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

  Maj. T.  Why so thoughtful, Werner?
  Wer.  Oh! that is you. I was just going to pay you a visit in your new quarters, Major.  2
  Maj. T.  To fill my ears with curses against the Landlord of my old one. Do not remind me of it.  3
  Wer.  I should have done that by the way: yes. But more particularly, I wish to thank you for having been so good as to take care of my hundred louis d’ors. Just has given them to me again. I should have been very glad if you would have kept them longer for me. But you have got into new quarters, which neither you nor I know much about. Who knows what sort of place it is? They might be stolen, and you would have to make them good to me; there would be no help for it. So I cannot ask you to take them again.  4
  Maj. T.  (smiling). When did you begin to be so careful, Werner?  5
  Wer.  One learns to be so. One cannot now be careful enough of one’s money. I have also a commission for you, Major, from Frau Marloff; I have just come from her. Her husband died four hundred thalers in your debt; she sends you a hundred ducats here, in part payment. She will forward you the rest next week. I believe I am the cause that she has not sent you the whole sum. For she also owed me about eighty thalers, and she thought I was come to dun her for them—which, perhaps, was the fact—so she gave them me out of the roll which she had put aside for you. You can spare your hundred thalers for a week longer, better than I can spare my few groschens. There, take it!  (Hands him the ducats.)  6
  Maj. T.  Werner!  7
  Wer.  Well! Why do you stare at me so? Take it, Major!  8
  Maj. T.  Werner!  9
  Wer.  What is the matter with you? What annoys you?  10
  Maj. T.  (angrily striking his forehead, and stamping with his foot.) That … the four hundred thalers are not all there.  11
  Wer.  Come! Major, did not you understand me?  12
  Maj. T.  It is just because I did understand you! Alas, that the best men should to-day distress me most!  13
  Wer.  What do you say?  14
  Maj. T.  This only applies partly to you. Go, Werner!  (Pushing back WERNER’S hand with the money in it.)  15
  Wer.  As soon as I have got rid of this.  16
  Maj. T.  Werner, suppose I tell you that Frau Marloff was here herself early this morning—  17
  Wer.  Indeed?  18
  Maj. T.  That she owes me nothing now—  19
  Wer.  Really?  20
  Maj. T.  That she has paid me every penny—What will you say then?  21
  Wer.  (thinks for a minute). I shall say that I have told a lie, and that lying is a low thing, because one may be caught at it.  22
  Maj. T.  And you will be ashamed of yourself?  23
  Wer.  And what of him who compels me to lie? Should not he be ashamed too? Look ye, Major; if I was to say that your conduct has not vexed me, I should tell another lie, and I won’t lie any more.  24
  Maj. T.  Do not be annoyed, Werner. I know your heart, and your affection for me. But I do not require your money.  25
  Wer.  Not require it! Rather sell, rather pawn, and get talked about!  26
  Maj. T.  Oh! people may know that I have nothing more. One must not wish to appear richer than one is.  27
  Wer.  But why poorer? A man has something as long as his friend has.  28
  Maj. T.  It is not proper that I should be your debtor.  29
  Wer.  Not proper! On that summer day which the sun and the enemy made hot for us, when your groom, who had your canteen, was not to be found, and you came to me and said—“Werner, have you nothing to drink?” and I gave you my flask, you took it and drank, did you not? Was that proper? Upon my life, a mouthful of dirty water at that time was often worth more than such filth (taking the purse also out of his pocket, and holding out both to him). Take them, dear Major! Fancy it is water. God has made this, too, for all.  30
  Maj. T.  You torment me: don’t you hear, I will not be your debtor.  31
  Wer.  At first, it was not proper; now, you will not. Ah! that is a different thing. (Rather angrily.) You will not be my debtor? But suppose you are already, Major? Or, are you not a debtor to the man who once warded off the blow that was meant to split your head; and, at another time, knocked off the arm which was just going to pull and send a ball through your breast? How can you become a greater debtor to that man? Or, is my neck of less consequence than my money? If that is a noble way of thinking, by my soul it is a very silly one too.  32
  Maj. T.  To whom do you say that, Werner? We are alone, and therefore I may speak; if a third person heard us, it might sound like boasting. I acknowledge with pleasure, that I have to thank you for twice saving my life. Do you not think, friend, that if an opportunity occurred I would have done as much for you, eh?  33
  Wer.  If an opportunity occurred! Who doubts it, Major? Have I not seen you risk your life a hundred times for the lowest soldier, when he was in danger?  34
  Maj. T.  Well!  35
  Wer.  But—  36
  Maj. T.  Why cannot you understand me? I say, it is not proper that I should be your debtor; I will not be your debtor. That is, not in the circumstances in which I now am.  37
  Wer.  Oh! so you would wait till better times. You will borrow money from me another time, when you do not want any: when you have some yourself, and I perhaps none.  38
  Maj. T.  A man ought not to borrow, when he has not the means of repaying.  39
  Wer.  A man like yourself cannot always be in want.  40
  Maj. T.  You know the world… Least of all should a man borrow from one who wants his money himself.  41
  Wer.  Oh! yes; I am such a one! Pray, what do I want it for? When they want a sergeant, they give him enough to live on.  42
  Maj. T.  You want it, to become something more than a sergeant—to be able to get forward in that path in which even the most deserving, without money, may remain behind.  43
  Wer.  To become something more than a sergeant! I do not think of that. I am a good sergeant; I might easily make a bad captain, and certainly a worse general.  44
  Maj. T.  Do not force me to think ill of you, Werner! I was very sorry to hear what Just has told me. You have sold your farm, and wish to rove about again. Do not let me suppose that you do not love the profession of arms so much as the wild dissolute way of living which is unfortunately connected with it. A man should be a soldier for his own country, or from love of the cause for which he fights. To serve without any purpose—to-day here, to-morrow there—is only travelling about like a butcher’s apprentice, nothing more.  45
  Wer.  Well, then, Major, I will do as you say. You know better what is right. I will remain with you. But, dear Major, do take my money in the meantime. Sooner or later your affairs must be settled. You will get money in plenty then; and then you shall repay me with interest. I only do it for the sake of the interest.  46
  Maj. T.  Do not talk of it.  47
  Wer.  Upon my life, I only do it for the sake of the interest. Many a time I have thought to myself—“Werner, what will become of you in your old age? when you are crippled? when you will have nothing in the world? when you will be obliged to go and beg!” And then I thought again—“No, you will not be obliged to beg: you will go to Major Tellheim; he will share his last penny with you; he will feed you till you die; and with him you can die like an honest fellow.”  48
  Maj. T.  (taking WERNER’S hand). And, comrade, you do not think so still?  49
  Wer.  No, I do not think so any longer. He who will not take anything from me, when he is in want, and I have to give, will not give me anything when he has to give, and I am in want. So be it.  (Is going.)  50
  Maj. T.  Man, do not drive me mad! Where are you going? (Detains him.) If I assure you now, upon my honour, that I still have money—If I assure you, upon my honour, that I will tell you when I have no more—that you shall be the first and only person from whom I will borrow anything—will that content you?  51
  Wer.  I suppose it must. Give me your hand on it, Major.  52
  Maj. T.  There, Paul! And now enough of that, I came here to speak with a certain young woman.  53


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