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Love and Intrigue

Friedrich Schiller

Act Three

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First Minister von Walter, attended by Secretary Wurm. Engraving by Wilhelm Hecht from a woodcut by Heinrich Lossow, Schillers Werke illustrirt von ersten deutschen Künstlern (Leipzig and Stuttgart, 1877). University of Virginia. Image in the public domain.

Scene One

Antechamber in the First Minister’s suite

1The First Minister and Secretary Wurm enter.

2FIRST MINISTER. A dirty trick.

3WURM. As I feared, my Lord. Force always embitters enthusiasts but never will convert them.

4FIRST MINISTER. I’d put all my hopes in that line of attack. I reasoned so: If the girl is disgraced, he as an officer will have to give her up.

5WURM. Excellent. But it should have come to a disgrace.

6FIRST MINISTER. When I consider now in cold blood: I should not have taken his bait. He merely threatened; he never would have followed through.

7WURM. Don’t believe that. Irritated passion is capable of any foolishness. You tell me the Major has always had his doubts about your regime. I can believe it. The principles he brought back here from his studies never did make much sense to me. All those fantasies about great souls and personal nobleness—what business have they at a court, where the greater part of wisdom is to be great, then small at just the right moment and adroitly. He’s too young and fiery to have a taste for the slow and crooked path of intrigue; nothing will set his ambition into motion but what’s grand and adventurous.

8FIRST MINISTER (annoyed). And how is this clever gloss to mend our affair?

9WURM. It’ll point your Excellency to the wound and perhaps also to the bandage. Permit me: One ought never to have made either a confidant or an enemy of a character such as his. He has a horror of the means by which you’ve risen. Till now it was perhaps only the son in him that silenced the traitor. If you give him occasion to shake off the son, if your repeated attacks on his passion lead him to believe that you’re no loving father, his duty as a patriot will come to the fore. Why, the curious fantasy of making so remarkable a sacrifice to justice could seem so attractive to him that he’d even bring down his father.

10FIRST MINISTER. Wurm, Wurm, you’re leading me to the brink of a precipice.

11WURM. Let me lead you back, my Lord. May I speak freely?

12FIRST MINISTER (seating himself). As one condemned man to another.

13WURM. Forgive me— It seems to me that you owe your rank as First Minister to the supple arts of the court. Why did you not entrust the father also to these arts? I recall how graciously you invited your predecessor to an evening of piquet and, like a friend, washed half the night away with a bottle of Burgundy—the very night a great mine would go off and blow the good man away. Why did you let your son see you as an enemy? He never should have found out that I knew about his love affair. You’d then have undermined this romance from the girl’s side and kept your son’s affections. You’d have been the clever general who does not attack his enemy at the center but splits his ranks instead.

14FIRST MINISTER. How was that to be done?

15WURM. In the simplest fashion—and the cards have not yet all been played. Forget for a while that you’re a father. Don’t match yourself with a passion that every resistance has only made more powerful. Leave it to me to use that passion’s heat to hatch the worm that will eat it up.

16FIRST MINISTER. Tell me more.

17WURM. If I am one to read the soul’s barometer rightly, the Major is as terrible in jealousy as he is in love. Arrange for him to find the girl suspect—probable or not. One grain of leaven is enough to set the whole mass in ferment.

18FIRST MINISTER. Where do we find that grain?

19WURM. Now we’ve reached our subject. Tell me exactly, my Lord, how much you have at risk if the Major continues to refuse? How important is it to you to put an end to the romance with the burgher girl and bring about the alliance with Lady Milford?

20FIRST MINISTER. You ask, Wurm? All my influence is threatened if the match with Milford fails, and if I force the Major, I risk my neck.

21WURM (lively). Be so gracious now and listen. We’ll use craft to catch the Major in our web. We’ll use your power against the girl. We’ll dictate to her a billet doux addressed to a third person and play that note into the Major’s hands.

22FIRST MINISTER. Excellent idea! As if she would lend herself to writing her own death warrant—

23WURM. She must if you give me a free hand. I know that good soul through and through. She has no more than two spots where she is mortal, where we can storm her conscience: her father and the Major. The Major’s not in play here; we’ve got that much more scope with the musician.

24FIRST MINISTER. For example?

25WURM. After the scene your Excellency describes with the father in his house nothing is going to be simpler than threatening him with a capital offense. The person of the favorite and lord privy seal is attached, like a shadow, to the person of the sovereign: an insult to the minister is an insult to the ruler. At any rate, I’ll use this theory I’ve concocted to scare the wits out of the poor devil .

26FIRST MINISTER. But don’t take it too far.

27WURM. Not at all. Only as far as need be to drive the family to the wall. We’ll arrest the music master as quietly as possible. To press them all the harder, we could take the mother along, too—speak of interrogation under torture, the scaffold, life imprisonment—and make the letter by the daughter the sole condition of releasing him.

28FIRST MINISTER. Good! Good! I understand.

29WURM. She loves her father—passionately, I would say. The threat to his life, or at least to his freedom, the reproaches of her conscience for having brought all this on, the impossibility of ever possessing the Major, and finally, her utter confusion, which will be my task— This cannot fail. She must walk into the trap.

30FIRST MINISTER. But what about my son? Won’t he get wind of this right away? And become even more enraged?

31WURM. Let that be my concern, my Lord. Father and mother will not be released until the whole family has sworn upon a Bible to keep all these things secret and confirm the deception.

32FIRST MINISTER. Sworn? What good is their swearing, you dunce?

33WURM. Of no use among our kind, my Lord. But for their kind it means everything. And just consider how nicely we shall each reach our goal this way. The girl loses both the love of the Major and her reputation. Father and mother change their tune and, softened up by their hard fate, see it as a mercy when I give her my hand and restore that reputation.

34FIRST MINISTER (shaking his head and laughing). I admit defeat, you villain. Your web is devilish fine. The pupil exceeds the master. Now the question: Who’s this love letter to be addressed to? Who’ll we use to make her suspect?

35WURM. Necessarily, someone who stands to gain or lose everything by your son’s decision.

36FIRST MINISTER (having reflected). Only the Chamberlain occurs to me.

37WURM (shrugs). Not exactly my taste, if my name were Luisa Miller.

38FIRST MINISTER. And why not? Amazing! A dazzling way of dressing, in a fog of Eau de mille fleurs and musk, spreading ducats around by the handful— all that should not finally seduce the delicate feelings of a burgher girl? My dear friend! Jealousy is not all that choosy. I’ll send for the Chamberlain. (He rings.)

39WURM. While your Excellency sees to these things and the arrest of the fiddler, I’ll go compose the love letter.

40FIRST MINISTER (going to his writing desk). Which you’ll bring me to read over as soon as it is done.

41(Wurm goes off. The First Minister sits down to write. An Attendant enters.

42The First Minister stands and gives him a document.)

43This arrest warrant must be delivered to the courts right away. Send someone to bid the Chamberlain come.

44ATTENDANT. His Lordship has just driven up.

45FIRST MINISTER. Excellent. — But also say the measures must be taken with great care, so that no unrest follows.

46ATTENDANT. Very well, your Excellency!

47FIRST MINISTER. You understand? Very quietly.

48ATTENDANT. Very good, your Excellency. (Exit.)

Scene Two

The First Minister and the Chamberlain

49CHAMBERLAIN (in a rush). Just en passant, dear friend. How are you getting on? How’s your health? This evening there’s the grand opera Dido—super fireworks—all Carthage burns to the ground—you, too, will come and watch it burn? No?

50FIRST MINISTER. I’ve fireworks enough in my own house—fireworks enough to send my whole eminence up in smoke. You’ve come at just the right moment, my dear Chamberlain, to advise me, actually help me, in a matter that will advance us both or be the end of us. Have a seat.

51CHAMBERLAIN. Don’t frighten me, my dear.

52FIRST MINISTER. As I said, advance us or be the end of us. You know of my project with the Major and the Lady. You’ll also understand how indispensable it was to fix both our fortunes. That can all fall apart, Kalb. My Ferdinand refuses.

53CHAMBERLAIN. Refuses—refuses— But I’ve told everyone. It’s the talk of the town.

54FIRST MINISTER. And you could be exposed as a great windbag. He loves someone else.

55CHAMBERLAIN. You’re not serious. That’s an obstacle?

56FIRST MINISTER. The most insurmountable with this pig-headed son.

57CHAMBERAIN. He’s mad enough to turn his back on his own fortune? Is he?

58FIRST MINISTER. You ask him that and see what he answers.

59CHAMBERLAIN. Mon Dieu! What can he answer?

60FIRST MINISTER. That he’ll disclose to all the world the crime by which we’ve risen, that he’ll come forward with our forged letters and receipts, that he’ll deliver us both to the knife—that’s what he can answer.

61CHAMBERLAIN. Have you lost your mind?

62FIRST MINISTER. That was his answer. And he was about to do it. I had to abase myself just to stop him. What do you say to that?

63CHAMBERLAIN (with a stupid face). My mind freezes.

64FIRST MINISTER. That might not be so bad. But at the same time my spies report back to me that the lord high steward von Bock would leap at the chance to sue for the Lady.

65CHAMBERLAIN. You’ll drive me wild. You say who? Von Bock, you say? Do you also know that we are mortal enemies? Do you also know why?

66FIRST MINISTER. The first I hear of it.

  • 1 Contredanse is from "country dance" and an illustration of how something new and modish among the u (...)

67CHAMBERLAIN. My dear! When you do hear, you’ll be beside yourself. If you remember the Court ball—it’s now been almost twenty years—where we danced the first contredanse1 and the chandelier dripped hot wax on Count Meerschaum’s domino— Good heavens! You must remember!

68FIRST MINISTER. Who could forget?

69CHAMBERLAIN. You see! Princess Amalie lost a garter there, in the heat of dancing. Everyone’s alarmed, understandably. Von Bock and I—we were hardly more than pages—we crawl through the whole ballroom looking for the garter. I catch sight of it, von Bock notices, jumps in, snatches it out of my hands—I ask you!—brings it to the Princess and snaps up the compliment I should have had. What do you think?

70FIRST MINISTER. An impertinence!

71CHAMBERLAIN. Snaps up the compliment I should have had. I thought I would faint. There never was such malice! When I am finally man enough to do it, I approach Her Grace and say: Most Gracious Lady! Von Bock had the good fortune to return the garter to Your Highness while the one who first caught sight of it rewards himself in silence and says nothing.

72FIRST MINISTER. Bravo, Chamberlain! Bravissimo!

73CHAMBERLAIN. And says nothing. And I’ll remember it of von Bock until the Last Judgment, that sneaking abject flatterer! And that’s not all: As we both leap upon the garter, von Bock wipes all the powder from half my coiffure and I am ruined for the evening.

74FIRST MINISTER. That’s the man who’s going to marry Milford and become the ranking figure here at Court.

75CHAMBERLAIN. A dagger in my heart! Is going to? Is going to? Why is he going to? Where’s the need?

76FIRST MINISTER. Because my Ferdinand refuses and there is no one else.

77CHAMBERLAIN. But do you know no way to make him decide? However bizarre and desperate! Is there any means so revolting that we would not welcome it to cut out von Bock?

78FIRST MINISTER. I know only one—it’s up to you.

79CHAMBERLAIN. To me? And is—

80FIRST MINISTER. To come between the Major and the girl he loves.

81CHAMBERLAIN. Come between? How do you mean? What do I do?

82FIRST MINISTER. We only need to make him suspect the girl.

83CHAMBERLAIN. That she steals, you mean?

84FIRST MINISTER. Certainly not! Why would he believe that? That she has it on with someone else.

85CHAMBERLAIN. And this someone?

86FIRST MINISTER. Would be you, Baron.

87CHAMBERLAIN. Be me? Me? — She’s nobility?

88FIRST MINISTER. Whatever for? What an idea! The daughter of a music master. CHAMBERLAIN. Of a burgher? That won’t do. No?

89FIRST MINISTER. What won’t do? Arrant nonsense! Who would ever think to ask a pair of nice round cheeks about its pedigree?

90CHAMBERLAIN. But just consider—me a married man? My reputation at Court!

91FIRST MINISTER. Now that is different. Forgive me. I didn’t realize that the man of spotless form and practices means more to you than the man of influence. Shall we adjourn?

92CHAMBERLAIN. One moment, Baron. That is not what I meant.

93FIRST MINISTER (frosty). No, no! You are quite right. I, too, have had enough. I’m out of harness. I wish this von Bock luck as first minister. The world is elsewhere. I’ll demand my dismissal from the Duke.

94CHAMBERLAIN. And I? You can talk! You’ve been to university. And I—mon Dieu! What do I amount to if His Serene Highness dismisses me?

95FIRST MINISTER. Yesterday’s bon mot, last year’s latest.

96CHAMBERLAIN. I entreat you, my dearest! Throttle this thought! I’ll lend myself to anything.

97FIRST MINISTER. Are you disposed to lend your name to a rendez-vous that the Miller girl is to propose to you in writing?

98CHAMBERLAIN. In the name of God! I’ll lend it.

99FIRST MINISTER. And to let the note drop where the Major will have to find it?

100CHAMBERLAIN. For example, on the parade ground. I’ll accidentally pull it out with my handkerchief.

101FIRST MINISTER. And to play the girl’s lover toward the Major?

102CHAMBERLAIN. Mort de ma vie! I’ll have the better of him! I’ll spoil that upstart’s appetite for my amours.

103FIRST MINISTER. Perfect! The note’s to be written today yet. You must come here to fetch it before evening and run through your role with me.

104CHAMBERLAIN. As soon as I make sixteen calls de la dernière importance. Do forgive me if I take leave right away. (He goes off.)

105FIRST MINISTER (ringing). I’m counting on your wiles, Chamberlain.

106CHAMBERLAIN (calling back). Mon Dieu! You know me.

Scene Three

The First Minister and Wurm

107WURM. The fiddler and his wife have been very quietly taken into custody. Would your Excellency like to review the letter?

108FIRST MINISTER (having read). Splendid, splendid, Secretary! The Chamberlain, too, has taken the bait. — Something that poisonous would bring the healthiest out in spots. Now straight to the father with our proposals and, still warm, to the daughter.

109(They go off to different sides.)

Scene Four

Room in Miller’s house

110Luisa and Ferdinand

111LUISA. No more, I beg you. I no longer believe in happy days to come. All my hopes have sunk.

112FERDINAND. Just as mine have risen. My father is all stirred up. He’ll train all his guns on us. He’ll force me to play the inhuman son. I can no longer vouch for my filial piety. Rage and despair will force the black secret of his murder from me. The son will deliver the father to the hangman. It is a moment of the most imminent danger. And it had to be the most imminent danger for my love to take a giant leap. Listen, Luisa. A thought as great and daring as my passion forces itself before my soul. You, Luisa, and me and love! Does all of heaven not lie within this compass? Or do you have need of some fourth thing?

113LUISA. Leave off. No more. I blanch at what you’re going to say.

114FERDINAND. If we have nothing more to ask of the world, then why go beg for its applause? Why take the risk when nothing will be won and all can be lost? Will this eye not sparkle just as sweetly whether it’s reflected in the Rhine or in the Elbe or the Baltic? My fatherland is wherever Luisa loves me, your footprints in a wild sandy desert more interesting to me than the minster of my homeland. Shall we miss the brilliance of the cities? Wherever we are, Luisa, a sun will rise and set—displays beside which the grandest sweep of art grows pale. If we can no longer serve God in a temple, night will still come upon us with thrilling shudders, the changing moon will preach repentance, and a reverent churchful of stars will pray with us. Shall we ever run out of talk of love? A smile from my Luisa will furnish stuff for centuries, and the dream of life will have ended before I have plumbed the depths of this tear.

115LUISA. And you’d have no other duty than your love?

116FERDINAND (embracing her). My most sacred is your peace of mind.

117LUISA (very grave). Say no more and leave me. I have a father whose whole fortune is this one daughter, who’ll turn sixty tomorrow, and for whom the First Minister’s revenge is certain.

118FERDINAND (interjecting quickly). He’ll come with us. No more objections, my love. I’ll go, cash in all my valuables, raise money in my father’s name. To rob a robber is admissible, and is his treasure not the blood money of the fatherland? One hour after midnight a coach will draw up here. You throw yourselves into it and we flee.

119LUISA. And after us, your father’s curse? A curse that even murderers never pronounce unheard, that heaven’s vengeance honors for the thief bound to the wheel, that will pursue us fleeing, as unmerciful as a ghost, from sea to sea? No, my beloved. If only a sacrilege can keep you for me, I have the strength to lose you.

120FERDINAND (stands still and mutters darkly). Really?

121LUISA. To lose you! The thought is boundlessly terrible. Horrible enough to pierce the immortal spirit and to drain the glowing face of happiness. Ferdinand! To lose you! But still—we lose only what we have once possessed and your heart belongs to your rank. My claim was church robbery and with a shudder I give it up.

122FERDINAND (his face distorted, biting his lower lip). You give it up.

  • 2 This is the notion of patriarchal rule. It is subtended by a chain of order: As God rules the unive (...)

123LUISA. No! Look at me, dear Walter. No more such bitterness. Come! Let me raise your failing courage by my example. Let me be the heroine of this moment, restoring an escaped son to his father; let me renounce a bond that would disjoint the civil world and bring down eternal general order.2I am the transgressor. My heart was full of foolish, impudent wishes; my unhappiness is my punishment. But leave me the sweet, flattering illusion that this was my sacrifice. Would you begrudge me this pleasure?

124(Ferdinand, distracted and enraged, has seized a violin and tried to play it. Now he snaps the strings, shatters the instrument against the floor, and breaks into loud laughter.)

125Walter! God in heaven! What is this? Control yourself. This moment calls for resolve—this is parting. You have a heart, dear Walter. I know it well. Your love is as warm as life itself and boundless like infinity. Give it to a noblewoman, to someone more worthy—she’ll not have to envy the happiest of her kind. (Suppressing tears.) You’ll see no more of me. Let the foolish and misguided girl weep away her sorrows within solitary walls. No one will take notice of her tears. My future is empty, it has died out. But I shall ever and ever enjoy the scent of the faded bouquet of time gone past. (She turns her face away and gives him her hand.) Farewell, Major von Walter.

126FERDINAND (emerging from a stunned state). I shall flee, Luisa. Will you really not follow me?

127LUISA (has sat down deep in the room and covered her face with both hands). My duty says that I must stay and endure.

128FERDINAND. You’re lying, you snake. Something else is keeping you.

129LUISA (in great pain). Go on believing that. It may make you less unhappy.

130FERDINAND. Cold duty against fiery love! This tale should persuade me? A lover’s keeping you. Woe betide both you and him if what I suspect proves true. (He goes off quickly.)

Scene Five

Luisa alone She lies motionless and silent in the chair, then stands up, comes forward, and looks around, frightened.

  • 3 Wurm’s entrance is staged as the entrance of the devil.

131Where could my parents be? My father promised to be back in a few minutes and it’s been five full hours. If something’s happened— What’s this I feel? Why am I so short of breath?3

132(Wurm enters the room at this point and stands in the background, unnoticed.)

133It’s nothing real. It’s nothing but the shudders of too much excitement. When the soul has taken in enough horror, the eye sees ghosts in every corner.

Scene Six

Luisa and Secretary Wurm

  • 4 The German is Jungfer, which is distinct from Fräulein for the well-born and, unlike Mamsell, a nat (...)

134WURM (coming forward). Good evening, Miss.4

135LUISA. God! Who’s speaking? (She wheels around, sees the Secretary, and steps back, appalled.) Oh, my prophetic soul! (To the Secretary, with a contemptuous glance.) Perhaps you’re looking for the First Minister? He’s no longer here.

136WURM. It’s you I’m looking for, Miss.

137LUISA. I’m surprised you didn’t go to the marketplace.

138WURM. Why there?

139LUISA. To fetch your bride from the pillory.

140WURM. Mamsell Miller, you suspect wrongly—

141LUISA (suppressing a response). How can I oblige you?

142WURM. I come, sent by your father.

143LUISA (nonplussed). From my father? Where is my father?

144WURM. Where he doesn’t like to be.

145LUISA. For God’s sake! Quick! I suspect the worst— Where is my father?

146WURM. In the tower, if you must know.

147LUISA (looking upward). And now this! Now this yet! In the tower? Why in the tower?

148WURM. On orders of the Duke.

149LUISA. The Duke?

150WURM. To visit due punishment on—

151LUISA. Almighty God!

152WURM. —insult to the prince on the person of his deputy.

153LUISA. Only that remained! That! Oh, yes, indeed. My heart held one thing dear besides the Major. That could not be spared. Insult to the prince. Holy Providence, save, oh save, my failing faith! And Ferdinand?

154WURM. Must choose between taking Lady Milford and losing his inheritance.

155LUISA. What a choice! But he’s the lucky one. He has no father to lose. Though not to have one is loss enough! My father for insult to the prince, my beloved put between the Lady and a curse and banishment— Truly admirable! A perfect piece of mischief is also a perfection. No! Something’s missing— Where’s my mother?

156WURM. In the workhouse.

157LUISA (with a pained smile). Now it’s complete! Complete! And I’d be free— released and detached from all duty, from tears and joy. And from Providence itself. I have no further need of it. (A terrible silence.) You perhaps have other news? Speak. I can now hear everything.

158WURM. You know what has happened.

159LUISA. But not what’s coming yet? (Another pause, in which she looks the Secretary up and down.) You poor soul. Yours is a sorry business that can never save you. To wreck the happiness of others is bad enough, but it is horrible to be the one who brings the news, to come wailing like the banshee and stand before the door while a heart shudders on the shaft of iron Necessity and Christians doubt their God. So help me! If every anxious tear that you see fall here were balanced by a ton of gold, I would not be in your place. What else can happen?

160WURM. I don’t know.

161LUISA. You claim not to know? This news that flees the light also fears the sound of words, but in the terrible stillness of your face I see the ghost. What more is there? You said the Duke will visit due punishment. What do you call due punishment?

162WURM. Don’t ask.

163LUISA. Listen, man! The hangman schooled you. How else would you know how to run the blade slowly up the snapping joints and tease the twitching heart with the offer of a blow that stills it? What fate awaits my father? There’s death in what you say, laughing; what you don’t say—how does it look? Say it. Let me have the whole load all at once. What awaits my father?

164WURM. A criminal proceeding.

165LUISA. What’s that? I’m an innocent, ignorant thing, hardly understand the Latin words you people use. What is a criminal proceeding?

166WURM. He’ll be tried for his life.

167LUISA (stoutly). I thank you! (She goes quickly into the next room.)

168WURM (perplexed). What’s this about? She wouldn’t— Damn! I answer for her life. (He is about to follow.)

169LUISA (returns, having thrown on a wrap). Pardon, Secretary. I’m locking up.

170WURM. Where to, in such a rush?

171LUISA. To the Duke. (About to go.)

172WURM. Where to? (Holding her back, alarmed.)

173LUISA. To the Duke. Can’t you hear? To the Duke, who wants to put my father on trial for his life. No! Doesn’t want to, must, because a few villains want to; whose only part in this whole trial for insult to the prince is his authority and his princely signature.

174WURM (laughs too loudly). To the Duke!

175LUISA. I know what you’re laughing at. But I’m not looking to find mercy, so help me God. Only disgust—disgust at my outcry. They’ve told me that the greats of this world have not yet found out what misery is—don’t want to find out. I’ll tell him what misery is, will paint for him in all the racking and wreckage of death what misery is, will cry out in bone-shattering tones what misery is—and when his hair stands on end, I’ll shout into his ear that even the gods of this world, when they die, will breathe with a rattle, and that the Last Judgment sifts kings and beggars in one sieve. (She is about to go.)

176WURM (menacingly friendly). Go, do go. You can do nothing smarter. Truly. I urge you, go, and I give you my word, the Duke will oblige you.

177LUISA (stops suddenly). What? You yourself urge me? (She comes back quickly.) What am I to do? It must be something dreadful, if he urges me. How do you know that the Duke will oblige me?

178WURM. Because he’s unlikely to do it for nothing.

179LUISA. Not for nothing? What price can he put on just being human?

180WURM. The pretty supplicant is price enough.

181LUISA (freezes; then, her voice breaking). Merciful God!

182WURM. And I’d hope you’ll not find a father overpriced at a fee so gracious?

183LUISA (walking up and down, beside herself). It’s true. Oh, yes, indeed. These greats of yours—they’re fortified against the truth by their own vice, as if behind the flaming swords of cherubim. Almighty God help you, Father. Your daughter can die for you, but cannot sin.

184WURM. That may be news to him, poor abandoned man. "My Luisa, " he said to me, "has brought me down. My Luisa will also lift me up again." I hurry to bring him your answer, Mamsell. (Poised as if to go.)

185LUISA (hurrying after and holding him back). Stay! Stay! Patience! How nimble this Satan is when he wants to drive us out of our mind. I brought him down. I must lift him up. Speak! Tell me! What can I, what must I do?

186WURM. There’s only one way

187LUISA. This one way?

188WURM. Your father, too, wishes—

189LUISA. My father, too— What is this way?

190WURM. It’s easy for you.

191LUISA. I know of nothing more difficult than dishonor.

192WURM. If you would want to release the Major?

193LUISA. From my love? Are you mocking me? To leave to my free choosing what I was compelled to do?

194WURM. That’s not what I meant, dear Miss. The Major must step back first, of his own volition.

195LUISA. He won’t.

196WURM. So it seems. Would we turn to you, were you not the only one who can help us here?

197LUISA. Can I force him to hate me?

198WURM. Let us try and see. Sit down.

199LUISA (uncertain). What are you hatching, man?

200WURM. Sit down and write. Here’s pen, paper, and ink.

201LUISA (sits down, very uneasy). What am I to write? Who am I to write to?

202WURM. To your father’s hangman.

203LUISA. Ha! You know well how to pin souls to the rack. (Seizes a pen.)

204WURM (dictating). "My Lord"—

Secretary Wurm presses his suit with Luisa. Engraving by Wilhelm Hecht from a woodcut by Heinrich Lossow, Schillers Werke illustrirt von ersten deutschen Künstlern (Leipzig and Stuttgart, 1877). University of Virginia. Image in the public domain.

205(Luisa writes with a shaking hand.)

206"Three unbearable days have passed—have passed—since we last saw each other."

207LUISA (stops short and lays down the pen). Who am I writing to?

208WURM. To your father’s hangman.

209LUISA. Oh, my God!

210WURM. "Look to the Major for the reason—to the Major—who watches me like an Argus all day long"—

211LUISA (leaping up). Mischief! Purest mischief! Like none other. Who am I writing to?

212WURM. To your father’s hangman.

213LUISA (walks up and down, wringing her hands). No! No! No! This is tyranny! Punish human beings humanly when they rub you wrong, but why catch me between two horrors? Why shunt me back and forth between death and disgrace? Why set this blood-sucking devil on my nape? Do what you like— I’ll not write this!

214WURM (reaching for his hat). As you please, Mademoiselle. Quite as you choose.

215LUISA. Choose, you say? As I choose? Go, you Hun! Dangle a poor soul over the pit of hell, demand something of him, and blasphemously ask if he chooses. You know all too well that our heart is bound as if by chains to natural urges. — Nothing matters anymore. Go on dictating. I’ll not think anymore. Hell has got the better of me, and I yield. (She sits down again.)

216WURM. "Like an Argus all day long"—do you have that?

217LUISA. Go on! Go on!

218WURM. "We had the First Minister here in our house yesterday. It was a sight to see—how the good Major defended my honor."

219LUISA. Excellent! Splendid! Keep on.

220WURM. "I took refuge in a faint—in a faint—so as not to laugh out loud."

221LUISA. Dear God!

222WURM. "But I can’t go on pretending for much longer—much longer. If I could only get away"—

223LUISA (stops, gets up, paces with her head down, as if searching for something on the floor, then sits down again and goes on writing). "Could only get away"—

224WURM. "Tomorrow he’s on duty. Watch for when he leaves and come then to a certain spot"— You have "certain spot"?

225LUISA. I have it all.

226WURM "To a certain spot to your loving Luisa."

227LUISA. Now the address.

228WURM. "To the Lord Chamberlain von Kalb."

229LUISA. A name as alien to my ears as these shameful lines are to my heart. (She stands up, stares at the writing, and finally passes it to the Secretary; in a dying voice.) Take it, sir. It is my honorable name, it is Ferdinand, it is all the joy of my life that I now put in your hands. I am a beggar!

230WURM. No, no. Don’t lose courage, Mademoiselle. I’m truly sorry for you. Perhaps—who knows? I could perhaps get past certain things— Truly! By God! I’m sorry for you.

231LUISA (with a penetrating look). Don’t finish, sir. You’re about to wish for something terrible.

232WURM (about to kiss her hand). And if it were this charming hand— How so, little Miss?

233LUISA (grand and terrible). Because I would strangle you in the wedding night and then let myself be lashed, in transports, to the wheel. (She is about to go, but comes back quickly.) Are we done, sir? May the dove fly?

234WURM. One thing more, Miss. You must come with me and swear on the Host to acknowledge this letter as written of your own free will.

235LUISA. God! God! You yourself must give your seal to keep and preserve the works of hell?

236(Wurm takes her off with him.)


1 Contredanse is from "country dance" and an illustration of how something new and modish among the upper classes travels from England to France and, as something French, finally turns up in Germany.

2 This is the notion of patriarchal rule. It is subtended by a chain of order: As God rules the universe, just so the king rules the country and the father rules his household and, importantly, his son. It is a God-given order and holds the civil world together.

3 Wurm’s entrance is staged as the entrance of the devil.

4 The German is Jungfer, which is distinct from Fräulein for the well-born and, unlike Mamsell, a native German honorific.

Table des illustrations

Légende First Minister von Walter, attended by Secretary Wurm. Engraving by Wilhelm Hecht from a woodcut by Heinrich Lossow, Schillers Werke illustrirt von ersten deutschen Künstlern (Leipzig and Stuttgart, 1877). University of Virginia. Image in the public domain.
Fichier image/jpeg, 70k
Légende Secretary Wurm presses his suit with Luisa. Engraving by Wilhelm Hecht from a woodcut by Heinrich Lossow, Schillers Werke illustrirt von ersten deutschen Künstlern (Leipzig and Stuttgart, 1877). University of Virginia. Image in the public domain.
Fichier image/jpeg, 51k


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