Poet Lore/Volume 28/Number 5/The Four Bare Walls
|VOLUME XXVIII||Autumn, 1917||NUMBER V|
|THE FOUR BARE WALLS|
|A Drama in Four Acts|
|By Francis Adolf Subert|
|Translated from the Bohemian by Beatrice M. Mekota and Francis Haffkine Snow|
|Cast of Characters|
|Tonicka, wife of Kralenec|
|Barbora Kralencova, mother of Vojtech Kralenec|
|Ruzenka,||children of Kralenec|
|Bozenka, foster-daughter of Kralenec|
|Pivousek, a surveyor|
|Baum,||Managers of the mine|
|Dr. Houska, a physician |
|Dr. Bruj, County Physician|
|Zalovec, County Commissioner|
|Krejsa, a young chaplain|
|Sejkora, a teacher|
|Melichar, a journalist|
|Lieutenant, clerk, waiter, miners, constables, and soldiers|
Scene laid in western Bohemia, in the year 1890.
Copyright 1917 by The Poet Lore Company. All rights reserved.
A room in a laborer’s cottage, poorly furnished but clean. In the rear appears a window, a door and a bed; to the left is a cupboard. The bed is built into the wall, with a chest at its foot. In the center of the room, is a table and three chairs. To the right, a stove and a bench.
Old Rokos is seated on the chest to the left; in the center of the room, at the table, are Kralenec and Skarban; to the right, his wife, Tonicka, washing dishes. Pepicek and Ruzenka are playing at the feet of Kralenec; Bozenka is drying the dishes, and arranging them in rows on the shelf above the hearth.
Rokos has heavy white hair and a full gray beard. He is a man who is greatly respected. While speaking, he gazes straight ahead with his eyes fixed upon the ceiling; when he looks at one, he takes his measure with a piercing glance. His movements are measured and slow. He is dressed in miner’s clothes, habitually smoking a long pipe. Young Kralenec, a twenty-seven year old miner in workman’s clothes, is resting in a careless attitude at the table. His wife, Tonicka, is a young woman, strong and well-proportioned. Skarban is a forty-year old miner, also in a workman’s clothes.
Rokos.—Life is as dark and uncertain as a deep body of water; one it buoys up, another it drowns,—and that usually just when a person is beginning to think that all is won.
Tonicka.—That is the truth. But it drowns a hundred while fortune comes to but one.
Skarban.—And it plays with people like a cyclone tossing about the leaves. The only thing to hope for is the blessing of peace and a decent livelihood.
Kralenec.—Yes, that is a golden truth. I myself am now satisfied because I have a wife, my children, and this little room.
Skarban (To Tonicka).—So you see, Godmother, how your Kralenec esteems you.
Tonicka (Wiping away the tears which had sprung to her eyes at the words).—Yes, he just talks that way before you.
Skarban.—Oh, very well. Yet I believe he would tell you the same thing, but even more affectionately.
Tonicka.—Domestic happiness is surely the greatest of happiness, and is above all things. This is what our dead mother used to tell us: “When two people live happily and keep an even temper, you may have an earthly paradise even in the poorest home.”
Skarban.—Yes, when there is with it something to bite into.
Kralenec.—But one can never be quite satisfied. (Laughing.) When I was a small boy, I had an absorbing desire to become something great,—possibly a general,—so I could do something unusual.
Tonicka (Smiling).—You wanted to win a great battle, perhaps, or acquire several millions, so everybody could be happy.
Rokos.—To accomplish something out of the ordinary, . . . That is the dream of every person at least once in a life time. All of us would like to rule, or direct great battles. And yet, to rear one child well, or save some one from poverty,—is that not greater than the conquering of a nation or the over throwing of a king?
Kralenec.—When a man comes to his senses, he arrives at that conclusion. But at times the old ambition returns to haunt him.
Rokos.—Like the dizzy sensation of great height.
Tonicka.—But even you have succeeded in accomplishing here what was not an easy or careless undertaking.
Kralenec.—And pray, what was that?
Tonicka.—The school. Didn’t it require plenty of concern, management and effort?
Kralenec.—The school? That is true. But surely, that isn’t anything so great?
Tonicka.—Well, that was enough, considering things as they are here. What did Merfajt do? Didn’t he threaten that you would lose your place? And yet you held your stand.
Rokos.—And you also. You women here were almost more determined about it than the men.
Skarban.—But it is well that the bitter feeling is dying down a bit. If all could just remain, as things are now!
Kralenec.—God grant it!
Tonicka (Giving the last plate to Bozenka to dry).—Godfather, what do you think about our friend, Director Baum? Surely it is nothing but idle talk, that they are going to take him away from here?
Skarban.—Be at rest, friend. That surely will not happen. I know they are agitating feeling against him, especially that assistant superintendent, Merfajt. He keeps complaining that little coal is brought up from below. Also that the Director built these miners’ cottages for us; and that he was not opposed to our school.
Tonicka (Stepping up to the table, the children pulling at her skirts).—If someone would only charm that black hell below so it would vomit up more coal! Then the men would bring up more. And what about these cottages? It is true that they have helped the laboring people, but all the profit from them goes to the capitalists. They have capable and orderly miners here, at least.
Skarban.—But they claim that the cottages have cost too much; that is what the company regrets.
Rokos.—The Lord willing, all will yet quiet down, I hope. Things are never just as man might wish them to be. If nothing worse is ahead of us than just what we have now, we may all be fairly well satisfied.
Kralenec.—Would to God that we might never again see such a storm as we had with that rising cyclone.
(Tonicka sighs, looking thoughtful, then wipes her eyes with the corner of her apron.)
Skarban.—Why, they even had to quit work down below.
Kralenec.—At first we used to grumble, and then we gladly took half-pay with thanks. And now we all have steady work, and the managers are not unfriendly.
Skarban.—And we hear that the Director wants to make you a surveyor! (Turning to Kralenec.)
Kralenec.—Yes, he has promised it.
Rokos.—A better thing, one will not find.
Skarban.—You would make a good inning there. Better pay with easier work.
Ruzenka (Pulling at her mother’s skirts).—Mother!
Tonicka (playfully).—Well, why are you teasing?
Ruzenka.—We want to go out.
Tonicka.—Yes, to freeze out there.
Pepicek.—We want to go to Skarban’s.
Skarban.—Why, Neighbor, let them go! Bozenka will take them over.
Bozenka.—I will go with them.
Tonicka.—Then hurry and dress. (The children run off for their wraps.) And take some kolace to Lojzikov and Marenka. (She goes to the pantry and brings out two kolace for Bolenka who ties them in a clean handkerchief, and puts on her wraps. Tonicka dresses the children.)
Kralenec.—Be sure to be good!
Ruzenka.—We are going to dance. There’s a bagpiper playing in the tavern. We can hear him as far as Skarban’s.
Kralenec.—The cat is out of the bag. But don’t bother the old mother. If you do, I shall go over there, and tell her to chase you all home.
Tonicka.—Give our respects to the family. And don’t stay too long!
All three children (Leaving).—God be with you!
Rokos, Skarban.—God be with you! God be with you!
Kralenec (Goes to the door to open it for them).—Bozeno, take good care of them!
Bozenka.—I shall, father! (The children leave.)
(Skarban arose while Rokos is shaking the ashes from his long pipe.)
Rokos.—That Bozenka of yours is growing into a pretty girl.
Tonicka.—And how good and obedient she is! If they could but see her now, how proud my dead sister and brother-in-law would be!
Rokos.—The Lord’s will be done. We should never murmur against Death. It is our best friend.
Skarban.—That is almost true. Most of us take time to rest only when we are sick.
Rokos.—And the longest holiday stretches before man when death comes to summon him. Every man should welcome death as the greatest of all experiences. His toiling and anxiety are then over; if someone has learned to like him a bit, they have the chance to weep,—and then for all eternity, peace.
Tonicka.—Oh, what gloomy views! Better tell us some thing more cheerful!
Skarban (Gazing out of the window, and changing the conversation).—Look, look! There goes Veverka! Flying this way as though his brain were afire!
Kralenec.—He always looks as though he had a screw loose.
Rokos.—One would hardly believe he is a miner.
Skarban.—He seems to be coming here!
Tonicka (Also gazing out of the window).—Probably has heard some new scandal and wants to be the first to tell us the news.
(For an instant Veverka flashes by as he passes the window.)
Veverka.—(Excitedly rushing in. All his conduct betrays eccentricity. He paces nervously back and forth, stopping an instant before each individual, yet never sitting down.)
My friends, my brothers! Have you heard the news? You don’t even seem to know?
Tonicka.—What has happened?
Skarban.—What should we know?
Veverka.—We are going to lose everything! They are going to take away the school and give us smaller wages!
Rokos.—Oh how senseless!
Kralenec (To Veverka).—Now talk as though you were sane!
Veverka.—What an effort it cost us to build that school! I, . . you, . . all of us, except you, Skarban.—
(Skarban, turning about as though he didn’t hear.)
Veverka.—We subscribed whatever we could. You and I, Kralenec, we went twice to Prague! The director was friendly. Everything was accomplished! We were satisfied, . . . and now it will all come to nothing, . . . just as when a stone falls and everything crumbles to pieces!
Tonicka.—Now, after your long-drawn speech, we are exactly as wise as we were before. Do you want to frighten us, or make fools of us all?
Veverka (To Tonicka).—And the wages will be cut! And we will have to be thankful when they cut us down just twenty or thirty cents a day!
Rokos (Rises and walks with measured steps toward Veverka; 'he firmly holds him as he seizes the clothes on his breast with one hand, so Veverka in his struggles, cannot get away).—Now I want to know what truth there is in your crazy talk!
Veverka.—For Heaven’s sake, Rokos! Let me go!
Veverka.—But I can’t even move!
Rokos (Even more commandingly).—Speak!
Veverka.—Now wait a minute . . . that Merfajt, . . that damned, . . . you know that he was always our enemy . . . he has been wonderfully cheerful during these last few days. We were remarking to each other that he is hatching up something . . .
Skarban.—From that rascal, it is nothing new.
Veverka.—In the afternoon,—we were all in the tavern, about fifteen of us there together. We were smoking, drinking, chatting. Then all at once, enter Merfajt. His eyes were shining like a devil’s and he laughed as fiendishly as though he were about to mix a cup of poison for us. We were in the midst of a most interesting conversation,—but in comes that Merfajt, . . . then a dead silence. One began to cough, another looked out of the window, a third had to light his pipe . . . just as though a cold blanket were suddenly thrown over every one.
(Rokos, letting Veverka go.)
Veverka.—Well, I am glad, . . . at least I can talk now. (Taking a deep breath.) I was just saying, we scarcely welcomed him. And when he saw us so silent, . . . he was sitting at one side in the corner, you know the place, the one where the director sits when he comes in for a little visit once in a while, . . . and all of a sudden, Merfajt broke out into a torrent of abuse, giving free rein to his venomous tongue. He slurred us, he ridiculed our school, he said the walls are shaky things that will cave in over our heads. And it made us all so angry, that I couldn’t hold in any longer. I said something to him. If our mayor had not been right there, I would have thrown a beer-glass directly at his head.
Rokos.—And what did he do? Veverka.—He got up, grinding his teeth together, then began to heap vituperation upon me such as I never heard in my life before. And the end of it was, that he took the center of the floor, and said to us: “Just wait, you will learn very soon who is the master here and what lies in store for you.”
Veverka.—That was all. He went away just like Lucifer flying off on his broomstick, . . . and left us in silent gloom.
Tonicka.—But, Veverko, you surely do not take his threats seriously? I was thinking,—Heaven only knows what,—and here it is nothing but a little tavern gossip. And you, you scarecrow, you are all a-tremble, and even want to drive other people crazy! (Walking off to make the bed.)
Veverka.—Listen, Mrs. Kralenec,—I really am no fanatic, . . . that I have proven to you countless times,—and then, a foolish woman . . .
Veverka.—I just wished to add, . . . only an inexperienced woman would say that such remarks mean nothing. That damned, Heaven forgive me, . . . he would not have dared, . . .
Tonicka.—And why is that Merfajt soured against the whole world?
Veverka.—Why? The Director told him what was what when he discovered his trickery in the contract for the Lazecky factories . . .
Rokos.—That was when he should have been driven out.
Veverka.—Yes, what a pity! We might now be having peace.
Skarban.—Now, Merfajt will have a chance to pay him back.
Veverka.—And our boys gave him a good beating one night, that was when he used to keep the path worn to the house of Beta Markalousovic. So now he is seeking revenge wherever he can find it.
Kralenec (To Rokos).—But, Uncle, do you think we need have any serious concern over his threats today?
Rokos.—There may be something in it.
Veverka.—You shall soon see, you shall all know very soon, Mrs. Kralenec! And do you know what they say? Old Rozum came from his chess-game, . . . there he heard, . . . I don’t know where it was started, . . . that our Superintendent will be exchanged, . . . sent somewhere to Austria where our company has other mines, and that we shall have an entire change in the management here!
Kralenec (Looking at Rokos).—We would surely have some thing to say about that?
(Rokos, shaking his head.)
Veverka (Looking out of the window toward the village).—And do you know that something is happening? The miners are running out from every direction, . . . and the women! And everyone is passing before the house of the Starosta! Something has surely happened! (He is silent for a minute, then suddenly breaking out.) He will be after me first! I answered that Merfajt back! But, (pausing,) let us promise one another, brothers, that come what may, we won’t give in! Whether it be in regard to that school or the wages! I have five children in the school, but if the world should come to an end, I won’t take a single one out! Let us promise, brothers, that we will stand united!
Skarban.—Hold your peace! Certainly, when we say—
Veverka.—Let us promise one another! (Extending his hand.) You will find me a rock of strength!
Tonicka (At the window).—Someone has driven in, and Merfajt is welcoming him!
Veverka.—By the wounds of the blessed Savior! Didn’t I know it! I must find out at once who he is! (Snatches up his cap and bolts out of the door.)
Same without Veverka.
Kralenec.—Do you think, Rokos, that they will attempt to persecute us?
Skarban.—By doing what has been done elsewhere, . . . refusing to give work to every miner who insists on sending his children to our school.
Tonicka.—We would see about that! And what do you think, Rokos?
Rokos.—People will not suffer their heads to be broken for nothing.
Kralenec.—Surely! We know that perfectly well!
Skarban.—However it may be, . . . I must go out there too. (Looking out of the window.) The crowd keeps on steadily growing! God be with you!
Tonicka.—The Lord keep you! Come back again soon!
Kralenec.—Please send our children home.
(Skarban nods, passing out.)
Rokos.—If evil is brewing out there, it can’t stay under cover long. (Shaking the ashes out of his pipe.) I am going too.
Tonicka.—You are all running away. You might stay a bit longer.
Rokos.—I have sat here long enough. I will be back another day. (Gives his hand to both, and slowly walks off.)
Kralenec, Tonicka, Brouzda
Brouzda walks in, dressed in ragged clothes, his feet swathed in rags, a knotted stick and a battered hat in his hand.
How are you, brother? (To Kralenec.) You didn’t suppose that your old comrade would be here today?
Kralenec.—Welcome, welcome! Here, sit down, (pointing to the bench by the stove.) You must be half frozen!
Tonicka.—And you want to wander around even on Sunday. Six days of the week should give you time enough for your tramping.
Brouzda (With the adventurer’s comedy).—Yes, if one didn’t want to eat on Sunday, lady!
Tonicka.—You don’t need to “madam” or “lady” me! I am Mrs. Kralenec.
Brouzda.—Well, a person must adapt himself to the language of the city if he don’t want people to say he was raised in the woods.
Tonicka.—That might be said truthfully of both you and your polite language. And where have you left your wife and the children?
Brouzda.—I have sent them to the village. People are more likely to give them something. But me, they would drive out.
Tonicka.—And they would be perfectly right in doing so. It might then drive you to work.
Brouzda.—To work? Good Lord! And do you suppose I can’t work?
Tonicka.—Yes, you do work,—about two weeks out of the year.
Brouzda.—Oh, make it a little more than that, I beg you! Fourteen days hardly gives me full credit! Just now, for example,—believe me or not,—but the truth is, I am tired of playing truant. Now for a whole month, during cold weather, I am dragging myself from town to village, my wife scolds, the children are pictures of misery,—and the funny side of it is getting stale. What, old friend, haven’t you even a piece of bread for me?
Kralenec.—In the fall, they were needing men at the mines. Just now, there is nothing. A week ago, they discharged ten men.
Brouzda.—Little work, . . . yet the winter drags itself along. And what about this neighborhood, . . . there are foundries here everywhere.
Kralenec.—If you cannot find work in your own village, it is useless to look further up in the hills. There is none to be had. Everyone is holding the work he has. There is no bread to be found for the asking. (Looking out of the window.)
Brouzda.—Well, so you see, Madam,—or rather, Mrs. Tonicka,—how am I to get a crust of bread somewhere? You think ill of me because I tramp about, but what else is left for me to do?
Tonicka.—Take these for your wife and the children. (Handing him two small loaves.)
Brouzda.—And may the Lord reward you ten thousand times. But in order to show some slight gratitude for your kindness, I bring you some news.
Tonicka.—News? And from where?
Brouzda.—From your respected mother-in-law.
Kralenec.—Were you at my brother’s?
Brouzda.—Yes. They were very glad to see me.
Tonicka (Turns away, softly laughing at herself).—And what are they all doing? What is mother working at?
Brouzda.—Thanks for inquiring. They are all well, and the old mother is coming to your house some day.
Tonicka.—Would that she might come! Then we would have a nice visit.
Brouzda.—Well then, in return for the news, might you not find, if you looked in that chest, a drop of your famous bitters?
Tonicka.—You can take this away. (Giving him a bottle.)
We don’t use it all year.
Kralenec (Impatiently).—I must step out now and see what is going on. Our honorable manager at the chancery, . . to-day, . . . Sunday . . . that is something unusual.
Tonicka.—What can it mean? But, (glancing uneasily toward Brouzda,) come back right away.
(Kralenec says good day to the obsequious Brouzda, picks up his cap, and leaves.)
Brouzda, Tonicka, later Veverka.
Brouzda.—Where is he hurrying? (Kralenec has gone. Brouzda is gazing about the room.) One can see that you are fortunate. Everything looks as though you were celebrating one long holiday.
Tonicka.—You could live just as well if you would only try.
Brouzda.—You want to scold me all the time. Rather have a little pity on me. It’s easy for you to talk when good fortune smiles upon you. You have two children of your own, and yet you take a third to raise. That, I could not do.
Tonicka.—And no one is asking you to. Just worry a little more about the four mouths of your own that you have to feed. And the child of my sister is not a strange child here,—do you understand?
Brouzda.—But still, she isn’t yours! If the dead father of that little Bozenka could only see how carefully you are bringing her up, he surely would be overjoyed!
Tonicka (Sadly).—Poor fellow!
Brouzda.—Yes, poor fellow! I can almost see him now, just as he used to look! (While talking to her, he has eaten both of the loaves.)
Tonicka.—And to this day, I do not understand how he came to be killed while you were saved. You two were digging side by side.
Brouzda.—Side by side. Only in that instant, I went away with a wheelbarrow full of coal, and when it happened, I was only about fifty steps away from him, behind the big rock around the corner, close to the exit.
Tonicka.—He should not have gone to work that day. He had received plenty of warning, and still he went.
Brouzda.—What kind of warning, I pray you?
Tonicka.—From that miner’s phantom.
Brouzda (Smiling).—That phantom? Nothing but a fairytale. I wonder that anyone would believe in that nonsense!
Tonicka (Spiritedly).—Look here, Brouzda, what is the use of mocking and calling down unnecessary evil upon yourself? I know what happened,—there is no mistake about it! Why, didn’t he come home from the mine just the night before, frightened out of his senses! He was always dauntless as a lion, but on that night, he was so shaky that he could hardly stand on his feet, and his teeth chattered with fear! My dead sister noticed how he looked,—he was almost ready to collapse, and she said, “Husband, are you ill?”
“Nothing is the matter with me,” he answered, “and, don’t let me frighten you, Frantisko, but I received a warning down below.”
For an instant, . . . she was always light-hearted,—my sister began to laugh. But she looked at her husband again, and seeing that he was fairly beside himself, a cold chill broke over her, and she shivered with fear. Then she asked him, seriously: “What did you see?” “The miner’s apparition!” answered her husband. “Where?” she questioned. (Tonicka here seats herself.) “I was digging,” he continued, “and the work fell off easily. I wasn’t suspecting anything, and sung half-aloud as I worked, . . . the miner’s song, to the patron saint, Barbara. I was alone; my companions were working elsewhere. All about me, silence. Ahead of me, empty space, with darkness every where. All at once, I felt as though a miner’s lamp were dimly lighting it. I gazed ahead steadily, and saw the figure of a mining superintendent. He was dressed like an engineer, but was a stranger, entirely unknown to us. A strange thing happened. He was standing in a broad shaft of light, illumined as though the bright light of day shone on him. I took off my cap to greet him, and said, ‘Good Day!’ I thought he would come nearer. But just then, he raised his finger as though in warning, and vanished as suddenly as he had appeared. I was seized with uncontrollable terror. The pickaxe dropped from my fingers. I called wildly to my companions, they ran up to ask what had happened.
“‘Has some one noticed a strange engineer?’ I asked. ‘No sign of one!’ they answered. I felt a cold frost running over me. ‘Then it must have been the miner’s guardian angel,’ I said to myself, ‘coming to give me warning.’ And when I had told all to my fellow workmen, they looked at one another, and whispered, ‘The spirit that haunts the mines!’
“I shook till my teeth chattered as though I had a heavy chill, and ran out into the sunlight. Never before have I believed in underground apparitions, but this time, I actually saw one!”
Brouzda.—Well then, there really must be some truth in these rumours. But he should have taken warning, since he believed it himself. It is said, that when a spirit appears in the mines, the one who is warned should not go below during the three following days.
Tonicka.—Something always happens. Sister Frantiska plead and begged my brother-in-law not to go to work that day. But all in vain; he didn’t want the men to laugh at him about his superstititon, so he would not be persuaded. Then my sister ran to the mine, and begged the superintendent to let her husband stay at home for at least one day. But there, they only laughed at her. And one coarse fellow asked her whether too much whiskey had not brought out the apparition. Sister, humiliated with shame, ran away from them, because her husband never took a drink. And so he went down, . . . and three hours later, on the exact spot where he received his warning, there was a terrible cave-in, and fifty men were killed. Only you came out of it alive.
Brouzda.—Only I, and three others with me. I had just gone off, trundling a wheelbarrow close to the shaft. For some unknown reason, I turned around, and suddenly I saw, as though from a miner’s lamp,—I believe it came from your brother-in-law’s,—a flame shooting up. It mounted higher and higher. It seemed strange to me. Then I noticed how a fog was gathering around that light. I began to fear that all was not well. I wanted to cry out, or shout a warning. But already there was one wide circle of flame, then a shock which roared throughout the mine like a thousand peals of thunder, darkness followed and in another second, the rocks came crashing down as the mine caved in. By chance, I must have leaped aside to escape the crash, or else the explosion itself must have flung me close to the shaft. I remained alive.
Tonicka.—And those good people lost their lives.
Brouzda (Gulping down the last mouthful, comically).—My Guardian Angel flutters his wings right over me!
Tonicka.—I pray you, Brouzda, do not anger the Lord!
Brouzda.—Well, well! And where would man be without the aid of Providence? Your poor sister paid for the shock with her life, and left three children, . . . and you took them all.
Tonicka.—And who would take them if not we? They had no other kin.
Brouzda.—What of that! Three mouths to feed make three!
Tonicka.—Well, we surely could not leave them to the mercy of strangers, or to die of hunger! Our neighbor has eleven children, and somehow they manage to keep from starving. Children are just like birds,—they seem to nourish themselves. It is hard to tell just how.
Brouzda.—Only they sing but little and eat a lot. It was lucky for you that two of them had the good sense to die.
Tonicka.—Lucky! Would that the good Lord would punish you for that! I pray you, Brouzda, have a little more care for your own, and don’t worry over other people’s children.
Brouzda.—As for that, I look out for myself, all right. I have eaten all the bread while I have been talking. You were right. But for my own frozen little nestlings, I have saved nothing. (Rising.)
Tonicka (Handing him a round loaf).—Here is another. And where are you going now?
Brouzda.—Oh, I have almost had enough of this business of being a vagabond. I am going to the mine to ask whether anyone has been let out. I would be satisfied with lower wages, . . .
Tonicka.—And you would also work accordingly. Is it not true?
Brouzda.—Everybody as he is able. Good luck to you here!
Brouzda.—And give my regards to Vojtech.
Tonicka.—I will tell him.
(Brouzda, leaving when he collides with Veverka in the door.)
Veverka.—Where is Vojtech?
Brouzda (To Veverka).—You are a queer bird. You run into a person . . .
Veverka.—And you would make a good scare-crow for the birds.
Brouzda (Laughed sarcastically).—Or perhaps a scare-crow for the human species of the feathered flock. (Goes off.)
Veverka (Retaliating).—But take care lest the crows carry you away! (To Tonicka.) Where is Vojtech?
Tonicka, Veverka, later Kralenec and Rokos
Tonicka.—He went out to join you. Haven’t you seen him at all?
Veverka.—Do you know the news?
Tonicka.—I do not.
Veverka.—The new superindent is already here. Things look bad, very bad. That one of ours was let out; all of a sudden!
Tonicka.—Mother Mary! What is the matter?
Veverka (Gazing out of the window).—Bad, I say, bad! But here comes Vojtech with Rokos! They must know something about it!
(Kralenec, Rokos, pass the window and step into the room.)
Veverka.—I have told her already.
Kralenec.—That traitor, Merfajt, has won out! Our director has been dismissed, and a new man, Scheidler, is already here!
Tonicka.—Scheidler? Who used to be an assistant in the mines?
Veverka.—I knew what would happen, as soon as the company ordered a change! The books were all in perfect order, no screw loose anywhere, and yet they have pushed out Director Baum!
Tonicka.—And what do they want to do?
Kralenec.—To lower the miners’ wages and—
Tonicka.—And . . .
Kralenec.—And to close our school.
Tonicka.—Good Heavens! What do the miners say to that? And what do the Germans say?
Kralenec.—They feel about it just as we do. Something unfortunate will be the outcome. The German as well as the Cech, . . . all of us, are miners. The Germans are not opposed to our school. They have one of their own, and they are willing that we should keep ours. Anyhow, it means nothing out of their coffers.
Veverka.—Look, look! There is the school-master with the chaplain! I shall call them in! (Opens the window and calls.) Honorable chaplain! worthy school-master!
Tonicka.—Good Heavens! Is everything in order here? (Looks around.) Everywhere tracks from the snow, (wiping the place where Brouzda was sitting,) and here sat that good-for-nothing!
(The teacher, Sejkora, and the young chaplain Krejsa enter together.)
Chaplain Krejsa, the teacher Sejkora, Kralenec, Tonicka, Rokos, and Veverka.
Chaplain.—We salute you!
Tonicka, Kralenec.—We welcome you to our humble home!
Tonicka (Placing chairs for them).—I pray you, be seated, respected sirs! Have you heard of our misfortune? (Dissolving into tears.) What has not that scoundrel Merfajt done to us!
Schoolmaster.—The school is the first thing they will attack. Up to this time, we were left in peace.
Rokos.—If they begin to let men out of employment, we shall soon know which is the sound grain, and which blows with the wind.
Veverka.—I will hold out! I will hold out!
Kralenec.—There won’t be a great deal of chaff. But cold and hunger are hard taskmasters. If there only were work to be had elsewhere! But except for the foundries and the mines, no employment is to be found, and in the neighbouring villages, there are more unemployed men even than here.
Veverka.—And on the Count’s estate, . . . what work can be found there in the winter?
Rokos.—If we can all hold out to a man, they cannot let any of us go. But a little endurance and fortitude we must expect to show!
Chaplain.—That is true. We are like the shoreline which the flood is devouring. Except for the help of the Lord, and our own innate tenacity, we have no source of strength to fall back upon. Let us then be strong in the faith of the Lord, and in ourselves. Let us stand firm, and meet whatever awaits us! But this soil, our birthright on which we stand, let us never surrender!
All together (With fervor).—Never, never!
Chaplain.—But act without rashness, and do nothing against the will of the Lord or the law. Do everything according to justice, and do not allow yourselves to be coerced into inconsiderate measures. Stand together, one with the other. Do not forsake one another, . . . neither will the Lord forsake you!
Tonicka (In tears, kissing the hand of the chaplain).—That is so, that is so, Sir!
Rokos.—And give up nothing! I have no wife to protect, no children! But if they should attempt to harm one of you here, I will try to protect you, . . . and woe unto him who pits his strength against mine!
Chaplain.—Rokos, you are a good and loyal man, but easily aroused. I ask you especially, keep yourself in hand! Injure no one!
Rokos.—All shall be done, according to the will of the Lord! I wouldn’t harm a fly, but I also want peace!
Chaplain.—First learn from headquarters whether the rumors are true. All may not be as bad as it seems.
Veverka (Gazing out of the window).—The Director, I pray you, . . . look! It is he!
Veverka.—He came out just now, from the Count’s house! And let me call your attention to the way he carries himself! He usually goes along with a smile, his head slightly bent forward, . . . but today he is so erect, with such an air of dignity as I have never seen him wear before!
Kralenec.—The poor man! He always liked me very well!
Veverka.—You will be heavily affected by the change!
Schoolmaster.—But just look, how the people are falling away from him! Just as though they were afraid of meeting him!
Kralenec.—And though they should all run away, I still will not slight him! (Snatches up his cap and rushes out, calling:) Mr. Director! Mr. Director!
Schoolmaster.—The director is coming here! Just see, how his face lit up, how he smiles!
Tonicka (In tears, she goes to open the door).—Welcome, welcome! Our honored guest!
(Director Baum comes in with Kralenec.)
Enter Director Baum
Chaplain (Stepping up to him).—Is it true, Mr. Director?
Baum.—I have been dismissed with the scant courtesy shown to a criminal, which they have made me out to be. The company believed it!
Veverka.—We will not permit such injustice! We will deny the report! I will put an article in the paper! That would be nice, wouldn’t it, to tolerate such abuse!
Baum.—Do nothing, and be prepared for worse times!
Tonicka.—Heaven have mercy on us!
Baum.—My position will be taken even today by Mr. Scheidler, a former mining assistant.
Tonicka.—And that unfortunate wife and children of yours, what will they say about it?
Baum.—I tremble on their account, but there is no help for it. You however, (with emphasis,) stay, and hold out! Tell all the miners, that I bid them be patient and have fortitude! Here is your schoolmaster, and your honorable chaplain. They will give you good advice in all things. Use your good sense at all times. God be with you, and keep me with you as a happy remembrance!
All together.—God be with you!
Chaplain.—If your honor permit, we will go with you!
(Baum extends his hand.)
(Schoolmaster stands, ready to leave.)
Veverka.—I will go also. I must tell the news at home!
Rokos.—And I will go out among the miners. (To the Director.) I, will give them your message. And the miners will stand firm. As God is my witness, they will be firm! (They leave.)
Vojtech, Kralenec, Tonicka
Kralenec.—Dear Tonicko, I feel as though a bolt had struck out of a clear sky, and knocked me senseless. I cannot collect my thoughts!
Tonicka.—And I feel just the same way. (Brightly.) But, who knows what is ahead of us! The worst may not come!
Kralenec.—I am not afraid of any kind of work, if we can only get it! But if we were to lose our chance of earning a living, . . . now in the winter, and nowhere in the neighborhood any work to be snatched up, . . . if I were to be turned out of this little room, which belongs to the company, . . . if we had no place to move into, . . . what would then become of us all?
Tonicka.—But don’t be so gloomy! Why do you worry? Certainly things won’t be so bad! It is a great pity to lose Director Baum, and yet Director Scheidler may not be the worst we could have! He was here for two years!
Tonicka.—Well then, three years among us,—he knows the people, and he never was a harsh man.
Kralenec.—But will he follow out the instructions given him . . . And will he begin to let men out of employment? If I were to finally become a vagabond,—(with a clouded face,) like Brouzda,—with you,—and the children.—(Sinking into a chair.)
Tonicka.—What an idea!
Kralenec.—I am, and I want to be, a decent, self-respecting man. I have no one but you, and our dear children . . . And that Brouzda . . . today, he begs, . . . tomorrow he will steal . . . and day after tomorrow, . . . Oh God! God!
Tonicka.—Vojtech! We have one another! We must not forsake each other! (Some one knocks.) Come! (Enter Miner Pivousek in his miner’s clothes.)
Pivousek, Vojtech, Kralenec, Tonicka, later Bozenka, Pepicek, and Ruzenka
Pivousek (Gazing around).—Are we alone? I have heard that there were a number of miners here.
Kralenec.—They were here. They have gone away.
Pivousek.—There will be other gatherings. I came to announce to you that the new superintendent has arrived. Tomorrow at ten, in the morning, a great parade will be held in his honor. Everyone is to be in miner’s clothes. But day after tomorrow,—and for you also, Kralenec, there will be a worse parade.
Kralenec, Tonicka.—What’s that?
Pivousek.—Day after tomorrow, everyone who works in the mines must go to the chancery, and there openly declare whether or not he will be willing to work for lower wages.
Kralenec.—What are you saying?
Pivousek.—They are bringing up but little coal from below, . . . no one knows why, but every miner must accept a cut of thirty cents a day in his wages, or take leave of absence from his work.
Kralenec.—Take his notice!
Tonicka.—Heaven prosper them! We shall be obliged to exert ourselves in some other direction! (Aside to her husband.) Just so it does not affect that school.
Pivousek.—And there is another trifle.
Kralenec, Tonicka (Frightened).—What is that?
Pivousek.—Every miner who has children,—either his own, or adopted ones,—must announce to the assistant superintendent, Merfajt, in which school he will enroll them in the future,—whether they will attend the same one they used to attend, or the new school which the miners built recently.
Kralenec.—And if we wish to send them to our own school?
Pivousek.—He who sends them to the new school will probably be dismissed from work. You understand, why Mr. Merfajt wishes to know.
Kralenec.—And that was the instruction of the new superintendent?
Pivousek.—That is the company’s instruction. Who is back of it, may be easily guessed. The new superintendent will follow up the orders he has received. He says this plotting must cease.
Kralenec.—Nobody has been plotting!
Pivousek.—I don’t know of any plotting, either. But that is what they said.
Kralenec,—And we would be compelled to give up work? And be discharged, now in the winter?
Pivousek.—Neither Mr. Merfajt nor the new superintendent have as yet said so. But you can look ahead and guess. That is what the company is doing elsewhere. They will do the same here. But I must go now. So Good luck, and Good night! (He leaves.)
Kralenec (Slowly).—Good night. (The children rush in, Bozena, Pepicek, and Ruzena.)
Bozenka.—Aunty! They gave us some kolace at Skarban’s!
Ruzenka.—And I had some pretzels!
Pepicek.—And I also!
Kralenec (Looking at the children with emotion).—Tonicka! The children!
The same room
Tonicka, Rokos, Skarban, later Veverka
Tonicka.——Why doesn’t he come? Time drags along so slowly!
Rokos.—Be patient. There is always time enough for a good thing, and the evil ones come only too soon.
Skarban.—That cross-examination has begun. It will be my turn some time this afternoon.
Rokos.—And they don’t seem to want me at all.
Veverka (Bursting suddenly into the room).—It has begun already! Three have been turned out of work! Because they would not accept lower wages! And five more let out because they would not take their children out of school!
Veverka.—That is God's truth! Among those three were two Germans,—Schulze, Seppel, and Richterhammel . . .
Skarban.—And those five of our men?
Veverka.—Hlaťka, Kralovec, Barta,—and there were two I did not know.
Rokos.—Where are they?
Veverka.—They were asking about you. I think they are coming here.
Tonicka.—And my husband?
Veverka.—He was called before the council just now. Merciful Heavens! (Wiping the perspiration from his face, in apparently deep agitation,) What am I going to do? Five children on my hands, a wife, and a mother!
Rokos (Impressively, but calmly, without emotion).—And you do not know what you will do? Then you have already forgotten all your promises?
Veverka.—For Heaven’s sake, don’t yell at me so! If you had a family to support, who knows how you would decide!
Veverka (Stepping aside, as though afraid).—I don’t know, . . . perhaps you would hold out, . . . but perhaps you, . . . I am in deadly distress . . . Christ in Heaven!
Rokos.—You are making a fine beginning. Where are Kralovec and the others?
Veverka.—They went somewhere, . . . to the tavern perhaps, . . . it is filling with men. But they asked about you!
Rokos.—Skarban! Let us go. If we are going to be dismissed, they had better know how many of us there are to be reckoned with! God be with you, Kralencova! I will stop here again in about an hour. But if I should send for Vojtech, let him come at once! We will probably need him. (Goes away with Skarban.)
Veverka.—By all that is holy, . . . I don’t even realize that the earth is under me, . . . I don’t know what to do!
Tonicka.—Oh, don’t begin to whine already, Veverko! Even a woman would be ashamed to carry on as you do!
Veverka.—It is easy for you to talk! But if you were in my place,—(to himself.) I must not let anything happen, . . . I shall go to beg them not to put me out, . . . I . . .I . . . (hurries away without speaking to Tonicka.)
Tonicka (Looking after him with disgust).—And a wet rag like that is also called a man!
(Bozenka comes in, with a book in hand.)
Tonicka, Bozenka, later Kralenec.
Bozenka.—Praised be the Lord! Aunty, I am hungry!
Tonicka.—Well, well, child! Take a piece of bread. We shall have dinner within an hour.
Bozenka (Goes to the stove, places her exercises on the bench, and warms herself.) And where are the children?
Tonicka (Looking out of the window).—At the neighbor’s! You haven’t seen uncle anywhere?
Borzenka.—No, aunty! (Kralenec enters.) But here he is!
Tonicka (Starting).—You almost frightened me, Vojtech!
Bozenka (Running to him, gayly).—Uncle, the schoolmaster told us such a nice story today! (Takes Kralenec by the hands. He, wrapped in heavy gloom, pushes her away.}})
Tonicka (Noticing it, calls out sharply).—Vojtech!
Bozenka (Looking sadly at Kralenec, half crying).—But . . .
Tonicka (Giving her a piece of fresh bread).—Here child, take the bread and run to the neighbor’s. Uncle isn’t well.
Bozenka (Eagerly).—I will run for the doctor!
Tonicka.—It isn’t necessary! Just run off to the neighbor’s!
(Bozenka slowly goes away, loathe to leave.)
Tonicka.—Vojtech, why in the world did you push that child away?
Kralenec (Gloomy and absorbed, relaxes in a chair without looking at Tonicka).—I couldn’t help it! This is dreadful!
Tonicka (Looking scared).—Dreadful! . . . (Comes over, and looks into his eyes.}}) Even I cannot comfort you?
Kralenec (Looking intently at her).—Tonicko, who knows how long we two will be here!
Tonicka.—Heavens! Did they threaten you?
Kralenec.—I must take the child out of school, . . . that school which I myself helped to build, . . . Otherwise . . . (He broke off, and became absorbed in gloomy thoughts again.)
Kralenec.— . . Otherwise, I can expect to leave the mine in fourteen days.
Tonicka.—A dismissal? Who told you that?
Kralenec.—Merfajt! In one hour, . . . do you hear? They gave me one hour to think it over! I wanted to talk with you about it first!
Tonicka (Sarcastically).—An hour! One hour! (Seriously.) And in one hour, our entire future must be settled!
Kralenec.—In one hour, I must return, and be prepared to say either Yes, or No!
Tonicka.—And what do you mean to say?
Kralenec.—Just what I must, and wish to say,—that our Bozenka shall not be taken out of school!
Tonicka.—Heaven be praised!
Kralenec.—What else could I do? I could not act otherwise! It would be opposed to the will of the Lord! And for that reason, I must suffer, for that reason, they threaten to drive me out of work! I keep myself restrained, I listen in silence, I do not place one straw crossways, and yet I am to be let out!
Tonicka.—Oh, but they are hardly apt to do such a terrible thing! Drive us out now, in the winter, just before Christmas! They would be worse than heathen! They only wish to frighten us!
Kralenec.—No! You will find out that they mean it! I was working so hard, . . . this little room with my family was just like a palace to me, . . . and now, some good-for-nothing fellow will probably come to take my place, . . . I shall be turned out with you and the children, to become tramps, vagabonds, thrown out upon the world with its cold mercy! I could have cried with rage! (Enter Brouzda.) But I won’t give in, and now especially, I will not give in!
Brouzda, Tonicka, Kralenec
Brouzda.—Good day, Comrade! Listen, it seems they are letting men off! If that is the case, they will be glad to take on others! That would just suit me! I pray you, where shall I go to ask for work?
Kralenec (Sharply).—Go, go! They will need you! Offer yourself in my place!
Brouzda.—Not in your place! Why, we were always good friends! You surely would not be so foolish as to let a good thing like you have go just to please others, or to allow yourself to be dismissed and beggared on account of a strange child!
Kralenec.—The child is one of our own now. And you can can keep your wise counsel for yourself. We are not beggars yet.
Brouzda (Laughing).—That may be so, brother! In about fourteen days, you will not be so hotheaded!
Kralenec.—Go along then, and grab first for my place!
Brouzda.—And to me it makes but little difference, whose place I shall have! Then they have chased you out already? It would be a joke, (gazing around,) if I should in the end, get your room!
Brouzda.—With you, there is no reasoning today. Well, if they want me, they can have me, and without your protection or patronage, at that! So be happy here . . . (going away.)
Kralenec.—You see, you see, we still are here, and already such a beast is preying upon our lair. Tonicko, such filth! Such vermin! And for that I am to step out, and go begging in its place, . . . from house to house, . . . from village to village, . . .! Tonicka.—Compose yourself! Calm yourself, Vojtech! Surely it is not yet so bad! And if it comes to the worst, . . . there must be more than one mine, and one foundry in the whole world! How many of them there are all around us! If it is necessary, I will pick up this very afternoon, and go out to find some work for you.
Kralenec.—Where do you want to go?
Tonicka.—You cannot leave this afternoon, . . . you must go down to the mine, so let me go instead. I will go from mine to mine until I find work. And if I fail to find it in the mines, I shall go to the castle, . . . the young mistress there is very kind, and many people have already found work on the state after being dismissed here. If it comes to the worst, you can work in the forest, and I in the dairy. A living can certainly be thrashed out of our united efforts!
Kralenec.—And you would not be afraid of anything now, with the winter upon us? You would not complain, if they should for a certainty turn us out?
Tonicka.—I would rather starve on a dry crust once a day for my sustenance, than to submit to such injustice. (Enter Pivousek.)
Pivousek, Tonicka, Kralenec
Pivousek.—Greetings! Mr. Merfajt sends his respects, and says he is still waiting!
Kralenec (Looking at Tonicka).—Why the hour is not up yet!
Pivousek.—He would like to know now what you have decided to do. (Looking around.) Honestly, comrade, he realizes how much depends upon your decision.
Pivousek.—Things are not all going his way. Only four miners have given in so far. One is a drunkard, the other in curably lazy, and the third and fourth are sick men. (With conviction.) Of the others, not a single one ! And twenty so far have been discharged!
Pivousek.—Yes indeed! At least he has threatened to dismiss them. But, (quietly looking around,) someone has told him, . . . it must have been Veverka . . .
Pivousek.—Yes. He is there with Merfajt now. Some one has carried the news to Mr. Merfajt, that out of those twenty, at least half have said that they will do exactly what you do. To make a pledge is always easy, but to go hungry, gazing at frosted windows, . . . no one will enjoy it! So you are to come at once!
Kralenec.—I will be there in a minute!
Pivousek.—Good! God be with you! (Exit.)
(Enter Veverka, frightened out of his senses.)
Veverka, Tonicka, Kralenec
Tonicka.—Well, and what does friend Veverka know? You look as though you had just seen a ghost!
Kralenec.—Did they dismiss you from work?
Veverka.—No, no . . .
Kralenec.—Well then, what is it?
Veverka.—For Heaven’s sake, I beg you, . . . support me, . . . you two, . . . especially you, Vojtech!
Kralenec.—What has happened to you?
Veverka.—I, . . . I, . . . you know, (falling into a chair,) I am dying.
Tonicka.—Veverko, you have . . .
Veverka.—For the love of Heaven, I beg of you, . . . but not you, . . . but not you, . . .
Kralenec (Stepping up to Veverka).—Talk sensibly! Did they drive you out, . . . or did you . . .
Veverka (Pugnaciously).—Yes, Vojtech, . . . I . . .
Tonicka.— . . . did just what they wished me to do!
Veverka.—Yes, . . .
Tonicka.—Yes, you are a worthy citizen, a rock of good faith! Only last night, you swore that you would hold out to the end, and nagged at all the others here to pledge their word! And today? Today you are the first to crawl cringingly back, to go down on your knees before the new powers that be!
Veverka.—I beg you,—Mrs. Kralenec, I beg you!
Tonicka.—Out of my sight, you . . .
Veverka (Rises, seizes her hand, kneeling before her).—Mrs. Kralenec, do not talk so, and don’t send the others after me, . . . for heaven’s sake, I ask it! If I were only alone! But there are the children! What would become of the children, the wife and mother if they were to discharge me at the mine? Am I to take the roof from their heads, the bread from their very lips? Listen! Just listen! I have seven mouths to feed, and my own makes the eighth!
Tonicka.—You have given us a full account of that! You (with a hard, short laugh, repeating his very words:) “We will not give up, let us promise each other! You will find me a rock of strength! Let us swear, brothers, that one and all will stand together!” And now be ashamed of yourself!
Veverka (Fairly frothing).—Mrs. Kralenec! (Rising.)
Tonicka.—Yes, be ashamed of yourself, . . . and get out of my sight before I sweep you out with the broom!
Veverka.—For the love of Heaven!
Tonicka.—So you sold yourself at the first flash of lightning, without even waiting for others, . . . yes, you even ran over there to offer yourself for sale!
Veverka.—And who told you all this?
Tonicka (Stepping back, gazing at him, her hands on her sides).—Just see how you own up to it! Nobody told me, but I could guess what you would do, you honorable citizen! (More sharply.) Now listen to me! We will announce this in the papers so all the world would know about you!
Veverka.—For Heaven’s sake, not that! Not that! (Turns and runs away from her.)
Tonicka.—And what will Rokos and the others say to you? (Veverka starts suddenly.) You will be a fine bird, strutting before them, and what will you tell the chaplain and the school master?
Veverka (Desperately).—By the wounds of the Blessed Savior I am going mad! I am going mad! (Runs off.)
Tonicka.—Just take notice how that bag of wind has turned out! He shouts around here about his courage as long as danger is at a safe distance, but he scarcely feels the first real breath of the storm before he is all in a heap!
Kralenec.—Man is by nature belligerent and untamed. But he deserves a little compassion since he has considered the wishes of his family.
Tonicka.—Compassion! I have none for him. I am a woman and certainly I know what it is to feel for little children. But he consulted only his own wishes, not his family’s. He surely did not act out of consideration for them. There is deception in the pretense.
Kralenec.—And do you know, Tonicko, that it is easier to talk than to meet the hardship that must come to us through our decision? We still have a roof above our heads. But when this door opens for us to leave, and we must find an unknown one to receive us, when it will become necessary to pay higher rent than you now expect, there will then be need of resourcefulness and endurance. It will then appear, who among us has not been found wanting.
Tonicka.—What else may happen? What do you expect?
(Enter Rokos, and three miners: Trnka, Schulze, and Kotora. Rokos walks hastily toward his accustomed place.)
Rokos, Trnka, Schulze, Kotora, Tonicka, Kralenec.
Rokos (Speaking with his usual fire).—Vojtech, have they threatened to let you go too?
Kralenec.—Yes, and you?
Rokos.—They have already let me go. And Kotor, Schulze and Trnka are discharged also!
Schulze (With his German accent).—Yes, yes, I was not willing to work for lower wages. But I will show them, I will show them.
Rokos.—Those people at the chancery act as though they were crazy! And that worthless Merfajt is conducting everything! They are waiting for you! And you will tell them?
Kralenec.—Exactly what you did! I will not give in!
Rokos, Trnka.—(In a chorus) Good! Good! Bravo! Bravo!
Kotora (to Trnka).—What did I tell you?
(All shake hands with Kralenec.)
Rokos.—At first they only talked about laying off, but now they are going to dismiss us permanently. But they don’t seem to realize what they are hatching up for themselves. There is a mass-meeting at the tavern. The women are becoming aroused, and are running to the chancery. It seems that Merfajt has refused them admittance, so they are going to force it.
Kotora.—Evil may arise from this!
Rokos.—It certainly will. First, all work will be suspended. That will be the first trick.
Schulze (With his broken accent).—Yes, yes, the first thing. And to the Cech and German alike, it means the same thing. Since they are cutting our wages and driving us all away, we must all stand together.
Rokos.—Let us hurry now. They are already on the lookout for unemployed men. And that good-for-nothing, drunken Brouzda, they have already taken in! We must take a stand against such injustice! Our places must not be filled by others!
Kralenec.—They shall not!
Rokos (To Kralenec).—And when will you give them your answer at the chancery?
Kralenec.—I am going over now.
Rokos.—Then go, brother. In the meantime, we will be in the tavern, talking things over. Come over there after us!
Kralenec.—I will come! (Rokos, Trnka, Schulze, and Kotora leave.)
Kralenec, Tonicka, later Bozenka, Ruzenka, and Pepicek.
Tonicka.—Look at that Rokos! The worthy man is entirely changed! I have never yet seen him so fired by anything!
Kralenec (Getting ready to leave).—Give mymy cap! I am going. They will make a mess of things there at the chancery. I have all my life been longing for the chance to have a hand in something unusual, and now it is beginning to appear as though I might be coming to it!
Tonicka (Jokingly).—A general you certainly will not become!
Kralenec (Buried in his thoughts).—But I am going willingly into something I never experienced before, . . . Ahead of me is uncertainty, apparent want,—and still I go headlong into it, still I am not afraid! I take measures that must react against your interests, against my own,— and yet I have no fear! Surely they cannot hold out against us for long!
Tonicka (Handing him his cap).—Vojtech, I am proud of you! I have always been very proud of you, but now I like you better than ever before!
Kralenec.—What a child you are! (Kisses her. The children enter.)
Bozenka.—Aunty, Pepicek’s head began to ache! He was busy playing, and all at once, he let everything lie, and said he must go home!
Kralenec.—What is the matter with you, my boy?
Pepicek.—My head hurts!
Tonicka.—Come here, my little boy! It won’t be anything serious. (Places her hand on his forehead.) His head feels hot (To Pepicek.) Well, wait a bit, little one, wait! All will pass away again! I will put a remedy of some sort on your forehead, . . . it will soon stop aching.
Pepicek (Faintly).—Mother dear, I think I will go to bed!
Kralenec (In a subdued voice).—Something is the matter with that child!
Tonicka (Quietly).—I think so myself. But it probably is only a passing fever. Cut up some potato shavings for me. (Takes the child, carries him to the bed, removes his clothes and puts him to sleep.)
(Kralenec takes off his cap, brings a potato to the table, and cuts it into strips.)
(Tonicka, taking a clean handkerchief, folds it, sprinkles it with strips of freshly sliced potatoes, and places the handkerchief on the child’s forehead.)
Bozenka.—I will play with you a while, Pepicku.
Ruzenka.—And I also.
Bozenka.—What do you want me to bring you?
Pepicek.—Nothing at all.
Kralenec.—Shall I tell the doctor to stop here?
Tonicka.—Do nothing now. It will pass away.
Kralenec (Softly, full of anxiety).—If, on top of all our other troubles, that boy were to become sick . . . (Just then the mother of Kralenec enters, wrapped in a shawl, a bundle on her arm.)
Kralencova.—Peace be with you, children!
Tonicka (Joyfully).—Oh mother! We had given you up! (Kisses her on each cheek. Kralenec kisses her also.)
Kralenec.—Welcome, mother! It was good of you to come!
Kralencova (Taking off her wraps).—And I wanted to come day before yesterday. Here are some dried prunes and apples which I brought. (Bozenka and Ruzenka run up to kiss her hand. She in turn caresses them.) And where is your little Pepicek?
Tonicka.—Just now, poor little chap, he is in bed.
Kralencova.—Well, well, I pray the Lord will not send any illness. (Goes to the bed to kiss him.)
Kralencova.—My little boy, my poor little chick, since I have come to see you, you must not get sick! Surely you will not, will you?
Pepicek.—I won’t, grandmother!
Kralencova (Drying her eyes).—So you are having anxiety on account of this child? Always something!
Tonicka.—And suppose something worse should be waiting us!
Kralencova (Frightened).—What’s that?
Tonicka.—Mother, I would rather not tell you yet. Be seated. I will bring you something in a minute. You see, Vojtech . . .
Kralencova.—Surely not . . .
Tonicka.—Is just getting ready to go to the chancery. They are letting men out of work.
Kralencova.—Oh, Holy Mother! If they should let you go! Then it will be just as it now is with us! Where would you all go?
Kralenec.—And what has happened at your place?
Kralencova.—Josef received his notice day before last. Half of the men have been let out of work. They are not operating the mines. I was about to ask if the work is to be had here!
Tonicka.—Here it will be still worse! For they are purposely driving men away.
Kralencova.—Oh, our crucified Savior!
Tonicka.—I have concluded that there is nothing to be done except for Vojtech to look for work at another mine. Or else we must go to the castle near by to ask for some kind of work. (Bringing her bread, salt, butter, and a knife.)
Kralencova.—And how could anything of this sort happen to you? There is no work to be had anywhere!
Tonicka (Frightened).—The Lord help us! Have some more, mother! You must need it after your journey!
Kralenec.—And why do you say nothing is to be found any where?
Kralencova (Taking more bread).—Because they are not taking men into any of the mines now. They are letting some of them go. We were making inquiries yesterday. And what kind of work could you get at the estate, now in the winter?
Tonicka (Somewhat depressed).—I shall go there just the same to ask the young mistress to take us in!
Kralencova.—Neither the young mistress nor her husband are now at home! They have gone to Prague, and people say they will spend two months in Italy!
(Kralenec looks at Tonicka.)
Tonicka (Looks frightened for a minute, then says:).—But something must turn up, after all!
Kralencova.—But with difficulty, Tonicka! There will be nothing to do on the estate until spring opens, and they are closing down the mines.
Tonicka (To herself).—For Heaven’s sake! (Looks at Kralenec, then goes over to Pepicek. Bozenka goes to the window.)
Kralenec.—Well, well, that is news . . .
Kralencova.—I myself do not know what Josef will do. Here he would hardly be apt to find a place?
Kralenec.—Not unless he wishes to take the one left open by myself, or one of the other men who have been driven out!
Kralencova (Stops eating). Such a thing, only a shameless outcast would do! Josef will not provision his table through the necessity of another.
Bozenka (At the window).—Uncle, the people are coming here! Mr. Merfajt is with them! (The murmur of voices is heard.)
Kralenec (Leaping to his feet).—Merfajt!
(Tonicka runs to the window.)
Kralencova.—And the miners are running after him! What an uproar!
Kralenec.—He is coming here! He must be coming for my answer!
Tonicka.—Vojtech! What are you going to do?
Kralencova.—They want something of you, and you do not wish to comply with their demands?
Kralenec.—I surely will not give in! Just one thing: Tonicka are you prepared to suffer the result of this decision with me?
Kralencova.—For Heaven’s sake, what is in the air? Surely you would not voluntarily dismiss yourself from work?
Kralenec.—We will do it, mother, because we must. We will not suffer ourselves to be tyrannized over. Rather would we endure actual want than to be exposed to endless humiliations.
Kralencova.—Vojtech! My son! What folly is this! Your wife, your children! Are you forgetting all about them? The winter is here, you have no other resources at hand, money at your house, . . . where would one find it, . . . and work cannot be found! Do not be stubborn, do not stand against the whole company! Submit to their demands!
Kralenec.—I cannot, mother! I cannot betray myself, and I will not betray others! I could not do it!
Kralencova.—I do not even know what this is all about! But be content with what they offer! Do not rebel! I have endured more than you have,— I know what it means to go hungry, I had to bring you up, all of your brothers, in actual poverty and want! I never complained! I managed to tide it over, so that you all, you and your brothers, are neither beggars nor dependants today, but are sustaining yourselves by an honorable effort! But work, I never scorned nor ran away from And you, Vojtech, you must not be so foolish! It would be against the will of the Lord, against my will, and such a thing I will not permit! I am aged now, I am your mother, . . . for my sake, for the sake of these children, for the sake of us all, relent!
Kralenec.—Mother, mother! If I knew I should die of hunger and want, I cannot do otherwise, I cannot relent!
Kralencova.—For Heaven’s sake! What kind of crazy talk is this!
Tonicka (Looking out of the window).—-They are here! They are all here!
Kralenec (Seizes his wife by the hand).—Tonicka, are you prepared for the worst?
Kralenec.—Even probable hunger and want?
Tonicka.—With you, I am ready for anything!
Kralencova (Interrupting).—Vojtech! Tonicka!
Kralenec.—And now, in the winter, if they should drive us out, could you stand an aimless wandering in the snow?
Tonicka.—With you, I can share anything!
(Kralencova, wringing her hands.)
Kralenec (Kissing his wife, affectionately).—Tonicka! (With a firm voice.) Then let them come!
(The roar of the crowd is drawing nearer, from the window a number of miners may be seen. They are gazing toward the window while they excitedly gesticulate and talk. Enter Merfajt and Pivousek.)
Merfajt and Pivousek
Kralenec (Holding Tonicka by the hand).—Peace to you, Mr. Superintendent!
Merfajt.—Mr. Scheidler and I await your answer.
Kralenec.—I was just about to leave for the chancery. Our mother at that moment arrived. (Pointing to his mother.)
Merfajt.—Then I will save you a trip. I am going to the tavern where there is riotous gathering of the miners. Do not join them, Kralenec! The former director promised to make you a surveyor! We will make that promise good.
Kralenec (Slowly).—For that I surely ought to be grateful. The former superintendent, (with stress on the word superintendent,) would surely have kept his word.
Merfajt.—We will keep our promise also. But it must be understood that you will obey our instructions.
Kralenec.—Allow a cut of thirty cents in wages?
Merfajt.—It would not in any way affect you. If you are promoted you would receive a raise of fifty cents a day in wages.
Kralenec.—Then what is it?
Merfajt.—Take your Bozenka out of that school, and place her in the other one!
Kralenec.—Director, that I will never do!
Merfajt.—I cannot understand you! Do you wish to be dismissed! To receive your notice of fourteen days?
Kralenec.—Surely that will not happen?
Merfajt (With a cold manner, restraining his anger, while taking out a notice).—Here is your notice, signed by the new superintendent.
Kralenec (Sharply).—That notice was written by you!
Merfajt.—Yes. I am today doing whatever seems best for our own interests.
Kralenec.—You cannot turn me out of work, . . . at least you cannot turn me out of this room! (Outside, wild gesticulations and cries.)
Merfajt.—Here is your dismissal from your work and your home. If you will obey me, I will destroy it . . .
Kralenec (Even more sharply).—And suppose I refuse?
Merfajt.—Then in fourteen days, you must be prepared to leave.
Kralenec.—Now in the winter, before the holidays? (The miners are crowding into the door. Trnka enters.)
Merfajt.—Yes, now in the winter. (With an evil smile.) Make up your mind before you decide, that work cannot be found anywhere around here. Hunger and cold are hard task masters.
Kralenec (More decidedly).—But above them all, shame is the greatest! And shame upon myself, I will not bring!
Voices.—Splendid! That is splendid! He is talking now!
Others.—You will not betray us? You won’t back out?
Kralenec.—I will not betray, either you or myself!
Merfajt (To the miners).—By what right, do you dare come in here?
Trnka.—By the same right, if there is no higher one, that you have.
Merfajt.—Away from here! Whoever will not obey, will lose his work!
Trnka.—We will see about that!
Merfajt (To Kralenec).—Order them to go away!
Kralenec.—Out of my home, I will drive nobody!
Merfajt.—You will not obey?
Merfajt.—And you will not follow the instructions of the company?
Kralenec.—I will not!
Merfajt.—And suppose we drive you out, and all these (pointing to the miners,) who wish to revolt with you?
Voices.—Then there will be a riot! Now we are at least peaceful!
Merfajt.—We shall see about that riot! The troops will settle that riot you are hatching! (More calmly, seeing that he has betrayed himself.) Kralenec, be sensible! Once more, I ask you to consider!
Kralenec.—You have heard my decision. And if I were to die of hunger or be shot, I would not change my answer.
Merfajt.—Then woe unto you and all the others! (Goes quickly away.)
All the miners (Crowding around Kralenec, shouting:).—Thank God, brother! Thank God!
Dr. Houska, Kralenec, Tonicka, on the bed at the right, little Pepicek
Dr. Houska (Standing with Tonicka by the child’s bed, holding his hand while taking his temperature.) The child has a raging fever and is unconscious. Dear friends, I cannot give you much hope. (Leaving the bed.)
Tonicka (Greatly agitated).—Doctor, you mean to say . . .
Kralenec (Advancing toward the middle of the room, where the doctor stood).— . . . that there is no hope?
Dr. Houska.—The child has brain-fever, but with children, even illness beyond all hope sometimes has a turn for the better. Just be careful, see that nothing disturbs the boy or distresses him . . .
Tonicka (Despair).—Peace? Today!
Dr. Houska.—What has happened?
Kralenec.—This has been a terrible day for us. (Angrily.) Yesterday I received a notice, and today I am ordered to move out!
Dr. Houska.—That is a crisis for you. Where can you go?
Kralenec (Sharply).—Nowhere! They dare not drive me away from here! And if they should insist, I . . .
Dr. Houska.—Unfortunate people! Do not be rash, Kralenec! Have you no home?
Kralenec.—I have not, any more than a hundred and twenty others who have been driven out have.
Dr. Houska.—Listen, Kralenec, I do not know whether it will help, for the director’s committee during the past few days has gone crazy . . . but I will go to the company to speak about this case.
Tonicka.—So they would let us stay here?
Dr. Houska.—Yes, and to ask that they do not dismiss you from work. I will do it for that poor little fellow over there, (pointing to the bed.) I will go at once, and bring you an answer directly. (Leaves.)
Kralenec.—It is all useless. They will not give in. And neither will I.
Tonicka.—But it is possible that they will listen to the doctor.
Kralenec.—They will store up that much more against us! (Wildly.) But if they should come and try to drive me out, . . . . then may the Lord help them . . . (seems to collect himself,) and me also! (Crumples up in a chair.) (In the door appear Rokos, Skarban, and Kotora. All appear to be in the heat of anger.)
Rokos, Skarban, Kotora, Tonicka, Kralenec
Rokos (Speaking quickly, and excitedly).—Peace be with you! Well, how goes it? Have they been here yet to move you out?
Kralenec.—Not yet. But they may come at any time.
Rokos.—I think they will not come! We will give them something else to think about!
Kralenec.—What is going to happen?
Tonicka.—I pray you, a little more quiet! Our Pepicek . .
Rokos.—That is true. The poor little unfortunate! (Quietly.) Now listen! We will put out all the fires, interrupt the work, and try to put a stop to all operations.
Kralenec.—That might help!
Kotora.—We intended to do it tomorrow . . .
Skarban.—But that accursed Merfajt was laughing at us in the tavern, taunting us with our uprising, saying it would soon come to an end! He has sent a telegram for the troops!
Tonicka (Frightened).—For the troops!
Kralenec (Overcome and dazed).—The troops! Why, they can’t as yet show the slightest reason for calling them!
Kotora.—But they scent trouble ahead!
Rokos (With emphasis).—And so everything must be done at once. All the miners are gathering at the mines . . .
Tonicka.—And what about those who relented?
Rokos.—A few of those fine birds will stay at home, but they do not dare to come out openly against us. (To Kralenec.) And as soon as we are assembled at the mine, we will go in a body to the company, and try to bring the superintendent and Merfajt to some kind of terms.
Tonicka.—And if they will not be reasonable?
Rokos.—Then there will be trouble, serious trouble. So come with us!
Kralenec.—I will follow you, but just now I must stay at home.
Kralenec.—They might come to throw out my furniture,—and that I will not allow!
Rokos.—That must be prevented. Come, brothers! All our men will be gathered together in a few minutes, and (to Kralenec) we will try to protect you! (Leaves with Kotora and Trnka.)
Kralenec.—God be with you!
Tonicka.—Vojtech, what is going to come of this?
Kralenec.—Heaven knows! They will soon learn what a storm they have started!
Tonicka (Looking toward the bed).—Pepicek is asleep! How would it do for me to go to the school now for Bozenka? If there should be a riot outside, the children will be badly frightened!
Kralenec.—It may be serious here. The estate is just across the street! (Someone raps, with a scraping of feet.) Who comes? (He wants to open, when in walks Brouzda.)
Brouzda (Somewhat tipsily).—The Lord bless you, Comrade!
Kralenec.—What do you want? You were taken in at the mine in my place!
Brouzda.—I was, . . . and also given this cozy nest of yours . . .
Kralenec (Advancing quickly toward him).—You . . .
Tonicka (Holding him back).—Vojtech, remember . . .
Kralenec.—Listen, you drunkard! Surely you do not expect to settle yourself in here?
Brouzda.—But, friend, nothing ill is intended! Why such howling about it?
Kalenec.—Then what do you want here?
Brouzda.—Well, I just came to tell you that I am going to move in.
Brouzda.—Yes. They gave me this notice at the chancery, and told me to move right in,—and if you show any violence, they will have you put out!
Tonicka.—Put out! Do you hear, Vojtech? Put out!
Brouzda.—But, old friend, you know that I am a good fellow! As for furniture, I have none. The wife and children have a number of bundles with some rags, and three pillows, and that is all. So do you know what? Let us all stay right here, and as long as you do not find a new home, (raising his voice,) we can all live together! I will put in a good word for you so they will let you stay.
Kralenec.—You will speak a good word for me? Get out of my sight, and don’t dare to step into this place again, either you or your wife!
Brouzda (Threateningly).—Well listen, Kralenec! Since you have come back at me so uncivilly, let me tell you that things will fall out badly for you! At present, I am the boss here!
Kralenec.—Get out of that door, or I will push you through it! (Enter Merfajt, Pivousek, and a servant.)
(Tonicka runs away, frightened, to her child.)
Enter Merfajt, Pivousek, and servant
Merfajt.—What is all this racket about? Kralenec, why haven’t you moved out?
Kralenec.—Because I do not mean to move, . . . because I do not intend to leave this room!
Merfajt.—Your notice ran out last night. This room should be vacant today. Will you leave willingly or not?
Kralenec.—I will not go!
Tonicka (To Merfajt).—Mr. Director, our child is dangerously ill. The doctor himself has just gone to the superintendent to ask permission for us to remain.
Merjajt.—I am directing everything in the name of the superintendent. Your child will be cared for; it will be taken to the hospital, but you must move out immediately. (The roar of an approaching mob is heard.)
Kralenec.—And though I were to leave my dead body here, I will not move from this room! Mr. Director, do you hear that roar outside?
Merfajt (To Pivousek).—What is that?
Kralenec.—Those are the men you have stirred up against yourself! They wish to speak a few words with you! (The roar of the mob increases.)
Merfajt (Jumping to the window).—Really! But we also will speak with them, and with more effect, I believe! (Taking out his watch. In the distance is heard the whistle of a train. Sternly.) The train is now pulling in and on the train are, . . . troops!
Merfajt (With an evil laugh).—Yes, already today! You were planning a surprise party for us, and in the meantime we have one for you! (The cries of the people increase, until but one word is intelligible.)
Tonicka (Dazed).—The troops!
Merfajt.—Now I am asking you for the last time, do you intend to move?
Merfajt (To Brouzda, Pivousek, and the servant).—Then do what I have commanded. (Threatingly.) This rebellion we will nip in the bud before another one shows its horns! (Goes away.)
Kralenec (Seizing his hand).—What are they going to do?
Merfajt.—They know, and you will shortly learn! Since the gentlemen miners wish to pay us a call, en masse, we must surely be at home! (Going away with a scornful laugh.) Good bye!
Brouzda, Pivousek (Mechanically).—Goodbye!
The same, without Merfajt
Kralenec.—But I have not said Goodbye to this affair. What do you mean to do?
Pivousek.—We do not wish you any harm, brother, but since you are so stubborn, we cannot help ourselves! We have been instructed to clear this room, so we must clear it.
Kralenec.—Clear it? Put out my furniture?
Pivousek.—We surely will! And you ought to show better judgment! In the winter? And what about you, Mrs. Kralenec? Could you not have given your husband better advice?
Tonicka.—We will not move from here, and you do not dare . . .
Pivousek.—Well then, since I see that you will not show any sense or reason . . . (To Brouzda and the servants.) Well, comrades, go to work.
Brouzda.—Well then, with the help of the Lord! (The uproar outside. Brouzda flings the door open, and with the aid of the servant, seizes the bed to carry it out.)
Kralenec.—And I again tell you, do not touch my things! Pivousku, tell the men to leave them alone!
Pivousek.—Stuff and nonsense! Move them out!
Shouting aside.—The Director! Let the Director come! Merfajt!
Voices (Drawing nearer).—Kralenec! Come, Kralenec!
Kralenec.—I am coming! As soon as I am through right here! Pivousku, do you hear that roar outside? Will you leave this alone?
Pivousek.—And if all the world were afire, I have been commanded to do this, and I must finish it! (To Brouzda and the servants.) Carry them out quickly, so that you will make an end of this business soon!
Kralenec.—You will leave this place at once, or I will kill you!
Pivousek (Advancing).—And I say, be still! If you do not, the Director will have you arrested! Come on! (Takes hold of the bed to help the men carry it out.)
Kralenec.—Back! (Strikes Pivousek to the ground.)
Pivousek.—Help! Go for him! (Brouzda and the servant are about to pit themselves against Kralenec,—he seizes an ax, taking a stand with it, upraised. Pivousek glides toward the door.)
Kralenc.—Whoever approaches nearer will be a dead man!
(Brouzda and the Servant creep timidly toward the door.)
Pivousek.—We will go now, but (threateningly,) we will return again! (He leaves, Brouzda and the servant follow.)
Kralenec, Tonicka, later Kotora
Kralenec (Looking out of the window).—Tonicka, do you see our people? Today we must win out!
Kotora.—Kralenec! Rokos is sending for you! The Director has closed his doors and refuses to talk to us! We must manage some other way!
Tonicka (Frightened).—But the troops have just arrived! (The ravages of uncertainty and anxiety are affecting her.)
Kotora.—We know it! We must act all the more quickly!
Voices (Outside).—Kotora! Kralenec!
Kotora.—I am coming! I am coming! (Goes out.)
Kralenec.—And I also! (Wants to leave. In the distance may be heard the beating of drums.)
Tonicka (Stepping in her husband’s way).—Vojtech!
Kralenec.—What do you want?
Tonicka (Pointing to the window).—The troops!
Kralenec.—Let me go!
Tonicka.—They are going to shoot!
Kralenec.—All the more reason why I should be there!
Tonicka.—You shall not leave this room!
Kralenec.—Let me go! I must!
Tonicka.—I will not! They would kill you!
Kralenec.—And suppose they should! What if I fall today or tomorrow! (The beating of drums draws nearer and nearer.)
Shouting (Without).—Forward! Forward!
Tonicka.—You must not desert us now!
Kralenec.—I must go to our own people! I cannot tear myself away from them!
Tonicka.—Restrain them from violence! The troops you must not challenge!
Kralenec.—I must go!
Voices (Without).—The troops, the troops! (The blare of trumpets.)
Command of the officer without.—Halt!
Tonicka.—If they were to kill you, we should then lose you, . . . I and the children!
Karlenec.—For the sake of the children, and with your consent, I defied the company! For the sake of the children, this uprising took place tonight! Now I must not forsake our people, . . . now is the supreme moment of the test, . . . our future depends upon this night. (Without a great shout arises, with cries, oaths, yells, and mingled orders.)
Voice behind the scene.—In the name of the law, disperse!
Tonicka.—Have mercy on me! You will lose your life! (Trumpeting and beating of drums.)
Kralenec.—And if I were to lose my life, it will not be lost in vain. If we can but conquer, I will gladly die for justice’ sake!
Voice (Behind the scene).—In the name of the law, disperse!
Shouting of People (Behind the scene).—We will not scatter! Advance! Advance!
Kralenec.—Do you hear them, how fearlessly they answer? And I should stay at home, I should be such a coward that I would forsake them? With them, possibly at their head, I must be! Now has come my great moment, for which I always longed as though in a dream! Now I shall cease to be a slavish miner, and become a warrior for my independence, for your sake, for our children, and for all our enslaved people!
Tonicka.—But you will be killed!
Kralenec.—But if I fall, I shall fall in glory!
(Tonicka frantically holding him back.)
Voice of the Commanding Officer without.—Attention! (Trumpeting.) We will fire!
Shouting (Without).—You will not! You dare not! Forward! Forward!
Kralenec (In great agitation).—Our men are going forward to the director’s home! Let me go, I must!
Voice of Commanding Officer without.—Attention! Fire! (Sound of firing. Screams of People.)
Tonicka.—They are firing! You shall not go!
Kralenec.—My life is worth no more than that of the other victims! May the Lord protect you and our beloved children! Let me go! (Tears himself loose without looking at her further. Shouting outside.) Forward, brothers! Forward!
People (Breaking into a tremendous cry).—Advance! Forward! To the Director’s house!
Tonicka, later Mrs. Kralenec, with Bozenka and Ruzenka, then Mrs. Skarban
Tonicka.—Blessed Jesus! (Falls exhausted on her knees, dragging herself to the door behind Kralenec.) Vojtech, Vojtech! They will kill you! (Tries to rise, and cannot. A deafening volley without.)
Cries (Without).—That was a report of blank cartridges! Forward! Forward!
Tonicka.—I cannot rise! (Wringing her hands.) Merciful Savior! (Desperately clutching at the Bible which, in her frenzy, she has carried about with her.) Save, oh save them! Send him back to me, alive and sound, oh protect him! In the name of your suffering, of your wounds, I cry unto you, oh protect him! For the sake of my children, keep him! Take my life instead, but keep him! (Cries and screams.)
Voice of Commanding Officer without.—Attention! Load!
Tonicka.—Mary, mother of the Crucified! With your power save him from destruction, protect him from death and send him back to me!
Voice of the Commanding Officer.—Fire! (Cries, screams.)
Tonicka.—Jesus, our Savior! (Falls upon the floor, then drags herself to the window).—If he should be killed! If he should be wounded!
(Mrs. Kralenec, with Bozenka and Ruzenka run out, frightened and bewildered, into the room.)
Mrs. Kralenec.—Where is Vojtech?
Tonicka.—Out there, with the others! Children, children! (Snatching them up.) Pray for him, oh pray for him! They are firing . . . if I could only arise, . . . if I could only see him!
Mrs. Skarban (Breaking into the room).—Tonicko! Listen! Firing, . . . dreadful misfortune! (With out a fresh volley, the shrieks of the wounded, and the frightened cries of fleeing people.)
Tonicka.—What has happened?
Mrs. Skarban.—Come! Come! Kralenec . . .
Tonicka (Faintly trying to rise).—I cannot stand . . . What has happened? Vojtech . . .
Mrs. Skarban.—Kralenec . . . (the door opens.) Here
(Enter four miners, bringing on their shoulders, the wounded man.)
Tonicka, Mrs. Skarban, Mrs. Kralenec, Bozenka, Ruzenka, Kralenec, Kotora, Trnka, Skarban.
Tonicka (Summoning her last spark of strength).—Vojtech!
Mrs. Kralenec.—My son!
Trnka.—May the Lord sustain you, Kralencova!
Tonicka.—Is he hurt?
Trnka.—Hurt! (They lay him on the bed to the left of the sick child.)
Tonicka (Sinks down before Kralenec).—Vojtech, my dear Vojtech, they have robbed me! They have taken you away from me!
Kralenec (Slowly, in a broken voice).—And yet I am still a man!
Same room. On the bed to the left lies Kralenec, half covered by the feather-bed. His hands are folded above the covers and he sleeps. Behind the bed, stands the chaplain and the mother of Kralenec, at the foot, Tonicka.
Chaplain Krejsa, Kralencova, Tonicka. All speaking in smothered tones.
Chaplain.—How is it going with Kralenec?
Tonicka (In tears).—He sleeps most of the time. Just as he is doing now. At times, he awakes, asks about something,—perhaps takes a little broth,—then falls asleep again.
Kralencova.—He either sleeps soundly, or else he is unconscious. Sometimes, he tries to talk, as thoughts flit across his mind, . . . and that is what we fear the most. For when one goes into delirium and phantasies, death seems to be hovering near the door.
Tonicka.—Mother,—mother! Do not frighten me! What would become of me and these unhappy children?
Kralencova.—You will have a good cry and feel relieved. But I am choking, . . . I have but few tears left to shed, . . . I am old and withered now . . .
Tonicka (Weeping).—My God, God, God . . .
Chaplain.—Do not carry on so, Mrs. Kralenec! People have even deeper wounds and recover! (Goes to her, leading her from the bed.) And be a bit more subdued in your grief; control yourself lest you disturb your husband! The Lord is all-powerful! Even now, all need not be lost!
Kralencova (Adjusts the pillows for her son, gazes intently at him for a minute, then slowly goes away to work at something).—It will be difficult for him to crawl out of this. Today . . . in the midst of his ravings . . . the blood began to trickle from his lips.
Chaplain.—And even though the Lord permitted the worst to happen, we would think about the children.
(Kralenec gradually recovering his senses, though the others have failed to notice it.)
Tonicka.—If it only had not turned out so fatally, . . . and if I only had not been the cause! But I urged him to take a determined stand in this affair! And now such a misfortune . . . and I myself am the cause! I alone am to blame! (Weeping.)
Kralenec (In a weak broken voice, but plainly).—Tonicka!
(Tonicka drying the tears on a corner of her apron.)
Kralenec.—You are not . . . are not . . . the cause of anything.
(Tonicka goes to him, while he reaches for her hand.)
Kralenec.—It had to be, . . one of us had to pay the price! It could not be otherwise! (Sees the chaplain.) And our honorable chaplain! Our respected guests here!
Chaplain (Steps to the bed and takes his hand).—To you, dear Kralenec, to you . . .
Kralenec (Heavily).—Thanks . . . thanks . . .
Chaplain.—Only do not try to talk! We will make up for everything after you get well!
Kralenec.—When I am well . . . (His head sinks back. He sleeps.)
Tonicka.—And again he sleeps. That is just the way he does all the time. He awakes, speaks, or takes a drink of water, . . . and then sleeps again. (Enters Melichar, young, twenty-five years old, in a laboring man’s clothes.) And what do you wish?
Melichar and the Others
Melichar.—I am here with my father— . . . (noticing the chaplain.) And here is your worthy minister. Please pardon . . . (going toward him.)
Chaplain.—Be quiet! Here is a man dangerously ill! What do you wish?
Melichar (Looking at Kralenec, quietly but with respect).—I will not disturb him. But be good enough to allow . . . I am not a tramp, as you evidently judge me to be. I am a journalist from the “Ceskych Novin,” and my name is Melichar. Here is my permit from the superintendent. (Drawing out papers, hands them to the chaplain.)
Chaplain.—But I pray you, in these clothes!
Melichar.—The captain in command here has forbidden strangers, especially journalists, to enter this mining distrct until things quiet down again. And our paper would like to have a reliable account. When I arrived at your station yesterday, the military police asked me to take the first train back to Prague. I obeyed only while I had to. I bought a ticket for Prague, then appeared later in this laborer’s outfit. What was I to do? You would be a mighty poor journalist to go back without reaching the place, I said to myself! So I set out afoot, hoping to reach the mine under cover of the night. On the road, I met with a tarmaker, . . . later he told me that his name is Pankracek . . . and his son.
Tonicka.—They are from Dohalic.
Melichar.—Then this idea occurred to me; no one is going to cross-examine a tarmaker. I spoke a few minutes with the men, then gave my own clothes to the younger and took his suit, smeared my face, gave the young man some money, his father twice as much, . . . and so here I am.
Chaplain (With a smile).—As a tarmaker?
Melichar.—Yes, as a tarmaker. This trade, at least, I can lawfully follow. We journalists smear up both the great and the small cycles in history, . . . draw them up at times for great lords who eventually kick us out of the game when they are through with us, . . . we ourselves ride in the procession day by day as best we can, . . . and we persistently smear on paper whatever opportunity lets us put down, or the almighty game of chance, or perhaps some real worthwhile event. Such an event is this present uprising of the miners, and their subsequent suppression. I know that you, respected sirs, will tell me truthfully how things stand. The first telegrams to the “Noviny” have been already sent in, but they are insufficient. They are official despatches. We draw up in them, usually in condensed form, the most sensational features, and with them, very often, a nice smearable sort of blacking. I go from house to house with my three-day old father, who presents me everywhere as his son. I inquired about your honor, and finally someone told me to come here.
Chaplain.—And can I be of any service to you?
Melichar.—At present, I beg of you just a few short sentences. I will at once send them by my foster-father to the neighboring town, to have them mailed by special delivery, and then, if you permit, I will allow myself the honor of coming to the parsonage after dark to ask about something else. I already have columns of material . . . from what I have heard and witnessed, . . . but I truly believe that I would learn the truth from your honor. Pardon me, please, and I will finish in a minute. (Seats himself, reiterating all that he heard from the chaplain.) The riot is then suppressed?
Chaplain.—At least for the present. But I believe it will break out again after the troops are withdrawn.
Melichar.—And it was announced . . . the official telegrams stated that there was not a sign of the slightest hint of resistance. Was the struggle between the people and the troops settled at the first shot?
Chaplain.—There were several. The firing continued until it resulted in a hand-to-hand conflict between the soldiers’ bayonets and the miners’ weapons.
Melichar.—But there are only four of the dead, so it was claimed.
Chaplain.—It is time that the truth was leaking out. There are ten dead, and twenty-six mortally wounded. Those with slight wounds are so numerous that they are not even counted.
Melichar.—I would like the names of the dead.
Chaplain.—There is poor old Rokos,—a splendid old fellow,—a man who was a rock of strength. He fell while leading the miners when the first shot was fired. Then Kotora, Pluhar, Nemec, Schulze . . .
Tonicka.—Sutnar, Kliment, and Dufek.
Chaplain.—Yes, and four others . . . I do not recall them now. Tonight I will think of their names.
Melichar.—That is sufficient for the present. The papers did not get a single name. The seriously wounded, twenty-six .
Chaplain.—Among them is this unfortunate Kralenec, one of the unknown who gladly gives his life for a cause that nations fight battles over. What do you know, you people in Prague, about the situation here? You talk, and consider, and discuss,—but here is the actual battle-field, here lives are forfeited, here for our convictions, our patriotism, we are killed, here we fall like leaves before a gale . . . that man over there, always wished as a youth, to accomplish something worth living and striving for. An ugly fate took him at his word. It permitted him to step out to perform a great deed,—but with the first great step, it crushed in his vitals, stamped upon him with a leer, and then with a diabolical laugh, passed on. And there with him, lies the mangled existence of his entire family.
Melichar (Looking respectfully at Kralenec).—One of those sacred martyrs, on whose grave grows the ivy that inspires an entire nation . . . (Returning to his note-book.) Were many of the miners arrested?
Chaplain.—There is a commission here at present. The officers are arresting men and taking them away all the time. How many men are under arrest at the present moment, I do not know.
Melichar.—And Superintendent Scheidler, who started this, how is he acting?
Chaplain.—Superintendent Scheidler is not responsible, but his assistant, Merfajt. The Superintendent only followed his instructions and now he is almost overcome by the horror of this calamity.
Melichar.—Thanks . . . thanks, for the present. If you will permit me, I will return in the evening. (To Tonicka.) May the Lord help you little mother, . . . and I greatly wish that I might in some way serve you. (Goes away. Outside, the trundling of a wheelbarrow may be heard, while Melichar singsongs—)Tar-maker,— . . . tar-maker . . . (Enter Dr. Houska.)
Dr. Houska, Chaplain, Tonicka, Kralenec, Kralencova
Dr. Houska.—I bring you good news of your little boy. Shortly after you went away, he began to improve. (Taking off his over-coat.)
Tonicka.—Thank God! I do not know, Doctor, how I can ever repay your goodness, or thank you sufficiently for taking that unfortunate little nestling of mine in your care.
Dr. Houska.—Don’t even mention it! We hardly realize that he is in the house!
Tonicka.—Here at our house he certainly would have died! We could not give him the care he needed. If only there also (pointing to Kralenec) there only were hope!
Dr. Houska (Shrugging his shoulders).—He sleeps?
Chaplain.—I think he is waking right now!
Kralenec (Stirring in his sleep).—Only something great—a king—a general—
Kralenec.—Whatever may come—blood—human life—only when—glory—glory— (Coughs and wakes up.) Why, . . . I am at home . . . what a strange dream . . .
Tonicka.—Did you sleep well?
Kralenec.—The reverend chaplain . . . and wasn’t some one else here . . . the doctor . . .
Dr. Houska.—Here he is, my dear friend! (Brightly, trying to cheer him.) Well, you are a fine patient, Kralenec! (Taking his temperature.) Fine! But keep yourself composed! Just see, the pulse is much more normal! Haven’t I said so all the time? Such a rugged body will not easily give in!
(Kralencova at one side, wiping her eyes.)
Chaplain.—So you see, Kralenec, all will be well again!
Kralenec.—Yes—yes—and how, I pray you, did it turn out with my brothers?
Dr. Houska.—Goodness! How else could it turn out? Empty hands against new weapons? You might know what the result would be! But now do not bother yourself about that. Just keep quiet so the wound would have a chance to heal. So far, I am well satisfied with you.
Kralenec (Sadly).—Then we were overpowered—(painfully) after all our sacrifice!
Dr. Houska.—But just now, dear friend, please obey my instructions,—and lie perfectly quiet. In three days, you can talk as much as you please.
Kralenec.—Very well—thank you. (His hand drops, his head sinks back, heavy with sleep.)
Dr. Houska (Stepping from the bed, quietly).—Be careful not to awaken him, and keep the children quiet.
Kralencova.—I will ask the neighbor to keep them at her house awhile. (Takes her shawl, goes to the bed, and gazing at Kralenec, she says sadly;) My poor boy! (Makes the sign of the cross above him and walks away.)
(The Others drying their eyes.)
Dr. Houska, Chaplain, Kralenec, Tonicka
Tonicka (Quietly but in tears).—Doctor,—how is it with Vojtech?
Dr. Houska.—Dear Mrs. Kralenec, I do not wish to frighten you. If you were just an ordinary woman, I would go away and say nothing.
Tonicka (Frightened, but in a subdued voice).—Then all is not going well?
Dr. Houska.—It looks bad, . . . very bad!
Tonicka (Quietly).—Oh God have mercy! (Sinking into a chair.)
Dr. Houska.—You might as well know the truth, . . . I will not deceive you. It would be a miracle if he should live till morning.
Tonicka.—My Jesus! My Savior!
Dr. Houska.—I am glad he is sleeping. Mrs. Kralenec, be calm. It is all for the best. The investigating committee will come here. That does not signify anything. Several miners have been arrested and taken away to be tried before the judge in the town. The committee must know which of the wounded are able to be arrested and taken, and which of them cannot go.
Tonicka (Sharply).—But they surely will not take my husband away!
Dr. Houska.—They dare not. They cannot take him contrary to my instructions. We will settle everything quietly and with all the dispatch possible. (Writing a note.) If you could send some one with this note to the house of the superintendent.
Tonicka.—For whom is it?
Dr. Houska.—For the commission. I would be glad to have this done while Kralenec is asleep.
Chaplain.—I will tell them. I will return soon! God be with you! (Leaves.)
Dr. Houska, Tonicka, Kralenec
Tonicka (In great anger).—Doctor,—for the love of Heaven . . . do not go away, while that commission is here!
Dr. Houska.—Quietly, quietly, Mrs. Kralenec! I will stay right here,—but do not be unreasonable! I am thinking about your children, (with emphasis) the children—and who would take care of them if you should do something rash?
Tonicka.—The children! . . . (wildly) Why have I got them, oh why have I got them?
Dr. Houska.—Mrs. Kralenec!
Tonicka.—Yes, why have I got them! For if it were not for them—
Tonicka (Wildly).—then I would kill one or two of those who are responsible for killing Vojtech! (Anxiously.) They are coming! (The doctor leads her to one side. Enter the official commissioner, official physician, clerk and mine director.)
District Commissioner, Zakovec, Dr. Bruj, Clerk, Superindent Scheidler
Zakovec (Goes to Tonicka).—Excuse this disturbance but do not be frightened.
Tonicka (In great anger, but suppressing her emotion).—In the name of heaven,—quickly, quickly!
(Members of the commission seated around the table. Outside two soldiers pass and repass the window.)
Bruj (To Dr. Houska).—How is the sick man?
Dr. Houska.—Not to be thought of.
Bruj.—Your word, Respected Colleague!
Dr. Houska.—My word.
Zakovec (To the district physician who is gazing from a distance at Kralenec).—He isn’t lying?
Zakovec (In a whisper to Dr. Houska).—Will he recover?
Dr. Houska.—He will die.
Zakovec.—Another one! (To the official physician.) Better dictate the protocol.
(Bruj in an undertone to the clerk, who writes.)
(Tonicka follows the dictation—her face working with growing anger and emotion.)
Zakovec (To Scheidler, quietly but emphatically).—Here is another victim of this calamity. That poor fellow, (pointing to Kralenec,) is going to die.
Scheidler.—I deeply regret what has happened. If I could have foreseen such a thing, I would not have even considered my office.
Zakovec.—And who is to blame for the whole mess?
Scheidler.—Merfajt. The entire prevailing order of things was changed according to his directions. This crisis is the outcome of it. Had I known the circumstances as well as I know them now, I would have used what power I possessed to prohibit his measures.
Zakovec.—To right a wrong is difficult after the mischief has been done. Who can give life back unto the dead, and make the wounded whole? And who will provide a livelihood for the hundred of others who have a crippled existence before them?
Scheidler.—Our company will do whatever it considers advisable for the benefit of the people,—and I myself will resign my position, in which I would be forever compelled to endure the tortures of hell!
Zakovec.—Do not turn your back upon the situation now. Stay by it; give what comfort you can to these surviving cripples. They will yet be grateful if you will but show the right spirit.
Scheidler.—Oh, if I could only realize the half of what I have planned and wish to do for them!
Kralenec (Delirious, raises his head, with fixed, staring eyes).—Listen—listen—the trumpets!
(Tonicka runs to the bed, kneels beside her husband, clutching the pillow with one hand.)
(Dr. Houska from the other side, walks swiftly to the bed.)
(Bruj stops dictating.)
Kralenec (raises himself, clutching at the feather-bed cover, and sits erect).—Forward! . . . Forward, brothers . . . this is our solemn day . . . I am at the head . . . I must lead them . . . something big and splendid . . . Forward, forward . . . Now we are not miners . . . warriors . . . we are warriors . . . against the powers that crush us . . . against arrogance and pride . . . for our language . . . for our country! Forward!—(Falls back heavily into his pillows.)
Tonicka (Screams).—Almighty God!
Bruj (To the district commissioner).—Delirium.
Kralenec.—You must not be afraid—nothing—not anything—what if they are stronger—we will win out—we must be victorious . . . their report now—fire—fire! . . . (Half turning his head.) Brothers! Here, break out there! the attack . . . the sign for the attack! Give battle . . . fight . . . (breathing heavily) . . so . . . so . . Glory! Glory! (Suddenly falls back dead.)
Dr. Houska.—So, brother, let it be so. You have seen yourself a leader, your dream has been fulfilled in the ravages of fever . . . (placing his hand on the forehead) and now you overtook that glory for which your spirit longed . . . overtook it there, where with your wild delirium has gone your soul.
Dr. Houska.—He is dead. (All arise.)
Tonicka.—Dead! (Falling upon her knees beside the bed.) Vojtech! Vojtech!
Dr. Houska.—Let us wish him a peaceful passing. Perhaps the dead are still aware, for a while, of what is happening here. With the lamentations of their dear ones, the passage over is a heavy one.
Tonicka (Weeping aloud).—Oh Vojtech! Vojtech!
Zakovec (To the clerk).—Finish the protocol: (dictating.) “He died in the presence of the commission.”
Dr. Houska.—So, so . . . the end of another human life—a funeral protocol. “Finished and signed,”—more is not necessary. (Stirring without. From the window may be seen a gathering of the people.)
(Zakovec signs the protocol.)
Enter Citizens, Chaplain, Trnka
Voices without.—Kralenec is dead! (Ten miners enter, Chaplain, Trnka, and four women.)
Tonicka.—He is there! (Pointing to Vojtech.)
Miners and women (With subdued voices).—Dead!
Chaplain.—Dead,—gave up his life for you, for us all, to purchase for you a nobler life, and help you come unto your own, a realization of those ideals for which he himself died. (Kneeling at the bed of Kralenec, prays:) Almighty God, accept this newly-sped spirit unto thy fold, make his passing easy, and in thy kingdom, give him his deserved reward,—the life that is eternal, endless! And those who are left to grieve his untimely passing, the bereaved ones, and all,—shadow them with the mantle of thy protection in the face of destruction and ruin!
Trnka.—And grant not that we perish, nor our posterity!
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