Dr. Ludwig Thoma, perhaps better known to his Bavarian countrymen as Peter Schlemiehl, was born in Oberammergau on January 21, 1867. After graduating from a gymnasium in Munich, he studied at the School of Forestry at Aschauffenburg. He did not finish his course there, but entered the University at Munich and received his degree as Doctor Juris in 1893.
A year later Dr. Thoma began to practice law; but he abandoned that pursuit in 1899 to follow a career for which his inclinations and talents so happily fitted him.
He had been writing humorous verses for Simplicissimus for several years under the pen name of Pete Schlemiehl, with such success that the paper almost became identified by that name. These poems were later published in book form under the title—Grobheiten.
His prose writings in Bavarian dialect as well as his boyhood experiences entitled, Lausbubengeschichten, won a large and warm audience. In 1899 he became the editor of Simplicissimus. From then on his renown grew. The foremost critics of German letters began to take notice of this "Bavarian Aristophanes" and to compare him to Heine and the classics.
When Moral and Lottchen's Birthday appeared, while the reviewers shook their heads and stated that Dr. Thoma was shocking (so in original) they concluded that their author was "casting a long shadow." To-day Dr. Thoma is a recognized figure in Germany. Prof. Robert F. Arnold in "Das Moderne Drama" (Strassburg, 1908) ranks him next to Hauptmann. His writings are numerous. A vein, satirical and humorous, with a conception of the pathetic, makes him more than an equal to Mark Twain. In addition he is possessed of a message, which he delivers in the Moral.
First produced in 1908 the play soon became a part and parcel of the repertoire of the leading theatres in Germany. It was put on for the first time in New York, in German, at the Irving Place Theatre in the spring of 1914, through the efforts of the late Heinrich Matthias and the writer. Mr. Matthias then played the part of Beermann. Mr. Christians, the director, repeated the performance a number of times that season, each performance meeting with a warm response.
The late Percival Pollard was the first American critic to emphasize the importance of Dr. Thoma's work in his excellent resume of contemporary German literature: Masks and Minstrels of Modern Germany. He pointed out "that no country where hypocrisy or puritanism prevail as factors in the social and municipal conduct should be spared the corrective acid of this play."
H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan for many years have sung praises of the Moral in the Smart Set. But its production on the English speaking stage still remains an event eagerly to be awaited. Briefly, the play is a polemic against the "men higher up," churchmen, reformers, and social hypocrites.
The translation follows the text implicitly. Four different versions were made all varying in a degree from the original, and although Dr. Thoma wrote to the writer "bin auch damit einverstanden dass Sie in der Ubersetzung meines Schauspieles 'Moral' etwaige Aenderungen oder Adaptiereungen, die durch die englisch-amerikanischen Verhaltnisse und den Geschmack des amerikanischen Theatrepublikums geboten erscheinen, in entsprechender Weise vornehmen ..." it was deemed best for purposes of publication to try to preserve the original atmosphere without an attempt to even transpose such phrases as Gnadige Frau, or Herr Kommerzienrat.
New York, October, 1916.
PERSONS OF THE PLAY
FRITZ BEERMANN, a wealthy landowner and banker.
LENA BEERMANN, his wife.
EFFIE BEERMANN, their daughter.
KOMMERZIENRAT ADOLPH BOLLAND, capitalist and manufacturer
CLARA BOLLAND, his wife.
DR. HAUSER, an ex-judge.
FRAU LUND, an old lady.
HANS JACOB DOBLER, a poet.
FRAULEIN KOCH-PINNEBERG, an artiste.
PRIVATDOZENT DR. WASNER, a gymnasium professor.
FREIHERR VON SIMBACH, the Police Commissioner of the Duchy.
ASSESSOR OSCAR STROEBEL, a police official.
MADAME NINON DE HAUTEVILLE, a lady of leisure.
FREIHERR GENERAL BOTHO VON SCHMETTAU, also known as Zurnberg, A Gentleman-in-waiting and Adjutant to His Highness, the Duke.
JOSEPH REISACHER, a clerk of the Police Department.
BETTY, a maid at Beersmann's.
Two man-servants and a policeman.
The esteemed, sensitive public will assume that the action takes place in Emilsburg, the capital of the Duchy of Gerlestein. The first and third acts occur in the house of Herr Fritz Beermann; the second act, in the Police Headquarters. It all happens between Sunday afternoon and Monday evening.
To be free from blame, the producers will please note that:
BEERMANN is in the fifties; jovial; lively; with gray side- whiskers and chin carefully shaved.
FRAU BEERMANN is in the late forties, though youthful looking for her age.
FRAU LUND. sixty-eight; a woman of impressive appearance; her manner is energetic; her mass of white hair is carefully coiffured.
FRAU BOLLAND. about forty-five; stout; talkative.
DR. WASNER. a tall German professor with full blond beard; deep voiced; wears pince-nez with black tortoise shell rim and broad black cord.
HANS JACOB DOBLER. is a poet; he is dressed in a poor fitting cut- away coat; unkempt mustache and Van Dyke beard.
FRAULEIN PINNEBERG, a feminist, wears a loose fitting gown.
DR. HAUSER. fifty; smooth shaven; wears gold rimmed spectacles,
VON SCHMETTAU, sixty; remains stately looking with effort; military bearing.
MADAME DE HAUTEVILLE—indefinitely twenty; her ultra-fashionable Parisian gowns invite the cloak and suit patrons.
(Card room in Beermann's house. In the background a swinging door opens into the dining room. To the right a smaller door leads to the music room. On the left side another door opens into the entrance hall. To left upstage in a corner a small card table with chairs. To right upstage a large sofa and comfortable chairs. Parallel to background down stage, tea table with coffee service thereon; near it to right, smaller table, on it a humidor.
A butler is engaged at the tea table, another man servant is holding swinging door open. [Business of getting up from table.] Many voices and rattle of chairs are heard from dining room. Through swinging doors enters Bolland and Frau Beermann, Beermann with Frau Bolland, Dr. Hauser with Effie, Dr. Wasner with Fraulein Koch-Pinneberg, Dobler alone.)
General greeting of "Mahlzeit."
Dr. Wasner is vigorously shaking hands—going to Frau Beermann says, "Ich wunsche Gesegnete Mahlzeit."
The servants pass around coffee—Beermann conversing with Bolland comes down stage ...
BOLLAND. You will receive two thousand votes more than the Socialists. That's certain.
BEERMANN [skeptical]. No,—no.
BOLLAND. If all the Liberals combine with the Conservatives, the result cannot be in doubt.
BEERMANN [taking coffee from the servant]. If ...
BOLLAND. Fusion is here. It's the logical development. I am an old politician. The time for discussion is over. Now it's a straight fight to a finish.
DR. WASNER [coming nearer]. The German fatherland is rallying to the support of the national flag.
BEERMANN. But there are controversies everywhere. I know best. I always am told by campaign managers: don't say this and don't say that.
BOLLAND. In what way?
BEERMANN. For instance, I'm to speak at the Liberal Club the day after to-morrow. You would not expect me to say the same things I told the Conservatives last night ...?
BOLLAND. Your details, of course, must differ. But fundamentally it amounts to the same thing.
BEERMANN. The same thing? Believe me, all this masking confuses me. [Drinks.]
EFFIE [calling across the tea table where she has been standing with others]. Papa! Listen to Frau Bolland. She also says that the Indian Dancer is so interesting.
FRAU BOLLAND. Positively won—derful, Herr Bolland! You can conceive the entire spirit of the Orient,
EFFIE. Why haven't we gone to see her?
FRAU BOLLAND. You surely ought to go. Professor Stohr—you know him—told me he never in his life saw anything so gorgeous.
FRAULEIN KOCH-PINNEBERG. She's so picturesque in her greenish gowns.
FRAU BOLLAND. I did not know that the Hindoos could be so charming.
BEERMANN. We'll have a look at her some night.
EFFIE. But to-morrow night is her last appearance.
BEERMANN [going to the humidor]. Very well darling. Will you remind me of it to-morrow? [Taking a box of cigars offers one to Dobler who is standing near him.] Smoke?
DOBLER [taking one]. Thanks. But I am not accustomed to the imported ones.
BEERMANN [patronizingly]. You'll get used to high living soon enough.
BOLLAND [to Dobler]. How long have you been in the city now?
DOBLER. Two years.
BOLLAND. And before that you were in ... eh?
FRAU BOLLAND. You must excuse him Herr Dobler. Why in Unterschlettenbach, dear ... You know that!
BOLLAND [correcting himself]. Certainly. Bit of literary history. Mighty interesting place that Unterschlettenbach ... eh?
DOBLER. Hardly, Herr Kommerzienrat. Poor and unsanitary. Most of its inhabitants are miners.
BOLLAND. Fancy that! And I never knew it. Full of miners! Tell me though, what do you think of our set here ...? How do you like this well-to-do circle ... the big city ... wealthy surroundings?
DOBLER [lighting a cigar]. I like it well enough. But I think I will always feel out of place here.
BOLLAND. Can't get used to it?
DOBLER. Everything is so different. It seems to me at times as though I had suddenly entered a beautiful house while outdoors my old comrade was awaiting me patiently—the open road.
FRAU BOLLAND. Isn't that won—derful? So very re-a-lis-tic-ally put! I can just picture it. Oh Herr Dobler ... I must tell you: your novel—my husband and I talk about it all day long.
BOLLAND. Tell me though—did you yourself experience the life of that young man you describe?
DOBLER. It's the story of my youth.
BOLLAND. But it's somewhat colored by poetic imagination?
BOLLAND. For instance, you have never actually starved?
DOBLER. Oh, yes. There's no imagination in that.
BOLLAND. Just the way you describe it—so that everything turned red?
DOBLER. Everything had a pink color. On one occasion I did not eat anything for four and one-half days.
FRAU BEERMANN [compassionately]. You poor thing!
FRAU BOLLAND. That's exceedingly interesting!
BOLLAND. Do tell us all about it! Then you saw dancing fires?
DOBLER. Yes. Everything danced before my eyes, and I saw it all through a hazy veil, and towards the end my hearing was affected.
BOLLAND. You don't say so? Your hearing also?
DOBLER. When any one spoke to me it sounded as if he stood a great distance off—a great distance.
FRAU BOLLAND. Our set never dreams of such things.
BEERMANN. How did it all turn out?
DOBLER. What do you mean?
BEERMANN. Well, in the end you got something to eat again?
DOBLER. Finally I fainted; I was found lying in a meadow, and was taken to the hospital.
FRAU BEERMANN [sighing]. Are such things still possible in our day?
FRAU BOLLAND. What can you expect—of these idealists! DR. HAUSER. They deserve nothing better.
BEERMANN. And after you were in the hospital—how did you get out?
DOBLER. As soon as I got stronger. Later on I became a printer— found a position—studied and published my book.
BEERMANN. That's all in your novel, I know. But the part where you describe how you were a tramp—that's not true?
DOBLER. Yes, I "hoboed" almost a whole year.
FRAU BOLLAND. "Hoboed!" Fancy that! How unique!
FRAULEIN KOCH-PINNEBERG. I can just picture it. Tramping along the railroad tracks.
DOBLER. Yes. You folks think you can picture it with four square meals a day. But it's quite different, I assure you. There were three of us at that time. We worked our way from Basel upwards— sometimes on the left—sometimes on the right bank of the Rhine. In Worms we spent the last of our money and we had to PEDDLE for HAND-OUTS.
FRAU BOLLAND [not understanding him]. "Handouts?" What is that?
DOBLER [with pathos]. To beg for something to eat, gnadige Frau, for our daily bread.
[They all remain silent. Only the voice of the butler who is serving liqueur can be heard.] "Cognac monsieur! Chartreuse! Champagne?"
BEERMANN [taking a glass]. To a man of refinement, such an existence must have been quite unbearable.
DOBLER [taking a glass of cognac from the butler]. Unpleasant. [Drinking.] But you lose your sensitiveness. At first it is hard— but one learns. In one hot day on the road ... when you get fagged out—and with every stone hurting your feet—you'll learn. The dust blinds you—but you've got to go on just the same. In the evening you come to a small hamlet with smoke curling above the house-tops and the houses themselves look cozy—then you have to hold your hat in your hand and beg for a plate of warm soup. [A short pause.]
DR. WASNER [deep bass voice]. Home sweet home!
BOLLAND. The story reminds me exactly of my late father.
FRAU BOLLAND. But, Adolph!
BOLLAND. Indeed, I say it does!
FRAU BOLLAND. How can you draw such a comparison? Herr Dobler has become a celebrated poet.
BOLLAND. My father also achieved something in life. At his funeral four hundred employees followed the coffin.
FRAU BOLLAND [impatiently]. We've heard that before ... Herr Dobler, did you write poetry in those days?
DOBLER. No, Frau Bolland. Much later.
FRAU BOLLAND. I'll have to read your novel all over again, now that I know it is all autobiographical.
FRAU BEERMANN [to Dr. Wasner]. You were going to sing, Herr Professor?
DR. WASNER. I promised ...
FRAU BEERMANN. Yes, do, Effie will accompany you.
DR. WASNER. If Fraulein will be so kind ... but I don't know how my voice is to-day ...
FRAU BOLLAND. You sing so beauti-ful-ly.
DR. WASNER. So much campaign work. Politics corrupts even the voice.
FRAULEIN KOCH-PINNEBERG. Do oblige us.
[Frau Bolland, Frau Beermann, Dr. Wasner, Fraulein Koch, Effie go out into the music room.]
BEERMANN. It's a pity that the professor is going to sing. We could have started a game of skat. Have some more cognac?
DR. HAUSER. No, thanks.
DOBLER. Thanks. No more for me.
[Bolland seats himself on sofa; Dr. Hauser and Dobler sit in chairs; Beermann lights a fresh cigar. The butler goes into the music room and as he opens the door, the sound of the piano is heard.]
BOLLAND. As I said before Herr Dobler, your story reminded me very much of my late father.
DR. HAUSER. Of the well known Kommerzienrat Bolland?
BOLLAND [sinks deep into chair; crosses legs]. Never mind he was not always a wealthy Kommerzienrat. [Turning to Dobler.] Picture to yourself a winter landscape—it's bitter cold—a gray sky—it is snowing and everything is wrapped in snow. Through all this we see a youth walking—rather staggering—along the forest road from Perleberg. A half starved young man. [He pauses and brushes ashes from his cigar. The butler enters from the music room to get a glass of water; then he goes out again. While the door is open, the trembling bass baritone voice of Prof. Wasner is heard.]
"In deinen Augen hab ich einst gelesen Von Lieb' und—Gluck—von Lieb' und Gluck den Schein...."
[Footnote: (Translated):—"In thy dear eyes I once read the story Of love and Joy—of Love, And Joy agleam...."]
[The door closes and the sound is shut off.]
BOLLAND [now continues his speech]. And now the snow falls faster and faster. This poor young man had par tout nothing to eat since the morning. He becomes very weak; sits down on a bundle of twigs and falls asleep. Just by sheer chance it happens that a man from Perleberg passing by sees this dejected, snowed-in figure and takes the young fellow home with him. [He pauses.] And this young man later became my father ...
HAUSER. And Herr Kommerzienrat Bolland.
BOLLAND. Yes. Herr Kommerzienrat Bolland. [To Dobler.] Now don't you consider it quite remarkable? Wouldn't that make a fine novel?
DOBLER. Yes ... Yes.
BOLLAND. That could be worked up very nicely, couldn't it? A poor young man—the snow covered landscape ...
HAUSER. And that bundle of twigs.
DOBLER. Fortune has her unique whims and likes to turn the tables.
BOLLAND. That's it exactly. Fortune delights in turning the tables.
HAUSER. Unique whims? No. That sort of thing happens every day.
BOLLAND. What happens every day?
HAUSER. The story of a poor young man who becomes a millionaire. Every large factory boasts of a like progenitor.
BOLLAND. Do you think so?
HAUSER. And the poor young man grows poorer with each telling. Your son, Herr Bolland, in his description will have his grandfather freeze to death on the bundle of twigs.
BOLLAND. Upon my word the story is gospel. [To Dobler.] I'd make use of that plot ... How he founded his business and how it grew and grew ...
[As Frau Beermann enters from the music room, the tremulous voice of Prof. Wasner is heard.]
"Behuet dich Gott, es hat nicht sollen sein." [Footnote: God guard thee well, it was but a dream.]
[The closing of the door shuts off the sound.]
DOBLER. In one respect you are right. The character of the SELF MADE MAN [Footnote: So in original.] has hardly been treated in contemporary German literature.
BOLLAND [with enthusiasm]. That's just what I claim. Always about the poor people only. But take a man who has a large income—one who makes a success of his business, that also is poetry.
HAUSER. I'd have my ledger novelized, if I were you, Holland. [A maid opens door, admitting Frau Lund.]
FRAU BEERMANN [welcoming Frau Lund]. Mama Lund, how good of you.
FRAU LUND [vivaciously]. Always glad to come here. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Where is my little Effie?
FRAU BEERMANN. In the music room. [To the maid.] Please tell my daughter ...
FRAU LUND. No, no, don't disturb her.
BEERMANN. Permit me. [Introducing.] ... Herr Hans Jacob Dobler, our famous poet ...
FRAU LUND [taking his hand]. A famous poet? Delighted.
BOLLAND. Author of "Life Story of Hans." ...
FRAU LUND [pleasantly to Dobler]. If I were younger, Herr Dobler, I would certainly make believe that I read your book. But at my age I find that sort of thing too tiresome. What is the "Life Story of Hans"?
DOBLER. It is a novel, gnadige Frau.
BOLLAND. A masterpiece.
FRAU LUND. Then my ignorance is unpardonable. I'll soon make reparation.
[Frau Bolland followed by Effie, Dr. Wasner and Fraulein Koch hurry out of the music room.]
FRAU BOLLAND. I am off for the Arts Club. I'll be late, I fear. [To Frau Lund.] Oh, how do you do, Frau Lund?
EFFIE [hurries over to Frau Lund and kisses her hand]. Mama Lund!
FRAU LUND. How is my little mischief maker? When are you coming to see me?
EFFIE. I would glady come ... but, I am so busy with music lessons and Professor Stohr's lectures ...
FRAU LUND. And this and that and your eighteen years. You are quite right, my dear.
FRAU BOLLAND [to Frau Beermann]. May Effie come along? They say there are very won-der-ful paintings at the Arts Club.
FRAU BEERMANN [turning to Frau Lund], I don't know if ...
FRAU LUND. Of course, let her go along. She has such a pretty little dress. Why should she be here with us old people? The gentlemen will entertain us ...
FRAU BOLLAND. But then we'll have to hurry. It is quite late. Goodbye, Frau Beermann. I enjoyed myself so much. Goodbye, my dear Frau Lund. So glad to have seen you again. Goodbye, goodbye ... Adolph!
BOLLAND. Yes, Mother.
FRAU BOLLAND. You won't forget the theatre tonight? At eight. The Viennese actor is so fine. [Off to left. Followed by Effie and Fraulein Koch. Frau Bolland in the doorway.]
FRAU BOLLAND. Will you come with us, Herr Dobler? You can explain so many things.
DOBLER. I'll be glad to. [Shaking hands with Frau Beermann and bowing.]
BEERMANN. Come soon again, Herr Poet.
BOLLAND. And think over the story I told you.
[Dobler goes out left, following Frau Bolland, Effie, and Fraulein Koch.]
FRAU LUND [to Frau Beermann]. I'll just have a cup of coffee.
FRAU BEERMANN. I'll tell them to make a fresh cup for you. A fresh cup of coffee. [To the butler who is clearing the table.] Tell the chef—[Butler goes out through the middle door. In the meantime Frau Holland again appears through left.]
FRAU BOLLAND. Adolph!
FRAU BOLLAND. Thursday the circus comes to town, don't forget to reserve seats.
BOLLAND. All right!
FRAU BOLLAND [while going out]. I'm still a child when the circus comes.
[Frau Lund seats herself on sofa. Next to her on the right Frau Beermann; Beermann and Bolland sit opposite in large leather chairs. Hauser is standing behind the sofa leaning against it.]
FRAU LUND [to Hauser]. Tell me Judge, where have you been keeping yourself all this time?
HAUSER. In my office, Frau Lund, only in my office. But I hear that you were on the Riviera.
FRAU LUND. Four weeks in Monte Carlo. Children, I gambled like an old viveur.
BEERMANN. What luck?
FRAU LUND. I lost, of course—I'm too old to set the world on fire. But, Beermann, I hear all sorts of surprises about you. You are a candidate for the Reichstag?
BEERMANN. Yes, they nominated me.
FRAU LUND. Who are "they"?
BEERMANN. The combined Liberals and Conservatives ...
HAUSER. And the Conservatives and Liberals combined.
FRAU LUND. Formerly these were distinct parties.
BEERMANN. Now there is fusion.
FRAU LUND [to Frau Beermann]. You never told me that your husband was in politics.
FRAU BEERMANN. He never was—up to two weeks ago.
FRAU LUND. How quickly things change! And of all the people ... you!
BEERMANN. What's so startling in that?
FRAU LUND. You told me that you never even read the newspapers.
BOLLAND. We all are cordially grateful to Beermann that in an hour of need he made this sacrifice.
FRAU LUND. The way you talk about the "hour of need" and "sacrifice" Herr Kommerzienrat, it seems to me that you would have been the better candidate.
BOLLAND. Oh, I am too pronouncedly Liberal.
HAUSER. And that's an incurable disease!
BOLLAND. At any rate it makes my nomination impossible. A man was needed who was not known as a party-man.
FRAU LUND. It would seem then that our friend Beermann has become a politician because he ... is no politician?
HAUSER. That's what is known as "fusion."
BEERMANN. Allow me to ask a question. Why should I not become a Reichstag deputy?
HAUSER. Quite right! Frau Lund—tell him—why shouldn't he?
BEERMANN. Because I am a novice in politics? We all have to make a start.
HAUSER. It's the only calling where one can start any day, Frau Lund, without being called upon to produce qualifications.
BOLLAND. There you can tell the lawyer. You'd like to establish a civil service examination for members of the Reichstag?
HAUSER. You are not afraid that it might hurt them?
BEERMANN [with importance]. Let me tell you, Judge. What a person achieves in real life is far greater than all your book wisdom. We have too many lawyers anyway. It's one of our national misfortunes.
FRAU LUND [merrily to Frau Beermann]. Look! He's beginning to debate already.
BOLLAND [careless pose]. As you know, I run a soap factory where I employ four hundred and sixty-two workmen ... let me repeat it, four hundred and sixty-two workmen. Their livelihood and welfare lies in the palm of my hand; don't you think that requires brains?
HAUSER. But ...
BOLLAND [interrupting]. Do you realize what the amount of detail and the management of the whole factory means?
HAUSER. But friend Beermann never even worked in a soap factory. How can that apply to him?
BEERMANN. Oh, what's the use of discussing things if you're joking.
HAUSER. Really, I can't see the connection.
BEERMANN. At any rate, I'm a better candidate than the book-binder whom the Socialists have put up against me.
BOLLAND. Beermann has had greater experience and has a broader point of view.
FRAU LUND. Then there's something else I heard about Herr Beermann, that I don't like at all.
BEERMANN. About me?
FRAU LUND. Yes, I bear that you are the President of the new Society for the Suppression of Vice. What makes you do such things? That isn't nice.
FRAU BEERMANN. I fully agree with you.
BEERMANN. You do? For what reasons? When honest men select me as their President, is that mere flattery?
FRAU LUND. It is not becoming to you, and you are insincere in it.
FRAU BEERMANN. It's as false as anything can be, and you speak about problems which you have never understood.
BEERMANN. Pardon me! I ought to know best what is becoming for me.
FRAU LUND. There's no one in the world I dislike as much as a preacher. But if a person wants to be one ... then, according to the gospel he ought to live on bread and water. It doesn't go well with champagne and lobster.
BEERMANN. Do the Scriptures command that we must be poor to be honorable?
FRAU LUND. No, Beermann, but if I still remember, they speak of a camel and a needle.
BOLLAND. The ladies evidently are not acquainted with the purposes of our new society. I am sure they would subscribe to every one of the principles which are incorporated in our By-laws.
FRAU LUND. I certainly would not.
BOLLAND [feeling in his side pocket]. At least read our "Appeal to the Public."
FRAU LUND [refusing]. No, thank you.
BOLLAND. Every woman will rejoice when she reads it.
FRAU LUND. Do you think so? How exceedingly amusing your societies are! So, cards and bowling no longer offer sufficient entertainment. You have to moralize.
HAUSER. I can't help thinking of the notorious starvation freak at the circus who gets his meals on the sly everyday.
DR. WASNER. Of course, every conviction can be made ridiculous once it's regarded as insincere. You shouldn't accuse without proof.
HAUSER. Herr Professor, politeness requires that each individual be regarded as the exception—but not an entire club.
BOLLAND. It is a pity, indeed, that a great movement like ours is disposed of by a few trifling remarks. That embitters our task of curing the nation of social diseases.
FRAU LUND. Where did you get your Doctor's license to cure?
DR. WASNER. It's sad enough that the cure is left to only a few of us.
HAUSER. Well, I'll remain a patient. You'll need a few anyway to keep up your business.
BEERMANN. I consider all this a very cheap kind of humor. I used to joke about these matters myself, but if you will only look upon this problem from a serious point of view, when your eyes are opened to the ...
FRAU BEERMANN. ... Your newly acquired ways of talking are quite unbearable.
BEERMANN. Please, don't make a scene.
FRAU BEERMANN. We have been married for twenty-six years; have been very fortunate with our own children. Why worry about other people?
BEERMANN. You are not logical, my love. The mere fact that I brought up my children properly is all the more reason for my joining this movement. ...
FRAU BEERMANN. You didn't lose much sleep about their education.
BEERMANN. Evidently I didn't neglect anything.
FRAU LUND. I'm afraid you pride yourselves on a degree of willpower you never exercised.
BEERMANN. Never exercised? My dear Frau Lund, what do you know about the temptations which confront us men. What does a woman know about them?
FRAU LUND. The only thing we women don't know about is the manner in which these temptations terminate.
BEERMANN. Our movement intends to do away with these very deceptions. We want to protect the traditions of the home which women treasure.
FRAU LUND. No. We, women also treasure modesty. We dislike to see men pretend to have better morals than they actually have.
BEERMANN. Seriously, Frau Lund. Public immorality must hurt you more.
FRAU LUND. You arc mistaken. It requires a genuine manly feeling to sympathize with misery.
DR. WASNER. Misery and vice are different problems.
FRAU LUND. They're not. And that is why we will never agree.
FRAU BEERMANN. All the more reason why my husband should not set himself up as an example. He knows nothing of worry or care.
BEERMANN. We can never subscribe to Frau Lund's principles.
FRAU LUND. No principles, please!
BOLLAND. Out of sheer opposition you will say that you hold different ones from us.
FRAU LUND. No. I will say that I hold none at all.
BOLLAND. and WASNER [together]. But, gnadige Frau!
FRAU LUND. I can't help it. I lost them some place on my journey through life. I have learned that all your principles have loop holes through which people can conveniently slip out and take their friends along with them. So I had my choice of either surrendering them or dishonestly preaching them to others.
DR. WASNER. Real principles of life are never given up.
HAUSER [with sarcasm]. Cheers from the gallery!
BOLLAND. Principles of morality are the laws of nature—they are her dictates.
FRAU LUND. Is that the reason you have started your Society for the Suppression of Vice? Do you imagine your by-laws are stronger than the laws of nature?
DR. WASNER. May I make just one remark?
BEERMANN. What is it?
DR. WASNER [stroking his beard]. In summing up the matter we can come to this decision: women have a beautiful privilege. Certain facts in life remain a closed book to them. We, men, unfortunately have to come into contact with them.
HAUSER. Did you say UNFORTUNATELY?
DR. WASNER. Please don't interrupt. I maintain "unfortunately"! For the last four years, I have been persistently following obscene literature, and to-day I have gotten together a collection of it, which I dare say is pretty complete. So I am speaking of matters about which I am thoroughly informed. [With importance.] The degree of vulgarity our people have reached is incredible.
FRAU LUND. And you have been the "persistent collector" of this vulgarity?
DR. WASNER. Let me assure you that I took upon myself this task with loathing.
HAUSER. Herr Professor, in all my life I have never met a man who for four years voluntarily did something which was loathsome to him.
DR. WASNER. You have no business to make such a remark.
HAUSER. Have you derived no satisfaction from it at all?
DR. WASNER. Satisfaction—if you mean the satisfaction of participating in the uplift of our people.
FRAU LUND. Uplift? Our reformers capitalize our national lack of good taste. Good proof of that are the moral works of art which you patronize.
DR. WASNER. The matter we are discussing is more serious than reforming bad taste.
FRAU LUND. There is nothing more serious.
DR. WASNER [knowingly]. If you but knew, Frau Lund!
FRAU LUND. I don't have to call and see your collection. Frankly, to me, the most obscene picture in your gallery could not be more disgusting than the talk you carry on in your meetings.
BEERMANN. Oh! Oh!
FRAU LUND. The nudity of the human body is not disgusting. It is the nudity of your mind. No vice is as repulsive as that virtue of yours which loudly uncovers itself in public—in market places. Vice has at least the shame to hide itself.
BEERMANN [to Bolland]. Can you understand her?
BOLLAND. I must admit, I can't.
DR. WASNER. Gnadige Frau stated that vice hides itself. But in spite of that it exists.
BOLLAND. Yes, she admitted that it exists.
DR. WASNER. Shall we tolerate it merely because it crawls into dark nooks and corners?
FRAU LUND. You reformers! Let more sunshine into this world and vice will not find so many dark corners and nooks to hide in.
BOLLAND. You would not be as opposed to us if you had a son who would be exposed to the temptations of our great cities.
FRAU LUND. I would be ashamed of myself if for personal reasons I became narrow-minded.
BEERMANN. But just stop to think! Picture a healthy young man in his prime falling into the hands of one of these abominable creatures!
FRAU LUND. I could picture something worse than that.
BEERMANN. Still worse?
FRAU LUND. For instance, if he should, with all the credulity of youth, enter into the work of your society.
BOLLAND. Well! Well!
BEERMANN. You don't seem to take anything seriously to-day.
FRAU LUND. Very seriously; this young man perhaps does reach the stage where he sincerely pities your so-called abominable creature. Then he has really advanced in his morality. Let the pity impress itself deeply upon him and your abominable creature has preached better to him than all your high-sounding phrases.
BOLLAND. I am simply dumbfounded.
DR. WASNER. Then you even believe that our society exerts a bad influence?
FRAU LUND [very positively]. Yes.
BOLLAND [with irony]. Fancy! University Professors, philanthropists and a general who are with us in this work—they are, of course, the ones who are likely to corrupt the morals of the younger generation. Frau Lund, no doubt, would like to send our young men to the good Ladies of the Pavement.
DR. WASNER. In what way is our influence bad?
FRAU LUND [with warmth]. The young man who joins your society does it only to ape you and to advance his own ends and vainglory. He forever deprives himself of understanding the meaning of life and of becoming helpful to those who suffer.
BOLLAND. Well what do you think of such statements?
FRAU BEERMANN. They are splendid. I would be very thankful if my boy would embody the ideals of Frau Lund.
BEERMANN. Lena, I simply forbid you to say such things.
FRAU BEERMANN. Really?
BEERMANN. Everybody knows that Frau Lund is a radical, but I don't want you to fall into that habit.
FRAU BEERMANN. I don't acquire new habits as rapidly as you.
HAUSER [to Beermann]. Don't get excited. A politician must give everyone an opportunity to express his views.
DR. WASNER. I teach young people and I heartily wish they'd continue to seek their ideals among high minded men and not in the dark city streets.
BOLLAND. Right! And not in the dark city streets.
FRAU LUND. Nor there, Herr Kommerzienrat, where the veil of shame is rudely torn from inborn sensitiveness and it is shorn of every secret charm.
DR. WASNER. Correct! We do want to deprive it of its charm.
FRAU LUND. You succeed in doing that; no tenderness can survive the brutal frankness of your meetings.
DR. WASNER. It is not a national German trait to sugar-coat sin.
FRAU LUND. Why do you confound all lack of refinement with the national character?
DR. WASNER. Because it is good German to call a spade a spade.
BEERMANN [getting up]. Why argue to no purpose? Let's start our game of skat.
BOLLAND. Because it appears to be a conflict of two different philosophies.
BEERMANN [rises, goes to card table, opens a drawer, takes out a deck of cards and opens them]. It's always the same old story. Never start anything with women! They must have the last word. [Sits down at card table. Bolland gets up and sits beside him.]
FRAU LUND [laughing]. Spoken again like a typical reformer.
DR. WASNER [rising]. I don't want to continue this argument, but if by any chance you have gained the impression that I regard this matter from a prejudiced view point, I will cheerfully admit it. I do.
BEERMANN [calling]. Oh, do come on, Herr Professor.
DR. WASNER [turning to card table]. I'm coming. [To others.] I admit with pride that I am prejudiced. For me there exists only one question: How can I best serve my fatherland?
BOLLAND. Herr Professor!
DR. WASNER [turning to table]. Just a moment. ... [To others.] Let the sturdy qualities of our people be conserved. That stand is unassailable. Then I will be sure that my efforts have at least ...
BEERMANN [loudly]. But, my dear Wasner!
WASNER [not dismayed, continuing]. ... at least a national scope.
HAUSER. Wouldn't you rather play skat, professor?
WASNER [going over to card table]. There remains only one thing for me to say. If I have used sharp words, I want to apologize. [Takes a seat.]
BEERMANN. You deal, Professor.
DR. WASNER [shuffling the cards and talking at the same time]. For me there exists but one ideal. That which Tacitus described as it once prevailed among the old Teutons. Quamquam severa illic matrimonia nec ullam morum partem magis laudaveris. [He lets Bolland cut and then deals.] The most praiseworthy trait of the Teutons was the strictness of their marriage customs. Nam prope soli Barbarorum singulis uxoribus contenti sunt. They were almost the only barbarians to content themselves with a single wife.
BEERMANN [loudly]. Tournee!
BOLLAND. I'll go you!
BOLLAND. I'll better that!
BEERMANN. Take it! Gras-Solo!
[Hauser, Frau Lund, Frau Beermann remain sitting at right.]
FRAU LUND. At last the Fatherland is saved.
FRAU BEERMANN. It's the only occupation for which nature intended them. They should not tinker with national problems.
HAUSER. Have patience. Political ambition dies out after the first defeat.
FRAU BEERMANN. ... which I hope will happen.
HAUSER. That's as certain as fate. Else he never would have been nominated.
BEERMANN [calling from the card table]. I have pretty sharp hearing!
HAUSER. A very fine acquisition, Beermann, when you grow old.
BOLLAND [throwing a card on the table]. Fifty-nine and four make sixty-three! The rest you can take.
(They throw down their cards; Bolland collects them and shuffles.)
WASNER [half turning to Hauser], And then there is the celebrated passage, "Ergo septa pudicitia agunt, nullis ... spectaculorum illecebris corruptae."
BEERMANN. I have six cards.
BOLLAND. The bottom one belongs to the Professor.
WASNER [as before, continuing]. So the wife lived surrounded by tenderness and care ... and so forth, "Literarum secreta. ..." Secret communications were not tolerated by either husband or wife.
BEERMANN. Please drop that Tacitus. It's your chance to lead. ...
WASNER. I pass. ...
HOLLAND. So do I.
BOLLAND [loudly and enthusiastically]. That's the way to get at them! Trumps! And trumps again.
WASNER [murmuring]. "Paucissima adulteria in tam numerosa gente. ..." [Gradually lapses into silence and then continues to play with energy.]
FRAU LUND [with a glance towards the card table]. Why do we take our principles so seriously. ... It's really ridiculous how our every opinion soon turns into religious beliefs.
WASNER. The matter is dead serious.
FRAU LUND. Who will think of it to-morrow?
HAUSER [nodding towards card table]. Not they, of course. But there are cleverer people. The so-called thinking public in Germany must have some national problem to solve. It finds some such, readily enough in order to play with it. Meanwhile they take no notice that the party in power [Footnote: Men with the brass buttons.] are lining their pockets.
FRAU LUND. Haven't they always been doing that?
HAUSER. Yes, but not with such. ease. Here and there they were rapped over the knuckles. But nowadays they could cart away the entire capitol.
FRAU LUND. There's not so much left to-day.
HAUSER. A couple of pieces anyhow to take along as keepsakes.
FRAU LUND. In my days I saw one reform after another on the bargain counter; but we women remain mere spectators while ideals come and go; we can not realize how much they mean to men.
HAUSER. My dear Frau Lund, if a real reform should effectively rise among us some day, then you women will have to lend a helping hand. With those [nodding towards card-table] kindergarten heroes nothing can be accomplished.
FRAU BEERMANN. What influence can we exert so long as men organize their societies for the protection of women's virtue!
HAUSER. These henpecked gentlemen always nominate themselves chastity's guardians.
FRAU BEERMANN. They are of importance only when they can get some one to listen. I'd like to go to their meetings and tell them that.
HAUSER. Their meetings—bosh! Their sort only couple their nonsense with a few self-evident generalities which no one would really oppose. No, first of all they must be educated and that you women alone can accomplish.
FRAU LUND. You say that as if we had any influence on public opinion.
HAUSER. You do all the applauding. The whole game is played for you. If you withdraw your applause not a single one of the peacocks of virtue will open up his gospel feathers for exhibition. It is indeed of great importance to you that they do not banish all refinement from our social life.
FRAU LUND [citing].
[Footnote: in original "FRAU LUND [zitierend]. "Ja, da eur Wonnedienst noch glanzte, Wie ganz anders, anders war es da! Da man deine Tempel noch bekranzte. ...
DR. WASNER [hat beim Zitieren der Schillerischer Verse heruber gehorcht und fallt nun mit tiefen Basse ein]. ... Venus Amathusia."]
"Yes, while still thy sanctuaries of pleasure Crowned this earth like in Arcadia Joy had no penalty nor trader's measure. ..."
DR. WASNER [when the citation began listened over his cards, now falls in with deep bass]. "... Venus Amathusia."
BOLLAND [angrily breaking in]. Man alive, why didn't you play your Ace of Spades? If you had brought out that Ace you'd have a trump- -then you'd beat this with a trump ... and then another trum. ...
BEERMANN. Now, beloved friends and countrymen, no post-mortem speeches. [While dealing cards.] You cut, Bolland.
BOLLAND [cutting cards]. Make use of your trumps, Herr Professor. I am trying to play into your hands.
DR. WASNER. I thought ...
BOLLAND. You didn't. If you had you'd play differently.
BEERMANN [speaking to Frau Lund, while dealing]. How far have you gotten with your moralizing? Have we agreed yet—[Laughing.] Yes; yes; these women folks!
WASNER [arranging cards in his hand]. They were citing Schiller a moment ago. We must not forget, ladies, that it was Schiller himself who awakened the national spirit of our race.
HAUSER. Your national spirit unfortunately found its way into the strangest kinds of containers.
DR. WASNER. I decidedly protest against such a poor opinion. If the sincere religious sentiment of the German element ...
BOLLAND [interrupting him]. We are waiting for you, Herr Professor. Are you finally going to announce your cards?
DR. WASNER [continuing his pathetic tone]. I pass.
HAUSER. The steady contact with school children keeps our educators refreshingly naive. That man still believes in the superiority of the Teutonic element.
FRAU LUND. And in the stability of our special German moral standard.
HAUSER. Until some little scandal crops up again. By the way, we shall soon have one right in our city.
FRAU BEERMANN [with interest]. Here?
HAUSER. To-morrow you'll read all about it in the newspapers. The police have made a discovery which may prove more than they bargained for.
FRAU BEERMANN. Here? [Beerman, head sideways, listens over his cards.]
HAUSER. Last night the police arrested a woman who kept a very open house. She colored it by going under a fancy French name, and they say only entertained the best of society. She kept a diary which fell into the hands of the police.
BEERMANN [he leaves his seat, comes forward, right]. A diary?
BOLLAND [drops his cards and rises]. What sort of a diary?
HAUSER. Oh! Just a naughty little inventory of all of her visitors.
BEERMANN. What is the name of the lady?
HAUSER. Some French name which sounds to me like rouge.
BEERMANN. I can't understand how you could forget her name.
BOLLAND. I can't either as long as you seem to know all about it.
FRAU BEERMANN [to Beermann]. But, Fritz, why should you worry about it?
BEERMANN. Well ... am I the President of the Vice Suppression Society or, am I not ...?
(An office at Police Headquarters. To rear on the left stands the Assessor's desk. To the right against the wall, the desk of Reisacher, the police clerk. Left front is a sofa with two chairs. On the right wall is a telephone. Side entrance left. Another entrance in the middle. Stroebel and Reisacher are seated with their backs to one another. Stroebel is reading a newspaper; Reisacher is writing. Short pause.)
STROEBEL [half turning]. Reisacher!
REISACHER [also turning]. Yes, Herr Assessor.[Footnote: An assessor is a petty police official.]
STROEBEL. Are you familiar with the expression "those higher up"?
REISACHER. Yes, Herr Assessor.
STROEBEL. What do you understand by it?
REISACHER. Those are the folks who are something and have money somewhere.
STROEBEL. Is it used to express contempt or class hatred?
REISACHER [eagerly]. Well ... well! "The higher ups" are respected.
STROEBEL. Are you certain?
[They both turn around to their former positions; Stroebel continues to read, and Reisacher to write. Short pause.]
STROEBEL [half turning]. Reisacher!
REISACHER [does likewise]. Yes, Herr Assessor.
STROEBEL. After all, it means class hatred.
REISACHER. No, no.
STROEBEL. Pay attention. Here it says [he reads]: "Of course, for those higher up there are no laws." That means, I take it, that the rich are beyond the control of the law. By "control of the law," I wish you to understand I am attacking the humiliating and anarchistic notion that the law does not apply equally to rich and poor. Also I want to besmirch the rich, by designating them by a slang expression.
REISACHER. Yes, Herr Assessor.
STROEBEL. Then how can you say it does not express class hatred and contempt?
REISACHER. Because, then again, you see, people who have money are respected anyway.
STROEBEL. You will never learn to think precisely, Reisacher.
REISACHER. Yes, Herr Assessor.
[Both resume their former positions. Short pause. Police Commissioner, Freiherr van Simbach, enters left. Stroebel lays aside his paper, rises and salutes. Reisacher writes hurriedly.]
COMMISSIONER [Footnote: President of Police, in original.] 'Morning, Herr Assessor. [To Reisacher.] Take your work outside, Reisacher, until I have finished. [Reisacher exit through middle door.] I want to ask you a few questions, Herr Stroebel. [Stroebel bows. The Commissioner during the conversation takes center of stage and speaks nonchalantly and somewhat drawingly.] I read your report. Day before yesterday, that was on Saturday, you ordered the arrest of a certain woman.
STROEBEL. Yes, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER. Well, what about her?
STROEBEL. According to the report of Lieutenant Schmuttermaier, we have in our hands a very dangerous person.
COMMISSIONER. Is that so!
STROEBEL. Within a short time she has almost demoralized our city.
COMMISSIONER. She has been in the city about three or four years. ...
STROEBEL. She has, according to the report.
COMMISSIONER. In what way has she been dangerous? Did bald headed gentlemen loosen up a bit in her house or are there special charges against her?
STROEBEL. No special ones, but her whole behavior. She had a beautiful apartment in the best residential district. According to the report, the neighbors began to talk about her. She dressed in a rather fast and fashionable manner. ...
COMMISSIONER. Then because she did not cater to the common people, you consider her so terrible?
STROEBEL. No, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER. I thought not. Remember, please, I don't want you to get any of the popular ideas about the corruption of our best society. Slit skirts cause as much harm. [Stroebel bows.] What is her name?
STROEBEL. Ninon De Hauteville. But her real name is Therese Hochstetter.
COMMISSIONER. H-a-u-t-e V-i-l-l-e?
STROEBEL. She comes of a good family. Her father was a Peruvian consul. When he lost his money, she married a consular secretary. He divorced her four years ago.
COMMISSIONER. Indeed. So she is a person of refinement.
STROEBEL. But she has ...
COMMISSIONER. ... A demoralizing influence. I know all about that. Tell me, what made you arrest her?
STROEBEL [with importance]. Eight days ago, I received a letter severely rebuking the police because her place was tolerated. ...
COMMISSIONER. Who was the letter from?
STROEBEL [hesitatingly']. It was ... really ... anonymous.
COMMISSIONER. I hope that you are very careful about anonymous communications.
STROEBEL. Generally, I pay little attention to them. But this letter was so full of details, I simply had to consider it. Of course, only as a hint and I intended to get proof. I gave it to Schmuttermaier and told him to keep the Hochstetter woman under strict surveillance. Saturday at noon we obtained positive evidence,
STROEBEL. Then I ordered Schmuttermaier to raid the place ...
COMMISSIONER. ... During which you found a diary in her apartments?
STROEBEL. Yes, Commissioner; a diary with the names of her visitors. The dates and their social standing. Everything.
COMMISSIONER. Have you finished reading it?
STROEBEL. No, sir. I just glanced at it. I only got it from Schmuttermaier an hour ago. I was not in the office yesterday.
COMMISSIONER [thoughtfully]. It's too late to do anything to-day. [Consulting his watch.] Let me see. Bring me an exact report of all important names contained in the diary ... at ten to-morrow morning.
STROEBEL. Yes, Commissioner, at ten o'clock.
COMMISSIONER. And remember, it's very important that you make this report personally. Don't let the clerk see the diary. It has not yet been in his hands?
STROEBEL [going to his desk]. No. It's locked up in my desk.
COMMISSIONER. Time enough to bring it to me tomorrow morning when you make your report.
STROEBEL. How do you want me to get my data, Commissioner? Shall I summon the important people involved?
COMMISSIONER [with emphasis]. Only ... the important ... names ... that's all. By the way, how far have you gone in the case? Have you taken any further steps?
STROEBEL. No. I will examine the Hochstetter woman in a little while. ...
COMMISSIONER. And Schmuttermaier? Has he orders to make any further raids?
STROEBEL. Not yet. I want to read the diary first.
COMMISSIONER. Above all, I do not want him to act without instructions. People of no importance like to do important things.
STROEBEL. Yes, Commissioner. Your orders will be carried out.
COMMISSIONER. Orders? I never give orders. You have your duties to perform. I don't care to tell you what to do. ... But there must be no further raids until I have seen the diary.
STROEBEL. Certainly, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER. At the same time, don't neglect your duty.
STROEBEL. I will do everything necessary for the promotion of public decency.
COMMISSIONER [who has been pacing the room, turns suddenly.] Public decency? Very well, very well. ... [Short pause.] We occupy a most peculiar position Do we not, Herr Stroebel? [Stroebel bows.] We know fully the existing difference between official ... and let me say ... personal sensitiveness, do we not? [Stroebel bows in accord.] I mention this merely because you spoke of public decency. There is a decency about which you and I privately might have most interesting discussions. As far as I am concerned, such decency can be without limits. But there is another—the public decency—which it is our business to police. This has its very precise limits. For example, a scandal. Scandal of any description. Am I right, Herr Assessor?
STROEBEL [clicks his heels together]. Certainly, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER. That brings me to another matter. For the past few weeks, there has been in the city, a so-called Society for the Suppression of Vice. Have you any sympathy with these people?
STROEBEL. I know of their aims ...
COMMISSIONER. Their aims do not interest me a bit. I mean, do you personally cooperate with them?
STROEBEL. Not ... yet.
COMMISSIONER. Not yet? ... Hem! ... This Society is likely to interest itself in this case. If someone comes to see me, Herr Stroebel, I will refer him to you. [Stroebel bows.] Kindly bear this one thing in mind. These men have political ambition, and are playing to the press. On the whole the thing shows conservative tendencies.
STROEBEL. Certainly, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER. Welcome them with open arms. Agree gratefully to every suggestion for the betterment of the people, et cetera. Listen with respectful appreciation but do nothing further.
STROEBEL [uncertain]. Nothing further? ...
COMMISSIONER. No ... nothing further.
STROEBEL. Yes, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER. These people must remain assured that they wield a great influence. As a matter of fact, they have none at all and it's a good thing they haven't.
STROEBEL. So, I may ...
COMMISSIONER. ... Do everything you can be responsible for. As a matter of principle, I do not like to give orders. You will submit that report then [consulting his watch] at ten to-morrow? Good morning! [Goes toward the door left, remains standing a moment, then turns around.] You have been rather zealous in your work, I must say. [Stroebel bows slightly.] To arrest a woman on the strength of an anonymous letter shows excessive zeal. [Stroebel bows slightly.] I like to see my men energetic but [clears his throat] bear in mind what I just said. Careful of a scandal! Good morning! [Exit.]
(Stroebel sits down and stares at ceiling. He swings his chair around, then whistles. Reisacher comes in through middle door and seats himself at his desk. He coughs.)
STROEBEL [half turning]. Reisacher.
REISACHER [does likewise]. Yes, Herr Assessor.
STROEBEL. How long have you been in the police department?
REISACHER. It will be eighteen years this fall.
STROEBEL. You have seen many a change, no doubt?
STROEBEL. Tell me, how long has our Commissioner been in office?
REISACHER. The Commissioner? Oh ... it's seven. No, let me see, it's eight years. ...
STROEBEL. Hem ... do you really suppose he wants us to keep our eyes wide open all the time?
REISACHER [eagerly]. Certainly. That's what he wants.
STROEBEL. Does he? ... [Short pause.] I had an idea he didn't want us to be too strict for fear of notoriety.
REISACHER [eagerly]. No, no. He certainly would not like that.
STROEBEL [turns around completely]. Listen, Reisacher, you contradict yourself all the time.
REISACHER [turns around likewise]. I beg your pardon, Herr Stroebel. May I suggest ...
STROEBEL. But you are always contradicting yourself. First you say yes, and then you say no.
REISACHER. I beg your pardon, Herr Assessor Stroebel. I wanted to say that in the Police Department it is like this: Everything you do is all right, if it turns out all right.
STROEBEL [turns back to his desk]. You will never learn to formulate a thought precisely.
REISACHER [also turns]. All right, Herr Stroebel.
(Short pause. Stroebel reads. Reisacher writes. A commotion is heard through the middle door, which, is thrown open and Ninon De Hauteville enters. Behind her a policeman, who holds her tightly by the arm. She tries to free herself.)
HAUTEVILLE. [she wears a large picture hat, and is highly perfumed]. Keep your hands off me. I haven't killed anyone. Please, let me go.
STROEBEL [he has risen]. What's the matter?
POLICE OFFICER. [releasing her, stands at attention]. Have the honor sir, to report this disreputable woman—the Hochstetter person.
HAUTEVILLE. Please, help me, sir. I am being handled like the commonest criminal.
STROEBEL. Why do you keep that hat on? You are not paying us a visit?
HAUTEVILLE. Indeed not! I am not paying a visit. If I lived to be a hundred, it would never occur to me to pay you a visit.
STROEBEL. Don't talk so much. Do you understand? [To Reisacher.] Get your report book ready.
HAUTEVILLE. Is this the complaint office? I demand to know at least why I was arrested.
STROEBEL. Oh, here you'll find that out soon enough. [To the officer.] You can go now. [Officer exit through middle door.]
HAUTEVILLE. Oh, Monsieur, what shameful treatment. I was locked up in a cell with two ordinary street walkers. You will help me, won't you?
STROEBEL [who has crossed over to Reisacher]. Please don't be so familiar.
HAUTEVILLE. I am so helpless. No one will listen to me. No one answers me. An awful looking woman brought me a cup of yellow broth and a rusty spoon—[indicating with her hand] so big. "Eat!" she said, and threw it down and left. You will see to it, sir, that my friends are notified, won't you?
STROEBEL [glancing over Reisacher's shoulder]. Your friends cannot help you here. [To Reisacher.] Don't make the margin so wide. You are wasting good paper. [To Hauteville.] Your friends can do nothing at all for you.
HAUTEVILLE. You think so, do you? One single word and I'll be set free.
STROEBEL [contemptuously]. Indeed!
HAUTEVILLE. Before the day is over everyone of you will have to apologize to me. Yes, before this day is over.
STROEBEL. Certainly. [To Reisacher.] The word "Assessor" has two "s" in all cases.
HAUTEVILLE. If you people had the least idea whom you disturbed. If you knew whom you compelled to hide in the wardrobe.
STROEBEL [turning quickly to Hauteville]. In the wardrobe? So! [To Reisacher.] Make a note of that, Reisacher. [With emphasis.] So someone escaped us by hiding in the wardrobe.
HAUTEVILLE. Yes, someone escaped you by hiding in the wardrobe.
STROEBEL [suddenly very friendly.] Upon my word, Madame, I believe that we understand each other fully. You are a clever woman. You will not try to deny the facts.
HAUTEVILLE. Not one solitary thing. I am most anxious that you should try to find out all.
STROEBEL. Bravo! I came near saying that I respect you for that. [Benevolently.] You know, Hochstetter, every man is liable to make a fool of himself now and then.
HAUTEVILLE. Indeed they are! I know best what fools men do make of themselves.
STROEBEL. Now and then people violate the law. But they ought not to deny it afterwards. That's the sad part of it, because we always find out the truth in the end.
HAUTEVILLE. I wish you had it now.
STROEBEL. We have a clue. But you are a woman of character, I admit. I take off my hat to you.
STROEBEL. I certainly do.
HAUTEVILLE. I was afraid I had lost all refinement after spending the last two nights in such company.
STROEBEL [benevolently]. No doubt, it was a trifle hard.
HAUTEVILLE. It was terrible. They really do make me pay for discreetness.
STROEBEL. Your patrons are the very men who make it so hard for you. They get you into trouble and then expect you to protect them. Isn't it so?
HAUTEVILLE. What an experience for me! To have my apartment raided at night and be simply dragged away myself.
STROEBEL. That is too much.
HAUTEVILLE. I was not even allowed to take along a change of underwear. Then I am locked up with women who have every known variety of vermin.
STROEBEL. And with all that they expect you to remain silent!
HAUTEVILLE. When I want to comb my hair, the matron gives me a comb which these women have been using a whole week.
STROEBEL. That simply can't go on,
HAUTEVILLE. And the air! I never knew that such odors existed on this earth.
STROEBEL. Still you are to shield the others! After all, you know, I think that discreetness is just talk.
STROEBEL. I mean if anybody ever had a moral right to give things away, fully and freely, you are that person; ... after all you have suffered.
HAUTEVILLE. That's right. I am that person.
STROEBEL. Well then; did somebody escape into that wardrobe?
HAUTEVILLE. Yes, somebody did escape into that wardrobe.
STROEBEL [eagerly]. Who? [Short pause.]
HAUTEVILLE. [laughs curtly]. Who?
STROEBEL [more sharply]. Who on Saturday night at 10 o'clock escaped the search of the police by hiding in the wardrobe?
HAUTEVILLE. [laughs curtly]. It is quite unnecessary for me to tell you that.
STROEBEL [sharply]. Why?
HAUTEVILLE. You are certain to find it out ultimately.
HAUTEVILLE. Even if I wanted to I could not tell! Lord, when a person gets strictly accustomed to never mentioning any name, it is almost impossible to do it. I, believe that I would have to learn how first.
STROEBEL [shouting]. And you will learn it; I promise you that. You ...
HAUTEVILLE. Mais Monsieure!
STROEBEL [shouting]. No "Monsieur" about it. Here you'll talk good plain English.
HAUTEVILLE. But why are you getting so excited?
STROEBEL [to Reisacher]. I am nice to this person. I reason with her, and she says that she will first have to learn how to expose her crowd. [Shouts.] Decency is what you'll have to learn and I'll teach it to you.
HAUTEVILLE. Oh, not this very minute.
STROEBEL. I know you. I know your sort! You want to gain time so that you can concoct the blackest lies.
HAUTEVILLE. [calmly]. That would be entirely superfluous. The cleverest lie could not help me half as much as the simple truth.
STROEBEL. Out with it!
HAUTEVILLE. It's better if you find it out through someone else.
STROEBEL. That's your opinion.
HAUTEVILLE. You would only be embarrassed and I would be guilty of a breach of confidence.
STROEBEL [with contempt]. As though people confided in such as you.
HAUTEVILLE. I think that they rely upon the fact that our loyalty is not "just talk."
STROEBEL [again calm]. Listen to me. I do not think that you entirely understand your position. [Hauteville shrugs her shoulders.] No, I don't think that you know at all what is involved.
HAUTEVILLE. On the contrary it is far worse that you don't seem to realize who is involved.
STROEBEL [quickly]. In what?
HAUTEVILLE. In the wardrobe.
STROEBEL. Have you lost your senses? You are a prisoner here. Do you want to poke fun at us?
STROEBEL. Then don't consider yourself so important with those meaning insinuations.
HAUTEVILLE. If I did, I'd soon lose my importance after eating that yellow broth from those rusty tin plates.
STROEBEL. And that will continue for some time.
HAUTEVILLE. [energetically]. No, it will not. I tell you right now that I will not spend another night in that dirty hole. I will not be mistreated any longer.
STROEBEL [with sarcasm]. Of course we are going to ask you for your kind permission.
HAUTEVILLE. I will not remain here. If they think I will let them ruin me, they're very much mistaken. This is an outrage and here fair play stops.
STROEBEL. The likes of you and fair play!
HAUTEVILLE. [bitterly]. Yes, the likes of me. Every day we hear the confessions of those very people who publicly show contempt for us. We know how false are all virtuous words with which they condemn us, but we remain silent.
STROEBEL. Of course, you do all this out of pure sense of fair play? [He imitates the motion of counting money.]
HAUTEVILLE. Money? ... My dear fellow, with money our patrons pay well for that very thing which they later on call indecent. You get as much decency from us for money as you get from other people, but believe me, we could shatter many illusions.
STROEBEL. Well, make a beginning right here.
HAUTEVILLE. It ought to be impossible here. The police have as few illusions as we. That is, provided they are properly instructed.
STROEBEL. That's right now, put us in the same class with yourself.
HAUTEVILLE, Why not? We and the police could easily ruin the credit of virtue, but neither of us do it. You—you because you regard that credit as a good substitute for the principal, and we,—Lord, because we need this credit as well.
STROEBEL. Both of us?
HAUTEVILLE. The very moment that public virtue loses its credit, the secret vices will drop in market value.
STROEBEL. What are you talking about anyway?
HAUTEVILLE. I'm telling you why both of us must hush things up.
STROEBEL. Then you are not convinced that there is a real public morality?
HAUTEVILLE. You mean that morality which you put on with your street clothes? I know it well. Gentlemen take it off in my apartment and hang it up in my wardrobe, and there I can inspect it very thoroughly. It is truly remarkable how our respected gentlemen still make formal social visits in costumes which have so often been patched.
REISACHER [who up to this point apparently—without paying any attention, has been sitting with his back toward them, turns half way round]. Pardon me, Herr Assessor.
STROEBEL [impatiently]. Now what do you want?
REISACHER. Pardon me, Herr Assessor, shall I put all this talk into the minutes?
STROEBEL. No, I will dictate to you later. [To Hauteville.] You know that you are not here to amuse yourself.
HAUTEVILLE. I know that.
STROEBEL. Listen to me quietly. You hinted before that if we kept you here another night you would confess everything. Well I tell you here and now that we will not keep you here one, but a number of nights. You can ease your conscience at once.
HAUTEVILLE. I would only make yours the heavier for it.
STROEBEL. My conscience?
HAUTEVILLE. Yes, if I tell you here, there will be no possibility of a mistake, but everything must remain a mistake.
STROEBEL. I have patience with you, but I will not let you fool me. Now get yourself together and consider every word. What must remain a mistake?
HAUTEVILLE. Everything that has happened since Saturday night.
STROEBEL. All that must remain a mistake?
HAUTEVILLE. It simply must not have happened. No one broke into my apartment. No one arrested me. No one compelled anyone to hide in the wardrobe.
STROEBEL [shouts.] And no one ever saw such an insolent female.
HAUTEVILLE. This browbeating.
STROEBEL. It is meant for such as you.
HAUTEVILLE. [indignantly stopping her ears]. It reminds one so much of the tin plates and the comb.
STROEBEL [angrily pacing the room]. I never heard anything like it. Picture it! She makes insinuations as though we had something to be afraid of. [He stops pacing and faces her.] You evidently imagine that the whole government would run away from you.
HAUTEVILLE. No, but it ran away from your Lieutenant.
HAUTEVILLE. Into the wardrobe.
STROEBEL [pacing up and down]. I will bring that fellow out of your wardrobe. I will bring him to light. Into bright daylight! [Remains standing in front of Hauteville.] What did you say?
STROEBEL [resuming his pacing']. One of those fine fellows who wallow in the mire and then expect us to make exceptions. [Stops pacing, facing Hauteville.] What were you saying?
STROEBEL. Sad enough that now and again a halfway decent person strays into your place.
HAUTEVILLE. He can only regret that he was disturbed.
STROEBEL [goes quickly to desk and unlocks a drawer]. Besides, do not deceive yourself. We do not need your disclosures. [He takes out a rather bulky paper, a school composition book, and holds it triumphantly in the air.] There; do you recognize this?
HAUTEVILLE. [quietly, without a single trace of surprise]. It looks like my diary.
STROEBEL. It is your book. It was found in your desk.
HAUTEVILLE. [very calm]. The desk was locked,
STROEBEL. It was broken open. Well? What about your loyalty now?
HAUTEVILLE. [shrugs her shoulders]. I kept it. I haven't a fire- proof safe.
STROEBEL [contemptuously]. Would you by chance like to show me the name?
HAUTEVILLE. What name?
STROEBEL. Of the gentleman in the wardrobe.
HAUTEVILLE. [laughs]. His name really is not in it.
STROEBEL. Do not evade but show me.
HAUTEVILLE. Oh, there are parties whose names are not in the Hotel Register. They travel incognito.
STROEBEL [persuadingly]. Hochstetter, I have an impression that you are not such a stupid girl, and I believe that you would like to [pointing to the diary] take good care of your—patrons. If you do not immediately reveal the name of that man, I will summon the whole bunch.
HAUTEVILLE. [shrugs her shoulders]. That's something I cannot stop you from doing.
STROEBEL. What then is your belief in fair play?
HAUTEVILLE. I never submitted that diary to you. You could not have gotten it from me voluntarily, but it quite suits me that the officer found it in my desk.
HAUTEVILLE. Because he might have searched for it in the wardrobe.
STROEBEL. Now my patience is at an end. [Presses the button on his desk.] I will have no consideration for anyone.
HAUTEVILLE. After all, perhaps you will. For yourself.
[Police officer enters.]
STROEBEL. Take this woman downstairs, [The officer leaves with Hauteville. Stroebel sits down, pushes the chair angrily to the desk, then gets up and throws the diary and several other books on the desk, saying to himself:] Never heard anything like it! Such impudence!
[Reisacher looks at him with amusement. A knock at the door.]
STROEBEL [formally]. Come in!
BEERMANN [enters hastily from the left. He breathes heavily. He has a handkerchief in his hand, with which he frequently mops his brow]. Is this the proper department at last? I am being sent all around the building. [Breathing heavily.] I hope I am finally in the proper bureau.
STROEBEL. What do you want?
BEERMANN. Pardon me for a moment while I catch my breath. I climbed twice to the third floor and again down to the ground floor. The Commissioner sent me to room 147 and there they told me to go to room 174.
STROEBEL. Who sent you?
BEERMANN [taking a deep breath]. The Commissioner. I really wanted to speak to him personally, but he told me I should go to the gentleman who has "Morality." Are you the gentleman who has all the morality?
BEERMANN. At last. [Mopping his braze.] Good God? when a matter is so urgent and so much depends on it they ought not to chase one all over the building. I must rest a bit. All this excitement and running up and down stairs. ... So you are the gentleman who has the matter in hand.
STROEBEL. What matter?
BEERMANN. On Saturday night a lady was arrested. A Madam de Hauteville, and certain papers were taken from her. Have you those papers here?
STROEBEL. What business is that of yours?
BEERMANN. My name is Beermann; Fritz Beermann, the banker. I am the Chairman of the Society for the Suppression of Vice.
STROEBEL [very politely]. Oh, indeed! Pardon me! I didn't recall your name immediately, but I was expecting you.
BEERMANN [startled]. You—were expecting—me?
STROEBEL. The Commissioner said that you would undoubtedly call on us.
BEERMANN. He said that I undoubtedly would call? But he never mentioned a word to me about that, and I saw him just a moment ago. Perhaps after all it will be better if I go down to see him again?
STROEBEL. That is not necessary. I have full charge of the matter.
BEERMANN. Oh, yes, quite right; you have charge of the matter. And you have those writings here too?
STROEBEL. The diary? [He indicates the desk.] Here it is.
BEERMANN [peeps anxiously over]. Then it is a regular diary?
STROEBEL. Quite correctly kept. Gives date and names. Even little jesting remarks about the people concerned.
BEERMANN [shouts]. But that is an unheard of insolence!
BEERMANN. Why does she write such things? To what purpose? Can't she herself realize how dangerous it is? Fancy, a woman whose whole stock in trade is secrecy, keeping an address hook of her patrons. Confound her!
STROEBEL. But to us as evidence it is priceless.
BEERMANN. I ask you—why does she record such things?
STROEBEL. We can only be glad of it, Herr Beermann.
STROEBEL. She'd lie. I tell you she'd deny everything, and that puts an end to the case. [Holding the diary in the air.] But here we have the whole bunch.
BEERMANN. As though she wanted to turn State's evidence ...
STROEBEL. Let her just come to court with her confounded fine talk. [Imitating Hauteville's manners.] "It simply must not have happened." I will drive her to the wall with what happened. We will simply bring up those fellows, one after the other.
BEERMANN [dismayed]. To court!
STROEBEL. Certainly, and that means; hand on the Bible and swear. Then we shall see if "no one compelled anyone to hide in the wardrobe."
STROEBEL. They will not commit perjury.
BEERMANN. That's utterly impossible!
STROEBEL. I will make it quite warm for that man, in any event.
BEERMANN. But, Counselor!
STROEBEL [clinking heels]. Assessor Stroebel.
BEERMANN. But, Assessor, that is simply impossible. You do not want to ruin the family life of the entire city, do you?
STROEBEL. In what way?
BEERMANN. Do you expect a respectable gentleman to appear in court and in the presence of all people to say, yes; it is true that I ... and so forth?
STROEBEL. Why not?
BEERMANN [shouting]. But they are all respectable fathers of families!
STROEBEL. But, my dear Herr Beermann, what difference does that make to me?
BEERMANN. It must make a difference. It makes a difference to everybody at all times.
STROEBEL. I assure you that I am not a bit sentimental.
BEERMANN [glancing over to Reisacher]. Could we have a few words together, alone?
STROEBEL. If you wish it. Reisacher, finish your police report in the outer office.
REISACHER. Certainly, Herr Assessor.
(Takes several sheets of paper and goes out through the middle door.)
STROEBEL. Do have a seat, Herr Beermann.
(Beermann sits down on the sofa. Stroebel does likewise.)
BEERMANN [mopping his brow]. A personal question, Herr Assessor, are you married?
BEERMANN. I thought not. If you had a family you would not speak in that fashion of sentimentality.
STROEBEL. If I had a family, I would not, to begin with, be involved in this.
BEERMANN. But ...
STROEBEL. My name would not appear in the diary of Hauteville.
BEERMANN. You never can tell.
STROEBEL. Excuse me. What is there left of family life when such things happen?
BEERMANN. What do you mean? If nobody finds it out?
STROEBEL. But such a man must live constantly under a deception.
BEERMANN. My dear Assessor. If the white lie ceases in married life, the couple drifts apart.
STROEBEL. I cannot believe that!
BEERMANN [persuadingly]. Take my word for it. In every happy marriage the parties lie to each other to keep their affection from cooling.
STROEBEL. But both of them remain faithful.
BEERMANN. Not in the least.
STROEBEL. Don't say that!
BEERMANN. Not in the least; anyhow not to the very letter. A husband is true to his wife even if he ... and so forth.
STROEBEL. Your views surprise me.
BEERMANN. This is what I mean. He is true in his own fashion. He remains kind to his wife, takes a good care of his family, and that is the principal thing. That other which you have in mind is only an ideal.
STROEBEL. Ideals are lived up to.
BEERMANN. Well, yes. But if we don't live up to them, we at least respect them.
STROEBEL. Herr Beermann, I am astounded. You are the President of the Society for the Suppression of Vice?
BEERMANN. Can I help it that I was elected?
STROEBEL. But at least you represent the views of your Society. I thought you came here for that reason.
BEERMANN. For what reason?
STROEBEL. To express your satisfaction at our discovery of the business of this person.
BEERMANN. You thought I came here on that account?
STROEBEL. Didn't you?
BEERMANN [mopping his brow with his handkerchief]. You'll have to pardon me, Herr Assessor; I am still affected by that running up and down stairs.
STROEBEL. Perhaps our conversation tires you?
BEERMANN. Don't mention it. I simply cannot follow you so quickly, A moment ago you mentioned a diary, didn't you?
STROEBEL. Of this Hauteville woman.—Yes.
BEERMANN. Have you been through this diary?
STROEBEL. No. I have not had time yet.
BEERMANN. But you just spoke about some jesting comments in it.
STROEBEL. Only those I noticed in glancing through it.
BEERMANN [relieved]. Ah!
STROEBEL. Besides, I must tell you, Herr Beermann, that the contents of this book must remain a secret to you. My orders are not to show it to anyone.
BEERMANN. No, no. I don't want to know anything about it.
STROEBEL. You will find out everything later when the matter comes up in court.
BEERMANN [dismayed]. Will it be read there?
STROEBEL. Certainly. To-day I can only tell you that we will proceed vigorously. You can satisfy your society on that point.
BEERMANN [rising]. But that doesn't satisfy me at all. Think of the consequences.
STROEBEL [rising also]. What do you care about the consequences. Your society has its very high aims. Your propaganda states that you will prosecute the outcast of society with iron energy and now you see your ideals realized.
BEERMANN. Our propaganda states that we will intervene from national, moral and social viewpoints, to protect the marriage vows. If this scandal becomes public the marriage relationship will be undermined.
STROEBEL. What sort of moral viewpoint do you call that?
BEERMANN. It is the Society's. Don't you understand that the influential class of society will be involved!
STROEBEL. Then that class will have only itself to blame.
BEERMANN. That's out of the question. We must find a loop-hole.
STROEBEL. Within the scope of the law there are no loop-holes.
BEERMANN. Don't tell ME that. Well then, go around the law.
STROEBEL [surprised]. Herr Beermann!
BEERMANN. Of course! I have lived long enough to know that.
STROEBEL. I shall do my duty.
BEERMANN. Am I interfering with your duty? I belong to that class of people who respect the police only because the police respect our social position.
STROEBEL. I appreciate that.
BEERMANN. I also take part in political life. I am a candidate for the Reichstag and as such I have a decided opinion about these matters.
STROEBEL. Without doubt, Herr Beermann.
BEERMANN. Well then, there are, in extreme cases, ways around the law, and there must be.
STROEBEL. I am of a different opinion.
BEERMANN. God knows, it is not the business of the police to provoke this enormous scandal. All authority will be destroyed. It will shatter the respect of the masses for the people higher up.
STROEBEL. But this scandal was provoked—[knocking on the diary with his finger]—by these very people.
BEERMANN. If a man once in a while goes into a certain room—that is no scandal. It only becomes a scandal when the story is made known to every Tom, Dick and Harry. That's what must be prevented!
STROEBEL. I value the humane motive which evidently is prompting you, Herr Beermann. But you must admit that we are acting entirely in accord with the views of the classes you mention.
BEERMANN. You are not!
STROEBEL. Yes, we are. Two weeks ago the good people here founded a Society because they felt it was necessary to proceed more severely against public immorality ...
BEERMANN. ... Against immorality in the lower strata where it easily degenerates into licentiousness. As the President of this Society, I, at least ought to know what was intended.
STROEBEL. Even Frau Hochstetter belongs to the lower strata. If we are now stepping on anybody's corns, I am very sorry. ...
BEERMANN. The police have no business to do anything they will be sorry for later on. Good Lord, had the Commissioner only listened to me. An affair like this should not be treated in such a purely business-like way.
STROEBEL. The Commissioner can only tell you the same thing. He cannot change the law.
BEERMANN. Anything can be done.
STROEBEL. Not at this stage. We could probably have prevented it had we known that this case would have such far-reaching consequences, but now here are the proofs. [Pointing to the diary.] No one in the world can destroy them, not even the Commissioner.
BEERMANN. Then what do you propose to do with them?
STROEBEL. They are going down to the District Attorney's office. The avalanche is on its way.
BEERMANN. And we have simply to wait and watch what it hits? (Telephone bell rings.)
STROEBEL. Pardon me a moment.
(Goes to the right to the telephone. While Stroebel is answering the telephone, and has his back to Beermann the latter crosses to the desk and tries to look into the diary. Timidly he opens it several times but shuts it again quickly, when he fears that Stroebel will turn around.)
STROEBEL [answering the telephone]. Police Department. ... Assessor Stroebel speaking. Who is this please ... yes, this is Assessor Stroebel. ... Yes, Commissioner ... [pause] I understand you, I will remain in the office ... Yes, I examined the Hochstetter woman. ... Yes, this Madame Hauteville [pause] I will remain in the office until you call. ... Yes, Commissioner. Good- bye. [He hangs up the receiver.]
BEERMANN [Energetically closes the book and tries to appear indifferent.]
STROEBEL. Now you can convince yourself, Herr Beermann, the Commissioner himself is following up this matter. He wants to have another conference with me about it to-day.
BEERMANN. Am I to wait helplessly until the catastrophe happens?
STROEBEL. You must be consistent. ...
BEERMANN. It is possible that my best friends, acquaintances or relatives are involved ...
STROEBEL. You must remain consistent. Doesn't this splendidly justify the founding of your Society?
BEERMANN [in a rage]. Oh, leave me alone with your stupid Vice Society. Are we not all human, after all!
STROEBEL. I do not understand you.
BEERMANN. Do you realize what severe pangs of conscience I suffer? Last night as I pictured to myself all that is about to happen, all these family misfortunes, I asked myself this question: What really is morality? And ... I could not find the answer.
STROEBEL. Although you are ...
BEERMANN. Although I am Chairman of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, yes, sir. Then I asked myself this: which is the more important: that we are moral, or that we seem moral?
STROEBEL. Have you found the answer?
BEERMANN. I have. I have become fully convinced that it is far more important for the people to believe in our morality.
STROEBEL. But you didn't need a Society for that.
BEERMANN. Yes, we did. Just to be moral is something that I can accomplish in my room by myself, but that has no educational value. The important thing is to ally one's self publicly with moral issues. This has a beneficial effect on the family and state.
STROEBEL. I daresay that this side of the question has not occurred to me.
BEERMANN. Just consider. Morality holds exactly the same position as religion. We must always create the impression that there is such a thing and we must make each other believe that each of us have it. Do you suppose for one moment that religion would last if the church dealt publicly with our sins? But she forgives them quietly. The State ought to be just as shrewd.
STROEBEL. Many a thing you say seems quite true.
BEERMANN. It is true, you can depend upon it.
STROEBEL. Theoretically perhaps. But that docs not change it one bit. As long as the law prescribes it, these offenses [pointing to the diary] must be dealt with publicly.
BEERMANN. Although you know that thus public decency will be undermined. [Stroebel shrugs his shoulders.] Although the State will suffer by it?
STROEBEL [again shrugs his shoulders]. Well ...
BEERMANN. The Administration knows very well the sort of conservative element there is in the Society for the Suppression of Vice.
STROEBEL. Yes, and values it highly.
BEERMANN. Let us suppose—I do not know if it be so—but let us just suppose that only one member of the Society once had a weak little moment and his name were in this book ...
STROEBEL [energetically]. Then he would be summoned to court without regard or mercy.
BEERMANN. And the whole Society would be made ridiculous and would go up in the air.
STROEBEL [shrugs his shoulders]. Well ...
BEERMANN [shouts]. That is the height of folly, I tell you!
STROEBEL [instructively]. It is the fulfilment of our duty. You are a layman. With you sentiments play an important part. We, the police, on the other hand are compelled to sacrifice our feelings to our duty.
BEERMANN [holding his hands to his ears]. Oh, stop that!
STROEBEL. Official duty blocks our way.
BEERMANN [angrily]. But even a jackass can jump over blocks.
STROEBEL [offended]. Her? Beermann, I did not hear that remark.
BEERMANN. Let me tell you something! Do you know what we have been doing for the past three weeks? ... Talking ourselves hoarse in order to bring about an election friendly to the present administration. For the past three weeks it has been nothing but Fatherland, and the state and religion! And this is your gratitude! In the devil's own name—just picture it to yourself—a man who has been fighting the opposition in thirty different political meetings might be involved in this.
STROEBEL [shrugs his shoulders]. What can I do?
BEERMANN. Is the Administration going to deliver him over to his opponents?
STROEBEL. We would be very sorry for him, but we would have to summon him to court.
BEERMANN. Without regard or mercy—? [Telephone bell rings loudly.]
STROEBEL. Pardon me for a moment. [Stroebel goes to the telephone and this time he turns completely around so that his back is toward Beermann.] Police Department ... yes ... Commissioner; this is Stroebel at the telephone. ... [Short pause.] When she was arrested? ... When she was arrested there was Lieutenant Schmuttermaier and an officer. ... [Short pause.] Just one policeman ... [Pause.] ... Yes, Commissioner [short pause] I should tell that Lieutenant [short interruption] jackass Schmuttermaier to come over to the office immediately. ... [Short pause.] I shall wait for you until you come. ... Yes, Commissioner. (During this telephone conversation Beermann steps near to the desk. With a shaking hand he takes up the diary but quickly puts it down again. Then he picks it up again and with a rapid and energetic movement puts it into his breast pocket. Stroebel with a rebuked demeanor goes from the telephone to the desk. Beermann turns around so that Stroebel cannot see his face. He is disturbed and coughs in order to hide his embarrassment. Stroebel presses a button on Reisacher's desk.)
BEERMANN [while coughing]. I realize now that nothing more can be done. I shan't take up your time.
STROEBEL [anxiously]. No, no, please remain. The Commissioner himself will be here in a moment. Then you may talk to him.
BEERMANN. But you just told me that there was no use waiting. ... [Reisacher enters through center door.]
STROEBEL [urgently to Reisacher]. Reisacher, go and look for Lieutenant Schmuttermaier immediately. If he is not in the building, send to his home or telephone for him. Leave word that he must come over immediately.
REISACHER. Yes, Herr Assessor.
[Goes out quickly through center door.]
BEERMANN. You said yourself that there would be no use. I guess I'd better go.
STROEBEL [perturbed]. But do wait for the Commissioner.
BEERMANN. There is no use in my waiting. I ... I did all I could ... there seems to be no use ... well then. ... Good-bye!
[About to go through door on left but the door is quickly opened and the Commissioner appears with Baron Schmettau. The former holds the door open for the Baron. After they have come in, he shuts the door.]
COMMISSIONER [to the Baron]. If you please, Herr Baron. ... [To Beermann]. Ah ... here is our President of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. [Beermann bows slightly—Commissioner continuing contemptuously.] Well, have you accomplished your mission? [Beermann nods.] Are you satisfied with this arrest or would you like to have us do more? [Angrily.] Once for all, Sir, I forbid you to meddle with the affairs of this office. You can preach your principles wherever else you like, but here I will stand for no interference. [Beermann timidly creeps along the wall, and bows himself out.] [Commissioner to Baron Schmettau.] Whenever the police bungle anything, look for reformers.
SCHMETTAU. [with a glance at Stroebel]. Will you introduce me?
COMMISSIONER. Assessor Stroebel,—Freiherr von Schmettau, Adjutant to his Highness, Prince Emil. [Stroebel clicks his heels together and bows deeply. Schmettau thanks him curtly.]
COMMISSIONER [sharply]. Herr Assessor, I have asked Herr Baron Schmettau to come with me in order that in his presence I might correct a pitiable lack of tact, which to my regret, and contrary to all my intentions, was perpetrated by Lieutenant Schmuttermaier.
SCHMETTAU. It was abominable.
COMMISSIONER. What orders did that man have?
STROEBEL [nervously]. Do you mean in the case of Hochstetter, Commissioner?
COMMISSIONER. Yes, sir, Madame de Hauteville, Who made the raid on her apartment?
STROEBEL. The raid?
COMMISSIONER. I hope before you arrested her you informed yourself exactly with whom you were dealing.
STROEBEL. Certainly ...
COMMISSIONER. ... And the result?
STROEBEL. I ascertained that this woman was violating public decency.
COMMISSIONER. I am going to ask you, Assessor, as my inferior in office, to confine yourself to more direct answers, PLEASE. What did the investigation disclose?
STROEBEL. That she received questionable visits from gentlemen.
COMMISSIONER. Questionable? Then does Schmuttermaier know who these gentlemen were?
STROEBEL. He does not ...
COMMISSIONER. No? Didn't he investigate a matter which seemed so questionable to him?
STROEBEL. He just wanted to ascertain that these visits were meant for Hauteville.
COMMISSIONER. So—? I have some truly competent officials. And who and what it was did not bother the man at all?
STROEBEL. I myself thought that that would be found out later.
COMMISSIONER. There are certain things in the world you would not be likely to look for and less likely to find. You have been treating this thing as though you were dealing with a common ordinary pickpocket. [To Baron Sckmettau.] You see it is just as I told you ... the man did not have the slightest idea. ... [To Stroebel.] Did this fellow, Schmuttermaier, see anyone in the flat or did he hear if anyone was there?
STROEBEL. No, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER [to Baron Schmettau]. It is just as I told you. ...
STROEBEL. Furthermore, I have heard since that there was somebody in the apartment.
COMMISSIONER [quickly]. Who?
STROEBEL. That, I have been unable to find out yet, but Hauteville made several insinuations as though someone had been hidden in a wardrobe.
COMMISSIONER.[to Baron Schmettau]. To be sure—someone—was—To my profoundest regret, His Highness, our beloved Hereditary Prince Emil.
STROEBEL [crushed]. I ... didn't have the slightest idea ...
COMMISSIONER. You people ought to have an idea once in a while. If this Schmuttermaier had any ability, it would not have happened. But it is the old story, not a trace of independent ability and tact.
STROEBEL. I don't know what apology I can offer.
COMMISSIONER. Neither do I. Besides Herr Baron Schmettau himself was obliged to go through this very unpleasant incident.
SCHMETTAU. [Schmettau speaks very precisely but puts a slight emphasis on his s.] I was completely dumfounded. I cannot understand how it could happen. Just picture it ... Lord knows ... I was and am of the opinion that our young Highness must learn to know life. Faith, it is not my business to act as his pastor. ...
COMMISSIONER. If you please, Herr Baron, that goes without saying. ...
SCHMETTAU. That of course is merely my opinion. I am a man of the world and of affairs. I consider it fitting that his Highness should learn to know life. ...
COMMISSIONER. But I entirely share your opinion.
SCHMETTAU. A moment ago the word "decency" was used. In my position I can listen to such words from the pulpit, but outside of the church I deem them entirely out of place.
COMMISSIONER [to Assessor]. You used that expression.
SCHMETTAU. If anyone wants to claim that my bearing is not a proper one, he will have to prove it with a revolver in his hand.
STROEBEL. I did not think that the word would offend you.
SCHMETTAU. It did offend me. Such expressions are fitting in an asylum for feeble-minded people. They should never be used to characterize the recreation of Cavaliers.
COMMISSIONER. May I put in a good word for my Assessor? It certainly was not his intention to offend you.
SCHMETTAU. It was not his intention. [To the Assessor.] Then I will assume that it was never said. [The Assessor clicks his heels.] I am somewhat nettled but you cannot be surprised at that. You can imagine with what care I undertook this task. This Madame de Hauteville was recommended to me by reliable parties. She has good manners and does not talk.