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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Honor in the Kitchen
By Hermann Sudermann (1857–1928)
 
        
From ‘Honor,’ Act III.: Translation of Hilmar Robert Baukhage
  
  [Alma appears in the bedroom door dressed in a nightgown and a white underskirt, her hair is down and she looks fearfully from one to the other.]

HEINECKE—Hoho!  1
  Frau Heinecke  [wringing her hands]—Child! child, is this our reward? Haven’t I done everything in the world for you? Haven’t I kept you like a princess? But now it’s over. What are you standing there for? Get a broom! Sweep the room!
[Alma slips past her with her elbows up, as if fearing a blow, into the kitchen.]
  2
  Heinecke  [walking excitedly up and down]—I’m your poor old father and I tell you I brought you into the world!— Yes, an honest old man! That I am!
[Alma appears in the kitchen door with broom and dustpan.]
  3
  Robert  [to himself]—How sweet she looks in her penitence! and she—  4
  Frau Heinecke—Well, are you going to begin?  5
  Heinecke  [ceremoniously]—Alma, my daughter, come here—close!  6
  Alma—Please, please, don’t strike me.  7
  Heinecke—That is the least I’ll do! I’m an honest old man! Yes, here lies honor! Do you know what I’m going to do with you now? I’m going to curse you! What do you say to that?  8
  Alma—Go away—let me alone.  9
  Heinecke—You defy me, do you?—you don’t know me yet! you!  10
  Frau Heinecke—Father, be still! she’s got to work.  11
  Heinecke—What! I can’t be allowed to curse my own disobedient child.  12
  Frau Heinecke—Oh, that only happens in books!  13
  Heinecke—Hey?  14
  Robert—My dear parents! You mustn’t go on like this! Please leave me alone with her a moment. Meanwhile, dress. I daresay there will be visitors.  15
  Heinecke—And I’m not allowed to curse my—Hmm, wait!
[Frau Heinecke pulls him out of the room.]
  16
  Robert  [to himself]—Now I’ll see what she really thinks, and what I have to do!  [Softly]  Come here, sister.  17
  Alma—Mother said I had to clean the room.  18
  Robert—That can wait!  [Takes her hand.]  You don’t need to be afraid, I won’t strike you! And I won’t curse you either. You may be sure you have one good friend who is willing to keep watch over you—a true and considerate friend.  19
  Alma—You are too good— Much too good!  [She sinks down before him weeping.]  20
  Robert—There, there—get up! Sit on the footstool!—There—[she sits on the stool]  and straighten up, so I can see your eyes.  [Tries to lift her head, but she hides it in her lap.]  You won’t! Well, cry then! I won’t send you away from here—and you will cry for many a day and many a night when you really understand what you have done! Tell me you realize, don’t you, that all the rest of your life must be repentance?  21
  Alma—Yes, I know.  22
  Robert  [takes her head in his hand]—Yes, yes, sister, and this is what a man works ten years in a foreign country to build up a fortune for— Ten long years! and twenty will hardly be enough to make us forget this disgrace—  23
  Alma—In twenty years I’ll be old.  24
  Robert—Old? What difference does that make? For us two there is no more youth.  25
  Alma—Oh, God!  26
  Robert  [springing up in excitement]—Don’t be afraid, we’ll stay together! We’ll find some hiding place; like hunted animals! Yes, that’s what we are! We’ve been hunted and mangled!  [Alma sinks down, her face in the empty chair.]  Only we two can heal each other’s wounds! You mine, and I yours.  [To himself.]  Oh, how she lies there! God in heaven there is only one thing to do!—the pure little child-soul he has trampled into the dirt, he can never give back—other satisfaction I don’t need!—Alma!  27
  Alma  [sitting up]—What?  28
  Robert—You really love him?  29
  Alma—Whom?  30
  Robert—Whom? Him!  31
  Alma—Oh, yes.  32
  Robert—And if you lost him entirely, would you feel that you could not bear it at all?  33
  Alma—Oh no!  34
  Robert—Good!— You are a brave little girl! One can learn to forget!— One can learn—  [He sits down.]  Above all you must work! The singing nonsense is over, of course! You have learned dressmaking, you can begin that again! But you mustn’t go back into a shop. There are too many temptations and bad examples there!  35
  Alma—Yes, yes, the girls are bad.  36
  Robert—Let him among you who is without sin—you know! And least of all, you! Where we shall go I can’t say as yet. I couldn’t think of uprooting our old parents; otherwise I should take them along. It doesn’t matter where—only a long, long way, where you will belong only to me and your work— For you can take my word for it all—tired is half-happy! Mother and father would live with us, and you shall help me to take care of them. Besides your dressmaking, you’ll have to wash and cook. Will you do that and be patient with father and mother?  37
  Alma—If you want me to.  38
  Robert—No, you must want to with a good will, otherwise it is useless. I ask you again, will you?  39
  Alma—Yes, from to-morrow on, I’ll do everything.  40
  Robert—That’s right—but why from to-morrow and not from to-day?  41
  Alma—Because to-day I was——  42
  Robert—Well, well?  43
  Alma—Oh, please——  44
  Robert  [kindly]—Out with it!  45
  Alma—I wanted—to—go—so bad—to the masked ball!
[There is a long pause, Robert gets up and paces the room.]
  46
  Alma—May I?  47
  Robert—Call father and mother.  48
  Alma—Why not?  [Whining.]  Just once! Can’t a person have just one good time, if it’s to be the last of everything?  49
  Robert—Do you know what you’re saying?— You—  50
  Alma  [arrogantly]—Yes, I do know what I’m saying. I’m not such a little fool! I know a few things about life myself— What are you so excited about, anyway? Isn’t it a pretty hard lot when a person has to sit here for nothing? The sun never shines in an old hole like this, nor the moon either, and all you hear on every side is jabbering and scolding!—and nobody with any decent manners. Father scolds and mother scolds—and you sew your fingers bloody—and you get fifty pfennigs a day and that don’t even pay for the kerosene!—and when you are young and pretty—and you want to have a good time and go in decent society a little—I was always in favor of something higher—I always liked to read about it in the stories. And as for getting married? Whom should I marry, then? Such plebeians as those that work down there in the factory don’t interest me! No, siree! All they can do is drink up their pay and come home and beat you!— I want a gentleman and if I can’t have one I don’t want anybody! And Kurt has always treated me decently— I never learned any dirty words from him, I’ll tell you.—I’ve picked them up right here at home! And I’m not going to stay here, either! And I don’t need you to take care of me, either! Girls like me don’t starve to death.  51
  Robert  [starts to speak, then stops]—Call father and mother!  52
  Alma—And now I’m going to ask father if I—[As he threatens her.]  Yes, yes, I’m going!  [She goes out.]  53
  Robert—So that is the way it stands? That’s my sister! Ah, what a weak fool I was!— Began to sugar this indecency with poetry and sorrow!— That wasn’t seduction—it was in the blood!— Well, I must act now! Rough if need be, otherwise everything is lost.
[Enter Frau Heinecke, pushing Alma before her, Heinecke follows, his mouth full.]
  54
  Heinecke—This impudence!  55
  Frau Heinecke—Masked balls cost money. Now, you’ll stay at home.  56
  Heinecke—Do you deserve my curse or not? I curse you again, you toad!  57
  Robert—Alma, go into the other room! I have something to say to father and mother.  58
  Frau Heinecke—And don’t slop around so! Dress yourself! The gray dress with the patches!  59
  Alma—That old thing!  60
  Heinecke—Get out!  61
  Frau Heinecke—And you won’t drink any coffee either! Now, now, don’t cry!  [Aside.]  It’s on the back of the stove.  62
 
 
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