THE NEIGHBOR'S HOUSE
God forgive my husband, yet he
Hasn't done his duty by me!
Off in the world he went straightway,—
Left me lie in the straw where I lay.
And, truly, I did naught to fret him:
God knows I loved, and can't forget him!
Perhaps he's even dead! Ah, woe!—
Had I a certificate to show!
Margaret! what's happened thee?
I scarce can stand, my knees are trembling!
I find a box, the first resembling,
Within my press! Of ebony,—
And things, all splendid to behold,
And richer far than were the old.
You mustn't tell it to your mother!
'Twould go to the priest, as did the other.
Ah, look and see—just look and see!
MARTHA (adorning her)
O, what a blessed luck for thee!
But, ah! in the streets I dare not bear them,
Nor in the church be seen to wear them.
Yet thou canst often this way wander,
And secretly the jewels don,
Walk up and down an hour, before the mirror yonder,—
We'll have our private joy thereon.
And then a chance will come, a holiday,
When, piece by piece, can one the things abroad display,
A chain at first, then other ornament:
Thy mother will not see, and stories we'll invent.
Whoever could have brought me things so precious?
That something's wrong, I feel suspicious.
Good Heaven! My mother can that have been?
MARTHA (peeping through the blind)
'Tis some strange gentleman.—Come in!
That I so boldly introduce me,
I beg you, ladies, to excuse me.
(Steps back reverently, on seeing MARGARET.)
For Martha Schwerdtlein I'd inquire!
I'm she: what does the gentleman desire?
MEPHISTOPHELES (aside to her)
It is enough that you are she:
You've a visitor of high degree.
Pardon the freedom I have ta'en,—
Will after noon return again.
Of all things in the world! Just hear—
He takes thee for a lady, dear!
I am a creature young and poor:
The gentleman's too kind, I'm sure.
The jewels don't belong to me.
Ah, not alone the jewelry!
The look, the manner, both betray—
Rejoiced am I that I may stay!
What is your business? I would fain—
I would I had a more cheerful strain!
Take not unkindly its repeating:
Your husband's dead, and sends a greeting.
Is dead? Alas, that heart so true!
My husband dead! Let me die, too!
Ah, dearest dame, let not your courage fail!
Hear me relate the mournful tale!
Therefore I'd never love, believe me!
A loss like this to death would grieve me.
Joy follows woe, woe after joy comes flying.
Relate his life's sad close to me!
In Padua buried, he is lying
Beside the good Saint Antony,
Within a grave well consecrated,
For cool, eternal rest created.
He gave you, further, no commission?
Yes, one of weight, with many sighs:
Three hundred masses buy, to save him from perdition!
My hands are empty, otherwise.
What! Not a pocket-piece? no jewelry?
What every journeyman within his wallet spares,
And as a token with him bears,
And rather starves or begs, than loses?
Madam, it is a grief to me;
Yet, on my word, his cash was put to proper uses.
Besides, his penitence was very sore,
And he lamented his ill fortune all the more.
Alack, that men are so unfortunate!
Surely for his soul's sake full many a prayer I'll proffer.
You well deserve a speedy marriage-offer:
You are so kind, compassionate.
O, no! As yet, it would not do.
If not a husband, then a beau for you!
It is the greatest heavenly blessing,
To have a dear thing for one's caressing.
The country's custom is not so.
Custom, or not! It happens, though.
I stood beside his bed of dying.
'Twas something better than manure,—
Half-rotten straw: and yet, he died a Christian, sure,
And found that heavier scores to his account were lying.
He cried: "I find my conduct wholly hateful!
To leave my wife, my trade, in manner so ungrateful!
Ah, the remembrance makes me die!
Would of my wrong to her I might be shriven!"
The dear, good man! Long since was he forgiven.
"Yet she, God knows! was more to blame than I."
He lied! What! On the brink of death he slandered?
In the last throes his senses wandered,
If I such things but half can judge.
He said: "I had no time for play, for gaping freedom:
First children, and then work for bread to feed 'em,—
For bread, in the widest sense, to drudge,
And could not even eat my share in peace and quiet!"
Had he all love, all faith forgotten in his riot?
My work and worry, day and night?
Not so: the memory of it touched him quite.
Said he: "When I from Malta went away
My prayers for wife and little ones were zealous,
And such a luck from Heaven befell us,
We made a Turkish merchantman our prey,
That to the Soldan bore a mighty treasure.
Then I received, as was most fit,
Since bravery was paid in fullest measure,
My well-apportioned share of it."
Say, how? Say, where? If buried, did he own it?
Who knows, now, whither the four winds have blown it?
A fair young damsel took him in her care,
As he in Naples wandered round, unfriended;
And she much love, much faith to him did bear,
So that he felt it till his days were ended.
The villain! From his children thieving!
Even all the misery on him cast
Could not prevent his shameful way of living!
But see! He's dead therefrom, at last.
Were I in your place, do not doubt me,
I'd mourn him decently a year,
And for another keep, meanwhile, my eyes about me.
Ah, God! another one so dear
As was my first, this world will hardly give me.
There never was a sweeter fool than mine,
Only he loved to roam and leave me,
And foreign wenches and foreign wine,
And the damned throw of dice, indeed.
Well, well! That might have done, however,
If he had only been as clever,
And treated your slips with as little heed.
I swear, with this condition, too,
I would, myself, change rings with you.
The gentleman is pleased to jest.
I'll cut away, betimes, from here:
She'd take the Devil at his word, I fear.
How fares the heart within your breast?
What means the gentleman?
Sweet innocent, thou art!
A moment, ere we part!
I'd like to have a legal witness,
Where, how, and when he died, to certify his fitness.
Irregular ways I've always hated;
I want his death in the weekly paper stated.
Yes, my good dame, a pair of witnesses
Always the truth establishes.
I have a friend of high condition,
Who'll also add his deposition.
I'll bring him here.
Good Sir, pray do!
And this young lady will be present, too?
A gallant youth! has travelled far:
Ladies with him delighted are.
Before him I should blush, ashamed.
Before no king that could be named!
Behind the house, in my garden, then,
This eve we'll expect the gentlemen.