Fiction > Harvard Classics > Gotthold Ephraim Lessing > Minna von Barnhelm
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781).  Minna von Barnhelm.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act I
Scene VI

  Maj. T.  Speak freely, Madam! You must not be ashamed of your bad fortune before me. Can I serve you in any way?
  Lady.  Major—  2
  Maj. T.  I pity you, Madam! How can I serve you? You know your husband was my friend; my friend, I say, and I have always been sparing of this title.  3
  Lady.  Who knows better than I do how worthy you were of his friendship—how worthy he was of yours? You would have been in his last thoughts, your name would have been the last sound on his dying lips, had not natural affection, stronger than friendship, demanded this sad prerogative for his unfortunate son, and his unhappy wife.  4
  Maj. T.  Cease, Madam! I could willingly weep with you; but I have no tears to-day. Spare me! You come to me at a time when I might easily be misled to murmur against Providence. Oh! honest Marloff! Quick, Madam, what have you to request? If it is in my power to assist you, if it is in my power—  5
  Lady.  I cannot depart without fulfilling his last wishes. He recollected, shortly before his death, that he was dying a debtor to you, and he conjured me to discharge his debt with the first ready money I should have. I have sold his carriage, and come to redeem his note.  6
  Maj. T.  What, Madam! Is that your object in coming?  7
  Lady.  It is. Permit me to count out the money to you.  8
  Maj. T.  No, Madam. Marloff a debtor to me! that can hardly be. Let us look, however. (Takes out a pocketbook, and searches.) I find nothing of the kind.  9
  Lady.  You have doubtless mislaid his note; besides, it is nothing to the purpose. Permit me—  10
  Maj. T.  No, Madam; I am careful not to mislay such documents. If I have not got it, it is a proof that I never had it, or that it has been honoured and already returned by me.  11
  Lady.  Major!  12
  Maj. T.  Without doubt, Madam; Marloff does not owe me anything—nor can I remember that he ever did owe me anything. This is so, Madam. He has much rather left me in his debt. I have never been able to do anything to repay a man who shared with me good and ill luck, honour and danger, for six years. I shall not forget that he has left a son. He shall be my son, as soon as I can be a father to him. The embarrassment in which I am at present—  13
  Lady.  Generous man! But do not think so meanly of me. Take the money, Major, and then at least I shall be at ease.  14
  Maj. T.  What more do you require to tranquillize you, than my assurance that the money does not belong to me? Or do you wish that I should rob the young orphan of my friend? Rob, Madam; for that it would be in the true meaning of the word. The money belongs to him; invest it for him.  15
  Lady.  I understand you; pardon me if I do not yet rightly know how to accept a kindness. Where have you learnt that a mother will do more for her child than for the preservation of her own life? I am going—  16
  Maj. T.  Go, Madam, and may you have a prosperous journey! I do not ask you to let me hear from you. Your news might come to me when it might be of little use to me. There is yet one thing, Madam; I had nearly forgotten that which is of most consequence. Marloff also had claims upon the chest of our old regiment. His claims are as good as mine. If my demands are paid, his must be paid also. I will be answerable for them.  17
  Lady.  Oh! Sir … but what can I say? Thus to purpose future good deeds is, in the eyes of heaven, to have performed them already. May you receive its reward, as well as my tears.  (Exit.)  18


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