A monologue from the short story by Frank Wedekind
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Rabbi Ezra, The Victim: Two Stories. Trans. Francis J. Ziegler. Philadelphia: Brown Brothers, 1911.
It was midwinter, one evening at nine o’clock. I had been at work two years. I wore long dresses, and when I went along the street,
with my apron on and my hat off, the men used to lick their lips at me. I laughed at that, because I took it for flattery,
but I didn’t think any more about it. Then, one evening the manager gave me a gown to take to the Baroness Umbra in the Schwabinger Landstrasse.
I wanted to take a tram, but they were all full. It was storming to that the tiles were blown from the roofs and it was icy cold.
Everybody was wrapped in mantles and hoods, but I had only my jacket with the big buttons and my hat that I had to hold in order to keep it from blowing off my head.
In the Theatriverstrasse I began to wish I had not been born. I had no feeling in my hands and feet and at every step I slipped.
The snow came inside my coat and ran down my neck. In front of the Feldherrnhalle the string by which I carried the box broke and the gown fell into the snow.
Then came a gust of wind the blew my skirts up over my knees. God, O God, O God, I thought, I hope nobody saw that!
Directly after that a gentleman came up to me and asked if he could not carry my bundle, and I said yes.
So we went to the Schwabinger Landstrasse, and then he accompanied me back to our home in Sendlinger Strasse.
He told me that he worked in an office and had to support his sixty-year-old mother out of his salary. I, too, told him where I worked.
The next evening, as I came out of the shop, there he was again alongside of me, as soon as I had parted from the others.
As he had been so friendly I could not send him away. And that’s the way it happened.
Every evening he would walk with me to my door and tell me how good he was to his old mother. Then, when it was springtime, he told me one evening that he loved me.
At first I didn’t believe it. But for a whole month he didn’t speak of anything else, and then, one time, when he asked me again if I loved him, I said yes.
It was astonishing; from that day on he was not the same. Before he had been always so good and gentle; then it was all ended.
He asserted that it was not true that I loved him. I said yes, on my salvation. But that made no difference.
All day long during my work I kept thinking only of him, wondering what sort of a face he would make when we met again.
But it was never the same face. He rolled his eyes as if he had swallowed a fly, and sometimes he wouldn’t speak a word the whole way home.
Before he often kissed me goodbye. He didn’t do that any more. I asked him to, but he wouldn’t. He called me a coquette.
I was so shocked, I didn’t know what that was. At first I couldn’t remember the word.
Then I wrote it down and asked Cilly, and she told me it meant a girl who went about the streets at night.
Mother asked me why I looked so bad, why I didn’t eat and why the corners of my mouth turned down, but I couldn’t say anything.
I had promised never to speak of him at home until we could announce our engagement, and his salary wasn’t enough for that yet.
We had to wait until his mother died. But once, when he turned his back to me in scorn in the Rathausplatz
and walked in front of me with his hands in his trouser pockets, I ran after him and hung about his neck.
I loved him, I said, he must see that. I wanted him to be the same as before. I hadn’t done anything to hurt him and he shouldn’t hurt me so.
Then he murmured, “So me that you love me.” I asked him how I could show him that, and he answered that I knew well enough, that I was a child no longer.
I kept thinking what he could have meant, and how I could have been unkind to him. At last, I decided to ask Cilly, as he wouldn’t tell me himself.
After lunch I asked Cilly, as we walked arm in arm, if she had ever been in love. She thought for a moment, then she said yes.
I asked her what she had done, and she told me. The next night I lay down on my bed with my clothes on. I only took off my shoes.
When eleven o’clock struck I tiptoed down the stairs. He hugged and kissed me in the hallway and then took me to his dwelling.
An hour later he brought me back; but God knows, I couldn’t understand why he was so happy.
I thought to myself, there really must be something remarkable about love for a man to feel so happy when he learns a girl really loves him.
And then I became his mistress. During the first week he said, “If you really loved me you can live no longer with your parents,” so I took my things out that night.
A few months later, his employer sent him here to Zurich. While we were sitting in the railroad car a girl came in.
At first she sat down in the opposite corner, but when she saw my lover she gave him a look, and then sat herself down very near to him.
She told how she had been engaged as a waitress. She was so tightly laced that it took my breath away.
Then she couldn’t keep her feet still, and she fanned herself with a pocket-handkerchief that smelled like a menagerie.
She kept rolling her eyes about. She exchanged glances with my lover, which must have meant the finest things, but I couldn’t understand them.
Often she looked at me, and then I was ashamed to death. I had on a dress from which the color was gone almost entirely,
wore a grey shawl over my head, and I put my shoes under the seat because they were split in front.
She wore brand new low tan shoes with gold buttons. Her dress was made so tight that one could see her knees.
On her lap was a reticule with bon bons and a bottle of cherry brandy in it. Near Lindon, when the locomotive stopped on account of a hot axle,
she nearly sank into his arms. We hadn’t been here two days when he took her out to a concert hall and didn’t come home all night.
The next morning I went out to look for him, and when I came back his things were gone. I looked all over the city for him.
I thought he must be just around every corner. One night, near eleven o’clock, I found him coming out of a restaurant.
I said to his face, “You’re living with that waitress.” He said, “That’s none of your business.” It went green and blue before my eyes.
I put my hands over my face and ran down to the sea. I wanted to drown myself, but that wasn’t enough for me.
I had such sorrow in my heart that the water appeared too friendly and pleasant. I rushed through the streets,
and thought if only somebody would come and abuse me so that I could lose my thoughts. I felt that if somebody would trample on me it would hurt less.
I must let myself be degraded as deep as possible, then, perhaps, I would not notice the claws that were tearing at my heart.
My lover had told me that there were women in Zurich who took young girls to sell them and to suck their last drop of blood.
I asked a policeman who saw me sitting on a street corner where to find such a woman. He asked me if I had been there before, and I said yes.
Then he asked me where that was, and I pointed anywhere with my finger; I was a stranger here, I said, and had gone out that day for the first time and couldn’t find my way back.
Then he brought me here. At first madame was displeased with me, because I was so melancholy.
But since she has found that the most repulsive of our gentlemen take to me, and that I never say no to anybody.
She likes me as much as any of the girls now.