view updated

Debit and Credit

August Strindberg

[A beautifully furnished room in a hotel. Doors left and right. Enter TURE and his WIFE.]

TURE: Pretty fine room, this! But it's a fine man, too, who lives here.

THE WIFE: Yes, I suppose so! To be sure, I've never seen your brother, but I've heard of him often enough to make up for it.

TURE: Jabber away! My brother, the doctor, has traveled half way through Africa, and it isn't every one who will follow his footsteps,--though he may have drunk such a lot of toddy when he was young...

THE WIFE: Your brother, the doctor, indeed! After all he is nothing but an M.A....

TURE: No ma'am, he is a Doctor of Philosophy!

THE WIFE: Well, what is that but an M.A.! And my brother at the school at Aby is that too.

TURE: Your brother is a very good man, but he is only a teacher in a public school, and that is not the same thing as a Doctor of Philosophy and that much I can say without boasting.

THE WIFE: Well, he may be whatever he likes, and be called whatever you like, at all events, he has cost us something.

TURE: Yes, he has cost us something, but he has also given us pleasure.

THE WIFE: Fine pleasure! When we had to leave house and home on his account.

TURE: That's true enough, but we don't know whether his delay in the discharge of the loan, wasn't caused by something he couldn't help. Probably it's not so easy to send money orders out of darkest Africa.

THE WIFE: His having any excuse or not doesn't help matters. Is he going to do anything for us now? It's no more than his duty!

TURE: We shall see! We shall see! -- In any case, have you heard that he has gotten four orders?

THE WIFE: Yes, but how does that help us? I believe they'll only make him that much haughtier. No sir, I shan't forget so soon how the sheriff came with those papers -- and brought people with him as witnesses -- and then -- the auction -- when all the neighbors came in and fumbled around in our things. Do you know, Ture, what grieved me the most?

TURE: The black ...

THE WIFE: Yes, my black silk dress that my sister-in-law bought at fifteen kronen. Fifteen kronen!

TURE: Just wait! Wait! We'll be able to buy a new silk dress ...

THE WIFE: [weeps] Yes, but never the same one -- the one my sister-in-law bought in.

TURE: Then we can buy another. Look, here, see what a fine hat this is. It must be a gentleman of the court who is in there with Axel.

THE WIFE: What do I care if it is?

TURE: Oh, don't you think it's rather nice, that some one who bears the same name as you and I, is thought so much of that he is visited by friends of the king? I remember that you rejoiced for two weeks when your brother, the teacher, was invited to dine at the bishop's.

THE WIFE: I don't remember it.

TURE: Oh, no, of course not!

THE WIFE: But I remember the fourteenth of March, when, on his account, we had to leave the farm we had leased, -- and we had been married two years and had a child in our arms -- oh dear! -- And then, the arrival of the steamboat with all its passengers, just as we were moving out, I'll not forget that for all the three-cornered hats in the world. And anyhow, what attention do you think a gentleman of the court will pay to a gardener and his wife, who have been ejected?

TURE: Look at this! What is this? Do you see these orders, his! Look at this one!

[He takes an order out of the case on the writing-table, lays it in his hands and strokes it gently.]

THE WIFE: Such trash!

TURE: Don't speak so disrespectfully of orders, we never know where we may be ourselves some day. The gardener at Staringe was made a director and knight today.

THE WIFE: What good does that do us!

TURE: It doesn't do us any good, that's quite true, but this order here [points to the order] may be instrumental in some way or other in helping us to a position. -- In the mean time, I think this waiting begins to be rather long, so we might as well make ourselves at home here. Come, I will help you take your cloak off. Come!

THE WIFE: [after slight resistance] Are you so sure that we shall be welcome? I have a feeling that we won't grow old in this house.

TURE: Oho! And I expect to get a good dinner here, if I know Axel. If he only knew that we are here, he -- But, wait a minute! [He presses a bell on the table; a WAITER comes in.] What will you have? Some bread and butter perhaps? [To the WAITER.] Give us some sandwiches and beer. -- Wait a minute! A pearl for me -- fine brandy! We have to take care of ourselves, you see!

[AXEL and the GENTLEMAN of the court enter.]

AXEL: [to the GENTLEMAN of the court] At five o'clock, then, in frock coat.

THE GENTLEMAN: And orders.

AXEL: Is that necessary?

THE GENTLEMAN: Absolutely necessary, if you do not wish to be discourteous, and you surely would not be that to any one, since you are a democrat. Farewell, Doctor.

AXEL: Farewell!

[The GENTLEMAN bows slightly to TURE and his WIFE as he passes them; but his greeting is not returned.]

AXEL: Hello! You there, old fellow! It is a long time since we have seen each other! -- And this is your wife! Welcome! Welcome!

TURE: Thank you, brother! And welcome yourself after your long journey!

AXEL: Yes, it was something of a journey. -- You have read all about it in the newspapers, I suppose ...

TURE: Yes, indeed, I have read everything! [Pause.] Father sent you his greetings.

AXEL: Did he? Is he still angry at me?

TURE: You know the old man and how he is. If you had not been with this expedition, he would have considered it one of the seven wonders of the world. But because you were with it, it is all humbug.