August Strindberg.

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

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she mourned herself, as one mourns the dead.



And the singer — the celebrity — was of course

So one day she went out alone and prome-
naded on a deserted street. It was a dump for
rubbish. She paused without thinking of any-
thing in particular, but saw enough of the ruin;
for on the rubbish heap lay a postal card, and
on it appeared her picture as ''Carmen."

She walked away rapidly and cried in her
heart. She came in on a side street, where tlie
show window of a little book shop made her
stop short. She was accustomed to pause by
such windows, to look for her picture. But it
did not hang here ; instead, there hung a placard
upon which she against her will read memor-
able words :

''The Lord's countenance is turned against
all those who do evil, and He will erase their
memories from the earth!"

Those who do evil — '* This was why her
memory" had been obliterated. This ex-
plained the people's forgetfulness.

*'But cannot evil be turned into good? Have



I not suffered punishment enough?" she

And so she went into the woods, where there
were no human beings. As she wandered,
despairing, crushed, humbled, she saw another
solitary being coming toward her. He asked
with his eyes if he dared venture a greeting.

It was the capellmeister.

But his eyes did not speak reproaches or
humiliating sympathy; they expressed admira-
tion, astonishment, and tenderness.

"How slender and refined you have grown,
Hanna!" said his lips. She looked down upon
herself and found that it was true. Sorrow
had burned out the superfluous, puffed-up
flesh, and she was more beautiful than she had
ever been.

"And you are just as young — younger!"

These were the first kind words she had heard
in a long time, and when they came from him,
whom she had treated so badly, she understood
the worth of a good man, and told him so.

"Have you your voice still, Hanna?" asked
the capellmeister, who could not abide compli-



"I don't know," she sobbed.

''Come up to the song chamber to-morrow —
yes, my room at the Opera — and we shall hear.
The fact is, I'm re-engaged there."

The singer came — came back and rose to the
front once more.

The public had forgiven and forgotten — for-
gotten the evil, and now the singer was just as
great — no, much greater than before!

It was an edifying story.




Once upon a time an eel-pout and her son lay
at the bottom of the sea, close by the steamboat
dock, and watched how a boy prepared his rod
for fishing.

''Look at that one!" said the eel-pout, "and
you will learn something of the world's wicked-
ness, and of its snares. . . . Look at him now!
He has a whip in his hand ; and now he is throw-
ing out the lash — there it goes! Then comes
the clapper, which sinks deep down ; there it is !
And then comes the hook, with a worm on it.
That's the thing that you mustn't take into your
mouth, for then you're caught! It is only stu-
pid perch and roach that let themselves be
fooled. So, now you know it."

Presently the seaweed forest, with mussels
and snails, began to rock, and splashing, and
beating of drums were heard, and then a big,
red whale shot forward over their heads. It



had a tail-fin like a propeller, with which it

'^It's the steamboat," said the eel-pout.
' ' Get out of the way ! ' '

And then there was a terrible racket up

There were tramping and clamping as they
built a bridge in about two seconds between the
boat and land. But it was difficult to see, for
they were letting out oil and soot up there.

There was something very heavy on the
bridge, so that it shrieked; and several men
began to sing: ''Oh, chuck it! A-hoy! hie
with it! — Hey, take hold of it! — Ho there!
Hie with it! Now, steady with it! Hie with

And now something happened that was in-
describable! First, it sounded as when sixty
Dalecarlians are splitting wood; then a big
hole opened in the water, which reached clear
down to the sea-bottom, and between three
stones stood a black cupboard, that sang and
played so that it rang and clanged all the way
to the eel-pout and her son, who made for deep



Then was heard a voice from above that
shrieked :

"Three fathoms deep — it can't be done! Let
it lie there, for it won't pay to take up that old
rattle-box, which costs more for repairs than
it's worth." It was the Inspector of mines,
whose piano had dropped into the sea.

Then there was quiet. The big red fish beat
itself out with the rudder-fin, and it became
still quieter. But when the sun went down, the
wind came. The black cupboard down in the
sea-weed forest began rocking and bumping
against the stones, and with every bump it
played, so that the fishes in the vicinity swam
over, to see and hear.

The eel-pout came first, to stare, and when
she saw that she could mirror herself in the
cupboard, she said : ' ' It 's a mirror-cupboard ! ' '

That was logical, and therefore they all said :
''It's a mirror-cupboard."

Then there came a butter-fish, that nosed the
candlesticks, which were still intact, and there
were candle-stumps burned down fast in the
pipes. ''This stuff is good to eat," it said
"if only the lash wasn't there!"



Along came a big cod and stretched himself
out on the pedal; and then there was such a
racket in the cupboard, that all the fishes fled!

And they got no farther that day.

In the night there was a half-storm, and the
music-box thumped all the while, like the stone-
paver's hired girl, until the sun got up. Then,
when the eel-pout came back with the whole
company, the cupboard was changed.

The lid had flown open, like a shark's gape,
and a row of teeth was visible — so big that
they had never seen the like ; but every second
tooth was black. And the whole machine had
swelled up on the sides, like a roe-fish: the
boards bulged, the pedal pointed in the air, like
a kicking foot, and the arms of the candlesticks
doubled themselves like fists. It was a sight!

''It's bursting!" shrieked the cod, spreading
a fin for a quick turn.

"It's bursting!" they all shrieked.

And now the boards loosened, the box opened,
and one could see how it looked inside. This
was the funniest of all! "It's a fish-trap!
Don't go there !" said the eel-pout.

"It's a loom, it is !" said the stickleback, who



crochets his nest and knows all about weaving

''A gravel-screen!" said the perch, who
usually stayed under the lime-works.

Yes, a gravel screen it certainly was! But
there was such a lot of gimcracks and chicanery
inside, that were not like the one they sifted
gravel through. There were little manikins
that looked like toes in white wool stockings,
and when they moved, a foot with a hundred
skeleton joints walked. It walked and walked,
but it never left the spot.

It was a queer body. But the playing was
over, for the skeleton couldn't get at the strings
any more, but pounded in the water as if it were
knocking with its knuckles to be let in.

Then there came a shoal of stickleback, that
went right through the cupboard. And when
they dragged their quills over the strings, it
played again, but in a new way, for now the
strings were re-tuned.

• • •

On a rosy summer 's evening, soon thereafter,
two children — a boy and a girl — sat on the
steamboat dock. They were not thinking of



anything in particular — a little mischief, per-
haps? — when, all of a sudden, they heard soft
music from the bottom of the sea, and they
became serious.

''Do you hear?"

"Yes. \\^iat is it? It's playing scales."

"No, it's the mosquitoes that are singing."

"Never! It's the mermaid."

"There isn't any mermaid, the schoolmaster
said. ' '

"That the schoolmaster doesn't know."

"Oh, just listen!"

They listened a long while, and then they
went their way.

A pair of newly arrived bathing guests seated
themselves on the dock. He looked into her
eyes, which mirrored the whole rose-colored
sunset and the green shores. Then they heard
music, like a glass-harmonica, but in strange
keys — such as only those dreamed who wished
to do something new in the world! But it did
not occur to them to seek outside themselves,
for they thought that the music was within

Then a pair of old bathing guests came along,



who knew the joke, and they took delight in
saj^ing aloud:

''It's the Inspector's sunken piano."

But if there came new guests, who didn't
know the game, they would sit and wonder and
rejoice over the unknown music, till older guests
appeared and enlightened them as to the decep-
tion. Then they rejoiced no more.

But the music box lay where it lay the whole
summer, and the stickleback taught their art to
the perch, who knew better. The piano became
a perch-ground for the guests. The sailors put
a net around it, and a watchman tried one day
to fish cod in it. 'When he had brought out his
cod-line with the old winder and was going to
wind it up, the watchman heard a run in
X-minor! and then the hook caught. He tugged
and pulled, and at last he dragged up five finger
joints, with wool on the ends, and it creaked in
the bones as on a skeleton. He was seared and
threw his catch into the sea, although he knew
what it was.

Then followed the dog days, when the water
was warm and all the fishes went far out in the
deep, to cool off.



The music was hushed again. But August
moonlight came, and the bathing guests held a
regatta. In a white boat sat the Insi)ector and
his wife, who were being rowed slowly back and
forth by their boys. As they skinmied the black
water, burnished on top with silver and a little
gold besides, they heard music under the boat.

''Ha, ha!" laughed the Inspector, "that's our
old rattlety-bang piano. ITa, ha!"

But he was silent when he saw his wife bend
her head down on her breast, after the manner
of pelicans in pictures, just as if she wanted to
bite her breast, and hide her face.

The old piano and its long story had awak-
ened in her memories of the long ago; of the
first dining room they had fitted u]); of the
first child that had learned to play; of the long
evenings' loneliness, which could only be dis-
pelled by loud volumes of sound, that made the
whole apartment shake off its dullness, and
which tuned up the spirits and put a new shine
even on the furniture. . . . But that story does
not belong here.

• • •

When the autumn was well in and the first



Ktorm was over, then the herring came by thou-
sands of thousands and swam through the
music box. That was a farewell concert, vou'd
better believe ! Swallow-fish and seamew gath-
ered to listen.

'I'liat night tlie music box went out to sea, and
then there was an end to the whole glory.




OxcE there was a photographer who pho-
tographed prolifically — profiles, busts, knee-
lengths and full figures; and he developed and
fixed up, toned down, gold-bathed and copied.
He was a dabster ! But he was never satisfied,
for he was a philosopher, a great philosopher —
and a discoverer.

He had, in fact, philosophized that the world
was upside down — that one could see on the
negative, when it lay in the developer. That
which was right on a person, became left here ;
that which was dark became light. The shad-
ows became high lights; blue was white, and
silver buttons were as dull as iron. Every-
thing was reversed.

He had a partner, who was just the common,
everj'day sort, full of little eccentricities. For
instance, he smoked tobacco all day long; he
could never learn to close a door after him; he
stuck the knife into his mouth instead of the



fork; he went about in the house with his hat
on; he manicured his nails in the middle of the
atelier, and at night he had to have three mugs
of ale. He was full of faults !

The philosopher, who, on the contrary, was
faultless, harbored resentment against his im-
perfect brother and wanted to part from him,
but couldn't, for their business interests held
them together. And because they had to stick
together, the philosopher's aversion began to
develop into an unreasonable hatred. It was
terrible !

When spring came, they were to look for a
summer cottage. The partner was sent out to
make arrangements, and he made them!

Thereupon, one Saturday evening, they
boarded a steamboat. The philosopher sat on
the upper deck all the way, and drank punsch.
He was very corpulent and was affected with
several complaints: Something awry with his
liver, and with his feet, also, there was some-
thing bothersome — rheumatism or the like.
Well, then! Having reached their destination,
they stepped ashore at the landing.

''Is it here?" asked the philosopher.



"Only a short step from here," replied the

They walked down a path bordered with
trees. The path terminated right in front of a
picket fence. This had to be scaled. Then
came a stony path. The philosopher com-
plained of his feet, but soon forgot his agony
before a new picket fence, which must be
climbed. Then the path vanished, as if of its
own accord. They had to climb steep, rocky
hills and make their way through briers and
blueberry vines.

On the other side of the third picket fence
stood a bull, who chased the philosopher as far
as the fourth picket fence; and this induced a
sweat bath, which opened the pores. After the
sixth picket fence the cabin was seen. Pres-
ently the philosopher stepped in and came out
on the veranda.

""WTiy are there so many trees?" he asked.
"They shut out the view."

"Well, they must protect us against the sea
winds," answered the partner.

"This looks like a church-yard! Whj, we
live in the middle of a fir-wood ! ' '



''That's healthy!" said the partner.

Soon they were going for a bath; but there
was no bathing beach, in a philosophical sense.
There was only stone bottom and mud. After
the bath, the philosopher meant to have a drink
of water from the spring. It was a rust-brown
water, with a pungent taste. That wouldn't
do. Nothing would do. There was no meat to
be bought, and fish was the only thing that could
be had.

The philosopher was glum and seated himself
under a gourd, to grumble; but stay he must!
and the partner went back to the city, to look
after the business during his comrade's holi-

Six weeks had gone by when the partner re-
turned to his philosopher.

On the landing there stood a slender youth,
with rosy cheeks and a brown neck. It was the
philosopher — rejuvenated and full of animal

He jumped the six picket fences and chased
the bull himself.

When they reached the veranda, the partner
remarked :



**You look well; how have you fared?"

'^ Capitally!" said the philosopher. "The
picket fences have taken the fat off me; the
stones have massaged my feet; the mnd has
given me mud baths for the rheumatism; the
frugal fare has cured my liver, the pine woods
my lungs and, think of it! the brown spring
water contained iron — just what I needed. ' '

"Yes, you philosopher!" said the partner,
"from the negative plate we get a positive,
where the shadows become high lights once

"If you would only take such a negative of
me and find out what faults I do not possess,
you would not despise me. Just consider! I
do not drink to excess, therefore I attend to
the business. I don't steal. I never speak ill
of you. I never complain. I never turn white
into black. I'm never uncivil to customers. I
rise early in the morning. I trim my nails to
keep the developer clean. I keep my hat on my
head so as not to shed hairs on the plate. I
smoke tol)acco to clear the atmosphere of poi-
sonous fumes. I leave the doors ajar to avoid
making a noise in the atelier. I drink ale at



night so as not to fall into the whiskey habit;
and I shove my knife into my mouth to avoid
sticking myself with the fork."

'* Verily, thou art a great philosopher!" said
the photographer. ''Now we shall be friends;
and thus we'll make headway."




Once upon a time there was a king called Jo-
liann sans Country; and tlie reason of it one
can guess.

But another tiroe there was a great singer
who was called ''Jubal sans Ego," and why,
you shall now hear. Klang was the name that
his father, the soldier, had given him, and there
was music in the name. But Nature had also
given him a strong will, which sat like a ramrod
in his back. It was a great gift, and one to be
cherished in the struggles of life. Even as a
child, when he began to talk, he did not say as
other small boys did, "him" when he talked of
himself, but at once called himself "I." "You
have no 'I,' " said the grown folk. Wlien he
became a little older he expressed a desire with
"I will." And then he had to listen to this:

"You have no will," and "Your will grows
in the forest."

Now that was stupid of the father, but he



knew no better, for lie was a soldier, and had
been taught to will only what the eommander

Young Klang thought it queer to be told that
he did not have any will, although he had such
a strong one ; but that can pass.

Wlien he had grown up somewhat, his father
asked one day: "What do you wish to be-
come 1 ' '

That the boy didn't know. He had given up
wishing, since it was forbidden. He certainly
had a leaning toward music, but he didn't dare
say so, for then he thought it would be opposed.
Therefore he answered like a dutiful son: "I
wish nothing. ' '

"Then you shall be a wine-tapper," said the

If it was because the father knew a wine-tap-
per, or because the wine had a special attraction
for him, we cannot tell. Suffice it to say, young
Klang was placed in a wine cellar, and there he
didn't fare badly.

It smelled so good of red sealing wax and
French wine down there ! And there were big
vaulted rooms, like churches. When he sat at



the faucet, and the red wine flowed, his spirits
rose, and he began to hum all the ballads he had

The proprietor, who lived in wine, liked song
and merriment, and kept the youth; for the
music sounded so well under the arches; and
when he struck up: "Down in the Deep Cellar
Vault," customers came, and this pleased the

Then, one day there came a traveling sales-
man, who had formerly been an opera singer,
and when he heard Klang, he was so enchanted
that he invited him out on a jollification that

They played nine-pins, ate lobster, with dill
sauce; they drank punsch, but, above all, they

Between the toasts and the courses, and when
they had drunk the ' ' To Thee ' ' toast, the trav-
eling salesman said :

"Why don't you go on the stage?"

"I?" gasped Klang. "Surely I can't do

"You must say, I ivill; then you can."

This was a new doctrine, for since his third



year young Klang had not used the words "I"
and ''will."

Now he did not dare either to will or to wish,
and he begged not to be tempted further.

But the traveling salesman came again, many
times, and brought great singers with him.
The tempter became too strong, and Klang took
his departure one evening when he had been
applauded by a real empresario.

So he bade the proprietor farewell and, over a
glass of wine, thanked the traveling salesman,
who had restored his faith in himself, and his
win_"the will, the ramrod in the back which
holds a man upright so that he won't fall down
on all fours." And never would he forget his
friend who had taught him to believe in himself.

Then he went home to bid his father and
mother good-by.

"I want to be a singer!" he blurted out so
that it rang in the cottage.

His father looked around for the lash and his
mother wept; but it did no good.

''Don't lose yourself, my son!" were the
mother's parting words.

Young Klang received money with which to



travel to a foreign land. There he learned to
sing according to rules, and in a few years he
became a great operatic singer, made money,
and had his own manager, who advanced him.

Friend Klang blossomed out, and he could
say both ^'I" and "will," and "I command."
His "I" grew to unnatural proportions, and
he wouldn't tolerate any other I's where he
was! He denied himself nothing, nor did he
stint himself either. But now, when he was to
return to his own country, the manager taught
him that it would never do for one to be called
Klang when one is a great singer. He must
have a high-sounding name — preferably a for-
eign one, for that was the fashion.

The "great one" had a struggle with him-
self, for changing one's name was not alto-
gether agreeable. It was like denying one's
father and mother, and it might look bad.

But, inasmuch as it was the fashion, he let it
go that way.

He searched the Bible to find the right name ;
for there stood the names !

And when he happened upon Jubal, Lamech's
son, who had invented all sorts of musical in-



stniments, he took it. It was a good name and,
in Hebrew, it meant trumpet. As the manager
was an Englishman, he desired that Klang
should call himself Mister, which he did —
Mister Jubal, if you please !

All this, of course, was very innocent, since
it was the fashion; but it seemed strange, all
the same, that with the new name Klang became
another man. The old past was as if wiped
out, and Mister Jubal felt as if he were a born
Englishman, spoke his mother tongue with an
accent and affected mutton-chop whiskers and
high collars. And the checked clothes looked
as if they had grown on him, like bark on trees.
He grew stiff and greeted people with a mon-
acle, never turned round on the street when an
acquaintance called his name, and he always
stood right in the centre of the tram car.

He hardly knew himself !

Meanwhile, he was at home once more, in his
own country, and was a big singer at the Opera.
He played kings and prophets, heroes, lovers
and demons, and when he had a role to practice,
he was such a good actor that he believed him-
self to be the one he was impersonating.



One day lie walked the street and was a de-
mon from somewhere, but he was also Mr.

Then he heard someone from behind him
call: "Klang!" Naturally he did not turn
around, for this an Englishman never does, and,
for the matter of that, his name was no longer

But again someone shouted "Klang." And
his friend, the traveling salesman, stood before
him and, with interrogating glance, asked tim-
idly and graciously:

"Isn't this Klang?"

Mister Jubal had a demoniacal fit ! Showing
all his teeth and opening his mouth wide, as if
he were taking a chest tone from the cavities in
his cranium, he bellowed a short "No!"

Then his friend understood him and went his
way. He was an enlightened man, knew life
and people and himself by heart. So he was
neither sad nor surprised.

But Mister Jubal thought so, and when he
heard these words within him: "Before the
cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice," he did
as Peter had done : he went off into an archway



and wept bitterly. This he himself did in his
mind, but the demon in his heart laughed.

After that day, he laughed mostly; laughed at
evil and good ; at sorrow and shame ; at every-
thing and everybody.

His father and mother knew — through the
newspapers of course — who Mr. Jubal was, but
they never went to the Opera ; for they thought
it was something with barrel hoops and horses,
and they did not wish to see their son there.

Mr. Jubal was now the greatest singer, and
he had certainly set aside a goodly portion of
his ego, but the will was still there.

Then he met his Waterloo! It was a little
girl in the ballet, who could bewitch men, and
Jubal, also, was bewitched — so badly bewitched
that he asked if he might be hers. . . . (He
meant, of course, that she should be his, but one
can't say that.)

"I'll let you be mine," said the witch, "if I

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Online LibraryAugust StrindbergEaster (a play in three acts) and stories from the Swedish of August Strindberg .. → online text (page 7 of 9)