"La Ronde" from Plays and Stories, by Arthur
Schnitzler. Copyright 1982 by the Continuum
Reprinted with permission.
THE PARLOR MAID
THE YOUNG GENTLEMAN
THE YOUNG WIFE
THE LITTLE MISS
THE TIME: The 1890s. THE PLACE: Vienna.
1 The Whore and the Soldier
Late in the evening. On the Augarten Bridge. Soldier on his way home, whistling.
WHORE: Want to come with me, Angel Face?
(Soldier turns round, then walks on.)
Wouldn't you like to come with me? SOLDIER: You mean me? Angel Face?!
WHORE: Who do you think? Come on. Come with me. I live near here.
SOLDIER: No time. Have to get back to the barracks.
WHORE: You'll get back to the barracks all right. But it's nicer with me.
SOLDIER (near her now): Yeah. Could be.
WHORE: Uh, ub! A cop might come.
SOLDIER: Nonsense! What's a cop? I got my sword on.
WHORE: Come on with me!
SOLDIER: Leave me alone. I got no money anyhow.
WHORE: I don't need any money.
SOLDIER (Stops. They are under a street lamp.): You don't need any money? Who are you for God's sake?
WHORE: Civilians have to pay, sure. A guy like you can get it from me for nothing.
SOLDIER: So you're the one Huher told me about…
WHORE: I don't know any Huber.
SOLDIER: Yes, you're the one. That's right. The cafe in the Schiff Gasse. Then he went home with you.
WHORE: The cafe' in the Schiff Gasse! I've taken plenty of guys home from there. Eh! (Her eyes tell how many.)
SOLDIER: Let's go then, let's go.
WHORE: What? You're in a hurry now?
SOLDIER: Well, what are we waiting for? I gotta be back in the barracks at ten.
WHORE: How long you been in the army?
SOLDIER: What business is that of yours? Live far from here?
WHORE: Ten minutes' walk.
SOLDIER: Too far. How about a little kiss?
WHORE (kisses him): I like that part the best. When I like a guy.
SOLDIER: I don't. No. I can't go with you. Too far.
WHORE: Tell you what. Come tomorrow. In the afternoon.
Soldier: Okay. Give me the address.
WHORE: Only-I bet you won't come.
SOLDIER: I told you I would, didn't I?
WHORE: Tell you what-if it's too far tonight-how about over there? (She points toward the Danube.)
SOLDIER: What's over there?
WHORE: Lovely and quiet there, too. No one around this late.
SOLDIER: Aw, that's no good.
WHORE: It's always good-with me. Come on, stay with me. Who knows if we'll still be around tomorrow?
SOLDIER: Okay, then. But let's make it snappy.
WHORE: Easy. It's so dark there. One slip, and you're in the Danube.
SOLDIER: Might be the best thing.
WHORE: Pst! Hey, wait a second. We're lust coming to a bench.
SOLDIER: You know your way around.
WHORE: Wish I had a guy like you for a boyfriend.
SOLDIER: I'd make you jealous too much.
WHORE: I'd know how to take care of that.
SOLDIER: Think so?
WHORE: Not so loud. Could be a cop around at that-he might be lost. Who'd think we were right in the middle of Vienna?
SOLDIER: Over here. Come on over here!
WHORE: What's got into you? If we slip, we're in the river!
SOLDIER (has grabbed hold of her): Ah! now
WHORE: Hold on tight now. SOLDIER: Don't worry…
* * * * *
WHORE: It'd have been a lot better on the bench.
SOLDIER: On the bench, off the bench . . . Well, you getting up?
WHORE: Where are you rushing off-
SOLDIER: Got to get back to the barracks. I'm late anyhow.
WHORE: Tell me, soldier-what's your name?
SOLDIER: What's my name got to do with you?
SOLDIER: Ha! That's a new one!
SOLDIER: Well, what do you want?
WHORE: How about a dime for the janitor?
SOLDIER: Ha! . . . What do you think I am? 'Bye now! Leocadia
WHORE: You crook! You son of a bitch!
(He is gone.)
2 The Soldier and the Parlor Maid
The Prater. Sunday evening. A path leading from the Wursteiprater- or amusement park~out into dark avenues of trees. The din of the amusement park is audible. So is the sound of the Fünfkreuzertanz- banal polka- played by a brass band. The Soldier. The Parlor Maid.
PARLOR MAID: Yes, but now you must tell me. Why were you in such a hurry to leave?
(Soldier laughs stupidly; he is embarrassed.)
I thought it was marvelous. I love dancing. (Soldier takes her by the waist. Parlor Maid lets him.)
But we're not dancing now. Why are you holding me so tight?
SOLDIER: What's your name? Kathi?
PARLOR MAID: You've got a Kathi on your mind.
SOLDIER: I know. I've got it: Marie.
PARLOR MAID: Look, it's dark here. I get so scared.
SOLDIER: Nothing to be afraid of with me around. Just leave it to uncle.
PARI.OR MAID: But where are we going to, though? There's no one around at all. Let's go back, come on! How dark it is!
SOLDIER (pulling at his Virginia cigar till the tip glows): See it get lighter? Ha! – my little treasure!
PARLOR MAID: Ooh! What are you doing? If I'd known this.
SOLDIER: Nice and soft! Damned if you're not the nicest and softest one in the whole bunch, Fräulein!
PARLOR MAID: What whole bunch?
SOLDIER: In there-in the Swoboda.
PARLOR MAID: You tried all of them?
SOLDIER: Oh, you notice. Dancing. You notice a lot of things. Ha!
PARLOR MAID: You danced with that blonde more than with me. The one with the crooked face.
SOLDIER: An old friend of a buddy of mine.
PARLOR MAID: You mean of that corporal with the turned-up mustache?
SOLDIER: Nah. The civilian. You know-the one at the table with me before. With the hoarse voice?
PARLOR MAID: Oh, yes. I know. He's pretty fresh.
SOLDIER: Did he try something with you? I'll show the bastard. What did he try?
PARLOR MAID: Oh, nothing. I just saw how he was with the other girls.
SOLDIER: Now, Fräulein, tell me.
PARLOR MAID: Ooh! You'll burn me with that cigar.
SOLDIER: Oh, so sorry! Fräulein-or can I call you . . . Marie?
PARLOR MAID: We haven't known each other very long.
SOLDIER: Hell, there's lots of people can't stand each other and still use first names.
PARLOR MAID: Let's make it next time, when. . . . You see, Herr Franz…
SOLDIER: You remembered my name!
PARLOR MAID: You see, Herr Franz...
SOlDIER: Make it just-Franz, Fräulein.
PARLOR MAID: Well then don't be so fresh. Sh! What if somebody comes!
SOLDIER: What if they do? You can't see two feet in front of you.
PARLOR MAID: But, heavens, where are we going?
SOLDIER: Look! There's two just like us.
PARLOR MAID: Where? I can't see a thing.
SOLDIER: There. Right up there.
PARLOR MAID: What do you say like us for?
SOLDIER: Oh, I only mean-they kinda like each other.
PARLOR MAID: Hey, watch out! What was that? I nearly fell.
SOLDIER: it's these railings they put round the grass.
PARLOR MAID: Don't push so hard. I'll fall right over.
SOLDIER: Sh! Not so loud!
PARLOR MAID: Look now I'm really going to scream! What are you doing . . . hey
SOLDIER: There's no one for miles around.
PARLOR MAID: Let's go back with the rest of them.
SOLDIER: But we don't need them, Marie, what we need is ub, huh
PARLOR MAID: Herr Franz, please! For Heaven's sake!! Now listen, if I'd had . . . any idea . . . oh! . . . oh!! . . . yes
* * * *
SOLDIER (blissfully): Jesus Christ Almighty! . . . Ah-h!
PARLOR MAID: . . . I can't see your face at all.
SOLDIER: My face? . . . Hell!
* * * * *
SOLDIER: Now look, Fräulein, you can't stay in the grass all night.
PARLOR MAID: Oh, come on, Franz, help me up!
SOLDIER: Okay. (He grabs her.) Oops!
PARLOR MAID: Oh dear, Franz!
SOLDIER: Yes, yes? What's the matter with Franz?
PARLOR MAID: You're a bad man, Franz.
SOLDIER: Oh, so that's it? Hey, wait for me!
PARLOR MAID: What do you let me go for?
SOLDIER: Can't I get this cigar lit for God's sake?
PARLOR MAID: It's so dark.
SOLDIER: Well, tomorrow it'll be light again.
PARLOR MAID: At least tell me-do you like me?
SOLDIER: I thought you might have noticed! (He laughs.)
PARLOR MAID: Where are we going?
SOLDIER: Why, back!
PARLOR MAID: Oh, please, Franz, not so quick!
SOLDIER: What's the matter? I don't like running around in the dark.
PARLOR MAID: Tell me, Franz, do you . . . like me?
SOLDIER: I just told you I liked you.
PARLOR MAID: Come on then, give me little kiss.
SOLDIER (condescending): Here . . . listen! You can hear that music again.
PARLOR MAID: You probably want to go dancing again.
SOLDIER: Sure. What else?
PARLOR MAID: Well, Franz, look, I must be getting back. They'll gripe anyhow, the lady of the house is such a . . . she'd like it best if we never went out at all.
SOLDIER: Sure. You go home then.
PARLOR MAID: Herr Franz! I thought . . . you might take me.
SOLDIER: Home? Eh! (The open vowel indicating disgust.)
PARLOR MAID: Oh, please, it's so dreary-going home alone!
SOLDIER: Where do you live?
PARLOR MAID: It's not far-Porzellan Gasse.
SOLDIER: Oh! Then we go the same way. . . . But it's too early for me! I want some fun. I got a late pass tonight. Don't have to be back in the barracks till twelve. I'm going dancing.
PARLOR MAID: I see how it is. It's that blonde. The one with the crooked face.
SOLDIER: Ha! . . . Her face ain't so bad.
PARLOR MAID: Heavens, you men are wicked! I bet you do this to every girl.
SOLDIER: That'd be too much!
PARLOR MAID: Franz, do me a favor. Not tonight-stay just with me tonight, look
SOLDIER: Okay, okay. But I can dance for a while first, I suppose?
PARLOR MAID: Tonight I'm not dancing with anyone else.
SOLDIER: Here it is.
PARLOR MAID: What?
SOLDIER: The Swoboda! How quickly we got back, huh? And they're still playing that thing. (Singing at the band.) Tatatatum, tatatatum! . . . All right, if you want to wait, I'll take you home. If you don't, I'll be saying good night.
PARLOR MAID: I think I'll wait.
SOLDIER: Why don't you get yourself a glass of beer? (Turning to a blonde, dancing by with her boy, putting on a "refined" accent.) May I have the pleasure?
3 The Parlor Maid and the Young Gentleman
A hot summer afternoon. His parents are off in the country. The cook is having her half-day. In the kitchen the Parlor Maid is writing the Soldier a letter; he is her lover. There is a ring from the Young Gentleman's room. She gets up and goes into the Young Gentleman's room. The Young Gentleman is lying on the sofa with cigarette and French novel.
PARLOR MAID: You rang, Herr Alfred?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Oh, Yes . . . Marie . . . yes, I did ring as
a matter of fact. . . . Now what was it? . . . Oh, I know, let
the blinds down, Marie, will you? . . . It's cooler with the blinds
down . . . don't you think?
(Parlor Maid goes to the window and lets the Venetian blinds down.)
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (goes on reading): What are you doing, Marie? That's right. Oh, but now I can't see to read.
PARLOR MAID: The way you always study so, Herr Alfred!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (passing over this loftily): That'Il be all, thanks.
(The Parlor Maid goes out.
The Young Gentleman tries to go on reading; soon lets
the book fall; rings again.
The Parlor Maid is in the doorway.)
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Look, Marie. . . now, um, what I was going to say . . . well . . . yes, is there any cognac in the house?
PARLOR MAID: Yes, Herr Alfred. But it's locked up.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Oh. Well, who has the key?
PARLOR MAID: Lini has the key.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Who's Lini?
PARLOR MAID: The cook, Herr Alfred.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Oh. Then go and tell Lini.
PARLOR MAID: Well . . . Lini's having her half day.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Oh.
PARLOR MAID: Shall 1 run over to the cafe for you, Herr Alfred?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Oh, no. . . hot enough as it is.1 don't need cognac anyway. Listen, Marie, just bring me a glass of water. Wait, Marie-let it run, hm? Till it's quite cold?
(The Parlor Maid goes.
The Young Gentleman is watching her go when the Parlor Maid turns round at the door. The Young Gentleman stares in to space. The Parlor Maid turns the faucet on and lets the water run. Meanwhile she goes to her little room, washes her hands, and arranges her curls in the mirror. Then she brings the Young Gentleman the glass of water. She walks to the sofa.
The Young Gentleman raises himself part way. The Parlor Maid puts the glass in his hand. Their fingers touch.)
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Oh. Thanks . . . Well, what is it? Now be careful. Put the glass back on the tray. . . . (He lies back and stretches out.) What's the time?
PARLOR MAID: Five o'clock, Herr Alfred.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: I see. Five. Thank you.
(The Parlor Maid goes; at the door, she turns; the Young Gentleman is looking; she notices and smiles.
The Young Gentleman lies where he is for a while, then suddenly gets up. He walks to the door; then returns and lies down on the sofa. He tries to read again. In a couple of minutes, he again rings.
The Parlor Maid enters with a smile which she makes no attempt to hide.)
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Look, Marie, what I was going to ask you didn't Dr. Schueller call this morning?
PARLOR MAID: No. No one called this morning.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Well. That's strange. So Dr. Schueller didn't call? You know him-Dr. Schueller?
PARLOR MAID: Oh, yes. The tall gentleman with the big black heard.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Yes. Then maybe he did call?
PARLOR MAID: No. No one called, Herr Alfred.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (taking the plunge): Come here, Marie.
PARLOR ~IAID (coming a little closer): Yes, Herr Alfred?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Closer . . . yes . . . um. . . I only thought
PARLOR MAID: Yes, Herr Alfred?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Thought . . . I thought . . . about that blouse. What kind is it? . . . Oh, come on, closer. I won't bite you.
(Parlor Maid comes.)
PARLOR MAID: What's this about my blouse? You don't like it, Herr Alfred?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (takes hold of the blouse and, in so doing, pulls the Parlor Maid down on him): Blue, is it? Yes, what a lovely blue! (Simply.) You're very nicely dressed, Marie.
PARLOR MAID: But, Herr Alfred!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Well, what? (He's opened the blouse. Matter-of-fact.) You've got lovely white skin, Marie.
PARLOR MAID: I think you're flattering me, Herr Alfred.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (kissing her bosom): This can't hurt you, can it?
PARLOR MAID: Oh no!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: How you're sighing! Why do you sigh like that?
PARLOR MAID: Oh, Herr Alfred
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: And what nice slippers you have on
PARLOR MAID: . . . but . . . Herr Alfred . . . if the doorbell rings
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Who'd ring at this hour?
PARLOR MAID: But, Herr Alfred . . . you see, it's so light!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Oho, you needn't be embarrassed with me! You needn't be embarrassed with anybody . . . pretty as you are! I swear you are, Marie! You know, your hair has such a pleasant smell.
PARLOR MAID: Herr Alfred
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Don't make such a fuss, Marie. I've seen you quite different. When I came in late the other night, and went for a glass of water, the door to your room was open yes
PARLOR MAID (hides her face): Heavens, I'd no idea you could be so naughty, Herr Alfred.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: I saw a great, great deal . . . this . . . and this . . . and this . . . and …
PARLOR MAID: Herr Alfred!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Come on. . . here. . . that's right, yes…
PARLOR MAID: But if
anyone rings …
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Now stop it, for Heaven's sake. We won't go to the door.
* * * * *
The doorbell rings.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Christ Almighty! . . . What a racket the man makes! Maybe he rang before, and we just didn't notice anything.
PARLOR MAID: Oh, I kept my ears open the whole time.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Well, now, go and see-through the peephole.
PARLOR MAID: Herr Alfred. . . You are . . . No! . . . a naughty man!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Now please, go take a look. (The Parlor Maid goes. The Young Gentleman quickly pulls up the Venetian blinds.)
PARLOR MAID (comes back): Whoever it was, he's gone away again. There's no one there. Maybe it was Dr. Schueller.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (disagreeably affected): That'll be all, thanks.
(The Parlor Maid comes closer.)
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (retreating): Look, Marie, I'm going. To the cafe.
PARLOR MAID (tenderly): So soon . . . Herr Alfred?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (severely): I'm going to the cafe-. If Dr. Schueller should come here
PARLOR MAID: He won't be here today.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (more severely): If Dr. Schueller should come
here, I…I'm in the cafe. (He goes into the next room.)
(The Parlor Maid takes a cigar from the smoking table, slips it
in her pocket, and goes out.)
4 The Young Gentleman and the Young Wife
Evening. A drawing room in a house in the Schwind Gasse, furnished with cheap elegance.
The Young Gentleman has just come in and, still in hat and overcoat, lights the candles. Then he opens the door into the next room and glances in. The glow of the candles in the drawing room falls on the parquet floor and makes its way to the four-poster against the rear wall; a reddish glow from the fireplace in a corner of the bedroom is thrown on the bed curtains.
The Young Gentleman also inspects the bedroom. He takes an atomizer from the dressing table and sprays the pillows with a fine stream of violet perfume. Then he goes with the spray through both rooms, squeezing the little bulb the whole time, so that soon the whole place smells of violets. He takes off hat and overcoat, sits down in a blue velvet armchair, lights a cigarette, and smokes. After a short while he gets up to make sure that the green shutters are drawn. Suddenly he goes back to the bedroom, opens the drawer of the bedside table, feels around till he finds a tortoise shell hairpin. He looks round for a place to hide it and finally puts it in his overcoat pocket. Then he opens a cupboard in the drawing room, takes out a silver tray, a cognac bottle, and two liqueur glasses, and puts it all on the table. He goes back to his overcoat and fishes out a small white parcel, which he opens and puts next to the cognac bottle. He returns to the cupboard and takes out two dessert plates, knives, and forks. From the small parcel he extracts a marron glace and eats it. Then he pours himself a glass of cognac and quickly drinks it down. He looks at his watch. He paces the room. In front of the large mirror on the wall he stops for a while, smoothing his hair and little moustache with a pocket comb. He goes to the door to the hall and listens-not a sound. He draws the blue curtains screening the door to the bedroom. The doorbell rings. The Young Gentleman gives a start. He drops into an armchair and only rises when the door opens and the Young Wife enters.
The Young Wife thickly veiled, shuts the door behind her and stands for a moment with her left hand on her heart, as though she had to master intense emotion.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (goes to her, takes her left hand, and imprints a kiss on the white, black-trimmed glove; softly): I thank you.
YOUNG WIFE: Alfred-Alfred!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN. Come in, dear lady . . . come in, Frau Emma.
YOUNG WIFE: Let me alone for a moment, please-oh, please, Alfred!
(She stays close by the door.
The Young Gentleman stands before her, holding her hand.)
YOUNG WIFE: But where am I, actually?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: In my flat.
YOUNG WIFE: This building is a horror, Alfred.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Why? It's very dignified.
YOUNG WIFE: I met two men on the stairs.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: People you know?
YOUNG WIFE: I don't know. Maybe.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Forgive me- you must know who you know!
YOUNG WIFE: But I didn't see a thing.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Even if they'd been your best friends, they couldn't have recognized you. Even I . . . if I didn't know it was you . . . this veil
YOUNG WIFE: There are two.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Won't you come a bit closer in? And anyway do take off your hat.
YOUNG WIFE: What are you thinking of, Alfred? I told you-five minutes. No, not a second more! I swear
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Then the veil!
YOUNG WIFE: There are two.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Oh, well, both veils then-at least I'm allowed to see you!
YOUNG WIFE: Do you really love me, Alfred?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (deeply hurt): Emma, can you ask .
YOUNG WIFE: It's so hot in here.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: But you still have your fur cape on-you're going to catch cold!
YOUNG WIFE (at last steps into the room, throwing herself into an armchair): I'm dead tired.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Permit me.
(He takes her veil off, takes out the hatpin, puts hat, pin, and veils down side by side on the sofa.
The Young Wife lets it happen.
The Young Gentleman stands before her, shaking his
YOUNG WIFE: What's the matter with you?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Never were you so beautiful!
YOUNG WIFE: How's that?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Alone. . . alone with you. . . Emma (He sinks on one knee beside the armchair, takes both her hands and covers them with kisses.)
YOUNG WIFE: And now . . . let me go. I have done what you asked.
(The Young Gentleman drops his head on to her lap.)
YOUNG WIFE: You promised me that you'd be good.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Yes.
YOUNG WIFE: This room's stifling.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN gets up. You still have your cape on.
YOUNG WIFE: Put it with my hat.
(The Young Gentleman takes off her cape and puts it on the sofa along with the hat and the other things.)
YOUNG WIFE: And now-adieu-
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Emma!
YOUNG WIFE: The five minutes are up.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: No, no! You haven't been here one minute yet!
YOUNG WIFE: Alfred, please, tell me exactly what time it is.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Quarter past six, on the nose.
YOUNG WIFE: I should have been at my sister's long ago.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: You can see your sister any time.
YOUNG WIFE: Oh God, Alfred, why did you get me to do this?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Because I . . . worship you, Emma.
YOUNG WIFE: How many women have you said that to?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Since I saw you, to none.
YOUNG WIFE: What a frivolous woman I am! If anyone had told me-a week ago . . . or even yesterday
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: It was the day before yesterday you promised
YOUNG WIFE: Because you kept tormenting me. But I didn't want to, God is my witness-I didn't want to. Yesterday I'd made up my mind. . . . Do you know I even wrote you a long letter last night?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: I didn't get it.
YOUNG WIFE: I tore it up. I should have sent it after all!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: It's better like this.
YOUNG WIFE: No, it's scandalous . . . of me. I can't understand myself. Good-bye, Alfred, let me go.
(The Young Gentleman takes her in his arms and covers
her face with hot kisses.)
YOUNG WIFE: So this is . . . how you keep your promise?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: One more kiss! Just one.
YOUNG WIFE: The last!
(He kisses her, she reciprocates, and their lips stay together a long time.)
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: May I tell you something, Emma? It is only now that I know what happiness is.
(The Young Wife sinks back in an armchair.)
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (sits on the arm of the chair, putting his arm gently round her neck.) . . . Or rather, only now do I know what happiness might be.
(The Young Wife gives a profound sigh.
The Young Gentleman kisses her again.)
YOUNG WIFE: Alfred, Alfred, what are you making me into? YOUNG GENTLEMAN: It's not really so uncomfortable here, is it?
And we are so safe. It's a thousand times better than meeting in the open air.
YOUNG WIFE: Oh, don't remind me.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Even those meetings 1 shall think of with delight! Every minute I've had the privilege of spending at your side will linger forever as a Sweet memory.
YOUNG WIFE: You remember the Industrial Ball?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Do I remember? . . . But didn't I sit next to you during supper-right up close? The champagne your husband-(The Young Wife gives him a look of protest.)
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: I was only going to mention the champagne! Tell me, Emma, wouldn't you like a glass of cognac?
YOUNG WIFE: Maybe just a drop. But first let me have a glass of water.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Yes . . . now, where is . . . Oh yes. (He draws the curtains back from the door and goes into the bedroom.
The Young Wife looks after him.
The Young Gentleman returns with a filled decanter and two glasses.)
YOUNG WIFE: Where were you?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: In the-next room.
(He pours a glass of water for her.)
YOUNG WIFE: Now I'm going to ask you something, Alfred, and you must swear to tell the truth.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: I swear
YOUNG WIFE: Was there ever another woman in these rooms?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: But, Emma, this house has been around for twenty years!
YOUNG WIFE: You know what I mean, Alfred. . . with you
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: With me, here? Emma! It's not nice for you to think about such things.
YOUNG WIFE: Then you have . . . how shall I . . . ? But no, I'd better not ask you. It's better if I don't ask. It's my own fault. Everything takes its revenge.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: But what is it? What's the matter with you? What takes revenge?
YOUNG WIFE: No, no, no, I mustn't return to consciousness- I'd sink into the ground for very shame.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (still with the decanter in his hand, sadly shakes his head): Emma, if only you had any idea how you hurt me!
(The Young Wife pours herself a glass of cognac.)
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: I'll tell you something, Emma. If you're ashamed to be here-that's to say, if I'm nothing to you-if you don't feel that you mean all the bliss in the world to me-then leave. Leave.
YOUNG WIFE: That is just what I'll do.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (seizing her hand): But if you realize that I can't live without you, that to kiss your hand means more to me than all the caresses of all the women in the whole world. Emma, I'm not like the other young men who know how .
this sort of thing is done . . . call me naive if you wish ... I...
YOUNG WIFE: But what if you were like the other young men?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Then you wouldn't be here now: you aren't like the other young women.
YOUNG WIFE: How do you know?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (has drawn her on to the sofa and sits down close beside her): I've thought a lot about you. I know you're unhappy.
(The Young Wife looks pleased.)
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Life is so empty, so trivial. And so short. Isn't life frightfully short, Emma? There is only one happiness: to find someone who loves you.
(The Young Wife has taken a candied pear from the table and puts it into her mouth.)
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Give me half!
(She offers it to him with her lips.
Young Wife takes the Young Gentleman's hands, which threaten to go astray.) What are you doing, Alfred? Is this your promise?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (swallows the candied fruit, then says more boldly): Life is so short!
YOUNG WIFE (feebly): But that's no reason
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (mechanically): Oh, but it is.
YOUNG WIFE (more feebly): Now look, Alfred, you promised to be good. . . . And it's so light.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Come, come, my only one, my only. (He lifts her off the sofa.)
YOUNG WIFE: What are you doing?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: It's not light in there.
YOUNG WIFE: Is there another room?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (taking her with him): A lovely one. . . and quite dark.
YOUNG WIFE: I'd rather stay here.
(The Young Gentleman has already got her through the curtains and in the bedroom; he begins to unhook her dress at the waist.)
YOUNG WIFE: You're so . . . Oh God, what are you doing to me? . . . Alfred!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Emma, I worship you!
YOUNG WIFE: Wait, please, at least wait . . . (weakly) Go, I'll call you
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Let me . . . let you help me . . . let me . . . help . . . you
YOUNG WIFE: But you're tearing everything!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Don't you wear a corset?
YOUNG WIFE: I never wear a corset. Neither does Duse, incidentally. You can unbutton my boots.
(The Young Gentleman unbuttons her boots, kisses her feet.)
YOUNG WIFE (slipping into the bed): Oooh, I'm cold.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: It'll get warm.
YOUNG WIFE (laughing softly): You think so?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (not liking this, to himself): She shouldn't have said that! (He undresses in the dark.)
YOUNG WIFE (tenderly): Come, come, come.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (in a better mood at once): At once
YOUNG WIFE: It smells of violets here.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: It's you. . . yes (close by her) . . . you.
YOUNG WIFE: Alfred . . . Alfred!!!!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Emma
* * * * *
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: I must be too much in love with you that's why . . . I'm nearly out of my senses.
YOUNG WIFE: …
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: All these past days I've been going crazy. I felt it coming.
YOUNG WIFE: Don't worry your head about it.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Of course not, you can almost take it for granted when a man .
YOUNG WIFE: Don't . . . don't . . . You're nervous. Just relax .
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: You know Stendhal?
YOUNG WIFE: Stendhal?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: His book De l'amour.
YOUNG WIFE: No. Why do you ask?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: There's a story in it that's most significant.
YOUNG WIFE: What sort of story?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: A bunch of officers have gotten together...
YOUNG WIFE: Oh.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: And they talk about their love affairs. And everyone says that with the woman he loved most . . . most passionately, you know . . . she made him . . . with her he well, the fact is, it happened to every one of them what happened to me with you.
YOUNG WIFE: I see.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: This is very typical.
YOUNG WIFE: Yes.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: But that's not all. One of them claims it has never happened to him in all his life. But-Stendhal adds-this man was a notorious show-off.
YOUNG WIFE: Oh.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: All the same, it kind of throws you, that's the stupid thing about it, even if it doesn't really matter.
YOUNG WIFE: Naturally. Anyway . . . you promised to be good.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Please don't laugh! That won't improve things.
YOUNG WIFE: I'm not laughing. This Stendhal story's very interesting. I'd always thought it happened only with older men or with very . . . well, you know, men who've been too fast.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: What an idea! That has nothing to do with it. By the way, I forgot the most charming story in the Stendhal. A lieutenant of hussars even says that he spent three nights-or was it six? I can't remember-with a woman he'd been wanting for weeks- desire and all that-and all those nights they didn't do a thing but cry with happiness-both of them.
YOUNG WIFE: Both of them?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Both of them. Does that surprise you? I find it so understandable. Specially when you're in love.
YOUNG WIFE: But there must be a lot who don't cry.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (nervously): Surely . . . after all, it was an exceptional case.
YOUNG WIFE: Oh . . . I thought Stendhal says all hussars cry on these occasions.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: There, you're just making fun.
YOUNG WIFE: Not in the least. Don't be so childish, Alfred.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: I can't help it, it makes me nervous . . . and I have the feeling you're thinking of it the whole time. I'm embarrassed.
YOUNG WIFE: I am not thinking about it.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: You are. If I could only be sure you love me!
YOUNG WIFE: Do you want better proof than . . .
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: You see! You're always making fun of me.
YOUNG WIFE: Not at all! Come, give me your sweet little head.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Oh, this is good.
YOUNG WIFE: Do you love me?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Oh, I'm so happy!
YOUNG WIFE: But no need to cry, too!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (moves away, highly irritated): Again, again! Didn't I beg you?
YOUNG WIFE: I said you shouldn't cry, that was all
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: You said "No need to cry."
YOUNG WIFE: You're nervous, my dear.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: I know that.
YOUNG WIFE: You shouldn't be. It's rather nice that . . . that we-that we-we're . . . comrades, as you might say ..
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Now you're starting over.
YOUNG WIFE: Don't you remember? It was one of our very first talks: we wanted to be . . . "just comrades." . . . Oh, it was lovely that time . . . at my sister's, in January, at the great ball
during the quadrille. . . . For Heaven's sake, I should have left long ago! My sister will be waiting-what shall I tell her? Adieu, Alfred. .
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Emma! You're going to leave me like this?
YOUNG WIFE: Yes. Like this!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Just another five minutes .
YOUNG WIFE: All right, five minutes. But you must promise me to keep quite still . . . Yes? . . . I'm going to give you a goodbye kiss . . . Ssh. . . keep still, as I told you, or I'll get right up. My sweet . . . sweet .
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Emma .... I worsh-
** * * *
YOUNG WIFE: Darling Alfred .
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Oh, it's heaven with you!
YOUNG WIFE: But now I really must go.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Oh, let your sister wait.
YOUNG WIFE: I must go home. It's too late for my sister. What time is it now?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: How'd I find that out?
YOUNG WIFE: By looking at your watch!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: But it's in my waistcoat.
YOUNG WIFE: Well, get it.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (gets up with a mighty heave): Eight.
YOUNG WIFE (rising hastily): For Heaven's sake! Quick, Alfred, my stockings-whatever shall I say? They'll be waiting for me at home . . . eight o'clock!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: When do I see you next?
YOUNG WIFE: Never.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Emma! Don't you still love me?
YOUNG WIFE: That's why. Give me my boots.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Never again? . . . Here are the boots.
YOUNG WIFE: There's a buttonhook in my pocket book. Please hurry
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Here's the buttonhook.
YOUNG WIFE: Alfred, this can cost us both our necks!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (not liking this at all): Why?!
YOUNG WIFE: Well, what can I tell him when he asks me where I've been?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: At your sister's.
YOUNG WIFE: Yes, if only I were a good liar.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: You'll lust have to be.
YOUNG WIFE: All this for a man like you . . . Come here. Let me give you another kiss. (She embraces him.) And now leave me alone, go in the other room, I can't dress with you around.
(The Young Gentleman goes to the drawing room and gets dressed. He eats a little of the pastry, drinks a glass of cognac.)
YOUNG WIFE (after a while, calling out): Alfred!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Yes, my treasure?
YOUNG WIFE: Maybe it's good we didn't just cry.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (smiles, not without pride): How can you treat it so lightly.
YOUNG WIFE: What will it be like if we meet at a party one day-by chance?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: One day? By chance? Surely you'll be at the Lobheimers' tomorrow?
YOUNG WIFE: Yes. Will you?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Of course. May I ask for the cotillion?
YOUNG WIFE: Oh, I won't go. How can you think . . . ? Why . . . (She enters the drawing room, fully dressed, and takes a chocolate pastry.) . . . I'd sink into the ground!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Well, tomorrow at the Lobheimers'. That's lovely.
YOUNG WIFE: No, no, I'll send word I can't come. . . . Definitely.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: Then the day after tomorrow-here.
YOUNG WIFE: What an idea!
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: At six.
YOUNG WIFE: There are cabs at the corner, aren't there?
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: As many as you like. Then it's day after tomorrow, six o'clock, here. Say yes, my dearest treasure.
YOUNG WIFE: . . . We'll talk it over tomorrow-during the cotillion.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (embracing her): Angel!
YOUNG WIFE: Don't spoil my hairdo again.
YOUNG GENTLEMAN: So it's tomorrow at the Lobheimers' and the day after-in my arms.
YOUNG WIFE: Good-bye
YOUNG GENTLEMAN (suddenly worried again): And what are you going to tell him tonight?
YOUNG WIFE: Don't ask . . . don't ask . . . it's too dreadful. Why do I love you so? Good-bye. If I meet people on the stairs again, I shall have a stroke.
(The Young Gentleman kisses her hand yet again.
The Young Wife goes.
Young Gentleman left alone. He sits down on the sofa.
Then he smiles away to himself.) Well, now I'm having
an affair with a respectable woman!
5 The Young Wife and the Husband
A comfortable bedroom. It is ten thirty at night. The Young Wife is lying in bed, reading. The Husband comes into the room in his bathrobe.
YOUNG WIFE (without looking up): You've stopped working?
HUSHANI): Yes. I'm too tired. And besides .
YOUNG WIFE: Yes?
HUSBAND: I suddenly felt so lonely at my desk. I began longing for you.
YOUNG WIFE (looks up): Really?
HUSBAND (sits by her on her bed): Don't read any more tonight. You'll ruin your eyes.
YOUNG WIFE (closes the book): What's the matter?
HUSBAND: Nothing, my child. I'm in love with you. But you know that.
YOUNG WIFE: One might almost forget it sometimes.
HUSBAND: One even has to forget it sometimes.
YOUNG WIFE: Why?
HUSBAND: Marriage would be imperfect otherwise. It would-how shall I put it? it would lose its sanctity.
YOUNG WIFE: Oh…
HUSBAND: Believe me-it's true. . . . If in the course of the five years we've been married we hadn't sometimes forgotten we're in love with one another, we probably wouldn't be in love any more.
YOUNG WIFE: That's over my head.
HUSBAND: The fact is simply this: we've had something like ten or twelve different love affairs with one another . . . isn't that how it seems to you?
YOUNG WIFE: I haven't kept count.
HUSBAND: If we'd pushed our first affair to the limit, if I'd blindly surrendered myself to my passion for you from the beginning, we'd have gone the way of millions of others. We'd be through by now.
YOUNG WIFE: I see what you mean.
HUSBAND: Believe me-Emma-in the first days of our marriage I was afraid it would turn out that way.
YOUNG WIFE: So was I.
HUSBAND: You see? Wasn't I right? That's why it's best-from time to time-to live together just as friends.
YOUNG WIFE: Oh, I see.
HUSBAND: That way we can always keep having new honeymoons, because I never risk letting the weeks of the honeymoon
YOUNG WIFE: . . . run into months.
YOUNG WIFE: And now it seems . . . another of those periods of friendship has come to an end?
HUSBAND (tenderly pressing her to him): It could be so!
YOUNG WIFE: But suppose it was different-with me?
HUSBAND: It isn't different with you. You're the cleverest creature alive-and the most bewitching. I'm very happy to have found you.
YOUNG WIFE: How nice that you do know how to court a woman-from time to time.
HUSBAND (has got into bed): For a man who's seen the world a bit-come, put your head on my shoulder-seen the world a bit, marriage means something far more mysterious than to girls from good families like you. You come to us pure and-at least to a certain degree-ignorant, and so you have in reality a much clearer view of the true nature of love than we have.
YOUNG WIFE (laughing): Oh!
HUSBAND: Certainly. Because we're insecure-confused by the many varied experiences we have before marriage-unavoidably. You women hear a lot, and know too much, I'm afraid you read too much too, but you can never have an accurate conception of what we men have to go through. What's commonly called love is made utterly repellent to us- because, after all, what are the poor creatures we have to resort to?
YOUNG WIFE: Yes, what are the poor creatures you have to resort to?
HUSBAND (kisses her on the forehead): Be glad, my child, that you never had a glimpse of these circles. Most of them are rather pitiable beings, incidentally. Let us not cast the first stone!
YOUNG WIFE: You pity them? That doesn't seem quite right.
HUSBAND (with fine mildness): They deserve it. You girls from good families, who can quietly wait beneath the parental roof till a decent man proposes to you-you don't know the misery that drives those poor creatures into the arms of sin.
YOUNG WIFE: They all sell themselves, then?
HUSBAND: I wouldn't quite say that. And I'm not thinking merely of material misery. There is also-one might say-a moral misery: an insufficient grasp of what is . . . proper, and especially of what is noble.
YOUNG WIFE: But why should we pity them? Don't they have rather a nice time of it?
HUSBAND: You have peculiar opinions, my child. Don't forget that these creatures are destined by nature to sink forever lower and lower and lower. There is no stopping it.
YOUNG WIFE (snuggles up to him): Sinking sounds rather nice!
HUSBAND (pained): How can you say such a thing, Emma? I should have thought there could be nothing more repellent to a decent woman than the thought of
YOUNG WIFE: Yes, that's true, Karl, of course. I said it without thinking. Tell me more. it's so nice when you talk like this. Tell me more.
HUSBAND: What about?
YOUNG WI FE: About-those creatures!
HUSBAND: But what an idea!
YOUNG WIFE: Look, I asked you before, didn't I, right at the be-ginning I kept asking you to tell me about your youth.
HUSBAND: Why does that interest you?
YOUNG WIFE: Aren't you my husband? And isn't it positively unfair that I know absolutely nothing about your past?
HUSBAND: I hope you don't think I'd . . . in such bad taste No, Emma! It would be profanation!
YOUNG WIFE: And yet you've . . . held any number of other young ladies in your arms, the way you're holding me now.
HUSBAND: "Young ladies!" You're a lady
YOUNG WIFE: There's one question you must answer. Or else or else . . . no honeymoon.
HUSBAND: You've a way of talking . . . remember, my child, you're a mother-our little girl is sleeping in there.
YOUNG WIFE (pressing herself to him): But I want a boy too.
YOUNG WIFE: Oh, don't be so . . . Of course, I'm your wife, but I'd like to be-your mistress, sort of.
HUSBAND: You would?
YOUNG WIFE: First my question!
HUSBAND (accommodating): What is it?
YOUNG WIFE: Was there a-a married woman-among them?
HUSBAND: What? How do you mean?
YOUNG WIFE: You know.
HUSBAND (somewhat disturbed): What makes you ask?
YOUNG WIFE: I'd like to know if there . . . I mean . . . there are women like that, I know . . . But have you
HUSBAND (gravely): Do you know any such woman?
YOUNG WIFE: Well, I can't tell.
HUSBAND: Is there such a woman among your friends?
YOUNG WIFE: Well, how could I say yes-or no- and be sure?
HUSBAND: Has one of your women friends . . . People talk a lot when they. . . women among themselves. . . has one of them confessed . . . ?
YOUNG WIFE (uncertainly): No.
HUSBAND: Do you suspect that one of your friends
YOUNG WIFE: Suspect . . . well . . . suspect
HUSBAND: It seems you do!
YOUNG WIFE: Definitely not, Karl. Most certainly not. Now I think it over, I wouldn't believe it of one of them.
HUSBAND: Not one?
YOUNG WIFE: Of friends-not one.
HUSBAND: Promise me something, Emma.
YOUNG WIFE: Well?
HUSBAND: Promise you'll never go around with a woman if you have the slightest suspicion that . . . her life is not beyond reproach.
YOUNG WIFE: You need a promise for that?
HUSBAND: I know, of course, that you would never seek contact with such women. But by chance you might . . It frequently happens that women who don't enjoy the best reputation seek the company of respectable women, partly for contrast and partly out of a certain-how shall I put it?-out of a certain nostalgia for virtue.
YOUNG WIFE: I see.
HUSBAND: Yes, I believe it's very true, what I just said. Nostalgia for virtue! For there's one thing you can be sure of: in reality all these women are very unhappy.
YOUNG WIFE: Why?
HUSBAND: How can you ask, Emma? Only imagine what sort of existence they have to lead. Full of meanness, lies, treachery-and full of danger!
YOUNG WIFE: Oh yes. I'm sure you're right.
HUSBAND: Indeed, they pay for that bit of happiness . . . that bit of...
YOUNG WIFE: . . . pleasure.
HUSBAND: Pleasure? What makes you call it pleasure?
YOUNG WIFE: Well, it's something, or they wouldn't do it.
HUSBAND: It's nothing. Mere intoxication.
YOUNG WIFE (thoughtfully): Mere intoxication.
HUSBAND: Not even intoxication. But one thing is certain-it's bought at a price!
YOUNG WIFE: Then. . you do know what you're talking about?
HUSBAND: Yes, Emma. It's my saddest memory.
YOUNG WIFE: Who was it? Tell me. Do I know her?
HUSBAND: Emma! What are you thinking of?
YOUNG WIFE: Was it long ago? Very long before you married me?
HUSBAND: Don't ask. Please, don't ask.
YOUNG WIFE: But Karl!
HUSBAND: She is dead.
YOUNG WIFE: Honestly?
HUSBAND: Yes . . . It may sound ridiculous, but I have the feeling that all these women die young.
YOUNG WIFE: Did you love her very much?
HUSBAND: Can a man love a liar?
YOUNG WIFE: Then, why … ?
YOUNG WIFE: Then you did. . .
HUSBAND: Please, don't talk about it. All that is long past. I've only loved one woman: you. A man can only love where he finds purity and truth.
YOUNG WIFE: Karl!
HUSBAND: Oh how safe, how good a man feels in these arms! Why didn't I know you as a child? I'm sure I'd never have looked at another woman.
YOUNG WIFE: Karl!
HUSBAND: You're beautiful . . . beautiful . . . Oh! (He puts the light out.)
* * *
YOUNG WIFE: You know what I can't help thinking of tonight?
HUSBAND: What, my treasure?
YOUNG WIFE: Of... of. . . of Venice.
HUSBAND: The first night
YOUNG WIFE: Yes . . . Like that
HUSBAND: What is it? Tell me.
YOUNG WIFE: Tonight . . . that's how you love me tonight.
HUSBAND: Yes, that's how I love you.
YOUNG WIFE: Ah . . . if you could always
HUSBAND (in her arms): Yes?
YOUNG WIFE: Oh Karl dear!
HUSBAND: What was it you wanted to say? If I could always . . . ?
YOUNG WIFE: Well, yes.
HUSBAND: Well, what would happen if I could always . . . ?
YOUNG WIFE: Then I'd always know you love me.
HUSBAND: Yes. But you know it anyhow. A man can't always be the loving husband: "a man must go out into this hostile life, take with him high goals, and learn the meaning of strife!" *
Always remember this, my child. In marriage there's a time for
everything-that's the beauty of it. There aren't many who still
remember their Venice after five years.
YOUNG WIFE: No, of course not!
HUSBAND: And now . . . good night, my child.
YOUNG WIFE: Good night!
* Translator’s Note: These lines are quoted form Schiller’s “Das Lied von der Glocke.” Their use underscores the husband’s mediocrity.
6 The Husband and the Little Miss
A private room in the Riedhof Restaurant; comfortable, unobtrusive elegance; the gas stove is lit. On the table the remains of a meal: meringues with much whipped cream, fruit, cheese. White Hungarian wine is in the glasses.
The Husband smokes a Havana cigar, leans back on the corner of the sofa..
The Little Miss sits on a chair beside him, scoops the whipped cream out of a meringue and sucks it up with satisfaction.
HUSBAND: It's good?
LITTLE MISS: (without letting herself be interrupted): Mm!
HUSBAND: Like another?
LITTLE MISS: No, I've eaten too much already.
HUSBAND: You've no wine left. (He fills up her glass.)
LITTLE MISS: No . . . I'll only leave it, sir.
HUSBAND: You're still calling me "sir."
LITTLE MISS: Well, it's hard to get out of the habit, sir.
LITTLE MISS: What?
HUSBAND: You said "sir" again. Come and sit by me.
LITTLE MISS: One moment-I'm not through.
(The Husband gets up, stands behind her chair and puts his arms round her, turning her head toward him.)
LITTLE MISS: What is it now?
HUSBAND: I'd like to have a kiss.
LITTLE MISS: (gives him a kiss): You're pretty fresh, you are.
HUSBAND: You only just noticed it?
LITTLE MISS: Oh, I noticed before . . . in the street. You must have quite an opinion of me.
HUSBAND: How's that?
LITTLE MISS: Going straight to a private room with you.
HUSBAND: You didn't go "straight" to the private room.
LITTLE MISS: But you've such a nice way of asking.
HUSBAND: You think so?
LITTLE MISS: And after all, what's wrong about it?
LITTLE MISS: Whether you go for a walk or-
HUSBAND: It's much too cold for a walk, isn't it?
LITTLE MISS: Of course it was much too cold.
HUSBAND: But in here it's nice and warm, don't you think? (He has sat down again and puts his arm around the Little Miss, pulling her over to his side.)
LITTLE MISS: (weakly): Hey!
HUSBAND: Now tell me. . . You'd noticed me before, hadn't you?
LITTLE MISS: Sure. In the Singer Strasse.
HUSBAND: I don't mean today. The day before yesterday and the day before that. I was following you.
LITTLE MISS: There's plenty follow me!
HUSBAND: I can imagine. But did you notice me?
LITTLE MISS: Well . . . um . . . you know what happened to me the other day? My cousin's husband followed me in the dark, and didn't recognize me.
HUSBAND: Did he speak to you?
LITTLE MISS: The idea! You think everybody's as fresh as you?
HUSBAND: It happens.
LITTLE MISS: Sure it happens.
HUSBAND: Well, what do you do then?
LITTLE MISS: Me? Nothing. I just don't answer.
HUSBAND: Hm . . . you answered me.
LITTLE MISS: Well, are you mad at me?
HUSBAND (kisses her violently): Your lips taste of whipped cream.
LITTLE MISS: Oh, they're sweet by nature.
HUSBAND: Many men have told you that, have they?
LITTLE MISS: Many men! The ideas you get!
HUSBAND: Be honest with me. How many have kissed these lips?
LITTLE MISS: Why ask? If I tell you, you won't believe me.
HUSBAND: Why not?
LITTLE MISS: Guess.
HUSBAND: Let's say-um-but you mustn't be angry!
LITTLE MISS: Why should I be?
HUSBAND: Well, at a guess . . . twenty.
LITTLE MISS: (breaking away from him): Why not a hundred while
you’re at it?
HUSBAND: It was only a guess.
LITTLE MISS: It was a bad guess.
HUSBAND: Let's say-ten.
LITTLE MISS: (offended): Oh sure! A girl who lets you talk to her
in the street and goes straight to a private dining room!
HUSBAND: Don't be a child. Whether people run around in the
streets or sit together in a room . . . Here we're in a restaurant,
the waiter can come in any time- there's nothing to it.
LITTLE MISS: That's just what I thought.
HUSBAND: Have you ever been in a private dining room before?
LITTLE MISS: Well, if I must tell you the truth: yes.
HUSBAND: Well, I like that: you're honest.
LITTLE MISS: It wasn't like you think. I was with my girl friend
and her fiance, during the last Carnival.
HUSBAND: Well, it wouldn't be a tragedy if you'd been-with your
LITTLE MISS: Sure it wouldn't be a tragedy. But I haven't got a
HUSBAND: Go on!
LITTLE MISS: Cross my heart, I haven't.
HUSBAND: You don't mean to tell me I …
LITTLE MISS: What? . . . There hasn't been anyone- for more than six months.
HUSBAND: I see . . . And before that? Who was it?
LITTLE MISS: What are you so inquisitive for?
HUSBAND: Because . . . I'm in love with you.
LITTLE MISS: Really?
HUSBAND: Of course. Hadn't you noticed? Come on, tell me. (He pulls her close to him.)
LITTLE MISS: Tell you what?
HUSBAND: Don't keep me begging. I'd like to know who he was.
LITTLE MISS (laughing): Oh, a man, of course.
HUSBAND: Come on, come on, who was he?
LITTLE MISS: He was a little bit like you.
LITTLE MISS: If you hadn't been so much like him …
HUSBAND: Well, what then?
LITTLE MISS: Now don't ask. You know what …
HUSBAND: So that's why you let me speak to you!
LITTLE MISS: Well, yes.
HUSBAND: Now I don't know whether to be glad or annoyed.
LITTLE MISS: If I was you, I'd be glad.
HUSBAND: Oh well, okay.
LITTLE MISS: The way you talk reminds me of him too . . . and the way you look at a girl …
HUSBAND: What was he?
LITTLE MISS: Really, your eyes
HUSBAND: What was his name?
LITTLE MISS: Don't look at me like that, no, please!
(The Husband takes her in his arms. A long, hot kiss. The Little Miss shakes herself free and tries to get up.)
HUSBAND: What's the matter?
LITTLE MISS: Time to go home.
LITTLE MISS: No, I must go home. Really. What do you think mother will say?
HUSBAND: You're living with your mother?
LITTLE MISS: Sure I am. What did you think?
HUSBAND: I see . . . with your mother. Just the two of you?
LITTLE MISS: Just the two . . . ?! There's five of us. Two boys and three girls.
HUSBAND: Don't sit so far away. Are you the eldest?
LITTLE MISS: No. I'm the second. First there's Kathi, she goes out to work. In a flower shop. Then there's me.
HUSBAND: What do you do?
LITTE MISS: I'm at home.
HUSBAND: All the time?
LITTLE MISS: Well, one of us has got to be at home.
HUSBAND: Naturally. Well-and what do you tell your mother when you-come home late?
LITTLE MISS: It doesn't often happen.
HUSBAND: Tonight for example. Your mother does ask you?
LITTLE MISS: Oh, sure she does. It doesn't matter how careful I am when I get home, she wakes up every time.
HUSBAND: What will you tell her tonight?
LITTLE MISS: Oh well, I guess I'll have been to the theater.
HUSBAND: Will she believe you?
LITTLE MISS: Why shouldn't she? I often go to the theater. Only last Sunday I was to the opera with my girl friend and her fiane- and my older brother.
HUSBAND: Where do you get the tickets from?
LITTLE MISS: My brother's a barber.
HUSBAND: Of course, barbers . . . I suppose he's a theatrical barber.
LITTLE MISS: Why are you pumping me like this?
HUSBAND: I'm interested. And what's your other brother?
LITTLE MISS: He's still at school. He wants to be a teacher. Imagine!
HUSBAND: And you've a younger sister too?
LITTLE MISS: Yes, she's only a squirt, but at that you've got to keep an eye on her. You've no idea what these girls learn at school. Do you know, the other day I caught her having a date!
LITTLE MISS: I did. With a boy from the school opposite. She was out walking with him in the Strozzi Gasse at half-past seven. The brat!
HUSBAND: What did you do?
LITTLE MISS: Well, she got a spanking.
HUSBAND: You are as strict as all that?
LITTLE MISS: There's no one else to do it. My older sister's in the shop, Mother does nothing but grumble and so everything falls on me.
HUSBAND: God, you're sweet! (He kisses her and grows more tender.) And you remind me of someone, too.
LITTLE MISS: Do I? Who is she?
HUSBAND: No one in particular . . . you remind me of the time when . . . well, my youth! Come, drink up, child.
LITTLE MISS: How old are you? . . . Um . . . I don't even know your name.
LITTLE MISS: Honest? Your name's Karl?
HUSBAND: His was Karl too?
LITTLE MISS: Really, it's a miracle . . . it's too . . . No, those eyes! . . . That look! (She shakes her head.)
HUSBAND: You still haven't told me who he was.
LITTLE MISS: A bad man, that's what he was, or he wouldn't have dropped me.
HUSBAND: Did you like him a lot?
LITTLE MISS: Sure I liked him a lot.
HUSBAND: I know what he was: a lieutenant.
LITTLE MISS: No, he wasn't in the army. They wouldn't take him. His father's got a house in the . . . but what do you want to know for?
HUSBAND (kisses her): Your eyes are gray, really. At first I thought they were black.
LITTLE MISS: Well, aren't they nice enough for you?
(The Husband kisses her eyes.)
LITTLE MISS: Oh, no- that's something I can't stand- please, please . . . Oh God . . . No, let me get up . . . just for a minute, oh please!
HUSBAND (increasingly tender): Oh, no! No!
LITTLE MISS: But, Karl, please!
HUSBAND: How old are you? Eighteen, is it?
LITTLE MISS: Nineteen now.
HUSBAND: Nineteen . . . and I
LITTLE MISS: You're thirty
HUSBAND: And . . . a little more . . . Don't let's talk of it.
LITTLE MISS: At that, he was thirty-two when I met him!
HUSBAND: How long ago?
LITTLE MISS: I can't remember. . . . You know what, there was something in the wine!
HUSBAND: How so?
LITTLE MISS: I'm quite. . . you know . . . everything's turning around.
HUSBAND: Hold on to me. Like this . . . (He pulls her to him and becomes more and more tender; she scarcely defends herself.) I'll tell you something, treasure, now we might really go.
LITTLE MISS: Yes-home.
HUSBAND: Not home exactly.
LITTLE MISS: What do you mean? . . . Oh no, no! . . .1 wouldn't What an idea!
HUSBAND: Now, listen to me, my child, next time we meet, you know, we'll arrange it so. . . . (He has slipped to the floor, his head in her lap.) That's good; oh, that's good!
ILITTLE MISS: What are you doing? (She kisses his hair.)See, there must have been something in the wine. . so sleepy . . . Hey, what happens if I can't get up? But . . . but look, Karl! . . . If somebody comes in . . . Please . . . the waiter!
HUSBAND: No waiter'll . . . come in here . . . not in . . . your lifetime.
* * * * *
The Little Miss leans back in a corner of the sofa, her eyes shut.
The Husband walks up and down the small room, after lighting a
A longish silence.
HUSBAND (looks at the girl for a long time, then says to himself):
Who knows what sort of person she really is-God in heaven! So quickly . . . Wasn't very careful of me . . . Hm .
LITTLE Miss (without opening her eyes): There must have been something in that wine.
HUSBAND: How's that?
LITTLE Miss: Otherwise ...
HUSBAND: Why blame everything on the wine?
LITTLE MISS: Where are you? Why are you so far away? Come here to me.
(The Husband goes to her, sits down.)
LITTLE MISS: Now, tell me if you really like me.
HUSBAND: But you know. . . . (Interrupting himself quickly.) Of course I do.
LITTLE MISS: You see . . . there is . . . Come on, tell me the truth, what was in that wine?
HUSBAND: You think I go around poisoning people?
LITTLE MISS: Look, I just don't understand. I'm not like that.
We've only known each other for . . . Listen, I'm not like that,
cross my heart-if you believe that of me
HUSBAND: There, there, don't fret so! I don't think anything bad of you. I just think you like me.
LITTLE MISS: Yes…
HUSBAND: After all, if two young people are alone together, and have supper, and drink wine- there doesn't have to be anything in the wine.
LITTLE MISS: Oh, I was just gabbing.
HUSBAND: But why?
LITTLE MISS: (somewhat defiantly): Because I was ashamed!
HUSBAND: That's ridiculous. There's no reason for it. Especially since I remind you of your first lover.
LITTLE MISS: Yes.
HUSBAND: Your first.
LITTLE MISS: Oh sure
HUSBAND: Now it would interest me to know who the others were.
LITTLE MISS: There weren't any.
HUSBAND: That isn't true. It can't be true.
LITTLE MISS: Please don't nag me!
HUSBAND: A cigarette?
LITTLE MISS: No. Thank you.
HUSBAND: Do you know what time it is?
LITTLE MISS: What?
HUSBAND: Half-past eleven.
LITTLF MISS: Really.
HUSBAND: Well . . . what about your mother? Used to it, is she?
LITTLE MISS: You want to send me home already?
HUSBAND: But you wanted-yourself …
LITTLE MISS: Look, you're different now. What have I done to you?
HUSBAND: My dear child, what's wrong? What are you thinking of?
LITTLE MISS: It was . . . the look in your eyes, honest, cross my heart, otherwise you could have waited a long . . . A lot of men have asked me to go to a private room with them!
HUSBAND: Well, would you like to . . . to come here again soon? Or some other place . . . ?
LITTLE Miss: I don't know.
HUSBAND: Now what's that mean: you don't know?
LITTLE MISS: Why do you have to ask?
HUSBAND: All right-when? But first I must explain that I don't live in Vienna. I. . . just come here now and then. For a couple of days.
LITTLE MISS: Go on-you aren't Viennese?
HUSBAND: Well, yes, I'm Viennese, but I live . . . out of town.
LITTLE MISS: Where?
HUSBAND: Goodness, that doesn't matter, does it?
LITTLE MISS: Don't worry, I won't go there.
HUSBAND: Heavens, you can go there as much as you want. I live in Graz.
LITTLE MISS: Really?
HUSBAND: Yes. What's so astonishing about that?
LITTLE MISS: You're married, aren't you?
HUSBAND (greatly surprised): Whatever makes you think so?
LITTLE MISS: It looks that way to me.
HUSBAND: And if I were, it wouldn't bother you any?
LITTLE MISS: Oh, I'd like it better if you were single. But you're married, I know.
HUSBAND: Now tell me, what makes you think so?
LITTLE MISS: Oh, if a man says he doesn't live in town and hasn't always got time …
HUSBAND: That isn't so unlikely, is it?
LITTLE MISS: I don't believe it.
HUSBAND: And it wouldn't give you a guilty conscience to seduce a married man? Make him unfaithful?
LITTLE MISS: Never mind about that-I bet your wife is no different.
HUSBAND (very indignant):That's enough! Such observations
LITTLE MISS: I thought you didn't have a wife.
HUSBAND: Whether I have a wife or not, such observations are beyond the pale! (He has risen.)
LITTLE MISS: But, Karl, what is it, Karl? Are you mad at me? Look, I didn't know you were married. I was just gabbing. Come on, let's be friends.
HUSBAND (goes to her after a couple of seconds): You really are strange creatures . . . you . . . women. (At her side, he begins to caress her again.)
LITTLE Miss: No . . . don't . . and it's so late …
HUSBAND: Now listen to me. We must have a serious talk. I want to see you again-many times.
LITTLE MISS: Honest?
HUSBAND: But if so, it's essential. . . . I must be able to rely on you. I can't be watching you all the time.
LITTLE MISS: Oh, I can look after myself.
HUSBAND: You're . . . well, not inexperienced exactly, but you're young, and-men in general are an unscrupulous bunch.
LITTLE MISS: And how!
HUSBAND: I don't mean just in morals.. . . Well, you know what I mean.
LITTLE MISS: Now, really, what sort of girl do you take me for?
HUSBAND: So, if you want to love me- only me-we'll be able to fix things up somehow, even if I do live in Graz. This place isn't the right thing-someone could come in at any moment!
(The Little Miss snuggles up to him.)
HUSBAND: Next time let's make it somewhere else, okay?
LITTLE MISS: Okay.
HUSBAND: Where we can't be disturbed.
LITTLE MISS: Right.
HUSBAND (embraces her with fervor): The rest we can talk over on the way home. (He gets up, opens the door.) Waiter … the check!
7 The Little Miss and the Poet
A small room, comfortably furnished, in good taste. Drapes leave it in semidarkness. Red net curtains. A big desk littered with papers and books. Against the wall, an upright piano.
The Little Miss and the Poet enter together. The Poet locks the door.
POET: Here we are, sweetheart. (He kisses her.)
LITTLE MISS: (in hat and cloak): Oh, what a nice room! Only you can't see anything!
POET: Your eyes will have to get used to semidarkness. These sweet eyes! (He kisses her eyelids.)
LITTLE MISS: These sweet eyes won't have time to get used to it.
POET: How's that?
LITTLE MISS: Because I can't stay for more than one minute.
POET: Do take your hat off.
LITTLE MISS: For one minute?
POET (pulls out her hatpin, takes the hat, puts it on one side):
And your cloak.
LITTLE MISS: What are you up to? I've got to go!
POET: First you must rest. We've been walking three hours.
LITTLE MISS: We were in the carriage.
POET: Coming home, yes. But in Weidling-am-Bach we were three solid hours on foot. Now do sit down, child. . . wherever you like . . . at the desk. . . . No, that isn't comfortable. Sit down on the sofa. Here. (He puts her down on the sofa.) If you're very tired, you can stretch out. Like this. (He makes her lie down.) With your little head on the cushion.
LITTLE MISS (laughing): But I'm not a bit tired!
POET: You think you aren't. Right, and now if you feel sleepy, you can go to sleep. I'll keep perfectly quiet. Or I can play you a lullaby . . . one of my own. (He goes to the piano.)
LITTLE MISS: Your own?
LITTLE MISS: But, Robert, I thought you were a doctor.
POET: How's that? I told you I was a writer.
LITTLE MISS: Well, writers are doctors, aren't they?
POET: Of philosophy? Not all writers. Not me, for instance. Why did you bring that up?
LITTLE MISS: Because you said the piece you were going to play was your own.
POET: Oh well . . . maybe it isn't. It doesn't matter. Does it? It never matters who's done a thing-just so long as it's beautiful-you agree?
LITTLE MISS: Oh sure . . . as long as it's beautiful!
POET: Do you know what I meant by that?
LITTLE MISS: By what?
POET: What I said just now.
LITTLE MISS (drowsily): Oh, sure.
POET (gets up, goes to her, and strokes her hair): You didn't understand a word.
LITTLE MISS: Now look, I'm not stupid.
POET: Of course you are. That's why I love you. It's a fine thing for women to be stupid. In your way, that is.
LITTLE MISS: Hey, don't be rude!
POET: Little angel! Isn't it nice just to lie there on a soft Persian rug?
LITTLE MISS: Oh yes. Won't you go on playing the piano?
POET: I'd rather stay with you. (He strokes her.)
LITTLE MISS: Look, can't we have the light on?
POET: Oh no . . . twilight is so comforting. Today we were bathing in sunshine all day long. Now we've come out of the bath, so to speak, and we're wrapping the twilight round us like a bathrobe. (He laughs.) No, it'll have to be put a little differently won't it?
LITTLE MISS: I don't know.
POET (edging away from her): It's divine, this stupidity! (He takes out a notebook and writes a few words in it.)
LITTLE MISS: What are you doing? (Turns around to look at him.) What are you writing down?
POET (in an undertone): Sun-bath-twilight-robe . . . That's it. (He puts the notebook in his pocket, laughs.) Nothing. And now tell me, treasure, wouldn't you like something to eat or drink?
LITTLE MISS: I guess I'm not thirsty. But I am hungry.
POET: Hm . . . now, I'd rather you were thirsty. The cognac's right here, but if it's food I'll have to go out and get it.
LITTLE MISS: Can't they bring it up for you?
POET: That's the difficulty. My maid isn't around anymore. Never mind. I'll go. What would you like?
LITTLE MISS: It isn't worth it, I've got to go home anyway. POET: Oho, no you don't! I'll tell you what: when we leave, we'll go and have supper somewhere.
LITTLE MISS: I haven't got time. And-where could we go? We'd be seen.
POET: You know so many people?
LITTLE MISS: It's enough if one of them sees us, the damage would be done.
POET: What damage?
LITTLE MISS: What do you think? If Mother heard anything …
POET: We could go to a place where nobody could see us. There are restaurants with private rooms after all
LITTLE MISS (sings): "Just to share a private room with you . .”
POET: Have you ever been to a private dining room?
LITTLE MISS: As a matter of fact I have.
POET: Who was the lucky man?
LITTLE MISS: Oh, it- wasn't what you think . . . I was with my
girl friend and her fiance. They took me.
POET: Really? Am I supposed to believe that?
LITTLE MISS: Suit yourself.
POET (close to her): Did you blush? It's gotten dark in here. I can't make out your features. (He touches her cheek with his hand.) Even so-I recognize you.
LITTLE MISS: Well, take care you don't mix me up with another girl.
POET: Peculiar! I can't remember what you look like.
LITTLE Miss: Thank you very much.
POET (seriously): Do you know, it's rather spooky-I can't visualize your face-in a certain sense I've already forgotten you. Now, if I couldn't recognize your voice either . . . what would you be? So near and yet so far-rather spooky, what?
LITTLE Miss: What are you talking about?
POET: Nothing, angel, nothing. Where are your lips? (He kisses her.)
LITTLE MISS: Won't you put the light on?
POET: No . . . (He grows very tender.) Tell me if you love me!
LITTLE MISS: Oh, I do. I do!
POET: Have you ever loved anyone else as much?
LITTLE MISS: I told you I haven't.
POET: But . . . (He sighs.)
LITTLE MISS: Well-he was my fiance.
POET: I'd rather you didn't think of him.
LITTLE MISS: Oh . . . what are you doing. . . now look …
POET: Let's imagine we're in a castle in India.
LITTLE MISS: I'm sure people there couldn't be as badly behaved as you.
POET: How idiotic! Divine! If only you had an inkling of what you mean to me …
LITTLE MISS: Well, what?
POET: Don't push me away all the time. I'm not doing anything-yet.
LITTLE MISS: Listen, my corset hurts.
POET (simply): Take it off.
LITTLE MISS: Okay, but you mustn't be naughty.
(Little Miss rises and takes off her corset in the dark.)
POET (sitting on the sofa in the meanwhile): Tell me, doesn't it interest you at all to know my last name?
LITTLE MISS: Oh, yes-what is it?
POET: I'd better not tell you my name. I'll tell you what I call myself.
LITTLE MISS: What's the difference?
POET: Well, what I call myself-as a writer.
LITTLE MISS: You don't write under your real name? (Poet close to her.)
LITTLE MISS: Ah . . . please! . . . Don't!
POET: 0 the sweet odor that rises from you! (He kisses her bosom.)
LITTLE MISS: You're tearing my chemise.
POET: Off with it all! Away with these . . . superfluities!
LITTLE MISS: Robert!
POET: Let's enter our Indian castle!
LITTLE MISS: First tell me if you really love me.
POET: I worship you! (He kisses her hotly.) My treasure, I worship you, my springtime . . . my …
LITTLE MISS: Robert . . . Robert
* * * * *
POET: That was bliss supernatural . . I call myself …
LITTLE Miss: Robert, oh Robert!
POET: I call myself Biebitz.
LITTLE Miss: Why do you call yourself Biebitz?
POET: Biebitz isn't my name, it's what I call myself. You know the name?
LITTLE MISS: No.
POET: You don't know the name Biebitz? How divine! Really? But you're just pretending?
LITTLE MISS: Cross my heart, I've never heard it.
POET: You never go to the theater?
LITTLE MISS: Oh, yes. Just the other day I got taken-by my girl friend's uncle-and my girl friend- and we went to the opera-Gavalleria rusticana!
POET: Hmm, but you don't go to the Burg Theater?
LITTLE MISS: Nobody ever gives me tickets for that.
POET: I'll send you a ticket one day soon.
LITTLE MISS: Oh please! But don't forget. Make it something funny.
POET: Yes . . . funny . . . well. . . you wouldn't like something sad?
LITTLE MISS: Not really.
POET: Even if it's by me?
LITTLE MISS: A play-by you? You write for the theater?!
POET: Excuse me, I just want to light a candle. I haven't seen you since you became mine. Angel! (He lights a candle.)
LITTLE MISS: Hey, don't! I feel ashamed. Give me a blanket anyway!
POET: Later! (He walks up to her with the light and contemplates her for a long while.)
LITTLE MISS: (covers her face with her hands): Robert!
POET: You're beautiful. You are Beauty! You are Nature herself perhaps! You are Sacred Simplicity!
LITTLE MISS: Ouch! You're dripping wax on me! Why can't you be more careful?
POET (puts the candlestick down): You're what I've been looking for all this time. You love me-just me-you'd love me the same if I were a shop assistant. It does me good. I'll confess that up till now I couldn't get rid of a certain suspicion. Tell me, hadn't you the least idea I was Biebitz?
LITTLE MISS: Look, I don't know what you want with me. I don't know any Biebitz.
POET: Such is fame! Never mind, forget what I told you, forget even the name I told you. I'm Robert for you, and I want to remain Robert. I was joking! (gaily) I'm not a writer at all, I'm a shop assistant. In the evenings I play the piano for folksingers!
LITTLE MISS: Now you have me all mixed up . . . and the way you look at a girl! What's the matter, what's eating you?
POET: It's strange-it's hardly ever happened to me, my treasure-I feel like crying. You've got under my skin. Let's stay together, hm? We're going to love one another very much.
LITTLE MISS: Listen, is that true about the folksinging?
POET: Yes, but don't ask any more. lf you love me, don't ask. Tell me, could you make yourself quite free for a couple of weeks?
LITTLE MISS: What do you mean, quite free?
POET: Well, away from home.
LITTLE MISS: What! How could I? What would Mother say? Anyway, everything would go wrong at home without me.
POET: I'd been thinking how lovely it would be to live with you for a few weeks quite alone, somewhere, in distant solitude, in the depths of Nature's forests. Nature . . . in nature. . . . And then, one day, farewell-to go who knows whither?
LITTLE MISS: Now you're talking about saying good-bye. And I thought you liked me a lot.
POET: That's just it! (He bends down and kisses her on the forehead.) Sweet creature!
LITTLE Miss: Hold me tight, I'm cold.
POET: It's time to get dressed. Wait, I'll light some more candles.
LITTLE MISS (gets up): Don't look!
POET: No. (at the window) Tell me, child, are you happy?
LITTLE MISS: How do you mean?
POET: In general I mean: are you happy?
LITTLE MISS: Things could be better.
POET: You don't understand me. You've told me quite enough of the state of affairs at home, I know you aren't exactly a princess. I mean, setting all that aside, when you're just feeling alive? Do you by the way feel you are really alive?
LITTLE MISS: You got a comb?
POET (goes to the dressing table, gives her the comb, contemplates the Little Miss): God, you're enchanting to look at!
LITTLE MISS: No . . . don't!
POET: Come, stay here with me a little longer, stay and let me get something for our supper, and …
LITTLE MISS: But it's much too late.
POET: It's not nine yet.
LITTLE MISS: Well, then, I've really got to hurry.
POET: When shall we meet next?
LITTLE MISS: When would you like to see me?
ILITTLE MISS: What's tomorrow?
LITTLE MISS: Oh, I can't make it. I've got to go see our guardian. With my little sister.
POET: Sunday, then . . hm . . . Sunday . on Sunday . . . I must explain something to you. I'm not Biebitz, Biebitz is a friend of mine. One day I'll introduce you to him. His play is on this Sunday. I'll send you a ticket, and then I'll come pick you up from the theater. You'll tell me how you like the play, won't you?
LITTLE MISS: This Biebitz thing . . well, I may be stupid but
POET: When I know how you felt about the play, I'll really know you.
LITTLE MISS: Okay m ready.
POET: Let's go, then, my treasure.
A room in a country inn. It is an evening in spring; meadows and hills are lit by the moon; the windows are open. All is still.
The Poet and the Actress enter; as they come in, the flame of the candle which the Poet is carrying goes out.
ACTRESS: What's the matter?
POET: The candle. But we don't need it. Look, it's quite light! Marvelous!
(The Actress suddenly sinks on her knees at the window,
folding her hands.)
POET: What's the matter with you?
(Actress remains silent.)
POET (goes to her): What are you doing?
ACTRESS (indignant): Can't you see I'm praying?
POET: You believe in God?
ACTRESS: What do you think I am-an anarchist?
ACTRESS: Come here, kneel down beside me. You could do with some praying once in a while.
(The Poet kneels down beside her and puts his arms round
ACTRESS: You profligate! (She gets up.) And do you know to whom I was praying?
POET: To God, I presume.
ACTRESS (with great scorn): Oh yes? It was to you I prayed.
POET: Then why look out of the window?
ACTRESS: Tell me where you've dragged me off to, seducer.
POET: It was your own idea, my child. You wanted to go to the country. You wanted to come here.
ACTRESS: Well, wasn't I right?
POET: Yes, it's enchanting. To think it's only two hours from Vienna-and perfect solitude! What a landscape!
ACTRESS: Isn't it? You could write poetry here, if you happened to have any talent.
POET: Have you been here before?
ACTRESS: Have I been here before? I lived here for years.
POET: With whom?
ACTRESS: Oh, with Fritz, of course.
POET: I see.
ACTRESS: I worshiped that man.
POET: You've said that already.
ACTRESS: Oh, I beg your pardon-I can leave if I bore you.
POET: You bore me? . . . You have no idea what you mean to me.
You're a world in yourself. . . . You're the Divine Spark, you're Genius. . . . You are . . . The truth is, you're Sacred Simplicity. . . . Yes, you . . . But you shouldn’t talk about Fritz-now.
ACTRESS: He was an aberration, yes . . . Oh well…
POET: It's good you see that.
ACTRESS: Come over and kiss me.
(The Poet kisses her.)
ACTRESS: And now we're going to say good night. Good-bye, my treasure.
POET: What do you mean?
ACTRESS: I'm going to bed.
POET: Yes-that's all right, but this "good night" business . where am I going to sleep?
ACTRESS: I'm sure there are other rooms in this inn.
POET: For me the other rooms have singularly little attraction. By the way, I'd better light up, hadn't I?
POET (lights the candle on the bedside table): What a pretty room.They're religious here, nothing but saints' pictures. .
Wouldn't it be interesting to spend some time among these peopIe~another world! How little we know of our fellow men!
AcrRESS: Stop talking bosh, and give me my pocketbook, will you, it's on the table.
POET: Here, my one and only love!
(The Actress takes from the pocket book a small framed
picture and puts it on the bedside table.)
POET: What's that?
ACTRESS: Our Lady.
POET: I beg your pardon?
ACTRESS: The Blessed Virgin.
POET: I see. You never travel without it?
ACTRESS: Never. It's my mascot. Now go, Robert.
POET: What sort of a joke is this? Don't you want me to help you?
ACTRESS: I want you to go.
POET: Will you ever take me back?
ACTRESS: Oh, in about ten minutes.
POET (kisses her): Darling! See you in ten minutes.
ACTRESS: Where will you be?
POET: I shall walk up and down in front of the window. I love to walk at night in the open air. I get my best ideas that way. Especially when you're nearby. Wafted by your longings, as it were, floating on your art
ACTRESS: You talk like an idiot.
POET (sorrowfully): Some women might have said-like a poet.
ACTRESS: Now go. And don't start anything with the waitress. (The poet departs.
Actress undresses. She listens to the Poet going down the wooden stairs and then to his steps beneath the open window. As soon as she is undressed, she goes to the window, looks down, sees him standing there; she calls to him in a whisper.)
(The Poet comes up in a hurry; rushes to her. In the meantime she has gone to bed and put out the light. He locks the door.)
ACTRESS: Well, now you may sit down by me and tell me a story.
POET (sits by her on the bed): Shouldn't I close the window? Aren't you cold?
ACTRESS: Oh, no.
POET: What would you like me to tell you?
ACTRESS: Tell me-who are you being unfaithful to- at this moment?
POET: Unfortunately, I'm not being unfaithful-yet.
ACTRESS: Don't worry, I'm being unfaithful too.
POET: I can imagine.
ACTRESS: And who do you think it is?
POET: My dear child, I wouldn't have a notion.
ACTRESS: Guess, then.
POET: Wait a moment . . . Well, your producer.
ACTRESS: My dear, I'm not a chorus girl.
POET: Oh, it was just an idea.
ACTRESS: Guess again.
POET: Your leading man-Benno.
ACTRESS: Pooh, that man doesn't like women, didn't you know?
He's having an affair with the mailman.
POET: Who would have thought it?
ACTRESS: So come and kiss me.
(The Poet embraces her.)
ACTRESS: What are you doing?
POET: Don't torture me like this!
ACTRESS: Listen, Robert, I'll make a suggestion. Get in bed with me.
POET: I accept.
ACTRESS: Hurry up! Hurry up!
POET: Well . . . if I'd had my way, I'd have been . . . Listen!
POET: The crickets are chirping outside.
ACTRESS: You must be mad, my dear, there are no crickets in these parts.
POET: But you can hear them!
ACTRESS: Oh, come on!
POET: Here I am. (He goes to her.)
ACTRESS: And now lie still . . . Uh! . . . Don't move!
POET: What's the idea?
IACTRESS: I suppose you'd like to have an affair with me?
POET: I thought you might realize that sooner or later.
ACTRESS: A lot of men would. .
POET: But at this particular moment the odds are rather strongly in my favor.
ACTRESS: Come, my cricket. From now on I'm going to call you Cricket.
ACTRESS: Now-who am I deceiving?
POET: Huh? Me, maybe.
ACTRESS: My child, you should have your head examined.
POET: Or maybe someone . . . you’ve never seen . . . someone you don't know . . . He's meant for you, but you can never find him …
ACTRESS: Cricket, don't talk such fantastic rot!
POET: . . . Isn't it strange . . . even you . . . and one would have thought-But no, it would just be . . . spoiling all that's best about you if one . . . Come, come, come
ACTRESS: That's better than acting in damn silly plays. You agree?
POET: Well, I think it's good that you occasionally act in reasonable ones.
ACTRESS: Meaning yours, you conceited pup.
POET: Of course.
ACTRESS (seriously): It really is a wonderful play.
POET: You see!
ACTRESS: You're a genius!
POET: By the way, why did you cancel your performance two nights ago? There was nothing wrong with you.
ACTRESS: I wanted to annoy you.
POET: Why? What had I done to you?
ACTRESS: You were conceited.
POET: In what way?
ACTRESS: Everybody in the theater says so.
ACTRESS: But I told them: that man has a right to be conceited.
POET: And what did they say to that?
ACTRESS: What should those people say? I never speak to them.
POET: I see.
ACTRESS: They'd like to poison me. (Pause.) But they won't succeed.
POET: Don't think of them. Just be happy we're here, and tell me you love me.
ACTRESS: You need further proof?
POET: Oh, that kind of thing can't be proved.
ACTRESS: Well, that's great! What more do you want?
POET: How many others did you try to prove it to this way? And did you love them all?
ACTRESS: Oh, no.1 loved only one.
POET (embracing her): My
POET: My name is Robert. What am I to you, if It's Fritz you're thinking of?
ACTRESS: A whim.
POET: Nice to know!
ACTRESS: Tell me, aren't you proud?
POET: Why should I be proud?
ACTRESS: I think you have some reason.
POET: Oh, because of that!
ACTRESS: Yes, because of that, my pale cricket. How about the chirping? Are they still chirping?
POET: All the time. Can't you hear?
ACTRESS: I can hear. But that's frogs, my child.
POET: You're wrong: frogs croak.
ACTRESS: Certainly, they croak.
POET: But not here, my dear child. This is chirping.
ACTRESS: You're the most pigheaded creature I've ever come across. Kiss me, frog.
POET: Please don't call me that. It makes me nervous.
ACTRESS: What do you want me to call you?
POET: I've got a name: Robert.
IACTRESS: Oh, that's too dull.
POET: I must ask you to call me simply by my name.
ACTRESS: All right, Robert, kiss me . . . Ah! (She kisses him.)
Are you content now, frog? Ha, ha, ha!
POET: May I light myself a cigarette?
ACTRESS: Give me one.
(The Poet takes the cigarette case from the bedside table, takes out two, lights both and hands one to her.)
ACTRESS: By the way, you never said a word about how I did last night.
POET: Doing what?
ACTRESS: Well . .
POET: Oh, I see. I wasn't at the theater.
ACTRESS: I guess you like to joke.
POET: Not at all. When you canceled your performance the day before yesterday, I assumed that yesterday you couldn't be in full possession of your powers. So I preferred to abstain.
ACTRESS: You missed something.
ACTRESS: I was sensational. People turned pale.
POET: You could see them?
ACTRESS: Benno said to me, "You were a goddess, darling."
POET: Hm . . . and so sick one day earlier.
ACTRESS: Yes. And do you know why? Out of longing for you.
POET: You just told me you canceled the performance to annoy me.
ACTRESS: What do you know of my love for you? That sort of thing leaves you cold. I was in a fever for nights on end. With a temperature of a hundred and five.
POET: A high temperature just for a whim!
ACTRESS: A whim, you call it? I die for love of you, and you call it a whim?
POET: What about Fritz?
ACTRESs: What about him? What about him? Don't talk to me about that . . . that cheap crook!
9 The Actress and the Count
The Actress's bedroom, luxuriously furnished. It is noon; the blinds are still down; on the bedside table, a burning candle; the Actress is lying in her four-poster. Numerous newspapers are strewn about on the covers.
The Count enters, in the uniform of a captain of Dragoons. He stops at the door.
ACTRESS: It's you, Count!
COUNT: Your good mother gave me permission, or of course I wouldn't
ACTRESS: Please come right in.
COUNT: I kiss your hand. A thousand pardons-coming straight in from the street-you know, I can't see a thing. Yes . . . here we are. (near the bed) I kiss your hand.
ACTRESS: Sit down, my dear Count.
COUNT: Your mother said you weren't very well, Fräulein. Nothing too serious, I hope?
ACTRESS: Nothing serious? I was dying!
COUNT: Oh dear me! Not really?
ACTRESS: In any case it's very kind of you to . . . trouble to call.
COUNT: Dying! And only last night you played like a goddess!
ACTRESS: It was a great triumph, I believe.
COUNT: Colossal! People were absolutely knocked out. As for myself, well
ACTRESS: Thanks for the lovely flowers.
COUNT: Not at all, Fräulein.
ACTRESS (turning her eyes toward a Large basket of flowers, which stands on a small table by the window): There they are!
COUNT: Last night you were positively strewn with flowers and garlands!
ACTRESS: I left them all in my dressing room. Your basket was the only thing I brought home.
COUNT (kisses her hand): You're very kind.
(The Actress suddenly takes his hand and kisses it.)
ACTRESS: Don't be afraid, Count. It commits you to nothing!
COUNT: You're a strange creature . . . a puzzle, one might almost say.
ACTRESS: Fräulein Birken is . . . easier to solve?
COUNT: Oh, little Birken is no puzzle. Though . . . I know her only superficially.
COUNT: Oh, believe me. But you are a problem. And I've always longed for one. As a matter of fact, last night I realized what a great pleasure I'd been missing. You see, it was the first time I've seen you act.
ACTRESS: Is that true?
COUNT: Oh, yes. You see, Fräulein, it's a big problem with the theater. I'm used to dining late. By the time I get there, the best part of the play is over, isn't it?
ACTRESS: You'll have to dine earlier from now on.
COUNT: I'd thought of that. Or of not dining at all. There's not much pleasure in it, is there-dining?
ACTRESS: What do you still find pleasure in, young fogey?
COUNT: I sometimes ask myself. But I'm no fogey. There must be another reason.
ACTRESS: You think so?
COUNT: Yes. For instance, LuIu always says I'm a philosopher. What he means is: I think too much.
COUNT: Friend of mine.
ACTRESS: He's right . . . it is a misfortune, all that thinking.
COUNT: I've time on my hands, that's why I think. You see, Fräulein, when they transferred me to Vienna, I thought it would be
better. It'd be amusing, stimulating, the city. But it's really much the same here as up there.
ACTRESS: And where is "up there"?
COUNT: Well, down there, Fräulein, in Hungary. The small towns I used to be stationed in.
ACTRESS: What were you doing in Hungary?
COUNT: I'm telling you, dear lady-the army.
ACTRESS: But why did you stay so long in Hungary?
COUNT: It happened, that's all.
ACTRESS: Enough to drive anyone mad, I should think!
COUNT: Oh, I don't know. In a way you have more to do there than here. You know, Fräulein, training recruits, exercising horses . . . and the surroundings aren't as bad as people say. It's really rather lovely, the big plain there. Such a sunset! It's a pity I'm not a painter. I often thought I'd paint one, if I were a painter. We had a man in our regiment, young Splany, and he could do it. Why I tell you this boring stuff I don't know, Fräulein.
ACTRESS: Please, Count! I'm highly amused.
COUNT: You know, Fräulein, it's so easy to talk to you. Lulu told me it would be. It's a thing one doesn't often meet.
ACTRESS: In Hungary!
COUNT: Or in Vienna! People are the same everywhere. Where there are more, it gets overcrowded but that's the only difference. Tell me, Fräulein, do you like people, really?
ACTRESS: Like them? I hate them! I don't want to see them. I never do see them. I'm always alone. This house is deserted!
COUNT: Just as I imagined: you're a misanthropist. It's bound to happen with artists. Moving in that more exalted sphere
Well, it's all right for you, at least you know why you're alive.
ACTRESS: Who told you that? I haven't the remotest idea why I'm alive!
COUNT: Not really, Fräulein . . . famous . . . celebrated
ACTRESS: Is that-happiness?
COUNT: Happiness? Happiness doesn't exist. None of the things people chatter about really exist. . . . Love, for instance. It's the same with love.
ACTRESS: You may be right there.
COUNT: Enjoyment . . . intoxication . . . there's nothing wrong with them, they're real. I enjoy something, all right, and I know I enjoy it. Or I'm intoxicated, all right. That's real too. And when it's over, it's over, that's all.
ACTRESS (grandly): It's over!
COUNT: But as soon as you don't-I don't quite know how to say it-as soon as you stop living for the present moment, as soon as you think of later on or earlier on . . . Well, the whole thing collapses. "Later on" is sad, and "earlier on" is uncertain, in short, you just get mixed up. Don't you think so?
ACTRESS (nods, her eyes very wide open): You pluck out the heart of the mystery, my dear Count.
COUNT: And you see, Fräulein, once you're clear about that, it doesn't matter if you live in Vienna or on the Hungarian plains or in the tiny town of Steinamanger. For example . . . where can I put my cap? . . . Oh, thanks. What were we talking about?
ACTRESS: The tiny town of Steinamanger.
COUNT: Oh, yes. Well, as I was saying, there isn't much difference. Whether I spend the evening at the Casino or the Club is all one.
ACTRESS: How does this tie in with love?
COUNT: If a man believes in it, there'll always be a girl around who loves him.
ACTRESS: Fräulein Birken, for example.
COUNT: Honestly, dear lady, I can't understand why you're always mentioning little Birken.
ACTRESS: She's your mistress after all.
COUNT: Who says that?
ACTRESS: Everyone knows.
COUNT: Except me. Remarkable.
ACTRESS: But you fought a duel on her behalf!
COUNT: Possibly I was shot dead and didn't notice.
ACTRESS: Count, you are a man of honor. Sit a little closer.
COUNT: If I may.
ACTRESS: Here. (She draws him closer, and runs her fingers through his hair.) I knew you would come today.
COUNT: Really? Why?
ACTRESS: I knew it last night. In the theater.
COUNT: Oh, could you see me from the stage?
ACTRESS: My dear man, didn't you realize I was playing for you alone?
COUNT: How could that be?
ACTRESS: After I saw you in the front row, I was walking on air.
COUNT: Because of me? I'd no idea you'd noticed me.
ACTRESS: Oh, you can drive a woman to despair with that dignity of yours!
ACTRESS: "Fräulein?" At least take your saber off!
COUNT: Permit me. (He unbuckles the belt, leans the saber against the bed.)
ACTRESS: And now kiss me finally.
(The Count kisses her. She does not let him go.)
ACTRESS: I wish I had never set eyes on you.
COUNT: No, no, it's better as it is.
ACTRESS: Count, you're a poseur.
COUNT: I am? Why?
ACTRESS: Many a man'd be happy to be in your shoes right now.
COUNT: I am very happy.
ACTRESS: Oh-I thought happiness didn't exist! Why do you look at me like that? I believe you're afraid of me, Count.
COUNT: I told you, Fräulein, you're a problem.
ACTRESS: Oh, don't bother me with philosophy . . . Come here. And ask me for something. You can have whatever you like. You're too handsome.
COUNT: Well, then I beg leave (kisses her hand) to return tonight.
ACTRESS: Tonight? . . . But I'm playing tonight.
COUNT: After the theater.
ACTRESS: You ask for nothing else?
COUNT: I'll ask for everything else. After the theater.
ACTRESS (offended): Then you can ask, you wretched poseur.
COUNT: You see, Fräulein . . . you see, my dear . . . We've been frank with each other till now. I'd find it all very much nicer in the evening, after the theater. . . . It'll be so much more comfortable. . . . At present, you see, I've the feeling the door's going to open at any moment.
ACTRESS: This door doesn't open from the outside.
COUNT: Fräulein, wouldn't it be frivolous to spoil something at
the start? When it might just possibly turn out to be beautiful?
ACTRESS: "Just possibly"!
COUNT: And to tell the truth, I find love in the morning pretty frightful.
ACTRESS: You're the craziest man I've ever come across.
COUNT: I'm not talking about ordinary females. After all, in general, it doesn't matter. But women like you, Fräulein-no, you can call me a fool as often as you like, but women like you.
Well, one shouldn't have them before breakfast, that's all.
And so. . . well…
ACTRESS: God, you're sweet!
COUNT: Now you see I'm right, don't you? What I have in mind
ACTRESS: Tell me what you have in mind.
COUNT: What I mean is . . . I'll wait for you after the theater, in my carriage, then we can drive off somewhere, well, and have supper and ...
ACTRESS: I am not Fräulein Birken!
COUNT: I didn't say you were, my dear. Only, one must be in the mood! I get in the mood at supper. It's lovely to drive home after supper, and then …
ACTRESS: And then?
COUNT: Let events take their natural course.
ACTRESS: Come closer. Closer!
COUNT (sits down on the bed): I must say, the perfume that comes from these piIlows-mignonette, is it?
ACTRESS: It's hot in here, don't you think?
(The Count bends down and kisses her throat.)
ACTRESS: Oh my dear Count, this isn't on your program.
COUNT: Who says so? I have no program.
(The Actress draws him to her.)
COUNT: It is hot.
ACTRESS: You find it so? And dark, like evening. . . (pulling him to her) It is evening, Count. It's night. . . . Shut your eyes if it's too light for you. Come! Come! (The Count no longer defends himself)
** * * *
ACTRESS: What's that about being in the mood, you poseur?
COUNT: You're a little devil.
COUNT: All right, a little angel.
ACTRESS: And you should have been an actor. Really! You understand women. Do you know what I am going to do now?
ACTRESS: I'm going to tell you I never want to see you again.
ACTRESS: You're too dangerous for me. You turn a woman’s head.
And now you stand there as if nothing has happened.
ACTRESS: I beg you to remember, my dear Count, that I've just been your mistress.
COUNT: Can I ever forget it?
ACTRESS: So how about tonight?
COUNT: What do you mean exactly?
ACTRESS: You intended to meet me after the theater?
COUNT: Oh, yes, all right: let's say the day after tomorrow.
ACTRESS: The day after tomorrow? We were talking of tonight.
COUNT: There wouldn't be much sense in that.
COUNT: You misunderstand me. I mean- how should I say-from the spiritual viewpoint.
ACTRESS: It's not your spirit that interests me.
COUNT: Believe me, it's all part of it. I don't agree that these things can be kept separate.
ACTRESS: Don't talk philosophy at me. When I want that, I read books.
COUNT: But we never learn from books.
ACTRESS: That's true. And that's why you'll be there tonight. We'll come to an agreement about the spiritual viewpoint, you old rascal!
COUNT: Then-with your permission-I'll wait with my carriage.
ACTRESS: You'll wait here. In my apartment.
COUNT: . . . After the theater.
ACTRESS: Of course.
(The Count buckles on his saber.)
ACTRESS: What are you doing?
COUNT: I think it's time for me to go, Fräulein. I've been staying rather long as it is, for a formal visit.
ACTRESS: Well, it won't be a formal visit tonight!
COUNT: You think not?
ACTRESS: Just leave it to me. And now give me one more kiss, little philosopher. Here, you seducer . . . you . . . sweet thing, you spiritualist, you polecat, you . . . (After several emphatic kisses she emphatically pushes him away. My dear Count, it was a great honor.
COUNT: I kiss your hand, Fräulein. (At the door) Au revoir!
ACTRESS: Adieu, tiny town of Steinamanger!
10 The Count and the Whore
Morning, toward six o'clock. A mean little room, with one window; the dirty yellow blinds are down; frayed green curtains. A chest of drawers, with a few photographs on it and a cheap lady's hat in conspicuously bad taste. Several cheap Japanese fans behind the mirror. On the table, covered with a reddish cloth, stands a kerosene lamp, still feebly and odorously alight, with a yellow paper lam shade: next to the lamp, a jug with a little leftover beer, and a half-empty glass. On the floor by the bed, untidy feminine clothing, apparently thrown off in a hurry.
The Whore is asleep in the bed, breathing evenly. On the sofa lies the Count, fully dressed and in a light overcoat; his hat is on the floor by the head of the sofa.
COUNT (moves, rubs his eyes, rises with a start, and, in a sitting position, looks round): However did I get . . . Oh . . So I did go home with that female. . . . (He jumps up, sees her bed.) Why, here she is. To think what all can still happen to a man of my age! I don't remember a thing-did they carry me up? No . . .I remember seeing. . When I got into the room, yes, I was still awake then, or I woke up, or . . . or perhaps it's only that the room reminds me of something? . . Upon my soul, yes, I saw it last night, that's all. . . . (He looks at his watch.) Last night indeed! A few hours ago. I knew something had to happen. Yesterday when I started drinking I felt that
And what happened? Nothing . . Or did I . . . ? Upon my soul . . the last time I couldn't remember was ten years ago. The thing is, I was drunk. If I only knew when it started … I remember exactly going into that whores' cafe with Lulu …and . . . No, no . . . First we left the Sacher. . . and then, on the way, it started. . . Now I've got it. I was driving in my carriage with LuIu . . . Silly to rack my brains. It's all one. I'll be on my way. (He rises. The lamp rocks.) Oh! (He looks at the sleeping girl.) She sleeps soundly, that one. I can't remember a thing, but I'll put the money on her bedside table-and goodbye. (He stands and looks at her a long while.) If one didn't know what she is . . . (He again contemplates her.) I've known quite a lot of girls who didn't look so virtuous, even in their sleep. Upon my soul . . . now Lulu would say I'm philosophizing, but it's true, sleep does make us all equal, it seems to me, like his big brother-Death. . . . Hmm, I'd like to know if.
No, No, after all, that's something I'd remember. No, no, I dropped down on the sofa right away . . . and nothing happened. . . . It's incredible how women can all look alike.
Let's go. (He goes to the door.) . . . Oh, there's that. (He takes out his wallet and is about to get a bilL)
WHORE (wakes up): Um . . . Who's here so early? (recognizing him) Hiya, son!
COUNT: Good morning. Slept well?
WHORE (stretches): Come here. Little kiss.
COUNT (bends down, thinks better of it, pulls up short): I was just going …
COUNT: It's time really.
WHORE: You want to go like this?
COUNT (almost embarrassed): Well .
WHORE: So long, then. Come back and see us.
COUNT: Yes. Good-bye. Don't you want to shake hands?
(The Whore pulls her hand from under the blanket and offers it.)
COUNT (takes her hand, mechanically kisses it, catches himself, and laughs): As if she were a princess! Anyway, if one only…
WHORE: Why do you look at me like that?
COUNT: If one only sees the head, as now . . . when they wake up . . . they all look innocent . . . upon my soul, one really could imagine all sorts of things if the place didn't reek so of kerosene. .
WHORE: Yes, that lamp's a pest.
COUNT: How old are you, actually?
WHORE: Well, what do you think?
WHORE: Oh, sure!
WHORE: Nearly twenty.
COUNT: And how long have you been
WHORE: In the business? A year.
COUNT: You did start early.
WHORE: Better too early than too late.
COUNT (sits down on her bed): Tell me, are you happy?
COUNT: Well, I mean-how's it going? Well?
IWHORE: Oh, I'm doing all right.
COUNT: I see . . Tell me, did it ever occur to you to do something different?
WHORE: What could I do?
COUNT: Well . . . you're a pretty girl, after all, you could have a lover, for instance.
WHORE: Think I don't?
COUNT: I know-but I mean, one, you know: one lover-who keeps you, so you don't have to go with just any man.
WHORE: I don't go with lust any man. I can afford to be choosy, thank goodness.
(The Count looks round the room.)
WHORE (notices this): Next month we're moving into town. The Spiegel Gasse.
COUNT: We? Who?
WHORE: Oh, the madam and a couple of the other girls.
COUNT: There are others here?
WHORE: In the next room . . . can't you hear? That's Milli, she was at the café too.
COUNT: Somebody's snoring.
WHORE: That's Milli all right! She'll snore all day till ten in the evening, then she'll get up and go to the cafe.
COUNT: But that's an appalling sort of life!
WHORE: You said it. And the madam gets fed up with her. I'm always on the streets at twelve noon.
COUNT: What do you do on the streets at twelve noon?
WHORE: What do you think? I'm on my beat.
COUNT: Oh, yes, I see . . . Of course . . . (He gets up, again takes out his wallet, and puts a bill on her bedside table.) Goodbye.
WHORE: Going already? . . . So long. . . Come again soon. (She turns over on her side.)
COUNT (stops again): Listen, tell me something. It doesn't mean a thing to you by now?
COUNT: I mean, you don't have fun with it any more?
WHORE (yawns): I'm sleepy.
COUNT: It's all the same to you if a man is young or old, or if he
WHORE: What are you asking all this for?
COUNT: Well . . . (Suddenly struck by a thought.) Upon my soul, now I know who you remind me of, it's
WHORE: So I look like somebody, do I?
COUNT: Incredible, quite incredible-now, I beg you, please don't say a word for at least a minute. . . . (He stares at her.) exactly the same face, exactly the same face. (He suddenly kisses her on the eyes.)
COUNT: Upon my soul, it's a pity you aren't . . . something else you could make your fortune.
WHORE: You're like Franz.
COUNT: Who's Franz?
WHORE: Oh, the waiter at our café.
COUNT: How am I just like Franz?
WHORE: He always says I could make my fortune. And I should marry him.
COUNT: Why don't you?
WHORE: Thank you very much . . . I don't want no marriage, not for anything. Maybe later.
COUNT: The eyes . . . exactly the same eyes . . . Lulu'd certainly say I'm a fool-but I'm going to kiss your eyes once more like this. And now good-bye. God bless you. I'm going.
WHORE: So long.
COUNT (turning at the door): Listen . . . tell me . . . aren't you a little bit surprised?
COUNT: That I want nothing from you.
WHORE: There's a lot of men don't feel like it in the morning.
COUNT: Well, yes . . . (to himself) It's too silly that I'd like her to be surprised. . . . Good-bye, then . . . (at the door) Really, it annoys me. I know such girls are interested in nothing but the money. . . . Now why do I say "such girls"? . . . At least it's nice that she doesn't pretend, it's a relief, or should be. .
Listen, I'll come again soon, you know.
WHORE (with closed eyes): Good.
COUNT: When are you usually in?
WHORE: I'm always in. Just ask for Leocadia.
COUNT: Leocadia . . . Right. Well, good-bye. (at the door) I have not got the wine out of my head yet. Isn't it the limit . . . I spend the night with one of these . . . and all I do is to kiss her eyes because she reminds me of someone. . . . (He turns to her.) Tell me, Leocadia, does it often happen that a man goes away like this?
WHORE: Like what?
COUNT: Like me.
WHORE: In the morning?
COUNT: No . . .1 mean, has it occasionally happened that a man was with you-and didn't want anything?
WHORE: No, that's never happened.
COUNT: Well, what do you think is the matter? Do you think I don't like you?
WHORE: Why shouldn't you like me? Last night you liked me all right.
COUNT: I like you now too.
WHORE: Last night you liked me better.
COUNT: What makes you think so?
WHORE: Don't talk silly.
COUNT: Last night . . . Tell me, didn't I drop down on the sofa right away?
WHORE: Sure you did-with me.
COUNT: With you?
WHORE: Sure-you don't remember?
COUNT: I . . . we. well .
WHORE: But you went right off to sleep after.
COUNT: I went right off . . I see . . So that's how it was!
WHORE: Yes, son. You must've been good and drunk if you can't
COUNT: I see . . . All the same, there is a faint resemblance . Good-bye . . (He listens.) What's going on?
WHORE: The chambermaid's started work. Look, give her something as you go out. The front door's open, so you save on the janitor.
COUNT: Right. (in the entrance hall) So . . . it would have been beautiful if I'd only kissed her eyes. It would almost have been an adventure. . . . Well, I suppose it wasn't to be!
(The Chambermaid stands by the door and opens it for
him.) Oh . . . here . . . Good night!
CHAMBERMAID: Good morning!
COUNT: Oh, of course. . . Good morning. . . Good morning! (Curtain.)
Translated by Eric Bentley