Then I would employ a lawyer and stake my last shirt to find out whether or not the burgomaster was justified in throwing the son of an honest citizen into prison. If he was, then I would submit; for a thing that can befall anybody I also must accept with resignation. And if to my misfortune it cost me a thousand times as much as it does others, I would attribute it to fate. And if God struck me down for it, I would fold my hands and say: “Lord, Thou knowest why!” If he was not justified, if it should appear that the man with the gold chain around his neck acted too hastily, because be thought of nothing except the fact that the merchant who missed his jewels was his brother-in-law, then people would find out whether the law has anywhere a gap in it, whether the king, who doubtless knows that justice is the one demand his subjects make in return for loyalty and obedience, and who least of all would wish to remain under obligation to one of the humblest of them, would allow that gap to remain unfilled. But all this is useless talk! The boy has no more chance of coming through this trial unscathed, than your mother has of rising from her grave alive! From him, neither now nor ever shall I have any consolation! And for that reason do you not forget what you owe me—keep your oath to me so that I shall not have to keep mine to you! [goes out, but returns again.] I shall come home late tonight, for I am going out in the mountains to the old lumber-dealer’s. He is the only man who still looks me in the eye as he used to, because he knows nothing of my disgrace. He is deaf; nobody can tell him anything without yelling himself hoarse, and even then he hears it all wrong.—So he finds out nothing!
Oh, God! God! Have pity on me I Have pity on the old man! Take me to Thee! There is no other way to help him! The sunlight lies like a golden blanket on the street, and the children try to seize it with their hands. The birds fly hither and thither, and the flowers and weeds do not tire of growing higher. Everything is alive, everything wishes to be alive! Oh, Death! Thousands of sick people are at this moment shuddering with fear of thee! He who called for thee in the restless night, because he could no longer endure his sufferings, now finds his bed soft and downy again. I call upon thee! Spare him whose soul shrinks most fearsomely from thee, and let him live until the beautiful world becomes again gray and desolate! Take me in his stead! I shall not shudder when thou givest me thy cold hand; I shall grasp it and follow thee more bravely than ever yet a child of God has followed thee!
Enter the Merchant, WOLFRAM.
Good day, Miss Clara! Is your father at home?