Upton Sinclair, ed. (18781968). The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.
Lynggaard & Co.
By Hjalmar Bergström
(Contemporary Danish dramatist, born 1868. The present play deals with the modern industrial struggle. The wife of a great manufacturer has become the victim of melancholia after a strike)
MRS. LYNGGAARD (absorbed in her memories):I shall never forget the day when the people went back to work. I was watching them from my bedroom window. For four months they had been starvingstarving, do you understand?they and theirs. Then they turned up again one winter morning before daylight, and there they stood and shivered in the yards. They had no over-clothes, of course, and they were shaking both from cold and from weakness. And then their faces were all covered with beards, so that one couldnt recognize them. There they stood and waited a long time, a very long time. At last Heymann [the manager] appeared in the doorway and read something from a paper. It was the conditions of surrender, I suppose. None of them looked up. Then, as they were about to walk in and begin working, Heymann stopped them by holding up his hand, and he said something I couldnt hear. But after a little while I saw Olsen [the strike-leader] standing all by himself in a cleared place. (A shiver runs through her at the recollection.) Once I saw a picture of an execution in a prison yard. It lasted only a few seconds. Then Olsen said a few words to his comrades and walked away, looking white as a ghost. The crowd opened up to let him pass through. Then the rest stood there for a while looking so strangely depressed and not knowing what to do. And at last they went in, one by one, bent and broken.
MIKKELSEN:Olsen wasnt allowed to go back to work?
MRS. LYNGGAARD:It was he who had been their leader, and it was his fault that they had held out as long as they did. And then Olsen began to look for work elsewhere, but none of the other companies would have anything to do with him.
MIKKELSEN (shrugging his shoulders):War is war.
MRS. LYNGGAARD:A few months later, as I was taking a walk, I was stopped on the street by Olsens wife. I tell you, the way she looked made my heart shrink within me. Her husband was completely broken down, she told me. And on top of it all he had taken to drink. Everything she and the children could scrape together, he spent on whiskey. She herself was so far gone with her eighth child that she would soon have to quit work. Then I went home to my husband and begged and prayed him to take Olsen back and make a man of him again. It was the first time during our marriage that I saw him beside himself with rage. There came into his eyes such an evil expression that I wish I had never seen it, for I have never since been able to forget it entirely. But, of course, I guessed who was back of it. (With emphasis.) Then I did the most humiliating thing I have ever done: I went in secret to Heymann and pleaded for that discharged workman.
MRS. LYNGGAARD:Since that moment I hate Heymann. There I was, humbling myself before him. And he measured me with cold eyes and said: If I am to be in charge of this plant, madam, I must ask once for all and absolutely, that no outsiders interfere with the running of it.
MIKKELSEN:I dont see that he could have done anything else.
MRS. LYNGGAARD:What I cannot forgive myself is that I let myself be imposed upon by that man. I behaved like a coward. At that moment I should have gone to my husband and said: This is what has happenednow you must choose between Heymann and me! But I was so cowardly, that I didnt even tell my husband what I had done.
MIKKELSEN:Nor was it proper for you to go behind your husbands back like that.
MRS. LYNGGAARD (with an expression of abject horror in her fixed gaze):A little afterwards this thing happened. It was one of the first warm summer days, and I was walking in the garden with Jacob. At that time a splendid old chestnut tree was growing in one corner. And there, in the midst of green leaves, and singing birds, Olsen was hanging, cold and dead. And the flies were crawling in and out of his face. (She trembles visibly.)
MIKKELSEN:Yes, life is cruel.
MRS. LYNGGAARD:And there I perceived for the first time how utterly poor a human being may become. Anything so pitiful and miserable I had never seen before. There was no sign of underclothing between his trousers and the vest. And I dont know why, but it seemed almost as if this was what hurt me mostmuch more than that he had hanged himself. And since that day I havent known a single hour of happiness.