THE NEIGHBOUR'S HOUSE
Martha [alone]. God pardon my dear husband! He
Has truly not done well by me!
Off in the world to go and roam
And leave me on the straw at home!
Sure, I did naught to vex him, truly,
And, God knows, always loved him duly.
Perhaps he's even dead!- Oh, cruel fate!
If I but had a death-certificate!
Margaret. Dame Martha!
Martha. Gretchen dear, what can it be?
Margaret. My knees almost sink under me!
There in my press I've found again
Just such a casket- and of ebony,
And things! magnificent they are,
Much richer than the first, by far!
Martha. You must not tell that to your mother;
She would confess it like the other.
Margaret. Ah, only look! ah, see now, do!
Martha [decking her out]. You lucky, lucky creature, you!
Margaret. Alas, these jewels I can never wear
At church or on the street, I'd never dare!
Martha. Come often over here to me
And here put on the jewels secretly.
Stroll up and down before the mirror for a season;
We'll have our own sweet joy of it.
And then there'll be a feast-day or some other reason
When one lets people see them, bit by bit.
A chain at first, a pearl then in your ear; your mother
Scarce will see it, we'll coin some fib or other.
Margaret. But both the caskets! Who could bring
Them both? Some wrong is in this thing!
Good Heaven! My mother- can that have been?
Martha [peeping through the curtain].
It's some strange gentleman! Come in!
Mephistopheles. I'm very bold to walk in right away;
The pardon of the ladies I must pray.
He steps back respectfully in the presence of MARGARET.
Dame Martha Schwerdtlein I would like to find!
Martha. I'm she! What has the gentleman upon his mind?
Mephistopheles [aside to her]. I know you now, that is enough for
You have a most distinguished guest, I see.
Excuse the liberty I took! If it is not too soon,
I'll come again this afternoon.
Martha [aloud]. Imagine, child, of all things on this earth!
The gentleman thinks you of noble birth.
Margaret. I am a poor, young thing, as you can see.
The gentleman is far too kind to me.
The ornaments and jewels aren't my own.
Mephistopheles. Ah, it is not the ornaments alone;
You've such a manner, so refined a way!
How glad I am that I may stay!
Martha. What is your errand? I would like to hear-
Mephistopheles. I wish my tidings brought more cheer!
I hope you'll not make me repent this meeting:
Your husband's dead and sends a greeting.
Martha. Is dead? That faithful heart! Oh, woe!
My husband's dead! I'm dying! Oh!
Margaret. Ah! don't despair, Dame Martha dear!
Mephistopheles. Prepare the mournful tale to hear!
Margaret. That's why I would not love while I draw breath;
Such loss as this would make me grieve to death.
Mephistopheles. Joy must sorrow, sorrow joy must know.
Martha. Relate the ending of his life to me!
Mephistopheles. In Padua he's buried, midst a row
Of graves close to St. Anthony,
In holy ground that was well blessed,
Forever cool his bed of rest.
Martha. Did you bring nothing else beside?
Mephistopheles. Oh yes, a weighty, great petition:
Three hundred masses are you to provide!
My pockets? They have naught. Thus endeth my commission!
Martha. What? Not a medal? Not a trinket? Such
As every journeyman deep in his pouch doth hide,
As a remembrance puts aside,
And rather hungers, rather begs, than touch?
Mephistopheles. Madame, that grieves me much, but let me say,
He truly did not throw his cash away;
And deeply did he all his faults deplore,
Yes, and bewailed his ill luck still much more.
Margaret. Alas, the bad luck men do meet!
Full many a requiem for him will I pray.
Mephistopheles. You're fit, I think, to wed this very day;
You are so lovable and sweet.
Margaret. That would not do as yet. Ah, no!
Mephistopheles. If not a husband, be it for the while a beau.
For, of the greatest gifts of Heaven, it is one
To have within our arms a lover dear.
Margaret. That's not the custom of the country here.
Mephistopheles. Custom or not! At any rate it's done.
Martha. Tell on, oh, please!
Mephistopheles. I stood where dying he was laid.
'Twas not a dung-heap; somewhat better it was made
Of rotting straw; but as a Christian did he die,
Thinking he owed far greater penance for his life.
"How deeply must I hate myself," I heard him cry,
"To leave my business so, my wife!
Alas, the recollection's killing me.
If she could but forgive me in this life!"
Martha [weeping]. The good man! I forgave him long since-
Mephistopheles. "But she, God knows, was more to blame than I!"
Martha. He lies! What! at the grave's brink- so to lie!
Mephistopheles. He fabled as he breathed his last, be sure,
If I am only half a connoisseur.
"I could not gape for pastime," so he said;
"First children, then to get them bread,
And bread in all the broadest sense, I swear;
Yet never could I eat in peace my share."
Martha. To all my love, fidelity, he gave no thought,
Nor to my drudgery by night and day?
Mephistopheles. Not so; he thought of it most warmly as he ought.
He said: "From Malta once I sailed away
And ardently for wife and children did I pray.
Then Heaven favoured us in gracious measure
Because our ship a Turkish vessel caught
Which to the mighty Sultan bore a treasure.
Then valour was rewarded as was fit,
And I received moreover, as one ought,
My own well-measured share of it."
Martha. Oh what? Oh where? Perhaps he buried it?
Mephistopheles. Who knows where the four winds have carried it?
A pretty miss adopted him as her dear friend
When he, in Naples strange, was circulating;
She gave him love and troth so unabating
That he felt the results until his blessed end.
Martha. The scamp! The robber of his children, he!
And all that want and all that misery
Could not prevent the shameful life he led!
Mephistopheles. Well, he has paid for it and now he's dead.
If I were now in your place here,
I'd mourn for him a well-bred year,
Meanwhile be on the lookout for a sweetheart new.
Martha. Ah, God! Another like the first I knew,
I'll hardly find on earth again!
There scarce could be a dearer little fool than mine.
Only to roam he was too much inclined, and then
He loved those foreign women, also foreign wine,
And that accursed dice-throwing.
Mephistopheles. Now, now, things could have gone and still be
If he perchance as much in you
Had overlooked on his part too.
I swear, on terms like these, if you'd agree,
I'd ask you to exchange a ring with me.
Martha. The gentleman is pleased to jest.
Mephistopheles [aside]. Now to make off betimes were best!
She'd hold the very Devil to his word.
How is your heart? Has it been stirred?
Margaret. What means the gentleman?
Mephistopheles [aside]. You innocent, sweet dear!
Martha. Oh, quickly let me hear
The evidence I'd like to have and save:
Where, how, and when my darling died and where his grave.
Of order I have always been a friend,
And in our Weekly I would like to read his end.
Mephistopheles. Yes, my good woman, what two witnesses attest
Is always known as truth made manifest,
And with me I've a splendid mate.
I tell you, I'll take him before a magistrate.
I'll bring him here.
Martha. Oh, do that, do!
Mephistopheles. And this young lady, will she be here too?
A gallant chap! and travelled far has he
And shows young ladies every courtesy.
Margaret. Before the gentleman I'd flush with shame.
Mephistopheles. Before no king this earth could name.
Martha. Behind my house and in my garden then,
This evening we'll await the gentlemen.