eleonora.

Behind the mists. There are no clouds to-
day, only sea-mists — for they smell salty —

Benjamin.

Did you notice that the birds were still alive

out there?

Eleonora.

Yes; and not one falls to the ground unless
God wills it. But there were dead birds at the
market place.

[Elis comes on from right.]

Elis.
Has the paper come?

Eleonora.
No, Elis.

[Elis crosses, when he has reached the centre

of the stage, Christina comes on from left.]

Christina.

[Taking no notice of Elis.] Has the paper

come?

98



EASTER



Eleonoea.

No, it lias not come. [Christina crosses to
right, past Elis ivho goes out left. They do not
glance at each other.]

Ugh! how cold it became! Hatred has en-
tered the house. So long as there was love
here, one could endure all; but now — ugh, how
cold!

Benjamin.

Why do they ask for the paper?

Eleonora.
Don't you understand? It will be in there.

Benjamin.
^Vhat?

Eleonora.

The whole thing — the theft, the police, and
more besides —

Feu Heyst.

[Enters at door right.] Has the paper
come ?

Eleonora.

No, mother dear.

99



EASTER AND STORIES



Fku Heyst.

[Speaking as she goes out right.] Let me
know as soon as it comes.

Eleonora.
The paper, the paper ! — Oh, if only the print-
ing presses had gone to pieces ; if the editor had
been taken ill. — No, one must not say such
things ! I was with father last night —

Benjamin.
Last night?

Eleonora.

Yes, in my dreams — and then I was with sis-
ter, in America. Day before yesterday she sold
thirty dollars worth, and earned five.

Benjamin.
Is that little or much?

Eleonora.
It is rather much.

Benjamin.
[Knotvingly.l Did you meet a friend at the
market place?

100



EASTER



Eleonoea,

Wliy do you ask? You mustn't play the fox
with me, Benjamin ! You want to know my se-
crets, but you sha'n't.

Benjamin.

And you think that you'll learn mine in this
way?

Eleonora.

Do you hear the buzzing in the telephone
wires? Ah! now the paper is out and people
are telephoning: — "Have you read it?" — "I
have— " ' ' Isn 't it dreadful ? ' '

Benjamin
What is dreadful?

Eleonora,

This whole existence is dreadful! But we
must be content. Think of Elis and Christina !
They are fond of each other and hate each
other, equally, and the thermometer drops
whenever they pass through the room. She
was at the concert yesterday, and to-day they
do not speak. Why, why?

101



'EASTER AND STORIES



Benjamin.
Because your brother is jealous.

Eleonora.

Don't voice that word! What do you know
about it, for that matter, save that it is a disease
and, consequently, a punishment. One should
not touch evil, for then it comes back at one.
Only look at Elis ! Have you noticed how
changed he is since he began reading those pa-
pers?

Benjamiist.
About the trial?

Eleonora.
Yes. Is it not as though all the evil in them
had penetrated into his soul and was now flash-
ing through his features — his glances? This
Christina feels and, as a protection against his
evil thoughts, she makes of herself an armor of
ice. Oh, those dreadful papers! If I could
only burn them ! Cruelty and treachery and re-
venge are all through tliem. My child, joii
must keep the evil and the impure from you —
both from your lips and from your heart.

102



EASTEE



Benjamin.
How well you take note of everything !

Eleonora.

Do you know what awaits me in case Elis and
the others learn that it was I who purchased the
Easter Lily in that unusual manner?

Benjamin.
Wliat will they do to you?

Eleonora.

They will send me back there, where the sun
never shines; where the walls are white and
bare; where one hears only weeping and wail-
ing ; where I have wasted one year of my life !

Benjamin.
Where do you mean ?

Eleonora.

— Where one is tortured worse than in prison ;
where the lost live ; where unrest has its abode ;
where despair keeps vigil day and night — and
whence none return !

103



EASTEE AND STORIES



Benjamin.
Worse than in prison — where?

Eleonoka.

In prison one is sentenced, but there one is
doomed. In prison one is examined and heard,
but there one is unheard. Poor Easter lily!
you were the cause of it. I meant so well, and
did so ill !

Benjamin.

Why not go to the florist and say, it was thus
and so? You are just like a lamb about to be
slaughtered.

Eleonoka.

When it knows it is to be slaughtered, it does
not complain or try to escape. What else can
it do!

[Ells comes on from right, with a letter in
his hand.]

Elis.

Hasn't the paper come yet?

Eleonora.

No, brother.

104



EASTER



Elis.
[Speaking out into kitchen.] Lina, run out
and buy a paper !

[Fru Heyst comes on right; Eleonora and
Benjamin terrified.']

[Elis to Eleonora and Benjamin.] Run out
a moment, like good children! [Both go out
left.]

Fru Heyst.

Did you get a letter ?

Elis.
Yes.

Fru Heyst.

From the Asylum 1

Elis.
Yes.

Fru Heyst.

What do they wish?

Elis.
They demand the return of Eleonora.

Fru Heyst.

They can't have her; she is my child!

105



EASTER AND STOEIES



Elis.
And my sister !

Fru Heyst.
Then, what do you mean?

Elis.
I don't know — I can't think —

Fru Heyst.

But I can! Eleonora, the child of sorrow,
has come back with joy, but not the joy of this
world ! Her unrest has been turned into peace,
which she shares. Sane or not, for me she is
wise ; for she understands how to bear the bur-
dens of life better than I— than we.— For the
matter of that, am I sane, Elis? Was I sane
when I believed my husband guiltless ? I knew,
of course, that he was convicted upon actual
material evidence— that he himself admitted.
And you, Elis, are you in your right mind when
you do not see that Christina loves you? — when
you think that she hates you ?

Elis.

It's a curious way of loving!

106



EASTER



Fru Heyst.

No, it is not ! Your coldness chills her to the
heart, and it is you who hate. But you are in
the wrong ; that is why you suffer.

Elis.

How can I be in the wrong! Didn't she go
with my faithless friend last evening?

Fru Heyst.

She did, and with your consent. But why did
she go? You should surmise that.

Elis.
But I can't!

Fru Heyst.

Very well ! You deserve all that you are get-
ting. \_Kitchen door opens; a hand is seen
holding out a paper, ivhich Fru Heyst takes and
gives to Elis.]

Elis.

This is the only real misfortune! With her
here, we could weather the rest; but now the
last support is snatched away — and now I fall !

107



EASTER AND STORIES



Fru Heyst.

Fall, but fall right — then you can raise your-
self later. — Anything new in the paper"?

Elis.
I don't know; I'm afraid of the paper to-day.

Fru Heyst.
Give it me, and I'll read it.

Elis
No — wait a second !

Fru Heyst.
What do you fear ? What do you anticipate 1

Elis.
The very worst!

Fru Heyst.

That has happened already, so many times!
Oh, child, if you knew my life ; if you had been
present when I saw your father go down, step
by step, without my being able to warn all those
upon whom he was bringing misfortune ! When
he fell, I felt equally guilty, for I was cognizant

108



EASTER



of the crime. Had not the Judge been a sensi-
ble man who understood my position as wife, I
too would have been punished.

Elis.
Wliat was the cause of father's downfall? I
have never been able to fathom it.

Feu Heyst.

Pride — the stumbling block by which we all
fall.

Elis.

But why should we who are innocent suffer
for his fault?

Fru Heyst.

Be silent ! [Pause, during tvhich she takes
the paper and reads.'] What does this mean?
Didn 't I say it was a yellow tulip, among other
things, that was missing?

Elis.
Yes, that I distinctly remember.

Fru Heyst.

But here it says — an Easter lily !

109



EASTER AND STORIES



Elis.
[Startled.] Does it say that?

Fru Heyst.

[Sinks hack in chair.'] It was Eleonora ! —
God, my God !

Elis.
So it is not over, it seems !

Fru Heyst.
Prison or tlie Asylum !

Elis.
It is impossible that she did it — impossible !

Fru Heyst.

Now the family name must go forth again to
be dishonored —

Elis.
Is she suspected?

Fru Heyst.

It says that suspicion points in a certain di-
rection — it is pretty plain where —

110



EASTER



Elis.
I will speak to her.

Feu Heyst.

Speak gently, for I can bear no more ! Re-
covered and lost again! — Speak to her! [She
goes out right.]

Elis.

Ah! [He crosses to the door at left and
calls.] Eleonora, my child ! Come, let me talk
to you!

Eleonora.

[Coming on luith hair unhraided.] I was just
arranging my hair —

Elis.

Never mind ! Tell me, little sister, where you
got this flower?

Eleonora.
I took it —

Elis.

God!

Ill



EASTER AND STORIES



Eleonora.

lOvercome, her head droops and she clasps
her hands on her breast.l But I laid the money
beside —

Elis.

So you paid for it !

Eleonora.

Yes and no. How provoking! — but I have
done no wrong. I meant well — do you believe
mel

Elis.

I believe you, sister; but the press doesn't
know that you are innocent.

Eleonora.

Dear heart, then I must suffer for this too !
[Her head bends lower, so that her hair falls
over her eyes.l What would they do to me
now ? Let them do it.

Benjamin.

[Frantically rushing on from left.] No, you
sha'n't touch her! She has done no wrong —
I know it ; for it was I, I, I who did it !

112



EASTER



Eleonoea.
Don't believe what he's saying — it was I!

Elis.
TVliat am I to believe ; whom shall I believe ?

Benjamin.
Me ! Me !

Eleonoea.
No, me, me !

Benjamin.
Let me go to the police —

Elis.
Hush, hush!

Eleonoea.
No, I want to go, I want to go —

Elis.
Hush, children! — Mother is coming.
[Fru Heyst comes on greatly excited. She
takes Eleonora in her arms and hisses her.]

Feu Heyst.

Child, child, my precious child ! You are with
me, and you shall stay with me !

113



EASTER AND STORIES



Eleonoea.

You kiss me, mother ! You haven't done this
in many years — why now?

Feu Heyst.

Because now — because the florist is outside
and asks to be pardoned for causing us so much
annoyance. The lost coin is found, and your
good name —

Eleonoea.

[Rushes into Eiis' arms and kisses him,
then she clasps Benjamin's neck and kisses him
on the hrow.'] You dear, good child! You
wanted to suffer for me! How could you?

Benjamin.

[Shyly. 1 Because I like you so much,
Eleonora !

Feu Heyst.

Bundle yourselves up, children, and go out
into the garden. It's clearing.



114



EASTER



Eleonora.
Ah, it's clearing! Come, Benjamin. [She
takes him by the hand and they go out, hand in
hand.Ji

Elis.
May we cast the birch rod on the fire now?

Fru Heyst.

Not yet! There is still a little matter to be
settled —

Elis.
Lindquist ?

Fru Heyst.
He is outside ; but he seems very strange, and
unaccountably mild. AVhat a pity that he is so
wordy, and talks so much about himself !

Elis.

Now, that I have seen a sunbeam, I am not


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Online LibraryAugust StrindbergEaster (a play in three acts) and stories from the Swedish of August Strindberg .. → online text (page 3 of 9)