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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 Drawing Room
By Hermann Sudermann (1857–1928)
 
From ‘Honor,’ Act IV.: Translation of Hilmar Robert Baukhage

WILHELM  [aside to Trast]—I have strict orders not to let Herr Heinecke in.  1
  Trast—Nor me?  2
  Wilhelm—Oh, with the Count it is a different matter.  3
  Trast—Thank you for the trust you put in me. Herr Heinecke is accompanied by me. I shall be responsible for his presence here. We shall wait for the Herr Councillor.  4
  Wilhelm—But—  5
  Trast—Which do you prefer—specie or paper?  [Looking for money in his pocket-book.]  Is the whole house empty?  6
  Wilhelm—The Herr Councillor has gone to the factory, the Gnädige Frau has a headache, the Gnädiges Fräulein has gone to the city—Herr Kurt likewise.  7
  Trast—Together?  8
  Wilhelm—Oh, they never go together—Herr Kurt wanted to countermand the invitation—because—[Indicates Robert.]  9
  Trast  [gives him money]—Good! That’s all!  10
  Wilhelm—Nothing further, sir?  11
  Trast—Go.
[Wilhelm bows and goes out.]
  12
  Trast—Come here, my boy.  13
  Robert—What do you want?  14
  Trast—What do I want? You know I never want anything. These things don’t affect me. But the question is: What do you want here—in this house?  15
  Robert—I want to settle my account.  16
  Trast—Of course—we know that— But, inasmuch as you are willing to forego the generous handshake that the workman usually gets at this proud moment, I should think you would send the accounts to the office—and—[with gesture of finality.]  17
  Robert—That would be simple enough.  18
  Trast—My dear man, let me talk to you as a friend!  19
  Robert—Go ahead, talk!  20
  Trast—You are pursuing a phantom!  21
  Robert—Really?  22
  Trast—No one has touched your honor.  23
  Robert—Really!  24
  Trast—Because nobody in the world could do it.  25
  Robert—Really, really!  26
  Trast—This thing that you call honor—this mixture of shame, and “tempo,” and—honesty and pride, things you have acquired through a civilized existence and as a result of your own loyalty, why this can no more be taken away from you by a piece of treachery than your generosity or your judgment! Either it is a part of yourself or else it doesn’t exist at all. The sort of honor that can be destroyed by a blow from a fop’s glove has nothing to do with you! That is nothing but a mirror for the dandies, a plaything for the indolent, and a perfume to the boulevardier.  27
  Robert—You talk like someone trying to make a virtue out of necessity.  28
  Trast—Perhaps—because every virtue is a direct result of necessity.  29
  Robert—And my family?  30
  Trast—I didn’t think you had a family now!  [Robert buries his face in his hands.]  I understand—it’s a contraction of the nerves after the limb is amputated.— Don’t deceive yourself! Even though the foot still pains you, the leg is gone!  31
  Robert—You never had a sister!  32
  Trast—Tell me, must I, the aristocrat, learn what abasement means from you, a plebeian? My boy, don’t forswear your parents. Don’t say that they are worse than you or I. They are different, that’s all. Their sensations are sensations that are strange to you, the point of view they hold is simply beyond your comprehension. Therefore to criticize them is not only narrow-minded, but presumptuous. And you may as well know soon as late: in your struggle with your people you have been wrong from beginning to end!  33
  Robert—Trast, you say that!  34
  Trast—I take the liberty— You come back from a foreign country where you have been associating with triple-plated gentlemen, and then you expect your people, in order to please you, to change the very skins they live in; although they’ve fitted perfectly all these years! That is immodest, my boy! And your sister has really received back her honor from the family Mühlingk; the honor which she can make use of. For everything on this earth has its price and value. The honor of the Avenue may be paid for with blood—may be, I said. The honor of the Alley is restituted with a little capital, in integrum.  [As Robert steps towards him angrily]  Don’t eat me up! I haven’t finished! Yes—what other significance has a girl’s honor—and that’s what we’re concerned with now—than to bring a sort of dowry of pure-heartedness and honesty to her husband? She is there for one purpose and that is marriage! Just be so good as to make a few inquiries in the society from which you come and see if your sister, with the money that has dropped into her lap, can’t make a much better match than she otherwise could?  35
  Robert—Trast, you are cruel, you are cruel!  36
  Trast—Crude like Nature, cruel like Truth! Only the indolent and the cowardly surround themselves à tout prix with idyllics— But you have nothing to do with them now. Come, give me your hand, shake the dust of home off your feet and don’t look back!  37
  Robert—First I must have personal satisfaction.  38
  Trast—So you insist on fighting a duel with him?  39
  Robert—Yes.  40
  Trast—Don’t be so old-fashioned.  41
  Robert—Old-fashioned—I may be. Perhaps because I came into the world as a plebeian; and because my conception of honor was acquired, I haven’t the strength to rise to the heights of your standpoint. Let me go down in my own narrowness if I must.  42
  Trast—But suppose he won’t give satisfaction?  43
  Robert—I shall find some way to force him.  44
  Trast—Aha!  [Aside]  the revolver—! One thing more, my boy; if you have made up your mind to let Herr Kurt put a bullet through you, you must take away every pretext for his refusing.  45
  Robert—Heavens, yes! you are right!  46
  Trast  [drawing out his pocket-book]—Does that embarrass you?  47
  Robert—No, you have done too much for me, for me to ask—  48
  Trast  [filling out a check]—There!  49
  Robert—And if I can never pay that back?  50
  Trast—Then I’ll write it in the largest ledger, where the accounts of friendship are kept.  [Stroking his head.]  It won’t be as bad as that! Hm—my boy—one thing you’ve forgotten.  51
  Robert—What?  52
  Trast—Leonore.  53
  Robert  [shuddering]—Don’t speak of her!  54
  Trast—You love her.  55
  Robert—Oh!—I shan’t answer!  56
  Trast—Would you like to have her think of you as the murderer of her brother?  57
  Robert—Better than if she had to think of me as a man without honor.  58
  Trast  [straightening up]—Am I not a so-called “man without honor?” And haven’t you found me a good fellow? And don’t I carry my head as high as anyone in the world? Shame on you!  59
  Robert  [after a pause]—Trast—forgive me!  60
  Trast—Forgive—nonsense, I like you!— That’s enough!  61
  Robert—Trast—I—won’t fight—the duel!  62
  Trast—Your word!  63
  Robert—My word!  64
  Trast—Come, then.  65
  Robert—Where?  66
  Trast—How do I know? Into the world.  67
  Robert—Forgive me—shall I?  68
 
 
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