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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

August von Kotzebue (1761–1819)

Henriette’s Delinquency

From “Respectable Society”


Old.Come, Henriette, here is a letter for you.

Bones.A letter?(All the old Ladies and Gentlemen, except WISE, put on their glasses or spectacles and look at the letter.)

Limp.Who would have thought it!

Palsy.So the young lady corresponds!

Old.Do you know the handwriting?

Hen.No, dear grandmama. But if you will permit me to read it——

Old.It will be read to you.

Hen.But the letter is probably meant for my eyes alone.

Old.Silence! Read it, please, gentlemen.(She hands the letter to SHAKY and SNOWHAIR.)

Shaky.Just as you command.(Both gentlemen seize the letter, each at one corner, and try to read it at the same time. One of them wants to bring it near his eyes, the other to hold it at a distance.)

Snow.Permit me, I am near-sighted.

Shaky.But I am far-sighted.

Snow.I must have the letter near my eyes.

Shaky.I must keep it as far away as possible.(In trying to adjust the position of the letter to their different needs, they tear it into halves.)

Snow.Oh, I beg your pardon!

Shaky.It does not matter. We are both suited now. Do you read your part of the letter, and I will read mine.(Reads.)“Most charming”

Snow.“of your sex,”

Shaky.“I love you unspeak-”

Snow.“ably, with the whole”

Shaky.“fire of youth.”

Old.Confusion to youth!

Wise(aside).I’m afraid it is my nephew.

Snow.(reads).“If I may indulge the hope”

Shaky.“that I am not entirely indifferent to you,”

Snow.“pay no heed to your antiquated grandmother,”

Shaky.“and still less the other old monsters”

Snow.“who surround her.” Monsters! No doubt he means us!

Shaky.That, my dear sir, is unhappily only too apparent.

Snow.(reads).“Like a rosebud”

Shaky.“amid withered nettles,”

Snow.“thus do you seem, sweetest girl,”

Shaky.“amid those antiquated relics”

Snow.“of the middle of last century!”

Bones.Withered nettles!

Limp.Antiquated relics!

Palsy.It seems that these epithets are aimed at us!

Shaky(reads).“Break your fetters,”

Snow.“and flee to my arms!”

Old.Oh, you fiend!

Shaky(reads).“I have an excellent uncle,”

Wise(aside).Now comes my turn!

Snow.“who will assure you of the purity of my in-”

Shaky.“tentions. Your charms are a sufficient pledge of my e-”

Snow.“ternal love.” That’s all.

Bones.What is the villain’s name?

Old.There is no signature.

Wise(aside).That was sensible, at least.

Old.Without doubt my granddaughter knows.

Hen.No, dear grandmama, I do not know.

Old.Last night she talked at the garden gate to an officer.

The Ladies.To an officer!

Old.If only it had been a man of mature and discreet years! But no, it was a young fellow.

Bones.A young fellow—that’s worse still!

Old.And she stretched out her hand through the fence.

All.Her hand?

Old.And he kissed it. I saw it all with my own eyes. Now we must decide, my friends, what is to be done.

Shaky.Did you really stretch out your hand?


Snow.Without a glove?


Anc.And why did you do it?

Hen.To pick a flower that was growing there.

Old.And why did you withdraw your hand so quickly when you saw me?

Hen.There was a spider on the flower.

Snow.And while you were trying to pluck the said flower, your hand was kissed?

Hen.I believe so.

Snow.She believes so!

Shaky.And what did you feel?

Hen.A soft touch.


Snow.Emotion, rather?

Anc.And did the said emotion confine itself to the hand, or did it ascend to the heart?

Hen.I believe it ascended.

Shaky.And did your heart beat noticeably?

Hen.Very noticeably.

Shaky.The symptoms are complete.

Snow.Entirely! Entirely!

Old.You perceive, ladies and gentlemen, that this person, whom we hitherto considered a child, has now fallen a prey to the follies and misfortunes of youth, and must therefore be removed, as soon as possible, from our honorable circle.

Bones.Yes, she must be removed.

Limp.As soon as possible.

Palsy.The sooner——

Hen.The better!