No! No man can, overlook that! And if—could you yourself overlook it? Would you have had the courage to grasp a hand that—No! no! Such evil courage you would not have! You would with your own hands have to lock yourself into your hell, if any one tried to open the door from the outside. You are forever—Oh, alas, that the pain is intermittent, that the piercing agony sometimes ceases! That is the reason why it lasts so long! The tortured man imagines he is resting when the torturer merely pauses to get his breath. It is like a drowning man’s catching his breath on the waves, when the current that has drawn him under spews him forth again only to seize him once more and draw him down. He has nothing but a double, futile fight for life!—
Well, Clara?—Yes, father, I am going! Your daughter will not drive you to self-destruction! Soon I shall be the wife of that man, or—God! No! I do not go begging for happiness—it is misery, the deepest misery that I beg for! You will give me my misery!—Away! Where is the letter?
[She takes it.]
Three wells you pass on your way to him! You must not halt at any of them, Clara—you have not yet the right to do that!
LEONARD (at a table covered with documents, writing).
That makes the sixth sheet since dinner! How good a man feels when he is doing his duty! Now anybody that wanted to could come through the door, even the king himself! I should rise, but I should not feel embarrassed! I make just one exception—that is the old joiner! But, after all, he cannot do much to me! Poor Clara! I am sorry for her. I cannot think of her without uneasiness! If only it were not for that one cursed evening! It was really more jealousy than love that made me so frantic, and she must have yielded to me only to silence my reproaches—for she was as cold as death toward me! She has some bad days ahead of her! Oh, well, I too shall suffer considerable annoyance! Let everybody bear his own burden! Above all things I must make the affair with the little humpback secure, so that she cannot escape me when the storm breaks out! Then I shall have the burgomaster on my side, and shall have nothing to fear!
Good evening, Leonard!
Clara! [To himself.]
This is something I did not expect!
Did you not receive my letter? Surely—Perhaps you are coming for your father to pay the taxes! How much is it?
[He fumbles in a ledger.]
I really ought to have it in my head!
I have come to give back your letter! Read it again!